Free Online Courses for High School Students

Free Online Courses for High School Students

I have been suggesting 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 a great time (if you don’t have a lighter EC load right now!

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

Specializations (Multiple Courses)

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February Action Plan – By Grade

February Action Plan – By Grade

Seniors:

  • Once your applications have been submitted, track the status of each app online to ensure all of your application materials were received. Follow up with your school counselor ASAP if a college is missing your transcript or a letter of recommendation. Check your junk email folder regularly (daily), so you do not miss correspondence from colleges.
  • Interviews! Sign up for interviews for all of your RD schools as soon as possible (where available/and if still open), if you have not done so already.
  • For RD schools, consider writing interest letters to schools that welcome additional information. It might even be beneficial to have an extra LOR sent if you did not send one within the Common App. 

Juniors:

  • Keep prepping for standardized tests (ACT, SAT) and working hard in all of your classes; your grades this year are very important.
  • Do you know what major(s) you will mark on your application? Do you have a clearly defined academic interest or set of interests for your college apps? This is a critical part of your application that should be determined now.
  • Continue working on your resume. Some summer programs, internships, and interviewers may ask for this, so it’s useful to have it handy.
  • Next summer is a wonderful opportunity to do something really meaningful, perhaps even fun, that will help you tell your story for college! Get those plans in place now.; there is still a lot of uncertainty because of COVID, so having multiple plans/irons in the fire is a good idea. 
  • Meet with your school counselor about your preliminary college list and go over your goals and plans for college visits/outreach.
  • Take a college tour via CampusReel. Visiting campus in person is great, but you won’t be able to tour all of the schools on your initial list. Plus, formal campus tours can be a bit limiting! CampusReel is one of my favorite ways to get a real insider look at colleges.
  • Tired of online tours? Sign up with one of our Peer Guides!!! 
  • 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.
  • If you’d like to start your Common App essay early, now is the time. If you are not working with us and would like to on your essays, reach out via the contact form. We help quite a few juniors finish their CA essays over the winter/spring, especially those with busy summer/fall schedules. 

Sophomores and Freshmen:

  • An impressive academic record is the most important admissions factor at most colleges. Work on creating smart study habits this year.
  • Will you be starting your SAT or ACT prep this spring/summer? Begin to decide on a testing schedule and plan for how you will prepare for these exams.
  • Many 2021 summer program applications are now open. Please begin thinking about your plans for summer and work on applications if needed.
  • Start to think about next year’s course schedule. Do you know what you will be taking? Your classes next year should be more challenging than this year.
  • Now is the time to build your academic profile for college, and this means pursuing what interests you academically and intellectually outside of your classes. Have you gotten more involved with any academic extracurricular activities? Have you thought about what you might want to major in? Think about ideas for new and different activities or how to get more involved in your favorite activity (academic and non-academic); exploration now will help you begin determining what you might want to study in college. A great place to start exploring your academic interests is Khan Academy or TedX.
  • One way that your “story” is conveyed in your app is through your resume. Keep working on yours this month.

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Seniors & Juniors: Get On LinkedIn

Seniors & Juniors: Get On LinkedIn

No, admissions officers are not widely 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 (us!) 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! 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 us today!

 

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SoCal College Collab Event: Chapman, Pepperdine & University of San Diego

SoCal College Collab Event: Chapman, Pepperdine & University of San Diego

Admission representatives and current students from each school will serve as panelists to provide you with an introduction to the unique aspects of each institution, from academics to student life.

Programming will include overviews of each university, current student interviews, and application advice. The last 30 minutes will be a Q & A session with the school of your choice.

Please register here.

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NYT 2nd Annual STEM Writing Contest

NYT 2nd Annual STEM Writing Contest

For this contest, The Learning Network invites you to bring that same spirit of inquiry and discovery to finding a STEM-related question, concept or issue you’re interested in, and, in 500 words or fewer, explaining it to a general audience in a way that not only helps us understand, but also engages us and makes us see why it’s important.

Why do hummingbirds nap? How do coronavirus vaccines work? Can two robotic spacecraft land on the moon at once? How do plant roots compete for water? Do foods like kiwis and cherries affect our sleep patterns?
 

If you click on any of these articles, you’ll see that they are written for a general reader. Special technical or scientific knowledge is not required, and each is designed to get our attention and keep it — by giving us “news we can use” in our own lives, or by exploring something fascinating in a way that makes it easy to understand and shows us why it matters.

That’s what Times journalists do every day across our ScienceHealth and Technology sections, and it’s what Science News and Science News for Students do on their sites too, where journalists explain things like meteor showers, the science of ghosts and how sleep may affect test scores.

So what questions do you have about how the world works? What science, technology, engineering, math or health questions might be inspired by your own life or experiences? What innovations, processes or problems in any of these areas puzzle or intrigue you? What concepts in STEM — whether from biology, physics, psychology, computer science, algebra or calculus — have you learned about, in or out of school, that might be useful or fun to explain to others?

The best of this kind of writing includes three elements we’ll be asking you to include, too:

  • It begins with an engaging hook to get readers’ attention and make us care about the subject.

  • It quotes experts and/or includes research on the topic to give context and credibility.

  • It explains why the topic matters. Why do you care? Why should we care? Whom or what does it affect, why and how? How is it relevant to broader questions in the field, to the world today and to our own lives?

Read more about the contest here!

 

LGBTQ-Friendly Colleges & Universities

LGBTQ-Friendly Colleges & Universities

For nearly two decades, Campus Pride has advocated and supported college and university campuses to improve LGBTQ campus life and change institutional policies, programs and practices.  The Campus Pride Index (CPI), located at www.CampusPrideIndex.org, provides an invaluable benchmarking tool to assess LGBTQ-inclusion efforts from academics, to student life, to housing, to recruitment and retention activities. There are nearly 400 colleges that have “come out” on the index and hundreds of thousands who utilize the public search to find LGBTQ-friendly colleges and universities annually.

At the end of 2020, Campus Pride chose to put a spotlight on the regional diversity of the list by highlighting colleges and universities by region. Campus Pride works with over 1400 colleges and universities annually to improve the quality of campus life for LGBTQ people and to create safer, more inclusive campus communities. Sixty percent of their work is dedicated to working with colleges in the South, Midwest and campuses within more rural communities. 

Check it out here!

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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
  • Wake Forest
  • 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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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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College Application Decision = Deferred. Steps for Deferred Applicants

College Application Decision = Deferred. Steps for Deferred 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. 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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