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Procrastinate Much? Manage Your Emotions, Not Your Time.

Procrastinate Much? Manage Your Emotions, Not Your Time.

Procrastination. It’s frustrating, often maddening, but this article helped.

Procrastination isn’t about avoiding work; it’s about avoiding negative emotions. We procrastinate when a task stirs up feelings like anxiety, confusion or boredom. And although it makes us feel better today, we end up feeling worse — and falling behind — tomorrow. This means that if you want to procrastinate less, you don’t have to increase your work ethic or improve your time management. You can instead focus on changing your habits around emotion management.

Applying to college can be confusing, definitely boring at times, and almost always, for everyone involved, anxiety-provoking. Read the full article here!

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Lab Internships for High School Students

Lab Internships for High School Students

Re-sharing a post from Josh Rabinovich of Warp Drive Tutors (check them out for all of your STEM tutoring needs!) on how to approach summer internships while in high school. Although we don’t really know what summer 2021 will look like yet, now is the time for sophomores, juniors, and even graduating seniors to start planning. Many students seek to gain lab experience. Thank you for these insights, Josh!

First, if you have not started looking and the end of the school year is rapidly approaching, you needn’t fear that all of the potentially good internships are taken by now. They are not. In fact, you will find a plethora of availability providing you know where to look and you have something tangible to offer the lab you approach. But to begin, you need to have an understanding of what will be expected of you and what you should expect from an internship.

Of course, the first question is, will you get paid? And the answer is no, not if you want to get something valuable from your experience. Labs are usually run on shoestring budgets, determined by grant funding, and it is tough out there in grant land. So any money that goes out will only go out to that which proves immediately valuable to the lab, and as you have no understanding of DNA ligation and cloning methodologies (though you will by the time your summer is up) you have, sorry to put it this way, no immediate value to the lab. If you do wind up getting paid, it is because they assign you something nobody else wants to do, like cleaning up and organizing the cold room. Do you want to spend your summer cleaning up the cold room? Bleh.

So now that we have discussed what they will expect from you, let’s look at what you should expect from your internship. If all goes well, you will emerge with two very valuable assets, and these are a) actual lab experience, which will help if you want to work in a lab in college, not to mention help you decide if you want to pursue science, and b) a letter of recommendation. When I say actual lab experience, understand that after a very short amount of time you will be given your own project, which you will be expected to work on independently and keep detailed notes about. What you will not do is “shadow” someone, at least not for very long. Shadowing someone is not helping them, it is just being a pain! So you will be shown some basics, and then given some legit work the lab needs to have done. And if you are working in a molecular lab, you should expect that your work will include handling DNA, and using recombinant DNA protocols. In fact, you might want to make sure these are things you will do in advance.

None of this, of course, is meant to scare you off, just to tell you what you are looking at. So how do you get an internship? Look at the university’s website for the graduate department in whatever discipline interests you, ie cell biology, laser physics, etc and then look at the different labs and see which might appeal to you. Email the director of that lab and say you are a high school student and would like to volunteer over the summer (you may have to send this more than once). Also, you will need to have taken an AP course in the general field that the lab is involved in, so if you want to get some cloning in, you will want to have taken AP Biology. You may also want to consider that some labs will expect you to put in some pretty hefty hours. Not all, but some definitely will.

Lastly, when do you ask for the letter of recommendation? The answer is, as soon as you have left the lab. Remember, the most important thing a letter reader wants to see in a letter of rec is how well the letter writer knows the person about whom he/she is writing. So if you wait until 3 months later, the person writing the letter will have forgotten almost everything about you and your letter will read “Jane worked in the lab and everyone liked her. She accomplished a lot”. This won’t help you. Try and get the letter as soon as possible after you leave, when the person you worked with will have a clear memory of what you did, and what your success and failures were.

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Resume/Activity Sheets: Where Less Is Always More

Resume/Activity Sheets: Where Less Is Always More

The resumes we see tend to take two forms: the students who does it all, but nothing very deeply or well, and the students who does very little (to varying degrees of depth and rigor). 

You don’t need to do it all, but you do need to do something, or a few things, really well or to an extent that goes beyond that of your peers. And if you can’t help but spread yourself a bit thin, you can still craft a narrow application (ask us how!). 

Colleges look for students with something unique, a specific talent, skill, or interest to add to their next class. Students who drill down on an interest or two early on in high school will be better positioned to tell a clear, focused story in their applications. By doing so, they hand the reader of their file exactly what they are looking for—they make it easy to see the value you will add on campus.

This might mean doing a lot of exploration early in high school and this is okay. However, don’t be afraid to find something you like, drill down on it, and not do too much else extracurricularly. You don’t want a resume that reads like a laundry list anyway.

Here’s what a few top colleges have to say on the subject via Niche:

  • “You [should] demonstrate a deep commitment to and genuine appreciation for what you spend your time doing. The joy you take in the pursuits that really matter to you – rather than a resume padded with a long list of activities – will strengthen your candidacy.” –Yale’s advice on Activities
  • “When we evaluate an applicant’s activity list, we’re not looking for a specific number of involvements or even specific types.  We are much more interested in seeing an applicant follow their passions and show dedication over time to a few specific involvements rather than spreading themselves too thin.” –USC Admissions Blog
  • “We are looking for students who will contribute their talents, interests, perspectives, and distinct voices to our community… We are more interested in your focus on a few activities over time (such as work, care for parents and siblings, service, or athletics), rather than membership in a long list of clubs—although we understand that some students can balance an assortment of activities.” –Swarthmore College, “What We Look for in a Swattie”
  • “You’re joining a team. And because we’re recruiting a team of people who will work together, we want a variety of strengths and talents that, together, will form a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. So, not every talented student needs to be talented in the same way.” – UNC-Chapel Hill, “Who We Want”

The question I ask a lot when thinking about activities: How much can you meaningfully contribute to more than a few activities? Narrowing down your interests and corresponding activities can provide the time and space needed to 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!

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

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January Action Plan – By Grade

January Action Plan – By Grade

Seniors:

  • If you have RD applications due in mid-January that you did not submit, finish those up ASAP. The same goes for 2/1 deadline apps; there is no reason to wait!
  • The process of applying to college is not over after you press submit, so keep checking those online portals! Some schools require a mid-term grade report as noted on the application instructions (found online). It can be helpful to generate that list and let your school counselor know so it is sent as soon as grades are released. Also, many schools require it even after you have been admitted. 
  • Grades are still important. Even one grade below your “normal” can be cause for concern; we’ve had students receive letters from schools after they had been admitted for a grade that “dipped” too far, threatening their admission could be taken away. Avoid this by maintaining your GPA.
  • If you were deferred, work on your deferral letter this month and aim to send it mid-month.
  • Thank everyone who helped you with your college process (especially your parents!), and take some time to enjoy what is left of high school between now and the rest of your admissions results.

Juniors:

  • Testing. Once you are in prep-mode it is best to just keep going. The sooner you are finished testing, the sooner you can begin to finalize your college list. If you have a preliminary list, February break is a great time to visits colleges. Plan some visits.
  • Confirm your summer plans. Next summer is a wonderful opportunity to do something really meaningful (and perhaps even fun!) that will help you tell your story to colleges.
  • 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.
  • Resolve to check your email daily. Why? Colleges communicate with students via email. Most schools track whether you open emails and if you click through them; more engagement is seen as more interest (schools use interest in the admissions process). Make checking and engaging with any college-related email a habit in 2021.

Sophomores & Freshmen:

  • Are you planning to take SAT subject tests in May or June? If so, come up with a prep plan now.
  • An impressive academic record is the most important admissions factor at most colleges. Study hard.
  • Speaking of courses, when do you pick your courses for 11th grade? Keep in mind you want to take a more rigorous course schedule each year.
  • Now is the time to build your story for college! Have you gotten more involved with any of your extracurricular activities? Have you thought about what you might want to major in? A great place to start exploring your academic interests is Khan Academy.
  • One way that your “story” is conveyed in your app is through your resume. Work on your resume now.
  • Many 2021 summer program applications will open soon. Begin thinking about your plans for summer 2021 now so you can get ahead of deadlines and work on applications if needed.
  • Replace one hour of social media, Netflix, or TV per week with time on Ted ED. Explore what intrigues you! Maybe it’s the history of cheese, particle physics, or what makes a poem a poem. Whatever you find interesting, take some time to be intentional about learning more in the new year!

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Peer Guidance Program: Go Beyond the College Tour!

Peer Guidance Program: Go Beyond the College Tour!

Given campus visit restrictions, students are finding it more challenging than ever before to get a sense of what a college is really like. Prospective applicants want (and need!) information they can’t always get online, and that they would often get by sitting in on classes, going on overnight visits, or even meeting with current students on campus through sports teams, affinity groups, or clubs they hope to join if admitted.

Whether students get to campus or not, we know from experience that they can craft smaller, more targeted college lists that reflect a deep knowledge of schools beyond rankings when they talk to current students and young alumni. Talking to peers is also the single best way to learn more about the social aspects of college and what it is like (realistically!) to follow a certain major path.

With that, we’ve launched a new Peer Guide program!

We have a small pool of college students who are available to meet with high school students and help guide them on all things their school, major, and college life in general. Here’s how it works:

Reach out letting us know the specific school or major you want peer guidance on, and we will let you know if guides are available and share their bio(s). *Please note, as we are piloting this program, we might not have a guide available for your college or major of interest; if one becomes available later, we will let you know

-You choose a guide(s) and let us know how much time you want with them (one hour is typically sufficient). Time with the guide is purchased in one-hour blocks, and we ask that you use the time with your guide within three months

-We intro the student and guide, and they take it from there! This is not a formal mentorship program, and students and guides will schedule their time together directly. *Please note, this is a near-peer, student-to-student program. Guides do not meet with or communicate with parents

We have guides from many popular schools including:

  • Michigan
  • Dartmouth
  • Duke
  • Tulane
  • Stanford
  • Princeton
  • Harvard
  • GWU
  • Georgetown
  • Cornell
  • Notre Dame
  • Northeastern
  • and more!

Email us if you are interested in learning more!

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Steps for Deferred College Applicants

Every year we work with a handful of deferred students on turning those defers into admits. Reach out to us if you want individualized, 1:1 guidance!

Some colleges and universities can’t admit all of the students they would like to via early decision or early action (“ED” or “EA”), so they defer some and evaluate them again during regular decision (“RD”). These candidates have a shot (albeit small at many top-top schools) at getting admitted RD. However, some schools just defer everyone or almost everyone! A not so nice practice. Most students who fall into this category should move on and focus on other schools. If you are not sure which category you fall into, reach out to us. 

If you’d like some general guidance on working the deferral, you’ll find it below. But first, a few notes before doing anything to “work” a deferral:

1. Stay positive for RD, or preferably, early decision II (“ED II”), and keep moving forward on other apps! Those are much more important now.

2. Consider ED II if you are currently not. Not all schools have ED II; check your Common App to see if ED II is offered at any schools on your list. Why? because….

3. The RD round is tough and this year’s early numbers (at top-top schools where numbers are NOT down) demonstrate it might be even tougher than before; it is smart to get familiar with the ED I and RD numbers and understand why ED II can present a significant advantage over RD. Read this chart by Jeff Levy and Jeannie Kent. Pay particular attention to the percentage of the class filled by early plans.

4. Don’t make the same mistakes again (or again, and again…). You should be very open to doing a thorough evaluation of what might have gone wrong with your early app(s). With fresh eyes, you might find a few things you would change. Or, with the feedback from someone else, see that you missed the mark. If you’d like an expert evaluation of your deferred app, our “redo report,” contact us.

Other Tips:

–Get your guidance counselor’s support. Have your guidance counselor advocate for you (call) and reach out to your regional rep (or whoever their contact is in the admissions office). Make sure updated grades/transcripts are sent promptly. Your grades should have remained the same or improved, not dipped.

-If you applied test-optional, consider taking and/or sending scores. Colleges have always valued competitive scores and this year is likely no different.

–Get an extra letter of recommendation if the school notes you are allowed to send one*. This letter could be written by a teacher, coach, or someone else close to you who can speak to your background, performance, and potential.

*Side note on alumni letters and letters from well-known or famous people. Many students ask if these are helpful to send, and the answer is usually no. And…some schools explicitly state not to send any extras.

–Make contacts locally and talk to students and alumni. Reach out to local alumni chapters and ask if there is anyone willing to meet with you for an informal informational interview. Use this meeting as an opportunity to learn more about the school, and demonstrate your interest in attending. Information learned in these meetings are beneficial to include in your deferral letter.

-Connect with your regional rep and consider sending a deferral letter (aka a letter of continued interest). You should have connected with them prior to applying, so this email won’t be out of the blue. Ask if they have any specific advice for deferred candidates. Are reasons for the deferral that you can address in the coming months (grades, test scores or lack thereof, lack of demonstrating interest, or understanding the mission and values of the school)? If you had an interview and established a good relationship with your interviewer, you can also reach out to them to see if they have any tips. A deferral letter should contain information updating the school on what you’ve been up to both inside and outside of the classroom since the time you applied as a way to show your fit for the school, how you will add value, etc. It should not be a list of your accomplishments or a brag sheet. Contact us if you would like some help with your deferral letter.

Secondary Efforts:

-Use social media to your advantage. Don’t be afraid to follow your top choice schools on Facebook, Instagram, or other social channels. Most schools also have LinkedIn pages you can follow. These touchpoints likely won’t help significantly, but can’t hurt as a way to demonstrate interest.

 

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What Has Not Changed in College Admissions

What Has Not Changed in College Admissions

In his recent Forbes article, The College Admission Precedent, Brendan Barnard asks us to please stop using the word unprecedented when describing the college process this year because it is “an unwelcome and constant reminder of just how uncertain the past months have been, as our world reels in the face of a global pandemic.” I’m not bothered by it, but what I love about his piece is the focus on the constants. Year over year, things really don’t change all that much. A few quotes I pulled that remind us to keep moving forward, take a deep breath, and stay the course:

Jonathan Burdick, vice provost for enrollment at Cornell University points out that “the basic timing for college learning and degree-seeking as a life event doesn’t seem to have faced the same kind of profound disruption as other related activities.” He says, “with minor exceptions, we’re still seeing students aiming to complete their high school career on time and begin their college career shortly after, and the same for students progressing from college to career or to graduate and professional schools.” He adds, “even when the mechanisms and the anticipated experience are uncertain or have significantly changed, most—really almost all—students seem committed to their anticipated timeline and progress without interruption.” 

Jeff Schiffman, director of admission at Tulane University agrees. He says, “frankly, the applications themselves were not substantially different from previous years. Yes, we saw more students mentioning ‘caring for younger siblings’ in their extracurricular list, and yes we saw a few times where the “12” was missing from the grades the student played tennis, but overall most applications were not markedly different from previous years.” He adds, “to me, it felt mostly like business as usual.” 

Todd Rinehart, vice chancellor for enrollment at the University of Denver at the current NACAC president points out that, “while much has changed this year in the way colleges and students engage with each other and how college admission officers conduct their work, students can take solace that the application reading and evaluation process is still grounded in the same principles and factors as previous years.” He adds, “admission counselors may be working remotely, but our reading and committee work will continue successfully, providing students full consideration for admission and scholarships. That process will not be jeopardized!”

And my favorite — please please students take this man’s advice and get apps in EARLY:

To that end, Andy Borst, director of undergraduate admissions at the University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign highlights another enduring truth about how students apply to college. He says, “it is human nature to apply right before the deadline. Of our Early Action applicants, over half came in within the final two days of our deadline. This has been true for each of the last several years. It doesn’t appear to matter if our deadline is November 1 or November 15, most students will apply within a few days of the deadline.” While unlikely, a change to this precedent would be welcome by many anxious parents and educators!

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Sophomores and Juniors: Independent Study

Sophomores and Juniors: Independent Study

COVID is hindering in-person learning, forcing clubs to meet online (if not canceling them outright), and may even throw a wrench in in-person educational and extracurricular planning for next spring and summer. A primary focus of our work with 10th and 11th graders is extracurricular planning, and there’s one that is almost never dependent on needing to be anywhere in person: the independent study. 

Independent studies (IS) can be done anywhere and work with almost any area of interest, which is why in such uncertain times, they are our go-to EC. Like the “purpose” or “passion” projects many of our students undertake, the IS is a create your own educational opportunity, so there’s no one size fits all model to follow or template you can use to just plug and play. Below are some of the details we suggest thinking through if you are interested in conceptualizing an IS.

Who

The IS requires the student to have an area of interest that they want to explore (or explore more), as well as the time, energy, and foresight to plan it on their own. However, students may want to seek out support from a teacher at their high school or a mentor from outside of school if they desire to formalize it or have some guidance or check-ins along the way. 

What

Anything goes! But we suggest an area of academic interest related to what you may pursue in college. It might be a new topic, or it might be an extension of a topic you have already researched. The bottom line is, it should 1) be a topic/area you choose because you will need to be into it to make the work happen on your own and 2) if possible, it should work with your academic narrative (the academic story that unfolds in your college apps). 

Where

Planning the IS as a remote activity is a good call given the uncertainties around COVID. Doing so also provides the flexibility to add on other activities/formal programming or have time for a job if that suits you while still working on the IS, as well as plan something like travel (college visits?) if that becomes reality again! 

When

Winter break or early in the new year is the perfect time for students to start planning their independent study. As for an ideal start time? Many juniors are busy with testing so we suggest it as a summer activity, although students who may not have AP testing in May or who have finished or not yet started ACT/SAT testing could realistically start in the spring if their courseload allowed. The classes that appear on your transcript will always be the most important to colleges, so you don’t want your IS to get in the way of excelling in those courses. 

Why

Beyond how the restrictions that might be in place around COVID make it an ideal activity, an independent study helps demonstrate to colleges your commitment to learning, your intellectual focus and curiosity, and that you are a self-directed learner interested in charting your own course and not limiting yourself to what you can take in school (or afford to take outside of it). 

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Optional Components of the College Application

Optional Components of the College Application

If you want to maximize your chances of acceptance, don’t consider any optional components of a college application optional. Here are some common optional components:

  • Essays
  • Interviews
  • Videos submissions
  • Letter of recommendation (any or extras)

Option to write an optional essay? Write it.

Option to Interview? Sign up (then prepare for it…more on that here and here).

Option to create and send a video introduction, for example, like CMC, U Chicago and Bowdoin offer? Do it.

Option to send an extra letter of recommendation, or to send one at all if optional (many schools require zero LORs, so if you can submit one as an option….)? Request one and have it sent.

Why submit optional materials? It means you want to go above and beyond what other applicants will do to demonstrate who they are as well as their commitment to being accepted to the school to which you are applying. You are giving yourself the opportunity to let the admissions committee get to know more about you. More of “you” to evaluate, assuming the you that you present is in a good light, is usually a good thing.

Also, for many AdComs, not submitting optional materials looks lazy. If I have applicant A and applicant B on the table, and all things are equal but A submits extra materials and B does not, there is a higher likelihood I am going with A. I like to see the extra hustle, and colleges do, too.

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Increase in ED/EA Applications from 2019 to 2020

Increase in ED/EA Applications from 2019 to 2020

Curious as to why so many deferrals and flat out rejections in this year’s early round?

Everyone thought they had a chance at a top-top school this year (what we’ve been calling a bit of COVID Confidence) but many admission offices are not playing the same game as in past years. Fewer legacy favors, a greater emphasis on applicants from diverse backgrounds, and yes, huge surges in app numbers have made it a tough early round.

Best pieces of general advice?

  1. Play your cards right with a smart ED 2 choice and broaden your list for RD — it does not get easier to get in during later rounds!
  2. Avoid making the same mistakes twice: have someone (like us!) provide a ding report so you can fix application errors, improve essays, and submit better apps in RD/ED2.
  3. Don’t stop after you press submit. More on this in a later post…

Stats via IECA listserve compiled by JRA.

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