Reminder! Online Event for Parents Tomorrow, 6/30

Reminder! Online Event for Parents Tomorrow, 6/30

Join us Tuesday, June 30 at 8 pm EST for an interactive discussion on how you can support your student throughout high school as they work toward applying to college. Our discussion will focus on grades, testing, and supporting student’s academic and other extracurricular interests.

We will be taking questions from attendees, and you can submit 1-2 via email ahead of time when you RSVP.

Please RSVP by 6/27 to hello@brittany.consulting. Once you RSVP you will be sent the link for the Zoom session. Share with friends — we hope to see you there!

 

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More Colleges Going Test-Optional (Update 6/26)

More Colleges Going Test-Optional (Update 6/26)

Okay, so just about everyone is TO for this year!

Some of the recent additions to the list are below, but please go to FairTest.org for a full list:

Amherst (1 year)
Babson (1 year)
Bentley
Boston University (1 year)
Brown (temporary)
California State Schools – CSU’s
Case Western University
Chapman University
Claremont McKenna (temporary)
Colgate (1 year)
College of Charleston
College of New Jersey
Columbia (temporary)
Cornell (temporary)
Dartmouth (temporary)
Davidson (3-year trial)
Elon (3-year pilot)
Fordham (2-year pilot)
Gonzaga (temporary)
Hamilton (1 year)
Harvard (temporary)
Haverford (3-year trial)
Indiana University
JHU (temporary)
Loyola Marymount (1 year)
Loyola New Orleans (TEST BLIND)
Macalester
Michigan State (1 year)
Middlebury (3-year pilot)
Northeastern (1 year)
Northwestern (temporary)
Oberlin (3-year pilot)
Occidental (1 year)
Ohio State (temporary)
Penn (temporary)
PSU
Pomona College (1 year)
Princeton (temporary)
RPI
Rhodes College
Rochester Institute of Technology
Rowan
Rutgers
Santa Clara University (2-year pilot)
SMU
Stanford (temporary)
Swarthmore (2-year pilot)
Syracuse
Texas Christian University (temporary)
Tufts (3-year trial)
Tulane (1 year)
University of California (temporary)
University of Oregon
University of Richmond (temporary)
University of San Diego
University of Southern California (temporary)
UT Austin (temporary)
UVA (temporary)
University of Washington (temporary)
Vassar (1 year)
Villanova (temporary)
Virginia Tech (1 year)
Washington & Lee (temporary)
Wellesley (temporary)
William and Mary (3-year pilot)
Williams
Yale (temporary)

Please note: going TO does not mean schools will be “easier” to get into. And when a school goes test-optional, it does not mean that you automatically should apply without test scores. There are very few students who benefit from applying without test scores to many top-tier colleges.

Also, test-optional and test-blind are two different things; watch out for articles citing schools as test blind when they really mean just test-optional.

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How To Approach the Common & Coalition App Coronavirus / COVID-19 Essay

How To Approach the Common & Coalition App Coronavirus / COVID-19 Essay

This year, both applications have added an optional 250-word essay to address the impact COVID-19 has had on you. The prompt for the Common App is as follows (and you can find the Coalition prompt here): 

Community disruptions such as COVID-19 and natural disasters can have deep and long-lasting impacts. If you need it, this space is yours to describe those impacts. Colleges care about the effects on your health and well-being, safety, family circumstances, future plans, and education, including access to reliable technology and quiet study spaces. Do you wish to share anything on this topic? Y/N

If you check “yes,” you will see: Please use this space to describe how these events have impacted you.

Of course, everyone has been affected by the pandemic: many students were not able to complete an internship, attend a summer program, or retake the ACT—and of course, almost all students ended up having to attend classes virtually for the spring semester. Colleges know the pandemic has limited options for every student in many ways! If these normal limitations represent the extent of your experience with COVID-19, we encourage you to skip this essay. AdComs will be reading so many of these essays that an unexceptional one will do little to bolster your application.

If you feel you’ve had an exceptional experience, however, read on for examples of some circumstances that might be acceptable to talk about in this essay. Although this list is not exhaustive, it should give you a sense of what AdComs might expect to read in this new space. 

Circumstances that might warrant an essay: 

  • Illness: You were very sick; a close family member was very sick; or, in the worst-case scenario, someone close to you passed away. 
  • Relocation: You were forced to live elsewhere during this time because you lived in an area with a very high infection rate, because a family member fell sick, or to support a family member with a compromised immune system. 
  • Family Circumstances: A family member lost their job or was furloughed and this affected your family’s situation in a profound way (where you lived, access to basic needs, etc.). 
  • Education, including access to reliable technology and quiet study spaces: Any of the above happened, which resulted in a profound impact on your ability to learn during this time; for instance, you were not able to attend school during this time because you needed to work to support your family or you had no, or very limited, access to a computer with reliable internet. 
  • Future plans: If the pandemic prompted you to rethink your plans for college (you now, for example, want to focus your studies on healthcare policy or ed-tech), it would be acceptable to talk about that impact in this essay. 
  • Exceptional Acts of Service: If the pandemic inspired you to perform an extraordinary act (or acts) of service, ones that had a real impact in either your local community or further away (via online tutoring, for example), admissions officers would want to hear about that, too. 

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Our Favorite (and Free!) Online Courses for High School Students

Our Favorite (and Free!) Online Courses for High School Students

I have been pushing free classes via edX and Coursera for a while now. They are the perfect way for students to build their academic narrative, which is a must when applying to selective colleges. If you did not jump on this suggestion already, this summer is certainly the time.

Below are some of my favorites from both platforms. Click on the course title for a direct link!

English/Writing

Creative Writing Specialization, Wesleyan

Writing in the Sciences, Stanford

Write Your First Novel, Michigan State

Business/Psychology/Leadership

Leading People and Teams Specialization, U-Michigan

The Art and Science of Relationships, U Toronto

The Art of Negotiation, UC Irvine

New Models of Business In Society, UVA

Arts/Fashion

Circular Fashion: Design, Science and Value in a Sustainable Clothing Industry, Wageningen

Inspiring and Motivating Arts and Culture Teams, Michigan

Hollywood: History, Industry, Art, Penn

Weird/Wonderful

Star Trek: Inspiring Culture and Technology, Smithsonian

Tangible Things: Discovering History Through Artworks, Artifacts, Scientific Specimens, and the Stuff Around You, Harvard.

The Rise of Superheroes and Their Impact On Pop Culture, Smithsonian

 

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Preparing for Interviews? Prep With Us Online!

Preparing for Interviews? Prep With Us Online!

College admissions interviews are a way to demonstrate interest, learn more about the school, and help the school learn more about you.

Colleges are now offering interviews online via various platforms. We are offering interview prep sessions via Zoom and Google Meet this summer and fall. Here’s a sampling of schools offering online interviews:

Babson
Bowdoin
Claremont McKenna
Dickinson
Grinnell
Hamilton
Haverford
Holy Cross
Lafayette
Providence College
Rochester
Skidmore
William & Mary

Some schools with informal online offerings:

Pomona (Zoom session with an AdCom to ask questions)
Richmond (Zoom session with an AdCom to ask questions)

Practice with a parent or friend, or practice with us! Never go to an interview unprepared! Learning how to interview if a skill for life, not just for the college process. Email us if you are interested in learning how to ace your online interview.

Below, you will find some common interview questions.

High School Experience

  1. Tell me a little bit about your high school experience and the courses you are taking currently
  2. Which class has been your least favorite? Why?
  3. Tell me about your favorite class(s) you have taken. Why was it your favorite?
  4. Which classes have been the most difficult (or most challenging)?
  5. What subjects do you plan on studying at [school]?
  6. How have you pursued this interest in school, and outside of school?
  7. What is your dream job?

Extracurricular Activities

  1. What extracurricular activities are you involved in?
  2. When you’re not in class, studying, or doing homework, what do you do with your time (organized activities or things for fun)?
  3. How did you get involved/started with ____ activity?
  4. Which activity is the most meaningful to you, and which one is the most fun?
  5. What extracurricular activities do you hope to continue in college?
  6. If you could only continue taking part in one EC, which one would it be and why?

College Expectations

  1. What type of environment are you looking for in a college/university?
  2. What matters most to you in a college setting?

School Specific

  1. How did you become interested in [school]?
  2. What do you find appealing about [school]?
  3. Why do you think you [school] might be the right fit for you?
  4. Do you know any students at [school]? Have you reached out to them to learn more about [school]?
  5. If you had an opportunity to tell the Admissions Committee anything about yourself, what would it be? What would you want the Admissions Committee to know about you that may not come across on your application?
  6. What have you learned about [school] that seems unusual or surprising?

Miscellaneous

  1. How have you spent your high school summers?
  2. How would your best friend describe you?
  3. How would your teachers describe you?
  4. If you had a year to do anything you want, what would it be and why?
  5. What are you currently reading?
  6. Is there anything we haven’t talked about that you wanted to discuss?

 

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June Monthly Action Plan – By Grade

June Monthly Action Plan – By Grade

What a month! We took a break on the blog from June 1-8, and we are now back with our regularly scheduled programming. Please find the June MAP below, and be sure to reach out to us via the contact form is you have specific questions about what you or your student can be working on this month.

Seniors

  • Congrats, grads! If you love graduation speeches as much as me, check out a few of my favorites as you celebrate this amazing accomplishment:
        • George Saunders, Syracuse (takeaway: regretting failures of kindness – be kind)
        • Steve Jobs, Stanford (takeaway: stay hungry, stay foolish, listen to and follow your heart)

Juniors

  • Obtain and review your final transcript (all grades from 9, 10, 11) ASAP after grades post. This is important so you can have your school correct any errors, and so you know exactly what colleges will see when they get your transcript.
  • Now is an excellent time to start thinking about your application strategy. Even if you are not finished with testing, you’ll want to complete applications this summer.
  • It might seem like a silly piece of advice, but many students are not aware that every college has a set of application instructions that are not located on the online application. Locate and read them for every school on your list before tackling the application process. 
  • Colleges may not open for tours before you submit early applications (in October or earlier). Spend time taking virtual tours and connecting with and learning about colleges in other ways (reaching out to current students and alumni is just one example!).
  • As you begin writing essays this month, open a Common App account and begin filling out the base data (Profile, Family, Education, Testing, Activities).
  • Many colleges don’t proactively ask for online resources, but you may have an interest in creating a digital portfolio (LinkedIn, SoundCloud, GitHub, YouTube channel, personal website, and/or blog) to supplement your other application materials. 

Sophomores & Freshmen

    • Work on a purpose project this summer!
    • A purpose project is one that you design and implement (with our help if you’d like!), which taps into your interests and talents (the things you love, that bring you joy, that you want to study in college, or that you feel could best help your school, community, or the world); it is connected to a deeper purpose and has tangible outcomes that you set.
    • Past projects from students include writing a children’s book, completing a literature review or book challenge, creating a trailer for a documentary (and founding a non-profit, a school club, an app), spearheading an innovative volunteer event, fundraising for an organization in a creative way (selling artwork, an Etsy shop, etc.), and hosting a yearly beach clean-up. The possibilities are endless, and colleges love seeing students take part in meaningful, self-directed work.   

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From The Mouths of College Admission Deans

From The Mouths of College Admission Deans

Brendan Barnard wrote a three-part series where he asked admission leaders to focus on what they wanted students and families to know about applying to college next year. The common theme in their responses was, “WE GET IT!” They know that there has been major disruption and that everyone is learning virtually. They know that sports competitions, musical productions, and internships have been canceled. They are aware that many students will not take standardized tests and that grading policies in high schools are in flux. 

A few important insights/quotes for students and parents to take note of:

On transcripts/grading…

Jim Bock, vice president and dean of admissions at Swarthmore College agrees, saying, “there will be a big asterisk on spring 2020 transcripts for all students and colleges and universities are aware and understanding of that fact.” He adds, “we will work with college counselors to understand and accept the choices individual schools and districts make during these challenging times.

On activities/summer…

Often, students and parents mistakenly believe that they need to build a long list of activities and involvement in the name of admission to college. “More, more, more” is their mantra as they try to do—and be—everything to stand out in the application process. In some communities, daily schedules for high school students become unsustainable, as families rush from one commitment to another—usually leading to sleep-deprived, burnt-out young people (and parents). In other communities, students are working long hours at a job or caring for a younger sibling, and therefore worry that their college application will lack what they perceive as “traditional” extracurricular involvement. This resume building approach to admission is flawed and the current crisis has forced us all to slow down and look critically at what we do. Juan Espinoza, associate vice provost and director of admissions at Virginia Tech, says, “We recognize that organized extracurricular activities will be impossible, but we are impressed, by how students are finding ways to give back to their communities.”

Jim Bock, vice president and dean of admissions at Swarthmore College tells students, “many of you may have a little more time on your hands these days. Rest. Read. Reassess. Ask yourself, ‘Why do I pursue this activity or that program?’” He adds, “many students believe we count activities and that more is better. What we seek is commitment to a few activities, though there is no formula for a successful application.” He advises, “pursue what you want, and find the college that matches, and you will be much more satisfied in the end. You may also have less choice as you care for siblings and families, and there may not be the ability to work. We value all commitments.” Bock encourages students to “think about what has motivated you to do what you do? Would you do it all the same? Why are you doing it? When things return to the new normal (whenever that happens) how do you envision engaging with and impacting your family, your faith community, your school, or your larger community?” He says, “regardless, take care of yourself first and take it slow. There is time for reflection.” 

Some students had grand plans for the summer. Maybe they had been looking forward to being a camp counselor or participating in an internship. Perhaps they were eager to volunteer or work a steady job. Research, travel, spending time with a relative—many summer experiences have been, or likely will be, closed down by the pandemic. Applicants fear that dashed plans will ruin their college dreams. Heath Einstein, dean of admission at Texas Christian University suggests looking at it in a different way. He says, “summer presents an opportunity to be productive even if in different ways. For example, a student might not be able to secure a coveted internship, but they could still plant a garden in their yard or design a smartphone app or read books by authors from marginalized communities.” 

Mary Wagner, assistant vice president for enrollment management at the University of South Carolina explains that “thirst for learning and knowledge is always valuable and appreciated by the admissions committee.” She tells students that given that they are operating in a non-traditional classroom this spring, “consider other opportunities to pursue learning beyond the classroom over the summer,” adding, “you’re probably already doing something that could be considered an internship or research project of sorts. Perhaps you’ve taken on new responsibilities in your home or family. Is there a new skill that you are trying to learn online? Are you working toward a finished project or artifact that can show off what you’ve learned? These can be applied, creative, or reflective in nature. We find that students are pretty imaginative on this front and are self-taught in many areas.” 

Swarthmore’s Bock also points out that, “self-care is critical, and if you are unable to care for yourself, it will be difficult to care for others.” He encourages students to give themselves permission to prioritize their own health in the same way one might put their own oxygen mask on first during an emergency in flight. He says, “finding a way to give back to your team, club, faith community, family will come with time. Taking care of yourself in this crisis is a way to help others. It will take time, but there will be ways for you to share and care for others beyond your computer screen and devices.” 

On essays…

Temple’s Abbott, says, “I would advise to resist against writing about something that has consumed all of us around the world. Know in advance that colleges will fully recognize the impact of what COVID-19 had on your high school experience. Don’t let this one public health crisis (as dramatic as it was!) define you.” 

Source (three linked here). 

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Reminder: It’s Okay To Do Less

Reminder: It’s Okay To Do Less

We are entering the time of year when we re-post old (sometimes very old) posts. This subject seems relevant as we approach summer (and in the midst of COVID, when doing more can be tough anyway).

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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Test-Optional Admissions and the Importance of Essays

Test-Optional Admissions and the Importance of Essays

When a college goes test-optional, the most important factors in admissions decisions are a student’s academic record (including courses taken, grades attained, and class standing if applicable) followed by application essays.

Other factors considered include leadership potential, extracurricular activities, special talents, and the ability to contribute positively to the campus community.

We have always considered essays a very important component of a student’s application, and the one they have the most creative control over. We hope students put some extra thought and effort into them this year whether they are applying test-optional or not! Why? There is no other component of the application where you have a better opportunity to showcase who you are and what you are all about to AdComs than the personal statement, and to an extent, supplemental essays. The Common Application also added a new short essay this year regarding COVID, so be on the lookout for tips from us on how to approach it.

Below you will find 10 tips from one of our essay experts, Emma, that will help you write the most effective personal statement, aka the Common Application essay. As 11th grade winds down (so right now!) or early summer is the best time to tackle this important essay.

Be on the lookout for future posts with tips on supplemental essays, the new Common Application COVID prompt, and how to use this summer to round out your academic and extracurricular narrative.

  • 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 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.

Unsure what to write about? We can help. Contact us! 

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Why High School Students Should Be On LinkedIn

Why High School Students Should Be On LinkedIn

No, admissions officers are not specifically looking for applicants to have LinkedIn profiles yet, although some colleges do have a space for a profile link (or other media link, like your YouTube channel, GitHub, or blog) on their Common App “Questions” section. 

Building a comprehensive LinkedIn profile is a vital first step to setting yourself up for max exposure in your early career, and maintaining a presence on the site is just as crucial as you navigate career changes, pivots, launch new ventures, and make other notable moves.

So why create one in high school? 

Even prior to COVID-19, students were online, and colleges were there, too. But today, and likely moving forward, online platforms are going to become increasingly important for sharing information — and not just between friends and family. Colleges have been trying to meet students where they are (in the past, Facebook and Snapchat, today, Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok), but many students are not taking advantage of the forum for connection that LinkedIn provides. We believe they should!

Beyond connecting with colleges and having a formal (and lifelong) space to record your career and extracurricular progression (extra coursework, publications, volunteerism, etc.), LinkedIn is the perfect place to connect to favorite teachers, coaches, counselors (me!) and mentors, and make it easy to stay in touch. “Networking” (aka building meaningful relationships) does not start when you enter the workforce, it starts now. 

LinkedIn publishes guides for students. Here is one to get you started:

https://university.linkedin.com/content/dam/university/global/en_US/site/pdf/TipSheet_BuildingaGreatProfile.pdf

A few additional tips:

  • Keep your profile current! If there are only two things you always keep updated, make sure you have an accurate headline and location. Set a calendar reminder to update your profile every 3-4 months.
  • Customize your public profile URL. Mine is https://www.linkedin.com/in/brittanymaschal. Fancy!
  • Use professional and accurate photos. No cropped shots where the shoulder of your best friend shows in the corner! Invest in a professional headshot, have a friend take one that looks like a professional headshot, or use your school photo/yearbook photo. Including a simple background photo is also a nice touch.
  • Don’t be shy! Showcase your accomplishments, ask people who have taught you or who you have worked with for recommendations, and connect with everyone you know!

Want help setting up your LinkedIn profile? Contact me today!

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