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.

Asking for Feedback: A Guide for High School Students

Does the thought of asking a teacher for feedback on an assignment scare you? Do you lay awake at night and wonder what steps you need to take to reach your goal of making the varsity team? Is there a particular dance move or trick that you just can’t master?

If reaching your goals and making progress in life is important to you, then you have to learn how to ask for feedback. Watch my video below to learn step by step how to ask for feedback in any situation. Learning to take and process constructive criticism is an essential life skill! It is something that if you practice now as a high school student, it will undoubtedly help you in college and beyond.

Do you want more tips for the college process? Check out the College Mindset Ideal College Planning Timeline!

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Free College Mindset Webinars

College Mindset is offering several free webinars to help students during this difficult time.  Please feel free to share the information with friends, family, and colleagues.

 

3-Ways to Start Your College Process

Best for freshmen, sophomores, and juniors in high school (and their parents/caregivers)

Offered:

One of the most common questions I receive from students and parents is: Where do we start? There is no doubt that the college application process has changed—and it is still changing every day. No one knows the ins and outs of every aspect of the process, but with a little patience and intentionality, you can navigate the process with ease—but you have to get started first!

In this Webinar, we will cover 3-Ways to get started with your college process.  You will learn:

  1. How to Obtain Knowledge

1st gain knowledge about the college admissions industry. What do you know about the business of college admissions?  Katherine will give you a behind the scenes look at how colleges view the admissions process.

2nd look at who you are and how you learn.  Building self-knowledge is an essential step in the college process.

  1. How to Find Your Resources

Now that you know a little bit more about who you are and how the world of admissions works, you need to determine your resources.  Katherine will review resources (including online research websites).

  1. How to Understand the Timeline

Knowing the timing of the college process is an important step.  Every participant will receive a FREE copy of College Mindset’s Ideal College Planning Timeline, which we will review during the Webinar.

How to Research Colleges

Best for sophomores and juniors in high school (and their parents/caregivers)

Offered:

Researching is an essential part of the college process and other life decisions. For example, you might research companies when you are looking for a job or internship. Katherine will cover how to research colleges (mainly online) to help students determine what questions to ask and where to find the answers.

 

Networking and Informational Interviews

Best for freshmen, sophomores, and juniors in high school (and their parents/caregivers) AND any college student

Offered:

Connecting with people can provide you with insights about a college, major, or even a job- and it is something you can still do, even while we are practicing social distancing.  As an adult, this skill will help you advance your career. In this Webinar, Katherine will show students how networking is more than learning how to make small talk. It is about finding your voice and asking great questions that will guide you towards your goals. Students will receive templates for conducting informational interviews, including how to reach out in an email and what questions to ask.

How to Manage the Transition to College

Best for seniors in high school (and their parents/caregivers)

Offered:

Change is hard, and we are all going through massive changes right now. I know some students are struggling to think about the future. However, knowing how to transition from one significant life change to another is a skill you will use forever.  You will transition from high school to college, from college to adulthood. You will change jobs and maybe someday get married or become a parent. Being able to not only anticipate change but face it head-on is perhaps the most essential life skill. In this Webinar, Katherine will cover how to handle one or your first major life transitions: going to college.  We will also discuss how this transition might look different this year, given the Coronavirus pandemic.

 

 

 

Coronavirus and College Admissions

Hello College Mindset Families,

I am sure your inbox is flooded with companies telling you what they are doing to keep customers safe in light of the COVID-19 or Coronavirus pandemic.  I am writing to extend my support to all College Mindset families since school and college closings are more than likely affecting your college process.

Remember that while many colleges are closing, as of now, most are remaining opening.  This article from Inside Higher Ed takes a look at the decision process colleges are going through. Either way, the Coronavirus is disruptive for all of us.

As with any part of the college process (and life), I want to encourage you to focus on what you have control over.  Yes, you may be canceling your spring break college visits, postponing an international trip, or disappointed that you can’t compete in a national competition- but it is going to be OK.

Here are some general tips, resources, and proactive things you can focus on as we face this time of uncertainty.

General Resources For Updates
CNN has a running list of colleges canceling classes.
NACAC has a list of college fair cancellations.
Information on SAT cancellations can be found here and individual site cancellations here.
Updates on colleges that have canceled admissions events and campus visits can be found here and here.

For high school seniors, final admissions decisions will be delivered over the next few weeks, and you are probably already anxious about determining your future.  Read through the College Mindset blog post, 5 Steps To Making Your Final Decision.  Since attending admitted student events may no longer be an option for you, I encourage you to focus on the following:

  • Review your supplemental essay, especially the “why this college” essay.  Remember what your thoughts were when you wrote it.

  • Take virtual tours of campus, through sites such as You Visit or watch videos through Campus Reel.  Make sure you also do online research about the town where the college is located.

  • Join admitted student online groups, so you can get to know future classmates.

  • Trust your gut. You have learned so much about yourself through this process and trust which college feels like it will provide you with a fulfilling and successful college experience.

For high school juniors, spring is a busy time for your college process.  Here are some things you can focus on, as this COVID-19 continues to evolve.

  • If your campus visits are being canceled or postponed, do not plan on stopping by. If a school has canceled an event, they are doing so to protect their community, and you need to respect that. Call the admissions office to figure out your options.

  • Do not worry about demonstrating interest in a college at this point and time.  I will be adding a video to the College Mindset YouTube Channel to share ways you can demonstrate interest in a school without visiting- so make sure you subscribe to learn when that is available.

  • Continue to research colleges by watching virtual tours through sites such as You Visit or watch videos through Campus Reel. 

  • Don’t worry about canceled competitions or other extracurricular activities.  Remember that every student is having to cancel plans and change directions. I encourage you to make a list of things that are being canceled due to Coronavirus so you can let colleges know how your plans changed in the additional information section of your application.  Remember, you will need to be specific, so you can’t say,  “I was planning on getting a job, but was not able to because of the Coronavirus outbreak.”  Instead, you would need to say, “I was hired to work at Dunkin’ Donuts in March 2020, but due to the Coronavirus, I was unable to start my job until May.”

  • Right now, a few standardized testing centers in some states have canceled testing. Continue to prepare for the SAT or ACT as planned.  There are always more testing dates.

For all high school students…

  • If your school is canceled, make sure you turn your focus to other things (again what you have control over). Get ahead on your homework, do some extra credit, and continue preparing for the SAT or ACT, or Advanced Placement exams (if applicable).

  • Open your Common Application account and familiarize yourself with what a college application looks like.

  • Continue to research schools through websites such as College Xpress and College Data.

  • Take a deep breath.  If you are feeling stressed about the Coronavirus, talk about it with a trusted adult.  The New York Times published the article, 5 Ways to Help Teens Manage the Anxiety About the Coronavirus.  The Center for Disease Control also has some good resources about anxiety the COVID-19.

And to all of my college students who are returning early from studying abroad or having to leave campus, you are in my thoughts.  My heart is breaking for my college seniors who are left in a place of uncertainty about graduation and other end-of-college events.

Please feel free to reach out to me if you need to brainstorm ideas to keep busy, come up with a Plan B for visits, or vent your frustrations.  You can email me directly at katherine@collegemindset.com.

Stay well,
Katherine

College Visits 101: Planning the Perfect Campus Visit

Now that you know which schools you want to visit, do you know how to plan your trip? Katherine has visited over 100 colleges and universities all over the country. In this video, she’ll give you all of her tips and tricks for planning the perfect college visit.

Now that you know which schools you want to visit, do you know how to plan your trip?

Katherine has visited over 100 colleges and universities all over the country. In this video, she’ll give you all of her tips and tricks for planning the perfect college visit.

 

Do you want more tips for the college process? Check out the College Mindset Ideal College Planning Timeline!

College Visits 101: 3 Types of Campus Visits

Did you know there are different types of campus visits? Katherine will talk you through each type of visit so you can be sure you will get the most out of visiting a college or university.

Did you know there are different types of campus visits?

First-year and sophomore high school students should be planning “practice” campus visits.

Juniors, you need to be moving towards “intentional” visits.

And Seniors, you are now visiting campuses as an admitted student- which changes everything.

Katherine will talk you through each type of visit so you can be sure you will get the most out of visiting a college or university.

Do you want more tips for the college process? Check out the College Mindset Ideal College Planning Timeline!

 

College Application Process Tips For Winter & Spring

Do you know what you should be working on? Watch my video for tips for high school seniors, juniors, sophomores, and freshmen.

Happy New Year!  The holidays are over and it is time to get back on track with your college process. Do you know what you should be working on?  Watch my video for tips for high school seniors, juniors, sophomores, and freshmen.

 

Do you want more tips for the college process? Check out the College Mindset Ideal College Planning Timeline!

Learn the Lingo: College Admissions Terms

Have you ever noticed that the college admissions process full of acronyms and new terms?  Sometimes it feels like another language.  It is difficult to figure out what you are supposed to do if you can’t even determine what it all means.  Below is a list of common college admissions terms. This list will help you learn the college admissions lingo and start your college process with confidence!

Standardized Testing

Standardized testing is used in college admissions to create a common “standard” to compare applicants. It is one piece of the college application. Testing policies vary from school to school, and some colleges and universities are test-optional. It is essential for applicants to carefully review the standardized testing policies for each school to determine if they are meeting the requirements.

The ACT is a standardized test administered through ACT.org.  It has four sections: English, Math, Reading, and Science.  Each section is graded on a scale from 1 to 36.  Scores are averaged for a maximum composite score of 36. There is also an optional writing test portion of the ACT (which is required by some colleges).

PSAT/NMSQT is the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test.  It is often taken during the 10thand 11thgrades.  Students who achieve a high score in the 11thgrade could qualify for the National Merit Scholarship Program.  PSAT scoring is complex, but it does provide a “predicted” SAT score.  Students can also link their PSAT exam to their Kahn Academy account for additional SAT practice.

The SAT is a standardized test administered by College Board.  There are two sections: math and evidence-based reading and writing. Both sections have scores ranging from 200 to 800. There is also an optional essay section (some schools require the essay section).

SAT Score Choice is the term describing the College Board practice of allowing students to choose which SAT or SAT Subject test scores are sent to colleges.  Keep in mind that some colleges and scholarships require applicants to send in their entire testing history.

SAT Subject Test are shorter, subject-specific tests offered through College Board.  Students take the SAT Subject tests to highlight their strengths in specific academic areas. The tests are required or highly recommended for a small number of colleges and universities.

Superscoring is when a college or university considers the highest sections scores across all of the dates that a student took an exam.  Many colleges will superscore the SAT, but most will not superscore the ACT.

Test-Optional is when a college or university does not require a student to submit standardized testing scores to complete their application. Some schools do not require an SAT or ACT for admission, but they do require test scores for a student to be considered for scholarships.  Some colleges are also test-flexible, giving student options regarding which tests scores (or sections of tests) to submit for consideration. Colorado College is an example of a school that practices flexible testing.

Application Process

As a student puts together their college applications, it is important that they understand the terms being used.  This will help them determine the best strategy for them to complete their applications, including determining how and when to apply.

Common Application is an application platform used by more than 800 colleges. Students can complete one “common application” and submit it to several colleges or universities.  Many schools require students to complete a supplemental section.  This allows the college or university to ask school-specific questions, including additional writing prompts.

Coalition Application is an application platform created by the Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success. It has over 100 members.  In addition to being an application platform, MyCoalition also has tools that students can use to prepare for the college application process.

A Deferred decision is when a student has submitted an early application, but the college determines they are unable to give a definite decision during the early round. The application is then deferred and considered with the regular admission pool.

Demonstrated Interest is how an applicant shows that they are genuinely interested in attending the school. Students can demonstrate interest in a school by visiting the campus, communicating with an admissions officer or following a college on social media.  Some schools do not track demonstrated interest while others do consider it when making admissions decisions.

Early Action (EA) is similar to an early decision option. However, the student is not obligated to attend the university. Students usually submit early action applications in November or December. Decisions are typically released in December or January.  Applicants have until May 1st to notify colleges of their intent to enroll. 

Early Decision (ED) is an application option where a student applies to college or university and commits to attend that school if admitted. The ED option is binding, and a student can receive one of three possible outcomes: admit, deny or deferred. Students usually submit early decisions applications by November 1st or November 15th.  Some colleges do offer an early decision 2 option with deadlines in January.

High School Profile is a document that is often submitted to colleges by a high school counselor with transcripts.  It gives colleges an overview of the course offerings, grading scale and average standardized testing scores.  Colleges use this information to determine how competitive a high school is.

Regular Decision is an application option where students submit applications usually in January or later.  Decisions are often released in mid to late March.  Applicants have until May 1stto notify colleges of their intent to enroll.

Priority Deadline is offered by some public colleges or universities to encourage applicants to submit applications by a certain deadline. Colleges often do not guarantee that they will have admissions space or scholarship availability after a priority deadline.

Rolling Admission is when a college or university accepts applications and releases decisions on a rolling basis. Some colleges with rolling admissions do have priority deadlines.

Single-Choice Early Action or Restrictive Early Action is an application option where a student can only submit an early application (ED or EA) to one college or university. Applications submitted under this option are non-binding.

Spring Admission is when a college or university admits a student, but the student is not allowed to enroll until the spring semester. Spring admission is a common practice used to help schools control enrollment numbers. Cornell University is an example of a school using spring admission.

Waitlist is an application decision a student receives from a regular decision application.  Students will be reconsidered for admission if the college or university does not meet their enrollment numbers after the May 1stdeposit deadline.

Yield is the percentage of applicants offered admission to a college or university who ultimately enroll.

College Cost

Figuring out how to pay for college begins with understanding how financial aid works and what the total cost will be to attend.  While not every student will apply for financial aid, every student should still know what they are paying for.

Cost of Attendance (COA)is the estimated total cost for a student to attend a college or university for one year.  The COA includes tuition and fees, on-campus room and board and estimations of expenses (books, transportation, etc.).

CSS Profile is a financial aid form required by some colleges (mostly private institutions) to be considered for institutional aid.  The CSS Profile asks detailed questions about a family’s finances.  Students should file the profile by the college or university stated deadlines (usually the same as the admissions application deadline). The CSS Profile is administered by the College Board.

Expected Family Contribution (EFC)is an estimated amount a family is expected to contribute to college costs for one year.  EFC’s calculators can give a general idea of this number.

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)is the application that helps colleges decide the financial need and how much federal aid a student receives.  The online application can be found at www.fafsa.gov and it becomes available October 1stof senior year.

Need-Blind/Need Aware Admission is when a college or university takes into consideration a students financial status when making an admissions decision. Need-blind colleges do not consider a student’s financial situation, and need-aware colleges do.

Need more direction for your college process?  Check out the Ideal College Planning Timeline to get started!

 

Photo by Paul Schafer on Unsplash

5 Steps to Making Your Final College Decision

Why Hire a College ConsultantAs with many other aspects of the college process, making your final decision is an excellent way to learn a significant life skill.  You will make decisions for the rest of your life, including deciding what to major in, which internship to apply for, and ultimately, what job offer to accept.

Making the final decision about which college to attend is the first in the long line of “life choices.” However, this particular decision is not the student’s alone. It is a family decision. The student is the one going to college, but the parents are the ones (generally) paying for it. So while it is important for students to follow the steps below, they also need to take into consideration the input of those around them. Student should also consider the 3 Questions to Ask When Making Your Final College Choice, which was covered earlier this week.

When it comes to making a decision, any decision, it is important to approach it in a step-by-step format.  Below are the steps that can be taken in order to make the final college choice, but these steps can apply to any decision you need to make in college and beyond.

Step 1: Review your priorities.

As with any major life decision, you need to go back to the core: your priorities. Why did you apply to college in the first place? What were your priorities when you began the process? How have your priorities changed? Examine all of the aspects you are looking for in your college experience: academics, location, support services, a particular club or organization, cost, etc. and rank them. Which ones are the most important to you? Which ones are the most important to your family? There can be a lot of emotion tied up into making your final college choice, so it is important to keep yourself grounded by establishing your priorities.

Step 2: Determine your questions.

When you began the process, your priorities were general: good financial aid, strong academics, an opportunity to play sports, social campus, etc. Now is the time to get specific and find evidence to determine how each campus supports your priorities. For some families, the cost of a college education is the most important factor. Being able to compare financial aid offers side-by-side and determine the out-of-pocket cost for your family is an important component of your final decision.

If one of your priorities is “strong academics,” figure what that means to you. Do you want a campus where students are well-supported by professors? Or are you looking for more concrete numbers such as the percentage of students admitted to medical school?

If you are looking for “opportunities to play sports,” determine what type of sport. Are you looking at club sports or intramurals? What teams are available? For club sports, figure out if you have to try out for the team. How competitive is the process?

The social aspects of college are often an important priority for some students. However, you need to determine what “social” means for you. Do you need to find more information about a particular club or organization? Are there activities happening on campus that interest you? Do students go home on weekends? Is Greek life popular on campus? Determining what you need to happy socially is an important step in making the final college decision.

Step 3: Collect information.

There are many ways you can collect the answers to the questions you brainstormed above. Ideally, you should plan on visiting the final colleges on your list. Staying in the residence hall, attending an admitted student event or sitting in on a class are all great ways to gain insights.

You may also want to consider requesting meetings with other individuals on campus. Interested in a music group? Email the director. Curious about a particular major? Contact a faculty member in that department. Reaching out to individuals on campus may seem like an intimidating idea, but professors and administrators are often very open to meeting with prospective students. Just make sure if you schedule a meeting, you prepare questions ahead of time.

You should visit a college before you attend, but if you are not able to make it out for a second visit before May 1st, there are plenty of other ways to college information.

  • Call the admissions office and ask to speak with a current student.

  •  Ask your guidance counselor to put you in touch with students from your high school who are attending the school.

  • Join Facebook groups associated with the school (specifically if there is a group for your graduating class).

  • Call specific departments and ask questions. Just like the statements about meeting with individuals if you are going to campus, you can accomplish the same goals by picking up the phone.

  • Review outside sights- but don’t base your final decision on what is posted there. Use the opinions posted to formulate your questions then use the resources above to look into any issues you find further.

The bottom line is that you need to explore EVERY aspect of the final colleges on your list. This not the time to feel like you are being a nuisance or think that you will figure it out later. ASK ALL OF YOUR QUESTIONS.

Step 4: Make a pros and cons list.

After you have reviewed your priorities and found answers to your questions, make a pros and cons list. Sometimes seeing all of the information laid out will make the answer clear.

Step 5: Make a decision, and stick to it.

After completing the steps above, you need to make a final decision. If the answer is not immediately clear, consider these techniques:

  • Give yourself a deadline. Stewing about the decision is not going to make it easier. By giving yourself a time limit, you force yourself to move forward.

  • Flip a coin. This may sound like a trivial way to make a decision, but sometimes it will reveal how you honestly feel based on the decision being made for you.

  • Say it out loud. Telling someone you trust your final decision (before you announce it to the rest of world) is a good way to ease into it. Saying it out loud makes it real.

  • Sit on it for a few days. Choose one college and then proceed for a few days as if you are a student of that college. How does it feel?

Once you have made your final decision, don’t look back. Be excited for what lies ahead and turn your focus away from what could’ve been.

Often if you are in the position of choosing between 2 or 3 colleges, there is no wrong choice. If you truly have taken the time to examine what you need to be successful in college, you will more than likely be able to make that happen at any of the colleges that were a part of your final decision process.