Applying To College

College Essay Writing and Interview Skills


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2015 Common Application – Your Essay May Be Optional!

Common App optional essay 2015

The Common Application just released this information:

“Starting with the 2015-2016 application year, Common Application Member colleges and universities will have the choice to require or not require the Common App Personal Essay.”

This change means that it is possible some students may not be required to write a Common App personal essay.

Do I hear cheering?

Hold on a sec…

The Common App also says that students will always have the option to submit the personal essay.  

So if you’re faced with the choice – to write or not to write – what do you do?

WRITE, of course!

The Common App essay gives you the chance to stand out. Schools get to know you apart from your test scores, grades, and activities list.

So, take the time. Write a story about yourself that highlights your unique qualities and shows how you’re growing into a mature young adult.

Give the schools another reason to know you’re the kind of student they can’t afford to be without. 

Find more information about the Common App’s new essay changes on their blog.
For a list of the 2015-2016 Common Application Essay Prompts, click here.

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Sharon Epstein is owner of First Impressions College Consulting in Redding, Connecticut. A Writers Guild Award-winner and two-time Emmy Award nominee, Sharon lectures extensively on essay writing. Sharon teaches students how to master interview skills, write killer resumes, and transform their goals, dreams and experiences into memorable college application essays. She works with students everywhere: in-person, by phone, Skype and email. Visit her website for more info. Connect on Google+, Pinterest and Twitter.


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How to Talk to a Rep at a College Fair

How to talk to a rep at a college fair
If you read my last post you know how to attend a college fair.

But what do you say when you talk to a rep? Do you need to make a good impression? (Yes.)  How do you get your questions answered? (Read on.)

Here are 8 Tips for Talking to a Rep at a College Fair:

1. Introduce yourself.

  • Smile, hold out your hand, and say, “Hi, I’m _______. It’s nice to meet you.” 

2. Use this as an opportunity to develop a relationship. Colleges often give preference to students who have shown an interest in attending. The college lingo for this is “demonstrated interest.” Students can demonstrate interest in many ways, such as when they visit, take a tour, talk to a professor, attend a college fair, or get to know their college rep.

  • If you’re interested in the school, get the rep’s contact information. You can contact him or her later in the process if you have questions. It’s also possible that you’ll meet the rep at another college fair or when you visit the college, in which case you want to make sure to say hi. Developing a relationship can give you an edge when you apply, because the school will know you’re really interested.

3. Have questions ready.

  • Jot down a few questions before you go to the fair.
  • Create your questions from these categories: academics, admissions, financial aid, and housing.
  • Ask your most important questions first. If there’s a line behind you, you may not be able to ask all the questions on your list. (You can always get in touch after the fair, or come back to the table when the crowds thin out.)

4. Use these questions to jump-start your list:

  • What are your admissions requirements?
  • Do you offer early decision?
  • Do you accept advanced placement courses?
  • What is the average high school GPA of the entering class?
  • What are some of your strongest academic programs?
  • Do you offer the major(s) I’m interested in?
  • What are the most popular majors?
  • Is there an honors program? What are the requirements?
  • How many undergraduates attend  your school?
  • What is the student to faculty ratio?
  • Do professors teach undergraduates or will I have mostly teaching assistants?
  • Are faculty members easy to reach outside of class?
  • What is the total cost of attending your school for a year?
  • What kinds of scholarships are available?
  • What kind of financial aid is available?
  • What is the average financial loan package?
  • How many students receive financial aid?
  • What sports or other events are popular on campus?
  • Are there fraternities and sororities? How strong are they?
  • Is housing guaranteed? For how long?
  • What do students do in their free time?
  • What percentage of your students graduate in four years?
  • How are roommates selected?
  • What kind of support do you offer for students with special needs?

5. Don’t wait on long lines. Skip the most crowded tables. Make a note on your map to come back later, when the lines are shorter.

6. Don’t hog the rep. This tip comes from Matthew Dempsey, who is a college admissions officer at Fairfield University. Matthew says he loves answering questions, but he has a limited time to meet and talk to people at college fairs. So if you (or your family) have a lot of questions and there’s a line behind you, say hello but come back later in the fair when the rep isn’t as busy and will have more time for you.

7. Let your parents listen. Parents will often have follow-up questions for the rep, especially about financial aid.

8. Say thank you. Make a point to end the way you began: smile, shake hands, and say thank you. You’ll make a great – and memorable – impression.

Read my related post:
How to Visit a College Fair

Print out an excellent one-page list of questions:
Questions to Ask a Representative (From Montana State University)

sharon-epstein-college-essay-writing-and-interview-skillsSharon Epstein is owner of First Impressions College Consulting. A Writers Guild Award-winner and two-time Emmy Award nominee, Sharon teaches students how to master interview skills, write killer resumes, and transform goals, dreams and experiences into memorable college application essays. She works with students everywhere: in-person, by phone, Skype and email. Visit her website for more information. Connect on Google+, Pinterest and Twitter.


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How to Visit a College Fair

how to visit a college fair Have you added a college fair to your calendar? Great! You’ll meet college reps, find answers to your questions, and learn about the schools that interest you.

But be careful – college fairs can be overwhelming, especially if you plunge in without a plan.

Here’s How to Visit a College Fair:

1. Locate a College Fair in Your Area.

The biggest organizer of college fairs is the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC). You’ll find a complete list of college fairs on their website. They also organize Performing and Visual Arts College Fairs.

You can register beforehand for a NACAC fair, which will save time and standing on line.

High schools organize college fairs, too. Every year you’ll find me at the Danbury College & Vocational Fair in Danbury, Connecticut, where I love meeting and talking to students about writing college application essays. (Come see me!)

2. Before You Go to the Fair:

  •  Make a list of the colleges you want to visit. The schools should meet your criteria (academics, extracurriculars, location, size, etc.).
  • Take a notebook and a pen or pencil.
  • Take a bag or backpack to stash the information you’ll collect.
  • If you have access to a computer, print address labels with your name and address to stick on all the requests for information you’ll want to fill out (a time-saver!).
  • Dress decently. You may be meeting the college admissions officer from the school of your dreams.
  • Write down questions for the college reps. Here are a few possible questions:
    • What are the most popular majors at your school?
    • Do you offer the sports or extra curricular activities I’m interested in?
    • What kind of career services do you offer your students?
    • How available are the instructors to the students?
    • Do the best professors teach undergraduates?
    • How many students receive financial aid?
    • NACAC offers a complete list of questions to print out. Find it here.

3. When You Arrive:

  • Pick up a Map. Mark off the colleges that you want to see and lay out a path. That way, you won’t miss any schools or have to backtrack to find them, which will save a ton of energy.
  • Talk to at Least One School Not on Your List. Don’t just look at the schools you think you’ll like or the ones your friends want to attend. If a school seems interesting, say hi. You’ve got reps from colleges across the country at your disposal.
  • Don’t Rely on Memory. After you finish at each table, jot down the answers and your impressions so you can compare schools later. Everything blends together at these events—no matter how great your memory is.

4. For Bonus Points:

  • Bring Your Parents. Really. I’m not saying that Mom and Dad should stand two inches away while you talk to the rep—this is your fair. But parents are another set of eyes and ears, which is helpful when there’s so much information to absorb. They can also get answers to their own questions, like financial aid. Afterwards, make plans as a family to grab a burger and discuss your impressions—it will help you sort out your thoughts.

5. When You Get Home:

  • Organize your materials so you can find them when you need them.

Next Time: How to Talk to a Rep at a College Fair (and make a great impression while you do).

sharon-epstein-college-essay-writing-and-interview-skillsSharon Epstein is owner of First Impressions College Consulting. A Writers Guild Award-winner and two-time Emmy Award nominee, Sharon teaches students how to master interview skills, write killer resumes, and transform goals, dreams and experiences into memorable college application essays. She works with students everywhere: in-person, by phone, Skype and email. Visit her website for more information. Connect on Google+, Pinterest and Twitter.

 

helpful links:
NACAC: Tips for Attending a College Fair
NACAC: What to Do at a Performing Arts Fair
Danbury College & Vocational Fair


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Read My New Interview on i-Student Global

I just finished an interview with i-student global:A Cup of Tea with Sharon Epstein.” (Yes, I’ve been outed – tea is my drink of choice.) It gives an overview of college essay writing from my point of view. 

If you haven’t heard of it, i-student global is an in-depth resource for students who want to study abroad. For the past several years, I’ve been a contributor to i-student global. The site’s packed full of information, resources, college scholarships, student blogs, and expert advice from college counselors.

Even if you’re not a prospective international student, you’ll find loads of college admissions resources that can be helpful in your own college application process.

While you’re there, check out the articles I’ve written for the site: “7 Tips for a Great ‘Why This School’ Essay,”10 Tips for Writing a Successful College Application EssayandWriting Personal Essays in 500 Words or Less.”

sharon-epstein-college-essay-writing-and-interview-skillsSharon Epstein is owner of First Impressions College Consulting in Redding, Connecticut. A Writers Guild Award-winner and two-time Emmy Award nominee, Sharon lectures extensively on essay writing. Sharon teaches students how to master interview skills, write killer resumes, and transform their goals, dreams and experiences into memorable college application essays. She works with students everywhere: in-person, by phone, Skype and email. Visit her website for more info. Connect on Google+, Pinterest and Twitter.


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5 More College Visit Tips for High School Sophomores

5 More College Visit Tips for High School Sophomores

Student Studies in Uris Library, Cornell University

My last post, 10 College Visit Tips for High School Sophomores, turned out to be a big hit.

I even received some great suggestions for more college visit tips, including a note to tell parents that they should share these posts with their students.

Note for Juniors! The tips in both posts will help you, too. So here they are:

5 More College Visit Tips for High School Sophomores:

  1. Besides taking notes, take video so you’ll have a visual history later on.
  2. Think about splitting from your parents and taking a separate tour. You can be independent as well as safe (if that’s a concern).
  3. Ask other students questions. Don’t just hear what the tour guide and admissions office want you to hear and see (although speaking with an admissions rep is a good thing to do).
  4. If there is a student from the same high school enrolled, contact him or her and see if he or she would take you to the cafeteria, eat the food and meet and greet, and get treated like a real person.
  5. Parents – Reading your student is important. If your student isn’t ready, don’t visit. Dragging someone to a place he or she doesn’t want to be will only cause irritation all around. (Or, as a colleague of mine put it, “Leading a horse to water when he’s not thirsty will often aggravate the horse and the horse’s parents.”)

Do you have more tips for college visits? Let me know! I’ll include them in future posts.

Recommended blog posts:
10 College Visit Tips for High School Sophomores
5 Questions to Ask Students on Your College Visit

Best College Town – Ithaca, New York

Other recommended links
US News & World Report: Get a Head Start on College Visits
The Choice: Making the Most of a Campus Visit

sharon-epstein-college-essay-writing-and-interview-skillsSharon Epstein is owner of First Impressions College Consulting in Redding, Connecticut. Need help with essay writing, interview skills, and organizing your college search? I work with students everywhere: in-person, over the phone, Skype, and by email. Visit my website for more info. Connect with me on Google+, Pinterest and Twitter.


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$1500 College Scholarships from the Joe Lieberman Connecticut Scholarship Fund

Senator Joe Lieberman (CT)

Senator Joe Lieberman (CT)

U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman, serving 1989-2013, has established the Joe Lieberman Connecticut Scholarship Fund to assist outstanding high school seniors from Connecticut who plan to continue their education in college or vocational school programs. These are renewable scholarships which are awarded for full-time study at an accredited institution of the student’s choice.

Scholarship Amount:

  • Up to five $1500 awards each year.
  • Awards may be renewed for up to three additional years with a cumulative grade point average of 3.0.

Who is Eligible? Applicants  must:

  • Be United States citizens or permanent legal residents.
  • Be high school seniors who reside in Connecticut and attend public or private high schools or home school in Connecticut.
  • Plan to enroll in full-time undergraduate study at an accredited two-year or four-year college, university or vocational-technical school for the entire upcoming academic year.
  • Have a minimum grade point average of 3.5 on a 4.0 scale (or its equivalent).
  • Demonstrate outstanding leadership potential and a record of community service.

How Are Winners Selected?

  • Scholarship recipients are selected on the basis of academic record, demonstrated leadership and participation in school and community activities, work experience, statement of career and educational goals and objectives, unusual personal or family circumstances, and an outside appraisal.
  • Financial need is not considered.
  • Preference will be given to applicants who demonstrate outstanding leadership potential and record of community service.

Awards are for undergraduate study only.

Important!

  • The first 500 applications received will be opened and processed; therefore students are encouraged to apply as soon as possible.
  • Applications must be postmarked no later than April 1.

More info:

Joe Lieberman Connecticut Scholarship

Or phone: 1-507-931-1682 and ask for the Joe Lieberman Connecticut Scholarship Program

sharon-epstein-college-essay-writing-and-interview-skillsSharon Epstein is owner of First Impressions College Consulting in Redding, Connecticut. Need help? I work with students everywhere: in-person, over the phone, Skype, and by email. Visit my website for more info. Connect with me on Google+, Pinterest and Twitter.