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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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Get an A in Organization 101

January 10, 2012

Get an A in Organization 101

by Kara Coleman

Is your dorm room or car always a mess? Do you have trouble remembering when assignments are due? If so, here are some ways to start the spring semester with less clutter and a more organized outlook.

Go mobile. I once had a boss who said that if she didn’t put something in her phone, it wasn’t going to get done. That’s true for a lot of college students, too, especially since we always have our phones with us. Put test dates and project due dates in your cellphone and set your phone’s alarm for those days. That way, you’ll have your schedule with you at all times.

Check your schedule every day. Rather than keeping up with dates on their phone, some students prefer flipping the pages of a calendar or planner. If this describes you, make a habit of writing everything down and try to make a habit of checking your planner every morning when you wake up and every night before you go to sleep.

Keep it together. A friend of mine started keeping notes from all of her classes in the same binder, with each class separated by a color-coded divider. Now, none of her notes get mixed up or misplaced and when she heads to campus every morning, she only has to grab one notebook on her way out the door.

Have a routine. It’s a million times easier to keep track of everything if you have a set day to do certain things. For example, Wednesday night is my laundry night. If there’s something specific I want to wear for the weekend, I don’t have to worry about it being clean because I know that all my laundry is washed and folded on Wednesday. Have days or times planned each week to balance your checkbook, go grocery shopping, etc. to make your time more manageable and your college life more organized.

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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Admissions Decisions: What to Do While You Wait to Hear

January 16, 2012

Admissions Decisions: What to Do While You Wait to Hear

by Katie Askew

By now, most of the priority deadlines for college applications have passed. You have filled out your last application, written your final essay and everything is under review...so what’s left for you to do?

During the period between submitting your application and getting an admissions decision, there is a lot you can do besides just sitting around waiting. Although patience is a virtue, why don’t you take a look at what I did and see if you can keep busy!

Visit or revisit. If you haven’t already visited your choice colleges, now is the time. Take a tour, meet with an admissions counselor and talk to students you see about campus life. If you have already visited, go again because the second visit is almost always more informative than the first: Now that you have seen a few different types of schools, you can go back to your top choices and get more pertinent information because you’ll know exactly what types of questions to ask.

Volunteer. If you are deferred or waitlisted to your top college (knock on wood!), volunteer hours are great additions to your application and make you a more promising candidate. It shows that you are really doing everything you can to be a well-rounded student. If you were accepted to your top college, those volunteer hours didn’t go to waste – it’s humbling to give your time and maybe volunteering at the local hospital has given you a potential new career path as a doctor or nurse!

Job shadow. Shadowing someone working a job you’re interested in is a great way to acquire lots of information directly from those in the industry. After the job shadow, maybe you’ll realize becoming an orthopedic surgeon isn’t right for someone as squeamish as you are or maybe you’ll realize how much you love healing others. You won’t know until you job shadow!

Sure, the couch is comfortable but get up and get out – there is a lot more you can do to prepare for those admissions decision letters!

Katie Askew is a sophomore at the University of Minnesota pursuing degrees in journalism and English. At school, Katie can be found reading, drumming or working in the Office of Admissions. Outside of school, she enjoys traveling, teaching and performing music and spending time outdoors with friends and family. Katie loves all things zebra and has a necessary addiction to coffee. Her iPod is perpetually playing Death Cab for Cutie or classical music because she truly believes that when words fail, music speaks.

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Maintaining Balance Between Work and School

January 26, 2012

Maintaining Balance Between Work and School

by Katie Askew

Once in college, students quickly realize that time means nothing. Hours spent not doing homework fly by while hours in the lecture hall merely crawl. You need go to class and you need to work to make some money but you also need to relax with friends. Is it possible to organize work and play time wisely in college? Of course!

Have you ever heard of the rule of three? If you haven’t, it means that for every credit number you’re taking, you’re advised to spend three times that per week outside of the classroom doing work for the class if you want a high grade. For example, under the rule of three, my three-credit convergence journalism class will require at least nine hours of work outside the classroom on a weekly basis; multiply that by a normal 15- or 16-credit schedule and you’re spending at least 45 hours a week on outside homework or studying! (Using the rule of three is, of course, just a suggestion: Some classes may require more or less time.)

Schoolwork is full-time job in itself so who has time for anything else? Well, a lot of college students make time to work to pay for rent, groceries or textbooks. If you want to work, the best bet is to find an on-campus job. The scheduling is usually more suited to student life and managers will work around your class schedule. Sometimes, you will get lucky with a job that lets you do your homework while you’re on the clock! You can find employment off-campus as well but be aware that these jobs usually require more work to schedule around.

If you’re working and attending school, the most important thing to remember is to not overwork yourself! Limit the numbers of hours you work per week – a reasonable amount is anywhere from 8 to 12 hours – and consider practicing the rule of three to keep your school and work lives balanced.

Katie Askew is a sophomore at the University of Minnesota pursuing degrees in journalism and English. At school, Katie can be found reading, drumming or working in the Office of Admissions. Outside of school, she enjoys traveling, teaching and performing music and spending time outdoors with friends and family. Katie loves all things zebra and has a necessary addiction to coffee. Her iPod is perpetually playing Death Cab for Cutie or classical music because she truly believes that when words fail, music speaks.

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All Students CAN Have Access to Success!

February 6, 2012

All Students CAN Have Access to Success!

by Katie Askew

If you’re the type of student that struggled through your more difficult high school classes, doesn’t have an outstanding GPA or ACT score and are worried you won’t get admitted to a normal four-year college program, fear no more! Many schools around the country are implementing programs for students who may be below the normal admission averages or require extra help in the first few years of college.

The University of Minnesota’s program is called Access to Success (ATS) and is specifically within the College of Liberal Arts, one of seven freshman-admitting colleges at the U. ATS is a student community that bases selection from your admission application but the community includes high school students who appear as if they will succeed in the college atmosphere and just weren’t fully prepared through high school. The benefits of the program include a small learning community with special classes, tutoring support and student-to-student mentoring all while experiencing everything a college student can experience.

All students in the ATS community are assigned an ATS academic adviser who helps them explore majors and opportunities, a career counselor who helps them research and find careers that interest them and a peer mentor who helps them adjust to college life. In addition, ATS participants will have a major or college adviser who helps them declare their majors and plan their courses. The staff in the program wants its mentees to succeed and will do everything in their power to make that happen.

College really can be a good fit for everyone with programs like ATS in place. If you’re interested, check out your top school’s website or ask your admissions counselor for more information. Even if you’re not eligible for an ATS-style program, tutoring and study tips never hurt. Every school has tutoring sessions or mentoring programs available to students – all you have to do is find them!

Katie Askew is a sophomore at the University of Minnesota pursuing degrees in journalism and English. At school, Katie can be found reading, drumming or working in the Office of Admissions. Outside of school, she enjoys traveling, teaching and performing music and spending time outdoors with friends and family. Katie loves all things zebra and has a necessary addiction to coffee. Her iPod is perpetually playing Death Cab for Cutie or classical music because she truly believes that when words fail, music speaks.

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Selecting the Right Roommate

The Right Choice Could Make a Friend, Not a Foe

November 3, 2011

Selecting the Right Roommate

by Katie Askew

While living at home, my older brother and I were fortunate enough to never share a bedroom with anyone but our stuffed animals so coming into college, I knew I was in for quite the shock. My biggest anxiety wasn’t getting through hard classes, traveling around campus or living in a big city – it was sharing a 12’x12’ space with another human. Living with, studying around, sleeping near and breathing the same air as some random person I’ve never met before? Thanks...but I’ll pass!

If you share my feelings about communal living, one way to ease this anxiety is to room with someone you already know. This wasn’t an option for me: I was not only one of four students graduating from my high school to go to the University of Minnesota and the other three students were boys. If you find yourself in a similar situation, ask around: Maybe an acquaintance or friend of a friend is looking for a roommate as well.

I’m sure you’ve all heard the stories of best friends attending college together, rooming together and living happily ever after together, right? Well, yes it can happen but it can also turn out poorly and result in losing a friend. Be careful about what friend you choose to live with and if your friendship can survive the trials and pressures of a small space and a new environment.

The alternative is being assigned a roommate randomly. This person has the potential to be your new best friend or she has the potential to be your worst enemy. For me, my randomly-assigned roomie turned out to be the biggest thorn in my side but I was fortunate enough to have a great relationship with my floormates and I always found sanctuary from my crazed roommate in a neighbor’s room.

So, which roommate route are you considering?

Katie Askew is a sophomore at the University of Minnesota pursuing degrees in journalism and English. At school, Katie can be found reading, drumming or working in the Office of Admissions. Outside of school, she enjoys traveling, teaching and performing music and spending time outdoors with friends and family. Katie loves all things zebra and has a necessary addiction to coffee. Her iPod is perpetually playing Death Cab for Cutie or classical music because she truly believes that when words fail, music speaks.

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Graduation...Then What?

November 15, 2011

Graduation...Then What?

by Katie Askew

So maybe you’re the type of person that had their entire life planned by 7th grade, so you already know what you’ll be doing after college graduation. But if you’re like most busy college students, you might only start thinking about post-grad plans by your second or third year of school. And that is perfectly okay because there are many different options and opportunities available depending on your major, personality or life goals! Here are just a few:

Grad school, law school and medical school: Post-graduate study may be your next step if you want access to jobs that have higher starting salaries or jobs that require more than four years of schooling. Law school prepares you to pass the bar exam before becoming a lawyer and medical school allows you to obtain your MD before becoming a practicing doctor – two things you just can’t do with an undergraduate degree alone. Many majors encourage their students to go to grad school after undergrad as well because they’ll be better educated and prepared before entering the work force. Grad school is a much more specialized course of study in comparison to undergraduate education so be sure you know what you want before you begin!

Peace Corps: Maybe you finished your undergraduate education and don’t feel ready for more schooling or a job just yet. But what’s another option? Join the Peace Corps or some other volunteer or missionary opportunity! It’s a great way to help out those less fortunate than you, see the world (and get paid while doing so!) and you can even add it to your resume to impress future employers. Once you volunteer in the Peace Corps, however, you are committed to a 27-month job – if more than two years out of the country is ok with you, so is this opportunity!

Workforce: Maybe you feel prepared enough after your undergraduate years to transition into the work force. If so, go for it! Be aware that you’ll be paid an entry-level salary (which isn’t glamorous) and while you most likely won’t land your dream job right out of the gate, you’ll gain the career experience necessary to do so in the near future.

Katie Askew is a sophomore at the University of Minnesota pursuing degrees in journalism and English. At school, Katie can be found reading, drumming or working in the Office of Admissions. Outside of school, she enjoys traveling, teaching and performing music and spending time outdoors with friends and family. Katie loves all things zebra and has a necessary addiction to coffee. Her iPod is perpetually playing Death Cab for Cutie or classical music because she truly believes that when words fail, music speaks.

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Exploring the History of Your College Town

December 5, 2011

Exploring the History of Your College Town

by Katie Askew

Recently, a few friends and I took advantage of some rare balmy Midwest weather and went on a historical adventure. We didn’t have money or a plan, but we stumbled upon a little piece of Minnesota history right in downtown Minneapolis!

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, a famous American poet, lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts but in 1885, a Minneapolis fish market owner named Robert Jones built a 2/3-scale replica of Longfellow’s home in Minneapolis. Longfellow never lived in the house because he died in 1882 but the city of Minneapolis now owns the house and after years of being used as a haunted mansion, it’s now basically a museum and information center. For an English major like me, this was a fantasy!

This is just one of the many historical sites and national parks in Minnesota and it’s pretty easy to find many types of free museums, historical locations and ancient legends right in your college’s town as well. You can use the National Parks Service’s National Register of Historic Places to find sites like this in your area and most states also have a Historical Society that boasts free or inexpensive history-centered events near you. Even better, check out your dream school’s personal history! It’s always interesting to find out who the buildings are named after or other random facts your campus tour guide can’t tell you. (For example, the University of Minnesota has a heritage trail with markers that describe everything from the history of the campus architecture to university icons and famous alumni.)

Learning about the history of your city not only helps you to feel connected to the past but also helps you to be better informed about interesting occurrences that happened where you live, work, study and play. History is everywhere – you just have to actively seek it out!

Katie Askew is a sophomore at the University of Minnesota pursuing degrees in journalism and English. At school, Katie can be found reading, drumming or working in the Office of Admissions. Outside of school, she enjoys traveling, teaching and performing music and spending time outdoors with friends and family. Katie loves all things zebra and has a necessary addiction to coffee. Her iPod is perpetually playing Death Cab for Cutie or classical music because she truly believes that when words fail, music speaks.

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