How Do I Make a Final College Decision?

April 11, 2021

Megan got a good start on college planning her junior year. As a senior, Megan has heard back from all of the colleges to which she applied. She was accepted at five,rejected at three, and wait-listed at two. Two of her colleges are in-state universities that she applied to “just in case” she did not get into other schools. The other three she has visited and liked them all, but now she has no idea how she will make her final college decision.

The countdown to graduation has begun and many high school seniors would like to delay the college decision process for as long as they can. Realistically, however, they know that they must choose a school and send in a deposit by May 1st.

For some students this may be easy because one school stands out among the rest. For others, there may be two or three schools that could be good options. How do you make that final college decision?

1. Make sure you have all the facts. During their college planning, some students may have heard generalizations about schools but are a little vague on the specific facts. This is the time to get those answers. If students have questions they do not feel were sufficiently answered, call the school and speak with the person who can clarify the situation. Do not hesitate to contact the director of financial aid, a college coach, or an academic advisor. Making your final college decision depends on research and specific information.

2. Consider revisiting the schools,even virtually.Look at the bulletin boards around campus, and talk with as many different people as you can. Do not hesitate to ask students or professors what they really like about a school and if there is anything they don’t like. Do not make a final college decision based on one person’s opinion, but talking and listening to many people will help you decide whether this is the school for you.

3. Reconsider your priorities. When you were going through the college planning process, what made this school stand out when you initially added it to your list? Do you want a challenging academic experience or one that is balanced between academics and extracurricular activities? If you are interested in music or theater, can you participate if you do not major in one of these areas? Does the school appeal to you because of its name, or do you feel it is really a good fit? Answering these questions honestly will help you make a good college decision.

4. Have a talk with your parents. Throughout your college planning, you and your parents have probably had some discussions about the schools that interested you. They may have some ideas of their own or feel that one college or university is a better choice than another. Listen to what they say, but be prepared to answer questions or concerns they may have about a particular school. They want you to be happy and they know that making your final college decision requires time and thought.

5. Make your final college decision and don’t second guess yourself. Of course you will probably feel some anxiety, but this is normal and expected as you take the final step in the college planning process. If you make the college decision with your head and with your heart, there is no reason to believe that you haven’t chosen the best school for you.

5 Ways to Improve Your ACT Score

January 9, 2021

As a test prep coach, students frequently ask me how they can improve their score on the ACT. Since I have been providing test prep for high school students for more than twenty years, I have a few tips that will help students succeed on this important test.

1. FAMILIARIZE YOURSELF WITH THE ACT 
The ACT consists of four sections: English, math, reading, and science reasoning. Each section requires its own individual approach. Take time to understand the format of each section and the best way to tackle it. Read and make sure you understand the directions so you do not need to waste time on them when you take the actual ACT. The more comfortable you are with the test, the easier it will be to improve your score on the ACT.

2. USE GUESSING TO YOUR ADVANTAGE 
There is no penalty foe guessing on the ACT so I suggest you waste no time on questions if you don’t have a clue what the question is asking. See if you can eliminate some answers and then make a guess between what is left. You can always circle the number of the question and come back to it later if you have a minute or two at the end of the section.

3. MAKE THE BEST USE OF YOUR TIME 
Most students find the time constraints on the ACT a problem. You need to decide what questions can be answered more quickly and which you should leave until later. The science section seems to be the most difficult to finish on time. I suggest students skip one passage on the science test and try to be more accurate on their answers on the other six passages. When practicing on the ACT, it is important to time yourself on each test and figure out how to pace yourself.

4. WORK ON BOTH YOUR STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES 
Most colleges are interested in the ACT composite score. Your goal is to do what you can to improve that score. If you are strong in English, try to become even stronger. If math is your weakness, don’t try to learn new math at this time. Make sure you do the math questions you know how to do and don’t make stupid mistakes.

5. PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE 
There is no substitute for practice if you want to improve your score on the ACT. Practice on real tests and go over every question you miss. Make sure you understand the reasoning behind the correct answer. On the reading section, check any questions you miss and return to the passage to find the supporting information for the right answer. If you are motivated enough to be successful on your ACT practice at home, then do it. If you need a class or some individual test prep, Google “test prep” and the city you live in and find out what is available.

Early Decision and Early Action: Dealing with College Rejection

December 14, 2020

Students are often encouraged to apply to colleges early decision because many schools take a higher percentage of applicants from this group. What you aren’t told is that the students who apply early are frequently the strongest academically and in other areas. This makes the applicant pool more competitive. Thus, in the next two weeks, many students will be getting the sort of bad news that no one wants to receive: the college rejection letter.

You probably wonder what you did wrong and the answer is “nothing.” There are simply too many students applying for too few available spots. Colleges are trying to put together a freshman class made up of students with diverse backgrounds, interests, and geographic locations. Therefore, students often get rejected from a college based on things that have nothing to do with their academics or other qualifications.

Just because your first choice school turned you down doesn’t mean the consequences are as devastating as they might seem right now. You would be surprised at the number of successful people in the world who have experienced the same college rejection. Some say it turned out better in the long run because they reconsidered their other college choices and found a school that might have been a better fit to begin with.

College rejection should never be taken personally. It may seem like a personal attack on your character, but it isn’t. It might be a serious blow to your self-esteem, but you are still a valuable person. I know of one high school that created a “wall of shame” where everyone who was rejected was encouraged to bring their letter and post it. This helped everyone realize they were not alone and gave them an opportunity to talk about their disappointment and where they planned to go from there.

The college admission process is complicated and is often based on factors other than your GPA, SAT and ACT scores, and college essays. Sometimes students apply to schools early decision because they are highly competitive, in a very desirable location, or perhaps just a family favorite. A college rejection from these schools might make your parents just as sad as you are. Show them that you can adapt and not allow this to threaten your future.

If you have already applied to other colleges, turn your focus to them. Are there any others you might like to consider? If you have not applied to any other schools, you need to get busy. You do have other options and many of them could turn out to be great choices where you will be accepted. Many colleges have application deadlines in January, but others are rolling admissions which means that there is plenty of time to get your applications completed.

It is important to understand that a college rejection letter is only one missed opportunity, and there will be many other opportunities for you in the future. As difficult as it may seem, college rejection builds character. This is your chance to stand up to this adversity and not let it discourage you. Adversity can lead to resilience and that is the one trait that colleges value most.

#earlyaction #earlydecision #collegerejection #rejectedfromyourdreamschool

Contact susie@collegedirection.org for the best, most affordable college counseling

Is Community Service Essential for College Admissions?

December 6, 2020

College admissions officers expect to see community service as part of your extracurricular activities. Community service is a great way to get involved in your city or town and gain valuable experience in areas that interest you. Not only does it feel good to get out there and help others, but your experiences may help you learn about future career interests. Volunteers are a vital part of all communities. Every year more and more college scholarships are based on community service and volunteering.

The fall and winter are times of the year when the importance of volunteering should be most apparent. Feeding the hungry, collecting clothing for the needy, and tutoring students in low performing schools are all ways that you can donate your time and energy towards the members of your community. Community service is an important factor for college admissions.

Performing community service will give you not only a sense of responsibility but also make you proud of where you live. It will also give you satisfaction that you were able to make a difference. Extracurricular activities and volunteering in particular, show that you are a well-rounded individual and you know how to manage your time efficiently.

Community service should involve activities that reinforce your interests. If you are an athlete, get involved in the Special Olympics. If teaching is a career you are considering, tutor young children in an after school program. If you are interested in medicine, spend an afternoon a week working at a hospital. Getting involved in the community shows that you are a responsible citizen.

College applications should not just highlight your GPA and test scores. They are also a place to demonstrate that you are a person who is concerned with others. Colleges look at academic performance as well as a student’s involvement in school and in the community. Colleges may admit you because you have a perfect 4.0, play an instrument, sing in a choir, or actively participate in a varsity sport. Volunteering can also boost an applicant’s chances for college admissions.

Community service in the real world is a way to build social and career skills. It is also a great way to meet many different people from all walks of life while making many new friends along the way. Colleges are looking for students who volunteer with passion, commitment and enthusiasm. They are interested in students who have pursued their community service over a period of time as opposed to a few days of volunteering here and there.

Students can also be creative in finding their own community service projects. Don’t just do something generic because it is easy. If you see a need, find a solution. Most importantly, volunteering is the right thing to do even if you are not concerned with college admissions.

Susie Watts is an educational consultant and college planner in Denver, Colorado. She is the founder of College Direction. Susie helps students with their college search, applications and essays, and provides college assistance throughout the college admissions process.

Why Should You Fill Out the FAFSA?

November 18, 2020

Many families do not realize that it is time to apply for financial aid and scholarships. Most students are relieved to be finishing with their college applications and the thought of filling out more forms is the last thing on their minds. Families will not receive financial aid if they 
do not ask for it. Some families may not have financial need, but circumstances can change.The FAFSA is the first step to ask for financial aid. And if you have no already applied, it is the time to do it.

FAFSA, which stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is an online form which determines which students are eligible for federal financial assistance. No one should be intimidated by the FAFSA form and everyone who feels that might qualify for federal, state, or institutional grants or loans should definitely apply.

Applying for financial aid is not as overwhelming as it used to be, but it does require time and accurate answers to allow the government to determine what your Expected Family Contribution toward college will be. This is known as your EFC. The FAFSA form is filled out by the parents of prospective and continuing students on an annual basis. Read the instructions carefully. The name on your Social Security card is the same name you should use on the FAFSA. Make all of your corrections online. If an answer applies to you, it should not be left blank.

Since financial aid is often given out on a first come, first served basis, it is important to fill as the FAFSA form as soon as you can. The form for the 2021-22 school year is now available online.. The amount of financial aid a student receives is based on your previous year’s tax return. Every state and college or university has a specific deadline for the FAFSA form to be submitted. The federal deadline is June 30, but the state and school deadlines can be as early as February 15. Most college websites list the deadline for their schools.

Paying for college is one of the biggest concerns parents have today. Last year more than 80% of the parents who had students applying or returning to college filled out the FAFSA form. You have nothing to lose by filling out the free form and some families are pleasantly surprised that they actually qualify for at least some financial assistance. Every little bit helps.

The College Essay-What Do Colleges Look For?

November 2, 2020

The personal statement or college essay is your opportunity to discuss anything that is not reflected in another part of your college application. Are there questions that college admission officers might want to ask you after reading your application? Universities like to see examples and evidence of what you have done in your life and how you will contribute to their college community.

The personal statement gives you the chance to write about yourself. Writing about yourself can be tough, but once you get a grasp on how to write a good personal statement, you will have no problem. College admissions officers want to know about your goals and values and what you have learned from your experiences. They are looking for students who are mature, honest, sincere and self-motivated.

Students frequently look at the college essay prompts and cannot imagine where to begin. The important thing is to put down some ideas and brainstorm what you could say about each of them. When answering the personal statement questions, it is important to show, not tell. Find stories from your experiences that will illustrate these ideas. This provides you a chance to reveal your personality, insight, and commitment. The danger is that it is open-ended, so you need to focus

College admissions officers may have hundreds of college essays to shift through, so making yours unique gives them something fresh to read and a renewed interest in finding out more about you. It is always a good idea to mention a few statements about the school you are applying to and why you are interested in attending.

If they ask a specific question, make sure you adequately answer that question. If they list a specific length requirement, make sure you are within its limits. The questions may be similar, but the intent behind them could be completely different. Give a sincere effort and find out what the college is looking for with their questions and answer them all as if it is the only school you are applying to.

Composing a college essay can be intimidating, so I encourage you to begin well before the deadline in order to take pressure off yourself and improve the quality of the final draft. Read the application instructions carefully. Have someone else read the personal statement for clarity and grammar. Have someone who does not know you well read the essay for content and interest. Most importantly, draft and revise until you are satisfied.

Finally, remember that a personal statement is about you. It should not be a laundry list of your accomplishments, but more events that have shaped your interests, attitudes, and academic focus. This is your opportunity to sell yourself and improve your chances for college admissions.

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Is Your High School Junior on Track with College Planning?

October 24, 2020

College admissions has changed dramatically this past eight months due to Covid-19. It is important that high school juniors get on track with their college planning in order to be prepared for the college application and admission process.

Although many colleges are test-optional for the class of 2021, that does not mean that colleges are test-blind. Most will still accept test scores from the SAT or ACT and consider them as part of the college application if they are submitted. Many colleges will also consider SAT and ACT scores for merit scholarships. For students who choose not to submit test scores, essays will carry more weight than ever before because they allow a school to determine how a student will contribute to theIr college community.

Colleges will be more flexible with who writes the recommendations, because they too will help a school get a picture of a student’s character, which is a big thing this year. Whether getting into college will be more difficult or easier for 2021or 2022 high school graduates remains to be seen. However, students need to write the best college applications and essays in order to be competitive. The more planning that high school juniors do, the more successful their college admissions oportunities will be as a high school senior.

Susie Watts is a college consultant with 30 years experience. She begins working with high school juniors once they are into their first semester. You can contact Susie at 303-692-1918 or susie@collegedirection.org with questions.Love

YOUR SENIOR MAY NEED TO APPLY TO MORE COLLEGES THIS YEAR DUE TO COVID-19

October 17, 2020

Parents of seniors are worried how Covid-19 will affect their child’s chances of admission to college. This is my advice. Make sure that you know what is and what is not within your student’s control. Building and honing a college list is within every student’s control. Every school that is on that list, whether it is a safety or reach, should be a school that your child would be happy to attend. It important to have options. With Covid-19, college admissions could be dramatically different than it has been in years past. To save you child from disappointment, check and double check that list and make whatever changes might be necessary. Many application deadlines have been extended and other good schools are on rolling admissions.

Free Webinar: My College Direction, a New, Innovative College Planning Program

June 20, 2020

My College Direction is a new, innovative college counseling program that is for families who want the best advice and most up-to-date information for their student.

Susie Watts is a college consultant in Denver who has 30 years experience helping students create a college list and assist them as they go through the college application and admissions process.

She has felt for a long time that college counseling should be more available to many students who need the guidance, but found it unaffordable. As a result, she has started My College Direction.

Students often do not receive the assistance they need from high school counselors, not because counselors would not like to provide it, but they simply have too many students to work with and too many other responsibilities.

Susie always felt that she enjoyed and was more effective when she worked with students individually in her office. It wasn’t until the Coronavirus struck that she began to move some of her college counseling and test prep online. Much to her surprise, it has worked out quite well, and her students love the fact that they don’t need to travel to an office, but still get the same kind of college planning help they need.

My College Direction will be very similar to the comprehensive college planning program that Susie has offered for the last 30 years. The only difference will be that it is online. Some sessions will be for a group of 20 students (maximum) and others will be individual. The main benefit to you as a family is the cost.

Susie will be doing a free webinar to provide details on the My College Direction program which she has just launched. It will be on Tuesday, June 30 at 7:00 MDT. You can register on the link below.

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/free-webinar-my-college-direction-an-new-approach-to-college-planning-tickets-110359883382?utm-medium=discovery&utm-campaign=social&utm-content=attendeeshare&utm-source=strongmail&utm-term=listing

 

Coronavirus and College Planning

April 17, 2020

Coronavirus is creating a tremendous time of unrest. Some days we are encouraged that the world will return to normal, and others we wonder if things will ever be the same. For this year’s high school graduates, the disappointments are many: Graduations, proms and other senior activities have pretty much disappeared.

Yet, we can not just give up, but more importantly, we need to turn our attention to current high school juniors. As the world of college admissions and SAT and ACT testing has been turned upside down, it is the current class of high school juniors we need to focus on. More than any other year in my 30 years of college counseling, college planning is going to be absolutely critical.

High school counselors are overwhelmed with all of the changes that the Coronavirus has caused and college planning will not be on the top of their lists. Using  a college consultant will assure your family and student that they are making the best decisions as they go through the college admissions process. I want to encourage parents of the high school class of 2021 who are considering hiring a college consultant to help simplify the college search and application process, now is the time. College Direction limits the number of students with whom we work each year in order to provide the individual attention that every student deserves.

Susie Watts offers a free information session to all prospective students and parents. Call 303-692-1918 or susie@collegedirection.org.