Scholarship Saturday – June 28, 2014

The deadlines for the scholarships that were on this list have passed. To see scholarships that are still accepting applications, visit more recent Scholarship Saturday posts.

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7 Tips For Rising Seniors – #7 – Start your College Essays

Most of the colleges you are considering will require you to submit at least one essay. The college essay is probably the most important part of the application. Your grades from freshman, sophomore and junior years are set. You probably have already taken the SAT or ACT and those scores are set. The extracurricular activities you have done in the past are set. No matter your grades, test scores or extracurricular activities, other students probably have similar records. The essay is the thing that can set you apart from other students.

Many students wait until the last minute to put together their applications and essays for admission to college. Sometimes the essays will be well written, but more times than not, the essays seem rushed when submitted on the day of the deadline. As a former Admissions Counselor who read thousands of college admissions essays, I could tell when the essay was rushed. When the essays and applications are rushed, errors are bound to happen. In addition, the essays are usually not unique. It is best to not rush the college admissions essay when it can be the determining factor in the admissions decision. This is why it is so important to start thinking about your college admissions essays during the summer.

The college admission essay prompts for most college applications are already available for review. The top applications include:

  • Common Application. Over 500 colleges use the Common Application. The Common Application opens for submission in August.  Applicants using the Common Application are given five prompts to choose from and must write an essay of 650 words or less:
    • Some students have a background or story that is so central to their identity that they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
    • Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what lessons did you learn?
    • Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?
    • Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content. What do you do or experience there, and why is it meaningful to you?
    • Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.
  • Universal Application. Over 40 colleges use this application including Harvard, Johns Hopkins and Duke. The Universal Application gives one prompt:
    • Please write an essay (500 words or fewer) that demonstrates your ability to develop and communicate your thoughts. Some ideas include: a person you admire; a life-changing experience; or your viewpoint on a particular current event.
  • University of California. The University of California system has ten campuses throughout California. The application opens on August 1.  The UC application has two essay prompts: and must not be more than 1,000 words total. one general essay and one for freshman applicants or transfer applicants.
    • All Applicants: Tell us about a personal quality, talent, accomplishment, contribution or experience that is important to you. What about this quality or accomplishment makes you proud and how does it relate to the person you are?
    • Freshman Applicants: Describe the world you come from – for example, your family, community or school – and tell us how your world shaped your dreams and aspirations.
    • Transfer Applicants: What is your intended major? Discuss how your interest in the subject developed and describe any experience you have had in the field – such as volunteer work, internships and employment, participation in student organizations and activities – and what you have gained from your involvement.

Since you have extra time during the summer, it is the perfect time to write your college admissions essays. Here are some tips to help you put together the best essay for college admissions:

  • Look through the essay prompts and start brainstorming what your essay could be.
  • As you look at your ideas, ask the question, “Could another student send in a similar essay?” Admissions Officers read many essays. Essays and applicants start blending when they have similar stories. Essays that are unique will stick with an Admissions Officer when making an admissions decision.
  • Never write an essay because you think it is what the Admissions Officer wants to read. Contrary to popular belief, Admissions Officers want to learn about you, and can usually tell when the essay is authentic. So, be yourself as you are writing. Your essay might be the only way the Admissions Officer and Committee will get to know you.
  • Have someone that you trust look over your essay and ask them to do the following:
    • If you did not know I wrote the essay, could someone else have given it to you to read? Meaning, is the essay unique enough that it could only come from you?
    • Review essay for spelling and grammar errors.
    • Do you have suggestions to make the essay better?
  • Review your essay a few more times over some time and make changes as necessary.

Note about proofreaders. Proofreaders are great and can help you to see errors and missing pieces in an essay. However, you do not have to take all of their suggestions. Make sure that the essay continues to be YOUR essay.

Take this extra time you have during the summer to start your admissions essays. You do not want to wait until the school year when you have other assignments that you cannot neglect. In addition, by starting now, when you hit that submit button to submit your application and essay, you’ll be confidence you are submitting your best because you did not rush the process!

If you need assistance with your essay, contact me today to set up a meeting.

That is it for my seven tips for rising seniors during this summer. If you missed one, check them out below:

  1. Build and Narrow Down Your College List
  2. Clean-Up Your Social Media
  3. Connect with Colleges
  4. Gain Experience
  5. Plan Your Senior Year
  6. Build Your Brag Sheet

 

7 Tips For Rising Seniors – #6 – Create Your Brag Sheet

Some of us tend be humble and don’t like to talk about the great things we have done. However, you’ll have to get over being so humble when you start your scholarship and college search. In the competitive world of college admissions and scholarships, you have to set yourself apart from the other applicants. And, the best way to do that is to brag about everything you’ve done.

It is important to create a brag sheet that shows all of the great things you have done outside of the classroom. You can and will use your brag sheet in a variety of ways:

  • Reference. You will be able to pull out your brag sheet when feeling out college and scholarship applications. You don’t want to forget about anything and your brag sheet will remind you of things you might have forgotten.
  • Give it to Admissions Officer. When you visit college campuses, you can usually schedule a meeting with an Admissions Officer. These meetings are a great way to learn more about the college, but also to learn about your chances of being admitted to the university. You can give the Admissions Officer your brag sheet when you are discussing your extracurricular activities. Not only will it show them all of the great things you’ve done, it shows how organized and serious you are about the university.
  • Include it with your college/scholarship application. As you look at college applications, you’ll notice that the application doesn’t have a lot of space to list your extracurricular activities. If the application says you can submit additional information, your brag sheet is a great addition to show just how much you have done!
  • Give it to recommendation writers. Let’s face it. Your guidance counselor and teachers know a few things about you, but they probably don’t know the extent of your activities. The brag sheet will show them all of the great things you have done and will help them to write a great recommendation letter for you. In addition to talking about how great you are, their letter will show the Admissions/Scholarship committee that the writer knows you.

Your brag sheet will look like a resume. So, include your name, address and contact information at the top of the document. You will also want to include the following sections (if applicable):

  • Extracurricular activities. Extracurricular activities will include all of the clubs and activities that you are involved in at school. This can include student government, yearbook, newspaper, music, drama, clubs, organizations, etc.
  • Sports. Organized sports in and out of school should be included.
  • Summer Experiences. You should include things such as mission trips, community service projects, travel programs (not vacations) and summer school programs at colleges or universities.
  • Awards/Honors. Include all honors and awards you have received in high school. This includes school, regional and national awards, sports awards, and testing honors (National Merit Standing).
  • Employment. List all jobs you have had since starting high school. This can include things like babysitting and formal jobs and internships.
  • Hobbies. List hobbies you have that are not organized. Be selective when making this list. You will not want to include all of your hobbies. Include hobbies that can impress the reader. You could include hobbies such as playing music and photography.
  • Church/Community. Youth group, mission trips and community service activities can be included in this section.

As you are listing all of your activities, you will also want to include descriptions of activities (if necessary), leadership positions and the amount of time that you dedicate to the activity. There are many examples of brag sheets out there. Feel free to be creative with your brag sheet.  Make sure you organize your brag sheet in a way that it is only one page.  Resumes for students in high school should never go longer than a page.

Take your time when putting together your brag sheet. This document will help you in your college admissions and scholarship processes. So, make sure you include all of your great activities. This is a time it is okay to not be humble!

Join me next time when I discuss the last of my tips for rising seniors – writing your college essays.

In case you missed the other tips for rising seniors:

  1. Build and Narrow Down Your College List
  2. Clean-Up Your Social Media
  3. Connect with Colleges
  4. Gain Experience
  5. Plan Your Senior Year

Scholarship Saturday – June 21, 2014

The deadlines for the scholarships that were on this list have passed. To see scholarships that are still accepting applications, visit more recent Scholarship Saturday posts.

7 Tips For Rising Seniors – #5 – Senior Year Planning

I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but senior year is going to be very busy. In addition to your regular studies, you’ll be applying to college, participating in senior year activities, and making sure you don’t get senioritis. To make sure you are at the top of your game, plan ahead during summer.

Review your academic schedule. Senior year is an important year to show colleges that you are serious about your studies. While many high school seniors will choose to slack off senior year and only take the minimum classes, you should continue to challenge yourself.

  • Are you registered for AP or honors classes? If not, but you’re able to take AP or honors courses, look into changing your schedule.
  • Are you enrolled in a math class? Many high schools only require three years of math, so many seniors choose to not enroll in math their senior year. However, this is a mistake. First, most students will need to take a math course in college, so taking a year off from math can make it difficult to pick it up after a year. Plus, Admissions Officers are looking for students who challenge themselves academically. Choosing to continue with math is one of the ways to show them this.
  • Are you enrolled in a full course load? You might have pushed yourself in your earlier years of high school and only need two or thee classes to graduate. Again, show Admissions Officers that you want to challenge yourself by enrolling in a course load full of academic classes.

Register and prepare for the SAT and/or ACT. You have another shot to improve your test scores in the fall. Many colleges will “superscore” your test score. This means they will take the highest score from each section to determine your overall score. Not all colleges superscore, but many do. A higher test score can increase your chances of getting admitted to a college. In addition, if a college awards merit scholarships, test scores are usually considered. The SAT is open for registration now and registration for the ACT opens in July. Register for the tests and put them on your calendar as soon as possible. Take some times during the summer to study for the test.

Review your activities. Colleges want to see students involved in meaningful extracurricular activities. Are you involved in activities that you have a genuine interest? Or, are you involved in activities only because you’re doing it to impress college? Are you more than a member in a club? Do you do more than just show up to meeting? Make sure you are participating in activities you enjoy and try to take a lead in the organization. It may be too late if you don’t have a leadership position, but you can take on more responsibility. During a fundraiser or event, take a leading role. Colleges want to see students showing leadership and participating in extracurricular activities can show your leadership.

Manage Community Service Activities. It’s important to continue your community service activities during the school year. Have you found an activity you truly enjoy? If not, find something that will show your passion. Admissions Officers are looking for students to be involved in something they care about versus something they are doing to just impress colleges – and they can usually tell the differences.

Choose your recommendation writers. Many college applications require a recommendation or two. Instead of waiting until the last minute to choose who will write your recommendation letters, brainstorm options now. The people that write your recommendations should be people that know you academically, as well as personally. It is best to find someone that has served as your teacher, as well as someone that has served as a mentor or advisor for one of your activities. The best recommendation letters can talk about your academics, your strengths and your goals – it shows the writer really knows you. Make a list of people that could be your recommendation writers and rank them based on who knows you the best. Make sure your list has at least three people just in case there is a reason your top choice can’t write the letter.

Get to know your guidance counselor. Many college applications, including the common application, require a recommendation from your guidance counselor. If your counselor has not had the opportunity to get to know you, schedule an appointment at the beginning of the academic year. Again, the best recommendations come from someone that knows you. Admissions Officers can sense from the letters when the recommendation writer does not know the student very well.

Calendar everything! Senior year will have more deadlines then you’ve ever had in a year. Make sure that you put everything on your calendar. If using electronic calendars, set reminders for everything as well. If you miss a deadline for applications, scholarships and financial aid, you can lose your chance. Make sure you don’t miss anything by “writing” it down.

Map out your senior year now to ensure a smooth year with less stress than the students that did not prepare.

Join me next time when I discuss putting together your resume.

In case you missed the other tips for rising seniors:

  1. Build and Narrow Down Your College List
  2. Clean-Up Your Social Media
  3. Connect with Colleges
  4. Gain Experience

 

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