Good News: You Got Accepted. Not So Good News: It’s for Spring.

Congratulations!  Your got accepted to your top choice college.  Too bad you can’t start until January of next year.  What to do?

Well, let’s start with what NOT to do.  Do NOT burst into tears and burn your acceptance letter in protest.  Do NOT interpret the January start date as an indication that you are not a worthy student or don’t deserve a place in the freshman class.  Do NOT turn down your dream school because you will start a few months later than you had previously planned.

College applications are, unquestionably, on the rise.  One need only to look at Boston University, which saw a staggering 20% increase in applications this year to know that colleges are becoming overwhelmed with submissions from talented and qualified students.  Unfortunately, they simply don’t have enough spots available; so, more and more colleges are offering spring start dates.  By staggering freshmen matriculation dates, they can balance incoming students with upperclassmen who depart mid-year for study abroad trips or those who graduate a semester early (or late).

So, pat yourself on the back for getting accepted to Dream U and think about how to take advantage of the opportunity before you.  You have 3-4 months to recuperate from high school and to do something that will prepare you for the next phase in your life journey.  Taking a gap between high school and university is a common practice among Europeans.  According to The Leap, 2.5 million students in the UK plan to take a gap year and 88% of those who do believe the experienced helped them become employed.

Here are some ideas for how to spend your fall gap semester:

Travel: A semester abroad can range from informal backpacking to a structured program like those offered through Where There Be Dragons and Carpe Diem Education.  Spending a few months travelling will surely help you to broaden your perspective as you are exposed to new cultures and experiences.  And, it will give you a bunch of stories to tell at college parties in the spring!

Acquire a New Skill: Take this rare opportunity to throw yourself into pursuing a talent or learning a new skill.  Become fluent in a language, train with a pottery studio, or immerse yourself in the subtleties of how to make the prefect tuna roll.  Most of you will likely never have the chance to spend 3-4 months to focus completely on learning something new (until you retire) so do it now!

Place Out of General Requirements:  Most colleges will give you credit or will allow you to place out of general requirements through an AP, SAT Subject Test or placement exam.  So, spend your fall semester preparing to place out of college requirements.  For instance, if you are planning to travel abroad, schedule the December SAT Subject Test in the language you will learn.  Even if you don’t get the credit, exemptions will free up your schedule to take classes in subjects that interest you and may allow you to double (or triple) major.

Take Classes: Chances are, if you earned a spring admission, you may not have been the strongest applicant in the pool.  So, take this time to prepare for the rigorous academics of your college.  Freshmen frequently struggle in two subject areas: writing and math/calculus.  Find out if your college will allow you to take classes through their extension school during the fall semester.  If not, ask them for a list of classes and/or colleges from which they will accept a transfer credit.

Get a Job:  Get a jump on paying for college while gaining experience by getting a job, preferably in a field that appeals to you.  Doing this will help you will build your resume and make contacts that may prove advantageous when you are looking for summer or full-time employment after you graduate.

Get Healthy: Once you get to college, you will hit all-nighters, pizza parties and (don’t read this, mom and dad) keggers and beer pong.  If you go into college with a healthy fitness and nutrition routine, you are more likely to stay healthy – physically, mentally and spiritually – and, thus, perform better academically and socially.  If you don’t already have a healthy routine, get into one this fall!

Learn Life Skills: Do you know how to do your laundry?  How about planning your budget and managing your credit card (you will be swarmed with offers of credit cards when you get to college)?  If you have never travelled on your own through an airport or hailed (and paid) for a taxi, learn these essential life skills before you leave home – and risk not finding your way back!

Whatever you do this fall, be sure to take advantage of this time.  Fielding Instagram photos and Snapchat updates from your high school classmates as they attend football games and fraternity parties may make the semester feel like forever; but, the time will pass quickly.  So take advantage of this opportunity to reflect, explore and gain some experience.  You’ll be happy you did.

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10 Things Juniors Should Do Now To Prepare for College

I know college applications seem as though they are a thing of the distant future but I promise you they will be here before you know it. In order to make this process smooth, successful and as stress-free as possible, it is important to get started now.   Remember, the more work you do now, the more you will be able to enjoy all that senior year has to offer.

Here are ten things juniors should do by the end of the school year:

1. Develop Your College Admissions Strategy

Although many college applications are largely standardized through formats such as the Common Application™, Universal Application™, and state-specific applications, you are unique.  How will you use the limited pieces of these applications to communicate what differentiates you from all of the other smart, talented students who are applying to your top choice schools?

2. Create Your Activity List

Colleges are communities and they want students who will be active members of that community. Your high school activity list gives them an indication what type of community member you will be, what interests you have and, ultimately, what you can teach the other students on campus.  Fill out the activity sheet with all activities you have participated in both in and out of school since the summer before 9th grade, focusing on what distinguishes you from others who might have similar activities.  For instance, if you were selected, how many people were running?  If you raised money, how much did you raise and how did you do it?  If you competed on a regional, state, national or international level, be sure to say so.

3. Complete Your College Resume

Once you have completed your activity sheet, a resume is a very easy next step.  Whether or not your prospective colleges require you to submit a resume, I strongly encourage you to create one.   Your resume is a brief summary of your skills, interests, education, experiences, accomplishments and honors and should strongly corroborate your admissions strategy.  If done properly, this document will serve as the foundation of your lifelong resume, which you can continue to enhance as you gain additional skills and experiences throughout college and beyond.

4. Plan Your Recommendations

Don’t wait until senior year to think about your recommendations.  Start now!  Junior year is the last full academic year you will complete before you apply to colleges; therefore, your junior year teachers are usually best equipped to write your recommendations.  Which two academic teachers will you ask and what can you across the rest of the semester to distinguish yourself in their classes?

5. Select Your Senior Class Schedule

Although you may be ready to get done with high school, don’t ease off the breaks just yet.  As you consider your senior class schedule, make sure you have the necessary requirements to both graduate from high school and to apply to your target colleges?  For instance, do you need AP Calc and/or AP Physics to apply to your target engineering program?  Does your dream school require a third (or fourth) year of the same language?  Your senior year schedule is important in (1) helping you get accepted to your target colleges and (2) giving you the academic foundation necessary to succeed there.  So, resist the urge to arrange your schedule so you can leave school every day at 11 am (unless you have a job, independent research or other challenging activity) and keep pushing yourself with classes that will stretch you.  I promise it will be worth the effort.

 6. Visit Colleges

While brochures, online research and speaking to alumni can be valuable inputs to deciding on whether a college is a great fit for you, nothing compares to walking the campus and meeting current students and faculty.  Are students sitting in groups during free periods or are they working individually on their computers with their head phones on?  Is the surrounding neighborhood one where you would want to live?  Does campus empty out on weekends or is there a vibrant social life?  Do professors seem accessible?  Are students and staff friendly?  Only by visiting campus will you be able to get a feel for the culture of the school and whether or not it is a place where you feel both supported and challenged to grow.

7. Develop Your Standardized Testing Strategy

If you are a junior, chances are you have already taken your PSAT and have plans to take the SAT or ACT.  But, don’t forget about the other standardized tests that are available.  If you are taking an Advanced Placement test this May, you should consider taking the corresponding SAT Subject Test (SAT II) at the same time.  Although not required by most colleges, the SAT Subject Tests will indicate areas of academic interest and strength which will enhance your overall application strategy.  And, if you take them at the same time as your APs, you won’t have to redouble your study efforts over the summer or early fall.

 8. Compile A List of Priority Colleges

Rest assured that your college list can change up until the deadlines for each college passes so nothing you decide now is set in stone.  But, starting with a prioritized list of “right fit” colleges will help you focus your work and manage your time.  Aim for 2-3 colleges that meet your priority characteristics (academic programs, teaching philosophy, culture, etc.) that are a high likelihood of acceptance, 2-3 that are a medium likelihood of acceptance and 1-2 that are a lower likelihood of acceptance.  In your list, you should consider at least one in-state option and one school that is close to home.  A lot can happen in a year and you want to make sure you have options, no matter the situation you face.

9. Make Summer Plans

The summer ahead is your last opportunity to show colleges how you spend your free time.  Will you simply “hang’ with your friends or will you pursue an academic or extra-curricular interest in new and interesting ways?  Colleges are looking for students who are intellectually curious, passionate about learning and engaged in their communities.  You have approximately three months this summer (that’s ¼ of a full year).  Do something with it!

10. Draft A “Why” Paragraph

A “Why” paragraph states, specifically, why you believe a particular school is a great fit for you and why you are a great fit for it.  It can include any number of attributes including academics, social activities, religious affiliation, teaching philosophy, geography, history, athletics, etc.  Many schools ask a supplemental essay question “Tell us why you want to come to our school” and this will answer that.  Even if they don’t ask the question, knowing your “why” will be critical in making a positive impression during any interactions with your target schools, including interviews, meetings with admissions officers, or email communications.  And, the best part is, once you have one paragraph complete, it’s easy to version it for the other schools on your list.

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Congratulations on Getting Accepted to Your Early Decision College: Now What?

Congratulations on getting accepted to your top choice school!  What a smart college to recognize what a great addition you would make to their campus!

If you are like increasing numbers of college applicants, you decided to apply to your top choice college under a binding, early decision agreement.  If you were accepted during the early decision round, that’s where you will be next fall. Here’s what you need to do next:

  • Pay the matriculation deposit.
  • Withdraw your applications from all other schools.
  • Submit the necessary housing and health forms.
  • Go back to your recommenders and share the good news with them.  If you haven’t already, send them a proper thank you note and, possibly, a small gift to acknowledge their support and effort.
  • Send a note to your admissions officer telling him how excited you are and thanking him for his support (at this time, he is getting lots of angry phone calls and letters so you will be the bright spot in his day and he will remember the gesture).
  • Consider sending a note to admissions officers of schools to which you have withdrawn, thanking them for their support and letting them know why you will not be attending their school.  Not only is this polite, it is smart.  You never know what will happen in a year so it’s always a good idea to keep doors open at different colleges in case you decide to transfer.
  • Submit financial aid forms and scholarship applications.
  • Remember that all acceptances are conditional on your senior year performance so don’t let senioritis kick in.  Schools WILL reneg an offer of admissions if grades fall below a C.  Be sure to keep your grades up.
  • Celebrate.

If you were either deferred from your early decision school or accepted to your non-binding early action schools, the offer is not binding.  You will have until May 1 to decide where you will matriculate.  So, sit back, relax and see what other offers (academic and financial) you receive.  However, once you have a made a decision, there is no advantage to waiting to commit.  And, for some schools, there may be a disadvantage as housing options fill up.

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Early Decisions are Released: What Can You Do?

It’s nail biting time for college seniors and their parents as they anxiously await letters from early deadline schools.  As a parent, what can you do to calm the fears of your stressed out children?

I think the most important thing is to have the conversation before any decisions are received.  You have the advantage of having an exceptional child who will, undoubtedly, be successful wherever he or she ends up.  Your child has a lot to offer and any college would be lucky to get them.  If, for some reason, he or she is not offered admission, it is simply a numbers game.  Too many great candidates for too few spots.

One idea might be to have a celebratory dinner before decisions are mailed – to celebrate the extraordinary person your child is and the incredible impact he or she will have – regardless of the decision outcomes.  Or, you could write a letter like the parents in the following article (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/15/opinion/sunday/frank-bruni-how-to-survive-the-college-admissions-madness.html?_r=0).  A tangible announcement of how proud you are, regardless of decision outcomes, such as a dinner or a letter or even something engraved will have more impact than words at the time of the decision.   Then, regardless of what the decision is, reiterate the message you gave your child before you knew the outcome.  That’s just as important if the decision outcome is a yes.  So, celebrate the “yes,” console the “no” but remind your child that his or her worth and potential are not dependent on what the letter says.

 

And, remember, if your child really has his or her heart set on a particular school and does not get accepted this go around, there’s always the option of transfer and graduate school.

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What is Your Brand?

Applying to college is not much different than selling a product. This may seem like an odd statement, but I will explain. Let’s start with an example. Compare Walmart and Safeway. What are the characteristics that you associate with each company? What does each represent? What is the shopping experience like? What kinds of shoppers can be found in each store?

People have different assumptions associated with brands due to their characteristics. Like in our Walmart vs. Safeway example, one person might prefer Walmart for its helpful employees and product deals, while another person may prefer Safeway for its low prices and product variety. But, how does this relate to the college admissions process?

As a college-bound student, you are trying to show colleges a picture of who you are, the values you represent, and the role you will play in their college community. You are the product. Your target colleges are the customers. Much like our Walmart vs. Safeway example, it is essential to explain what makes you different (and better) than the competition.

Easier said than done, I know. The first step is to go over your resume. Do you have an academic or extra-curricular passion? Next, think about the events that have impacted your intellectual and character development. Maybe being a military brat has given you an appreciation for global cuisine, or maybe you spent summers bonding with your grandfather and learning life skills while fly fishing. If those don’t get you started, think about the impact you want to have on the world. What problem do you want to help solve? Focus on your strengths and the combination of passions, interests, talents, and skills that are uniquely you. Show the admissions counselors why you are the “best buy.”

Although having a personal brand may sound calculated, it’s really just a way to describe who you are at your core. Be honest in your application and let your passions shine through.

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Your No-Stress Guide to College Majors

To all college-bound Seniors:

Choosing your college major is a big decision. This decision takes time and requires you to be honest with yourself, so don’t feel the need to pick right away. Think about what excites you. You know that feeling you get when your eyes light up and suddenly you’re talking a mile a minute? What gives you that feeling? Find it and go after it.

Although I’m an educational consultant, I can’t tell you what you should or shouldn’t study in college. There is no one perfect major, much like there is no one perfect high school schedule, or one perfect college.

During your senior year, spend time doing activities that you love and research potential majors. Think about your interests and goals. If you have a fascination with clean eating, majoring in nutrition or public health may be your perfect match. If you want to become a lawyer, a major in anything from finance to political science to international relations could be the ideal stepping stone.

If you already have a major in mind, congratulations. You are off to an excellent start. If you are unsure, like most college-bounds students are, don’t worry. Although you must decide on a major in order to graduate from college, you have time. I’m a big advocate of liberal arts colleges where students aren’t allowed to declare a major until spring of their sophomore year. Each year, take courses in a variety of subjects that interest you or that you weren’t able to be exposed to in high school. You may find inspiration in unlikely places.

Consider the job opportunities in different fields. Check if there is an active market for whichever career you decide to go in to; however, I think it’s important to state that for your generation many are training for fields that don’t yet exist. Twenty years ago, who would have thought that a major in cyber intelligence or cyber security would be offered? Take time to explore your passions and to think realistically about your post-graduation options.

Deciding on a college major may be one of the most difficult milestones in your academic career; however, don’t panic. Don’t settle on a major you dislike and realize that switching your major is OK too. Your college years are meant to be a time of personal reflection and growth, so remember that.

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A Note to Parents of High School Seniors:

Parents, the second semester of your child’s senior year is almost here. Can you believe it?

The college admissions process is something I have found to be equally tough on students as it is on parents. These upcoming months are a time that often evokes a multitude of emotions including sadness, excitement, anxiety, and even denial.   I am here to help.

Attend admitted student days. Support your students as they walk on to campus for the first time as students. This is an exciting moment, so cherish it! Listen closely in information sessions and encourage your students to think about whether or not they could see themselves at a particular college.  The more you know about a college and the resources it offers, the more comfortable you will be sending your children there.

Talk. Talk with your students about their feelings as they prepare to start college. Are they nervous about being out on their own, making new friends or feeling homesick?  If you went away to college, share your experiences as a new freshman. It is likely that both you and your child will share some of the same feelings about this new phase in both of your lives.

Focus on family time. Plan a family vacation or staycation before your child starts college. Disconnect from your phones and laptops.  Enjoy one another’s company and make memories that will take you through to Parents’ weekend in October.

Yes, there is only one semester left.  Remember it is not you who is going off to college so do not let your feelings overwhelm your child.  Instead continue to listen and reassure and know that your child will be back home soon with a large bag of dirty clothes that need to be laundered.

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Your Senior Summer:

To all college-bound seniors:

After graduating from high school, most college-bound students are more than ready for a relaxing summer devoid of responsibility. My clients often voice their excitement over their upcoming “three month vacation.”  While the summer is definitely a time to relax, reflect and make memories with friends, it is wise to manage your time well.  I know, this is not what you want to hear, but don’t get lazy. Do not let “Senioritis” carry into the summer months, or it may follow you to the first quarter or semester of your college career.

  1. Read. Most colleges will require summer reading for your freshman writing seminar. Do not procrastinate. Take this opportunity to learn how to annotate and highlight in order to organize the text and make a plan for your book discussion so you can make a strong first impression on professors and class mates on day one.
  1. Do something new. Get involved in a new activity, volunteer, or travel abroad. Learning how to adapt in unfamiliar situations is critical during your first months in college.
  1. Make a budget. College is expensive. Between buying textbooks, dorm decorations, traveling home and all those late night pizzas, you may find yourself running out of money fast. Discuss a budget with your parents. Know what they will and will not pay for and make a plan to cover the rest.
  1. Plan to stay healthy. Getting sick in college is inevitable; however, there are some things you can do over the summer to prepare. Choose your meal plan, stock up on Emergen-C, and research the workout classes your college’s gym offers. And, make sure you have an up-to-date medical file to bring with you to your college health services
  1. Polish your skills. Use the summer before college to brush up on a foreign language, Photoshop, Microsoft Excel, or practice public speaking.

Graduation will be here before you realize. Cherish the time as you prepare for your next academic adventure.

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The Diagnosis: Senioritis

To all College-Bound Seniors:

Are you experiencing laziness, apathy, or a generally dismissive attitude?  Are you missing school or not bothering to hand in assignments?  Do Mondays seem extra awful? If you answered yes to any of these questions, it is very likely you have a case of Senioritis.

What is the cure you might ask? Answer: Graduation.

It’s understandable that you are more excited about starting the next phase of your life than you are in finishing up the current one.  Bad news:  there are still approximately six more months until graduation and, in order to start that next exciting phase called college, you need to graduate from high school.

Don’t let Senioritis get you down.  Instead, focus on ways to maximize the last semester of your high school career!

  1. Attend your classes. This should be an obvious tip. Not only does skipping classes create a bad impression on your teachers, but failing grades look terrible on a transcript. Colleges will notice if your last semester is lackluster. If your grades drop drastically, they may rescind your offers of admission.
  1. Make a Daily To-Do List. Setting daily and weekly goals is something that will not only keep you focused and motivated; it will help you perform well during college.
  1. Focus on the Now! DO NOT obsess over college admissions. Continue to make choices that improve your mental and physical health and stay involved in activities that you love.
  1. Talk About It. Most seniors exhibit a combination of emotions during this time. If you are feeling sad about leaving your hometown, confused about what you are planning to study, or unsure if you are prepared for college, talk about it. Spend time discussing your thoughts with friends, family, or even your academic counselor.
  1. Make Great Memories. You will only be a high school senior once (hopefully).  So, make lasting memories.  Attend homecoming, go to the prom, scream loudly at pep rallies.  The more you do now, the more fun you will have at your high school reunions.

Seniors, you are almost done, so don’t give up just yet. Don’t succumb to Senioritis!

 

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College Organization Made Easy

To all college-bound Juniors and Seniors:

Organization is key. Think about how many times you have heard this phrase. I’m going to take a guess and say that you have probably heard this more times than you would like during your high school career. As much as you don’t want to admit this, your academic counselor, teachers, and parents are right. Without organization, it is likely that you will miss deadlines, become overwhelmed, and, ultimately, fall short in achieving your goals.

Success starts with motivation. If you are not motivated to do well in your classes, how can you? When I was in college at Penn, maintaining a planner was my saving grace. I used my planner to not only keep track of my assignments and tests, but to set aside time for social plans, appointments, and chores. Checking off my to-dos kept me on task and productive. I created The Complete Candidate in order to help students not only organize their college applications, but to build organizational habits that will help them during their college years.

Another way students can stay organized is to save their syllabi. I can’t emphasize this point enough! If your teacher hands out a syllabus on the first day, it is important. Don’t lose it. Highlight test dates and review your professor’s policies and grading scale.

Find a system of taking notes that works best for you. I developed a whole system of circling dates, underlining key people, highlighting important facts and writing different symbols in the margins of both my text books and my notebooks which allowed me to quickly go back and find what I needed.   Whether it be Cornell notes, color-coding, or another method entirely, taking – and keeping track of – good notes will help you when it comes time to study for the exam.

Understanding the time of day that you are most productive is also important. This may be obvious, but if you are a morning person, take morning classes or plan to study during this time. If you are a night owl, organize your schedule around studying after class.

There are many ways to stay organized in college. Your first quarter or semester will be a learning experience, but don’t get frustrated. The more you commit to staying organized, the easier it will be to succeed.

 

 

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