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On episode #89, Alexis Avila talks about five things to do on a college visit
Alexis Avila Founder/President of Prepped & Polished discusses five things to do on a college visit.
Tip 1. Visit the college either in the Fall or Spring.
Tip 2. Spend the night in a Dormitory.
Tip 3. Eat a meal at the dining facility.
Tip 4. Take a Class in your academic area of interest.
Tip 5. Engage with other college students.
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On this tutoring tips episode, Alexis Avila talks about why the ACT is an important college admissions test.
What was your biggest takeaway from this podcast about the ACT test? Do you have any questions for Alexis Avila?
Alexis talks to the Essay Adviser and author Elly Swartz. Elly is an experienced writer and author of dozens of articles for both The Journal of Legal Ethics at Georgetown University and for Teen Life Media, and has over a decade of experience helping hundreds of students gain acceptance to America’s best colleges, grad schools, and independent secondary schools. Elly received her B.A. with honors from Boston University and J.D. with honors from Georgetown University. Elly’s company The Essay Adviser helps students with the school application process, particularly focusing on the application essay. From brainstorming to editing to hitting send, Elly Swartz offers a custom-designed, personalized approach that best ensures your son or daughter will get into a top-tier school. On today’s episode, Elly talks gives you key tips on how to start, write, and revise a fantastic college admissions essay.
8 Takeaways from this podcast are:
What was your biggest takeaway from this article? Do you have any questions for Elly Swartz and Alexis Avila?
On episode 66 of The Prepped & Polished Podcast Alexis talks to American journalist and New York Times Best Selling Author Frank Bruni. Frank is author of “Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be, An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania”. Frank was chief restaurant critic of the New York Times, from 2004 to 2009. He is the author of two bestselling books, Born Round, a memoir about his family’s love of food and his own struggles with overeating, and Ambling Into History, about George W. Bush. In June 2011, he was named an Op-Ed columnist for the newspaper. Frank received his undergrad from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Masters degree in journalistm from Columbia. On today’s episode, Frank talks about college admissions mania, the anxious parents of college bound students, and why top tier schools are rejecting even straight A students.
Frank’s advice for college-bound teens, “Remember a college education if it’s part of a life plan that you can execute is an extraordinary opportunity and adventure regardless of what that colleges acceptance rate is and there is a bevy of colleges that can give you an extraordinary education”
What was your biggest takeaway from this podcast? Do you have any questions for Frank Bruni and Alexis Avila?
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The Prepped and Polished Podcast is an educational and inspirational show that offers tutoring and test prep tips as well as interviews with celebrities and leaders in education. It is hosted by Alexis Avila, founder of Prepped and Polished LLC, a tutoring and test prep firm for K-college.
On today’s show, Alexis is joined by Kelly Queijo founder of Smart College Visit, a resource to help coordinate and plan the multiple college visits during the college bound journey.
Kelly talks about company, and gives us her best tips for what makes a smart college visit vs. a not so smart college visit. She also discusses Campus Chat, her weekly Twitter Chat that takes place every Wednesday at 9:00PM EST. Each week, there is a new topic related to all things college.
For more Information on the Twitter chat, simply search #CampusChat on Twitter at 9:00PM on Wednesday’s and you can engage in the helpful college bound information.
Also, more information on Kelly’s company, Smart College Visit can be found on the web: www.smartcollegevist.com.
Enjoy, Thanks for Listening and remember at The Prepped and Polished Podcast, We Empower You to Take Control of Your Education!
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By Marla Platt, P&P Special Guest Blogger
College interviews can provide you the opportunity to add extra dimension to your application. If the whole prospect of a face-to-face meeting gives you the jitters, relax! In contrast to many an applicant’s worst fears, the interviewer is unlikely to try to trip you up or ask you questions out of left field. Instead, the interviewer’s main purpose is to learn more about you than what is revealed through grades, recommendations, test scores and essays. Give yourself the advantage: Prepare your thoughts ahead of time, and bring along enthusiasm as well as an active curiosity about the school you are applying to.
The following tips are sure to help set you off on the right foot:
When possible, interview with your “likely” schools first in order to buff up your skills and comfort level before meeting up with your target or stretch choices.
Dress for success, which means arrive neatly dressed and comfortable. No need for suit and tie or pearls, but avoid sloppy tee shirts, jeans and flip flops.
Be punctual. Arrive early to campus to ensure parking and locating the assigned building. Time for a short walk around campus before your meeting can help to relax you. If you have a phone or Skype meeting call in at the exact time, preferably on a landline for the best sound quality and make sure there is no distracting background noise.
Learn your interviewer’s name and become familiar with it. At in-person meetings, ask for a business card and refer to it when you write your follow-up “thank you” note. Be sure to express your appreciation for the interviewer’s time as well as enthusiasm for the school.
Express why the school is attractive for you. Be able to do the same with regard to the program of studies you are applying to, tying into your involvements and accomplishments in high school. Bringing along a resume may be helpful but is usually not necessary.
Provide a picture of how the school can benefit by having you as a citizen of the community. Schools are interested in attracting a population of students who will enhance one another’s experience, so come ready to talk about what interests you to demonstrate how you may add to academic and campus life.
Be honest about your strengths as well as areas of challenge. What inspires you? What excites you? What do you need to succeed? If someone were to ask you how you have dealt with your challenges, what would you say?
Prepare a few questions covering things you want to know about the school or program, but always ask beyond the basics covered in the school viewbook or website.
Familiarize yourself a bit about extracurricular offerings on or off campus and be able to talk about these.
Be ready to talk about yourself through the eyes of others. What would your teachers say about you? What about your friends or parents?
Don’t expect any interview, whether one-on-one or a group format, to be a passive experience. Come ready to express yourself and ask questions! The goal of a successful interview, like the goal of a good education, is all about sharing and learning.
Marla Platt is a college consultant and academic coach through AchieveCoach College Consulting located in Sudbury, MA. Marla guides students and families throughout the college search and application process. She is also a long-standing alumni interviewer on behalf of Cornell University and is a member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association.
Which of these interview tips do you find most helpful? Any questions for Marla?
Post your tips/comments below.
By Rosie Colosi, Essay Expert, Prepped & Polished, LLC
You brush past the curtain as you walk onstage, the floorboards creaking as your nervous feet propel you forward. You feel the heat of the spotlight as it hits your face. Your throat dries and your palms sweat as you prepare to sing. You open your mouth and…and…
If you are applying to a theater program, this scenario probably strikes excitement instead of fear in your heart. You yearn for a life upon the wicked stage and desperately hope to gain admission to a top-notch program that will equip you for a successful career in NY or LA.
But before you see your name in lights, you need to see your name on an acceptance letter.
You must go through the regular college application process, score well on your tests, and complete a performance audition. And of course, you must write an essay convincing the admissions committee that you are the next Kristin Chenoweth or Norbert Leo Butz.
Hate writing? No problem! Here’s the pot of gold at the end of Finian’s rainbow: The audition skills you have acquired on your theatrical journey will help you in your essay writing process. Read on…
1. Pick the right song
If you’re an alto, you wouldn’t sing “My White Knight” from Music Man for an audition. If you’re a tall leading man, you wouldn’t sing “Make ‘Em Laugh” from Singin’ in the Rain. You would choose a song that suits your voice, personality, and appearance. Do the same thing with your essay. Pick a topic that is important to you, that means something, that tells the reader who you are. You know how voice coaches are always telling you to “sing what you love”? Well, write what you love. It’s that simple.
2. Practice, practice, practice
You would never audition for a lead in the play after listening to your audition song once, right? You’d listen to the song, find the sheet music, sing it in your room, and maybe even rehearse in front of a coach or friend. Incorporate those good habits into your writing process. Don’t submit an essay you typed in a hurry one afternoon. Allow ample time to write, revise, edit, adjust…then share with a writing coach, a trusted friend, or a supportive teacher. Outside perspectives will help perfect your ideas.
3. Hit all the right notes
It’s every performer’s worst nightmare: prepping to sing a glorious, operatic high note…but a clunker comes out of your mouth instead. To prevent that, we aim to sing right in the center of the note, we set specific breathing patterns, count note values—and all of that’s even before we add emotion. Similarly, the mechanics of grammar, spelling, and sentence structure must be on point in your essay. Misspelling a word in your first sentence can be as detrimental as singing that clunker, so do your homework on your writing mechanics—don’t just rely on spell check.
4. Be confident
You might shout to the rooftops that you’re best singer that ever lived. Or you might downplay your talent to strangers. Find some middle ground between these two extremes. Your essay should tell your dream college that you’re pretty awesome, but bragging will rub the panel the wrong way. It’s a fine, fine line between Kate Monster and Lucy T. Slut (I’m not being crude; it’s an Avenue Q reference!), so balance confidence with humility.
5. Keep breathing
You can’t sing unless you breathe. And you certainly can’t write unless you breathe. The college application process can get hugely stressful and overwhelming, but hyperventilating never helped anyone. A little dose of butterflies in your stomach can be a good thing for performers, and you may get similarly excited and scared about college, but channel that energy into your work. Do a few breathing exercises from your voice lessons before you sit down to write. Seriously. Some extra lip trills never hurt anyone…and they might even help you write your way into Carnegie Mellon.
Rosie Colosi, college essay expert and creator of Write With Rosie, earned an M.A. in English Lit from Boston College and a B.A. in English Lit from SUNY Geneseo. She has written 12 nonfiction books for Scholastic Inc., and she has performed on stages from Alaska to Athens. Most recently, she played Mrs. Claus in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular Starring the Rockettes in New York City.
Are you applying to theater schools? How is your theater program essay coming along?
By Meagan Phelan, Writing Tutoring Instructor, Prepped & Polished, LLC
Your parents taught you to say thank you—and perhaps even to write thank you notes, but in an age when we whip off emails, texts, and tweets at lightning pace and everything seems instant, how important is it to put pen to paper to express gratitude?
Well… Cicero would say, very. He claimed that “gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.” Accordingly, overlooking an opportunity to fully express it to someone who has helped you or given you a gift seems equivalent to forgoing an important discussion with that person. Put a bit more harshly, it’s like saying, “I don’t care about my reputation.”
When you receive assistance from a teacher on a special project, or time from a college admissions counselor during your first campus visit, or a gift from an uncle, you should be thinking about thanking these individuals with a note. Now, you may wonder why I’m writing about thank you notes on a page geared toward high school students contemplating strategies for academic success. I’ll tell you.
First, as previously discussed, thank you notes reflect your character; you’re someone who is cognizant of the sacrifices of time or money others make on your behalf. And character so-shaped is something colleges and employers actively seek. (Think about it: after a while, even the most competitive resumes begin to melt together, but the integrity with which the executive who interviewed you recalls you stands out). Along those lines, the pause you give when writing a sincere note—particularly for something intangible, like inspiration throughout a difficult project—provides space for you to actively consider the role those around you have had in your successes. In other words, it fosters humility, a character trait in leaders who truly garner the respect of those they lead.
Writing thank you notes also gives you practice communicating; even in this digital age of speedy chatter, the written word is important—an extension of your ability to critically think. If you cannot communicate well, your appeal will be limited. It’s one thing to tell the business executive who interviewed “thanks a lot;” it’s another thing entirely to communicate to him that you will apply the advice he gave on getting experience in a particular field, or studying a particular skill—and that in the future you’d be honored to work for him. (Aside: when writing to teachers or employers, keep it brief and professional. You can wax poetic to family and friends.)
Thank you notes are also important because, when it comes down to it, people like being appreciated. You give the gift of acknowledgement through your note, nurturing your relationship with that individual. (In this way, it’s a bit like networking).
Finally, expressing gratitude will also make you happy; it’s a little “time out” you take to recognize what you have, what you’ve learned, or to what lengths another individual has gone to help you succeed. Even when you are striving for goals you’ve not yet attained, it’s important to take time to consider how you’ve been helped in the process so far. It will make your more thoughtful (and even happy) as you pursue additional assistance. And you’d be amazed how much a cheerful persona eases interactions!
After having written your thank you note, you’re not done (exactly). John F Kennedy said, “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” In other words, take what you write to heart (just as you hope the recipient will)—and try to live up to it! (If you thank your tennis coach for extra time spent the past few weeks helping you on your serve after practice, be sure to recall the lessons she gave you every time you step up to the line to launch that ace. Show her you’ve truly absorbed the teaching.)
I may not do everything my parents taught me (I really should dust my apartment sometime [for the first time]), but I rarely neglect writing a thank you note.
Meagan Phelan holds an M.A. in Science Writing from The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD and a B.A. in Biology from Gettysburg College in Gettysburg, Pa. She has freelanced as a science writer and is a Fulbright Scholar. She currently works as a Senior Writer and Editor at AIR Worldwide, a catastrophe risk modeling firm based in Boston.
Do you send thank-you notes after college visits? When is the last time you’ve written a thank-you note?
A tour guide in a bright t-shirt walking backwards, nimbly navigating libraries, gyms, and sprawling lawns; this is the image I conjure when I remember my own visits to college campuses.
If you are a junior or senior, you’ve probably been on several such visits, with more in the queue. How much time do you spend, on average, preparing for these?
If your answer is, “I review the school’s website, talk to others who went there, and get to know its core curriculum requirements,” that’s a good start. But you could be doing more—additional preparation that would make you standout to busy college admissions counselors and advisors you might meet.
Let’s face it; admissions counselors and advisors meet dozens of potential students a year. In the end, those who will stand out to them are very likely those that reflect a passion—and can tell a coherent story about how they arrived at that passion. To maximize your opportunity to discuss this meaty and memorable topic during the brief interviews you might have, or during university functions for prospective students, try to avoid asking questions you could know the answer to simply by studying the school’s website (or course catalog). Questions like whether you have to take SAT II subject tests or four years of a foreign language; the school’s average SAT score; majors, minors, or concentrations offered; and information about study abroad programs.
Taking time to study the information above will mean you won’t have to spend time asking questions about these topics—and can instead focus on more qualitative queries that burrow more deeply into what it’s like to be a student the school. Here’s an example: “How has the head of the biology department’s emphasis on science majors understanding how scientific study results are perceived in the world at large influenced the number of science majors who are adding English/media courses to their curriculum. And/or how has it influenced the possibility for students to pursue independent majors with a science communication-related focus?”
Answers to qualitative questions like these can be different every time, depending on the college staff person you ask.
Not only should you be ready to ask thoughtful questions; you should be ready to answer them, too. College staff may ask prospective students, directly, “Why do you want to attend this school?” If you’ve not yet articulated the answer—but just had warm, fuzzy feeling about the place, or if you like it because your parents both attended—you might want to take some time to think about the features of the institution that have really captured your imagination.
College staff may also ask about your interests—books you have read, or thoughts you have on particular topics in the news. Each question gives you a chance to speak to your interests. In turn, it gives the person asking it a chance to get a sense of who you are. The opportunity to interact in this way can be missed when you spend your brief college visit simply asking the basic questions—about course curriculum, etc.—outlined above.
If you are thinking, “This sounds good, but I’m still fleshing out who I am, and I’m not quite sure how I’d answer these questions,” that’s ok. There are numerous opportunities to pursue interests complementary to (and beyond) your current course curriculum in order to identify areas in which you are passionate.
Do you play high school tennis? After your season is over (because undoubtedly, you won’t have much extra time during the season), consider teaching tennis to local youth. This would not only provide a way for you to engage with your community—an activity sure to impress college admissions staff, and one they like to see students in college continue—it’d offer you a chance to see how you do in a coaching (or leadership) role. Colleges look for leaders among those they accept.
Maybe there is a field about which you already feel excited, like politics. Dig deeper! If talking about tax cuts fires you up, contact your local Congressman and see if that person would be open to you shadowing, or providing write-ups for a local political blog. If you love literature and find you have an appetite for it that extends beyond the courses currently available at high school, investigate courses available at your local community college; they typically offer high school enrichment classes. Colleges love to see high school students taking steps like this, to get real world experience, feed their brains and get ahead!
If you’re still working to provide answers to the kinds of thoughtful questions college admission staff may ask—about how you’ve become who you are and what you want to contribute to the world—consider how you use your free time. Options abound for self-discovery.
Not only will the activities you pursue help you determine where your interests are really rooted—which is critical as you decide upon a career—they will also make for memorable stories when it comes to sharing your narrative with college admissions staff. To stand out in their minds, make sure your own interests first stand out in yours.
What are some good questions to ask admissions officers? Will you ask thoughtful questions on your next school visit?
By Meagan Phelan, Writing Tutoring Instructor, Prepped & Polished, LLC
When applying to college, you’re likely to hear about “the importance of being well-rounded.” It seems to be common knowledge that colleges look for students who’ve shown interest not only in school work, but in other pursuits, like sports, theater, music, or volunteering. Y
The reasoning is clear. These endeavors challenge you in different ways than classwork does and help you develop sensibilities separate from those you can hone as a student. For my part, I know that four years on the high school cross-country, swim and track teams taught me that even the hardest workouts—the ones that exhausted me physically and taunted me, “you can’t finish!”—were doable; I felt more confident at critical moments, like job interviews, as a result. Hours of practicing the violin, meanwhile, slowly grew in me a reserve of patience developed nowhere else; that came in handy when big school research projects required my long commitment. And I remember my theater classmates, whose work on the stage translated to confidence in public speaking, which I greatly admired.
Colleges want bodies of students who reflect these qualities: determination, confidence, patience. So as you work hard in the classroom (which is indeed critical), remember that the work you are doing elsewhere—as a Scout, volunteer, or lacrosse player—is shaping you, too. Take a moment to reflect on the way in which these activities are impacting how you approach the world; could you sum it up in a sentence?
Deviating slightly, I heard an interesting discussion recently, with respect to what colleges seek as they evaluate student candidates. Though colleges want “well-rounded” classrooms, they do not want well-rounded applicants; that is, students who are “jacks-of-all trades” and masters of none. The advice stemming from this discussion was to focus on a specific extracurricular about which you are passionate in order to reflect your investment in it. (We often do this naturally anyway.)
But focusing on one area—putting all eggs in one basket—is still not the goal; rather, the remaining advice was to layer your passion in diverse ways that guide you toward a greater understanding of it. (For example, if your passion were water color, find a way to explore that interest in your local community, perhaps by leading a class at a local retirement home. Do you like to teach? If your passion were Spanish, get involved in translating websites for local businesses who require Spanish webpages. Do you enjoy applying your skills in the business world?)
Simply put, these kinds of effort in an area you love separate you from the next student.
As you work hard now, in high school, you are likely already taking steps to stand out. This is just another to consider; what’s great, too, is that it involves more deeply pursuing that which you enjoy.
And don’t worry; if you haven’t found your “passion” yet, pursue what you appreciate, whatever that may be. Your motivation for investing time in such activities will fall out naturally when it comes time to articulate who you are in a college admissions essays (or in the world beyond). And all the while, you’ll be cultivating aspects of your character that you will call on for the rest of your life!
Is it more important for students to be well-rounded or to be a master of one craft? Do colleges look at both?