- Start early!
- Read books! This means outside of school too. It may not sound directly relevant to applications, but the more you read: the better your vocabulary, the more you learn about writing and writing styles, and the more knowledge you will have to draw from for your own writing. Additionally, many Colleges and scholarship committees may ask you directly about books you've recently read.
- Don't wait until your Senior year to take all of the tests you'll need (i.e. SAT/SAT IIs/ACT). It'll only add to your stress and you won't get an opportunity to retake the tests.
- Keep track of ALL the activities you participate in (from freshman year on!) as you will want to list them on all of your applications. Write them down as you do them! Keep all of the certificates, etc. that you have received for these things.
- If possible, it's good to immerse yourself in one or two volunteer/extracurricular activities over a significant period of time rather than participating in many one-day activities- quality over quantity. Colleges like to see your passion and commitment, and if you're stuck for an essay topic these experiences can be great material to work with.
- Don't put off your applications thinking you'll do them over winter or thanksgiving break, get started whenever you find time.
- You won't be able to finish them all in one sitting, so take a little time each day to do one or two things.
- Write drafts of your essays early so that you have time to get them reviewed by other people, and so that you yourself can review them with fresh eyes.
- When you think you've finished the application, look it over carefully from start to finish and make sure you are presenting yourself the way you want to. Have another person double-check it for you as well, it's very helpful. If you don't know who you can ask to read it, ask one of your teachers- any one of them would be happy to help you.
- One senior says "Trust the system." In other words, this whole process repeats itself year after year; admissions offices know what they need. If you are really unsure about anything, talk to a teacher or counselor about it.
- Take deadlines seriously.
Friday, June 5, 2009
Sunday, May 31, 2009
Your other option is to take the ACT. The ACT is four-part multiple choice test, comprised of English, Math, Reading, and Science sections. There is also an optional writing section that most colleges prefer or require. The ACT scores each section from 1 (lowest) to 36 (highest) and your overall score is the average of these four (or five with writing) scores. There are also plenty of test-prep books available for the ACT, as well as online resources. Here is the ACT website with more information.
Many people take both the SAT and ACT and see which one they score better on. It varies from person to person which is 'easier.'
Also: If English is your second language, you may take the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language). For information about this try:toeflgoanywhere.org
Friday, May 29, 2009
Here is a list with contact information of all of California's Community Colleges.
Here are some tips from Mendocino College's website for students attending Community Colleges.
Here is a great article entitled: Six Benefits of Community Colleges: It Might Be the Right Path For You
The UC application filing period is November 1st through 30th. It's easy to procrastinate, but you will do yourself (and the admissions officers) a favor by submitting your application early.
UCs do not ask for letters of recommendation.
SATs: Unlike many colleges, UCs require 2 SAT II subject tests in addition to the SAT I or ACT. You must take these tests no later than December of the year you apply.
Check out their How to Apply page for a detailed checklist.
The UC application asks for 2 essays, together totaling 1,000 words or less. Here are the prompts:
- Respond to both prompts, using a maximum of 1,000 words total.
- You may allocate the word count as you wish. If you choose to respond to one prompt at greater length, we suggest your shorter answer be no less than 250 words.
- Stay within the word limit as closely as you can. A little over — 1,012 words, for example — is fine.
Describe the world you come from — for example, your family, community or school — and tell us how your world has shaped your dreams and aspirations.
Tell us about a personal quality, talent, accomplishment, contribution or experience that is important to you. What about this quality or accomplishment makes you proud and how does it relate to the person you are?
Here is CSUmentor, a very useful website for those interested in the California State University system: http://www.csumentor.edu/
Here is the CSU homepage.
Saturday, May 23, 2009
You can send an art portfolio (slides or digital images), a music recording, a performing arts sample (often a youtube video will suffice), or an extraordinary piece of creative writing or advanced scientific research. Additional school essays are not encouraged.
If you choose to submit something, be sure to go to each college's website to find out exactly what they will accept, and how they will accept it. It can vary hugely from school to school so be sure to follow directions closely. Some schools even have an early deadline for supplementary materials so find out about their requirements early on.
I personally have no experience with the music, performing arts, or writing samples, but as I plan to major in fine arts I submitted my art portfolio to all of the schools I applied to. Here is a summary of what I did:
-I checked every college's supplementary materials page so I knew what was expected first. I decided to submit my portfolio in CD format rather than slides (most accept both, and for those who did not explicitly say I called their admissions office to ask).
-I used my digital camera to photograph my best and most recent (the past year and a half) pieces of art under even lighting, and edited the images on the computer for color correction and cropping. Colleges generally expect 12-20 pieces in your portfolio, so I selected the best 20 pieces. As I have worked with variety of media I chose pieces that showed the breadth of my skills.
-I named the image files as numbers and copied them onto a blank CD. I printed a contact sheet of the images, and an inventory sheet with the images' numbers, titles, dates, media, and sizes. I labeled them all with my name and address (some also required my birth date) and mailed the CD, description sheet, and contact sheet to the admissions office at each school. Some schools only allowed 10 pieces, and others had specific formatting requirements.
If you submit supplementary materials to a school using the Common Application, you will need to fill out a short supplement on the website which includes an artist's statement and an additional letter of recommendation.
Please write an essay (250 words minimum) on a topic of your choice or on one of the options listed below. This personal essay helps us to become acquainted with you as a person and student, apart form courses, grades, test scores, and other objective data. It will also demonstrate your ability to organize your thoughts and express yourself.
Please indicate your topic by checking the appropriate button below.
-Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken, or ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you.
-Discuss some issue of personal, local, national, or international concern and its importance to you.
-Indicate a person who has had a significant influence on you, and describe that influence.
-Describe a character in fiction, a historical figure, or a creative work (as in art, music, science, etc.) that has had an influence on you, and explain that influence.
-A range of academic interests, personal perspectives, and life experiences adds much to the educational mix. Given your personal background, describe an experience that illustrates what you would bring to the diversity in a college community, or an encounter that demonstrated the importance of diversity to you.
-Topic of your choice.
It is best to start thinking about your essay early so that you can write several drafts and receive feedback from your family or teachers.
Along with the general application, each school requires you to fill out their 'supplement' which is also included on the Common Application. The supplement is an extension of your application with questions designed specifically for each individual school. You will have direct access to each school's specific requirements, as when you create an account with the Common Application you will need to 'Add Colleges' to your list.
Supplements usually contain additional questions relating to your interests (i.e. your preferred majors, your hobbies), and most all ask for an additional essay on a specific theme. Many also contain a series of short answer questions.
There is a lot to fill out, so give yourself plenty of time to complete each application fully.
You will need to submit two letters of recommendation from teachers, and one counselor report. You should ask these people for recommendations early on and check in often so that they have plenty of time to complete their letters. Through the Common Application you will 'request' them electronically by entering their email addresses. Be sure you ask them before you do this. The same goes for the school counselor; they will be sending in your grade reports. You may not view the letters they have submitted through the Common Application.
As mentioned earlier, each college requires an application fee be submitted, which you can do through the Common Application with a credit or debit card. The fee is non-refundable regardless of whether or not you are accepted. There are also fee waivers available for those who qualify.
Remember also that not all colleges use the Common Application. It is important that you go to each school's website to find out exactly what is required to apply. While most colleges prefer that you apply online, most will allow you to send paper copies if you wish, and some schools still prefer paper copies. Make sure you are clear about what you'll need to submit for each school.
When you completely finish the Common Application, the supplements, and the payments, you may click 'submit.' After this point you may no longer edit anything within your application, but you can still view it at any time. It is a good idea to print a hard copy for your records.
Thursday, May 21, 2009
Research is the best thing you can do to help you decide.
Some things to consider:
-What are you interested in studying? Does this school have a good program in that area?
-Where would you like to live? (The city or area a school is located will be a huge part of your college experience.)
-What kind of school would you like (i.e. big, small, public, private, specialized like an art school?)
There are tons of books available that give overviews of different schools, such as the Fiske Guide or the Princeton Review, as well as books with reviews written by current students like The Students' Guide to Colleges.
However, there are also a large number of online resources for learning more about particular colleges. Here are a few that I found useful:
Unigo "College Reviews by College Students:"
Virtual Campus Tours
Zinch (a sort of networking site for students and colleges)
The College Board is actually quite helpful as well
It's also a good idea to look at each college's (that you are considering applying to) own website.
In the end, you should narrow down your list to the top five or ten. It's good to be aware of your standing in the pool of applicants and make sure that you have at least one school on your list that is a safety (you would definitely be accepted). It can be good to have a "reach" school too (one you likely wouldn't get into but would like to).
What's more, visiting a college can completely change your opinion of it. Some schools seem different on paper than in person, and it is good to get a first-hand feeling of each school's atmosphere.
It can be difficult to visit all of the colleges you like before you apply to them, but make sure you visit a school at least once before you decide without a doubt that you want to go there.