There is something special about meeting someone at for an interview – especially later in the day or in the evening. If you find yourself scheduled for an interview with a college on your list, you’ve got to rise to the occasion style-wise.
There is something special about meeting someone at for an interview – especially later in the day or in the evening. If you find yourself scheduled for an interview with a college on your list, you’ve got to rise to the occasion style-wise.
There are so many ways to ace a college admissions interview; however, two parts of the interview are most crucial: the beginning and the end. Whether you interview in person or virtually, you should implement as much as possible of the advice in the video below into your college admissions interview game plan. Good luck!
If you have the opportunity to interview with a representative of an Ivy League school make sure you steer clear of saying…
To get into America’s top colleges, you need to demonstrate interest, which is a fancy way of saying, you need to flirt with colleges. Yet, when is just as important as how.
In an increasingly connected world, reading beyond what pops up on a mobile devise is dropping to the bottom of priority lists for many teenagers. And for those of us dedicated to books and the power of reading to educate, inform and entertain, this is REALLY bad news.
It’s hard to think how anyone can build fundamental communication skills without dedicating significant time to reading, whether for pleasure or information gathering. And it’s not just about developing an interesting mind or expanding vocabulary. Students who aren’t readers often don’t write well. They have a hard time imagining as well as organizing thoughts, developing arguments, and articulating ideas.
For college-bound students, this is more than just bad news—it’s a crisis. Colleges not only care that you read, they also care what you are reading as well as what you have learned from the experience.
These concerns play out in many different ways in the admissions process, and the most successful applicants are often those who set aside time in their busy schedules to read. And not just what appears on your daily “feed.”
For high school students, being aware of the reading advantage in college admissions is key. Here are five excellent reasons you would be wise to make time for reading:
Academics: It’s no secret that many of the most academically challenging courses in high school require strong reading skills—the ability to absorb and retain a large volume of material in a relatively short amount of time. Advanced Placement (AP) as well as International Baccalaureate (IB) curricula in social studies, literature, and language are notoriously reading-intensive. And colleges want not only to see you’re taking these courses but also that you’re succeeding with good grades.
Summer is usually a great time to “study forward” by obtaining AP/IB texts and reading beyond what is assigned or expected by the first day of school. Get ahead and stay ahead of the reading. You’re bound to see results in terms of improved reading skills, better grades, and less stress.
Test Scores: You can pay thousands of dollars to the best test prep company in town, but nothing improves test scores like being an active reader. Both ACT and SAT are designed to challenge reading skills both in comprehension and interpretation. And those students who didn’t stop reading in middle school are bound to be more successful test-takers.
Push your reading level higher by mixing pleasure reading with more academic magazines, journals, or texts. Challenge yourself by not only reading from AP/IB course materials but also taking the time to annotate texts and look up vocabulary words. A little extra time devoted to reading can pay off in a big way in terms of improved test scores—ACT, SAT, and AP.
Applications: Colleges have learned that a good way to get to know a student in the application process is to ask about their reading habits. For example, one of the supplemental essay prompts required by Columbia University during 2018-19 asked, “List the titles of the books you read for pleasure that you enjoyed most in the past year.” In fact, Columbia asked three questions designed to probe applicants’ reading tastes and interests. Stanford, Wake Forest, Princeton, Emory, Colgate, Davidson and a number of other schools have their own versions of questions designed to probe reading habits.
Knowing these kinds of essay questions may be in your future, why not dive into a wide variety of literature? Don’t limit yourself to a single genre or to reading only fiction or nonfiction. Mix it up. Go a step further and read something that relates to potential career and/or academic interests. And be sure to keep track of what you have read noting best books or interesting magazines as well as favorite authors.
Interviews: If you’re applying to a college that either recommends or requires a personal interview, you had better come prepared with at least one favorite book about which you can knowledgeably speak. The “reading” question appears in many different forms, but the bottom line is that if you stumble here and can’t come up with a title or are forced to reach back to middle school, you could be in a bit of trouble. And you wouldn’t be alone. It’s shocking to interviewers how often students can’t remember the last book they read for pleasure or respond with cheesy middle school novellas. And worse, they might remember the title of something read for class, but they either have the story all wrong or simply can’t remember any element of the plot.
Avoid the embarrassment and read some good books as you have time. Take notes, think about what you read, and even talk over the best books with friends or family. Know why you would recommend a book. And get feedback on your recommendations. Don’t think you have to re-brand yourself as an intellectual by only reading great literature. Interviewers can have fairly ordinary literary tastes. And don’t try to “fake it” by suggesting a book you think will make you seem smart. If you’re honest about what you like, you might be surprised to find that you and your interviewer share tastes in authors to the point that an interesting conversation ensues.
Stress: All kinds of research shows that reading is way more effective at reducing stress than listening to music, drinking a cup of tea or even taking a walk in the woods. Significant side benefits include an increase in emotional intelligence and empathy—character traits increasingly shown to be wanting in adolescents. And reading also turns out to be a very good way to focus energy and improve concentration.
But if none of the above moves you to pick up a book, then focus on this: readers live longer! ‘Nuff said.
For college-bound high school students, the months between junior and senior years are crucial for jump starting the application process.
It’s also a great time for discovering new interests, adding to your resume, and otherwise positioning yourself for beginning the ultimate transition from high school senior to college freshman.
The first day of the last year of high school will be here before you know it. But in the meantime, here are some ways you can make the most of the summer before senior year:
Work. Options range from scooping ice cream at the shore to organizing a book drive, conducting research, interning on Capitol Hill or hammering nails for Habitat for Humanity. By the time you’ve completed junior year of high school, you should be old enough and responsible enough to work—full or part time, paid or unpaid. Work builds character, introduces career options, teaches skills, and expands your network in important ways. Don’t miss the opportunity to add to your resume while learning something about yourself and others.
Visit Colleges. Campus tours don’t stop just because undergrads are off doing other things. Now is the time to check out the last few colleges on your list and refine your ideas of how location, size or architecture affects your thinking about a particular campus. And by the way, the summer is a great time for having more relaxed conversations with admissions staff, coaches, or professors in departments you may be targeting.
Nail Down the List. Take a deep breath and begin eliminating schools that don’t really appeal or offer what you want. Zero-in on places representing the best fit—academically, socially, and financially—and begin committing to a realistic list of schools to which you intend to apply.
Demonstrate Interest. Beyond visiting campuses, engage in a systematic demonstrated interest campaign. Be proactive by getting on mailing lists, requesting information, initiating correspondence, getting to know regional representatives and attending local events. In addition to showing your favorite schools a little love, you might just learn something important about campus culture or new initiatives colleges want to introduce to prospective applicants.
Get Organized. There are a zillion moving parts to the college admissions process. Get a handle on them by creating a spreadsheet of colleges on your list and noting deadlines, requirements (recommendations, test score submission, interviews), important admissions policies (non-binding early action vs. binding early decision), and application quirks (supplements, scholarships, honors programs/colleges). Also, make note of which colleges use the Common Application, the Universal College Application (UCA), the Coalition Application or other school-based forms.
Prepare your Resume. If you don’t have one already, put together a resume or a detailed written list of accomplishments and activities. Turn it into a PDF for sharing with others or uploading with applications. Explore online resume templates, such as ZeeMee or Linked In. If you know colleges on your list partner with ZeeMee, consider creating a private account before the end of the summer
Do the Clerical Part. There’s no reason not to complete the simple stuff early in the summer by opening applications and entering basic information. All three major platforms are capable of rolling information from one year to the next and encourage the completion of questions that are unlikely to change. So do it. The Coalition and the UCA are set up so that colleges can launch as early as July 1. The Common Application will be ready to go on August 1. Other applications and supplements will appear on websites as the summer progresses. If you start shared elements of your applications, you will be one step ahead.
Draft Essays. Now is the time to begin brainstorming and drafting essays. Explore a variety of topics and don’t be afraid to change direction or discard work that’s going nowhere. This is the advantage of writing and reflecting during summer months before the pressures of senior year cut into Zen time. While essay prompts for personal statements have been posted for months, college-specific supplements and essays will roll out over the course of the summer. Keep checking websites and make note of prompts as they appear. And then start writing!
Prep for Standardized Tests. You’ve probably taken the ACT and/or the SAT at least once. If you didn’t knock the ball out of the park the first time (and most don’t), plan to prep for a retake. SAT now offers an August test, in addition to October. ACT has a test in September and in 2018 will have one in July. For the most part, scores from these tests will be returned in time for you to make the earliest of early deadlines. Get a tutor, sign-up for classes or simply sit at the kitchen table and take timed practice tests.
Research and Apply for Scholarships. The scholarship hunt should begin now—not after all your college applications have been submitted. A surprising number of scholarships have applications due early in the school year and use essay prompts similar to those you’re working on for colleges. Use FastWeb or Cappex to get an overview of what’s out there. And while you’re at it, explore FAFSA4caster with your parents for a little reality testing and apply early for that all-important Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID. FAFSA goes live on October 1, but there’s nothing to be gained by waiting until then to sign-up for the FSA ID.
Secure Recommendations. If you haven’t done so already, try to get in touch with at least two core academic teachers from junior year to ask for college recommendations. You may or may not need both, but it’s always a good idea to have two teachers willing to support you. Don’t delay—teachers may limit the number of recommendations they’re willing to write or they may want to get started before school begins. And be sure to provide recommenders with whatever background information they request—at a minimum, a resume and cover note reinforcing your appreciation and why you asked them to play this important role in your application process.
Schedule Interviews. Many colleges offer on-campus interviews during the summer. You want to be able to check these requirements off your list sooner rather than later. Colleges make it easy to combine interviews with campus tours, but you have to schedule early to get days and times that work for you.
Position Yourself for Fall Classes. Be aware that senior year courses and grades can be very important in admissions decisions. Colleges want to see upward trends in grades, and they care very much that you continue to challenge yourself academically. Obtain texts for any challenging or AP/IB classes and “study forward” during the summer. If necessary, give your tutor a call and go over the first few chapters of material you know will keep you up late at night come September.
Read, Relax, Enjoy Yourself and Connect with Friends. A year from now, you’ll be packing your bags!
Your story matters.
During the college admissions process, sharing your story as part of your application provides context and gives you the opportunity to introduce yourself. In the past, this has been accomplished by submitting at least one essay with your college application and at some schools, scheduling a personal interview.
ZeeMee’s smartphone app helps you create a three-part video that can be viewed in a minute or two. It’s free of charge. Students own their content. Privacy settings prevent a student’s video from being searchable. And no special equipment is needed to make the video beyond access to an iOS or Android smart phone.
“Selfie-style is genuine and real,” says Courtney Vaughn, an admissions officer at Elon University in North Carolina. “Don’t hire a professional — keep it casual.”
Vaughn credits the ZeeMee videos with helping her “connect with applicants on a deeper level.” When she can glean additional knowledge about an applicant from their video, she says she will “take that nugget of information to the admissions committee” to advocate for the student.
To be clear, Vaughn says that “the students who are in the middle of the applicant pool at Elon benefit the most” from submitting a ZeeMee video. Providing the additional information, as well as taking the time to show interest and effort, says Vaughn, contributes another positive layer to an application that might need the extra boost.
Other ZeeMee partner schools may also consider a student’s submission to help them create a well-rounded class; or to select among applicants for competitive honors programs or majors. If you are applying to a school that encourages submission of a ZeeMee video or you would otherwise like to create one, here are some additional tips.
There are three parts to a ZeeMee video: your Profile Information, the Video Feed and the Photo Album.
Your Profile Information features a snapshot of you with your name, high school, and graduation year, superimposed on a default image. (Later, you can select the photo you want in the background.)
The Video Feed gives you the opportunity to tell colleges, in your own words, what you want them to know about you. You have the option of recording a brief introduction, for example, and/or speaking about a topic of your choice. Optional question prompts on the Chat tab can help you decide what to share. Some examples of ZeeMee question prompts are Describe your high school and what you like most about it. Or, Who would win, Batman or Spider Man? Or, How would your friends describe you?
These prompts can get you thinking more about how to best showcase your character and values. Are there certain topics that resonate with you? Do you have a compelling anecdote to share? What motivates you; or challenges you; or captivates you? Take some time to think about what you want to say. And if you change your mind and want to delete or rerecord your video, you can!
Videos (whether your own, or responses to prompts) are limited to no more than 26 seconds each — but you can record as many as you like. You’ll make your own decision about how many videos compose your Video Feed; just remember that a shorter one is more likely to be viewed in its entirety, so try to keep your points succinct.
If you are camera-shy, no worries — not only is ZeeMee always optional, there are a variety of ways to tell your story — for example, a teacher, friend or slideshow can serve as your introduction.
Use the Photo Album section to bring your activities to life with images that showcase who you are and what you do. These images can spotlight your athletics, talents, hobbies, projects, skills, jobs, ideas, interests, family, and more! You’ll add captions of up to 5000 characters to describe what is happening in each photo to help the reader get to know you better.
Details and Dimensions
Once you have the basics in place, continue to refine your presentation. Layer your Photo Album with a variety of images to tell your story, not just the ones that show off your accomplishments.
For example, if you have discussed several types of art mediums you enjoy, include photos of each, as opposed to five pictures of your watercolors, even if watercolors are the only ones that have earned you accolades. (Because your whole story includes your efforts with chalk and charcoal, too.)
If you love soccer, five images of yourself scoring goals will be redundant. Consider adding a photo of you working out with your teammates; or of your soccer jersey collection; or of whatever conveys more facets of your story. (After all, your ten-year relationship with soccer surely isn’t primarily about the goals you’ve scored…)
Students with just one or two activities can showcase those activities more deeply. If you do only make drawings in watercolor, for example, feature images that express variety another way, such as subject matter or color choice or even a progression of your art throughout high school, as opposed to five similar watercolors you produced for the same project with the same theme.
Or, if baseball is your thing, include all of the ways you express your passion — sure, you have some great photos of yourself in action as your high school team’s shortstop, but what about all those impromptu neighborhood street games you started in the summer and the trips to your favorite professional team’s stadium and the hours you spend playing catch while chatting with your best friend? Those are part of your story, too.
(Note: If you plan to use photos that feature friends or family, get their permission first.)
Prepare, then Share
If you open your ZeeMee account early in high school, you can upload possible content to your Photo Album as soon as you want. Later, when you are ready to put your video together for college applications, you can select the best photos, add captions and record your video responses.
To share your finished ZeeMee video with colleges, you’ll paste your video link on your applications ‘s ZeeMee field for partner schools. For other schools, you can add the link to the Additional Information or Anything Else You Want to Share section. Other options for sharing your ZeeMee video with colleges include adding it to your resume; mentioning it in a thank you note to the college; or emailing it to your regional admissions rep. Also consider providing your ZeeMee link to your school counselor and anyone who will be writing you a letter of recommendation — it can help them get to know you better, too!
Short and Sweet
The last tip is to make every second of your ZeeMee video count by targeting the things that are most important to your story; be thoughtful about every image, caption or video you include. And again, welcoming the viewer to your world from a more informal, homey, casual perspective will help you connect more authentically with your application reader. Think: heart and soul, not perfect and polished.
Will a well-done ZeeMee video alone get you admitted to a school? No, but it won’t hurt, and could help boost a borderline candidate’s admissibility or increase the odds for selection to a more competitive program.
It will also be good practice — it is highly probable that this college admissions video will be just one of many personal digital portfolios our technology savvy Snapchat Generation will create during their lives. In today’s world, says ZeeMee director Ethan Lin, “a digital identity is no longer an option.” Lin points out that students already have a professional side that their activities and academics and experiences all speak to; with ZeeMee, they can showcase their story in an easy-to-use smartphone app where they are in control of what they share.
And, the information found on these pages may be more current and complete than what’s posted on college search websites or that contained in college guides.
Check this out: the 2017 College Board College Handbook was printed in June, 2016 and is based on data provided to the CDS for 2015-16. The 2018 edition with 2016-17 data won’t come out for months.
But many colleges have already posted their 2016-17 CDS survey responses, with more up-to-date information. So why not get a jump on the 2018 handbook and go directly to “source documents” found on institutional research pages?
In your research, you’ll find that not every website or guide uses all the information available through the Common Data Set. Not all will provide details on wait lists or transfers. But once you get familiar with CDS questions and format, you’ll discover these details are usually there and very accessible.
In addition, you can research trends by looking at CDS data over a series of years. That’s a plus when looking at retention or graduation rates, where you always want to see improvement. The College of William and Mary is extraordinarily helpful in this way, posting full Common Data Sets from as far back as 1997-98.
Keep in mind that the CDS is a voluntary project in which colleges “self-report” information with little or no centralized technical support or oversight. In other words, the data can be inaccurate or slanted in ways that favor the institution.
Note that you can always cross reference the CDS with College Navigator. But even then, the data is only as good as that which colleges may be willing or able to provide, and it sometimes lags the most recent CDS posting.
In the way of an introduction, here is a tour of the basic Common Data Set:
If this kind of analysis gives you a headache, feel free to use comprehensive college search websites and guide books that aggregate and re-work the data into more user-friendly formats.
But if you can’t wait until mid-summer and like the idea of going directly to the source, visit the CDS webpages for colleges you are researching.
This is the second in a two-part series on the Common Data Set. For sample links to CDS webpages, go back to Part 1.
While colleges increasingly emphasize the value of “experiential” or “hands-on” learning within their own communities, high school students are discovering real benefits in setting aside time during their high school careers for internships or other out-of-classroom experiences. In fact, they are finding that internships provide amazing opportunities to gain significant work experience while exploring long-term career options.
But these opportunities don’t magically appear. You have to plan ahead and do a little networking.
And believe it or not, now is a good time to begin nailing-down plans for next summer.
Although college students usually stand at the front of the line for internships, businesses and nonprofit organizations are increasingly holding positions open for students currently in high school or those transitioning to college. But make no mistake—these positions are getting increasingly competitive. And many application deadlines are coming significantly earlier than in past years.
It may take advance planning and persistence, but opportunities are out there.
Going through the internship application process teaches much-needed job search and employment skills. Preparing a résumé, asking for recommendations, landing an interview, and understanding what it means to be a responsible employee are all skills that give high school students an edge in college and beyond.
And it’s no secret that internships strengthen college applications, as these opportunities introduce students to career fields or potential majors and reinforce valuable research or lab skills.
An internship helps students understand how professional organizations function in the real world. While learning and working, interns have the opportunity to refine career goals. In fact, a summer internship can serve as a “trial period” to test ideas about professions and industries without making any long-term commitments.
If you’re especially lucky, these kinds of opportunities can also lead to award-winning science fair projects, journal articles, or patents.
Where are the internships?
Local businesses and organizations sometimes have formal internship programs designed specifically for high school students. But for the most part, these programs do not offer housing and are usually limited to students able to commute or living in the immediate area.
For example, here is a sample of the many organizations making internships available to high school students in the Washington, DC area:
For a great list of opportunities outside of the DC area, check the webpages maintained by the Rochester Institute of Technology (scroll down for high school students and note that while the dates may not be updated the links are).
Be aware that some internship opportunities are “salaried” positions, some have stipends, and some are strictly volunteer. Again, they are generally highly competitive, and some deadlines may already be past. So make note for next year.
Also, many organizations don’t advertise the availability of summer internships. This is when you have to do a little investigative work on the internet and through other kind of public job listings. Use your networks—parents, relatives, family friends, teachers—anyone who may have contacts in businesses or organizations of interest to you. Internships, particularly for students at least 16 years of age, are great ways to get to know yourself a little better while building skills that will make you competitive for the future.
Nancy Griesemer is an independent educational consultant and founder of College Explorations LLC. She has written extensively and authoritatively about the college admissions process and related topics since 2009. Never miss one of Nancy’s articles – subscribe to her mailing list below.
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