Soon to be College Freshmen: Hit the Ground Running this Fall

College can be a transformative four years—socially, academically, and otherwise. And though you’ll be guided from the start by way of orientation and assignment to an advisor, one of the most significant differences between high school and college is that, for the most part, the guidance you receive is minimal. In fact, the majority of the resources available to you—related to your academic life, career, wellness, and otherwise—you’ll have to seek out and take advantage of on your own.

I want to cover three resources that you should make a point to get to know from early on in your college career and utilize throughout.

Career Services

One of the most underutilized resources on many college campuses is the career center. I highly suggest you get to know your career center and its staff starting in the fall of your freshmen year, or by spring of your freshmen year, latest.

Career services staff help students develop résumés, practice interviewing skills, learn about the job search process, and figure out a future career. This is one of the main reasons to attend college: preparation for your career and life beyond college. This preparation is, in part, something you will need to seek out. It is especially crucial if you are entering college unsure of what major path you might enjoy or are best suited for, or if while in college, you learn that the path you thought you desired is not the one for you.

Let’s look at one college in particular so you can get a sense of what is offered—Tulane University’s Career Center. Three essential services they provide:

  • Choose the right major by understanding the curriculum and related career options.
  • Online self-assessments help you get to know your interests, your skills, and your values.
  • Explore your career options by gathering information on career paths you might be considering.

This is just the tip of the iceberg! You can meet with an advisor or career coach 1:1 to get personalized advice, discuss self-assessment results, wor on your resume, pinpoint on-campus opportunities to help you explore majors and career paths, and so much more. Attending events, for example, career fairs, brown bag lunch speak series events by individuals in specific roles in specific organizations that might be of interest to you, speed networking events, etc.—there are more resources available than you will ever be able to take advantage of every semester, so chose two or three.

Do you have no ideas what any of these things are? You are not alone! That is why, not unlike the process of applying to college, you need to start this process early and work on it often. You need to familiarize yourself with the offerings at your school and begin to take advantage of them early in your college career.

Finding your best fit major and eventual career path is not something that you just wake up one day and know or that falls into your lap; you need to work on it, and work toward it. Your new school has the resources and guidance necessary, so please take advantage.

Wellness Center

You’ve probably noticed that wellness is a “thing” and it’s not just about your physical health or sick prevention. Wellness is about making healthy choices and maintaining a sound mind, body, and soul. You’ll want to strive for all three in college.

Stress prevention and management fall under the category of wellness at many schools, so you’ll see centers and related activities popping up to manage stress and other wellness related issues outside of formal health centers. Many schools even have dedicated “wellness” centers now that tackle the broader range of wellness habits and work to help students make healthy choices in all aspects of their lives as a means to support their academic, personal and professional goals.

Let’s take Tulane again, for example. They have a center called The Well that is devoted to engaging the Tulane community in creating a healthier campus, building individual capacity for health, and reducing barriers to wellness. The Well staff embrace a positive, holistic, social justice-oriented definition of health, and provide research-informed programming that acknowledges that well-being, engaged learning, academic success, citizenship, and openness to diversity are inextricably connected.

The Well provides resources on health topics relevant to the experience of university students that includes, but is not limited to:

  • Alcohol and Other Drugs;
  • Sexual Health
  • Sleep
  • Stress
  • Sexual Violence Prevention

You can meet 1:1 with a counselor, in a confidential, safe space to discuss anything that falls under any of the categories above. Keep in mind you are not alone and that many students seek help to keep their wellness in check and ensure they are working toward their best possible mind, body, and soul.

Academic Learning Center

All colleges have learning centers or offices dedicated to helping students be successful academically. The Tulane Academic Learning Center’s mission is, for example, to help students succeed in their academic career. Like most other learning centers, they offer peer tutoring, Supplemental Instruction (SI), writing coaching, pop-up review sessions, individual and group study space, workshops, and online learning resources. This is the place you go when you need help with a paper or class, need to learn new strategies to turn your B’s into A’s, or find the space to collaborate with classmates on group projects.

In high school, you might have turned to 1:1 tutoring immediately when you needed help; in college, I encourage you to first head to your learning center to explore the supports available. Many offer free or low cost 1:1 tutoring in addition to other support services.

Colleges want your experience on their campus to be a positive one. Therefore, they put the resources in place that they know you will benefit from, and create safe spaces for you to get the help you need. Never feel like you are alone in anything that you face in college, and always reach out for support—it is all around you!

And, if you feel like the resources at your new school are lacking in some way, or want even more individualized 1:1 support, let us know, as we offer affordable semester-by-semester advising packages that focus on major exploration, internship/job search, and resume/LinkedIn development.

 

August Monthly Action Plan – By Grade

The school year is almost here! Enjoy the final few weeks of summer. And, if you are a rising senior and want to make the most of August (this means completing applications!) contact us! We can help you head back to school with a long list of college application items checked off your to-do list.

Here’s what should be on your radar this month:

Seniors

  • The Common App refresh is complete. If you have not done so already, register for the Common App (www.commonapp.org) and other school-specific applications as per your list (for example, the University of California), and fill them out.
  • Continue to complete essays!!! Senior year fall grades count. The more you complete before you go back to school, the more time you should have for your coursework.
  • Continue to visit colleges and connect with students, faculty, and staff. Remember to interview where applicable and take lots of notes. The information you gather is often perfect material for supplemental “Why School” essays and interest letters after you apply!
  • Begin to finalize your college list. It’s important to know which colleges you’ll be applying to so you can a) work on essays and b) finalize application strategy (when you will apply and where). Will you be applying early action? Early decision? Do you have an ED II school in the mix (you should instead of relying on RD)? If you still have tests to take in August, September, or October, confirm your EA schools and work on those apps.
  • Touch base with the teachers writing your letters of recommendation. They will be very busy once school starts; be proactive and drop them a note now reiterating your thanks, as well as letting them know when you plan to submit your first apps (this can be far in advance of actual deadlines, for example, in September if testing is complete). 

Juniors

  • If you haven’t done so already, schedule a meeting to discuss your 11th-grade game plan with your guidance counselor. Your counselor will write you a letter of recommendation for college, so make an effort to get to know them and for them to get to know you.
  • This year, try to get more involved with 1-2 main extracurricular activities (bonus if these support your academic interest). Look for leadership opportunities, but also keep in mind demonstrating leadership goes beyond leading a club or team. Consider activities outside of school as well.
  • Now is the time to plan the rest of junior year in terms of testing. When will you take the ACT or SAT? Will you need SAT Subject Tests? How many and which ones? When might you take them? Have you started formal test prep? Please contact us if you would like suggestions for tutors and other prep resources. Now is the time to start test prep!
  • Once you have some test scores, come up with a preliminary college list, so you can…
  • Begin to visit the websites of the schools you are interested in. Explore the admissions and academics pages. Start to think about your major of interest and how the activities you are involved in support it. You 100% should be exploring your academic interests outside of your coursework.
  • Fall is a great time to visit colleges and engage in extended research and outreach. Over the years, I have found that students who take these “extra steps” consistently get into their top schools…and many more.

Sophomores & Freshmen

  • An impressive academic record is the most important admissions factor for the majority of colleges. A rigorous course schedule that is in line with your strengths can help demonstrate intellectual curiosity, a willingness to challenge yourself, and that you are comfortable with hard work. Your number one priority this year should be your grades!
  • If you haven’t done so already, get involved in activities inside and outside of school. Seek out opportunities to develop leadership roles. Depth, not breadth of experience, is key. Most colleges prefer to see fewer activities, but ones that really interest you, where you are involved in a significant way. Evidence of leadership, initiative, commitment, and meaningful engagement is important. You may also want to consider an internship, research position, job shadowing opportunity or part-time employment in an area that interests you. Starting your own club, website, or community service project are also lovely options, but keep in mind you don’t need to do it all.
  • Schedule a meeting to discuss your high school game plan with your counselor. Your counselor will write you a letter of recommendation when it comes time to apply to college, so make an effort to get to know them and for them to get to know you.
  • One of the most significant factors in a strong performance on the verbal portions of the SAT and the ACT is independent reading. Enhancing your skills during high school will not only help you perform better on college entrance exams, but it will also prepare you for success in college and beyond. Regular reading of articles and editorials (e.g., New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The Economist) in addition to studying vocabulary lists and signing up for “Word/Article/SAT Question of the Day” can have a significant positive impact.
  • Many schools allow 10th graders to take a practice PSAT.  The experience of taking the PSAT as a sophomore will give you a sense of what to expect on future exams. However, don’t feel like you need to study for this test. It is just practice!
 *Stay in the know! Subscribe*

Common App Refresh Starts July 28

Reminder: The Common App will be offline from July 28-31 in order to prepare for the launch of the 2019-2020 application on August 1.

In the meantime, you can…

  • Write your essays
  • Update your resume
  • Network with colleges

Once the Common App refresh is complete, you can rollover your account if you created one previously, or open one up and get started. Check out our free Facebook group, Conquer the Common App, to stay up to date.

 

 *Stay in the know! Subscribe*

Start Your Common App Essay Today!

Now is the time to complete a very important part of your application: your essays!

The 2019-2020 Common Application prompts will remain the same as the 2018-2019 essay prompts.

Contact us to learn about how we help students—in a minimal amount of time!—craft  authentic, memorable essays!

 

2019-2020 Common Application Essay Prompts

1. Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

2. The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?

3. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?

4. Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma – anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.

5. Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.

6. Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?

7. Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.

During the 2018-2019 application year, the most popular topic of choice was: “Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.” (24.1%). The next most popular topics were: “Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.” (23.7%), followed by “The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?” (21.1%).

 

And in case you missed it, read Emma’s 10 do’s and don’ts for writing the Common App essay. If you are interested in working with Emma, reach out.

 

 *Stay in the know! Subscribe*

Incoming or Current College Student? Get Started with Career Counseling

Did you know that we offer 1:1 career coaching—guidance on crafting a killer resume and cover letter, networking, getting noticed on LinkedIn, identifying best-fit companies and roles, and preparing for interviews—for individuals in high school, college, and early in their careers who want to get strategic about meeting their professional goals?

Current offerings include:

  • 30-minute Career Q&A
  • Job Search Strategy Session
  • Interview Preparation Session
  • Resume/LinkedIn Review & Editing Package
  • Cover Letter Review & Editing Package
  • Hourly Ad-Hoc Services

We work with internship and job-seekers locally in New York City, as well as around the country and globe. If you are interested in learning more contact us.

 

 *Stay in the know! Subscribe*

10 Do’s and Don’ts for Writing the Personal Statement (aka The Common App Essay)

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

Our essay experts know best. Check out these 10 tips from Emma that will help you write the most effective personal statement. Summer is the best time to tackle this important essay, so start now! Interested in working with Emma? Contact us 

  • Don’t worry about the prompts. It’s helpful to read through the prompts to see if doing so sparks any ideas; however, there is no need to stress about writing an essay that exactly “answers” a prompt. Your goal is to write the best essay you can about whatever you decide is best to write about. Working with students 1:1, we totally disregard the prompts and usually find that their essay still easily fits under one of the questions. And, if not, there is often an open-ended prompt such as: “Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.”
  • Do open with a scene. A strong opening scene draws the reader into your essay. Admissions officers and their first-round readers have hundreds of applications to get through—make yours stand out from the first sentence. Intrigue them or scare them or make them laugh. Make them want to keep reading.
  • Do focus on a single story. You only have 650 words. Perhaps that sounds like a lot to you: it’s not. There is no reason you should worry about filling it up. Through our process, you will find out how to generate enough detail to write an essay about any story. Nor should you worry about cramming as much as possible into the personal statement. Remember that colleges have all of your application data and that trying to do too much in the essay will only end up making your essay feel rushed and scattered.
  • Do make sure that your story has a clear beginning, middle, and end. You can tell your story out of order—for instance, opening with a scene from a stressful moment in order to build suspense before jumping back into chronology—but you always want to make sure your story has each of these elements. Skipping any single one will confuse your reader and make your story feel incomplete (because it is!).
  • And yet don’t get bogged down in detail. We usually find students have trouble generating enough detail. But sometimes we get a student who is unable to summarize effectively, too. Having too much detail can make your story confusing and also mean that your reader will have trouble understanding what the most significant elements are. It usually also means you don’t have room for reflection—the most important element in the essay!
  • Do present yourself in a positive light. We actively encourage you to tell a story that showcases your vulnerabilities, failures, weaknesses, and mistakes. However, either your narrative or your reflection (or some combination of the two), needs to ultimately redeem you so that your essay, in the end, shows you to be someone who is actively working to improve—to rectify mistakes, move past failures, or strengthen weakness. Your essay should be honest, but its main purpose is to make you seem like someone admissions officers want to see at their colleges! Make sure you come off well.
  • Don’t use huge thesaurus words. Again: you aren’t trying to impress the admissions officers! You are trying to show them who you are—and you are trying to make them like you. Using big words can mean using words you don’t quite know how to use, and that will show. Even if you do know how to use them, unless your essay is about how much you love long words or languages, using the big, 25-cent words can make you sound pretentious and overly formal. The language should sound like you and be relatively casual—not curse-word, talking-with-friends casual, but maybe talking-with-your-grandmother casual.
  • Do use vivid, interesting words and varied sentence structure. Being casual doesn’t mean the writing shouldn’t be good or interesting! Do push yourself to use words you might not use in your everyday speech, and do mix up the sentence structure to keep the writing varied and exciting. Do feel free to include words from your personal vocabulary—words from the language you speak at home or from a regional dialect or words you’ve made up. That can add a lot of texture and personality to an essay. Just make sure you define the words for your reader if the meaning isn’t clear from context.
  • But don’t use emotional language: I was happy; I was sad. Instead, let an action depict the emotional state. That is, instead of saying “I was happy,” you might write, “I couldn’t help skipping a few steps down the street after hearing the news.” And, instead of saying “She was sad,” you might write, “Her shoulders slumped, and she cradled her head in her hands.” You can’t see an emotion, and you always want to give the reader something to see.
  • And don’t use cliche—i.e. common, predictable, overused—language. Cliche language includes (but is definitely not limited to!) phrases like:
    • I need to be true to myself.
    • Time heals all wounds.
    • Every cloud has a silver lining.
    • Good things come to those who wait.
    • I learned more from them than they did from me.
    • Every rose has its thorn.
    • You win some, you lose some.
    • Little did I know.

Of course, your essay might have one of these messages at its heart. Maybe you did learn more from the kid you tutored than they learned from you. Maybe you did find the “silver lining” in a terrible situation. Both of these could make for great essays. But you want to verbalize that realization in your own unique and surprising way.

 

 *Stay in the know! Subscribe*

Event July 19 – Your Teen Ready for College

I am excited to share an online interview series Dr. Maggie Wray is hosting:

 

Your Teen Ready for College
Less Stress. More Success.
July 19-25, 2019
Get your ticket

 

This special event features interviews with 35 experts (including me!) about the latest trends in college admissions, tutoring, psychology, parenting, study skills, and more.

Interviews will begin airing at 8 am on July 19th.

P.S. If you can’t join for the live interviews, don’t worry…the replays will be available for 48 hours afterward, and you’ll get access to all of them when you register.

 

*Stay in the know! Subscribe*

SAT/ACT Writing Section? Probably Not Needed!

Photo by Matt Ragland on Unsplash

Fellow IECA member Cigus Vanni is the master of lists. He created many that he shares with fellow IEC’s, and one sheds light on that almost no colleges continue to require or recommend the writing portion of the SAT or ACT. The biggest exception is the UC system, which still requires it.

Here’s his list as of 6/27:

Abilene Christian University (TX) – recommend

Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (NY) – recommend

Augsburg College (MN) – recommend (note: Augsburg is a test-optional school)

Berry College (GA) – require ACT, neither require nor recommend SAT

College of Charleston (SC) – recommend

Duke University (NC) – recommend

 Eastern Illinois University – recommend ACT; neither require nor recommend SAT

Manhattan College (NY) – recommend; used for placement in writing courses, not for admission to school

Martin Luther College (MN) – require ACT, neither require nor recommend SAT

Michigan State University – recommend

Montana State University – recommend; used for placement in writing courses, not for admission to school

Oregon State University – recommend SAT; neither require nor recommend ACT

Rhode Island College – require ACT, neither require nor recommend SAT

Saint Anselm College (NH) – recommend (note: Saint Anselm is a test optional school)

Saint Norbert College (WI) – recommend

Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania – recommend

Soka University of America (CA) – require

State University of New York at Buffalo – recommend

Texas State University – recommend ACT

United States Military Academy (NY) – require

University of California Berkeley – require

University of California Davis – require

University of California Irvine – require

University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) – require

University of California Merced – require

University of California Riverside – require

University of California San Diego – require

University of California Santa Barbara – require

University of California Santa Cruz – require

University of Evansville (IN) – require (note: Evansville is a test optional school)

University of Mary Hardin Baylor (TX) – require

University of Minnesota, Twin Cities – recommend

University of Montana – recommend

University of Montana Western – require ACT, recommend SAT

VanderCook College of Music (IL) – require

Webb Institute of Naval Architecture (NY) – recommend

 

NOTE:  All information current with the updating of this list on June 26, 2019.  Be sure to check with each college to which you apply before you register for any standardized test as requirements can change.

Thank you, Cigus!

 

 

*Stay in the know! Subscribe*

Putting Your Best Foot Forward: The Short List

Photo by Matese Fields on Unsplash

I am going to keep this one short and sweet and welcome anyone who wants more info or wants to understand “how” to reach out to me directly.

Here’s how you put your best foot forward in college admissions:

-Grades that meet or exceed the standards of the schools to which you are applying

-Test scores that meet or exceed the standards of the schools to which you are applying (if the school’s you are applying to require them)

-Authentic and long-term community engagement

-Values that match the school’s

When one of these factors does not meet the standards of the school to which you are applying, your likelihood of admission decreases.

I hope to hear from you all!

 

*Stay in the know! Subscribe*