Tagged with admissions

Prepare for College as a Junior

prepare for collegeHigh school seniors aren’t the only students that should prepare for college. There are many things that juniors can do to prepare for college to help them get a  jump of the scholarship and college application process.

Prepare for College

1. Remember that organization is key to efficiency. Create a schedule that will help you stay on task with your goals. Create a deadline calendar for scholarships to which you’d like to reply.  Keep all of your awards, community service records, and other accomplishments in a folder.
2. Build strong and healthy relationships with your teachers. You will need some good recommendation letters for the colleges that you apply to your senior year.
3. Not all scholarship websites are good. We found great website reviews created by U.S. News & World Report and scholarships.net that can help you figure out which scholarship websites are helpful.

Fall College Preparation

1. Enroll in AP or dual credit classes. They look good on transcripts and, if you do well, you can get college credit. Make sure that you take a load that you can handle. I have met many students that end up miserable because they take too many AP classes at one time.
2 . I doubt you need to be reminded of this, but make sure you are paying attention to your GPA and class rank. Ask your school counselor if you don’t know.
3. An important way to prepare for college is to create your college resume.
4. Ditch your goofy email address you created as a kid. Create a professional one on websites like gmail or yahoo. For example, if your name is Sue Cho, you can simply create an address like “suecho@gmail.com.”
5. Begin researching your top schools. Some people start with potential majors to narrow down the school selection. Regardless of your method, it is important to find schools that fit you well. Try to select five to ten schools that you think will fit you well.
6. Start researching potential scholarship opportunities.
7. Research ACT and/or SAT dates for the upcoming spring. Go ahead and sign up and put the date on your calendar. Come up with a preparation plan.

Spring College Preparation

prepare for college1. Begin preparing for the SAT or the ACT. There are many schools and tutors that you can pay to help you prepare. You can also find many free online SAT prep resources
2. A very obvious but important thing you need to do to prepare for college is take the SAT and/or the ACT.
3. Narrow down your college list to a manageable number.
4. Make two or three college visits to give you a more tangible idea of what you are looking for in a school.   You’ll have more time your senior year to make visits.
5. Begin applying for scholarships.
6. Organize a community service project for spring break and invite your friends to participate. Not only is it a great way to use your resources to help others, college admission counselors will love your initiative, leadership, and servant mindedness.

Summer College Preparation

1. Use your summer to prepare for college by building your resume. College admission counselors love to see community involvement. Check out local nonprofits for which you can volunteer regularly. Don’t just volunteer to build your resume. Make sure you take time to learn from the people you are helping. It could change your life.
2. If you need to retake the SAT or the ACT, begin researching test dates for the upcoming fall.
3. Don’t forget to keep applying for scholarships.
4. Get ahead of the game by applying early decision to one or two of your top schools. You will be happy to get those two out of the way.

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SAT and ACT Resources

Recently I’ve been corresponding with a company out of the Dallas/Ft. Worth Area that helps equip high school students to succeed on the SAT and ACT. The name of the company is DFW College Counseling. Last week we shared a blog post from one of their counselors title SAT or ACT. Their blog is updated a few times a week with really good SAT and ACT Resources. Check out this recent tip for taking the SAT on a post titled 3 Tips for Optimizing Your SAT Score:

Make Your Best Guess! Let’s say you have to guess on 20 questions overall on your SAT. Statistically, you have a 1 in 5 chance of getting a question right. Out of 20 questions, you should be able to guess correctly on 4 questions (+1 x 4 = +4 points) and guess incorrectly on 16 questions (-1/4 x 16 = -4 points). Guess on these 20 questions and you should be able to come out even in points. If you guess poorly you may do worse and if you guess well you may do slightly better. But hopefully you can look at each of those 20 questions and be able to eliminate some obviously wrong answer choices. If you’re able to eliminate one or more incorrect answer choices, your expected gain will more than offset any incorrect answers you are penalized for:

Eliminate 1 incorrect answer choice from each of 20 questions= 1/4 chance of guessing:

20*(1/4)*(+1)= +5 points

20*(3/4)*(-1/4)= -3.75 points

+1.25 points overall

Eliminate 2 incorrect answer choices from each of 20 questions= 1/3 chance of guessing:

20*(1/3)*(+1)= +6.67 points

20*(2/3)*(-1/4)= -3.33 points

+3.33 points overall

Eliminate 3 incorrect answer choices from each of 20 questions= 1/2 chance of guessing:

20*(1/2)*(+1)= +10 points

20*(1/2)*(-1/4)= -2.5 points

+7.5 points overall

You can see that the more answer choices you can eliminate, the quicker you are able to gain extra points. And +7.5 points overall can mean a difference of almost 100 points in your overall score!

DFW College Counseling adds resources to their blog weekly.

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Fit is More Important Than Rank

Anybody who works with high school students knows that they hate being asked where they are going to go to college if they have not yet decided. It isn’t because they haven’t thought about it. It’s because they can’t stop thinking about it. Somewhere along the way, they have been convinced that if they do not choose a prestigious enough school they will end up miserable in a deadened job.

Thankfully people in the college admissions and preparation industry are recognizing that there needs to be a shift in how we talk to high school students about their future. There is much literature being written arguing that fit is more important than rank or prestige. In a blog post titled How I Almost Ruined College Awareness Day, Academic Life Coach Hayden Lee talks about how he did not go to a college awareness day simply to convince high school kids to go to the school he represented. He went to help them find schools that fit their passions.

Lee writes:

I let them know that where they go to college is not nearly as important as what they choose to do with the opportunities and experiences offered there. I told them that in the next few years that competition may rise between peers as to who got accepted into the “best college,” but I assured them that there is no such thing. College is about finding the “right fit” for you. College is a time to take advantage of as many opportunities that interest you like studying in a foreign country, getting hands-on experience, meeting a diverse group of people, or simply a time to discover your passions or nurture the ones that you already know that you have. I encouraged the students to start thinking about their future academic careers by answering this question: “What do you love to do and why do love doing it?”

Follow Lee’s lead. Do your best to encourage students to find schools that fit them NOT simply schools that rank well or that have good student reviews.

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Well-rounded Students Win!

I have been helping high school students build college resumes for nearly 10 years. Most college admission counselors are looking for well-rounded students. One admission counselor with whom I spoke narrowed down the well-rounded student formula to five points. She called them “The Five P’s.” Here are the Five P’s in no particular order.

I am sure you are not surprised to see “Performance” at the top of a list of qualities in well-rounded students. You know that GPA and class ranks are important. However, colleges also look at the types of classes that applicants take while in high school. Getting an “A” in an elective is not weighed the same as getting an “A” in AP Calculus.

Tips for Boosting Your Grades:
1. Work on time management to ensure you are using your time wisely.
2. Know how you are wired so that you can study efficiently.
3. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from your teacher. You can also hire tutors.

I once heard a friend say that Ivy League schools only accept people who start businesses by the age of five. While it was certainly an exaggeration, my friend was making a good point. Most colleges want well-rounded students who have applied themselves outside of the classroom. Do not feel like you have to be a part of every club at your school. A senior with whom I am currently working just started a community garden in a poverty stricken neighborhood. She did not do it for school or Girl Scouts. She simply saw a need, raised a couple hundred dollars, and met it. Schools want well-rounded students who take initiative.

Tips for Getting Involved:
1. Go on a week long service trip during the summer.
2. Start a club that has something to do with one of your passions.
3. Raise money for a local charity.

Colleges use standardized test scores as an indicator to judge a candidate’s potential. Know that each school has different standards. Also, schools weigh the importance of test scores differently. Though some schools exist that do not value standardized test scores at all, the vast majority highly value standardized test scores as a good indicator for well-rounded students.

Tips for Improving Standardized Test Scores:
1. Utilize free online study guides such as Study Guide Zone.
2. Check your local public library for free test prep classes.  B Line Test Prep offers free interactive lessons online for the SAT.
3. Purchase flashcards created for your specific test.

After speaking with a number of college admission counselors, I am convinced that this area is one of the most significant in the application process. Remember, they are looking for well-rounded students. They won’t know if you are well-rounded if you don’t give them a chance to get to know you. Check out my blog entry on getting in to competitive colleges for a few tips in this area.

College admission counselors consider the rigor of an applicant’s academic program. The bad news is, most of the prestigious high schools are either expensive preparatory academies or public schools in expensive neighborhoods. The overwhelmingly good news is that if a student does well in the other categories listed here, the student will have no problem getting into a good school. Such a student will undoubtedly be considered well-rounded and highly desirable.

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Three (obvious but regularly ignored) Tips for Getting into Competitive Colleges

Getting into competitive colleges is not an exact science. Highly qualified individuals are regularly turned away from schools that they love. The truth is, people like you and me read the numerous student applications and essays submitted to their school, and then have to make a subjective decision about which ones to accept and which to deny. Some critics have gone so far as to claim that college admission decisions are essentially arbitrary. While that may be true in some cases, most admission counselors have some set of criteria they rely on to make their decisions and there are steps you can take to dramatically increase your chances in getting into your top schools. This week I spoke with several college admission counselors at highly competitive colleges and learned three (obvious but regularly ignored) tips to getting into competitive colleges.

One college admission counselor started the conversation by talking about what she called “The Five P’s.” I’ll explain “The Five P’s” in another blog entry. Next, she told me that each school tends to pick students based on their values. Community service is a significant component in the ethos at her particular school. In fact, Newsweek ranks them in the top ten service minded schools year after year. Another admissions counselor echoed this approach. She said, “I look for students who are going to be successful & happy at the institution.” In other words, she looks for people who would fit the ethos of the school.

Tip to Getting into Competitive Colleges #1:
Study the values of each particular school. Research the general atmosphere and ethos of the particular student bodies. Craft your essays in such a way that you emphasize aspects of your story that reflect said values and ethos.

The second tip I learned has to do with authenticity. One admission counselor said, “The best essay I read was about a student who worked at KFC. There was no glamorous mission trip to Fiji or research in a fancy lab which students think the need on a college application. The essay was well written and I learned a lot about the student.” In reflecting upon the importance of community involvement she said, “I look for involvement but this doesn’t mean they have to join every club possible. Just join a few that reflect your passion, commit yourself, and tell us about it.”

Tip to Getting into Competitive Colleges #2:
Write your essays in such a way that you authentically articulate your story well. Yes, it is important to know your audience and to craft your essays accordingly. However, colleges want to know the real you. They want to see your passions and commitment.

Several counselors mentioned that colleges consider the level of interest an applicant demonstrates in the school. While not all schools factor the level of interest in the acceptance process, follow this tip for every school you really want to attend. One counselor said, “We look to see if an applicant has demonstrated interest in  by visiting, meeting us at high school visits, doing hotel interviews, etc. ” Another concurred, saying, “A number of schools look closely at how interested a student is in the school as demonstrated by visits, phone calls, emails, attendance at college fairs, and participation in interviews.”

Tip to Getting into Competitive College #3:
If you are very interested in a particular school, do your best to tactfully demonstrate your interest.

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