College Interview 101

The basics:
A college interview is a chance for you to meet a representative of the school and talk to them about how you may fit their institution. Although most admissions officers will be more interested in your grades, test scores and essays, an interview is a great opportunity to show the school who you really are instead of relying on your application to do so. You can show your interest in the school, ask thoughtful questions and start a relationship with someone who makes admission decisions. This is also your chance to talk with someone who knows the ins and outs of the college.

How to prepare:
Getting an interview isn’t always easy, so when you do get the opportunity to meet with a college admissions officer, make sure you’re well prepared.

Do some research and figure out why you want to go to the school you’re interviewing with. Reflect on your high school experience and make a few notes about the things you do in your free time. Think about what will make you a good addition to the college.

Practice interviewing with friends and family, and ask them how you sound and what your body language is like. You can even try recording the interview so you can see yourself and make any corrections from there. Make a few of these practice interviews “dress rehearsals,” to help you decide what to wear. You should feel comfortable, but you need to dress well. If you happen to have a few interviews, schedule them so you’re interviewing with your top schools last. This way, you’ll be more polished by the time you reach your top choices.

Lastly, call to confirm the date, time and place, and the name of who you’re interviewing with – ask for a pronunciation and write it phonetically, as well as correctly. Make sure you have any documents you might need, like test scores or transcripts, and give yourself enough time to get to the interview. If you have a habit of running late, pretend your interview is 30 minutes earlier.

Just be yourself
Remember to always be yourself. This might seem like a no-brainer, but it can be difficult if you get nervous the day of, or if you find interviewing to be stressful. Just keep calm, stay confident and show your interest. The interviewer wants this to go well, too. Also, keep in mind, the interview won’t make or break your college career. Finding the right college is all about looking for the right fit. If you’re a good match, the admissions officer will see that.

Common interview questions:

What’s important to you, and why?
Whether it’s sports, student counsel, clubs or class, figure out what it is you’re passionate about. What are your interests? What creative or productive things do you do in your free time? Why do you love doing the things you do? These are the types of things that make you an interesting candidate, and your interviewer will want to know about them.

What current issues concern you?
Read up on what’s happening at your school, in your community, in your city, the state, and the world. What are the current issues? How do you feel about them? Your interviewer will want to know what you think, and how you came to those conclusions.

Why do you want to go to this school?
Make sure you research the college you’re interviewing for. Are there any classes or programs that interest you? What makes this particular college stand out to you?

Other questions to think about:

  • Who are the major influencers in your life?
  • What do you want to major in and why?
  • What will you contribute to the campus community?
  • What is a challenge that you’ve overcome, and what did you learn from it?
  • Does your high school record accurately reflect your effort and ability?

Find out why these questions and others are important.

After the interview:
Be sure to send a thank you note. An email is perfectly acceptable. Keep it short and sweet, and if there was a moment during your meeting that really stood out – you bonded over a sports team, a book you both enjoyed, something you two found funny – mention it. It will help the interviewer remember you.

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The importance of career assessments

Discovering their path

As students prepare for college, they face a range of decisions to make, including which career to pursue. With the number of majors to choose from growing and the options for potential careers changing faster than ever, a career assessment test may help undecided students get a handle on where they want to go in life. Here are a few ways the test can benefit students as they start down their path to college.

It can give them a starting point
With so many possible careers, knowing how to start their journey through college to a career may be overwhelming for some students. A career assessment can help point them in the right direction.

It can help focus their college search
Once students have a general idea of the type of career they’d like to pursue, that information can influence the schools they look at.

It can help them choose a major
Similar to choosing a college, a career assessment can help students start to narrow the possibilities for which major they will select. A career assessment test can help students feel confident that they are choosing a field that is suited to them.

It can help them understand the changing job market
The types of jobs available are changing year by year. Some options that existed a decade ago are declining, while new careers are appearing each year. A career assessment can help students understand what fields are likely to be a sound option by the time they graduate.

They can get a head start by job shadowing / interning
If a student is interested in a career as an accountant, for example, they can contact local firms for a chance to job shadow or intern, so they can decide if it’s right for them before they choose a major. This can count as practical experience when it comes time for them to apply for jobs.

It can help them learn about their potential income
Choosing a career is about much more than money, but it’s a good idea for students to know what they can expect to earn during their career.

Some additional considerations
While career assessment tests can be an excellent resource, it’s important to remind students that they are merely guidelines. Most students will change their major at least once while they are in college, and just as many will change their career at least once in their lives. Career assessments should be used as a tool to get students thinking about what they’d like to do, not a final decision.

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Make a plan and stick to it – your guide to saving for college

When you’re planning to pay for college, budgeting is a great way to take some of the stress out of the process and fill in the gaps that loans and scholarships can leave behind.

Look into payment plans
If tuition is a concern, many schools offer a payment plan that allows you to make several smaller payments over the course of a semester instead of one large payment at the beginning. This is a great way to ensure you stay on track, and is especially helpful if you’re on a tighter budget.

The benefits of direct deposit
Direct deposit allows your paycheck to be deposited into several different accounts automatically. This can be extremely helpful when trying to save. Calculate what percentage of your income you can put towards a college fund. Next, open a checking or savings account specifically for this fund, and only this fund.

Figure out your budget and stick to it
Track your expenses for a month or two, using an app or online tools like Mint.com or My Money Map. How much do you pay for rent, bills, groceries, your mortgage, and car payments? These expenses are unavoidable. But now think about how much you spend on clothes, gifts, electronics, or vacations. These are areas with more flexibility. Set a monthly or weekly savings goal, and make a point to reach or exceed it. Try consignment shops instead of buying brand new, reconsider upgrading your phone if your old one is working fine, or plan a trip closer to home this year. There are many ways you can cut costs, and when you start making that a habit, saving will become second nature.

Talk to your child about budgeting
This is a great opportunity to instill good financial habits by setting an example. Use your budget as a teaching tool to show your child the importance of saving. Help them understand how to be conscientious with their money, and that making good financial decisions is rewarding. Living within your means is the best way to stay out of debt.

Talk to a financial advisor
If you have any concerns about saving money or budgeting, it may be worth it to make an appointment with a financial advisor. They can analyze and discuss your finances with you, explain what you can reasonably afford, and give you information on how to save.

Remember, expenses vary from tuition and books to groceries and utilities. And it all adds up. If you plan on helping your child with their college expenses, make sure you establish and maintain a budget that works for you and your family.

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Meet your guide on the road to college

There are a lot of things to consider as you prepare for college, so starting early can help make the whole process easier. Thankfully, you have a great resource for almost any question you might have as you start preparing for college: your high school counselor. Below are a few topics you can ask them about as you begin your college journey.

Where should you go?
There are many factors that will contribute to which college you decide to attend, from what academic programs they offer to cost to location and more. Your high school counselor can help you understand what factors make a college a good fit for you.

Picking a major
With so many options, it can be hard to know which is the right major for you. Talk with your high school counselor about your interests and career goals to get a head start on finding the best match.

Choose the right courses
You may still want to complete required courses, take an AP class to boost your credentials, or pick up electives to round out your transcript. Your high school counselor can help make sure you’re taking the courses that will help you succeed once you get to college.

Extracurricular activities
From sports to clubs to volunteering, what you do outside the classroom can be just as important as what you do inside. Your high school counselor can help find opportunities that will make your application stand out from the pack.

Start your test prep
SAT or ACT? How should I prepare? Where are the tests held? These questions can have a big impact on your college preparation and application process. Your high school counselor can help you decide which test is accepted by the schools your considering, recommend prep resources, and more.

How to get financial aid
One of the biggest concerns about college is how to pay for it. Your high school counselor can help you research your options, including scholarships, and help you understand how (and when) to apply.

These are some of the main topics you’ll want to talk about with your high school counselor, but don’t be afraid to visit with them about any other questions or concerns you have about college. There’s a lot to consider as you get ready to apply, but with the help of a knowledgeable resource, you’ll be prepared every step of the way.

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FAFSA Essentials: What Every Student Needs to Know

For Seniors preparing to apply for federal financial aid or Juniors just beginning their college search, the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is one form nearly every college bound student will encounter. Completing the application may require tracking down a handful of documents and other information, however, filling out the FAFSA can be quick and easy with a little preparation.

Here are some tips that school counselors may share with their college-bound students and their families to help make applying fast and less intimidating.

How and where to apply
Applying for the FAFSA is free. To get started, families can visit the FAFSA application site to learn more about the process and what they’ll need.

Start early
Even months (or a year) away from applying to colleges, families can start looking at the FAFSA application ahead of time. Gathering all of the required documents before beginning the application will help make the process easier. And since some schools have FAFSA deadlines as early as mid-February, it’s important not to wait until the last minute to apply.

Positioned for success
Getting a head start on understanding the FAFSA application may help students and their families avoid common mistakes, such as listing retirement accounts or home equity as assets, which may affect the amount of aid the student receives. Here are more ways for students to get the most from financial aid, and some common application mistakes.

Help is available
It’s important that all students and parents know they’re never on their own. In addition to any advice an Academic Advisor can provide them, there are many resources to help answer questions, such as college admissions offices and, of course, the internet. Here are some helpful sites for reference:

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Parents’ discussion guide: Questions to ask your student’s academic advisor

Help to set your teen up for success by starting an ongoing conversation with their school counselor or academic advisor. If you’re speaking with a school counselor for the first time, you might be a little unsure of what to ask, or be unaware of which questions are important. Here’s a guide to inspire your discussion.

Help your child be academically prepared
There are many different levels of preparedness and many different ways to get there. Here are a few questions to ask to make sure your student is on track:

  • How is my student doing academically?
  • Do you see any room for improvement or additional challenges?
  • What courses should my student be taking to best prepare for college? (Specifically for their Jr. / Sr. years?)
  • Does the school offer Advanced Placement (AP) or Dual credit courses and will those courses help my student? (And is my student capable of taking them?)

Find the right school option
School counselors may have great insight into a student’s potential, so make sure you understand how to help your student prepare for their future. Start by asking:

  • What types of schools do you think might be a good fit for my student? This should be based on scholarship opportunities, career interests or other factors that are important to you and your student.
  • How do you evaluate schools? Is there set factors to keep in mind (perhaps a checklist)?

Get college application insights
It’s imperative that your student stands out from the crowded field of college applicants. Make sure when you speak to an advisor you’re asking:

  • Do you provide guidance on my student’s application materials before they’re submitted, or does the school have recommendations for a service that can help?
  • What do schools look for in an application or scholarship essay?

Discover college prep opportunities
It’s never too early, or too late, to prepare for college. If you’re unsure about what’s available, here are some things to think about:

  • Does the school offer information on college planning sessions or fairs?
  • How do you normally prepare students for college?
  • What resources should students use to stay on track?

Discuss their standardized testing options
Standardized tests are a part of academic life. Make sure you understand what they’re all about so you can be a resource your student can turn to. Be sure to ask:

  • Do you recommend the SAT, ACT, or both?
  • Do certain schools prefer certain tests?
  • What’s the best way my student can prepare for standardized testing?
  • Does the school offer any resources for studying / test prep?

Talk about good extra curricular options for your student
Activities outside of academics play a huge role in admissions. Stay ahead of the game with these questions:

  • What type of extra curricular or outside activities do you recommend for my student?
  • Do certain schools look for select activities or skills?
  • Is it more important to have a well-rounded experience or to focus on the things that my student is passionate about?

Cover financial aid and scholarship options
Paying for college is a significant investment. Whether you’re helping pay for it, or it’s your child’s responsibility, you will want to know:

  • Are there scholarships that would be a good fit for my student?
  • What financial aid resources does the school offer?
  • How does the school prepare students for financial aid questions?
  • Do you walk students or parents through the FAFSA?
  • Where should I go to find out more about funding college?
  • Where do private loans, parent loans, or grants fit in?

Connect your student to any relevant alumni
There’s nothing like talking to someone with first-hand experience. Alumni, especially recent alumni, can be invaluable in talking with your student about college choices. Ask the school counselor:

  • Can you connect my student with grads who went to their preferred colleges?
  • Does the school have alumni groups that would benefit my student?
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Financial Aid Made Easy: Help Your High Schooler Master the FAFSA

The big day is approaching: this fall college classes will begin, new friends will be made, and students across the country will embark on their biggest journey yet. But before they start, there’s still a lot to do. And one of the first (and most important) steps is filling out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid).

The FAFSA is used by many colleges to determine eligibility for their financial aid programs. You’ll need to work with your student to complete the form, but with some planning and a few helpful hints, submitting the application and kicking off the college experience can be simple.

Start early
The earlier you start, the easier the process will be. Completing the FAFSA requires collecting a range of documents, including the previous year’s tax forms. And waiting until the last minute means you could risk missing deadlines.

Plan ahead
In addition to the information your student needs to enter into the application, there are several things you’ll need to provide as well. Gathering these ahead of time will make the application process easier, and help make sure you aren’t scrambling to track them down at the last minute. Check here for the documents you will need to have ready.

Position yourself for success
The better you understand the FAFSA process, the more you’ll be able to get out of it. What kinds of accounts have funds, which parent fills out the form, and many more elements can all affect the amount of aid made available to each applicant. Check out some ways to get the most from your financial aid application.

Get help
The great thing about the FAFSA is that you’re never on your own. In addition to thousands of other parents who have gone through the same process, there are many resources to help answer questions, such as school guidance counselors, college admissions offices, and, of course, the internet. Here are a few places to turn to should you have questions:

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Ten tips and tricks to help you study for the SAT and ACT

  1. Practice makes perfect
  2. Whether you’re taking the SAT or ACT, practice tests are the best way to prepare for the real thing. Get familiar with test structure, time allotment, and the type of content you’ll face. The familiarity will also help put you at ease when you take the actual test.

  3. Don’t cram
  4. Cramming the night before might seem like a good way to hammer home vocab terms or math formulas, but it can do more harm then good. Committing knowledge to short-term memory means you might be memorizing, but not fully understanding, concepts. Cramming also leads to lack of sleep, which can impair brain function, cause you more stress, and hurt your test performance.

  5. Test prep can take you further
  6. While there are a myriad of SAT and ACT test prep programs, keep in mind that you don’t have to shell out big bucks to be prepared. Talk to your advisor or school counselor about prep programs at your school. They’re often free or low-cost. Or, check out Number2.com. It’s free and adapts to your ability level.

  7. Retaking the test can be a good thing
  8. This isn’t a one-shot deal. In fact, studies show that students’ scores often improve with retesting. Plus, both tests allow you to choose which scores you send to colleges. Just make sure you’ll get your scores in time to submit before any deadlines.

  9. Try SAT / ACT study apps
  10. There are a variety of apps out there to help you study for the ACT or SAT, like ACT Question of the Day or SAT Vocab Challenge. General brain training activities, like Lumosity, will help as well as simple daily exercises, such as crossword puzzles. Most of these options are free, plus they’re a fun way to get test-ready.

  11. Read, read and read some more
  12. The more you read, the better your vocabulary becomes, which is important since both the SAT and the ACT test extensively on vocabulary. Reading more often also helps improve comprehension, grammar usage, and argument construction – all of which will appear on both tests. Try score-boosting materials like The New York Times or classics like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Even reading for fun can help improve your score.

  13. Stay sane
  14. While a little anxiety is normal, it’s important to actively reduce stress around test time as it can negatively impact your concentration and recall. Be sure to eat right, and get plenty of rest and exercise to improve brain function. Practice tests can also help minimize stress by better preparing you for test day.

  15. Make a study plan
  16. Whether you’re starting one year out or one month out, it’s important to have a well-defined study plan. It helps to break studying into manageable chunks, and allows you to create time in your schedule for other activities – so you won’t have to sacrifice your social life. Fun fact: frequent study breaks improve productivity, brain function, and relieve stress.

  17. Know the tests
  18. In the past, most schools only accepted one type of test. Now, many four-year institutions accept both the SAT and the ACT; although, some schools prefer one over the other. The SAT is designed to evaluate your general thinking and problem-solving abilities, while the ACT is more focused on evaluating your overall educational development and ability to complete college-level work. There are important things to know about each test, so do a little research before you take them.

  19. Get creative
  20. Make up mnemonic songs or create a YouTube video outlining what you know. Tactics like these make studying easier and a lot more fun. If those don’t work for you, try meditation, rewarding yourself, mixing up study locations, reading aloud, or studying with friends. The point is to approach studying creatively to help you better retain the information.

    Remember Juniors, these tests are important, but they won’t make or break your entire life. Just study hard, do your best, and stay positive.

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Ready, Set, Submit: Get your FAFSA in Fast

The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is one of the most important documents you’ll fill out as you begin your college journey. But just because it’s important doesn’t mean it should be intimidating or difficult. Here are some tips to help you navigate the process.

Get organized

You’ll need several pieces of information to complete your application. Assemble them ahead of time to make the process go more smoothly and help ensure that your application is submitted on time. If you’re a dependent, you’ll also need some information from your parents (see here to determine your status). Here are some of the things you’ll need:

  • Your Federal Student Aid ID
  • Your Social Security number
  • Your driver’s license number (if you have one)
  • Your Alien Registration Number if you are not a U.S. citizen
  • Your tax records from the previous year
  • Records of untaxed income or other assets
  • A list of schools you are applying to (even ones you aren’t totally certain about)

Do you have everything organized? Then congratulations, the hardest part of completing your FAFSA is done. Now, it’s time to fill it out.

Fill out your application

Let’s walk through the steps that will help you complete your application:

  • File for free at fafsa.gov
  • Choose the right form for the year you’ll be attending school – if you’re starting classes between July 1, 2014 and June 30, 2015, you’ll use the 2014-15 FAFSA
  • Fill in your basic personal information if it’s your first time applying – next time, most of this will be pre-populated
  • Use the information from the previous tax year when entering your financial information
  • Choose the schools you want to apply to (you can pick up to 10), and your information will automatically be sent to those schools
  • Sign with your ID, which is considered your electronic signature
  • Click to submit your application

Get Help

Find yourself stuck, or uncertain how to proceed? There are a lot of free resources to help you complete your online application at fafsa.ed.gov, including:

  • “Help and Hints” pages on the right of any page of your online application, as well as the “Need Help?” button on the bottom of any page where you enter information
  • Chat with live tech support by clicking the “?” at the top of the page
  • Contact the financial aid office at the schools you plan to attend

That’s It

You did it! Now that your FAFSA is completed, find out what happens next and when you’ll hear back.

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FAFSA Essentials: What Every Student Needs to Know

For Seniors preparing to apply for federal financial aid or Juniors just beginning their college search, the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is one form nearly every college bound student will encounter. Completing the application may require tracking down a handful of documents and other information, however, filling out the FAFSA can be quick and easy with a little preparation.

Here are some tips that school counselors may share with their college-bound students and their families to help make applying fast and less intimidating.

How and where to apply
Applying for the FAFSA is free. To get started, families can visit the FAFSA application site to learn more about the process and what they’ll need.

Start early
Even months (or a year) away from applying to colleges, families can start looking at the FAFSA application ahead of time. Gathering all of the required documents before beginning the application will help make the process easier. And since some schools have FAFSA deadlines as early as mid-February, it’s important not to wait until the last minute to apply.

Positioned for success
Getting a head start on understanding the FAFSA application may help students and their families avoid common mistakes, such as listing retirement accounts or home equity as assets, which may affect the amount of aid the student receives. Here are more ways for students to get the most from financial aid, and some common application mistakes.

Help is available
It’s important that all students and parents know they’re never on their own. In addition to any advice an Academic Advisor can provide them, there are many resources to help answer questions, such as college admissions offices and, of course, the internet. Here are some helpful sites for reference:

-        Federal Student Aid Resources for Parents

-        Toll-free government helpline: (800) 433-3243

-        Chat live with FAFSA on the Web Customer Service Live Help

-        Tips For Completing the FAFSA

With a little preparation, the FAFSA can be a very helpful tool in paying for college.

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