March 31, 2009

Selecting the Right College

Hopefully, in these coming weeks, students across the country will be finding out that they have choices for their college future. Although they will only enroll in one university at a time, long gone are the days when students applied to only one school or were admitted to only one school. The majority of high school students nowadays have the option of two- or more- colleges to attend. I'd like to imagine a hypothetical situation where, say, all universities on your student's list are . . . free! And, for the sake of this post, let's imagine they are.

So, here we are, presented with a variety of choices, all of which are going to cost the same amount of money. How do we begin the process of sorting through each and differentiating between A, B and C schools? If you were like most students, at the beginning of this process you narrowed down your list of choices for your applications to schools that you maybe felt would be a good fit if you were fortunate enough to gain admission-- sorry, if THEY are fortunate enough to have YOU choose them, after you've gained admission! So, I gather that during this process of receiving your offers of admission, each school has something about it which you initially were drawn to. In other words, there are qualities at each of your college options which draw you to that college, correct?! Good. Now, what SHOULDN'T you base your college admission decision on? Let's review a list of those characteristics that are important to consider, but should never be the ONLY factor that you base your college decision on:

1. The visit: You must visit a campus and the surrounding town/city/neighborhood prior to making the commitment to attend. Without a visit to actually see where it is you'll be living, you cannot make an informed decision. And after all this hard work, don't you think it's worth a visit?

2. The major: If you've selected an obscure major, don't go to the one school that has that major available because chances are you're not going to graduate with the same program that you thought you would when you entered as a freshman. Look for similar programs at each institution-- or ask if you can minor in it or design your own program.

3. Financial aid: Don't make up your mind before all the financial aid packages have come back. If there's a school that you really want, but they didn't award you enough to make attending a possibility, call them up and tell them that you can't go without $xx more. Talk reasonably with people and see where it might land you.

4. Sports: Do not . . . I repeat DO NOT choose a university based on their previous year's sporting success. Seriously, give yourself a bit more credit than just being a college sport fanatic. You have so much more to give.

5. Boyfriend/Girlfriend: Unless you have a child together, this is a recipe for disaster. Everyone needs space. Education is the only thing no one can ever take away from you-- a high school relationship . . . get my point?

6. Because all your friends are going: Use this opportunity to allow yourself an opportunity to make new friends, meet new people and experience all kinds of interesting new things. Why would you want to take such a momentous and life-altering event as the transition to college and try to make it more comfortable by isolating yourself around already-made friends? If it's going to be difficult, you may as well meet people who are undergoing the same process as you are.

7. You heard the parties are really spectacular: Welcome to college. Unless you plan on being the person who parties from Tuesday-Sunday (which means you won't be there long, anyway) you're going to find a party (or at least the opportunity to be social) at pretty much any college Thursday-Saturday nights.

8. The dorm rooms are nice: Bad idea! Bad idea! Bad idea! I can almost promise you that your dorm room is NOT going to look like that Bed, Bath and Beyond room on the guided tour you took with your family. You're going to have clothes on the floor, school work everywhere, a mini fridge with things in it that are rotten and probably something else that is going bad, somewhere in the room. All you do in the dorm room is sleep and, maybe, study (if you are able to manage yourself in such a social atmosphere). When you're in college, you'll learn quickly how easy it is to sleep in your non-color-coordinated room.

9. Because of the food: Okay, this is only making it because there are some schools out there that are well-known to have much better food awaiting prospective students and their parents, than they actually serve the student body. However, I do think that the food is a very vital part of your life in college, you can navigate to good options, no matter how bad it seems.

10. Because people tell you that you should: Listen to only a few and know who those few are. They have been the ones who have been most supportive throughout the entire process. They are the ones who are thinking about you NOW, not their idea of what you SHOULD be in 4, 5, 10 years from now. Listen hard to your heart and those who you trust.

You've worked hard for this choice ahead of you. Congratulations and good luck. If you need a sounding board, find me at

March 16, 2009

The College Admissions Waiting Game

This short article ran a few weeks ago on one of the college websites that I write for,, but I thought it was still relevant and wanted to post it up here, even though many of the admission decisions are coming in as I write! Hold tight.

While the applications have been submitted and most schools have stopped accepting new applicants (though some still continue to accept applications through May and, sometimes, June), you are wondering what can be done to alleviate your anxiety, right?

Well, let me lead you to a nice little list of post-application tips for maintaining sanity:

1. If you haven't already been in touch with an admission counselor at some of schools you hope to gain admission to, do so now. Give a phone call. An email is fine, but really, a phone call is best. Introduce yourself. Find a reason to talk about school (i.e. maybe your classes are really difficult or you're feeling exhausted by high school). It's okay to talk about these things. It makes you more personable and more human.

2. Keep your grades up. I know that you've heard this before, but this is no time to slack off. Stay focused and have purpose- always. You will go to college so don't give up on high school.

3. If you haven't already met with an alumni or two from the schools you have applied to, for an interview, and need to alleviate your stress and talk a bit about this whole process, contact the local interviewers.

4. With Spring breaks coming up, it would be a productive idea to make a visit to a campus or two. Perhaps you've already gained admission somewhere and have not yet seen the campus (or would like to see it again) or there's a school that is close enough to make a fun day- or overnight- trip, go for it.

5. If you've been deferred from a school, it is important that you find out what their policy is. In most cases, a school is not going to penalize you for writing a nice letter stating that you still very much want to attend and that the deferral "did not take the wind out of your sails", but, on the contrary, gave you greater motivation.

6. Review your list of schools and make sure that you have appropriate options for these economic times. Perhaps you will need to go ahead and apply to your local college, after all.

This is no time for passivity. You must continue to be your own advocate. And if none of these work to alleviate your anxieties, get some well-deserved rest and a bit of regular exercise and you will start remembering why you undertook this process in the first place: it's all in the name of a learning experience.