Posted: Friday, August 17th, 2012 | Filed under: choosing college, college, College acceptance, College Admissions, college education, college prep, education | author: By Sarah Mollo-Christensen
Posted: Friday, July 27th, 2012 | Filed under: college, college education, college life, Extracurricular activities | author: By Sarah Mollo-Christensen
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.
The first step for any high schooler thinking about college (other than getting SAT test scores, ACT test scores, SAT Subject Test scores, and grades in order) is to start visiting colleges. Junior year is a perfect time to do this, since senior fall will be very busy, and summer isn’t a great time to visit colleges and go on college tours (with no students on campus, it’s difficult to get a sense of what the community is like, and what it would be like to go there). When you’re there, ask relevant questions of your tour guide, and make all the connections you can with coaches who might be interested in you, teachers who specialize in your interests, and family friends who have connections to the school. By the summer between junior and senior year, you, your guidance counselor, and your parents should have come up with a rough list of schools you want to apply to in the fall.
Your best friend in the process of applying to college will be the Common Application, also known as the Common App. Almost all colleges and universities accept the Common App, so it provides a convenient way to apply to all the colleges you’re targeting at once, and in one place. You can find the Common App online at www.commonapp.org. The first step is creating a login and password, and then starting to fill in your personal and academic information on the website. We suggest that you do this in early August, because that’s when colleges will be posting their supplements (with extra questions, required information, and essays) on the Common Application site. Once you have your account on the site, you can begin adding colleges to your “My Colleges” page, and starting to check out each college’s supplement.
The first step to completing your Common App, once you fill in all your personal and academic information, is to upload your College Essay (also known as you personal statement), and write your short answer essay about an extra-curricular activity that has been very important to you. The personal essay can be uploaded to the Common App, so length is not as important (although the Common Application suggests a length of 250-500 words, and many college admissions advisors suggest that you not exceed 650 words). The short answer essay, however, has a strict limit of 1,000 characters—more than that will not fit in the box provided.
You will also need to provide several letters of recommendation, which you can send requests for to your teachers through the Common App website. Think hard about which teachers would write you the best teacher recommendation letters—it should be someone who knows you well, and likes you and your work.
You must also remember to send your scores—either through the College Board website (for SAT test scores) or the ACT Student website (for ACT test scores)—to the colleges you intend to apply to. If you haven’t finished your testing yet, plan on having those new scores sent as soon as you receive them in the fall. Remember to make sure you’re sending the scores that show you off in the best light. For the SAT test, that probably means Super Scoring, and for the ACT test, that means choosing your best test date. You will need to pay a fee to send your scores, and it can only be done through these websites.
Once that’s done, you will need to fill out the Common App supplement for each college. Each college will have its own supplement, with additional information and additional essays.
Once everything has been filled out and uploaded to the Common Application, all that remains to be done is for you to provide an electronic signature and a payment method (each application has fees associated with it, which is one reason to narrow down your list of schools to apply to). After you’ve done both of those things, send off your applications!
After you send your applications, it’s a good idea to check in with your guidance counselor and make sure all the necessary information has been sent from your high school to the colleges to which you’re applying. You can also be keeping in touch with any of the connections you made at those colleges, and reminding them that you’re still working hard and still interested in their school.
After that, cross your fingers, keep working hard at school (some colleges will follow up to make sure you’re still doing well during senior year), and hope for the best!
Posted: Monday, June 11th, 2012 | Filed under: choosing college, College acceptance, College Admissions, college education | author: By Chris Ajemian
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)
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)
- 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
- Fruit (apples last a long time)
- Nuts (almonds, if we’re being healthy about it)
- Mac and Cheese
- 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)
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.)
- Baseball glove
- Hiking boots
- Camping chair for reading on the quad
- Water bottle
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
- Paper clips
- A stapler and staples
- Staple remover
- Three-hole punch
- 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
- 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
- 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!
Posted: Wednesday, June 6th, 2012 | Filed under: affording college, choosing college, college education, college financing, college life | author: By Teddy Bergman
Over the weekend, you may have read Allan Schwarz’s New York Times article, “Risky Rise of the Good-Grade Pill”, a fascinating article on many levels. As the CEO & Founder of CATES Tutoring in New York City with offices in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Westchester, and abroad in cities such as London, I personally have worked with hundreds of students – and CATES as a company thousands – from elite private schools in the New York area and all over the world. Our clients run the gamut: regular time, extended time, double time, 2400 caliber on the SAT test, students hoping to simply break 21 on the ACT test.
Some of our students, particularly those through Envision Test Prep, our specialized division for students with learning differences, receive prescriptions for Adderall, Ritalin, Concerta, et al and use them to great benefit in their work. However, we have at times come across the question of using performance-enhancing drugs (PED’s) for students who do not clinically require them. It’s obviously a controversial subject – as it should be – but, as I see it, the topic actually helps to crystallize the core issue: misplaced and uninformed expectations.
Over the course of the next few days, we’ll examine specific aspects of this article and lend some insight and guidance to help students and parents understand that a healthier attitude towards the US admissions process – whether you are from the Upper East Side, Scarsdale, or London – not only helps you succeed in the process, but also sets you up for success in your professional life.
The Pressure to Get Good Grades
Dear Students – Welcome to the real world! You should feel pressure to earn strong grades – the world is becoming more competitive – and you need to understand how to ask – and get – the best of yourself. With globalization and the technological revolution, the world your parents knew growing up is not the world you know now and will become even more different by the time you enter the professional world. Virtually every single job in America is at risk of being lost to someone else (yes, perhaps in Asia) and education will be the biggest advantage you have as you enter the 21st Century work force. So, yes, good grades do matter.
Each year, plenty of students handle multiple AP’s, extracurricular activities, and standardized tests successfully and have been for years. You’re not the first to go through the process, and you will not be the last. The college admissions process stands as a rite of passage for all of us, and all of us succeed in our unique way, let alone survive. It’s not easy, but its also exciting and can act as a gut-check on how serious you are about your ambitions. You will experience challenges – too many homework assignments in one night, 10-page papers due tomorrow, sports after school, Model UN conference this weekend – and you will have to find a way to excel at each one.
However, drugs aren’t the answer. PED’s – or any substance for that matter – act as only a short-term solution to a larger, longer-term challenge that most students – and particularly, their families – need to address: the definition of success.
Success in College
How do you define success in the college admissions process? To me, gaining entry to a college or university that best matches your personality and learning style epitomizes success in the college admissions process. And the truth is, we currently live in a sort of golden age for US university education. With the increase in the human population after the Baby Boom, the numbers of students applying to colleges each year has risen. Of course, schools aren’t adding enough beds each year to match the number of students applying. While the competition at the top has become so much more so, one of the larger benefits of this trend is that is it now possible to earn a top-notch education at more schools than ever before. Those top-notch students who get squeezed out of the most selective schools due to a simple numbers game are now helping to make the next tier of schools as good as the Ivy League schools were a decade or so ago. Thus, while the admissions process can be difficult, its never been easier to gain a top-flight university education.
For example, Northeastern University (NU) has seen its reputation rise; it’s considered a terrific school nowadays. Back in the mid-90′s, NU wasn’t seen as strong an academic environment as it’s seen to be now. If you were to look at the average SAT test score ranges for entering NU freshmen during that time period, few NU-bound students broke 1000 on their Verbal and Math sections. Today, NU-bound students score closer to the 1250-1300 range on their Critical Reading and Math sections of the SAT test. The difference between the student aiming for 1000 on the SAT and the student aiming for 1250-1300 can be significant, both in relation to the SAT’s and to the other aspects of their application.
College in the Age of Globalization
How important is it now to attend an Ivy League university to gain a top-flight education? Less than it meant years ago. In this age of globalization and technological innovation, where you attend college is becoming less and less important. Rather, how you make use of your college education (that is, if you even decide to go to college) is much more important, and its much easier to do so when you’re in an environment where you’re stimulated and challenged in a healthy way.
Yes, that could mean Harvard, but it also could also mean Northeastern. It’s up to you to discover and decide.
Posted: Friday, March 30th, 2012 | Filed under: Admissions Essay, College Admissions, college essay, college prep | author: By Teddy Bergman
What are options for me to pay for College? How can I help myself?
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 loan. Your 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.
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.
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.