Stay Positive Even if you Don't Get Accepted to Your Top Choices

Could University of Maryland turn out to be the college for you?

Even if the first round of early applications didn’t go as planned, you may still be feeling optimistic about the rest of your applications. But what happens if you have more rejections to look forward too? In this article by University of Maryland student Eric Harris, he describes his less than desired experience with the college application process.

While he went through his share of emotional ups and (mostly) downs, the story highlights how things really can work out for the best. Harris writes, “I LOVE my school! Great friends, exceptional faculty, competitive sports teams, and the fun of leading campus tours to future Terps are my rewards for going with an open mind to a school that was not my first choice.” Judging by his incredible college experience and positive attitude, he found the perfect place for him to spend his college years, even if it was not at the top of his list.

Three Ways to Make Your Application Essays Stand Out

Your excellent grades and SAT scores aren’t the only things you’ll need to get into the top school of your choice. You’ll also need application essays that reflect what an inquisitive and intelligent person you are. If you don’t spend much time on your essays, you can’t expect a college admissions board to spend much time considering your application, no matter how impressive your credentials are. Since application essays are kind of a big deal, writing them can be pretty nerve-wracking. We’d like to help decrease your stress levels by providing you with a little guidance when it comes to your essays. Here are three tips to help you write memorable, meaningful application essays that are sure to impress the bigwigs at your dream school:

1.  Give yourself a couple of days to think about an essay topic.

This will give you enough time to formulate exactly what you want to write about in your head. You may want to record ideas you have for essays in a notebook. Oftentimes, the best writing ideas won’t come to you when you’re sitting in front of the blank page on your computer screen. The best ideas may come to you when you’re eating breakfast or brushing your teeth before bed. If you spend a couple of days contemplating a topic and coming up with ideas, you’ll be prepared to write the best essay possible.

2. Avoid writing what you think people want to hear.

Your college application essays shouldn’t be anything like the papers you write for history class. There’s no right or wrong answer to an application essay question. It’s important to be yourself and express your independent ideas in your essays. Your essays are an opportunity for you to let college admissions boards know who you are. So, show off your personality and unique beliefs. Just remember to keep your essays appropriate and on topic.

3. Have someone you trust proofread your finished essays.

You could ask a friend, older sibling, or parent to take a look at your essays. You want the grammar and spelling in your essays to be perfect, and another person can help you catch any and all writing mistakes and errors.

College application essays are important, but you should do everything you can to stay calm while writing them. Take deep breaths if you need to, and don’t be afraid to express yourself!

About the Author: Carolyn Knight is a professional writer and guest blogger who writes about the higher education industry, registered nursing schools, and time management skills for students.

The Financial Aid Calculator for College

Did you know that you could calculate what college will cost?

Aware of the ever-rising cost of college and to promote cost transparency, the federal government instituted an October 2011 deadline for colleges to post a net-price calculator on their sites. As reported in this article published on twincities.com, the calculators have been eye opening to high school students like Shawnia Johnson leading her to modify her college list and begin to focus on working and saving more. For senior Adithya Balaji, the calculators were a great stress relief: "Going into the final stretch without having any idea what to expect [in terms of financial aid] would be really stressful. The calculators are useful in setting real expectations."

While awareness of the calculators, as well as their visibility on college sites, must be improved, it is a step forward towards making the application process less tense. As Brian Lindeman, financial aid director at Macalester College puts it, “Applying for financial aid can be a very mysterious process. This is a great way to get an early visual estimate of what paying for college might look like."

Get Ready for Common App 4.0

Get ready for the new Common App

There is no doubt that the Common App has gone from relatively unknown to an almost mandatory pathway to applying to college in the past couple decades. The growth has been tremendous with 456 colleges currently accepting the Common App, and hundreds more poised to jump on board. This year alone, approximately 750,000 students have used the form to submit 3 million applications, a 25% increase from last year.

A recent article by Jacques Steinberg details the new system the Common App will be creating in order to accommodate future increases in traffic. According to Rob Killion, executive director of Common Application, “If we stick with the architecture of the current system through the end of the decade, with the growth we’re seeing, there would be delays during peak periods, for students and for our member colleges getting applications. This will all soon be groaning if we don’t do something now.”

Common App 4.0 aims to fix existing glitches including sections being truncated when an application is not previewed prior to submitting, or if too many characters are used in certain fields. Further, it will be capable of handling the continued growth which it is expected to receive including over 10 million applications filed to over 1000 schools.

Social Networking Reshapes College Admissions

Is your facebook page ready for the college admissions process?

Colleges are looking for ways to better get to know their applicants, and there is no longer any doubt that social networking sites are playing a key role in this process. According to this article, a Kaplan study surveyed 359 college admission officers from 500 universities. Results showed that approximately 24% of college admissions officers search social media and 20% reported performing a search on Google. While this number may seem low, it is definitely on the rise! And 12% of admissions officers’ stated that social media profiles negatively affected their college applications.

For better or for worse, expect that college admissions officers will be checking facebook, twitter, and youtube to see how you represent yourself. While this can be disconcerting, it can also be an opportunity to update your online image so you are sure to impress not only admissions officers but future employers as well!

Diversity is Up in Early Admissions Applications

The Early Decision applicant pool continues to widen

According to a recent article in the New York Times, Early Decision, once popular only among east coast applicants from elite private schools, has widened its appeal. Jess Lord, dean of admissions and financial aid at Haverford, describes this shift: “Early decision historically tended to be more homogenous than the regular pool — more white, more upper-class and upper-middle-class, less international. That’s changing fast.”

Recent reports from top colleges indicate that two to four times as many international applicants are applying early. And this shift has affected who is getting early acceptances. Fifty-six percent of student accepted early to Princeton University were from public schools this year, up from 50 percent 5 years ago, and Harvard’s early admits were nearly 20 percent black or Hispanic, up from 15 percent in 2005.

Don’t Miss Applying for Aid

How will you pay for college?

Now that we’re in January, and many of you have finished your applications, more questions may be popping up regarding paying for college. Here are a few frequently asked questions that you may find helpful.

1. What is the difference between loans, grants, and scholarships?

Grants and scholarship are free monetary awards and do not need to be paid back. Grants may be offered without service requirements like Pell Grants, or with research requirements as is often the case of graduate students. Scholarships can be awarded on various criteria including merit, talent, major, or ethnicity. Loans must be repaid, with interest.

2. I probably won’t qualify for financial aid. Should I apply anyway?

Yes. It’s free to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form, so even though you don’t think you’ll receive aid, it’s worth trying. You may also qualify for other sources of aid such as unsubsidized Stafford and PLUS loans that are available regardless of need.

3. Do I need to be admitted to a particular university before I can apply for aid?

No. You can apply for financial aid any time after January 1. However, to receive the funds, you must be admitted and enrolled at the university.

For more information on filling out the FAFSA, check out these questions and answers addressed by expert Mark Kantrowitz in the NY Times Choice blog.