2018-19 Merit Scholarship Deadlines

Although most regular decision deadlines are 1/1 or 1/15, to be eligible for merit scholarships, many schools require you submit your application much earlier. College Kickstart compiled a list of some of the most popular schools with early merit scholarship deadlines. A few of the schools you’ll need to submit by 12/1 include:

  • Boston University
  • Claremont McKenna
  • Clemson
  • College of Charleston
  • UConn
  • Richmond
  • USC
  • Wake Forest
  • Vanderbilt

Some schools set their merit deadline as their “early” deadline, so those are due even sooner (between 10/15 in 11/15 in many cases). Visit College Kickstart for their full list.

 

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Three Essential College Wellness Guides for Parents

Repost from Marica Morris M.D. from Psychology Today. A must-read for parents during back-to-school!

Antonia breaks into tears as soon as I close the door of my office at the college counseling center where I work as a psychiatrist. It is near the end of the first semester of her freshman year. “I was an all A student in high school, and now I’m going into finals with 3 Cs and an F. How will I explain this to my parents?”

Antonia continues. “I never expected college to turn out this way. I roomed with my best friend, but she got a boyfriend and ignored me. I tried to focus on my studies, but I could not organize my time well. In high school, my father used to make my study schedule. What set me back even more is that I decided to stop an antidepressant that I started last year, even though I promised my parents I would find a psychiatrist on campus and continue the medication. I felt okay at first but over time I felt sadder and had trouble sleeping and concentrating. Now that I’m failing a class, I don’t know how to deal with it. I’ve never failed anything in my life.”

I hear many stories like Antonia’s. Too many freshmen experience setbacks due to mental health problems, lack of psychological readiness, and poor organization skills. Is there a way we could prevent the struggle of freshmen or intervene early when problems occur? In 2018, two books and an online guide/podcast came out offering parents the tools to prepare their children for college challenges: The Campus Cure (Rowman and Littlefield), Your Kid’s Gonna be Okay (Beyond BookSmart, Inc.), and Prepare to Leave the Nest (Debby Fogelman, Psychologist, a professional corporation).

I wrote The Campus Cure: A Parent’s Guide to Mental Health and Wellness for College Students as a toolkit for parents to recognize and respond to the growing problems and pressures on campus such as depression and anxiety, loneliness and perfectionism. With stress and anxiety as the top two factors negatively impacting academic performance, it is critical for parents to advocate for their children and help them get the support and mental health services they need. In the previous example, Antonia’s academic struggles are exacerbated by her untreated depression. I want parents like Antonia’s to feel empowered to ask, “Have you met with your psychiatrist? How did it go? Do you mind if we touch base with your psychiatrist as you are adjusting to school?” Through stories and studies, I show steps parents can take to enhance their children’s wellness that include: (1) providing additional support through phone calls and visits when things aren’t going well; (2) having their children sign a FERPA waiver form so parents can check end of semester grades and speak with academic advisors if needed; (3) asking their children to sign a HIPAA release form so parents can speak with their mental health care provider. The book also presents ways parents can respond to more urgent problems, like suicidal behaviors, substance abuse, and psychosis. With appropriate parent intervention, students can recover and succeed.

Your Kid’s Gonna be Okay: Building the Executive Function Skills Your Child Needs in the Age of Attention by Michael Delman, M.Ed. is a great book for parents of middle and high school students to teach their kids the self-regulation skills necessary to meet academic goals. Rather than parents micromanaging their student’s lives, this book encourages parents to cultivate motivation, teach time management, and keep their kids’ attention on school in the face of multiple social media distractions. Chapter 2, “Winning Approaches: How Parents Can Facilitate Change,” does an excellent job explaining how parents should not expect instant change. Rather, we need to patiently work through the five stages of change, starting with emotional support and empowerment. Michael Delman, CEO of the Executive Function coaching company Beyond BookSmart, uses anecdotes as well as educational research to present techniques for parents to promote time management and the self-reflection necessary for learning. Antonia would have been better off having developed organization and prioritization skills prior to coming to college. With this guide, parents can teach their children the skills necessary for success in college and beyond.

Prepare to Leave the Nest, a written program, and podcast by Debby Fogelman, MA, PsyD is a great psychoeducational guide to getting emotionally ready for college. Calling on her years of experience as a therapist and referring to the psychological literature, she provides parents and their college students essential psychological tools to face the academic and social stress present in today’s hypercompetitive college environment. I recommend parents and their college seniors read or listen to the ten articles and discuss their responses. Having psychological awareness is critical in dealing with the obstacles many freshmen like Antonia face – poor grades, a roommate problem, feelings of failure. In articles with titles such as “Why do I feel inadequate?” Dr. Fogelman presents the idea that we all need positive self-esteem to deal with the highs and lows of college life. Too often, college students base their self-worth solely on their GPA. Like Antonia, their self-esteem declines when they do poorly in school or have relationship problems. Dr. Fogelman offers great tips on how to manage academic anxiety and how to end the self-defeating behaviors that hurt relationships.

While we as parents cannot control the course of our college students’ careers, we can set our children on the path for academic success and emotional wellness with these three 2018 guides. The Campus Cure is a book for parents of college students and high school upperclassmen that shows how parents can play a critical role in preventing, responding to, and getting treatment for the common problems and pressures college students experience. Your Kid’s Gonna Be Okay is a book for parents of teenagers and young adults that gives parents the tools to teach their children the executive function skills necessary for college success. Prepare to Leave the Nest is a great read/podcast for parents and their college-bound high school students to have the psychological readiness to find success and satisfaction on campus. The authors of these guides speak not only as professionals but also as parents who recognize the need for creative approaches to meet the challenges of twenty-first century parenting.

 

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8 Tips for Summer College Visits

It’s ideal to tour colleges in the fall or spring, but it is often hard to get away during those times with crazy sports and extracurricular schedules, standardized testing, family trips and so on. When school’s out for summer, many students and parents have much more time to get to college campuses. If you are planning to visit campuses this summer, keep in mind:

  1. Not all schools offer Saturday info sessions and tours. Try to visit when you can go on a tour and attend an info session. All of this information can be found online on schools respective admissions websites.
  2. Interview. Fewer people tour in the summer, which means fewer people are on campus interviewing. Use this to your advantage. Do not miss out on the opportunity to interview on campus if you have had time to adequately prepare. Everyone should prepare for admissions interviews!!! You only get one chance to make a first impression—and though interviews are not the most important component of your app, a killer one can certainly help.
  3. Attend a class. Some schools have very active summer sessions, while others do not. There may not be a formal class visit program offered through admissions during the summer months, but you can still reach out to a faculty member and ask if it is okay to sit in on their class. You can also call and check with your department of interest (for example, the Math Department if you intend to major in math) and see if they can hook you up with permission to sit in on a class.
  4. Connect with and possibly meet with someone from your department of interest. Colleges are open in the summer, even if they don’t look too busy. Call or email your department of interest a few weeks ahead of time. Someone from the department may help you out with sitting in on a class, as well as be willing to speak to you personally or steer you in the direction of any other departmental opportunities that might be available during your visit.
  5. Check the calendar of events. Some college campuses are dead in the summer, while others have a lot going on beyond summer session classes. If there is something going on that interests you, try to check it out. This information could make a nice addition to a why school essay.
  6. Take pictures, take notes, and get the names, emails, and numbers of everyone you meet. Send thank you emails, or a handwritten note to your interviewer. In many cases, you’ll need this info if you end up applying.
  7. Don’t forget to check out the surrounding city, town, or suburb. Keep in mind, in some areas, folks head out of town for the summer. If it feels dead, ask around to find out if this is the case or if it’s like that all of the time.
  8. Remember, campuses located in Florida are not always as hot as they are in the summer, and those in Minnesota are not always as hot as they are in the summer (it gets REALLY cold there!!!). Keep in mind the “normal” temp of the school and that how a campus feels in the summer might not be how it feels when you will be there studying.

 

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March Action Plan – Juniors

The college process is in full swing! Here are a few things to have on your radar and work through this month:

  • You should be meeting with your counselor at school to talk about your college list, testing plan, and letters of recommendation.
  • If possible, fit in a few more college visits. Are you going to sit in on a class? Do you want to try to meet with someone in your intended department of interest (major, minor, etc.)? Not all schools offer formal pathways to these opportunities, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make them happen.
  • Some colleges open up their on-campus interviews this spring. If you plan to interview, please prepare. You should always prepare for interviews, even if a school states they are not evaluative.
  • Do you know what major(s) you will mark on your application or is your strategy to go ‘undecided’? This is a critical part of the process that should be determined now.
  • Keep focusing on your grades, test prep, and strengthening your narrative through your extracurricular activities! By this time, you should have a plan for the summer and that plan should support your “story” for college.

 

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Reality Therapy. The Importance of Honesty in College Admissions

I’ve wanted to share an opinion piece by Jim Jump posted this past November, in which he discusses balancing loyalty (being a cheerleader) and truth (being an honest source of information) in college advising. A few excerpts are below, but I suggest reading the full article here. His “talk” is one I am familiar with:

Recently I met with the top student in my junior class. He has Ivy ambitions, and in a perfect world there would be no question that he would be admitted, but the college admission world, especially at the top of the food chain, is far from perfect. He is unhooked, so I felt obligated to give him the talk I give every one of my students applying to the Ivies and comparably selective colleges and universities.

In a hyperselective environment, where fewer than one in 10 applicants are admitted, no one’s credentials assure admission. Superb grades and scores are, to borrow phrasing from logic, necessary but not sufficient. Colleges and universities use the admission process to help achieve institutional goals and priorities, goals and priorities that may not be publicly stated. As a result an offer of admission is partly merit, partly meeting institutional needs and partly luck.

That message is not easy to hear for a student who’s done everything right and excelled in every environment they have been in.

Seeing highly qualified students get denied from schools that a few years ago they would have likely been admitted is tough. That said, when it comes time for these “talks,” I also like to remind students (and their parents) that where you go to college is not the single defining factor of your life; what is far more important is what you do while you are there (wherever “there” is), the relationships you build, and the person you become. In the end, those things lead to a successful, happy life, not the name of the school on your diploma.

 

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February Action Plan – Juniors

Lots on the to-do list this month, juniors! Here are a few things we think should be on your radar:

  • Now is the time to visit colleges! Are you going to sit in on a class? Do you want to try to meet with someone in your intended department of interest (major, minor, etc.)? Not all schools offer formal pathways to these opportunities, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make them happen. After all campus visits, even if you just sit in on a general info session and take a tour, send your regional rep and any admission representatives you met while on campus a follow-up/thank you email.
  • Some colleges open up their on-campus interviews this spring. If you plan to visit campus and interview, please prepare. You should always prepare for interviews, even if a school states they are not evaluative.
  • Many applications for summer activities/programs are now live. Next summer is a wonderful opportunity to do something really meaningful, perhaps even fun, that will help you tell your story for college! Make your plans now.
  • Meet with your college counselor and get a game-plan in place for spring/summer.
  • Start working on your resume. Some summer programs, internships, and interviewers will ask for this, so it’s useful to have handy.
  • Do you know what major(s) you will mark on your application? Do you have a clearly defined “story” for your college apps? If not, this is a critical part of the process that should be determined now.
  • Start to think about your senior year schedule. Do you know what you will be taking? Your senior classes should be the most challenging of your four years.

 

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11TH GRADE: TIME TO START THE COLLEGE SEARCH AND APPLICATION PROCESS


By 10th and 11th-grade college talk should be consistent—especially if you are, or have a student who is—aiming to attend a selective college or university. That said, we start the majority of our work with students, which includes applying to summer programs, narrative development (your “story” for college), developing your college list, and completing the personal statement and resume, in 11th grade. There is no better time to start the process than right now!

Juniors should consider the following:

  • It is test prep time! If you have not started yet, start now.
  • Meet with your school counselor. S/he will write one of your letters of recommendation for college, and the letter will be much more personal if you know each other! Talk about your plans for this year and next year; let them know about your preliminary college list, any visits you have scheduled, and your testing plan.
  • Now is the time to build your story for college! Have you gotten more involved with any of your extracurricular activities, especially those that relate to your academic interests? Look for leadership opportunities in school and consider activities outside of school as well. Think about ideas for new and different activities, or for how to get more involved in your favorite activity (academic and non-academic).
  • 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 this interest; you should be exploring your interests outside of the classroom/school!
  • Visit colleges in person! Spring is a great time to visit colleges. Talk to students, faculty, and staff, and take notes about classes, clubs, etc. you might want to include in your essays.

Email us or fill out the contact form to schedule a consult and find out how we can support you in your college planning and application process!

 

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TUTORIAL: COMPLETING THE TESTING SECTION OF THE COMMON APPLICATION

 

Video number four just posted on filling out the Testing section of the Common Application. If you have specific questions as you watch it/fill out your Common App, feel free to shoot me an email or reach out via the link at the end of the video.

I also suggest joining our new Facebook group, Conquer the Common Application!!! We hope this group becomes a place where students, parents, and counselors can ask questions, share advice, and ultimately, get filling out the Common App right. Not everyone’s Testing section will look the same because not everyone takes the same tests or reports test scores at all, but it can be nice to see a sample. If you join the group, you can also access a PDF of a completed Testing section.

Please share this post with students or that helps students fill out the Common Application. Enjoy!

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Key Innovations for 2017-2018 Common Application

There are some changes on the horizon for the Common App! Many of the changes for next year’s application stem from feedback the CA received from admissions offices, high schools, and CBO counselors.

This release was a bit light on information regarding how the changes will be rolled out, for example, what is a limited release? Word on the street is some colleges will be using the courses and grades feature on a trial basis, but those schools are unknown at this time. I am very curious what schools will integrate these changes or integrate them on a trial basis, when some of the changes will take place, etc. Seems like it could be confusing for students, parents, counselors, and others who helps students with their apps. I will be updating this post and re-posting once more information is released, quite possbily in May and June.

Google Drive Integration: Students will now be able to easily access and upload documents, resumes, and school assignments while completing the Common App, and the college-specific sections of the application. We know that many school districts have adopted Google Docs and Google Drive to enable their students and teachers to create, collaborate, and access shared documents from any internet connected device. We also recognize that some students do not always have personal computers at home but use Google Drive on school or library computers to store their documents. We want to meet students where they are. By using the systems that they are already using, we are making the process more accessible for students.

CBO, Advising, and Recommender Enhancements: Students receiving support from advising and community-based organizations will be able to work with those counselors just as they work with their school-based counselors and teachers within the application. These individuals will then be able to manage their caseloads and view student progress within the Common App system. Also, any student who wishes to do so will be able to share a view of their in-progress application with their school counselor, CBO counselor, or other advisors.

Courses & Grades: Many students are required to submit self-reported high school academic records when applying to some colleges and universities. With Courses & Grades, students will be able to fill out their self-reported transcript information as part of their Common Application. By integrating the Courses & Grades section into the Common App, those students who are already sending this information will be able to complete and submit it with their Common App, making the process of self-reporting transcripts more standardized and streamlined for students, counselors, and colleges.

Courses & Grades was developed from the feedback of member institutions, high school students, and counselors. The Common Application hosted a series of student and counselor focus groups with beta testing to determine how to make the self-reported transcript process accessible and efficient. Courses & Grades will launch in limited release on August 1, 2017.

Sorry for the blurry pic, but this is the one that was provided on the CA site:

Spanish Language Resources: Key information for using the Common App will be translated so that students, parents and other family members who speak Spanish as their first language can better understand the college admission process, including applying for financial aid and receiving virtual mentoring. This new tool will also benefit counselors who will be working with these families and will need Common App materials in Spanish.

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Focused College Applicants Beat Well-rounded College Applicants Any Day

Being well-rounded is nice generally, but colleges are looking for students with something unique, a specific talent, skill, or interest to add to their next class. Students who drill down on their interests early on in high school will be better positioned to tell a clear, focused story in their college applications. By doing so, you hand the reader of your file exactly what they are looking for—you make it easy to see your value add.

You may love all five clubs you are in and the three sports you play, but how much can you meaningfully contribute to all eight activities? Suggestion: try to narrow down your interests and corresponding activities by the end of 10th grade, and think about how you can engage more meaningfully and at a higher level in the one or two things you love the most. It’s a bonus if these activities relate to your potential college major, or support it in some way!

Drilling down on your interests to develop a clear story or narrative for your college apps will go a long way in the admissions process, and is one of the focus areas of our college counseling work with high school students!

Remember, colleges seek to build a well-rounded class comprised of students with unique talents and skills, not a class full of generalists.