Volunteering in High School—Do Admissions Boards Really Care?

Thursday, March 19th, 2015

Although grades and test scores are what colleges look at first, volunteer work is important because it shows a college that a student is compassionate, involved, and well-rounded. Community service is also said to be growing importance among admissions officers.

A 2011 survey conducted by DoSomething.org ranked it number four in importance of factors considered for admission, above reference letters, interviews, and legacy. To really impress admissions officers, students need to show dedication to a cause. Rising to a position of leadership is important. Wanting a significant role in an organization shows that the student cares and that their colleagues trust them enough to either elect them or promote them tovolunteer photo such a position.

Tips and Tactics for Volunteering

  • Start as a freshman or sophomore. The more time a student dedicates to community service, the better it looks on college applications.
  • Find activities within the volunteer work to demonstrate organizational, leadership, and teamwork skills. Find community service opportunities that build on these skills.
  • Find something that aligns with a potential chosen major. Colleges like to see volunteer work that aligns with a student’s major. This will also make the work both more enjoyable and interesting. And if a student does not find it to be enjoyable and interesting, it may be a sign that a student may want to look at other majors.
  • Ask around for excellent volunteering opportunities. Counselors, family members, and community leaders may have good ideas for a student on what they can do for their neighborhood.
  • Commit to a few activities over time. Colleges are looking for quality, not quantity. Sticking with a few causes demonstrates commitment and interest.
  • Consider starting your own charity or volunteer project.
  • Do not just seek to join an already established volunteering project, be proactive to identify a need, and fulfill it.

Showcase Community Service Projects in the Best Way Possible
Students need to make sure they position their volunteer activities to their greatest advantage.

  • Show WHY a particular issue was chosen, WHAT goals were trying to be achieved and describe HOW those goals were achieved.
  • Have a long list of causes? Consider dedicating one essay to explaining how all those issues actually fit together under one larger theme like “poverty” or “human rights.”
  • Get personal and focus on how the student changed as a result of their experience(s), rather than just outlining what was done, how many hours, etc. For example, did a student experience a change in world view as a result of their community service.
  • Use specific language that can be more effective: Words like “commitment,” “leadership,” “initiative,” and “passion” should be used instead of “required,” “mandatory” and “brief.” Also good words: “engaged,” “meaningful” and “transform.”

The right match of volunteer work can help a student meet new friends, get involved in the community, learn new skills, explore careers, expand their network, and give them an advantage on their college application. For more information on volunteering in high school, or for help with applying to colleges, contact International College Counselors at http://www.internationalcollegecounselors.com or 954 414-9986.

How to Get the Most from a College Visit – and Look Your Best

Friday, March 6th, 2015

college visitNo college search can be complete without a least a few college visits. There is no better way to learn about a college and its campus then to see it for yourself. Spring break is one of the most popular times to visit campuses. Colleges and high schools often have different break schedules. When classes are in session, high school students can get a better idea of academic and student life.

To get the most from a college visit, families need to do some prep work. Below is a checklist for parents and their students

  1. Do research. Review a college’s website before you visit. It will give you a good overview of the school and help you decide what you want to see. Basic research can also help when speaking with a college representative. You do not want to ask questions that can easily be found on the website.
  2. Plan the visit. In addition to a campus tour, call ahead to schedule an individual appointment with a college admissions counselor. Schedule time so you can eat on campus. If possible, arrange to meet a professor, attend a class and-or stay overnight on campus in a residence hall.
  3. Make a list of questions to ask admissions officers, financial aid representatives, faculty and students. Thinking through your questions before you visit a college will make the college search easier.
  4. Make a list of “must see” places you want to visit on campus. Student-athletes may want to visit the practice facilities or the weight room.  Art majors may want to visit a studio.
  5. Pack the following items
    1. A camera. During your tour, take a lot of pictures. If you’re comparing several schools, the photos can help you remember the details. While details may seem unforgettable at the time of your visit, by the third or fourth tour, schools will start to blur together. The first photo at any school should be of something with the college’s name.  This will be particularly helpful if visiting multiple schools on one trip.
    2. A recording device. Group information sessions provide many facts and details about a college. Having a recorder makes it easier to focus on the speaker and your surroundings rather than getting all the words on a page. A recorder will also make it easy for you to review the information while working on your application or personal statement.
    3. A tablet or journal and pen. Make note of important pieces of information during your info session or campus tour. In addition to numbers and facts, jot down your likes, dislikes and feelings during the visit so you can remember which schools felt right to you and why. Write down the names of speakers you liked, details about the school and programs you may want to research further.  In addition to helping you, details are good to drop in any future interviews or correspondence with the college.
    4. Comfortable clothing and shoes. The main feature of a campus tour is the tour. This means you will be doing a lot of walking. Also do a weather-check before your visit and bring anything that you may need like an umbrella or sunscreen.
    5. Copies of resumes, test scores, and transcripts. Resumes are definitely needed for rising juniors and seniors who have scheduled a campus interview. During your visit, questions may also come up where it would be convenient for the admissions representative to look at a transcript or score report.  On some visits you may never need these documents, but for the times when you do, it is good to have them.
    6. An ID card or passport. Many schools request identification in order to access certain buildings, such as the library.
    7. A positive attitude. Stay open-minded. A school may not meet your expectations or it may surprise you and exceed them. It’s all a great adventure. Enjoy the journey.

International College Counselors 2015 College Scholarship Essay Contest Kicks Off

Friday, February 6th, 2015
Scholarships are a great way for high school students to help fund their college education.

Scholarships are a great way for high school students to help fund their college education.

International College Counselors is accepting entries for the 2015 International College Counselors High School Essay Contest.

Four (4) college scholarships of $250 each will be awarded, three to students who attend school within Dade, Broward and Palm Beach County; and one to a student from outside the Florida tri-county area, including outside the United States.

This is the fifth year International College Counselors has been awarding college scholarships. Students in grades 9-11 are asked to submit a 500-word essay that answers the question:

If you could create one class in high school that reflects your academic values, interests, and/or outlook on education, what would it be and why?

The deadline for receipt of essays is April 1, 2015. Contest rules and submission information can be found on the International College Counselors website.

Students can submit an essay written in either English or Spanish. Work will be judged on the basis of originality and effectiveness of argument or presentation. Students do not need to be clients of International College Counselors to enter or to win this annual college scholarship essay competition.

The International College Counselors High School Essay Contest established this Scholarship Fund to increase awareness of the value of higher education among high school students, as well as to give financial aid for tuition to college-bound students.

 

Good luck to all.

Six Tips for College Bound High School Juniors

Thursday, January 29th, 2015

Junior year is an extremely important year for high school students. Critical decisions will have a major impact on a student’s next five years and long beyond.

College admissions officers look very closely at what a student does in junior year, so here are six tips for college bound juniors:

  1. Prepare and Take Standardized Tests

    Do not wait for senior year to take the all-important SAT and ACT, unless you thrive on stress. Students who take their tests in their junior year have time to see their weaknesses and study to eliminate them. The SAT or ACT can be retaken in the fall, and with the right preparation, scores almost always improve. Fall is the last chance to take the tests for many colleges.

    Students should take the SAT Subject tests in the subjects that they took this year. Subject tests are designed to measure specific knowledge in a particular academic area. Students who wait until their senior year to take the SAT Subject Tests, may find they’ve forgotten the material.

  2. Consider Possible Majors

    Make a list of possible college majors. Start with personal interests. These interests can include animals, nutrition, film, medicine, writing, or a million more. Make sure to include any motivating school subjects, like algebra or literature. Taking any one of a number of free assessment tests online can also be helpful. There are a number of websites that match interests with possible careers. Some high schools offer these tests through the school guidance counselor. The idea is not to commit to a career path, but to try and narrow down career possibilities. It’s worth noting that many students switch their major at least once during college.

  3. Research Colleges

    Gather information on different colleges and universities from books and websites. Attend local college fairs, as well as presentations by traveling college admissions officers. Go on as many campus tours as possible. Talk to alumni and-or current students. Scour social media for tidbits of information. Consider taking a college road tour over spring break. Make sure the whole range of schools is considered: public, private, large, and small. In the late spring, draft an initial college list. The goal is to start senior year with a list of fifteen to twenty colleges of interest. Having an idea of college majors makes the college search easier. However, a list of prospective colleges can and should be created even if there is no major in mind.

  4. Search for Scholarships

    Research scholarship opportunities and apply to them. There are many scholarships open to students in their junior year. Diligent juniors will also discover many scholarships they may want to apply to in their senior year. When scholarships are applied to, make sure everything is proofread and all deadlines are met.

  5. Plan to Maximize Summer

    Incoming seniors should spend the summer in a meaningful way. Colleges want to see that students spent their time wisely on an activity like an internship, job, or college program. To achieve this, students need to start planning their summer now.

    Many competitive and prestigious summer programs are available and these satisfy hundreds of interests including engineering, journalism, and business. The right programs help students learn and also look great on college applications. Attending a summer program at a college of interest also looks good to a college. While this does not guarantee admissions, it may help a student confirm interest in the school and make an early decision choice easier.

  6. Get Good to Great Grades

    Senior grades are not listed on college applications. This means colleges look at junior year grades to understand the academic abilities of a student. Junior year grades are the last full year of grades for admissions committees to look at in determining a student’s acceptance. Junior year is the last year to impress.

    A drop in grades can send the wrong signals to a college. Junior classes are more difficult than freshman ones, but a declining grade trend is bad news. An increased GPA or a consistently high average shows that a student is ready for college. Easier classes should not be taken in an attempt to raise grades. However, students can scale back in the subjects that are not important to their future goals, if they have well-defined goals. Be careful about this and consult a college advisor, as needed.

    Another reason to get good grades: Junior year teachers are typically the ones to ask for letters of recommendation.

Junior year comes with a lot of stress, but with planning and positivity, it can also be a time filled with excitement about the future. All this hard work can pay off.

10 New Year Resolutions for High School Students

Wednesday, January 7th, 2015

The New Year is a great time to make resolutions that will improve personal growth. If you’re a high school student looking at ways to make the transition to college easier, International College Counselors offers a few resolutions that can help.

  1. Commit to getting good grades. For the majority of students, good grades are entirely necessary to get into a good school. In the best-case scenario, a student maintains good grades throughout his or her high school career. However, if a student starts with low grades and then improves, colleges give points for this. If grades are too low and-or show a steady decline, this signals real trouble. Spending a night studying instead of going out with friends may not be exciting, but students need a long-term perspective. Grades are a bridge. They serve to get a student into a college where there will be more freedom. In college, grades are not usually as important as they are in high school.
  2. Stop procrastinating. Stop underestimating how much time it will take to get something done. When procrastination leads to four college essays on top of schoolwork, all due tomorrow, usually, this doesn’t turn out so well. It’s better to celebrate being ahead when a project is finished earlier than thought.
  3. Don’t do it all. It’s better to concentrate on a few things and excel in them than join every sport, activity and club that can be crammed into a schedule. Anyone can join 10 clubs and be slightly involved in them all. Schools are looking for commitment that shows willingness to stick with something and make the most of it.
  4. Keep a calendar. Deadlines creep up quickly. The closer the date, the higher the pressure. Most students don’t do their best under pressure. And colleges, scholarships, federal aid, and standardized testing services are not typically sympathetic to any excuse about missing a deadline. If a deadline is missed, so is an opportunity.
  5. Take standardized tests early. No one knows how high their SAT, ACT, Subject Test, or other standardized test score can go until they take the test. Wait too long and there won’t be enough time to retake it. Many unexpected things can affect test scores on any given day, including health issues — it’s impossible to plan not to get food poisoning. Taking the test early will also allow time to take a test prep course if necessary.
  6. Do the research. Know what the choices are when it comes to colleges. This way any coulda, shoulda, woulda regrets can be avoided later in life. Research could be as simple as visiting a school’s website.
  7. Try something new. High school is a great time to spread those wings. It’s about new experiences and self-discovery. Want a certain internship, there’s no harm in calling up an employer and asking if they have any room for an eager high school student. Want to try a new sport or activity, go ahead and try it. Students are not expected to leave high school knowing exactly what they want to do, but this is a chance to start narrowing down any interests. People never know what they like – or how good they are at something – until they give it a try.
  8. Be excited about going to college. Whatever college a student attends, there will be new people to meet, new things to learn, and great times to be had. That’s reason enough to be excited no matter what school is attended, a first choice or a safety.
  9. Do what the college counselor says. Students: We at International College Counselors are here to get you what you want out of life.
  10. Banish the self-doubt. Fear of failure and doubting personal abilities only hold students back from achieving what they want to achieve. Just say no to these thoughts and others like them.

HAPPY 2015!

How to Handle a Deferral

Friday, December 19th, 2014

Many students who apply to college Early Decision or Early Action find that they’ve been deferred. This means they’ve neither been accepted nor rejected – a sort of college purgatory.

Typically, a deferral means the college wants to compare you with the full applicant pool because your application did not shine enough for them to admit you early.

Unlike a rejection, a deferral offers hope and chance. Ironically, hope is not always the least stressful option. As any expert college advisor at International College Counselors will tell you, you have work to do if you want to improve your chances of turning the ‘maybe’ into a ‘yes.’

Here are some of our expert college advisor suggestions:

Don’t panic. There was a reason you weren’t rejected straightaway.

Get information. Contact the admissions office and see if you can find out why you were deferred. Then ask for suggestions regarding turning your deferral into an acceptance. By doing this, you’ll make the school aware of your commitment and get more information. Do not call if the college has specifically asked that students not call them.

Send in improved standardized test scores. This is especially important if you believe your submitted scores may not have measured up.

Send in your midyear grades. Make sure you meet their deadline. (This is another reason why it’s important not to let your grades slide.)

Write a letter. Sincerely express your continued interest in the school and reasons why you believe it would be a good match for you. Do not come across as whiny or negative. Be yourself; sound personal; be interesting; and be positive. Attach information about any new and meaningful accomplishments that are not in your original application. Accomplishments could include new activities, new awards, or leadership positions.

Send in a strong and relevant additional recommendation. The best letter of recommendation would discuss your unique qualities and why they make you an ideal match for a school. What you don’t want to do is send a generic recommendation. Make sure you check to see if the college allows you to send extra letters before you send them.

Let go. There is no one “perfect” school. Hope for the best but prepare to go to one of your backup schools.

INTERNATIONAL COLLEGE COUNSELORS TIP: At all times and with all communication with the college be polite, professional, positive and enthusiastic. Don’t express frustration or anger or try to convince the school they made a mistake.

Special Offer: $500 College Application Review

Monday, December 8th, 2014
Holiday offer

Make your College Application stand out!

The Deal: Get your completed Common Application or other College Application reviewed by an expert advisor at International College Counselors. The offer is for one (1) college application review and based on availability.

The company: International College Counselors helps students find, apply to and gain acceptance into the college of their dreams. The expert educational consultants are dedicated to helping students and their families successfully navigate the college application process.

Contact: lindsey@internationalcollegecounselors.com or call 954 414-9986 to purchase this special offer.

Don’t delay: Offer expires 1/9/15

The Florida Bright Futures Scholarship Program: Do Not Miss the Chance to Apply

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014

 

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The Florida Bright Futures Scholarship Program purpose is to reward students for their academic achievements in high school by providing partial scholarships. This long-standing merit based scholarship program is for Florida residents attending Florida colleges, universities and career schools.

Even if a student’s current plans do not include an education in Florida, we encourage them to apply. If a student does not apply before graduating, they lose their eligibility forever.

The program offers three levels of scholarship awards – the Florida Academic Scholars award (FAS), the Florida Medallion Scholars award (FMS), and the Florida Gold Seal Vocational Scholars award (GSV). Each level includes a GPA requirement, required academic courses, community service, and scores on SAT or ACT exams. Other ways to qualify include National Merit Scholars, National Hispanic Scholars, AICE Diploma or IB Diploma in addition to Service Hours. Recent years have seen the Bright Futures eligibility requirements become more rigorous.

All seniors must submit a Florida Financial Aid Application available on December 1, 2014, at www.FloridaStudentFinancialAid.org to be eligible for the Florida Bright Futures Scholarship, or any financial aid program in the state of Florida. This application must be filed as soon as possible after December 1. Registration should be completed no later than January 31, 2015. The application does not require financial information and takes approximately 10 minutes to complete.

General Bright Futures Scholarship eligibility requirements include

  • Students must APPLY for the scholarship by submitting the Florida Financial Aid Application (FFAA) beginning December 1 of their senior year and no later than August 31
  • Be a Florida resident and a U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen
  • Not have been found guilty of, or pled nolo contendere, to a felony charge

Helpful hints for the application

All demographic information must be accurate and must match information on record at the student’s high school, collegeboard.org, and act.org. This includes:

  • Social Security Number
  • Date of Birth
  • First and Last Names
  • Address

Enter a Florida University as a postsecondary institution the student is planning to attend even if the current plan is to go out-of-state.

Enter no less than 3.0 for the weighted and unweighted GPA. Eligibility will be based on actual 7th and 8th semester Bright Futures GPA.

Scholarship amounts

The amount of the award is based upon the number of units taken, and the type of school. The amounts range from a high of $103 per semester unit for a 4 year college or university if you are a Florida Academic Scholar, to a low of $39 per unit for a career or technical center. This scholarship may be renewed for subsequent years. Award notifications will be received from March through August.

Students and their parents who need help and are clients of International College Counselors are encouraged to call or email us with any questions.

Follow up on Your College Application The Right Way

Thursday, October 16th, 2014

The holidays are coming. Pumpkins! Turkeys! Presents! And before you know it 2015 will be here.

Don’t lose sight of your college application.

There are a lot of pieces to keep track of—including test scores, college application essays, letters of recommendation, transcripts, and more. Not only do you need to complete these, you also have to follow up on them. The key is to stay organized.

Check your email every day over the next few months. Schools send emails to confirm receipt of information, tell you if there are problems, set up interviews, and even send you acceptances!

After you send in your application: Mark off the date you sent it in. Most schools send an email confirmation within a few days. DO NOT THROW AWAY THIS EMAIL. Put it and anything you receive from a college into a special email folder for college correspondence. This email may contain log in information for a portal through which you can check your application status. Check your status periodically. Items like transcripts and test scores take time to be processed, but if your application is not complete within a few weeks of sending all the pieces, call the school to follow up. Do not procrastinate. An incomplete application will result in a likely rejection.

After you apply for financial aid: Follow up on the status of your FAFSA. If you submit it online, three to five days after you submit your FAFSA, the office of Federal Student Aid will send you a Student Aid Report (SAR). If you mail the FAFSA in and they do not have a valid e-mail address for you on file, your SAR will be mailed within 7 to 10 days. Once your application has been processed, you’ll get a chance to check the form for errors, make corrections, and add/delete schools you want to receive an application. Make any corrections right away, before you forget about them. If you do not receive the SAR, contact FAFSA customer service at https://fafsa.ed.gov/help.htm.

After asking for transcripts and recommendation letters: Two weeks (or more) before your application deadline check with everyone you asked to write you a recommendation. Confirm that they wrote the letter and sent it in. For the Common App letters, check the “School Forms” tab for what has – and has not – been downloaded by the school. It’s your responsibility to make sure your transcripts and letters of recommendation get written and sent in by the deadline.

After an interview: Send a thank you note a few days after the interview. Thank the interviewer for speaking with you and reiterate your interest in the school. Make sure the letter is written professionally and politely. Your job of impressing the interviewer doesn’t end when the interview is over.

End note: With some organization, your application process should go smoothly. Millions of students have successfully gone on to college, and you can too.

For more information on International College Counselors or to contact an expert college counselor, please visit www.internationalcollegecounselors.com or call 954 414-9986.

12 Tips For Attending a College Fair

Friday, October 10th, 2014

College fairs are a great way for high school students and their parents to meet with representatives from various colleges and universities around the country. This is often a student’s first contact with a college, and it is advantageous to make the most out of your college fair experience.

Here are some tips on attending a college fair:

Make a list. Before going to the fair, find out which colleges will be at the fair (a list may be posted on the fair’s website) and write down the names of 10-12 you want to learn about. Visit those representatives first. If you have extra time, check out some of the other booths. You may stumble onto a great college you hadn’t considered. Focus primarily on schools that are more than two hours from home. Colleges and universities that are closer can be visited in person.

Do research. Visit the websites of the colleges on your list and learn as much general information as possible. With this knowledge, you can ask more in-depth questions when you talk to college representatives.

Create a set of labels. Most colleges will have an inquiry form for you to fill out. This will place you on their mailing lists and also record that you visited the booth. If you bring along self-stick labels to place on the cards, you can save a lot of time. Include your contact information, e-mail address, birthday, high school graduation date, GPA, and areas of interest. Make sure your email address is appropriate.

Sign in. If there is no inquiry card, sign in at the school’s table. Students get extra points from a school for demonstrating interest. Signing in lets the college know that you attended an event and were interested to stop by. Use legible handwriting, the same spelling of your name that you use on the college application, and the same email address you plan to use for all college admissions correspondence. If not, the college will think you are another person and you may lose the “credit.”

Dress for success. Dress in a manner that suggests you are serious and taking the event seriously. It’s about putting one’s best foot forward and showing respect, enthusiasm, and interest. Clothes need to be neat, not as if one fell out of bed and into yesterday’s clothes.

Arrive early. You will be easier to remember if you are not the 300th student a representative meets.

Act like a professional. During the encounter, students want to be professional, engaging, positive and enthusiastic at all times. Smile. Look the representative in the eye. Introduce yourself. Avoid giving yes or no answers. Ask for the business card or the name of each admissions representative you meet.

Pass out your resume. Handing out your high school resume at college fairs will show college representatives that you are a go-getter. Your resume will allow the representatives to see what kind of a student you are and allow them to take it back to their college admissions office for review.

Ask thoughtful questions. To avoid being another face in the crowd, students should ask two or three specific questions that call attention to their specific interests about a particular college. Good questions include: “What is the personality of this college as you’ve experienced it? What kind of student is happy here? What are some of the best features of the school?” Stay away from questions with answers that can easily be found on the website or in the catalog. Also stay away from questions that can be answered “Yes” or “No.” Try to think like a journalist looking for answers. If others are waiting to talk to the rep, keep the conversation short. This is not the time to discuss your personal circumstances.

Stay organized. After the fair (or even before it) make a folder for each school that you are interested in. On the folder write down the date and location of the college fair, and the names and contact info of the representatives you met. Put any brochures or other printed materials you received into the folder. Toss out materials from colleges you’ve ruled out so you can focus on the colleges you’re interested in.

Do more research on the schools you like. Explore websites, contact the admission office and-or plan a campus visit. If you’re enthusiastic about the college, it may be time to visit in person.

Follow up. If you have an alumni interview or have more questions for the admissions office of a school, mention that you attended the college fair and remind them of something you spoke about in your conversation.

To find out when local college fairs will be held in your area, contact your high school counselor. To find out the dates for the national college fairs, visit nacacnet.org

International College Counselors
4700 Sheridan Street, Suite J
Hollywood, Florida 33021 USA
(954) 414-9986

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