Mistakes to Avoid On the Common App

Great quick article by Marjorie Hansen Shaevitz via HuffPost. Not sure how common these mistakes are, but they are certainly avoidable.

In short she notes:





Read the full article here.


Four-Year Public College Tuition Continues to Rise

Four out of the five that made it on to the top-five list are western states – California, Arizona, Nevada, and Washington. Just another reason why bigger (and public) isn’t always better or, more so now than ever, more affordable.  Though public college tuition for the most part is still less for in-state students, with increased competitiveness within the in-state market (especially in states like California) looking out of state, at both public and smaller private institutions, is becoming an increasingly more viable option.

Read more about rising tuition costs here.

Lighthearted Advice for Freshmen….

Incoming college freshmen, take note: University life comes with an unwritten rule book. Break any one of these regulations and your lowly freshman status will instantly be revealed. (Quick tip: Don’t wear your school’s lanyard around your neck. Just don’t.)

Luckily for college newbies, Reddit users compiled a handy list last week of high school habits to drop before you set foot on campus. Click through the slideshow below to soak up their wisdom. Before you know it, you’ll be a college pro, too.


Junior Year Prep

How to spend Junior year preparing for college from Julie and Lindsey Mayfield @ Twice the Advice.

1. Contact the high school counseling office

2. Schedule an SAT or ACT exam

3. Keep grades up

3. Compile a college list

4. Earn AP or junior college credits

5. Meet college admissions representatives

Read the full article here.

Extracurricular Activities Encouraged

From Noor Brara @ The Choice on India Ink

“With so many students applying to the United States with strong G.P.A.’s and exam scores, the extras on your resumes and in your essays could help distinguish you from another student with a similar application. Whether it’s an internship, club, or doing magic shows for birthday parties on weekends, invest some time doing the things you love. Your interests and hobbies, however quirky, may be what makes the difference.”

Read more here.

August Timeline – Juniors

From Sarah Graham @ The Choice.

Keep Perspective

Relax! You are not behind. You can, however, start taking active steps now to make the admissions process as smooth as possible. Take a deep breath, and try to keep in mind that there really is a great college match for everyone.

Develop a Plan for This Year

Planning now will reduce anxiety later. Map out some key dates now before the pace of the year picks up. Devote a calendar solely to the college process. Decide when to tackle some of the bigger admissions tasks for this year. For example, plan to take the SAT and/or ACT at least once this year, as well as SAT Subject Tests, if they are required by the schools you’re considering. Take some time to review what each test covers, and decide how to prepare. Make a note of registration deadlines on your calendar.

Also, figure out when you will be able to visit colleges this year to block off the time and plan those trips well in advance. Aim to see many different types of schools at first (large, small, urban, suburban, etc.) to get a sense of what’s out there.

Find Out What Support Your High School Offers

The students who are most successful in the college admissions process are proactive and take advantage of the resources available to them. Don’t just wait for information to come to you: take the initiative and find out what services your high school provides to guide you through the college admissions process.

Ask how often you should expect to receive messages from your guidance office and how they communicate information. Make note of coming presentations on your calendar. Find the guidance office’s bulletin board, and check it often.

Thoroughly read e-mails and newsletters that counselors send, and pay attention when they make announcements. (Parents, this applies to you, too.) Too often, students have so many resources at their fingertips but fail to realize that until it’s too late to take advantage of them. Likewise, families often spend big money on college admissions services when they can get the same (if not better) information for free.

Also, when you meet with your counselor, go prepared with a list of updates about what you’ve been doing in regard to the college process, as well as a list of questions.

Reflect on Your Activities

Now that you’re halfway through high school, it’s a great time to reassess your extracurricular activities. When I worked in admissions and read applications, I loved to see students who were excited about what they did outside the classroom. Communicate that enthusiasm by taking on more responsibilities in the activities you love and by seeking to develop those interests to the fullest.

Set some goals for this year: Aim for quality and not quantity in your activities. Love the things you do, and take on more leadership in those areas. No time? Consider cutting back on one or two activities you don’t like as much to make time to pursue others in greater depth.

Keep the Focus on Academics

As you gear up for junior year and the new tasks it will bring, remember your studies still need to come first. The story that your transcript tells about you as a student will be the most important part of your college application. Also, working hard, meeting with teachers for extra help and developing knowledge of how you study and learn best will help make you a more successful college student.

Start to Research Different Majors

Take some time now to read about majors that sound appealing to you, and gain a sense of what’s involved when studying towards those majors. Most students change their minds about a major when they get to college (and that’s fine), but it’s still a good idea to start getting a sense of what’s out there. Your focus now should not be on choosing a major definitively but on learning more about your options. More information about majors and careers can be found online, like the College Board’s Big Future Web site. For more detailed career information, students often enjoy the Occupational Outlook Handbook.

Savor the Rest of the Summer

While I recommend you follow up on these action items, please also take some time while the weather’s warm and the days are long to enjoy a few more ice cream cones with friends, take a long walk at sunset and rest up to start the new academic year rejuvenated. Sure, it may be a busy year ahead, but you’re ready for it!



August Timeline – Seniors

From Chris Teare @ The Choice:

Do the Summer Reading

Over 30 years, the students I’ve seen get the best results out of the college process are the ones who take care of business one day, one class, one assignment at a time. They’re not flashy; they’re steady. When I coached lacrosse, I said, “Pick up the next groundball.” Little things add up. Stop texting, log off Facebook, turn off your cellphone — and read. Not the SparkNotes. The book.

Pick the Right Courses

Selective colleges often start their review with your transcript, and strength of program is the first criterion of selection. Make sure your final transcript will include four years of the “five basic food groups”: English, math, history, science and foreign language. If you substitute from elsewhere on the curricular menu, select a course of equal or greater rigor in an area that better suits your abilities and interests. Make sure senior year is at least as challenging as junior year.

Keep Testing Under Control

By now, I hope you know whether you like the SAT or ACT better. Focus on the exam that works for you; if you prepare well enough, you’ll be likely to receive your highest score on the first or second attempt. Take your SAT II Subject Tests, if you must, whenever you’ll know as much as you can. Then forget bubble tests. Your scores are what they are. Stressing won’t raise them. Say the Serenity Prayer. Go test-optional. Focus your energy on classes, activities, and applications.

Keep Extra-Curricular Activities in Perspective

Remember that the hyphenate is extra-curricular. Even if you are being recruited for a talent in athletics or the arts, you must find a good deal of time to hone that skill set. You are no good to anyone if you run yourself into the ground by trying to do too much. Breathe. Eat. Sleep. Chill now and then.

Start Your Applications

If you haven’t already done so, create accounts. Use the Common App. Invest increments of time early on: When you have a little time, fill out the simple stuff. When you have a little more, add your activities and work experiences. When you can carve out still more, start drafting your activity paragraph and essay. Start on the supplements. Good writing usually takes time. Accept advice. Show what you have to your counselor or best teacher.

Create a List of College Fits

Shop for value: Figure out the program, size, type, location, personality, and likely final cost of the colleges that best suit you. Then list colleges that you might get into, some that you should get into, and two that you will get into.

Make more decisions up front. Be realistic. Make sure you can cover the cost. I like lists of six colleges. I understand nine. Beyond that, you’re denying reality, deferring decisions, and making the spring harder, via too many rejections or too many offers. Save yourself time, angst, and your parents’ money.