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  • Karen Ekman-Baur

    Title: Director of College Counseling

    Company: Leysin American School

    • verified

    Years of Experience
    11
    Languages Spoken
    English, German

    Colleges I Attended
    Florida State University Florida Atlantic University
    Professional Affiliations
    IECA, CIS, OACAC, NACAC
    Prior Job
    International School of Stuttgart and StudyHorizons: International University Advising
    Prior Title
    College Advisor
    About Me
    Karen is an American citizen who has lived in Germany since 1976. From 2002-2008, she was the College Advisor at the International School of Stuttgart, and in 2008, she founded StudyHorizons, an educational consultancy specializing in university advising for students interested in English-language institutions and programs worldwide. She is currently serving as Director of College Counseling at the Leysin American School in Switzerland.
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  • Intro Video

    Viewing this video in: English
  • Admissions Expertise

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

       

      I believe that the best way to get the most out of campus tours and information sessions is to research the school ahead of time so that you know as much as possible about the school environment and its offerings before you get there. Listen carefully during the tour and the info sessions, and be ready to ask well-considered questions. (Try not to ask a question that has just been answered in the presentation.) Don't leave the college without finding out what you want to know; someone will be able to give you the answer.

    • Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

       

      Any resources that enable a student to learn more about an institution are potentially useful, but students need to be aware of the "motivation" behind each of the resources that he/she uses. Guidebooks produced by schools provide a great deal of useful information, but the student must realize that they are marketing tools for the institutions. Rankings can be helpful if the student carefully looks at the components of the ranking to see which aspects represent qualities which are important to him/her. More important would be the quality of the program or programs the student is interested in studying at any given school. If various relatives are knowledgeable about a school, their input can also be valuable, as can the input of students or former students of the institution, but the student should carefully consider the motivations driving the opinions.

    • Can colleges revoke admissions offers? What behaviors can cause this, and how can students protect themselves?

       

      Colleges can indeed revoke admissions offers. The revocation could be as a result of a student's final semester high school grades dropping radically. Counselors are required to send in a final grade report to the college a student has selected, so the student should make sure that that report shows consistent effort on his/her part. Other grounds for revocation could be behaviors of a student which have required serious disciplinary action on the part of the student's high school - notably suspension or expulsion. As a matter of ethics, counselors are expected to report these types of transgressions to the college to which a student has been accepted. Depending on the circumstances, the college in question might or might not choose to revoke the admissions offer. If I were a student, I would also be very careful of what gets posted on Facebook and other social media platforms. Some of these postings can be extremely compromising of a student's integrity. Finally, going to the extreme, criminal activity on the part of the student would be, as might be expected, grounds for the revocation of a college admission offer.

    • Do you need to have a prospective major, or is it okay to be undecided?

       

      If a student is relatively certain about what he/she wants to study, then it can make sense to indicate a prospective major when applying to college. Many students, however, are not at all decided about what they want to study, and many who thought they were decided change their minds once they get to college - sometimes more than once. If an applicant doesn't have a strong idea of a prospective major, it's perfectly all right to indicate "Undecided". A fairly large percentage of students apply in that category each year, and schools are quite used to seeing that designation. There are many directions of study and careers that a student may never have considered or even heard of before, so a whole new world of possibilities will open up.

      Most schools in the U.S., Canada, and Scotland recognize this initial uncertainty and don't require students to declare a major until the end of their second (Sophomore) year. How this is handled and when the major must be declared depends, of course, on the institution. In many schools, there is no requirement to register into a specific department, and the student has considerable leeway in ultimately choosing a major or changing from one major to another. In other institutions, a student is required to register into a specific department - Humanities, Mathematics, Sciences, etc. The student can later, without much difficulty, change from one major to another within that department, but it might be a bit more difficult to change to a major in another department. The ease of the process depends wholly on institutional policies.

      By way of contrast, a majority of the universities in the U.K require that students register directly into a course of study (major), and if a student discovers that the course which was chosen is not the right one for him/her, the student must drop out and go through the entire application process again into another course of study. This can be a source of considerable annoyance if students discover that they have made a mistake and want to change courses. On the other hand, by entering directly into a course of study without spending the first year or two on general studies, students can often finish university in three years rather than four.

      Bottom line: In most cases, it's perfectly all right to be "Undecided", but do your homework in researching the institutions in which you're interested and have a clear understanding of their individual expectations and requirements in this regard before you apply.

    • Does class size matter?

       

      Class size does matter. Many first-year introductory classes will have a larger number of students, but the actual size of the "large" classes varies from one institution to another. This is an important aspect to consider when researching schools. Some universities break down their larger classes into smaller seminars or tutorial groups as a follow-up to the large group lecture. Find out what is done at the colleges you're looking at. Ideally students will have a chance, not just to listen to a lecture, but to process the material through discussions in which they can actively take part.

    • How do you build a good relationship with your high school guidance counselor?

       

      The personalities of high school guidance counselors differ, as does the amount of time they have available to provide individual counseling services to their student load, so the following suggestions are general, rather than specific. Figure out what will work best in your situation.

      1. Listen carefully and pay attention to the information which your counselor provides in group sessions. If there are any points for which you need more clarification, ask questions at that time. Be attentive, and show that you are interested.

      2. Make an appointment to see your guidance counselor to get specific information relative to your future plans and how to best approach your college preparation, college search, application completion, and so on. Depending on the school situation, you might be able to drop in without an appointment, but in many instances, the counselor is working with a large number of students and will not be available for unplanned visits. If you make an appointment, you can, hopefully, be guaranteed of having the counselor's undivided attention for that period of time.

      3. Think about what you want from your college experience, be prepared when you have appointments with your guidance counselor, and be open about what your college wants, needs, and expectations are. Don't expect your counselor to be able to read your mind.

      4. Be realistic about your own strengths and weaknesses. Discuss them with your counselor and realize that those strengths and weaknesses can and probably will affect the institutions to which it will be appropriate for you to apply. Remember that the goal is to find a college which is a good "fit" for you, and there are undoubtedly many that would meet that criteria.

      5. Follow through on suggestions your counselor makes for your college search, preparation, and application processes. Meet deadlines. Don't put the counselor in the position of having to nag you to get things done.

      6. Ask for recommendations from your counselor (and teachers) in plenty of time for the recommendations to be effectively written without putting additional stress and time pressures on the people writing them.

      7. Be friendly. When you see your counselor in the halls, smile and greet them.

      8. Thank your counselor for taking the time to see you and for helping you. Of course, that's his/her job, but it's always a good idea to thank people when they've done something for you.

    • How do you deal with overbearing parents during the college process?

       

      DEALING WITH OVERBEARING PARENTS DURING THE COLLEGE PROCESS

      This is a very difficult question to answer. A number of interpersonal aspects have to be taken into consideration. A lot depends on the student's personality, the personalities of his/her parents, and the relationship which has developed between and among them over the past almost two decades, so it's practically impossible to give an answer that will be a "magic" solution.

      Some parents are truly overbearing and want to call all the shots, manipulating their child/children into doing exactly what the parent wants. These parents are probably the most difficult to deal with. They typically are not listening to what their child wants or needs, but instead are envisioning a result in which all the pieces of the puzzle fit exactly where they themselves want them. Watch "Dead Poets Society" if you want to see an extreme and tragic example of this kind of domination. Even when highly overbearing parents are listening to their children, they may be so convinced of the "rightness" of their own ideas and ways of doing things that they don't want to turn the reins over completely to their child.

      Other parents, and I hope this is the majority, are simply highly interested and want to be helpful, but they don't quite know how they should fit into the process. They've made most of the decisions involving their child/children up until this time and don't know how to let go and how much or how little they should be involved in the college application process. They want to be genuinely helpful, but their child/children may perceive their involvement as being overbearing.

      Some parents may stay completely "hands off", and I don't know that this is the best solution, either. The college search and application process can be very stressful and takes a lot of effective time management at a time when a student typically has many academic and extracurricular commitments in his/her high school, so parental support can relieve this stress considerably.

      My advice for a student who feels that his parents are being too overbearing (or who feels that he/she would like MORE parental support):

      - Schedule time to sit down for a discussion with your parent(s) about how you feel

      when everyone is calm and no one is in a hurry. This should not be done in

      the midst of or just after an argument about the topic.

      - Explain to your parents what you're interested in, what you're unsure about, what

      you're excited about, what you're worried about, what you might want to study,

      where you might want to study, etc. Let them see that you're not just whining,

      but that you're actively considering and developing concrete ideas about your

      future studies.

      - Discuss why it's important for you to make the decisions yourself, but be willing to

      ask for and accept your parents' advice - to the extent that you feel that their

      advice is helpful and not demanding or manipulative. You may find that they

      have some very helpful input!

      - Remember that, in most cases, your parents will be paying considerably toward

      your education, so it's important that they are aware of financial implications.

      - Suggest ways that your parents can be helpful to you during the process -

      helping you brainstorm for essay ideas, helping you track deadlines, preparing

      the FAFSA and other financial aid documents, or other areas in which you feel

      some extra support would be helpful.

      - One or both of your parents may ask, "How can we help you?" Be ready with

      some suggestions (see above).

      - Thank your parents for being willing to let you take primary responsibility for your

      applications, but also for being there when/if you need them.

      If the above suggestions don't work, and you still feel extremely upset by the overbearing way in which your parents are dealing with you during the college search and application process, it might be helpful to get an outside person involved - your college counselor, an independent college advisor, your school psychologist, etc.

      I wish you success in solving this problem!

    • How do you indicate to a school that they are your first choose besides early decision?

       

      If you are writing an essay that would just be going to that one first-choice school, you could perhaps include that information in your essay somehow. You could also ask your Guidance Counselor to include your preference in the recommendation letter he/she writes for you. Care should, of course, be taken to ensure that that comment is only included on the letter going to your first-choice school!

      If you're indicating a first choice, it would be beneficial to indicate a reason/reasons why you feel that way. Some reasons would obviously not be very convincing - "All my friends are going there", "I've always wanted to go to an Ivy League school", "My boyfriend/girlfriend is going there", etc. Your reasons should have to do with what you know about what the school offers and how you would fit into that environment.

    • How do you know if community college is right for you?

       

      A community college can be a good option financially, as tuition rates will be lower, and if it's in your own community, you may choose to continue living at home with your parents, which will also be an economic benefit.

      Community college programs are typically for two years, at the end of which time, you would receive an Associates Degree, which may be your ultimate goal. If you intend, however, to transfer to a four-year college/university program after that, it will be important to investigate the ease of transfer between the community college(s) at which you are looking and the four-year college(s) to which you would consider transferring later. Students planning to complete their educations at four-year institutions often use the two years of community college to meet basic course requirements in English, Mathematics, etc. - courses that would be required at many four-year schools. Try to ascertain the quality of the education you would be receiving at a given community college and how well it would prepare you for later study because, just as with all educational institutions, they aren't all alike.

      You might also want to think about how important the campus culture aspect is to you. Since most community colleges are commuter schools with students living at home, there is sometimes less focus on developing the campus offerings of sports, activities, clubs, etc. Some community colleges are making an effort to address this issue, however, by developing ways to involve their students in campus activities, thus providing a more complete "college experience". You should give some thought to how important this aspect of your college education will be to you and investigate what is offered at the community college(s) you are considering.

    • How important can athletics be as a hook for college admissions?

       

      Athletics as a "hook" depends on a number of factors. One factor, of course, is your own level of competence in your sport of choice. There are a lot of good athletes, so this can be a very competitive area. Another factor is the importance of your sport at the institutions to which you want to apply and the extent to which those schools are looking for someone involved in your sport. (This can vary from year to year within any given institution.)

      - As an exceptional athlete, you could be interesting to a school as a potential member of one of their varsity teams. The competition and levels of expectation for places on the varsity teams will vary among institutions. If varsity participation is your goal, you should also make contact with staff of the relevant athletic departments of the schools in which you are interested. Depending on the schools and the NCAA division of your sport at those institutions, you might also be eligible for athletic scholarships.

      - Schools are typically looking for well-rounded students who will not only be academically successful, but who will also become involved in the extracurricular programs of their institutions in various areas, including club and intramural sports (non-varsity), so even if you're not considering varsity sport involvement, highlighting your athletic background will undoubtedly add to your application. It will give the institution a better picture of you as a total person and will be one more piece of the puzzle which could make you a "person of interest" to them.

    • How many schools should students apply to?

       

      Most of my colleagues and I usually recommend applying to between 6 and 10 well-chosen schools. If a student tries to apply to too many schools, he/she might become overwhelmed with the various application and essay requirements, in addition to the fact, that the cost of submitting a large number of applications could become prohibitive. Among the schools that a student applies to should be several that he/she feels almost sure of getting into, several to which he/she has about a 50/50 chance of being accepted, and several "reaches" - schools to which admission is difficult, but for which the student has met the basic admission requirements in terms of high school grades, standardized test scores, extracurricular involvement, etc. In any case, every school to which a student applies should be one that he/she would be happy to attend should an acceptance be received. It's extremely important to research schools of interest carefully before applying.

    • How should art students prepare for the college admissions process?

       

      Most art schools require a portfolio with a representative sample of a student's prior work in the field of art. Some schools will ask for a portfolio which demonstrates a particular spectrum of skills, themes, or styles, but in other cases, there will be no specific requirements, and students may submit whatever of their past work resonates with them. There may be a request for a minimum/maximum number of samples or a very specific number. Look on the websites of the institutions in which you're interested to determine their individual requirements. Also note how various schools would like to receive the portfolio - CD, etc. As with all parts of the application, a student should be aware of and meet deadlines for submission.

      Some art schools or art departments within colleges/universities offer Foundation courses for students who have had little or no prior demonstrable experience in the field of art. In these cases, students will not be asked to submit a portfolio, but there might (or might not) be additional requirements ascertaining a student's understanding and existing knowledge of the field.

      Portfolio Days are offered at various times of the year in the U.S. and abroad. Representatives from a selection of art schools are available on these Portfolio Days to provide guidance to students in effectively assembling their portfolios for art school/college admissions. Students may bring their existing portfolios to these sessions and receive individual constructive critiques from the art professionals participating. More information about "where" and "when" can be found by googling "Portfolio Days".

    • How should expat applicants approach the admissions process?

       

      In most cases, expat applicants should approach the admissions process in the same way as domestic students.

      Some additional aspects to consider:

      - If you have dual citizenship, U.S. and something else, it will generally be to your advantage financially to apply to U.S. institutions as a U.S. citizen. You will have access to U.S. financial aid through FAFSA, and some institutional scholarships are available only to U.S. citizens. Financial aid to international students is often limited.

      - Ensure that the schools to which you apply also receive profiles of the high schools you have attended overseas and that the grading systems of those high schools are made clear in the supporting materials.

      - Your experiences in living overseas will provide potentially interesting input into the essays you submit. Unique essays capture the attention of admissions office readers. Realize that part of YOUR uniqueness is your international experience. This will also be true of students who have lived in various parts of the world as a result of the military stationings of their parents.

    • Is it better to stick close to home or go to school far away?

       

      This question is a tricky one. A student should ultimately be comfortable with the decision he/she makes, but it can be a good idea to reach out of one's "comfort zone". This goes for parents, too, who sometimes need to learn to let go. A student may be better able to expand his/her horizons when attending college not so close to home. There are a lot of factors that would have to be considered, though - finances, travel issues, college/university opportunities close to home, family needs, etc.

    • Once accepted, how do you choose between colleges?

       

      Well, if you chose your schools carefully before applying, you would be happy to be accepted and go to any one of them. Having said that, however, once you receive your acceptances, it would be worthwhile to go back over the list you made earlier about what you want from your college experience - both academically and socially, and determine which of the acceptances seems to really be the best fit. If you haven't visited the schools before (or even if you have), a visit to the institutions to which you have been accepted could help you make up your mind. Finally, depending on family finances, the amount of financial support you would receive from one school compared to another could be a deciding factor.

    • Should students consider taking a year off in between high school and college?

       

      Taking a year off between high school and college could be an intelligent decision. The student would have time to become more mature and might have a better idea of the study direction he/she would like to pursue and the kind of school that would be a good "fit". During that year there would be a chance to earn money to help with college expenses. Another advantage to a gap year would be the possibility for the student to participate in a volunteer experience domestically or in another country for an extended period, to focus on learning a foreign language, or otherwise to broaden his/her personal experience. There should be a "plan", though. Taking the year off to just hang around the house playing computer games is not a legitimate plan!

    • What are freshman retention rates and why do they matter?

       

      The Freshman Retention Rate is the percentage of students that return to the college/university for the Sophomore (second) year. I see a high retention rate as a sign that something is being done right - that students are satisfied, both academically and socially, and want to continue their studies in that environment. What could be more important?

    • What are some differences between rural, suburban, and urban campuses?

       

      As there are many factors to take into account, this is not a definitive answer but will provide some points for consideration. The focus of this response is on the physical attributes of the campuses and their surroundings, not on any other aspects.

      Many college campuses, whether rural, small-town, suburban, or urban have beautifully laid-out and landscaped self-contained campuses, often with wooded or park-like areas which add to the pleasure of being a student there. ("Self-contained" means that the campus buildings, dormitories, sports facilities, etc. are on a plot of ground providing a connection among all of them, and social and extracurricular activities center around this hub. It will usually be quite apparent when you have entered this type of campus.) A campus of this description could be found in any of the areas mentioned below.

      Rural - As the word suggests, these institutions are located in the country. In some cases, urban/more developed areas are not too far away, and in other cases, it may be quite some distance to more populated areas. If you would often or even occasionally want to enjoy the offerings of a city/large town, the aspect of location will be important to keep in mind. On the other hand, if you want to be totally away from the chaos of city life, a rural campus could be the right choice for you. A rural campus may provide numerous opportunities for outdoor activities in the surrounding environment, which would, of course, vary depending on the geographical location of the campus. Social life at a rural campus often focuses strongly on on-campus activities.

      Small-Town - Small-town institutions have often (but not always) developed wonderful relationships with the residents of the towns in which they are situated. The school may have become a source of identity for the town, and students are made to feel part of the town community. (I will reiterate that this is not always the case. Sometimes, for whatever reasons, a sense of community between the town and students at the university has, unfortunately, never developed.) This sense of connection, or lack of it, is what is referred to as "town-gown" relations. While these campuses offer many activities which are centered on the campus, students in a small-town environment will also have access to whatever that town has to offer - restaurants, movie theaters, etc.

      Suburban - These schools are, as the name implies, situated not very far from an urban area. Depending on the nature of the suburb, there may or may not be as much sense of community as in a small-town environment. There will usually be good public transportation connections to the nearby city, however, which can be an interesting free-time and entertainment destination. These schools are most frequently self-contained and will offer numerous on-campus activities for their students.

      While schools in the above areas will usually, as mentioned, be on self-contained campuses, there are distinct differences among urban campuses.

      Urban - Urban campuses may be self-contained, with the college-specific lay-out and landscaping which we typically associate with such campuses, but they may also merge into the city in such a way that the city itself becomes the campus for the school. The buildings of these schools will look just like the surrounding office buildings, and when one steps out of a school edifice, one will find oneself on the sidewalk of a busy city. Whether the campus is self-contained or integrated into the city, social life tends to be focused on what the city has to offer - live theater, museums, concerts, sports events, restaurants, etc. For some students, this type of environment is exactly what they are looking for as they take their first steps toward independence. Self-contained or integrated into the city? What is your preference?

      As you do your college research, be sure that you understand the type of campus lay-out and the surrounding environment of each of the schools which interest you. Your stay at the school will represent four years of your life, and you want those years to meet your expectations.

    • What are some questions to consider before applying to an online school?

       

      While it is quite possible to have a worthwhile learning experience through a well-developed program of an online school, there are several aspects which should be carefully considered before deciding to go in that direction or WHERE to go in that direction.

      The first thing you should look into is the legitimacy of the online school. Is it accredited? Will the credits you gain be transferrable to other institutions? Will the degree or certification you earn be recognized? Is the online school/program associated with a recognized and accredited college or university? (Some online programs are outgrowths of college/university offerings; some are independent.) Do your research. Just because an online program calls itself a "school" is no indication of quality.

      Find out how the course will be delivered. How will class material be presented? In what ways will you be able to interact with instructors and classmates? What provisions are made for the exchange of ideas? How much individual attention will you receive? How will your progress/learning be evaluated? What will be expected of you in completing the course or degree? Will there occasionally be requirements to be physically present for a classroom, laboratory, or lecture hall experience? Don't hesitate to ask these questions of the online school. Be sure you know what you could expect in working through a course of study with any given organization.

      Another thing to consider in making your decision is the extent to which you personally will be able to commit to an online course. This is an aspect of personality and learning style. Studies have shown that the drop-out rate is considerably greater for online courses than for courses for which students are required to be physically present. This phenomenon undoubtedly has much to do with the relationships which develop in face-to-face encounters. Ask yourself whether you will be able to fully commit to an online program or whether you would prefer the interactions which would be part of a campus-based college/university study experience.

      In making a decision as to whether to apply to an online school, you should consider your personal needs and financial resources, carefully weighing the advantages and disadvantages of online study against campus-based study. Consider whether you will learn more effectively through an online program or in a study environment which provides the opportunity for hands-on experiences and face-to-face exchanges with others. Would you make greater progress through the online contacts that you would have with your professors and classmates, or would you prefer the academic and social interactions which are part of an on-campus experience? Do a "cost vs. personal value" analysis of the two options.

      Studying through an online school will, in almost all cases, be less expensive than attendance at a residential campus-based school. This is primarily because there is not an extensive infrastructure which has to be supported - class buildings, laboratories, sports facililies, dormitories, dining halls, etc., etc. etc. Expense will also be less in that there will be no need for you to pay for room, board, and travel expenses in addition to tuition. It may be that, for financial reasons, an online course is the only option which is feasible for you at this time. In that case, choose an online school with great care considering the suggestions above.

    • What are some tips for college visits?

       

      I submitted this same answer in response to another question, which was asking what to do, look for, and ask when visiting a college. It provides a number of useful tips for your college visits.

      Most successful campus visits are centered around an information session and a campus tour. It is also sometimes possible to schedule a personal interview with a member of the admissions staff or with academic or sports staff in areas which are significant to you. Information about when information sessions and tours are scheduled can be found on the websites of most schools. You can then schedule an interview that correlates with those pre-scheduled events. Some admissions offices do not offer interview options, however.

      You might also consider arranging an overnight stay in one of the dorms. Contact the admissions office to see if/how this can be set up. You would be paired up with a current student and would have the opportunity to get a much better understanding of student life at that school.

      The information session, usually led by one of the admissions officers, will provide input on institutional offerings, application requirements and procedures, and other areas of general interest. The information sessions are typically followed by a question and answer period. This will be a chance for you to ask about issues of particular relevance to you. Do your research ahead of time, so that your questions will be appropriate to the institution, and be sure not to ask a question that the admissions officer just answered in his/her presentation. That doesn't make a very good impression. You should feel free, however, to ask about points that were not clear to you. It's best not to ask questions that are very specific to you. These would be better addressed privately with an admissions officer - either in an interview situation or informally, after the information session.

      The campus tour, which usually lasts from an hour to an hour and a half, will most often be led by a current student or recent graduate of the school. You will probably be taken to most of the important academic departmental buildings, dormitories, sports facilities, performance facilities, the library, etc. This will be a good chance for you to ask questions about any of the facilities that are of particular interest to you and to get a better sense of what life is like for a student on campus. Ask anything you wonder about. Ideally, you would be able to visit the school during a time when classes are in session, so that you could get a feel for the campus "vibes". Unfortunately, however, the time when you're free to visit will often be when school is not in session at the colleges/universities. But, never mind, you can still learn a lot on the tour even if the campus is not teeming with students.

      As you're touring the school, try to imagine yourself in that environment. Would you feel comfortable and happy? Most of the schools you visit will have some kind of building/renovation projects underway. At least that's been my experience. That's a good sign. A "red flag" should go up if you see many buildings which are run-down and if the campus does not seem to be well cared for.

      If you do arrange an interview, this will be a chance for you to present yourself personally - your prior accomplishments, your interests, your abilities. You will be able to ask any questions which relate very specifically to you. Some schools say that their interviews are just for the exchange of information and will not be part of your evaluation. Others require or recommend (read that as "require") an interview as part of their admissions evaluation procedure. Remember that the impression you make will be based on things other than just your prior academic and extracurricular accomplishments - things such as whether you choose to dress appropriately, how you speak, your level of confidence, your manners, and so on.

      Keep in mind that you may be able to arrange interviews with members of academic departments in which you are interested. You would always want to go into those interviews with a good understanding of the departments as they are configured in each school, as well as gathering some background information about the person with whom you'll be speaking. If you are a talented athlete and hope to continue a sport in college, you will probably want to arrange interviews with the relevant coaches.

    • What are the benefits of taking AP exams in high school?

       

      Because AP courses are designed to be more challenging, they offer greater opportunities for students to prepare for the demands of university studies. This is also true, and perhaps more so, of the IB (International Baccalaureate) Diploma program, which provides a broad spectrum of in-depth studies - developing to a high level the study, research, and presentation skills of students involved.

      Colleges and universities highly regard and reward successful performance in both AP and IB programs. Greater scholarship opportunities may become available, and students who achieve specific scores, as determined by the institution, may exempt certain college/university courses or gain advanced standing based on their AP or IB performance.

      Since colleges/universities are looking for students who have worked successfully in challenging courses, taking AP and IB courses (working for the full IB Diploma, if possible) are steps in the right direction.

    • What are the most important factors to consider when choosing a college?

       

      A number of factors should be considered in choosing a college. First, of course, would be the quality of the program(s) which you're interested in studying. Do graduates have success in finding employment or going on to graduate school? Financial factors should, of course, be considered - What is the tuition? What kinds of financial assistance are available. Other factors to consider are: the kind of environment you prefer - rural, suburban, urban; whether you'd rather be on a self-contained campus or one which is integrated into a city; the social culture of the institution; the size of the student body; average class size; the kinds of extracurricular activities available - music, sports, etc.; whether the school has a strong religious orientation. Even the prevailing climate in the areas at which you're looking should be considered. It would be a good idea to carefully think about what is important to you, what would make you feel happy and enjoy your days in an educational environment, and then consider those aspects when choosing a college.

    • What are the most important things to do and ask during a college visit?

       

      The most important things to do and ask during a college visit will differ to a certain extent depending on where a student's interests lie. It will be worthwhile to visit the facilities of the areas in which you are considering focusing your primary studies - science labs, math facilities, art or performance studios, etc. If possible, you might want to schedule interviews with members of the teaching staff in departments relevant to you. Ask about typical class sizes (the faculty:student ratio indicated in college statistics is not an indication of class size), the amount of interaction students have with their professors, whether classes are taught by professors or teaching assistants, research opportunities open to undergraduate students if this possibility if of interest to you, performance opportunities . . . Feel free to ask about anything that is important to you.

      If you're interested in athletics, you will want to take a look at the athletic facilities, and of course, if you are a high-performance athlete and are hoping to participate on one of the college teams, you would do well to schedule an appointment with one of the coaches.

      When you are looking at facilities, arrange to see the type of dormitories/housing facilities available to entering students. As you progress through your college years, you will probably have accessibility to increasingly more desirable housing opportunities, but it will be good to know what your entering housing situation will be. Also take a good look at the dining facilities; many schools have more than one. See if you can plan to have a meal at one of them. What better way to get a feeling for the dining experience and the type of food available?

      Many schools have formed consortia with other institutions in order to expand offerings to their students. If you are looking at a school that is a member of a consortium, investigate what this actually means. What kinds of interactions are facilitated among the member institutions of the consortium? What are the limitations of the relationship?

      Ideally, you would be able to visit a campus when classes are taking place and students are on campus as this is the best way to get a feel for the social culture of the campus. Because of your own schedule, however, this may not be an option. In any case, if you have time, plan to wander around the campus for awhile on your own, just soaking up the "vibes" and trying to get a feel for what it would be like to be involved on that campus for four years.

      .

      Below is the answer I gave for a similar question on the UNIGO site, which will give you a broader overview of a typical college visit. There is occasional repetition of advice.

      "Most successful campus visits are centered around an information session and a campus tour. It is also sometimes possible to schedule a personal interview with a member of the admissions staff or with academic or sports staff in areas which are significant to you. Information about when information sessions and tours are scheduled can be found on the websites of most schools. You can then schedule an interview that correlates with those pre-scheduled events. Some admissions offices do not offer interview options, however.

      You might also consider arranging an overnight stay in one of the dorms. Contact the admissions office to see if/how this can be set up. You would be paired up with a current student and would have the opportunity to get a much better understanding of student life at that school.

      The information session, usually led by one of the admissions officers, will provide input on institutional offerings, application requirements and procedures, and other areas of general interest. The information sessions are typically followed by a question and answer period. This will be a chance for you to ask about issues of particular relevance to you. Do your research ahead of time, so that your questions will be appropriate to the institution, and be sure not to ask a question that the admissions officer just answered in his/her presentation. That doesn't make a very good impression. You should feel free, however, to ask about points that were not clear to you. It's best not to ask questions that are very specific to you. These would be better addressed privately with an admissions officer - either in an interview situation or informally, after the information session.

      The campus tour, which usually lasts from an hour to an hour and a half, will most often be led by a current student or recent graduate of the school. You will probably be taken to most of the important academic departmental buildings, dormitories, sports facilities, performance facilities, the library, etc. This will be a good chance for you to ask questions about any of the facilities that are of particular interest to you and to get a better sense of what life is like for a student on campus. Ask anything you wonder about. Ideally, you would be able to visit the school during a time when classes are in session, so that you could get a feel for the campus "vibes". Unfortunately, however, the time when you're free to visit will often be when school is not in session at the colleges/universities. But, never mind, you can still learn a lot on the tour even if the campus is not teeming with students.

      As you're touring the school, try to imagine yourself in that environment. Would you feel comfortable and happy? Most of the schools you visit will have some kind of building/renovation projects underway. At least that's been my experience. That's a good sign. A "red flag" should go up if you see many buildings which are run-down and if the campus does not seem to be well cared for.

      If you do arrange an interview, this will be a chance for you to present yourself personally - your prior accomplishments, your interests, your abilities. You will be able to ask any questions which relate very specifically to you. Some schools say that their interviews are just for the exchange of information and will not be part of your evaluation. Others require or recommend (read that as "require") an interview as part of their admissions evaluation procedure. Remember that the impression you make will be based on things other than just your prior academic and extracurricular accomplishments - things such as whether you choose to dress appropriately, how you speak, your level of confidence, your manners, and so on.

      Keep in mind that you may be able to arrange interviews with members of academic departments in which you are interested. You would always want to go into those interviews with a good understanding of the departments as they are configured in each school, as well as gathering some background information about the person with whom you'll be speaking. If you are a talented athlete and hope to continue a sport in college, you will probably want to arrange interviews with the relevant coaches."

    • What are the most politically active colleges?

       

      For students who are politically interested, it would be worthwhile to look into the dominant political leanings, if there are any, of the schools at which they are looking. The student bodies at some institutions form a rather balanced political picture, while other schools may have a distinctly liberal or conservative "feel".

      This is not a definitive list, but I've read that the following schools have a reputation for political activism:

      Georgia - Spelman College

      Maine - College of the Atlantic

      Massachusetts - Roxbury Community College

      Montana - Little Big Horn College

      North Carolina - Duke University

      University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill

      Texas - University of Texas in Austin

      Virginia - James Madison University

      Wisconsin - Marquette University

      University of Wisconsin - Madison

    • What are the quickest ways to research colleges?

       

      I suppose that the quickest way to research a college/university is to go to the institution's website. You can find out information about how to apply, financial aid/scholarship options, activities, campus facilities, facts and data about the institution, and so on. An advantage to the website over printed material is that, depending on the school, the websites are usually kept up-to-date on an ongoing basis.

      Each website is structured differently, so what the institutions choose to highlight will also differ. While there is a certain amount of marketing involved in the developing of the college websites, they are not as intensely focused on marketing as are the promotional brochures which are distributed because they are also sources of information for current students, their parents, and others already involved with the institutions.

      It's a good idea to supplement the information which you find on institutional websites with research in independently-published books about college/university characteristics and features, conversations with current and former students at the institutions in which you are interested, input from your guidance counselor, visits to the schools which are on your "short list" - and basically, any other way that you can add to your knowledge of a college/university.

    • What are women's colleges like?

       

      In the past few years, I've had the opportunity to visit several outstanding women's colleges. Some of these schools operate totally independently, while others have close interchanges with nearby coeducational institutions or are members of consortia with nearby coeducational schools through which students can enroll in a certain number of classes and take advantage of athletic and other facilities at member institutions.

      In any case, the all-female colleges offer their students outstanding and abundant opportunities to excel in their areas of interest and to develop their leadership and organizational skills without the perceived competition and sometimes unrealistic presuppositions about male and female abilities which may exist, however subconsciously, in a coeducational institution. These colleges offer a full range of courses in a wide range of subjects, and numerous extracurricular, sports, and social opportunities are available. Research the schools in which you are interested carefully to determine their actual academic offerings and areas of academic and extracurricular focus and strength.

      According to a recent study conducted at the University of Essex in England, young women do significantly better in single-sex classes than in a coeducational environment. The study notes that students at all-female institutions tend to exhibit more self-confidence in their classes and are able to develop stronger leadership skills. This phenomenon has long been held to be true, but the Essex study emphasizes the point.

      On the other side of the coin, it could be argued that young women need to learn to put themselves forward and succeed in a male-female environment, since that is representative of "real life". An education at a women's college could be considered a stepping stone, however, in that it can provide an opportunity for a young women to experience fully being the focus of the education process and to develop her leadership abilities without experiencing gender pressure. She would then be able to take this honed sense of self into the male-female workplace.

    • What can students do to be competitive if they want to go to school outside the US?

       

      Although some universities outside the US might ask for a recommendation or an essay, most don't. UCAS, the application platform for UK universities, for instance, asks for one recommendation and a Personal Statement. Schools in most other countries will be looking at test scores and grades, so if applying to a competitive university, it is important that those results be strong. If given a chance to write an essay or Personal Statement, it is important to focus on what sets you apart and distinguishes you from other applicants, causing the admissions officers to notice you. This advice applies to application essay writing, in general. In some cases, the very fact that you will be coming from outside the country to which you're applying will make you a "person of interest".

    • What exactly are US News and the College Board?

       

      The College Board, which is headquartered in New York City, has been around for a long time. It is a membership association that was formed in 1900 as the College Entrance Examination Board (CEEB). The College Board is now composed of close to 6,000 schools, colleges, universities, and other educational organizations. The organization sells and provides for the administration of standardized tests used by academically oriented post-secondary education institutions to measure students' abilities. The College Board offers the PSAT/NMSQT and the SAT Reasoning and Subject tests.

      The PSAT/NMSQT (National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test):

      The PSAT is not used directly by colleges and universities when they make their college admissions decisions. A student's acceptance or rejection will usually (but not always) take into consideration the SAT or the ACT, which is administered by another organization. It is advisable, however, for a student to take the PSAT. Although the testing takes less time, it is structured in a way similar to the SAT, so that the student can gain a good sense of his/her strengths and weaknesses in this kind of timed multiple-choice test situation. It is important to know that students who do very well when they take the test while in the 11th grade may be eligible for National Merit Scholarship awards or recognition. This recognition can then affect college admission, even though specific PSAT scores are not submitted.

      The SAT -

      SAT Reasoning tests are intended to measure a student's Critical Reading, Writing, and Mathematics capabilities. Many higher education institutions require either the SAT Reasoning test or the ACT as one of their admissions criteria because it is felt that there is a correlation between the standardized test scores and the student's later college success. The College Board also offers SAT Subject tests, which are required for admission to some institutions. These tests focus specifically on one subject - a language, biology, chemistry, mathematics, etc. There can be considerable differences among various colleges/universities with regard to the importance attributed to the standardized tests in making their admissions decisions, as well as their individual test requirements. A small, but growing, group of colleges/universities, for instance, have decided not to require standardized testing scores (SAT and ACT) from their applicants at all because they feel that the tests are culturally biased and are not representative of a student's ability to succeed in college.

      US News & World Report

      The US News & World Report is a news media outlet which has been publishing under that name since 1948. Since 1983, the organization has published yearly comprehensive rankings of a wide range of colleges/universities, now also including graduate schools, high schools, and other institutions. Many factors are taken into consideration when determining the rankings - types of schools, location, acceptance rate, financial aid offerings, and so on. A student might see some of these factors as being of greater or lesser importance to him/her. There has been considerable controversy over the actual value of rankings, in that it is difficult to fit the human factor into the equation - the personal needs/personality of each student. Just because an institution is highly ranked doesn't necessarily mean that it would be the best place for any given student to study.

    • What extracurriculars are most important?

       

      In my opinion, there are not any extracurriculars that are "most" important. What you want to do is discover extracurricular activities that further your interests and to which you can commit. Having said that, use your common sense in choosing your activities. There may be some extracurricular offerings at your school which are just time fillers and may offer no particular value. You can probably tell the difference.

      Colleges and universities aren't particularly interested in someone who dabbled in everything and committed to nothing. They would prefer to see a student who chose his/her extracurricular activities carefully and was then willing to commit time and energy toward productive engagement in those activities. Areas you might consider are music, art, dance, drama, sports, student government, community service, or various academic specialty clubs like foreign language, science, technology, etc. Of course, there are other worthwhile activities, some which may be specific to the area in which you live. It's okay to test the waters in various activities to start with - to find out what really excites your interest, but then try to limit your extracurriculars to a few to which you really want to commit your time and energy.

      There is also the possibility that you are truly outstanding in some area - playing the cello, for instance, and want to commit much of your non-academic time to that pursuit. That's okay, too. In this context, I once heard an admissions officer from an Ivy League university say, "Yo-Yo Ma did not also have to play football." In other words, if you are passionate about something and talented in that area, you don't have to throw in a bunch of other extracurriculars just to pad your resume.

      Have fun with your choices!

    • What if you can't visit a school?

       

      If at all possible, arrange to visit the schools to which you may choose to apply, but it's NOT always possible for various logistical or financial reasons, so what should you do?

      There are many resources available with which you can research the schools in which you are interested. Try to use a variety of resources that will give you information from a number of different perspectives. Some resources are indicated below:

      - Institutional websites - (Some marketing is done on the websites, but these are also resources for current students of the schools and their parents, so you should be able to get a feel for the culture of each of the institutions.)

      - Institutional promotional materials - (Keep in mind that, while these resources are usually very informative, they are also marketing instruments.)

      - Publications which provide factual information about educational institutions - (These publications will not offer evaluations of the schools, but will give you useful statistical and logistical information.)

      - Publications which provide independent college/university reviews - (These publications will frequently offer revealing evaluations of the schools considered, often based on interviews with students, as well as a considerable amount of statistical/logistical information.)

      - Independent videos produced to provide virtual tours of selected schools - (These videos are intended to give a prospective student the "next best thing" to an actual visit.)

      - Discussions with students or former students of the schools in which you are interested - (These may be people you actually know or contacts which you are able to make through the internet.)

      - Rankings of institutions which appear in several well-known periodicals - (Interesting information may be gleaned from these rankings, but you and your parents should not look upon them as the most important resource. There is a great deal of controversy about the actual value of these rankings. Many schools which, in fact, have received quite good rankings in the past have decided not to participate in the ranking programs because of their questionable actual value. Since the rankings are based on statistical information, some of which may not be particularly relevant to you, and since student needs vary so greatly, the rankings cannot possibility reveal what the actual student experience would be at any of the institutions considered. More important would be to look into the quality of the programs in which you are interested at the schools you are considering and to use the resources indicated above to get a feel for how you would fit into each environment.)

      Finally, while doing your research, investigate the types of student-support services available at each institution. The transition to college/university life, although in many ways wonderfully exciting, can sometimes be fraught with obstacles and difficult emotional adjustments - even for students who sailed through high school. Look for schools in which effective student-support systems are in place (and be open to using them, if the need arises).

    • What is "need blind" and "need sensitive" admissions?

       

      "Need-blind" means that, when your application is being considered, the amount of financial assistance you will need if admitted is not a determining factor, and your financial need will not be considered at all in making the admissions decision. "Need-blind" institutions have the resources to commit to meeting the full financial need of admitted students through various means - loans, grants, and work-study opportunities. Keep in mind, however, that your "full need" as perceived by the institution and your "full need" as perceived by your family may be quite different.

      "Need-sensitive" institutions must consider, as part of their admissions decisions, the amount of financial assistance a student would require if admitted. These schools do not have the resources to supply full financial aid to all admitted students, or the institution may have chosen to allocate its resources in a different way. A student could conceivably be denied admission if it is felt that the family could not meet the financial requirements of the institution without receiving more financial aid than the institution is prepared to offer. The expression "need-aware" is often used, as well.

      Although many institutions in the U.S. have merit-based scholarships which are available to all admitted students, need-based aid is usually not as accessible for international students as it is for domestic students. Additionally, in order to receive the necessary student visa, a prospective international student must provide proof that financial resources are available to cover expenses for a full year of study and that adequate funds will be available in coming years.

    • What should high school students do before the summer of their senior year?

       

      High school students should already have an idea of the schools to which they want to apply before the summer of their senior year. Most, if not all, of the research should be done. If possible, arrangements should be made to visit the schools of interest - either in the spring of a student's junior year or in the summer of his/her senior year. Of course, this is not always feasible for various logistical and financial reasons, but there's nothing that can beat an actual visit to a campus in helping a student to make college application and acceptance decisions. On those visits, the student should plan to attend an information session, take a campus tour, and if required or recommended by the institution, participate in a private interview with one of the admissions officers. Time permitting, it would also be of benefit for the student to wander around campus for awhile to get a feel for the environment. The best time to visit a college is when classes are in session and students are on campus, but this doesn't always fit into the schedules of most high school students, so the visits will just have to be scheduled when they can be - usually spring or summer breaks. When colleges are in session, it is often possible to schedule on-campus overnight stays with current students, which is one more way to get a "feel" for the schools.

      I also recommend that my clients take at least one SAT and/or one ACT before the summer of their senior year. This accomplishes several purposes: Firstly, a student can determine areas of strength and weakness and can focus on the areas in which he/she would like to improve before taking the test again once or twice in the fall of the senior year. (In my experience, taking the tests more than three times can be counter-productive.) Secondly, getting an idea of a student's potential test results and comparing those results with standardized test score ranges at the schools in which the student is interested can be useful in determining which schools represent realistic expectations and which are "reaches". Keep in mind that the standardized test score ranges which schools publish are typically the middle 50%, which means that 25% of admitted students had lower test scores and 25% of admitted students had higher test scores. Students in the lower 25% usually had some other defining strength or quality, which made up for the less stellar test scores - musical, artistic, or athletic ability, international background, etc. It is also important to know that a small, but growing, group of colleges have decided to no longer require standardized test scores of their applicants, feeling that the scores are not representative of a student's potential for college/university success. These schools are not in the majority, however.

      During their junior year, students should have made every effort to work toward success in their high school classes. Again, this if for several reasons: Firstly, the grades that will be initially entered on students' applications will be grades from the junior year. Of course, students should stay focused on doing well in the 12th grade, as well, as those grades will ultimately be provided through the Mid-Year and Final Grade Reports to the schools to which they apply. Another reason for working diligently in the 11th grade is that students will, in all likelihood, be asking their 11th grade teachers for college recommendations, since, at the time that college applications are being sent out, 11th grade teachers will most often have more knowledge of a student, having worked with him/her for a full year and completed a full year of instruction with him/her. Students will want to ensure that what their recommenders are able to say about them will be positive.

    • What should students consider when choosing between a small and large school?

       

      There can be a huge range between the number of students in a small school and the number in a large school - from less than a thousand to several tens of thousands.

      The academic resources available, consequently, will typically be much more extensive in larger schools than in smaller institutions. Many smaller (and larger) schools are successfully pooling their resources by forming consortia with other institutions, thus increasing the academic resources offered to their combined student bodies. The student is enrolled in one school, but has the opportunity to use the facilities at the other member schools of the consortium, usually with certain limitations. This is a very interesting option, which a student would do well to consider. A number of small schools do have healthy endowments, however, and are able to independently provide impressive academic facilities to their students. Carefully look into the resources available at the schools you are researching.

      In looking at both large and small schools, take notice of the average class sizes. Some introductory courses in both environments may be taught to large classes, but this should not be the rule. Consider too that what is called a "large class" in a small school may be much smaller than a "large class" in a large institution. There is no question that you can potentially access a better education in a small-class environment in which you can participate, ask questions, and become involved. Some larger institutions are meeting that need by having initial lessons presented in a lecture hall environment followed by small-group sessions which are more interactive.

      Large schools often employ teaching assistants to facilitate classes. These TAs are usually graduate students and may, in fact, do a fine job, but you might want to check to see whether many classes are taught by teaching assistants at the schools you are researching. Because many smaller schools don't have graduate programs, classes will usually be taught by professors. Smaller schools without graduate degree programs may also be able to offer more opportunities for undergraduate students to become involved with professors in doing research.

      School spirit can exist in both large and small schools, but students who are interested in the "big game/big crowd" experience will usually find it in a larger school. If that sports aspect is important to you, you will want to find out which sports are big at the schools at which you're looking. It's not always football!

      Another aspect to consider is the social environment which will exist in small schools in comparison to large schools. I am firmly convinced, from personal experience with my own son, of the importance of a student finding his/her "niche" in a college/university.

      It might seem that it would be easier for a student to find that niche in a small school, but that is not necessarily the case. What matters is for a student to become involved in activities in which he/she is interested no matter the size of the school. It is in the context of these shared activities that students will find their niches and will develop circles of friends/acquaintances with similar interests. Just because a school is very large does not mean that a student has to become lost in the crowd, and just because a school is small does not mean that a student will automatically find his/her place. To reiterate, whether the school is small or large, it's very important for a student to find that niche! Students who are happy in their environments will perform much more successfully academically.

    • What should students focus on during the application process?

       

      Aside from making sure that all parts of the application are carefully and legibly completed - no glaring spelling or grammar mistakes, please, I would say that a student should focus on writing essays that are formulated in interesting ways and reveal things about him/her that will, hopefully, make the student stand out as the admissions officers read through the countless essays that they receive each year. This is the one area in which a student can more vividly present his/her personality, interests, and values.

      Another overall focus should be on meeting all of the deadlines that are established by the institution(s) - application, financial aid, and so on. If you aren't able to meet those deadlines, there are always going to be other people who will. You don't want to disadvantage your application by overlooking these important timeframes.

    • What should you do if your high school doesn't offer advanced classes?

       

      Most colleges/universities ask that your Guidance Counselor provide a profile of your high school with his/her support materials for your application - or the admissions officers may be able to access the website of your high school online to see the profile. The reason this profile is of interest to admissions officers is that it lets them compare what you did in high school with the offerings which were actually provided by your school. You won't be penalized for not taking advanced classes if your high school doesn't offer them.

      Do arrange to take the most challenging courses offered, however, as they are appropriate to your interests. That is, if you are considering college/university studies in Mathematics, for instance, you would want to take the most challenging courses you can in that area. If your high school does not differentiate at all among the various courses of a certain subject, this will be apparent in the profile. This is probably an issue for you since you're reading this answer, so you might want to arrange to send a copy of the school profile with your applications yourself to make sure that the admissions officers do have a clear idea of what was available to you.

      Some high school students arrange to take courses at local community colleges or four-year colleges/universities while they are still in high school - either during the school year or during the summer break. You would then submit these grades with your regular college application. This would give you a chance to do more advanced work in selected areas. If this is not a viable option for you, however, don't worry. Just make sure that the admissions officers at the institutions to which you are applying are aware of the actual offerings at your high school and do your very best in the courses which are available to you.

    • What's the best time to visit a college campus?

       

      The best time to visit a college campus would be when school is in session. I've visited a lot of college campuses, both privately and on organized tours. Unfortunately, most of these visits were at times when classes were not in session because of my own availability. It is much more revealing to visit a college when students are on campus and classes are taking place. You can get a sense of the campus culture, talk with current students, maybe arrange on overnight, sit in on selected classes - all of this in addition to the campus tour and information session. Of course, you should avoid going during exam periods.

    • When should students start the college search?

       

      Some students wait until just before their last year in high school or even after that last school year has begun to start the college search. That is really a big mistake! Although students can start thinking about college even earlier, I feel that the best time to really begin the "search" is after the 10th grade. Doing some serious self-analysis is probably the best place to begin. By the end of the 10th grade, students should have a more concrete idea of courses of study that might interest them and the kind of environment they would like to study in, as well as having developed a clearer picture of their own abilities and strengths. Knowing these things will help students limit their own personal college searches and make it easier to focus on the best fits. Starting the search after the 10th grade should give students plenty of time to research institutions of interest in detail and to find out the things that they want to know about various schools. As they focus in on specific institutions, students will then also have time to make sure that they meet various admission requirements.

    • Where should students begin with the college search?

       

      There are so many places to find information about colleges and universities that it can be quite confusing. In my opinion, however, the best place to begin the college search is with the student him/herself. Students should give much thought to their own strengths, weaknesses, and interests. In what kind of environment do they feel most comfortable? How would they like to stretch themselves? How successful have they already been academically? With what combination of academics, extracurricular activities, and social life do they want to surround themselves for the duration of their university studies? When students better understand themselves, their needs, and their motivations, they are better able to focus on the institutions which would be the best fit among the vast number of options available. Accessing information about those institutions would be the next step.

    • Who should come with you on college visits?

       

      Some students visit colleges on their own - with no one else accompanying them. If a student does visit a college completely on his/her own, it is important, as it actually is in every case, for the student to be well prepared, having done the necessary research about the institution and having given thought to the things he/she wants to know about that school, so that relevant questions can be asked and relevant areas of the school can be seen.

      Another option is for a student to book a college tour with one of a number of college visit organizations which offer students the opportunity to visit a selected number of schools within a certain time frame - usually about a week. If the tour was arranged through the student's high school, members of the high school faculty may accompany the group. If the student books the tour independently of the high school, there will be other responsible adults, usually in the field of college advising, who will accompany the group. There will also be someone from the organizing agency with the group seeing that students get to their various target locations on time and making sure that the visits remain well structured. Depending on how the tours are organized, there may or may not be an opportunity for students to schedule individual interviews. In most cases, this will not be an option.

      Some families choose to make college visits together, in which case, the student will be accompanied by one or both of his/her parents. It is a reasonable expectation that parents would want to have some insight into an institution which may ultimately represent a considerable expense to them. It is important, however, that parents step back a bit when they visit colleges with their children, so that students can develop their own impressions of each institution without being inordinately influenced by parental opinion. The family may choose to have another responsible person accompany the student on the college visits. It would be desirable for any accompanying individuals to be able to give the student support in reaching his/her decisions without dominating those decisions.

      If visiting schools totally independently or with parents/other responsible individuals, students will have the advantage of being able to combine the college interview, if required, with the visit. Another advantage is that the student will only visit schools in which he/she is interested, not a spectrum of schools on a tour itinerary.

      An advantage of the organized college tour group option, however, is that this can often be a more economical choice, in that there will be no expenses incurred for accompanying persons - parents, for instance. A family college tour can be an expensive proposition when one considers transportation, food, lodging, and other related expenses.

      It would not be wise for students to visit schools with someone who would distract them from the purpose of their being there or who would lead them to behave foolishly in some way. But, of course, you know that! Students should visit schools with people who will support them in making wise decisions.

    • Why is it important for students to have a college admissions marketing plan?

       

      Don't be put off by the use of the word "marketing" in this question. It doesn't mean that you have to create an artificial, unreal picture of yourself. Just as we expect companies to market their products or services accurately, so should you accurately present yourself to the institutions to which you apply. You will want to make those institutions aware of who you are, what you've accomplished up to now, what your goals are, and so on. I often recommend that students be sure that they "have all the cards in their hand". By that, I mean that they should have the best grades that they can accomplish in challenging high school courses, standardized test scores which they feel accurately represent their abilities, and involvement in extracurricular or community service activities to which they have been able to commit because of sincere interest. You will present yourself to the institutions through the application itself, through any required or recommended essays, and occasionally, through an interview. So, indeed, you are marketing your unique brand - the "you" that you have become over the years.

    • How important are college rankings when choosing a college?

       

      College rankings are interesting to look at, but more important than the overall rankings would be the reputation(s) of the department(s) in which you might choose to major. Some schools which are not at the top of the overall rankings have outstanding programs in certain areas. Quite negative rankings could raise "red flags" about specific institutions. In those cases, you would want to research those schools thoroughly to alleviate any concerns you might have.

      If you do feel compelled to consider rankings, the criteria on which the rankings are based might be more relevant to you - things like "Freshman Retention Rate", "Graduation Rate", and so on. You can also get an idea of the SAT/ACT range of most of the schools on the ranking list to determine whether a college/university would be a realistic choice for you based on your own scores. There may be other ranking criteria that are of interest to you personally.

      A number of institutions, some of them with excellent reputations, have stood up against the ranking systems, feeling that they inordinately sway student and parent opinion without providing a full picture of the schools involved. Keep this in mind as you use the ranking systems as part of your college research plan, and be sure to use a number of other research resources in reaching your decisions.

      Many students (parents) get so hung up on the rankings that they aren't open to investigating really great schools that didn't make it to the top of the ranking list - institutions where the student could get a wonderful education. That's quite a shame and is a great disservice to you - the student. You've probably heard it many times before, but remember that what you're looking for will be the best "fit" for you, and that's something so individual that it can't possibly be part of a ranking system.

    • Can what I post on Facebook affect my chances of getting accepted?

       

      Although a lot of people, both young and old, don't seem to "get it", the fact is that Facebook postings are, to a large degree, public property. How do you want to be perceived?

      Although every single admissions officer is not going to have the time or inclination to check a student's Facebook page, be aware that there is every possibility that admissions personnel might want to know more about an applicant based on information included on his/her application or in the essays which the student has submitted and could well choose to view the student's Facebook entries.

      Colleges/universities want to admit students who will reflect well on their institutions, both while the students are at their schools and after they graduate. If what you are posting or are permitting other people to post about you on Facebook shows lack of control and poor judgement, it is quite likely that those postings could affect your chances of acceptance.

      No matter how successfully you have performed in high school, no matter how well you've done on standardized testing, no matter how outstanding you are as an athlete, musician, etc., there will always be other applicants who have equally outstanding qualities, but who have used more common sense with regard to Facebook entries. Those applicants will have the advantage.

      Again, how do you want to be perceived?

    • I want to make the most of campus visits. What should I do, look for, and ask while I’m there?

       

      Most successful campus visits are centered around an information session and a campus tour. It is also sometimes possible to schedule a personal interview with a member of the admissions staff or with academic or sports staff in areas which are significant to you. Information about when information sessions and tours are scheduled can be found on the websites of most schools. You can then schedule an interview that correlates with those pre-scheduled events. Some admissions offices do not offer interview options, however.

      You might also consider arranging an overnight stay in one of the dorms. Contact the admissions office to see if/how this can be set up. You would be paired up with a current student and would have the opportunity to get a much better understanding of student life at that school.

      The information session, usually led by one of the admissions officers, will provide input on institutional offerings, application requirements and procedures, and other areas of general interest. The information sessions are typically followed by a question and answer period. This will be a chance for you to ask about issues of particular relevance to you. Do your research ahead of time, so that your questions will be appropriate to the institution, and be sure not to ask a question that the admissions officer just answered in his/her presentation. That doesn't make a very good impression. You should feel free, however, to ask about points that were not clear to you. It's best not to ask questions that are very specific to you. These would be better addressed privately with an admissions officer - either in an interview situation or informally, after the information session.

      The campus tour, which usually lasts from an hour to an hour and a half, will most often be led by a current student or recent graduate of the school. You will probably be taken to most of the important academic departmental buildings, dormitories, sports facilities, performance facilities, the library, etc. This will be a good chance for you to ask questions about any of the facilities that are of particular interest to you and to get a better sense of what life is like for a student on campus. Ask anything you wonder about. Ideally, you would be able to visit the school during a time when classes are in session, so that you could get a feel for the campus "vibes". Unfortunately, however, the time when you're free to visit will often be when school is not in session at the colleges/universities. But, never mind, you can still learn a lot on the tour even if the campus is not teeming with students.

      As you're touring the school, try to imagine yourself in that environment. Would you feel comfortable and happy? Most of the schools you visit will have some kind of building/renovation projects underway. At least that's been my experience. That's a good sign. A "red flag" should go up if you see many buildings which are run-down and if the campus does not seem to be well cared for.

      If you do arrange an interview, this will be a chance for you to present yourself personally - your prior accomplishments, your interests, your abilities. You will be able to ask any questions which relate very specifically to you. Some schools say that their interviews are just for the exchange of information and will not be part of your evaluation. Others require or recommend (read that as "require") an interview as part of their admissions evaluation procedure. Remember that the impression you make will be based on things other than just your prior academic and extracurricular accomplishments - things such as whether you choose to dress appropriately, how you speak, your level of confidence, your manners, and so on.

      Keep in mind that you may be able to arrange interviews with members of academic departments in which you are interested. You would always want to go into those interviews with a good understanding of the departments as they are configured in each school, as well as gathering some background information about the person with whom you'll be speaking. If you are a talented athlete and hope to continue a sport in college, you will probably want to arrange interviews with the relevant coaches.

    • As a high school junior, what are the most important things for me to do before senior year?

       

      THINGS TO CONSIDER DURING YOUR JUNIOR YEAR

      In my opinion, the most important thing for you to do during your junior year is work hard to make good grades in the most challenging courses your high school offers - insofar as those courses are appropriate for you.

      Another thing to do is to carefully look over the extracurricular offerings at your school and choose several activities that are of great interest to you and to which you would like to commit. You don't have do everything. I have heard many college admissions officers say that they would rather see a student who has been strongly committed to a limited number of activities than someone who has been flitting from one activity to another with no real involvement. Choose activities that are meaningful to you, that will contribute to your life, and to which you are willing to commit your time and energy. Enjoy becoming active in the organizations/groups you choose. Decide whether you want to assume leadership roles or just be a good team player. Every organization needs a combination of both. Many college/university admissions officers do mention, however, that they are impressed by applicants who have shown leadership ability, so keep that in mind.

      If you're a U.S. citizen and have the opportunity, take the PSAT in the fall of the 11th grade. Those results are used for determining National Merit Scholarship recipients. Even if your scores are not strong enough for scholarship recognition, analyzing your PSAT results will give you a good idea of where your academic strengths and weaknesses lie, so that you can more successfully prepare for the ACT and/or SAT tests which you will take later on.

      Some higher education institutions have decided not to require standardized testing (ACT/SAT) for admission, but most of the institutions to which you will be applying will probably require scores from one or either of those tests. You can take the tests more than once, so I would definitely recommend that a student plan to take either or both of the tests at least twice. The first test would be a way of "testing the waters". The student will be able to get a feeling for the stress of the timed testing situation and to identify the areas on which he/she needs to concentrate before a second testing. The first test could be planned for sometime toward the end of 11th grade, with another testing scheduled for fall of the 12th grade. A third testing could be worthwhile, but after that, the process may become counterproductive.

      Many students will find it helpful to do some sort of test preparation before taking the first ACT/SAT. There are many possibilities for SAT or ACT preparation. Take advantage of one or more of them. Free online opportunities, books that you can order for self-study, and taught courses are just a few of the options. Based on the results of the first standardized test sitting, the student could then use the time between 11th and 12th grade to continue to review and improve in specific areas.

      A student who has his/her act together will be researching colleges/universities during the 11th grade. Use as many resources as possible to find out as much as you can about each institution - their academic and extracurricular offerings, their admission requirements, scholarship opportunities, and anything else that is important to you. This research will open up the possibility of visiting some or all of your potential application choices during the latter part of the 11th grade or the summer between 11th and 12th grades. The value of visiting a school and getting a personal feel for it is immeasurable. If at all possible, try to arrange such visits.

      Finally, in the 12th grade, you will be asking your Guidance Counselor and one or several of your teachers to write college recommendations for you. It is often suggested that you ask your 11th grade teachers because they will have had more time to get to know you and may have a better overall view of your capabilities. In any case, establish good relationships with your counselor and your teachers, so that when the time comes, they will really know you and will be able to write knowledgeable and effective recommendations for you.

      Well, I think that gives you a lot to think about and surely a lot of important things to consider during your junior year! If you set up a good Plan of Action, though, none of this has to overwhelming.

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

       

      Of course, actually being on the campuses of the schools you're interested in is the very best way to get a feel for the school, but this is often not logistically or financially possible. Other things that you can do are view videos about schools that are made available from independent sources, establish contact with people who attended the school, talk to a college advisor who has visited the schools, read the college profiles which appear in a variety of publications, thoroughly explore the websites of the institutions, and carefully review the marketing material which you receive from the schools, keeping in mind that it IS marketing material. Something you might consider is going on one of the college visit tours for students offered by various organizations. Although the price may seem expensive at first, it is actually much more reasonable than planning to take the whole family on a private college tour. (I know that from personal experience.)

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

       

      There are colleges with student populations in the hundreds and there are others with student populations in the tens of thousands. In any case, what will make for a successful college/university experience will be for the student to find his/her niche in the institution to which he/she chooses to go. That can be done in a small school or a large school.

      The size college/university to which a student chooses to apply to will depend on factors such as the size of the high school that he/she has been attending, the student's own personality, his/her aspirations, and so on. Ironically, similar contributing factors can result in quite differing student choices. One student who has attended a rather small high school might be attracted to a college with a small enrollment, looking for the close sense of community that could exist in such an institution, while another student from a similar background might want to get away from the "small school" experience and go into the relative anonymity of a larger college. Likewise, students who have attended very large high schools might or might not be attracted to large colleges/universities. Naturally, even in a large college/university, the student will ultimately have a smaller circle of friends, classmates, possible teammates or performance partners, and professors. These people will make up the student's "niche".

      "Rugg's Recommendations on the Colleges" establishes the following size designations:

      Small Enrollment - Under 1,000 students

      Moderate Enrollment - From 1,000 to 3,000 students

      Medium Enrollment - From 3,000 to 8,000 students

      Large Enrollment - From 8,000 to 20,000 students

      Extra Large Enrollment - Over 20,000 students

      Following are some advantages and disadvantages of both large and small schools. This list is not definitive, but will give you some things to think about.

      Large School Advantages:

      - More extensive classroom, research, laboratory, library, and sports facilities will be available.

      - There will be a greater number of class choices and possible majors.

      - There is the potential for dynamic school spirit - the "big game" syndrome.

      - A wide variety of extracurricular and sports activities will be provided, including varsity teams.

      - There will be a large number of people who can potentially become part of a student's circle of friends and acquaintance.

      Large School Disadvantages:

      - The possibility of becoming lost in the crowd can be a problem (especially if a student has a hard time finding his/her niche - but this can happen in a small school, as well).

      - There is the chance of becoming a number, rather than a name.

      - If school facilities are spread over a wide area, it can take much longer to get from one place to another.

      Small School Advantages:

      - A student will usually not get lost in the crowd. Small schools are generally able to dedicate more attention to the nurturing of individual student needs.

      - A student is usually known by name and will frequently run into friends and acquaintances during the day.

      - Even if a small school has a large campus, most facilities will be grouped within convenient travel distance of one another.

      - A number of smaller institutions have formed partnerships or joined consortia with other schools in order to expand the resources and class offerings available to their students. A student can then enjoy the nurturing environment of a small school, while having access to a wider range of resources.

      Small School Disadvantages:

      - Although many small schools have excellent facilities, research opportunities, and class options, there will be a certain limitation to their resources. (If a school has joined a consortia of other institutions, this disadvantage may be overcome.)

      - Most schools, large or small, attempt to provide a wide variety of sports opportunities and other extracurricular activities for their students, but the size of the student body in a small school will, of course, preclude providing the number of activities that would be available in a larger school.

      - The number of potential friends and acquaintances will be smaller. This could be a problem in a very small school, but in most cases, will not be an issue.

      A student can make a happy and successful adjustment in either a large- or small-school environment, but as I have mentioned several times in this response, it is essential that a student find his/her niche.

      Good luck in your search for the right schools!

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

       

      Being a dedicated "student" doesn't actually have a lot to do with extracurricular activities, does it? Most colleges and universities, though, are looking for applicants who are MORE than just dedicated students, hovering over their books and making straight A's, but not doing anything else. Most institutions are looking for well-rounded applicants, who are not only dedicated students, but are also involved with their schools and communities in other ways.

      If not finding "the right extracurriculars" is dependent upon the fact that not many opportunities are available at your high school, it is important (as it always is) that a copy of your high school profile be submitted with your application. College/university admissions officers will take into account the extracurricular options or lack of them that were existent in your high school. In this case, you should make efforts to become involved with sports, community service, music, drama, and other activities offered in your community.

      If your high school offers a wide array of activities and opportunities, and you still can't find the right extracurriculars, you might want to do some serious soul-searching. What are your interests, motives, convictions, and attitudes? Consider these aspects of yourself, and determine how you can best access and take advantage of the opportunities available to you. If you find the right extracurricular outlets, you'll also have more fun!

    • What are the most significant, avoidable mistakes students make in the admissions process?

       

      One mistake that students make is not carefully observing various institutional deadlines for applications, financial aid document submission, etc. Remember that if you don't observe the deadlines, there are always others who will, and they will be the ones whose applications are considered. Set up a calendar at the beginning of your college search and application process, entering all important dates and deadlines, and ADHERE to it!

      Another mistake that is made from time to time (hopefully not TOO often) is that, in using the same essay for several different institutions, a student may inadvertently leave a reference to one institution in an essay which he/she is sending to another. A statement of how much you love Institution A is not going to be very well received if you send it to Institution B. Be sure to edit your essays carefully to make sure that they are specifically tailored to the institutions to which they will be sent. For the general essays which are part of the Common Application, you will have to formulate your ideas so that they are appealing to all the institutions to which they will be sent without mentioning specific schools.

    • How many colleges should I apply to? How many reaches? Safety schools?

       

      When determining the number of colleges to which you will apply, it's important to keep in mind the amount of time that will be needed to complete each application. Even if all of the schools to which you apply accept the Common Application, many of them may also have their own application supplements or essay requirements. You don't want to be applying to so many schools that you don't have time to prepare the applications and essays properly. Another thing to keep in mind is the cost of applying to each college, having standardized test results sent, etc.

      You will probably get differing advice on this matter, but most of my counselor colleagues suggest that students apply to between 6 and 10 institutions. Of that number, you can decide what fraction you want to distribute among the "reaches", the "good chances", and the "safety" schools. You might consider, for instance, applying to two "reaches", and two "safety" schools, with the rest of your applications going to schools at which you estimate having about a 50/50 chance of being accepted based on your high school grades, standardized test scores, extracurricular activities, and other significant factors.

      It's fine to apply to a few "reaches", but try to make them realistic reaches. A "reach" for one applicant will be quite different from a "reach" for another applicant.

      Also be sure that every single school you apply to is one that you would be happy to attend, whether you're designating it a "reach", a "good chance", or a "safety" school. There's no point in wasting an application on a school about which you have lukewarm feelings.

    • What should I make sure to do and see on a college visit aside from the tour?

       

      If you are on an organized college tour that will be visiting a series of colleges, your time will be relatively strictly scheduled. You will probably sit in on an information session and be taken on a tour of the institution. You may also have time scheduled for a meal at one of the campus dining facilities. Otherwise, you will not have much, if any, time for any independent investigation.

      Assuming that you are on an individual college visit, however, you will be able to organize your time to suit you. During the campus tour, you will probably be taken to various academic facilities, sports facilities, the student center, performance or art facilities, dormitories, the library, the bookstore, etc. You will also be shown any outstanding campus landmarks and will be told about some of the campus "legends" or customs. The tours are usually quite comprehensive, but will not allow you to spend much time at each location.

      Plan to attend an information session. Many of your questions will be answered during the presentation, and at the Q&A period at the end of the session, you can ask further questions if some areas are still unclear.

      If the college requires or recommends an interview, set up an appointment before your visit. You might find that having an interview appointment after the information session and the tour will give you more confidence in the interview. On the other hand, you may want to schedule the appointment to take place at the beginning of your visit before you're hot and tired from the information session and the tour. That's, of course, up to you.

      At the beginning of the college search process, you should have done some serious soul-searching into what you hope to gain from your college experience. If you have extra time on campus, investigate the campus offerings which address the aspects you've identified as being important to you. Outside of the tour and the information session, what a student chooses to do and see while visiting a college will hinge on what his/her personal interests are and what direction he/she hopes to follow at the college. Some things you might choose to do are:

      - Go back to any of the sites visited on the tour at which you would like to spend more time. Access to some of the sites is only possible while on an organized tour, however.

      - Arrange to have lunch at one of the dining facilities.

      - If school is in session, talk to current students about their impressions of the school.

      - If school is in session, attend a student performance, sports activity, or art exhibit.

      - Have an interview with a coach in the sport you'd like to pursue at college. Be sure to make the appointment ahead of time while planning your campus visit. Be well prepared so that you can find out as much as possible about relevant sports programs, as well as present yourself in a positive light.

      - Have an interview with a professor or professors in the field(s) in which you're interested. Again, be sure to make the appointment ahead of time, while planning your campus visit. If you have scheduled interviews, be well prepared for them. You don't want to waste the time of the person which whom you will be speaking.

      - Just wander around campus, getting a feel for the environment.

      Visiting a campus is one of the best ways to determine whether that college will be the right choice for you. Make an effort to find out as much as possible during that visit.

    • Should I try and network with admissions officers or professors during a college visit?

       

      If you're on a tour organized by a company, visiting a series of colleges/universities over a week or so, there may not be time allowed for you to meet privately with admissions officers, professors, or coaches during the time that you are on a given campus. Of course, this will depend on how the tour company organizes its schedules, but judging from the college tours that I have been on and led - both with other counselors and as a supervisor on student tours, I can say that time is very carefully allotted and private appointments would not fit into the schedule.

      If you are organizing your own visit to a college/university, you can use your time in whatever way you feel is appropriate, though.

      - You would do well to take advantage of the institutions' regular offerings for prospective students - sitting in on an information session and taking a campus tour. Specific times and days for these events can be found on the websites of the various schools.

      - If the institution requires or recommends an interview, make an appointment with an admissions officer for that interview when preparing your visit agenda. Some schools do not offer interviews, however, because of the large number of applicants with which they are dealing, so attempting to arrange an interview with an admissions officer anyhow might be a source of frustration. Focus your attention elsewhere.

      - If you are an outstanding athlete and are interested in the sports program of a school you will be visiting, make an appointment to speak with a coach in the sports department relevant to your sport. You may find it helpful to send information to the coach before you actually meet highlighting your past success in your chosen sport.

      - If you are interested in studying in a particular area, it is often possible to make an appointment with a professor in that department to discuss further what the institution offers in that area, what your particular interests are, and how you feel that you would fit into that academic environment.

      In all of the cases above, keep the following tips in mind:

      - Make specific appointments ahead of time. Don't think that you will just be able to walk on campus or into a department and spontaneously have a productive meeting.

      - Be on time for all of your appointments. Things do happen occasionally to interfere, but If something comes up which will cause you to be late or miss the appointment, contact the other party immediately to either cancel or postpone your meeting.

      - Be prepared for any meetings you have scheduled. Don't waste the time of your interview partner by not knowing what you're talking about. Remember that you're not there just to chit-chat. Be ready to ask relevant questions and volunteer information about yourself. Be as familiar as possible with the school, with the sports program, or with the academic department you are investigating.

      - It would be a nice gesture to send a short thank you note to the other party after your meeting expressing your appreciation for their having taken the time to see you and perhaps referring to some outstanding aspect of the interview. Keep it short and sweet!

    • Why do some colleges have supplements to the common application?

       

      Supplements to the Common Application

      The Common Application was developed in part to establish a common denominator among institutions to which a student would be applying, permitting the student to complete one application which would then be submitted to multiple institutions. That makes sense because there are many common elements between one college and another regarding what they want to know about their applicants. Why should a student have to waste time repeating the same information over and over again?

      Everything an institution wants to know about an applicant doesn't always boil down to those "common denominators", though. In the cases in which a school wants additional information or has other essay topics which it sees as more relevant to itself, a supplement specific to that school will be required. Except for identification details, the supplement will not ask for information which has already been provided on the general Common Application.

    • How tailored to each school should an application be?

       

      Some parts of your application are going to be generic; the information you enter will be applicable to all of the institutions to which you're applying. That's why it was possible to develop the Common Application, which is accepted by many schools. But that is also why some schools have Supplements to the Common Application. Those Supplements are specific to the institutions requiring them and will ask for information which, in effect, is tailored to the school in question. The Common Application essays should not refer directly to any particular school because they are probably going to several different colleges/universities depending on where you have chosen to submit your applications. Additional essays may be required by a school along with its Supplement, and in that case, you should very much consider the qualities of that specific institution and formulate your essay with thought being given to what you can offer that school and what it can offer you. As always, everything you submit should be authentic and should represent you, your values, and your interests as they really are.

    • Can students apply to college online?

       

      Most institutions these days offer the option for students to apply online, but there is usually also the possibility of submitting a paper application, if the student prefers or has to, for some reason.

    • Do all the pieces of the application need to reference one another?

       

      All of the pieces of the application do not have to reference one another, but there should not be glaring inconsistencies between one section and another. Inconsistencies should actually not be an issue, however, since you will be entering information that is specifically related to you and is absolutely true and accurate as you work through the application.

      You may find that certain parts of the application will reference one another without your actually doing it intentionally. For instance, you may mention an activity with which you've been involved while filling out the application form and then decide to write in more detail about your experiences while involved with that activity when writing your essay(s). This kind of referencing would be a natural outcome of presenting a rounded picture of yourself, your studies, the kinds of activities you have chosen to pursue, your travels, and your experiences - both personal and school-related, and so on.

    • Is a student-submitted resume suggested? How/when/where?

       

      I do not work in an admissions office, but it is my understanding that a student-submitted resume is neither recommended nor desired. It is conceivable that a college or university could for some reason request a resume, but I've never encountered that situation.

      Colleges/universities gather the information they want through their institutional applications, the Common Application, and/or the Common Application supplements specific to the schools. A student-submitted resume would merely be extraneous in this context; they will already have the required information. If a student submits a resume anyhow, I don't know how or even IF it would be considered in the application review process.

    • What exactly is the common app?

       

      The Common Application is an undergraduate college admission application, sometimes referred to as the "Common App". Students may use the Common Application to apply to any of the organization's member institutions, over 450 colleges/universities in the United States and several other countries. In addition to the Common Application for First-Year Admission, there is also a Common Application for Transfer Admission.

      Institutions accepting the Common Application may additionally require a "Common Application Supplement," which asks further questions or requests essays which are specific to that college/university. International students are asked to submit the "International Supplement", which deals with information relevant to the student's international status.

      One advantage to using the Common Application is that a student may apply to an array of institutions while only having to fill out the one application form (with any required supplements). The application includes objective criteria, such as grades, class rank, and standardized testing, as well as subjective areas - essays and guidance counselor and teacher recommendations.

      The Common Application may be filled out online and submitted at one time to all of the institutions to which a student is applying, with each school receiving the same information. Once the application has been submitted to colleges/universities online, the information which has been sent cannot be changed for those institutions, so proofread carefully before clicking "Submit". If a student wishes to correct a mistake or to provide more information after the application has been sent, each of the relevant colleges must be contacted directly. Other components of a student's application, such as supplements, payments, and additional school forms, may also be submitted and tracked through the online system.

    • What are the most important components of the application?

       

      I am answering this from the perspective of a college advisor rather than an admissions officer in a college/university.

      Since the focus will differ from one institution to another, I would suggest that you consider each component of the application as "the most important" as you work on it. Make sure that all of the information you enter is accurate, neat, and legible.

      All components of the application are of consequence and should be completed with much thought and care. Many of the sections will simply be a listing of factual information - activities, test scores, grades, etc. It is, of course, to your advantage if your test scores and grades are as strong as possible, so commit to doing your best in your high school classes and prepare for the standardized tests, as needed. Commitment to relevant extracurricular activities is also important.

      Not all colleges/universities require essays, but for the ones which do, this may be the most outstanding part of your application because, in the essay, you can let the admissions officers "meet" the real you - not just see a list of facts and figures. Think carefully about the focus of your essay and spend time formulating it in an interesting way, taking care to edit for correct sentence structures and spelling. Remember that the admissions officers may be reading thousands of essays, so you don't want to confuse them or, worse yet, put them to sleep! Consider how you can make your essay stand out positively.

      Other important parts of the application which expand on the "facts and figures" are the Guidance Counselor and teacher recommendations. Get to know your Guidance Counselor and teachers and ensure, by the way you approach your academic and extracurricular life, that it will be easy for them to describe you positively and convincingly. Don't wait until the last minute to ask for a recommendation. You will want to give those writing the recommendations time to develop an effective portrayal of you.

      The application, in short, is a way of packaging in a condensed form what you've accomplished during your years in high school. Make sure that there is good content to put into the package!

    • What are the best ways to stay organized during the application process?

       

      At the very beginning of the process, set up a calendar, specifically dedicated to this purpose, on which you enter standardized testing dates - SAT, ACT, TOEFL (if applicable), in-school tests, college fairs, when you plan to visit certain schools, and so on. In order to avoid time conflicts, it would also be helpful to schedule in the time that you will need to prepare for standardized and in-school tests. Add relevant dates as you become aware of them and make any necessary schedule adjustments.

      When you're investigating schools, create a folder for each one in which you will include printouts about the schools, copies of information from college evaluation books, brochures from the institutions, and notes that you yourself have taken while researching online, visiting the schools, etc. Include anything that gives you a better overview of each institution. Keep all of the folders together in a file box or cabinet. Before deciding which schools you will apply do, thoroughly review the material you have gathered in order to make a considered decision. A good way to compare various institutions is to prepare a document which you can fill in for each school, entering information about specific qualities/features/offerings that are of interest to you - application deadline, size of student body, student to faculty ratio, tuition . . . The list goes on.

      After you have made a decision as to which institutions you want to apply, carefully note all relevant deadlines and enter them on your calendar - application deadlines, financial aid application deadlines, and any other dates which are applicable. By knowing when various bits of information are due, you will be able to schedule your time effectively with a minimum of stress. Plan your time so that you are not waiting until the last minute.

    • How can students get the best high school teacher recommendations?

       

      It is important to ask for a recommendation early enough that the teacher is not put under undue stress and has plenty of time to craft an effective recommendation letter. It is usually advisable to approach a teacher for a recommendation with whom the student has had a good relationship and in whose class the student has worked successfully. A good recommendation can also come, however, from a teacher who has seen a student struggle through a difficult period and has seen him/her overcome those difficulties. This can often result in a powerful recommendation statement. It may be advisable for a student to ask his/her 11th-grade teachers for recommendations, as they will have worked with the student for a full year and will usually know him/her better than the current 12th-grade teachers. Please note, as well, that some institutions will indicate that they specifically want a recommendation letter from an English teacher and/or a Mathematics teacher.

    • How can planning increase a student's chance of getting great teacher recommendations?

       

      I am taking "planning" to mean that you have your act together and are doing the things that need to be done when they need to be done. That would mean that you've done your research ahead of time and can ask for the teacher recommendations in plenty of time for the teachers involved to have an opportunity to formulate effective recommendations. This should not be an overnight rush job! Another aspect of the planning would be having a fully-developed, carefully-organized resume of your school involvement, extracurricular activities, volunteer activities, internships, work experience, and so on, which you can give to the teachers whom you have asked for recommendations. They may or may not choose to refer to any of the information on your resume within their recommendations, but it could be that some of the things mentioned on the resume tie in directly with the subject they teach or how they have perceived you as a student in their class.

    • Can students speed up the recommendation letter process and still get great results?

       

      I am now working as an independent college advisor, but as a former high school Guidance Counselor, I realize how unfair it is for students to ask for recommendation letters at the last minute. The person you are asking for the recommendation will undoubtedly want to write a good letter that will work to your advantage in the application process, but the recommender also has other commitments, has probably been asked for recommendation letters from other students, and may not have time to do your recommendation justice if you don't permit him/her to have sufficient time to formulate the letter.

      Don't wait until the last minute to make these recommendation requests!

      A teacher recommendation will focus primarily on the experience that the teacher had with you in his/her class, but it could facilitate the process somewhat if you provide your CV/resume along with your recommendation request.

      Make sure that the recommender knows exactly how to deal with the recommendation, whether that involves providing a stamped addressed envelope, asking that the recommendation be given to the Guidance Counselor to submit with other materials, or submitting the recommendation online, as is now commonly done.

    • What is the best way to handle getting waitlisted or deferred?

       

      Being waitlisted or deferred does not mean that you will not eventually be admitted to the college/university which has delayed your admission. I have worked with students who were, in fact, admitted to universities off of waitlists. I would say, however, that you should consider your chances of being admitted as being somewhat diminished. Your potential admission will hinge on your place on the waitlist, as well as on the number of admitted students who DON'T accept the institution's initial offers of admission. Those non-acceptances will determine how many students the institution will be able to admit off of the waitlist.

      I would suggest that you turn your attention and enthusiasm to the other institutions to which you applied, remembering that there WAS a reason that you applied to them in the first place. All of your applications should have been to schools that you would be happy to attend.

      When you receive acceptances, rejoice in them, but when you receive denials, don't internalize it. Applying to universities is, in many cases, an extremely competitive proposition, and being denied is not a reflection on you as a person but more of an indicator of the number of equally qualified applicants to a given institution. It's hard not to be disappointed at admission denials, but if you consciously focus on your acceptances, you should be able to master the situation.

      What about a worst-case scenario in which you are not accepted at any of the institutions to which you have applied? That would be an extremely upsetting situation, but don't let it throw you off track for long. You might want to consider one of the following options:

      - Apply to other schools which have rolling (ongoing) admissions. Some of these schools are still able to accept students into the summer months.

      - Make plans for a gap-year. Do volunteer work somewhere in the world, gain work experience while earning money to pay for college, go to another country to learn a foreign language, etc., etc. etc. There are many things you could do which would broaden your experience and which would be extremely rewarding for you.

      I wish you luck with your applications - or with other plans which you ultimately make!

    • How important are standardized test scores compared to other pieces of the application?

       

      The importance of standardized test scores compared to other pieces of the application will differ from one school to another.

      Colleges and universities want to admit students who will be able to work successfully in the academic environments of those institutions and who will contribute positively to the social and extracurricular culture of the institutions. Schools are typically looking, therefore, for students who have worked successfully in challenging high school courses. They are also interested in how a student has contributed to his school and community in the areas of sports, music, student government, community service, or other extracurricular areas. When essays are required, it is hoped that they will reveal more about the student, as a person - his/her values, interests, and aspirations, aside from the data and scores which appear in other parts of the application. Of course, the levels of expectation in all of these areas will vary, depending on the selectivity of the institution.

      Standardized test scores are one more piece of the puzzle. They are required by some schools who see them as an indication of future academic potential. Following are some of the ways in which schools may view standardized testing.

      - Some schools have decided not to require the SAT or ACT for admission from either domestic or international students because they feel that the tests are culturally biased and not representative of a student's potential for successful college performance.

      - Some schools require the SAT or ACT of domestic, but not of international students, instead requiring a test of English-language proficiency, such as the TOEFL or IELTS (See more below).

      - Some schools require the SAT or ACT of all applicants, but have a different range of expectation for non-native English speakers than for native English speakers. These schools will often have programs established to help non-native English speakers to make a satisfactory language adjustment once they have been admitted to the college.

      - Some schools require the SAT or ACT of all applicants and make very little distinction between the range of expected scores for native English speakers and non-native English speakers, feeling that a student needs to have a certain level of English proficiency in order to work successfully at those institutions.

      - Most schools ask international students who have not been educated in English-language high school programs for several years to submit the results of the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) or IELTS (International English Language Testing System) as part of their applications.

    • Standardized tests: Which ones? When? How many times?

       

      The primary college admissions standardized tests are the SAT Reasoning Test and the ACT. Some institutions ask for one, some ask for the other, and some will accept either or both. Also keep in mind that some of the schools you are considering may require one or more SAT Subject Tests, which are focused on particular areas. Some institutions will also ask for the ACT Writing Test. These requirements will be indicated on the institutional websites.

      The SAT Reasoning Test has a writing component at each testing. The ACT Writing Test, however, is optional, but it is administered in conjunction with the regular ACT, adding an additional half hour to the testing time. You don't have to take the ACT Writing Test unless the institutions to which you are applying ask for those results. The Writing Test is offered at all ACT sittings in the U.S., but not internationally. If you are at an international location and need the ACT Writing Test scores, check the ACT test schedules to determine when those Writing Test sessions will be offered.

      Students needing SAT Subject Test scores may take up to three Subject Tests at any one sitting. The SAT Subject Tests take about an hour each and must be scheduled on a separate day from the SAT Reasoning Test. (To clarify, the SAT Reasoning Tests and the SAT Subject Tests will be offered at a test site on the same day, but a student registered for the SAT Reasoning Test cannot also take any Subject Tests on that day, as they take place at the same time.)

      Students tend to feel that they do better on one test than the other because of the way the tests are structured, but when comparing scores of students who took both the SAT and the ACT, I found that the results were essentially equivalent. I recommend that students take each of the tests at least once, however, in order to have at least one score from each test available for their applications. The SAT Subject Tests may also be taken more than once.

      Since it costs money to register for these tests, it makes sense to plan carefully, but I have found that students do tend to achieve better scores when they take the tests at least twice. The improvement undoubtedly has partially to do with becoming familiar with the test administration procedures and learning to cope with the stress of the timed testing situation, developing a strategy for effective pacing. Improvement is also likely if the student recognizes his/her areas of difficulty and institutes a plan for more focused study in those areas before the second testing. Some students plan to take the tests three times each, but this can become counter-productive (overkill, maybe). It really depends on the student, his/her goals, his/her attitude toward the testing, and what kind of preparation is being done.

      Assuming that a student has decided to take both tests and plans to take each one twice, I would suggest that he/she take one SAT and one ACT toward the end of the 11th grade. At that time, he/she will have finished or almost finished that year's high school studies so that the possibility of doing well on the tests will be greater. Perhaps the student has already been doing some kind of standardized test preparation, but the results on the tests taken at the end of the 11th grade will give him/her a chance to analyze where his/her strengths and weaknesses lie, so that more focused test preparation can be done over the summer. As mentioned above, taking the test at this time will also familiarize the student with testing procedures, thus potentially making the second testing a smoother experience.

      The student should then plan to take both of the tests again in the fall of the 12th grade. Registering for the earliest fall tests is probably a good idea. If the student is dissatisfied with those test results, there is always the possibility of retaking the tests at a later fall testing in time to meet college application deadlines; if the results meet the student's expectations, he/she can relax and won't have to be concerned about that aspect of the application any longer. Students requiring SAT Subject Test scores could plan to take those tests at one of the later fall testings.

      Another viewpoint with regard to the SAT Subject Tests is that the tests would best be scheduled at the end of the courses of study in the relevant subjects. For instance, if a student were taking a certain course in the 11th grade and planned to take an SAT Subject Test in that area, he/she might want to take the Subject Test at the end of the 11th Grade, when the subject matter was fresh in his/her mind.

      Students should also plan to take the PSAT, which is administered in the fall of each year. This test will usually be accessible to students throughout their high school years but is particularly important in the 11th grade. The test is officially designated as PSAT/NMSQT (National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test), and it is the 11th-grade test sitting, not any of the others, which could qualify students who are U.S. citizens for the National Merit Scholarship program.

      The PSAT is structured similarly to the SAT, and the feedback and analysis students receive afterwards provides a good basis for further preparation for the SAT. It also gives students a feel for the timed testing environment, but in a more limited way. The PSAT is not required for college admission and the results are not submitted to colleges/universities (except in the case of National Merit Scholarships and related recognitions), so it is a good way of testing the waters.

      International students, depending on the language in which they receive their high school education, may be required to take the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) or the IELTS (Internationl English Language Testing System), both of which assist the universities to which you are applying in determining your English-language proficiency. In some cases, the results could affect your admission; in others, if your results were weak, the university would place you in an English-language development program upon entry into the school before transitioning you into the regular academic rigor of the institution. Both the TOEFL and the IELTS may be taken more than once.

      In summary, the following could be an effective standardized testing plan. Additional tests could, of course, be scheduled at the student's discretion.

      - Fall of 11th Grade - PSAT

      - Spring or Late 11th Grade - SAT Reasoning/1st sitting

      ACT/1st sitting

      SAT Subject Tests, if required

      - Fall of 12th Grade - SAT Reasoning/2nd sitting

      ACT/2nd sitting

      SAT Subject Tests, if required

      Hope this helps you establish an effective Plan of Action!

    • What are the best ways to prepare for the SAT and ACT?

       

      It's almost impossible to say that there are "best ways" to prepare for the SAT and the ACT because people learn in so many different ways.

      Here are a few tips, though:

      1. Pay attention, study, and learn as much as you can in your school classes. Arrange for extra tutoring if you have difficulty with certain concepts.

      2. Read. read. read! Choose challenging sources that interest you - novels, non-fiction, everything . . . You'll increase your vocabulary, while learning a lot of interesting new things.

      3. Test practice books can be purchased and used for independent review.

      4. Discover how the standardized tests are structured. Knowing ahead of time how the questions will be presented and what the directions will be for the various sections can save you valuable time during the actual testing.

      5. Notice the kinds of questions asked in the various sections of the test. Determine where your weaknesses are, and spend time working towards improvement in those areas.

      6. Do some practice tests under timed test conditions. You'll be able to determine where you may need to speed up.

      7. Develop strategies for pacing yourself. Don't let yourself spend too much time on a question that's giving you trouble. It will be better to move on, keeping up a good pace, and come back to the troublesome question(s) if there is time remaining when you get to the end of that section.

      8. Develop strategies for making educated guesses if you're not 100% sure of some answers. (Guessing is not advisable if you don't have the foggiest idea of an answer, but if you can eliminate several choices, so that you're making a sensible guess from the remaining choices, it can work to your advantage.)

      9. Use online sources for review. SAT and ACT both offer preparation options on their websites.

      For many students, It can be extremely beneficial to take a test preparation class. As always, this will depend on the instructor, but you will probably be given tips in the areas indicated above, as well as actual instruction in English usage, critical reading and writing strategies, and mathematics. Many students find that preparing for the tests in a structured, controlled environment works most effectively for them. There is the additional benefit of having the assistance of a real person who can answer your questions as they arise.

    • How can a student figure out which standardized tests to take, when, and how many times?

       

      The primary college admissions standardized tests are the SAT Reasoning Test and the ACT. Some institutions ask for one, some ask for the other, and some will accept either or both. Also keep in mind that some of the schools you are considering may require one or more SAT Subject Tests, which are focused on particular areas. Some institutions will also ask for the ACT Writing Test. These requirements will be indicated on the institutional websites.

      The SAT Reasoning Test has a writing component at each testing. The ACT Writing Test, however, is optional, but it is administered in conjunction with the regular ACT, adding an additional half hour to the testing time. You don't have to take the ACT Writing Test unless the institutions to which you are applying ask for those results. The Writing Test is offered at all ACT sittings in the U.S., but not internationally. If you are at an international location and need the ACT Writing Test scores, check the ACT test schedules to determine when those Writing Test sessions will be offered.

      Students needing SAT Subject Test scores may take up to three Subject Tests at any one sitting. The SAT Subject Tests take about an hour each and must be scheduled on a separate day from the SAT Reasoning Test. (To clarify, the SAT Reasoning Tests and the SAT Subject Tests will be offered at a test site on the same day, but a student registered for the SAT Reasoning Test cannot also take any Subject Tests on that day, as they take place at the same time.)

      Students tend to feel that they do better on one test than the other because of the way the tests are structured, but when comparing scores of students who took both the SAT and the ACT, I found that the results were essentially equivalent. I recommend that students take each of the tests at least once, however, in order to have at least one score from each test available for their applications. The SAT Subject Tests may also be taken more than once.

      Since it costs money to register for these tests, it makes sense to plan carefully, but I have found that students do tend to achieve better scores when they take the tests at least twice. The improvement undoubtedly has partially to do with becoming familiar with the test administration procedures and learning to cope with the stress of the timed testing situation, developing a strategy for effective pacing. Improvement is also likely if the student recognizes his/her areas of difficulty and institutes a plan for more focused study in those areas before the second testing. Some students plan to take the tests three times each, but this can become counter-productive (overkill, maybe). It really depends on the student, his/her goals, his/her attitude toward the testing, and what kind of preparation is being done.

      Assuming that a student has decided to take both tests and plans to take each one twice, I would suggest that he/she take one SAT and one ACT toward the end of the 11th grade. At that time, he/she will have finished or almost finished that year's high school studies so that the possibility of doing well on the tests will be greater. Perhaps the student has already been doing some kind of standardized test preparation, but the results on the tests taken at the end of the 11th grade will give him/her a chance to analyze where his/her strengths and weaknesses lie, so that more focused test preparation can be done over the summer. As mentioned above, taking the test at this time will also familiarize the student with testing procedures, thus potentially making the second testing a smoother experience.

      The student should then plan to take both of the tests again in the fall of the 12th grade. Registering for the earliest fall tests is probably a good idea. If the student is dissatisfied with those test results, there is always the possibility of retaking the tests at a later fall testing in time to meet college application deadlines; if the results meet the student's expectations, he/she can relax and won't have to be concerned about that aspect of the application any longer. Students requiring SAT Subject Test scores could plan to take those tests at one of the later fall testings.

      Another viewpoint with regard to the SAT Subject Tests is that the tests would best be scheduled at the end of the courses of study in the relevant subjects. For instance, if a student were taking a certain course in the 11th grade and planned to take an SAT Subject Test in that area, he/she might want to take the Subject Test at the end of the 11th Grade, when the subject matter was fresh in his/her mind.

      Students should also plan to take the PSAT, which is administered in the fall of each year. This test will usually be accessible to students throughout their high school years but is particularly important in the 11th grade. The test is officially designated as PSAT/NMSQT (National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test), and it is the 11th-grade test sitting, not any of the others, which could qualify students who are U.S. citizens for the National Merit Scholarship program.

      The PSAT is structured similarly to the SAT, and the feedback and analysis students receive afterwards provides a good basis for further preparation for the SAT. It also gives students a feel for the timed testing environment, but in a more limited way. The PSAT is not required for college admission and the results are not submitted to colleges/universities (except in the case of National Merit Scholarships and related recognitions), so it is a good way of testing the waters.

      International students, depending on the language in which they receive their high school education, may be required to take the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) or the IELTS (Internationl English Language Testing System), both of which assist the universities to which you are applying in determining your English-language proficiency. In some cases, the results could affect your admission; in others, if your results were weak, the university would place you in an English-language development program upon entry into the school before transitioning you into the regular academic rigor of the institution. Both the TOEFL and the IELTS may be taken more than once.

      In summary, the following could be an effective standardized testing plan. Additional tests could, of course, be scheduled at the student's discretion.

      - Fall of 11th Grade - PSAT

      - Spring or Late 11th Grade - SAT Reasoning/1st sitting

      ACT/1st sitting

      SAT Subject Tests, if required

      - Fall of 12th Grade - SAT Reasoning/2nd sitting

      ACT/2nd sitting

      SAT Subject Tests, if required

      Hope this helps you establish an effective Plan of Action!

    • Is the SAT still as important as it used to be? If so, how?

       

      There are a variety of answers to this question:

      At many institutions, the SAT (or the ACT) continues to constitute a very important part of the admissions application package. It is felt that, in order to work successfully in the challenging higher education environments of those institutions, a student must demonstrate mastery of the type of material which appears on these standardized tests.

      At some schools, international or non-native English speakers are expected to exhibit results on the SAT or ACT comparable to native English speakers, the rationale being that in order to perform successfully at those colleges/universities, all students need to have mastered a certain level of English.

      Some institutions evaluate the SAT or ACT results of non-native English speakers on a different scale or do not require those standardized test results at all, instead offering students the opportunity to submit TOEFL or IELTS results, instead. English support services are typically offered at schools with this policy.

      Recently, some schools have made the determination not to require SAT or ACT test results of any of their applicants, feeling that the results are culturally biased and do not accurately predict a student's likelihood of academic success.

      As you see, there is a wide range of opinion on this topic.

    • What are great ways to manage time effectively while taking standardized tests?

       

      In developing a test-taking strategy, It helps to have taken at least a few complete practice tests for several reasons. One, it lets you see where your areas of strength and weakness are, so that further preparation can be somewhat more focused on the weaker areas. Secondly, you will be able to see how long it takes to effectively get through each section. Thirdly, as you go through the practice tests, you will become familiar with the directions for the various sections of the test so that you can read through them more quickly when taking the REAL test and not have to waste time figuring out what to do. Finally, familiarity with the structure of the test should permit you to go into the actual testing situation in a more relaxed state of mind.

      It is not essential to take a standardized test prep class, although in many cases, it would surely be helpful. If this is not feasible for you, you can buy SAT and ACT test preparation books and organize a self-study with those materials. Most of the prep books will include a number of practice tests based on actual past tests. When you take those practice tests, arrange to have someone time you. Times will be indicated for each section, and those times should be carefully observed. You will be able to determine which test sections you are able to get through in the allotted time and which ones slow you down. The test prep books also include tips for effective test-taking strategies which will surely be of use to you.

      When taking the tests (both practice and actual), attempt to go through the questions at a consistent rate. Don't let yourself get bogged down and spend too much time on any one question. Just skip any questions that slow you down noticeably and continue on. If you do skip a question, however, be sure to skip the space on the answer sheet, as well, and mark the question to indicate that you want to go back to it if there is time remaining when you get to the end of the section. If you skip a question and forget to skip the corresponding place on the answer sheet, you will potentially get every question after that wrong because the answers will be in the wrong place. You definitely don't want that to happen!

      For each question on the multiple choice sections there will be a short list of possible answers. On the SAT, one point is awarded for each correct answer and no points are given for a question that is not answered at all. Fractions of points will be taken off, however, for wrong answers in certain sections of the test. That means that you would be better off not answering a question than giving a wrong answer. It is not wise to guess completely - eeny, meeny, miney, mo - if you cannot eliminate any of the answers as being incorrect. If you CAN eliminate any of the suggested answers as incorrect, though, you will have an improved chance of making an accurate "educated guess". Obviously, the more incorrect responses you can eliminate, the better your chances will be of choosing the correct answer from the remaining possibilities.

    • I was rejected from my top school and waitlisted at my second choice. How do I pick a backup?

       

      Many college advisors recommend that a student apply to between six and ten institutions. If you try to apply to too many, your financial and time resources will be stretched, and if you apply to too few, you will be limiting too much your odds of being accepted.

      So assuming that you did apply to between six and ten schools, those institutions should all be schools to which you would be happy and excited to be accepted. If possible, try not to think so much in terms of "top", "second choice", etc. because you cannot know ahead of time whether you'll be accepted or not, so there's no need to set yourself up for disappointment.

      But you apparently did think in terms of "top" and "second choice", and those applications didn't work out as successfully as you had hoped. What do you do now?

      Look at all of your remaining applications and take time to "research" those schools again using the information you gathered earlier when you were doing your initial research. Consider all aspects: academic programs of interest to you, sports, campus culture, location, various student opportunities, cost, financial aid possibilities, weather . . . In short, reconsider everything.

      Since you made a decision to apply to all of those schools on your list in the first place, they must represent many aspects that are appealing to you. In fact, ideally, you would have felt rather sad to let any of them go. As you go back over the list of schools, hopefully all of which are desirable to you, try to determine which one(s) make you feel excited when you think about attending. If there are any schools which don't make you feel that way, forget about them. They shouldn't have been on the list in the first place.

      Also, "let go" of the non-acceptance from your "top school". If you applied carefully, the non-acceptance is in no way a reflection on you personally, but is the result of many, many qualified students applying for admission in a highly competitive market. You may choose to hang on to the idea of being taken off the wait list at your "second choice", but be aware that, depending on the school, being taken off the wait list is not a sure thing. It would be better to start focusing your attention on loving the remaining schools on your list.

    • How can students get the most out of life in the dorms?

       

      Your dorm is going to represent your home for the time that you are living there, whether you choose to live in a dorm for only your first year or all the way through your college career, so you will want to get as much out of it and enjoy it as much as possible.

      Here are a few tips:

      - Try to establish a good relationship with your roommate(s). Hopefully, you will

      become good friends, but at the very least you will want to be comfortable

      in one another's company.

      - Be open to friendships with others in your dorm. Be ready to support people

      when they need it.

      - Join dorm intramural teams in sports or other activities which interest you. If you

      don't want to join a team yourself, go out to cheer for those who do. Support

      your dorm!

      - Take part in dorm activities and excursions organized by your Resident

      Assistant(s) or others.

      - Join fellow dormmates in study groups related to courses which you are taking.

      This is not only an effective way to learn, but is also a good social outlet.

      Observing these tips should get you off to a good start in your dorm life. Enjoy it!

    • What are some tips for surviving life with a roommate?

       

      It's important to realize that while you're trying to figure out how to survive life with a roommate, your roommate is having to figure out how to survive life with YOU!

      Many schools ask students to fill out forms for the Housing Office during the registration process indicating various preferences. These responses are then used in attempting to match each student to a suitable roommate. Hopefully, you will have a roommate who ends up being a great friend and "survival" won't be an issue. That's not always the case, however, so you will want to create a situation in which you both at least feel comfortable.

      The most important aspect would have to do with being considerate.

      - Remember that you're sharing a space. Keep your area as orderly as possible,

      and hope that your roommate will do the same.

      - Be aware that there are times when your roommate will need quiet for reading,

      studying, or simply reflecting, just as you will.

      - You can probably figure out when a habit is obnoxious. Don't inflict those habits

      on your roommate and hope that your roommate's habits will be tolerable to you.

      - Be prepared to be helpful when your roommate needs support in any way. The

      favor will probably be returned.

      - It's a good idea to have a conversation with your roommate at the very beginning

      about what your mutual expectations will be of the shared living arrangement.

      Discuss situations which could arise and how they should be dealt with.

      - If a disturbing situation does arise, discuss it immediately, rather than letting the

      conflict fester and become much more difficult. Try to be open, but not

      accusatory, when expressing your opinions. Encourage your roommate to be

      open in expressing his/her viewpoints, as well.

      In the worst case scenarios, most schools have procedures for arranging roommate changes. These situations hopefully do not arise too often, but sometimes changing roommates is the only solution to a conflict.

    • What are some tips on getting along with your roommate?

       

      It's important to realize that while you're trying to figure out how to get along with your roommate, your roommate is having to figure out how to get along with YOU! It really is a two-way street.

      Many schools ask students to fill out forms for the Housing Office during the registration process indicating various preferences. These responses are then used in attempting to match each student to a suitable roommate. Hopefully, you'll have a roommate who ends up being a great friend, and "getting along" won't be an issue. That's not always the case, however, so you will want to create a situation in which you both at least feel comfortable.

      The most important aspect would have to do with being considerate.

      - Remember that you're sharing a space. Keep your area as orderly as possible,

      and hope that your roommate will do the same.

      - Be aware that there are times when your roommate will need quiet for reading,

      studying, or simply reflecting, just as you will.

      - You can probably figure out when a habit is obnoxious. Don't inflict those habits

      on your roommate and hope that your roommate's habits will be tolerable to you.

      - Be prepared to be helpful when your roommate needs support in any way. The

      favor will probably be returned.

      - It's a good idea to have a conversation with your roommate at the very beginning

      about what your mutual expectations will be of the shared living arrangement.

      Discuss situations which could arise and how they should be dealt with.

      - If a disturbing situation does arise, discuss it immediately, rather than letting the

      conflict fester and become much more difficult. Try to be open, but not

      accusatory, when expressing your opinions. Encourage your roommate to be

      open in expressing his/her viewpoints, as well.

      In the worst case scenarios, most schools have procedures for arranging roommate changes. These situations hopefully do not arise too often, but sometimes changing roommates is the only solution to a conflict.

    • What is the food like on college campuses across the country?

       

      This is an aspect that surely would be of concern to a prospective student, but the question is difficult to answer because food quality, dining service options, and meal plans vary greatly across the country and from one institution to another. Some schools offer minimal services and average-quality food, others have won awards for the high quality of their dining facilities, and there is everything in between.

      If you have a chance to visit the schools to which you're interested in applying, it would be worthwhile to have meals at their dining facilities. That will give you a chance, not only to sample the food, but also to get a sense of the social atmosphere in each dining facility. If you don't have an opportunity to visit schools, you can attempt to get a feel for the food quality on a given campus by speaking to or e-mailing current and former students about that issue.

    • What exactly is a Resident Advisor?

       

      A resident assistant, frequently shortened to RA, is a trained peer leader, an upperclassman who supervises students living in a college/university residence hall. The exact expectations of RA's may differ somewhat from one institution to another, but RA's are usually required to go through a rigorous training process, as they have many roles and responsibilities.

      Among the responsibilities of an RA are acting as a first-response counselling source for students when problems arise, assisting students with academic or institutional questions, and enforcing residence policies. The RA should have the skills to either assist a student directly or should know of a resource that the student can use to solve his/her problem. Resident Assistants are expected to promote diversity in their residence halls, to encourage awareness and tolerance in the students under their care, and to assist students under their supervision in making smooth transitions to campus life by getting them involved in various activities. To this end, RA's often plan outings or social gatherings for the students under their supervision.

      Resident Assistants have to balance their own schedules and priorities with the needs of the students they are supporting. They are expected to set good examples for the students for whom they are responsible and to be personally accountable as expected by the institution.

      RA's at colleges or universities usually do not receive an hourly wage but are compensated in other ways, such as with price-adjusted housing, free meals, and/or stipends.

    • How can students make the most of dorm life?

       

      Your dorm is going to represent your home for the time that you are living there, whether you choose to live in a dorm for only your first year or all the way through your college career, so you will want to get as much out of it and enjoy it as much as possible.

      Here are a few tips:

      - Try to establish a good relationship with your roommate(s). Hopefully, you will

      become good friends, but at the very least you will want to be comfortable

      in one another's company.

      - Be open to friendships with others in your dorm. Be ready to support people

      when they need it.

      - Join dorm intramural teams in sports or other activities which interest you. If you

      don't want to join a team yourself, go out to cheer for those who do. Support

      your dorm!

      - Take part in dorm activities and excursions organized by your Resident

      Assistant(s) or others.

      - Join fellow dormmates in study groups related to courses which you are taking.

      This is not only an effective way to learn, but is also a good social outlet.

      Observing these tips should get you off to a good start in your dorm life. Enjoy it!

    • How can students make the most of their second choice?

       

      When deciding which schools to apply to, every single one of your choices should be an institution in which you would feel comfortable and where you feel that you would have a good experience both academically, extracurricularly, and socially. Try not to rank the schools in your mind as "first choice", "second choice", etc. (I know that's hard to avoid, but really do try very hard not to categorize them in that way!) Then when you get your acceptances and the usually inevitable denials, you will not be in a position of having to "make the most" of your second choice. You will already know that each one of the schools to which you applied could have been a "first choice" for you, and when you get actively involved with classes, activities, and friends during your Freshman year, whatever school you're in will indeed become your "first choice".

    • What are some important facts or statistics to consider when evaluating a college?

       

      There are many aspects which should be considered when evaluating a college/university, but a couple of statistics which I always feel are revealing are the Freshman Retention Rate (the percentage of students who return to an institution for the second year) and the Graduation Rate (the percentage of students who begin at a university and graduate, usually within four years, from that institution).

      In my opinion, low percentages in these areas could be indications that things aren't functioning quite as they should be in the environment of that college/university. Institutions surely want to keep their students. Reputable institutions want their students to be happy and to succeed. Therefore, these institutions strive to provide a challenging academic program, while also providing a wide spectrum of extracurricular activities in which students can become involved. A variety of services are usually in place to help students who may be having difficulties academically, organizationally, psychologically, or socially, or otherwise adjusting to the demands of college life, so that a student can find his/her niche and have a successful college/university experience.

      When I see low Freshman Retention Rates or low percentages of graduates, my first thought is: Why? Why do so many students not want to return to that particular institution for a second year? Why is the institution unable to support such a large number of their entering students through four or five years of study, seeing them through to a successful graduation?

      Of course, there will always be students who made an inappropriate college/university choice to begin with or have to leave the institution for a variety of other personal reasons, but these isolated instances would not reveal a strong statistical trend. The Freshman Retention Rate and the Graduation Rate do, however, reveal statistical trends, which I feel are well worth considering when evaluating an institution.

    • How important is the essay?

       

      How important the essays are may vary from one institution to another, but a student should carefully consider the development of his/her essays since the essays are the one way that schools can find out more about a student personally, after considering the rather static lists of activities, grades, standardized test results, and so on. Teacher and Counselor recommendations also reveal aspects of the student as a person, but the essays are the part of the application in which the student's "voice" will come through.

      I am almost certain that one of my clients was accepted at the university she ultimately attended because of the clever formulation of one of her essays. She even got a personal note from one of the admissions officers about it. All of the other parts of her application were at a high level, as well, but it was the essay that caught the admissions officer's eye.

    • Is every college essay read? How many admissions officers read them?

       

      It is my understanding that if essays are required by an institution, they are actually read. I hope this is the case! There are many different kinds of schools, however, so it would be impossible to know how each of them handles the essays which are submitted.

      I do know that some schools have a group of readers, each receiving one set of essays, with each individual essay being read by just one person. In other instances, each essay is distributed to several readers, who will then compare their impressions when the admissions committee meets to decide upon student admissions. In this instance, the essay would be read by several people. Again, the number of readers for each essay would depend upon individual institutional practices.

      Many large schools don't require essays at all because they don't have the personnel resources to process the huge number of admission essays which would be submitted.

      Schools which require essays, however, use the essay input to form a more complete picture of the applicant, over and above the numbers, grades, lists, and so on, which are entered onto the application form. The essays may form the most deciding part of the application after the student has met basic application criteria - grades, standardized test scores, etc.

      If I were an applicant, I would consider the essay(s) very seriously, making every effort to create an interesting and well-formulated document, with the assumption that the essay would be read and considered by each institution to which I applied.

    • How should the college essay tie into the rest of the application?

       

      College essays should not be a mere repetition of what already appears in other parts of the application. In fact, that would be a waste of time, space, and opportunity. The essay should reveal other aspects of the student's personality and interests or go into more depth about particularly meaningful experiences that may or may not have been alluded to in other parts of the application. For instance, if an extracurricular activity, a job, a volunteer experience has been listed on the application form, and it has been a very important and pivotal experience in the student's development, it would be worthwhile to go into more detail within the essay about that activity, its value, and its impact on the student. It is important to consider how one can make oneself stand out in a positive way among the other many qualified applicants.

    • What are some do's and don'ts for the admissions essay?

       

      Here are a few tips that should help:

      DO

      1. Make sure that your essay actually addresses the topic you have chosen or been asked to write about. Avoid digressing.

      2. Include information about yourself, what you have experienced, or the way you see things that will distinguish you from others. (I know this may seem difficult. It may help to brainstorm some possible ideas with others whose opinions you trust.)

      3. Remember that your essay will be read by an actual person - in many cases, several. Consider how you can appeal to the reader(s) emotions in your essay. This does not mean writing a sad plea of "Oh, please accept me!", but to grab the reader's attention through any number of a variety of emotions - humor, irony, excitement, fear, heartbreak, triumph, defeat, adventure. You name it - whatever fits your theme.

      4. Write analytically, rather than just descriptively. Instead of just stating that an event happened, tell how that event affected you or made you feel.

      5. Proofread carefully for obvious mistakes in spelling, grammar, sentence structure, paragraphing, and so on - all of the things your English teacher has been nagging you about! Ask someone else to assist you with your editing; we often don't see our own errors.

      6. Proofread to make sure that a reference to how much you love a specific school only appears on the essay(s) which will go to THAT school! (See number 6 below.)

      DON'T

      1. Don't merely regurgitate information that already appears elsewhere on the application. Your essay should reveal in more depth other aspects of your personality, interests, abilities, and experiences. It's okay to reference something that appears in another part of the application, but only to establish a context for what you want to describe/reveal about that experience.

      2. Don't let someone else write your essay. It should speak in your own "voice".

      3. Don't overdo the humor. I mentioned using humor as a possible "do" in the section above, but use humor selectively. Unless you're very clever with it, the script for a stand-up comedy routine probably won't make the cut and may not even seem very funny.

      4. Don't ramble! Don't stick in irrelevant information just to pad the essay. When you're doing your final editing, remove irrelevant information that may have crept in.

      5. Don't repeat things you've already said (unless you're doing it very deliberately for a certain effect).

      6. Don't accidentally mention that another institution is your absolute favorite, top choice! This happens more often than you would think. (See number 6 above.)

    • Is it ok to have someone proofread your essay?

       

      I would say that you must have someone proofread your essay. People don't tend to see their own spelling mistakes, typographical errors, etc. Although the content of your essay is definitely your own, and you should take responsibility for proofreading your work as you do it, it's a good idea to let several other people look at it to see if you're making yourself understood and don't have any glaring errors. Remember that the way you express yourself should and will reveal something about you to the college admissions officers.

    • Is it okay for parents to help edit their child's college essay?

       

      College admissions essays should reflect the student's own "voice". They should be formulated in the way in which the student would write naturally and should be focused on issues or themes that the student has chosen as being of relevance to him-/herself. Of course, care should be taken to use and spell words correctly and to employ well-structured sentences and paragraphs, but the student should avoid using an over-abundance of words that have been pulled out of a thesaurus just to make him-/herself sound erudite. The reader can usually tell immediately when that has been done.

      Having said that, it can be very helpful to have someone else, which could include the student's parents, look over the essay for errors or to make suggestions if something is not clear or needs more explanation. How much assistance parents could provide in giving this feedback depends very much on their own writing strengths. Parents, or anyone else for that matter, should not become emotionally involved with the essay and encourage the student to use wording that they themselves would have used. I recall one particular essay which passed over my desk which had clearly been written by the student's father, and the result was ludicrous. It goes without saying that that particular essay was never submitted with the student's application.

      Remember that the essay can be one of the most powerful parts of the application in revealing the real student to college admissions officers. It's not about the parents!

    • What makes a great college essay?

       

      Tips for writing an effective college admissions essay are essentially the same for all students. You will want to reveal to the admissions officers more about yourself, your interests, your values, what you feel strongly about, and what is important to you than what they can discover in the numbers and statistics that make up most of the rest of the application.

      Remember that admissions officers will be reading large numbers of essays, and you will want to create an essay that will stand out in the interesting way it is formulated, as well as in its unique subject matter. You definitely don't want to put the readers to sleep! You have surely had certain life experiences which will provide interesting material for your essay(s) - even things which you yourself take for granted. Consider how the story you have to tell would be perceived by someone else who has never before heard that story.

      Write analytically, rather than merely descriptively. Descriptive writing is a factual account of a topic or event, simply telling what happened. Analytical writing will pose or answer questions, make comparisons, or present and defend viewpoints. Rather than just state what happened, an analytical approach will explain and interpret events. Why did they take place? What were their consequences? How did they relate to other developments? What is your interpretation of what transpired? How do/did you feel about the topic about which you are writing?

      In most cases, you will be required to limit the essay to a certain number of characters or words. I always suggest that students not worry too much about this limitation to begin with - just get your ideas written down (typed). After that, some strategic editing can be done to trim the fat off and get the essay down to the required size. Don't worry! Although this task may seem daunting when you think about it, it inevitably results in a more concise, streamlined presentation of your concept.

      Finally, make sure that the essay does not have glaring errors in spelling, sentence structure, and paragraph formulation. In fact, try to make it as correct as possible. Besides appearing very careless, these kinds of errors can actually interfere with the ability of the reader to understand your point. It will be helpful if you have other people whose opinion you value read the essay to give you feedback on areas that might not be clear or which require further explanation, but make sure that the essay remains in your own "voice".

    • How should a student with little job experience go about crafting a resume?

       

      Most colleges/universities do not ask applicants to submit resumes. Instead, students will be requested to provide on their applications the information that the institutions are interested in knowing. Someone writing a recommendation for a student, however, may find it quite useful to have a resume of that student's past accomplishments.

      While resumes/CVs for people who have been in the work force will focus on their work experience, the expectations for students (who, in most cases, will have had little or no work experience) are different. Other aspects of a student's life experience will come into play.

      Things you might consider including, when applicable, are:

      - Identifying and contact information (always)

      - Foreign Language Proficiency, indicating language(s) and esimated level(s) of

      expertise, number of years studied

      - SAT/ACT Score Results, with dates of various test sittings

      - School/Extracurricular activities (Indicate applicable years)

      - Academic awards received

      - Student government involvement, including offices held

      - Sports participation, including name of sport(s), leadership roles, awards

      received

      - Art activities, including exhibitions, awards received

      - Music activities, including instrument, musical groups - bands, ensembles,

      awards received

      - Drama activities, including names of productions, roles played or backstage

      contributions, awards received

      - Club and organization involvement - Social or academic clubs, including

      leadership roles

      - Community service involvement, including nature of service, leadership roles

      - In-school volunteer activities

      - Other

      - Non-School activities (same criteria as above)

      - Sports

      - Music

      - Drama

      - Volunteer work

      - Organizations: Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, etc.

      - Other

      - Work experience, if any, indicating name of employer, type of work, length of

      employment

      - Additional interests, hobbies, skills

      This should give you a good start on crafting an effective resume. As you begin to collate information about your various accomplishments, you may think of some other things you would like to include which are not mentioned above.

    • What are the most popular extracurriculars?

       

      Interest in various extracurricular activities will vary from one college/university to another, so it's virtually impossible to say, in general, what the most popular extracurriculars are. On the webpage of each institution or in other impartial evaluations, however, there will often be an indication of what activities are particularly popular at a given school. Although this would surely not be the most important factor, this information could be part of the puzzle In making your college decision.

      Activities at most schools will run the gamut of just about anything that a person could be interested in doing - sports, art, music, dance, theater, community service, student government . . . etc., etc., etc., the list goes on. Quite often, if an activity doesn't exist on your campus and you'd like to start an organization focusing on that activity, you can do it and get some financial support for the project. Someone wanting to start a club or activity usually just has to present the signatures of a certain number of people who would like to see the activity offered, and the number of signatures required may be quite small. This process is often handled through the student union offices.

    • What is the difference between Club teams and Varsity sports?

       

      Varsity sports are those in which players are involved in representing their schools in competition with other colleges/universities at the highest levels. There are three major NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) varsity sports divisions - Division I being the highest level, with a breakdown for football into Division I-A and Division I-AA; Division II; and Division III. Division I and Division II sports programs typically offer scholarships in various amounts, while Division III programs usually do not.

      Depending on the institution, recruiting for specific varsity sports may be very intensive. Some schools do accept "walk-ons" for certain varsity sports, however. A student interested in playing a varsity sport should contact the coaches of the relevant sport to determine what procedures are in place at each institution to which he is considering applying.

      Students who participate in varsity sports, especially those receiving scholarships, will be under a certain amount of pressure to commit the necessary effort to sports training while maintaining satisfactory grade averages.

      Club teams are those which, in principle, any student can join based on his/her athletic abilities/interests. Weekly practices are usually held, sometimes more than once per week, and competitions are arranged with other institutions, but because the student's involvement is recreational in nature, there is less pressure with regard to meeting training and academic demands. It is up to the student to establish the proper balance between his/her sports commitment and his/her academic life.

      Involvement in various college/university activities can provide the social connections which students need in order to feel at home and integrated into the college experience. For many students, club sports will provide this niche.

    • Do employers look at extracurriculars?

       

      Some institutions have decided to include references to extracurricular involvement on student transcripts. This is not universally done, however. A student would more likely include these references, when relevant, on his/her job resume/CV.

      How much interest a potential employer would have in a student's extracurricular activities would undoubtedly hinge upon how the student's involvement in that activity would impact the student's success in the prospective work environment.

      Some examples:

      - A student applying for a job in some field of the arts, who has participated in that area while in college - drama group, orchestra, dance club, etc.

      - A student applying for a job in a scientific or mathematical area, who has been involved with a campus scientific or mathematical society

      - A student applying for a job in journalism, who has worked on various campus publications

      - The list could go on in this vein.

      A potential employer might also look with interest at a student who has consistently taken on leadership roles in the organizations in which he/she has been involved. The leadership skills which have been developed could be of great value in possible job assignments. Leadership skills may have been demonstrated in any area - sports, drama, music, dance, mathematics, science, student government, etc.

      The activities to which a student chooses to commit his/her time while in college reveal much about the student as a total person and consequently may be of considerable interest to employers.

    • Will athletics take away from my academics?

       

      There is no reason that involvement with athletics should take away from a student's academics. In fact, having the social and physical outlet of athletic involvement may actually lead the student to even more academic success.

      The secret is to establish the proper balance between the time spent on athletic training and competition and the time needed to attend and effectively prepare for classes. Establishing this balance is not necessarily easy, but it is worthwhile for a student to focus on his/her personal time management in order to enjoy all of his/her college commitments to the fullest.

    • Can anybody join any extracurricular activity or do I have to be accepted?

       

      In some cases, certain skills will be a prerequisite for participating in a specific extracurricular activity - for instance, playing with an orchestra or band. This is also true of varsity teams for which students must try out and be accepted. Sororities and fraternities usually have procedures through which members must be accepted, and there may be other examples along this line, depending on the school.

      Most extracurricular activities, however, are open to anyone who is interested. Find out what is offered at the schools you are considering. The extracurricular activities with which you become involved will do much to increase your enjoyment of your college experience.

      Many schools offer students the opportunity to create new extracurricular organizations if something in which they are interested does not already exist on campus. In order to start a new organization, a student is usually required to present a petition with a certain number of signatures of other interested students. This required number is typically quite low.

    • What are some tips for acing the college interview?

       

      Some things to consider in preparing for the college interview:

      - Get a good night's sleep the night before, and have a good breakfast that morning. (You don't want to be tired and grumpy.)

      - Research the relevant college ahead of time, so that you can respond knowledgeably about why the school is of interest to you. Be able to express why you want to go to that particular school. (Have some good reasons.)

      - Think about yourself. Consider what you can offer the school, as well as what the school can offer you. (Just as you are looking for a school that is a good fit for you, schools are looking for students who will be successful additions to their college communities.)

      - Dress comfortably and neatly - not sloppy, but also not TOO dressed up. (You want to be your usual well-groomed self.)

      - Give the interviewer a firm handshake. Make good eye contact. (This will not only give you the appearance of confidence, it will actually make you FEEL more confident.)

      - Consider carefully questions that are posed. Think about what you want to say before you start answering. (You don't want to find yourself going in a direction that doesn't make sense.)

      - Remember to breathe, and try not to babble or ramble. (If you find yourself speaking too fast, repeating yourself, or saying things that are totally irrelevant, stop and take a breath before going ahead in a more controlled way.)

      - If you don't understand a question, ask for further clarification. (Don't try to answer a question that you don't yet understand.)

      - Be relaxed. Enjoy having the focus of attention on you. (It's not often that you have a chance to be the whole center of attention. This is one of those times.)

      - Try to feel that you are having a discussion with a friend. (How successfully you will be able to do this will, of course, also depend on the skills of the interviewer.)

      These tips should take you a long way toward having a successful interview experience.

    • How can a student prepare themselves best for a college interview?

       

      Some schools require (or recommend - think of that as "require") an interview as part of the admissions process. Other schools offer interviews as a means for the student to learn more about the institution, but do not consider the interview for admissions purposes. And some large schools don't offer interviews at all because of the huge number of applications with which they deal each year.

      In any case, when you have an interview, you will want to put your best foot forward.

      - Get a good night's sleep the night before.

      - Have a good breakfast the morning of the interview.

      - Brush your teeth and use mouthwash before the interview session. You'll probably be nervous, which could cause a breath problem, but DON'T go into the interview chewing gum!

      - Practice having a firm handshake and making good eye contact.

      - Be clean and well groomed.

      - What to wear can be confusing sometimes. If you're going to interviews in the summer, it's likely to be quite hot, but that doesn't signal "beach attire"! When my son was visiting colleges and having interviews, we saw one young man, also a student visiting for interviews, in a black suit and tie. It was sort of embarrassingly "uptight". During that same series of college visits, we also saw another young man with oily stringy hair wearing a T-shirt that had some kind of death head on the front with snakes coming out of the eyeballs. Too far to the other extreme! Of course, you want to be yourself, not something artificial, but consider presenting your "best" self. That doesn't necessarily mean wearing your Sunday suit, but you would do well to avoid really extreme clothing. You might feel that you are making a "statement", but it could be to your disadvantage.

      - When speaking, slow down, breathe deeply, and resist the temptation to babble.

      - Think before you open your mouth to speak. Consider the question carefully before jumping into an answer.

      - You will probably be asked to talk about yourself, which shouldn't be difficult, but give it some thought ahead of time, so that you're ready to talk about the things which you feel are most important for you to communicate to someone who is interested in knowing more about you. The interview time will be limited, so you'll definitely want to address the most important things first.

      - Review your information about the school at which you will be interviewed. You may very likely be asked why you would like to come to that school, and you will make the best impression if you can speak about your interest in specific courses and programs offered. teaching methods which you find attractive, extracurricular activities with which you would like to become involved, and so on.

      I hope these tips help. If you're well prepared, you should be able to . . . relax and enjoy the experience!

    • What are the best ways to answer the question: Tell me about yourself?

       

      This should be one of the easiest questions! You don't have to study for it!

      Try to enjoy your interviews. It's all about you. Relax, and enjoy being the center of attention!

      In answer to the question, "Tell me about yourself", be perfectly open and honest. Talk about what is important to you - your interests, your relationships, your extracurricular activities, your hobbies, accomplishments of which you're proud, what you're interested in studying, why you think school X will be a great place for you to study, your family, your pets, how much you love your dog, an outstanding experience you've had... The list goes on! Let your enthusiasm come through. There's no right or wrong answer! (Although, I personally think that saying, "Well, I just stay in the house all the time watching TV" would not be a very impressive answer. In fact, if that's the case, you might want to work on that a bit.

    • Are there things a student should never say during a college interview?

       

      Just as there are a lot of things that could be good to say in an interview, there are probably just as many that should never be said.

      On the top of my list would be: "I really want to go to another school (School X), but I'm not sure if I'll be able to get in or not, so I'm just putting your school (School Y) on my list as a safety."

    • Can body language and position impact the interview?

       

      Body language and carriage are revealing in all social encounters - one-to-one personal relationships - both formal and casual, group occasions, job interviews, and yes, the college interview. The people with whom you're interacting form impressions of you, either consciously or subconsciously, based on the body language you exhibit.

      Basic considerations (not just related to body language):

      1. Shake hands with the interviewer firmly upon arriving and departing. I live in Germany, and maybe this is more of a European custom, but it does make a good impression.

      2. Make eye contact. It's not a staring contest, but making eye contact is a good way to "connect" with another person, in this case, the interviewer.

      3. Have a pleasant and alert expression on your face. Remember that the conversation will center around your favorite subject - YOU, so relax and enjoy it!

      4. Use your hands expressively when appropriate, but overdoing it could be quite distracting. Rest your hands quietly in your lap or on the arms of your chair when not using them for a gesture. It will give a much more self-assured impression and will, hopefully, have a calming effect on you.

      5. Hold your body in a comfortable upright position when both standing and sitting (good posture). You want to be at ease, but being too relaxed could make you appear disinterested and sloppy.

      6. Don't forget to breathe naturally. You will probably be a bit nervous, but controlled breathing can help to minimize that tension. It will also slow you down and keep you from babbling when you're answering the interviewer's questions.

      7. Take a moment to think about each question posed, and consider your answers carefully. Don't start talking before you know what you want to say.

      8. When the interview is concluded, thank the interviewer for taking time to see you, while making eye contact and smiling pleasantly. This would be the time for the farewell handshake.

    • How many schools should I apply to?

       

      I advise my clients to apply to between 6 and 10 colleges. Although it is very tempting to apply to more schools than that, hoping to increase chances for admission, other factors should be taken into account. There are application fees involved with applying to most institutions and this can end up being an expensive proposition. But more importantly, students need to be able to focus their attention on creating their best possible applications, especially focusing on their essays or personal statements, and if too many schools are being applied to, this can be an overwhelming task. Students would be well advised to do their research carefully ahead of time, so that they can narrow down their application choices to a manageable number.

    • Is early decision important for international students?

       

      Just as for all students, Early Decision can be important if a student is absolutely certain that the Early Decision choice is his/her first choice. If not, students should plan to apply Regular Decision. There is no real difference in this regard between International and Domestic applicants

    • I am an international student applicant, how do I write an effective college admissions essay?

       

      Tips for writing an effective college admissions essay are essentially the same for all students. You will want to reveal to the admissions officers more about yourself, your interests, your values, and what is important to you than what they can find in the numbers and statistics that make up most of the rest of the application.

      Remember that admissions officers will be reading large numbers of essays, and you will want to create an essay that will stand out in the interesting way it is formulated, as well as in its unique subject matter. You definitely don't want to put the readers to sleep! As an international student, you will surely have had certain life experiences which will provide interesting material for your essay(s) - even things which you yourself take for granted. Consider how the story you have to tell would be perceived by someone from a different culture or with different life experiences.

      Write analytically, rather than merely descriptively. Descriptive writing is a factual account of a topic or event, simply telling what happened. Analytical writing will pose or answer questions, make comparisons, or present and defend viewpoints. Rather than just state what happened, an analytical approach will explain and interpret events. Why did they take place? What were their consequences? How did they relate to other developments? What is your interpretation of what transpired? How do/did you feel about the topic about which you are writing?

      Finally, make sure that the essay does not have glaring errors in spelling, sentence structure, and paragraph formulation. In fact, try to make it as correct as possible. Besides appearing very careless, these kinds of errors can actually interfere with the ability of the reader to understand your point. It will be helpful if you have other people whose opinion you value read the essay to give you feedback on areas that might not be clear or which require further explanation, but make sure that the essay remains in your own "voice".

    • Is a college admissions interview necessary for an international student?

       

      Some schools do not interview prospective students, some "recommend" an interview, and some "require" an interview. If a school requires an interview, it is often possible for a student to arrange to be interviewed by an alumnus/alumna of the institution who lives in an area near the student. This eliminates the need to make an expensive trip to the college or university solely for the purpose of the interview.

    • Should I apply for financial aid as an international student?

       

      I also entered this answer in a slightly different form for another question which was similarly formulated.

      The amount of financial aid available to international students varies from one institution to another, so it is very important when researching colleges/universities to find out how each school deals with this issue. Scholarship and financial aid offerings are usually accessible on each institution's website, as well as an indication of the procedures to be followed in applying for that aid.

      Some schools do have need-based aid for international students, but this aid is usually quite limited. There are other institutions which have quite generous financial aid offerings for international students and state that they will meet the full financial need of any student, domestic or international, who is accepted to the school. Keep in mind, though, that your idea of your family's financial "need" could differ considerably from your financial need as calculated by the institution.

      Many schools offer merit-based aid which is available to international as well as domestic applicants, with decisions on the awarding of this aid being focused on the student's prior academic success, standardized test scores, leadership success, or other specified criteria. Some of this aid is awarded automatically if certain high school grades, standardized test scores, or other obvious criteria have been achieved. Other awards must be applied for. Some will require additional essays and/or recommendations in addition to those needed for the college application. Application forms for these scholarships will be found on the websites of the relevant institutions.

      A student with outstanding skills in a particular academic discipline, athletics, music, art, or some other specialized area might qualify for aid or scholarships awarded through the relevant department within an institution.

      A few institutions in the U.S. offer international students the same tuition as in-state applicants, an amount which is considerably less than tuition costs for out-of-state domestic applicants. Often students who receive this type of tuition assistance are asked to participate in various cultural sharing activities within the school and local community as a way of repayment.

      International students should also consider approaching governmental agencies in their respective countries to find out if financial assistance is available for students studying in another country. Another source of financial aid could be various civic organizations within the student's country.

      Students who are citizens of the European Union would do well to look at institutions in the U.K., particularly Scotland, and the Republic of Ireland, as well as universities in the Netherlands and Finland, in which there are many English-language programs. Tuition rates for EU citizens applying to many/most institutions in those countries will usually be equivalent to the rates for citizens of the country in which the school is located, and these rates are often extremely economical!

      Hope that helps!

    • I am an international student, how do I select the correct major?

       

      It is not usually necessary to declare a major when entering most U.S. colleges and universities. This, of course, depends on the institution. At some colleges/universities, you may be asked to register into a particular "school" or department within the institution; at others, you will just apply with a general registration into the college/university. Students are usually asked to declare a major at the end of their sophomore (second) year of college, although at some schools, you may be required to make this decision at the end of your freshman (first) year.

      During the year or two before you are required to decide upon a major, you will be taking a variety of courses, often to meet core or distribution requirements within your college. While taking these courses, students frequently discover an interest and decide to pursue an area of study which they had not previously considered. A student who originally indicated a desire to major in a particular subject may change his/her mind and decide to major in a totally different area. That is perfectly all right. The whole idea is to discover a pursuit that you can be excited about and to which you want to commit your intellectual energy. In most U.S. institutions, it is relatively easy to change from one major to another.

      In Canada and Scotland the approach is rather similar. Students usually have time after entering university to make a final decision on a major. In many cases, however, the student will have registered into a specific school within an institution. Choosing a major within that department of the university is not complicated, but if a student decides to pursue a major in a totally different department of the university, changing to that department could, depending on the institution, be a bit more complicated.

      In most institutions in England, to provide a completely different example, students apply directly into an area of concentration/major to which they are committed for the next three years. The overall study time is shorter because students have already chosen their "major" and are not required to take a range of core courses unrelated to that concentration. This is fine if a student is absolutely sure about what he/she wants to study but can be a problem if the student is unsure, as it is usually difficult to change from one major to another and often requires that the student drop out and begin the application process all over again to enter another course of study.

      So, to get back to the original question: In ultimately selecting a major, whether that is done after you have been attending college for a few years or must be done before you enter, you will want to consider what you enjoy doing. What makes you feel excited when you are reading about it? What arouses your curiosity? What do you like to talk about? In which of your prior high school/university classes have you felt particularly engaged? What sets your mind in gear? Where do your academic strengths lie? What just seems "interesting" to you? After you have entered college/university, you may become aware of many directions which you had never considered, or of which you had never even heard before. Be open to new possibilities! Giving thought to the questions above can help you determine which possibilities will be right for you.

    • What can international students do to enhance their chances of getting financial aid?

       

      Most institutions, unfortunately, have little or no need-based financial aid for international students. This does differ from school to school, however, so it is important that you investigate the financial aid procedures at each of the schools you will be considering. Although, international students do not qualify for financial aid from the U.S. government, either, it may be that you can access financial aid from your own government for studying in the U.S.

      Many colleges/universities have generous merit-based financial aid awards, however, which are available to both domestic and international students. Merit-based aid is awarded with consideration given to a student's high school grades, standardized test scores, demonstrated leadership skills, or other specified criteria. That means that the best way of enhancing his/her chances to access this financial aid is for a student to maintain outstanding performance in high school, make every effort to achieve outstanding standardized test scores (if they are required by the schools to which the student will be applying), and, if it is appropriate to the individual, become involved in leadership positions while in high school.

      Some schools have the financial resources to guarantee that they will cover the full financial need of all admitted students, both domestic and international. In many cases, these schools are "need-blind", meaning that they accept students without considering whether those students will ultimately need financial aid or not. For obvious reasons, admission to these schools is highly competitive. It is important to keep in mind that your family's idea of your "full financial need" may differ considerably from the determination made by the institution.

      International students with outstanding skills in sports, music, dance, art, or other specialized areas may qualify for financial assistance from the relevant departments within a university. Students who feel that they fit in this category should investigate the scholarship offerings of the schools at which they are looking to determine what application processes are required,

      There are several public institutions, which, because they want to attract and develop their international student populations, offer international students the same tuition rate as in-state students. This rate is considerably less than the tuition required of domestic out-of-state students. International students taking advantage of this significant discount are usually asked to become involved with community out-reaches in which they familiarize others with the cultures of their home countries.

    • What financial aid is available for international students?

       

      The amount of financial aid available to international students varies from one institution to another, so it is very important when researching colleges/universities to find out how each school deals with this issue. Scholarship and financial aid offerings are usually accessible on each institution's website.

      Some schools do have need-based aid for international students, but this aid is usually quite limited. There are other institutions which have quite generous financial aid offerings for international students and state that they will meet the full financial need of any student, domestic or international, who is accepted to the school. Keep in mind, though, that your idea of your family's financial "need" could differ considerably from your financial need as calculated by the institution.

      Many schools offer merit-based aid which is available to international as well as domestic applicants, with decisions on the awarding of this aid being focused on the student's prior academic and/or leadership success.

      A student with outstanding skills in a particular academic discipline, athletics, music, art, or some other specialized area might qualify for aid or scholarships awarded through the relevant department within an institution.

      A few institutions in the U.S. offer international students the same tuition as in-state applicants, an amount which is considerably less than tuition costs for out-of-state domestic applicants. Often students who receive this type of tuition assistance are asked to participate in various cultural sharing activities within the school and local community as a way of repayment.

      International students should also consider approaching governmental agencies in their respective countries to find out if financial assistance is available for students studying in another country. Another source of financial aid could be various civic organizations within the student's country.

      Students who are citizens of the European Union would do well to look at institutions in the U.K., particularly Scotland, and the Republic of Ireland, as well as universities in the Netherlands and Finland, in which there are many English-language programs. Tuition rates for EU citizens applying to many/most institutions in those countries will usually be equivalent to the rates for citizens of the country in which the school is located, and these rates are often extremely economical!

      Hope that helps!

    • How are international students evaluated?

       

      In general, international students are evaluated by the same standards as domestic students, but having said that, there are clearly differences that could make an international student stand out. Many schools are interested in increasing their international populations, thus supporting their developing awareness of the importance of global interactions. The experiences that an international student has had, if well presented, could catch the eye of the evaluator. A school might also be interested in diversifying its international population, so if the student comes from a country which is not already strongly represented on the campus, that could make him/her a "person of interest".

      With regard to standardized testing, approaches vary. Some institutions no longer require the SAT or ACT from any of their applicants, domestic or international; some schools have adjusted expectations for the test results of international students; and some institutions require international students to meet the same standardized test score expectations as domestic students. Exact information about test requirements can be found on the institution's website. If you then need further clarification, you could contact the admissions offices of the schools in which you are interested.

      Depending on the international student's native language and the language in which the student received his/her high school education, TOEFL or IELTS scores might be required as verification of English language proficiency. Information about specific requirements can also be found on the institutional websites.

      A final note: Be sure to check the financial aid policies for the schools in which you are interested. Policies vary from institution to institution, and while some have generous aid offers for international students - usually in the form of merit-based aid, there is little to no need-based aid available. A small number of schools, however, do say that they will meet the financial need of every student who is admitted, BUT their concept of your financial need may differ from your own.

      Because there is usually little need-based aid available to international students, admission could be adversely affected if an institution does not feel that it can meet a student's financial aid requirements. In other words, a student could be denied admission if the school cannot provide the needed financial support. Look into whether admission at a given institution is "need-blind", meaning that they do not consider how much financial need a student may have before admitting him/her, or "need-aware", which means that they consider how much financial support a student might need from the institution before extending an admission offer.

    • How do students compare which school is right for them?

       

      The Americans with Disabilities Act, passed in 1990, guarantees that all U.S. colleges/universities provide some level of services/accommodations for students with disabilities. Some institutions, taking this requirement further, offer comprehensive programs supporting learning and/or physically disabled students. Students should seek schools which offer the best support for their specific disabilities. Try the following websites:

      http://www.college-scholarships.com/learning_disabilities.htm

      http://concordspedpac.org/Colleges-LD.html

      http://www.dmoz.org/Society/Disabled/Education/Colleges_and_Universities

      Aside from the disability support available at each school, students with disabilities will want to consider other aspects of the institutions at which they are looking in light of how these aspects will be affected by their respective disabilities.

      Since accessibility and integration into the college/university environment will be significant issues, it is important to determine how easily a student will be able to enter and exit buildings, make his/her away around campus, take part in classes, participate in campus activities, interact with the surrounding community, and so on. Having a concept of this information ahead of time will circumvent unnecessary frustration upon arriving on campus. The student should contact the disabilities support offices on each campus and ask the questions of concern relevant to his/her specific disability before applications are submitted.

      If possible, visits to schools of interest should be arranged - including information sessions, campus tours (which, depending on the situation, may need to be specially arranged through the disabilities support offices), and interviews with admissions officers and staff of the disabilities offices. The student will be able to develop a "feel" for each of the schools, and having first-hand knowledge of the schools and what disability support will be available at each of them will be invaluable in making the final decisions regarding applications and ultimate acceptance of admissions offers. (The importance of visiting the schools in advance of submitting applications is advice that would be given, as well, to students without disabilities.)

      Once you have received your acceptances, compare the schools again based on your

      initial research. Write a list of pros and cons for each school and use the list as a basis for comparison. Remember that the number of pros and cons you come up with is not as important as the WEIGHT of the pros and cons. One strong con, for instance, can outweigh a number of pros, and vice versa.

      I wish you a lot of success in finding the right school! Another thing to keep in mind, however, is that there is usually more than one right school.

    • Will the DSS staff have expertise in every student's disability?

       

      While the Americans with Disabilities Act, passed in 1990, guarantees that all U.S. colleges/universities provide some level of services/accommodations for students with disabilities, some institutions have taken this requirement further, offering comprehensive programs supporting learning and/or physically disabled students.

      Because of the range of disabilities which can exist, not every Disabled Student Services staff can be expected to have expertise in every disability. When researching colleges, one of the very first things a student with a disability should do is investigate the type and level of services offered at the schools in which he/she is interested. Make contact with the disabilities services departments of those schools to gain more insight into the expertise of their staffs and their offerings in the area of your disability.

    • Is the disability support services provided in college the same as those in high school?

       

      The level of disability support will vary from one college to another and usually from high school to college. Students with disabilities will no longer be living at home with their parents and, depending upon their specific disabilities and the extent of their impairment, will usually require more support than was available in their high schools. The Americans with Disabilities Act, passed in 1990, guarantees that all U.S. colleges/universities provide some level of services/accommodations for students with disabilities. Some institutions, taking this requirement further, offer comprehensive programs supporting learning and/or physically disabled students. Students should seek schools which offer the best support for their specific disabilities. Try the following websites:

      http://www.college-scholarships.com/learning_disabilities.htm

      http://concordspedpac.org/Colleges-LD.html

      http://www.dmoz.org/Society/Disabled/Education/Colleges_and_Universities

      The U.S. Department of Education details the Rights and Responsibilities of Disabled Students at: www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/transition.html.

    • Should students disclose a disability on the admission application?

       

      Disabilities should indeed be disclosed on the admission application in the appropriate section. This information will not be used against a student. It is instead a way for institutions to know that they have or will have the facilities to accommodate the student's disability.

      The Americans with Disabilities Act, passed in 1990, guarantees that all U.S. colleges/universities provide some level of services/accommodations for students with disabilities. Some institutions, taking this requirement further, offer comprehensive programs supporting learning and/or physically disabled students. Students should seek schools which offer the best support for their specific disabilities.

      Before applying to colleges or universities, a student with a disability should research what sorts of disability support is available at those institutions. Undoubtedly, some schools will have more comprehensive support than others relative to the student's specific disability. It's important to know what sorts of support are available ahead of time. And it's important for the institutions to know ahead of time about the student's disabilities, so that the best possible support can be provided.

    • When should a prospective student make contact with the disability support office?

       

      At the very beginning of your college search, make contact with the disability support office of every college/university to which you are seriously considering applying. It's important that you know what types of disability support are provided at each institution and that you find out more about what your student experience at those institutions would be.

    • What are the best ways for students with disabilities to find the right college?

       

      The Americans with Disabilities Act, passed in 1990, guarantees that all U.S. colleges/universities provide some level of services/accommodations for students with disabilities. Some institutions, taking this requirement further, offer comprehensive programs supporting learning and/or physically disabled students. Students should seek schools which offer the best support for their specific disabilities. Try the following websites:

      http://www.college-scholarships.com/learning_disabilities.htm

      http://concordspedpac.org/Colleges-LD.html

      http://www.dmoz.org/Society/Disabled/Education/Colleges_and_Universities

      Specific financial aid information for students with disabilities can be found on most college websites, while general information may be accessed at www.finaid.org/otheraid/disabled.phtml and other financial aid websites.

      The U.S. Department of Education details the Rights and Responsibilities of Disabled Students at: www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/transition.html.

    • How should I go about my initial search if I am disabled?

       

      The first thing you should do is to determine which institutions offer sufficient support for your particular disability.

      The Americans with Disabilities Act, passed in 1990, guarantees that all U.S. colleges/universities provide some level of services/accommodations for students with disabilities. Some institutions, however, have taken this requirement further, offering comprehensive programs supporting learning and/or physically disabled students. The level of support for specific disabilities will vary from one institution to another. Students should seek schools which offer the best support for their specific disabilities. Try the following websites:

      http://www.college-scholarships.com/learning_disabilities.htm

      http://concordspedpac.org/Colleges-LD.html

      http://www.dmoz.org/Society/Disabled/Education/Colleges_and_Universities

      After determining which institutions provide substantial disability support and reading the information available on their institutional websites regarding the disability services of those institutions, you may directly contact the disability services offices of the colleges/universities in which you are interested to find out more about the support available in each of them relative to your specific disability.

    • How do colleges view a gap year?

       

      As in every situation, there will be differences between one institution and another, but how a college would view a gap year would depend very much on how the student used that time and how productive that gap year was.

      There are many different ways to structure the year between graduating from high school and entering college, but it is important that there be a plan and some direction, so that the time just doesn't pass by and end up being wasted.

    • In what ways, if any, can taking a gap year be beneficial for an applicant?

       

      A gap year can absolutely be beneficial to a student! It will enable the student to gain one more year of maturity before launching his/her university career and can be a valuable interlude between high school and college, during which the student can discover more about him/herself. This additional self-knowledge will faciltate the making of more informed choices with regard to college selection and major options.

      In order to be a truly valuable experience, however, the gap year should be well planned. The time can be spent in many different ways, depending on the interests and resources (or lack of them) of the student. What will not be beneficial is for the student to discover, a year later, that he/she has completely wasted that year. That is the reason that it is important to be pro-active in planning the gap year ahead of time, rather than just letting it happen.

      Possibilities:

      - Work to earn money for college

      - Do volunteer work, either locally, somewhere else in the student's own country, or

      internationally

      - Study a foreign language, either locally or in conjunction with a program in another

      country

      - Serve an internship in a field of interest

      - Take various courses of interest at a local community college

      - Travel abroad - Some countries, like Australia, offer work/travel visas

      - You can probably think of other worthwhile activities to plug into a gap year.

      What not to do:

      - Hang around the house watching TV

    • How should students spend their time during a gap year?

       

      A gap year can be a valuable interlude between high school and college. This time often enables a student to discover more about him/herself, so that more informed choices may be made with regard to college and major options.

      The gap year time can be spent in many different ways, depending on the interests and resources (or lack of them) of the student.

      Possibilities:

      - Work to earn money for college

      - Do volunteer work, either locally, somewhere else in the student's own country, or

      internationally

      - Study a foreign language, either locally or in conjunction with a program in another

      country

      - Serve an internship in a field of interest

      - Take various courses of interest at a local community college

      - Travel abroad - Some countries, like Australia, offer work/travel visas

      - You can probably think of other worthwhile activities to plug into a gap year.

      What not to do:

      - Hang around the house watching TV