3,500 Colleges! Which One Is For You?

Creating a college list can be a challenge. The first step is to understand the variety of college experiences available.

What Kind of College is Your Kind of College?

There are more than 3,500 accredited colleges and universities in the United States. Thus, there is incredible diversity and opportunity available to students seeking a college degree. However, there are distinct catagories that a prospective student should be aware of as he or she creates a college list. It is important to understand the mission, culture and characteristics of different types of institutions. As you create your list make sure you understand these catagories:

LAND-UNIVERSITY UNIVERSITIES

Penn State University, Cornell University, Michigan State, Virginia Tech, Purdue University, University of Connecticut, Florida State, Ohio State

Every state has a land- grant university founded in the mid-1800s to educate “the sons and daughters of the working classes in agriculture and the mechanical arts.” Today these doctoral-granting institutions, often called flagships, have well-established engineering and agriculture colleges, as well as strong liberal arts, business and science programs. Land-grants offer lots of school spirit with Division I sport teams, extensive libraries, large lecture sections, and a wide range of faculty who are experts in particular fields of research. In addition to their land-grant universities, most states support other state universities. For example, the University of Virginia, Indiana University and the University of Michigan are state-supported. Students looking at big state universities need to be self-motivated and assertive if they are going to navigate the bureaucracy of a large school.

PRIVATE RESEARCH UNIVERSITIES

University of Rochester, Harvard, Columbia,The University of Chicago, Johns Hopkins, Vanderbilt University, Notre Dame, Washington University of St Louis, University Of Pennsylvania, Yale, Emory University, Princeton, Carnegie Mellon

Along with state-supported universities, private research universities make up the approximately 260 doctoral-granting research institutions in the United States. Private research universities have well-known graduate and professional schools in addition to offering undergraduate majors. For example, Tufts University has dental, veterinary science, and medical schools, and George Washington University and the University of Pennsylvania have medical colleges.

Private research universities are highly selective and look for students who are intellectually curious and seek an academic challenge. Many of these universities are located in large cities where students can participate in many off-campus cultural and urban events.

LIBERAL ARTS COLLEGES

Allegheny College, Amherst, Connecticut College, Kenyon College, Colorado College, Wellesley, Swarthmore, Union, Ursinus, Denison, Wesleyan, Pomona, Bucknell, The College of the Holy Cross, Lycoming College, Haverford, Goucher, Williams, Juniata

The majority of liberal arts colleges are private and range in size from 1,200 to 2,500 undergraduates. They focus on undergraduate education with majors in the humanities, social sciences, liberal arts and sciences. Traditionally they do not offer career-oriented majors although many now offer a business curriculum. Students who like small class discussions, who want to be involved in lots of activities and play Division III sports and who are looking for a strong sense of community will thrive at a liberal arts college.

SPECIALIZED COLLEGES

Berklee School of Music, Juilliard, Babson College, Bentley College, Colorado School of Mines, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Savannah School of Art and Design, and the Rhode Island School of Design

For students who are focused and sure about their career goals, who want to be a classical violinist, a business entrepreneur or executive, an engineer, or a fine artist, there are highly specialized schools in music, business, engineering and art. Specialized schools train students for a profession and have fewer general education requirements.

COMPREHENSIVE BACCALAUREATE and MASTERS DEGREE INSTITUTIONS

Lock Haven University, Quinnipiac University, West Chester University, James Madison University, University of Hartford, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, San Francisco State University, Longwood University, Roger Williams, Keene State University and Eastern Connecticut State University

General baccalaureate colleges may be public or private. All of them offer traditional liberal arts courses, but they usually award more than half of their degrees in career-oriented or applied majors such as: speech pathology, graphic arts, education, nursing, computer technology and business. The focus of comprehensive universities is on undergraduate education but they offer master’s degrees in many areas. General baccalaureate colleges are regional, and offer a comprehensive education with lots of sports and extra-curricular activities.

COMMUNITY COLLEGES

Harrisburg Area Community College, Manchester Community College,Northern Virginia Community College, Delaware Valley Community College, and Montgomery County Community College

Forty-eight percent of all undergraduates in the United States attend a community college. These schools, founded during the 1960s, were designed to be non-residential with open admissions. Today, there are public supported community colleges throughout the United States offering associate degree programs in applied areas such as hotel and restaurant management, criminal justice, accounting, computer technology or dental hygiene. Community colleges are an economical way for many students to fulfill general education requirements before transferring to a four-year institution.

For Seniors Finishing Up Their Application Essays

Here is some final advice from admissions representatives from DUKE and POMONA who were recently interviewed on NBC-TV Today:

Your essay should have” Impact, Engagement and Authenticity.”

The essay is your chance to say what you haven’t said elsewhere in your application

Don’t make your reader interpret or have to look for what your attributes might be; bring them to their attention

Always edit by reading your essay aloud before you finalize what you submit

Make sure everything on your application is appropriate and would pass the “grandma approval” test.

In addition, Dickinson College suggests:” When writing your essay, focus on a blade of grass, not a whole field. Tell one good story, not a condensed mini-series.” And Middlebury College suggests: “Make your first paragraph compelling. Don’t let the first paragraph put your readers to sleep….”

And I suggest some words to avoid in your essays: incredible, cutting edge, world class, it goes without saying, fantastic, really, awesome,  lastly, or super!

Gift Ideas

  For your high school student or soon-to-be college student:

  • A cookbook such as:  27 Easy College Cookbook Recipes, by Diana Bricker; or 4 Ingredients: One Pot, One Bowl, by Kim McCosker; or This is A Cookbook: Recipes for Real Life, by Mac and Eli Sussman.
  • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teenagers, by Sean Covey
  • How To Be a Straight A  Student, by Cal Newport,
  • A gift certificate for Starbucks or Chipotle for a meal or snack away from the dining hall.
  • New UGGS, if your child will be heading off to a college in upper New York state, Wisconsin, New England or Canada
  • Tickets to a sporting  event or concert at your child’s favorite college.
  • For all those future writing assignments:The Sense of Syle: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century, by Steven Pinker; or On Writing Well, by William Zinsser.
  • A Gas Card
  • Personalized stationery for thanking the teachers who wrote college application recommendations and for future graduation gifts

Productive College Visits

Watch our recent video spotlight and view more information on what you should do before college.

Acceptances and Making Your Decision

2018 Seniors Who Worked With Heather Have Been Accepted at the Following Colleges and Universities:

  • Case Western Reserve
  • The College of Wooster
  • Connecticut College
  • Denison University
  • Fairfield University
  • Franklin and Marshall College
  • Hobart and William Smith Colleges
  • Juniata College
  • Lafayette College
  • Lycoming College
  • Ohio State University
  • Penn State University-Altoona
  • Penn State University-University Park
  • Penn State University-Schreyer Honors College
  • Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
  • Rochester Institute of Technology
  • Savannah College of Art and Design
  • Syracuse University
  • Youngstown State University
  • Villanova University-Honors
  • University of  Connecticut
  • University  of Massachusetts-Honors
  • University of Pittsburgh
  • University of Rochester
  • University of Texas-San Antonio-Honors
Best wishes to these students who will be graduating this Spring from Canfield High School, (Youngstown, Ohio) East Catholic High School, (Manchester, CT), State College Area High School (PA), and St Joseph’s Academy, (Boalsburg PA). 

It’s Time To Make Your Decision About Which College To Attend!

You’re In! Your hard work has paid off. You may have been accepted to several colleges where you applied and now it is your turn to decide. Where will you be happy and thrive? As you are making your final choice about where to spend the next four years of your life, here are some suggestions you may want to consider as you move ahead in making your final college choice:

  • Make a list of the pros and cons of each school to which you have been offered admission. Consider location, academic majors, size, the type of students who go there, the political climate, and social scene. While making this list, talk to anyone you know who currently attends or has graduated from the colleges you are considering. They will be glad to share their impressions and experiences with you.
  • Go visit again. It is important to try and attend the accepted student “open houses” and other events such as “overnights” that colleges have in the spring for their admitted students. If you can’t make these events, try to go at another time and arrange to attend a class. Once you are on campus you can get a sense of the culture of the campus. Read the school newspaper and check out the bulletin boards. Talk informally with current students, look around, and listen. What do they do in their free time and on the weekends? Are there living and learning communities you would like to be part of or intramural teams for you to play on? If you are a recruited athlete be sure and meet with the coaching staff again and with the members of the team.
  • Check out the graduation data for each college you are considering. Find out what percentage of students graduate in four years and how many take five or six years to graduate? What percentage of the graduating class go on to graduate or professional school? How many get jobs when they graduate? What kind of career counseling is available on campus and what companies come into recruit.
  • Where will you be most comfortable academically in order to achieve your educational goals? If you think you have decided upon a major, carefully research what each college offers in the field you have selected. How many and what kind of courses are offered? How many full-time faculty are in the department along with the number of part-time faculty? Is undergraduate research encouraged? Do the schools you are considering offer you a variety of other academic choices, if you change your mind about your major? Be sure you know the kind of internships and other off-campus learning opportunities are offered. For example, students in the geosciences program at Dickinson College can spend two weeks on research projects in the Arctic, and students at Gettysburg College can spend time in Washington D.C. studying at the Eisenhower Institute.
  • Make sure you and your parents really understand the “financial aid packages” you have been offered by each school. Is a particular school offering you unsubsidized or subsidized Federal Direct Loans? Is it offering you scholarships and grants or just loans? How much are you really getting, compared to the cost of tuition? Take care not to saddle yourself with too much debt that will have to be paid off after college. Find out what fees you will be charged in addition to tuition. Don’t forget that there are other costs besides tuition and fees that you will incur such as books, travel, and recreation. Determine how you will afford these expenses. What if you no longer want to, or can play that sport for which you were offered a scholarship? Would you still want to be at that college? Could you still afford to be there?
  • You only have until May 1, 2018 to make your decision since you will need to send in your deposit confirming your place in the freshman class at the college of your choice. Be honest with yourself. Think about your own interests, values, and preferences as you make your decision. Where will you feel most comfortable and challenged?
  • Once you have decided on a college, thank your teachers, your school counselor and other professionals who have helped you along the way, so they can celebrate with you as you look ahead to new experiences. Good Luck!

6 Tips for Your Next College Tour

Read on for a few tips for your next campus visit.
1. Learn as much as you can about a college before you go visit so you are prepared to ask relevant questions.
2. Take part in an official campus tour and information session.  Be sure the admissions office knows you are there and make some contacts.
 3. Eat lunch in the student cafe, read the school newspaper, check out what’s happening on campus on bulletin boards and talk informally with students.
4. Note the environment of campus.  What are the freshmen dorms like, the town, the athletic facilities and fitness center,  the theater and student union?
5. Arrange to meet with a faculty member to discuss your academic interests and talk with coaches if you want to play a sport.
6. Be sure and follow-up with an email or thank you note to any admissions or staff member you met and make notes of your impressions of the college or university you toured.

Colleges You May Want to Visit

I recently attended the Independent Educational Consultants Conference in Washington D. C. where I had the privilege of visiting Johns Hopkins University, Goucher College, the University of Maryland and Georgetown University.
Georgetown  University, located in historic Georgetown, is a competitive Jesuit university with strong Division I sports teams. If you are planning on a future in government or international relations you  can major in  the Walsh School of Foreign Service.
If you would like to be near urban areas, University of Maryland with 28,000 undergraduates is close to Annapolis, Washington, and Baltimore. It has an endowed school of journalism, an extensive new computer science building and a variety of living and learning communities.
At Goucher College you’ll find a new innovative curriculum where cultural competency is stressed and all students study abroad. A strong equestrian team rides on the three hundred acre campus right near Baltimore.
Johns Hopkins University encourages student involvement in the Baltimore community and boasts a 1 to 10 student faculty ratio. At JHU you will find that sixty percent of undergraduates have a double major and 75% of students participate in undergraduate research and internships.

College Decisions and Playing College Sports

College admissions results are coming in….Here are some overall acceptance rates for the Class of 2021 at: 
  • Wellesley College-21%
  • Boston College-32%
  • University of Virginia-27%
  • Georgia Tech- 23%
  • Georgetown University- 15%
  • Wake Forest University -25%
  • Middlebury College-20%
  • Swarthmore College-10%

College Decisions: What to Do When You Get In

High School is almost over and, as a senior, you’ve worked hard.  By now you have been accepted to a number of colleges where you applied Early Action, or Regular Decision.  Perhaps you have been waitlisted or denied admission by others.  The deadline for your final college decision is May 1, 2017 so it is time to take a deep breath and look at your choices.
Successful college admissions is about ending up with a choice with which you are happy.  You may be disappointed about not getting into a particular school you had your heart set on, but it is important to remember that it is not just about you and your qualifications.  It is much more about what colleges call “enrollment management” and about the fact that more students are applying to colleges than ever before. In 2016 the total number of applications submitted to the colleges and universities in this country went up 6%.  It is true that there is a college for everyone.  It is also true that there are many colleges and universities where you will thrive and be successful.   So regain your confidence, and move ahead with the choices you have.   It is now your turn to decide.
As a college admissions advisor, let me suggest several actions you may take to help you with your decision making:
  1. Make a list of the pros and cons of each school to which you have been offered admission. Consider location, academic majors, size, the type of students who go there, the political climate, and social scene. While making this list, talk to anyone you know who currently attends or has graduated from the colleges you are considering. They will be glad to share their impressions and experiences with you.
  2. If you think you have decided upon a major,  carefully research  what each college offers in the field you have selected. How many and what kind of courses are offered? How many full-time faculty are in the department along with the number of part-time faculty? Do the schools you are considering offer you a variety of other academic choices, if you change your mind about your major?  Be sure you know the kind of internships and other off-campus learning opportunities are offered.   For example, students at Colgate can study for a semester at the National Institute of Health in Maryland and students  in the geosciences program at DickinsonCollegecan spend two weeks on research projects in the Arctic.   
  3.  Make sure you and your parents really understand the “financial aid packages” you have been offered by each school.  Is a particular school offering you unsubsidized or subsidized Stafford Loans?  Is it offering you scholarships and grants or just loans?   How much are you really getting, compared to the cost of tuition? Be sure you know what fees you will be charged in addition to tuition.  For example, the University of Connecticut  charges  $3000.00 each year in “fees”  to cover technology, activities and facilities and Penn State University Park charges $947.00 in fees per year.  Don’t forget that there are other costs besides tuition and fees that you will incur such as books, travel, and recreation.  Determine how you will afford these expenses. What if you no longer want to, or can play that sport for which you were offered a scholarship?  Would you still want to be at that college? Could you still afford to be there?
  4. Go visit again. It is important to try and attend the accepted student “open houses” and other events such as “overnights” that colleges have in the spring for their admitted students.  If you can’t make these events, try to go at another time and arrange to attend a class and spend a weekend in the residence hall.
  5. Be honest with yourself. Think about your own interests, values, and preferences as you make your decision. Where will you feel most comfortable and challenged?    For example, if you have grown up in a small town, such as State College, PA or Tolland, CT a large urban campus in a distant state may look appealing and sound glamorous to you and your friends, but do you visualize yourself happy there six months from now?  Conversely, a smaller rural college in the mountains of New England may seem more to your liking now, but will it allow you to grow in the ways you want to in the next four years?
  6. Once you have decided on a college, thank your parents for all those college visits they made with you, your teachers, your school counselor and other professionals who have helped you along the way, so they can celebrate with you as you look ahead to new experiences.
You only have about a month to consider your decision since you will need to send in your deposit confirming your place in the freshman class at the college of your choice  by May 1, 2017.  Jay Mathews, author and educational columnist for the Washington Post, writes in his book, Harvard Schmarvard,
The best college to attend is the one that looks like an adventure, a place that will take you where you have always wanted to go.”
You may want to keep these words, and my suggestions in mind as you make your decision. Good Luck!

Get in the Game

Advice for High School Student Athletes

If you are an aspiring student athlete who hopes to play on a varsity team in colleges here is some advice in the article I wrote for the magazine HOME TOWN SPORTS.

Tips for Aspiring College Athletes

According to the National Collegiate Athletic Association, nearly eight million teenagers play high school sports. If you are one of these high school students you’ve probably worked hard on your high school team. Hopefully, you have also worked hard in your academic classes. If your goal is to play a sport in college keep the following guidelines in mind:

1. There are three divisions of the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

NCAA Division I: In general, offers athletics scholarships, but many Division I schools do not fully fund all of their athletic programs. For a more detailed understanding of what this means, visit: http://informedathlete.com/athletic-scholarships-financial-aid-issues/
NCAA Division II: In general, offers scholarships, but most NCAA Division II schools do not fully fund their athletic programs. For a more detailed understanding of what this means, visit: http://informedathlete.com/athletic-scholarships-financial-aid-issues/
NCAA Division III: No athletic scholarships, but many may offer merit-based, need-based, or diversity-based scholarships or grants.

No matter the Division, early in the process, you should make contact with the financial aid offices at the schools that interest you. They can explain the types of financial aid packages they offer, which in some circumstances can be in addition to or “stacked” on top of any athletics aid you receive. You and your parents also need to be sure to complete the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Assistance) in October of your senior year.

2. If you want to compete at the NCAA level, many times high school competition is not enough to gain ample exposure. Look to join select, premiere, AAU, travel, or club teams or programs in addition to your high school team. College coaches often attend large club/AAU events because there are more athletes to see in one place versus a select number at a high school gym or field where only one game is occurring.

3. If you intend to play NCAA DI or DII sports, you MUST register with the NCAA eligibility center at www.eligbility.org. I advise that you register in your sophomore year of high school. For more information on the NCAA eligibility center requirements, see the following link: http://www.ncaapublications.com/productdownloads/EB16.pdf

4. When you visit campuses, be sure and call or email the coaching staff well in advance, to see if he or she is available to meet with you. It will help if you include video content with your communication to the coaching staff. Remember, coaches get hundreds of emails and you can’t be sure they will want to see you. In addition, it is important that your high school and club or travel team coaches are advocates for you.

5. There are hundreds of NCAA rules that may prohibit coaches from seeing and/or initiating contact with you via phone or email depending on your year in high school. Know that many times the only way a coach can communicate with you is if you contact him or her. Furthermore, your parents are considered to be an extension of you, so coaches may not be able to initiate communication with them either. According to Alex Ricker-Gilbert, the athletic director at Jacksonville University, a DI institution,: “High school student-athletes need to be proactive if they hope to be seen by college coaches. Sure, there are “superstars” that coaches might be aware of, but most recruitment usually occurs when student-athletes or their high school and club coaches initiate communication with the desired college coaching staff. It is also important to know the events that coaches traditionally attend in order to try and ensure the teams you play on have a presence at these events so your talents and abilities can be exposed. Recruitment is not a one-way road. Student-athletes have to play their part.”

6. High school athletes also need to be proactive with regard to their course work. As Richard Ciambotti, Assistant Athletic Director and Head Basketball Coach at Saint Joseph’s Catholic Academy in Boalsburg, suggests: “The most important aspect of becoming a college athlete is keeping your academics in order and committing time each day to your sport. College athletics is obviously competitive and I’ve known players who have lost scholarships because their academics were not in good standing. Additionally, anyone who has an interest in playing college sports needs to understand the commitment level required. Each day, you need to be doing something to work toward your goal, whatever it may be.”

Good luck toward reaching your goals both academically and athletically as you look ahead to your future in higher education.

Tips for Deferred Applicants and Seniors

What To Do When You Have Been Deferred

A deferral is not a denial.  If you are one of the many students who applied Early Decision or Early Action and were deferred, you are not alone.  It is important to remember that it is not just about you and your qualifications.  It is much more about what is called “enrollment management” which relates to how an admissions office wants to create a holistic and varied freshman class. They are looking for a well-rounded student body, not just well-rounded students.  As a deferred candidate the enrollment managers in the admissions office may want to see your application in context with the entire regular admissions applicant pool. Your application will be read again.  So what can you do?  Here are some suggestions:

  1. Don’t be defeated and keep updating your other college applications
  2. Be sure and let the admissions office of the college where you were deferred of  your continued interest. Write them a letter.  Update your application with other relevant and new information about what has happened in the way of new memberships or awards, since your original application.  Ask your school counselor to send in your mid-year grades with a letter detailing some of your new accomplishments.
  3. Consider sending another letter of recommendation from a coach or teacher
  4. If you think you could improve your standardized test scores take an additional subject test or  the SAT or  ACT again.   If your scores improve significantly it could make a difference
  5. Work hard to keep your grades up and continue with your school and community activities.
  6. Reassess your goals. What are your interests and values and what other colleges on your list will allow you to grow and prosper in the ways you want to in the next four years? Remember, it is true there is a college for everyone and it is also true that there are many colleges and universities where you will thrive and be successful.

Seniors: What To Do Now that your Applications Are In:

  • Check with each college website where you have applied to make sure your application is complete.  Be sure your school counselor sends in your latest grade reports.
  • Write  thank you notes to the teachers and other individuals who have encouraged  you and written your recommendations
  • Along with your parents, fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for  Federal Student Aid) which is online at: www.fafsa.ed.gov. If the colleges where you are applying also require completion of the CSS Profile complete it right away.
  • Check each college website for specific financial aid submission deadlines. They may be soon.
  • Look for local scholarships sponsored by organizations in your community to which you can apply. These should be posted in your school counseling office and on Naviance.
  • Keep working hard in your classes and enjoy all the special senior activities planned for the  rest of your senior year.

Sophomores & Juniors: Thinking About College?

Things to think about:
Career and Major Choices, College Selection, Scholarships, Financial Aid Strategies, SAT or ACT, Timelines, College Visits, Interviews, Auditions, Final Lists, Applications, Resumes, Essays, Work, Volunteer and Summer Activities, Sports and Extra-Curricular Interests
I encourage high school sophomores and  juniors who are beginning to think about the college selection process to contact me. It is never too soon to get started on your journey toward higher education.

Accepted Seniors

Congratulations to the Seniors with whom Heather worked who have been accepted through early action to the following institutions: 
  • College of William and Mary
  • College of Wooster
  • Duquesne University
  • Fairfield University
  • Harvard University
  • Indiana University, Bloomington
  • Manhattan College
  • Northeastern University-Honors
  • Penn State University
  • Providence College
  • University of Connecticut-Honors
  • University of New Hampshire
  • University of Pittsburgh
  • Washington and Jefferson College

College Conversations: Is a Gap Year for You?

Several years ago, my family and I had the opportunity to live in Sydney, Australia and Christ Church, New Zealand where we discovered that many of the college students we met took time off before starting university. They traveled, worked on sheep farms, in restaurants or in the tourist industry. In other words, these young Australians and New Zealanders took a Gap Year. As Americans, this was a new and interesting concept to us, since traditionally in the United States students march directly on to higher education.

The idea of taking time off before starting college is becoming more and more popular in the United States. For example, after she was accepted to Harvard University, Melia Obama took a Gap Year. She served as an intern in the American Embassy in Spain, volunteered on environmental and conservation projects in Peru and Bolivia, and worked in Hollywood, before starting college the following fall. The practice of deferring enrollment for a year, as Melia did, is a trend Harvard and many other institutions such as Colgate, Yale, Carnegie Mellon, Colorado College, and Florida State support. Helen, a student with whom I worked, was accepted to Bates College in Maine. She then she decided she needed a break. Helen paid her admissions deposit and took a year off to volunteer and travel. Bates held her spot, and she went back the following year as a freshman. About 60% of all students who take a Gap Year apply to college and then defer for six months or a year. Others wait to apply once their Gap Year is underway.

According to the American Gap Year Association, a Gap Year offers students experiential learning, new skills, different cultural and career perspectives, maturity and independence. In addition, researchers at the University of Chicago and Middlebury College found that students tend to excel in academics after taking a Gap Year and graduate from college with higher than average GPAs.

Wendy Bachman, of Boalsburg, is the parent of two Gap Year participants. She suggests that the experience of a Gap Year helps young people “learn what they don’t want to do.” It helps them to adjust to the demands of a university – both emotionally and socially – once they start their college career. She also says that “planning for a Gap Year allows a student to relax and enjoy his or her senior year and offers a gradual transition toward independence for the entire family.”

Students may choose to do one or a combination of activities during a Gap Year which often involve voluntarism, career exploration, paid work, or travel. For example, during his gap year a student might volunteer for Habitat for Humanity, the library, or for a political campaign. Career exploration might include shadowing a professional in a certain field such as physical therapy or getting an internship based on career interests in a graphic arts company or law office. Working is a great way to save money for future college expenses as well as adding to one’s resume.

Many students find part-time work in a restaurant, a bookstore, in construction, or day care while they take a class at a local college or pursue other interests in art, music, or sports. There are travel programs for mature teens to learn a language and immerse themselves in another culture. The company Visions offers language immersion and service programs in countries such as Guadeloupe or the Dominican Republic.

You can learn about structured Gap Year programs at TeenLife.com, GoAbroad.com, WhereThereBeDragons.com, or IrishGapYear.com. There are also several books available about Gap Year experiences, one of which is Gap Year: How Delaying College Changes People in Ways the World Needs, by Joe O’Shea. The idea of a Gap Year is certainly not for everyone, but for students, such as those we met in Australia and New Zealand, who aren’t quite ready to start college right after high school, a Gap Year may be the answer.

Freshmen Reading

To get students engaged in discussions about relevant and diverse topics, many colleges are assigning a book as a common reading project “to start the conversation” during freshman orientation or in classes at the beginning of the semester.

Here is a sample of some of the books freshmen in the class of 2018 were asked to read over the summer by the colleges and universities where they are enrolling:

  • Texas State University: Coming of Age in Mississippi, by Anne Moody
  • Juniata College: It’s Complicated, by dana boyd
  • Bucknell University and Goucher College: The Reluctant Fundamentalist, by Mohsin Hamid
  • Georgetown University: All Our Names, by Dinaw Mengestu
  • Mansfield University of Pennsylvania: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
  • Johns Hopkins University: Happier,  by Tal Ben-Shahar
  • Princeton University: The Meaning of Life and Why It Matters, by Susan Wolf
  • Penn State University: Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • University of Pennsylvania: The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors and the Collision of Two Cultures, by Anne Fadiman
  • Villanova University and Longwood University: The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates, by Wes Moore
  • Stanford University:Physics for Future Presidents:The Science Behind the Headlines, by Richard Muller; Radioactive: Marie and Pierre Curie, A Tale of Love and Fallout, by Lauren Redniss; and My Year of Meats, by Ruth Ozeki
  • Colorado College: Hamlet, by William Shakespeare
  • Smith College: Whistling Vivaldi, by Claude Steele
  • University of Wisconsin: I am Malala, by Malala Yousafzai
  • Tulane University: Hope Against Hope, by Sarah Carr
  • Providence College: The Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell
  • Washington University in St Louis: Covering the Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights, by Kenji Yoskino

Current High School Students: Why You Should Be Reading:

1. Whether you read a paperback, or on your IPad and Kindle, a good book offers you a chance to imagine, to learn, and to escape into other cultures, times and settings.

2. Reading improves your comprehension and vocabulary and may contribute to an improved SAT/ACT score.

3. There is a correlation between leisure reading and academic achievement

4. Reading is good preparation for future college courses in which you may be required to read a new book each week.

Writing Successful Application Essays

College application essays matter. Here is some advice to keep in mind:

  • Your essay should tell your readers, who are admissions officers, something about you beyond the rest of your application materials such as your GPA and SAT scores. Your narrative essay should reveal both your unique perspective and your writing skills.
  • Don’t pick a topic or story that could easily be told by someone else. The most common college essay topics relate to sports or mission trips.
  • Think about what you want your readers to know. What story do you have to tell?  Your essay should not be an epic tale of your life, but provide insight into who you are, and how you make a difference. What are you passionate about? What are the pivotal points in your life thus far? Your essay should reveal one small story or a moment in time.
  • Be sure and capture your reader’s attention immediately with a startling statement, a funny example or an anecdote. Journalists call this a “hook” and speech writers call it an “attention getter.”  Your content should be focused and have a clear theme. Conclude by referring back to your introduction to give your essay a sense of balance. Above all, you want to keep your reader, reading!
  • Avoid writing an essay that will embarrass the reader and don’t try and sell yourself. Just show that admissions officer who you are.
  • Be succinct and make every sentence count. Write, read aloud and rewrite. Proofread and edit. Stay within the required word count. Abraham Lincoln once wrote: “I would have written a shorter letter, but I didn’t have the time.”

“College admissions is not a race to be run or a prize to be won, but a match to be made!”

Happy Winter Break!

Making the Most of Your Winter Break

This winter break, get off the couch and start exploring with some of these activities:
  1. While it’s not golf season, you can still enjoy some outdoor time. Take a hike, go for a run, build a snowman, go ice skating or sledding. Do some activities you don’t usually do when you’re busy with school. Walk downtown, go to the movies, attend a sporting event on a nearby college campus.   Ask someone to teach you a card game, or play some board games with your friends.
  2. Read.  Whether you read a paperback, or on your device, a good book offers a chance to imagine, learn and escape into the world of other times, cultures and settings. Reading improves your comprehension and vocabulary and may contribute to an improved SAT or ACT score. Reading is good preparation for future college courses in which you may be required to read a new book every week.
  3. Take some time to start exploring colleges by going to the website of each college you might find of interest.  You can also find out information about colleges at:  
    www.bigfuture.collegeboard.org
    or  www.collegedata.com or www.cappex.com
  4.  Think about possible careers that might be of interest to you and what you may want to major in when you go to college.  Talk to relatives or family friends who may be visiting and who work in certain fields that you might want to explore. Check out www.collegemajors.com
  5. Perhaps you’d like to help out with the cooking over the break.  Learning to cook is a great life skill. Check YouTube or online tutorials for online recipes and instructions. You’ll find cookbooks on the Schlow Memorial Library website such as Teens Cook: How to Cook What you Want to Eat, by Megan Carle. https://search.schlowlibrary.org.
  6. You may want to volunteer some of your time during your break.  Offer to babysit for a friend or neighbor to give that mom, dad or grandparent a few free hours, Get a group of friends and visit a retirement or nursing home.  Explore how you can help out at local religious institutions or non-profit organizations.  Collect items for the food bank, a pet shelter, or a homeless shelter.

Have fun over your winter vacation and consider trying something new. Enjoy!