Applying To College

College Essay Writing and Interview Skills


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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.


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Best College Town – Ithaca, New York

Cornell University McGraw Tower.

Cornell University McGraw Tower.

I’m about to brag. Ithaca, New York was recently chosen Best College Town in the U.S.A.

Ranked by the American Institute for Economic Research, Ithaca (home to Cornell University and Ithaca College) was followed by Ames, Iowa (Iowa State University), and State College, PA (Penn State University).

I went to Cornell. My best friend Stephanie went to Ithaca College. The schools sit atop two hills that rise above the town of Ithaca – Cornell to the east and Ithaca to the south. When we arrived, much to our delight, we realized we could see each others’ dorm on the opposite hill. So, in a communications experiment of sorts, we tried blinking the lights in our rooms –  as much message to say, “Hello, can you see me?” as “I can’t believe we’re in Ithaca. Isn’t this going to be great?!”

And Ithaca was great. While the schools provide a diverse student population, it’s the town that’s the star. Over the years, Ithaca has managed to maintain a true sense of self. It’s relaxed, bohemian, and green. It overflows with farmers’ markets and food co-ops, theaters, restaurants, a no-cars-permitted Commons, and the ever-present opportunity to walk, hike, bike, sail, climb, and otherwise just inhale the joyous beauty of the Finger Lakes.

USA Today College  has written an article called “What Makes the Best College Towns?” Here’s the excerpt about Ithaca:

About 200 miles northwest of New York City lies Ithaca, home to Cornell University, Ithaca College and what Taylor Long calls “Idealistic Bohemians.”

“There’s a lot of culture and a lot of hip energy, but also this really earnest, small-town vibe,” said Long, who is a senior at Ithaca College. “People fall in love with this city. It’s the sort of place where your weird projects can thrive.”

The city is home to intellects, a Burlesque dance troupe, a newspaper that reports only positive news, an extensive farmers’ market and thousands of ambitious students. In fact, because of the town’s unique energy, The Dalai Lama and other Tibetan monks are frequent visitors.

Despite the eclectic mix of residents, the city’s party scene is fairly tame, another reason Long thinks the college town is unique.

“When I think of college towns, I do kind of think of Penn State or something like that where there’s a row of bars and a row of frats, and everyone is running around naked with their chests painted,” Long said. “I think [Ithaca] may be No. 1 because it is very unique and kind of is actually a college town, not just like a town dominated by one particular college.”

Go Ithaca.

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:

follow Sharon Epstein on Twitter


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How To Build A Great College List

build-a-great-college-listDo you know how to build a great college list? Eric Dobler, founder of Dobler College Consulting, returns as a guest blogger to share his expertise and advice.

Here’s what Eric has to say:

With over 4,000 colleges in the country and an endless supply of rankings touting the best of this and the best of that, your college search can get complicated. And it can happen in a hurry. Your friends will be talking about colleges. Your uncle will wax poetic about his alma mater. You will see all the posters and announcements hanging on the walls of your college counseling office. So many options and yet, you can only choose one to attend.

How do you know which one is right?

While you may never know which ONE is right, you can identify which ONES may be awesome possibilities by doing some homework and building a great college list.

And here’s how you do it:

1. Know Thyself

Before you start looking at colleges, you need to take a good, hard look at yourself. I’m not talking about checking yourself out in the mirror to see if the gear is working today as much as I’m talking about understanding your VIPS – your values, interests, personality style and skills. If you don’t have a good handle of what’s important to you and why, try this exercise suggested in a great book on college admissions called, “Going Geek”, written by my friend, John Carpenter:

Write an assessment of yourself that covers what you are good at, what you struggle with, what is important to you, and how you learn. Then ask a close friend to write an assessment of you and have each of your parents do the same. Once you have all three, compare them and see what common threads exist.

2. Priorities First

Some of the major attributes you should pay attention to when thinking about how you will qualify schools for your college list include:

  • Size
  • Location
  • Major
  • Student life
  • Chance of admission
  • Types of admission
  • Graduation rates
  • Cost

But now that you have a good handle on your VIPS, you should be able to qualify these attributes even further. Forget the US News. Forget your uncle’s drawn out stories of the good ol’ days. Forget about the school that your best friend daydreams about. In other words, realize that you now have the power to create your own rankings based on what is important to you.

3. Channel Your Inner Sherlock Holmes

Okay, you now have a good idea of what’s important to you and why. You’ve created a list of attributes that you want to find in a college. Now, it’s time to do some investigating. Since you can’t visit all 4,000 schools individually, turn to some search engines to identify schools that match up with your most desired attributes. The College Board’s Big Future, College Navigator and Princeton Review each have very extensive databases that allow you to search for schools. Collegeresults.org is another great website with very helpful information. Produced and maintained by the Education Trust, this website allows you to look up a college’s four-, five- or six-year graduation rates and then compare the school’s rate to those of its peer institutions.

As you identify schools of interest, research them more thoroughly, schedule campus visits, meet with admissions reps at local college fairs and check with your college counseling office to find out when these schools may be visiting your high school. Another great way to get to know a school is by connecting with them through Facebook and Twitter.

4. Edit, Edit and Then Edit Some More

Initially, your college list may contain any number of schools. Ideally, you want to get it down to roughly 10 schools. As you visit and learn more about each school, try to narrow the list down to down to 5-6 finalists where you would be happy enrolling. Some people will tell you to pick a range of schools where admission for you may be a reach, very likely or a sure thing. My opinion is that you should be picking schools at which you can see yourself being happy. Don’t include a school just because you know you can get in but have no intention of ever enrolling.

5. Don’t Be a Sloppy Joe

Building a great college list is one thing but if you fail to keep it organized, the list will lose its value.

Get a binder where you can keep a checklist for each school, notes from campus visits and brochures and other materials. You want to be able to compare apples to apples – keeping your information updated and fresh will help you do that.

6. College Lists are Made of Paper, Not Stone

Be flexible and keep an open mind. If you get soured on a school for a reason that is important to you (the school is too far away, too expensive or just didn’t feel right when you went for a visit) and want to take if off your college list, then feel free to do so.

Same rule applies when you learn something about a school that makes you want to add this school to your list. Spend some time qualifying the new school and if it feels right and matches up with your priorities, add it to your list.

Questions? Email Eric at eric@doblercollegeconsulting.com