Applying To College

College Essay Writing and Interview Skills


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Applying to College: Why It’s Important to Know Your College Rep

Why Its Important to Know Your College RepThe parents of a student just called me. Their son was accepted to most of the colleges he applied to, even one of his reach schools. The problem? He was wait listed at a college they thought would be an easy acceptance and now it’s THE place he wants to go.

I was asked to read his letter of continued interest. (A letter of continued interest tells the school you still want to attend and why.) The letter was addressed “Dear Admissions Committee.”

I asked them to address the letter to their local admissions counselor. They didn’t know who that was.

So I asked if the student had interviewed when he visited.

“The school said the interview was only informational,” said his dad. “So we just took the tour and went home.”

By never contacting his admissions representative, the student missed a big opportunity.

Imagine if, in his letter, the student could have mentioned how he had enjoyed his interview or reminded the rep about something interesting they’d talked about. Instead, he hadn’t made a connection at all.

Your local college admissions counselor is the person who will read your application and recommend whether or not to accept you. This is the person who will fight for you (or not fight for you) when the admissions committee discusses your future.

Developing a relationship with your local college admissions representative is one of the easiest things you can do when you’re applying to college.

HERE ARE THREE WAYS TO GET TO KNOW YOUR LOCAL COLLEGE REP:

1. Attend College Fairs. If a college fair is held in your area or at your school, make plans to go.

Tips for making a good impression at a college fair:

  • Dress nicely.
  • Arrive early to avoid long lines.
  • Be mature. Go up to the admissions counselor and introduce yourself. Make eye contact and be the first to offer a handshake. Let him or her know that you’re interested in their school.
  • Be prepared with a few questions. (Do they offer the courses you’re interested in, what majors are most popular at their school, student life, athletics, etc.)
  • Ask for the representative’s business card or contact information. Go home and write a brief thank you note. You will be noticed and remembered.

2. Call or Email Your Local Rep. If you have specific questions during your application process, he or she will be glad to answer. Even if you don’t have questions, send your rep a short email saying hello and that you’re excited about the idea of attending. College reps don’t bite – they’re there to help you through all the stages of your application. Talk to them.

Tip: You can find the name of your local admissions representative on the school’s website or by calling or emailing the admissions office.

3. Schedule an On-Campus Interview. There are several different kinds of on-campus interviews:

  • Required.
  • Evaluative: These interviews aren’t required, but the thoughts and impressions of the person who interviews you will be included as part of the admissions process.
  • Non-evaluative/informational: These interviews aren’t considered in the decision-making process. They provide the school an opportunity to get to know you and answer your questions. (Occasionally, these interviews are conducted by students.)

Tip: If your local rep is busy or interviewing another student, you’ll meet with a different admissions counselor for your interview. Don’t worry — your interviewer will share his or her notes so that your local rep has all the information.

THE BENEFITS OF GETTING TO KNOW YOUR COLLEGE REP:

1. You Demonstrate Interest.  Sacred Heart University is a perfect example of how demonstrating interest is valuable. Christina Hamilton, Director of Undergraduate Admissions, says that while Sacred Heart doesn’t offer evaluative interviews, they strongly encourage students to interview.  She says, “We really value the demonstrated interest at Sacred Heart. We’re always encouraging students to be in touch with our staff and admission counselors. We are out in our area doing interviews or on campus hoping to be able to meet with them. The student-counselor relationship is something we definitely like to emphasize. “

2. You Put a Face to Your College Application (hopefully a smiling one).  When you can meet someone face-to-face, or send an email or a thank you note, you add a dimension to your application that isn’t already there.

3. You Give your College Rep Another Reason to Advocate for You. It takes maturity and initiative to say hello at a college fair, to pick up the phone, or to ask intelligent questions. Your rep will appreciate that when it comes time to advocate for you at the admissions table.

4. You Create a Relationship. Valuable from start to end.

So, if you’re applying to college, say hello to your college rep. Develop a relationship (don’t stalk), schedule an interview if you can, and send a thank you note. Even if you do ONE of these things you will give yourself an advantage. And if you are wait listed, you will have that relationship to draw on.

It’s good information to know.

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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, Facetime, Google Hangouts and email. Visit her website for more info. Connect on Google+, Pinterest and Twitter.

 

 


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Why Am I Failing My Job Interview? Five Reasons.

why a I failing my job interviewYou walk into an interview. You sit down, discuss the job, and think it goes well. Excited, you wait for a call that doesn’t come. Weeks later, you’re still waiting. What are you doing wrong?

The problem may be your presentation, your preparation, or both.

Here are Five Ways You May Be Failing Your Interview:  

1. You Blew it in Less Than a Minute.

Studies show that you’ve got less than ten seconds to make a good impression. Think about what that means: Before you say a word, the interviewer is sizing you up and beginning to decide whether you’d be a good fit for the company.

Be on time. Being late can make you a non-starter.

Dress appropriately. If you don’t know the dress code at the company, dress up.

Body language counts. A lot. Stand up when the interviewer enters the room. Smile and be the first one to offer a handshake. If you’re already standing up, take a confident step forward as you hold out your hand.

Greet the interviewer by name. (“It’s good to meet you, Mrs. Smith. Thank you for taking the time to meet me.”) Most companies will tell you the name of your interviewer, or you can call and ask. Look up your interviewer on LinkedIn so you’ve got some background.

Your job interview begins before you say hello. Use those first seconds to your advantage and set a positive tone.

2. You Didn’t Focus on What the Interviewer Needs.

Job interviews aren’t about what the company can do for you; they’re about what you can do for the company. When you’re asked “Why do you want to work here,” be prepared to give examples.

Do your homework. Spend several hours or even an entire day researching the company. At the least, you will be expected to know the requirements of the job you’re applying for and how your skills will mesh.

Take your research a step further and find a way your skills can be of value that the interviewer hasn’t considered. For instance, a job opening might not mention language skills, but a bilingual candidate who discovers the company has a growing segment of Spanish-speaking customers, and then mentions that he or she can use those skills to help improve service to the Spanish-speaking population, might rate some serious attention.

Bottom line: If you don’t know what you’re talking about when it comes to the company, you can show yourself the door.

3. You Didn’t Listen.

During the interview, listen carefully to what the interviewer tells you about the company. This is another way to discover how your skills might mesh with the company’s needs.

4. You Skipped Practice.

Unless you’re skilled at interviewing, you should practice before you get there.

Get comfortable answering the question “Tell me about yourself.” (This is your elevator pitch.)

Make a list of other practice questions. The possibilities are too numerous to list, but categories of questions you might be asked include your qualifications, your future, your ability to work with others, how you have/will handle challenging situations, and how you problem solve.

Don’t memorize your answers—that’s a big mistake. Memorizing only makes your answers dry and robotic. Instead, become comfortable with what you have to say and with the examples you have to draw on.

Don’t lie. Interviewers can often tell, and even if they can’t, lies can trip you up later.

5. You Didn’t Stand Out.

Standing out doesn’t have to be an elusive task. I’ve already covered four ways to stand out:

  • Know about the company want to work for.
  • Understand how your skills match the job.
  • Listen to the interviewer.
  • Focus on the company’s needs.

Add a “wow” factor. Find a way to show you went that extra step to be prepared.

  • Bring a sharp-looking portfolio or resume.
  • If your interviewer wants to know if you’d be willing to learn additional skills, don’t hesitate—accept the opportunity.
  • Sometimes all it takes is being positive and relaxed in your interview. If the interviewer enjoys the conversation and feels like you’d fit in well at the company, that might just be enough of a “wow.”
  • When you leave, acknowledge the interviewer’s time. Most of all, tell him or her that you enjoyed being there. Your interviewer will remember you.

If you’re eager to land that job, then do your homework, set a positive tone, and understand how you can satisfy the needs of the company you want to work for. Then add a little “wow.” Your next job interview may just be the one that gets you in the door.

sharon-epstein-college-essay-writing-and-interview-skillsSharon Epstein is founder 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 world-wide, in-person, by phone, Skype and email. Visit her website for more information. Connect on Google+, Pinterest and Twitter or call her at +1 203-938-9199.


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Best Ways to Begin and End College Interviews

Best Ways to Begin and End College Interviews

How you begin and end your college interview makes a difference.

Your college interview begins even before you say hello. It starts when the interviewer sees you for the first time and notices how you hold yourself, how you dress, if you smile.

Make a great impression: know how to begin and end your college interviews.

  • Be the First to Offer a Handshake. When you meet your interviewer, make eye contact, smile and hold out your hand. The interviewer will see someone who’s enthusiastic, confident and mature.

    Ace your college interview - handshakes
  • Greet the Interviewer by Name. “It’s nice to meet you, Mr./Mrs./Dean _______.  Thanks for taking the time to see me.”
    • Wait! Do you even know the interviewer’s name?? If you’re meeting an alum and you were contacted by email, check there. If you’ve made an appointment to see an admissions officer during a college visit, either ask for the name when you make the appointment or ask politely at the desk when you arrive.
    • Use the interviewer’s correct title, such as “Dean Johnson.”
    • What if the name is difficult to pronounce? Here’s what to say:  “It’s nice to meet you, Mrs. Dzubak. Did I get the pronunciation right?” Give yourself triple bonus points for trying – because most students probably won’t.
    • Want to remember your interviewer’s name? Take a notepad with you and write it down before you go.

  • Confidence Counts. I’ve answered my door to many students who look like they want to disappear into the woodwork. But it’s the student who stands tall and greets me with enthusiasm that has a head start. That’s the student who appears ready for college.
    • You can be one of those students – all it takes is practice.
    • Practice having an adult greet you. Work on your confidence level and greeting skills until you’re comfortable enough to handle the real thing.
  • When It’s Over, Say Thank You. You’d be surprised how many students (and adults) miss this important step.how to write collehow to write college interview thank you note
  • You Can Also Say:
    • “I really appreciate the opportunity to meet with you.”
    • “I learned a lot today – it’s made me even more interested in attending.”
    • “I really enjoyed talking with you. I appreciate the time.”
    • “Would it be okay to get in touch if I have any more questions?”

These sentences are courteous and thoughtful. You’re letting the interviewer know that you’re aware he or she made time for you. When you appreciate that effort out loud, you make a good impression.

  • Send a Thank You Note.
    • Send an email thank you right away. Follow up with a snail mail thank you within a week.
    • In your note, mention something that you spoke about during the interview. For instance:

“Dear Dean Hart, Thank you for taking the time to speak with me last week. After we spoke, I researched the study abroad program you suggested and I agree with you—it looks like it could be an excellent match with my major.”

When you mention what you spoke about in the interview, or even include additional material that relates to your discussion, you’re creating a good impression. Your interviewer will take note, and that’s the way you start to build a relationship. Relationships can make a difference when colleges decide which students to admit.

Begin and end your college interview by using these steps. Your interviewer will be impressed.

Related blog posts:
5 Best Tips for College Interview Success
College Interview Tips: Is it Okay to Ask for Something to Drink?
College Interview Tips: How to Interview with an Alum
College Interview Tips: Combatting Nerves
Interview Tips: How to Interview with a College Sports Coach

Other helpful links:
From Go See Campus: Make A Great Impression In Your College Interviews
From Princeton Review: College Interviews

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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Jump-Start Your College Interview: Bring Photos

lJump-start your College Interview - Bring Photos

Want to jump-start your college interview?

Bring Photos. Why?

  • Photos can be great conversation starters.
    • Imagine being able to say, “I’ve got some pictures of the play I starred in.” The conversation is off and running.
  • Sharing photos can put you at ease.
    • Are you on the shy side? Pull out your photos. It will relax the conversation right away.
  • Photos help when something’s hard to explain.
    • One of my students from Wilton, Connecticut, starred in a lot of plays. Instead of trying to describe the roles he played, he brought photos. The photos filled in the details so he didn’t have to describe each role, plus they showed him doing what he loved.

Ace Your College Interview - Bring PhotosWhat kind of photos should you bring?

  • Anything visual. If you’ve been in a dance recital, concert, or marching band—if you’ve built a tree house, gone with your sports team to the state championship, or just come back from an experience you want to share—almost anything you’ve done can be a shared in a photo.

Avoid These Photo Pitfalls:

  • Too many photos! Edit your photos before you share them. Don’t bring a dozen when two or three will do.
  • Don’t make your interviewer wait while you thumb through a hundred photos. Find the photos you need beforehand. The object is to get the conversation started, not bring it to a grinding halt.

Above All: Everything you bring should represent you at your best. If you think a photo is too goofy, silly, or perhaps even inappropriate for an interviewer, don’t bring it.  If you’re not sure, ask an adult.

Then share your photos and enjoy the conversation.

Helpful links:
5 Best Tips for College Interview Success
College Interview Tips: Is it Okay to Ask for Something to Drink?
College Interview Tips: How to Interview with an Alum
College Interview Tips: Combatting Nerves
Interview Tips: How to Interview with a College Sports Coach

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 Best Tips for College Interview Success

College Interview Success - 5 Best TipsYou’ve got a college interview. OMG. NOW WHAT!?!? Take a deep breath and read on.

Here are my 5 Best Tips for Interview Success:

1. Relax. It’s Normal to Be Nervous. Use these 4 relaxation strategies to help ace your college interview:

  • Arrive early so you can look around.
  • Take a brisk walk to shake off jitters.
  • Breathe! We forget to do this all the time.
  • Bring a bottle of water. Nerves can give you a dry mouth—you don’t want to feel like you’re chewing on a fist full of Saltines.

2. Decide On 3 Things You Want the Interviewer to Remember About You. This is a great way to feel more in control during your interview. If you decide on three ideas beforehand, you’ll never be fishing for something to say.

What should you choose? Any activity, accomplishment, goal or value that’s important to you. Think about:

  • Ways you’ve been a leader.
  • How you’ve contributed to your sport or school.
  • Your best qualities (You’re thoughtful, determined, loyal, etc.)
  • Your goals.

3. Be Prepared to Ask and Answer Questions.

  • Anticipate the types of questions you’ll be asked and practice answering them. (Don’t try to wing it. It doesn’t work.)
  • Have questions ready for the interviewer.
  • Tip: Don’t ask questions that are easily answered by the catalog or website.
  • I give you practice questions to ask and answer on my  website.

4. Body Language Counts.

  • Greet the interviewer with a firm handshake.
  • Sit up straight.
  • Make eye contact.
  • Don’t fidget.
  • No gum or candy. (True story: One of my students kept reaching into his pocket, unwrapping and sucking on Starbursts, then shoved the papers into his pocket and wiped his hands on his pants.)
  • Dress nicely. Like your mom would be proud of.

5. Follow Up Right Away with a Thank You Note.

  • An email is fine, but if you want to stand out also send an old-fashioned, hand-written thank you. It’s one more way to make an excellent impression, which is exactly what you want.

Remember: A good interview is an exchange of information and ideas. Be prepared, be comfortable and enjoy.

I’ll be writing about more interview tips, so stay tuned.

Helpful links:
College Interview Tips: Is it Okay to Ask for Something to Drink?
College Interview Tips: How to Interview with an Alum
College Interview Tips: Combatting Nerves
Interview Tips: How to Interview with a College Sports Coach

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 with college admissions officers. 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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Interview Tips: How to Interview with a College Sports Coach

How to interview with a college sports coach from Sharon Epstein and First Impressions College Consulting

Do you plan to play sports at college? Then plan to do your homework. Whether you’re being recruited, or seeking out programs of interest, it’s important to find a school that fits you both athletically and academically.

That’s what Jenn Osher has done. She’s headed to Bard College this fall to play Division III soccer, after helping her Stamford, Connecticut Westhill High School soccer team win the Class LL state championship. Jenn says “always ask where the sports program is headed. “Bard’s program is getting better, and that was important to me.” Jenn also stresses that you should “make sure you like the people who will be on your team. If you don’t like them, you won’t want to play.

How Do You Check Out College Athletics Programs?

  1. Read the info on each school’s website
  2. Visit whenever you can
  3. Talk to the students playing your sport
  4. Contact the coach and schedule a phone or in-person interview

Here Are Tips for Interviewing with a College Sports Coach:

  1. Be on time
  2. Bring your resume, highlight reel, and scrapbook, or send them in advance
  3. Know the coach’s name
  4. Be enthusiastic
  5. Talk about your accomplishments without bragging
  6.  Say what you’ll bring to the team as an athlete and team player, as well as to the college as a whole.
  7. *This is the time to find out if the program is right for you, so have questions ready for the coach

Questions to Ask a College Sports Coach:

  1. How will I fit in on the team?
  2. How would you describe your coaching style?
  3. Where is your program headed in the next four years?
  4. If you’re making big changes in your program, will there be a place for me?
  5. How do athletes balance academics and athletics?
  6. What are the best features of your school?
  7. How will you help me become the best player I can be?
  8. Do your school and students support the program?
  9. Does the team have any travel opportunities during the year or during the summer?
  10. Why should I pick your program?
  11. How does the admission process work and do student athletes get any preference?
  12.  How is the training staff at your school?
  13.  Is there a strength and conditioning coach who will help me become a better athlete?
  14.  How would you describe the overall attitude of the team?
  15. Can you arrange for me to meet other players?

Questions a College Sports Coach Might Ask You:

  1. What fields of study are you interested in?
  2. What are the things that you are looking for most in a school?
  3. What are you most interested in about our school?
  4. What types of grades are you getting now?
  5. How do you see yourself fitting in here?
  6. What extracurricular activities are you involved in?
  7. What do you think about your high school coach?

Follow up right away with a thank you note. Email is fine, and a snail mail follow-up won’t hurt, either.

Want more questions to ask a college coach? Check out this post from recruiting-101.com:
What questions should I ask college football coaches or basketball coaches on phone calls?

If you want to play sports at college you’ll need to work hard to find a school that fits you both athletically and academically. But the rewards will be worth it — both on and off the field.


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College Interview Tips: “I Dunno” and One-Word Answers Won’t Cut It

A college interviewer is looking over a student’s transcript:

College Interviewer:  “I see you really improved your grades over the last few years”
Student: “Yes.”
College Interviewer:  “That’s a nice accomplishment.”
Student:
“Uh huh.”
College Interviewer: “Was there something that motivated you?”
Student: “…I dunno. I hadn’t really thought about it.”
College Interviewer: “…Okay, then.  Well, let’s move on to something else.”

Can you hear the sounds of an interview crashing? This student has offered zero information, and the interviewer hasn’t learned a thing. All she can do is move on to the next question. It’s probably going to be a torturous half-hour — for her.

Don’t give one word answers. Do make your college interview a conversation.

Think of a conversation as a circle. You’re responsible for completing half the circle and the interviewer is responsible for completing the other half. One-word answers don’t complete the circle; you need to provide information. And not just any information. Unlike the student in the example who tells the interviewer that he “hadn’t really thought about it,” it should be apparent that you’ve given some thought to many of these ideas before hand. Let’s try that conversation again:

College Interviewer: “I see you really improved your grades over the last few years”
Student: “Yeah. It was tough for a while because I had to learn how to balance school work with being on varsity. But it turned out to be a pretty good lesson. Now I’m more focused with things I want to do.”

Much better. Look at what’s changed. The student has engaged in a conversation by offering information, and the interviewer has learned some interesting (and positive) things about him. Now she has a starting point for her next question and the conversation can continue:

College Interviewer: “That’s right. I remember seeing that you made varsity your freshman year. Tell me more about that.”

The interview is off and running.

Think of your college interview as a two-way street. You’re a participant, and your job is to provide good information and ask good questions. Make it a conversation, and you’ll make a good impression.