Welcome to the College Ahead blog!

I'm Julia, a certified college counselor specializing in college planning, preparation, search and admissions. Welcome to my blog. For more than 12 years, I wrote a newspaper column titled College Corner. This blog continues that tradition. I’ve been an independent college counselor for more than 20 years. That means I’ve worked with dozens of students and I’ve seen the successful resolution of dozens of different challenges. Read more about my background here.

 

First and foremost, this blog is about you! If you want to see a topic addressed here, or if you have a question about college selection or application, feel free to email me. I’ll do my best to answer it, or if necessary, find someone who can.

 

My professional motto is “Navigating the college search and admissions process with confidence and optimism.” I want you to approach this transition enthusiastically and I’m here to help you do that.

Externally Published Articles

  • Destination Maturation
    Julia Surtshin, The Journal of College Admission, Summer 2015
  • Where to Start Your Summer Search for Colleges and Financial Aid
    Brent Huntsburger, The Oregonian, June 2013
  • Reassuring Words About Financial Aid
    Higher Education Consultants Association Newsletter, January 2009.
  • College Consultant Tries to Allay Jitters
    (Interview) The Oregonian, November 2007.
  • Liberal Arts & Professional Education
    Under 25, Spring 2002.
  • How to Write That College Essay
    Under 25, Winter 1991.

Recent Posts

Turning the College Admissions Process on Its Head

If you’re like most parents, you want your student to navigate the college admission process with curiosity, confidence, and optimism. That’s a tall order in the best of times, and as we all know, these are not necessarily the best (or easiest) of times. So what’s a parent to do?

One thing you can do from the comfort of your own, physically distanced space, is read The College Labyrinth: A Mindful Admissions Approach, by Dr. Erin Avery, CEP. A deceivingly slim volume, this read packs a decidedly big punch.

Avery demonstrates her understanding of teenage angst and the unspoken, frequently unrelenting, pressure felt by college-bound teens. Avery’s goal is to define the college search process “in terms of what is best for the student by keeping students centered, rooted in perceptions of self- worth and self-identity in order to emerge from this process a more fully formed adult prepared to embrace the often circuitous pathway of life…” (p. 13). She wants students to view the college search and admission process as a “pilgrimage, a quasi-sacred journey… within which [they] can reflect and explore rather than merely engaging in a win/lose task…” (p. 43).

Turn the College Admission Process on Its Head

In other words, Avery is advocating turning the entire college admission process on it’s head! How’s that for a radical thought?! Rather than students focusing on what credentials they need in order to be admitted to the colleges of their choice, she’d prefer that students start with who they are and what they want, along with thoughts of where they might like to go in life, and only then research colleges to determine how effectively they will support those goals and dreams.

Want to join the revolution? Become and stay student-centered. Steer clear of the US News and World Report college rankings that will hit newsstands on September 9. Step away from the focus on “name brand” that’s perpetuated by the media. Where your teen attends college is not a referendum on either their worth as a student or on your success as a parent. So forget about the car decal cachet competition.

Encourage your teen to start with what they know. Suggest that they begin by identifying their strengths, challenges, preferences, and goals. Have them reflect on their learning styles, social preferences, and extracurricular interests, as well as their goals and expectations for college. Using these as the starting point will help them determine the types of environments in which they’ll thrive and will aid them in maintaining a sense of personal efficacy and control.

Why It’s So Hard

There are umpteen factors at play that make the college search process fraught with uncertainty. Perhaps one of the most salient is Avery’s concept of liminality – of being in between and without the security of structure. Adolescence is liminal, in that it’s a period between childhood and adult-hood with more chaos than structure or order. Avery says, “Applicants to college are journeyers through liminal territory, standing in the doorway of their current life stage and looking outward into the wider world and as such they constitute a nomadic tribe searching and eagerly awaiting their arrival on firm ground…” (p. 26). Our teen nomads are engaged in a journey or quest (think Don Quixote) in which they feel they have little control.

What Parents Can Do

Provide grounding ballast for your teen. Teens, by their very nature, lack the perspective that you, as an adult, have. You know your teen’s strengths and their challenges. Reiterate their strengths, especially when they seem to feel that they don’t measure up. Help them brainstorm for ways to cope with and overcome their challenges. Helping them stay balanced is perhaps the most significant thing you can do for your teen.

Empathize with your teen. If you’re frustrated by your teen’s procrastination, consider this: people always procrastinate for a reason. Why is your teen putting off prepping for the SAT/ACT? Why do they sidestep writing their college application essays? Think about the uncertainty of Avery’s liminality. Contemplate the feeling of futility your teen may be experiencing that no matter how much test prep they do, there’s no guarantee that they’ll get the score that will open doors or that no essay they write will be exceptionally noteworthy. Imagine the anxiety of believing that their future rests in the hands of college admission officers who don’t know them from Adam or Eve?

Be your teen’s cheerleader. We all need them now and then. The process of presenting their academic career for review likely has your teen feeling judged. When your teen’s confidence lags, bring out the pom poms – no, not literally, of course. Be the carrier of your teen’s confidence until they’re ready for it back again. And rest assured, they will be. Just wait until those college acceptance letters come rolling in.

The College Labyrinth contains considerable wisdom. The messages are deep, complex, and far beyond the scope of this post. You may find this seemingly accessible book a challenging read, as it is packed with numerous references to authors, developmental psychologists, philosophers, and theologians. The repeated references to religious symbols, figures and concepts can be off-putting for those with a secular mindset. However, approach this book with an open mind and you’ll discover quite a few precious nuggets that will help you and your teen navigate the college search and admission process with your sanity intact.

Hidden Treasure: The Best College Research Tool You’ve Never Heard Of

In a previous blog post I wrote that researching colleges is like peeling onions. There are many layers to examine. You start by using readily available resources and then, step-by-step, move to an increasingly more intimate understanding of a school’s core nature by visiting and talking with people. Unfortunately, options for visiting colleges are slim to nonexistent during this Summer of COVID 19, which leaves many students and their parents wondering how to get “up close and personal” with the colleges on their lists.

Since writing that post, I’ve discovered a wonderful new resource that can help you make an end run around this nasty virus. Enter the “virtual college tour”. Design your own virtual college road trip with the help of StriveScan, a company that provides scanning services for college fairs. StriveScan has helped fill a need by hosting a huge library of video recordings on its website, enabling to you “visit” multiple colleges from the comfort of your own home. At www.strivescan.com/virtual/recordings/ you can learn about a wide range of colleges from Augustana College in Illinois to York College of Pennsylvania. Colleges you may be more familiar with include include Whittier College, the University of Puget Sound, the University of Redlands, and Washington University in St. Louis.

Think of these approximately 45 minute recordings as private Info Sessions, minus the Q&A. Although not quite like being on campus in person, these recordings can give you both valuable information and a sense of college culture. They have the added advantage in that you can watch them at your leisure, rather than by traveling to two or three colleges in a single day, leaving you exhausted, dazed, and often confused about what you saw where.

StriveScan’s recordings go far beyond college-specific videos. For those of you just beginning your college search, the site has numerous videos with titles such as: Finding Your College Fit, Being Undecided at a Large Public Research University, How to Utilize your College Admissions Counselor, College Without the Sticker Shock, and the Best Questions to Ask Admission Counselors. To take full advantage of what StriveScan provides on this site, browse the recordings. This site is truly one of the best kept secrets in the college research toolbox.

Getting to know colleges and their individual cultures during the time of COVID 19 requires that you be creative, innovative, and persistent. These are qualities that colleges want to see in applicants. So, think carefully about what YOU want to know about colleges, get off the beaten path, demonstrate your ingenuity, and enjoy the treasure hunt.

How To Research Colleges While Campuses Are Closed

As a recent guest on The College Financial Lady’s Facebook Live series, Ask The Experts, I was called upon to address this topic. This is drawn from my remarks.

Obviously this is of huge concern because finding good college “matches” is key to college success and “match” is based on the coming together of student priorities and institutional offering.

The current stay at home orders, while inconvenient, and by this time probably unpleasant, offer a unique opportunity for you to engage in a very important first step to your college search: thoughtful and focused self-reflection. If you aren’t clear about what you want and need in your college experience, it is impossible to find a great match.

Establish your own list of desired characteristics for the college you attend. These will become the criteria for researching and evaluating colleges. The most effective lists are comprehensive and include:

Academic Factors: intellectual environment, degree requirements, major offerings, learning/teaching style, academic advising services, class size, quality markers.

Personal Factors: institutional size, type of location, residential life, student diversity, extracurricular interests, campus culture, Greek Life, and socio-political environment, among others.

Family Parameters: distance from home, travel logistics, access to public transportation, and affordability.

These are the things that are important to you and should be the factors to focus on while researching college options.

Researching colleges is like peeling onions. There are many layers. The deeper you go the closer you get to understanding the core of an institution.

COVID-19 can’t stop you from peeling the outside & middle of the onion.

Learn everything you can about colleges from a distance. Colleges want students who are resourceful and participate in their own learning. Now’s the time to breakout your research skills. Consult guidebooks, websites, and articles. Don’t limit yourself to institutional websites, Wikipedia, and the obvious suspects: Big Future, College Express and the like. Dig deeper.

Let your criteria direct your search. If you’re looking for engineering programs, visit the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology website and see where that takes you. Budding journalist? Visit the Associated Collegiate Press website to learn about college newspapers. If you’re a young woman, check out the Women’s College Coalition. Data geeks, College Navigator may be the answer to your dreams, but if you’re wanting to really understand which colleges offer quality student engagement, you’ll want to visit the National Survey of Student Engagement website.

By expanding your research beyond the obvious, you enhance your understanding by including a diversity of perspectives. Not only do you get a fuller understanding of the institution you’re researching, but you also demonstrate you’ve done your homework when you do connect with college admission officers on a personal level.

Connect in spite of COVID-19.

Colleges and universities are as concerned about this distancing as you are. They’re working hard to offer robust virtual offerings. Most college websites prominently feature virtual info sessions and campus tours either from their homepages or from their admission websites. That’s not all. Type the name of any college into the YouTube search box and you’ll see a plentitude of options from students sharing their activities and experiences, to professors discussing topics of current interest, admission officers offering suggestions about applying, and sports teams highlighting their exploits. Make thoughtful use of these and you’re on your way to great college matches.

Check out college newspapers and pay attention to how institutions are responding and communicating with students regarding the current COVID-19 situation. These are key to understanding institutional priorities.

Contact the admissions officer who handles your region/high school. This person is not only a valuable resource who can connect you to a wealth of information and campus personnel, but also typically has a significant impact on furthering your application for admission. To put your best foot forward, make sure you’ve done your homework and, have a significant reason for reaching out.

And now for an end run around COVID-19.

Current restrictions are keeping you from campus tours, visits with coaches and sports teams, and overnights in residence halls, but they won’t last forever. Until large gatherings are allowed and travel is easy, you’re going to need to be creative.

Think about your ideal campus visit. If you were ruler of the world, what would you see, what would you do, who would you meet? Use your brainstorming to direct your subsequent connections. Reach out to faculty members, coaches, financial aid officers, career development specialists – any college staff member who might further your understanding of the institution. If you can’t find these people online using campus directories, ask your admission officer to connect you. The same goes connecting with students from your hometown, athletes, orchestra members, club officers, Greek Life ambassadors, or students from any group that interests you. Lastly, request introductions to college alumni who are additional sources of information and perspective.

No two students’ college research will look the same. Your research should be directed by your priorities. COVID-19 may be turning your college search on its head, but it just might make for more thoughtful and effective “matches”.

The World is Insane: So What About College? Important Questions You’re Too Distracted To Ask

Recently I had the opportunity to participate in a webinar featuring several college admission professionals: Adam Ingersoll, founder of Compass Prep, a leader in the testing industry; Jonathan Burdick, Vice Provost for Enrollment at Cornell University, and college counselors from several selective private schools nationwide. They were all discussing, “Where Do We Go From Here?”

Many of you are wondering…

Will colleges and universities will be operating in Fall 2020? It is unclear as to whether schools will resume normal on-campus operations or continue to offer online/distance learning in the fall term. Faculty and administrators are working hard to develop contingency plans so that students can begin and continue their higher educations. Not only are they planning for online instruction, but many are working to roll out virtual orientations, academic advisement, and student services. It’s likely that no decisions will be made until after May 1 at the earliest. (My guess is that it’s apt to be later, perhaps quite a bit later.) It also may be likely that some schools will open their doors on schedule, others will schedule a delayed opening, and still others may begin the school year online and open their doors second term. At this point, I don’t expect uniformity.

Some colleges have been transparent about their planning for the fall, while others have been less so. Although there is nothing you can do to hurry these decisions along, you CAN think about your own needs, preferences, and priorities. Ask yourself some questions.

  • How has online learning worked for you this spring?
  • How comfortable are you with returning to a college hundreds or thousands of miles away?
  • Would you benefit from taking a term off from school? (More about this later.)
  • How has the pandemic impacted your finances and college affordability?

How will this pandemic affect juniors’ plans to apply to college? Juniors, continue on the path you set for yourself, albeit with some significant changes. Finding “right fit” colleges is still your task at hand.

Consider this COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity. If nothing else, it’s given you time. Without the tyranny of your normal schedule, you have time for self-reflection. Now is your chance to take a time out to reexamine your priorities, your goals and your values. As lame as it might sound, doing so will make your college search more satisfying and effective. Seriously consider keeping a journal – not only about how you spend your days, but also your thoughts, feelings, and dreams. This is the stuff of history. Believe it or not, you’ll be telling your grandkids about this someday.

Many significant changes are being implemented and others are on the horizon. Let’s count the ways:

1. Standardized Testing: This is perhaps the most immediate disruption being felt. Spring 2020 test dates for both the SAT and ACT have been cancelled and the College Board has just cancelled its June test date. It is highly likely that the ACT will cancel its June test as well. While it is not clear when this testing will again become widely available, (panelists suggested that it might not be until schools are reopened), what is clear is that when that happens, both the ACT and the College Board will be inundated with test- takers.

More and more schools are going test-optional and the list is growing daily. Some institutions have gone test-optional on a permanent basis, while others for trial periods, and still others, only for the incoming class of Fall 2021, current juniors.

Decisions about testing should be made strategically. The best person to help you with making this important decision is an experienced counselor who understands both the nuances of the college landscape and your own individual situation.

2. Summer 2020 Plans: Colleges want to know how you spend your time and now is no different. How you spend your time says a lot about who you are and what you value. This summer many of the traditional avenues for pursuing interests, developing skills, earning money, and exploring new pastimes may not be open to you. But all is not lost. Think creatively about what you’d like to accomplish this summer. It doesn’t have to be monumental. It just needs to reflect who you are and what you care about. For some suggestions about putting this into practice, contact me at www.collegeahead.us.

3. Extracurriculars: look different now. You have no track records to boast about, you won’t be able to captain your softball team as you planned, the spring fundraiser for your club isn’t happening, and your lead in the spring musical is kaput. Yes, you got cheated. It totally sucks, but you do have a choice of how your respond. You could throw up your hands and think about how you lost out or you can re-imagine your previous activities and commitments. How can you demonstrate leadership, creativity, perseverance, and teamwork in this vacuum? Take your club online. Develop a service to help others: sew masks, do chores or errands for people at risk, or offer to teach a senior to Zoom. Paint up a storm. Bake for your neighbors. There are a million ways to transform your extracurricular activities. All you need is a fresh perspective. If you can’t muster this on your own, talk with a friend.

4. Demonstrated Interest: is likely to still be of interest to schools that considered it in the past, but it’s apt to look different. There are, at least for the time being, no high school visitations, campus visits, or preview days. One of the webinar panelists astutely suggested thinking of demonstrated interest as “demonstrated understanding”. Use all the tools at your disposal to really understand the institutions you’re considering. Don’t just look at the numbers. Think about what the numbers say about the institution.

5. Early Action and Early Decision Deadlines: Some schools may make minor changes in their EA/ED deadlines to accommodate students’ need to take standardized tests in the fall of their senior year. However, expect most deadlines especially those at the most selective institutions, to remain fairly consistent. Colleges most likely won’t make decisions regarding deadlines until May 1 or later.

6. Admit Rates & Waiting Lists: Media hype would have you believing that admit rates at “good colleges” are downwards of 10%. While this is true at the Ivies and similar schools, this is by no means representative of higher education as a whole. Furthermore, the uncertainty generated by the COVID-19 outbreak means that the models that colleges use to predict yield may be less accurate for this year and the near future. Which leads me to think that there will be more wait list activity since so many people’s plans are in flux. Does this mean that you should hold out for a wait list admit? Heavens no.

Which leads to…

How will colleges handle Gap Year and Deferral requests? All this uncertainty may have more of you considering gap years and other deferrals. Most students thinking about deferrals as a possibility move through the search and application process as if they’d be enrolling right away. You should as well. Once you receive your acceptances and have made a decision about where you’d like to enroll, then contact the school to request the deferral.

Individual institutions will handle deferrals in ways that best meet their own needs and goals. At Boise State University, the process is a straightforward as submitting a couple of forms. Other schools ask students to submit letters outlining their reasons for wanting a deferral and such requests may or may not be granted.

Depending on how many deferral requests an institution has, it might limit the number it grants. Some schools, when granting deferrals, essentially guarantee you a spot in the following year’s class. Others may not. SO, make sure you understand the terms and conditions before your formally request a deferral.

These are complicated times. Things change constantly. If you have questions or concerns about looking at and applying to college, College Ahead is operating and happy to support you during this time. We are using phone, email, and videoconferencing to support our students and their parents during this time of uncertainty. Feel free to reach out to us.

Seeing Is Believing: “Visiting” Colleges in the Time of COVID19

Seeing is believing – we all know that. Whether you’re a senior trying to decide between your offers of acceptance or a sophomore or junior looking to add context to your college search, visiting colleges is often the Spring Break activity of choice. So what to do when colleges are closing campuses, cancelling visitation events and curtailing admission activities?

Although you might be tempted to throw up your hands (washed, of course), actually there is a lot you can do to further your understanding of what colleges would be the best fit for you. As the CDC continues to recommend social distancing, a number of my colleagues have come together to offer thoughtful suggestions.

Dana Rolander, an IEC in the Midwest, points out that virtual tours can help fill the void created by the current situation. Many colleges offer virtual tours on their websites. Youtube videos can provide additional and varied glimpses into life on campus, providing rich perspective. A recent search for one school yielded multiple “day in the life” videos, tours of residence halls, pros and cons, and a peek at Greek life. Campus Reel https://www.campusreel.org. offers virtual tours of more than 300 colleges.

But of course, there’s more to a campus visit that just touring buildings. Visits offer opportunities to gather additional data and ask important questions.

If you want to know more about colleges’ outcomes (what students do and how they fare after graduation), Denise Eliot, and IEC hailing from Southern California recommends that you look at institutions’ Linkedin pages. By clicking on the Alumni tab you can see where alums live, what kind of work they do and also conduct a variety of searches. Further, many students have Linkedin profiles and you might be able to message them with questions.

Although many colleges and universities are closing, that doesn’t mean that nobody’s working. Take this opportunity to email university administrators and staff with your questions. For example, contact the career planning office to inquire about job fairs, on-campus recruitment and other services. Most colleges have campus directories on their websites, so take advantage and reach out to the people you were hoping to connect with during your now-kaput campus visit. The only caveat here is make sure that you’ve done your research by carefully reading the office’s webpage before posing questions.

Admission representatives are likely working as well, although perhaps remotely. Reach out to them for suggestions about furthering your investigation sans a campus visit. Reps can often connect you with campus resources and student ambassadors with whom you can connect through Skype, FaceTime or Zoom. Be respectful of reps’ time by being clear about what you want or need from them. They are working under difficult circumstances as well, so don’t waste their time with vague pleas.

The obvious is often easily overlooked, as New Jersey IEC, Lisa Bleich, reminds us. College students are fabulous resources and they’re coming home! Connect with students from your high school who attend colleges on your list. Ask them anything and everything you can think of. They can give you perspective that isn’t available anywhere else!

Massachusetts IEC, Eric Endlich, suggests that although you may not be a Facebook regular, most colleges and universities have Facebook pages. Furthermore, they frequently have groups for admitted students. Connecting with others, can add to your understanding, especially about campus culture.

Juniors, while Spring Break visits may be out of the question, you’ll have other opportunities to visit colleges of your liking. In the interim, use this time to really work the process provided by College Ahead. Use a wide range of resources to investigate the colleges on your list – both those suggested here, as well as those provided with your CollegePlannerPro account.

Seniors, yes, making a decision about where to attend college, especially when you can’t “test drive” it, can be a daunting prospect. However, if you’ve worked with College Ahead you’ve engaged in a thoughtful process with built-in help.

  • Review your Shopping List. This is your foundation. Think about your current priorities and how they might be different from when you started your research.
  • Review your completed College Information & Assessment Sheets and take time to think about what kind of picture the information paints of each college.
  • Reread your “why this college” essays and consider how what they say resonates with you now.
  • If you have unanswered questions, conduct some final research. Consult the website list you received in your initial consultation packet for such useful resources as www.collegedata.com and https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/.
  • Make a list of pluses and minuses for each school where you’ve been admitted. (Remember, there are no perfect schools and everything is a trade off.)
  • Compare financial aid awards when affordability is a factor.

Most importantly, keep in mind that the single most significant factor in making an wise college choice is YOU! Your attitude and your willingness to engage have the biggest impact on the success of your college decision, your college career, and your life trajectory. Although where you attend college is likely to have a lasting impact on your life, even more critical is the extent to which you take advantage of the resources and opportunities offered by your college or university.

You do not need to make this decision in isolation. In addition to talking with your parents, remember, I’m here and available to help you sort through the options. Often this last step in process is the most difficult. Zoom meetings are a convenient and safe option in this challenging time. Feel free to reach out with your questions and concerns.

Be Well-
Julia

Welcome to the College Ahead blog!

Julia Surtshin

I'm Julia, a certified college counselor specializing in college planning, preparation, search and admissions. Welcome to my blog. For more than 12 years, I wrote a newspaper column titled College Corner. This blog continues that tradition. I’ve been an independent college counselor for more than 20 years. That means I’ve worked with dozens of students and I’ve seen the successful resolution of dozens of different challenges. Read more about my background here.

 

First and foremost, this blog is about you! If you want to see a topic addressed here, or if you have a question about college selection or application, feel free to email me. I’ll do my best to answer it, or if necessary, find someone who can.

 

My professional motto is “Navigating the college search and admissions process with confidence and optimism.” I want you to approach this transition enthusiastically and I’m here to help you do that.

Articles

Recent Posts

Colleges That Change Lives…are coming to town!

 

Navigating the transition from high school to college can be fraught with confusion and stress. Students and parents alike can become tied in knots. The people of Colleges That Change Lives are coming to Portland with a program that just might change the way you think about the entire college search process.

 

Colleges That Change Lives “was founded on a philosophy of building the knowledge, character and values of young people by introducing them to a personalized and transformative collegiate experience.”

 

Wednesday, August 2, 2017 at 7 pm, Colleges That Change Lives College Fair
Oregon Convention Center Ballrooms 203 & 204
777 NE Martin Luther King Blvd, Portland, OR 97232

The program is free to the public and no pre-registration is required.

Onsite parking $10.00

 

The program begins with a 30 minute information session, followed by a college fair lasting approximately 1.5 hours.

 

So, what makes this event different from traditional college fairs?

 

1. This event is aimed at assisting students in engaging in a “student centered college search process” where the emphasis is on thinking outside the box, moving away from the rankings rat race, and concentrating on what students need to become the happiest, most engaged, and capable young adults possible.

 

2. Only a select number of colleges will be represented. This will not be an overwhelming experience. All of the colleges are dedicated to educating undergraduates and providing them with experiences that will best enable them to pursue individual goals, be it employment, graduate school, volunteer engagement or another self-defined path.

 

3. Attendees will come away with a clearer understanding of the transferable skills developed by a liberal arts education as well as tools for evaluating how well individual colleges can meet their academic, personal, and financial needs.

 

Representatives from member colleges will be available to provide information and answer questions. For a complete list of member colleges visit www.ctcl.org.

 

If you want to become inspired to think about the college search in a new way and learn about some fantastic colleges, some of which you’ve probably never heard of, plan to spend a couple of hours at the Colleges That Change Lives College Fair on August 2nd.

 

For more information about student centered college admissions, visit:

Home

http://www.educationconservancy.org

 

 

 

 

What is the right ‘fit’ when it comes to selecting a college?

Barnard Library & Quad - Finding the right fit when selecting a college

Everyone talks about the importance of finding the right fit when selecting a college. But what exactly does “fit” mean? Some college counselors define it as colleges that offer your choice of major, that are academically suitable for you and that your family can afford. Others define it as colleges where you find your “tribe,” meaning that you see students who seem like you and where you feel comfortable. All of these factors are important.

 

The factors making up the right fit are unique to you

If you feel that you belong, if you meet friends, feel comfortable, and are not unduly burdened with finances, you’re much more apt to stay enrolled until you graduate. But, as the late night infomercials say, “wait, wait, there’s more…”

 

If you really want to get the most bang for your college buck, you should evaluate the colleges you’re considering with a longer-range lens. Colleges with the best fit for you are those at which you will not only be happy and succeed, but where you will thrive academically, socially, emotionally, and physically, so that you will be well-equipped to pursue your post-graduation goals.

 

How to go about finding the right fit when selecting a college

You’ve changed a lot since you were 12 and you probably want to do a lot more changing and growing by the time you’re 22 – the age at which many students graduate from college. Keep in mind that you’ll be in a new environment, complicating the task of finding the right fit.

 

So, before you begin researching specific schools, take some time to think about why you’re going to college; what experiences you hope to have during college; and what you hope to be like by the time you graduate. Your answers are the keys to defining what YOU mean by fit, and identifying colleges that will meet your individual needs.

 

“It’s not just about getting in. It’s about who you’ll be when you get out.”

 

Thank you for visiting the College Ahead website. If you are looking for support or coaching around the college search and application process, please contact Julia at julia@collegeahead.us or call +1 503 968 2544

Ten Tips for New College First Years

Yesterday’s thoughtful New York Times opinion piece, Overcoming Freshman Fear, by David Kirp, highlights a few of the challenges that some new college students experience during their first year. Feeling like an imposter at a highly selective college is much more common than you might think and anxiety of any sort certainly makes the first year transition more difficult.adult-education-572269_1920

 

Action can help moderate feelings, so what constructive habits can you practice to make your first year as successful and enjoyable as possible? Here are 10 tips to help you make the most of your first year.

  1. Live on campus and keep your dorm room door open.  This is key to making friends, finding commonalities and developing your personal network.
  2. Get to know your professors.  Visit instructors during their office hours. No, you’re not bothering them. Being available to students is the entire reason faculty hold office hours. Introduce yourself, ask a question, inquire about their research.
  3. Take advantage of the resources available to you.  Visit the study skills, tutoring, and writing centers before you actually need them. Scope out the career development center before you’re desperate for a job or summer internship. Seek out reference librarians who can assist you in developing your research skills. And by all means, don’t forget about the counseling center. It’s not uncommon to find first year challenging.
  4. Ask for help.  No one expects you to know all of the answers. If you’ve looked for your own answers and are still unclear or unsure, by all means ask. Waiting too long to ask for support is one of the most common reasons students flounder during their first year.
  5. Manage your time.  You may have been able to pull off As by cramming for exams the night before or by writing single draft papers, but that kind of effort will leave you high and dry in college. Effective time management involves two things: 1) accurately estimating the amount of time required to finish a task and 2) planning and executing a schedule with that time built in.
  6. Get involved.  Join a club, team, or other campus organization. Participating in an activity that connects you to campus and to others who share your interest is one of the surest ways to settle into college.
  7. Stretch.  Stretch your comfort zone and challenge your assumptions. Open yourself to new people, new experiences, new thoughts, and new feelings. Don’t toss everything about the “old” you, just be open to a “bigger and improved” version.
  8. Take care of yourself.  Work hard to establish a new routine that includes healthy food, regular exercise, and sufficient sleep. Managing stress is crucial, so make a habit of doing something you love each day – even if it is only for 15 minutes. When the machinery isn’t working well, everything else is more difficult.
  9. Know why you’re in college.  Sure, you’re going to college to meet new people, have fun, and learn new things, but let’s get real. When it’s all said and done at college graduation, what do you want to have accomplished? If you think about that now, and keep it in mind, you’ll be well on your way to making it happen.
  10. Remember, the saying, “Moderation in all things”.  It’s not exciting advice, but oh so true. Balancing academics with socializing and personal self-care is one of the keys to navigating the first year in college.

Follow Your Interests to Find the Right College

Follow your interestsA new college guidebook, Follow Your Interests to Find the Right College, by Janet and Paul Marthers, offers students a new way to look for college options. This book groups colleges thematically: by college type and areas of study.

 

College Types Explained

 

Other than differences in size and cost, many students don’t understand the distinctions between small liberal arts colleges and large universities. This book effectively highlights the characteristics, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of private liberal arts colleges, public colleges, and flagship research universities, as well as the service academies, technical schools, single-sex institutions, historically black colleges and universities, hispanic-serving institutions, and native american colleges and universities. The Marthers have included a section on Canadian institutions and another focusing on faith, which includes Catholic colleges, Christian colleges, colleges with Jewish heritage, and Quaker colleges.

 

Search by Major or Area of Interest

 

Perhaps the biggest benefit of this guide is that students whose passions are well in place, can search for schools based on their interests. Sections include: Environmental Studies; Business; International Relations and Public Policy; Journalism, Communications, and Creative Writing; Music; Performing Arts; Art, Architecture, Design and Film; and Health Professions. Groupings contain both names of colleges and meaningful college profiles with narratives focusing on the college grouping.

 

This book is not a replacement for the well-known comprehensive standards, but is an interesting and useful addition, especially for students seeking options in one of the included niches. The Marthers have made a useful contribution to the college guidebook arena. Follow Your Interest to Find the Right College is available from Amazon and Wheatmark Publishing.