High School 2 College

October 18, 2009

There IS Life After College

You survived middle school.  You managed to finish high school, complete with extracurricular activities and community service.  You mastered the college application process with its amorphous topics of your choice, quirky application websites and all those SATs.  Some colleges flirted with you via glossy viewbooks, and you flirted back with interviews and tours.  Finally, a college (or two) proposed, and you accepted.  Congratulations, you’re in college.

What next? As I see it, you have a few choices:  work, more school, or bum.  Let’s presume you don’t want to be a bum.  Let’s presume you want to make a valuable contribution either to your own world or to the wider community.  That means school or work.

School means deciding what you want to study next. Most people continue on the same path they were on in college, but you don’t necessarily have to.  My son graduated with a degree in economics and math, but realized as his senior year began that he would be much happier and more successful in the field of computers.  He scrambled around, took a bunch of additional computer classes, and got himself into grad school for computer science.

School means doing the same investigative work you did to get into college, but this time without so much help from mom.  This time, you’ll have to research schools on your own.  Here’s a great site (they charge for the premium edition, but it’s worth the $20 to get the online AND print versions:


Research early and often!  You know what to do — visit schools, send for brochures, click on websites.

You also have to investigate graduate standardized exams.  Yes, more SATs (or at least more tests like them)!  This time, you’ll be taking GMATs for business school, or MCATs for medical school, or LSATs for law school, or GREs for nearly everything else.  (Yes, I do tutor for the GREs.  Thanks for asking!)  The GREs have sub-tests for different specialties and are taken at computer testing sites pretty much at your convenience.

Remember college application essays? The ones they made you write in English class senior year of high school?  Well, you’ll need another one (it may be called a “statement of purpose” for graduate school).  (Yes, I do help with “statement of purpose” essays.  But you guessed that, right?)

Competition for grad schools is particularly fierce now since not only graduating college students but adults who are out of work are going back to school, but it can be done.  Financing can be tricky (see this NY Times article: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/26/education/edlife/26spending-t.html?_r=1&emc=eta1 ) but there are plenty of loans out there for grad school.

If you can’t bear the thought of another few years of school, or if your chosen profession doesn’t require grad school, or if you’re eager to get out there, there’s always work.

Having an internship during college is an excellent way to sample the world of work.  If you like where you’re interning and if they like you, you might be set for a while at least.  But not everyone gets an internship.

You’ve paid quite a bit to your college.  Now is the time for them to pay you back.  Most decent schools have an office which tries to find you work — or at least leads.  Get your money’s worth.  Get resume help.  Get interviewing skills help.  Let them hook you up with an interview or two or three.  Don’t be afraid to have them make a contact for you with an alumnus.  It’s part of what your parents paid for every time they paid your tuition.

If despite your best efforts you can’t find a job, consider unpaid work. A great place to start is http://www.serve.gov/ , a volunteer clearinghouse begun by President Obama’s administration to encourage giving back to communities.  If you want to work abroad, there’s the Peace Corps, and if you want to stay in the U.S. , there’s AmeriCorps.  Just google “volunteer,” and you’ll have thousands of opportunites to suit every interest and needy population.

If you volunteer, at least you’ll be doing some good for the world while you build your resume, refine your interests, and wait out the recession.

But don’t wait until graduation to decide. Just like in high school, you have to get started even if you don’t feel terribly motivated.  But in high school, you had your guidance counselor and your parents and the momentum of  your peers propelling you to action.

Now it’s all up to you.  “Bum” doesn’t look good on a resume.  Think, plan, and do something now to create your own future now.

Wendy Segal


October 5, 2009

When the College Visits You

Dear 11th and 12th graders (and parents),

I must apologize on a few counts.

First, I apologize for the frequency of these posts.  I don’t mean to overwhelm you, but it is that time of year when college admission essays are written, college tours are undertaken, and early decision and early action deadlines loom.  It’s also the time of year that people email me with just one more question.

I apologize that the advice in this post will be tailored to those in Yorktown Heights, NY, and surrounding districts.  I’m fairly sure college visits work the same throughout the country based on books and articles I’ve read – but I don’t know for sure based on first hand experience.

I apologize, too, that I didn’t get this post out sooner.  I’m about four days late.  College visits have already begun!

You might not know (because most kids and parents I talk to don’t) that colleges send representatives to high schools every fall. On most school days, one to three college reps come at different times.  Students have the opportunity to meet with these representatives in small groups.  Students can ask questions, hear the questions that other kids ask, get some brochures, and get a sense of the personality of each school.

In Yorktown (and I presume at other schools), the kids sign up in the guidance department for these college admissions visits in the guidance department and then on the day the rep comes, the kids miss a class or two (fun!) to meet with the reps.  The recruiters make note of who came to these sessions and their initial impressions of these kids.  They inform the admissions office to look out for these kids’ applications.

I strongly recommend you go to a few of these college visits.

You should be looking at the schools that are coming and sign up for a few meetings.  For Yorktown students, the list of which colleges are coming is on the school website

http://www.yorktowncsd.org/calendar/Postcalendar/html.  Students from other schools should check with their guidance counselors.  Students in Yorktown have already missed Boston University, Union College, SUNY Cobleskill, University of Vermont, and Lafayette.  Coming up are St. Thomas Aquinas, Mt. Holyoke, Johnson & Wales, SUNY Binghamton, and many, many more.

Students should go to at least one or two college visits in the high school even if you are only mildly interested in a particular college not only because it’s interesting to hear what the school is most proud of, but because you’ll hear what other kids want to know.  You’ll hear questions you never thought to ask, like does this school house freshman together, or what percent of students are involved in sports, or how many kids stay on campus on the weekends.  It’s a great way to find out what you like and what you don’t like.  And since the reps do take note of the kids’ questions and demeanor, it’s a great way to practice interviewing techniques and develop poise.

You should go to the Northern Westchester/Putnam College Fair at Yorktown High on Tuesday, October 20th from 6:30 till about 8:30 (more about that in a subsequent post), but don’t miss the opportunity to check out colleges you’ve heard of – and colleges you’ve never heard of – by meeting with the college reps who have saved you a trip by coming to your high school.

Go on http://www.princetonreview.com and http://www.collegeboard.com to check out the basics of ALL of the colleges that are coming to visit your high school. Meet the admissions rep from a “reach” school or two.  Meet the reps from schools that are right on target for your interests and abilities, and even meet with the reps from schools that would be thrilled to have you apply (more scholarship money there).

Remember, the more positive contacts you have with a school, the more interested they know you are.  They DO write down who goes to these meetings and you want to give as many schools as you can a good impression of your sincerity.

Wendy Segal

October 3, 2009

New Ruling: Common Ap and Score Choice

One reason I dislike the Common Ap, designed to let a student apply to several schools without having to enter the same information repeatedly, is that you can’t tailor the application to the school.  This year, the Common Ap is allowing students to change the essay for each school — a big improvement over last year.  It’s not easy to accomplish, but it can be done.

But what if you want to send all of your SAT scores to one school but only some scores to another school? Not many schools require ALL scores, but a few do, mostly the most selective schools.  Yet the Common Ap asks you to self-report scores.

Do you report some or all of your test scores on the Common Ap?

Read this ruling as reported in Inside Higher Ed just two days ago:


If any of you try this method (leaving your scores off the Common Ap and only submitting them directly through the College Board), please let me know if you are able to apply this way.

Sound complicated? Yes, it is.  Once again, I strongly encourage students to apply to colleges well before your high school’s deadline, which is probably three weeks before the college deadline to allow your guidance department to process all the paperwork.

And once again, I suggest you use a school’s own application if one is available.  Sure, you’ll have to type in your name and address all over again, but you can handle it.  You’re nearly a college student!

Wendy Segal

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