7 Quick Takeaways From the New 2016 U.S. News & World Report College Rankings

USnews!Hot off the presses, the much-awaited U.S. News & World Report college rankings have arrived for 2016, and in stunning news…well, there’s not much stunning news. Princeton hasn’t gone the way of ITT Tech (New Jersey’s Ivy remains #1 for the sixth straight year), and the biggest “out of nowhere” story is that Villanova, now ranked 50th for national universities, took that perch having been reclassified from a “regional university” in years prior.

Still, there are always interesting trends and takeaways to be had from the slow-changing, well-respected rankings. Here are seven that caught our team’s eye:

1) The Central (Time)-ization of Higher Ed.
The typical Harvard/Princeton/Yale top 3 was cracked by a school outside the Eastern time zone…and no, it wasn’t Stanford. The University of Chicago moved up from 4th to tie for 3rd (with Yale), moving the nation’s “medal podium” slightly west this year. This continues a big surge for U. Chicago in recent years, having moved up from as far back as 9th in 2010.

Another big mover was Rice, jumping from 18th to 15th. The sum? A total of 6 schools – U. Chicago, Northwestern, Rice, Notre Dame, Washington University St. Louis, and Vanderbilt – in the Central Time Zone made the Top 15. (Alas, those Central-timers celebrating the notion of having 40% of the Top 15 should be careful: because of ties, a total of 18 schools can consider themselves in the Top 15, as well.)

2) USC beats UCLA
In the rankings’ most dynamic intra-city rivalry, USC finally moved a step ahead of UCLA, staying at 23 while the Bruins dropped ever-so-slightly to 24th. Last year the rivals were locked at 23, whereas the previous year saw UCLA a spot head of USC.

The other major intra-city rivalries stayed static, with Harvard safely above MIT, U. Chicago safely over Northwestern, and Columbia comfortably ahead of NYU.

3) It’s Good to Be A Bostonian…
Boston University and Northeastern each cracked the Top 40 this year (tied at 39), bringing the number of Boston schools with that distinction to 7. Harvard and MIT stayed in their usual Top 10 places, with Tufts (27th), Boston College (31st), and Brandeis (34th) also staying in that Top 40.

4) …or an Upstate New Yorker
While Columbia leads the way for all New York-based schools at #5, four other New York schools make the Top 40, with three of them coming from upstate. Cornell, naturally, leads that group at #15, and both the University of Rochester (32nd) and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (39th, in Troy), also earned that distinction.

5) The Public Option
With the exception of UC-Berkeley, each of the 22 schools with a Top 20 designation is a private school with a stated price tag of over $43,000. But once that list gets into the 20s, plenty of public schools with in-state tuition costs under $20,000 enter the mix: Berkeley, UCLA, Virginia, Michigan, and North Carolina all make the Top 30, with William & Mary, Georgia Tech, UC-Santa Barbara, and UC-Irvine ranking in the Top 40 at less than half the tuition cost of their private counterparts.

6) For Better Or Worse, Your Test Scores Will Matter
In the standard table view, the US News & World Report shows four statistics: tuition cost, undergraduate enrollment, SAT scores, and ACT scores (the range for the 25th percentile through the 75th percentile). And as you scan down the list, you’ll fisand that you have to get all the way to the 20th-ranked school (Emory) to find a middle 50% ACT range that isn’t entirely in the 30s (Emory’s is 29-33), and that only one of the top 15 schools (Dartmouth) has a middle 50% SAT range that includes scores below 1350.

As long as there are rankings that are based on quantitative data, standardized test scores will be a major way for schools to rise (or fall) in those rankings. It therefore follows that admissions officers will be looking for applicants whose stats can help them rise, so prospective students to highly-ranked schools should take their test preparation seriously.

7) Money Matters, Too
Seven of the Top 10 ranked schools are also in the U.S. News’ 2015 rankings for largest university endowments. When you see that Princeton has access to over $20 billion and Harvard holds over $36 billion, is it any wonder that these schools consistently top the U.S. university rankings? We’ll give a special shout out to Johns Hopkins, which managed its Top 10 ranking despite having “just” $3.4 billion in its coffers! Whether you think that’s puny or not, the fact is that all of these schools have the means to hire brilliant professors and give them access to world-class tools and facilities… Here’s hoping that they continue to invest in improving access to education and finding endless advances in all disciplines.

Do you need help with your college applications? Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE Profile Evaluation for personalized feedback on your unique background! And as always, be sure to follow us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+, and Twitter!

By Scott Shrum and Brian Galvin.

Medical Activities for High School Students Interested in Medical School

stethescopeHigh school students who want to go to medical school can start working toward that goal by participating in extracurricular activities within the medical field. These types of extracurricular activities can give high school students a closer look at various specialties within the medical profession. Plus, students can use these extracurricular activities to help them gain acceptance into a preferred college.

Consider a few examples of medical activities for high school students who are interested in going to med school:

Volunteer at a Hospital
Becoming a volunteer at a hospital is one of the most interesting medical activities for high school students to pursue. There are many different departments in a hospital that need volunteers. For example, a high school student can work at the information desk in the main lobby of a hospital, directing people to the rooms of family members and answering questions of visitors. This is a great way to observe the day-to-day operations of a hospital.

Or a high school student could perform clerical work. This may include putting medical files away, entering patient information into a computer, or answering telephones. A high school student doing clerical work would get to see the behind-the-scenes activities necessary to keep a hospital running.

Hospital volunteers also help deliver meals to patients, transport patients to different departments, and distribute magazines as well as other reading material. All of these tasks would give a high school student valuable experience working in a hospital setting. Students must be ready to dedicate several hours a week to this volunteer activity in order to learn as much as possible.

Volunteer on an Ambulance
Working as a volunteer on an ambulance is another example of an extracurricular for medical school. Volunteers assist the emergency medical service workers on runs to homes and businesses. This type of volunteer work gives students experience dealing with emergency situations and teaches them how to treat various injuries. Also, it gives a high school student the chance to see the treatment of a patient before they reach the hospital. This would be an appealing option for a high school student interested in becoming a medical professional working in an emergency room.

Shadow a Doctor
When it comes to extracurricular activities for medical school, shadowing a doctor is an excellent choice for a mature high school student. Of course, a student must get the permission of a doctor and set up a suitable schedule. Shadowing a doctor gives a student the opportunity to witness interactions between the doctor and their patients. Also, the doctor can fill the student in on what is written on an examination sheet, how to diagnose certain ailments, and how to go about answering a patient’s questions.

Shadowing a doctor for a long period of time serves as an impressive extracurricular for medical school. In addition, the student may want to ask the doctor for a letter of recommendation to submit with a college application. A glowing letter from a doctor can carry a lot of weight with college admissions officials.

Work in a Doctor’s Office
One of the most useful extracurricular activities for medical school is working in a doctor’s office as a volunteer assistant. A high school student in this position may help with a number of different tasks. For instance, the student may assist with clerical work, direct patients to examination rooms, or take basic information from patients under the guidance of a nurse. A student gets to see the teamwork it takes to keep a doctor’s office operating in an efficient way. This is one of those medical school extracurriculars that conveys a student’s interest in learning about all aspects of a doctor’s office.

At Veritas Prep, our experienced consultants advise students on every part of their college application – this includes evaluating a student’s medical school extracurriculars to determine which ones to highlight for admissions officials.

We also guide students as they study for the SAT and for the ACT. Our instructors review practice test results with students to create an efficient study plan, as we know that these test scores play a critical role in a student’s path toward medical school. Our SAT and ACT prep courses are available both in person and online so students can get all of the study time they need to ace the test. Contact Veritas Prep today!

Do you need help with your college applications? Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE Profile Evaluation for personalized feedback on your unique background! And as always, be sure to follow us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+, and Twitter!

Three Expensive Things Worth Buying (Even on a College Budget)

featured_money@wdd2xNo matter how you’re financing your college education—through scholarships, savings, working, loans, etc.—your college budget is likely to be tight.

I had generous scholarships and a reasonable pile of savings helping me through my four undergraduate years, but even then I spent plenty of time counting coins at the supermarket, dragging my laundry home to avoid the dorm machine costs, and making up excuses to avoid eating out with friends or colleagues at restaurants out of my budget (ordering the smallest and cheapest dishes said restaurants had whenever I couldn’t come up with a good enough excuse).

In some ways, four years of penny-pinching paid off: I graduated in a more financially secure position than I’d expected to, never had to take out a student loan, and avoided burdening my family with high college costs. However, I also learned the hard way that there are some things worth splurging on.

I know that college student budgets vary widely, and that sometimes it’s just not possible to spend money on the arguably luxury items in this list – whenever the funds can be safely afforded, however, I highly, highly recommend investing in the following three things:

1) A Good Mattress
This may not be an option if you live in a dorm, but if you’re buying your own bed to use throughout college, this is a must (and even if your school does provide you with a mattress, a good mattress topper is just as helpful). Even though I could have spared just enough money to buy a mattress with adequate support, I ended up with some nasty shoulder and lower-back pain because I spent far too long on a thin, flimsy bit of foam that thinned to nothing within four months of regular use (even though I’m a relatively small person; I heard plenty worse from my larger friends).

Today, two awful dorm bed mattresses later, I’m working on hammering out the kinks in my shoulder with a massage therapist who charges $85 per hour. And I’m not alone – I know others who picked up lifelong back problems just from a year or two on a bad college mattress. Pay for the mattress now to avoid paying for your health later.

2) Fresh, Healthy Food
Meal plans and junk food are tempting and (often) cheaper than the healthier options, but your body and your mind will thank you throughout and after college if you choose fresh produce over instant ramen. Healthy food improves your academic performance, keeps you energized, and boosts your mood, which makes you both a better student and a generally happier person. Pay for real nourishment to get the most out of the money you’re spending on your education.

3) Study Abroad
This is by far the most expensive item on this list, but it deserves to be included because study abroad is an incredible supplement to your college education. Study abroad programs allow you to expand your horizons and gain new perspectives through travel and exposure to new places and people. Classes help you meet types of people you’ve never met before; program and university affiliation provide a safety net (health insurance, counseling resources, emergency loans, and other benefits) to reduce the risks that may come with spending a lot of time in an unfamiliar place; and financial aid and scholarships are available to ease the financial burden.

Studying abroad is especially worth the money because it’s something you can only do while in school. The opportunity to spend an entire semester or year exploring a new world, especially with a program and an academic structure to keep you safe and help you integrate, is rare and precious and should be seized.

Do you need help with your college applications? Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE Profile Evaluation for personalized feedback on your unique background! And as always, be sure to follow us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+, and Twitter!

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.

The Best Undergraduate Business Schools

Macalester CollegeNaturally, ambitious high school students who plan to pursue a career in business want to take a close look at the undergraduate business school rankings published every year. They understand that graduating from one of the top undergraduate business schools can increase their chances of landing a job at a growing company. But what qualities differentiate these undergraduate business schools from all of the others?

Discover some of the most desirable features that the best undergrad business schools have to offer their students:

Qualified Faculty Members
Highly ranked undergraduate business schools have a faculty made up of knowledgeable professors. Often, these schools hire professors who have several years of experience working for a company or corporation. Consequently, students are learning from individuals who have practical knowledge of the business world. Plus, many of the best business schools limit the number of students in each class. As a result, each student is able to receive individual attention from their professor. This allows students to get the most value out of each of their courses.

Students who are curious about their chances of getting into a particular undergraduate school can use Veritas Prep’s free admissions calculator. Our calculator compares a person’s GPA, test scores, and other information with the data of students admitted into a particular college. Students can use the results provided by our admissions calculator to help them decide which undergraduate business schools to apply to.

A Thorough Program of Study
The top business schools provide undergraduate students with a thorough program of study. This type of program includes courses in Economics, Management, Entrepreneurship, Finance, Accountancy, Marketing, Analytics, and Data Science. When a student graduates from a high-ranking school, they will have knowledge of many different areas of business.

Internship Opportunities
Many of the top undergrad business schools have solid relationships with well-known companies and corporations. This opens the door to a variety of internship opportunities for students at the school. Getting an internship at a profitable company can help a student to gain the experience they need to get a great job after graduation. Furthermore, a student who works as an intern can establish contacts with professionals who work at the company. These contacts can be helpful resources as an individual begins to search for a job after graduation.

Executive Speakers
Many of the top undergraduate business schools invite executives to speak to classes of students. These executives share insights and experiences that give students a clear picture of what it’s like to work in the business world. One student may decide to pursue work in a particular area of business after listening to an executive speaker. Another student may plan to apply for work at a specific company after hearing about the company’s goals from a visiting professional. The best undergraduate business schools recognize the value that guest speakers bring to the student body.

A Variety of Financial Aid Options
Undergraduate business schools that are highly ranked provide students with a selection of financial aid options. These schools are looking for well-qualified, determined students who are dedicated to getting the most out of their education. They offer several financial aid options so students from all backgrounds have the opportunity to earn a business degree, as most schools want a campus full of students with different beliefs and interests.

Recruitment Opportunities
The top business schools for undergraduate students attract recruiters from profitable companies and corporations. Seniors have the opportunity to talk with many representatives of these companies to find out about employment opportunities after they graduate. Many of the best business schools can claim that a large percentage of their graduates are hired by these companies every year. The opportunity to work for a well-known company is an enticing factor for many high school students in search of an undergraduate business school.

Our team at Veritas Prep helps high school students prepare for the SAT and ACT by giving them the strategies they need to master each part of these exams. Our prep courses are available both online and in-person. We also have a staff of experienced admissions consultants who can help students with their college applications. We understand the importance of submitting an impressive application to the best undergraduate business schools throughout the country – contact Veritas Prep today and let us assist you on the path toward business school!

Do you still need to help with your college applications? We can help! Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE Profile Evaluation for personalized feedback on your unique background! And as always, be sure to follow us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+, and Twitter!

How Do Language Studies Affect Your College Acceptance?

Europeean MBA ProgramsWhy study a foreign language? This is a question high school students often have about the courses they need to take to get into college. Other students wonder about the number of years they should dedicate to studying a foreign language. The fact is that many college admissions officials give special attention to students who participate in second-language studies. Discover a few specific reasons why college officials like to see foreign-language studies included on a student’s application:

Dedication to Learning
Why study a foreign language? It takes a dedicated student to become fluent in a second language. College admissions officials are looking for students who are constantly challenging and strengthening their skills. They are especially impressed when a student takes four years of a foreign language in high school. Students who take just two years of second-language studies have achieved the minimum requirement for most colleges. But a high school student who studies a foreign language for four years has shown dedication to getting a more thorough understanding of the language.

At Veritas Prep, we offer a free profile evaluation to students, and we look at their foreign language courses, extracurricular activities, and other qualifications to help them craft standout applications. We know how to highlight a student’s best assets, including their persistence in learning a new language.

Interest in Other Cultures
Colleges like high school students who are studying a foreign language because it shows an interest in other cultures. Part of studying the language of a foreign country involves learning about the customs and traditions of the people who live there. Interest in other cultures can help a student decide what to study in college or even what type of career to pursue. A class of college freshmen is all the more diverse if it’s filled with students who have knowledge of different people and places throughout the world.

Persistence in Mastering a Difficult Skill
College admissions officials know that it takes persistence to learn a foreign language. A student has to add to their vocabulary while working on pronunciation and constructing meaningful sentences. Also, the student must learn about the history of a country and its people. The persistence a student uses in learning a foreign language is likely to carry over into other classes. Colleges are looking for hard-working students who are eager to excel in all of their subjects. Several years of foreign-language study is an indication of a diligent student.

Earning High Scores on Standardized Tests
One of the other benefits of studying a foreign language is that this type of coursework can help students perform well on standardized tests. The logical thinking and memorization skills used to learn a foreign language in high school can assist students as they tackle questions on the SAT or the ACT. So why study foreign language? Because it can help students boost their standardized test scores and bring them a step closer to an acceptance letter from a preferred college.

Incorporating a Foreign Language in a Future Career
There are some high school students with plans to pursue careers that require knowledge of a foreign language. For instance, one high school student may dream of becoming an executive for a corporation that has offices in Japan, so the student would begin serious study of the Japanese language as a freshman in high school. After four years of Japanese study, the student would want to continue to perfect their skills in college. College admissions officials would certainly take note of a high school student with long-term goals to make use of a second language.

Our professional consultants at Veritas Prep can give students the tips and guidance they need to put together an impressive college application. Our consultants have worked in the admissions offices of the country’s most notable colleges. Consequently, students benefit from the inside experience of our staff.

For students who are wondering what their chances are of getting into a particular college, we have the College Chanculator. After typing in a few items of information, students can see how they compare to others who have already been accepted into a particular school. From online test prep to college application advice, we help high school students toward the school of their dreams!

Live Chat Event Helps You Find the Right College Match

collegeweeklive-1Deciding which college to attend can seem like an overwhelming decision. How do you know what type of school is best for you? Which are the best degree programs? And once you decide on a school, what will it take to get in?

There’s now a website – CollegeWeekLive.com – where these questions can be answered in live chats with colleges and education experts. Nearly one million high school students a year visit CollegeWeekLive.com to text and video chat with admissions counselors at colleges and universities around the country.

Throughout the year, you can watch live presentations or join a one-on-one or group chat to ask anything you’d like about topics like classes, professors, degree programs, campus life, dorm rooms, and more. Many of the participating colleges also have live chats hosted by some of their current students who can give you plenty of insider advice about what it’s really like to live on campus.

Get Free Advice at Back to School Day
The next big event is their Back to School Day on Thursday, August 25, 2016. You and your parents can sign-up for free and login between 2:00-10:00PM EDT to:

  • Chat with representatives from 100+ colleges and universities around the country
  • Attend live presentations and Q&As with education experts
  • Enter to win a $1,000 scholarship when you research colleges during the event

Top Questions to Help You Find the Right College
Don’t be shy about asking questions during a virtual college fair. This is your chance to really get to know each school! Here are some great questions to get you started:

  • What do students seem to like best about your school?
  • What do you feel makes your school stand out?
  • What’s your favorite part of campus?
  • What fun things are there to do off campus?
  • What types of students tend to do best at your school?
  • What percentage of students get a job in their field right after graduation?
  • What test scores do I need to get admitted?
  • What advice do you have for making my application stand out?
  • What are some of your most popular degree programs?
  • Which are some of your strongest programs and why?
  • How accessible are your professors?
  • What types of scholarships are available?
  • What kind of work/study opportunities do you offer?
  • What is student housing like?

Get Advice from Admissions Experts
Education experts such as Ted Fiske of The Fiske Guide to Colleges participate in many of CollegeWeekLive’s online presentations. You can watch live presentations and ask questions during the live events, or even view the presentations on-demand.

Common presentation topics include:

  • How to write a great college essay
  • Tips on researching colleges
  • The ins and outs of college admissions
  • Finding the best scholarships
  • Preparing for the ACTs and SATs

Check out the schedule of virtual college fairs and live chats and signup for CollegeWeekLive for free.

collegeweeklive

Extracurriculars that Compliment Your Major

Extracurricular-ActivitiesGPA, class rank, and standardized test scores are all parts of a student’s college application. Extracurricular activities also play an important part as a student is considered for admission into college.

Many high school students join extracurricular clubs and get on sports teams so they can enjoy some fun times with friends, but it benefits high school students to keep their intended college major in mind as they select their extracurricular activities. College admissions officials are sure to take special notice of extracurricular activities that complement a student’s intended major. Look at some examples of these types of extracurricular activities:

Volunteer Work
One of the advantages of participating in volunteer work is that students have a lot of options to choose from. Plus, volunteer work complements many college majors. For example, someone who supervises volunteers at a homeless shelter is displaying leadership skills as well as the ability to motivate and organize a group of people. This would be an ideal extracurricular activity for a student who wants to major in business, education or psychology.

Alternatively, a student majoring in veterinary medicine can complement that selection by volunteering at an animal shelter or zoo. A high school student who plans to major in gerontology would benefit from volunteering at a nursing home or a recreation center for senior citizens. These types of extracurricular activities are impressive on a college application and give students valuable experiences they can use in their future career.

Tutoring
Tutoring is one of the most popular extracurriculars for college applicants who plan to major in education. For instance, a high school student who wants to major in elementary education can tutor pre-teens who are participating in a summer reading program. Or a student who intends to major in special education can tutor kids in an after-school program for those who need extra help. The leadership and communication skills required for tutoring make this an excellent extracurricular activity for students who intend to major in business, communications or even pre-law.

At Veritas Prep, high school students can get a free college application evaluation from one of our talented college admissions consultants. We provide students with tips regarding extracurricular clubs and other activities that can make a great college application all the more impressive.

Internships
Students looking for outstanding extracurriculars for college applications may want to consider an internship. An internship can give a student the opportunity to sample the type of work they will be doing in a particular field. For example, an internship at a magazine publisher is an extracurricular that complements a major in journalism. In addition, an internship in the marketing department of a well-known company complements a business major.

A student who intends to major in botany may want to find an internship at a local greenhouse or botanical garden. This would give the student hands-on experience with all types of plants and flowers. Our team of consultants at Veritas Prep has the skills and experience to advise students on the most suitable types of extracurricular activities for their intended major. We understand what the best colleges in the country are looking for when it comes to prospective students.

Taking Extra Courses
On a college application, extracurricular activities may take the form of additional courses. A high school student may take these classes in the evening, after school, or during the summer months.

Naturally, certain courses can complement specific college majors. For instance, a class in basic sign language complements a major in language studies, and a class in women’s history complements a women’s/gender studies major. High school students who want to complement their political science major can take a course that looks at the lives of the most well-known presidents of the United States. Besides complementing their major, additional courses can prep students for some of the academic work they’ll encounter in college.

Our professional instructors at Veritas Prep are proud to prepare high school students for college. We do everything from helping students study for the SAT and ACT to guiding them through all of the steps of the college admissions process. Our students benefit from the insider knowledge and practical experience of our admissions consultants. Contact the experts at Veritas Prep today and start your journey toward higher education!

Do you still need to help with your college applications? We can help! Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE Profile Evaluation for personalized feedback on your unique background! And as always, be sure to follow us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+, and Twitter!

Does Your College Pass the “Broken Leg Test”?

Run OnDon’t worry, college-bound high school students – this post is not about another test you have to take. I’m sure you’ve had just about enough of testing for a while! The “broken leg test” is a term that I learned from a family friend, and it has to do with the college search process.

For athletes that want to continue to play sports in college, there’s another aspect of looking at schools: finding a college sports team that you like and that will take you. But my family friend’s advice to athletes was to make sure that the search for a good athletic program didn’t overshadow the search for a good academic and social fit. He told athletes to consider whether they would still like the school they wanted to go to if they got injured and were no longer able to be on the sports team. Hence, the broken leg test.

This is, first-and-foremost, good advice for athletes. Sports are, of course, a big part of school for athletes, but college is too big an investment for athletics to be the only consideration. Applying the broken leg test is a good way to make sure that an athlete’s college choice is well-reasoned and positions the athlete well for the future, no matter what injuries may occur.

The idea of the broken leg test can be valuable for non-athletes, too. Making sure that your college choice isn’t disproportionately based on one factor is a smart thing to do. It forces you to think broadly about the aspects you want your college to have, and not get caught up in one little detail that catches your eye. There are so many things to love about college, and life is so unpredictable, that you’re more likely to be happy if your reasons for choosing a school are numerous.

Consider the following example: Imagine a student – let’s call her Caroline – really likes College X. She visited College X during a special concert performance on campus and loved the performers and the atmosphere. However, with a careful application of the broken leg test, Caroline should be wary of putting too much stock in this one experience. Possibly, the concert doesn’t usually draw as talented of artists, or the student body acts much differently on normal days of the week. Would Caroline still be happy at College X if concerts and other events like this weren’t nearly as good when she went to the school? Only if the answer is yes should Caroline still consider attending College X.

So, for athletes and non-athletes alike, the idea of the broken leg test is a good thing to keep in mind when choosing a college to attend. If, for some reason, you were unable to participate in one major college activity you had planned to participate in, would you still be happy at the school you chose? Keeping that question in mind is a good way to make sure that even if something drastic happens, your college choice is still a good one.

Do you still need to help with your college applications? We can help! Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE Profile Evaluation for personalized feedback on your unique background! And as always, be sure to follow us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+, and Twitter!

By Aidan Calvelli.

The Importance of Challenging Your Worldview in College

GoalsCollege is a time for many important things, and one of those is re-imaging the way you view the world. For many college first-year students, life has (up until this point) been lived in one place with people of mostly similar backgrounds. Once in college, however, you will be exposed to a variety of viewpoints, opinions, cultures, and experiences that will be very different from your own.

Many colleges recruit students and faculty from all over the country and the world, so there’s a good chance many of the people you meet will be from places you know nothing about. While this may seem scary to some, it is actually a great opportunity for learning and growth.

By engaging with diversity in all its forms, you will be able to see things from different angles and expand your perspective to better understand the full complexity of the world. Recognizing socioeconomic, racial, ethnic, sexual, religious, and political diversity are important to seeing the world through fresher, clearer, more well-informed eyes. Our worldviews are often limited by what we have seen in our own lives, so when we make a sincere effort to understand how people from different backgrounds understand the world around them, we learn new modes of thinking and encounter challenging questions we may not have previously been aware of.

In seeking out new perspectives, your resulting opinions will be stronger, you will be a more worldly person, and you will recognize that there are always new things you can learn more about. Whatever opinions you hold now can continually be improved, updated, and amended.

Here are some things you can do on or off campus to make sure your time in college allows you to critically reassess your views and opinions:

Seek out people who disagree with you.
It’s easy to get caught in an echo chamber of people who already share your opinions, but this doesn’t force you to challenge the way you think. Making an active effort to be friends with people with different political or religious beliefs will ensure that you don’t get stuck in an opinion bubble. Plus, when you have good relationships with people who disagree with you, you are more likely to realize that their opinions come from good faith, not from a radical desire to “ruin” the world.

Advocate for unpopular opinions.
This can be a hard role to play in conversation, but it’s important to be a voice that won’t just kowtow to the dominant ideology. When someone makes a claim, it’s valuable to be the one to push back on it (respectfully), since this can cause all people involved to more deeply examine why they hold their beliefs. You don’t have to play the “devil’s advocate” and stick up for opinions that you truly find appalling, but you can ask probing questions, critique arguments, and voice the viewpoints that nobody else is sharing.

Explore unfamiliar topics.
On college assignments, students have a tendency to write about things they are familiar with. This may make for easier work, but it doesn’t have the kind of benefits that learning about unknown topics does. When you do a research paper on a culture you know little about, or write a philosophy essay on a moral dilemma you hadn’t considered before, you will be able to learn with an open mind and grow in areas you hadn’t previously imagined. Sure, it might be hard to dive into an unfamiliar topic, but in the long-term, learning how to challenge yourself like this is sure to come in handy.

Reflect on your own beliefs.
Being away from home, college is a good time to reflect on where your beliefs came from. Sometimes things that seem central to your identity are actually just a byproduct of your upbringing, and may not be what you really believe when you take the time to reflect. By really analyzing why you think what you think, you’ll often realize that a different way to think is just as or even more reasonable. Self-reflection is an important part of personal growth, and college – the hallowed place of learning – is the perfect place to perform that growth process.

If you are curious and bold in your thinking in college, your beliefs will change and grow throughout your time there. Although this thought may be disconcerting, the uncomfortable process of intellectual growth and development is exactly what college is designed for.

Do you still need to help with your college applications? We can help! Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE Profile Evaluation for personalized feedback on your unique background! And as always, be sure to follow us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+, and Twitter!

By Aidan Calvelli.

Don’t Worry About Your Freshman Roommate!

roomateBefore my first year of college, one of the biggest things I worried about was the prospect of not liking my freshman roommate. After having my own room (and a decently sized one at that) for all 18 years of my life, the prospect of spending two full semesters in a small dorm with someone I had never met was a scary one.

What if I don’t like him? What if his side of the room is a mess? What if he goes to bed at 4AM and blasts music every night? How is this nondescript roommate questionnaire going to pair me with someone I’m actually compatible with? What if he doesn’t like me? In my mind, the negative possibilities were endless.

In one sense, these fears are reasonable. Since you don’t have many (or any) friends at your new school before the year starts, it makes sense to want to have a perfect relationship with your roommate. Couple that desire with the seemingly random roommate pairing process at many schools, and it’s easy to get anxious.

However, in my experience these fears are oftentimes unfounded. Here are a few reasons why:

You Don’t Have to Be BFFs 
While it may not seem so beforehand, making friends in college is not too hard. That said, it’s not imperative that you and your roommate are best friends for life. Being friends with your roommate certainly doesn’t hurt, but if you aren’t super close, you’ll still be able to easily develop a solid friend group. Plus, sometimes it’s good to look outside your dorm for friendship, since it forces you to expand your horizons and get out to meet people!

Closeness Breeds Compatibility 
Even if there are certain factors that may seem to hinder your compatibility with your roommate, the fact of the matter is that most people are perfectly capable of living with each other. Barring extreme circumstances, most people can get along when they have to.

Additionally, the more you spend time living with your roommate, the more you two can figure out how to room together effectively. As long as you’re nice about it, making small requests like turning the music down or cleaning up the room a bit are likely to help out your situation without harming the room dynamic. Good communication is key – when communication lines are healthy and open, little annoyances can easily be prevented from turning into bigger problems.

(Yes) New Friends 
One overlooked thing about having a roommate is that even if you two aren’t very close, you’ll still get introduced to his or her friends. For me – someone who was friendly with, but not best friends with, my roommate – it was fun getting to know my roommate’s friends and hang out with them in our room. It’s easy to get caught up just in your own friend group, so spending time with my roommate’s friends was a nice change of pace. The ironic thing is that even though I didn’t end up being great friends with my roommate (something I had worried about), I ended up making more friends because of him!

Overall, going into college can be a nerve-wracking time for a lot of people. However, worrying about your freshman roommate is an unnecessary expenditure of worry. Hey, you’ll both be mature, responsible, college-ready adults, and even if you seem different, I’m confident you’ll be able to make it work.

Do you still need to help with your college applications? We can help! Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE Profile Evaluation for personalized feedback on your unique background! And as always, be sure to follow us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+, and Twitter!

By Aidan Calvelli.

How to Find an Internship in 5 Steps

InterviewCollege students have heard a million times how important internships are for career development, and how wise it is to start looking for internships in college rather than to wait until after graduation. This is repeated so often because it’s good advice – often, the best way to get acquainted with, and get a head start in, a career field is to see it first-hand.

Finding an internship opportunity, however, can be difficult, as they’re not often well advertised. Here are are a few tips you can use to help you find the internship of your dreams:

1) Decide what you want to learn.
Are you looking for exposure to a particular field? Are you looking to gain certain skills? Choose a priority and let that guide your search. This is important because you’ll probably encounter plenty of internship opportunities that you aren’t interested in. Don’t be tempted to take on uninteresting internships just for he sake of completing an internship; poorly chosen internships can turn out to simply be a waste of both your time and your host organization’s time.

2) Find out about internships in your field of interest.
Talk to university advisers, friends or classmates (or do research on your own) to get some information about whether organizations in your field of interest offer internships, what kinds of internships exist, and what qualifications you might need to be eligible for them.

3) Get help from your school.
Ask the career center at your university, which may have alumni networks, job placement programs, information about internship fairs, and other resources that can aid you in your search.

4) Check with local companies or organizations.
Are there any specific organizations you’ve considered pursuing a career with? Check their websites to see if they offer internship opportunities. Even if they don’t, it’s worth giving them a call or paying their office a visit to ask, as many internship opportunities aren’t posted online.

5) Utilize your personal network.
Do you know anyone in your field of interest? Ask them if they know of any open internship opportunities you might be eligible for. If so, see if you can get application information or an introduction to the internship coordinator. If not, see if your contact might know anyone else in the field who might know of potential open internship opportunities.

Don’t be disappointed if you can’t immediately obtain an internship position with a large or well-known organization. Internships in large or famous organizations are not necessarily more interesting, more enriching, or more respectable than other internships. Choose your internship based on whether you think you can learn or gain something worthwhile from it.

Do you still need to help with your college applications? We can help! Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE Profile Evaluation for personalized feedback on your unique background! And as always, be sure to follow us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+, and Twitter!

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.

How You Should Spend Your First Summer After College

Study on the BeachOkay, so you’ve just finished up your first year of college. It was (hopefully) awesome and you (hopefully) learned a lot, but now it’s time for summer. Glorious summer! Throughout middle and high school, summer vacation was always the peak of the year – a time to relax and enjoy the company of old friends without the incessant demands of school.

Now that you’re a college student, though, things can seem a little different. All of a sudden, you might feel pressure from your family, friends, or classmates to use your summer in a certain way. This often manifests itself in the form of pressure to further your career prospects via an internship, fellowship, or job shadowing.

While doing this may be important, it is not the only worthwhile way you can spend your first summer out of college. It is important to remember that it is your summer – not anyone else’s – so what you choose to do with it should be a reflection of the values that are important to you.

When you don’t let any narrative or stereotype limit what you feel you are “supposed” to do with your first summer, you will be more free to make the best choice available to you. There are 3 main ways that you can use this first summer, each of which have merits and drawbacks that I’ll explore below:

1) Summer Job
One classic way to pass the long summer hours is with a summer job. This can take many forms, such as scooping ice cream, being a camp counselor, working as a cashier, and much more. Businesses are always looking for young people to fill positions, so it’s likely that you’ll be able to find some form of work.

These jobs may not pay high wages, but they can be a great source of income, both to chip away at outrageous college debts or to just have some fun money to spend during the summer. They will also add work experience to your resume, and give you real-world skills that can be valuable outside of just that specific job.

2) Internship
Even though the pressure to find elite internships is often excessive, internships can be a valuable use of your time in the summer. Internships can connect you with career opportunities, help you learn what jobs are of interest to you, and give you skills that might be valuable down the road. However, internships are often unpaid, meaning that doing one is likely a long-term, rather than a short-term, investment in yourself. There are some paid internships out there (Go get one if you can!), but these are a rarity.

If possible, combining an internship with a part-time summer job can be a good way to have the best of both worlds – gain career skills while also raising money – but this can sometimes take too much time out of your summer, a time when you should be able to decompress after the rigors of college rather than add to your stress level.

3) Travel and Relaxation
College students are in a unique position, in that even though they are close to the “real world,” they still can put off searching for careers, if only for a little while. One great way to use your youth is to travel with friends or family to see new places or revisit childhood destinations. You’ll meet friends from all over the world in college, and summer is a great time to really see where they come from.

If you don’t have the opportunity to travel, you can also use your summer to completely relax. Without homework or classes, you will have time to read books, go on adventures, and give your brain a well-deserved break. Although this won’t earn you money or directly prepare you for a career, it can help clear you head and put you in a good position to continue learning from, and enjoying, your college experience.

Each of these ways of spending your summer has different values and benefits, so there is no way to definitely rank which one is best. Ultimately, there is no right or wrong answer – anything you choose to do over your summer vacation can work out if you approach it with the right mindset.

Do you still need to help with your college applications? We can help! Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE Profile Evaluation for personalized feedback on your unique background! And as always, be sure to follow us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+, and Twitter!

By Aidan Calvelli.

Life After College: Getting a Head Start

study aboard girlPost-graduation depression is all too common. Students spend four years poring over textbooks and slogging through all-nighters to graduate with a degree, only to realize after graduation that they really have no idea what to do with it. The shift from a few classes a day to a 40-hour workweek, along with a social shift away from large groups of people your own age, often makes graduation a difficult transition period.

I graduated six months ago and ran into this crisis myself. I was lucky: I had done a few internships, read up on jobs I’d like to pursue, and connected with mentors who have been invaluable in guiding me through the process of starting a career, but I still spent plenty of long nights trying to figure out how to navigate the working world, and wondering if I was prepared enough to pull it off.

Here are three things I’m grateful I did, and three things I wish I had done, to better prepare myself for life after graduation:

I did internships in my field.
I knew from the start of my undergraduate career that I was interested in politics and international relations, but I didn’t know where in that vast field I might fit best. By completing a wide range of internships, I became acquainted with the work culture in my field, and I learned about the types of work environments I function best in, the types of work I’m best suited to, and the types of organizations I prefer to work for. Internships helped me find exactly which jobs I wanted to apply for after graduation, and boosted my resume to make me a better candidate for those positions.

I graduated with a degree in a field I love.
It’s hard to study a subject for four years if you’re not really interested in it. It’s even harder to jump headfirst in a career rooted in that subject – 40 hours (or more) per week is a lot of time to pour into something you don’t really care about. It’s never too late to choose a different field, but it’s much easier to make the switch earlier on than later.

I kept learning outside of class.
I went to office hours, built relationships with professors, and did the optional readings on the syllabus. Life is structured around learning in college, but after graduation, learning takes initiative; when nobody assigns you readings or schedules your exams, it’s easy to let your understanding of your field slip. I developed my sense of educational initiative while I still had a strong external learning system supporting me, and was able to lean on that initiative after I left that system.

I should have only taken the classes I was really interested in.
Contrary to my freshman year beliefs, taking more classes didn’t automatically mean I would become a better student or a smarter person; I only really gained from, and engaged with, classes I sincerely found interesting.

I should have spent more time on extracurricular activities and internships.
Classes gave me the academic foundation I needed to pursue a career in the international relations field, but the social skills, leadership skills, and professional skills I gleaned from extracurricular activities and internships were just as important in preparing me for the real world.

I should have taken more classes outside of my specialization.
By zeroing in on political science my freshman year, and devoting any open space in my schedule to even more political science classes, I closed myself off to other interesting and important fields. A better understanding of computer science, biology, economics, literature, art, and other subjects would not only have made me a more educated and well-rounded person, but would also have enhanced my understanding of political science. The world isn’t clearly divided into academic fields – all fields intersect, and I would have become surer of my own interests and opinions earlier on if I had been exposed to more opinions and potential interests.

Life after graduation doesn’t need to be so intimidating – learn from the tips above to ensure your transition from college to the real world is as smooth as possible.

Do you still need to help with your college applications? We can help! Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE Profile Evaluation for personalized feedback on your unique background! And as always, be sure to follow us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+, and Twitter!

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.

The College Transfer Process: How to Transfer Colleges

Columbia UniversityIt’s not unusual for a student to start courses at a college, only to realize that they want to make a change. Perhaps the student wants to attend a school with more resources for art students, or maybe a student wants to switch to a school that allows its students to put their knowledge into practice via internship opportunities.

There are countless reasons why college students want to transfer to other schools, and understandably, students in this situation want to know how this process works – how to complete the prep work necessary to put the transfer into motion. Before taking this big step, examine what a student must do in order to transfer colleges:

Researching the Deadline for Transfer Applications
One of the first steps to transferring schools is for students to visit the website of the college they want to attend. Many colleges have a specific section on their website where students can find information about transferring into the school. It’s important for students to note the various application deadlines so they can submit all of their necessary documents on time.

Sometimes, visiting the college itself to talk with an academic counselor can make the college transfer process easier. For instance, during such a meeting, a student can inquire about the minimum number of credits necessary to transfer into the school (as some colleges won’t consider transfer students unless they’ve earned a certain amount of credits at their current school). The counselor may also be able to help map out strategies that will allow the transfer to graduate on schedule.

Completing an Application
Just like high school seniors, a college student who wants to transfer to a different college must fill out an application, which are available online for most schools. This application must be filled out completely and submitted along with the other required materials by midnight on the date of the deadline.

If you need help putting your application materials together, just contact us! At Veritas Prep, we can evaluate a student’s college transfer application – our professional consultants have experience working in the admissions offices of some of the best universities in the country, so we know what schools are looking for when they evaluate a student’s application, recommendation letters, and other materials.

Getting College Transcripts
A transfer student must also submit their latest college transcript. Naturally, college officials want to know about a student’s performance at their current school before admitting them. Some colleges will even want to see a student’s SAT or ACT scores to get a clearer picture of the person’s academic abilities (this is especially true if the student has spent a short time at their current school). But not to worry – at Veritas Prep, we can provide you with guidance on what colleges look at when evaluating transfer students. Our consultants have experience with the college transfer process and can offer students solid tips on how to navigate their way into a different school.

Obtaining Letters of Recommendation from Professors
For some students, one of the steps to transferring colleges is to garner letters of recommendation from professors. These letters help college officials determine whether the transfer student would be a positive addition to the school. Letters of recommendation should come from professors who are familiar with the student and their work ethic – getting a glowing letter of recommendation from one professor is better than getting lukewarm letters from half a dozen instructors who don’t really know much about the student.

Other Tips for Students Who Want to Transfer to Another College
There are other considerations students should keep in mind when considering transferring, too. Students who have scholarships or other types of financial aid at their current school must determine whether these will be affected if they transfer to another college. Also, transferring to a new school can potentially affect a student’s graduation date because the student may need to take additional classes required by the new college. Transfer students should also check into the availability of housing on campus, as some colleges may not have available housing at the time the student transfers into the school.

Students who want to know more about how to transfer colleges should also take into consideration how their standardized test scores may impact their ability to transfer. In some cases, transfer students with plenty of college credit to their names don’t need to worry as much about their previous SAT or ACT scores, however, if you’re one of the many students who feel that they could improve their scores, Veritas Prep is here to help you do that. We are proud to help students continue to pursue their goals and receive the highest testing scores possible through hard work, dedication, and the right resources. Let us help you today!

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!

Why You Should Consider Leaving the College Bubble

transition into collegeIn college, it can be easy to get so caught up in everything happening on campus that you forget your school exists as part of wider community. This so-called “bubble” phenomenon is real at schools all across the country (see “Vassar Bubble,” “Bowdoin Bubble,” etc.), and can actually be a detriment to students’ overall college experiences.

At Brown, going out into the Providence community is often referred to as “getting off the Hill.” We live on College Hill – which is, in a sense, physically separated from the rest of the city – and sadly, some Brown students rarely venture off the Hill.

At first glance, it might appear like this issue isn’t very important. There are so many exciting things that happen on college campuses, and college is such a unique time in a person’s life, it might seem as if students should spend as much time as they can on campus. After all, one’s time in college is possibly the only chance he or she will have to be that involved in school activities, whereas one can interact with local communities at any point in one’s life.

While somewhat convincing, this argument neglects to consider that getting involved off campus can actually strengthen the college experience. The typical aspects of college life – like classes, clubs, and parties – are great, but they are a bit removed from the “real world.”

Going out into the local community, be it through volunteering or just through the local social scene, is a good way to stay connected with the struggles and successes of everyday people from all walks of life. Plus, doing this can diversify a student’s interactions beyond the ideological, economic, and age-related homogeneity that is sometimes present in college communities.

For me, I’ve gotten tremendous value from volunteering off campus. I help out at an elementary school and a nonprofit legal advocacy group (both are in Providence), and doing each has strengthened my ties to the city and bolstered my academic experience.

There’s no better way to care about a community than to become invested in its children. When I’m working with 5th graders on math problems, I’m reminded of the educational opportunities I’ve been granted, and am intimately aware of how important it is that the children of Providence receive those same opportunities. Similarly, when I help increase turn-out to meetings that will make utility rules more fair for low-income RI residents, I am forced to reflect on the immunity a college campus often provides, and how I can use my studies to make a tangible improvement to the world.

These experiences are not unique to me. As a group, college students have an excellent opportunity to take advantage of the privileges that college provides, while also connecting with local communities that are vibrant in their own right. It is often said that it can take a while for a college to start to feel like a home. Learning more about the town or city in which your college is located will be great way to expedite that process and to become a more involved citizen, overall.

So, even if you think you are totally content to stay within the gated confines of campus, I urge you to try to expand your horizons and enter into the communities around you. Whether it is finding local groups to volunteer with, checking out public libraries, or frequenting local parks and businesses, a college experience is wider and deeper when it expands beyond the campus bubble.

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.

How to Survive Studying Abroad (From Someone Who Has Done It Three Times!)

Passport Number 2Studying abroad was one of the best decisions of my undergraduate career. I was fortunate enough to get to spend a summer at the University of Cambridge drinking tea and touring castles; to go “abroad” to Washington, DC, almost 2,500 miles away from my home university, where I attended research seminars and interned at a foreign policy think tank.

I was also able to finish my final undergraduate semester here at the University of Geneva, where I spend my free time touring Europe and watching diplomats at the UN work through the biggest political issues of our time.

I wouldn’t trade my study abroad experiences for anything. I’ve met incredible people, seen incredible places, and gotten to know both the world and myself better.

I’ll also be the first to admit that studying abroad isn’t always wonderful. Spending months in an unfamiliar place can be scary and isolating. Leaving your community behind means spending a lot of time alone, perhaps more than you’re used to.

At the same time, being thrown into a new community means spending more time socializing with strangers as you settle in (a frightening thing for introverts like me.) Separation from friends and loved ones means being cut off from your support system, and makes it harder to deal with tough days or homesickness. New cultures often come with culture shock, new academic systems and teaching philosophies often come with frustration and misunderstandings, and new languages often come with miscommunications and embarrassing moments.

That’s not even to mention the problem of logistics – I’ve gotten lost, nearly missed trains and flights (almost always due to public transportation mishaps), confused currencies, misplaced important documents, been pick-pocketed, and mixed up visa paperwork more times than I’d like to admit. Studying abroad opens up worlds of opportunity, but is rarely easy.

Three study abroad programs in, I’ve figured out the pattern. Students spend the months leading up to their study abroad programs building up beautiful, romantic ideals of the place they’re headed. Midterms and finals at your home university make the idea of a distant, unfamiliar place an appealing one.

The first week of the program feeds this dream (Tourist pictures! Sightseeing!), but as the novelty wears off and the dream fades, the isolation and culture shock start to sink in. For many students, navigating unfamiliar food, buildings, weather, and people becomes exhausting, and these students retreat to their rooms, where they end up squandering their limited time abroad trying to lessen their homesickness by spending weekends and evenings in. I’ve never seen more Netflixing, Skyping, or junk-food snacking than I did in my dorm buildings in Cambridge, DC, and Geneva (I’ve fallen into the same trap a few times myself).

The trick, it turns out, is an easy one: remind yourself how cool and special it is to be able to spend a whole semester in another part of the world, and remind yourself how few people get that opportunity. Remember that you can always return to more familiar environments after your program, and that a few months isn’t a very long time.

Embrace the differences between people and places as part of what makes the world such an interesting and beautiful place, and remind yourself that improving your understanding of communities different from your own makes you a more tolerant, understanding person. Keep in mind that the cultural and travel skills you’re picking up are increasingly valuable life tools in our globalizing world, and know that you’ll never look at your own culture and community quite the same way again – you’ll be more aware of the mannerisms, attitudes, habits, and other attributes that make you and your community who you are, because you’ll understand how few people in the world are like you in those ways.

Whether studying abroad is fun and exciting or whether it’s frustrating and frightening is to a great extent dependent on your attitude while you’re there — but the great thing is that either way, it is enriching, special, and completely worth 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!

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.

An Introvert’s Guide to Getting Settled in Big Colleges

walking studentMainstream movies, TV shows, and music would have us believe that large colleges are full of loud parties, heavy drinking, and Greek drama. To some of my fellow bright-eyed high school graduates, the scene was an exciting and alluring one. To others—bookish, quiet introverts like me—the idea was terrifying.

I was relieved to eventually discover that college isn’t just four straight years of toga parties and sorority rushes. For most of my first semester, however, I really thought it was: it seemed like everyone around me was partying every night, and all that ever seemed to appear on my Facebook feed were pictures of proud new pledges waving freshly earned Greek letters. Even at UC Berkeley – 34,000 students strong but hardly considered a party school – I felt plenty of pressure to act more like the toga-wearing, letter-waving characters I’d grown up hearing so much about. The 700-person lecture halls, packed study cafes, and loud dorm buildings only scared me more.

I found my place eventually, but it took me a while to realize that I didn’t have to betray my introvert self to do it. Here’s what I learned:

Not everybody is partying.
Actually, pretty few American college students socialize every night (for more, see this research project). It’s just that people tend to Instagram more often about upcoming parties and their nights out than, say, the nights in their rooms with a book and a bowl of instant mac and cheese. It’s worth going to at least a party or two just to see what it’s like, but you’re not considered weird for preferring work time or lazy time over crowded rooms and sweaty dance floors.

Know how you connect best with people, and then do that.
Do you prefer small groups? Join a campus club or attend events that interest you. Do you connect best through one-on-one interactions? Say hello to the student next to you in lecture, or invite your dorm floormate out for a coffee.

Unlike high school, college won’t often create small-group social interactions for you – you’ll have to take the initiative to plan them yourself – but that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of people happy to interact with you in that way. Parties and giant welcome events aren’t the only way to find friends.

Find your hideaways.
Look for quieter areas of campus and less-frequented cafes. Head to higher or lower floors of campus libraries instead of parking near the main entrance. Peaceful surroundings will help you settle back into yourself and store up enough energy to re-enter the fray when you’re ready.

Recognize that your bedroom might not be your refuge anymore.
If you live in a dorm and/or have one or more roommates, you may not be able to come home at the end of a long school day to a quiet space. Instead, try using your time away from home as your break from socializing so you can save up enough social energy for the evenings. Take walks between classes, sit on your own during lectures instead of next to classmates you know, or find a quiet place on or near campus to eat your lunch alone.

Remember that smaller classes are often more socially intense than large lectures.
People tend to keep to themselves in large lectures, so it’s easy to avoid draining small talk just by blending into the crowd. In smaller classes, however, you’re more visible and more likely to be approached. Smaller classes offer great academic benefits, like closer relationships with professors and more personalized learning, so the answer isn’t to avoid small classes. Instead, consider setting up your schedule in a way that avoids stacking too many small classes into the same day, or in time slots too close together, to save yourself enough time to take a social break if you need to.

Be proactive in finding your circle of friends.
Introverts tend to prefer having a few meaningful friends over meeting a slew of acquaintances. The nice part about big colleges is that they’re big enough that you can be sure there are people around who share your interests. The frustrating part is that you have to sift through thousands of other people in order to find them. The only answers here are persistence and luck – choose classes, extracurriculars, and social events that you’re interested in, and be open enough to socializing with strangers that you can give yourself a chance to form close connections.

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!

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.

How to Prepare for College-Level Writing

writing essayI’ve written previously on how to make the transition to college writing once you’re already in college, and that’s important. What’s also important is using your time in high school to prepare yourself early for the rigors of college writing.

I know that when you’re in high school, college can seem light-years away. It’s hard to see how your high school assignments will really help you be a better student in college, but trust me, they can. If you use your time in high school right, especially in regards to writing, you can get a strong head start towards producing college-quality work.

Here are 3 tips that you can start using right away to prepare for your future college writing:

1) Create your own topics on assignments.
Or at the very least, alter the prompts given to you. Often times, papers in college will either have no prompt or will have very generic prompts – you have to be creative enough to come up with your own question and then have enough evidence to answer it.

In high school, paper topics are often clearly delineated, and students just go along with what their teacher says. While this might be easy to do, it won’t help you down the road. By practicing going out of your way to confect unique topics that you can explore in depth, you won’t be intimidated when the only instruction your college professor gives you is, “Go write a paper on the book we just read!” (Just be sure to clear this creative topic change with your teacher before submitting your paper!)

2) Ask your high school teachers for feedback, even if you did well on an assignment.
Many high school students just look at the grade on their essays and then move on with their lives. However, knowing that you got an A or a B doesn’t let you know how you can continue to improve your writing. By looking at your teacher’s feedback, you’ll start to see your strengths and weaknesses in writing and be able to raise the quality of your work. What’s more, you can go above and beyond by meeting with your teacher to ask for ways that your writing could better fit college-level writing. After all, your teachers have gone through college already and it’s their job to get your ready for the rigors of the next phase of your academic journey.

3) Focus on argument, not exposition.
In high school, you can sometimes get by with writing a paper focused on who did what, what an idea means, or what techniques someone used. This is exposition (or description) and it is only one part of writing. Good college papers make arguments – they don’t just explain what a character did or what an author’s idea is. So, even if a high school assignment asks you only a simple question, it’s good practice to go above and beyond to make a more complex argument. This mode of thinking will prepare you for the rigorous analysis you must do in college.

I know it can be tempting to just skate by on high school assignments. However, there are certain ways you can use your time in high school to solidly prepare yourself for college writing, and doing this will be well worth your time. Even if this requires more ingenuity and diligence from you now, it will set you up for abundant future success in college and beyond.

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.

Making College Friends Before Freshman Year Begins

transition into collegeA lot of people get nervous about showing up to college and not knowing anyone, but that fear is not necessarily relevant anymore. With social media and college networking events, it’s possible to meet people in your class between when you get accepted and when you actually arrive on campus.

Facebook pages for admitted or enrolled students are common for lots of schools. Many of these school pages are very popular, and students are always super excited to get involved posting on them. I spent way too much time on Brown’s Class of 2019 Facebook page for weeks after I got in – everyone seemed so friendly, interesting, and excited to be part of our new community.

When someone ends a post with, “Looking to make friends, message me if we have anything in common!” go ahead and reach out if it seems like you two could get along. The best-case scenario is you make a new friend. The worst-case scenario is you have a semi-awkward conversation with no real repercussions. That seems like a situation where it is impossible to lose, so it’s worth your time to give it a chance. I met some cool people from my Brown Facebook group that I still see around campus. I may not be BFFs with all of them, but the more friendly faces you know around campus, the more comfortable you will feel.

There will also be meet-ups and congratulatory events to attend in your area that will be sponsored by schools or even just informally by new students. Going to these might be nerve-wracking, but it is a nice way to hear from enthusiastic alumni and learn some of the faces of your new classmates. I still see large groups of students who met each other this way (and through massive group chats) walking around campus together all the time!

So, I’ve talked a lot about how you could make friends before school starts, but the real question is, “What’s the point?” Doing this could allow you to make a friend, have people to hang with outside your dorm during orientation, find a roommate, or get over some of the awkwardness of meeting new people. Moving in to college can be stressful for a lot of reasons, and the fear of struggling socially is a big one. By knowing people beforehand, you can alleviate some of this fear and focus your efforts on acclimating to college in other ways.

Don’t worry, though, it is by no means necessary to figure out your friend group before you get to school. People find friends on their own at school, so it’s totally not a “must” that you go searching around for a best friend before you even get to school. Everyone at college is looking to meet new people, which makes it really easy to find friends among people you don’t know.

Making friends before freshman year even begins is one of those things that would probably benefit you if you did it, however if you don’t, you’ll still be in a perfectly good position to have a great social life on campus.

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.

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!

New Study Highlights the Growing Challenge of College Affordability

The Delta Project on Postsecondary Education Costs, Productivity, and Accountability has released a new study that reveals how college students and their families are picking up more and more of the costs as schools reduce the percentage of their budgets devoted
to instruction.

The Delta Project — a nonprofit organization that aims to shed light on the challenge of affordability in higher education — created the study to “follow the money” in higher education and try to determine why college tuition costs keep rising dramatically while the quality of instruction seems to get no better (and in some cases, get worse). The study paints a rather bleak picture: The schools where the most students are — state institutions and community colleges — spend the least on instruction per student. Where they have made spending cuts or diverted money away from programs that directly improve student instruction, it’s the students themselves that frequently make up the gap with their own dollars.

In 2006, the most recent year for which statistics are available, students are public schools paid for about half the cost of their education, up from approximately 40% just four years earlier. Students actually pay even more of their share at private schools: Their share rose from about 58% in 2002 to more than 63% in 2006.

The report paints the picture of growing administrative overhead gobbling up schools’ budgets, with the percentage of budgets growing at all types of schools from the mid-1990s to 2006. Meanwhile, in all cases at all schools, students’ tuition fees rose faster than spending, with some of this difference going toward increasing overhead.

Compounding the problem for public universities and community colleges, these schools are also the ones that are most likely to feel the brunt of budget cuts at the state and federal level. Assuming government spending on education faces more cuts in the coming year, The Delta Project predicts that these trends may even accelerate. While the U.S. higher education system is still the class of the world, the growing affordability gap threatens to undo this strength in the near future unless something changes soon.