Kyle Grappone

Applying to college? Here’s where to start.

You’ve decided that you are ready to start the college application process. Chances are you’re a sophomore in college and realize that this is the time to begin thinking about colleges. The problem is once the initial excitement about looking at colleges wears off, you are left staring at a mountain of information, tasks, deadlines, and options that can leave you overwhelmed.

The entire process can take over two years and includes several different phases. These phases include but are not limited to, researching schools, campus visits, applications, researching majors, and financial aid. So, before you even start this long and winding journey, let’s talk about a few things to do right at the start.

Why are you going to college?

College is a serious commitment. You are committing four years of your time and thousands of dollars of money to this next step in your education. Therefore, you need to be clear as to why you have made this choice. If your current answer is “I don’t know,” “Because I am supposed to,” or “My parents are making me,” then you need a new answer.

College is your opportunity to create a future of your own choosing. This is the beginning of a journey that, if done correctly, will prepare you to build a career and life of satisfaction and fulfillment. Now is the time to start thinking about what you are looking to get out of college? Do you want to meet people in a particular field? Are there certain subjects you want to learn more about? Having a basic idea of why you are going to college can help you figure out which schools you should be looking at.

What Type of Person Do You Want To Become?

What do you want to be when you grow up? This is a question that you have been asked several times in the duration of your life. It is also a question that is closely tied to choosing a college. The issue with this question is that it can limit your choices. You are forcing yourself to make a life-altering decision without understanding all of your options. Instead, before you start looking at colleges and majors, ask yourself, “What type of person do I want to become?”.

This question is designed to open you up to new possibilities and ideas. Think about when in your life do you feel the most accomplished or satisfied. Perhaps, it is when you are helping other people and giving them the advice to solve a problem. Maybe you should become the type of person who helps people for a living. Your next step is to list out all the jobs that are associated with that type of person. Finally, take the time to find people who are currently doing those jobs and learn more about them.

Once you complete this, you will have a much better idea of what majors and careers you’re interested in. By learning more about these possible jobs and careers ahead of time, you will know which ones you maybe passionate about and which ones you can forget about. This allows you to focus solely on schools that are going to help you become the person that you want to be.

Determine The Type of Environment You Need To Succeed

If you have read my past posts, you know the basis of my advice comes from surveying and interviewing college graduates. The majority of these grads often speak about how they did not take enough time to determine what they as an individual needed from a college to be successful. They got caught up thinking they had to go away college or choose a big-name school with a huge campus and successful football team.

Take the time to do some self-discovery and be honest about your academic and personal needs. Is going away to school a good fit for you? Will you be successful in large lecture halls, or should you find a school that offers smaller sized classrooms? Will you be okay in a new town and living with new people? How important are things like seeing family and friends when it comes to your mental health?

There are no wrong answers to these questions. The only wrong path is not taking the time to ask these questions at the beginning. These answers will guide your college search and help you only focus on schools that fit your needs. Remember, you are a unique individual that needs to do what is best for you.

Tell Your Story

Everyone has a story to tell. You may think that is not true and that you are boring or are uninteresting. First, I am almost positive you are more interesting than you give yourself credit for. Second, it is your best interest to figure that out sooner rather than later. You will be applying to the same college and thousands of other high school students. The last thing you want is to blend in and look like every other applicant the admissions department sees.

Take the time to map out your personal story. Start with why you are going to college and what you are looking to accomplish. Write out your interests and passions. Think about how going to college is going to help you build the life you want. Think about what that life looks like and what you are doing to get there. List out all of your accomplishments, awards, and past jobs. Make a list of teachers, co-workers, and other individuals who would be willing to vouch for you as a person.

This will help you begin to craft the story you will tell during your application process. This story will accomplish three main things. First, it will give the admissions counselor a better understanding of who you are as a person. Second, it will show the counselor the value you will add to the school if accepted. Third, it will help you stand out during your college essay. It could be the edge you need to get in over a student who just picked an essay topic off the internet.

Get Serious and Get Organized

Looking at colleges should be an enjoyable experience, but it is also not something to take lightly. You will be spending a considerable amount of time and money on college and want to ensure you get it right. There are also several deadlines and tasks to keep on track of. Before you even begin, figure out how you are going to keep track of everything.

The myKlovr platform can help you accomplish this. It allows you to enter all these crucial deadlines and due dates in one place so you can keep track of everything. It also provided reminders when an important date is approaching. However, this is only half the battle. For this to work, you must be committed to putting in the time and energy to the entire process. Understand what’s expected of you and commit to staying on top of it for the duration of the process.

Conclusion

If it’s time to start looking at colleges, then it’s time to get serious about your future. Yes, it can be overwhelming. You will most likely make a few mistakes along the way. The critical thing to remember is that if you apply yourself to the process and give it the time and attention it deserves, then you will be just fine. We covered a lot of valuable information at a very high level. 

About Kyle

Kyle Grappone is the founder of To The Next Step, an educational coaching and services company designed to prepare students for the next steps in life, including college, entering the workforce, and the real world. He offers several students focused services, including one on one coaching and on-demand courses. You can learn all about it at www.ToTheNextStep.org or by emailing him directly at Kyle@ToTheNextStep.org.

A Different Approach To Your College Application Essay

By Kyle Grappone

3 Ways To Help Your Child When They Get Stressed About The College Application Process

Applying to college is complicated and stressful for both students and parents. As parents, we have gone through similar situations and can usually lean on our past experiences for guidance. However, for a teenage student, this is probably the first time in their life, they are experiencing something so complicated. Furthermore, they have been told for the past few years how important this choice will be to their future. That combination can lead to a high level of stress and confusion.

Understanding what your child is feeling is an essential first step to helping them navigate this challenging process. When I speak to college graduates about their past choices, an overwhelming amount of them talked about regretting their approach to college. Many grads spoke of not doing enough research, being confused by all the options, and some even pointed out that the lack of parental support led to them making a choice they would later regret.

In this week’s post, we are going hone in on three specific steps you as a parent can take to help your stressed-out teenager. We will also show how myKlovr is built to help you carry out each of these steps.

#1 – Guide them in creating a plan

As we mentioned earlier, applying to college includes several phases, steps, and deadlines. Before you begin anything, set us aside time one afternoon to list out everything that needs to be done between now and when they get accepted. Create a timeline that shows when specific tasks need to be completed.

This accomplished two primary goals. First, the student understands what needs to be done when instead of starting at one long list, thinking everything must be accomplished right away. Second, this prevents anything from sneaking up on them down the line. They always know what is coming and what to prepare for. They can get in the habit of starting each week by making a list of what specific action items need to be accomplished.

Our Action Plan function is the ideal partner for getting organized and creating a detailed plan. This is where a student can enter important dates, deadlines, and anything else you want mapped out. It also provides reminders regarding upcoming and past deadlines. The student does not have to live in constant worry that something is being missed. If they ever feel overwhelmed, they can simply look at the app, see what they have accomplished and what is coming next.

#2 – Encourage them to tell their story

The application process is not the only thing students worry about when trying to get into college. Many times students worry about how they will get in after they apply. When you are applying to a college alongside hundreds or even thousands of others, it is easy to feel like you won’t stand out. This is where you need to encourage them to craft their own story.

College admissions counselors read vast amounts of applications and essays every day. Most articles read the same because students are writing about topics they found online or about personal perseverance. Applicants can look similar when the applicant is merely listing off extracurricular or volunteer experience. The way for students to stand out is to tell their own stories. Encourage them to discover who they are and what they want to accomplish.

When an admissions counselor reads your child’s materials, you want them to be able to envision them at the school. You want it to be clear that your child will make that school a better place. You want to be telling a story of a student who has always worked hard and strove to be a better student and a better person. Most importantly, you want to make it clear that your child has specific career goals and that this college is the one that can make them a reality.

The Student Portfolio is the perfect way to help craft and showcase a student’s story. We help your students create a portfolio by merely having them input data points such as grades, activities, awards, work experiences, and much more. This portfolio allows students to gain a holistic view of everything they have to offer a college and will give them the confidence to apply anywhere they want. 

#3 – Find the college that is a right fit for them

Over the years, I have researched, surveyed, and interviewed hundreds of college graduates regarding their time in school and what they wish they could do differently. One of their biggest regrets is not spending more time looking at colleges. Many of them only applied to a few colleges and never took the time to figure out if they were even the right fit. The result being they either struggled during their freshman year or had to transfer out to a different school.

Before you and your child start looking at colleges, a student must know what environment is best for them. Are they responsible enough to go away to school? Will they thrive in a lecture hall, or should they focus on schools with smaller class sizes? How far away from home are they willing to be? The number of colleges out there can be overwhelming. This is why you must help your child narrow them down by answering these questions before you even start looking.

Our College Finder tool is designed to help any student navigate through all the choices that are open to them. This tool helps to narrow down the list to only the colleges that fit your needs. It then takes that list and divides them further into reach, match, and safety categories. This ensures you are keeping your options open and have applied to the appropriate amount in each group. Once again, myKlovr is there for you when your student gets overwhelmed, and myKlovr also helps to reassure them they are on track.

Conclusion

The best way to help your child when applying to college is by understanding what they are going through. This is the time to put your years of guidance and wisdom to good use. Whether it’s your experience in applying to college yourself or in dealing with stressful situations, you can help your child navigate this path to the career and future they deserve. The best part is, you don’t have to do it alone. MyKlovr was designed to help you each step along the way by answering your questions and reassuring your child that everything will turn out for the best.

About Kyle

Kyle Grappone is the founder of To The Next Step, an educational coaching and services company designed to prepare students for the next steps in life, including college, entering the workforce, and the real world. He offers several students focused services, including one on one coaching and on-demand courses. You can learn all about it at www.ToTheNextStep.org or by emailing him directly at Kyle@ToTheNextStep.org. 

3 Popular Myths About Going To College

By Kyle Grappone

According to a recent research study, about 70% of high school graduates attend college. This means there is a large number of students and parents who are looking to consume college related content to prepare for this critical process. This high demand for content has resulted in an overwhelming amount of articles, interviews, case studies, and videos about what you need to know to make the best possible choice when selecting a college.

Typically, this blog is dedicated to helping you sift through all of that well-intentioned advice. It is essential to identify all the factual information out there. However, it is also important to admit that there is a lot of incorrect data, as well. Somewhere along the way, various myths regarding what’s important about college starting popping up. Therefore, this week, we are going to debunk three popular myths regarding going away to college.

Myth #1 – You must go away to school

As a society, when we speak of college, we automatically connect it with going away to attend it. Somehow, we have forgotten about millions of students who attend college and still live at home. When you begin this process, you will be tempted to look at schools far away from home. After all, the idea of being out on your own is very attractive. Attending a college out of state is an opportunity to become independent, meet new people, and experience new things.

For many, this is the right call. It is important to get out into the world and experience things that are different from what you are used to. However, if this is your next step, you have to do it for the right reasons. Do not go away to school because you want to get away from your parents or you want to party all the time. If you are choosing a school far from home, you should do so because it aligns with your goals and your plans.

Also, there is nothing wrong with deciding that going away is not for you. The most important thing a student must do when looking at colleges is to understand what type of environment they need to succeed. Are you the type of person who benefits from familiarity? Will a new bed, town, and friends on top of harder classes be too much to adjust to? If that is the case, please understand it is okay to choose a college close to home. This does not make you lazy, nor does it make you ill-equipped to handle new responsibilities. It merely means you have identified what you need to succeed and refuse to put yourself in a situation where that is not going to happen.

Myth #2 – You must go to a 4-year school

Community colleges get a bad rap. For some reason, they have been labeled as a place that are reserved for those who were not driven or smart enough to get into a four-year school. This is not true. Community colleges offer high-quality education at lower prices than there four-year counterparts.

A community college is an excellent choice for someone who is not clear about what they want to study in college. It is also an option for someone who knows they want to go to college but cannot yet afford it. You can attend for two years and complete your basic requirements while you work and save money for the last two years. This allows you to continue your education and take our fewer student loans.

Again, this comes back to what your plan is. What are you looking to accomplish? Why are you going to college in the first place? Understanding your needs and goals is imperative. Many of the college graduates I speak to talk about how they regret not going to community college first. They speak about “falling into the trap” of thinking that only the unmotivated start at community college. Do yourself a favor and research your local community colleges. You will be pleasantly surprised at what they have to offer and how it can fit in perfectly with your future plans.

Myth #3 – You have to have all your career mapped out before you start college

This is the biggest one of all. I left it for last, so you have something to think about after you have finished reading this article. There can be a tremendous amount of pressure placed on a high school student when it comes to planning for the future. They often think that by choosing a college, they must also know exactly what career they want to pursue and how they are going to get there. I promise you; this is not true.

The most flawed question we ask students is, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”. This implies that they must already know what they want to do with the rest of their lives. It is flawed because how are you supposed to be able to answer that question without knowing what all the options are. This is not a time for you to be making these types of decisions. This is a time for you to be asking yourself, “What type of person do I want to become?”.

By exploring this question, you are opening yourself up to a field of options based on the type of person you want to work towards being, and the impact you want to have on the world around you.  This allows us to have an idea of what we are working towards while keeping our options open.

You are not expected to have a concrete answer regarding your future before you go to college. College is supposed to be the time in your life when you ask more questions. Where you explore your options, talk to those who came before you, and then start to determine what you want to do with the next steps of your life. You do not need to have everything figured out; you need to start thinking about what questions you need answers too.

Conclusion

The college application and selection process is challenging. There is a lot of information floating out there. Most of it is based in fact and therefore can be helpful. However, there are, unfortunately, several myths surrounding this process that need to be addressed and debunked.

About Kyle

Kyle Grappone is the founder of To The Next Step, an educational coaching and services company designed to prepare students for the next steps in life, including college, entering the workforce, and the real world. He offers several students focused services, including one on one coaching and on-demand courses. You can learn all about it at www.ToTheNextStep.org or by emailing him directly at Kyle@ToTheNextStep.org.  

5 Things To Expect When Going Away To College

By Kyle Grappone 

College can be a once in a lifetime type of experience for a young student. For those lucky enough to go away to school, it is an opportunity to meet new people, experience new things, and learn skills that will propel you into the next phase of your life. However, going away to college can bring with it several unexpected challenges. When I speak to college graduates, they often refer back to the bumpy transition they had when starting freshman year. As you prepare for this next step, here are 5 things to expect when going away to college.

Not Everyone You Meet Will Be Like You

Often, towns and high schools will be filled with similar people. Most residents and students will share similar characteristics and backgrounds. If you grew up surrounded by people like yourself, you may be tricked into thinking the whole world is like this. It is very common and is often the cause of issues for new college students. They arrive on campus and encounter other students of different backgrounds and upbringings.

The key is to be prepared to have an open mind. The way you view the world is not the only way. Your opinions can be strong, but be open to new ways of looking at things. Most importantly, do not shy away from something new. If you grew up in the city, seek out those who may have grown up on a farm. This is the best way to enhance your knowledge about the world around you. The real world you are going to enter after college will have more people that are different than you than are similar to you. It is best to begin getting used to that now and use your new surroundings to your advantage.

There Is A Quiet Consequence To Missing Class

In an earlier post, we spoke about taking over the things your parents currently do for you. One of the items on that list was waking yourself up for school. That will come into play as soon as you begin classes. If you overslept in high school, the consequence was loud and obvious. Your Mom probably started yelling at you or your school called home to say you did not show up to class. Again, that most likely caused you to get yelled at. College is different.

You are responsible for attending class. Yes, if you miss it, your parents will not know. However, your teacher will know. Depending on your professor’s policy, those absences could impact your final grade. It will be easy to skip class knowing that no one is going to yell at you or call home to inform your parents. However, know that you are still very much being reprimanded for missing class. In many ways, deducting points from your final grade is much worse than a parental scolding.

Not Everyone Is There To Learn

Colleges exist to educate young adults on the road to the real world. Most students have spent the last few years working very hard to get into the school that they did. They have chosen their major and class schedule and are ready to go. You may think that everyone is as focused and motivated as you are. You may be surprised to find out that not everyone is.

When you enter freshman year and settle into your dorm, you will quickly see some people are there simply to party. These are the students who are always playing video games and watching movies. They stay up late and never go to class. You will often wonder how is it that they have so much free time while you are stuck in class or studying in the library. It is because they cannot handle going to school with no parental supervision.

The most important thing is to not fall into this trap. It will be very tempting to join these slackers. After all, they will always be doing something more fun than going to class or studying. The thing is, these students do not last very long. They are usually gone after the first semester or two. All they did was waste their time and money and delay their education. These students will have to start from scratch at a college back home. Be prepared to rise above these types of distractions.

A Dorm Is A Terrible Place To Study

Your dorm building will be useful for many things such as sleeping, bathing, and hanging out with your new friends. Studying and doing homework is not one of them. As previously mentioned, there will always be people doing something more fun than what you are doing. Even students who go to class will have free time when you do not. There will always be someone knocking on your door or making noise in the hallway. Even if you do get some studying done, you will always be tempted to cut it short to join in on the fun next door.

Accept the fact that doing work in your dorm room is not going to happen. Instead, make the library one of your first stops when you get to campus. Some campuses have more than one, and others have libraries dedicated to specific majors and programs. Be sure to take a tour and understand where the best places to get some peace and quiet. Start to get into a routine of going to those spots in between classes. This will allow you to give your studies the time and energy they deserve.

It Is Very Easy To Gain Weight

This last one has nothing to do with academics. It has to do with your health. Most students report that they gained some weight when going away to school. Between the options in the dining hall, the take out order with new friends, and your parents no longer making healthy meals, it will be incredibly easy to gain weight.

This can be prevented by preparing for what is coming. First, ensure that you are going to the campus gym 3-4 times a week. Even if you have never gone to the gym before, this is the perfect time to start. Second, make an intentional choice to eat healthy foods and reasonable portions. Now that you understand the importance of these habits, you are much more likely to start building them from the beginning and stick with them throughout the year. 

Conclusion

Going away to college is a wonderful yet complicated experience. There are a lot of new things, people, and situations you will not be used to. The best advice I can give is to speak to those who have already gone through it. Ask current college students and graduates what it was like for them. They will give you all sorts of advice to make your transition as smooth as possible.

About Kyle

Kyle Grappone is the founder of To The Next Step, an educational coaching and services company designed to prepare students for the next steps in life including college, entering the workforce and the real world. He offers several students focused services including one on one coaching and on-demand courses. You can learn all about it at www.ToTheNextStep.org or by emailing him directly at Kyle@ToTheNextStep.org. 

 

3 Ways To Stay Motivated During Your Senior Year

By Kyle Grappone

Senioritis. Nearly every high school student has heard of this term and almost all high school graduates have suffered from this at one point or another. In case this term is new to you, senioritis is the term used to describe how seniors feel about school before graduation. They have worked hard for several years, chosen what college or trade school they are attending and begin to lack motivation when it comes to school, classwork, homework, or studying.

It is important to note that feeling this way does not mean you are lazy. It is natural to want to take a break after a stretch of difficult or time-consuming activities. The college application and selection processes are long and difficult. Once you decide on that next step, you will feel inclined to reward yourself on a job well done. Yes, in some ways, you do deserve a slight pat on the back for getting into college. However, this is hardly the time to take the foot off the gas pedal. This is the time to keep moving forward and working towards your goals. To help with this, I have listed 3 things to remember in order to stay motivated during your senior year.

#1 – Colleges still care about your grades

The majority of college acceptances are based on successful completion of your senior year classes. Remember, colleges are looking to accept the best and the brightest. If they are going to let you come to their school, they want to make sure you are going to be a hardworking student and represent the school well.

Imagine putting in all that hard work and telling everyone what college you will be attending just to have it taken away due to poor grades. If you used getting into college as motivation before, there is no reason to stop now. As you sit in class, think about your future. Think about the college you will be attending and the things that made you choose that school. That should supply you with the motivation to keep working hard towards your goals and not slack off as your time in high school comes to an end.

#2 – It is only going to get tougher from here

Your senior year may feel like the end of an era. However, it is just the beginning of the rest of your life. Each step from here on out will be tougher. As you get older, more and more will be expected of you. College classes are longer than high school classes which means there is more you need to learn each time. The class sizes are larger which means less personalized attention. The professors move faster which means they expect you to already know how to pay attention and take notes.

The point is that you need to use your senior year as a time to build up important skills such as note-taking and studying. This is the time to learn how to focus on and increase your attention span.

Pretend you are already in a college lecture hall. Instead of going straight to your teacher with a question, try to answer it on your own. Try your best to take exceptional notes and absorb as much information as you can, regardless of what class it is. Use your senior year as a practice to prepare for the tougher courses and experiences that are coming next.

#3 – What are you working towards?

When I coach my students, we always begin with the same question. I ask them what type of person they want to become. We talk about the type of life they want to work towards. What are they passionate about? What are they good at? We figure out what type of impact they want to have on the world and then we create a plan to achieve that goal.

Figuring out your purpose is key to staying motivated. You don’t have to have it all figured out right now, but you should begin to think about where you are going. Think about why you are going to college and what type of career you are looking to achieve. Any type of life you want is going to require hard work and determination. It’s going to require you to become the type of person who always works hard and is trying their best. That type of person does not slack off in their senior year, or ever for that matter.

Conclusion

Senior year is not the end of the road. It is simply a stop on a much longer path to your future. You must continue building towards becoming the type of person that you will be proud of. Skills like problem-solving and independent thinking only become more valuable as you get older. It is up to you to continue to work at building these skills and preparing yourself to enter college and eventually the real world.

About Kyle

Kyle Grappone is the founder of To The Next Step, an educational coaching and services company designed to prepare students for the next steps in life including college, entering the workforce and the real world. He offers several students focused services including one on one coaching and on-demand courses. You can learn all about it at www.ToTheNextStep.org or by emailing him directly at Kyle@ToTheNextStep.org. 

 

A Different Approach To Your College Application Essay

By Kyle Grappone

Colleges will receive thousands of applications every year and each application requires you to write an essay. This is the chance for colleges to get to know you better as a person. Are you the type of student that will thrive at their school and end up being a successful alumnus? Naturally, colleges only want the best students, and try their best to avoid accepting those who may not have the maturity, drive or character to represent the school in the best way possible.

There are a lot of pieces of content out there that speak about how to write your college application essay. However, that advice is only going to take you so far. You are a unique individual with a unique past and set of skills. You must look inside yourself and write an essay that tells your story. If you want your essay to stand out, you must take the right approach when writing your college application essay.

Describe What Type Of Person You Want To Become

The odds are pretty good that at some point in your life you have been asked: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”. The issue with this question is that it tends to hold you to one answer. You become stuck on one path, working towards one type of job and career. Furthermore, you are most likely picking that job because it’s one of the few careers you are aware of. Most of the graduates I have surveyed over the years never took the time to research all the different career paths that were open to them.

Before you start your college application process, take some time to ask yourself “What type of person do I want to become?’. When you ask yourself this question, you are no longer beholden to one job or one career path. Instead, you are opened up to a field of opportunities around the type of person you want to become and the impact you want to have on the people around you. Think about what you enjoy, what you are good at, and what you believe you want to spend the rest of your life working towards.

Then, talk about it in your essay. This will accomplish two important things. First, you will stand out. The person reading your essay is most likely in the middle of reading hundreds of essays in the coming weeks and months. Most of those essays will be very similar and talk about why they want to study a specific major. Your essay will cover a broad theme and give the reader an insight into why you are applying to college and what type of student you will be.

Second, this topic will showcase you as an intelligent thinker who is passionate and serious about their future. Remember, schools are using this essay as a way to get insight into you as a person. Anyone reading your essay will see that you have taken significant time out to map your future. You will begin to position yourself as someone who will be an excellent student that the school can be proud of.

Explain How That School Is Going To Help You Become That Person

This is where we get specific. Many students tend to write one essay and send it out to all of their college choices. While this is common practice, it also means that your essay will read like every other one that has been sent in. Your goal now, and always, is to stand out in a way that shows your value and tells your story.

Once you have determined your person, spend time researching the school. Make a list of the possible majors you could take that align with your desired path. See if there are certain faculty you will be working with. Learn about the career center, campus events, and any other opportunities that are going to help you along the way. Begin to tell the story of someone who is driven to become the best version of themselves, and has specifically chosen this school to do that.

Again, this technique helps to accomplish two key goals. First, it gives you a chance to do even more research about the school and confirm it is the right fit. Second, you are showing the reader how dedicated you are to your future. Instead of writing a generic essay, you took the time out to write a letter specifically for that one school. This allows you to show your passion and dedication which proves that you will become a valuable asset to the school if accepted.

Make The Reader Envision You Succeeding At That School

This is where we bring it all together. The individual reading your essay has been tasked with determining if you are the right fit for that school. They have been told to find the best students possible. Students who will come to campus, get good grades, participate in the community, and become successful alumni and proud representatives of the school.

The story you are telling them must be helping them envision you at the school. You want them to envision you going to class, walking around campus, and attending events. You are telling the story of a hardworking, driven student with a clear vision for success. You are showing them how their school, and all these wonderful resources, are going to help you become a valuable student and graduate.

Conclusion

By the time the reader is done with your essay, they should feel as if they need you at there school. That you are the type of student who will play an active role on campus and ultimately become a graduate that they can be proud of. Do not be afraid to be different and go against some of the advice you may read on the internet. Your essay is about telling your story and proving to that college that you are exactly what they are looking for in a student.

About Kyle

Kyle Grappone is the founder of To The Next Step, an educational coaching and services company designed to prepare students for the next steps in life including college, entering the workforce and the real world. He offers several students focused services including one on one coaching and on-demand courses. You can learn all about it at www.ToTheNextStep.org or by emailing him directly at Kyle@ToTheNextStep.org

 

5 Questions To Ask A College Alumni

By Kyle Grappone

Selecting a college is an important choice with long term implications for your future. Wherever you choose to go, you are dedicating four years and thousands of dollars to that college and in return, you expect a positive and worthwhile experience. Even more important, the college you end up at needs to give you the best chance to succeed. It must offer you multiple opportunities to prepare you for your chosen career and the real world that awaits you. It also must provide the type of environment that will help you to learn and grow as a student and as a person.

So, how do you know if the college you are looking at is going to deliver these things? Yes, you should research the college ahead of time. One of the most important steps in your college selection process is taking campus tours and asking questions. We covered what questions to ask your campus tour guide in an earlier blog post. While you are visiting the school, you may meet alumni who went to that school. It is fine to ask them questions – but remember that they were chosen to be at that tour or open house for a reason. The school knows they are going to speak about them in a positive light.

To ensure you are getting the whole story, make sure to reach out to at least 3 alumni via social media or mutual connections. This is where you will get the full truth, the good and the bad, about the school you are looking at. Once you find these graduates, you should  ask them specific questions in order to get the information you need and not waste anyone’s time since many will be working professionals. Here are 5 questions to ask and what types of answers to look for.

What was your major and are you working in that field today?

This question is important because a student experience can vary depending on what their major was. Out of the three alumni, you speak to, ensure at least once studied the same subject(s) you plan on pursuing. This gives you an idea of what your time will be like. If certain classes are difficult, you can plan ahead by ensuring you take that class at a time where you function at a high level.

The second part of this question is just as important. This will give you insight into how well the school prepared their graduates for the real world. If the graduate responds by telling you that he is not working in his major you may want to dig deeper. This may lead to an important discovery such as finding out the school has a lackluster career center or has no process in setting their graduates up with companies after graduation.

On the other hand, you may discover that the school in question does a great job in assisting students in their transition into the workforce. These types of positives should be documented and will come in handy when you are comparing schools. Again, it is important to understand every aspect of this school before making this crucial decision.

What was the biggest transitional issue you faced when you started at the college?

 Even if you do all your research and choose the ideal college for your needs and goals, the transition can still be difficult. If you are going away to school, then you are starting a new routine, with new people, in a new environment. If you are not careful then this massive change can overwhelm you and your grades may suffer.

 By asking this question you are getting advice from someone who has already been there. Not only can they tell you what to expect, but they may also bring up something you never even thought of before. This lets you prepare ahead of time and ensure that whatever is coming will not distract from your schoolwork and knock you off course.

 You may also learn something interesting specifically about the school. For example, several students I have spoken to were not prepared to follow a bus schedule to get to class. Many of them missed at least one class due to this issue. Students also talk about the weather at their school and how different it is from where they grew up. It’s up to you and your needs as to whether or not these are disqualifying factors. For some, learning a bus schedule is no big deal. For others, they may prefer to be able to walk to and from class and have complete control over their schedule. The important thing is that you know these issues exist ahead of time and can plan for them.

Did you feel the college prepared you for the workforce and the real world?

Almost any school can teach you the basics of any course of study. However, you want to be sure you attend a college that goes above and beyond that. Not only are you going to college to learn, but you are also going to prepare for the next steps in life and start to build a career and life you will enjoy. This question lets you know if the college offers the opportunity you need to do just that.

This is also where you will most likely get the most passionate answer from the alumnus. Did the college provided them with a great education, valuable internships, and help in finding a job? 

This is where you want to look for trends in the answers you are getting. If you are hearing the same positive or negative things it can help you paint a picture of what it will be like to attend that school. Be sure to document these answers so you can refer to them later. The biggest thing to look out for is whether or not the school is going to help you reach your goals and start your career off in the right direction.

What was your favorite and least favorite thing about the school?

Again you are looking for two things in the answers you get here. Emotion and trends. This is where you can tell if a student feels passionately one way or another about the school. It also helps continue to paint that picture we started in the last question. Either way, these answers should help you understand if the school you are looking at is worth your time and money.

Pay attention to how much time they spend answering both parts of this question. If they go on and on about all their favorite things and cannot name anything negative, then that is a great sign. On the other hand, if the conversation once again turns negative, that is a red flag that needs to be explored. Again, you should not disqualify a school because someone has something negative to say about it. 

Lastly, examine the quality of these answers. If the best part of the school is the parties or the ice cream, that is not a good enough reason to go there. Just like if the worst part of the school is that the football team is in last place or you have to walk up several hills, that is not a good reason to cross it off your list. You want to look for answers such as quality of the lecture halls, campus life, access to resources, and other things that are rooted in education, academics, and the impact on your ability to grow and succeed.

If you could go back in time, would you attend the school again?

If you are in a situation where you feel like you can only ask one or two of these questions, be sure to ask this one. You will get an honest answer and most likely get the reasoning behind it. Notice the emotion and passion when they answer this question. If they say they would attend again – they will speak highly of the school and you will be able to tell that they enjoyed their time there. If they would not attend again – you will learn why and it could be the main reason you decide not to go to that school.

Conclusion

Speaking to alumni is just one part of the college selection process. At the end of it, you will need to choose a college that fits your specific needs and goals. Talking to people who went to that school is an ideal way to learn about what to expect. The most important thing is to look for trends among the answers you get. If you are lucky enough to speak to alumni in person be sure to notice the emotion they use when talking about the school. By asking these questions you will have important data points that will help you when it comes time to picking a school.

About Kyle

Kyle Grappone is the founder of To The Next Step, an educational coaching and services company designed to prepare students for the next steps in life including college, entering the workforce and the real world. He offers several students focused services including one on one coaching and on-demand courses. You can learn all about it at www.ToTheNextStep.org or by emailing him directly at Kyle@ToTheNextStep.org. 

 

5 Questions To Ask When Considering A Student Loan

By Kyle Grappone

Student loans. That is by far the most common answer I hear when I ask college graduates what they regret about their past choices. To be clear, they do not regret taking out loans. They regret not researching their options. Most of the college grads I talk to claim they had no idea what they were signing up for.

Most graduates apply for and accept student loans without understanding how they work. The result is that most grads are surprised about how much they have to pay back every month after college. An unexpected large monthly payment can have a serious impact on your future plans. Before applying to any student loan, be sure to ask these 5 questions.

What Is The Total Amount Of Money I Am Borrowing?

First, it is crucial to understand how a loan works. A loan is an agreement between you and a bank. They will give the money you need but it will cost you. This cost is called an interest rate. Simply put, they will grant you $1,000 at 10% interest to spend on college but they are going to expect you to pay back $1,100 after your graduate.

If you know the amount you think you will need to borrow, be sure to review all the documents and understand how much money you will be expected to pay back. If you borrow $10,000 you will end up paying back closer to $13,000 when it is all said and done. That is how a loan works and it is important to know that when you are determining how much you want to owe after graduation.

What Is The Interest Rate Of This Loan?

We have established what an interest rate is and how it works. You should always know what the interest rate of your student loan is going to be. You should also be actively researching loans from various sources and comparing your options. Do not assume that the option you are looking at is giving you the best offer. 

It is important to research your options when it comes to your interest rate because of the impact it has on your life as an adult. The longer it takes to pay back your loans, the more you have to pay back because of your interest rate. The lower the interest rate means the less you will have to pay back over time. That is why it is worth it to take your time and compare all of your options to ensure you are getting the best deal.

When Do I Have To Start Paying This Loan Back?

Not all loans have the same terms and conditions. Do not assume that every loan is the same and that you do not have options. Pay close attention to these terms when you are considering applying for a loan. Make the choice that makes the most sense for your situation and future.

You should know exactly when you will have to start paying back the money you are borrowing. Some loans require you to begin your monthly payments the month after you graduate college. This could become a serious issue if you cannot guarantee you will already be in your first post-college full-time job immediately after graduation. The last thing you want to do is miss a payment and hurt your credit score as a result.

Look for loan options that give you some breathing room after graduation. Loans that do not require first payment until 3-6 months after graduation will give you time to secure and settle into your first full-time job and begin saving some money. Regardless of what you choose, you should know what your payment schedule is going to be like and how you plan to make those payments on time every month.

What is the Minimum Amount I Have To Pay Back Each Month?

The biggest shock to college graduates is the amount of money they have to pay back each month. It is a shock because they did not bother to research this before signing their loan applications. Graduates have personally told me their stories where they graduated from college, bought a car, got ready to move out and then were blindsided by their first loan payment bill.

In addition, to shock, most graduates feel serious regret once they realize how much of their paycheck is going towards paying off their loans. If they had known this was going to happen, they would have researched more options and perhaps even chose a more cost-effective college to attend.

Figure out the exact amount you will be required to pay back every month. If your minimum payment is going to be over $500, what does that mean for your future? Will you be able to buy a new car and move out of your parent’s house? How much does an entry-level job in your field of interest pay after taxes? These are the numbers you need to be looking at while making this important decision. 

Would The Minimum Amount Be Less If I Went To Another School?

Let me be clear, you should not choose a college strictly based on cost. There are several factors to weigh in making this choice. I cover them all in my online course ‘How To Select The Right College For You’ where we talk about what makes college worth the money. If you are going to spend all that time and money in a college, you want to make sure it is worth it.

Once you determine how much your minimum payment is for College A, run the numbers again against the other colleges on your list. If your minimum payment drops by $100 a more per month, that is something worth taking note of. If those colleges are offering the same courses and opportunities, it would benefit you in the long run to borrow less. You do not have to choose the most expensive college to get the best education.

Conclusion

Student loans are not necessarily a bad thing. They can be a useful tool that allows you to attend the college of your choice and build the career and future you want. However, they are not be entered into lightly. They deserve a significant amount of time and research. You should completely understand what you are signing up for and what will be expected of you after graduation.

 

We cover this topic in even more detail, as well as the other parts of the college selection process in my on-line, on-demand course entitled “How To Select The Right College For You”. I invite you to check out all of the topics we cover and watch the first lesson for free.

About Kyle

Kyle Grappone is the founder of To The Next Step, an educational coaching and services company designed to prepare students for the next steps in life including college, entering the workforce and the real world. He offers several student focused services including one on one coaching and on-demand courses. You can learn all about it at www.ToTheNextStep.org or by emailing him directly at Kyle@ToTheNextStep.org

 

5 Ways To Make This School Year The Best One Yet

By Kyle Grappone

Like it or not, the new school year is almost upon us and in some parts of the country, it is already here. As a student, I remember having a hard time being excited for the new school year because it meant the end of summer vacation. I had developed a mindset that each school year was the same. I treated it as a nuisance that I had to trudge through.

What myself, and many of my fellow graduates who I have spoken to over the years, failed to realize was that each school year was a unique opportunity to build towards our future. The beginning of each year was a chance to start fresh, set goals, and build towards the type of person we want to become and the life we want to live. If you are thinking that this upcoming year will be just like last year, here are the 5 ways to make it not only better but your best one yet.

#1 – Determine What You Are Working Towards

What is the one thing you want or need to accomplish this school year? Is it developing better study habits? Narrowing down your college list by visiting campuses? Has your GPA suffered due to lack of motivation or concentration? Figure out what you need to accomplish this school year. This will give you the motivation to pay attention in class, try harder on your tests, and give you a reason to start each school day with excitement instead of dread.

Let’s put it another way. What is one thing you want to be able to say about yourself in June? Is it that you know where you want to go to college? Perhaps, there is a class that you have always struggled in and it is hurting your GPA. If you have an interest in a specific career, take this time to research it and figure out what you can do this year to move towards that career. Pick something you want to accomplish and use that as your driving force when school feels boring, routine, or overwhelming.

#2 – Learn a brand new skill

The more skills you have when you enter the real world, the better off you will be. Do not just spend your free time watching TV and playing video games. Pick something you have always wanted to learn and carve out time each week to learn it. Ask your family members what was one skill they wish they knew before going off to college or entering the workforce.

First, this will give you a leg up on your fellow students when they are applying to college. You will have something unique to talk about during your college essay or interview. Second, it keeps your creative juices flowing. When it is time to take a break from school work you can turn to something that will be fun yet challenging. Lastly, on those days where school feels like a drag, you can power through knowing you will be doing something fun later on that day.

#3 – Identify and Break One Bad Habit

We all have bad habits. However, there is a difference between the annoying small ones and the life-altering big ones that prevent us from reaching our full potential. For me, it was not staying organized with my class notes. I was constantly shoving my worksheets and other important pieces of paper into my backpack and often losing them completely. I thought they were worthless once class was over. However, my lack of organization came back to haunt me when it came time to study for tests. My grades suffered significantly as a result.

Think about last school year and about any habits that prevented you from doing your best, growing as a person, or reaching your goals. Then, write down when this habit pops up the most and how it hurts you the most. Once you understand where this habit is doing the most damage, write out your step by step plan to fix it. For example, if you always wait until the last minute to finish a project, create a process for yourself. Start by listing out the different things you need to do for that project. Then assign a daily or weekly due date to each part. Take a minute to register how good it feels when you complete each part, knowing that you will have less work to do moving forward.

#4 – Begin Building Your Network

The idea of a network might be a bit foreign to you. In simple terms, a network is a group of working professionals that you have developed a relationship with. You can call on people in this network for advice when it comes to applying to college, internships, and your first job. Your network is also invaluable when you are researching possible careers and majors. These are the people who have come before you and have the advice you need to make the right choices.

To ensure you are building the right network, you first have to start thinking about what types of jobs and careers you are interested in. This list may change, but to start, think about what you are passionate about and what interests you. Then, make a list of jobs that align with those interests. When you are ready, seek out working professionals who are currently working those jobs. You will be amazed and what you will learn about their jobs, what they went to school for, and what your life might be like if you pursue that career.

#5 – Develop A Growth Mindset

All of the ways I just mentioned play into the idea of developing a growth mindset. That term can mean many things. For you, as a high school student, it means keeping your mind open to new ways of becoming a better and smarter person. Actively seek out opportunities where you can develop a new skill, meet new people, and learn about your future opportunities.

Every morning when you wake up for school, make the decision that you are going to take a positive approach to the day. Get yourself excited about your classes by remembering what you are working towards. Approach the upcoming day knowing that you will learn new skills, lookout for opportunities to grow, and be working towards building the future you want for yourself.

Conclusion

Too many graduates, myself included, floated their way through high school. Each day, month and year were treated the same because they never took the time to think about what was coming next. I challenge you to challenge yourself this upcoming school year. Decide that this is the year you make significant changes in your lifestyle and attitude. Ten years from now, when you are living a life of purpose and satisfaction, you can look back on this year knowing it was the year that started it all.

About Kyle

Kyle Grappone is the founder of To The Next Step, an educational coaching and services company designed to prepare students for the next steps in life including college, entering the workforce and the real world. He offers several student focused services including one on one coaching and on-demand courses. You can learn all about it at www.ToTheNextStep.org or by emailing him directly at Kyle@ToTheNextStep.org.

5 Questions To Ask When On A College Campus Tour

By Kyle Grappone

College campus tours are a rite of passage. Ideally, you pick a beautiful fall afternoon and drive to the campus of the college you are considering attending. An upbeat tour guide takes you to the nicest buildings, gives you impressive stats, talks about the latest events on campus and paints the school in a bright, positive light. It can be a lovely experience. However, if you don’t ask your own questions, and understand what you are looking for in a college, the entire experience can be pretty useless.

When I speak to college grads about their college experience, they often talk about how they did not spend enough time researching colleges and determining if they are the right fit for themselves. I am a firm believer that a student needs to determine what they are looking for in a college and what type of environment works best for them. It is crucial that you are asking the right questions and seeking the information you need. Here are five questions you should be asking on every campus tour.

What Is The Average Size Class?

In my online course, How To Select The Right College For You we spend the entire first lesson talking about determining the type of environment you need to be successful. Certain colleges have class sizes that are similar to the ones you experienced in high school. However, larger colleges can have class sizes of 50, 75, or even 100 students.

Larger class sizes mean less face to face time with your professor. It also means you may not be able to ask as many questions and will have to figure it out on your own. Take time to think about how important this is to you. If you are an independent learner, you may not care about how many students are in your class. If you are someone who enjoys asking questions and often needs specialized attention to understand concepts, then a smaller class size should be a top priority.

When Do I Have to Declare A Major?

Before you choose a college, you should have an idea of what type of industry you are interested in. In the course mentioned above, I encourage students to discover what type of person they want to become. This allows them to understand what they are interested in pursuing as a career, without having to commit right away. If you have an idea of what you are interested in but want to keep your options open, the deadline for declaring a major is crucial.

Some colleges require a declaration by the end of your freshman year. Others allow you to wait until the end of your sophomore year. If you enter college undecided, it will enable you to continue to explore your options. You can use this time to talk to other students, faculty, alumni, and the career center about the various career options that will be open to you. It is crucial to have a plan and understand when you have to make important choices, such as choosing the right major for you.

What Type of Internships Do You Offer?

When you graduate college, you enter the workforce with hundreds of other graduates who, on paper, will look exactly like you. You will have similar degrees and come from similar types of colleges. Internship experience is what is going to help you stand out. Internships will allow you to showcase your skills and prove you can be a reliable, valuable employee.

    Internships are also a great way to understand what your chosen career is going to be like. You can learn the day to day responsibilities of your career and ensure that it is something you will enjoy doing on a daily basis. Lastly, this is an opportunity to connect with working professionals and learn from them. You can pick up valuable pieces of information about how to apply to jobs, workplace professionalism, and much more. If you create a secure connection with a particular contact, you can ask them for a letter of recommendation. This is a letter that tells future employers how valuable an addition you will be to their team.

    Ask your tour guide or admissions counselor to provide details about the internships the school offers. Do they have partnerships with companies in the area? Do they have an active alumni network that is actively looking for interns for their companies? If you do not get the answers you are looking for, contact the career center. Stop by after a tour or ask for staff members email address. Make sure that you are going to be able to apply to and serve in several high-value internships during your years at that school.

How Do Students Get To Class?

This is an important question that often gets overlooked. It ties back into my earlier point about finding a college situation that works for you. Smaller colleges have all their buildings on one campus. A students class is never more than a 10-minute walk away from their dorm building. This makes getting from one class or activity to another very easy. Larger colleges often have several campuses. Students are required to take a bus to each class, and that bus will not wait for you if you are late.

    You should not disqualify a school if it has several campuses or requires mass transit to attend class. You should determine if that is important to you. You should also know that this is something you will be required to do and plan for it accordingly. Several grads I have spoken to over the years had no idea what attending one class entailed. They were thrown completely off guard, and their grades suffered as a result.

What Percentage of the Student Body Commutes to Class?

Again, this is important if you are planning to live on campus. If you choose to dorm, then you are committing to spending a significant amount of time in a new place. If you go several hours away, then you will be spending most of your weekend there as well. You want to make sure there is stuff to do. That the school is committed to planning events for students who stay on campus. If the majority of the student body commutes from home, the school may not invest a lot in keeping the small number of dorm students entertained.

    Now, a high percentage of commuters does not necessarily mean you will be bored to death on the weekends. If it appears as if the school you are looking at is considered a “commuter school,” there are a few follow up actions you can take. First, ask about campus events. Is there something every weekend or are they only highlighting the big, yearly events? The second thing you can do is take a look at the flyers around campus. What types of events are they promoting? Look for events where you can hang out with friends, meet new people, and experience new things.

While you are looking, see what types of networking events they provide. Do they have guest speakers or opportunities to meet working professionals? This will tell you how invested the school is in preparing you for the workforce. Knowing that you can keep busy meeting new people and learning new things could be the deciding factor when it comes to choosing a college.

Conclusion

A college should earn your money and your time. They should be offering you a wide variety of opportunities that are going to help you build the career you want and become the type of person you want to become. You should also have a clear picture of what life is going to be like at that school. You need to know you will feel comfortable in order to be set up for future success. It is up to you to take control of this process, ask the right questions, and choose the college that is right for you.

About How To Select The Right College For You

This online, on-demand course is designed to help students navigate through the college selection process. We help the student identify what type of environment they need to succeed and coach them through asking the right questions to get the information they need to make the best choice for themselves and their future

About Kyle

Kyle Grappone is the founder of To The Next Step, an educational coaching and services company designed to prepare students for the next steps in life including college, entering the workforce and the real world. He offers several student-focused services including one on one coaching and on-demand courses. You can learn all about it at www.ToTheNextStep.org or by emailing him directly at Kyle@ToTheNextStep.org

3 Things To Do Before Starting Any School Year

By Kyle Grappone

Summer vacation is a time for relaxation. It is time to take a mental break from the previous school year and allow yourself to enjoy the company of family and friends. However, like it or not, the next school year is right around the corner. I am not trying to be a bummer. I am trying to help you avoid the mistakes that past students have made.

Many of my college-age coaching clients often speak about how they wasted their time in high school and never thought about preparing for college or the real world. A lot of my friends and co-workers say the same thing. It is very easy to float through school and do just enough to get by. The key is to plan and ensure that each year has a purpose and is helping you build towards the future you want.

Today, we are going to talk about three things to do before starting any school year. The great thing about this list is that it can be used over and over again. Regardless of where you are in your educational journey, these three tasks can be completed each year to ensure you remain on track and prepared for the next steps in life. These are valuable habits that you can start now and will reap long term benefits for years to come.

Determine What You Are Working Towards

When I was in high school, I had one goal. Survive. Looking back, this was a pretty stupid mindset to have because it did not motivate me to do anything. All I tried to do each day was pass my classes with the least amount of effort possible. I treated each school year like they were identical, and like a chore, I had to complete. My result was a rude wake-up call in college when I lacked the studying habits and discipline to succeed in my classes.

Take a look at the upcoming year and discover it’s purpose. If you are a high school freshman, this year is dedicated to building a strong GPA, solid study habits, and exploring new friendships and opportunities. If you are a sophomore or junior, you are working through the college application and selection process. If you are a senior, you are choosing a college and preparing for what’s to come once you get there.

What are you working towards this year? What is the purpose of you being in class? What skills do you need to develop to reach your goals? Take the time to understand what specific goals you are working towards. This allows you to put together a clear path to success and supplies you with motivation throughout the year. This purpose and motivation are critical when you are sitting in a class you do not like or feel like slacking off halfway through the year.

Perform An Educational Audit

Before you enter the new year, there is always something of value to learn from the one that just passed. In my book, To The Next Step, I require the reader to perform this type of audit before the beginning of each new year. The purpose is to look back on your classes, grades, and habits to see what worked and what needs work.

The most important aspect of this audit is to understand what classes you did well in. This will help clarify what you are interested in and what you enjoy learning about. These findings can prove useful when you are starting to research possible majors and colleges. You also need to understand what classes you did not do well in. The reason for this is twofold. One, it allows you to pinpoint where the biggest threat to your GPA is going to be and how to plan to fix it. Two, it gives you insight about what you do not enjoy in school and what you will most likely not enjoy studying in college or working out in the real world.

Calculate your yearly and overall GPA. Understand exactly where you are, and set a goal for where you want to be next year. Again, this will motivate you to push past the temptation of being lazy and develop a mindset that allows you to reach these goals. Also, as you research colleges, you will begin to see what type of GPA they are requiring. You are much less likely to get caught off guard if you have been monitoring your grades and working towards improving them each year.

Take Over Two Tasks Your Parents Currently Do For You

This last one has nothing to do with academics and everything to do with preparing for the real world. A major downfall of college students who go away to school is their inability to perform basic life tasks once they are on their own. Even college graduates who move out are often overwhelmed with stress regarding making doctors appointments, going grocery shopping, budgeting their money, and other adult tasks that come with growing up.

If you are a current student, as soon as you are done with this blog post, I would like you to make a list of every single task your parents currently do for you. Then, at the start of each school year, take two responsibilities from that list and commit to owning them. For example, when the new year starts, commit to making your own lunch and scheduling your own doctor’s appointments. These are two simple skills that if learned now, will make life a lot easier for you down the road.

The tasks you choose are entirely up to you. My advice would be as a high school student choose tasks that you know you will have to do in college. As a college student, select tasks that are waiting for you in the real world. It is much easier to transition into becoming a responsible adult over several years then to attempt to do it all at once.

Conclusion

It is never too early to plan for the future. The easiest thing in life to do is not to care or care just enough to get by. That might work now but trust me you will come to regret it later. My advice, based on the regrets and missteps of past graduates, would be to attend school with purpose and passion. Outline your goals before each school year and develop the mindset and work ethic you need to achieve them.

About Kyle

Kyle Grappone is the founder of To The Next Step, an educational coaching and services company designed to prepare students for the next steps in life including college, entering the workforce and the real world. He offers several student-focused services including one-on-one coaching and on-demand courses. You can learn all about it by emailing him directly at Kyle@ToTheNextStep.org. 

3 Ways To Use Your Summer Vacation To Prepare For The College Selection Process

By Kyle Grappone

Summer vacation is in full swing as thousands of high school students are entering into the freest and unchained part of their year. For many, this is a time to go to the beach, hang out with friends, and watch an unhealthy amount of Netflix. While breaks are essential to restore and replenish your mental health and well being, it is crucial that this time not be lost entirely. For most high school students, some part of the college research and selection process is right around the corner.

Ahead of the Pack

Almost all American High School Students enjoy 10-12 weeks of summer vacation. The majority of these students will do very little of anything school related. Meaning, those who take the time out to plan for the upcoming school year will be miles ahead of those who do not. Being ahead of the competition is never more critical than when it comes to applying for colleges.

Why Should You Care?

If you are currently a student on vacation, you are probably asking why you should be thinking about applying for colleges when it is seemingly months away. Yes, technically, you could wait until the fall to begin and continue your college selection process. However, that is what everyone else is doing. Take this time off to stand up and stand out. Why? College admissions standards are rising due to the increased amount of applicants. The competition for state colleges has increased dramatically due to the rising costs of private colleges and universities. Summer vacation is the perfect time to devote your time and energy to researching and finding the best college for you.

#1 – Conduct Self Discovery

All of your tests and finals are officially done. You no longer have to cram for exams or spend time writing papers. This means you have more time to focus on yourself. Use this time to answer a few key questions before you begin making one of the most significant decisions of your life up to this point.

First, why are you going to college? Have you ever thought about that question before? Most students plan to go to college because they believe they are supposed to or their parents want them to go. These are not sufficient reasons to dedicate a significant amount of your time, energy, and resources to something. Think about why you have chosen college as the next step in your life and what are you looking to get out of it.

Second, how are you going to pay for it? I have surveyed over 100 college graduates regarding their time in high school and college. The biggest regret they have is not learning more about the loans they are signing up for. In my online course, How To Select The Right College For You, we dedicate an entire lesson to understanding student loans and another to determining if a college is worth the money. For now, start by talking to your parents about what you can afford and determine a rough estimate of how much money you may need to take out. Then make a list of all the questions you have about student loans and seek out help from a financial professional.

Lastly, what type of future are you trying to build? I challenge all my coaching clients to determine the kind of person they want to become to plan for the kind of future they are working towards. Use this time off to think about what you enjoy doing and what brings you the most satisfaction. Begin to envision the type of life and career you are looking to create for yourself. This will give you clarity when you are learning about schools and the programs they offer.

#2 – Plan 3 College Visits

Most colleges conduct their official, group tours in the fall and spring. That does not mean you cannot conduct your own tour this summer. By touring a campus in the summer, you will be able to enjoy the visit stress-free. If you miss something, you can always come back during the year.

If you already have one of several colleges on your list, reach out to the admissions office and express your interest in taking a tour. Chances are high someone in the office can arrange to meet you on campus for an afternoon. A private tour is a fantastic opportunity to learn about the school and ask all the questions you want without the craziness of a large group. It also allows you to get used to touring campuses and learn what to look out for.

Aim to complete three college visits. If you do not have that long of list or it is not logistically possible then visit your local campuses. Even if you cannot schedule an official tour, download a campus map and give yourself a tour. Once you have your tours set, make sure you create a full list of questions. These questions are designed to learn about the culture of the school; their plan to prepare you for the workforce and their dedication to your progress and development.

#3 – Talk To Those Who Have Come Before You

This time in your life is a complicated one. You undoubtedly have a lot of questions about colleges, universities, majors, student loans, dorming, and more. Luckily for you, this entire process has been done before, by people you know. The answers you seek usually lie with those you have come before you.

Instead of waiting until the fall and the return of tests and projects, use your downtime to compile a list of questions you have. What about college is stressing you out? What about going away to school are you nervous about? What about financial aid confuses you? Now is the time to organize your thoughts and figure out who to talk to.

Begin to look into your inner circle of family and friends for recent college graduates. They will be to provide insights into the process, what to do, and what to avoid. Use this time off to set up lunch and coffee appointments. Be sure to bring your list of specific questions and record their answers.

Lastly, create a LinkedIn profile this summer and connect with alumni of the colleges you are looking at. Again, these former students can give you insights and truths you will not find on the school website or on an official campus tour. Be sure to respect their time by providing a short list of detailed questions. Thank them for their time and inquire if you may keep in touch throughout the process. These types of connections will prove invaluable as you move forward in your college search.

Conclusion

Summer is a time to prepare for the next step in your life. Yes, you should still go to the beach, see friends, and watch Netflix. However, be sure to use some of this free time to get clear on your goals and vision. Determine what you are looking to get out of college and what type of future you are working towards. Your future self will thank you for it.

About Kyle

Kyle Grappone is the founder of To The Next Step, an educational coaching and services company designed to prepare students for the next steps in life including college, entering the workforce and the real world. He offers several student-focused services including one on one coaching and on-demand courses. You can learn all about it at ToTheNextStep.org or by emailing him directly at Kyle@ToTheNextStep.org.

Back to Top