Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Changing Schools Your Senior Year

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Moving has been identified as a very stressful activity right up there with a death in the family. Changing schools in the senior year adds to the stress of the college admissions process. This is because you have to develop relationships with your new teachers and a new guidance counselor in a hurry. If you know about the move at the end of your junior year, you should attempt to get college recommendations from a favorite teacher in sealed, signed envelopes to take with you to your new school.

School districts have different graduation requirements especially if you are moving between states. A student I know named Matt, transferred his senior year without any language classes at all. That was a real problem because the colleges he liked had language requirments of at least one year. Fortunately, he was able to demonstrate progress toward the goal of one year of language by fitting in an online course and he was accepted by the college of his choice. This type of problem is fairly common for transfers. I recommend meeting with a guidance counselor at your new school as soon as possible to make sure your course selection together with your transcripts will meet all the graduation requirements. There are a number of colleges that will not accept you if you are short a course or two and end up getting a GED rather than a high school diploma.

Another pitfall related to moving is that you won't be plugged into the information network. This means you will have to be extra alert to find out about college admissions workshops in the community, any special SAT or ACT classes, and opportunities to apply for awards and honore.

Coming into a new school is not all bad though. You have an opportuniy to meet lots of new people who have no pre-conceptions about you. The novelty of the new school environment can also help to stave off senioritis that strikes so many students who have been in the same district since elementary school. The adjustment to college may also come easier because you just had to adjust to a new environment, so you are better at it!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

College Roommates

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Most freshman-to-be have already completed surveys about their living habits in order to facilitate a roommate match up. If you used this survey as though it were a submission to Saturday Night Live, you should worry. John Q. a student at Harvard U decided to take the contrarian approach and fill in the opposite of his tastes and interests. No surprise, he had a really tough time with his freshman roommate. He tried to switch roommates right away but was unable to until well into the semester. The lesson here is to fill out the survey honestly and don't let your mom fill it out for you!

Colleges match roommates in a variety of ways. Some colleges such as Champlain College and the College of Wooster use the MBTI personality assesment in addition to student surveys to aid them in making good matches. Other colleges such as MIT have pre-frosh events where many people choose their roommates in person. Most colleges use a student survey to assist them and then assign the roommates in the summer.

Most college freshmen have never shared a bedroom prior to college. This can create some tensions. Contacting your roommate in the summmer before college can help to smooth the transition. You can share likes and dislikes online through Facebook. Sharing music or videos online can be a great ice-breaker. It also helps to deal with some of the practicalities, like who is bringing a refrigerator or a couch etc. Talking about if and how you plan to decorate the room can also be helpful. Shared living space can seem a little scary but most college students report that they made some of their closest friendships in the dorm freshman year.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Summer Reading

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Believe it or not summer reading can give a boost to chances of college admission. Of course it depends on what you read. Think of reading at least one book that interests you that you could talk about in an admissions interview. Remember that colleges are looking for students who are intellectually curious, which means that the latest best selling James Patterson thriller or the latest Danielle Steele romance will probably not give you any extra points with admissions. That still leaves a lot of choices in literature, history ,biography, current events and even business.

Some personal favorites in each of these categories are "The Secret Life of Bees" by Sue Monk Kidd, "Citizens of London" by Lynne Olson, "John Adams" by David McCullough, "Ghost of War-The True Story of a 19 year old GI", and "Make it Stick" by Chip and Dan Heath.

You can develop your own list of favorites and if you're stuck, you can ask friends, family or even a librarian what they would recommend for summer reading. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Colleges like Hogwarts?

The Harry Potter series has inspired a generation so it is not surprising that high school juniors and seniors think about Hogwarts as the ideal college setting. After all, many of the themes in the books relate to college or boarding school experiences including taking tough exams, making friends, finding love, breaking the rules, playing sports, fending off bullies, dealing with professor's favoritism etc.

After spring break travels to visit colleges Molly said to me. "I wish those colleges looked more like Hogwarts." Another said, "if they have a big dining hall with beams like Hogwarts, I feel happy."

So, what colleges DO look like Hogwarts? In my travels, obviously the university that looks most like Hogwarts is the one that inspired it, which is Oxford University in the UK. Glimpses of architecture that remind me of Harry Potter's school are also to be found in the US. Annenberg freshman dining hall at Harvard University is one place that seems both historical and magical. I could almost picture running into Hermione at one of the libraries at Lafayette College pictured above. "The Castle" at Arcadia University also reminds me of living in a novel. In fact students can enjoy castle living in gigantic rooms. Willard Straght Hall at Cornell University has beams in the main hall that are carved to resemble actual professors but in some cases they look more like wizards. There are also gargoyles in some of the walkways at Oberlin college that seem fanciful enough for Harry Potter fans.

Fanciful architecture is not the only rembrance of Harry Potter at U.S. colleges of course. Several colleges have established Quidditch teams (without the flying brooms and snitch of course). Some of the more established teams include Boston Univerity, Emerson College, Harvard University, Lafayette College, Middlebury College, MIT, University of Vermont, and Vassar College. I would love to see one of these Muggle Quidditch matches ... Maybe on my next college tour.