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

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

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

Career Services

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wellness Center

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

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

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

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

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

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

Academic Learning Center

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

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

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

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

 

August Monthly Action Plan – By Grade

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

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

Seniors

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

Juniors

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

Sophomores & Freshmen

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

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

Current offerings include:

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

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

 

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July Action Plan – By Grade

Photo by Ryan Jacobson on Unsplash

Rising Seniors

  • As you continue your essay work, open a Common App account, and begin filling out the base data (Profile, Family, Education, Testing, Activities). Unlike in past years, if you open up an account now, it will not be deleted before August 1, 2019. There is no better time than now to get your CA base data completed. However, keep in mind the CA is down July 28-31 as it’s updated for the 2019-2020 app season.
  • If you’ve finished testing, it is time to review your college list and application strategy. Pinpointing your top 5 or so schools now can help you maximize your time over the summer doing research and outreach (and writing supplemental essays!). Need help with your essays? Contact us
  • If you are not finished testing, continue to prep.
  • If you have summer college visits planned, take advantage of the summer slowdown, and prepare meetings with your department of interest ahead of time. Interview if possible, too. You should always prepare for interviews, even if a school states they are not evaluative. Extended research and outreach can make a big difference in your admissions outcomes.
  • Many colleges don’t proactively ask for online resources yet, but you may have an interest in creating a digital portfolio (LinkedIn, SoundCloud, personal website, and/or blog). If you do, aim to complete it over the summer.

Rising Juniors:

  • Continue working on your resume, and think ahead about the activities in which you want to deepen your involvement in 11th grade and beyond. If there are activities you took were involved in during 9th/10th that no longer serve your or your interests, drop them.
  • Come up with a plan for test prep. Summer before junior year is a great time to begin test prep! Here are a few resources to get you started if you are not quite ready to work with a tutor 1:1: = PSAT, ACT, SAT, SAT on Khan.
  • Thinking about how to explore your academic interests this summer? I hope so! There are tons of options, and you should be doing something “academic” this summer if possible. Please note: something “academic” is not limited to a class or formal academic program. Examples of ways you can explore your interests at any time of the year = Khan AcademyCoursera or edXTed Talks or Ted-Ed.
  • Volunteer work is also beneficial. It can be helpful to choose a few volunteer engagements and stick with them through high school/12th grade, so try to pinpoint something you will enjoy and plan to stick with it.

Rising Sophomores:

  • Continue working on your resume.
  • Explore your academic interests this summer! If you are unsure what they are, that’s even more reason to get out there and do some exploring. Figuring out what you do not like is often just as important as figuring out what you do like. Please note: something “academic” is not limited to a class or formal academic program. Examples of ways you can explore your interests at any time of the year = Khan Academy, Coursera or edXTed Talks or Ted-Ed.
  • Volunteer work is also beneficial. It can be helpful to choose a few volunteer engagements and stick with them through high school/12th grade, so try to pinpoint something you will enjoy and plan to stick with it.

 

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Congrats Class of 2019! And Some Advice

Photo by Vasily Koloda on Unsplash

As graduation nears and high school comes to a close, first and foremost, take time to soak it all in and enjoy yourself! Graduation signifies exciting new beginnings, but also change. Many of the people you are used to seeing every day at your high school are people you might not see often (or again in some cases), so make the most of spending time with them, and your family, this summer.

While you are relaxing with the people you care about most, don’t forget to say thanks where thanks is due. It can be easy to forget the many individuals who were there every step of the way during your application journey, supporting and guiding you towards college. Take some time to thank the people who helped you along the way by writing them a thank you note or giving a heartfelt thanks in person.

People to thank: parents, guidance counselor, teachers, letter of recommendation writers, anyone else who read your essays/app, college admissions officers you met with, and tutors just to name a few!

Also, make the most of this summer!!! Consider an internship or job. You’ll need money in college; a job is where the money comes from. Beyond having some much-needed cash, one Stanford researcher even found that having a summer job can boost academic performance, and more: “adolescent employment can foster noncognitive skills like time management, perseverance, and self-confidence.” Moreover, once you are in college you’ll need to be 100% independent, just as you will need to be at work. Prep now and be ready for those more significant pre-professional experiences as an undergrad.

But what type of job should I get? I suggest something fun like scooping ice cream, or better yet, waiting tables. As Rob Asghar notes, waiting tables “can be the high-pressure arena in which many talented people learn how to take control of their lives and prosper over the long haul.”

“I think everyone should spend some time waiting tables or working in retail,” Elisa Schreiber, a marketing executive in Silicon Valley, tells me.

“I learned so much by waiting tables,” says Schreiber, a longtime colleague who happens to be one of the savviest strategists and leaders I’ve ever worked alongside. “I learned empathy and understanding and compassion. I learned how to get people in and out while still feeling good about their experience. It made me exponentially better when I started my salaried, professional career—from leading people to handling pressure to effectively managing my time.”

It is not glamorous (I know, I did it for the better part of a decade in high school, college, and grad school), but it is a learning experience, to say the least. I also suggest getting on LinkedIn. See this post for tips on getting started.

 

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Insights on Lab Internships for High School Students

 

I wanted to share a post from Josh Rabinovich of Warp Drive Tutors on how to approach summer internships while in high school. 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 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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