Reblogging

A reminder about social media

A reminder about social media

I don't think you need me to repeat the standard advice: un-tag yourself from photos you don't want colleges to see, make sure you have your school-friendly photos and résumé-building awards on public settings for the world to see, avoid anything that hints at academic imperfection.

The problem with this sort of advice, practical and accurate as it is, is that the overall message and tone of the advice is to consider yourself always watched and always performing. Never say or do anything that colleges don't like, as if all colleges "like" the same things. I advise against doing anything, no matter how productive or good on the surface, simply because colleges want to see you do it.

The college you're going to has what you want

The college you're going to has what you want

Everything may have gone exactly as you hoped, and you’re getting ready to go to your dream school. If so, congratulations! But there’s a really good chance it didn’t work that way, and you’re not going to a dream school. That's very normal; it has a lot more to do with the economics and logistics of admissions than you as a person. If you find an unhappy or unproductive adult and ask them what caused their problems, I guarantee they won’t say “I didn’t get into Stanford and my life has been miserable since that day. I only got a normal college degree, and my life is a waste.” It just doesn’t work that way. You’re going to be fine.

Still making a last-minute decision?

Still making a last-minute decision?

You may have already made that decision a while ago. If so, congratulations! But if you're still struggling to choose between two schools, or three schools, or seven schools or however many, then you may be looking for some help. 

At this point, I'm assuming that money probably isn't the issue. If you're stuck choosing between a school you can afford and a school you can’t afford, then you're not really struggling to decide...you're just procrastinating.  I'm also guessing that if you're still struggling to decide, then a simple "make a list of pros and cons for each school" is something you've already thought of and found unhelpful. Still, if you haven't checked a school's vital stats lately--graduation rate, rate of sophomore return, student-faculty ratio--then go back and look those over.

Don't pass up a full ride

Don't pass up a full ride

Let's be clear: getting a full scholarship is very rare. Fewer than one percent of college applicants end up getting to go for free. It takes more than just being a good student who wrote a good application essay. But still, one percent is still thousands of students a year, so you may want to do some thinking and planning, just in case.

Here's a simple rule to help you know how to think about full scholarships: you should not pass up a full ride. If you apply to a school and they offer you a full scholarship, go to that school.

Something to do over spring break

Something to do over spring break

Go on a practice college tour.

For many high school students, especially juniors, Spring Break is a popular time for college campus visits. I wouldn't necessarily call this "normal." Lots of students do it, yes. But lots of students don't do many--or any--visits until they're seniors and visit only schools they've already been admitted to. And plenty of students don't visit a college at all until they show up in the fall of their first year as students. What's "normal" is up to you and what you think is really best for you. While I don't recommend skipping college visits altogether, neither do I recommend going on big multi-campus trips just for the heck of it. 

Asking for more financial aid

Asking for more financial aid

Now is the season when acceptance letters begin to arrive for a lot of seniors, and with acceptances come financial aid packages. (Remember: you never know how much a university is going to cost you until you apply and get accepted.)

The bad news is that very few students receive "full ride" scholarship or aid packages that cover everything. The most-quoted number I could find was about 20,000 per year, or 0.3% of applicants, though that number is possibly outdated. The NCAA says about 2% of high school athletes get college scholarships.

The good news is that around 88% of students do get some sort of discount. If you get an aid offer that isn’t a full ride, you probably want more. You may need more, but needing and wanting can be different. How do you ask for more money?

What to do when you get waitlisted

What to do when you get waitlisted

As regular admission decisions begin to go out, it’s time to think about what to do if the answer you get isn’t Yes or No, but Maybe.

First, let me say I’m sorry. Getting waitlisted sucks. In some ways a Maybe is worse than a No, because it keeps the suspense going and also starts to make logistical problems for you. Take a little time to be frustrated or angry or completely freaked out, but no more than a day or two. You’ve got to figure out what to do next.

Now it's time to give thanks

Now it's time to give thanks

For most seniors, the active part of school applications is winding down. You’ve sent out most, if not all, of your applications. Now you wait. While you wait to hear from schools and think about how to choose from your acceptances, take some time to write thank you notes. Write one to everyone who has done something for you along the way: teachers who wrote recommendation letters, counselors who sent off transcripts, college admissions personnel who answered questions, people who took time to interview you. Everybody. They gave some of their time to help you, and you should thank them if you haven't already.

Yes, you can write about that

Yes, you can write about that

One of the most common questions I got from students working on their college application essays when I was a high school teacher was "Is it okay to write about...?"

Is it okay to write about my depression? Is it okay to write about coming out as homosexual? Is it okay to write about how I used to be a really bad student? Is it okay to write about being an abuse survivor? Is it okay to talk about being bullied? Is it okay to talk about the time I was a bully?

Yes, it is okay.

Making a useful college mission statement

Making a useful college mission statement

Last weekend I went to see Ocean's 8 with my wife. We're fans of the story: I've seen the 1960 original with Frank Sinatra and the "Rat Pack," the 2001 re-make with George Clooney and Julia Roberts, the not-so-great sequels Ocean's 12 and Ocean's 13, and now this new one. Except Ocean's 8, I've seen them all multiple times. They're well-executed, elegant cinematography to look at, and they're clever. The movies are just smart enough that you don't feel like you're watching mind-numbing entertainment, but don't actually require a whole lot of thinking. 

And while I was watching Ocean's 8, I was thinking a lot about college admissions. Partly because thinking about college admissions is just what I do, even on the weekend, but also because I've used the "bank heist movie" analogy for college applications before.

Asking for more money

Asking for more money

Now is the season when acceptance letters begin to arrive for a lot of seniors, and with those come financial aid packages. The bad news is that very few students receive "full ride" scholarship or aid packages that cover everything....When you get your aid offer, you're very likely to want it to be more. You're also pretty likely to need it to be more, though wanting and needing are different. How do you ask for more money?

Two approaches to getting waitlisted

Two approaches to getting waitlisted

You finally heard back from the school you really want to attend, and they put you on the waitlist. First, let me acknowledge that getting waitlisted sucks. In some ways a straight-up No would feel better than a Maybe, because then you could just start accepting the No and move on. But a Maybe? It both gives you hope that there might be a Yes, but also makes you act as though it's a No. It stinks.

Run (again) before the bell

Run (again) before the bell

It’s wonderful that you’re willing to make dramatic efforts toward something: staying up all night to study for a test; starting an extreme fitness routine before a sports team try-out; concocting an elaborate Promposal; doing extra credit work to boost your grade. But run before the bell and do those things at a time when they’ll be more beneficial: stay up a little late five nights before the test instead of a self-destructive all-nighter; start exercising months before the try-out; ask that person out now in a non-theatrical way instead of waiting until Prom season; keep your grades up so you don’t have to beg for extra credit. It’s not as dramatic, but it costs you a lot less.

Giving credit (and sharing) where it's due

I follow College Vine, but rarely actually read the posts. There are too many of them (usually several a day), and they're too specific ("How to organize a high school study session," for example, or "Community service projects for music majors").

Each post in itself is to the point and well-meaning, but when added up they even make me nervous that nobody's doing enough in high school. In several ways College Vine is the opposite of Apply with Sanity.

But you know what? Yesterday's "Eight Tips to Use Your Time Efficiently and Stay Organized in High School" is really good. I sincerely encourage you to read it.

But "Leading your school's chapter of UNICEF club"? There's a very tiny chance you need to read that one.

Your parents' fears and wishes

Your parents' fears and wishes

Welcome to the new year and a semester!

If you're a senior, you've likely already sent off most or all of your applications. That means you probably have at least a little bit of anxiety about how things are going to turn out.

As a way to put that stress and anxiety into some greater context, please talk to your family about their fears and hopes about your academic future.

This one is for adults

I just read Brad Sachs's blog post "Calling Into Question" from Challenge Success

It's about the importance of asking the rights sorts of questions of our children--at any age--to foster independence and reflective thinking. If you're a parent, educator, or other adult, it's very much worth the five minutes it it will take you to read.

Of course you're welcome to read it even if you're a student. Plus, you might want to pass it on to a parent, educator, or other adult who could use some reminding about how to foster independence and reflective thinking.