What is a College Application Strategy?

Have you ever forgotten something? How to do something on a test?  A password?  The time of your doctor’s appointment?

Well, it happens. I had a student mention an interesting research project he did AFTER he was deferred from his early decision school. He “forgot” about it, and it didn’t make it into his applications.

Luckily, this story has a happy ending. The student emailed the college and “elaborated” on his summer experience. He is now a graduate of Pomona College.

So, things worked out, but it made me wonder… How can I make sure this doesn’t happen again?

Now when I work with a student, whether it be one-on-one or through an online course, I make sure they are aware of the steps for a complete application strategy. Let’s go through each step of developing a college application strategy so that you can put your best foot forward!

Step 1: Know your Opportunities

Identify all of the opportunities you have to present yourself in college applications.

    • Transcript and School Profile
    • Standardized Testing (if required)
    • Teacher Recommendations
    • School Counselor Recommendation
    • Personal Recommendations
    • Activities or Resume
    • Personal Statement/College Essay/Common App Essay
    • Supplemental essays
    • COVID-19 Optional Essay
    • Additional Information Section
    • Interviews or Demonstrating Interest

Let’s break down each piece of the college application.

Your high school transcript is the most important piece of your college application. It reflects your academic abilities, work ethic, and more. However, colleges are looking at more than your GPA and class rank (if available). When reviewing your transcript, colleges will also consider the challenge of your curriculum or the number of AP, IB, College Level, or Honors courses you took based on what is available to you. Colleges will know how many challenging courses are available to you through your high school profile, including information regarding your high school’s academic environment.

Colleges will use the information provided in your teacher recommendations to complete their analysis of your academic profile. . You must identify and build relationships with teachers who can speak to your intellectual curiosity and your performance in the classroom beyond completing assignments promptly.

The use and analysis of standardized testing scores vary significantly in the world of college admission. Most colleges will report their SAT or ACT scores as the “middle 50%,” meaning if their average ACT score is 25 to 32, 25% of admitted students scored below a 25, and 25% scored above a 32. However, if you are applying test-optional, a college may place more emphasis on your transcript. This is also true if a college decides they are no longer considering test scores in their process (test-blind or test-free).

Most colleges will require a letter of recommendation from your school counselor to understand how you have contributed to your high school community. Your counselor may also ask you to complete a questionnaire about your interests, achievements, etc. You can also submit an additional letter of recommendation from someone in your high school or community (e.g., a coach, club advisor, clergy member, supervisor, etc.).

For your activities, admissions officers are looking for students who are committed to their interests. They used to want to see “well-rounded” students who participated in everything. Now they want to see students who have focused on one or two interests and pursued those interests on a deeper level. This is an excellent place to show colleges how you have contributed to your high school or local community.

Your essay is perhaps the piece of your application where you have the most control. It allows colleges to see a side of you that may not come through on your transcript or in your letters of recommendation. Many students feel that the personal statement has to be “different” to stand out, but it is more important that it’s well-written. Take the time to examine something personal to you, something you are passionate about, to truly create a well-written piece.

Many colleges require supplemental essays, which are often shorter than your main personal statement and are your opportunity to show a college why you are interested in attending. The supplemental essays can also be an opportunity to demonstrate your creativity or academic interests.

Currently, most colleges have a place in your application to provide information about how COVID-19 affected you or your family.  This is an opportunity for you to provide the context of any COVID-19 related challenges you have faced.

Similar to the COVID-19 prompt, the additional information section is where you can provide context regarding any other issues or challenges.  This section is often used to explain low grades or why you did not continue to participate in a sport.

While most colleges may not admit it, they want to accept students they think will enroll at their school. While some colleges do not consider demonstrated interest, many do. You can show colleges you are interested by contacting the admissions officer responsible for reviewing applications for your area. If you cannot visit the college, you can sign up for virtual presentations and campus tours online. Completing admissions interviews (if offered) is another way to show colleges you are a real human being.

Step 2: List the Details

Brainstorm EVERYTHING you want to include in your applications. This list can include, but is not limited to:

    • Accolades from coaches, mentors, or teachers
    • Activities
    • Research interests
    • Career interests
    • Personal characteristics
    • Values and beliefs
    • Interesting experiences
    • Job shadowing or internship experiences
    • Academic interests
    • Anything you can do for hours
    • Challenges or hardships
    • How you’ve contributed to your high or local community
    • Family responsibilities
    • Goals, dreams, and aspirations
    • What’s important to you
    • What legacy will you leave behind at your high school
  • Step 3: Plan

  • Finally, identify where the details will be in your college applications and develop a strategy. I encourage students to map out the details of all of the other application pieces before the essay. For example, identify which personal characteristics will be highlighted in your teacher recommendations. Go through each item on the list and determine where it will be on your application.  Is there one you can’t place?  That should probably be the topic of your essay.

This year, the details of your college applications are more critical than ever. Many students may not have an ACT or an SAT score. Others are unhappy with their junior year grades since most of last year was hybrid or online. Showcasing all the other details about YOU in your college applications will show colleges how amazing you are, even if you don’t have all of the “normal” application pieces.

How To Conquer Your Junior Year

Every summer, I sit down with my soon-to-be juniors and give them a pep talk.  It is no secret that the junior year of high school is notorious for being difficult, busy, and downright stressful.  However, it doesn’t have to be that way.  No really.

I find that if students know the purpose behind the importance of the junior year, they head into it with more motivation.  It’s like climbing a mountain without knowing if you will have a brick wall blocking the view on the other side.

Yes, the junior year is important. Yes, you will work hard.  But it is all building towards your goals.  It is not only helping you get closer to the top of the mountain but guaranteeing a pretty amazing view on the other side.

Here are the main areas I tell my students to focus on during their junior year of high school and why they are important.

Grades:  Junior year grades get a lot of attention, but few students understand why. Your academic transcript is the most important part of your college application.  Usually, your junior year grades are the last set of official grades colleges will see when they review your applications.  Most colleges will look at your senior year courses, and some will ask for your first quarter or mid-year grades.  However, by the time they see your senior year grades, they may have already made a decision on your application and use updated grades to reinforce that decision.

Strong grades are not only essential to the college application process but they are also considered in the merit aid process.  Think of every A as “money in the bank.”  The higher your grades, the more options you will have.  Also, do not fall into the trap of thinking that a “C” in an AP course is really a “B.”  A “C” is a “C”.  You need to show colleges that you took challenging courses because you can do well in them, not just to boost your GPA.  

Relationships With Teachers and School Counselor:  There are so many students who do not consider the value of having a good relationship with teachers.  It is not just about completing your work on time (though that is important); it is also about participating in class, helping other students succeed, and showing intellectual curiosity.  Colleges want to know how you are going to add to their academic environment, not just that you can do the work.

Colleges will look to your school counselor’s letter of recommendation to learn more about how you contributed to your school community.  Make sure to talk to your counselor about what you are involved in.  Ask for suggestions for internship or scholarship opportunities.  Have a conversation with your school counselor about something other than issues with your class schedule.

Shaping Your Personal Qualities:  Not only do colleges want to know how you will add to their academic environment, but they also want to know how you are going to add to their greater community.  They assess this portion of your application through your recommendations (see above) and your involvement.  It is important that you show depth in your interests.  The number of extracurricular activities is not as important as quality.

So your junior year is the perfect time to dive into your activities.  Are you interest in politics? Help with a political campaign or see if you can intern for a local representative.  Are you an amazing swimmer?  Look for a job as a swim instructor or coach your local Special Olympics team.  Take a look at the activities you are already doing and expand on them.  You don’t have to be good at everything, but showing focus in one or two particular areas will show colleges the depth of commitment.

College Research:  Now is the time to do thorough research on colleges. Collecting information, asking questions, planning well-thought-out college visits, etc. will not only help you learn about a specific college but will also help you narrow down what you are looking for in your college experience.  There is more information about colleges online now than ever.  Schedule a few online information sessions or virtual tours to start getting an idea of what you are looking for in your college experience. 

Standardized Testing Plan: After researching the standardized testing requirements for the schools you are interested in, you need to determine which standardized test you need to take (SAT or ACT). You also need to develop a plan for how you will prepare for each test.  Finally, you should determine your official test dates. It is recommended that you try to complete your official testing by the end of your junior year.  This will help you narrow down your college list and make sure you are on track.  Also, be aware that many schools are now test-optional, meaning that if your SAT or ACT scores are not an accurate reflection of your academic ability, you do not have to submit them.  Several schools have also adopted test-blind or score-free testing policies, meaning they do not use test scores in their application review process.  If you submit test scores, they will be ignored. 

Balance and Quality of Life:  Junior year is a good time to begin practicing stress management techniques (i.e. maintain an exercise routine, taking time for yourself, etc.) to maintain balance and healthy quality of life.  Also, make sure to ask for help when you need it.  There are plenty of people around willing to help you problem solve and brainstorm different approaches to the situations that may arise throughout the year!  

So there you have it- all of the goals you need to focus on for the junior year of high school. Remember to break each goal down into manageable pieces.  By tackling each task in smaller parts, you will feel better about conquering the notorious junior year!

Class of 2021: What’s Next

The college admissions process is not a straight line, and that statement had never been more true than it was for the Class of 2021. As my students head off to college, I am struck by how many twists and turns they have faced. This class learned to live with uncertainty in every sense of the word. As their college counselor, it is my job not to provide the answers but to teach them how to ask good questions. With each change that came with the college process, I watched them take some deep breaths and say, “OK. What’s next?”  

Deciding Where to Apply- Without Visiting

Typically, students can visit a few colleges, decide what they like and don’t like, and move forward with creating their college list.  Like many things in their lives, college visits moved online, changing how students and parents interact with colleges and universities. Students became more detailed and conscious of their questions, realizing that this was the only way for them to receive clarity on what they are looking for in their college experience. 

When the Rules Change

As colleges and universities went test-optional, my students wondered what this really meant. While the lack of test requirements was a good thing, especially for those students who could not take the ACT or SAT, many students were unprepared for the additional focus it would bring to their transcripts. The question, “What’s next?” became “What else do I need to highlight in my applications?” Guiding them through the process of showing colleges how amazing they are showed students that they are much more than a test score or a GPA.  

Early Rejections

When decisions came out for early applications, and acceptance rates drop at a record pace, I saw students become more determined than ever. “What’s next?” became “Where else should I apply?” Making sure they had a backup plan to their backup plan gave them the courage to move forward and push through the uncertainty. 

A Change in the Timeline

After delays in decision releases due to increased volume, final decisions came out, and the dust began to settle on waitlists. I saw students move forward with options, examining where they needed to be to become their best selves. With travel restrictions lifting, students and their families rushed out to visit colleges, many for the first time. They had less than a month to make their final college decisions. 

A New Game

No one could have predicted the increase in applications institutions saw for the Class of 2021 (college class of 2025). As difficult as it was to advise students through this new admissions landscape, I am sure it was just as difficult for admissions officers to say no to so many qualified applicants. As a college counselor, I can’t help but wonder where do we go from here?  Many highly selective universities are not “highly rejective” (credit to Akil Bello for that term).  Harvard now admits 3% of applicants.  Brown, Columbia, Princeton, and Yale are all in the club with acceptance rates of 5% or less.

What is more disturbing is the competitiveness of the “backup” options. Colleges and universities that used to admit over 20% served as solid options for students who entered the competitive landscape.  Now those options are dwindling. Below are some notable changes in acceptance rates for the Class of 2021.

 

College/University  Class of 2025 Accept Rate Class of 2024 Accept Rate
Boston College 19% 24%
Dartmouth 6% 9%
Duke 6% 9%
Georgetown 16% 12%
Harvard 3% 5%
Middlebury 16% 24%
Tufts 11% 15%
Villanova University 25% 29%

What’s Next

I will never forget the Class of 2021, not only because they did great things but also because they overcame great things. I know they will use the experience of applying to college during a pandemic to become great leaders and change-makers. I look forward to hearing about the adventures of my two future foreign diplomats and reading the words of my two lovely female writers who will use their voices to create social change. Someday, I will see the work of a very talented artist who will combine his creativity with his passion for advocacy (and many other things). I know there will be at least one doctor from this class, and she will make a difference in the lives of many children. There will be a lawyer who is branching out to explore his southern roots. I guarantee there will be one large animal veterinarian who will make a difference for horses, especially those who participate in dressage. A future environmental engineer in this group will do the essential work of addressing climate change. A promising prospective FBI agent will do everything she can to solve crimes. Most of my students had too many interests for me to predict who they will become. They will use college to explore their curiosities, and I know they will continue to ask the question, “What’s next?”.

The College Mindset Class of 2021 submitted 219 applications and received 155 acceptances. Collectively, they received close to $5 million in merit scholarships, including one student who received the Daniels Scholarship. 

These colleges and universities are so lucky to have them:

Arizona State University 

Colorado State University 

George Washington University 

Marist College

Parsons, The New School

Chapman University 

High Point University 

Northwestern University (transfer student)

Indiana University 

Syracuse University 

Stern College for Women

Tufts University 

University of Arizona

University of Southern California

University of Colorado, Boulder

University of Northern Colorado

University of Oregon

University of Maryland

University of Massachusetts, Amherst

University of South Carolina

University of Tampa

I think we have all learned in the past year that life is not a straight line. I know I will recall the wisdom, grit, and tenacity of the Class of 2021 as I look forward and guide a new class through the ever-changing college admissions landscape.  I know it is my turn to say, “What’s next?”

 

What Does It Mean To Be An Educator?

Three months ago, I lost my brother, Kevin Barkley. It still doesn’t seem real. I miss him at the strangest times. The other day, I was making scrambled eggs, and they were really fluffy (my eggs are never fluffy), and he popped into my head. Kevin always made the fluffiest scrambled eggs. 

Over the last few months, I have done a lot of reflecting about what he taught me. His lessons spanned from teaching me the firing order of a small block Chevy to always being there for others. But perhaps his most important lesson, the one that will stay with me forever, was what it means to be an educator.

My brother spent 28 years in the automotive industry. His experience of “turning wrenches” gave him plenty of knowledge to move into his final career as an automotive instructor. In the days following Kevin’s death, I spoke with many of his students and co-workers. Through these conversations, I learned what an impact my brother had, and I started reflecting on my role as an educator. What is my role with high school students as they travel through the major life decision of choosing a college? How do I impact their lives? What does it mean to me to be an educator? Here are the lessons I learned from my brother that, moving forward, I will apply to my career as an educator. 

Creating self-awareness: Kevin taught his students to look at themselves and figure out their capabilities. Teaching students to ask the question, “who am I” is the foundation for any curriculum. It is the first step towards their future. Whenever I have a student who feels a bit lost, I will always direct them back to this foundation. 

Listening:  Being an educator starts with building a relationship with your students. Connecting with people is what my brother did best, and I know it began with his listening skills. Kevin had the ability to really focus on who he was talking to. As an educator, when I meet with a student, I remind myself that this is the first time a student is learning about the college process. They have never done this before, even though I have been through it hundreds of times. I imagine it was the same for my brother, and he had the patience to be in the moment, listening to questions as he taught an automotive skill he’d done a thousand times. It is in these moments, with patience and attention, that relationships are built. 

Supporting: An educator is a supporter but not necessarily a fixer. My brother did everything he could to support his students so they could reach their potential. He knew he couldn’t fix their life circumstances, but Kevin did what he could to make sure they could focus while learning. He’d help them find temporary housing or bring food to class so they wouldn’t be hungry. He knew that educating them was the long-term solution to their futures, so he supported them in every way so they could reach their potential. As I learned this about my brother, I thought about supporting and challenging my students but not doing things for them. I want to help them decide where to attend college but not make the decision for them. My job is to provide my students with information and to teach them to ask questions. I want to give them the foundation they need to plan their futures. 

Teaching Accountability:  Holding a student accountable is another critical role of an educator. If one of Kevin’s students did not show up for class, he’d pick up the phone and call them. If one of my students misses a meeting, I reach out to see where they are. Being present and doing the work is the best way for students to move forward. Yes, students will make mistakes. They will show up unprepared; they may even waste your time, but finding the right way to help them acknowledge their mistakes and, more importantly, move on from them, is an essential role of an educator. 

Building Skills: One of the most important things my brother did as an educator was to teach his students skills beyond his curriculum. He did more than teach how to fix cars, but he instilled in the important skill of looking at the big picture of their responsibility in ensuring the safety of others. He also made sure they knew how to network. He’d put them in touch with people to help them find a job or coach them through their next interview. From my brother, I learned that teaching students information is one thing but helping them learn how to use it is another. I never want just to get my student through the college process. I want to make sure they know the skills they need to thrive in college and beyond. 

Shaping Human Beings: Several of my brother’s students said to me (repeatedly) that he made them the people they are today. Just take that in for a moment. I was struck by the quiet impact he had on so many lives. It made me think about what role I have in shaping human beings. What lessons am I instilling to make sure they will function in society and, better yet, make the world a better place? As an educator, I will think about the impact I can have on each student as a person.

My brother worked with a student population that was very different than the one I see daily, yet the impact he had, the lessons he taught, can be applied to so many different types of educators. Now when I am in a student meeting, I know he will pop into my head, reminding me not to answer questions for them or to let them off the hook too easily. His picture sits on my desk. It is my daily reminder of what a role an educator can have in shaping a human being. It is my reminder to strive to be the educator my brother was- and to always make fluffy scrambled eggs. 

Hindsight is 2020: College Counseling Lessons from the Year that Changed EVERYTHING

Article originally appeared on Applerouth.com/blog

As I sat at my desk on Friday, March 13, 2020, I had many questions about the impending quarantine. Utterly blind to the imminent rollercoaster ride, none of us knew we were slowly climbing the hill towards an upcoming free fall and wild curves.

Month after month, the changes kept coming. We leaned with every turn, held onto the short reprieves to adjust before the next curve hit, making it challenging to keep up and provide reliable advice to our students. With each change, I saw the admission process through a new lens and adjusted my perspective. I am now using the lessons I learned in 2020 to sharpen my college counseling skills in 2021.

Give students more information about holistic application review.

In 2020, students became more aware of the term “holistic review.” With a growing test-optional movement and now the elimination of the SAT Subject Tests, students have more control over who sees their scores and who doesn’t. My goal as a counselor is to explain all of the opportunities students have to present themselves to colleges, including their personal and academic profiles. Moving forward, this will need to be a more in-depth, intentional conversation.

Encourage students to be open to the uncomfortable.

2020 turned the “traditional” college experience upside down, and colleges need to know how students face challenges and shift gears. Seeking resources and problem-solving skills are also essential to a student’s success on a college campus. Students also need to find new ways to connect and be engaged, especially when an experience is not “in-person.” Asking the question, how do you become a member of a community if that community is not outside your door? Finally, as campuses are reckoning with their racial histories and dialogue about discrimination, introspection is critical. Teaching students to use inquiry and reflection to look at their own biases and expectations will be essential in 2021.

Teach students to be better storytellers.

With the importance of holistic review and the need to see that students are comfortable with the uncomfortable, students must become better storytellers. Through their essays, students need to provide details of their experiences and the context of their opportunities. Colleges recognize that students have factors affecting their lives, like personal circumstances, financial concerns, and family responsibilities, but students have to tell their stories to provide the context.

Have a backup plan for your backup plan.

One consistent piece of the college application process in 2020 is that you cannot make predictions. While I have always been conservative when making students’ college lists, 2020 taught me that you still need a backup plan to your backup plan. With the number of deferrals resulting from early applications, I found myself reviewing students’ college lists – double-checking that we had considered and discussed every option.

Fine-tune knowledge about financial aid.

Access and financial aid will still be top concerns moving forward. Colleges are in precarious financial positions, so only time will tell how that will affect financial aid offers. With significant changes coming to the FAFSA, I will focus on attending webinars and increasing my knowledge of the financial aid process. First-generation and low-income students need more support and information as the college application, and financial aid processes evolve.

Overall, 2020 reminded us college is still a place of learning and exchanging ideas, which does not have to happen in-person to be effective. Still, the community element, learning how to be a human being, is difficult to provide through a screen. Colleges are also places where racial inequities and the effects of a global pandemic are colliding. Throw in government instability and national debates about leadership – and you still have one heck of a roller coaster ride. While 2020 brought changes and lessons, 2021 will be the year to reflect and react. Students and counselors need to lean into the curves and push back on them to keep upright and moving forward.

Katherine Price


6 Steps to Find Scholarships

Like many things with the college process, searching for scholarships can be overwhelming.  However, if you start early and stay organized, you can obtain the money you need to close the gap between your college savings and educational expenses.  What does that mean?  Well, it can put you closer to graduating from college debt-free.
So, where do you start?  Follow these 6 steps to find the scholarship money you need to obtain your educational goals.
1. Get organized.  Once you join scholarship databases (more on that below), you may be overwhelmed with emails.  Create an email account and use it exclusively for your scholarship search. Set a reminder in your calendar to check it at least once a week. You should also organize the scholarships you intend to apply for by using a spreadsheet.  College Mindset’s Scholarship Tracker will help keep you organized (and it is free!).
2. Think about you. The next step to generating a list of scholarships to apply to is to think about all of the things that make you, well you. Then, use a search engine (like Google) to see what is out there.  Are you an only child? Google “only child + scholarships.” Are you a female interested in engineering? Google “female engineering + scholarships.” Make a list of the following:
• Extracurricular activities: volunteer, Editor of the school newspaper, Scout member, leader in religious youth groups, etc.
• Personal Interest: animal rights activists, engineering, entrepreneurship, future teacher, beekeeper, etc.
• Personal talents: artist, musician, performer, glassblower, runner, giving speeches, etc.
• Personal characteristics: red hair, tall, short, left-handed, etc.
3. Look local.  The next step is to generate a list of available local scholarships.  Ask your school counselor what scholarships are available through your city, county, or state.  Also, ask if local organizations offer scholarships (i.e., Knights of Columbus, etc.). Check with your parents to know if they are affiliated with potential scholarship awarding sources. For example, their employer, military status, first-responder status, church or religious affiliation, college alumni association, etc., may all offer scholarship opportunities.
4. Find major corporation scholarships.  Another source for outside scholarships is major corporations.  Most have scholarships offered that students can apply for (though some can be competitive).  You should also ask your parents and relatives if the companies they work for offer scholarships.
5. Use scholarship search engines. There are hundreds of outside scholarship search engines.  You need to create a profile on each website, then keep track of which scholarships are designated as “matches.” The number one rule for using a scholarship search engine is that you should never have to enter credit card information or pay a fee. Also, be sure to only sign up for a few, so you are not overwhelmed with options.  Some recommended sites include:
Going Merry– this database not only matches you with scholarships, but it also provides a common application.  You can apply to hundreds of scholarships straight from their website.
Fast Web– one of the more popular scholarship search sites.  You can find and organize your scholarship search through their database.
Scholarships.com– this site has a free database you can search without creating a profile.  This is a great site to look for corporate scholarships.
FinAid.org–  provides scholarship search information and information regarding other types of financial aid.  They have several helpful calculators to help you figure out how much college will really cost.
Scholarship Monkey– gives you 3 ways to search for scholarships: through a personalized search, keyword search, or looking through lists.
6. Start early and keep looking:  Most students do not begin looking for scholarships until their senior year of high school.  I find that most seniors are too overwhelmed with the college application process to begin looking for outside scholarships.  You can start looking (and in some cases even applying) for scholarships in 9th grade.  You should also continue to look for scholarships while you are a college student. When you arrive on your college campus, head to the financial aid office and ask about scholarships available to current students.  Once you declare a major, you may also be eligible to receive scholarships from your academic department.
Remember, every penny counts!  Looking for scholarships is work! I challenge you to have at least 15 to 20 scholarships you want to apply for by the time you begin your senior year of high school.  Take the time to set yourself up for success!  Your future self will thank you!

How Will You Pay for College? Financial Aid Considerations

Whether you are a senior currently submitting applications, a junior building your college list, or a sophomore thinking about college, determining how you will pay for college is an important step in the college application process.

First thing first, why is college so expensive?  While many factors affect college costs, the biggest mistake that I see families make is they fail to consider the total cost of attendance.  It is one thing to look at tuition prices, but the cost of housing in NYC will be significantly more than if you attend a college in Iowa.

Next, educate yourself about the financial aid process. Once you understand how financial aid works, you can learn how you may influence your financial aid award. If you are a current senior, you should be reaching out to the financial aid offices of the schools you are applying to.  Here are the top 12 questions you need to ask.

Turning your attention to merit scholarships (money coming directly from a college or university) is one way to reduce college costs. Still, you need to be aware of merit scholarship opportunities. To receive merit scholarships from most colleges or universities, you need to be close to or at the top of their applicant profile. Most of the students I work with who are looking for merit money are admitted to every school they apply to.  While most students create a college list with reach, match, and likely (“safety”) schools in terms of admission, students looking for money create a list that is reach, match, and likely for merit money.  Using merit scholarship search engine sites, such as Merit More, is a great way to learn about schools that are generous with merit aid. You can conduct your merit scholarship search by entering your standardized testing scores, GPA, and location. You can also search for colleges by name.

Finally, many families focus on landing outside scholarships. Searching for outside scholarships can take up a significant amount of time, so using the upcoming holiday breaks to identify (or complete scholarship applications, if you are a senior) is a great way to make sure you are doing everything you can to cut your college costs. To learn how to get started with your outside scholarship search, read College Mindset’s recent post, 6 Steps to Find Scholarships.

While considering how you will pay for college may seem like an additional hoop to jump through, it is significant.  Make sure you openly communicate with everyone involved in your college process, so you are all on the same page regarding cost, budget, and educational goals.  Taking the time to learn more about covering the cost of college now will only benefit you when it is time to make your final decision.

5 Tips To Complete Your College Applications

Are you in a hurry to finish your college applications? Yes, November 1st deadlines are right around the corner but don’t rush to hit the submit button. Here are five tips to help you slow down and give your college applications the attention they deserve:

1. Prioritize: Finish up your main Common Application, including the activities section and your essay. Take your time writing your activity descriptions- this section is often overlooked.

2. Focus: Figure out which applications need your attention now (November 1st deadlines) and which ones can wait until later.

3. Schedule: Block out time in your schedule for your applications. Turn off your phone, put on your headphones, so you focus entirely on your applications.

4. Proofread: Print out the PDF of your Common Application and supplemental forms. Read every essay out loud and review your entire application with a friend or mentor.

5. Breathe: While deadlines won’t wait, you can stop and take a breath. Calming your emotions will put you in the right mindset to complete your college applications.

How to Research Colleges

Want to know all of the details about researching colleges?🤔

Watch College Mindset’s 4 part video series and learn:

Why researching colleges is so important

Where to find accurate data

How to determine your college criteria

How to organize your data when creating your college list

How to look beyond the data and research the “personality” of a college

Why it is essential to demonstrate an interest in a college or university

Get started on creating your college list today! Your parents will be so happy.

 

Learn to Ask Great Questions

Have you ever walked away from a conversation and thought, “I wish I would’ve asked more questions.” You don’t want to bypass an opportunity because you did not ask the right questions. Asking questions is a skill, and it is an important one to master. It shows that you care, can spark the exchange of ideas, and build trust. When you are just starting out, asking clarifying, open-ended questions will help get you closer to your goals.

As with any new skill, it is essential to practice. Before starting any conversation, think about what you want to learn. What is your purpose in the discussion? Then identify the right tone, types of questions, and sequence.

For the tone, most situations benefit from a casual approach.

Open-ended questions can go a long way to helping you learn new information. You can also build further questions into your plan based on the responses you receive.

For the sequence of questions, if you are trying to develop a relationship, you may need to ask less personal questions first to build trust. If you are in a confrontation, consider starting with the tough questions, since you don’t know how long the conversation will last.

Asking questions will open doors and allow you to discover new ideas and concepts. It may introduce you to a part of yourself that you didn’t know what there.

As Albert Einstein said, “Question everything.” I couldn’t agree more.