Be Prepared: The Common App Goes Live August 1

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

On August 1, the Common Application goes live, and students can start filling out applications to the over 500 colleges that participate in the program. These schools are in 47 states and the District of Columbia, as well as in Austria, France, Germany, Italy, United Kingdom, and Switzerland. The colleges and university members are of all sizes and missions and include public and private schools, even the Ivy League schools. Keeping organized is the best way to complete what will seem like a daunting task. Keep pertinent information easily accessible. Print out the following and put it in an expandable folder. Then don’t lose track of the folder.

  • Your social security number.
  • Family information— your parents’ or guardians’ legal names, addresses, occupations, employers, colleges they attended, years they graduated, and degrees they hold.
  • Your high school’s information—address, your date of entry to the school, and your guidance counselor’s full name and contact information.
  • Scores on standardized tests, including the SAT or ACT and AP, IB or SAT Subject test scores.
  • A copy of your high school transcript so you can enter your previous courses and grades.
  • A list of the high school courses you’re currently enrolled in.
  • A list of the college credits earned if taken through a college.
  • A list of summer jobs, extracurricular activities, honors and awards received.
  • A credit card for the payment of the application and to send the test scores.
  • Financial aid plans. (Do you intend to apply for need-based financial aid or merit-based scholarships?)

Students applying as an in-state resident will usually need to show a few documents for proof. For example, the requirements in Florida can be seen here.

Get started on or keep finessing your Common App essay.

The 2014-15 Common Application Essay Prompts can be found here.

Work on your resume, if required.

Students can attach a resume only if a specific school asks for it.  There will be an upload area for it within the college’s writing supplement.

Keep track of your progress on the Common App.

Students can do this by checking the completion Dashboard. When submitting the application, some materials must be submitted together, while others can be submitted independently. The ENTIRE Common App must be completed before it is submitted.

Track all dates and deadlines on a calendar.

You can do this on an old-fashioned wall/desk calendar or program the dates into your phone and set it up to alert you as the deadlines approach.

Keep a folder for each college of interest to you.

This will help ensure that you keep all the printed materials, notes, correspondence, passwords, and photos together. They will all start running together otherwise.

Know the requirements of each college.

Some colleges require applicants to submit writing supplements. These supplements may only be submitted after Application materials have been submitted. Optional writing supplements are not really optional. A number of schools have already posted theirs for the upcoming year and can be found here. Some colleges give interested applicants the option to complete and submit an Arts Supplement as part of their application. Some member schools replaced the Arts Supplement with Slideroom.com integration. Make sure you know the requirements of each college.

Make printed records or screenshots.

Whenever you send an email to a school or interviewer, or receive a response, make sure you print it out and add it to the folder. You will also want to take screenshots of completed applications and confirmations. One of our students used a screenshot to prove his application was not late. And it worked. It’s best to keep all this together.

Break down your tasks. Set manageable goals for yourself.

You won’t be able to complete the application in one night or even one weekend. And if you take it all on at one time, it’s going to be overwhelming. Pick a date for contacting teachers, counselors, or coaches who are writing recommendations. Set time aside to really work on your essays. Then remember to check the Application over multiple times before you send it.

UPCOMING EVENTS

August 21 8pm – Books & Books Coral Gables What should every public school student know about college admissions? Come hear author and CEO of International College Counselors, Mandee Heller Adler, as she reads and discusses her new book, From Public School to the Ivy League: How to get into a top school without top dollar resources.

School Admissions Consulting for Kindergarten-12th Grade

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

Choosing the right elementary school, middle school, and high school can be an overwhelming process. There are many, many choices. Make the right decision and you could put your child on a better path to success. Given that, many parents have been asking us to help them choose the right schools that will best pave the way toward lifelong learning and a prestigious college education.

We are proud to say, we are expanding our services. Through our partnership with School Choice International, expert advisors at International College Counselors will now be helping families understand and navigate the K-12 public, private, magnet, charter and parochial day schools in South Florida and around the world.

Our educational consultants know the local schools and will provide clear advice about which schools are a match for each child. Through a personalized, one-on-one approach, school placement consultation services include:

  • Student Assessment & Strategy
  • School Evaluation, Recommendation and Selection
  • Essay Editing
  • Application Completion
  • Standardized Test Review
  • Interview / Audition Preparation
  • Visual Arts Portfolio Recommendation
  • Letters of Recommendation Support
  • Decision Making Support
  • Deadline Reminders
  • Encouragement and Support

Through in-person meetings (where available), phone calls, email and Skype correspondences, we provide families with the information and help needed to navigate the K-12 admissions process.

For more information, visit www.internationalcollegecounselors.com or contact us at 954 414-9986.

Applying to College as a Prospective Visual or Performing Arts Major

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014

When it comes to applying to colleges as a prospective visual or performing arts major, students must approach admissions with an abundance of passion for their careers. In addition to an application, personal statement and interview, admission requirements include auditions or portfolios. This can be time-consuming and nerve- wracking.

Most importantly, students need to find the right school for their talents.

Look beyond the elite schools.

Schools such as New York University, Juilliard, the Rhode Island School of Design, University of Southern California, University of Michigan, Berklee College of Music, and Carnegie Mellon are the elitist of the elite for certain visual or performing arts. They are the Harvards and Princetons for the arts. In other words, many students want to attend but only a few will be accepted. In any given major—from musical theatre to graphic design—there are other good schools out there. U.S. News & World Report offers a listing of specialty schools. Look into the schools on the list called “Unranked Specialty Schools: Arts.”

Get an honest opinion on your talents.

Before students and their families spend the time and money on applying to college for visual or performing arts, get an expert or two to critique the student’s talent. It may be better for a child’s future to pursue an arts passion as a minor or a club activity.

Know what you need for the audition or portfolio. Know what the school requires for the admissions process.

Art programs require portfolios that show a student’s best pieces of artwork within specific parameters. Selections for a portfolio should display the student’s interest and aptitude for the arts. Typically, art colleges and programs ask for portfolios with an average of 10 pieces of art. The artwork should illustrate diversity in technique and variety in subject matter. Always check the requirements at the schools being applied to, as some will ask for specific types of work. Visual artists should also be prepared to explain their artistic perspective through an artist statement, and may be required to describe the feeling and intent behind the pieces in their portfolio.

Dance auditions often require a student to attend an open class before the formal audition. Students who attend will learn a routine which he or she will then need to perform. This individual performance will be evaluated on coordination, rhythm, technique, degree of movement, and body structure. The student’s ability to learn will also be evaluated. Certain schools accept video submissions of other performances, either as additional audition material or in lieu of attending auditions in person. Check with each school to see if this is an option.

Music departments are looking for technical competence and performance achievement; however, each program is different. At some schools, students are asked to include two or more pieces as evidence of the student’s skills and achievements. Instrumental auditions should be performed without accompaniment and should be sent in either audio or video format, as requested by the school. Some schools may also require in-person auditions. If so, many times a variety of locations for such auditions are offered. Check a college’s website or call and ask for specifics about their music audition requirements.

Students looking to pursue a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Theatre, or apply to specific colleges as a theatre major, may be required to audition. Different theatre departments have different requirements for their auditions and students should check with the schools they plan to apply to for details. Many theatre programs require a prescreening for auditions. Students who pass the prescreening process will be invited for an audition. Programs may require a resume of theatre experience, a recent photo, and/or two contrasting monologues from student-selected plays. Musical theatre requirements generally consist of one up-tempo musical selection and one ballad, as well as a monologue from a student-selected play or musical. Students who attend an audition or send in a video must make sure to wear appropriate clothes and perform appropriate material.

Attend joint auditions.

Attending a joint audition can help students and their families save money. Joint auditions mean a number of schools that offer a bachelor’s degree program in a particular major, get together and hold auditions or review artwork and offer feedback for attendees. Theater majors look into the National Unified Auditions. Visual art and design majors look into National Portfolio Day.

Pay attention to financial aid.

Many art schools and conservatories are expensive. They also tend to offer less financial aid than traditional colleges that offer a wider range of majors. Students who are interested in the arts can successfully develop their passions at traditional schools, so don’t ignore them.

Tips for International Students Considering U.S. Colleges

Tuesday, July 1st, 2014

More and more international students are enrolling in colleges in the United States. This increase can be attributed to a number of reasons, including quality of education, future employment opportunities, cost, scholarships, social recognition, and opportunities for immigration. Combine this with several thousand colleges and universities to choose from, and the U.S. has options and educational opportunities for everyone.

The road to acceptance at a U.S. college or university will never be 100 percent stress-free, but there are ways to make the process easier.

Independent college advisors can help international students navigate the admissions process and offer tips on:

1. Deciding where to apply. Getting into a U.S. college is often more difficult for international students. However, a student can gain an advantage if he or she knows which schools are particularly interested in international students as a way to add diversity and cultural enrichment to their programs. Students may also prefer to be at schools with more international students. Being far from home can often feel lonely, and the presence of fellow international students to share the experience can ease “culture shock.”

2. Taking the required tests. Many universities require international students to take the TOEFL or IELTS as part of the application process. The TOFEL and IELTS test a student’s understanding of English. The minimum score requirement on each of these tests varies greatly, so be sure to check with each school’s specific policies when preparing to apply. Oftentimes, if an international student’s native language is not English, the only exceptions would be if the student studies at an English speaking high school, or if the student earned a bachelor’s degreein a particular country like the United States, the United Kingdom or Australia, or Anglophone Canada. International students may also want to look into test-optional schools that do not require the SAT or ACT as part of the admissions process. Schools that do not use these scores can be found at Fairtest.org. However, it is best to check the school’s web page for the most current information regarding test policies.

3. Building the resume with extracurricular activities. In addition to good grades, colleges like students who participate in extracurricular activities. Many international students do not have extensive resumes, so these activities can propel one international student over another in the admissions process. With these activities, a student should demonstrate to the admission committee some level of accomplishment, passion, initiative, commitment, and leadership. Activities can include drama, music, sports, dance, volunteer work, work experience or internships. Colleges prefer to see a few activities that show a student’s sincere dedication over a list of as many activities as possible.

4. Completing the application process. There are a number of elements that an international student needs to submit with an application. For one, students need to make sure colleges receive translated versions of transcripts or grades they require along with letters of recommendation. Essays are another area of the application that may cause problems for students of English as a second language. In writing the essays, international students should not try to “Americanize” or “mainstream” their applications. Schools want diversity. The goal is to stand out and not appear to be like all the other applicants.

5. Deciding where to attend. This is made more difficult because it is often impossible for students in other countries to visit all or any of the colleges being considered. Some countries have international fairs or Skype interviews so students can meet school representatives, but students should still try to visit the college prior to making their final decision.

6. Understanding financial aid. Financial aid in the form of grants, loans or need-based aid is usually not available for international students.Students should also look at each college’s financial aid services website to see if anything is available. Almost every school requires families to submit bank letters that confirm the family has enough money in the bank to pay for all four years of school. If a student does not need financial aid, they should let the college know. In many cases, international students who need financial assistance are less likely to get accepted. Students should research financial aid opportunities at EducationUSA, a service of the U.S. Department of State and the Institute of International Education. The site offers a frequently updated list of financial aid opportunities.

7. Getting scholarships. Searching for scholarships can be a daunting process. For international students who want to study in the U.S., a good place to start looking for scholarships is a student’s own home country. Some countries provide assistance to students for international study.   For example, a number of countries provide scholarships for students who do a STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) program, for example. Students should look into these options and research them fully. Some, but not all, of these require students to return home upon graduation. International students should also look at each college’s financial aid services website to see if there are any merit-based scholarships. A large number of colleges have merit-based scholarship programs specifically for international students. Additionally, many private companies offer scholarships to international students. A good place to start is with one of the many free search engines for scholarships. Keep in mind that students should never have to pay to find or apply for scholarships. Reputable scholarships never charge to apply.

International students who are not working with a college counselor who knows the application process and best schools for international students should be sure to contact the international affairs department of each college of interest.

18 Tips for Writing the College Essay

Wednesday, June 18th, 2014

The personal essay can help improve a student’s chances for admission.

The essay may be as short as 150 words, but those words can mean the difference between a “maybe” and a “yes.” The essay tells the admissions committee how and why one student is different from all the others.

While there is no exact formula for the perfect admission essay, here are some tips to consider when trying to make a lasting impression on someone who reads 50 to 100 essays a day:

  1. Write about yourself. The admissions committee is looking to learn about you—your achievements, your obstacles, your goals, your passions, your personality, your values, and your character. If you are asked to write about an influential person, the college wants to know his or her influence on you. Whatever topic you choose to center your essay around, make sure you shine through.
  2. Focus on one facet of yourself. Admissions committees are looking for an in-depth essay. Pick one project, one activity, or one passion. Cover too many topics in your essay, and you’ll end up with a list. The magic is in the details.
  3. Tell a good story. Demonstrate how you are compassionate—don’t just tell readers you are. If you had a difficulty, don’t give the admissions committee a list of complaints. Tell them how you overcame them.
  4. Keep it real. If you speak from the heart, it will show, and your essay will flow more easily. Choosing something you’ve experienced will also give you the vivid and specific details needed in your essay.
  5. Present yourself in the best light. Always think about what information you want colleges to know and use when evaluating your application. Don’t share anything that doesn’t make you sound good, unless you absolutely have to, or you can turn it around to show the positive.
  6. Share your opinions, but avoid anything controversial. You don’t know who is going to be reading your essay, so you want to appeal to the broadest audience possible. Write about something you like as opposed to something you don’t.
  7. Don’t repeat information already in your application. If you’ve taken six AP courses in one year, don’t list that you’ve done it unless this relates directly to the focus of your essay. Admissions officers want to learn something about you from your essay that they can’t learn from reading the other sections of your application.
  8. Avoid cliché topics unless you have something extraordinary to say. These topics include a trip to Europe, the controversial celebrity who you idolize, overcoming an injury and making an athletic comeback, and understanding the meaning of life from a fishing trip.
  9. Leverage your native culture, traditions, and experiences. If you’re an international applicant, Native American, or otherwise non-traditional student, don’t try to “Americanize” or “mainstream” your application. Schools are looking for diversity. The goal is to stand out and not appear to be like all the other applicants.
  10. Copy-and-paste carefully. Sure, it’s easier to tailor one essay for many schools than to write each one from scratch. However, read each essay over carefully, like it’s the first one you wrote. Almost every admission officer can tell tales of students who accidentally wrote how excited they were by the opportunities offered at another school.
  11. Avoid scientific words, acronyms, industry jargon, or foreign phrases. Your essay needs to be easy for anyone to read.
  12. OMG! Avoid using slang or other hard-to-decipher language.
  13. Profanity. Don’t use any. It will get you noticed. Not in a good way.
  14. Spend time on your essay. The admission committee is looking to see what you can do given the time to brainstorm, rewrite, and polish. They are looking to see what topic you chose and what you did with it. An essay won’t help you if it’s sloppy and uninformative.
  15. Check your grammar and spelling. You can write conversationally, but the grammar and spelling still need to be correct. And don’t solely rely on your computer’s spell-checker. Often times, the wrong word (spelled correctly) can slip by.
  16. Show the essay to someone who can give you objective feedback. Sometimes you can get too close to the essay and be unable to see it clearly. Other people can often tell if there isn’t enough being revealed, or your essay rambles, or if the humor is falling flat, or if you’re not making the impression you’d want to. Remember, this essay is going to someone who doesn’t know you and is going to be making a big decision based on what they’ll learn from it.
  17. Write the optional essay. Optional essays are not optional.
  18. Don’t lie or plagiarize on the college application. If a university finds out you lied on an application or essay you will get rejected, almost guaranteed. Plagiarism is always wrong, and schools are getting better at detecting it.

 

FOR MORE INFORMATION

International College Counselors is an independent college admissions company that helps students in the U.S. and all over the world find, apply to, and gain acceptance into the college of their dreams. The college counselors are dedicated to helping students and their families successfully navigate the college admission process. For more information on International College Counselors or to contact an expert college counselor, please visit www.internationalcollegecounselors.com or call 954 414-9986.

7 Great Ways for Parents of High School Students to Spend Their Tax Refunds

Thursday, May 15th, 2014

According to the Internal Revenue Service, the average tax refund this year is roughly $3,000, reported CNN (4.3.14). Here are some great suggestions on what to do with the refunded money for parents of teenagers who plan to attend college:

1. Pay for tutoring. The importance of grades for colleges cannot be ignored. The GPA is the single most important part of a college application. Not only that, colleges want to see a challenging high school curriculum. If a student needs help in one or more subjects, spend some money on tutoring. (It may even pay off more in the form of scholarships.)

2. Put money into a 529 plan.
Even if a child will be a junior this year, it’s not too late to make a tax-preferred investment for college. Many states provide a tax deduction for 529 contributions even if it is only a short time investment.

3. Invest in a summer enrichment program.
Summer enrichment programs can help propel students toward college, as well as help them gain acceptance into a school of their choice. Students can explore a subject of interest or bolster volunteer work credentials. There are programs for all interests, including engineering, career exploration, robotics, entrepreneurship, women’s leadership, music, drama and test prep. Nearly every school, including the Ivies, offers a summer program for high school students, allowing students to experience life on a college campus. Some programs offer college credit.

4. Go for the test prep. Next to grades, test scores are one of the most important factors in college admissions. Look into test prep courses with a (SAT word alert) splendiferous SAT, ACT, SAT Subject Test, AP and/or TOFEL tutor who can help boost a student’s confidence and increase the test scores.

5. Visit colleges. College visits can be costly but worthwhile. A student just may find their top-pick school is nothing like they imagined. Visiting a school may also increase chances of gaining admittance and of getting a better award package, if only slightly. Taking the time to tour campus shows commitment.

6. Encourage summer college courses. Summer college courses can give a student the opportunity to attend school classes with undergraduate students or other select high school students and earn college credits.

7. Hire an independent college counselor. An expert college advisor like one at International College Counselors can give a student the individualized attention to properly tackle the college admission process. From help choosing colleges, going on interviews, editing essays and applications, refining extracurricular activities and more, an expert private college advisor gives students the tools they need to find and get into the college of their dreams.

About International College Counselors International College Counselors is an independent college admissions company that helps students in the U.S. and all over the world find, apply to, and gain acceptance into the college of their dreams. The college counselors are dedicated to helping students and their families successfully navigate the college admission process. For more information on International College Counselors or to contact an expert college counselor, please visit www.internationalcollegecounselors.com or call 954 414-9986.

College Admissions Tips for Students with Learning Disabilities

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

Almost every accredited university provides support services for students with learning disabilities. These services vary in quality and extent from school to school.  For students with disabilities, it is imperative to find the school that is the best ‘fit’ in providing programs, policies, procedures, and facilities that meet your needs.

Below are some tips on choosing a school that suits your needs and goals — and what you need to do to make them choose you.

Review Your Needs

Sit down with a knowledgeable adult or counselor and review your needs. The goal is to better understand how your disability will influence your college choices. Questions to answer include:

  • How does my disability affect how I learn?
  • What are my academic strengths?
  • How do I learn best?
  • What strategies do I need to help me learn?
  • What facilities may I need?

Once you have these questions answered, the next move is to begin building a college list.

Investigate and Choose Schools

Students with disabilities should follow the same steps for choosing and applying to a school as any other student.  Preliminary research can be accomplished via internet searches, visiting colleges websites, checking out college guides, going on college visits, attending college fairs, and asking around.   Make a list of all the schools that interest you.

Then make a separate list of what your college must have to accommodate your needs.

For each of the schools you are interested in, contact its disability services office to determine if the college has the services and accommodations that can meet your specific requirements. Most colleges have an office that provides services to students with disabilities, or a person who coordinates these services.  Once you contact the office and get your questions answered, put a check next to each school on your list that can accommodate your needs.

Questions for the disability services office may include:

  • Are basic skills, study skills, time management, or organizing classes offered? Are they available for credit? Can they be counted as hours toward full-time status? What is the cost?
  • Is there a support group for students with disabilities?
  • Is there adaptive technology available?
  • How many disability specialists work with the program full time and part time?
  • Does the school offer specialized academic advising for students with disabilities?

Make sure to visit each school’s website for college disability services to get an idea of eligibility requirements, resources, services and accommodations, documentation required, available academic support and policies.

Make Yourself a Strong Candidate for Admissions

Do this by succeeding to the best of your abilities!

It is important to know that a school cannot deny your admission because of your condition if you meet the basic requirements for admission, including application deadlines, grade point averages, and college entrance exam scores. In fact, you don’t even need to tell a school you have a disability on your application, unless you want an academic adjustment.

What you must do is keep your grades up and become involved in extracurricular activities—just like any other student. Disabled or not, students must meet school standards for admission.

To Tell or Not to Tell

Whether you should reveal your disability early in the admissions process is up to you. The best filter may be: Will it hurt my chances?” or “Is it helpful to know?”

Disclosure early in the process is often recommended for applicants who need to provide context. For example, a student with disabilities may need to explain why a standardized test score appears low when compared with outstanding grades. However, applicants with strong grades and test scores should think twice before disclosing any learning issues, especially if there were no academic repercussions or if they are no longer relevant.

The Application

If you decide to disclose your disability, you can either describe your disability in a letter to the appropriate school personnel and keep a copy of the letter, or call attention to your disability in your main essay. If you choose to disclose your disability in your main essay, the essay must be positive and show how you can succeed. Do not try to write an essay designed to make an admissions officer feel sorry for you; this doesn’t work.

Testing Adjustments

Students with disabilities can receive special accommodations on standardized tests including the SAT, ACT, SAT Subject Tests, AP Exams and PSAT/NMSQT. As a student with a disability, you can request accommodations when you schedule your exams.

Be prepared to send copies of your psycho-evaluation, testing records, and any other assessments of your disabilities directly to the school or testing agency.

Stay positive

The college admissions process can be daunting for any student, but it can be entirely manageable if you start early and take it step by step.  The more information you have, the more “educated” your decision can be.

For more information and for other locations, visit http://www.exploringcollegeoptions.org

FOR MORE INFORMATION

International College Counselors is an independent college admissions company that helps students in the U.S. and all over the world find, apply to, and gain acceptance into the college of their dreams. The college counselors are dedicated to helping students and their families successfully navigate the college admission process. For more information on International College Counselors or to contact an expert college counselor, please visit www.internationalcollegecounselors.com or call 954 414-9986.

 

7 Ways High School Students Can Make the Most of Their Summer

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014
Spring break is almost here. That means it’s time to start thinking about summer.

High school students who want to stand out on their college applications should consider the summer an ideal time to add some resume gold.

There have been changes over the past few years in what admissions officers are looking for. For one thing, colleges are no longer giving extra points to students who build huts in Costa Rica. They are looking for summer activities that tie in with a student’s overall narrative. Activities that allow students to take a leadership position or connect with an interest in an academic area are ideal. There are many choices of summer activities that raise the APA (application point average).

Summer is coming up fast so here are some ideas for high schools students to make the most of the summer.

1. Attend an Enrichment Camp. There are hundreds of different summer enrichment programs, from the local to the international and, between them all, they offer thousands of opportunities. There are art camps, athletic camps, academic programs, adventure based programs, volunteer programs, leadership programs, and more. Some come with the opportunity to earn college credit. A number of programs give high school students the taste of life on a college campus. Importantly, the camp that is chosen should tie in with a student’s long-term goals. Many of these programs exist. Below is a glimpse of two of them.

For rising high school sophomores, juniors, or seniors, the Boston University Summer Challenge program is one example of a program that allows students to explore existing interests, investigate new topics, examine subjects not offered in high school, and maybe even determine a college major. The two-week, residential summer program offers a preview of college life. Students participate in lectures, discussions, individual and group work, project-based assignments, and field trips.

Another summer program is the Columbia University Summer Program for High School Students. This three-week program allows college-bound high school students to follow a curriculum designed to meet their interests, talents and needs. Each day students will participate in independent study and tutorials, private meetings with instructors, extracurricular activities, and use of the university’s libraries and other facilities.

2. Get a summer job. Summer jobs are great ways to gain valuable real-world experience and earn money towards college. However, in a tight job market, a high school student’s best bet may be the internship. Any job is good, but working in a challenging job that shows colleges’ leadership skills and-or ties in with a student’s academic interests are best.

3. Become an intern. An internship is unpaid (or token payment) work experience that provides students with an opportunity to gain experience in a field of interest. What isn’t gained in cash, is gained in experience, friends, and networking connections. Think of it as a summer course. With persistence and luck, a student can even land an internship in a dream career.

4. Do volunteer work. It can be profitable to work for nothing. Students can make a difference, gain experience make networking connections, and explore interests. Students get more points if the volunteer work links with an area of interest. For example, if a student is interested in a career in medicine, he or she can volunteer at a hospital or nursing home. The choices are endless and the hard work and time can pay off. Colleges and scholarship funds truly adore students who can demonstrate that they make the effort to help others. Then there’s always the fact that doing good is a wonderful reason to volunteer in itself.

5. Take virtual classes or attend a dual enrollment program. Virtual classes and dual enrollment programs offer students a chance to explore something new. Both can help save time and money if the classes count both for high school credit and college credit. Depending on what college is attended, the credit may reduce the course load per term or even allow early graduation.

6. Dive into a language immersion program. There are a number of programs both in the U.S. and abroad. Perfecting a second or third language is always worthwhile. The additional benefits of study abroad programs are cultural immersion and a greater understanding of the world. However, colleges look favorably on any language immersion programs.

7. Start a business. Launching a business or collaborating on one can be a great learning experience and even set a student up for success. The general recommendation is that students start a simple business with an immediate and obvious customer base. The idea is to generate a profit. Students with a passion for business who want to learn more about entrepreneurship may consider attending a program to help them get started. Nova Southeastern offers an Entrepreneurship Summer Camp and Personal Enrichment, called ESCAPE. Similar programs also exist.

Don’t forget to add some down time into the summer. All students need time to relax, recoup and regenerate. They need energy and enthusiasm for the fall.

ABOUT INTERNATIONAL COLLEGE COUNSELORS:

This year, college advisors at International College Counselors helped more than 300 students find, apply to and gain acceptance into the college of their dreams. The expert college counselors at International College Counselors are dedicated to helping students and their families successfully navigate the college application process.

For more information on International College Counselors or to contact an expert college counselor, please visit http://www.internationalcollegecounselors.com.

10 Ways of Handling the Other March Madness: College Acceptances and Rejections

Monday, March 24th, 2014
March madness is here. Anxiety is in full swing.
Surprising to many, the craziness has nothing to do with basketball and brackets.  Students and parents are thinking of college admissions. It’s around that time acceptance letters are on their way – or will soon be on their way. Parents need to be the supportive rock, even if they’re suffering from anxiety, too.   This time is about the student; it is not about the parent.

How to Help Your Child Deal with College Admissions Disappointment and Fear

1. Lay the groundwork.  Before the acceptance letters come, parents need to let their child know how proud they are of him or her for getting through high school and wanting to go to college. Make sure children know they’ll have a great experience no matter where they go.

2.  Stay supportive.  After the letters arrive, whether a child gets into a first choice college or not, parents need to stay supportive. This is a hard time for a student whether they get into their first choice college or not. For students who get rejected, this may be the first time they’re dealing with major disappointment. A parent’s job is to stop this from damaging their self-esteem. For students who get in, after the initial euphoria, they’ll start thinking about what going to college really means. Leaving home, leaving friends, leaving a comfortable routine, having to find themselves, and make their own way is difficult. Understandably, this may feel overwhelming.

3.  Talk it out. If your student is rejected from the first choice college, allow your child to vent their emotions. Talk about it and turn it into a teachable moment. Be sensitive and acknowledge the pain of disappointment. Then help your child, one, accept that he or she didn’t get in and, two, move forward with the opportunities that do present themselves.

4. Let your child know that getting into a first pick college is important, but if they don’t it’s not the end of the world. Let them know you won’t love or like them any less and they shouldn’t love or like themselves any less either. College is a step on a long road. It’s a big step, but college is not the final destination. Let your student know a lot of the college admission process was out of his or her control. While the process is fair and thorough, college admissions are subjective. Perhaps even more than most students and parents realize. High scores aren’t the only thing that counts. Subjectivity comes into play as admissions officers compare the applications. Maybe the band really needed a new bassoon player.

5. Once all the results are in, call or meet with your student’s International College Counselor advisor, as needed.  An expert college counselor can go over the pros of the schools a student was accepted into and there are a number of colleges still accepting applications.

6. Don’t let your child take denial personally. Someone at the college just didn’t think your child was the right fit at the time. Your student may actually be better off someplace else and it’s just not apparent right now.

7. Remind your student to thank the people around him/ her that made a college acceptance possible.  Every student’s success had a lot to do with a parent driving hours and hours of carpool, a teacher writing a thoughtful college recommendation, a coach staying a little bit longer after practice to go over a drill, and a principal making sure the student got the classes he/she needed.  No child gets into college on his/ her own.

8. Celebrate the college acceptance letters your child does get. Getting into any college is something to celebrate. Talk through how the child will let his/her friends know.  Will their happiness lead to greater disappointment for others?  How would they like to be told of good news by their peers? How should they handle good news for them, but also the disappointment around them?

9. Think to the future.  Although jitters are normal, really worried students should relax a bit by knowing that he/she can always transfer. Our recommendation is to keep this as a back pocket option and not as a goal. If a student goes to a college with the intent of transferring, he or she won’t be able to enjoy the full college experience they can have. Many students find that once they settle in, they’re actually very happy.

10. Do something nice. Students are at the end of a long journey. When all the letters are in, celebrate the end of this intense time.  Go out for a nice dinner as a family, or give a student a meaningful gift. Make this time positive.   We wish all of our students luck with the admissions decisions. No matter what happens, after the madness, there will be a calm. _____________________________________________________________________  

ABOUT INTERNATIONAL COLLEGE COUNSELORS:   This year, college advisors at International College Counselors helped more than 300 students find, apply to and gain acceptance into the college of their dreams. The expert college counselors at International College Counselors are dedicated to helping students and their families successfully navigate the college application process. For more information on International College Counselors or to contact an expert college counselor, please visit http://www.internationalcollegecounselors.com.

Essay Prompts for the Common Application 2014-15

Monday, March 24th, 2014
Juniors, we have some good news to announce! Unlike in years past where the essay prompts were cloaked in secrecy well into the summer, the Common Application has revealed its essay prompts for the 2014-15 application cycle. Students who like to plan ahead can now choose from one of the five options below to write their essay for the Common Application.

For those families who are part of the International College Counselors family, your counselor will begin working with you on the essay during your next meeting. The prompts are designed to encourage reflection and introspection. If the essay does not include some self-analysis, then the response to the prompt is not successful. All five essay choices have a word limit of 650 words, and the Common App is very strict on this. Here are the five prompts with some general tips for each:

Prompt 1: 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.
The word “identity” is key. Students are being asked for a story or something in their background that made them who they are today. Background can be a broad environmental factor such as growing up in a military family, living in an interesting place, or dealing with an unusual family situation. A “story” could be an event or series of events that had a profound impact on a student’s identity. Whatever way this prompt is approached, students need to reflect and explain how and why their identity was influenced by the background or story. In picking a topic to write about, students must think of something that they “believe their application would be incomplete without.” This means the background or story told absolutely needs to be unique to the individual.

Prompt 2: Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what lessons did you learn?
Students who choose to answer this question must show their ability to learn from their failures and mistakes. How a student describes his or her response to failure is the critical part of this essay. The answer should include what a student felt, learned, and how they grew from this experience. A good essay will have introspection, honesty, self-awareness, and strong critical thinking skills The recounting time of this essay is basically a plot summary. Students should use as few words as possible on this part – without sacrificing quality. Make sure the essay leaves the reader with a positive impression. If the essay does not show that the student is a better person because of the failure, then the response to this essay prompt is not successful. Schools are looking for students who do not blame others for their failure. They want to see that a student has assessed a failure, learned from it, and moved on.

Prompt 3: Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?
The “belief or idea” this prompt refers to could be a student’s own, someone else’s, or that of a group. The belief or idea can take many forms: a political or ethical belief; a theoretical or scientific idea; a personal conviction; an entrenched way of doing things (challenging the status quo); and so on. It is not important if the student’s challenge was successful. With this prompt colleges are looking for students to reveal one of their core personal values and show personal growth. The best essays will be honest and reflective as they explore the difficulty of working against the status quo or a firmly held belief. The answer to the final part of the question does not have to be “yes.” Perhaps, with retrospection, the student has discovered that the cost of an action was too great. While colleges are looking for an issue that is important to a student’s identity, students should stay away from controversial topics. Colleges want students who will fit into a diverse campus community. This means the answer needs to show thoughtfulness, sensitivity, analysis and open-mindedness.

Prompt 4: Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content. What do you do or experience there, and why is it meaningful to you?
Students have lots of options for a “place or environment” to describe. These can include a house, a barn, a classroom, a stadium, a stage, or even an imagined space. The main challenge isn’t the place that’s chosen but how the student analyzes “why” he or she is content in that place. What is it about the space that makes it special? To do this, a student needs to be introspective and share what it is he or she values. This question is not necessarily asking students for a place where they feel peaceful. The word “content” can mean more. It can also be interpreted as a state of satisfaction. An adrenaline junkie might be most content when skydiving, and a dancer might be most content when performing in the spotlight. The description part of this essay should be kept simple. Students should use as few words as possible on this part – without sacrificing quality. The end of the prompt is most important.

Prompt 5: Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.
This prompt is good for students who want to explore a single event, accomplishment or achievement that marked a clear point in their personal development. Students must be careful to avoid the all-too-common “hero” essay like a season-winning touchdown or star turn in the school play. The essay is to show a student’s personal growth and analytical thinking. To identify the correct “accomplishment or event,” to write about, the discussion of growth needs to have enough material for self-analysis and deep thought. The best choice topics will be a significant moment in a student’s life that also gives admissions officers a peek at something the student values highly. The mention of “culture” in this prompt gives a student the opportunity to talk about personal culture and diversity. A student should feel free to connect the “accomplishment or event” to a context that is specific to their cultural heritage. Describing the accomplishment should take the least amount of words. A strong essay will show off the student’s ability to explore the significance of the event. A student will need to look inward and analyze how and why the event caused him or her to grow and mature.

End Notes Via the essay, the school is gaining a piece of information that it will use to judge the student as a whole person. In any essay, the student wants to come across as an intelligent, thoughtful person who will contribute to the community in a meaningful and positive way. Students must also demonstrate a strong writing ability. We encourage all Juniors to start thinking about their essays.

ABOUT INTERNATIONAL COLLEGE COUNSELORS: This year, college advisors at International College Counselors helped more than 300 students find, apply to and gain acceptance into the college of their dreams. The expert college counselors at International College Counselors are dedicated to helping students and their families successfully navigate the college application process. For more information on International College Counselors or to contact an expert college counselor, please visit http://www.internationalcollegecounselors.com.

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

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