Category Archives: Looking for the right college for you

The Admissions Wait

High school students (and your parents), we know you are in the midst of waiting to receive the admission decisions from the institutions to which you applied, and we know the wait seems really long. We empathize with you! To speed-up this wait, we suggest you conduct deeper research on these colleges. (However, if your FAFSA has not been submitted yet – make that your first priority!)

A few of the things we recommend you research are…
1. Majors: at each college, select at least five majors you are interested in. You probably already put down a major of interest on the application, but more than 50% of students change their major at least once, so look at ALL your options right now! Knowing there is more than one major you’re interested in is important. A good place to find your options is in the course catalog.

2. Major Impaction: can you get into the major(s) you’re interested by submitting a form, or are you going to need to complete prerequisite courses and meet a GPA minimum? Major impaction is becoming increasingly common at state universities, and can often cause students 1-2 additional years in college in order to complete the major. Research this information on the website of the specific major department.

3. Campus exams: many campuses have their own eligibility exams, no matter how high a score was earned on an ACT, SAT, AP or IB exam. Our campus requires campus-specific exams for Statistics, Calculus and Chemistry. If any of those courses are required in the major, the student must take the appropriate campus-specific exam. At our institution, these exams are given at orientation. Students who were highly successful in those courses during high school often struggle with these exams for two reasons. First, the students do not realize they will be needing to take a campus-specific exam, and therefore have not reviewed any materials related to the subject. Second, the exams are given on the second day of orientation at 7:30am. This is after many students have been up half the night making new friends = horrible timing!

4. Orientation: the cost and anticipated dates. Attending orientation is extremely important; you do not want to be caught off-guard by the registration fee and the dates you need to attend. Your other summer activities should be planned around attending on-campus orientation. An option to do online orientation will never compare to the on-campus experience; the memories will last a lifetime!

Enjoy your research – not only is it very useful information, it’s great preparation for all the research you’re going to do in college!!

More College Rankings

The professional, social media network, LinkedIn, recently got on the college ranking band wagon. LinkedIn states the following on their education specific website (

Which schools are best at launching graduates into desirable jobs? We analyzed millions of alumni profiles to find out how schools around the world stack up across a variety of careers.

The website then goes on to share their three step process of how they identified the colleges within their eight career categories. The career categories are: Accounting, Design, Finance, Investment Banking, Marketing, Media, Software Developers and Software Developers at Startups. Even if those categories aren’t interesting to you, the information is unique and worth a look.

In addition to rankings, you can utilize the ‘University Finder’ feature to locate colleges that match these three things:
* What do you want to study? (select major)
* Where do you want to work? (select a company/corporation)
* Where do you want to live? (select a city/state)

Additionally, you can also view profiles of alumni of the ranked institutions.

Full access to all the information and the site tools requires a LinkedIn profile. If you don’t have one, I recommend taking these suggestions from TheSavvyIntern’s article titled: Your LinkedIn Profile Sucks… Here’s How to Fix That.

Have fun!




Application Party

Parents of high school seniors… how are you doing as the college application deadline is drawing near? Do you find yourself doing application tasks on behalf of your student? If so, you’re not alone, but please – stop! Your child does want to go to college, so eventually, s/he will (before November 1), rise to the occasion and take action!

Since most deadlines are looming, as an alternate to nagging, ask your student if s/he would like to host a college app. party. The social could include/be:

  • The friends reading each other’s essays and offering feedback and edits. (If the friends have been close the past few years, they know each other very well, and can remind each other of the positive things they have done, which will help each student highlight accomplishments and achievements.)
  • The students sharing application insights from the things they learned during campus visits, tours, and meetings with admissions representatives.
  • Conversations about the price of tuition, fees, living expenses, the FAFSA, financial aid, and loans.
  • The positive momentum needed for each student to complete the application process.

In the end, you’ll be the hero parent (family) for bringing it all together and assisting in getting it all done!

Application Deadline

Attention! Attention! High school Seniors! You may not need this reminder, or more likely, you don’t like being reminded that the November 1, deadline to submit college applications is fewer than 25 days away! We know you’re diligently working on your application essays (you’re probably on your 3rd or 4th drafts at this point – keep up the good work!), and you’ve been committed to your SAT/ACT preparation schedule, so you’re ready to give your best on test day, but how much research on college majors have you put in?

Are you selecting the same major on each college application? How much research have you done on the majors that are offered at the institutions to which you’re applying? Do you know if the major you select will influence whether or not you get accepted into the institution? Last Fall, one of our readers applied to five institutions, and he selected a different major at each. This was a good strategy, as some of the institutions to which he applied, accept students based on their requested major (along with all their other admission criteria). By selecting lesser known majors, and unique fields of study, he made himself a desirable admit. He was accepted into each program/institution! This accomplishment made deciding where to attend much more exciting.

Stay focused and  keep motivated, the application stress is nearing and end!



Essay Inspiration

Earlier this week, I said, writing a good college application essay takes practice. Knowing you’re a great student, I’m sure you’ve been practicing the past three days, right? Of course you have! Or, maybe not, because you need a little inspiration. Look no further!

I recently read a blog about Sean Means, from Memphis, TN. He is now a first year student at Stanford University, and a recipient of a Ron Brown Scholarship. He wrote some heartfelt application essays. His essays inspired me; I believe they can do the same for you. Read this and this. (Read them!)

After reading those, are you ready to give your application essays your best? Put your fingers on your key board and let your words flow from your heart. You’re going to edit those words, again, and again, and again, so, for now, just let them flow!

Finally, remember this advice from Kim Lifton -

The application essay is not an English paper; it is an opportunity to show admissions officers who you are, that you will fit in, and that you can write well enough to succeed at their school. The admissions team that is responsible for making recommendations for next year’s class reads a lot of applications. So be careful: You don’t want to bore them or submit a piece that is simply uninspiring.

Forget about rubrics and grades. Ditch the five-paragraph essay format. Just write something genuine that is reflective, will make the person reading your essay smile and want to know more about you. 

Believe in yourself, give your best, and don’t make excuses! Get to writing, and good luck!

College Application Essay… Help!

HS senior, have you been practicing writing your college application essays? If your response is ‘no.’ then it is time to get with it! And yes, you need to practice!

Writing a great essay is not a 30-60 minute process, it’s a:

  • Write
  • Re-write
  • Re-write
  • Give to someone to edit
  • Edit
  • Realize you want to re-write
  • Re-write
  • Give to a different person for edits
  • Edit
  • A little more re-writing

and then FINALLY have your finished product! That’s a 10-step process.

The essay is a lot fewer steps than learning your concert (insert your instrument here) piece, or the 18 weeks of (insert sport here) practice, or memorizing 1,368 lines of (insert theatre production here) agony. Also, it’s great if your English teacher makes you do a ‘college application essay’ assignment, but that is just an assignment, it should not be what you’re actually turning in with your application(s).

Take a look at these interesting college application essay questions. Pick a few to work on, and get to practice!

Can you get into your major at the school you’ll transfer to?

The final aspect of community college exploration that needs to be addressed is this:  Once you attend the community college you chose and did the required coursework to transfer to a Bachelor’s granting institution, can you get into the major you want to major in?

This is becoming a problem at many transfer institutions (the Bachelor’s granting college).  Let’s say you were a psychology major at the community college and then applied to and gained admission to a Bachelor’s granting institution — what do you have to do (what are the requirements) to be a Psychology major at the next college?  Can you just declare the major and you are in?  Or, are there extra hurdles and hoops you must jump over to be the major you want to be?

At our institution, there are currently around 6 majors that have extra hurdles that you will have to jump over even if you are admitted to the university.  There are particular courses that must be passed with particular grades; there are a certain number of units that must be completed; and there are GPA requirements that must be met before you can apply to be in the major.  Otherwise, we use the phrase “expressed interest in X” to show that you are interested in a particular major but not yet actually admitted to the major.  This might seem sneaky; and, it kind of is.  Why would the institution accept you if you couldn’t also be in the major you want to declare?  This is exactly why we encourage to really do your research not only about the community college but also into the Bachelor’s granting institution to which you will transfer.  Otherwise, you will potentially be in for a surprise.

What are transfer agreements?

The last two blogs asked you to investigate community colleges near to you; and, further, to investigate their websites for various specific pieces of information.  This post is about a very specific and important aspect of community colleges:  they only offer 2 year (or Associate) degrees.  If you aim to have a “college education” this usually means at least a Bachelor’s degree (BA — Bachelor of Arts or BS — Bachelor of Science).  Community colleges can not offer a Bachelor’s Degree; it is not the nature of a community college.  Consequently, you must begin to plan (from the very beginning) the fact that you will transfer.

In this post we want you to explore transfer information at the community college (or colleges) you have been investigating.  Go to the website and look for “transfer information” or “transfer agreements” or something about “transfer.”  The community college will definitely have something to tell you about transferring.

The information that you want to give attention to is what kinds of agreements do they have with which institutions.  For example, your authors live in California that has a system of over 100 community colleges with well established transfer agreements to either the University of California system or the California State University system — two totally different systems of college education; and, most importantly to students enrolled in community colleges, the two systems do not have the same transfer agreements with community colleges.  They will have transfer agreements to each system but the requirements for transfer will be different.

Go back to the website of the community colleges you are investigating and find out:
1.  What are the transfer agreements (general education courses? lower division major requirements?)?

2.  What Bachelor’s granting schools does the community college have agreements with?

3.  Are there GPA requirements?

4.  How many units do you need to complete at the community college before you can apply to transfer to a Bachelor’s institution?

Exploring your options at a community college is central to the college decision making process.  The only way to make an informed choice about where to apply (and ultimately attend) is to know what, exactly, your choices are.  Go exploring!

Community college . . .why choose it?

The previous blog talked about community colleges — explained a bit about what they are and encouraged you to locate nearby community colleges.  Did you find one?  What kinds of majors did it offer?  Did any of the courses look interesting to you?

Choosing to attend a community college first and then transfer to a Bachelor’s granting institution can be a good decision for some students.  Here are some pros and cons that we talk about in our book (Chapter 3):


Cost:  attending a community college is a fraction of the cost of a Bachelor’s institution, especially if you can live at home.

Transfer Priority:  most Bachelors institutions give priority to students transferring in from community colleges (rather than transferring in from another Bachelor’s institution).

Flexibility:  if going to school full time is not possible or desirable, a community college can offer much more flexibility in terms of full or part-time status.


College “feeling”:  because community colleges are often nearby to one’s high school area, going “off to college” is not the same experience at a community college.

Time to graduation:  once you transfer to a Bachelor’s institution, it may still take you more than another 2 years to graduate with your Bachelor’s degree.  Sometimes it is hard to get classes (late registration dates); sometimes the major Department at the Bachelor’s institution will require a student to repeat some courses due to Departmental policy.

Choosing to go to a community college is an excellent option for some students.  But, it is important to do your research; consider your goals and expectations for your college experience; and, then, put your best foot forward!

Next time, we’ll think about Bachelor’s institutions.


Take a rest

I know in the last post we recommended “breathing.”  Today, we say:  take a break.

For us on our campus, finals are over; graduation is done.  Summer school has not yet begun.  Even if your job is not on break, make your mind take a break from school for a few days (at least).

You have our permission:  Take a break from thinking about and worrying about school.  At least for a few days.  You need the break to recharge later on; plus, while your active brain is taking a break, other parts of your brain will continue to “work” on school-related “stuff.”  When you do start actively thinking about school again, you’ll do so from a more informed position — with different perspectives.

Give it a try.  Take a break.