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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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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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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New Common Application Guidance on Essays/Writing Requirements

News from the Common App:

The Common App is providing a brand new feature! In response to feedback from the counseling community, The Common App created a resource to help applicants and those who support them better understand the writing requirements of our more than 700 member colleges.

The Writing Requirements resource is incorporated into our already popular “Members Live” FAQ, which we continually update as colleges publish their specific institutional questions. Clicking the “Writing Requirements” link for a college will take you to a designated page for that college where you will find the following information for both their First-Year and Transfer applications:

* All required and optional long-answer questions

* All required and optional questions that request a document upload

* The location of these questions (College-Specific Questions or Writing Supplement)

* Minimum and maximum word counts for each question

The listing does not include conditionally required writing questions, such as those triggered by an applicant’s choice of academic program. For that reason, the “My Colleges” tab of the Common App account remains the definitive record of each institution’s requirements. We will update each college’s unique FAQ on a weekly basis to reflect any changes within the “My Colleges” section.

We developed this tool to better support counselors seeking to learn more about writing requirements across our member colleges, as well as students working to budget their application planning time. And to those colleagues who have encouraged the creation of this enhancement, thank you for helping us improve how we serve you and your students.

Guest Post: Bad Wisdom

Guest post by YouSchool’s Scott Schimmel

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to speak to about one hundred accounting students at the University of San Diego and lead them through interactive exercises to explore their inner lives to find clarity about their future. For an hour we talked about getting clear about what they believe in, finding a mission to pursue with their lives, and getting a vision for they kind of person they want to become. The main message for them was that now is a crucial time for them to get clear about who they are and where they’re going in life.

A professor in his mid-fifties sat in during the workshop and walked with me for a few minutes as we wrapped up. He joked that while I was speaking, he turned to a student and said, “Hey, don’t feel pressure to have everything figured out at your age; I’m still figuring life out, too!”

He was letting me know in a passive-aggressive way that he disagrees with the YouSchool’s primary premise: that young people can get clear about important things in their lives. Just because most older people are still figuring their lives out (or given up trying) doesn’t mean that young people should follow their example!

Here’s the point: young people can find clarity for a lot of important aspects of their lives.

They can get clear about who they want to grow up to be, they can get clear about what matters most to them, they can get clear about the kinds of relationships they want to build, they can get clear about what their strengths and interests are, and they can get clear about the life trajectory they are on. They can get clear about foundational things in their lives, which will lead to much more informed decision making.

Getting clear matters, because our lives matter. The choices young people are forced to make impact their future work, family, character, and the mark they leave on the world.

Let’s all collectively stop encouraging young people to figure life out later, and give them appropriate anxiety about the importance of getting clear now. Good wisdom will lead young people to take responsibility for the direction of their lives and guide them down a path to get to clarity.

There is a process to getting clear. It involves finding the time and space to commit to guided self-reflection, interactive conversations with peers and life advisors, and a trusted guide for the entire process.

The first step is to decide that you want to get clear. 

To learn more about the YouSchool check them online, or contact Cheif Guide Scott Schimmel directly!

High School Counselor Training

When my high school counselor informed me that I might not be cut out for a four-year college or university, I was not only crushed but also confused. I grew up in a household with two college educated parents, and in what I look back now on as a very “college-going” culture, so why didn’t my counselor at school believe in me the same way my parents did?

The truth is, it was probably because of my not-so-stellar (but not horrible, geez!) grades, and my less than perfect disciplinary record (I was a free spirit, what can I say…). But what I know now, and what I sensed then, was imperfections and all, there was a four-year college for me!

Interestingly, I was accepted to a few different four-year schools, all of which were considered selective institutions. I ended up attending the University of Vermont, graduated in three years, and then headed to the University of Pennsylvania for graduate study. I earned my master’s degree and then my doctoral degree in higher education, and focused my dissertation on exploring how high schools create college-going cultures. During the same time, I spent approximately seven years working in admissions and student services before transitioning to my current role as an independent educational consultant. Today, I help students—those with good grades, bad grades, arrests and angelic records—determine their academic interests and goals, and the postsecondary path that is the best fit.

What I also know now is that many American high school guidance counselors are not provided in-depth training on the college search and application process in graduate school. A 2012 Harvard report stated, “Although graduate course work varies by state…specific course work in higher education or college counseling is rarely required if even offered.” My guess is this was most likely the case with my high school counselor.

Once in the role, training does not become more readily available if offered at all. High school counselors are often left to their own devices, with few opportunities for professional development, to master what is a very broad base of knowledge. A qualitative study by Savitz-Romer in 2012, found that school-based in-service focuses almost exclusively on instructional topics, providing little relevance to school counselors, and as a result, most school counselors rely on outside professional development opportunities—or worse—they do not attend at all. When you begin to factor in the nuances of standardized testing, financial aid, school choice, application plans, and how Ivy League and other selective school’s admissions really work, it is clear it’s a whole other area of expertise that needs to be developed to guide students through what has become an increasingly confusing and competitive process.

I see IEC’s and high school guidance counselors as partners in the process, and feel strongly we are all on the same team and have the same goals in mind: to best serve our students and support them on their pathway to postsecondary education, whether its technical school, community college, the Ivy League or somewhere in between. Today, I am motivated to help school counselors better understand the college admissions landscape, and best support their students. I’ve developed training modules on selective college admissions, the Common Application, testing timelines, resume/activity sheet creation, and a general crash course for new counselors on all things applying to college. I’m confident IEC’s can benefit from learning about what goes on inside high school counseling offices, and by increasing knowledge sharing, we all seek to improve our ability to serve students.

I’d love to connect with high school counselors who want to learn more about college counseling, and in return, are eager to share their insights with IEC’s.


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Updated SAT Subject Test Policies

From Compass, updated SAT Subject test (SAT II) requirements and recommendations for the Class of 2018. Not many changes here, but worth reviewing now as it is time to sign up for May and June exams, and think ahead as you create your testing plan. Thanks, Compass!

What’s Worse Than Waiting to Hear From Colleges?

….getting asked about it!

Later this month and throughout April, colleges and universities will notify students about their regular decision applications. Students will either be admitted, denied, or placed on the dreaded waitlist (although we have helped quite a few student get off the WL and into their dream school, ask us how!). Needless to say, it is a stressful time for all seniors who did not commit to a school after the release of early round results.

As we approach decision dates, consider giving this post (with video) from the Wall Street Journal a read!

University of California Seeks Cap on Out-of-State Students

From Inside Higher Ed: The University of California System on Monday announced a proposal to limit undergraduate enrollment from out of state, systemwide, to 20 percent, The Los Angeles Times reported. The proposal would allow the three campuses already over 20 percent—Berkeley, Los Angeles, and San Diego—to keep their out-of-state levels. The remaining campuses would be allowed to grow to 20 percent but not exceed it, but only if the proposed systemwide cap is not hit. The university system has significantly increased out-of-state enrollment in the last decade, to 16.5 percent across the system, citing state appropriations cuts that have increased the need for other sources of revenue, such as the higher tuition rates paid by non-Californians.

The Times reported that faculty leaders oppose the university plan and fear that such limits could result in the system losing both top students and revenue that it needs.

The UC Board of Regents will take up the proposal next week.