Misty Whelan, Conestoga High School

Misty Whelan has lived the college admission process from both sides of the desk, so to speak. True, she worked early in her career at Bryn Mawr College. But that's not what we're talking about. Now a counselor at Conestoga High School in Berwyn, Pennsyvania, Whelan has also navigated the college application process as a parent. Her 16-year-old daughter, Sarah, is taking her first steps in the process and her 19-year-old son is now attending Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. The view from the parental side of the process has been invaluable for Whelan.

"It has really, really helped me immensely as a professional in terms of sympathizing and empathizing with families as they go through this process," says Whelan. "And the other thing it validated for me was letting my son do the work and not to do it for him. He did the bulk of the work. I learned a lot about how to center him and not have him panic or get too stressed out. Luckily, he knew what he wanted and did not have too many schools on his list.  I also learned a lot about financial aid and the scholarship process. That was the biggest eye opener for me -- how colleges fund students."

Be yourself! Everybody else is taken...

High school counselor Barbara Simmons joins us today to examine the meaning of the directive to "Be yourself!" in the college application -- and provides some steps for getting there. Heads up, juniors! The time to start thinking about this is now.

 

With all of the resolutions swirling around in January when everything is fresh and new – I propose a resolution for all students embarking upon their search for those colleges that will become their new educational and social homes in a year and a half.  So, this resolution is for you, the juniors in high school, heading towards your 2nd semester of junior year.

Resolved:  I will continue to “know myself”.

Many of you will think that this aphorism, “know thyself”, has been both overused and around since ancient Greece – at times a proverb used to help those who boasted about themselves, “exceeding what they actually were,” and at times a “warning to pay no attention to the opinion of the multitude." .  How many times have you heard “know who you are?” from a counselor or educator or parent?  How many questionnaires have you answered with this as the guiding theme?

Leigh Weisenburger of Bates College Answers Six Questions

Bates College was founded in 1855 by abolitionists who believed strongly in freedom, civil rights and the importance of a higher education for all who could benefit from it. Several of the college's earliest students were former slaves. And its religion department was formed when the school merged with the Parsonfield's Cobb Divinity School, whose seminary served as a stop on the Underground Railroad.

That mission of inclusivity is carried on today at the Lewiston, Maine, private liberal arts school -- there are no sororities or fraternities on campus, student organizations are open to all, and 95% of students live on campus, with residential life an important part of the academic experience.   

Happy New Year!

Happy Holidays!

Wishing all of our readers peace, love, freedom, and prosperity this holiday season and for the new year of 2014! We'll be taking a holiday break along with you. See you back here in the new year on January 6th! Robin and Christine

Parents, Try the "College Diet" over the Holiday Break

Parents, we have some holiday advice for you.  Tread lightly when discussing college in the presence of your juniors and seniors over the winter break. We suggest you adhere to the "college diet" -- a great idea we learned about from psychologist Michael Thompson. It has one simple-to-follow guideline -- the subject of college should not be on the menu more than twice a week.  And run some interference for your son or daughter when relatives and friends get too inquisitive or let themselves indulge in thinly-veiled status competition.  Even well-meaning inquiries can add to the anxiety of the process, especially for seniors. So nix those conversations by changing the subject and support your students in relaxing and enjoying this most wonderful holiday. And on this diet, you can have all the gingerbread and hot cocoa you want! Share that with your son or daughter. 

Our New Guide to the Application Form, Including Changes to the Common App

It's here -- our completely revised and updated guide, The Application Form, a real-time digital supplement to College Admission: From Application to Acceptance, Step by Step.

It's a complete guide to filling out the college application, which serves as the cornerstone of a student's admission file, including:

  • A walk through the new Common Application, step by step.
  • An explanation of why colleges want this information and our best advice for how to provide it.
  • Answers to students' questions about extracurricular activities, academics, testing, and essays are addressed.
  • Guidance on fee waivers, deadlines, "fast apps," and resumes.
  • A To Do List for the many moving parts so students can put their best foot forward when completing their applications.

Download your complete free copy here.

Juniors: Let Them Show You the Money

Juniors, part of researching colleges is understanding the cost of a college education. It's not too soon to start investigating what your family may be asked to pay for college. To do that, start with the net price calculators (also called financial aid calculators) that every college and university are required to have on their website. (Calculators can also be found through the College Board at collegeboard.org and on the Federal Student Aid website at fafsa4caster.ed.gov.)

This online tool will give you a preliminary understanding of the amount you may be expected to pay out of pocket, as well as aid you may be eligible to receive from the federal government and the colleges themselves. Over the coming weeks, sit down with your parents and take a look at the net price calculators on the websites of some of the colleges in which you're interested.

In 2012-13, $238.5 billion in financial aid was distributed to undergraduate and graduate students in the form of grants, Federal Work-Study, federal loans, and federal tax credits and deductions, according to the College Board's Trends in Student Aid. There is money out there to help you finance a college education. But you have to apply for it. 

 

Procrastinators: The Time is Now!

John Carpenter is back this month to commiserate with those students who are at heart procrastinators. In other words, those students who have not completed their applications yet. Read on to share the insights of a fellow travel in procrastination land and get inspired. Regardless of your disposition, the time is now!

It’s the holidays.  You’re on break.  Time to sleep in every single day if you want.  And if you’re like many high school students, you still have some work to do on finishing college applications.  I get it—I procrastinate, too, and it’s not as bad as everyone says it is.  But there are some real advantages to getting things done early, and of course, those of you who are FINISHED and have submitted applications know this already.  But this post is not for you. 

For you, those who get everything done ahead of time, congratulations.  We procrastinators wish we were more like you, but we’re not.  We try.  And sometimes we even get better, but the truth is that many of us will always put things off to the very end.

So, if you’re one of those finally getting around to getting your apps finished, good for you. 

What is the best interview advice for students?

Informational, evaluative, alumni, admission office, scholarship— there are several different types of interviews. Students may be talking with an admission officer on the college campus, an alumnus at the local Starbucks, or with a scholarship committee over Skype. So this month, we've rounded up a group of high school and independent counselors to offer their best advice for students, whether you're a junior thinking about a practice interview next spring or a senior finishing up college and scholarship interviews. Read on...
 
"The Question of the Month" for December is:

What is the best interview advice for students? 

Rafael S. Figueroa
Dean of College Guidance
Albuquerque Academy
Albuquerque, New Mexico

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