Your 4-Year Guide to the College Search Process

Magnifying GlassLooking for colleges can seem like just a senior year activity, but it’s actually helpful to start early and be consistent. Spreading out the search for colleges over all 4 years of high school decreases stress and increases the likelihood of finding schools you really love. So, it’s a good idea develop a general plan for how your process is going to work, and go do it! (And of course, a little preparedness always helps to get the parents off your back, and that’s never a bad thing.)

There are lots of ways to approach looking for colleges, but here is a guide to some helpful strategies for each year of high school to put you in command of your college future:

Freshman Year
– Think about purchasing a college guide (such as the Fiske Guide to Colleges) and flip it open once in a while – it’s a no stress way to introduce yourself to the college landscape.

– Talk to older friends and siblings about where they are going or considering going to school. This will introduce you to different schools, and might even land you some free tidbits of college application wisdom.

– Don’t get too anxious! Getting acclimated to high school and doing well academically are more important than freaking out over which college you’ll go to.

Sophomore Year
– Stay focused on doing well in school, and don’t get nervous if you hear peers talking about college; you still have plenty of time to figure things out.

– Take the PSAT (or ACT Aspire) this year to help you figure out an appropriate range of schools to start looking at.

– Tour a local college, or any school you happen to be passing by.

– Keep flipping open those college books! Start asking yourself some questions about what you want from a school, and start building a basic list of schools that sound good. You can easily use websites like Naviance, Niche or countless others to help refine your search.

Junior Year
– Start to compile a real list! The list doesn’t have to be perfect; it’s okay if it’s really big or really small. Try to get a group of friends together to talk about schools you’re considering – often your friends’ choices can help inspire you to consider new possibilities.

– Be sure to take advantage of the college resources your high school provides. If there are college seminars or information days, don’t be afraid to check them out. If you can’t seem to find anything, talk to your counselors; they’ll be happy to work with you to help you find great colleges and alleviate your stress.

– Tighten up your search criteria – figure out the things you really want in a college (such as size, majors, academic structure, social scene, etc.) and find colleges that have them. Once you find some schools that match your criteria, make the time to go on some tours. Pick some schools you are really interested in and see if your family has time to check them out.

– Take the SAT or ACT to open up opportunities for yourself! Doing well on these tests in junior year will make your senior year much more stress-free.

– Over the summer, start to work on your application and essays. You don’t want to be that person scrambling to send in applications right at the schools’ deadlines. I know it sounds awful to start the Common App during your summer vacation, but trust me when I say that you’ll be glad to not have it hanging over your head as senior year rolls around.

Senior Year
– Congratulations! You’re almost at the finish line! It’s time to finally narrow down that list of schools you made last year. Most students typically apply to anywhere from 1-25 schools, but a healthy number is around 6-12. This may seem like obvious advice, but be sure you only apply to schools you actually want to go to. There is no point in wasting an application fee on a school there’s no chance you’ll attend.

– If you have the time, re-visit the schools you’re applying to. Often, you can get a more in-depth feel for a school when you’re there for the second time. If a college still has that “it” factor even though you’ve already seen it, that’s a very good sign.

– Once you’ve sent in all your applications, take a well-deserved break, and bond with your classmates who just went through the same process. Senior year will be a fun time – it’s important to take in the excitement of your last months in high school without getting caught up in the worries of where you’ll go to college.

Remember that each person goes at his or her own pace, and there is no one right way to approach searching for a college. Keep in mind, the key to finding the school that is right for you is fit. Personal fit, academic fit, and social fit are the three broad criteria you should make sure a college fulfills for you.

Above all, the best way you can complete your college search process is to get excited and get into it. Finding schools can be fun! There is a world of possibilities out there that will reveal themselves to you when you open your mind and dive in.

Do you still need help with your college applications? We can help! Visit our College Admissions website and register to attend one of our FREE Online College WorkshopsAnd as always, be sure to follow us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+, and Twitter!

By Aidan Calvelli.

Why You Should Have a Mix of Classes in College

In ClassWhen you get to college, the vast array of courses available to you can be incredibly exciting. If you’re like many students whose high schools had limited course offerings, you might be tempted to take a bunch of classes in college in a subject you love that your high school didn’t offer.

This makes sense. You’ve been stuck taking the same math, science, and history classes the last 12 years – maybe now you really want to spend your tuition money studying what you actually enjoy, like architecture or astronomy. Or maybe you really liked history but disliked math and science, so only plan to take social studies courses.

In both of those cases, I’d urge you to reconsider. While I know from personal experience that it’s really easy to just take subjects you know you already like, it’s really important to branch out and be balanced. I think there are 2 primary reasons why taking a broad mix of classes is good for your academic and personal development.

The first reason is that taking different subjects forces you to think in different ways and develop different skills. Each discipline pushes you in different directions intellectually: math will hone your numerical analysis; history will hone your critical thinking; philosophy will hone your argument analysis; science will hone your command of data; architecture will hone your spatial reasoning… I think you get the point by now.

What I’m really trying to say, is that working with a variety of subjects broadens your horizons as a thinker. The more you’re challenged to develop a mental capacity outside your comfort zone, the more able you’ll be to think on your feet and synthesize diverse information successfully.

The second reason is that branching out allows you to find other things that interest you aside from what you already thought you liked. The academic world is filled with fascinating subjects. You won’t discover most of them if you stick to what you know. We’re teenage college students (or soon-to-be college students) – our desires are fickle and change all the time. To really maximize our intellectual enjoyment, it’s crucial to explore the unknown.

Of course, the hardest part of this will be actually finding courses to branch out with. How are you supposed to know what you will like among the things you don’t think you’ll like? It seems like a tough predicament, but the solutions are pretty simple. One good way is to search for courses in a department you’ve never even heard of, like, say, Egyptology. Then just pick the class that sounds the most random and go for it. Think of all the cocktail party trivia you will learn! The other way is to look around for great professors. The best professors will get you to fall in love with subjects you never thought you enjoyed, making any class you choose a good one.

College is a time where you’ll be exposed to the most new information you’ll have ever seen in your life. Take full advantage of that opportunity by learning about as many different subjects as you can. Trust me – your future self will thank you for making yourself smarter and more interested.

Do you still need help with your college applications? We can help! Visit our College Admissions website and register to attend one of our FREE Online College WorkshopsAnd as always, be sure to follow us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+, and Twitter!

By Aidan Calvelli.

3 Reasons You Need to Take a Day Off in College

In college, you can get busy. Like really busy. Like how-did-I-ever-think-I-was-busy-in-high-school-I-don’t-think-I-even-know-what-busy-even-meant busy. Don’t worry, college is still really fun and exciting, but the workload and responsibilities can get overwhelming at times.

It’s easy to fall into the mindset of thinking you should be doing something all the time. Reading now, essay later, dinner with friends at night, club meeting afterward, problem set before bed… With so much on your plate and a seemingly endless supply of homework, taking a break from working can seem like a dangerous idea.

I’m here to say that breaks are good. Breaks are great! I think breaks have so much value that I’d go so far as to advocate taking a full day off from schoolwork once per week, every week. That’s right, I said it: take an entire day off! Don’t worry about finishing your project or getting ahead on your textbook reading. Spending a day without doing any homework is a great idea, and here are a few reasons why:

1) A day off allows you to relax and recharge.
The demands of college life can really add up, so a whole day on the schedule devoid of school responsibilities is just what a student needs to stay relaxed and mentally healthy. It’s wonderful to wake up knowing that you could spend all day in bed and still not feel behind in school.  Burnout is a real problem among college students – what better way to make sure that you aren’t working too hard than to make one day entirely work-free.

2) A day off gives you time to do things you enjoy.
The things you do in college will often be fun, but it’s common to not have time in your schedule to do things you used to like. (For me, it was reading for pleasure and playing the piano). When you have a whole day in front of you with no schoolwork responsibilities, you won’t feel to make time for those things. Instead of being so sick of reading textbooks and articles for school that you can’t bear the thought of reading any more, you will feel rejuvenated and free enough to cozy up with your favorite novel!

3) A day off makes you extra organized the other 6 days of the week.
When you know you only have 6 days to get all your work done, you will really learn to make those 6 days count. Setting aside a day for free time will challenge you to be organized and responsible the other days of the week so that you can reap the benefits of your day off.

College is a time where you get to set your own schedule. Take full advantage of that by making one day on your schedule a relaxation day. If you really can’t afford to give yourself a full day off every work, remember that the value of taking breaks still exists even if the time period is shorter than a whole day. Working all the time is unhealthy and counterproductive; be sure to remember to step back, relax, and a take a break. You’ll have earned it!

Do you still need help with your college applications? We can help! Visit our College Admissions website and register to attend one of our FREE Online College WorkshopsAnd as always, be sure to follow us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+, and Twitter!

By Aidan Calvelli.

3 Easy Ways to Stay Sharp During the Holidays

sleepAs the holidays ramp up and the focus of many students shifts from tests to turkey (or a delicious vegetarian alternative), it is easy to put any sort of educational pursuits away for a long winter’s nap. It is true that taking a little bit of time to not think about your new college workload is beneficial, but that does not mean that the next two months should be devoid of any work.

With any workout plan, the two most important things are consistency and attitude. This is true for being a college student as well, and as a student, you can continue to flex your brain muscles while still leaving lots of time to hang out with your great aunt as she tells you how much you are the spitting image of some uncle you’ve never met.

1) Do A Little Everyday (or at least every other day)

Generally over the holidays, there are no specific assignments to focus on as it usually marks the semester break (a much needed and much deserved break), but this does not mean there are not things that can be done. If you are taking a two-part class, such as Organic Chemistry or Physics,  the holidays offer an opportunity to get ahead – simply going over a few days of notes for ten minutes from the previous semester can keep you sharp for the upcoming semester.

Do a practice problem or two so you stay in the mindset of the class. If you are really feeling ambitious, go ahead and get the book you’ll need for next semester and read a few pages a day or skim for 15 minutes. Just doing a little bit each day can ensure you stay sharp from the semester before, and also give you a leg up for the semester to come.

2) Pick a book to read for FUN!

As insane as this may sound, pleasure can actually be derived from reading. It may seem to be a task invented by educators to bore and stupefy students, but there are a lot of books out there that you (yes YOU) may find interesting. The whole point of this exercise is to pick something that you may like. It may not be Faulkner or Joyce – though if it is, kudos to you – it could just as easily be Harry Potter or The Da Vinci Code, anything that you will enjoy. Reading something you like is a way to build the habit of pursuing knowledge for pleasure. Bodies like routines, and building a routine that includes reading will prove to be useful in college and for the future ahead.

3) Learn Some Vocabulary!

Developing a system for vocabulary with regular learning and reviewing is not only helpful for understanding dense college-level reading, but it also makes you sound smart! This kind of concerted vocabulary training does not need to take more than five minutes but can still produce fantastic results. In just the six weeks from Thanksgiving to New Years, students can add 120 vocab words to their repertoire and have thoroughly reviewed the words they already know.

Repeat each word seven times and then test your memory for the definition. Remember to eliminate words you already know to maximize your efforts (though it’s a good idea to review all of the words, just in case). This method will actually prove extremely effective in creating long term memory because gradual repetition is one of the best methods for retaining information. Challenge yourself to use all the words you learn in a conversation the day you learn them – show your great aunt you are brainy as well as tall.

The Holiday Season should certainly be a time of rest and relaxation, and I firmly believe that it is good for the brain to have periods where it is not asked to complete arduous tasks. With that said, the slightly lower work load from school provides an opportunity to utilize your time for other efforts. Remember, consistency and attitude are the two keys to success, so carve out twenty minutes, turn off all distractions, and use the Holidays to bolster your studying so you come out of them rested and ready to attack the new semester! In all honesty, we are extremely thankful all of you have chosen to trust us to help you in your academic pursuits and we believe that you will achieve at the highest level. Have a very happy holidays!

Are you applying to college? We can help! Sign up to attend one of our FREE online College Workshops for advice on applying to your dream schools. And as always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

David Greenslade is a Veritas Prep SAT instructor based in New York. His passion for education began while tutoring students in underrepresented areas during his time at the University of North Carolina. After receiving a degree in Biology, he studied language in China and then moved to New York where he teaches SAT prep and participates in improv comedy. Read more of his articles here, including How I Scored in the 99th Percentile and How to Effectively Study for the SAT.

Applying to Ivy League Schools: What All Students Need to Know

Princeton UniversityIf you’re a high school students planning on applying to Ivy League schools, you probably have a lot of questions. For instance, you may want to know what the academic requirements are to get into an Ivy League school and how you can increase your chances of acceptance. Check out several tips that can help high school students like you on their way toward a spot in the freshman class at an Ivy League college:

Take Challenging Courses Throughout High School

Admissions officers at Ivy League schools consider all of the courses a student takes in high school. They like to see students who challenge themselves with increasingly difficult courses as they progress toward graduation, as this demonstrates a student’s dedication to thoroughly learning a subject. Admissions officers at Ivy League schools look for students who are intellectually curious and who are excited to test their skills with difficult subjects.

Pay Close Attention to the Admissions Essay

Some students try to play it safe with their essay by writing what they think the admissions officers want to hear, however, this is the wrong approach to take. Admissions officers at Ivy League schools look instead for thoughtful, well-crafted essays. College admissions officials appreciate a sincere essay that allows them a more personal look at a student and their experiences.

Dedicated Participation in a Few Extracurricular Activities

Students interested in going to an Ivy League school should also know that admissions officials pay close attention to an applicant’s extracurricular activities. They especially like it when a student makes a long-term commitment to a few activities – for example, a student may hold an office in student government as well as belong to the debate team all four years of school, and volunteer at the same senior citizen center every summer throughout high school. In short, college officials at Ivy League schools prefer to see long-term dedication to a handful of activities as opposed to short-term participation in dozens of them.

Excel on the SAT or ACT

When applying to Ivy League schools, students should know that their SAT and ACT scores carry a lot of weight with admissions officials. A high SAT or ACT score paired with excellent grades gives officials an idea of whether a student can succeed academically at an Ivy League school and handle the rigors of the school’s classwork.

Students who work with our SAT tutors at Veritas Prep are studying with individuals who excelled on the test. In fact, each of our tutors scored in the 99th percentile on the test. We go over practice test results with students to find the specific areas that need work. As a student’s practice test scores improve, they gain more confidence regarding the SAT. With our help, students are able to present their best SAT scores to the admissions officials at any Ivy League school.

Demonstrate Interest in Attending an Ivy League School

Students who want to apply to an Ivy League school must never underestimate the value of demonstrating their interest in an institution. The most effective way to show interest in a school is to apply early, especially for schools you absolutely know you want to attend.

Students should also try to visit their college of interest to tour its campus. Visiting the college allows the student to ask questions about the school that aren’t answered on the school’s website. In addition, a visit can offer the student an opportunity to discuss their visit during a future interview with admissions officials. Once a student submits an application, it’s a good idea for the person to stay in contact with school officials – this helps to emphasize their interest in attending the school. Naturally, officials at an Ivy League school want students who are passionate about learning and have specific reasons why they want to earn a degree at that school, and following these steps will help show them that you’re committed.

Our experienced instructors at Veritas Prep are proud to assist students who are applying to Ivy League schools. Whether they need SAT prep online, guidance regarding the admissions process, or a free application evaluation, we are here to help ambitious high school students achieve their goal. Contact our team at Veritas Prep today!

Are you planning to apply to an Ivy League college? We can help! Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE College profile evaluation

For more college admissions tips, be sure to follow us on FacebookYouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

Admissions Tips and Ivy League College Consulting

AdmissionsHigh school students who plan to apply to Ivy League colleges already know the importance of having a high GPA and impressive SAT scores. But what other qualifications are Ivy League admissions officials looking for? Let’s look at some valuable admissions tips for gaining acceptance into one of these exclusive schools.

 

Garner Compelling Recommendation Letters

One of the most valuable Ivy League admissions tips a student can follow is to get compelling recommendation letters from teachers, employers, or organization leaders. The most persuasive letters are written by teachers and other adults who know the student very well. For example, a student who has volunteered for four years in an after-school reading program for elementary school children could ask the director of the program to write a recommendation letter – the director has known the student for years and would be able to write a glowing letter about the person’s character and dedication to the children in the program. A teacher or an employer a student has worked with for a long time would also be an excellent person to ask for a letter of recommendation.

Write a Memorable Admissions Essay

Admissions officials at Ivy League schools place a great deal of weight on an applicant’s essay. A well-written essay can give officials even more insight into a student’s character. A student should write a sincere essay in their own voice. Some students make the mistake of setting out to write an essay that they think will please admissions officials, however, experienced admissions officials can easily see through a contrived essay.

At Veritas Prep, we offer Ivy League consulting services to students who want to stand out to admissions officials, and one of our services is to offer guidance on admissions essays. We hire professional consultants who have worked in the admissions offices of Ivy League schools. In short, Veritas Prep students benefit from working with an Ivy League college counselor with inside knowledge of the process.

Participate in a Few Significant Extracurricular Activities

Some students think they need to participate in a dozen or more extracurricular activities in order to impress the officials at an Ivy League school. Unfortunately, if a student participates in this many activities, they will likely not be able to dedicate much time to any of those activities.

Instead, many admissions officials are looking for students who dedicate themselves to a few significant extracurricular activities. For example, one student may hold an office in student government all four years of high school while also working throughout middle school and high school as a volunteer at a summer camp for special-needs kids. Such involvement demonstrate the student’s dedication and desire to stick with something long-term – a trait that admissions officials look for.

Show Enthusiasm for a School and its Resources

Any experienced Ivy League college counselor knows the importance of expressing enthusiasm for a school. Not surprisingly, admissions officials want students who are excited about their school. One way a student can display this enthusiasm is to visit the school and tour its campus. This gives a student the chance to ask questions and sample the atmosphere of an Ivy League campus.

Staying in contact with admissions officers during the selection process is another way for a student to show their interest in the school. Admissions officials appreciate students who have specific reasons why they want to attend the school. For instance, a student who plans to major in biology may be enthusiastic about the high-tech equipment available to students in the school’s science labs. Show that this particular school will play an important part in your future plans.

The Benefits of Working With Ivy League College Consultants

At Veritas Prep, we offer many Ivy League consulting services, including advice on extracurricular activities, transcript evaluation, guidance regarding scholarships, and more. We help students to organize the process so they can apply to Ivy League colleges without missing a step. Our supportive consultants partner with students as they move toward their goal of attending a preferred school.

Along with our admissions consultants, we have a team of tutors who help students prepare for the SAT or the ACT. We use practice test results to individualize the test prep process. Then, students can take our courses and learn valuable test-taking strategies, either online or in person, to earn scores that will impress admissions officers. Contact Veritas Prep today to start on the path toward a degree from an Ivy League school!

Are you planning to apply to an Ivy League college? We can help! Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE College profile evaluation

For more college admissions tips, be sure to follow us on FacebookYouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

ACT Scores to Get Into an Ivy League School

Harvard Business School GuideIt’s likely that any high school student who wants to apply to several Ivy League colleges knows that these exclusive schools have especially high standards. For instance, an applicant must have impressive SAT scores and a well-written admissions essay along with glowing letters of recommendation. Students who are applying to these schools must be able to achieve high ACT scores for Ivy Leagues. These eight schools see an excellent ACT score as one indication that a student will be able to excel in challenging courses. Consider the typical ACT scores for Ivy League college students and learn what you can do to perform well on this difficult exam.

A Look at the ACT

What is the ACT? The ACT is a standardized test that gauges a student’s skills in the subjects of math, reading, science, and English. The results of the ACT reveal a student’s understanding of high-school-level material. An impressive ACT score means that a student has grasped high school work and is ready to move on to more challenging material. The ACT is usually taken during a student’s junior year of high school. Taking the ACT during junior year allows a student plenty of time to retake the test if necessary. Also, most high school students want to take the ACT during their junior year so they can tackle the SAT in their senior year.

Ivy League Schools and High ACT Scores

When it comes to ACT scores, Ivy League college applicants should earn a score of at least 32. The highest possible score on the ACT is 36 and a score of less than 31 is not likely to earn a student a place in the Ivy League.

ACT scores are important, but they aren’t the only thing taken into consideration by Ivy League schools. Admissions officials also look at a student’s academic performance during all four years of high school. They take special notice of students who sign up for challenging courses. A student who takes on the challenge of more difficult material is demonstrating an intellectual curiosity and an enthusiasm for learning. These are both important qualities in an incoming freshman.

In addition, Ivy League admissions officials pay attention to a student’s extracurricular activities, including sports teams, clubs, volunteer work, and more. They like to see students who dedicate themselves to worthwhile pursuits. So although a student does need a high ACT score for Ivy League acceptance, it does not override every other qualification.

Tips for Earning Impressive ACT Scores

High school students who want to earn ACT scores for Ivy Leagues should start by taking a practice test. The results of a practice test are invaluable as a student starts to craft a study plan. One student may find that they need to focus a lot of attention on improving their performance in plane geometry, while another student may see the need to improve their punctuation and grammar skills. The results of a practice test give students the opportunity to use their study periods in the most efficient way. Another tip for students who want to earn their best ACT score is to make studying for the ACT a part-time job. Preparing for the ACT in a gradual way over a period of months is the most effective method of absorbing all of the necessary material.

Our diligent instructors at Veritas Prep have navigated the ACT and achieved scores in the top one percent of all who took the test and teach strategies to students that allow them to showcase their strengths on the ACT. We instill in our students the confidence they need to earn high ACT scores. Ivy League admissions officials are sure to take notice!

For more tips on acing the ACT and getting into the most competitive universities in the nation, be sure to find us on FacebookGoogle+, YouTube, and  Twitter!

What Will YOU Pay for School, and When?

BailoutFiguring out your financial aid package is often not a thrilling pre-college activity. While actual financial aid award letters may appear to be simple, it’s not always easy to figure out exactly what needs to be paid by you or your family, and when. Here, I’ll break down the typical elements of aid packages, and show how and when the costs impact you and your family.

1. Expected Family Contribution. Often times, a financial aid award letter begins with information about the overall cost to attend that school, and how much that school has determined that your family (or both you and your family) can pay. You’ll be given a total amount expected to be contributed by you and your family. Any money expected to be paid by you and your family is needed by the time of your first tuition payment (around the time when you start school); however, many schools allow you to pay in monthly installments (which involve an extra fee). If your school lists you separately from your family, your contribution will be expected to come from a summer job between your last year of high school and your first semester and/or from any savings or trust fund listed in your application. International students are usually not expected to work in the summer before attending college.

2. Your Financial Aid Award. Next will be information about your actual financial aid award, which will be based on that family contribution mentioned above. So, if your school has determined that your family can’t pay $27,000 of your tuition, room and board, and fees, your aid will cover that amount of need. In this section, a school may list some sources of funds that are not required to be paid back. These include scholarships and grants. Hopefully you’ll have a few of those!

3. Loans & Work Study. The rest of your aid award letter will be self-help. Here, you’ll see loans and possibly work study. You’re required to pay back loans, and the exact amount of repayment is determined by how much money you borrowed, the interest on the loan, and the repayment plan you choose. You’ll be expected to start paying most of them back after you’ve graduated and started working, although if you drop below half-time enrollment or leave school, you’ll be expected to pay them back then. Finally, work study may be offered to you to help cover your personal expenses during the school year. I didn’t understand this initially when I was in college, but you’re not required to pay this money to your school. You’ll simply have to get a part time job (usually one on campus) that participates in a federal work study program, and the government will help pay part of your salary.

There are so many different combinations of financial aid awards, so these aren’t always hard-and-fast rules. But if you keep these general guidelines in mind, you’ll be much better able to plan your finances in college, and beyond!

Dakotah Eddy is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant, and the Assistant Director of Admissions Consulting. She received both her bachelor’s degree and MBA from Cornell University (Go Big Red!), with the aid of several scholarships, grants, fellowships. She enjoys creating: from culinary masterpieces, to wearable art, to tech solutions.

 

 

Do You Know the 4 Ways to Make Your Personal Statement Stand Out?

writing essayYour personal statement is a very large aspect of your college application, and often an element of the application that takes the most time to complete. Your personal statement is your opportunity to show your strengths and qualifications to your target schools while highlighting your accomplishments and differentiating yourself from the thousands of other applications stacked on the table.

While sometimes writing a personal statement can seem overwhelming and stressful, it should also be simple and approachable – you’re just talking about yourself, right? Here are 4 quick tips to successfully write a stand-out personal statement.

  1. Follow Directions. This seems so simple and hard to overlook, but I can’t tell you how many applicants simply miss the easiest instruction. While it is important to create a narrative that accurately reflects who you are, always make sure to answer the actual question or prompt.
  1. Be True to Yourself. Your personal statement is your opportunity to showcase an aspect of yourself that hasn’t been noted or discussed anywhere else on your application. It’s probably true that your personal experiences are not the same experiences as every other applicant to your target schools, so think critically about what sets you apart and own your story. Admissions committees are looking to learn more about you and the unique qualities that you would bring to their universities. Be authentically you, it’s the best version of yourself anyway!
  1. Tailor your Approach. It’s not to your benefit to copy and paste the same personal statement into each of the applications you submit. Not only will the prompts possibly be different, but each school and the type of student they are looking for may be different, too. Take time to do your research about each school and think critically about how you can portray yourself and your story in a way that accurately reflects each campus.
  1. Tell a Story. Well-written and well-told stories are impossible to overlook and very hard to forget. Admissions committees will read hundreds of applications each season, and the best way for yours to stand out is if you tell a memorable story. When selecting which story you’d like to tell, brainstorm a list of every possible topics – these could be personal experiences, obstacles you’ve overcome, a huge accomplishment that has shaped your future goals etc. Once you’ve selected your topic, find the right angle to tell you story and make sure your angle is memorable.

There you have it! 4 quick tips to successfully writing a stand-out personal statement. Now get your pen to paper and good luck!

Need help prepping your early college applications? Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE College profile evaluation

Laura Smith is Program Manager of Admissions Consulting at Veritas Prep. Laura received her Bachelor of Journalism from the University of Missouri, followed by a College Counseling Certificate from UCLA.

Here is How You Navigate and Understand the Endless Mass of College Mailings

brochureDuring junior and senior year of high school you will probably receive literally thousands of letters, emails, and solicitations from colleges trying to convince you to apply and attend them. On top of this, you’ll also tour potentially dozens of colleges, adding even more information to your already stuffed brain. Given the sheer volume of this info and the uniform positivity that colleges like to present themselves with, it is no surprise that many students get overwhelmed and don’t know how to sift through it all. If you do feel overwhelmed, know that you aren’t alone. It’s really difficult to differentiate between colleges when all of their mailings seem to be saying the same thing. To overcome this it’s key to train your eye to look beyond the gloss and see the information for what it really is.

The first step to being productive with college information is understanding the college’s perspective in sending things to you. Colleges always want to paint themselves in a positive light. No matter what the situation is, a college will never portray itself as a bad place to attend. If a school is large it will emphasize its abundance of opportunities; if a school is small it will emphasize its intimate learning environment. Never does a large school say you’ll just be a face in the crowd, nor does a small school say you’ll feel constricted. The perspectives colleges show you are always skewed. Students featured in pamphlets will be the ones who are incredibly involved and filled with school spirit; rarely do they reflect the average attendee. Tour guides are often on script and relay information and opinions they may not entirely agree with.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that all the information colleges present you with is wrong; it does mean, however, that students need to look beyond the face value of the words and think critically about whether a school is really a good fit. Admissions officers’ job is to make their colleges seem appealing; your job is to consider whether the college is appealing to you.

Okay, now you know what colleges are trying to accomplish in their solicitations. The next step is figuring out what to do with this now decipherable information. Being an active reader and seeker of specific information is a great way to accomplish this. Colleges fill their letters with positive information, so you have to figure out what positive adjectives really mean the most to you. While “intellectual curiosity,” “diversity,” “collaborative,” and “friendly” are all ostensibly good things, it’s the students’ job to figure out which of those (and other characteristics) are most important to them. Otherwise, every college will seem like the best place on earth and there will be no way to decide where to attend. Pick a few characteristics that are really important to you and seek those out when reading college mail. This filter will make the endless stream of mail a bit easier to sift through.

Once you’ve figured out the sort of vibe you want from your college and have found seem to at least somewhat comply with that, it’s then time to add some more depth to your search. The standard advice is to visit and tour the colleges you are particularly interested in. I wholeheartedly agree with this counsel, but I also think it’s important to go beyond the standard activities that colleges offer to prospective students. Tours are great for seeing campus, getting a general feel for a school, and developing a sense of whether you feel at home at a school; however, real life is not like a college tour. Be sure to look beyond the tour and check out what the students on campus seem like. Do they look busy? Rushed? Engaged in fascinating conversations? Happy to be there? Like people you might be friend with? It’s crucial that the day-to-day vibe of a college campus feels good to you, since you have to make sure you’ll enjoy the everyday grind of your life at the college you decide on. After all, a typical day in college involves going to class and doing homework, not being shepherded around campus learning where the libraries are!

It’s equally important to spend time on campus doing things that aren’t sanctioned by the admissions office. Just like in the letters they send you, admissions office-approved events will be designed to paint the school in an attractive light. These events are valuable, but complementing them with sitting in on classes and talking to random students significantly adds to the value of your visit. If you can, talk to professors and students and ask them the tough questions that mean a lot to you. These people are more likely to be unfiltered and can help you gain a fuller understanding of what life at a college is really like. Adding together this candid feedback and the well-manicured information from prospective student brochures allows you to get a diverse variety of perspectives that you can then apply your own filter to in order to make your college decisions.

Above all else, remember that your college decision is ultimately your decision. You want it to be guided by a genuine understanding of what different colleges are like. To do this most accurately you have to see through schools’ facades and seek out ways to see what life is really like at the colleges you’re interested in attending.  Happy searching!

Trying to figure out the college for you? Have you figured out where you want to apply and need help with your application? We can help! Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE College profile evaluation

By Aidan Calvelli

Undecided: 3 Reasons to Go to College Without Choosing a Major

student reseachIf you are anything like me, you change your mind on things all the time. A month ago I liked vanilla ice cream; now I like chocolate. 4 years ago I listened to Eminem; now I listen to Coldplay. I used to believe in Santa Claus; now I’m a bit more skeptical. I could go on, but the point is that I’m 18 years old and my views shift almost constantly. This is totally normal. After all, I would be a pretty boring person if I always stubbornly stuck with the opinions I developed as a little kid. At this point you might be thinking: what relevance does this have to college? Don’t worry, I’m getting there.

Even though many kids believe that it is okay (even good!) to have an open mind, there seems to be one problematic and common exception to that rule: deciding on a college major before getting to college.

It sometimes seems like high school students feel like they have to have a defined major and path for their life before even showing up for the first day of college. How many 18 year olds already know by that point in their life what subject they love the most and want to study for 4 years? The world of academia is so wide and complex that a high school education just doesn’t expose students to all the possible fields of study they can take. In my opinion, going in to college undecided does a lot more good than harm. I understand this might be totally contradictory to what you hear from parents, teachers, friends, etc., so here are three reasons why it’s great to be undecided.

  1. There’s more to school than the typical core subjects. High schools mainly offer course in traditional disciplines like math, history, and English. In college there are a world of possibilities that many students have likely never heard of. The people who want to decide on a major before getting to college likely will choose something they’re familiar with, thereby cutting off their chance to study a less well-known subject. Only an open-minded student will be cognizant of taking advantage of, say, an Egyptology department!
  1. It’s nice to explore without being swamped in requirements. Students who are pre-decided on a major often find their course decisions dictated primarily by requirements. On top of general education requirements, underclassmen who have already decided their major can feel pressure to start knocking off requirements for their major too, limiting their ability to freely explore their ever-changing interests. Undecided students will feel less constrained by onerous requirements and will instead have more liberty to branch out.
  1. There’s no pressure to stick to your original plan. For many people, it’s a fact of human nature that we are hesitant to give up on things once we have started them. While sometimes this is a good thing, when it comes to choosing a college major it can be very pernicious. Ideally your choice in college major is dictated by what subject you feel most passionate about. When students come in fiercely decided on a certain major but then realize they don’t like it as much as they thought they would, stressful conflicts arise as to whether they want to stick to the original plan or change direction entirely. By coming in undecided, students won’t have this conflict, and instead will be able to make their major decision based on their current feelings, not their past promises.

I’m in the midst of my freshman year and am still exploring all my options. When people ask me what I’m majoring in, I give them the same answer I’ve been giving since my college search started: I’m undecided, and I’m proud of it.

Do you need some guidance with your college application? We can help! Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE College profile evaluation

By Aidan Calvelli

 

4 Tips for Taking Advantage of the Upcoming Holiday Break

taylor swiftWinter break is upon us!

The seasons are starting to change and we’re all starting to anticipate the holiday break that is merely weeks away. While the break is certainly a good time for relaxing, drinking some hot cider and spending time with family and friends, there are opportunities to get ahead while catching up on your sleep, too!

Here are four things to keep in mind for the upcoming holiday break.

  1. Network. You’re already going to be chatting with your friends & family, but now you can start these conversations with a purpose. Reach out to people who may have attended a school you’re applying to or someone who is currently a student. Pick their brain about student experiences, tips for the final stages of your application or prominent academic programs. Your best scoop on a college is an insider’s perspective, so take advantage of the people around you this holiday season who may be able to offer some good insight.
  2. Get involved. There are always a dozen ways to be involved in your community over the holiday breaks – whether you coordinate a book drive or cook and serve food to the homeless, the holidays are always a great time to give. If you don’t see the community service opportunity you’re looking for, create something of your own! It will be a satisfying experience, and college admissions committees will be happy to see that you took initiative to support your community.
  1. Fill out the FAFSA/CSS Profile. These applications for financial aid become available on January 1st, and your holiday break is a great time to get ahead on this process. Imagine how good you will feel knowing that this is completely taken care of when the March 1 deadline rolls around!
  1. Relax! High school can be stressful, and these breaks are given to you for a reason. While you shouldn’t sleep your break away, it is certainly recommended to take advantage of your days off and allow yourself to refocus. Give yourself some “me-time” and get yourself mentally prepared to kick off the New Year on a high note!

Be sure to use this time away from school to focus on your next academic adventure – college! Enjoy your winter break!

Need help prepping your early college applications? Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE College profile evaluation

Laura Smith is Program Manager of Admissions Consulting at Veritas Prep. Laura received her Bachelor of Journalism from the University of Missouri, followed by a College Counseling Certificate from UCLA.

 

 

3 Tips to Nail That College Interview

InterviewOf all the steps in the college application process, interviews might be the most terrifying. There’s no keyboard to hide behind and no time to sleep on a difficult question; it’s live and face-to-face.

These unpredictable elements aside, it’s also one of the easiest ways to demonstrate interest and get to know alumni from a particular college. Just by following these three, simple steps, the college interview can be an enormous benefit (instead of an enormous burden) to chances of admission:

  1. Be On-Time and Professional

This one is fairly obvious, but it’s worth repeating. Plan to arrive at least 10 minutes early and dressed in your best business casual. Showing up late or in casual clothing (unless specifically requested by the interviewer) not only indicates irresponsibility, but a lack of respect and interest for the college itself.

2. Embrace Tough Queries

Every college interview is bound to include a quirky curveball that’s impossible to prepare for: “If you could have lunch with any historical figure, who would it be?”

Here’s the trick: the answer is pretty irrelevant. Especially for the above example, there’s no historical figure more “correct” than another. Instead, the interviewer is hoping to catch a glimpse of the interviewee’s inner passions. Let them be a tangent for digressions about favorite subjects/books/movies/hobbies/etc: “Leo Tolstoy. Have you read ‘Anna Karenina?’”

3. Come Prepared with Questions

Do the research! Interviewers will ask plenty of questions about extracurriculars, academics, etc, but towards the end of the interview (if not sooner), it’ll be the interviewee’s turn to ask questions. One exchange that should *never* occur in a college interview: “Now, do you have any questions for me?” “No…” This a terrible waste of an opportunity to learn more about the college. Moreover, it reflects poorly on an interviewee’s intellect and curiosity.

In a worst case scenario (“I forgot all of my questions!” or “I didn’t have time to research!”), the following are useful to end an interview:

– What is your favorite thing about ________? What is your least favorite thing?

– Is there an opportunity you wish you seized while you were a student/freshman at ________?

– In your opinion, what are the most important attributes that a student at ________ can have?

– Where is the best food on campus?

Most important of all: if a chance to interview presents itself, take it! So long as you don’t arrive 20 minutes late in sweatpants while spouting profanities, a college interview is an excellent way to prove your enthusiasm and get to know the campus culture. Best of luck!

Do you need help crafting your college applications? We can help! Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE College profile evaluation

Madeline Ewbank is an undergraduate at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL, where she produces student films, interns for the US Department of State, and teaches ACT 36 courses. She is excited to help students achieve their college aspirations as a member of the Veritas Prep team.

Get Ahead: Steps to Success for Early College Applications

AdmissionStudents around the country are jumping into the college application process – selecting schools, writing essays and requesting letters of recommendation. There are many steps involved, and the entire process gets condensed into an even shorter timeframe when you plan to submit early applications.

If you plan on applying to any schools for early deadlines, keep reading for some helpful information and tips for success! First, there are two different kinds of early applications:

Early Decision

  • This is a binding application, which means that if you are accepted, you are obligated to enroll there for your freshman year.
  • You can only apply to one school under an Early Decision deadline.
  • You may apply to additional schools, but if you are accepted to a school through Early Decision, you should withdraw your applications to other schools.
  • A great choice for students who have a clear choice for their top school and want to find out sooner than later if they are admitted.

Early Action

  • You can apply to more than one school through Early Action.
  • This is not a binding application, which means that if you are admitted, you can choose to accept or deny the offer.
  • A great choice for students who want to indicate to a few different schools that they are his/her top choice, but don’t want to commit to an Early Decision application at just one school.

Now that we’ve gone over the types of early applications, let’s dive into some steps to success for submitting early applications.

  1. Do your research & finalize your college list. First things, first. You should finalize your list of top choice schools and do some research to find out which schools accept early applications. Then, you need to dig deeper. Go on a college tour if you are able and haven’t already! Learn as much as you can about each of your top schools. If you are submitting early applications, it means you really want to attend that school, so do your due diligence to determine if each of your top schools are places you can truly see yourself next year.
  1. Make a plan. This is a tedious, but necessary step. Take a look at the early applications you are submitting and all of the required elements for each application. Make a plan for tackling these applications so that you aren’t crunched for time a week before the deadline.
  1. Get moving! It’s time to make things happen! Since you are going to be on a tighter timeframe than regular deadlines, you should start moving down your checklist with vigor! Reach out to the people who you’d like to write your recommendations and get them started on that process. Make sure you’ve built a good relationship with the college counseling department at school so you have no trouble obtaining official transcripts. Double-check to make sure that all of your test scores have been submitted to your top schools.

Good luck!

Need help prepping your early college applications? Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE College profile evaluation

Laura Smith is Program Manager of Admissions Consulting at Veritas Prep. Laura received her Bachelor of Journalism from the University of Missouri, followed by a College Counseling Certificate from UCLA.

College Decisions And Neapolitan Ice Cream

Neapolitan Ice CreamIf you’re anything like me, the world is full of too many universities to choose from. I investigated hundreds of colleges in my research, contacted thirty, visited twenty, and eventually applied to ten. I spent months determining the proper formula of schools to apply to: how many was too many? Did I apply to enough options?

With all of these thoughts running through my mind, I developed a formula to assemble the perfect range of colleges on your application list and, borrowing a metaphor from my favorite college admissions guidebook – it’s as simple as Neapolitan ice cream. First though, you need to understand what the “Middle 50%” means.

THE MIDDLE 50%

These are statistics provided by every university that can be found online or on their admissions page. It represents the average range for ACT/SAT scores of accepted students. It’s also an extremely useful tool for determining the likelihood of your admission. For instance, my score on the ACT was a 33. One of my safety schools was the University of Washington (click on the “Achievement” tab to view Middle 50%); I knew it was a safety school, because most accepted students had an ACT score between 25 and 31. My score was higher, so I knew that my chances of admission were higher. Some schools might offer variations on this statistic. I also applied to Reed College, whose average ACT score is 31. This was close to my number, so I knew that it classified as a compromise school for me. Now, let’s have some ice cream!

CHOCOLATE = REACH SCHOOLS. The Middle 50% of admitted students’ test scores are higher than your own OR the admissions rate is at/below 15%. These are the colleges that everyone and their sister want to attend. It’s a highly desirable academic environment with competitive admissions. Scholarships might be difficult to receive given the high volume of applicants.

VANILLA = COMPROMISE SCHOOLS. The Middle 50% of admitted students’ test scores match your own.

These are colleges are still great schools that anyone would be happy to attend, but they’re slightly less competitive and less prestigious than reach schools. Scholarships are handed out to students of merit more frequently.

STRAWBERRY = SAFETY SCHOOLS. The Middle 50% of admitted students’ test scores are lower than your own. These colleges are significantly less competitive in their admissions and most often large public schools or small, local private schools. Depending on your interests, this might also be a community college. Merit-based scholarships are more readily available to students with competitive applications.

Use these classifications to balance your college application list. Aim to perfectly divide your options into thirds between chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry schools. If you apply to three schools, hit one of each. If you apply to nine schools, include three of each.

Strawberry schools are extremely important to pay attention to, and perhaps one of the most important elements of your college search. In April, they’ll give you a variety of options with better financial aid (at least in my experience) than your vanilla and chocolate choices. Too many students apply to strawberry schools that they aren’t really interested in attending; this is a fatal mistake.

The goal is to have a wide array of options when it is time to make the final decision and ample choices to find the closest (and most realistic) fit of financial aid, academic rigor, class sizes, location, and personal interest— so it’s possible to attend the best university for you. Best of luck with your applications!

Do you need help crafting your college applications to your chocolate schools? We can help! Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE College profile evaluation

Madeline Ewbank now happily attends Northwestern University in Evanston, IL. Her favorite things about her college decision are its proximity to improv theater, free student admission to the Art Institute of Chicago, and the opportunity to teach ACT 36 classes just 5 minutes from campus. She is excited to help students achieve their college a

You Can Afford College! A Guide to Scholarship Resources

PiggyBankCost is one of the most prominent reasons that high school students choose not to apply to college. After nearly nine years helping students get into college, I can confidently say that you can afford college! There are many sources of financial aid—money that organizations and the government give or lend to you to help you pay for higher education—including grants, loans, work study, and scholarships. Scholarships are attractive because they don’t have to be repaid. Let’s explore the broad spectrum of scholarship resources.

There are scholarships for all types of students. They may be granted to members of certain religious, ethnic, age, gender, or regional groups. They may be awarded based on interest in a certain subject, volunteerism, for athletic and academic aptitude. Because there are so many scholarships out there, your scholarship search will probably be the most daunting aspect of securing scholarships.

It’s useful to start your search on a scholarship-specific search engine. (Using a mainstream search engine, like Google, may return several million results.) Some top scholarship search engines are CollegeBoard.com, fastweb.com, CollegeNET.com, scholarships.com, and ScholarshipMonkey.com. CollegeBoard’s scholarships only include scholarships from reputable and established organizations. CollegeNET.com offers peer-voted scholarships that aren’t based on traditional factors such as GPA or income, in addition to the search engine. Fastweb contains the most up-to-date scholarships, as they update their databases daily! Explore these sites to determine which yields the best results for you.

Millions of students rely on these scholarship search engines, so you should also supplement your search with more personally-tailored resources. You will find school-specific scholarships and fellowships at your target colleges, so make sure to familiarize yourself with their sites. Prospective post-graduation employers that interest you may offer scholarships; many organizations also offer scholarships to children of employees. Your high school guidance counselor will also receive scholarship information that may be more aligned to your community.

When you’ve identified scholarships to apply to, there are several factors to keep in mind. Start looking for scholarships early and continue to search for them [even after you’re enrolled in college]. Take some time to learn about each organization that is awarding the scholarships you’re applying to, so that your essays are personally tailored to each.

Remember, there’s a scholarship for everything, so never assume you can’t afford school!

Need some help with your college application? We can help! Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE College profile evaluation

Dakotah Eddy is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant, and the Assistant Director of Admissions Consulting. She received both her bachelor’s degree and MBA from Cornell University (Go Big Red!), with the aid of several scholarships, grants, fellowships. She enjoys creating: from culinary masterpieces, to wearable art, to tech solutions.

 

 

5 Tips for Ivy-Worthy Extracurriculars

clubsExtracurricular activities are an enormous part of your college application; they’re the main tool that admissions counselors use to imagine your contributions to campus life and culture. They’re also enormous time commitments, so choose wisely. Below are a few tips to help you figure out which ones to choose…

1. Quality, Not Quantity

Take this advice from someone who is always spread too thin: it’s not worth it. It’s OK in your freshman year to be involved with a number of extracurricular activities, but as you progress through high school, find the extracurriculars that you value most and actively search for more meaningful ways to participate.

I didn’t have enough space on my Common Application to include all of the clubs and activities from my four years of high school. But frankly, I’d wager that only 2-3 of those extracurriculars — the handful that I deeply committed to during my senior year — mattered to admissions counselors.

2. Seek Leadership Positions

College admissions counselors look for initiative and influence in prospective students. This doesn’t mean that you need to be the president of every single group you’re in, but it does mean that you need to show personal growth and engagement in each activity. Be cognizant of tangible ways to display your individual achievement— possibly by running for club treasurer, representing your organization at community events, or submitting your extracurricular work for awards.

3. Dare To Be Different

Activities such as school sports, community service, debate, yearbook, and orchestra demonstrate well-rounded skill sets, but they aren’t especially unique. There’s nothing wrong with joining the clubs that your friends are in, but be aware that following the crowd in all of your activities will make standing out that much harder.

One of my most significant extracurriculars was an internship with my National Public Radio affiliate. Radio journalism opened my mind to a new spectrum of careers, introduced me to friends from distant neighborhoods, and distinguished my work experience dramatically from the rest of my peers.

4. D.I.Y.

If your dream extracurricular doesn’t exist, make it happen. This is another great way to demonstrate your leadership skills, in addition to your own powers of innovation. I really enjoyed theater in high school, but none of the local troupes were performing the types of plays that interested me. So I co-founded a teen-powered theater company dedicated to performing student-written work and sci-fi productions. It ended up being one of the most fun and rewarding decisions I’ve ever made.

5. Love What You Do, Do What You Love

Never ever, ever, ever join an extracurricular for the sake of your college application. Extracurriculars are an opportunity to enrich yourself with connections, experiences, and insights that you wouldn’t have otherwise encountered. A college acceptance is just one of the many, many benefits to engaging with your passions and your community.

Remember, extracurricular activities are an enormous part of your college application, so be sure to stay active and involved things you are most passionate about. Best of luck in preparing your applications!

Need help prepping your college application? Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE College profile evaluation

Madeline Ewbank is an undergraduate at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL. Her current extracurriculars include producing feature-length student films, interning for the U.S. Department of State, and teaching ACT 36 courses. She is excited to help students achieve their college aspirations as a member of the Veritas Prep team.

What 3 Things Should You Do On Orientation Day?

College orientation is one of the most exciting days ever! For the first time, students are in an entirely new environment taking on an entirely new challenge. Orientation can seem daunting at first, but really it is one of the best ways to start your college experience.

For some, this is the first new school they have gone to since freshman year of high school. Even if you have already met your admissions counselor, there will definitely be a plethora of new people who you haven’t met . Orientation is the perfect place to meet your roommate/floormate and practice getting comfortable in naturally uncomfortable settings.

You may be a little nervous about this event, but the good news is many other students feel the same way you do! There is no need to be anxious or concerned about going up to a complete stranger – this is what advisors, counselors, and professors are hoping you will do. That is just one of the many secrets of orientation, and here are a couple more to help you start your new college experience on a high note.

1. Make friends with your orientation advisor

Every school has orientation advisors; these are current students who work to make the orientation process an exciting one. These students are passionate about the university, knowledgeable about classes and majors, and most importantly – willing to be of assistance to new students. It may be intimidating to try and befriend one of these orientation advisors but that is what they are there for. Plus, it is really the first chance for you to communicate with a classmate in college. In high school it was normal to be friends with primarily students in your grade. While that also happens in college, it’s perfectly natural to make friends with seniors, juniors, and sophomores as well.

2. Pay attention during the information sessions

Getting off to a strong academic start as a freshman will put you ahead of the general population who may struggle their first few weeks. One of the best ways to be prepared academically, is to pay attention during the information sessions at orientation. Sometimes orientations can take place two months before your freshman year will start, othertimes, they are only days away from the first day of school. It is important to stay motivated to pay close attention to what the advisors are saying. Try your best to focus and soak up all the pertinent information related to your major because it will come in handy later.

3. Schedule your classes

Many universities have dedicated time to schedule your classes during orientation. This is a new process for incoming students, and having advisors and current students there to help is an invaluable resource that you should use. Sometimes, students like to put this off until they can do more research and figure out the best classes to take. You can always reschedule or further customize your classes, so get something down on paper during orientation.

Overall, keep these things in mind (and remember to have fun!) during student orientation. Navigating through this event will lead you to success  your freshmen year and set you up for a great first start of college!

Still need to take the SAT? We run a free online SAT prep seminar every few weeks. And, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

Jake Davidson is a Mork Family Scholar at USC and enjoys writing for the school paper as well as participating in various clubs. He has been tutoring privately since the age of 15 and is incredibly excited to help students succeed on the SAT.

4 Things To Consider When Reviewing College Rankings

USnews!It’s that time of year again. The excitement and frenzy surrounding college applications is starting to pick up and colleges are trying to put their best foot forward in appealing to high school students around the world. When it comes to appealing to potential applicants, it certainly doesn’t hurt to be highly ranked in the U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges list!

We know how important college rankings are – graduating from a school that consistently ranks at the top often leads to jobs sooner after graduation, higher salaries and a competitive advantage when applying to graduate programs. As we’ve seen for the past several years, Princeton University, Harvard University and Yale University continue to hold the top three spots, respectively. These top schools are all members of the Ivy League and admit less than 8% of applicants each year.

While their acceptance rate is quite low, they estimate that over three quarters of students who apply for admission are qualified candidates. This is a true testament to the sheer number of talented and successful students are out there. That means there are hundreds of thousands who are fighting for spots at the most selective schools in the country.

With these published lists comes the (sometimes daunting) task of assembling a ranking system for your own. When assembling your list of top schools, it is important to not only consider where they rank overall, but also where they rank in terms of other important factors like academic programs, student life, size and value. So, when you scroll through the lists and get a sense of the top schools in the U.S., you should also focus on the factors that could make them your top pick. Just a few things to consider when reviewing the college ranking lists:

1. Academic programs: Do they have a strong academic program for the area you’d like to study? What kind of classes can you take? Who are the Professors and what are their backgrounds? Will this school help you get an internship in this industry? What percentage of graduates get jobs in this industry after graduation?

2. Student life: Does this school have students who live on or off campus (or both)? Do they guarantee housing for freshman? What athletic programs do they offer? Do they have clubs already on campus that you’re interested in joining? Is Greek Life prominent on campus?

3. Size: How many undergraduate students are there? What is the average number of students in each class? What is the faculty to student ratio? How many clubs are on campus? Is Greek Life part of the student community?

4. Best value: How well does the school support students who require need-based financial assistance? What is the average cost after receiving grants based on needs? What scholarships are available? Do they have funding in the programs you’re interested in?

Answering these essential questions early on will help you narrow down your college list and develop a ranking system for your own top schools. It is important to remember that the schools you select should meet your own specific criteria, not necessarily the criteria that others use to make these annual rankings.

Speaking of, you might be interested to know how the U.S. News & World Report makes their rankings! To learn more about how U.S. News & World Report generates these rankings every year, click here!

Need help prepping your college application? Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE College profile evaluation

Laura Smith is Program Manager of Admissions Consulting at Veritas Prep. Laura received her Bachelor of Journalism from the University of Missouri, followed by a College Counseling Certificate from UCLA.

 

7 Common Mistakes to Avoid on Your College Applications

AdmissionsWhen completing multiple college applications, they can start to blend together and you may find that each application and each college looks like the other. Be vigilant so that you don’t make careless mistakes that will affect your chances of admission. Veritas Prep consultants can work with you to ensure that you are submitting the best applications possible and that you will not run into any of the common mistakes outlined below.

1. Proofread your application before submitting.

In this texting age, capitalization, punctuation, and grammar have fallen by the wayside. Remember that the college application is a representation of who you are and your chance to make a great first impression on the admissions officer. Don’t depend on spell check to catch your mistakes; many items may not be misspelled, but may be incorrect (i.e.: from vs. form, but vs. buy, to the vs. tot he)! Spell check also can’t make sure that you’ve included the correct college’s name in your personal statements so double and triple check! Make sure that you proofread your complete application (that means EVERYTHING, not just the essay) before submitting.

2. Talk about yourself. Be yourself.

While you may have a great story about your grandmother, dog, friend, father, teacher, etc. that you really want to share, don’t lose sight of the main purpose of your application: to show the admissions officer who you are and why they should admit you into their college. Don’t worry about trying to write something that you think admissions officers want to hear; write an authentic story that makes a compelling argument for why you should be admitted and shows your interests, passions, and personality. Many students will start actively using the thesaurus to use words that make them sound smarter, but this can come across as awkward and unnatural. Find your true voice and use it.

3. Submit a well-written personal statement.

The personal statement is your one opportunity to provide the college with a voice that is uniquely yours. Use the personal statement to provide the college information about you that is nowhere else in your application – each component of your application should provide the reader with new information. No one wants to read the same information over and over again. Read the essay prompts carefully and answer the questions. Every word on that application should be purposeful and full of information; you have stringent word limits so choose ones that count!

4. Use a professional email address and check it often.

Again, making a first impression is very important in the admissions process and you want to make sure that your email address is not a deterrent to your admissions. Set aside your sexychick101 or womanizer123 email addresses to use for spam and create a more professional email address for all of your college communications. Check your email often since colleges are using email more and more to communicate with applicants. When you receive a request for more information from the admissions office, respond professionally and promptly. When completing your applications, double check that your email address is correct! You want to make sure that johndoe@email.com is receiving your email and not johndeo@email.com!

5. Know your legal name.

You may be known as “Bob” to all of your friends and have never been called any other name growing up. However, on your legal documentation, your name may actually be “Charles.” Make sure that the name you use on your application and standardized testing matches your legal documentation (i.e.: social security card or passport) from the first step of your application. If you input this incorrectly, it can take a lot of time to rectify the mistake and your documents may not be properly connected to your application.

6. Don’t forget to send all the proper documents to the college.

Just because you hit the “submit” button on your application doesn’t mean that you are completely done. You may still need to send standardized test scores, mid-year reports, and final transcripts directly to the colleges at some point during the admissions process. Because many of these items require an extra step on your part, it is quite easy to forget to complete these items. Financial aid applications are also often separate from the college applications and missing those deadlines may mean that you lose the opportunity to access additional funding for your education.

7. Don’t wait until the last minute!

Life can get very busy and the college application deadlines will come faster than you can imagine. Resist the temptation to wait until the last minute to work on your applications; a quality application will take time to develop and the process actually requires a good amount of introspection and self-analysis – all things that cannot be rushed. Give yourself ample time to work on your applications and start early! In addition, make sure that you pay attention to application deadlines and correctly calculate the time difference. To be safe, we recommend that you submit your application at least a couple of days before the deadline. You never know when that application server will go down or some unexpected circumstance will prevent you from submitting on time.

Veritas Prep is committed to helping students put together the best college applications possible. All of our consultants have prior admissions experience at the top colleges in the world and have evaluated students just like you.

For more information, visit us at www.veritasprep.com/college. Complete our FREE college profile evaluation (http://www.veritasprep.com/college/free-college-application-evaluation/) and talk to one of our expert evaluators today!

4 Important Considerations When Researching Colleges This Summer

student reseachWhen you first get down to the business of choosing colleges to apply to, the amount of available information that is thrown at you can be daunting. The endless lists of statistics and rankings are difficult to process. The task of actually choosing 8-10 schools that you like more than the rest can seem borderline impossible.

To deal with this dilemma many students look for schools based on common and general factors. Location, cost, size, and majors offered are primary considerations for students, and all of them are very important. Additionally, students use standardized test scores, acceptance rates, and US News rankings to gauge the prestige of the schools and judge whether they are “good enough” for them. These are an important start in searching for colleges, but the reality is that choosing a college is like choosing a new home. If you were buying a new house, you would be careful to learn about your neighbors, the restaurants nearby, the layout of your building, the proximity to your office, and much more. Just like in finding a house, finding the right college for you will be the result of scouring for details.

Here are a few overlooked but vital things to look for in a college that will help you both narrow down your application list and end up at a school you’ll love.

  1. Housing (And Not Just for Freshman Year!) Where you live might not seem like it will impact your education much, but having a comfortable living space can be key to feeling at home at your school. Now, you don’t need to live in a luxury apartment, but having clean, safe dorms at a good spot on campus can only add to your college experience. Word of warning – be sure to look at housing options for beyond your freshman year. You won’t want to overlook a school’s policy about off-campus housing only to realize later on that your school doesn’t allow you much choice in your living space.
  1. Paid Internships/Co-ops. Many students are concerned about their job prospects after graduating college. Typically they look at statistics like average salaries of graduates and job placement rates. Often neglected in the search is the existence of paid internships or college-sponsored Co-Op programs. This is a mistake; opportunities like these provide students with valuable work experience while also dishing out a little extra cash, something that students with loans can really benefit from. Check to see if a college you are looking at offers these – if they do and you take advantage, your experience is likely to pay dividends down the road. While you’re at it, take a look at the school’s career service center to make sure it is helpful and effective!
  1. Academic Support Services. No matter how rigorous your high school was, the sheer nature of college academics will likely come as a shock to you. Luckily, many colleges provide a multitude of resources to help manage this transition and support your intellectual growth throughout your four years there. Seek out colleges with writing centers, tutoring services, and workshops to improve your academic skills. College work is challenging, so the availability of services like these can make assignments less daunting and give yourself a foundation of confidence from which you can grow and develop.
  1. Professor Quality and Accessibility. Some students will apply to a college based on the vague notion that it is “good for (insert major here).” Instead of relying on these dubious notions of reputation, do some research about the professors in the departments you are interested in. What are their areas of expertise? How available are they for extra help, and do students take advantage of these opportunities? Are professors actually involved in student life, or do they mainly just stick to research with graduate students? Are their teaching skills praised? Having professors you like and respect is integral to liking your major, doing well in class, and getting strong letters of recommendation.

Most importantly, remember that your college search process is primarily about you. Think hard about what you like and what your goals are, and you’ll find schools that feel like a perfect fit in no time. Taking the time to delve into the college search with an active and probing mind is your first step to happiness and success in higher education. Go get looking today!

Do you need help in your college research? Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE College profile evaluation

By Aidan Calvelli

 

5 Things No One Told Me About Freshman Year

walking studentThe summer break before freshman year is arguably better than any summer break during high school. You don’t have to study for the SAT or ACT, or write any common app essays, or tour colleges. You can finally relax, spend time with family and friends, and say goodbye to your hometown. (For more on making the most of your last summer, check out this post!) Of course, you’ll have some chores like buying basic amenities for your dorm, choosing classes, etc., but, thinking back to the summer before my freshman year, I know that I found these tasks much less arduous than what it took to get into college.

After you’ve taken care of the basics, is there anything else you need to do to prepare for college? My two cents is that the most important preparation you can do is seek advice; ask family and friends – and your ACT and SAT tutors! – what they wish they’d known about college when they began their freshman year. The following list details five things about freshman year that I wish someone had told me!

1. Professors tend to take a hands-off approach
From kindergarten all the way through high school, your teachers have taken on the responsibility of organizing your education for you. That means they’ve been structuring their classes – assigning homework that they regularly grade, giving frequent quizzes, even giving you daily in-class exercises – so as to make practice and learning easy. In college, it’s a different ball-game. For the most part, professors will assign less homework (and some won’t even grade the homework they assign!), and less quizzes. Some will grade you based on one mid-term and one final, which means that over the semester, you won’t have a means of knowing how well you’re understanding the material – until after you’ve taken the big exams!

It’s up to you to figure out a way to learn and digest new material you’ve learned in class. This means that a major part of college involves not just learning new material, but learning how you best learn. Do you need to review your class notes every evening? Do you need to work on practice problems in your textbooks on your own time? Do you need to learn in a study-group? You’ll figure out which of these (or other) methods work for you if you are ready to experiment with your learning and study habits from day 1 of college. Eventually, you’ll find an approach that sticks.

2. Professors are willing to help, but YOU have to speak up
Just because you have to design your own learning methods, doesn’t mean that you can’t ask your professors for help. Almost all professors hold office hours, which is your opportunity to not only review class material with them and work through any concepts you aren’t understanding, but also to speak to professors about how to manage the material they’ve said you need to know by test day. So, if you are struggling to keep up with a course, make sure you reach out to a TA or a professor immediately. You’ll find that if you just ask, they will be more than willing to help you out!

3. Be prepared to readjust your perfect schedule
As discussed in the aforementioned post, it’s absolutely necessary for you to make a schedule for your freshman year, because you’ll be balancing many obligations and needs, including your academics, your health, and your social life. However, you won’t really know how to divide your time and attention between these parts of life until you’ve lived them. It’s normal to enter freshman year with a perfect schedule – something involving eight hours of sleep, straight A’s, and an exciting social life – but that perfect schedule can become a handicap if you don’t know how to use it realistically. So, during your freshman year, pay attention to the difference between your ideal schedule and how you spend your time, as well as to what in your life you’re actually willing to change. For example, if you aren’t willing to spend less time studying to be involved in more of campus life, then it’s unrealistic for you to continue to set aside time in your schedule for the latter.

4. It can take awhile to find and form close friendships
Speaking of balancing a social life with your academic goals, one other factor to consider, especially when you are a freshman, is that it can take time to find close friends. The first couple of months of college are sort of like speed-dating; you and everyone else in your dorm are looking for new friends, so you might end up going to the cafeteria and to parties with many different people until you find people you connect with on a deeper level.

If, after the first few months, or even if after most of freshman year has passed, you haven’t grown close to anyone, don’t be hard on yourself. You may need to look beyond your dorm and your classes, such as joining new organizations on campus (anything from improv to student government to intramural sports), to find people you actually click with.

5. Take advantage of special opportunities available only to freshmen
Something many incoming freshmen don’t know is that some programs on campus are limited to freshmen. These programs can include special off-campus retreats, special mentorship programs, and certain courses. One of my best experiences was an off-campus retreat in a cabin with 30 other freshmen during spring semester. I also became part of a special honors society that only accepted applicants who are freshman. The best ways to find out about these programs are by speaking to your dormitory RA, who will be well-informed on such matters, and the dean who advises you until you pick a major.

This list may seem extensive, but it’s not something you need to memorize. If you are curious, flexible, and responsible, many of these habits and choices will come about naturally. And of course, don’t forget to enjoy this summer, and your freshman year!

Still uncertain about college? We can help! Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE College profile evaluation

By Rita Pearson

4 Reasons Why You Should Befriend Older Students

Coffee Chat - MBADuring the spring semester of my sophomore year at Georgetown University, when the cherry blossoms were blooming in Washington D.C. and students were ditching the library for the front lawn, I was so nervous about choosing my major that I kept putting off the decision – even though the deadline was just over the horizon. I, like many students, found the decision nerve-wracking because I didn’t want to pick the “wrong” major. What if it took me until my senior year to realize that I wasn’t interested in my coursework – that my true passion lay elsewhere? What if the major I chose didn’t open doors for me in the future?

No matter how many lists I made of pro’s and con’s, I couldn’t arrive at a decision. It was only when I struck up a conversation with a senior who’d majored in the same field that I was leaning towards that I began to feel like I was actually grounding my thinking in practical and personal considerations, rather than chasing nebulous ideas. Here are five key reasons why you should befriend an older student to help mentor you through your college career:

1. Speak Up and Reach Out. It is important that you to talk about the decisions they’ve made in college. I don’t mean just asking someone in passing which professors to avoid, or which professors give easy A’s. I mean regularly getting coffee with an older student whom you respect – whether that person is your RA, or a member of a club you’ve joined, or even a TA in one of your classes – and asking them about the finer points of their college experience. Of course, you’ll be surrounded by many intelligent and helpful adults while in college, including your professors and your dean, and you should make every effort to speak with them about your decisions. At the same time, speaking with older students has one major advantage that speaking with university officials and professors doesn’t: the older students were recently in your shoes.

2. Get the Inside Scoop. When you speak to a junior or senior at your university, you’re speaking to someone who faced nearly the same decisions you’re now facing. So this older student will be able to give you extremely relevant and descriptive anecdotes and advice. For example, even after I had decided on a major in International Relations, I was unsure about what languages I should study while in college. I was torn between continuing to perfect my Spanish, which I’d been learning since high school, or beginning a new language. I remained undecided until I spoke with a senior who’d studied abroad in Brazil; her advice was to learn Portuguese, because the language was similar to Spanish, but would still present a new challenge for me. Also, she told me, the Portuguese classes at Georgetown were excellent, so my time would be well spent.

3. Build a Diverse Network. It still amazes me to this day that if I had never asked that senior for advice, the idea of learning Portuguese as a third language may never have even occurred to me. This is the second reason I recommend speaking with the older students about their college experience. While you are part of a college community, you have the opportunity to meet so many different people, perhaps more so than many other times in your life. Be sure to take full advantage of this situation by considering the experiences of the diverse people around you, because in doing so, you’ll encounter ideas you may never have come to on your own.

4. Make Lasting Connections. Once you begin seeking advice from older students, you’ll find that you have more questions than even you could have predicted. Which makes a lot of sense! In college, you’ll have to make decisions about landing internships, choosing clubs and extracurriculars, and networking, to name just a few. One of the wonderful things about being a part of a college community is that you can ask all of those questions; as I discovered, older students are more than happy to give advice. In fact, older students whom I reached out to helped me prepare for job interviews, find affordable housing after college, and are still my friends today. Sometimes, you can learn more from your fellow students than you can from your textbooks.

Still uncertain about college? We can help! Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE College profile evaluation

By Rita Pearson

 

 

Updates to The Common Application For The 2015-2016 School Year

writing essayAs a high school student, you may have heard about this thing called the “Common Application.” The Common Application is just that; it’s a single undergraduate college application that you can use to apply to over 550 colleges (if you should so choose, however we don’t recommend that you apply to that many!).

The Common Application was created over 40 years ago as a tool for students to access college applications. In the 2014-2015 application season, over 857,000 different students from over 26,000 high schools submitted more than 3.7 million applications to the 500+ member colleges. In addition, teachers and counselors submitted over 14.3 million recommendations and over 913,000 fee waivers were utilized. There are a few updates for the next academic year:

Key changes to the Common Application in 2015-2016

  • Added 69 new colleges who accept the Common Application
  • You can print by page rather than waiting until the end to to print the complete application
  • You can now enter 15 AP courses instead of just 10 AP courses
  • How you search for your high schools
  • The FERPA waiver
  • Essay prompts
  • Writing requirements
  • Special Circumstances
  • Application support feature

How you search for your high schools

In the past, students would search for their high schools by the name of the high school. If you couldn’t find your high school by name, you could manually input your high school. While this solution would allow you to continue the application, the problem was that the Common Application system had no way of connecting your application to the correct high school so that your counselor and recommenders could upload their documents. Going forward, you will now be able to search for your high school by CEEB code so that you can be sure that you have the correct high school on your application and so that all of the components of your application can be seamlessly integrated.

The FERPA Waiver

There has always been a great deal of confusion around waiving the FERPA Release (or not). Most students assume that it’s correct to NOT waive your right to review all recommendations and supporting documents, but most colleges and high schools will want you to waive your rights. It used to be that if you selected the incorrect option the first time, you could not change the option once you realized the error. Going forward, you can change your FERPA selection at any time prior to the recommendations being submitted.

Essay Prompts

The essay prompt that asked about “a place where you feel perfectly content” was replaced with a new prompt that focuses more on analytical skills and intellectual curiosity. The other prompts remain the same with the exception of a few small wording changes. The new prompt is as follows:

“Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma-anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.”

Writing Requirements

Colleges can now choose whether or not they require the personal essay. This means that you will have the option of choosing to send your essay to a college that does not require it, or not sending the essay to a college because they don’t require it. The Common Application made a couple of adjustments so that it’s much clearer which schools require essays and which do not.

One other big change for the upcoming year is that you now make unlimited edits to your essay rather than the 2 edits you were limited to before. According to the Common Application, “the essay will remain editable for all applicants, at any time.”

Special Circumstances

For explanations for education interruption, disciplinary situations, or criminal history, the information used to be collected in one general text field. Going forward, these explanations will be collected as independent explanations so they’re not all lumped in under one prompt.

Application Support

Currently, you can access many help items via the Applicant Help center. This knowledge base has extensive information that is searchable and provides many of the answers to frequently asked questions. Going forward, you will have access to an Applicant Chat and solution center 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year! This may come in handy if you find yourself working on the applications late at night, on the weekends, or over holidays!

For more information about the Common Application directly from the organization, follow the Common App blog! Best of luck in your college applications!

If you would like to learn about your strengths and areas for improvement as well as how to improve your college profile, complete our free profile evaluation form and get personalized advice on your profile!

By Jennifer Sohn Lim, Assistant Director of Admissions at Veritas Prep.

7 Ways To Ease the Transition to College

transition into collegeCongratulations to you, new high school graduate!  Welcome to college!

At this point, you’ve probably already been inundated with tasks from the college to complete– signing up for orientation, submitting your housing paperwork, registering for classes, sending your final transcripts, and more!  Now that you’re entering summer, you’re probably thinking that this is going to be the best summer of your life.  And it will be…BUT there are some things you can do to help prepare for the transition to college.

1. Create a budget for yourself.

Whether you plan to work in college or not, it’s wise to set a budget for yourself so that you can track your spending and not run into any emergencies.  If you have an idea of your income (money that you earn, allowance, etc.), you can start to track your fixed expenses (things that you HAVE to pay) as well as you variable expenses (things that are optional).  Balancing your budget can help ensure that you’ll have enough money to cover your expenses each month and starting to save can help ensure that you have a back-up plan for those unforeseen expenses (i.e. your car breaks down, your hard drive crashes, etc.).  The Federal Student Aid Office has a great guide for how to create a budget.

2. Schedule your time.

Once you set your class schedule, create a weekly schedule for yourself.  Start by scheduling in your non-negotiables (class, work) and then schedule in everything else around those items.  It may feel funny, but schedule time for sleep, exercise, and fun.  Many college students report feeling completely overwhelmed their first year of college just because they’re not getting enough sleep!  If you know that you function best with at least 8 hours of sleep, make sure that your schedule allows for all of those hours! Also, it may feel silly to schedule fun things, but devoting a dedicated time for fun activities can help you to switch gears and unwind or release stress in a productive manner that works for you.

3. Get involved on campus.

It may seem counter intuitive to get involved in school activities when you’re just trying hard to maintain your grades, but getting involved may actually help more than you think.  Joining a club or organization may help you to feel more connected to your campus and may help you to meet new people with whom you have a common interest.  Through these networks, you may be able to find upperclassmen who can advise you on courses to take, professors to avoid, academic resources, and other tips and trick to be a successful and happy student.

4. Start collecting reminders of home that you can take with you to college.

It’s more than likely that you won’t be able to take your whole bedroom with you when you go to college (and it may not make a ton of sense to do so).  However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t bring things with you that remind you of home.  Start thinking about items you can fit in your suitcase or bag that will remind you of home and help you feel less homesick.  Consider going through some photos and printing out ones that you want to take with you. Determining which of your 25 track medals you want to bring with you (or even that stuffed animal you’ve had since you were six years old).

5. Say goodbye.

You may not actually be leaving home to attend college or you may not be going far enough to think that saying goodbye is necessary.  However, you are entering a new stage of your life and sometimes allowing yourself a level of closure on your pre-college years can actually give you permission to fully enjoy your college experience.  Meet up with your friends from high school, spend some extra time with your family, re-visit your favorite high school hangouts, make lots of memories, and then start the new chapter in your educational journey.

6. Keep an open mind.

College may be everything you imagined, but it could also be nothing like you imagined.  Keep an open mind about what you’re experiencing and try not to let your expectations get the better of you.  No one knows what you were like in high school so challenge yourself to step out of your comfort zone and try some new experiences.

7. Don’t be too hard on yourself.

That first year of college might be tough.  You may find that it’s a lot to make new friends, get involved, AND do well in your classes.  That is completely normal.  Give yourself some time to adjust to being in college.  Don’t overload on the toughest classes your first term (even if you were the valedictorian !) so that you can focus on finding balance.  If you find that you didn’t quite meet your own goals or expectations, brush it off and adjust for the next term.  Many students struggle with the transition to college so don’t worry; you’re not alone!

Veritas Prep is committed to helping students put together the best college applications possible.  All of our consultants have prior admissions experience at the top colleges in the world and have evaluated students just like you.  For more information, visit us at www.veritasprep.com/college.  Complete our FREE college profile evaluation and talk to one of our expert evaluators today!

By Jennifer Sohn Lim, Assistant Director of Admissions at Veritas Prep.

 

7 Tips on Planning a Successful College Visit

campus tourHaving coordinated numerous visits to many college campuses over the years, we’ve learned a thing or two about how to plan a college visit as well as how to make the most out of your visit.

1. Make a list of colleges you’d like to visit by region. If you’re planning a trip to Boston, for example, make a list of the colleges that you’d like to visit while you’re there.  Prioritize the list by “must visit,” “would like to visit,” and “nice to visit, but not necessary” so that you can realistically travel to all the campuses.

2. Visit the college’s admissions website and see what they offer to prospective students. Many colleges will provide either campus tours, admissions information sessions, class visits, student panels, meals in the dining hall with current students, or any combination of services.  They want you to get to know the college better and, depending on the time of year, can provide a variety of services.  You’ll want to go to the admissions website and select undergraduate admissions and/or prospective students.  Then, search for anything that says “visit us” or “campus tours.”  If the college’s website is difficult to navigate, open up a search engine and enter the name of the college followed by “campus tour.”

3. Schedule smart. Find out when the colleges are on school vacations prior to finalizing your itinerary.  We encourage students to visit colleges when school is in session so you can get a better feel for the college culture. This is also a great way to meet students who might be able to give you a candid evaluation of their college experience.  Also, because many campus tours are led by current students, they may not be around to give you a tour.  Many colleges will provide an estimate of how long each admissions activity may take.  Use that as a loose guide, but also allow yourself to spend time at the college without worrying about rushing to another campus.  We typically recommend that students do no more than 2 visits a day (one usually in the morning and one in the afternoon).

4. Map out the colleges. Open up a Google map and create your own map which includes all of the colleges that you’d like to visit.  That way, you can see where each campus is in relation to the other campuses.  This can help you to plan more efficiently which schools it makes sense to visit on the same day or how to budget your transportation time to get to the colleges.  Depending on the city, make sure to give yourself plenty of time for travel.

5. Note all of the date and times of all of the campus activities you’d like to participate in. You may have to do some coordinating because most schools only offer these services at certain times during the day and throughout the year.  Once you have an idea of when all of the sessions are available, you can start to finalize your itinerary.  Many colleges now allow you to sign up for visits directly on their website so that they know you’re coming.  Remember, this may be your first interaction with the college so make sure that your communications are professional and show up to your appointment on time.  Submit your requests and wait for an email confirmation.

6. Do your research. The college visit may be an opportunity to meet an admissions officer for the first time.  Do your research online and have a question or two that you can ask the admissions officer ready for your visit.  The best questions are ones that can’t be answered easily by online research.  Think specifically about what attracts you to the college and what information would be helpful to you as you decide where to apply.  If there is a particular class or professor you’d like to meet, ask if it would be possible to coordinate that meeting.  If you’re curious about student life, ask if you can eat in the dining halls with a current student.  Some schools even provide overnight experiences where you can stay with a student throughout their day and overnight. It is key to know what’s available to you, so be sure to research and ask the admissions office.

7. Take notes. As much as you think that you’ll remember everything from your college visit, chances are that they may all start to feel like the same college.  During each visit, take notes on what you like/do not like/etc. and take time after each visit to reflect on whether you could see yourself on campus or not.  Sound like busy work?  I promise you, it’s not.  Later on, you may find that you refer back to these notes so that you can write a more compelling supplemental essay that talks about the experience you had when visiting campus in detail, which in turn can show the admissions officer you’re quite serious about the college.

Veritas Prep is committed to helping students put together the best college applications possible.  All of our consultants have prior admissions experience at the top colleges in the world and have evaluated students just like you.  For more information, visit us at www.veritasprep.com/college.  Complete our FREE college profile evaluation and talk to one of our expert evaluators today!

By Jennifer Sohn Lim, Assistant Director of Admissions at Veritas Prep.

Escaping Senioritis: How to Still Have Fun Without Failing Your Classes

SenioritisAccording to Urban Dictionary, senioritis is: “noun. A crippling disease that strikes high school seniors. Symptoms include: laziness, an over-excessive wearing of track pants, old athletic shirts, sweatpants, athletic shorts, and sweatshirts. Also features a lack of studying, repeated absences, and a generally dismissive attitude. The only known cure is a phenomenon known as Graduation.”

Once in a long while, Urban Dictionary is right—and this is one of those times. After college applications have been submitted, seniors often feel little incentive to continue trying hard in high school. Why care about high school classes, if college classes will be more interesting and informative? Why do homework, if your GPA has already been submitted with your applications? Why pay attention in class, when you can daydream about how cool college will be in just a few months?

Here are a few good reasons to resist the temptation, and a few tips on how to keep your head in the game.

  • Know that your senior year grades still count. Colleges can, and do, ask for your senior year grades even after they’ve seen your college application, and sometimes even after you’ve received an acceptance letter. Often, that acceptance letter is conditional on your maintaining your grades through to graduation. Once in a while a college will even retract your acceptance if you haven’t done so. Your grades still matter, even if you don’t feel like they do.
  • Know that good performance in your senior year classes can still offer advantages in college. High AP scores and strong math and English grades can often help you skip prerequisite classes or qualify for advanced classes. Honing your basic academic skills will help you enter college more prepared for more rigorous work. It’s more tempting to slack off in your hard classes than in your easy ones; remember that your harder classes may be the ones you stand to gain most from.
  • Know your course schedule for Fall. To see how much your senior year high school courses might help you in college, check your college’s online course catalogs and read about the courses you plan to take. Knowing exactly what you can gain from staying focused in senior year can help motivate you to power through these last few months.
  • Recognize that your free time will be much more enjoyable after you’ve finished your work. It’s much easier to relax when there aren’t English essays floating around in the back of your mind, even if you think you’re really good at ignoring them.
  • Make a schedule and stick to it. This is an old-fashioned, often repeated study tip, but for good reason: done right, it works!
  • Make time to slack off. Senioritis is famous because it’s real, pervasive, and occasionally unavoidable. Don’t give in completely to it, but do recognize that you probably do deserve some free time, especially after finishing all your college applications. Feel free to kick back once in a while to daydream about your next four years—but when you’re done, sit back up, grab your pen, and churn through that math assignment. Your future college self will thank you.

Senioritis got the best of you? Are you uncertain about your college application? We can help! Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE College profile evaluation

Courtney Tran is a student at UC Berkeley, studying Political Economy and Rhetoric. In high school, she was named a National Merit Finalist and National AP Scholar, and she represented her district two years in a row in Public Forum Debate at the National Forensics League National Tournament.

Professors Do Not Bite: How I Made Friends in College (And What I Learned)

professor futuramaNo one believes me when I say it today, but I was on the shy side in high school.

I’ve come a long way since then. I teach SAT and ACT classes to groups large and small, I thrive in both lecture halls and class discussions, and I’ve become very social. I was helped along in my growing process by the fact that socializing in high school is, in many ways, quite different from socializing in college—the impetus I needed to proactively build social confidence. I wasn’t expecting the difference, so I was surprised at the number of new things I had to adapt to. A few of the most memorable:

  • Recognizing that professors don’t bite. I’ve taken classes with some truly extraordinary researchers, all of whom were much more knowledgeable and experienced than me in nearly every subject we discussed. I once recognized fifteen minutes too late that I was speaking with the researcher who wrote most of the core literature on the theory we were talking about. It took me some time to build up enough confidence to approach professors, but I’m happy I did; I’ve gotten excellent advice, letters of recommendation, and academic insight from many of them. Professors are very much human, usually happy to help explain things, and almost always very forgiving of inexperience. After all, you’re there to learn!
  • Spending time with people outside of my immediate age range. A four-year age difference is considerably more noticeable in high school than it is in college, if only because the physical differences between high school freshmen and seniors are much more obvious than those between college freshmen and seniors. I routinely mistake graduate students for undergraduate freshmen and vice versa; only yesterday I discovered that a friend of mine is not, in fact, my age, but seven years older than me. I spent my first year in college clinging tightly to a group of people my own age, but over time I learned 1) how to relate to people of different ages and in different life stages, 2) how valuable that skill would be in the real world, and 3) that age really is just a number.
  • Having to go out of my way to stay in touch with people. It was often much easier for me to maintain friendships in high school than in college since my high school had less than 2,000 students, and since I saw many of the same people every school day. UC Berkeley, by contrast, has 34,000 students spread over almost two square miles of campus classrooms, most classes don’t meet every day, everyone’s schedules are less in sync with one another, and very few of my friends are in my classes. This may not be as true in smaller schools or in different academic environments, but at least at UC Berkeley I’ve found consistently that I and most people I know have had to get used to actively making time for close friends and for socializing in general. Unless I make my friends a time priority, I rarely get to see them at all.
  • Attending a large and diverse school. I hadn’t thought much about school size before coming to UC Berkeley, but I’m very happy I chose to come to a large and diverse college. It’s hard to stay in touch with people I meet unless I go out of my way to, but I get to meet new people every day and am exposed to students from all walks of life. I learn more about the world from the people around me than the content of my classes, and have become more socially adaptable and culturally sensitive. I have friends at smaller, more homogenous colleges who tell me they love the familiarity and community there, but I’m sure I made the right school-size decision for my own personality and goals.

Still uncertain about college? We can help! Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE College profile evaluation

Courtney Tran is a student at UC Berkeley, studying Political Economy and Rhetoric. In high school, she was named a National Merit Finalist and National AP Scholar, and she represented her district two years in a row in Public Forum Debate at the National Forensics League National Tournament.

What? How Did He Get Into Harvard?

Application VideoThe admissions statistics can be terrifying. Just under 9% of all applicants got into the Ivy Leagues in 2014 and the numbers seem to get impossibly lower every year. So how can I set myself apart compared to the thousands of other applicants?

As you’re starting the college application process or as you’re starting to think about preparing for college, you may be asking yourself if you really need an admissions consultant.

Like with many of life’s questions, the answer is both no and yes.

For students who are self-directed and know exactly how to approach college applications, the answer may be no. Not everyone needs an admissions consultant. Usually students who are driven, self-directed, and have a great sense of themselves are students who are most successful completing applications on their own. For those who choose not to work with a consultant, parents can play an important role. Parents can help their children through every step of the process – research, match, college visits, application deadlines, and completing each component of the application – or the student can take responsibility for each of these items themselves.

Some students may just need a little bit of help. These students tend to be those who are meticulous and able to work without much direction, but could possibly use a bit more help with finding their voice and expressing themselves creatively and uniquely. Students who just need some help brainstorming topics for their essays and need help digger a bit deeper to write compelling applications may find that a consultant can really provide the extra push that they needed.

Other students (and parents) may find that they need more help through each step of the process. These students may find that a consultant provides a great deal of value because they are able to answer questions and solve problems on the spot, which can save everyone a great deal of time and angst. These families may find that a consultant is the additional help they need to not only keep the process going, but to ensure that the process is a smooth one. Students who are applying to college as the first in their families or those who need more one-on-one attention through the process may benefit from working with a college admissions consultant.

So how can admissions consulting help me get into the top colleges?

For those students who are looking to get into the top colleges, working with an admissions consultant may provide the extra edge that sets them apart from the thousands of other students applying to these schools. An admissions consultant can help you find your unique strengths and help to ensure that you have highlighted those attributes in your application components. The can help you engage in rigorous self-reflection to ensure that your personal statement is an accurate representation of your personality and passions. They can help you to package your application in a way that is authentic and compelling so that you have the best chance of getting into your dream schools.

Still have questions about college admissions?  Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE College profile evaluation

By Shay Davis

What is College Admissions Consulting?

Harvard UniversityIt seems that these days, everyone talks about admissions consulting, but what is college admissions consulting?

With school counselors’ caseloads at an all-time high and student needs going unmet, many students and families are turning to admissions consultants to provide them with the support they need through the college application process.

Admissions consultants are counselors, guides, coaches, and cheerleaders, all rolled into one. 

They can help you through every step of the application process and provide guidance through each of the application components.  Consultants can help you to stay on task and on track so that you can submit your college applications with confidence.  They help you organize your activities and accomplishments and then describe them in a manner that is succinct, yet informative.  They can help you brainstorm essay topics and then start to flush out those topics, usually working through several drafts of an essay with you.  In addition, consultants can help brainstorm supplemental essay topics and provide value in commenting on those particular short essays.  They can provide advice on extracurricular activities, volunteer opportunities, ways to increase your leadership potential, and how to spend your summer.  Parents, consultants should be transparent with you throughout the process so that you are clear on your child’s progress.

Veritas Prep college admissions consultants are individuals who graduated from the nation’s top colleges and have admissions experiences at those colleges.  This means that they are familiar with the admissions processes and so can provide effective advice on how to improve your candidacy.  They are also well-equipped to know exactly what the culture of the college they attended was so that they can help a student find the best fit college.

There are several things that admissions consultants should not do.  First, they should not write your essays.  Your personal statements should be a reflection and representation of you – not your consultant – and the voice should be yours.  While consultants can help brainstorm topics and flush out ideas, the writing should be yours alone.

Second, they should not support creating false statements to make your application sound better.  There’s a difference between making your accomplishments sound good versus making up accomplishments that sound good.  No good consultant will ever support fabricating items just for the sake of improving your application.

Finally, no good consultant should ever guarantee admissions into a specific university.  Consultants will do their best to help you achieve your dream schools, but the admissions decisions are made by the colleges and can be unpredictable.  A good consultant will be able to gauge the likelihood that you may or may not be accepted, but should not guarantee admissions.

Still have questions about college admissions?  Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE College profile evaluation

By Shay Davis

 

3 Reasons Why You Should Attend Office Hours

OfficeHoursArtThe first year of college can be daunting. A new school means an entirely new environment: new friends, new living situation, and most of all – new classes. It’s a lot of “new” in a short period of time, and one of the most difficult aspects to get adjusted to is the heightened level of difficulty in class.

Many college classes are difficult by design. The more challenging aspect of this is the fact that the resources for help aren’t as apparent in college. In high school, teachers seemed more approachable. If the content in class was hard, you could always ask to meet with them outside of class or ask a friend for help.

It may seem as if these opportunities aren’t there in college, but they are! One of the best, most underutilized resources is office hours. Office hours are regularly scheduled times each week where students can come in and meet with their professor or teaching assistant to ask questions and better understand the material.

While some teachers have very well attended office hours, many offices lie empty all semester until right before a big test or final. That is not the time to go to office hours and try to cram. Instead, take advantage of this great opportunity to better comprehend the material and build a relationship with your professors and teaching assistants. Here are the three biggest benefits of attending office hours.

  1. Actually understanding the material

A lot of times students have trouble navigating the dense nature of certain subjects. It gets even worse when the material is somewhat dry, and it’s hard to pay attention the entire time in class. This is further compounded when students leave the textbook reading to the last minute, and then struggle to understand the building block concepts, which makes the more sophisticated topics even harder to learn.

One way to fix this and dramatically improve understanding is by visiting your professor. Most likely, the professor is an expert in his or her field and has a wealth of experience helping individuals learn the material. Sometimes, they even wrote the textbook! There is no better person to help you learn tough, dense material than one of the leading experts in the world!

  1. Build a relationship with your professor

Most professors went into teaching in college because they love interacting with students and providing guidance and mentorship. If their office hours are usually empty, this means that you have the chance to build an even stronger relationship with the professor. They aren’t just experts in their field, a lot of them have experience in a wide array of industries and can offer great advice on school and life in general. They are a tremendous resource to connect with outside of just classroom topics. This is the underrated aspect of office hours.

  1. Leniency with grades

Professors are human too. While office hours aren’t going to move you from a C to an A, without actually improving your test scores, it can give you the little boost if you are on the border between two grades. If the teacher is familiar with you and understands all of the effort you are putting in on a daily basis, then they will reward you if you are in between marks.

Remember, office hours are a hidden gem of college and can be the boost you need to get acclimated and excel in a new place! Best of luck in your finals preparation!

Need help applying to college? Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE College profile evaluation!

Jake Davidson is a Mork Family Scholar at USC and enjoys writing for the school paper as well as participating in various clubs. He has been tutoring privately since the age of 15 and is incredibly excited to help students succeed on the SAT.

 

I Accepted My Offer of Admission, Now What?

andyCongratulations!!!  After a long process of applying to colleges, you were admitted and have committed to attending an institution in the Fall.  We hope that you will celebrate your accomplishments and enjoy the final days of your high school career!

A couple of things to keep in mind:

  • Continue to check your new university email and online student accounts often and regularly.  Colleges will often use email or messaging via the online student portals to send you important notices, including deadlines for upcoming tuition payments, housing notifications, etc.  Make sure that you are checking these portals often so you don’t miss anything important.
  • Send your final transcript to the college.  Hopefully senioritis hasn’t gotten the best of you because you still need to submit your final transcripts.  Colleges will rescind offers of admission to students who have gotten Ds or Fs and/or have not completed course requirements.  Yes, colleges can still revoke your admission even if you have paid the enrollment deposit and housing deposits.
  • Complete all financial aid requirements.  If you have not done so already, accept or decline your financial aid awards.  If you have federal loans included in your financial aid award package, make sure you complete entrance loan counseling and sign the Master Promissory Note.  You should receive detailed information on how to do so from your college’s financial aid office.
  • Register and attend orientation.  If you have not already done so, make sure to register for orientation and make plans to arrive on campus in time for the opening festivities!  Most schools will provide valuable information about the college during orientation and orientation can be a great time to meet other new students just like you.  There are often concurrent activities specifically for parents as well.
  • Secure your housing for the Fall.  If you are planning to stay in the dorms, make sure that you have sent in your housing deposit and indicated your preferences for your housing options.  If your college has a housing survey, make sure to fill that out honestly as many colleges will use that information to pair you with a roommate.
  • Register for courses.  Some colleges will allow (and require) you to register for courses before you even arrive on campus.  Make sure you pay attention to any pre-requisite actions that you have to take before you are able to register (i.e.: attend orientation, meet with an academic advisor, etc.).  Start to familiarize yourself with the general education requirements for your college, if applicable, so that you have an idea of the courses you will need to complete throughout your college years.
  • Thank the adults who helped you get to college.  Don’t forget to update the adults who encouraged you along the way and put in extra time and effort to write your recommendations.  Let them know where you decided to attend college and show your appreciation with a nice, personal note.
  • Update your vaccinations and get a physical.  Find out the college’s requirements for vaccinations that you will need to get before arriving on campus.  Many colleges will ask that you get a physical (usually they have a form that your physician can fill out).  Make sure you schedule your appointments in advance and ask for a copy of your medical record just in case you need it in the transition to college.
  • Enjoy your summer!  Take some time this summer to relax, spend time with family and friends, and maybe start to earn/save some money to prepare for college.  Start collecting memoirs that you can take with you to college and mentally and emotionally prepare to become a college student!

Do your friends need help with their college applications? Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE College profile evaluation

By Jennifer Sohn Lim, Assistant Director of Admissions at Veritas Prep.

 

4 Ways to Prepare for Independent Life in College

laundryWoohoo! You’ve done it! After all the hard work creating beautiful animations on Powerpoint, memorizing the Monarchs involved in the War Of The Roses (the ORIGINAL house of Lancaster before Game Of Thrones co-opted the name by changing three letters), and busting your behinds trying to memorize SAT vocabulary words (only to hear that next year the test won’t have a vocabulary section. Oh the humanity!), you have finally gotten into college! So, now what? Sure you know how to thrive in the bustling world of high school, but how do you succeed when there are no parents to keep you honest about whether you have completed your work, no curfews to keep you home in time to get a good night sleep, and no one there to make sure your laundry gets done and you don’t smell like the inside of a tennis shoe after a marathon? The start of a more independent life is both daunting and exciting. There are a number of paths to success in this new arena, but here are a few ways to make sure that this next step towards adulthood also sets you up for success academically and professionally for years to come.

1. Incorporate out of class work into your work day.

Without school all day everyday and parents to keep you on task, time management is the most important tool for success as an adult. High school is a game where, for the most part, work is assigned the night before and must be completed by the next day. Most classes in college, however, do not meet every day and therefore assignments end up being spread over a few days, a few weeks, or the entire semester. These assignments often involve lots of reading that may not be tested until midway through the semester, making it is easy to put this reading off, and off, and off. This is advice every human being has likely heard before, but waiting until the last minute to complete assignments is a mistake! Generally speaking, students have between 2-5 hours of classes a day Monday through Friday. That’s it! But for many students, the time to complete the work outside of the class is equalto or more than the class time. This means that you must be smart with your time!

Think about every day as a normal school day (6.5 hours plus lunch) if you have only three hours of classes between 10am and 5pm, that leaves you with 3.5 hours to complete any and all work that you may have for those or other classes and you are still done by 5pm. If you complete your work early? Wahoo! You’re done! The trick is to fill this time with work until there is no more work to do. If you have a twenty page term paper due in two weeks, use your 10-5 time to complete that term paper until it is done. What happens if you finish it a week early? You get to party guilt free for a week (or, more likely, you get to focus on other work that is due around the same time)! Organizing an unstructured day like a work day sounds straight forward enough, but I promise you when you are in the thick of social and extracurricular activities, this will seem IMPOSSIBLE. The good news is you can give yourself days off, just do it in a scheduled way! Give yourself five play days a semester, (as well as a lot of time off on weekends), but when these “vacation days” are gone, the work has to be priority number one. With Friday classes, it may be difficult to complete all work necessary for Monday before the weekend begins, but you need not keep to the 6.5 hour work day on weekends. Some times it is easier to think of Friday after classes end as the start of the weekend, and Sunday after 3:00pm as the start of the work week. This is quite healthy as long as you give yourself the time necessary to complete special assignments that require lots of weekend time (you can give yourself time off later in the week).

2. Study Smart!

Not all the information that is important to success will be covered in lectures fully, but the stuff that gets talked about in class is going to be by far the most important stuff. Go through your reading looking for the topics mentioned in class and try to expand on your notes from class as you are reading text books. Copying notes from a lecture the next day is also a very helpful technique for solidifying information in your mind. Teaching information is a good tool for making sure you understand a topic. Get a study group together and have each person teach a topic to the group or offer to tutor someone in a topic that you yourself find challenging. You will likely find that attempting to figure out how to teach the topic will help you to understand it. Be sure to talk with professors and TA’s. It may seem like there is an antagonistic relationship between students, but professors want students to succeed, not fail. Ask professors about how tests are formatted, the topics that will be covered, and even for example tests from the past. This will likely not fall on deaf ears, especially if your requests are phrased in such a way as to imply that you care about the topic and want extra practice and materials. This will also help you to develop a relationship with your teachers, something that is extremely important when the time comes for letters of recommendation or inquiries about internships and jobs (Every application you will EVER have to complete will require references. Start building relationships with faculty early).

3. Allow yourself to explore extra-curricular activities.

College is so much more than an academic institution. Most colleges have worked hard to assemble an extremely diverse and talented student body who have many interests that do not strictly fall into the fields covered by the core academic disciplines. College is a place to start practicing for life, and life is long these days (hopefully!) and allows for a diverse palette of experiences. Check out organizations that either engage your interests or excite you for some other reason. It would be a shame to not utilize all the resources that college has to offer.

 4. Schedule time for yourself, and for everyday life.

Laundry needs to get done, shopping for toiletries, food, and school supplies needs to happen, and activities like exercise or other self care activities that are helpful for stress relief and maintaining health need to be prioritized. Try to give yourself a few hours a week to do maintenance tasks for your life. Its important to get into the habit of giving these tasks time so they don’t fall through the cracks and leave you stressed and smelly.

These are just a few suggestions for how to be successful in this new collegiate environment. The truth is, you will likely have to try things, succeed, fail, and figure out for yourself how to best navigate all the different demands that will be placed on you in college. You are not alone in this! Your college advisers, parents, professors, and TA’s are there to help, so do not be afraid to ask for help. Just know that you are not just teaching yourself information, you are teaching yourself how to work unsupervised and stay organized in the world of independent living. These are tools that will help you to be successful in nearly any field. You are capable of success in this environment, so go out and have a great freshman year!

Still unsure about applying to college? Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE College profile evaluation!

David Greenslade is a Veritas Prep SAT instructor based in New York. His passion for education began while tutoring students in underrepresented areas during his time at the University of North Carolina. After receiving a degree in Biology, he studied language in China and then moved to New York where he teaches SAT prep and participates in improv comedy. Read more of his articles here, including How I Scored in the 99th Percentile and How to Effectively Study for the SAT.

What Will it Really Cost to Attend College?

one-hundred-100-dollar-billAs you’re starting your college research or perhaps comparing financial aid award letters, one of the questions on your mind might be “how much will it really cost to attend college?”

With the cost of college going up and up, here’s a quick guide to breaking down those costs and some tips on how to save money.

 

 

Cost of attendance line items

Tuition and fees

This is the actual cost of your classes and is usually fixed.  This may be one of the largest costs of attendance.

Room and board

This is what it will cost to live in campus sponsored housing (on or off campus) as well as for your meal plan.  Often, some housing options will be cheaper than others (facility to facility) and some configurations will be cheaper than others (3 roommates vs. no roommates).  Do your research before selecting a housing option and make sure that you turn in your forms early to have the best chances of getting your desired option!  The meal plan is another area where you might have more flexibility and might be able to save.  Many colleges will allow you to choose the number of meals so think about your habits.  Is it realistic to plan to eat breakfast every morning when you usually wake up around 11:30am?  Or do you prefer to cook for yourself and don’t need very many meals at all?  Or do you have a really fast metabolism and eat quite a bit?  An unlimited meal plan might actually be the most economical option for you.  Also, consider applying to be a resident assistant as an upperclassman; some colleges provide a stipend or heavy discount on housing and meals.

Health insurance

Unless you are covered by your parents and opt to waive your school health insurance, you must pay for health insurance (and you probably want to in case of any health issues while on campus).

Books and supplies

This is one budget line item that you may be able to save money on.  The colleges provide an estimate of how much you might spend on textbooks and supplies based on a regular, full-time student.  Supplies are things such as notebooks, scantrons, and materials for a science lab; basically anything that you might have to purchase that is necessary for a class.  You may be able to spend less on your textbooks if you purchase used copies or rent a copy of the book for the term.  Most colleges also require that the books be available on reserve in the library so you can check it out for a couple of hours at a time.

Student activities fee

This fee is usually mandatory and you can think of it as a sort of “membership fee” for all campus-wide activities and resources.

Transportation

This budget line is also one that you may spend a bit more or less on.  If you will be traveling to school every day, consider what the most economical mode of transportation would be.  Find out what options are available through the school (shuttle or bus service) and ask to find out if you can get a student discount on monthly passes.  If you’re going to have your car on campus, find out how much campus parking will cost and don’t forget to factor in the cost of fuel.  If you’ll be flying to and from home, consider joining an airline rewards program so that you can potentially rack up miles for free flights.  If you’ll be driving to and from home, see if there are other students who are also going to the same area and ask to carpool.

Types of financial aid awards

Loans

These are funds that you will need to pay back.

Grants

These are funds that you do not need to pay back.

Scholarships

These are funds that you do not need to pay back, but may have contingencies attached to them.

Merit-based awards

These are scholarships that are based on your academic achievements.  While you do not typically have to pay these scholarships back, sometimes they are contingent upon maintaining certain academic requirements like GPA and/or credits.

Maintaining your financial aid awards

Remember, you will need to re-apply for financial aid each year and each college may have their own additional requirements to access your funds.  Pay attention to the renewal deadlines and make sure you submit your materials in advance in case you run into any issues (i.e.: you can’t remember your pin and it will take a couple of days to reset it).

Visit https://www.youtube.com/user/FederalStudentAid to view some great short films that describe the different types of aid!

Finally, don’t be scared off by the sticker price of college.  Many colleges provide generous financial aid packages and you may be surprised to find that it may be cheaper to attend a private college than your state college.  You never know how much you will get so apply and see what type of package the college can provide for you!

Still have questions on how much your top college will cost you? Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE College profile evaluation

By Jennifer Sohn Lim, Assistant Director of Admissions at Veritas Prep.

7 Things to Remember Your Freshman Year (Hint: Don’t Bring Too Much Stuff!)

StuffThe moment I sent my SIR to UC Berkeley, I was sure I was more than ready to leave high school. College had been the big dream for most of my life–no curfews, no morning classes, no standardized testing (for the most part) and more freedom than I’d ever had before. I knew the city of Berkeley halfway decently already, so I wasn’t worried about the transition. About twenty of my high school classmates, including some of my best friends, were coming with me. I was all set up for an easy, exciting transition to college life.

Even so, I was nervous. I didn’t completely understand the academic system I was coming into, and I had never had a roommate besides my siblings. There was plenty to be excited for, but also plenty to be apprehensive about: harder classes, financial independence, more work hours, and a nearly-foreign social scene to navigate.

My transition ended up working fantastically–I found a wonderful group of friends, loved my classes, and quickly adapted to a more flexible but more intense schedule. Looking back, I’ve realized that the way I prepared for and approached my college transition was much more important than the transition itself. Here are a few of the things I learned:

1. Don’t bring too much stuff. This sounds like a tiny detail, but an emptier closet will save you lots of time and headache throughout your first few months. If you’re anything like nearly every incoming college freshman I’ve ever met, moving into a dorm room (or a suite, or an apartment) will probably mean adjusting to less storage space. Being selective about what to bring with you will ease your move-in, avoid space conflicts with your roommate, give you space to adapt to lifestyle changes in your freshman year (experimenting with fashion, realizing that microwaves/water boilers/mini-fridges/freezer boxes are dorm room lifesavers and popularity magnets, etc.), and save you the trouble of managing your belongings after the fact. It’s a pain, and a surprisingly time-consuming chore, to have to ship things back home, arrange extra-storage plans with family and friends, or cram extra drawers and shelves into your new room. When you’re going through one of the biggest transitions of your life so far, the last thing you want to have to worry about is what to do with three extra boxes of your middle school clothes.

2. Be proactive about meeting people and maintaining friendships. Unless you’re in a small school or a specialized program, your social environment will change more frequently in college than it did in high school. In high school, it’s easy to build relationships based on shared experience and constant closeness; many of your peers took the same classes you did, and you could always find time to spend with friends since your schedules were more or less in sync. In college, however, people move apartments or rooms every year or two (or even every semester), classes are larger or more impersonal, friends study abroad or take semesters off, and hanging out begins to require more effort and time management. The college social experience is a great one, but it requires initiative.

3. Set aside some time to study. In the freshman year flurry of club meetings, parties, sports, and other social opportunities, it’s easy to forget that you have readings to do and tests to pass. It’s fine to dive headfirst into the college experience–in fact, I heartily recommend it–but don’t forget that that experience is just as much academic as it is social and personal.

4. Calculate a budget and stick to it. Costs and fees are everywhere–club dues, event tickets, supplemental materials for classes, restaurant bills, school spirit gear. A lot of activities are free for students, but plenty more aren’t. I know far too many people who accidentally splurged on one too many party dresses or orchestra concerts, and ended up with–no joke–less than ten dollars left in their wallets, with no paycheck or allowance in sight for days or weeks to come.

5. Don’t worry if you don’t find your niche immediately. Plenty of people don’t get along with the people on their dorm floor, and plenty of people only find their perfect club or major or friend group months (or even years) into college. Keep exploring classes and extracurriculars, and take comfort in the fact that there are so many new opportunities in college that there’s a good chance that your Perfect Place is there somewhere–you just haven’t run into it yet. Besides, if the issue persists, you can always consider transferring.

6. Recognize that transferring isn’t that easy and isn’t a cure-all. Beyond the logistical issues (ensuring that your credits transfer to your new institution, finding a place to live, the long applications, etc.), you don’t know for sure that you’ll be happier, or more academically/intellectually/socially satisfied, at your new school. Transferring works for some people, and doesn’t for others; if you’re considering transferring, especially if your reasons are non-academic, be sure to think long and hard about why you want to leave where you are, and what you expect to find when you’re there.

7. Most importantly: Don’t stress about it. People tend to be much more adaptable than they give themselves credit for. You’ll change and learn so much in your freshman year that you may not even care about some of the things you’re worried about before move-in day. Keep an open mind, explore new things, accept that many things will change, understand that many of those things can and will change for the better, and you’ll be fine.

Best of luck preparing for your freshman year!

Need more guidance in planning for college? Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE College profile evaluation!

Courtney Tran is a student at UC Berkeley, studying Political Economy and Rhetoric. In high school, she was named a National Merit Finalist and National AP Scholar, and she represented her district two years in a row in Public Forum Debate at the National Forensics League National Tournament.

You & Your Major: Don’t Get Too Attached

ceramicsI absolutely love my major. I’ve been studying international relations since the end of my freshman year; two years in, it’s still my favorite field. I think it’s incredible that seven billion people, despite all their differences and disagreements, are able to coexist through governments and agreements. I love my professors, read the news religiously, and travel around the world to take political science classes from different countries’ perspectives. It’s awesome.

That being said, one of the best choices I ever made in college was taking courses outside of my major.

Originally, it was an accident; I decided to switch from political economy to political science more than halfway through the class registration process, so most of the political science courses I needed were already full. Fortunately, I had plenty of space left in my four-year class plan to take the courses I needed, so I signed up for a dance class, a physics class, and a history class to round out my schedule.

Since then, I’ve gone out of my way every semester to take a course in a new field. I know I don’t have the time time (or the academic stamina) to become an expert in each field I explore, so I take friends’ and professors’ recommendations for great intro-level courses in biology, art, anthropology, and even tennis. I don’t like every field I try—the best thing I learned from a course in philosophical history is that I don’t like philosophical history—but discovering how much I do find interesting has made the whole experiment worth it.

Today I can explain the basic science behind earthquakes, dance to jazz music without making a fool of myself, and analyze a classical painting. Many of my electives have helped me to understand my own field better; for instance, learning Chinese and perfecting my Spanish have enhanced my understanding of Asian and Latin American cultural and political current events.

Colleges list more subjects and courses than any one student will ever be able to actually take, and after graduation you’ll lose much of your access to that huge store of knowledge. Your undergraduate years are more than just a rite of passage into the working world, or a means to a higher salary; they also offer exposure to fields you’ve never heard of, or fields you never knew you’d love. At least for me, investigating those fields was more than worth the extra few hours of class.

Keep this in mind as you register for courses. Go explore!

Need more guidance in planning for college? Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE College profile evaluation!

Courtney Tran is a student at UC Berkeley, studying Political Economy and Rhetoric. In high school, she was named a National Merit Finalist and National AP Scholar, and she represented her district two years in a row in Public Forum Debate at the National Forensics League National Tournament.

 

I’m Waitlisted: Now What?

waiting-in-lineHooray!  Admissions decisions have arrived!!

Unfortunately, instead of a clear decision, you find out that you have been waitlisted.  Your friends may know exactly where they will be attending college in the Fall or at least the couple of schools they are deciding between, but you are stuck in limbo.

So what can you do? If you are on multiple college waitlists, ask yourself the questions below:

1. Analyze your acceptances and the schools where you were waitlisted.  Of all of the schools, which school is your top choice where you would be happy to attend?

2. If your top choice college (identified in the first question) accepted you, don’t worry about the waitlist!  Remember, you have until May 1st to submit your intent to enroll and any related initial deposits.

3. If your top choice school put you on the waitlist, there are a couple of steps you can take to show them that you are serious about attending.

  • Do you have any new information you can provide the college that happened after you submitted your application?  Do you have new grades, honors, or awards?  For example, did your Aca Deca team make the semi-finals?  Did you get a promotion at your job?  Did you get that A in AP Calculus after working really hard to raise it from a C?
  • Is there another teacher who can write a recommendation on your behalf?  This recommendation should sing your praises and be able to provide the college with information about why they would be missing out if they passed up on admitting you as a student.

Some notes of caution:

  • Do not pester the admissions officer or admissions office.  This means do not call them every day.  Do not send multiple emails to them every day.  If you have a lot of questions, pick up the phone and call the admissions office.  Make sure you have all of your questions written down so that you’re not wasting the admissions office’s time.
  • Do not inundate the admissions office with EVERYTHING that you have done in the past several months.  They already know about the activities and accomplishments you outlined in your application so there is no need to provide that information to them again.  Select the most important accomplishments that will set you apart from other waitlisted applicants.
  • Have a back-up plan.  The number of students on any given waitlist will far outnumber the number of spots they have for admission.  What will you do if you don’t get off the waitlist? Waitlist decisions can come as late as the early Fall, but you don’t want to be in a situation where you don’t have a choice when it comes to college.  Decide whether you want to put a deposit down at a college you would attend if you do not get off the waitlist or if you will be enrolling in a community college and applying to transfer down the line.  The point is, you never know what will happen so be prepared for any scenario!

Still have waitlisted or college admissions questions? Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE College profile evaluation

By Jennifer Sohn Lim, Assistant Director of Admissions at Veritas Prep.

3 Ways to Stay Calm in the Chaos of Campus Life

peaceYou’re trying to organize your calendar. You have a Spanish Club meeting at 4pm. Happy hour at 6pm. Then you have to come home and pack for your girls trip over the weekend… Your roommate keeps talking about how she bombed her organic chem exam. She keep repeating herself, so head into the kitchen for some peace and quiet. Suddenly you see a mound of dishes…

You want to pull your hair out.

Adjusting to college life can be complicated from the social aspect, to coursework, to extracurriculars. It’s easy to become overwhelmed or burned out. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you acclimate to campus life:

1. BALANCE. Sometimes becoming involved on campus and handling coursework can be challenging. Be sure to keep your “eye on the prize” as our expert SAT instructor, Courtney Tran, says. You are in college to broaden your educational background and become a scholar in your major of choice. Focus on your academics before jumping into campus clubs and events. Once you have a hold on your coursework and studies, then start to explore involvement with student organizations. Easing into this transition will give you the ability to know what you can and cannot take on while still maintaining that high GPA you need for your scholarship. It is helpful to start small when you begin to participate in clubs; but once you are ready for more – speak up! If you have found that “balance” of academics and activities, reach out to Directors of your student organizations and express you are interested in a leadership role.

2. BE MINDFUL. Another way to assist with keeping calm in campus life is to take time for yourself. You committed to having a movie night with your new BFF from Anthropology class, but you haven’t been to your dorm room in 4 days straight! Postpone these plans and have an evening to yourself. Go to a yoga class, plan an hike, start reading that new fiction book that’s been collecting dust on your shelf. Whatever gives you sense of peace, be sure to do some sort of personal activity once a week. Maybe you find solace in spending 3 hours playing Assassins Creed. Perhaps it is going for a long run. Whatever it may be, this time away from the social and studious aspects of life will give you the necessary tools to stay in touch with yourself and be mindful of what you need personally to continue to excel in college.

3. EXPLORE. It is helpful to take yourself out of the collegiate lifestyle to realize… there is a world outside of college! We often become so enthralled and captivated in our new campus setting, we forget to go beyond the dining hall and dorms. Be sure to explore your new surroundings. This will help pull you out of the chaos of college life and help you to stay grounded. If you’re attending school at Stanford, look up art shows, check out museums, or visit San Francisco and eat at that Thai restaurant with 376 Yelp reviews. If you’re in Boston, push the boundaries and go outside of Cambridge. Explore state parks or neighboring cities. Find the new coffee shop and opt to study there for an afternoon rather than the same on-campus Starbucks that you frequent. Look for spots that aren’t associated with your university. This will keep you cognizant of the world. Embrace your college town beyond its “college town” reputation.

The first year of college is trying, transitional, and triumphant. Remember to stay “cool” while attending school so to find balance in social and academic success. Best of luck on you college applications!

Need some AP help or still have questions about college admissions?  Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE College profile evaluation

By Shay Davis

 

5 Best Pieces of Advice for College Freshmen

University of PennsylvaniaIf you’ve gone to a few college fairs and admissions events, especially if you’ve already been accepted to a college, you start to hear the same things over and over again. Specifically:

  • Go to office hours.
  • Don’t skip class.
  • Have a financial plan.
  • Make sure you finish your graduation requirements.
  • Explore the career center, clubs, and other resources that colleges have to offer outside of classes.

All of this is excellent advice. After all, you probably wouldn’t have heard each one of these fifty times each if it weren’t. I’d go as far as to say these are probably the best five pieces of advice an entering college freshman should hear.

That doesn’t mean, though, that they should be the only advice you hear. Here are the next five best pieces of advice I heard coming into college—things which were repeated much less often, but which ended up contributing to my college experience almost as much as the first five did.

1. Don’t pack your schedule five days a week from 8am to 6pm, like you used to do in high school. Unless you’re willing to make some serious social or personal sacrifices, it doesn’t work. It really just doesn’t.

2. On a related note: Do some research on classes you plan to take before you actually sign up for them. Look for an online syllabus, or ask the professor (or a former student) for a copy of a recent one. About how many hours of study should you expect to commit outside of class time? What subjects are covered? Is the professor listed on ratemyprofessors.com? Did other students like the class, and why? If it’s a required class: Do you have the option of taking it another semester? Do multiple professors teach it, and can you choose which professor you take it with? It’s much easier to sign up for the right classes than to have to drop them later (and to have to scrounge for space in replacement classes.

3. Make friends with your professors. Not just for letters of recommendation, or for networking purposes; make a real effort to get to know them. They are some of the most interesting, well-educated, experienced people on campus, and more often than not they’re quite happy to get to know you too. I’ve gotten some of my best life and career advice from coffee breaks with professors.

4. Take courses outside of your major. Your college offers access to a huge breadth of knowledge, and it would be a shame not to explore beyond your corner of the academic world. Entering new fields of study can introduce you to people you wouldn’t otherwise meet or relate to, help you discover new passions, and even enrich your understanding of your own subject.

5. Keep a record of your college life. I, for instance, like to journal. Some of my friends like to take lots of pictures. Whatever medium you choose, remember to document the best and the worst of these four-ish years. It’s astonishing how quickly we forget the little things, like the feeling of walking into a new apartment for the first time, or the best pizza the dining hall has to offer. Once in a while, when I’m feeling nostalgic or in need of a pick-me-up, I flip through the early pages of my journal and rediscover a little part of my past that makes me laugh, or reminds me how far I’ve come since that first year in the dorms. My mother still has her sorority scrapbooks, and likes pointing out how terrible her hair used to be, and what her pledge sisters—later, bridesmaids and best friends—looked like before they started dressing professionally. It’s easy to snap a picture or scribble down a few notes, and well worth the time.

Best of luck in your applications!

Need more guidance in planning for college? Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE College profile evaluation!

Courtney Tran is a student at UC Berkeley, studying Political Economy and Rhetoric. In high school, she was named a National Merit Finalist and National AP Scholar, and she represented her district two years in a row in Public Forum Debate at the National Forensics League National Tournament.

Time Flies: How to Stay Focused During Your Academic Career

Macalester CollegeTeachers, students, parents, Buzzfeed, and Hollywood pretty much all agree: College is awesome.

They’re right. Many high schoolers tend to think of college primarily in academic terms–which isn’t wrong, since it’s hard for someone who has never attended college to fully realize how much social, emotional, personal, intellectual, and sometimes even spiritual growth happens there. College students discover that they have more freedom and independence than most of them have ever experienced in their lives, so they quickly begin exploring new ideas, new friend groups, and new ways of thinking. In this fascinating, and sometimes dizzying, rush of new experiences and self-discovery, it’s easy to forget that the whole thing will only last about four years.

As a UC Berkeley undergraduate approaching the end of my junior year, I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on my time here: things I did right, things I could have done better, and how quickly everything happened. I probably should have kept my room cleaner, and actually attended a few more lectures instead of webcasting them. I haven’t entirely recovered from the trauma of my freshman year fashion choices. On the upside, I’ve become more focused, curious, and self-aware, and I did well enough in my classes and internships that I feel more or less confident that, by the time I graduate, I’ll be well prepared for graduate school and the working world.

I owe most of what I did well to some advice from a good friend of mine, who graduated two years ago. In my freshman (her junior) year, Jen and I stopped into a history professor’s office hours to ask him about a cool book he had written. Towards the end of the conversation, he asked us about our post-graduation plans. I was caught off guard: “Err, I don’t know yet. I’m just a freshman.”

He laughed. “Don’t worry about it. You’ve got a lot of time left to figure that out.”

After we left his office, Jen rolled her eyes. “I hate it when people say that. Everyone tells freshmen and sophomores they have so much time, and then boom–June happens, and suddenly they have no time at all. There’s no in-between. First you’re just another college student having fun, but three hours of someone else’s commencement later you’re an adult, and you’re supposed to be ready to get thrown into the real world. I wish someone had told me that earlier.”

Jen ended up doing perfectly well for herself. As I speak she’s traveling the world, supporting herself with a fantastic paid internship, space for promotion at her company, and two adorable cats. She’d be the first to tell you, though, that she might have saved herself a lot of stress, panic, and waitressing hours if she had started preparing for her dream career in her sophomore year instead of in her senior year. After two and a half years of low grades and sporadic class attendance, she realized in her junior year how unprepared she was to start a career in a competitive field. She began spending most nights locked in her room, applying to internships and storming through homework in an (ultimately futile) attempt to raise her GPA by taking extra courses. She ended up coming back to Berkeley a year after graduation to take a few more classes, since her first internship had shown her that she was missing some key technical skills. In her first four years she had been a scholarship student, but that money didn’t carry over to her return to school; to afford it she picked up an extra job on top of her already daunting schoolwork load.

Through all this, she has been sure to instill in me a determination to plan my education better than she did. It’s largely thanks to her urging that I applied to internships even before I felt academically ready to do so, and that I accepted an internship offer when it came. That first internship ended up being vital to my understanding of my field, and gave me skills and experience that helped me to land my next position. What I learned from my internships later informed my class choices, extracurricular involvement, and study abroad plans. I learned from Jen that, although it’s important to appreciate all the responsibilities, parties, and new experiences that come with college, it’s just as important to make sure that I never forget to develop my career plan too. Just as she said, throughout my freshman and sophomore years, my peers, professors, and advisors assured me that I had plenty of time to figure out what I wanted to do after college, but the moment I became a junior I never heard that assurance again. My schedule was almost immediately eaten up by career fairs, networking events, mock interviews, and workshops. I appreciate Jen’s advice more than ever now that I’ve seen the truth behind it for myself.

It’s never too late to start planning, but it’s never too early either.

Need more guidance in planning for college? Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE College profile evaluation!

Courtney Tran is a student at UC Berkeley, studying Political Economy and Rhetoric. In high school, she was named a National Merit Finalist and National AP Scholar, and she represented her district two years in a row in Public Forum Debate at the National Forensics League National Tournament.