Dec 052011

Beating College Admissions Stress

Note:  This is  part 6 of the transcript of the information contained in the video from VanderbiltUniversity about Applying for College – an Insiders Guide for Getting Into a Good College and it’s about your Beating College Admissions Stress.

For the previous segment: High School Profile.  Your high school profile tells a lot about your school and how it compares to other high schools.

What can I do to ease some of the stress surrounding the college admissions process?

When I talked to students a lot and then I say, “Tell me the schools that you are looking at.” And they ran a lot of 5 schools. Any of those schools, education is going to be superb.

college admissions stressWe are so fortunate in the United States to have the top higher education in the world. So the student will say,

“Here are my 5 choices and I feel that if I pick the wrong one -”

First of all, educationally, you can’t go wrong at any of them.

Second, extracurricularly, prestige-wise, you can’t go wrong at any of them.

And that brings us back to the fit – the ability to say, where do I look like I resonate, I feel like I could add to that community and be an active citizen is the critical piece.

What ends up happening though and is one thing that I help to reduce the stress is that I tell students; don’t make it a public discourse of the 29 schools that you are looking at.  Because all of a sudden if you are not admitted, you choose not to go there, you have everybody in what I call admissions cheap seats doing second guessing. It’s your life, it’s your choice. And so I find students.

College Admissions Stress Reduction Tip: Don’t tell the world about every college you are applying to.

And sometimes, parents in most cases, more parents – it becomes a reflection of the parent, the reflection of how I’ll be perceived at the Bridge Club, the Country Club, my business partners, my colleagues at work, where my child goes, and what we need to make sure we do is that you find the best fit so you will be successful. And sometimes if it becomes – I’m applying and they rattle off, all of these schools, then you don’t get in, then you feel embarrassed, you shouldn’t be embarrassed.

Part of this is getting out and trying where you see the fit. And so sometimes I say students should contain it a little more. The other thing is – my experience is this for what it’s worth. If a student has a certain SAT and they tell you, in most cases, it’s 50 points less.

Everybody, you know publicly wants to say, you know they never really wanted – you know the test score is one measure, one day for a handful of hours. We need it for a national norming, the ability to look for students from different school districts and corporations and high schools but that also becomes a stress.

That’s not a competition on who can get the best test score. It’s just simply not. That’s one variable but we tend to get caught up with who we are as a human and a number. Would we like the number to be higher? You bet. But that does not take away who you are as a unique, contributing individual to your family and to your community.

And if you can learn to separate that if I’m denied, it’s not denied because Dean Christianson is a bad person. He’s denied because the fit didn’t appear to be there and all the variables. Very different. And if it’s to internalize, it’s become very stressful and if you know the real concern I have is it may become very serious with some students right to the point of suicide or pre-suicide or attempt. I mean it’s very serious that you’ve got to be able to disassociate your self-esteem with the ones that were admitted.

The next article is about getting Financial Aid for College if your parents have good jobs.

Beating College Admissions Stress is important because you will get into college and stressing out doesn’t really help anything.

Nov 292011

High School Profile

Note:  This is  part 5 of the transcript of the information contained in the video from VanderbiltUniversity about Applying for College – an Insiders Guide for Getting Into a Good College and it’s about your High School Profile.

For the previous segment: AP Classes

You high school profile tells a lot about your school and how it compares to other high schools.

How do colleges find out about the quality and size of my high school?

High School Profile - Niles West High School

Every student here at Vanderbilt and then again in any of these schools that I’ve worked at or consulted with or been with, they require what is called a high school profile. And a high school profile is a profile of the high school that lets us know the courses offered, the rigor of that curriculum, this lets us know of the students how many AP, IBs that were offered.

Lets us know how many go on to college and lets us know – we look for mean distributions within and distribution of A, B, C, and D, the class rank, percentile. Because we are looking at the competitiveness of the environment because that environment may be different from another school environment and that’s where we started getting that a 4.0 at one school may not be a 4.0 at another school. You’re looking at the curriculum, the rigor..

Next up is about college admissions stress reduction.

Your parents determine where you live and go to high school.  Not much you can do about your high school profile.

Nov 282011
AP Classes Schedule

Image by Crowbeak.Sasquatch via Flickr

AP Classes – You Better Take Some or Their Equivalent

Note:  This is  part 4 of the transcript of the information contained in the video from VanderbiltUniversity about Applying for College – an Insiders Guide for Getting Into a Good College and it’s about AP Classes.

For the previous segment: About Your College Essay

This is taking AP classes and if an “A” is required.

Before we get to the transcript let me say that you don’t need to get a A.  Just take as many AP courses or Honors classes as you can and manage your workload.  You can take the college placement test if you have taken the AP classes or the honors classes.  Sometimes the honors classes are better than the AP classes.

I want to take AP classes in my high school, but I’m not sure I’ll get A’s. Should I still take them?

That is really almost a million-dollar question that I’m asked constantly and I think let’s back that up a little and talk about balance and risk. That’s what we are talking about here.

We want students that want to be intellectually challenged and not always take the safe bet. That being said, whether you are in an AP classes, or a age-specific course or grade-specific course, you still need to do well. So there’s the balance there.

AP Classes or Honors Classes?

If somebody were in a high school, and remember again, we are talking in generalities here. If somebody were in a high school and that high school offered 10 honors programs, honors courses, maybe 10 AP classes and a couple of IB courses, and you did not take any and you came out with a really good GPA, that would not look very good at all because the rigor of your curriculum then comes into play.

So you need a balance – you know taking off and being intellectually challenged and knowing that you are just protecting that GPA.

Remember that we talked earlier; one variable does not get you in or out. It’s the multiplicity of all of these. So my best advice would be you need to be in college preparatory courses, AP, IB, a lot of schools particularly private schools may not even offer. They’ll say all of their courses are honors courses which is okay as well, that will all be reflected in the school profile from the counselor.

But what we are looking for that people seize the environment that they were in. And seizing it does not mean that if they are offered 10 APs they should take all 10.

But it’s – I hope that helps you think about the balance of your APs. But at the end of the day, if you take all APs and you’re getting Cs, we would think that there are some judgment issues here because you are more concerned about taking their course but you have not mastered the topic before.

So there’s some balance and that helps us understand intellectual maturity development of the student as we are building the community as well.

The next part or the transcript is about How do colleges find out about the quality and size of my high school?

Summary:  So take some AP Classes or more challenging classes but not so many that your grades suffer.

Nov 272011

Get Ready to Prepare for College – Your College Essay

Note:  This is  part 3 of the transcript of the information contained in the video from VanderbiltUniversity about Applying for College – an Insiders Guide for Getting Into a Good College.

For the previous segment: Applying for College – How important are extracurricular activities and sports?

This is how to prepare for college, writing your college essay.

How should I prepare for my college essay? What if I’m not the greatest writer?

When I talk to students and for 21 years that I’ve been doing this and all facets in higher education, I really – If there’s anything I can leave with you today would be the authentic and understand that we want to hear from you and who you are.

Prepare for College by Writing Your Own College Essay

prepare for college write your own college essayThat does not mean counselors, teachers, your mother, father, grandparents or you get somebody else to make sure that it makes sense or it is structured well or is it grammatically put in place – those are all important things and part of teamwork today is you pull upon those resources so that there’s strength. But at the end of the day, doing this again as long as I’ve done it, you can start to tell if a student has had someone else write their essay.

It does not seem to match their letters of recommendation, it does not match their other writing samples, it does not perhaps match their extracurricular activities to where it is much more reflective and far provoking, perhaps than a 17 year old would have life experienced to be.

Now that does not mean that there aren’t wonderful writers and people that are highly reflective and thought provoking at 17.  But usually that comes through in everything we are reading about the student versus we kind of have these other aspects about the students but then the essay is off the charts over here. You want to make sure that it’s the authentic voice of you are.

Let me tell you why that’s important. It’s not just important so that we know who you are. I mean that’s a critical piece.

But you want to be in a school that has the same fit and background that brings out your talent. And if you’re kind of writing for someone else and it’s not the true you, we may be admitting somebody that the fit is not going to be there be because the essays are not just a tool to hold somebody out.

Think of it as a tool that we build as a community to know how do we build and let people in and be a part. And so if it’s really not you, you may end up in an institution that may be isn’t the exactly the fit for you and that’s the danger.

The Next Segment is about taking AP classes.

Summary:  You need to be yourself when you write your essay.  You prepare for college with your college essay in a way that shows the real you.

Nov 252011

Applying for College?  Do sports and extracurricular activities make a difference in your college applications?

Note:  This is  part 2 of the transcript of the information contained in the video from VanderbiltUniversity about Applying for College – an Insiders Guide for Getting Into a Good College.

Follow this here to read part one (the previous post)  about getting into a good college using other things that your grades.

Sports and Extracurricular Activities

Remember when we talked about being involved. Being involved does not mean 95 clubs. It may be a handful, but how did you participate? So for example, maybe you really wanted to be in program X, Y, and Z and could not do it in school.

What did you find in your community? What did you find in your local area? Or what have you? Because again, you need to participate but you have to be able to look at lots of venues to do that.

Applying for College Is a Job!

applying for collegeWe also can look at a school where perhaps, has – I hate giving numbers but for just purposes of description – maybe school that has 60 or 70 students in a class. We look – you have to look there – the opportunities to a school that had 800 in the same class.

Again, so that’s where we are understanding and contextualizing your high school. So we are trying to look at that in one school, they may only be in two things because of the sheer number, they can’t be in anything else.

Or in a lot of times, there are just schools that even limit the number of extracurriculars that are the main core of extracurriculars at the school you can have. Versus a smaller school, you may be wearing multiple hats because you got to do that to keep the school running, to keep that environment.

So again we would look at both sides of that equation and it’s all about you, your application, and who you are as we think about you joining this community. Not you in relationship to everyone else.

The next part of the transcript is about preparing for college, the college  essay.  That will be up tomorrow.

So, when applying for college there is more that just good grades required to get into the college of your choice.

Nov 232011

Getting Into a Good College – What helps Besides Grades?

Note:  This is a partial transcript of the information contained in the video from VanderbiltUniversity about Applying for College – an Insiders Guide for Getting Into a Good College.

Remember, it’s more than just academic preparation. It is how am I vested into the community? How am I vested in my high school or junior high? What clubs, organizations or extra-curricular events that I participate in? Am I adding value? Am I making a difference? It’s not just a litany of “I’m in 20 clubs.” We would much prefer to see a student who has few clubs but they have vested themselves and have made true difference in their lives and in other people’s lives, whatever that maybe. As opposed to a bunch of clubs where the reality at the end of the day, you participated but there was really no true reflective change.

getting into a good collegeAnother would be, “Maybe I’m doing a little less in my high school but I am very involved in a particular medical or environmental cause.” So I mean with the different professional organizations or non-profits within my community. Those would be the same thing. It is participating and saying I’m passionate and I want to help make a difference, whatever that difference is. And again, we are not judging what the topic is. We’re judging: did you take hold and grabbed it and moved forward.

The issue here is that you took hold of something and made a difference and that you vested yourself. You were excited, you were passionate. Those are the things that we would be looking for, not just a type of student. Remember, our goal in building, whether you are looking at Vanderbilt or any school that’s highly selective elite school like Vanderbilt. What you’re looking at is, or what we’re looking at is building a community. If everybody was just involved in one activity, what a boring community we will be developing. It is the individual strength of each person coming – the sum of those make a great class.

The next part of this getting into a good college transcript is called “How important are extracurricular activities and sports when applying for college?”

That was about getting into a good college with other important factors than grades.

Nov 212011

Looking to apply for grants for college?

What’s the difference between scholarships and grants?  Neither has to be repaid if you fulfill the requirements.  These 5 college grants are worth taking a look at when you go to apply for grants for college.

Pell Grant Federal Pell Grant

In order to apply for the Pell Grant you must first complete the FAFSA which is free to apply for.

Quick information on Pell grants:

  • A Federal Pell Grant, unlike a loan, does not have to be repaid.
  • The maximum Pell grant for the 2011-12 award year (July 1, 2011, to June 30, 2012) is $5,550.
  • The amount depends on your financial need, costs to attend school, status as a full-time or part-time student, and plans to attend school for a full academic year or less.

TEACH Grant -

There is a service obligation with this grant.  If you do not fulfil your obligation than you will need to repay the grant in the form of a loan.  You’ll need to teach 4 years in a location that is considered low-income.

FSEOG Grant -

This grant is for people that are in real need of money, even more so than the Pell Grant.  This is for undergraduates and does not need to be repaid.

The amount of this grant is from $100 to $4000 per year.

ACG Academic Competitiveness Grant -

There are a lot of rules that go with this grant.  You first need to be a recipient of the Pell Grant to get the ACG.

You also need to be a really good student and in a competitive area of study.

National SMART Grant -

The National Science & Mathematics Access to Retain Talent Grant (National SMART Grant)

As the name says you need to be studying math and science to qualify for this grant.  You also need to be in your 3rd, 4th or 5th year of an undergraduate program.  The amount of the grant can not exceed the total cost of tuition when combined with a Pell Grant.

 When to apply for grants for college?

You will first need to fill out and submit your FAFSA. Plan to have it completed in early part of the year in February if possible.  You can estimate your tax information if it is not available and update your FAFSA form later.  Deadlines for filling out the FAFSA vary by state and school.

Make sure to apply for grants for college as soon as possible.


Nov 202011

College Grants And Scholarships – What are the differences?

Both education grants and scholarships allow students to afford college tuition fees without having to worry or stress about paying the money back. However, there are a few key differences between college grants and scholarships. Knowing the differences between these two financial aid options is key if students want the highest chance of being able to pay their college tuition fees.

Students, who wish to go to college or university, that have done research on financial aid available are likely to notice two things: one, that there is a lot of confusion about how scholarships and college grants are different, and two, that there are a surprising number of websites out there offering easy access to grant money from the government. Becoming familiar with all of the legitimate grant websites, as well as all the fake ones, is essential if students want to successfully get the right financial aid quickly. Learning the differences between legitimate college grants and scholarships on offer to college students will also help students to get the best financial aid quickly.

Similarities between college grants and scholarships.

Before the differences are addressed, it is important to note the similarities between education grants and scholarships. To best understand the differences between college grants and scholarships, students first need to understand the similarities and then build upon that knowledge by discovering the differences. Knowing both the similarities and differences will lead to students making the most informed decision possible about their academic future. College is an important step that a lot of people choose to take and it will have an effect on later life. The more potential students learn about college grants and scholarships, the better their decision about the right financial aid will be.

The confusion between college grants and scholarships stems from the fact that they have a lot of similarities. Both college grants and scholarships, unlike college loans, are regarded as “free money” because students aren’t expected to pay these types of financial aid back. Student loans, unlike grants and scholarships, often require repayments with added interest once graduation has occurred. Out of the three main types of financial aid that will help students to cover the costs of college, college scholarships and grants are the most sought after.

Grants are traditionally described as tax exempt sums of money given by non-profit organizations. The best example of an organization that offers college grants is the federal government. Students will also find that certain corporations are willing to provide grants to college students, in return for project results. There are a variety of grants available and they generally fall into two categories: those that are awarded based on the amount of financial need and those that are awarded based on project work that the student will undertake during their course.

Most grants are awarded to students that can prove, with an application, that they need financial aid in order to cover the cost of college or they won’t be able to attend. Federal college grants are grants awarded by the government that will allow individual students to pay for their college fees or career training. Examples of federal grants that students may be eligible for are the Pell Grant, TEACH, FSEOG, Academic Competitiveness Grant and National SMART grant. The amount of grant money that students receive is based on their calculated financial need.

However, there are grants that have other non-financial related criteria attached to them E.G.  corporations that give grant money for student projects expect students to report back with their findings to whoever awarded the grant.

In terms of what qualifies as a grant and what is regarded as a scholarship, there is often not much difference. Both are awarded with the same intention: that students will use the money to pay for college or career training. However, the reason for awarding the specific grant or scholarship may be different. The main reason that grants are awarded is to help those that need financial aid actually afford to complete a college education. Scholarships are usually awarded by educational institutions to those who indicate that they have performed well academically or have the ability to be successful in the future. A lot of available scholarships are considered ‘merit-based’, not ‘financial need based’ like college grants, and there is often a lot of competition surrounding them.

Grant amounts, requirements and expectations of students that receive the grants vary widely so it is important that students look at the specific requirements of each available grant before applying. Billions of dollars of grant money is estimated to be available and the popularity of college grants rivals that of college scholarships. Like college grants, scholarships are specifically designed to benefit those attending college. Both college grants and scholarships can be used to pay for college tuition, in part or in full, while studying.

The main difference between college grants and scholarships

The main difference between college grants and scholarships lies in their eligibility requirements. Scholarships require students who are applying to have above a certain grade point average (GPA) and sometimes do over certain number of college hours in the first year. Some scholarships are gender-based, some are field-based E.G. specifically designed to help those who want to study a science based course. Scholarships tend to be harder to acquire because they have rigid selection requirements and there is a lot of competition for most available college scholarships.

Grants are considered a lot easier than scholarships to obtain because they aren’t specifically based on academic achievement.… as long as there is financial need.  As grants are normally based on the financial needs of an individual, students who need financial help are more likely to acquire this type of financial aid easily. A key difference between college grants and scholarships is that after grant money has been awarded to students, students are not normally required to meet further objectives like attending a certain number of college hours.

In conclusion, while some aspects of college grants and scholarships remain the same, in other aspects, they vary widely. College grants and scholarships both aim to help students to afford a college experience and neither of these two types of financial aid have to be repaid. However, the eligibility requirements for each type differs along with the possible reasons for awarding the grant or scholarship money. When students are deciding what financial aid to apply for, it is important that individual circumstances are taken into account E.G. the subject of study, where the study will take place, financial situation and academic achievements, to determine the best financial aid type, college grants and scholarships.

Mar 252010

The video below has a ton of useful information about applying for college.

  • We have provided a transcript of this video that covers many useful points to consider when applying for college.
  • Each section of the transcript is on a new page.
  • You can get to the next part of the article by clicking the link at the bottom or the article, or use the links at the right.
  • Go through each article.

“Since my daughter has gone through this process and gotten into a really great university (Johns Hopkins) with a great 4 year scholarship (The Hodson Trust Scholarship) , I can confirm that this information is valid and useful.  She did most everything this gentleman recommended about applying for college.  It works.”

The topics covered are below and each will be posted on a separate page for easier reading.  There is a link back to this page from each post if you want to watch the video.

Applying for College Tips



Read here –> For the firsts transcript about applying for college titled “Other than my grades, what can I do to better my chances of getting into a good college?”

Mar 232010

College Application Essay

Some important advice on writing your college application essay is to make sure it sounds like you and that you write it yourself.  You can have another person go over your essay to make grammatical correction but you are going to want it to sound like YOU.

Maybe you don’t think that you are a great writer.  It doesn’t matter.  There are plenty of people that go to school that are not the best writers in the world.  But you need to get your points across about the truly unique person that you are.

After you watch this video about how to write a college application essay you may want to see what an expert college recruiter has to say about your college application essay.  We have a transcript of that portion of the video as well as the entire video about getting into college – the one of your choice.



Write your College Application Essay to Show Off Something Unique About You

Don’t be shy about some of the things you are interested in.  There is a good chance that some college recruiter will find it fascinating!  If you make hybrid geraniums or are a rock climber put this into your college application essay; chances are you’re going to impress someone with that information and you may end up with a pretty goo scholarship to boot!