5 Action Items for High School Sophomores & Juniors

5 Action Items for High School Sophomores & Juniors

We’ve seen too many students wait until the summer after 11th grade to try to develop and implement the strategies needed to tackle the college application process successfully and with ease. Often, there is just not enough time to do the pre-work that results in the most effective essays, outreach, and eventually admissions outcomes.

The best time to start prepping to apply to college is now if you are in grade 11 or 10.

Right now you can:

  • Develop relationships with admissions officers and regional reps (the people that make key decisions on your application) as well as current students and faculty (ask us why these connections are so important)
  • Create a testing plan that has you ready for apps due on 11/1 or 11/15 and not taking tests last minute
  • Make the best of campus visits (virtual and in-person when the time comes!) and leverage contacts at colleges on these visits
  • Craft a preliminary college list that maximizes the 5+ application plans colleges now use
  • Open up a Common Application account to get familiar with the system so by the time you apply you know it like the back of your hand 

Don’t let this time go to waste. Email us to discuss what you can do now to always stay a step—or three—ahead of the game.

 

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March Monthly Action Plan – By Grade

March Monthly Action Plan – By Grade

 

Seniors:

  • Many of you will be waiting on final admissions decisions, and then finalizing your college plans this month into next. Happy deciding, and don’t forget to thank everyone who helped you along the way.

Juniors:

  • Please make sure you are engaging in extended research/outreach with the schools on your list. Are you going to sit in on a class? Do you want to try to meet with someone in your intended department of interest (major, minor, etc.)? Have you been reaching out to and talking to students or alumni? Not all schools offer formal pathways to these opportunities, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make them happen.
  • Continue prepping for and taking standardized tests, as well as updating your resume. Now is also the time to confirm your summer plans.
  • Are you curious about which schools super score the ACT? SAT? Some schools super-score one test but not the other! Read more here: https://www.compassprep.com/superscore-and-score-choice/
  • Interested in seeing some schools? Take a tour via CampusReel. Visiting campus in person is great, but you won’t be able to tour all of the schools on your 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.

Sophomores and Freshmen:

  • Have you thought about what major(s) you will mark on your application? Most schools don’t hold you to it (you declare a major by the end of sophomore year at most schools), but they do want to better understand your academic interests and potential major path. Does your resume/activity sheet speak to your academic interests? Now is the time to start thinking about this!
  • Next summer is a wonderful time to do something meaningful, perhaps even fun, that will help you explore your interests and tell your story for college! Keep in mind: you don’t need to take a class for credit or attend a formal summer program. There are many ways to spend your summer that are beneficial.
  • Continue working on your resume/activity sheet. Some summer programs and internships may ask for this, so it’s useful to have it handy.
  • Interested in seeing some schools? Take a tour via CampusReel
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February Action Plan – By Grade

February Action Plan – By Grade

Seniors:

  • Once your applications have been submitted, be sure to 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 go out early this month—no later. If you have defer letters/essays that need to go out, get those out ASAP, too.

Juniors:

  • Keep prepping for standardized tests (ACT, SAT, SAT Subject tests) 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.
  • Meet with your school counselor about your preliminary college list and go over your goals and plans for college visits.
  • Speaking of college visits: Are you going to sit in on a class? Do you want to meet with someone in your intended department of interest (major, minor, etc.), or a current student? Not all schools offer formal pathways to these opportunities, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make them happen; this all falls under what I call ‘extended research/outreach’ and it can be highly beneficial. **After visits, even if you only attend a general info session and take a tour, please send your regional rep and any admission representatives you met a follow-up/thank you email** This opens a line of communication with someone at the school, and demonstrates interest. I also recommend keeping a document with any notes and observations from your visits. These notes will come in handy when writing supplemental essays and/or when writing a deferral letter, or letters of interest.
  • 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.
  • Some colleges open up their on-campus interviews this spring. If you plan to interview on an upcoming visit, please prepare. You should always prepare for interviews, even if a school states they are not evaluative.
  • 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.

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 taking SAT Subject Tests this spring or 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 2019 summer program applications are now open. Please begin thinking about your plans for summer 2019 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: https://www.khanacademy.org.
  • One way that your “story” is conveyed in your app is through your resume. Keep working on yours this month.

College Tour Tips

Checking out colleges in person is an important part of the application process for many students. Check out the “pro tips” in this Reader’s Digest article by Erica Lambert (which I am featured in!) to get the most out of every campus visit.

Some key takeaways:

  • The best time to start visiting colleges is in the fall of junior year, and then again in the spring, and the remaining visits can take place at the end of the summer before senior year and into early fall (September and October). Visit when school is in session!
  • If you vacation, vacation where you can visit colleges. This is a huge time-saver.
  • Take the full tour offered by Admissions, including visiting residence halls, classrooms, and labs. And if the college offers you lunch in a dining center—take it! Don’t try to cut this part of the visit short.
  • Do your homework. Read and research the schools you are visiting before you go.
  • A few weeks before you arrive, reach out to the people you want to meet with and be flexible about setting up meetings. You might also reach out to student groups with whom you share an interest. Lastly, visit the advising center of your chosen major or college and speak to an advisor, and consider meeting with a professor in the department who has office hours on the day of your visit.
  • Talk to students on campus; go to the library, dining hall, etc.—see it all!
  • Visit and stay overnight with a friend if you have one on campus. It can be particularly important for getting a sense of the school’s social scene and vibe outside of academics.
  • Go beyond campus and explore the surrounding city, town or neighborhood.

 

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5 Ways to Thoroughly Research Colleges

Subtitle: For when you can’t get to campus or want to go beyond what a traditional campus visit can provide!

The in-person campus tour is not the be-all-end-all of college research. Neither is that gigantic Fiske guide, College Confidential (that site is horribly stress-inducing please stay away from it, same with Reddit), or what your older sibling told you based on findings from their college search process. From my experience, most college research can take place from the comfort of your own home, but it takes time and effort. And planning, a little bit of starting early and planning!

College/University Websites

Read the websites of the schools on your list, and not just the admissions and financial aid pages. I would read those—but for the purpose of understanding how to apply, not why to apply. Unless it is one of the admissions office/officer’s blogs that I talk about here; those might help you see why you’d want to attend. If class visits are offered those can be very informative, but you’d need to get to campus to attend. I will talk more about how you can get a look at a college’s classrooms and student life later in this post.

I suggest starting with the pages of the department in which you hope to study (or think you might hope to study). What does the curriculum look like? How many and what type of classes are offered? Are there affiliated clubs, events, other special programs of interest? Find a faculty member who is undertaking research in your area of interest and reach out to them with three or four questions you have about the program or their research that you can’t find answers to online. If they are unable to speak to you, ask if they can suggest someone else who might be able to help. Can’t get through to any faculty members? Contact the department’s administrative assistant or department coordinator and see if they can help you make an initial connection. For example, here you can find the contact info for the program coordinator of Penn’s Department of Psychology. If not, ask your regional rep to help you get this information.

I also suggest pinpointing two or three clubs you might want to join. See if you can connect with a current student or faculty lead within each to learn more. Most clubs general admin contact info is posted online. Here is the contact info for Fordham’s Finance Society, as well as a zillion contacts for USC student clubs.

Lastly, you might want to get a sense of what the campus looks like, and can do so via a virtual tour if you can’t go in person. Many colleges provide virtual tour options now. For example, here is one created by Santa Clara University in California.

CampusReel

Speaking of tours, whether you can get to campus in person or not, you will want to check out CampusReel for an insider look at the colleges and universities on your list. Real college students submit their own video clips that take you through a day in the life, dorms, dining halls, classrooms, and so on. For example, I enjoyed this video from a UC Santa Barbara student on what she wished she knew before she started. You will also get a pretty good sense of what the campus looks like in reality as the guides are not employees of the admissions office, and what you see is probably closer to what you will get compared to the virtual tour created by the school.

Coursera and edX

If you can’t get to campus and glimpsing a school’s academics firsthand is important to you (it should be!), then head over to Coursera and edX and sign up for a class. They are free, informative, and you might learn something, not to mention they give you an extra talking point (or ten) for application materials and the interviews if you have them.  You will definitely get a sense of what college-level courses entail, and I also see it as a way to demonstrate interest. A few courses I like and have had students take include:

Case Studies in Personalized Medicine

Becoming an Entrepreneur

The Science of Wellbeing

Terrorism and Counterterrorism

A Law Student’s Toolkit

Local Alumni Groups

Don’t know anyone who went to your dream school? Look no further than your local alumni group. If you are not sure your area has an alumni group just ask Google. I entered “NYU alumni club NJ” and got the link to info on the NJ group right away. You will be sending a cold email but I don’t see anything wrong with that. You are showing interest in their alma mater. If someone is a member of their alumni group, they probably like to connect with people like you. You are demonstrating a desire above and beyond other prospective students to get to know the school, and they love their school! That is never a bad look. And if no one replies to you, at least you know you tried. If there is no local or even regional group where you live, try to one closest to you. Again, there is really no downside to trying to connect with alumni to learn more.

Social Media

Not the best way to get to know a school well, but some are not half bad. I follow quite a few schools on Instagram, and the “takeover” stories by admissions office staff and students can be insightful. I particularly like the UChicago and Barnard pages.

 

Everything above being said, if you have the opportunity to see a school in person or meet an admissions officer, regional representative, current student, faculty member, or alumni in person, take it! I wanted to present the suggestions here because not everyone can get to campus, and a standard campus visit alone is not a very good way to really get to know a school. If you believe in finding a school that is best matched with your goals for college (not just a school with a certain name, good sports team, etc.), the above outreach will help you figure out which school that might be—so time to get to work!

 

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5 Action Items for High School Juniors

We’ve seen too many students wait until the summer after 11th grade to try to develop and implement the strategies needed to tackle the college application process successfully and with ease. Often, there is just not enough time to do the pre-work that results in the most effective essays, outreach, and positive admissions outcomes.

The best time to start prepping to apply? Now. Seriously!

Juniors, right now you can:

  • Develop relationships with admissions officers and regional reps (the people that make key decisions on your application) as well as current students and faculty (ask us why these connections are so important)
  • Create a testing plan that has you ready for apps due on 11/1 and not taking tests last minute
  • Make the best of campus visits and leverage contacts at colleges on these visits
  • Craft a preliminary college list that maximizes the 5+ application plans colleges now use
  • Open up a Common Application account to get familiar with the system

We hate seeing the second half of junior year go to waste. Email us to discuss what you can do now to always stay a step—or three—ahead of the game.

 

 *Stay in the know! Subscribe for news, tips, and advice*

8 Tips for Summer College Visits

It’s ideal to tour colleges in the fall or spring, but it is often hard to get away during those times with crazy sports and extracurricular schedules, standardized testing, family trips and so on. When school’s out for summer, many students and parents have much more time to get to college campuses. If you are planning to visit campuses this summer, keep in mind:

  1. Not all schools offer Saturday info sessions and tours. Try to visit when you can go on a tour and attend an info session. All of this information can be found online on schools respective admissions websites.
  2. Interview. Fewer people tour in the summer, which means fewer people are on campus interviewing. Use this to your advantage. Do not miss out on the opportunity to interview on campus if you have had time to adequately prepare. Everyone should prepare for admissions interviews!!! You only get one chance to make a first impression—and though interviews are not the most important component of your app, a killer one can certainly help.
  3. Attend a class. Some schools have very active summer sessions, while others do not. There may not be a formal class visit program offered through admissions during the summer months, but you can still reach out to a faculty member and ask if it is okay to sit in on their class. You can also call and check with your department of interest (for example, the Math Department if you intend to major in math) and see if they can hook you up with permission to sit in on a class.
  4. Connect with and possibly meet with someone from your department of interest. Colleges are open in the summer, even if they don’t look too busy. Call or email your department of interest a few weeks ahead of time. Someone from the department may help you out with sitting in on a class, as well as be willing to speak to you personally or steer you in the direction of any other departmental opportunities that might be available during your visit.
  5. Check the calendar of events. Some college campuses are dead in the summer, while others have a lot going on beyond summer session classes. If there is something going on that interests you, try to check it out. This information could make a nice addition to a why school essay.
  6. Take pictures, take notes, and get the names, emails, and numbers of everyone you meet. Send thank you emails, or a handwritten note to your interviewer. In many cases, you’ll need this info if you end up applying.
  7. Don’t forget to check out the surrounding city, town, or suburb. Keep in mind, in some areas, folks head out of town for the summer. If it feels dead, ask around to find out if this is the case or if it’s like that all of the time.
  8. Remember, campuses located in Florida are not always as hot as they are in the summer, and those in Minnesota are not always as hot as they are in the summer (it gets REALLY cold there!!!). Keep in mind the “normal” temp of the school and that how a campus feels in the summer might not be how it feels when you will be there studying.

 

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February Action Plan – Juniors

Lots on the to-do list this month, juniors! Here are a few things we think should be on your radar:

  • Now is the time to visit colleges! Are you going to sit in on a class? Do you want to try to meet with someone in your intended department of interest (major, minor, etc.)? Not all schools offer formal pathways to these opportunities, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make them happen. After all campus visits, even if you just sit in on a general info session and take a tour, send your regional rep and any admission representatives you met while on campus a follow-up/thank you email.
  • Some colleges open up their on-campus interviews this spring. If you plan to visit campus and interview, please prepare. You should always prepare for interviews, even if a school states they are not evaluative.
  • Many applications for summer activities/programs are now live. Next summer is a wonderful opportunity to do something really meaningful, perhaps even fun, that will help you tell your story for college! Make your plans now.
  • Meet with your college counselor and get a game-plan in place for spring/summer.
  • Start working on your resume. Some summer programs, internships, and interviewers will ask for this, so it’s useful to have handy.
  • Do you know what major(s) you will mark on your application? Do you have a clearly defined “story” for your college apps? If not, this is a critical part of the process that should be determined now.
  • Start to think about your senior year schedule. Do you know what you will be taking? Your senior classes should be the most challenging of your four years.

 

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