It’s hard to know what you’re looking for in a college until you see it. But it doesn’t hurt to have a few “ideal” things you’d like to see in a college.
What is your ideal class size? Do you want conversation? Would you like participation not to be considered? Do you like hands-on learning, or theory? Tests or papers? Attendance or no attendance?
While there is every type of person at every college, it doesn’t hurt to have a vibe you’re looking for. Are sports and school spirit important to you? Preppy or alternative? Competitive or Collaborative? Party or study?
Again, things might change when you go looking. But do you want all of the resources of a city? Do you want the vibrant campus life of a rural school? Do you want a school with the same culture of where you’re from, or do you want to experience a different way of life?
You’ll find out more the more you search, but have an idea of what makes you comfortable and happy to help you come up with your “ideal” school
So it’s audition/acceptance/denial season at colleges across the country.
Basically, anything that isn’t walk on or has some kind of recruitment process (be it a music group, sports team, greek life, etc) is going through that right now.
And it’s hard. It’s hard in high school when you don’t get on the team you want, or the part you wanted in the play. It’s rough in college to get rejected from things you were excited about.
But the thing about rejection is that you have to keep moving forward.
Here’s a secret, in my first semester of college I got rejected from 9 different things. But instead of dwelling on that, I picked myself up, dusted myself off, and focused on the things I did get accepted into.
And then I kept trying to fill the gaps of what I wanted. I got rejected from two shows my first semester, but I got cast in 4 different plays second semester. I didn’t get discouraged, I just networked a little and tried a lot harder. I got called back but ultimately rejected from two comedy groups, but when I re-auditioned sophmore year I got in.
Whatever is discouraging you right now, or getting you down, remember to focus on the opportunities you do have. Keep moving, keep climbing.
There is nothing wrong with a five paragraph essay.
But there’s also nothing wrong with a four paragraph essay if four will suffice.
It’s hard to cut out words, it’s hard to kill your darlings, and it’s hard to leave out a piece of your story. But when you have 700 words written for a 500 word essay, you’ll need to take drastic measures.
One of the easiest tricks for cutting out a big chunk of words quickly is to find an extraneous paragraph. Yes, everything is good and wonderful. But it doesn’t hurt to take out an example and see if the essay works without it.
Write out the “thesis” of every paragraph, what it’s adding to your story.
If there’s any similarities between points, decide which example flows better. If you have reservations about it, highlight the best two sentences from the paragraph you might be cutting and see if you can work them into the new essay.
Play around with it, you might find that a tighter essay with fewer examples actually helps get your point across better than a longer one.
So we all know the formula for who should write our recs. Two, core-four subject, junior year teachers, who know us really well both in and out of the classroom.
Of course, this isn’t always who will write your best rec. When it comes to recs you really have to know yourself and your relationships with teachers.
Here are a few situations (and this list is by no means exhaustive) where you might be better off getting someone else to write your recs:
You might have had this teacher in 12th grade, or 10th. Maybe you only had them for half a year. But they run one of your extracurriculars so they know you really well as a person. They’re known you for 4+ years. So maybe they don’t know your classroom persona as well as some other teachers, but on a personal level, they’re a home run.
2. Elective Teacher
Many students who may not be top of the class in a core-four subject shine elsewhere. Maybe you have an ear for language so your latin teacher is super impressed with your skills. Maybe your psychology teacher had you in class twice, so they know you better than the math teacher you had for a year. While I still recommend having a core-four teacher write at least one of your recs, it’s totally fine to have an additional from a teacher who knows you in your strengths.
3. Not a Teacher
So maybe you have a dance coach who you’ve been with since you were 12, or you have worked at a nonprofit every summer for 5 years. You have a relationship with an adult who isn’t in the school system who can really speak to your character or your willingness to learn, or your passion for helping others. That’s awesome! Again, make sure that this one is in addition to a teacher rec, but it never hurts to have someone sing your praises.
There’s a ton of reasons why a “typical” rec won’t be right for you. Remember that the biggest consideration is “What will they add to my application?” If it’s something big, then absolutely include it.
The school year is starting up again… and that can only mean one thing. Commitments are coming!
One of the simplest steps you can take is to make a schedule. Seriously, if you put in the work to keep things on track life becomes a lot easier.
It’s not just writing down assignments. It’s writing down *everything*
I personally like putting things in my phone/tablet calendar. Everything from “Health Psych Midterm” to “Formal is this weekend” to “Schedule flights for thanksgiving” has a nifty little reminder that I always have in my bag.
So, as a student, what are some things you can put in your schedule to make your life easier?
1. Put in reminders two weeks before college deadlines
Do this for every individual college. Do it before early action and regular decision deadlines. Two weeks is enough time to write an effective supplement or alert a teacher that you need a rec (though you should be talking to them way in advance).
2. Put in reminders for test dates and sign up deadlines
Go on the SAT/ACT website now and check when the 2014/2015 test dates are scheduled. Put in both the actual test date, and the last day to sign up for those tests. Now even if you’re not planning *right now* to take a March test it doesn’t hurt to have the reminder in your calendar. Maybe you thought you’d be done in February, or you thought you’d have a conflict on that weekend that got cancelled. Having the reminders, even if you’re not a junior, might just save your butt when it comes to schedule a big event. You might be the one who checks your calendar and goes: “Oh we can’t do a fundraiser on the March SAT, the Juniors won’t come.” Do it, it helps a ton.
3. Put in reminders of things you really want to do
My best friend and I decided months ago that we want to go see a comedian in DC in September. I put the date in my calendar so I wouldn’t schedule anything for that weekend, and I also put a reminder in my calendar to actually buy the tickets when they went on sale. Useful, because they sold out shortly after we got our seats. Do this for movie premieres (most of the Marvel dates are in my phone because I try to go visit my best friend at another school to see them with her), or any special events locally that you won’t want to be busy on.
A schedule shouldn’t only be for work. If you make it as detailed as possible, it will make your life run smoothly.
The first day of school is a weird one.
It’s exciting. You’re going to get to find out who is in your classes, and see what your teachers are like. You get a taste for the next academic year. And that’s great.
But it also can set the tone for the new year. So make sure you’re getting off on the right foot.
Here’s a few steps to take
Why: You want your teachers to know your name, and you want to be among the first names that they learn. They’ll think of you first, and they’ll view you more favorably. How do you make sure your name is cemented? You draw positive attention. How do you do this? Answer questions. Even silly “What did you do this summer” or “Why are you taking this class” questions. Answer questions, be respectful, smile. It makes a huge difference.
Why: Knowing what’s coming next will always help keep your life on track. If you get test dates, big assignments, or anything pre-scheduled write them down on your calendar or planner that day. If you get the book list for the semester don’t just buy the first one, order them all in advance. Seriously, write out dates as you get them. It will help your time management insanely to know that your hell week is October 8th.
Why: At some point you’re going to have a dreaded group project so you’ll want to know someone in all of your classes who you can rely on. If you only kind of know one person, sit next to them and chat. It’s rough, and a little scary, but it makes a huge difference. If it’s at a club or at lunch it never hurts to be nice to underclassmen. Most of my friends in high school were the year above me or below me, simply made by being friendly to the people I met through clubs. Give people a place to belong.
In the constant barrage of things you’re told are, “Good for college applications” few are actually universally true.
One that applies to everyone is leadership.
Colleges are looking for people to make their campus a better place, and people who they will be able to put their stamp on once they graduate. So one way to look for these types of people? See if they’re already doing that in high school.
You need to seek out leadership. You need to actively be involved with things. They don’t necessarily need to be clubs or teams (though obviously those are great). It can be in your religious community, with a public service project, or really anything. Be a leader. Take charge.
It doesn’t necessarily need to be a formal “president/VP/treasurer” position either. But show that you organized an event, or spearheaded a fundraising campaign, or did PR for a community function. Show that you’re someone who adds to what you do.
How do colleges become awesome hubs of active and involved people? They look for active and involved people. So be one.
I moved in a little less than a week ago into my first “big kid” apartment. I’ve been spending a week putting the finishing touches on and getting ready for my senior year.
Something you guys might not know is that I’m living with my freshman roommate for the third time.
Some people are shocked when they hear this. We’re still best friends, and I lived in my sorority house last year so we didn’t live together, but we knew that living together senior year was our end-game. We’re insanely good roommates. And part of it is that we’re well suited to each other, but the other, bigger part is that we’re both easy to live with. We have good roommate-ing down to a science.
Here’s the top three things that will make you a good roommate
1. No Passive Aggression,
The number one thing to ensure roommate success is use your words.
If something is enough of an issue to raise it with your roommate, just speak up. Leaving a note or hinting at what is wrong will never get the problem solved. Put on your big kid pants and tell them what you need. Most of the time it didn’t even occur to your roommate that the britta needed to be refilled or that you’re running out of toilet paper.
On the other end of this is that if your roommate makes a reasonable request of you, listen! Cleaning a bathroom takes maybe ten minutes, if it’s your turn, it’s your turn.
2. Lay Down The Rules, Reasonably
Being considerate is one of the simplest things you can do, and it goes a long way. If there is something you need to be a rule in your room, tell your roommate up front about it. Start off with the habits that you expect to live with. If you need complete darkness to sleep, request that your roommate get a lamp for late night studying. But also, consider their point of view. I sleep with a sleep-mask because I’m super light sensitive. I can’t expect my roommate to not study in our room, so I compromise. If you need it cold, and your roommate likes it warm, compromise. Maybe keep it warm during the day, but make it cold for sleeping (because it’s a lot easier to get warm under a pile of blankets). If you need to sexile your roommate, give them advanced warning (even if it’s only an hour) and offer to pay for a midnight snack for them. Establish protocols. Who cleans, when? Who pays for room supplies?
Having rules, even if they seem silly, is a good way to establish a routine.
3. Have Separate Lives
This, honestly, is how to make a roommate relationship last. You absolutely 100% can be best friends with your roommate. However, you need to have separate lives and separate friends. There can obviously be overlap, but seriously, make sure you have time apart. Even the best of friends can get on each other’s nerves if they spend every single moment together. So join a few different things, have a group of friends who your roommate doesn’t really know all that well. Roommates doesn’t mean twins.