Many high school students across the country are now expected to perform a certain number of community service hours prior to graduation. Although some may moan and groan about having to ‘work for free,’ there are actually several good reasons why school districts have added volunteer service to their list of graduation requirements. Aside from the obvious benefits of learning to work with others and helping people within the community, students can also grow personally, develop better self-esteem, and see first-hand how one person can make a difference. Additional benefits include networking, leadership opportunities, and the chance to learn new skills, all of which look great on a college application. Volunteers are a vital part of every community, helping to provide services to others and reduce costs to many organizations. April may be designated National Volunteer Month, but students are needed to help every day of the year. For those interested in finding opportunities in their area, here is a list of websites that help match students with organizations that need volunteers. Read the rest of this entry »
Last month, the Common Application Board of Directors announced its much anticipated new essay prompts for the 2013-2014 Common Application, which are designed to give students the opportunity to be ‘more insightful’ and ‘a little more self-reflective,” according to Board member Eric Furda. Along with the new essay prompts, other changes included the removal of the ‘topic of choice’ essay option and an increase in the essay word count from 500 to 650 words. Students will still need to write a minimum of 250 words (the system will not allow for smaller word counts), but the higher word count maximum will be strictly enforced, which is something that wasn’t done previously.
The new prompts focus more on a student’s values and ethics, which can help college admissions officials see the ‘real’ student, something that is difficult to glean from a student’s transcript and test scores. Students, however, should carefully consider all five topics before jumping in and starting their essays, as some topics are a little more precarious than others. Here’s a quick overview of each prompt and a few suggestions on how students may wish to focus their responses.
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As you begin the process of planning and saving for college, you will find that most colleges and many scholarship providers require letters of recommendation. This important element is like a ‘mini-commercial,’ giving you the opportunity to demonstrate what specific abilities or traits set you apart from other applicants. The quality and accuracy of this commercial depends on choosing the appropriate author for your letters. You should seek the assistance of someone who has first-hand knowledge of your academic abilities and has had ample time to get to know you as a person. It is best to avoid using close friends and relatives, as they may not be able to provide an unbiased opinion of your abilities or personal growth. To ensure you present the best possible snapshot of yourself in your letters of recommendation, consider the following. Read the rest of this entry »
If you have spent any time searching for scholarships lately, you have probably noticed that many programs require an essay in addition to the scholarship application. The essay is often one of the most important aspects of your scholarship packet, as it can help separate you from a sea of other worthy applicants. If it is well drafted and compelling, your application may be sent to the top of the stack; on the other hand, if you submit an essay riddled with typos, or one that does not sufficiently cover the topic at hand, you may find your application sitting in the rejection pile instead. So, how do you ensure your application lands in the right stack? Your fate is often decided in the first three to five sentences of your essay, so first impressions are the key. Read the rest of this entry »
You may think that résumés are only for those looking for employment, but guess again. Your high school résumé is an important piece of your college admission application. It not only lists your academic accomplishments, but also highlights your talents, volunteer work, and awards; think of it as a snapshot of your life. The college admissions office will be looking through it for evidence of campus involvement, leadership skills, and other things that make you stand out from the crowd. Putting forth a professional and polished product can go a long way in helping you gain admission, but creating your first résumé can be intimidating. You may feel that you don’t have enough to even fill one page at this point, but trust me when I say your biggest problem will be keeping your résumé to no more than two pages. Just follow these simple steps and you’ll soon have a professional résumé you can be proud to submit to any college or future employer. Read the rest of this entry »
Are you counting down the days until winter break, dreaming of those lazy days of staying up late or sleeping in until noon? Not so fast! You still need to get through these last few weeks, which means keeping up with homework, finishing assignments, and making sure you finish with the best grades possible. Even after your school lets out for the break, there’s still plenty to do to ensure your college plan stays on track over the holidays. Now, I’m not saying you need to spend every waking minute working on your college to-do list, but there are some things you can do that can put you on the right path. If you want to make sure you ‘wrap up’ the fall semester on a positive note, consider engaging in some of these activities before and/or during the winter break.
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I look forward to the Thanksgiving holiday like most people. It’s a time to gather with friends and family, stuff my face with some good food, and relax a little. But if you are a high school senior, this is not the time to chill out. College applications will soon be due and there are still plenty of tasks that need to be accomplished. Although it may be tempting to just forget about school, homework, and your college applications over the holiday break, now is actually the perfect time to start working on any outstanding college planning tasks. You only have about six weeks left before the winter break, so time is of the essence. To help you prioritize your tasks, I have put together a short holiday to-do list that should get you moving in the right direction. Read the rest of this entry »
Years ago, it may have been easy to impress the college admissions staff with your 4.0 grade point average (GPA) and a sprinkling of extracurricular activities on campus, but those days are long gone. As the number of college applications increase, so do the number of stellar students competing for coveted acceptance letters. Although it’s still impressive to earn a perfect GPA, you may need a ‘hook’ or something else that distinguishes you from the other overachievers. Colleges are seeking students who are well-rounded and will contribute to their campus, not just someone who will spend the next four years (or more) buried in books. Unfortunately, building an application that will get you noticed does not happen overnight; it takes time and some careful planning. If you want your admission packet to stand out in a sea of applications, consider the following tips: Read the rest of this entry »
As early action and early decision deadlines creep closer, seniors are beginning to feel the pressure of completing their college admissions packets. For those using the Common Application, one of the most grueling sections is often the essay. The essay is an important component of the application, as it gives students the opportunity to showcase what sets them apart from others students (besides grades, test scores, and transcripts). It also demonstrates to admissions officers that students are able to express themselves and organize their thoughts. But with the limited space allowed, it can be difficult for students to effectively convey their vision. Fortunately, we have a few tips that can help most students successfully navigate the essay portion of the Common Application. Read the rest of this entry »
More than a million students will take the Standard Aptitude Test (SAT) and ACT this year. Unfortunately, many of them will not be prepared. Information released last week in The SAT® Report on College and Career Readiness: 2012 showed that only 43 percent of students from this year’s graduating class met the benchmark scores (1550 and above) for college readiness. The results were even lower for those taking the ACT, with only 25 percent meeting standards in all four sections (English, math, reading and science). Since these exams are used by admissions officers (in conjunction with other measures) to determine how a student may perform academically at college, it’s important for students to put forth their best effort when taking the SAT and/or ACT. Read the rest of this entry »