High School 2 College

June 8, 2016

What Do Colleges Want From Applicants Like Me – Part 2

As I wrote in Part 1 of this “What Do Colleges Want” essay, colleges want you to be bright, engaged, a leader, talented — and they want you to score well on standardized tests, too (and if you play an unusual sport, that’s a big bonus)!

So what can you do if you’re just a regular student who does pretty well in school, participates in a few activities, has SAT or ACT scores that aren’t too bad — just like all of your friends?  If a college has two or three or 10 or 100 students like you, how does it choose whom to admit?

One factor that colleges use to influence admission decisions (and this factor has become increasingly important in the last 3 – 4 years) is demonstrated interest, which means how much you, the student, really care about going to that school.

How do they know if you really care?  How do colleges judge demonstrated interest?  Well, you’ve got to DEMONSTRATE interest (clever, right?).  That means you have to do some or all of these:

  • visit the school in person
  • go on a guided tour of the school
  • visit the school’s admission building
  • have an interview, either on or off campus, with an admissions person or alumnus
  • attend an information session at your school (usually through the guidance department) – this one is crucial
  • fill out a card at that school’s booth at a college fair
  • call or email the school to ask a question (must be done by the student, not the parent) – DON’T ask something that’s on the website
  • add that school to your Common App list as soon as possible after August 1st going into senior year (the Common App reports to the school when a student adds its name to their list)
  • join and “like” that school’s Facebook page
  • follow that school on Twitter
  • ask a question about that school on its Facebook page or tweet a question on its Twitter feed
  • attend an Open House or Information Session by that school if it’s within an hour or so of your house (that means you have to check out when and where these sessions are – check the school’s website)
  • go to that school’s website and submit a “send me more info” request
  • open the school’s emails (yes, they can tell if you’ve opened the email)
  • respond to the school’s emails or click on a link they send you (yes, they can track that, too)
  • if the school offers a way to begin your application online or has a way for you to set up a user name and password, so do
  • apply early action if available

Just applying early action alone isn’t sufficient to demonstrate interest.  The school needs to know you’ve spent time checking it out.  The school needs to know you’re applying not just because it’s easy to click “submit” on the Common App, but because you think you’d be a really good fit for that school for reasons other than it looks like it fits your criteria on paper.

One of the statistics colleges report is “yield,” which means how many of the kids who apply and get accepted actually do attend that school.  Your local average college probably has a mediocre yield.  Harvard and MIT have yields over 95%, meaning nearly everyone who gets in does go.  By accepting students who have demonstrated interest, colleges are more likely to increase their yield.  The more effort you put into investigating and engaging with a school, the more likely – the school believes – that you’ll say yes to the school if it says yes to you.  And all schools want a high yield.

So if you want to differentiate yourself from others with your same GPA, your same SAT/ACT scores, your same demographic, your same hobbies, exert yourself, get out there, and demonstrate your interest.  It might well make the difference between “Sorry, we had so many qualified candidates” and “Welcome, you’re accepted”!

Wendy Segal

http://www.wendysegaltutoring.com

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March 4, 2016

5 Crucial Tips for High School Juniors About Visiting Colleges

It’s not at all too early to be visiting colleges. Think about your schedule by backing up:  You probably want to apply to many colleges early action, which means getting the applications submitted by October of Senior year.  That means you have to have a good idea of which colleges you’ll be applying to by July or August following Junior year so you can get started on your application essay and have it finished by September.  That means you’ve got to visit colleges in the spring of your Junior year in high school BEFORE the students who attend college leave for the summer (so you can get an accurate sense of what sort of kids go there and whether you’d feel at home with them) so you can write your essay(s) over the summer.  That means you’ve got to visit before May when colleges have finals week followed by a mass exodus of students from campus.  That means you’ve got to visit colleges by March or April.  What month is this?  Do you still think you’ve got plenty of time to visit colleges?

Here’s some sensible advice:

1.  You should plan to visit schools by geography.  Many kids from my area of the US do a loop around Pennsylvania (Bucknell, Lafayette, Lehigh, maybe UDelaware), Or they do the Boston area run (Boston College, Boston University, Tufts, Brandeis, Northeastern, maybe Emerson).  Or perhaps the New York State trip (SUNY Albany, SUNY Binghamton, SUNY Cortland, Cornell/Ithaca College, Syracuse). You may want to visit a few colleges in the same general area, but I think you should limit yourself to two or three a day; otherwise, the whole experience can be overwhelming.  Make hotel reservations if you think you’ll need them, and ask your parents to take a couple of Mondays or Fridays off work.

2.  Sign up online for tours.  Some schools print a schedule and you are welcome to go on any tour that’s convenient, but many others require you to sign up in advance.  Do that.  You’ll get a much, much better sense of the school on a tour than just wandering around on your own.

3,  Find out if you can interview with an admissions person.  Very often, they’ll have something called an information session or a one-on-one with someone in admissions.  If that’s available, take advantage of the opportunity to make a good impression. Whether it’s a real interview or just a meet-and-greet, dress casually but be clean and neat, smile and shake hands, and have a few questions ready (and make sure the answers aren’t on the school’s website).  Good questions might be about your major (How easy is it to change majors?  How many professors are in that department?  How many students graduate with that major?  Does the school assign a faculty advisor to you?), about housing (Do they house all freshman together?  Are there substance-free houses or theme houses?  Do they guarantee housing for sophomores and juniors?), or anything else that interests you.

4.  While you’re at the interview or while you’re walking around the science building/ performing arts center/ library/ other building of interest, send your parents to the cafeteria. You can meet them there afterwards.  NO parents should go with you on an interview ever, even if the school allows it.  Having Mom or Dad go with you to meet the admissions person gives the impression that your parents don’t trust you to handle the interview on your own.  Instead, parents should be in the cafeteria, asking students questions that would embarrass their children to hear.  Parents, your job is to find a typical student and approach him or her with questions like, “Would you choose this school again?  If you had a cousin interested in economics (or whatever major your student is interested in), would you send him here?  What’s the worst thing about this school?”  You’d be surprised how honest students can be.

5.  Take pictures as you go around on tours or write on brochures.  Six months from now, you won’t remember which schools had the great dining halls or the up-to-date science labs.

It’s not imperative that you visit every school you will apply to, but you want to take a look at several schools that are on your “probably” list.  If you get into Harvard, do you care what the dorms look like?  If you only get into a school on the bottom of your safety list, who cares what the student lounges are like – you’re going or you’ll stay home.  You might want to see one urban, one suburban, and one rural school.  You might want to see a large school and a small school.

I do get that the very idea of visiting schools is intimidating.  Sitting down to make a provisional list can seem overwhelming.  Start with your guidance counselor. He or she can give you a great starting list if you share what your preferences and goals are. Or start online with collegeboard.org or get the paid subscription offered by US News ($30 for the year and VERY well worth it, in my opinion.  Get a list going, plan your visits, coordinate your schedule with your parents, and go.  After you visit the first school, you’ll find the next ones much less scary.

If you really feel stuck and don’t know where or how to build a list, I can help.  Schedule a session with me and we’ll work it out together.

Wendy Segal

http://www.wendysegaltutoring.com

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July 31, 2015

Making the Most of College Visits

I recently posted advice about visiting colleges and then saw this article in Forbes magazine from one dad who went on some tours with his daughter.  His advice was right on the money.  Spring break is the best time to visit colleges, but if you didn’t get to visit then, or if you need to see a few more schools, the early fall is an excellent time to visit schools.

I don’t believe that you need to see every school your student will apply to.  After all, if she gets into Harvard, she’s going, right?  And if she only gets into her bottom safety school, who cares what the dorms are like?

Of course, colleges are looking for good grades, good scores, good community service, a good essay, and good recommendations.  But they’re also looking for something called “demonstrated interest.”  They want to know that you didn’t just send them an application because it was easy to click one more “send” from the Common App.  They want to know that you’re actually interested in attending that school.  So visiting a college fair and filling out a name-and-address card is one way to show demonstrated interest.  And when a representative from a college on your list visits your student’s guidance department, have him attend because that’s a strong way to show demonstrated interest.  Emailing the admissions department with a question that isn’t answered on their website also shows demonstrated interest.  But one of the clearest way to show interest is to visit the college on a tour.

It makes sense to visit at least one smaller school from your list and at least one large school, at least one urban school if you have any on your list and at least one suburban or rural school, and so on.  Here’s some more practical advice:

1.  You should plan to visit schools by geography.  Many kids from my area of the U.S. do a loop around Pennsylvania (Bucknell, Lafayette, Lehigh, maybe UDelaware), Or they do the Boston area run (Boston College, Boston University, Tufts, Brandeis, Northeastern, maybe Emerson).  Or perhaps the New York State trip (SUNY Albany, SUNY Binghamton, SUNY Cortland, Cornell/Ithaca College, Syracuse). You may want to visit several colleges in the same general area, but I think you should limit yourself to two or three a day; otherwise, the whole experience can be overwhelming.  Make hotel reservations if you think you’ll need them.

2.  Sign up online for tours.  Some schools print a schedule and you just go on any tour that’s convenient, but many require you to sign up in advance.  Do that.  You’ll get a much, much better sense of the school on a tour than just wandering around on your own.

3,  Find out if you can interview with an admissions person.  Very often, they’ll have something called an information session or a one-on-one with someone in admissions.  Whether it’s a real interview or just a meet-and-greet, dress casually but be clean and neat, smile and shake hands, and have a few questions ready (and make sure the answers aren’t on the school’s website).  Good questions might be about your major (How easy is it to change majors?  How many professors are in that department?  How many students graduate with that major?  Does the school assign a faculty advisor to you?); about housing (Do they house all freshman together?  Are there substance-free houses or theme houses?  Do they guarantee housing for sophomores and juniors?); or anything else that interests you.

4.  While you’re at the interview or while you’re walking around the science building/ performing arts center/ library/ other building of interest, send your parents to the cafeteria.  You can meet them there afterwards.  NO parents should go with you on an interview ever, even if the school allows it.  That gives the impression that your parents don’t trust you to handle the interview on your own.  Instead, parents should be in the cafeteria, asking students questions that would embarrass their children to hear.  Parents, find a random student and ask questions like, “Would you choose this school again?  If you had a cousin interested in economics (or whatever major your student is interested in), would you send him here?  What’s the worst thing about this school?”  You’d be surprised how honest students can be.  If the worst thing is the freshman dorm, big deal.  But if the worst thing is that the professors are inaccessible or the administration doesn’t care about the students or required classes are often closed out (too many students), you may want to move on to the next school on your list.

5.  Take pictures as you go around on tours or write on brochures.  Six months from now, you won’t remember which schools had the great dining halls or the well-stocked labs.

Yes, you can see schools in the summer, but it’s not the same without students there. If you’re going into your Junior year in high school, ask your parents to save some work vacation days for spring college visits.  If you’re a Senior in high school, plan to visit schools as early in September as you can. You probably want to be applying to some schools early action – which means your applications must be completely done and submitted by mid-October.

Let me know if you have any questions about visiting colleges or any other aspect of applying to school

Wendy Segal

http://www.wendysegaltutoring.com

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March 29, 2015

Short and Sweet Advice About How to Visit a College

Spring Break is coming up for most high school students, so college visits should be on your mind.  Since you probably want to see some schools before they break for the summer (and for most schools, that’s early- to – mid May), now is the time to go!

Here’s some sensible advice:

1.  You should plan to visit schools by geography.  Many kids from my area of the US do a loop around Pennsylvania (Bucknell, Lafayette, Lehigh, maybe UDelaware), Or they do the Boston area run (Boston College, Boston University, Tufts, Brandeis, Northeastern, maybe Emerson).  Or perhaps the New York State trip (SUNY Albany, SUNY Binghamton, SUNY Cortland, Cornell/Ithaca College, Syracuse). You may want to visit a few colleges in the same general area, but I think you should limit yourself to two or three a day; otherwise, the whole experience can be overwhelming.  Make hotel reservations if you think you’ll need them.

2.  Sign up online for tours.  Some schools print a schedule and you just go on any tour that’s convenient, but many require you to sign up in advance.  Do that.  You’ll get a much, much better sense of the school on a tour than just wandering around on your own.

3,  Find out if you can interview with an admissions person.  Very often, they’ll have something called an information session or a one-on-one with someone in admissions.  Whether it’s a real interview or just a meet-and-greet, dress casually but be clean and neat, smile and shake hands, and have a few questions ready (and make sure the answers aren’t on the school’s website).  Good questions might be about your major (How easy is it to change majors?  How many professors are in that department?  How many students graduate with that major?  Does the school assign a faculty advisor to you?), about housing (Do they house all freshman together?  Are there substance-free houses or theme houses?  Do they guarantee housing for sophomores and juniors?), or anything else that interests you.

4.  While you’re at the interview or while you’re walking around the science building/ performing arts center/ library/ other building of interest, send your parents to the cafeteria.  You can meet them there afterwards.  NO parents should go with you on an interview ever, even if the school allows it.  That gives the impression that your parents don’t trust you to handle the interview on your own.  Instead, parents should be in the cafeteria, asking students questions that would embarrass their children to hear.  Parents, find a random student and ask questions like, “Would you choose this school again?  If you had a cousin interested in economics (or whatever major your student is interested in), would you send him here?  What’s the worst thing about this school?”  You’d be surprised how honest students can be.

5.  Take pictures as you go around on tours or write on brochures.  Six months from now, you won’t remember which schools had the great dining halls or the well-stocked labs.

It’s not imperative that you visit every school you will apply to, but you want to take a look at several schools that are on your “probably” list.  If you get into Harvard, do you care what the dorms look like?  If you only get into a school on the bottom of your safety list, who cares what the student lounges are like – you’re going.  You might want to see one urban, one suburban, and one rural school.  You might want to see a large school and a small school.

Yes, you can see schools in the summer, but it’s not the same without students there. Yes, you can see schools in the fall, but you probably want to be applying to some schools early action – which means your applications must be completely done and submitted by mid-October.

So the time to go looking at colleges is right now!  Let me know if you have any questions.

Wendy Segal

http://www.wendysegaltutoring.com

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July 15, 2013

Are You Behind In The College Application Process?

 

If you’re going into your senior year of high school in the fall, you probably have a nagging feeling that you should be doing something about college, but I bet the whole concept feels overwhelming.  (If you’re going into your junior year and you’re smart enough to be reading ahead to be well prepared, give yourself a big gold star!)

Where should you start?  Is it too early to begin the college process – or are you already behind?

Let’s think this whole application process through, step by step:

– You want to hear back from colleges as early as possible and get as many yeses as possible, so you want to apply to several schools early action.  That means applying by October of senior year.

– To apply by October, you have to work on your applications, especially the application essays, over the summer before senior year. (That means NOW!)

– To work on the essays over the summer, you have to know which colleges you’ll be applying to more or less by June of junior year.

– To know which schools you want to apply to by June, you have to have visited several  schools in March and April of junior year.  (Most schools discourage tours in early May when finals are in session, and most college students leave campus by mid-May.)

– To know which schools you’d like to visit, you need a list of potential schools by FEBRUARY of junior year.

So are you behind?  Unless you have a solid list of schools to which you intend to apply, I’m afraid you are!

How should you start building that list?  I’m sure your high school guidance counselor has suggested you start with Naviance.  Feh!  The sample on Naviance is just too small.  If someone from your high school got into Big State U, is it because he was a sports star?  Did his parents go there?  Is he a coveted minority?  Was he an expert at the French horn?  You’ll never know from Naviance.

Try the College Board college search.  (Yes, I used to recommend Princeton Review, but they’ve tinkered with it so much in the past few years that you now need a college degree to work their program.)  US News & World Report also has an excellent college search tool. They charge $30 to access it for a year, but it has very specific, very accurate information.  Between US News and the College Board, you’ll have all the college information you need to start building a list.

Think of how far away from home you want to be.  Think of what majors you want your school to have.  Do you care if your school has a big football team?  Is on-campus housing important to you?  How do you feel about Greek life (fraternities and sororities)?

You want your list to be huge at first, maybe 30 – 40 schools.  Include every possibility.  Then start narrowing.  Are religious schools out?  How about urban schools without a campus?  Please don’t eliminate a school just because you haven’t heard of it, and don’t include schools that don’t fit your needs just because your friends are talking about them.  Build a list on your own.

Once you have a list, group your schools geographically.  Can you visit all the New York State schools over a three-day trip?  What about Pennsylvania schools or Boston schools? You’ll probably want to take a few weekends to visit schools, so start looking for weekends that work for your parents.  They’re much more likely to cooperate if you have a plan.  For example, you might say, “Mom, I want to take three trips.  I want to see the Pennsylvania/ Delaware/Maryland schools in one trip, the Boston area schools in another trip, and the New York State schools to the west in a third trip.”  Mom’s bound to be impressed! Then go online and find out when those schools have available tours and/or information sessions.

Don’t forget to make appointments for school tours and information sessions.  The most popular dates fill up quickly.

While you’re online, definitely fill out the “send me more information” page at each school.  That’s how they know you’re  considering them.  Once the schools get specific information from you, they can send you targeted brochures for your interests or major or any scholarships that you might fit.

After you  make your list, go to visit schools.  You don’t have to see every school to which you might apply.  You don’t have to visit your reach schools.  Face it, if you get into Harvard, you’re going.  Who cares what the dorm rooms look like.  Visit the schools that are most likely to admit you.  Visit different categories of schools:  urban, suburban, rural, large, small, northern, southern – whatever your categories are.

Next, start writing your essay.  The new Common Ap won’t be out until August 1, 2013, but you can see the topics here.

Also, you should be making a comprehensive list of everything you’ve done in high school.  List:

  • academic achievements (pins, awards, honors)
  • after school clubs
  • sports
  • paid jobs (even babysitting)
  • volunteer jobs
  • community service

You need the name of the activity, the group you did it for or with, the dates, and perhaps a 5-word description.

Once you complete your list, show it to your parents.  You’re bound to have forgotten something!

After you really complete your list, make a resume.  Look online for samples.  The most important thing about a resume is that it is error-free.  Have someone else review it.  Now you have something to bring with you on interviews, and completing college applications is SO much easier when you already have completed a resume.  Trust me!

Since the new Common Ap website won’t be up until August 1st, I won’t give you instructions now on how to complete it.  Get started with looking for colleges, making a list, booking tours, visiting, and creating a resume.  By the time you’re done, I’ll have more information on the new Common Ap.

Let me know if you need help!           best college

Wendy Segal

http://www.wendysegaltutoring.com

June 9, 2013

How Your Summer Should Be Helping You to Get Into College – Grades 8 through 12

Do you want to go to college some day?  Every year, I have students who are seniors who tell me they wish they had used their summers more productively.  So don’t wait – follow my advice now and getting into a great college will be so much easier later.  Even the New York Times agrees that you should use your summers productively.

Grades 8 – 10:  Read.  Read.  Don’t stop – read some more.  Reading the back of the cereal box is better than reading nothing. Reading Sports Illustrated or Seventeen is better than the cereal box.  Reading TIME magazine is WAY better than reading Sports Illustrated or Seventeen.  TIME is written on the college level unlike many other magazines.  The articles are varied and interesting, but the real value is in the letters to the editor (called “inbox” in TIME).  When they print a letter, they also print the writer’s name and home town.  No one wants to look like a dope in front of his neighbors, so the grammar and vocabulary in every letter are gorgeous.   The letters and  essays are written with an agenda and a tone.  No one writes to TIEM because there was nothing good on TV.  Letter writers write to a magazine editor because they have a viewpoint, a slant, an opinion; your job as a reader is to figure out why the writer is REALLY writing.  You’ll seldom be asked to read this type of writing in school – extended essay or persuasive opinion – so get comfortable with it on your own.  Go online and get a subscription.  It’s much less expensive than buying individual copies.  And I like the actual magazine rather than the online edition.  It’s closer to reading an SAT essay.

Don’t stop when you finish your summer reading.  Look for books outside your usual area of interest.  Each genre has a jargon.  Reading a mystery isn’t like reading a fantasy.  Reading science fiction isn’t like reading a romance or a biography.  Or if you’ve read a book before that you liked, read more by that same author.  Or read a harder book  that has more of what you liked about that other book.  If you like chick-lit or romances, read Vanity Fair by Thackery or Jane Eyre by Bronte.  If you like Dave Barry, read some Thurber or O. Henry short stories.  If you email me what you like, I’ll give you a few suggestions that will bump up your reading skills while you’re being entertained.

And keep reading this blog for an advance look on what you’ll need to do as you get closer to senior year in high school.

Grade 11:  Read and follow the advice above for 10th graders.  Incoming Juniors should also be thinking about the PSATs that are coming up in October.  Most students should just go in and take the test when it’s given.  (Don’t worry, your guidance counselor will sign you up and tell you where to go and when.)  There’s a free booklet in the guidance department in which the College Board gives you advice about taking the test and a few sample questions.  If, however, you’re the kind of student who panics before every test and gets ill before important tests, it may pay for you to find a tutor and have a few sessions to get ready.  (You can take a course, although they’re so seldom useful.  But I covered that already in another blog.)  The only other type of student who should get pre-PSAT tutoring is one who regularly scores very, very well on standardized tests.  The National Merit Scholarship is derived from PSAT scores, so if you’re likely to qualify, get tutoring before the PSATs to increase your chances of getting a scholarship.  The PSATs are a bit easier than the SATs, mostly because the PSATs are shorter, but the questions are identical, so PSAT tutoring will give you a head start on SAT preparation.

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Grade 12:  Read and follow the advice for 10th graders – when you take a break from college applications.

By now, you should have a list of colleges that interest you.  If not, read my blog entry on how to build a list of colleges based on online resources.  Go visit some.  You don’t have to visit all the schools you apply to, but you should have an idea if you like small or large schools, rural, suburban, or urban schools, religious schools or secular schools, and so on.

If you are going to visit, interview with an admissions officer if it’s offered.  (Check back on my blog or join Wendy Segal Tutoring on Facebook for upcoming tips on how to interview at colleges.)

You should be writing your college essay this summer. Start now.  Don’t wait for your English teacher to mention it.  In fact, your English teachers can’t help you much since the topics have changed drastically this summer and their “follow this sample” handouts just don’t apply any more.   (Again, follow this blog or my Facebook page for upcoming advice.)

Lastly, don’t forget that you’ll be taking the SATs or ACTs again in a few months.  Decide which test to focus on, and get busy improving those areas in which you are weakest.  Let me know if you need some help.

You’ll have plenty of time to relax next year (just kidding!), but right now you should GET BUSY!

Wendy Segal   http://www.wendysegaltutoring.com

March 15, 2012

College Visits for High School Students 101

I’m sure you’ve been getting college brochures in the mail but don’t wait for colleges to come to you.  You have to go to them.  April break is the perfect time to go.  Earlier than that could mean cold, inclement weather.  Once May starts, many schools stop their tours so the students can concentrate on their finals.  By mid-May, all the students have gone home for the summer.  So take advantage of the month of April.  Go during the break.  Take a few long weekends and go.

But where?

By now, you should have been to Princeton Review and done the “Counselor-o-Matic” survey (also called “Best Fit School Search”) to get a list of colleges you might be interested in.  Remember to click on “see all colleges” after you get the initial lists of safety, good match, and reach schools.  If so, you should have at least 20 schools that might just fit your needs.

Now it’s time to plan a college tour or two.

First, group schools together.  List potential schools according to these categories:

  • rural (country – not near a city or even much of a town)
  • suburban (near a college town or within an hour of a city)
  • urban (right in the middle of a city with or without a campus)
  • small (under 5,000 undergraduates)
  • medium (5,000 – 10,000 undergraduates)
  • large (over 10,000 undergraduates)
  • far north (of where ever you live, more than 5 hours by car)
  • north (of where ever you live, 2 – 5 hours away by car)
  • close (within an hour or two of where ever you live)
  • south (of where ever you live, 2 – 5 hours away by car)
  • far south (of where ever you live, more than 5 hours away by car)
  • you’re going to start collecting frequent flier miles

The purpose of grouping schools is to make sure you visit one from each category if you can.  If you find out you hate urban schools, you can cross the rest of the urban schools off your list.  If you love the energy of a really big school, you can eliminate the small schools from your list.  Like most high school kids, you might think you like one kind of school or another, but many kids completely change their mind once they visit a few.

Find out where the schools are.  Visit the colleges’ websites and use mapquest.com or google maps to start planning your visit geographically.  Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and New York are huge states — Philadelphia is closer to New Jersey than it is to Pittsburgh.

Find out when the tours are.  Some schools have tours and information sessions.  Others have one but not the other.  I like the tours.

Once you decide which schools you can see in a day (ideally, you should see two schools a day, but you might be able to squeeze in a third if you have to), go on those schools’ websites under “prospective students” to find out when the tours are.  Some schools only have tours on weekends.  Some schools only have tours during the week.  Reserve a spot if the school recommends or requires it.

It’s much harder to get the feel of a school without a tour.  Sure, they’re led by a perky student who is just in love with the place, but you’ll learn a lot by what she says and what she doesn’t say and by how she answers the questions of the other prospective students on the tour.

Be polite. Do stop in to visit the admissions office.  If you can prearrange an interview, do so.  Dress neatly.  You don’t have to look like you’re applying for a job in corporate headquarters, but don’t wear anything ripped, dirty, or provocative.

Be brave. Go to your admissions meeting ALONE. Mom and Dad shouldn’t come with you into your interview.  Ever.  If you’re nervous, practice what you might say with a friend or your parents or with me, but go in alone.  Have a few questions ready, something you can’t find out on their website.

Here are a few questions that might be worth asking someone in admissions if you can’t think of any on your own:

  • how many kids  graduate each year with the major I’m interested in?
  • do you house freshmen together?
  • do most of your graduates go on to graduate school or do they get a job right after college?
  • tell me about campus security.
  • is any of your campus wi-fi?
  • what percentage of kids belong to fraternities/sororities?

Practice answering questions, too.  Here are some questions they will likely ask:

  • why do you want to go to this school? (One good answer is, “My guidance counselor feels it would be a great fit for me.” Another might be, “My cousin just loves it here,” or “I met your rep at a college fair and it sounds just perfect.”  Gush a little.)
  • how did you hear of us? (Answer:  You have a great reputation for (whatever your major is or whatever they’re known for).)
  • tell me about yourself  (Answer:  I think I’m a really good student with lots of interests.)
  • what do you hope to get out of college (Answer:  I’m looking to grow academically and socially)
  • what did you think of the tour? (Answer:  it was great!  No other answer will do.)

Be nosy. Spend some time in the student union or in the cafeteria.  Eavesdrop on what kids are saying to each other.  Go up to a random kid and ask questions.  Tell him you are considering this school and ask if you can talk to him for a minute.  Ask nosy questions, questions you wouldn’t ask someone in admissions:

  • would you tell your best friend to go here?
  • what’s the best thing about this school?
  • what’s the worst thing about this school?
  • is it hard to get into the classes you want to take?
  • are the professors approachable and helpful?
  • is there anything to do here on weekends?
  • is the food tolerable?
  • is there anything to do off campus?
  • do kids go to the teams’ games?
  • would you pick this school again if you had to reapply?

If you really can’t bring yourself to ask questions like this, have your parents do it.  They won’t mind – I promise.  As a matter of fact, send them off to the cafeteria while you’re at admissions and let them find a few random kids to quiz.

You will forget which school said which things,  and which school had which features.  You will.  Take cell phone photos and/or write on college brochures to remind yourself of any impressions.  Write yourself notes, like “This was the school with the smelly dorms,” or “This was the school with the amazing view.”  Don’t wait until you get home.  Write up a review for yourself of each school when you get back into the car if you can.

Thank you notes are completely optional. If you had an admissions visit and you remember the name of the person you spoke to, a quick email is a nice touch, but nothing more formal is required or expected no matter what your parents tell you.

If you have any questions, please feel free to comment on this blog or send me a Facebook message through my page Wendy Segal Tutoring:  highschool2college.

Wendy Segal

July 23, 2011

The Summer is Half Over – Don’t Waste More Time, High School Students!

Do I sound like your mother?  Right.  That’s because I am a mother.  But I’m also a teacher, a tutor, and a college adviser, and I spend a good part of each year getting kids into college.  Do you want to go to college some day?  Then follow this advice that students from each grade can use right now:

Grades 8 – 10:  Read.  Read.  Don’t stop – read some more.  Reading the back of the cereal box is better than reading nothing. Reading Sports Illustrated or Seventeen is better than the cereal box.  Reading TIME or Newsweek is WAY better than reading Sports Illustrated or Seventeen.  TIME and Newsweek are written on the college level unlike most other magazines.  The articles are varied and interesting, but the real value is in the letters to the editor (called “inbox” in TIME).  When they print a letter, they also print the writer’s name and home town.  No one wants to look like a dope in front of his neighbors, so the grammar and vocabulary in every letter are gorgeous.   The letters, and the back page essay which is a perfect length for SAT practice, are written with an agenda and a tone.  No one writes to Newsweek because there was nothing good on TV.  Letter writers write to a magazine editor because they have a viewpoint, a slant, an opinion; your job as a reader is to figure out why the writer is REALLY writing.  You’ll seldom be asked to read this type of writing in school – extended essay or persuasive opinion – so get comfortable with it on your own.  Go online and get a subscription.  It’s much less expensive than buying individual copies.

If you have finished your summer reading and want more, look for books outside your usual area of interest.  Each genre has a jargon.  Reading a mystery isn’t like reading a fantasy.  Reading science fiction isn’t like reading a romance or a biography.  Or if you’ve read a book before that you liked, read more by that same author.  Or read a harder book  that has more of what you liked about that other book.  If you like chick-lit or romances, read Vanity Fair by Thackery or Jane Eyre by Bronte.  If you like Dave Barry, read some Thurber or O. Henry short stories.  If you email me what you like, I’ll give you a few suggestions that will bump up your reading skills while you’re being entertained.

And keep reading this blog for an advance look on what you’ll need to do as you get closer to senior year in high school.

Grade 11:  Read and follow the advice above for 10th graders.  Incoming Juniors should also be thinking about the PSATs that are coming up in October.  Most students should just go in and take the test when it’s given.  (Don’t worry, your guidance counselor will sign you up and tell you where to go and when.)  There’s a free booklet in the guidance department in which the College Board gives you advice about taking the test and a few sample questions.  If, however, you’re the kind of student who panics before every test and gets ill before important tests, it may pay for you to find a tutor and have a few sessions to get ready.  (You can take a course, although they’re so seldom useful.  But I covered that already in another blog.)  The only other type of student who should get pre-PSAT tutoring is one who regularly scores very, very well on standardized tests.  The National Merit Scholarship is derived from PSAT scores, so if you’re likely to qualify, get tutoring before the PSATs to increase your chances of getting a scholarship.  The PSATs are a bit easier than the SATs, mostly because the PSATs are shorter, but the questions are identical, so PSAT tutoring will give you a head start on SAT preparation.

Grade 12:  Read and follow the advice for 10th graders – when you take a break from college applications.

By now, you should have a list of colleges that interest you.  If not, read my blog entry from last year on how to build a list of colleges based on online resources.  Go visit some.  You don’t have to visit all the schools you apply to, but you should have an idea if you like small or large schools, rural, suburban, or urban schools, religious schools or secular schools, and so on.

If you are going to visit, interview with an admissions officer if it’s offered.  (Read this blog post for suggestions on what you should be looking for during a college visit, and visit this blog post for thoughts on how to make a good impression when you’re on an interview.)

You should be writing your college essay this summer. Start now.  Don’t wait for your English teacher to mention it.  Take advantage of college early action programs by having your application and essay prepared before you start classes in September. (But please read this advice first.)

Lastly, don’t forget that you’ll be taking the SATs or ACTs again in a few months.  Decide which test to focus on, and get busy improving those areas in which you are weakest.  Let me know if you need some help.

You’ll have plenty of time to relax next year in science class (just kidding!), but right now you should GET BUSY!

Wendy Segal   http://www.wendysegaltutoring.com

March 22, 2011

Don’t Waste April!

Here are some crucial words of advice for high school Juniors:

Don’t waste April!

If you don’t go to look at colleges in April, you won’t get to see them at their most typical until the fall.  March is too cold and snowy.  By May, exams have begun at most colleges so they don’t offer tours then.  You won’t see the students, anyway – they’ll be in the library.  By mid-May, everyone will be home for the summer.  You can indeed visit schools over the summer, but you won’t see them buzzing with activity and you won’t be able to have your pick of students to ask embarrassing but important questions.

So if you have to take a few three-day weekends in April, go ahead.  Most schools count college visits as excused absences similar to illness.  In other words, those visits are still absences but if you miss work, the teachers will let you make it up.

What if you don’ t know which colleges to look at?

  • Go on www.princetonreview.com.  It’s better than the College Board search and much, much better than Naviance.  Look for “explore colleges,” then “best fit,” then Counselor-o-Matic.  (Yes, it’s a stupid title, but it’s a great program.)
  • Complete all the pages of the survey and submit.  You’ll get a list of safety schools, a list of good match schools, and a list of reach schools.  WARNING:  those lists contains only schools who paid to be there.   Don’t stop there!
  • In each category (reach, match, safety), click on “view all schools” and then you’ll get the GREAT list of schools that match your requirements.
  • Review each school, view the video if there is one, and go on to the school’s website and fill in the “send me more information” form.  It’s a good way to let the school know you’re interested.

Once you have a list of schools, group them geographically. Most students in northern Westchester check out the Boston-area schools, the Pennsylvania schools (Lafayette, Bucknell, Muhlenburg, Lehigh, Penn State), the southern schools (UDelaware, UMaryland, Towson), the SUNY schools, and other categories.

Your goal is to start with a huge list that you can pare down to about 10 – 14 schools to which you will apply. You need to be sure there are at least two safety schools on your application list — schools that will accept you as long as you are still breathing by admissions time.

You should also apply to a school or two that you’re fairly certain you won’t get into, but OMG what if you did?  I believe that if you get into every school to which you apply, you didn’t aim high enough (as long as you’re not crushed if you don’t get in).

You don’t have to visit every school you apply to, but you should visit a few schools from different categories:  urban, suburban, rural, close, far, huge, tiny, medium, religious, secular, sports-oriented, academically-oriented, lots of fraternities, no fraternities, and so on.  Get a feel for what you like.

There are no right schools. There are only schools that fit your personality and intended major and preferences — or schools that just don’t feel like you could ever call them “home.”  A school that is right for you might be a terrible choice for your best friend.

Go, visit, and see what feels like a good fit for you!  (And click here for advice on making the most of a college interview.)

Wendy Segal

February 7, 2011

Scary News for High School Juniors (and even sophomores!)

It’s baaaack!

Many of us who follow college admission trends thought that early decision and early action programs were going away.  Harvard did away with early decision a few years ago, calling it a rich kid’s game.  A few colleges followed Harvard’s lead, and all the magazine and newspaper writers published articles cheering the demise of early decision programs.

For those who are just starting the college admission process, there are a few terms you must know:

  • early admission – technically, this means that the college will take you before you’ve even finished high school. Some schools have a program whereby you can go to college a year early and finish up any mandatory high school classes while you attend college. Unfortunately, many articles and blogs confuse “early admissions” with programs that give you an early decision about admissions.
  • early decision – if a school has this program, you apply to that one school early (the deadlines are often before Thanksgiving), and the school will let you know early (often before Christmas) whether you got in.  Under early decision, you are committing to attend this school if you get in.  You agree to withdraw any and all other applications if you get in.  That’s why it’s known as a rich kid’s game – you have to commit without knowing what scholarships or financial aid packages other schools might have offered.
  • early action – if a school has this program, you apply to this school and any other school with an early action program early (often before Thanksgiving).  They’ll let you know early whether you got in (often before Christmas), but you have until May 1st, the universal deadline, to let these schools know if you are going to enroll.

Many people (not me, of course) predicted the eventual end of the early decision program.  The truth is that both early action and early decision are more popular than ever.  Articles, like this from Inside Higher Ed and this one from US News and World Report, confirm that more kids are applying early than ever before.

So why is this scary news for high school juniors (and even for savvy sophomores)?

Much of your college admission work must get done in your junior year if you want to get into the colleges of your choice. (Notice I didn’t say “the best colleges” — what’s best for your friend isn’t necessarily what’s best for you.)

Because you’ll need to apply to colleges by October of senior year, you’ll need to know which schools you’ll be applying to by this summer.

Because you’ll need to know which schools you’ll be applying to by this summer, you’ll need to visit schools by this spring.

Because you’ll need to visit schools this spring, you need to know which schools interest you and group them by geographic area so you can see several schools on each road trip.  So you’ll need to have your list of schools – at least a preliminary list – NOW.  If you follow my advice, you’ll be applying to a minimum of eight colleges and probably more like ten to twelve schools.

Yes, admission are once again up all over.  More kids are applying to schools, and each student is applying to more schools than ever before.  (Read this Inside Higher Ed article.) You might not like the trend, but it won’t help you ignore it.

Don’t wait for your guidance counselor to call you in.  Don’t wait for your friends to tell you which schools they saw and liked.  Don’t wait for your English teacher senior year to tell you to write a resume.

You need to get started right now. (What were you doing on all those snow days, anyway?)

This week, you should go to PrincetonReview.com and complete their Counselor-o-Matic program, the best free college selection program available.  It’s not easy to find, but it’s worth it.  Go to www.princetonreview.com. Under the “college” tab, go to “best fit school search.”  That will bring up Counselor-o-Matic.  Complete the survey as thoroughly as you can.  You’ll get a list of good match schools, reach schools, and safety schools.  That initial list shows you colleges that paid to be there.  BUT if you click on “view all,” you’ll get an extensive list of schools that fit your criteria.  Click on any school to see more information about that school, often including commentary by students and a link to a video.

I’ve recently found another site which looks promising for building a list of colleges to consider.  Try cappex.com and let me know what you think.  And of course, there’s Naviance.  It’s limited, but you’ll most likely need to complete their profile at some point anyway, so you might as well check it out now.

You’ll need an initial list of 30 or so schools to check out.  Go to their websites.  Tell them you want more information.  Look at the schools’ videos (they’re there, but they’re often hiding).  You will find several that aren’t as good a fit for you as they seemed.  Good!  It’s as important to know what you don’t like as what you do like.

Visit a few schools, go to their open houses.  Become familiar with names of schools you’d like to know more about so that when you go to the spring college fairs, you won’t be standing in the middle of the room staring and frozen like a deer caught in headlights.

Whatever you do, do something now.  Start on the computer, continue with road trips and open houses and visits, get interviews where you can.

The more you do now, the less frantic and overwhelming fall of senior year will be.  If you don’t believe me, ask any senior!

Wendy Segal

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