Congratulations on making it this far! You're almost done with high school and college is right around the corner, but you're not there yet. The New York Times Choice blog has provided a checklist here with some important points to remember:
- While it's easy to give in to spring fever, it's important to continue to prepare yourself for the demands that lie ahead. Being disciplined now will definitely pay off later, and a significant drop in academic performance could jeopardize your spot at the college you plan to attend in the fall.
- If you've made your decision on which college to attend, be happy knowing that you've done your research and made the best decision possible.
- Let other colleges know that you will not be accepting their offers so they can move to their wait-lists as necessary.
- If you are still on a wait-list, let the college know that you are still interested or take yourself off.
- Stay on top of college communications. You'll be receiving lots of forms that need to be filled out, so be sure to return them promptly.
- Now that you've made it through the application process, make sure to share the lessons you've learned with your younger friends, including any valuable technology you used (like College Essay Organizer) that helped you along the way.
- Plan your summer so that you're sure to have another great experience before college.
While seniors may be experiencing some downtime right now, juniors should be looking ahead, and starting to think more seriously about the college admissions process looming ahead. This article posted on the The New York Times' The Choice blog offers a nice checklist for where juniors should be now in order to be on track come fall. Here are some areas to focus on:
- Prioritize your Studies. Your junior year is the most important time to shine academically. Make sure to take a good selection of core classes, and work hard so you can successfully meet your goals.
- Make sure to participate in class and show that you are engaged. Most likely you will be asking one of your teachers from this year for a recommendation next year, so demonstrate that you are an active and important part of the class.
- Put aside your strongest papers and projects as colleges often want to see a sample of your best work.
- Start to think about what you like and want to study, as well as the type of college you want to spend four years of your life studying at.
Anxiety is definitely a real part of the college application process, and as applicants know, it becomes increasingly intense as the day of judgment nears. For most early applicants, that day is December 15. Will Walker, one of eight students chosen by the New York Times Choice Blog to document his story, shares his woes in this entry. After fighting his own fear demons, his resulting epiphany is one we can all benefit from:
"And so, in the spirit of the holiday season, I’d urge you, all of you (but especially college-bound seniors like me) to take a second over the coming week to reflect on the things that you do have: the opportunities you’ve been given, the possibilities you’ve been presented with, and the people around you who care about you. Because yes, this process is bad. But it’d be a lot worse if we had to go at it alone."
Taking advantage of your support network will definitely make this an easier process, as will making sure you're on top of your game and haven't missed anything. Use your College Essay Organizer account to double check that you didn't overlook any essay questions, and begin to get organized for writing the remainder of your essays if your early applications do not turn into acceptances.
Now that many seniors have submitted their early applications, what's next? The New York Times Choice Blog has posted a helpful checklist for seniors. While it's good to take a moment and breathe a sigh of relief that this important step is complete, there are other things that need attention:
- Review your list of colleges one more time. You can always change your mind or make additions to your list.
- Make sure to work on the applications for the schools that you will be applying to if you don't get in early. Don't wait till you hear back from those schools to get started. Nobody wants to spend their winter break scrambling to finish their essays and complete their applications.
- Keep your teachers and counselors informed of your plans to apply to more colleges.
- Keep your school grades up so you can finish your senior year on a high note.
For most high school juniors the idea of tackling the college process alone can seem overwhelming. While there are some out there who prep with specialized tutors and advisors, many are left to their own devices when it comes to picking schools, getting the right scores and grades and completing the applications. Fortunately for them the New York Times Choice blog posted a few helpful tips in this entry.
Tip 1: You Must Go
A college degree is an invaluable asset. No matter what, you’ll always have it and the best part is that it never expires. With today’s job market, you can’t afford to lose that kind of competitive edge.
“It’s all about ‘good fit’ — figuring out what you want out of college, and finding the college that best fits,” said Cassie Magesis, a college counselor at Goddard Riverside Community Center. Make sure you evaluate exactly how you work and what you work well with. You’ll need some support going into college and you need to know your goals.
Tip 3: Calculate the Cost
College is expensive, it’s no secret. “I can’t tell you how many kids have to drop out of CUNY, which they commute to, because they can’t afford the monthly MetroCard,” Ms. Magesis said. You’ll most likely have to end up borrowing money but be sure not to borrow too much. You don’t want to spend the rest of your life paying off debts. College is supposed to facilitate a successful career, not stilt it.
Tip 4: Do Your Research
There are so many different ways to research schools. Guidebooks, school listings, school counselors and websites are all readily available in libraries or online.
Be sure to check out College Prowler when you're ready to start your search.
Personal values are qualities that represent your priorities and highest motivations. Asking about personal values allows colleges to gain insight into the traits that students hold dear. This student wrote the essay below when colleges asked him to describe one of his personal values. He also used it in modified form to address such essay topics as adversity, personal trait/identity, community, diversity, social issue, and greatest accomplishment, among others. The key is to interpret the questions creatively and apply them to your own personal characteristics.
Grapes, box scores, and musical fugues – not a list of things commonly associated with one another but, in my life, these items are forever linked.
One day, as I was sitting in my highchair, pretending to be king of all babies perched on my throne, my parents decided to interrupt my fantasy for a meal. A bowl of voluptuous grapes was placed before me. "How many grapes are there, Joshie?" my mom asked. "Ten!" When she took three away, I counted seven. And with that, my passion for numbers took its alpha step into what would become a lifelong pursuit of numerical wisdom, a love I have always referred to as The Grapes Of Math.
The eminent physicist Richard Feynman once remarked that, in order to do multiplication, all one needs is to know how to count. I proved this concept a few years later. My dad, recognizing my early proficiency for addition and subtraction, and my early passion for all things athletic, decided to test my knack for multiplication with batting averages and box scores in the New York Times.
Perhaps the only other activity in my life that conjures up such passion for me is music. From the age of three, I sang the concluding prayers at my synagogue. Congregants would tell me what a beautiful voice I had, but I never believed them. As I got older, my confidence as a singer began to grow and I joined a small choral group in fourth grade. Unfortunately, by fifth grade, my voice experienced that inevitable adolescent mutiny and I became embarrassed to continue in the chorus.
Last year, several juniors at my school performed at Fugue Night to an audience of peers and parents. I composed a fugue and helped perform another. Our music teacher, who happened also to be the chorus director, heard me sing and told me that I had an amazing ear and great voice. At her urging, I auditioned for chorus, and, with her support, I became one of 15 students chosen for the school’s prestigious chamber choir.
Just as my “grapes of math” have aged, so too has my passion for math. As I have learned more, math has become more exquisite and flavorful to me. Similarly, musical tastes change with age, and my musical development has seen me evolve from a carefree singer, to an insecure one, to a skilled one, to an educational one. For a while, music represented a suppression of a love, for which I struggled internally with self-doubt. But it always remained inside me; a true passion, after all, cannot be kept silent for long.
Colleges may want students to describe a significant work experience. If you don't feel you have this under your belt yet, consider hunting for an internship this summer, or volunteering for a worthy cause. It cannot only lead you to a great topic for an essay, but it will also give you real world experience which will help you learn more about your goals as you prepare for college. Below is how one student described her summer work experience:
I have always had a passion for science, especially for seeing it applied in the laboratory. This past summer I seized an opportunity to further my interests in molecular biology through a program concentrating on the genetic mutations that cause Pompe’s Disease, an autosomal recessive disorder resulting in rapid muscle degeneration. At Bellevue Hospital’s Muscle Rehabilitation Unit, I assisted a research scientist in his study of the genetic disease, and learned how to actively participate in the actual manipulation of patients' genes. First, I would isolate a particular group of exons and then amplify and replicate these nucleic sequences. Next, I would strip the DNA of contaminations added in the previous procedures, thus purifying it. But a complicated step followed. It involved adding radioactive substances that would bind to certain nucleotides, enabling the depiction of the separate nucleotides. Handling such things as radioactive chemicals, fragile materials, and microscopic elements entailed meticulous efforts, and together with the research scientist, we were able to create a film with the imprints of a patient's DNA sequence, whereupon I could identify the location of a mutation. It was an effort that required an attention not only to detail, but also to safety and technique. It was a unique experience and showed me the levels to which science can rise when separate talents are united.
After all the waiting from colleges, the table is finally beginning to turn. It is soon the turn of the colleges to wait and see how many of their offers are accepted. Although much of the pressure of the application season is now in the past, there is still a bit remaining, especially for those students with a decision to make. Sometimes too many options make things more difficult rather than less.
If you want to commiserate or just be part of the soul-searching that goes on during such a decision, the NY Times Choice Blog features a group of students each season, following them through the process. You can read here as they deliberate about where they should go next fall. While definitely a challenging time, if your college list was well thought out, any of the colleges you applied to should be a great fit. In any case, it is worth taking the time to further research each school to make the best decision. Once that process is complete, the best thing to do is to move forward trusting that you did your best to secure a happy and successful college experience.
Whether you have just gone through the application process, or you are anxiously seeing it looming ahead, it’s easy to entertain ideas of not going to college. After all, college provides no guarantee for a job when you graduate or a successful future, and unless you’re one of the lucky few to get a free ride, it often comes with a high price tag, which includes future debt.
Most people, and especially parents, still view college as a rite of passage into the adult world, and understandably, you may not want to rock the family boat, but if you are seriously looking into your other options, here’s an article about one high school student who chose to forego college, albeit with a $100,000 award to start his own business. There are, however, notable examples of students who did not graduate from college, nor did they have a significant amount of money to fall back on, but went on to build extremely successful careers. It all depends on your goals and aspirations, and how driven you are, because whether you go to college or not, success requires lots of hard work and determination.
Colleges want to get to know you as a whole person, and the essay is clearly the key to standing out during the application process, and revealing who you are. Questions about extracurricular activities, commonly seen on college applications, are a great way to demonstrate who you are beyond the academic picture. In fact, the Common App short answer question, which the majority of students will be filling out, is about just that. It asks applicants to "briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences." Below is a sample essay in which a student describes her passion for singing and how it has helped her in her everyday life:
The alarm clock sounds. I open my eyes, and deep from under my covers I think, “What do I have to do today?” I think about the vocab quiz and the words tumbling through my head. I think about the paper on King Lear I crammed in the night before, the intricate ideas still fresh in my mind. I think about having to walk my dog, and do the laundry. I think about how I must read 20 pages of Speak, Memory on the bus to school. I think about the list of terms that I must memorize for my Economics test. I realize I had a dream about Alan Greenspan wearing leotards and think about that, too.
But amidst all the thinking and working and studying, there is something else—a vacation for my mind where my soul can unfurl itself and just breathe. I’m talking about my singing. I sing as often as I can. I sing in school, I sing in my shower, I sing along to my favorite songs every night in my room. I’ve sung all over the world, from the stage at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City to the Cathedral in St. Mark’s Square in Venice.
Someone recently asked me what I think about when I sing a song for an audience. I searched my mind, trying to remember the thoughts that filled my head at a recent appearance. But nothing came to mind. I concentrated on what I must’ve been thinking, and even looked back to all the other times I’ve sung. Still, nothing. Then I realized, that’s precisely it: Nothing comes to mind when I sing. I simply don’t think when I’m onstage and the sounds are pouring out of me.
When I sing, my mind is totally blank, no worries and no thoughts, save a few points on keeping my pitch up and remembering the lyrics. Don’t get me wrong, I work very hard at singing. It is something that comes naturally to me, but I study the songs I sing, and I learn different techniques, and sometimes it takes a long time to get them down. There are, however, no tests—only the personal ones I set for myself onstage, and those are emotional experiences that cannot be compared to taking an exam in a classroom.
Just as all my built-up mental energy fuels my singing with intensity, my singing in turn feeds my mind, allowing it to cleanse itself through this physical and emotional artistic catharsis. I suppose this yin-yang cycle is what allows me to function throughout the day in relative harmony with the world and myself. Singing is something I am proud of, something I will continue to do for the rest of my life, personally and I hope professionally. Just as I have no memory of when exactly I started singing, I never want to have a memory of when I stopped.