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I Survived College Application Season...and You Will, Too!

December 15, 2011

I Survived College Application Season...and You Will, Too!

by Julius Clayborn

I'm laughing a little while writing this article because of where I was a year ago on this very day – in my school's college counseling department frantically fine-tuning essays and putting the finishing touches on my applications. I also remember saying a small prayer before placing each application packet in the mail bin, hoping that a bit of divine intervention would make its way into the admission officers’ hearts. Boy, was I nervous!

The first semester of senior year can be a challenging one indeed. Making sure your grades stay on point in addition to trying to crafting the best college applications can be daunting and stressful. Luckily, I have a couple of tips on how to gain some sort of admissions edge as well as how to ease some of the college-related stress.

One of the most critical parts of a college application is the essay. Is there a prompt? If so, how do you respond to it? If not, then what do you write about? I am here to tell you that the admissions essay is about being willing to share yourself with complete strangers. You have to convey your highs, lows, strengths and flaws and for those reasons, your essay will never be perfect – your flaws are what make you distinguishable, appealing, unique and worthy of admission so focus on articulating this to the admissions officers and telling them why you deserve to be at their university.

I found myself an utter and complete wreck after a few weeks of applying to colleges. I began to overanalyze admissions statistics and as feelings of inadequacy crept in, I questioned my chances at certain schools. I psyched myself out when I should have known my own worth. Be aware of the contributions you would make to a university and remember your reasons for applying are valid. Don't sweat it because you’ve been sweating it for four years; give it your best shot and realize whatever happens is for the best.

One thing that we are not taught in school is that life always works out how it is supposed to. The application process will be worth it and all those doubts and fears will fall to the wayside when (not if!) you get that acceptance letter.

Julius Claybron was born on Chicago’s South Side in the Harold Ickes public housing projects. At the age of five, he lost his father to diabetes and was raised by his mother and grandmother, who helped him to enroll in Urban Prep Academy – a public all-male college-preparatory high school – during his sophomore year. Julius started to read when he was just two years old and still enjoys escaping in books during his spare time. He just began his freshman year at Cornell University this fall, where he plans to double major in psychology and English literature.

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What Really Matters to College Admissions Officers?

November 21, 2011

What Really Matters to College Admissions Officers?

by Kara Coleman

The National Association for College Admission Counseling recently released a list of the top 10 things college admissions officers consider to be most important in an applicant. When I read it, I was surprised to find that extracurricular activities didn't make the cut! There have been many times when I have said or heard someone else say, “That will look good on a college application.” After all, there is something impressive about being SGA president or being actively involved in a service organization like Key Club. Unfortunately, the data say otherwise.

So if you are a high school junior or senior thinking about college, what should you do? Developing good study habits is extremely important – learning IS the point of attending school! – but don’t sacrifice your extracurriculars. College admissions officers may not consider them to be important but involvement in your school, church and community is oftentimes a big factor when dealing with scholarship applications. When I was in high school, I was a mentor with Big Brothers Big Sisters and writing an essay about that experience garnered me a $1,000 scholarship from Coca-Cola during my second semester in college. Even if you don’t end up with scholarship bucks, there is no price to be placed on the leadership skills and character development that can result from getting involved.

So what do you think? Should college admissions officers place a higher value on what you do outside the classroom or should academics be all that matters?

This summer, Kara Coleman graduated from Gadsden State Community College with an Associate of Arts degree. She is currently studying communications with concentration in print journalism at Jacksonville State University Kara's writing has been featured in Teen Ink magazine and she is a children's author through Big Dif Books.

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Now Trending: Fashion on Campus

November 8, 2011

Now Trending: Fashion on Campus

by Kara Coleman

What does the average college student’s wardrobe consist of? Most people probably think of hoodies, sweatpants and tennis shoes, or guys on game day wearing white dress shirts with striped ties featuring their school colors. That’s true to some extent but fashions differ from campus to campus and many people use their college years as a time for self-expression.

When I went to a community college, I noticed there wasn’t really a dominant style of dress that students shared. Because it was commuter school, people got ready for the day and headed to their jobs after class. Some people wore their work uniforms, then there were preps who wore Abercrombie clothes, skaters with skinny jeans and long hair, and basketball players in track suits. It was like a big high school. When I transferred to a four-year university in August, however, I was surprised at how many people came to class each day in their pajamas. (I’m pretty sure I was the only one wearing a sundress and matching earrings on the first day!) Why the difference is fashion trends between colleges? The majority of students at the school I currently attend live on campus in dorms or apartments. They roll out of bed, grab their books and walk across the street to class.

Though sweats and tees are comfortable and convenient, college students are increasingly ditching these options in order to reflect current styles. The reason? Since most students have smartphones or tablets and can access the web from anywhere, they can see something they like, buy it online instantly and instruct that it’s shipped directly to their door...all while walking down the hallway or across campus between classes.

So what about you? Do you go to class in your pajamas or plan out your outfits for the entire week? What fashions are currently trending on your campus and what will be the next big thing?

This summer, Kara Coleman graduated from Gadsden State Community College with an Associate of Arts degree. She is currently studying communications with concentration in print journalism at Jacksonville State University Kara's writing has been featured in Teen Ink magazine and she is a children's author through Big Dif Books.

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Dealing With Your Admissions Decision

December 19, 2011

Dealing With Your Admissions Decision

by Kara Coleman

So you’re a high school senior and you’ve just applied early to the school of your dreams. With those decision letters starting to roll in, all sorts of questions are probably running through your mind. What happens if you're accepted, deferred or – horror of horrors – rejected?

Let’s get the bad news out of the way first. If you receive a rejection letter, remember that it’s not the end of the world. Politely try to find out why you were denied admission and begin working on improvements. You’ve got a whole semester of high school left to study hard and enroll in challenging courses that show you’re a dedicated student. Don’t give up on your dream school, even if it means you must attend another college first. If you reapply after you have some college classes under your belt, admissions officers will see you are capable of doing college-level work. It’s also a really good idea to apply to more than one college in case you are not accepted into your dream school.

The same principles apply if your admission is deferred until a later date but the good news here is that you still have a shot at being accepted! Most likely, admissions officers just wants to review the entire pool of applicants before they make their decision. What you need to do now is update your resume as you win new awards or enroll in new clubs or activities and have someone write a new letter of recommendation. It will strengthen your chances of getting in!

If you do get accepted to the college of your dreams, don’t relax and get comfortable just yet! Take advantage of any AP or college-level courses available to you during this last semester of your senior year or over the summer. Explore your financial aid options to ensure you can afford to attend – new scholarships are announced every day! It’s also important to establish connections with the college by talking to your adviser and meeting your RA as soon as possible. If you plan on getting involved with student groups or clubs, contact the faculty advisers and let them know you are interested. That way, you will already have an edge your first day on campus!

This summer, Kara Coleman graduated from Gadsden State Community College with an Associate of Arts degree. She is currently studying communications with concentration in print journalism at Jacksonville State University Kara's writing has been featured in Teen Ink magazine and she is a children's author through Big Dif Books.

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How to Make Friends in College

August 31, 2011

How to Make Friends in College

by Kara Coleman

After high school, you and your friends have to go your separate ways and now you’re faced with the challenge of making new friends. Where do you start?

Get on board. Joining a club or organization will allow you to meet and spend time with other students with whom you share common interests, especially if you live off campus. After I joined Phi Theta Kappa, I met friends that I sometimes hang out with outside of school activities and plan to keep in touch with for years to come. Colleges offer countless opportunities for you to get involved, from Circle K to Baptist Campus Ministries to Student Government Association; if your school has a get on board or recruitment day, go explore your options!

Find study buddies. Who’s your lab partner in biology? Who sits next to you in your favorite class? Sometimes, friendships actually form over homework! I met some of my best college friends after I started working as a tutor for Student Support Services. I got to know the other tutors and several of the students who came to be tutored. I was also able to get help with my Spanish homework from the Spanish tutor, who was a native of Bolivia. She introduced me to other international students and she even came to my pool party last summer and met my family. Even though we tend to gravitate toward people who are most like us, sometimes the best friendships can be with people who are most different.

Look to your roomies and floormates. If you are moving away to college, your roommate could end up being your best bud...but remember that other people live in your dorm, too! When one of my friends moved off to school, she actually became close friends with a girl who lived across the hall from her. My friend ended up transferring to a different school in a different state but she still keeps in touch with that girl!

How did you make friends in college? If you're not there yet, do you think you these tips will help when the time comes?

This summer, Kara Coleman graduated from Gadsden State Community College with an Associate of Arts degree. She is currently studying communications with concentration in print journalism at Jacksonville State University Kara's writing has been featured in Teen Ink magazine and she is a children's author through Big Dif Books.

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Staying Sharp Over the Summer

May 24, 2012

Staying Sharp Over the Summer

by Kara Coleman

Thousands of college students across the country have been making their way home from school to spend the summer relaxing and taking a break from studying. But how do you keep from forgetting everything you’ve learned throughout the academic year? Here are a few simple tips:

  • Rack up the credit hours. The most obvious way to keep your study skills sharp over summer break is to not take a break at all. Most schools offer summer classes – some full-term, some mini-mesters and some online. Even just taking one class during the summer can be good for your brain.
  • Hit the books. While lounging poolside this summer, why not do a little reading? You don’t necessarily have to tackle War and Peace, but try for something a little deeper than Cosmo or Entertainment Weekly. Visit GoodReads.com to browse books in any genre and find something that will keep you turning pages all summer long!
  • Help someone else. I spent last summer tutoring two eighth-grade girls. Even though we just worked through pre-algebra books together, it really helped the girls to remember all that they had learned and it was a great brain booster for me, too!
  • Just play. Whether you're right-brained or left-brained, puzzle games are a fun way to keep your mind active. Sudoku – a wordless crossword puzzle that involves the numbers 1-9 – is available in book form as well as via download on Kindle. Also available for free via Kindle is Grid Detective, a game where players unscramble words.

How do you choose to keep those brain juices flowing over the summer? Let us know what works for you!

This past summer, Kara Coleman graduated from Gadsden State Community College with an Associate of Arts degree and she is currently studying communications with concentration in print journalism at Jacksonville State University. Kara's writing has also been featured in Teen Ink magazine and she is a children's author through Big Dif Books.

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How to Increase Your Chances of Getting Into Your Dream School

May 2, 2012

How to Increase Your Chances of Getting Into Your Dream School

by Kara Coleman

You probably saw the title of this blog post and thought, “Oh, I know what this is going to say. Take AP classes, get involved in extracurriculars, etc.” But there are a few other not-so-obvious things that you can do to increase the chances of getting into your dream school:

Update your resume. Each time you win an award, get elected to an office in a club/organization or get any sort of recognition, let your potential college(s) know about it. That way, they have a full list of your accomplishments when you graduate from high school.

Hook up with the college community online. Take advantage of Facebook and Twitter. Like or follow your dream school(s), their sports teams, drama department or anything else that might interest you to keep up with what goes on there during the school year.

Send a handwritten thank you note. After you go for your official campus visit, send a handwritten (not typed!) thank you note to your tour guide or, if you had an interview, your admissions counselor. Let them know how much you appreciate them and the attention they showed you that day.

Show them that you’re genuinely interested. College admissions can sort of be like dating: Admissions officers want to make sure that you are interested in them before they commit to you. Imagine yourself as a student at that school and express a sincere interest in the goings-on there: If you don’t have a 100-percent interest in a particular school, take it off your list of potential colleges.

This past summer, Kara Coleman graduated from Gadsden State Community College with an Associate of Arts degree and she is currently studying communications with concentration in print journalism at Jacksonville State University. Kara's writing has also been featured in Teen Ink magazine and she is a children's author through Big Dif Books.

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How Homeschooling Helped Prepare Me for College

August 29, 2012

How Homeschooling Helped Prepare Me for College

by Kara Coleman

For my final Scholarships.com article, I was supposed to write about things homeschooled students can to do adjust to college whether they are living at home and commuting or moving to campus. As I sat holding my pen and staring at a blank piece of paper, however, all I could think about was how homeschooling actually helped better prepare me for college!

Homeschooling taught me how to study and pursue knowledge for myself. One of the top complaints I heard from my peers when I tutored at community college was that they didn’t really know how to study. I was not fed information via lecture when I was growing up – as a kid, my mom and I spent a lot of time reading and learning together and by the time I was in high school, Mom would give me my assignments and I would research and write about them myself.

This approach to education also helped me to think for myself and form my own opinions. My parents taught me to hold my beliefs and convictions to everything my professors tell me and to not be swayed by popular opinion. This sort of critical thinking led me to pursue and accept leadership positions when I began attending college, including editor-in-chief of my school paper and a member of the SGA Cabinet.

Time management is an important lesson that many students learn for the first time in college but I was able to learn how to juggle studying, extracurricular activities and a part-time job during my senior year of high school. In short, homeschooling more than prepared me for college life. If you were homeschooled and are preparing to attend college for the first time this semester, I think you’ll be surprised by how much you can take what you’ve learned at home and apply it to your college experience. Let me know if I’m right!

Kara Coleman graduated from Gadsden State Community College with an Associate of Arts degree and she is currently studying communications with concentration in print journalism at Jacksonville State University. Kara's writing has been featured in Teen Ink magazine and she is a children's author through Big Dif Books; she is also the editor-in-chief of JSU's student newspaper, The Chanticleer.

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Identity Crisis: Administrators Take Steps to Prevent Cheating on Standardized Tests

April 4, 2012

Identity Crisis: Administrators Take Steps to Prevent Cheating on Standardized Tests

by Kara Coleman

Okay, be honest: Have you ever cheated on a test? Last fall, at least 20 teens in New York State were involved in a cheating scandal for the biggest exams of their academic careers: the ACT and SAT college entrance exams. Five of those students were accused of taking the tests for others and the other 15 allegedly paid those individuals between $500 and $3,600 to take the tests for them. One of the test takers was a guy who had been taking tests for girls with gender-neutral names; he had also been presenting test proctors with fake IDs.

To combat this, the College Board and ACT Education announced on March 27th that some additional security measures will be taken when students register for the college entrance exams. The changes – which will come into effect this fall – include students submitting a headshot of themselves when they register for the ACT or SAT; these photos will be printed on the test proctors’ rosters and on the students’ admission tickets and on test day, the proctors will compare the photos to the photo IDs that the students present to the students’ actual faces. Students will also have to identify their gender, date of birth and high school to prevent any other chance of mistaken identity.

So what do you think? Will these new identity verification measures prevent students from having others take the tests for them? This situation also presents another question: Is too much riding on a student’s standardized test scores? When one point can keep a student out of their dream school or prevent them from receiving a scholarship, what other factors should be considered in the college admissions process? It will be interesting to see how the SAT and ACT continue to change in upcoming years and how well the new changes will work this fall.

This past summer, Kara Coleman graduated from Gadsden State Community College with an Associate of Arts degree and she is currently studying communications with concentration in print journalism at Jacksonville State University. Kara's writing has also been featured in Teen Ink magazine and she is a children's author through Big Dif Books.

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Where to Work on Campus

June 9, 2011

Where to Work on Campus

by Kara Coleman

While many students have been working part-time jobs since they were in high school, others are juggling work and school for the first time. On-campus jobs make this transition easy, since your boss will be willing to work around your class schedule. Whether you live at home and commute to your college or you live in a dorm 3,000 miles from home, on-campus employment is available. Here’s just a sampling:

Bookstore Associate: Your school’s bookstore needs people to run cash registers, answer phones, stock shelves and help students locate books they need. This might be a good job for you year-round if your school offers summer courses.

Tutor: At the community college I attended, free tutoring is available to students through the Student Support Services office. Tutors are paid by the school and set their own schedules during the hours the office is open. This guarantees that tutors’ work schedules do not conflict with their class schedules. If your college doesn’t offer a tutoring program, consider starting a private tutoring business.

Ambassador/Tour Guide: My school offers scholarships to students who participate in the ambassador program. Ambassadors are expected to be present at career fairs and charity functions and give campus tours to prospective students. Find out if your college offers scholarships or other types of financial aid for ambassador or tour guide positions.

Campus Security: Some colleges let students work for the university police department. Duties may include directing traffic, inspecting grounds and buildings for safety, and assistance during emergency situations. This is a great opportunity for criminal justice and law enforcement majors...or anyone looking to keep their campus safe!

Student job opportunities vary from school to school – at some universities, the editor of the school newspaper is a paid position! – so visit your college’s website or ask your advisor about potential on-campus jobs for you.

Kara Coleman lives in Gadsden, Alabama, where she attends Gadsden State Community College. She received the school’s Outstanding English Student Award two years in a row and is a member of Phi Theta Kappa. She plans to transfer to Jacksonville State University in August 2011 to study communications with concentration in print journalism. Kara’s writing has been featured in Teen Ink magazine and she is a children’s book author through Big Dif Books. In her spare time, Kara enjoys reading, painting, participating in community theater and pretty much any other form of art.

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