Posts Tagged ‘going to college’

How to Apply to College

Friday, August 17th, 2012


Applying to college

Applying to college

Applying to college is a daunting task. The first three years of high school are all about preparing for this process, and between the SAT test, ACT test, SAT II Subject Tests, extra-curriculars, sports, AP tests, college visits, and getting that GPA up, those years were no walk in the park. For rising seniors, however, the real challenge is just beginning. Senior fall is one of most challenging semesters in high school, and when applying to college is layered on top of that, things can quickly spin out of control. When it comes to applying for college, therefore, it’s important to have a plan in place, and get started early. (more…)

Checklist for College Packing

Friday, July 27th, 2012

Packing for college is not like packing for summer camp.



You’ll need more than a few t-shirts, shorts, and a change of underwear. You won’t, however, need to pack up everything you’ve ever owned and expect it to fit into your half of your new dorm room. The transition to college is a big one—it may be the first big move you’ve ever made, and it’s probably the first time you’ll be living away from home. Deciding what to pack can be overwhelming, and it’s easy to put off this very tangible marker of your transition out of childhood and into adulthood. We have been there, and we’ve put together a list to help you get started.


Since closet and dresser space is probably going to be pretty limited, keep the season in mind as you choose which clothes to bring to college. Remember that you’ll probably be home again for Thanksgiving, and could switch out some of your fall jackets for winter parkas then. Even if you don’t plan on going home before winter comes, you could pack up a box of winter things for your parents to send to you when the temperature starts to drop. Location is important, too—if you grew up in Florida, and are headed to Carleton, Syracuse, or Dartmouth, you are in for a surprise…don’t forget your mittens, ski hat, parka, long underwear, and warm socks. Conversely, if you’re a Vermonter heading to Florida State, go ahead and hand down your snow pants to your little brother. You can always borrow them back when you come home for the holidays.

Some other things to keep in mind as far as clothing is concerned:

  • The number of pairs of underwear and socks that you bring will probably determine how often you do laundry. Bring a LOT of them.
  • You will definitely want to look good sometimes, but you will find that pajama pants and sweatshirts play a much larger role in your day-to-day wardrobe than they ever have before. Bring lots of comfy things.
  • Bring all the things you will need to keep your clothes clean and nice: hangers for your closet, a laundry bag, detergent, stain remover, dryer sheets, an iron and small ironing board, a sewing kit with safety pins in it (they come in handy when you’re making a toga out of a bedsheet), and one of those Tide-to-Go stain remover pens for emergencies.
  • Bring flip flops for the shower. Seriously.

Bath and Toiletries

You won’t be able to spread your things out in a shared dorm bathroom, so bring the things you need and something to carry them back and forth from the bathroom in.

  • Bathroom caddy
  • Toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, and anything else—retainer?—that you use regularly
  • Hairbrush, comb, your hair products of choice, and styling tools (blowdryer, curling/straightening irons, bobby pins, hair elastics, etc.)
  • Body wash, shaving gel/cream, razors, deodorant, and nail scissors
  • Facewash, moisturizer, sunscreen, and makeup
  • Two or three bath towels, hand towels, and washcloths
  • Bathrobe (you don’t want to have to get fully dressed just to go down the hall to the bathroom in the middle of the night, and while you could just risk it in your skivvies, we strongly suggest a robe.)


Obviously, you’ll want to bring any medications you take, along with a prescription for a refill when you run out (or a plan to have your doctor call in a refill). It’s also good to know ahead of time what to do if you miss a dose. There are a few over-the-counter things you might want to have on hand as well:

  • Pain reliever/anti-inflammatory (Ibuprofen, Tylenol—whatever you like)
  • Cold/allergy medicine/decongestants (you can always purchase this later, but you don’t want to wake up in the middle of the night with a terrible cold and nothing on hand)
  • Visine (whether you think so or not, you may find yourself needing this)
  • Band-aids and antibiotic cream
  • Contact lens solution and case (if you wear contacts)
  • Vitamins


Since your bed will also probably serve as living room and study space, you’ll want it to be comfortable, functional, and nice to look at. Don’t buy the first cheapo off-to-college-sheet-and-comforter set that you see—they can be scratchy. Bring the following:

  • Two sets of soft sheets and pillowcases (we’ll leave thread count up to you, but make sure that you’re buying the right size—many dorm beds have extra-long mattresses).
  • A duvet with a washable cover
  • A mattress pad
  • A mattress protector (Other people slept on that mattress before you. You don’t know them. A barrier is not a bad idea.)
  • A few throw pillows for when your bed is doing double-duty as your couch.
  • A reliable alarm clock
  • Earplugs and a sleep mask are optional, but can come in handy if your roommate unfortunately turns out to be a loud night-owl.


Your under-bed space will probably be your best bet for storage in a small room, so plan ahead. Buy:

  • Bed raisers (blocks that go under each leg of the bed, and give you extra storage space)
  • Under-bed storage boxes
  • Storage for on top of your dresser (jewelry boxes, stackable boxes—whatever suits your needs)


You’ll probably be eating most of your meals in dining halls, but it’s nice to have some things in your room, too.

  • Mini-fridge (you may be able to rent one through the school)
  • Microwave
  • Hotplate (if it’s allowed by the school—they can be a fire risk)
  • A few bowls, spoons, forks, knives, and cups, and a sponge and detergent to wash them with
  • Paper towels (they’ll come in handy)
  • A water filter (like a Brita)

You can buy the actual food when you get there, but here are some classics, and some new ideas:

  • Top Ramen (Your father probably ate it at college, and maybe his father before him. It’s a tradition. It’s also kind of gross.)
  • Cereal and milk
  • Popcorn
  • Fruit (apples last a long time)
  • Nuts (almonds, if we’re being healthy about it)
  • Mac and Cheese
  • Soup
  • Peanut butter (good on apples, good on bread, good straight out of the jar!)
  • Protein bars (they last forever, so as long as you eat them before you graduate, you’re probably ok)

Fun Stuff

Your room is your new home, so don’t forget to bring things to make it feel that way. Posters, photos, wall-hangings, rugs, a fan, mirrors, white boards…go all out. You may also enjoy bringing the followings things, for entertainment both in and outside of your room:

  • TV/DVD player (unless you plan to watch both of your computer)
  • Sound system you can plug your iPod into
  • Gaming system (Gamers beware—this is a major time suck. Don’t let it eat you alive.)
  • Digital camera and photo paper
  • A vacuum cleaner, and some cleaning supplies (We know that doesn’t sound super fun. But you won’t want to have people over if your room is disgusting.)

Outside fun:

  • Frisbee
  • Baseball glove
  • Football
  • Hiking boots
  • Sunglasses
  • Camping chair for reading on the quad
  • Flashlight
  • Water bottle
  • Umbrella


The most important thing you’ll want to have for your study space is a computer, preferably a laptop. Your school library will have computers, but it’s very hard to do without one of your own (preferably a sturdy one, with a good carrying case). A printer is a great thing to have in your room for smaller print jobs and emergency paper-due-this-morning situations, but your school will probably have a good way for you to print stuff out, when you need to. Optional but useful computer accessories:

  • Extra power cord
  • Extra phone charger
  • Thumb drive/flash drive
  • Ethernet cable and possibly a wireless router (if your school doesn’t have wireless internet)
  • Printer cable, paper, and ink (if you’re bringing a printer)
  • Compact speakers
  • A lock to lock your computer to your desk

You’ll be getting lots of books and pieces of paper, so it’s good to have some plan for how you’re going to keep track of them. Bookends help you make a bookcase out of any shelf. A file box with hanging folders, one per class, is not a bad option, and a folder for each class to go on your bookshelf when it’s not in use is also helpful. Other things for your desk/study space:

  • A desk lamp
  • Pen and pencil holder
  • Pens and pencils
  • Highlighters
  • Paper clips
  • A stapler and staples
  • Scissors
  • Staple remover
  • Three-hole punch
  • Tape
  • Sticky notes for flagging things you’re reading and for leaving passive-aggressive notes for your roommate (just kidding about the passive-aggressive part…though sticky notes do work well for that.)
  • Sharpies (these just seem to come in handy, like duct tape)
  • Power strips/extension cords/surge protector
  • Calculator
  • Calendar
  • Stamps
  • Envelopes
  • Wastebasket
  • Batteries for everything battery-powered that you’re bringing

There are also a few important cards you’ll need, and documents that you should remember to bring, and stow safely away in your desk somewhere:

  • Your driver’s license or state ID
  • Checkbook
  • Your health insurance card
  • Your social security card (you will rarely need this, and you should keep it locked up somewhere, but some states require it when you apply for a license, and some jobs might need to see it before they hire you.)
  • Health records

Last of all, remember that your desk is also going to serve as your dining room table, and your entertainment center. Do yourself a big favor, and get a rubber keyboard cover. They’re cheap…much cheaper than replacing your computer when a drink gets spilled on it…which it will.

So, this was a loooong list. It may feel like you’re packing for the apocalypse, but don’t worry. If you forget something, your parents will probably be happy to send it to you (if you ask nicely), and they might even use it as an excuse to visit you. So, depending on whether or not that’s something you want, pack with care!

How to Pay for College

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012

What are options for me to pay for College? How can I help myself?

Cost of college

Cost of college

One of the most daunting aspects of a college education facing students and parents in today’s economic climate is the cost.  College is expensive any way you slice it, and with unemployment being what it is, it feels like a large waste of money.  Nothing could be further from the truth. Unemployment rates for people with college degrees are half what they are for students who did not complete high school. A college education is still an essential key to success and opportunity.

Your ability to pay for college starts in high school.  If you commit to studying hard and getting grades you will drastically improve you chances of paying for college. Many financial aid offices award scholarships and aid to students in need based on their merit and achievement in high school.  A stellar transcript makes you an attractive candidate to any college and they will do what they can to allow you to attend.  Getting the grades you need in high school may mean sacrificing a few Friday nights out with friends to stay in and study, but in the long term you will be richly rewarded.

Another option you have to pay for college is student loans.  While many people balk at he predicament of taking on debt at a young age, this shouldn’t deter you from taking out a student loanYour college education is an investment in your future. Congress also just voted on keeping the interest rates on college loans at their present lower rates. This is a huge victory for education and statement about the value of a college education.

The U.S. education system is also specifically attuned to keep our country competitive in specialized fields in the years ahead. Specifically, colleges and universities want to ensure that the U.S. is still training many of its students for careers in Math and Science and so if these are fields that especially interest you, an even stronger chance of finding financial aid could be possible.

However, whatever course of study interests you and ends up directing your college search, one of the most vital things you can do to help yourself is start early.  Start looking around for the colleges that offer you the best of what you are looking to study, and then begin to understand the ways you can find help to subsidize that education.  Often time, the issue of paying for college can feel so large because it seems so abstract.  Make the problem smaller – find the school you want to attend and then figure out how people have paid to go their in the past.

Lastly, one of the great strengths of the system of higher education in the U.S. is the sheer number of quality universities that exist in this country.  There are many colleges, with many different financial aid options, that will provide you with a top-flight education.  Don’t get locked into any single idea, as there are wonderful options.  In addition to the incredible network of local and state schools, there are many small colleges that you may of never heard of, that will be perfect for you and able to give you the financial help you need to attend.

Writing a College Essay

Friday, March 30th, 2012

What are some good tips to writing a successful school essay?

If you find yourself struggling with school essay assignments, and everyone does, there are some helpful guidelines you can follow to craft a successful essay. The first essay tip is simply to use all the time you are allotted. Most teachers will give you a few days to a week to work on a paper and you should use all that time. Your teacher is expecting you to.  Even if that means only thinking about the assignment at the beginning, you need to begin the intellectual process of crafting an essay as soon as you are given the assignment.

College Essay

College Essay

Make one point in your essay.  Every successful English paper or history paper is centered on a singular thesis. This isn’t to say you can articulate many ideas about a subject along the way, but the focus of your writing must be unitary for your ideas to cohere.  Once you’ve boiled your ideas down to a singular, central thesis, you can begin to plan your essay.

As I just said, plan your essay. Don’t start writing an essay in blind – make an outline.  Plan out everything you are going to say, in what order, and what supporting evidence you are going to use to back it up. You must chart the path of your argument to be sure you hit all your points in a coherent, logical flow. That way you can we sure your essay is as full as possible.

Make your essay as full as possible. Most assignments at school include a page expectation and you should aim for the maximum allowed. If an assignment expects a 5-8 page paper, deliver an 8 page paper. It’s a way you can show your teacher that you have fully developed an argument and maximized the allowed space to defend it.

Lastly, write multiple drafts. Only by editing and re-writing can you ensure that you are delivering a proof read, grammatically correct paper that is stylistically mature. All good writers edit their work intensely and create the most effective, clearest prose possible to persuade their readers of a particular thesis.

When to Apply to College

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

What is the right time to apply to college?  Are there advantages and disadvantages to different times?

College application

College application

As students end their junior year of high school and begin to look around the corner to their senior year, the topic foremost on their minds tends to be college. Within that, students and parents are undergoing the process of creating and editing a college list. Over the course of college visits, reading brochures, talking to friends, college counselors, and family, students are forming an idea of the kind of school they want to attend. Then comes the decision of applying to college early or not.

There are two kinds of early decision options open to applicants in the college process.  One is early decision, which requires a student to submit his or her application around November 1st of his or her senior year. The student will then usually be notified by December15th whether the college accepted, rejected or deferred them to regular decision. There are a couple of big advantages to early decision. The first is that the acceptance rate tends to be higher in this round than in the regular decision round.

The second is that if you are accepted your college process is over. Early decision is binding, meaning that if you are accepted you must attend that school. This is also the disadvantage of this option, as you must be absolutely certain about the school to which you are applying.

Another admission option is early action, which operates in the same way as early decision except for the fact that admission is non-binding. You can be accepted to a school via early admission, and still apply to other schools and ultimately attend another college if you choose. The draw back to early admission is that the acceptance rate is not as high as early decision.

Finally, you can apply via regular decision. The application will be due by January 1st and you will find out in the spring.  You can apply to as many schools as you would like and the acceptance rates are what they are depending on the school. There is no right answer to the question of when you should apply to colleges, it really all depends on how certain you are in your choice of school. If you feel like you need time and options, go ahead and wait to apply in the regular decision round.