Juniors, as you meet with your counselor to select your classes for next year, keep in mind that what colleges want to see are students whose course of study is characterized by appropriate challenge and rigor.
So what does that mean?
It means that colleges want to see evidence in your courses that you are willing to stretch intellectually and academically in the core areas of the curriculum -- science, math, English, social studies and foreign language -- and that your choice of classes demonstrates a pattern of increasing difficulty. For example, if a student wants to study science, she would take progressively more demanding courses in that core area. This is an important signal for college admission officers. In fact, one report found that taking progressively more difficult and higher- level courses increased an applicant’s chance of being accepted at a competitive college— more so than a higher grade point average.
Here's what Douglas Christiansen, vice provost for enrollment and dean of admissions at Vanderbilt University, has to say about what challenge and rigor mean:
Last week Fred Hargadon passed away. Hargadon worked in admissions at Swarthmore, Stanford and Princeton. In any room where college admissions people meet, there will be Fred Hargadon anecdotes. (We have several in our book!) He was a great communicator, with a dead aim for the college application process, conveyed with compassion and a wry sense of humor. His acceptance letters from Princeton famously began with the single word "YES!," a phrase now carved in stone in front of Princeton's Hargadon Hall, the dormitory named in his honor.
Joyce Smith, executive director of the National Association for College Admission Counseling, recently shared a letter Hargadon wrote to prospective students and we'd like to share it with you. You have to love a letter that citesThe Phantom Tollbooth, Harry Potter's sorting hat, SAT scores and becoming bilingual.
Here's one of our favorite pieces of advice:
Congratulations to College Admission contributor and resident guest blogger Alice Kleeman on being named a Counselor That Changes Lives. According to Colleges That Change Lives, the "Counselors That Change Lives" award recognizes those whose dedication to the college counseling profession reflects the mission of CTCL. Their tireless work does not go unrecognized and this program is our way of acknowledging all that they do to help students and families on a daily basis."
Maria Furtado, executive director of Colleges That Changes Lives, announced the awards for Kleeman and her fellow counselors this morning. The counselors honored are:
College advisor Alice Kleeman is back with advice for seniors on what you should be doing to pay for college. Remember it is you, the student, who applies for aid. But families need to work together to obtain the best result. Here are this month's financial aid reminders:
* Check with your high school counselor about financial aid evening workshops scheduled at your school or in the community and attend with your parents!
* Complete the FAFSA, reading all instructions CAREFULLY! You do NOT have to wait until you and your parents have filed your income tax returns; you may use estimates on the FAFSA and then update the information once you have filed your income tax forms. It is better to file on time with estimates than to file late!
* Submit your FAFSA electronically as soon as possible! Once submitted, the colleges you have listed and coded will receive your information electronically.
* Each state also has its own FAFSA deadline, which in many cases is different from the federal submission deadline each year. Make sure to submit your FAFSA by your state's deadline or as soon as possible after the first of the year to get the most financial aid possible. Deadline information can be found here.
The single biggest mistake families make in the college application process is failing to apply for financial aid. So, apply! Even if you think you won't qualify, apply. You may be pleasantly surprised. And sometimes you need to apply for federal aid to receive state aid or merit scholarships.
How do you apply? The FAFSA is required for any student seeking federal and state financial aid, including grants and loans at all colleges in the country. It can seem complicated, but there is help available -- and it's free. One of the best resources is College Goal Sunday, an information program that brings together financial aid professionals from colleges and universities along with other volunteers to assist college-bound students and their families complete the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). Calendars for their national programs, as well as state-by-state events can be found at their website here.
It's not over 'til it's over. Seniors, you may have submitted your applications and caught up on your sleep, but -- apologies! -- there are still some things you need to do. High school counselor and author John Carpenter joins us again this month with some helpful reminders.
January… For most seniors that means applications are finished. Submitted. Done.
Submitting your application is only one part of this process. Most kids, I will admit, exhale a big sigh of relief after they've submitted their apps. They either celebrate that the deadline has been met or sleep for two weeks. And while both options are perfectly acceptable, there’s still a little more to do. It’s called follow-up.
Here’s a list of tasks to be sure to take care of AFTER you submit your applications:
For most students, the second semester of junior year is when the college application process begins in earnest. So this month, we asked our high school counselors: What’s the most important task for juniors to tackle in second semester of junior year? Read on to get a jump start on your to do list!
Mai Lien Nguyen
College and Career Center Coordinator
Mountain View High School
Mountain View, California
The winter testing dates for the ACT and SAT are coming up soon: the SAT will be administered on January 25th and the ACT on February 8th. For many students, practice can improve scores. But if you're listening to your iPod while you're thumbing through the test or not taking a timed practice test, you probably won't experience that improvement. Here's how to practice so you get results:
Practice under actual test conditions. Both tests require students to perform in a fixed amount of time. Sit down in your kitchen with a test book and your No. 2 pencils and have a family member time you.
If you're visiting the Tucson campus of the University of Arizona, we've got recommendations for where to find Spanish tapas, a gastropub with artisanal cheeses and salume and "environmentally sound" seafood at an on-campus bistro where you can also order a triple decker grilled cheese and tomato. We've also got best bets for campus staples like pizza, decadent pastries, and the local food with its own fan base -- Eegees, a drink of "brain freezing fruit goodness." Oh, and this is Tucson, so Mexican American food gets a section of its own with three of the best places to find chimichangas, tamale pie and a Sonoran style hot dog. Thank you to University of Arizona's dean of undergraduate admissions Kasey Urquidez and her staffers Rafael Meza and Mary Venezia. Check their recommendations out here.
Have you heard of "demonstrated interest"? It's one of those phrases that can cause some confusion for students -- and parents -- as they go through the college application process. Luckily, educational psychologist Jane McClure returns this month to demystify "demonstrated interest" and provide six action items for students to -- what else? -- demonstrate interest.
By now, your applications have been submitted. Whew! What a relief! So now you just wait, right? Well, no, not exactly. There are some actions you can take that will make a difference at many colleges, particularly independent colleges and universities. It’s called “demonstrated interest.” Students show demonstrated interest when they take various actions that signal to a school that they are seriously considering it. And it can possibly enhance your chances of admission.