Thomas Broderick

How to Approach the 2021-22 Common App Essay

The Common App provides many advantages for high school seniors applying to multiple colleges and universities. However, with convenience comes risk, mainly with the essay section. A poorly written essay goes out to every school, lowering applicants’ chances of college admissions success.

We at myKlovr want to make sure you have the tools you need to impress college admissions counselors. That’s why in this article, we’re breaking down the seven 2021-2022 Common App essay prompts with essential tips that will make your essay the best it can be.

Disclaimer: This advice does not contain every way a college applicant can write a compelling and persuasive Common App essay. Please brainstorm ideas and consult your English teacher for further advice.

1) Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

The first four words that stick out are ‘background,’ ‘identity,’ ‘interest,’ and ‘talent,’ giving you some freedom to select a topic. The phrase ‘incomplete without it,’ implies that you possess a passion for your subject and will reflect that in your essay, a narrative ‘story.’

Essential Tips:

  • Your essay should be a chronological narrative detailing how you became interested in a topic, how your passion grew, and what you did with that passion.
  • A narrative does not try to persuade.
    • It’s okay if readers don’t care about your passion. You’re not trying to convince them of anything.
  • Once you select a background/identity/interest/talent to write about, do not go off-topic.
    • Readers will expect to learn about just ONE thing.
  • Wrap up the essay by detailing how you plan to continue developing your background/identity/interest/talent in college.

2) The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?

Just like before, you have choices: challenge/setback/failure. Each has a different meaning:

  • Challenge: A challenge is a difficult event, but the word itself does not imply success or failure.
  • Setback: A setback implies a problem that stopped you in your tracks. However, it’s something you overcame.
  • Failure: Failure’s the easiest word on the list. You failed in what you set out to do.

The second part of the prompt is the challenge. Readers want to know about the obstacle’s effect on you as a person and how you changed as a result.

Essential Tips:

  • Avoid a negative tone.
    • Yes, your essay deals with an obstacle (not a positive experience), but the tone should remain positive.
  • Don’t assign blame.
    • If someone was the reason for your challenge/setback/failure, it’s best to think of another obstacle or attempt a different Common App prompt. You don’t want to imply that you still hold a grudge or consider yourself a victim.
  • Focus on what you learned.
    • For this essay, it’s not the story of the event that’s important but the way you grew as a person because of it. For this reason, try to limit your discussion of the event to 1-2 introductory paragraphs.

3) Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?

Here’s another two-part essay! And like other options, it asks you to describe an event and reflect on how you grew as a person.

Essential Tips:

  • Don’t be controversial.
    • Although adolescence is a time when people evaluate what they once thought were their foundational beliefs (e.g., religion, sexuality, etc.), these topics are best avoided in an essay. You don’t want to offend your readers.
  • A changed mindset equals changed actions.
    • Your changed mindset should have prompted you to take new actions in your day-to-day life. How did you become a better person?

4) Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you?

The key phrase for this essay prompt is ‘in a surprising way.’ Readers will want to be entertained and informed.

Essential Tips:

  • Use standard story structure.
    • Readers will want to know about your life before/during/after the surprising event. Consider the event as your story’s climax.
  • It’s okay not to be funny.
    • You’d think that ‘surprising way’ would denote humor. That’s not always the case. Any kind of emotion can prompt a change of heart.

5) Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.

Like with other prompts, the first thing you do is make a choice:

  • Accomplishment: A positive thing you did.
  • Event: A positive, neutral, or negative thing that you did or experienced.
  • Realization: A change of thinking.

Once you have something in mind, consider whether it led to personal growth AND how you view other people.

Essential Tips:

  • Stay positive.
    • Although your event may be negative in nature, your essay needs a happy ending.
  • Be specific.
    • The prompt’s phrase ‘other people’ can be just one person. In fact, writing about how the accomplishment/event/realization affected your relationship with just one person encourages a stronger bond with your reader.

6) Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?

Unlike previous prompts, topics, ideas, and concepts are pretty much the same thing. No need to break them down with bullet points.

Essential Tips:

  • Get nerdy.
    • ‘Passion’ is the key word for succeeding with this essay prompt. In your first draft, jot down every reason this topic/idea/concept enthralls you.
  • Be conversational.
    • Like some other essay prompts, it’s okay to think of your essay as a one-sided conversation. No need to be academic or formal.
  • Branch out.
    • The essay’s second part asks you to describe how your passion influenced you to learn more. Possibilities include learning a new language or picking up a new instrument. Maybe you read a ton of books on a subject before trying to write one of your own.

7) Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.

‘Any topic of your choice’ is a double-edged sword if there ever was one. To be honest, I wouldn’t recommend this prompt to someone who doesn’t enjoy writing in their free time. However, let’s explore some…

Essential Tips:

  • Be careful.
    • There’s a lot of freedom here, but think of your audience – busy college admissions advisors who want to know what you can contribute to their school.
  • Consider using a work sample.
    • The phrase ‘already written’ gives you the chance to include an academic paper, one that does not go over any word count limit. Like with any piece of writing, have another person read it and provide feedback.
  • Avoid controversy.
    • Seems obvious, but worth repeating. Avoid any topics that might offend your readers.

Final Thoughts

There’s a lot to unpack concerning the 2021-22 Common App essay options. My advice – play around with a few of the prompts. Jot down ideas and see which one allows you to express yourself and make a positive impression. Over the summer, write a few drafts you can hone leading into this fall’s college admissions season.

Good luck!

Laying the Groundwork for a Stellar Recommendation Letter

On a typical school day, the average high school teacher sees 150+ students. That’s a lot of names and faces to remember, especially 1-2 years later when a former student comes asking for a college recommendation letter.

Most teachers are happy to write a letter for students who ask nicely. However, with little to no memory of the student, they must rely on recommendation letter templates. Some teachers ask students to provide a mini-resume to cherry-pick which accomplishments or niceties they want to include in their letter.

Although teachers may have their heart in the right place, these canned responses aren’t the best when it comes to impressing college admissions counselors.

So, how do you get better recommendation letters from your teachers? It’s not about earning good grades and staying out of trouble. A stellar recommendation letter requires laying the groundwork well in advance. What does that mean, and how can myKlovr help you do it? Let’s find out.

Sophomore and Junior Years: Your Time to Make a Good Impression

Sophomore and junior years are crucial for plenty of reasons. You’re dedicating yourself to 1-2 extracurricular activities, and the grades you earn will have the biggest impact on what college admissions counselors think of your academic potential.

It’s also when you should be making a positive impression on your teachers, especially those teaching the subjects you may want to major in in college. Let’s break down some ways you can do this:

Ask for Help

Just because you enjoy a subject doesn’t mean you always earn the best grades. Some subjects are interesting but difficult to master. When you hit a roadblock, ask for help. Doing so features multiple advantages for a future recommendation letter:

  • Asking for help shows you possess the initiative and desire to improve.
  • You interact with a teacher outside of class, making you not just a face in the crowd.
  • College admissions counselors love an underdog story.

Let’s not forget that when you ask for help, you earn better grades and improve your GPA.

Participate in Class

As a former teacher, I write from experience when I say that the students I remember best are those who made a positive contribution to the classroom culture and those who … did the opposite. There were plenty of students ‘in the middle’ who made okay to good grades but left no impression on me whatsoever.

There are many ways you can make a good impression on a teacher, ensuring that they remember you when it comes time to ask for a letter:

  • Contribute to class discussions.
    • Don’t raise your hand every time the teacher asks for volunteers. But if you have something unique to contribute, go for it.
  • Help your peers who are struggling with the material.
    • Your teacher is only one person and can’t help everyone who needs one-on-one assistance. They will be thankful if you tutor one of your peers.
  • Go above and beyond.
    • You don’t have to do a lot. For example, I recall students who came to me and asked if they could modify one of my assignments. Some of their ideas expressed genuine creative thinking and impressed me greatly.

Join a School Club

Typical high school teachers advise 1-2 after-school clubs. This responsibility allows them to interact with students outside of class. Rising sophomores should take note of which clubs their teachers advise and consider joining one. In a club, you can demonstrate:

  • Your leadership skills.
  • Your ability to work as part of a team.
  • Your creativity.
  • Your commitment, dedication, and passion.

Also, don’t forget that staying with the same extracurricular activity for at least two years will make your college applications shine.

Keep a Work Portfolio 

myKlovr users receive a benefit no high school student should be without – a digital work portfolio. A portfolio allows you to save your best essays, art projects, and other pieces you can show your teacher when you ask for a recommendation letter. Bonus points if the work includes the teacher’s original comments/feedback. Seeing these notes might jog their memory and result in a well-written and thoughtful letter.

Final Thoughts

There are plenty of ways you can lay the groundwork for a stellar college recommendation letter. Consider the advice we’ve explored today and choose what works best for you. No matter what you decide, strive to make a positive and lasting impression on your teachers. What they remember about you may be the deciding factor on whether you attend your dream college.

Large, gray, neo-Gothic, granite college campus building, Georgetown Univ. campus.

College Accreditation: What You Need to Know

High school students and their families have a lot of questions about potential colleges. What majors does this school offer? What are the admission requirements? How can I be a competitive applicant? What about institutional financial aid?

The list goes on.

No matter your list of questions, I bet they all boil down to just one: Is this a good school?

Is this a good school? is a subjective question. Everyone will have a different opinion regarding a college’s academic offerings, campus, food, dorms, etc. But if you sweep away the opinions, and you’re left with one essential trait a school must have for it to be good:

The school must be accredited.

Schools without proper accreditation (there are plenty of them in the United States) may not offer students adequate learning outcomes. Also, some employers and graduate schools may not regard degrees from these schools as valid.

In this article, we’ll break down the three types of accreditation in order of importance and relevance to your college search.

Regional Accreditation

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) sets academic standards reputable colleges and universities must follow. However, the ED cannot pass judgment on the nation’s approximately 5,300 colleges and universities by itself. To ensure that all college students receive a satisfactory education, ED charters seven regional accreditation agencies. Each agency carries out the same mission in a specific group of states or U.S. territories.

Before you look at majors, dorms, or meal plans, ensure that a school possesses accreditation from one of these agencies. That’s your #1 priority.

myKlovr takes the guesswork out of regional accreditation when recommending schools to users. Each of the colleges and universities we feature is regionally accredited.

National Accreditation

Schools with national accreditation differ from those with regional accreditation in many ways:

  • Typical schools do not hire full-time faculty.
  • There may not be a library or other student services.
  • They are for-profit institutions answering to investors.
  • Their students may not qualify for some financial aid programs.
  • They focus on technical and career education.
  • They award credit that may not transfer to a regionally accredited school.

These differences put nationally accredited schools in a bad light. Yes, there have been controversies regarding shady national accreditation agencies accrediting substandard schools.

However…

Prospective online college students should attend a school possessing national accreditation from the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC). DEAC ensures that online learners receive the same educational experience as their on-campus peers. And although DEAC is a national accreditation agency, it follows regional accreditation standards when making evaluations.

Programmatic Accreditation

Programmatic accreditation agencies specialize in one academic subject, such as nursing, engineering, business, or theology. Academic departments pursue programmatic accreditation to improve their brand and increase enrollment.

One thing to note about programmatic accreditation agencies is that many evaluate only graduate programs. An undergraduate program without programmatic accreditation may not indicate anything negative about its quality.

Final Thoughts

Accreditation is a complicated business. However, if all the colleges on your shortlist possess regional accreditation, you’re 99% good to go. The final 1% involves online learners checking DEAC accreditation status and graduate students researching programmatic accreditation.

Handling Admission Deferrals

Getting into your dream school is great!

Getting rejected stinks!

But what about a deferral?

You probably haven’t considered how you’d react if a college told you, “Well…maybe. We’ll get back to you in a month or so. Until then, enjoy being on the waitlist. Later!”

Okay, colleges don’t say that last part, and, to be honest, it’s no fun waiting to see if a spot will open up.

In this article, we’ll discuss how you can handle admissions deferrals in a positive way that preserves your sanity and ensures that you finish your senior year strong.

Don’t Overanalyze It

First off, let’s make sure that a deferral doesn’t send you to a dark place. It would be far too easy to think, ‘Oh, if only I had been just a little bit better…earned one more good grade…studied more for that one AP Exam…et cetera ad infinitum.’

Take a deep breath. You’ll never know exactly why a school put you on the waitlist. Instead of the negative examples the previous paragraph highlights, maybe your dream school had a surplus of highly qualified candidates, you included. And maybe, just maybe, you are at the top of the waitlist, virtually guaranteeing an admission letter in May.

My best advice would be to allow that self-doubt to wash over you for no more than five minutes. It’ll happen no matter what, so get it out of the way early.

After that… 

Continue on Business as Usual

As you can’t change what will happen at this point, do your best to push the situation out of your mind. There’s still plenty to do between now and graduation day:

  • Final exams
  • AP/IB test
  • Making some good memories with friends
    • That’s important, too 🙂
  • Etc.

Focusing on what’s still on your plate will make time go faster. It really works.

A Bird in the Hand….

Now, I have my fingers crossed really tight that as you’re waiting to hear back, you’ll receive one or more acceptances from other schools. Hopefully, these letters will boost your spirits and make you feel better about yourself.

However, at this point, you have a dilemma. There’s at least one school that wants you, and one that hasn’t made up its mind. Do you go for the sure thing, or see what happens with the school that waitlisted you?

Before you decide, determine if you can wait it out. Maybe you’ll find out if you got off the waitlist before any other school’s deadline to commit. If so, waiting it out is no big deal. I recommend it.

But if deadlines make waiting it out impossible, it’s time to make a hard choice. If you have one or more ‘birds in the hand,’ do you let it go to wait on the one still hiding in the ‘bush’? In this case, I’d recommend choosing one of the schools that accepted you. Yes, it’ll be a bummer to let your dream school go, but you’ll be doing the right thing.

Final Thoughts

There’s a lot of uncertainty in these times, and I know that a deferral can make things even more stressful – stress you don’t need. So, if it happens to you, take a step back, set it aside, and push on.

Fingers crossed that only acceptances arrive in your mailbox this April.

Admissions Essays Are the New ACT/SAT Scores

Even though a vaccine for COVID-19 is coming sooner rather than later, the virus’ impact will continue to affect high school and college life in the coming year. One effect we at myKlovr noticed last spring was that more colleges and universities were becoming test-optional due to cancelled ACT and SAT test dates and the uncertainty around online testing.

This trend doesn’t seem to be slowing down for the fall 2021 college admissions season. Even if most of the United States receives a vaccine by the fall ACT/SAT test dates, it will be impossible to host 100% safe test sessions by then. As a result, colleges are making a safe bet by remaining test-optional in fall 2021.

Standardized tests were never a perfect way for college admissions counselors to measure applicants’ academic potential. But without them in the picture in fall 2021 – students who want to qualify for institutional scholarships will still need to take these tests – what will take their place in a college application portfolio?

The answer is something nearly all colleges and universities already require from freshman applicants: essays.

Yes, many schools are making admissions essays a more important part of candidates’ college application portfolio. That’s not to say that the essays were not essential in the past. They have always allowed prospective students to introduce themselves and argue why they should receive an offer of admission.

With essays the ‘make or break’ factor for many college applicants in fall 2021, this article will cover some no-nonsense and advanced tips to make your essays the best they can be

The Easy Stuff

Let’s review the easy stuff, three pieces of advice you’ve likely heard more than once regarding admissions essays.

Address the Prompt

Unless the prompt is ‘introduce yourself in any way you see fit,’ you need to address it to the best of your ability. Granted, your first draft will likely go off topic. That’s the point of a first draft. You have the chance to read each sentence and consider two vital questions:

  • Does this sentence address the prompt?
    • If ‘no,’ cut it out.
  • Is this sentence necessary to get across what I want to say?
    • Can I get rid of it?
    • Can I shorten it?

Have Someone Else Proofread it

As an English teacher, it was my job to catch students’ grammar mistakes and provide feedback. Admissions counselors, too, will notice any mistakes you make. As you know, each one isn’t going to do you any favors. The best way to avoid mistakes is to edit to the best of your ability before passing off your essays to a parent or teacher. Select an adult you know well. They will not only catch mistakes but also tell you if the essays are in your voice.

Also, if you ask your teacher, it doesn’t hurt to give them a little $5 gift card when they’re finished. They’re busy folks who didn’t have to critique your essays, after all. 

Don’t Be ‘Clever’

I’d bet that many smart and worthy college applicants didn’t get into their dream college because they tried to be ‘clever’ in their essays. In this case, ‘clever’ refers to trying to sound funnier and smarter than you actually are. Too much self-confidence and a big ego also fall into this category.

Avoiding the ‘clever’ trap involves writing the first draft from the heart. Try not to overthink as you address the prompt. If you can produce a draft that contains who you really are, feedback and editing can help you create an outstanding final product.

The Hard Stuff

Now that we’ve covered some admissions essay fundamentals, let’s look at two advanced tactics that will help your essays stand out from the competition.

Getting Started

As someone who writes for a living, I can attest that getting started with a piece is the hardest part. There will be a million thoughts spinning around your brain when you stare at that blank page for the first time. Those thoughts can lead to indecision and stress. The latter can make you feel that you’ve written 1,000 words even if the page remains blanks.

Here’s my plan for you.

I want you to get some actual paper and pens out. Write the essay prompt at the top and then put away the computer and other electronics. Listening to music is fine, as my experience as a teacher revealed that it helps some students concentrate.

What happens next, that depends on you. Brainstorming can take numerous shapes: word storms, mind mapping, and word banks, just to name a few. No matter which one you select, the point remains the same – getting your initial thoughts down on paper. No one will see them but you, so try your best to let go of excess anxiety.

I want you to fill that page up and then set it aside until the next day. Come back to your ideas ready to hunt for the best ones. Those ‘diamonds in the rough’ are your essay’s core. Use them to start writing the first draft.

The Final Edits

Imagine that it’s January-March 2022. At colleges and universities throughout the country, admissions counselors are reviewing applications. They must take extra care in reading essays, meaning that each decision takes longer than in years past. However, they must ensure that all prospective students receive a reply by early April. It’ll be a stressful time for them, to say the least.

Why bring this up? Knowing that essays are more important in fall 2021 means that you need to take a new look at the editing process, specifically when your essays are about 95% ready to submit.

At the 95% percent mark, you’ve accomplished the following:

  • Brainstormed
  • Wrote a rough first draft
  • Edited the rough first draft yourself
  • Asked an adult to provide feedback
  • Incorporated feedback into your essays
  • Made additional minor tweaks you think are necessary

In previous years, completing all of these steps meant your essays were ready to submit. But it’s 95% in fall 2021 because admissions counselors feel the time squeeze. That means your essays need to lose a little weight, even if they already come in below the maximum word count.

You should shave approximately 5% of the word count from your nearly completed essays. Shortening your work without losing any meaning makes admissions counselors’ job easier. They’ll also be impressed that you can write concisely.

When completing this stage, consider the following question when examining EVERY. SINGLE. WORD. Does this help get my point across? Maybe you don’t need that introductory clause, transition word, or brief aside.

When you take something out, reread the paragraph out loud. If it sounds fine, then you made the right choice. If it sounds off, err on the side of caution and put back the word or phrase.

Final Thoughts

College admissions essays are more essential than ever in fall 2021. But if you follow my advice, the writing/editing process can start and finish on a high note. Your essays will act as your loyal and eloquent ambassadors in the college admissions office.

Between now and next fall, practice writing any chance you get. Also, read a few good books. They’ll help you hone your writing and communication skills in more ways than you know.

AP Exams in May 2021: What You Need to Know

AP test-takers in May 2020 experienced difficulty navigating online testing. Many encountered IT issues affecting their testing experience and final score. These problems frustrated high school students and their families, as a good AP score equates to a stronger college application and the ability to earn a degree sooner than other undergraduates.

In this article, we’ll look at how the College Board is preparing for May 2021 by breaking down what they’ve changed in the last 12 months. We’ll also explore how myKlovr subscribers can use the service to earn the best score possible.

What Happened in 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic made companies around the world reevaluate how they do business. The College Board was no exception, as the company had only weeks to figure out how to administer AP exams safely.

Their solution was online, at-home testing. Unfortunately, approximately 1% of test-takers experienced IT issues, including the inability to upload work or submit answers. Students worried if their submission would count or if the College Board would allow them to retest.  Other questions concerned whether the newly developed online exams put students with disabilities or those with slower internet speeds at a disadvantage.

The College Board has had a year to fix the bugs that plagued some students and frustrated parents in 2020. Let’s see what changed!

A Look at May 2021

The first big change involves exam dates. The College Board created three testing windows. Let’s break them down:

  • Window #1: May 3-17
    • At-school testing
  • Window #2: May 18-28
    • At-home and at-school testing
  • Window #3: June 1-11
    • At home and at-school testing

At-school testing will resemble what high school students experienced before COVID-19 (There will be masks and perhaps a few plastic dividers this time). Also, multiple opportunities to give the same exam will allow schools to reduce the number of test-takers in the room, promoting social distancing.

What will online testing look like this year? The College Board’s detailed guide breaks down the technology requirements that students must satisfy before exam days, such as a fully charged computer and stable internet access.

Here are some key takeaways:

  • Students cannot return to unanswered questions.
  • There are now accommodations for students with disabilities.
  • The digital testing app allows students to continue working on an exam if their computer momentarily loses its internet connection.

Other benefits in 2021 include digital practice tests launching in April.

The testing experience in 2021 also solves a problem that many students experienced in 2020 – uploading work. In 2021, no AP exam requires test-takers to upload images or other files. That information should come as a relief to high school students.

Getting Ready for Exam Day with myKlovr

In the weeks leading up to your AP exams, use myKlovr to set goals for exam-day success. Your goals may include:

  • Studying for a certain number of hours each week.
    • Always a good idea.
  • Receiving one-on-one assistance from your AP teacher.
    • Ask them to review one of your free-response answers.
  • Downloading the AP exam app and taking a digital practice test.
    • Remember, a lot of exam-day stress comes from the unknown. You need to feel comfortable with online testing if you want to do your best.
  • Checking the latest updates from the College Board.
    • Although it’s unlikely anything will change before exams begin in May, please stay on top of the latest news.

Also, don’t forget that a myKlovr subscription includes tons of Young woman studying with laptop in college libraryresources at no additional cost.

Final Thoughts

Spring 2021 is a time of hope for many reasons, including the changes to online and in-person AP exams. Please reach out to us if you have additional questions regarding how myKlovr can help you prepare for exam day and college admissions.

Grit and Success

Overhead view of two students studying on a bench indoors

Grit is a short word describing a tremendously valuable personality trait that educators and parents wish they could teach children and young adults.

What’s grit? It’s a lot of things:

It’s not giving up in the face of adversity.

It’s possessing strong moral values.

It’s having the courage to take on new challenges.

It’s the desire to do something well.

It’s putting passion into your work.

In other words, grit makes someone successful in a rapidly changing world, no matter their age, level of education, or profession.

So, that’s what grit is. But knowing what something is doesn’t mean you can do it. Not yet, anyway. In this article, we’ll look at ways you can build up the traits that define grit and prepare for a successful college application season and beyond.

Where Do I Start with Grit?

Well, there’s good news, and there’s not-so-good news.

The Not-So-Good News

The main characteristics that define grit involve picking yourself up after failing at something. Failing is an unpleasant experience, but one we’re all familiar with in one way or another. Maybe it’s struggling with personal relationships or performing poorly in school. Whatever it is, grit begins at or near the bottom.

The Good News

The good news is that when you encounter failure, you have a choice about how to react. Now, doing so is MUCH easier said than done. However, like any other skill, practice makes perfect.

Starting Small

Everyone has something they do that instills feelings of joy and frustration. Maybe it’s a video game, sport, hobby, or any other passion. The point is that you already have a starting place to begin incorporating more grit into your life.

The next time you do that activity, take a mental note of why you persisted despite negative outcomes or emotions. What is it that drives you to continue? Everyone’s answer will be unique, but whatever it is, use that information to push yourself a little bit harder next time. Your chances of failure or frustration may increase, but these experiences will allow you to practice the traits defining grit in a small and safe environment.

Applying Grit to School and Life

Okay, so you have some grit, at least when it comes to an activity you enjoy. That’s great news because you can now consider applying these positive traits to other parts of your life, namely education.

Now, if you already earn good grades, you may wonder how grit can help you. Remember that grit has a lot to do with failure and that as you start taking more advanced courses and applying to colleges, failure or frustration will occur more. And let’s not forget that many college freshmen, even those who earned top grades in high school, struggle to adapt to new academic and social expectations. Those with grit push forward and succeed.

A simple way you can apply grit to your education is by taking a proactive approach to roadblocks or problems you encounter in school. This approach starts with asking questions:

  • Am I responsible for this negative outcome?
    • If so, what did I do?
  • What result did I want to happen?
    • This question helps you set a future goal.
  • How can I turn my goal into reality?
    • Talk to a teacher/counselor.
    • Ask for tutoring.
    • Find study materials online.

These questions also apply to issues surrounding interpersonal relationships with teachers and peers. As a teacher, I saw firsthand the relationship between perceived social acceptance and academic performance.

Improving Your Grit with myKlovr

We at myKlovr developed the first virtual college counseling service to prepare students like you to succeed in the college admissions process and beyond. Our services can also help you become a student with grit and better your college and career choices. Here’s how:

  • Set goals.
    • MyKlovr allows users to set academic and personal goals. As you think about building your persistence, set 1-2 goals for the near future. If you cannot accomplish your goals, reflect on what happened and what you can do when giving yourself a second chance.
      • Remember, start small.
    • Connect with your myKlovr network.
      • We encourage all users to add trusted adults (e.g., parents, teachers, counselors) to their unique myKlovr network. Ask people in your network how you can improve your grit.
    • Take career assessments.
      • MyKlovr’s career assessments help users research potential career paths. Discovering one or more options gives you the chance to start setting goals and pushing yourself to achieve them.
        • Users who take career assessments use the results to research potential undergraduate majors and the colleges offering them.
        • Career assessments also reveal users’ personal strengths, such as action-taker, visionary, and mentor. This information helps them identify areas where they apply grit regularly, as well as explains why they struggle in others.

Final Thoughts

Like chess, it takes minutes to learn what grit is and years to master it. Yet if you set reasonable goals, reflect on failure, reach out to trusted adults, and use myKlovr’s ample resources, you’ll have a good start in applying grit in your education and personal life.

Good luck with grit. No matter your plans for the future, you’ll need it.

Community Colleges in the Time of COVID-19

COVID-19 continues to disrupt education at all levels. College students throughout the United States find themselves studying from home while paying the same tuition they would if they were learning on campus. This disparity has led many degree-seekers to believe that the high prices aren’t worth it. Granted, some schools are slashing tuition to retain students. Yet many would-be college degree-seekers are forgoing their post-secondary education entirely.

Rather than pay too much for online education or enter the workforce right out of high school, I want to use this article to propose a different solution – community college. For decades, community colleges have helped students who couldn’t afford a four-year school advance their education and career. And as it seems that COVID-19 will continue to affect higher education for another year, it might be time for all high school seniors to consider what their local community college can offer them.

Let’s explore community colleges and how students who enroll can continue using myKlovr to meet their academic and career goals.

Community College: Facts and Misconceptions

Community colleges award associate degrees to learners who need a degree for career advancement or to transfer to a four-year college. Like four-year schools, community college offers academic majors, extracurricular activities, financial aid, and career resources. Learners who use the latter in tandem with myKlovr’s career assessments gain valuable insight into their long-term goals.

One vital misconception that many high-achieving high school students have about community college revolves around their reputation. There is the belief that they lack the prestige of four-year schools, and attending one ‘taints’ you in the eyes of the big-name colleges and universities.

This. Isn’t. True.

To put it another way, community college is one of the most practical options that all graduating high school seniors have this year. Yes, even community college students are learning online because of COVID-19. But they aren’t spending a fortune doing it.

Before Enrolling

If you decide to attend a local community college, consider how the school you select will affect your long-term academic and career plans. Public and private four-year schools use different transfer credit policies, such as a GPA cutoff and a transfer credit limit. Contact each school directly to learn about their transfer student admissions process.

Don’t forget to research community colleges with the same critical eye as you have done with four-year schools. Remember the key questions:

  • What majors does this school offer?
  • What services can students access if they need tutoring or other academic resources?
  • Does the school offer institutional financial aid? If so, how much?
  • Does the school award college credit for good AP/IB scores?
  • Does the school award college credit for passing challenge exams?

While in School

Consider your year (or two) in community college as a continuation of your high school experience. You’re still preparing to attend your dream college, so don’t forget about fostering relationships with teachers, you will need 1-2 to write you a recommendation letter. Also, consider joining a club or student organization. The college may not have on-campus courses next fall due to COVID-19, but some extracurricular activities may exist in a virtual or in-person format. 

Integration with myKlovr

MyKlovr’s functionality can help you stay on top of your academic goals as you work to transfer or look for employment. Start with myKlovr’s career assessments to research career paths. You may discover that your ideal job (at least an entry-level position) requires only an associate degree.

You can also ask your community college teachers and advisors to join your support network. Don’t forget about myKlovr’s academic tutors, essay writing assistance, and internship opportunities. High school and community college students benefit from these included services equally.

Final Thoughts

A lot is still up in the air regarding in-person college education over the next 12 months. Your community college experience may involve online courses and a less personalized educational experience than you desire. However, by starting your post-secondary education at a community college, you save on tuition and can apply these savings toward the latter half of your undergraduate education, and perhaps an advanced degree.

Image of three young people excited about volunteering.

Creating a Volunteer Movement at Your High School

Happy back to school, myKlovr readers. For most of you, school is A LOT different this fall with the COVID-19 pandemic making a proper return to school impossible. As you’re getting used to distance learning, a process that I guarantee is just as difficult for your teachers as it is for you, I want to introduce something you can do to enrich your learning experience.

In this article, we’ll take a look at creating a volunteer movement in your high school. As you’ve seen with our articles about Volunteer Crowd and Best Buddies, there are many ways to volunteer online and in person and share recommendations with your peers and teachers.

Why Create a Volunteer Movement Now?

There are plenty of good reasons to create a volunteer movement, but let’s focus on a few that apply to the here and now.

  • You Have More Time on Your Hands: Although online learning can be just as rigorous as the in-person experience, you have more free time due to not commuting, and, sadly, the lack of traditional extracurricular activities. As a result, you can explore new opportunities to fill your free hours. Volunteering and encouraging others to do the same is an excellent way to spend your time.
  • It Looks Good on a College Application: Starting a volunteer movement, especially one that involves a large number of your peers, can make your college application shine in college admission counselor’s eyes.
  • People in Your Community Need Help: The COVID-19 pandemic has made vulnerable groups even more so, and hundreds if not thousands of people in your local community fall into this category.

How Do I Make a Volunteer Proposal?

Once you decide to create a volunteer movement at your school, you need a proposal that will both do some good for people in need and inspire your peers to help out. Here are some questions to get you going.

  • What are the most pressing needs in my community which volunteers could impact?
  • What skills do my peers and I have that would benefit organizations that need volunteers?
  • How much time per week can my peers and I realistically dedicate to volunteering?
  • How can I create a volunteer movement that will inspire not just people in my grade but all learners at my school?
  • What role do I want to play in this volunteer movement? Leader? Coordinator? Participant?

How Do I Get People to Sign Up?

Now that you have a proposal, you need to get your message to your peers. Fortunately, taking classes online gives you an excellent way to communicate with other students. Let’s look at a few ways you can raise awareness and interest in your volunteering proposal.

  • Discussion Board: Using a classroom discussion board (ask your teacher in advance to set one up for you), you can reach out to your peers or perhaps the entire school. As with any proposal, write at least two drafts and have an adult, preferably your teacher, review it for clarity and grammar.
  • Ask Teachers/Administrators to Signal-Boost Your Ideas: Send your proposal to your teachers/principal to see if they would promote your ideas to the school’s students and staff. They can also offer you valuable feedback to make your proposal more successful.
  • Leverage Volunteer Crowd and Best Buddies: As you know from myKlovr’s other articles, VolunteerCrowd and Best Buddies allow students to volunteer virtually, an excellent option as in-person volunteering is impossible for most students right now. You can discuss these services’ advantages in your discussion board post or another communication method.

How Do I Keep the Movement Going?

Once your volunteer movement starts gaining students’ interest, you have to sustain that interest if you want your movement to last more than a few months. Here are a few ideas to keep your fellow volunteers engaged.

  • New volunteer projects each month.
  • Recognizing top volunteers.
  • Encouraging incoming freshmen with a presentation during a school assembly.

Personally, one thing I would avoid is trying to make volunteering a school graduation requirement. In my experience as a high school teacher, forcing high school-aged students to do anything can backfire tremendously. Also, people who genuinely want to volunteer are likely to do a much better job than those forced to do it.

Final Thoughts

“So shines a good deed in a weary world,” Willy Wonka once said by way of Shakespeare. The world is certainly weary right now, and any good deed has the potential to make our shared situation a little brighter. By creating a student volunteer program, you can make a lasting impact on your community. So, take some time between your Zoom classes and consider how you can help out those in need.

Do some good, myKlovr readers, and stay safe out there.

Three young women casually walking and talking, having fun

Best Buddies – An Excellent e-Volunteering Opportunity for High School Students

In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into Best Buddies International, an organization that supports individuals with intellectual disabilities. Best Buddies provides not only resources and inclusive living training but also One-to-One Friendships to those in need. These friendships involve pairing a volunteer with an individual Best Buddies serves.

The Best Buddies e-Buddies program allows volunteers of all ages to create a friendship with a person with disabilities. In this time when traditional volunteer opportunities are on hold, e-Buddies represents a great way for high school students to make a positive impact on someone’s life.

To learn more about Best Buddies’ mission and volunteer opportunities, I spoke with the organization’s Palm Beach, Florida, area director Tricia Williams. I believe that our conversation will convince you to reach out and make a new friend this summer.

Note: The author edited some responses for clarity and grammar. 

Thomas Broderick: What do you think are the biggest misconceptions about people with disabilities?

Tricia Williams: I think that the typical person is surprised at how much they learn from people with disabilities, as there is a misconception that we need to teach them. I have learned so much about compassion and resilience. Also, there are so many people with amazing skills at levels that others think they would not have because of their disabilities. I think of buddies who have amazing skills in accuracy fields, such as mathematics or measurement.

TB: Why is an organization like Best Buddies necessary?

TW: Best Buddies is necessary to help end the social, physical, and economic isolation of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). Our programs empower people with IDD by helping them form meaningful friendships, secure successful jobs, live independently, and feel valued by society.

TB: What do your volunteers (students or otherwise) say that their main reason for volunteering is?

TW: The main reason is getting to know someone who they believe needs their help or assistance. However, they quickly realize they have so much more to learn from people with disabilities.

TB: If I were a high school student interested in volunteering in the e-Buddies program, what advice would you give me about how to be a good buddy?

TW: A good buddy is just another word for a good friend. I would suggest that this is a friendship like any other but like none other at the same time. Your buddy wants to know all about you, and you should want to know all about him or her. Put in an equal amount of effort into getting to know each other. We have so much more in common than we know and we will only find this out by asking each other, ‘What’s your favorite snack?’, ‘What NFL team are you rooting for?’, ‘Do you prefer TikTok or Instagram?’ It is also important to be responsive often. Remember that there is someone on the other end of that email. Your response might be what they look forward to most in their day.

TB: Are there any other organizations you’d recommend where high school students can volunteer online?

TW: As you understand more about the IDD community, find ways to advocate. Don’t participate in offensive social media that mocks our community. Try to understand the differences so you can celebrate the similarities. Special Olympic athletes are also sitting on the sidelines like you and your football friends are. Best Buddies chapters are offering virtual Ambassador Trainings (those wanting to learn how to advocate for the IDD community), or you can join our virtual events, including yoga & dance classes or online games.

Final Thoughts

Pandemic and social unrest have complicated everyone’s life. While we may understand why these negative events are happening throughout the world, some people with intellectual disabilities cannot. This inability can cause fear, anger, and isolation. In other words, people with intellectual disabilities need a friend more than ever right now.

Finally, remember that as you start your e-Buddy journey, a new friendship will not only improve someone else’s life but also your own.

Person on a laptop computer using video conferencing

Virtual Volunteering and You

If you want to gain volunteering experience – an excellent addition to any college application portfolio – summer 2020 seems like the worst time to do it. The COVID-19 pandemic has made many traditional forms of volunteering impossible. However, organizations around the world need volunteers more than ever. But how to do it safely?

This month, we at myKlovr are examining virtual volunteering opportunities in a two-part series. In this article, please review some virtual volunteering basics. In Part II, we’ll look at one organization, Best Buddies International, which has made virtual volunteering an integral part of its mission to help people with intellectual disabilities.

What is Virtual Volunteering?

As the name suggests, virtual volunteering allows you to help an organization without interacting with other people directly. How does it work? Well, that depends on an organization’s needs. Here’s are some typical examples:

  • Making calls to raise money
  • Writing or editing documents
  • Developing educational materials with a team of volunteers
  • Creating a video
  • Creating a website
  • Making social media posts to raise awareness

How Do I Get Involved?

When you visit an organization’s website, first determine whether they have a virtual volunteering program and if your talents match their needs. If so, send an email to introduce yourself and describe how you can help. Form your email like you would a cover letter.

If an organization does not have a virtual volunteering program, you can still contact them and see if they could use your services. Many organizations that rely on in-person volunteers are struggling right now, and they may bring you aboard if you have a convincing pitch.

How Do I Do a Good Job?

Virtual volunteering resembles the WFH (work from home) many professionals have been doing these last few months. The tasks are approximately the same, but working from home has its challenges. There are plenty of fun distractions, many of which exist on the very computer you use to volunteer.

Virtual volunteering success is two-fold. One, ask your contact to provide you with a solid deadline for your work. Second, create a schedule that provides some break times that are away from the computer or phone you use for volunteering. Until the workday is over, you want to keep your electronics – or at least some of them – for work only.

Another challenge that WFH poses to both employees and volunteers involves communication. If you receive an email or text that you don’t quite get, always clarify. It may feel a bit embarrassing, but many adults – me included – make mistakes when juggling emails with the tons of other things we’re doing online.

Can I Get a Reference?

Before we discuss references, let’s briefly talk about another advantage that virtual volunteering can bring to your college application portfolio. As you volunteer from home, keep track of all work you complete, especially if you’re creating products such as website copy or illustrations. A sample of one of these can make a great addition to a college application.

Back to the references. Just like asking your teacher for a reference, do so as politely as possible. To increase your odds of a great reference, make sure you communicate with your contact person effectively throughout your volunteering experience. Respond to emails in a timely manner and turn in work on time.

As your volunteering time wraps up, make sure to ask nicely and let them know that you’ll be in touch with details once you know which colleges you’ll apply to. In the meantime, send an email every so often to keep them person updated, and maybe ask if you can do anything else for them.

Final Thoughts

COVID-19 has made volunteering incredibly complicated but far from impossible. If you offer your talents to an organization that does some good in the world, they’re likely to accept your help. If you’re forthright and do your best every day, you’re likely to have a positive virtual volunteering experience that will set you up for college admission success.

Student Loans and You

I want you to imagine $1,560,000,000,000 – 1.56 TRILLION dollars. That’s approximately the annual GDP of Russia. With that amount of money, you could buy everything Thailand, Iran, and Austria make in a year and still have enough left over to purchase the entire NFL.

That massive pile of cash also represents the student loan debt Americans held in 2019.

Student loans are a serious business, and many Americans are struggling to pay them back. As this is an election year, you’ve probably heard candidates talk about their proposals to address this pressing issue.

In this article, we’ll discuss some student loan basics, as well as how myKlovr is trying to make the process easier and safer for users like you.

When to Consider Student Loans

Out of all the ways to pay for college, you should consider student loans as your last resort. Now, don’t get me wrong. Student loans, like credit cards, aren’t inherently evil or wicked. It’s just that, in general, it’s incredibly easy for young Americans to get in way over their heads with debt. Entire books have been written on this topic, so I’ll spare you the details.

Before we tackle student loans, let’s explore some of the – mostly – risk-free alternatives to funding your college education.

Scholarships

Pros: In my humble opinion, scholarships represent the absolute best way for you to pay for college. And with the internet, it’s easier than ever to search for and apply to them. Also, many colleges and universities award automatic merit-based scholarships to incoming students with an excellent high school GPA and outstanding ACT/SAT scores.

Cons: Like grants, scholarships have many stipulations that you must meet for them to renew. For example, a scholarship may require that you maintain a minimum 3.0 GPA every semester of college. For you, who likely earns excellent grades in high school, that requirement may not seem like a big deal. However, remember that college can throw you curveballs, and many students struggle their freshman year.

Grants

Pros: Grants, like scholarships, require no repayment. They’re literally free money. Also, too, many schools award them to eligible students automatically.

Cons: Most grants are need-based, meaning that if your parents make over a certain amount of money, you don’t qualify even if your parents do not intend to contribute one red cent to your college education.

The Bank of Mom and Dad

Pros: Who doesn’t love the Bank of Mom and Dad? I did. But why did I put it at the bottom of this list? Well, the Bank of Mom and Dad will be most likely to chip in if you can show them you’ve already earned some scholarships and grants. Also, the less they have to help you out, the more likely they are to do so. They love you and all, but they also have a mortgage, need a new carpet, and, you know, dad’s 401(k) just took a hit…

Cons: Money issues rank at the top of the list of things that families fight over. And the more your parents contribute to your education, the more influence they have over you. If they want you to be a doctor or lawyer, and you want to be one, too, that’s cool. But let’s say you want to change your major to something…less financially lucrative. That could cause some serious friction between you and your folks.

Now that we’ve discussed the best ways to pay for college without loans, let’s get into debt!

What Types of Loans Are There?

Just like in the previous section, I’ve listed loan types by my personal preference. In other words, start at the top and work your way down.

Federally Subsidized

As the name suggests, federally subsidized loans are those the federal government provides college students. Both subsidized and unsubsidized loans have annual limits, meaning you can only borrow so much money each year. Also, federal loans have much lower interest rates than private loans.

So why are subsidized loans at the top of this list? One reason – interest does not start accruing until you graduate. This simple fact can save you thousands of dollars down the road.

Federally Unsubsidized

Once you exhaust federally subsidized loans, you may need to take out some unsubsidized loans. Yes, the interest will start compounding from day one, but they pose less risk than…

Private

Starting about 20 years ago, skyrocketing tuition rates made it impossible for many college students to fund their education with only scholarships, grants, and federal loans. The private market jumped in to fill the gap – easy credit with high-interest rates attached.

Then the Great Recession happened.

After 2009, the private student loan market contracted significantly, and today, most private loans require a co-signer (e.g., your parents) who is also legally responsible for paying back the loan. Fortunately for you, most private loans in 2020 are significantly less predatory than they were pre-2009. However, higher interest rates mean that you will end up paying more over time.

Who Can Help Me Choose the Right Loan(s)?

As private loans are where many college students get into financial trouble, we at myKlovr want to provide you with tools that can help you explore private loan options that best fit your needs. That’s why we’ve partnered with GradFin, a financial services company that works with college students and graduates to both select the right loans and create a payment plan that promotes long-term financial stability.

In the near future, myKlovr users will be able to take advantage of GradFin’s many services, including:

  • Loan searching
  • Refinancing
  • Debt forgiveness

Throughout the process, GradFin experts work with users one-on-one to create a bespoke plan that features loans with the lowest interest rates.

Additionally, GradFin will offer its services to myKlovr users at no additional cost.

Final Thoughts

As we wrap up, let’s take a moment to consider how much debt is too much debt.

Simple Answer: It depends on you.

Complex Answer: As you begin exploring student loans, consider your academic and career goals. Is the job market that aligns with your intended major soft right now? Are average salaries lower than you expected? If the answer to either question is ‘yes,’ you may want to consider cheaper colleges and universities.

Finally, no matter which school you attend, myKlovr and GradFin will help you make the right decisions regarding your academic and financial future.

Looking down at my own sneakers, the pavement covered in arrows pointing in all directions

How to Pick a College

When it comes to college admissions, the problem you don’t want – a problem that you’ve probably considered numerous times – involves not receiving an acceptance letter from any of your top-choice schools.

That would stink.

But there is another problem, one that I would bet has yet to cross your mind.

What if all of (or most of) your top-choice schools accept you?

Yes, for some of you, there will come a day when you open your digital or physical mailbox and find it stuffed to the gills with acceptances. It didn’t happen to me, but I’m sure your first emotion will be sheer giddiness.

But after the excitement fades, you’ll be faced with a unique problem – which one do you choose? You’ll have 30 days or fewer to make up your mind. Additionally, let’s not forget that during that time, you’ll still have to study for a slew of exams, including AP/IB.

That’s a lot of stress.

In this article, we’ll discuss the three most vital things to keep in mind as you weigh your options. 

Academic Offerings

Let’s discuss your future academic major. Now, you may not know which one you’ll pick, and there’s always the chance that you’ll change your mind halfway through freshman year. Even so, it’s time to compare what each of your top schools offers.

The first thing you’ll probably notice is that most top schools feature the same majors. That’s not much help. What can help is when you deep dive into each program’s academic requirements. Here are some questions to keep in mind while performing research. (Note: You should ask these questions not just for each school but also for each major you’re considering.)

  • What are the graduation requirements?
  • What electives/concentrations/specializations does this program offer?
  • Does this program have a special feature, such as a unique study-abroad program?
  • If I select this major, can I perform research as an undergraduate?
    • This question is REALLY important if you want to go to graduate school.
    • Related question: What is this program’s graduate school acceptance rate?
  • Can I complete a second major or a minor in a different area?
  • What career services does the school offer?

If you can find answers to these questions, the differences between your top schools should become more apparent. In other words, you’ll know how each school meets your academic needs and expectations.

Cost

After academic offerings comes cost. Top schools often charge top dollar, and although you won’t know about financial aid for a while, it’s time to run through a few hypotheticals. Here’s what you can do now.

  • Find out exactly how much – if anything – your parents will contribute to your college education.
  • Start researching your top school’s scholarship websites. Many have a search engine with the latest scholarship opportunities, requirements, and deadlines.
    • If possible, begin preparing scholarship application materials even before you know about an acceptance. Many schools have similar requirements.
  • Research what current students are saying online.
    • How much institutional financial aid did they receive?
    • What are the best scholarship websites?
    • What are the worst financial aid traps?
    • Do current and former students regret attending because of the cost?

As you perform these and other tasks, keep in mind that in the vast majority of cases, it is not worth going into debt to attend college. So, if you don’t want to say no to your dream school, start racking up the scholarship and grant dollars ASAP.

Personal Preference

So, let’s get back to the beginning of this article. All of your top schools said yes. Also, potential majors look good at all of them. Additionally, these schools are offering you a full ride, or you have attained the necessary scholarships and grants. If all of these wonderful things should happen, what do you do then?

Besides flipping a coin or throwing a dart at a board, it’s once again time to dig deep and consider your personal preferences. Maybe some of your high school friends are attending School A, while at School B, you wouldn’t have to have a roommate. Maybe School C has pleasant weather all year round.

In other words, if all of the choices are great, it’s up to you, which, at 18 years old, can seem like an impossible decision. Even if it’s just between two schools, go with what feels right. Yes, you’ll set aside a whole world of possibilities by saying ‘no’ to one or more great schools, but you’ll also be saying ‘yes’ to what I’m sure will be an incredible four years.   

Final Thoughts

Let me restate this article’s most important point – think about these ‘what-ifs’ now. As with anything college application-related, the sooner you start putting in the work, the easier the process becomes.

Lastly, wishing you a mailbox full of ‘fat envelopes’ this spring.

Large, gray, neo-Gothic, granite college campus building, Georgetown Univ. campus.

Fall 2020 College Admissions and You

This month, myKlovr is taking a look at how college admissions will change this fall due to the COVID-19 epidemic. Our coverage has two parts. In this article, we’ll discuss changes that affect all upcoming high school seniors. In Part II, we’ll look at specific issues related to student-athletes and college recruiting.

Last Minute College Tours

Haven’t finalized which colleges are on your shortlist? Traditionally, now would be the time to take that last-minute college tour. However, as we don’t know which schools will have in-person tours this fall, it’s time to think virtual. To get you started, head over to my recent article on the topic. Please give it a read before you continue with this section.

So, let’s assume that fall is safe enough for colleges to allow students back on campus and for you to take a tour. Even so, colleges may still have restrictions in place that protect faculty, staff, and students. For example, your tour guide may not let you see inside many (or any) campus buildings.

To help you get a better view of campus life, try YouTube. I guarantee that for nearly every college and university in the country, there is at least one video wherein a student shows off a dorm room, lecture hall, or dining hall. It may not be a perfect substitute, but seeing what real students have to say is just as invaluable as taking a tour.

Standardized Tests

In response to COVID-19, some schools are dropping the standardized test requirement. And although the College Board has yet to make a final decision, they’re already designing an online SAT that students can take at home. It would be a tremendously different testing experience – one wherein the College Board can monitor test-takers from their computer’s camera and lock out all other software applications to prevent cheating.

Even though we don’t know what the future will bring on this front, the College Board is still offering fall 2020 in-person testing dates. My advice – sign up for a test date and continue studying.

 One final thing to keep in mind is that even if colleges on your shortlist no longer ask for standardized test scores, lucrative scholarship opportunities may require them. For that reason alone, aim for the highest score you can achieve. 

Junior Year Grades

Did quarantining at home this spring throw your junior-year grades into uncertainty? Underperform due to stress? If so, you’re not alone. I’d say that every upcoming high school senior is in the same boat as you.

I don’t have a Magic Eight Ball, but I have an idea of how high schools around the country, despite their varying eLearning policies, will help college applicants like you. Normally, when you apply to a college or university, your high school sends them a short document that discusses its course availability, extracurricular actives, and grading policies. I suspect that this fall that high schools will also include another document that describes how it rolled out distance learning during the quarantine and how grading policies changed.

But if this document never materializes, you still have two options to explain to colleges why your grades may have dipped this spring.

Essays and Recommendation Letters

Although no teacher or student was 100% prepared for online learning last spring, you can still take some time in your essay to discuss how you rose to these challenges and still attempted to do your best work despite the rapidly evolving situation. As always, be descriptive so that admission counselors obtain a clear picture of how COVID-19 affected not only your academic performance but also the learning experience.

The same advice can apply to recommendation letters. If possible, ask your teachers if they could explain how they modified academic expectations/assignments/etc. Details from teachers will complement what you write in your personal essay.

Final Thoughts

Unfortunately, we live in interesting times, and as a result, I want to assure you that college admission counselors understand that this year’s crop of applicants will have a unique academic and personal story to tell. At least for the next 12 months, the concept of the ‘ideal college applicant’ is significantly different than what you were led to believe.

Colleges may regard how you reacted these last few months as a strong indicator or your academic and personal potential. They may see you as a valuable addition to their school, even if your grades slipped or you didn’t earn as high an SAT/ACT score as you wanted.

In other words, trying your best is both all you can do and what you should do right now.

Football player standing alone on the tunnel into a stadium

Fall 2020 College Admissions and Student-Athletes

As we discussed in Part I, college admissions this fall will look VERY different than what students like you were expecting. In this article, we’ll look at advice for upcoming seniors who are student-athletes.

To learn more about how COVID-19 is affecting college recruitment  – and what student-athletes like you can do in these trying times – I reached out to Steve Britschgi, founder and president of Advocates for Athletes (A4A). From standardized test preparation to skills videos, A4A offers a variety of services custom-tailored to each student-athlete’s needs.

Note: Some answers have been edited/condensed for clarity. 

Thomas: What questions do you hear most these days from current and potential clients? ​

Steve: By far, the two most common questions I hear daily are ‘Do you think there will be summer AAU competition, showcases, or college camps?’ and ‘Do you think there will be fall high school sports?’ My answer is that it’s all speculation at this point, so you just have to make sure that you are ready to go when your sport does open up. Use this extra time to work even harder to get ahead of the competition. So many things you can do, the simplest of which are pushups and sit-ups. There are also so many creative ways to keep in shape, get stronger, faster. At A4A, we are setting written goals for our athletes to work on turning any weaknesses into strengths at this time.

T: This fall, it’s likely that some schools and districts will remain closed while others open up again. How do you think recruiters will try to give student-athletes who can’t yet play competitively a fair shot at recruitment? ​

S: Hard to say! That’s the million-dollar question right now. Without being able to watch an athlete play, it’s hard to recruit them. How do you give them a fair shot? It’s tough unless they have credibility from the year before or the coaches already know who they are. Coaches cannot recruit on just a resume. They have to know what they are getting, especially if scholarship dollars are involved. And, again, it will make it that much more difficult If there is no summer competition or camps to watch athletes perform (which I believe there will not be).

So, how will recruiters give a fair shot? Not sure, but if you present yourself the right way and do all the right things, you will make the recruiters’ job easier. Combination of film, resume, reputable references, character of the athlete, passion for the sport, GPA, work ethic, interview, past stats and their height, weight, strength, speed as it pertains to the athlete’s sport. That’s where the creativity comes in.

T: It seems that college coaches (like the students and families that you serve) are still trying to figure everything out. One suggestion I’ve seen is that student-athletes record themselves. What advice would you give to a student-athlete who wants to create a video but plays a team sport? After all, it’s not safe right now for teammates to meet up.

S: Do it!! Film a workout; film yourself doing drills that pertain to your position. If you are a pitcher, film a bullpen. If you are a QB, show your arm and footwork. If you are a lineman, show your strength and get off the line. If you are a basketball player, show your array of shots, form, footwork, dribbling, hops, etc. If you need to get your dad or brother or sister to help, do it! But look good in the video and go all out. First impressions last forever so make it a good one. Then send with a well-written letter/email and film that looks good. Keep it to 3 minutes and make sure it can be seen, not grainy…clear! 

Biggest mistake that an aspiring athlete to make is to sit back and wait…wait for what?? Have to be proactive and then have to be persistent. BUT make sure you are being honest with your ability and send to schools in NCAA, NAIA, NCCAA divisions that you have a true shot playing in/at.

T: Have you heard anything from your high school and college contacts regarding keeping players and spectators safe in the coming months? Even if nothing’s 100% decided, I think readers would like to know what ideas are being proposed.

S: It is still too early at this point to speculate but I have heard ideas about no fans at games, keeping them 6ft apart in line, 6ft apart in the stands, mandatory masks, letting a certain number of people in attendance, regulating the inflow and outflow. I am sure that going forward, that will be a huge topic of discussion for all levels of sporting events. 

But players are a different story. How do you keep them safe? I do not know! Take football players, for example. Twenty-two guys on the same field at the same time, a foot apart on the line of scrimmage, sweating, spitting, and tackling. I have not heard any ways to change the game to make these athletes safer. I don’t know how they can. This is all new for all of us, so I am sure we are going to be hearing a lot of different ideas in the very near future. Safety over money is and should be the number one concern.

This from NCAA President Mark Emmert: “All of the Division I commissioners and every president that I’ve talked to is in clear agreement: If you don’t have students on campus, you don’t have student-athletes on campus,” Emmert said. “That doesn’t mean it has to be up and running in the full normal model, but you’ve got to treat the health and well-being of the athletes at least as much as the regular students. So, if a school doesn’t reopen, then they’re not going to be playing sports. It’s really that simple.”

T: Finally, COVID has brought uncertainty to nearly every economic sector. Have you seen an impact, and even if not, are you considering tweaking your business model (e.g., offering new or modified services)? I ask as it relates to what clients might encounter in the next 1-2 years. ​ 

S: A4A has seen a slight impact as some families are understandably needing to tighten their belts and watching their money closer. Most see engaging in A4A as an investment, though. Our fee is very reasonable, and the return on investment, say a scholarship worth $80,000, is a pretty darn good return on the fee they pay.

No plans to change our model. We started working with out-of-state athletes a few years back so we were forced to go with FaceTime and Zoom meetings. You see, we meet with these student-athletes for about an hour a meeting, setting goals, creating a plan, researching schools, writing emails, etc. Who would have known that was the way we would be meeting with all of our athletes today…..via video. That has worked out very well for us.  

However, every athlete is different, so we can create a personalized plan based on who they are and what their needs are. We continue to listen and adapt as necessary. That’s what keeps what we are doing fresh with each new client.

Final Thoughts

Student-athletes applying to college this fall certainly have plenty of challenges when it comes to the admission process. However, there are still numerous ways that they can network with – and most importantly, impress — college recruiters and coaches. If you are a high school student-athlete, I recommend that you visit the A4A website and learn more about their excellent services.

Finally, to all the student-athletes out there, keep honing your skills and try your best to stay healthy as possible.

A stack of books on the grass in a college campus courtyard

Handling Admission Deferrals

Getting into your dream school is great!

Getting rejected stinks!

But what about a deferral?

You probably haven’t considered how you’d react if a college told you, “Well…maybe. We’ll get back to you in a month or so. Until then, enjoy being on the waitlist. Laters!”

Okay, colleges don’t say that last part, and, to be honest, it’s no fun waiting to see if a spot will open up.

In this article, we’ll discuss how you can handle admissions deferrals in a positive way that preserves your sanity and ensures that you finish your senior year strong.

Don’t Overanalyze It

First off, let’s make sure that a deferral doesn’t send you to a dark place. It would be far too easy to think, ‘Oh, if only I had been just a little bit better…earned one more good grade…studied more for that one AP Exam…et cetera ad infinitum.’

Take a deep breath. You’ll never know exactly why a school put you on the waitlist. Instead of the negative examples the previous paragraph highlights, maybe your dream school had a surplus of highly qualified candidates, you included. And maybe, just maybe, you are at the top of the waitlist, virtually guaranteeing an admission letter in May.

My best advice would be to allow that self-doubt to wash over you for no more than five minutes. It’ll happen no matter what, so get it out of the way early.

After that… 

Continue on Business as Usual

As you can’t change what will happen at this point, do your best to push the situation out of your mind. There’s still plenty to do between now and graduation day:

  • Final exams
  • AP/IB test
  • Making some good memories with friends
    • That’s important, too 🙂
  • Etc.

Focusing on what’s still on your plate will make time go faster. It really works.

A Bird in the Hand….

Now, I have my fingers crossed really tight that as you’re waiting to hear back, you’ll receive one or more acceptances from other schools. Hopefully, these letters will boost your spirits and make you feel better about yourself.

However, at this point, you have a dilemma. There’s at least one school that wants you, and one that hasn’t made up its mind. Do you go for the sure thing, or see what happens with the school that waitlisted you?

Before you decide, determine if you can wait it out. Maybe you’ll find out if you got off the waitlist before any other school’s deadline to commit. If so, waiting it out is no big deal. I recommend it.

But if deadlines make waiting it out impossible, it’s time to make a hard choice. If you have one or more ‘birds in the hand,’ do you let it go to wait on the one still hiding in the ‘bush’? In this case, I’d recommend choosing one of the schools that accepted you. Yes, it’ll be a bummer to let your dream school go, but you’ll be doing the right thing.

Final Thoughts

There’s a lot of uncertainty in these times, and I know that a deferral can make things even more stressful – stress you don’t need. So, if it happens to you, take a step back, set it aside, and push on.

Fingers crossed that only acceptances arrive in your mailbox this April.

Dice with letters spelling Stay Home or Stay Safe

Transitioning to College in the Time of COVID-19

COVID-19 has brought innumerable challenges to American life, too many for any one article to list. For high school students such as yourself, classes may have gone online or stopped altogether. So much seems up in the air right now.

And what about college in the fall? What’s going to happen then?

In this article, we’ll take stock of the situation – examine a few ways that the current pandemic will (and might) affect your life in the coming months, as well as discuss how you can react healthily.

AP/IB Exams

The College Board has risen to an immense challenge by revamping its AP Exams so that students can take them from home. As information might change, please use this link to receive the most up-to-date information about each test’s new format.

Additionally, the International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO) has canceled all May 2020 exams for high school juniors and seniors. The IBO will award diplomas to seniors based on the grades a high school reports.

What You Can Do: If you still have AP Exams in the future, keep studying for them. Although they’re shorter this year – and maybe next year – the graders will have the same high standards when they review your work over the summer.

Graduation Day

When I think about all the teachers out there working tirelessly to ensure that students can keep up with schoolwork at home, I know they haven’t forgotten you and all that you’ve accomplished over the last four years. However, large gatherings are likely out of the picture for the next few months. The following are two ideas that your school might adopt to ensure that you’re recognized on graduation day.

Going Digital

Some countries battling COVID-19 have already adopted elaborate virtual graduation ceremonies. Although these ceremonies are pricier than what your school may be able to afford, who knows. Also, don’t expect your entire senior class to have to call into a Zoom chat on graduation day. Even if one chat could handle that many people at once, it would be impractical, to say the least.

One option that comes to mind is that teachers create a series of videos that not only mimic the traditional graduation experience but also give each teacher the chance to address and recognize students that he/she knows well.

Your school may have other plans for a digital graduation. But if you liked my idea – or come up with a few of your own – feel free to contact your high school principal.

Delay

The other option is that some schools might schedule a graduation ceremony at a later date. At that time, your principal may decide to host multiple ceremonies – each would recognize a small group of seniors to limit the number of people in attendance. Additionally, your school might forbid guests and instead steam the ceremony live so family members can view it at home.

What You Can Do: Recognize that graduation day won’t be what you and your family imagined. If this fact makes you sad or angry, that’s okay. You and your immediate family members can still celebrate your accomplishment at home, and once it’s safe, celebrate with others.

Fall 2020

With all that’s been going on, Fall 2020 – your first year of college — may seem like a lifetime from now. For the purposes of this article, let’s assume that by the time August rolls around, the situation with COVID-19 will be a lot less scary, but not completely safe yet. That brings us to…

Fall (and Maybe Spring) Semester at Home

There’s a good chance that the online learning colleges and universities are mandating now will still take place during the fall semester. The main issue is space – cramped dormitories and lecture halls are the perfect environment for a virus to spread (Why do you think you need a meningitis vaccine before going to college?). As a result, it’s a safe bet that you’ll be staying at home for your first semester as an undergraduate.

How about spring 2021? That depends on how much COVID-19 infections change during the winter months – a time when other viruses like the flu and colds reach their peak. For now, all I can say is, “We’ll see” and “Hope for the best.”

What You Can Do: If you know which college or university you’re going to attend in the fall, keep up to date with their COVID-19 policies throughout the summer. As always, be sure to reach out with questions if you have them.

Final Thoughts

These are trying times, and, regrettably, the milestones you had looked forward to for so long will not be what you expected. If nothing else, take solace in the fact that the college experience you want will happen. You might arrive on campus a few months later than you anticipated, and campus life may be a little different than what you thought. But it will happen. That, I guarantee.

But for now, stay inside and stay safe.

Person typing on laptop computer

Virtual College Tours and You

COVID-19 has disrupted college life more than any event in recent history. The last few months have seen college dorms empty, professors learning to teach courses online, and undergraduates adjusting to a new and uncertain academic environment. However, colleges around the nation still strive to provide essential services, including recruitment.

Traditionally, campuses invite prospective students to take an on-campus tour. However, with schools likely closed through the summer, admission officials have thought up new ways to give you a taste of on-campus life without putting you or family members at risk.

In this article, we’ll examine three topics:

  • How colleges and universities throughout the country are launching virtual tours
  • How the experience differs from an in-person tour
  • How to make the most of your virtual tour experience

How are Universities Responding?

If you go on a college website these days, you’ll likely find a link at the top of the page that goes into detail concerning that school’s COVID-19 response. There, you’ll discover similar information no matter the school – the campus is closed, student and career services are now entirely online, etc.

While some schools have quickly developed a virtual college tour, others lack the resources to create one or don’t have them ready yet. If schools you want to know more about do not offer a virtual tour, you can still create your own using the steps ACT recommends. Other reputable organizations provide valuable tips, as well.

Don’t forget that you can always learn more about a college or university by contacting professionals in the admission department. Although these individuals are working from home, they can still answer your most pressing questions.

What’s It Like Going on a Virtual Tour?

Let’s focus on one excellent example of a virtual tour – Seattle University. As the institution is located in the heart of the COVID-19 epidemic, school officials have launched a virtual tour platform to give you the on-campus experience at home.

Using a smartphone or computer, you log on to the Seattle University tour. The tour consists of a prerecorded tour guide who takes you through the campus’ main buildings. Using the arrows at the bottom of the screen, you can take a ‘stroll’ through campus while learning valuable information. Seattle University’s virtual tour also includes a checklist that shows which campus highlights you have already reviewed.

Finally, even if schools on your shortlist have not yet developed a virtual tour like Seattle University’s, be sure to check back often. They should have something in place soon.

How Can I Make the Most of the Experience?

Unlike a traditional college tour, a virtual tour gives you the chance to backtrack and revisit at your leisure. While viewing the tour, be sure to take notes of your first impressions and any questions that come to mind (i.e., These are things you should do anyway during an in-person college tour.). Afterward, follow the same steps you would take after an in-person tour – email admission department advisors with your question.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, in the coming months, college campuses will once again open their doors to current and prospective students. Even when that happens, though, virtual tours will remain a pillar of each college’s recruitment drive. After all, not all high school students and their families have the time or money to make the trip.

So, in the meantime, enjoy your virtual tours, reach out to a school if you have questions, and stay safe indoors.

Beach Party

Maintaining Your Grades After You’re Admitted to College

You’ve gotten your letter. You’ve been admitted to college. In a millisecond, that great physical and mental engine that you’ve been revving for the last four years – the one dedicated to getting into the best college – shuts off. The chaos is over, and you can use that now-cooling engine’s remaining momentum to coast over the finish line that is high school graduation.

There’s a terrific contradiction at the heart of each college-bound high school student’s senior year. On the one hand, it’s a time of tremendous work and worry. You have college applications, honors and AP courses, and who knows what else to juggle.

And then comes the moment you know which college you’re going to attend.

The work is over and you just want to coast.

Doesn’t that sound absolutely glorious?

Indeed, it does.

However, this appealing mindset gets more than a few high school seniors in trouble each year. For some, it means attending a few too many high school parties, getting into trouble, and losing a college acceptance. For others, it means letting their grades and test scores slip and losing a scholarship.

Let’s talk about that second trap. Even if you have an acceptance in hand – which is amazing – it’s time to live up to that acceptance by finishing strong academically. Any financial aid award you’ve received may be contingent on maintaining your grades. Also, finishing strong in AP classes may let you skip freshman classes in college. Let’s talk about how you can keep your focus and finish strong.

Put (Most of) It Away

When you get that acceptance, you’re faced with a lot of new work. There are forms to fill out, housing to apply for, etc. When you receive an admissions packet, do take the time to read everything carefully. Note each important deadline. Anything that’s due between now and when you graduate high school, stay on top of it.

But for everything else, put it away until after graduation day.

I know that ‘out of sight, out of mind,’ won’t work entirely. You’ll be excited about the future, and that in itself will be distracting. Still, find a folder – physical or digital – where you can place your acceptance materials and ‘to do’ list until June.

Maintain Your Study Schedules

Just because you’ve been admitted to college doesn’t mean that those upcoming AP/IB tests (and let’s not forget your final exams) disappear into thin air. They’re still approaching on the horizon, and although the score you receive won’t affect your future college’s opinion of you as a potential student, don’t forget the biggest reason these exams are important:

Time & Money

Wouldn’t it be nice to save some money on college, maybe graduate early? Wouldn’t it be nice to skip the packed-to-the-gills intro-class lecture halls your freshman year? I think you would agree that the answer to both questions is ‘yes’.

So, keep your eyes on the prize. Maintain your study schedules. Your future self will thank you.

A Little Meditation Never Hurt

Finally, let me provide some personal advice. The spring of your senior year represents what I’d bet is the biggest transition period your life has thrown at you so far. Things are ending, and others beginning. And although a lot of pressure is off, it can still take a lot more effort to stay centered.

That’s why I’d recommend some meditation. Now, don’t go out and buy a giant book on the topic. There are plenty of free apps that have 1-5-minute meditation sessions. If it works, great. If not, no big deal.

Final Thoughts

Well, I hope my three pieces of advice help you maintain your grades and test scores now that you have been admitted to college. Everyone’s situation is different, so I wanted to provide the best general advice possible. If you, a teacher, or family member has something better to say on the subject, please take it. I won’t be offended whatsoever. As long as you try a few things, I’m sure you’ll be just fine.

And congratulations on getting into college.

Cartoon of 10 people in varying career uniforms

Using a Personality Assessment to Select a College and Major

If you’re an ambitious high school student – which I assume you are since you’re reading this article – you have a lot on your plate. There are your classes, extracurricular activities, standardized test prep, and so much more.

And then there’s getting ready for college.

With so much going on right now, it can be tough to find time to think about your future college and major. ‘Where and what do I want to study?’ is one of the most important questions you’ll answer at this point in your life. As a result, you need to take it seriously and give it due consideration.

However, the question should not add stress to your life.

In this article, we’ll discuss a tool that can help you make these important decisions just a little bit easier – personal strengths assessments.

Personal Strengths Assessments and You

Personal strengths assessments, also known as personal interest inventories, have been around probably as long as the printed word. After all, it’s human nature to want to identify our strengths, weaknesses, preferences, dislikes, etc.

What can a personal strengths assessment tied to college and career aspirations do for you? In short, the results can give you a new perspective on what you want at this point in your life. Things may change in the future (e.g., You switch majors in college.), but as you must make some big decisions during your junior and senior years of high school, a personal interest inventory can make some things clearer.

An Important Disclaimer

Before you start looking up personality tests, I want to give you a disclaimer in the form of a short story. Back in my teaching days, my principal was a huge fan of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, one of the more well-known personality assessments. “Broderick,” he would tell me, “you’re such an INTJ.” When I finally got around to looking up what ‘INTJ’ meant, it bummed me out for a lot of reasons, mainly that my boss was boiling down my personality into four letters.

What made me feel better was learning that Myers-Briggs is, to put it mildly, a flawed instrument that has no basis in psychology or human development.

A lot of personal strengths assessments are the exact same.

My story has two takeaways. First, research a personal strengths assessment or interest inventory before putting any stock in the results. Second, although today’s assessments have come a long way, I want you to remember that results aren’t perfect. They exist to give you guidance, not pigeonhole you into a type of college or career path. In other words, if a result doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t right.

Even so, if an assessment gives you a result you didn’t expect, it doesn’t hurt to research that possibility. Maybe you’ll discover a college or major that matches your evolving interests.

Final Thoughts

MyKlovr is partnering with an acknowledged expert to launch its own personal strengths assessment and career interest inventory shortly to help users like you make better-informed decisions. When that day comes, we encourage you to answer the questions honestly and consider the results a valuable tool as you prepare for your life’s next stage.

But please, with our personality assessment or any other, take the results with a grain of salt and trust your – and don’t forget your family’s – best judgment.

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