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  • John Carpenter

    Title: Founder

    Company: AskJohnAboutCollege.com

    • verified

    Years of Experience
    30

    Colleges I Attended
    George Fox College, Portland State University
    Degrees
    Master's Degree

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  • Admissions Expertise

    • Any tips on getting the most out of campus tours and info sessions?

       

      Do some homework on the college before you visit. Know about majors and programs ahead of time, and take a list of questions with you to have answered. You don't have to ask all the questions--many will be asked for you or answered in the info session. Pay attention, take notes. Look around. Listen. And after the visit, hang out in the coffee shop for as long as it takes you to have a mocha-something and write down what you saw, heard, felt, and smelled that day. Believe it or not, later these notes will trigger memories to help you keep all your college visits clear. Another thing--don't make any decision about applying to the college based on your tour guide. Chances are you won't hang out with him or her, have classes together, or even share anything in common. Trust your own instincts--not those of someone else.

    • We don't have time or money to visit some schools I’m really interested in. What can I do?

       

      There are lots of options here.  Obviously, check out Unigo's resource of campus videos, but also consider pouring through each school's official website as well as their Facbook page.  Additionally, follow the schools on Twitter and interact with them on occasion, asking questions about your interests.  Use the internet to your advantage; make yourself known as someone who definitely wants to become engaged with others.  You might actually learn more than you would on a campus visit.

    • What makes a school large or small and what are some advantages and disadvantages of each?

       

      I think many people consider SIZE as a reliable factor when, in fact, it doesn't really mean that much in choosing a college.  The real factor should be how you learn best, and many people learn better from individualized attention.  It's easier to get that at a smaller college, but even at huge universities, you can find smaller learning communities that give you exactly what you need.  My advice is not to get hung up on size.  After four years, it won’t matter anyway. Look at how you learn best instead, and find a community that matches that.

    • If I haven’t found the right extracurriculars, can I still appear to be a dedicated student?

       

      First off, forget about impressing colleges with activities.  That's entirely the wrong approach to take, and in most cases, admissions officers don't value a list of activities that kids have pursued just for the sake of trying to look well-rounded.  Be square.  Be yourself.  Make a list of the two or three things that you LIKE to do, and put your energy there.  For instance, one year a student came up with the idea of forming a club based on talking about deep ideas--something she loved to do.  So she formed the philosophy club; it was an instant hit.  She did what she wanted to do, and that left a positive impact on her school.  Admissions officers notice that kind of thing.

    • Tuition aside, what benefits and drawbacks exist by going to school in-state vs. out-of-state?

       

      Staying in-state is a great option, and it means you will have many opportunities to create or strengthen a local network of support both while you're in school (for internships and volunteer gigs) as well as when you finish school (for jobs, co-ops, graduate school contacts, and so on.) Don't underestimate the power of being known and knowing others; your contacts during your undergraduate years can become what propels you forward for the rest of your life. Staying close to home also allows you to give back to your own state, using what you learn and whom you meet to make things better; by staying home, you're fighting the "brain drain" that so many communities worry about by being part of a real solution. You can still spend a year abroad, travel to different cities, explore the world and have your own state as your home base.

    • In all of your years working with students, what were some of the most unexpected admissions successes you witnessed?

       

      The truth is that there really are very few surprises in college admissions when what the student offers matches what the institution's priorities or needs are.  However, one year, I was working with eight or nine kids who had all applied to the same highly selective university in a restricted early admissions program.  The surprise wasn't who was admitted or who wasn't; the surprise came during my conversation with the admissions officer who clearly had done his homework and knew each of the kid's applications in amazing detail.  It reaffirmed for me that admissions officers do indeed make significant effort to know applicants in order to make the best decisions--no matter how difficult.

    • What are the best ways to prepare for the SAT and which study methods are worth paying for?

       

      Three things come to keep in mind. One is to work through every problem on your old PSAT test booklet, and then use the College Board resources online to see where you need help. The second is to create a Twitter account and start following test prep tweets. I recently discovered a couple of brilliant resources: @PWNtheSAT and @The_YUNiversity. The third is to check out the apps available on your smart phone. Again, lots of options for math and vocabulary and even test prep itself. Also, check out Debbie Stier's site http://perfectscoreproject.com It's one mother's quest to take the SAT until she gets all 800s!  

    • What are some convenient, well-paying jobs for students who need to work while in college?

       

      Lots of great options exist for part-time jobs on campus, but if you're really good in math, science, a language, or writing, advertise your services as a tutor to high school kids.  You set your own schedule and can make good money.  Your responsibility is to meet in a neutral and public space, inspire the student to become confident in his or her own skills, and then demonstrate how the kid can make a marked increase in the academic progress. Empowering HS kids is rewarding--both personally and financially.  

    • How can parents help students with the college search and application process?

       

      Sometimes kids actually get stressed out talking so much about college, and the best advice I know is not to talk about college over dinner.  A better idea is for parents and kids is to establish a weekly meeting time during senior year, say every Tuesday night for 30 minutes, where you all agree to TALK to each other about what's going on with the search/application process and keep track of deadlines and to-do lists.  Make that the ONLY time you bring up "college" during the week; it prevents parents from inadvertently nagging and it gives kids a regular opportunity to share progress and express concerns.  

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