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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.

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.

5 Books To Read Before Starting College

Almost anytime someone successful is interviewed and asked questions about their daily routine; they almost always mention how much they read. Reading is crucial because it’s a great way to gain knowledge that you can use in your own life. Thanks to the internet and social media, there is a lot of content vying for your attention. However, nothing beats a book written by an experienced author who is sharing practical advice they have already learned.

Of course, saying you are going to start reading more is great, but where does one begin? There are a ton of books out there to choose from, and it can get overwhelming. Furthermore, there are plenty of college-based books as well. That might seem like the right place to start, but it really depends on what you need to learn. Starting college means beginning a new chapter of your life and starting your journey towards becoming an adult in the real world.

Therefore, this post will provide five suggestions on what books to read before starting college. The list was created based on several factors. First, I have conducted years of research to learn what skills first-year college students are lacking. Second, I chose books that will help you begin to develop skills that will help you in college as well as life afterward. Lastly, I wanted to suggest books that you, as a high school student, wouldn’t think to read or may not even know about.

The Compound Effect

Overview

The Compound Effect is written by million-dollar business owner Darren Hardy. In this book, Darren breaks down how repeating small habits each day can lead to significant long term results. He covers topics such as work ethic, positive mindset, eating habits, time management, and much more. This book is engaging because he uses practical examples that you can relate to your own life.

How Can It Benefit You?

Before starting this book, you should write down three habits you need to break and three habits you want to create in order to be more successful at college. For example, habits you want to break could include procrastination, eating junk food, or lack of motivation. Habits you want to create could consist of planning for the week, managing your time better, or staying calm during stressful situations. Keep these habits in mind as you read the book. By the end, you will have the advice and processes you need to implement them into your life.

Start With Why

Overview

Start With Why is written by a popular motivational speaker and best selling author, Simon Sinek. What started as a simple Ted Talk has become a rallying cry for so many people and brands around the world. Its primary focus is on helping you figure out your “why.” Why are your goals what they are? Why do you get up every morning and try to achieve them? By starting with and remembering your why you can remain on course and put purpose behind everything you do.

How Can It Benefit You?

As a high school student, you should be focusing on why you are going to college. What are you looking to accomplish? What type of life are you looking to build for yourself? Take the time to figure out what kind of person college is going to help you become and what exactly you need to do to get there. As you progress through college, you will have moments where you will stumble and get overwhelmed. Remembering why you started and what you are working towards is a great way to get back on track.

Secrets of Top Students: Tips, Tools, and Techniques for Acing High School and College

Overview

Secrets of Top Students, written by Stefanie Weisman, is significantly less well known then our first two books but can be just as, if not more helpful. This book focuses specifically on advice for college that you would never think to ask for. The best part of this book is the information being offered was collected from over 40 top students across the country. Theses success stories are offering up the tips and tricks they learned and used to get to where they are today.

How Can It Benefit You?

This is the type of book you should read twice. First, read it cover to cover before going away to college. Pull out any information you can use right away, like preparing for dorming, habits you need to work on, etc. Then, highlight anything you find valuable and think you may need in the future. Once you are done, keep it handy because you will want to go back to it throughout college. Anytime you run into a situation and are unsure how to proceed, you can go back into the book and see what the experts have to say on the matter.

Stuff Every College Student Should Know

Overview

This pocket-sized book is written by Blair Thornburgh. It makes our list because it covers the “non-educational” part of college. This is a perfect book for anyone who is planning to go away to school. It covers life skills such as doing laundry, cooking basic meals, getting along with your roommate, and much more. Many of the college graduates I have spoken to over the years regret not learning these types of skills before college started.

How Can It Benefit You?

The beauty of this book is that it doubles as a reference guide throughout college. During your first read, you can identify what skills you don’t already have. Once you make that list, it will be crucial to dedicate time each week to learn them. This will prevent you from getting overwhelmed once college starts. Due to its convenient size, you can carry this book with you at all times and look back on it when you get stuck.

To The Next Step: Your Guide From College To The Real World

Overview

Full disclosure, I am the author of this book. However, I am including it because I wrote with you in mind. I wanted to take all the information I had learned from my interviews with college graduates and present them to you in one place. This book was designed to ensure you make the right choices the first time and learn from other graduates’ mistakes. It covers topics such as setting goals, learning adult responsibilities, creating good studying habits, finding internships, and preparing for the workforce.

How Will It Benefit You?

This book will help you do two main things. First, it will help you clarify your mission for college. You will have a firm understanding of why you are going to college and what you want to achieve. Second, it prepares you for what lies ahead during all four years. You will understand the importance of working hard, when to starting looking at internships, when to build your network and when it’s time to start preparing to look for jobs. It is also meant to be a reference guide for you to re-read at the beginning of each new school year.

Conclusion

Reading is a great habit that will provide you with an endless supply of valuable knowledge. The books listed here are meant to help you gain clarity before you start the next chapter of your life. By reading these books before college, you will have a leg up on other students who did not take this type of initiative. You owe it to your future self to prepare for college, the workforce, and the real world by learning everything you can by those who have already done it.

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.

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.

5 Skills To Learn Before Going Away To College

Going away to college is a life-changing event. For the first time in your life, you will be entirely on your own, independent from your parents, who you lived with your entire life. It’s an exciting time where many students grow and mature. It’s an opportunity to meet new people, learn new things, and prepare yourself for the real world that awaits you. However, living in a dorm room is not all fun and games. You are living on your own means new responsibilities that you may not be used to having.

When I started my educational coaching company three years ago, I did extensive research regarding what college graduates regretted about their time in school. Many of them spoke about going away to school without knowing how to do anything for themselves. Several graduates actually had to leave school and come back home because of how unprepared they were. To prevent this from happening to you, here are five skills you must learn before leaving for college.

Cooking

This is a skill that gets overlooked because most students assume they will eat all of their meals in the dining hall. What they don’t realize is that sometimes their schedule may not match up with the dining hall hours. You may find yourself getting out of the library or a club activity later than you thought and having nowhere to go for food. As a freshman, you most likely will not have a car on campus. It’s critical that you are prepared for these types of situations.

Now, I am not expecting you to whip up a 3-course meal. However, I do expect that you could cook up some frozen veggies, rice from a box, scramble some eggs, or make a grilled cheese. You could also buy some grilled chicken, freeze it, and then take it out thaw on days you know you will be cooking your own dinner. You should know how to cook any of the food listed above before living on your own. 

Laundry

I cannot tell you how many freshmen tell me they have no idea how to do their own laundry. Thinking you can keep wearing clean clothes and wait until you go home is a poor strategy. Your dorm room will begin to stink due to the mounting pile of dirty clothes. You will also undoubtedly run out of clean clothes quicker than you think. Furthermore, you are in a new place, meeting new people. You should try to look presentable at all times.

If you don’t know how to a load of laundry, find your Mom or Dad and ask them to show you. Pay attention to the difference between how to wash your colored clothes as opposed to how to wash your whites. Trust me, you will not be happy if you screw that up. Once they teach you, it’s now on you to do your laundry moving forward. Don’t let them keep doing it and wait for college to start. The only way to learn and be prepared is by starting now and not stopping.

Budgeting

When entering your freshman year, you most likely will not be working. This could be the first time in several years you won’t be earning a paycheck. While this may change at some point, it’s essential to prepare for not having an income for at least the first two months of school. Whatever money you get from high school graduation or your summer job will need to last until you start working again. If you run out too soon, you won’t be able to go out and do things with your new friends.

The easiest way to save money is only to spend it when you have too. For example, if you have a meal plan, use it! Yes, you can order pizza on the weekend. However, do not fall into the trap of ordering food every time you don’t feel like walking to the dining hall. If you think you might struggle with this, ask your parents to only deposit a certain amount of money into your account each week to avoid spending too much too soon.

Time Management

A high school class schedule and a college class schedule are entirely different. In high school, you start and end each day at roughly the same time. The most significant difference is that in high school, all your classes are back to back with very little room for breaks. In college, depending on your schedule, you could have breaks that last as long as 2-5 hours. Unlike your previous school years, your parents will not be around to get on your case about doing your homework.

As soon as you get your schedule for the semester, map out all the breaks you have throughout the week. Those are the times you will go to the library to do homework, study, or prepare for the next class. Avoid going back to your dorm room when possible. There will always be someone doing something much more fun than the schoolwork you have to do. The key is to commit to this schedule. Being in a class by 8 am is just as important as being in the library by 10 am.

Communication

As we mentioned before, going away to college means meeting a ton of new people. This includes roommates, neighbors, professors, and college employees. These are all people who do not know you very well. Unlike your friends or family, they cannot guess what you are feeling. They have no idea what makes you happy, sad, frustrated, or overwhelmed. You will need to learn how to communicate your feelings and thoughts in various situations.

For example, you may have a professor who teaches in a way you are not used to. They will not stop and make sure you are okay. If you are falling behind, it is up to you to communicate that to them before it is too late in the semester. If your roommate or neighbor does something you don’t like, you have the right to stand up for yourself and say something. However, you must do it in a respectful way that does not damage the relationship. The last thing you want is poor communication causing long term tension between you and someone you have to see every day.

Conclusion

Going away to college is something everyone must prepare for. Your life is going to radically change in so many ways. Now is the time to start learning these types of skills while you still have time to make mistakes and ask for guidance. By mastering these skills, you can enter your freshman year with confidence and focus on growing as a student and a person.

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.

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.

How To Continue Your College Search During The Coronavirus

The coronavirus has put a halt to many of our everyday activities. The things we used to so freely are now no longer available to us. Schools are closed, events are canceled, and we are basically being told to stay in one place until whatever is going on is finally over. Even then, no one can really tell us when that will be. This can be nerve-wracking for people of all ages. Even the perfectly healthy can’t help but think about there various life plans that are being completely upended.

While it might not be the most important thing in the world, it is natural for any high school student to be concerned about how this national pandemic is going to impact there college search process. How do you properly research a school if you are unable to go to the campus and visit? How do you know what life will be like on a campus when all the students have gone home for the foreseeable future?

These are valid concerns that need to be addressed. Unfortuenly, nothing can truly replace the value of going on an official campus visit. We have talked in detail in past blog posts about what to look for and questions to ask as you gather all of your information. However, there are a few things you can do while you sit at home and wait this thing out.

Schedule A One On One With Your Admissions Counselor

No campus tours mean no opportunity to ask your tour guide important questions about the campus. Therefore, we suggest e-mailing your admissions counselor and request a one on one video call. Since you are home from school, you will be readily available during there work hours. In addition, this type of initiative and interest in the school will certainly be noted when it comes to acceptance time. If the counselor has a full schedule, as them if you can e-mail him or her a list of your questions.

Since you want to be respectful of there time, make sure your questions are specific and to the point. Be sure to write out 10 questions and order them by importance in case you do not get to all 10. Once you create your list, browse the school’s website and make sure none of the answers are already there. Your questions should cover a variety of topics such as dorm life, graduation rate, internships, alumni relations, average class size, student transportation and anything else that can help you understand if the school is right for you.

Take A Virtual Tour

In today’s world of technological advancement, most schools will offer some sort of a virtual tour for you to take. We would advise you to reach out to your admissions representative and see what your options are. Some schools may offer a pre-recorded tour of the whole campus, while others may have a series of videos based on your major of interest. If you are lucky, the school will be on the cutting edge and offer live tours at a certain time.

While a virtual tour should not fully replace an in-person one, there are several things you can look for as you get to know the campus better. The size of the classrooms can give you an idea of how big your classes are going to be. The technology in those classrooms can provide insight into how much the school reinvests in there students. Take notice of what they choose to focus on in these tours and more importantly what they chose to skip. If the tour spends a lot of time on the sports fields and completely skips the dining hall that could be a red flag worth researching further.

Interview An Alumni

Typically, we suggest reaching out to college alumni after you have visited a school. However, these are the times to get creative and ensure you are getting the information you need. If you haven’t already, create a LinkedIn profile so you can easily reach out to alumni who are now working professionals. Send them a direct message and explain that you gathering information on the college they went too and would like to ask them a few questions either on the phone or in-person.

Make sure you have created your list of 5-10 questions before you contact them in case they offer to speak to you the same day. Just like before, be sure your questions are direct and to the point. It is important to remember that unlike your admissions counselor, the alumni you are connecting with do not work for the school. They will much more likely to give you more honest and straightforward answers. Ask questions centered around there time at the school, what they liked, didn’t like and if they would do it all again if they had the chance.

Contact The Career Center

One of the most important reasons you are going to college is to work towards a fulfilling and prosperous career. The value of a degree is limited if it does not prepare you for the real world and workforce that will await you after graduation. If you are going to dedicate four years and thousands of dollars to a school they need to earn it. This is why it is important to learn all about the school’s career center and what it can offer you.

When speaking with your admissions rep, ask them to directly introduce you to someone at the career center via e-mail. Once you have made the connection, ask them to set a time where you can tell you about things such as internships, company partners, and job placement programs. Unlike your previous conversations, here is where you can ask open-ended questions about the type of internships the offer, the companies they partner with and the processes they use to place the students with those opportunities. Any career center worthwhile should be able to give you specific answers and examples as to how they will help you prepare for life after college.

Conclusion

Once the coronavirus is over, and life returns to normal, be sure to plan an in-person visit to any college you are considering. Until then, stay focused on conducting as much research as possible. Remain proactive by reaching out to the people who have the information you seek. Most importantly, remember to enjoy this journey, even when it takes an unexpected detour.

5 Questions To Ask Before Making Your College Choice

As a high school senior currently involved in the college application process, the last few months have been long and complicated. At this point, you have visited several colleges, submitted applications, written essays, double-checked deadlines, and filled out enough forms to last a lifetime. For many, the final step of the process has finally arrived. If your lucky, you were accepted to a few or several colleges you applied too. Now, you must choose where you will spend the next four years of your life.

Most schools set the deadline for choosing a school for May 1st. I highly advise you to review the deadline for each school to ensure they do not have there own, earlier deadline. Regardless of when the deadline may be, the choice of where to attend college is not something to take lightly. It is a decision that will have long-lasting implications on your future, career, and overall quality of life. As you consider your options, here are five things to think about before making this critical choice.

#1 – Does the school provide the type of environment you need to succeed?

It is easy to be impressed by a sprawling campus that has beautiful buildings, new classroom technology, big-time campus events. The quality of the school is essential. However, it is not about how wonderful the campus looks or the school appears to be. It is about the environment it produces and if it is right for you. If the school is not providing what you need to be successful, then you need to ask yourself why you would go there in the first place?

To understand what exactly you need, you can ask yourself some basic questions. For example, what kind of class size are you comfortable in? If you benefit from smaller class sizes and situations that allow you to ask questions, then you should avoid the schools that offer mostly large lecture hall type classes. How easy or difficult will it be to get from class to class? If the school you are considering has your future classes located on different campuses, that is something to take note of. The key is to collect as much information about what life will be like at that school and decide if it will serve your needs.

#2 – What types of career services to offer current students and graduates?

 If there are two or three colleges that you are considering that appear similar, this could be a crucial tiebreaker. While college is meant to help you grow as a person and become independent, it’s primary purpose is to prepare you for a fruitful career that will allow you to make the impact you seek. If you are going to spend four years and thousands of dollars on a school, you need to be sure they have the necessary services to help you obtain a job when you graduate.

 As we have spoken about in past blog posts, it is crucial during campus tours to visit the school’s career center. This is the department that is supposed to help you find internships, craft your resume, and help connect you with employers after graduation. Does the school you are considering to offer these services? If you are unsure, connect with alumni on LinkedIn and them directly about how helpful the school was with these tasks. It would be best if you were choosing a school that will act as your partner and does everything possible to ensure you start your career off on the right foot.

#3 – What do the alumni have to say?

During this process, you have hopefully asked a lot of questions. You have inquired about various topics with your tour guide, admissions counselor, and faculty you have met along the way. While their answers are essential and can be valuable, it is crucial to gain information for those who are not currently employed by the school. It’s not that these people will give you incorrect information; it just means that they are more likely to provide you with positive answers because they work for the school.

This is where school alumni come into play. Alumni are a great resource because they used to be a student and have already gone through all of the things you are about to encounter. They will give you an honest insight into the school. This is where you ask your questions about internships, dorm rooms, food quality, class size, and anything else that is important to you. Ask about where they are in their career and the role the school played in getting there. Lastly, ask them point-blank if they could go back in time would they still choose that school. By connecting with 3-5 alumni, you can get the complete picture you seek.

#4 – What makes this college worth it?

I have spent the past few years asking college graduates about their time in college and what they would have done differently. Nearly every single graduate answers by talking about student loans. Simply put, graduates did not do enough research when it came to the loans they were signing up for. The result was massive debt waiting for these students after graduation. They were caught off guard by the considerable monthly payment they were being required to make.

I am not saying that you should not take out loans to cover the cost of college. However, if you are going to be taking out loans that impact your future, you should know precisely why you are doing. It is crucial to understand what makes this college worth the price tag. If you are deciding between a few schools, and one is considerably more expensive then the other, you owe it to yourself to find out why that is. Ask yourself, is this college worth this amount of money? If they have the major your want, a great internship program, and an amazing alumni network, then yes, it might be worth it. However, you may find that cheaper option on your list also has all of these things. If the more affordable, less known school, is going to deliver what you need to succeed, then that might be the school for you.

#5 – Am I ready to go to college?

This last question is more about internal discovery and honesty; then, it is about any particular school. The college admissions process comes on strong and basically takes over your life for several months to over a year. You get so caught up in paperwork and research that you may lose sight of what is truly important. College is the step in life that is supposed to prepare you for the real world. It may seem like the obvious next step, but that does not mean it will be an easy one.

Before you choose a college, you need to conduct some self-discovery. Are you mature enough to go away to college? Are you ready to study harder and longer than you have before? Do you know what your plans are for after college? What are you going to study, and why did you choose that area? It is okay if you do not have all the answers right now. Just be sure to take the time to answer them before you move forward into one of the most important phases of your life.

Conclusion

Choosing a college is a choice that will impact your quality of life for decades to come. You owe it to your future self to make a choice that is in your best interest. You also have every right to ask if a school is worthy of your time and your money. As long as you do your research, ask the right questions, and take it seriously, you will end up with a choice that will set you up for a successful college experience and real-world career.

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. 

 

Campus Building - University of Nebraska

5 Things To Notice During A College Campus Tour

With the weather starting to get warmer, on-the-ball high-school juniors will be going on college campus tours. Campus tours are an ideal opportunity for juniors to learn more about schools they might apply to, including facilities, course offerings, and campus services. In past posts, we have talked about the importance of asking the right questions on college campus tours. This week, we are shifting focus away from questions you ask others to zero in on the things you need to take note of yourself.

Choosing a college is a crucial decision that has a long-term impact on your future. It is a choice that should not be taken lightly and should be done after you have collected as much information as possible. However, while it is crucial to understand college stats, job placement rates, and course offerings, several things will be up to you to notice. This could very well make or break your decision to attend a particular college. Here are five things you need to take note of when visiting a college campus.

Classroom Quality

Yes, you have to apply to and be selected by a college. You are, in a sense auditioning yourself in the hopes that they choose you. However, you are also auditioning them. Never forget that a college must earn your time and money just as much as you need to secure your acceptance into that school. With tuition rates as high as they are, you have a right to know exactly what you are paying for.

When on a campus tour, attempt to see as many classrooms and lecture halls as possible. If your tour group skips a building, then go back and tour it on your own. Also, if you know what majors you are interested in, be sure to visit classrooms used by the departments you are targeting. When viewing all the rooms, take note of the type of technology they do or do not have, including smartboards. Do desks have enough space for a notebook or laptop? Are desks old and wobbly or new and solid? This is an indicator of whether or not the school invests in its facilities.

Dorm Room Size

Most college students are so excited about being on their own they don’t take the proper time to examine their new living quarters. The idea of having your own space away from your parents can be thrilling and overwhelming. This is why you need to ground yourself and understand what you are signing up for. Take a hard look dorms during your campus tour and make sure you can be comfortable in them.

Many schools are known for accepting more students than they can house because they do not want to turn down the tuition revenue. The result of this can be overcrowded dorm rooms holding more students really fit. Your campus tour guide will show you one or two hand-picked rooms. Examine them and confirm they are of decent size. Then, connect with alumni and current students via LinkedIn and Facebook and ask about their campus living experiences. This fact-finding will come in handy when comparing schools down the line.

If you are planning to live off campus, see if there is adequate public transportation or at least parking close enough to campus that you are not taking an extended hike to and from class each day.

Surrounding Area

The focus of any college campus tour is the actual campus. However, it is equally important to drive through the surrounding area and town where the college is located. Regardless of whether you are going to dorm or commute, you will be spending a considerable amount of time in that area for the next four years. This area and what it includes it just as important as any building you visit on campus.

The first thing to take notice of is the type of town that surrounds the school. Several schools I have visited over the years have been in the middle of lower-income cities. Now, I am not saying there is anything wrong with that. However, the surrounding streets appear to be less than safe than request a copy of the school’s yearly safety and incident report. This will tell you if there is anything to be worried about.

Second, what does the town around the school have to offer? Does it include simple services such as a grocery store and places to eat? Again, this is not something you think about when visiting a college and learning about the education they offer. However, based on my conversation with graduates, having easy access to things like groceries and entertainment becomes more important than they thought initially. The last thing you want is to move in on campus and then learn it’s 45 minutes to the closest grocery store or movie theater.

Building Quality

Earlier, we dove deep into the importance of taking classes is clean, well-maintained classrooms. It is equally important to examine the buildings on campus. Once again, this is a reliable indicator of how much the school reinvests into their campus and infrastructure. Each building you go into should showcase the school’s effort to create an inclusive learning environment for its students. If you leave your campus tour unimpressed, that could be an indicator of what else the school is hiding.

Specifically, when is the last time the buildings you are touring have been renovated. Are the hallways clean and fresh or old and run down? Once again, your tour will undoubtedly focus on the newest buildings. If you have to, tour the other buildings on campus by yourself. Lastly, make sure you know exactly where you will be spending the majority of your time. It all comes back to the type of experience you want to have each day on campus.

Student Body Attitude

The last item on this list focuses on the overall attitude and vibe of the students you encounter on campus. This one is tricky because even the happiest students can seem blah early in the morning or on the way to a challenging class. The key here is to be aware of the various students you encounter across the whole campus. What is their overall attitude and demeanor? Does it appear as if they are having fun, or are they most likely walking heads down in silence?

If you are taking your campus tour on the weekend, take note of how many students and cars are on campus. This is a sign of how active the campus is on the weekend. If it feels like a ghost town, then chances are the student body is made up mostly of commuters. On the flip side, if you notice students playing games, parking lots full of cars, and various signs of life, then you most likely are looking at school with a vibrant and active student body.

Conclusion

There are a lot of things you know to research and look for when looking at colleges. You will be presented with a ton of information without even asking for it. The key is to know what else you need to look for – the things they don’t cover in brochures and tours. During each visit, imagine yourself at that school. What do you need to have the best experience possible? Choosing a college is not a time to settle. It’s a time to be stubborn and only accept an opportunity that will earn your time, money, and deliver the best experience 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 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. 

 

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.

3 Things To Review On Any College Website

In today’s world, the first thing we do when we hear about something that interests us is hopping on the internet and look it up. This is no different when you are starting your college search. Before you start your college visits or have a full understanding of what you are looking for in a college, you tend to hop online and starting visiting their websites. Most students begin to visit sites of colleges they have heard of before simply so they can start to look around.

The issue is, if you dive into a college website without a plan, it can get very overwhelming very quickly. As you learn, colleges have a lot of moving parts. Furthermore, their official website is tasked with relay a high volume of information to a variety of audiences. Students, graduates, alumni, professors, job seekers, and the media are just some of the various groups that use this website to gather information about the institution.

Over time, if you choose to consider and apply to the school seriously, you will understand which parts of the site are most valuable at different times. However, for those who want to conduct primary research, I have listed three things to looks for and review when visiting a college site for the first time. As I mentioned, as you move forward, you will need to review additional sections more carefully. For now, to avoid being overwhelmed, you can stick to these three parts.

Admissions

When you enter the site, you will most likely be greeted with a lengthy menu of options. Start by clicking on Admissions. This is where you will need to start if you are giving any thought to attending this school. If you don’t get in, then the other stuff doesn’t matter. Once you land on the admissions page, click around to find the “undergraduate programs” section. This may be in the form of a new page or a downloadable catalog.

Take a few minutes to review the various courses that are offered. This will allow you to learn what the school focuses on. That college with the billboards on the highway may not offer you anything you are interested in. On the flipside, by reading the descriptions of the different courses, you may discover something new. You do not need to make any decisions at this time, but it is helpful to begin to understand what this and other colleges have to offer.

Before leaving the admissions section, find a link to request more information. This usually is a simple form that allows you to exchange your e-mail for a PDF brochure about the school. It also shares your information with an admissions counselor who can reach out and answer questions. Again, you are not committing to anything, but it may be helpful to speak to someone about the information you just learned about the school.

Student Life / Campus Life

These two sections may be combined into one page or separated into two different parts. The purpose of both sections is to show prospective students, like yourself, what life is like on the campus of that school. They will show pictures of past events and provide information on the various clubs, sports, and future events open to the student body. This is a great way to learn more about the non-academic side of the school. If the site boasts photo albums of happy students and a long list of events, then it’s clear that they prioritize the happiness of there students.

This is also where you can look for activities you might be interested in joining. They may offer an organized club centered around a hobby you have always wanted to take up. Joining one of these clubs or groups could be an ideal way to make friends right away. These are the little things that are worth noting because they might convince you to choose this school over similar ones on your list.

When diving into content that speaks about campus life, dig around to gain a better understanding of what the campus is like. How big or small is it in size? Are all dorms and class buildings located within walking distance of each other? One of the things I work with my college-bound coaching clients on is determining what type of environment they need to succeed at school. Will they thrive on a large campus, or should they be sticking to smaller schools to ensure they are comfortable and able to focus on their academics. Beginning to understand the makeup of the different campuses will be valuable when comparing these schools int the coming months. 

Alumni

The last section to visit before getting to overwhelmed with the alumni section. This may seem odd since you are not even a student yet. The alumni section is not terribly overwhelming. It also does not force you to make choices about what information to read about. It is a section devoted to students who have graduated from that school and the successes they have enjoyed.

Every school will boast an alumni network that includes former grads that are now in the workforce. Research this network to understand how many grads are in it, where they are located, and how active they are. If a school boasts active alumni, it means typically those grads enjoyed their time in the school enough to actively give back. This is yet another insight into what life might be like as a student at that school.

The alumni network can also have an impact on your career after graduation. When you graduate, you are among thousands of grads who, on paper, look identical. You all come from similar schools with the same degrees and grades. When it comes to getting that first job, being able to connect with a hiring manager that went to the same school as you could be invaluable. Being able to call on alumni to help grads get jobs is a huge selling point for any school. Now, you will need to continue to do extensive research as you move forward to ensure this network is as valuable as they claim. If it is, then it could be the driving force behind your final selection.

Conclusion

As you move through this process and determine major and other things you are looking for in a school, you will return to the site and take advantage of the additional information it has to offer. For those just starting, it is essential to have a basic plan when visiting a website with such a high volume of information. The three sections above will allow you to get comfortable in navigating college sites. It will also let you to get familiar with what college is all about and what it has to offer you and your 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 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.

New Years Resolutions for High School Students

Believe it or not, 2019 is almost over. As a high school student, I didn’t take the time to think about the year that had passed or the upcoming one. I was usually in straight survival mode, just trying to get to Christmas break. Once on break, I didn’t dare think about school or how I could better myself in the new year. As an adult, I can only wish I had played less video gaming and done more planning for my future.

Don’t get me wrong; holiday vacations are a time to take a break from the routine of the school year. However, out of the 10+ days you get off, it would be beneficial if you put aside a few hours to focus on your future. By simply committing to sitting down for a few hours one afternoon after Christmas, you will be setting yourself up for success for the upcoming year.

Setting resolutions for the new year is a popular topic and exercise for most people this time of the year. Millions of Americans commit to making changes such as eating better, exercising more, switching jobs, or starting a new project. The reason so many people have to make resolutions to change bad habits is that they never took the time to prevent them from becoming habits in the first place. Another reason why this exercise is so crucial and with several days off in a row coming up, there is no reason not to do it.

Year In Review

You can start this exercise by thinking about the year that just passed. Specifically, list three things that went well. This could include excellent grades, new habits, making a sports team, or anything that you look back on with joy or pride. Once you list them out, think about what you did to make them happen. What positive habits did you create to reach these milestones? By doing this, you are accomplishing two critical things. First, you realize what works for you and what solid habits you already have.

Second, you have proven to yourself that you can handle stressful situations and accomplish your goals. When it comes time to start looking at colleges, you can enter the journey with confidence, knowing that you have already had many of the positive habits you will need to navigate such a complicated process. You will also look at that list of habits and figure out how to best put them to use.

What’s Next?

As you already know, you can’t live in the past. If you are a frequent reader of this blog, you know my message is based on being prepared for the future. I cannot tell you how many college grads tell me they regret not planning for the next steps in life. Therefore, your time during this project should be focused on what’s coming next for you in 2020.

What major life events are taking place? Are you taking the SAT’s? Are you visiting colleges? Perhaps, you will turn the legal age to start working and plan on finding your first job. List all of these out so you can see just how vital these upcoming 12 months are. Then, think about if you are ready to tackle these significant life milestones. If not, what specific things do you need to accomplish? If the SATs are on your list and you have poor study habits, then this is the time to make a resolution to improve those habits. If you are getting ready to enter the workforce via part-time work, then resolve to find a job where you will be challenged to grow. Choose a job that will help you become a better person. Ideally, you will work somewhere that you can mention on your college application

Create Sub-Resolutions and a Timeline

The majority of new years resolutions fail. This is because people set broad goals without mapping out how they are going to get there. Furthermore, they do not acknowledge that they need to make specific changes to reach their desired destination. For example, “losing weight” is a weak resolution because it’s too vague. There is no way to gauge success or pre-determined deadlines designed to hold you accountable. Also, most people say they are going to lose weight but admit that they need to change there eating habits or commit to incorporating exercise into their daily routine.

The point I am making is that if all you do is make resolutions such as “Study more” or “get a good job,” then the odds of the resolution creating a lasting impact are very slim. You need to break these resolutions down into attainable sub-resolutions. Once you do this, then you can assign yourself deadlines. This will give you small goals to reach for and motivation or completing them in a timely fashion.

Below I have taken the popular resolution of “Study More” and broken it down as an example to follow:

Original ResolutionStudy More
New ResolutionBreakdown studying into multiple nights instead of just one
Sub Resolution #1Study for 1 hour per night leading up to exam day
Sub Resolution #2Complete Sub Resolution #1 for 5 straight exams
TimelineComplete Sub-Resolutions #1 and #2 by March 1st

 

As you can see, you have taken a broad goal and transformed it into specific mini-goals. Each time you learn of an upcoming test, you will schedule 1 hour of studying each night the week leading up to the test. You want to ensure this habit sticks, so you are committing to not only doing it for the first test of the new year but for accomplishing the feat for five straight exams. Lastly, by setting a goal of early in the year, you are motivating yourself to complete those five consecutive exams as soon as possible. If you do not set a deadline, you may slip and figure you have all year to complete the sub-resolution.

Conclusion

The theme of this new year should be “Preparing for the future,” and there is not a better time than to start now. You can enjoy Christmas and the days afterward. However, before the new year hits, set aside a few hours to complete the tasks above. This process will help you create better habits for not only the new year but every year after that.

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. 

How To Choose a College That Fits Your Specific Needs

One of the most overwhelming parts of the college selection process is the sheer number of options to choose from. Even if you have a general idea of what you want to study, it is easy to be intimidated by all the different colleges that offer your desired major. This scenario can lead to students limiting the number of schools they research or choosing the wrong college altogether.

Over the years, I have spoken to many graduates regarding the college application process. Many of them talked about not knowing where to start and often just simply choosing a school without doing the proper research. As I have documented in past posts if you are going to dedicate four years and thousands of dollars to a college than you need to be sure it is the best fit for you.

As a high school student looking at colleges, it is important to remember that you are unique and that you should never make decisions based on what everyone else is doing. Before you start spending time researching and visiting colleges, take the time to think about who you are a person and student. Only you know what kind of environment and situation you need to be successful. To get started on this journey of self-discovery, I have listed a few key items to think about when determining what type of college is right for you.

Class Size

Class size is an aspect of college that often gets overlooked. As a high school student, you are used to a classroom of fewer than 25 students. In college, class sizes will vary based on the course, the major, and the school you are attending. Some colleges will offer class sizes that are similar to a high school setting. Others conduct the majority of their courses in large lecture halls where you could be seated with 50-100 other students.

When you start looking at schools, figure out how important class size is to your success as a student. Are you someone who benefits from individualized attention? Do you learn best when you can interact directly with the teacher? If this sounds like you, then one of your first research questions should be how large the class sizes are. There is nothing wrong with deciding that a huge lecture hall is not for you. The important thing is that you are putting yourself in an environment that is best suited for your learning needs.

Campus Size

College campuses come in all shapes and sizes. The stereotypical college tends to be large, with many buildings sprawled out across several campuses. However, smaller colleges can and will offer the same level of education. Do not buy in the myth that the bigger the college, the better it is. It is not about what works for most people. It is what works best for you.

If you attend a college with multiple campuses, you may be forced to take a bus to each class. This might not seem like a big deal at first. However, you have to factor in all the other new things that you will be getting used to. I have spoken to several students who have spoken about how the transition became too overwhelming and their grades suffered as a result. Some of these students were unable to recover and ended up transferring back home. 

How are you when it comes to time management? Do you think you will be able to thrive in a scenario where your three classes from the day are all in different areas? If yes, then, by all means, continue to look at those large sprawling campuses. However, if the situation seems overwhelming, you may want to look at colleges that will allow you to take all your classes within walking distance of each other. Again, there is no wrong answer here. It’s about knowing what works for you. The last thing you want is to be so stressed about getting to the class that it takes away from your ability to learn and grow as a student.

Distance From Home

Another common stereotype surrounding college is the idea that you must go away to school. Society often portrays college as this four-year party and that the only way to get the right “college experience” is to live in the dorm, away from your parents, family, and friends. This is not only false but is a dangerous trap that many students fall into.

Yes, there is a benefit in going away to college. You get to meet new people, experience new things and learn how to be independent. That being said, just like everything else on this list, it’s not for everyone. It is a significant life change that requires the ability to transition quickly in new surroundings. Not only are you getting used to a new city, friends, and bedroom, but you will be doing all of this while taking new, challenging courses.

This is not an impossible task. Thousands of students do it successfully every year. The key is to understand if you are that type of student. Will you thrive in the situations I just mentioned? Perhaps you benefit from being surrounded by family and friends. Contrary to popular belief, you can still get a valuable college experience by staying local and commuting to class. The important part is that you are honest with yourself from the start to avoid making a costly mistake in the future.

Conclusion

There is no one right answer when deciding what makes the right college. The answer is different for each student because each student is unique. Everyone reading this post has different strengths and weaknesses. Only you know what you need to be successful in school and eventually in life. Applying to college is a serious process that deserves the proper time and attention. Set aside the time to understand what you need from the start and you will be able to select a college that will set you up for long term success.

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. 

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.

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. 

 

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