Applying To College

College Essay Writing and Interview Skills


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Free College Prep and Essay Writing Program April 3 in Ridgefield

Join me for a free College Prep and Essay Writing Program April 3 at Ridgefield Parks and Recreation. I’ll be joined by Jennifer Soodek, college admissions specialist and owner of Head4Success College Counseling.

Jennifer will give an overview of the college admissions process and I’ll teach you and your student what colleges look for in college application essays, and how to write essays that stand out.

If you need a bribe, we’re bringing cookies.

This program is from 7-9 pm and is for high school students and their families. Register through Ridgefield Parks and Recreation: 203-431-2755. I hope to see you there!

Free College Prep Night April 3 2014

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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Resumes and Activity Sheets: Good Idea When Applying to College?

Are resumes or activity sheets a good idea to use when applying to college?

This question recently sparked a lively debate among admissions professionals on LinkedIn.  Interestingly, the answers were split.  Here’s a representative sampling:

Admission CounselorsAdvice:

Joanne Robertson, Assistant Director, Transfer Admissions at Quinnipiac University, says yes to activity sheets but no to resumes: “Although it is a great icebreaker for the student to provide us with an activity sheet, unless they are applying for one of our majors that need documented hours for the admission requirement, a resume is definitely overkill. I have had the unfortunate experience of talking to parents who overwhelm us with details on “internships” etc. Seriously, then why is your child applying to college? Sounds like they are already set.”

Warren Harman, Admission Professional at Clarkson University, says yes to resumes and activity sheets:  “Every time I open an application I ask “Who are you?” Hopefully, the student’s application will answer that question. The resume gives our team a better idea of what the student is most passionate about. Call it what you will, a resume or activities sheet gives us a better feel for how happy the student would be to attend our school.”

Ken Higgins, Assistant Dean of Undergraduate Admissions at Sacred Heart University, also says yes to resumes and activities sheets: “Oftentimes I’ll ask a student if they have any sort of resume or an activities sheet so we can go over that and discuss each bullet or topic. That gives me a sense of their extracurricular activities as well.”

Opinions differ, so what should you do?

  • When admissions professionals didn’t like resumes it was usually because of their unnecessary detail and length (some they saw were six pages long). If your resume is more than a couple of pages, try putting together an activities list that doesn’t include the typical resume stuff like where you go to school, GPA, scores, etc.
  • Don’t include huge explanations and don’t include every single thing you did in the past four years.
  • Don’t be fooled into thinking you definitely need a resume/activity sheet. If everything you want to say is easily conveyed through what they ask on the application, then don’t include anything extra.
  • Don’t duplicate information already provided in the application.

Look for part two: “Attaching Resumes or Activity Sheets to an Application – The Right Way”


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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.


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College Interview Tips: Combating Nerves

How to stop interview nervesLet’s face it. For some people, just hearing the words “college interview” can be scary.  It can feel like you’re starring in one of those cop shows where the subject’s being interrogated, sweating bullets while he tries to come up with the right answers.

Not your college interview.  So don’t worry.

Okay, you say — you get that. You know the interviewer’s not your enemy. You’ve prepared for your college interview. But you still feel your mouth going dry. What do you do?

There are some easy-to-learn techniques that can help.

Here are 6 Tips to Combat Interview Nerves:

1. Arrive early. It will give you time to sit down, relax, take a look around, and get your bearings.

2. Take a short, brisk walk before your interview. Walk off the jitters. You’ll get rid of nervous energy and be less fidgety once you get inside.

3. Bring a bottle of water. Nerves can cause a dry mouth, so have water with you and take a sip when you need it.

4. Take a deep breath. Focusing on your breath can be very calming. Try this exercise: Breathe in on a slow count of four, hold it for four, and breathe out on a count of four.

5. Greet the interviewer with a smile and a handshake. Look him or her in the eye, smile, offer your hand, and say hello. You’re taking the initiative to start the interview on confident, friendly terms, and you’ll find it makes a difference.

6. Try “small talk” first. You don’t have to get down to big questions right away. You can ease into the interview with a bit of small talk — what you’ve seen of the campus, how the directions were easy to follow, even how the weather is. This will give you an extra few moments to ease into things.

Every interviewer understands about nerves. The trick is to be well prepared for your interview, and then to use the techniques that can help make you shine.
sharon-epstein-college-essay-writing-and-interview-skills
Sharon Epstein is a Writers Guild Award-winner and two-time Emmy Award nominee, teaching students around the world how to master interview skills, write resumes, and transform their goals, dreams and experiences into memorable college application essays. She works with students everywhere: in-person, by phone, FaceTime, Skype and email. Visit my website for more info. Connect on Google+, Pinterest and Twitter.

 


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College Interview Tips: Is It Okay to Ask for Something to Drink?

A couple of days ago I watched a video on “College Interview Tips.” Number one was to bring questions for the interviewer. Number two was to turn off your cell phone.  Number three was to refuse the offer of something to drink. What??

I watched the woman in the video holding an empty paper cup. “Where are you going to put this?” she asked. “On the interviewer’s desk?” She frowned. “Are you going to hold it the whole time?” She shook her head. “What if you get nervous or move the wrong way?” She tipped the cup over. “Don’t accept anything to drink.” OMG. What if you’re thirsty???

It’s okay to accept a drink if you need one. College interviews cause nerves, and nerves can cause dry mouth. Always bring a bottle of water with you to the interview. If you get a dry mouth you’re covered. Plus, if you get stuck on a question a sip can give you a little extra time to think.

Obviously, think twice if there’s no place to put the cup and you’ll have to hold it. If the interviewer’s desk is the only available space, ask if it’s okay to put the cup there. Interviewers aren’t ogres and they’re not going to record that you were gauche enough to ask to park your cup — which they have been kind enough to give you — on the only available surface in the room. Certainly don’t put it at your feet; you’ll forget it’s there and that’s trouble. Now, if you know you’re clumsy, accepting that drink may not be such a good idea. But it’s not a cut and dry “never.”

Take a bottle of water to your college interview. But if you need something to drink, accept the offer.