Category Archives: College Visits

Challenges & Opportunities

openroad2The Coronavirus pandemic has brought on new opportunities and challenges unique to the HS classes of 2021-2023 concerning college admissions.

Opportunities

Students have equal access to colleges! All students can attend virtual admission sessions, take a virtual campus tour, meet virtually with an admission staff member who will be reviewing their applications, and connect with current students to learn more about life on campus. Previously, this access was only available to those able to pay for travel and find room in their schedules.

Additionally, you have access to an online college fair that includes presentations (live and recorded) on college admission topics and insights into what specific colleges are looking for in applicants.

Challenges

Colleges will expect you to take advantage of these resources before you apply. If you are too busy now, understand that you will need to prioritize connecting with your colleges and learning more about them later.

Colleges either care about demonstrated interest and will take that into account when evaluating you for admission, honors programs, and scholarships OR they will care about how well you articulate your fit with the college in your application essays. In the rare case that your school does not care about demonstrated interest and doesn’t ask a “why this college” essay, where you go to college is a big decision. In all situations, you need to learn about them. The resources to do so are waiting for you.

Activity Challenges

Many of you worked hard to come up with activities for your spring and summer, and now plans are canceled or at risk of being canceled. Spend time now preparing a back-up plan.

Opportunities

This will require you to be more creative and take initiative, but those are exactly the qualities colleges love to see! Creating your own activity also shows leadership without needing a title or elected position. Colleges look for “intellectual vitality” too. You can pursue an intellectual passion. Embrace the free time you have by doing something to move you towards your future goals. If one of your strengths is compassion, there are endless ways to volunteer. Even simple acts of kindness show this characteristic.

Challenges with Grades or Lack of Grades

Continue reading

Support for Seniors Making Their College Decision

let go of the pastI am thinking about all seniors who are frustrated with what school and event cancelations have meant in terms of lost plans and dreams. Please know that people care and will do what they can to make it up when the time is right. For now, my advice is to acknowledge your feelings of loss and frustration, but then turn your energy towards what you can control.

In some of my seniors’ college applications, students were asked, “If you had an extra hour in your day, how would you spend it?” You now have that extra hour to read for pleasure, learn a new skill, or reconnect with a friend or family member (online, of course). Speaking of online, I suggest that you check out MOOCs.

MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) are online classes open to everyone, many for free. Right now, these include free courses from highly selective universities covering everything from Georgetown’s Quantum Mechanics to MIT’s Computer Science and Programming using Python. I just signed up for Yale’s “The Science of Well Being.” Check it out!

For more information on MOOCs and how they work, go here. Then use these sites to browse courses:

For Seniors Trying to Make Their College Decisions

Here are some resources to use to help you get a sense of your best-fit college without visiting in person.

Virtual Tours: Many colleges offer virtual tours and admission sessions on their websites. Start with the college’s undergraduate admission page for the latest offerings. Then try online college tour resources like Campus Reel (virtual tours of more than 300 colleges) and YouVisit (over 600 college tours).

Social Media: Most colleges have Facebook groups for admitted students. Join them to connect with other admitted students and read the discussion. Search for YouTube videos on your colleges of interest to find students sharing information and experiences about their colleges. Continue reading

No-School November is a Great Time for College Visits

lockersNo-school days in November are great opportunities for students (juniors especially) to visit local colleges. Even if your student insists they will not be staying in-state, students are often pleasantly surprised at how much their state schools offer. Regardless, I still recommend visiting a large, state university in your home state, along with one or two smaller private colleges. Visit an urban school, along with ones in suburban or rural settings. Students should take notes on what they like from each visit and use that information to find similar schools in different geographical locations. It makes good financial sense for students to learn about what they like and don’t like using local resources before spending money on airfare and hotels.

Here are some upcoming Visit Events at a few universities in Oregon (Registration is required, and November dates fill up quickly):

University of Oregon

Duck Fall Preview November 8th: https://visit.uoregon.edu/duck-preview

Other UO visit opportunities in November: https://secureservices.uoregon.edu/tourcalendar/2019-11

Oregon State University:

November 2nd: Beaver Open Houses are full-day fall programs that provide an in-depth look at Oregon State

Beaver Previews: For prospective high school students beginning their college search, Beaver Previews are half-day programs to learn the basics about Oregon State. Registration for Saturday, November 23 is open. Spring dates will open in early 2020.

  • Saturday, November 23 – Registration open!two girls walking
  • Saturday, February 15
  • Monday, March 23
  • Friday, April 3

University of Portland:

Visitation Days are full-day programs (9:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m.) where you learn about UP academics, campus resources, and student life. Take a tour with current students, have lunch, tour our residence halls, learn about financial aid, and more.

This day is ideal for high school students and their families. Please register 2-3 weeks in advance. For more information, read here.

Upcoming Visitation Days

Friday, October 11, 2019
Monday, November 11, 2019
Friday, February 14, 2020
Monday, February 17, 2020
Monday, March 23, 2020
Monday, March 30, 2020
Wednesday, April 8, 2020
Friday, April 17, 2020

Reed College

Junior Visit Days are half-day explorations of the college admissions process at Reed. Junior Visit Day occurs November 23, January 17, and March 27.

Willamette’s Cardinal & Gold Day offers students the opportunity to connect with students and faculty, explore academic departments and campus life offerings, and find out how they fit into the Willamette community.

Tips Before You Go

Before you head out on your tour, you need to prepare to make the most of your visit.  Continue reading for my favorite College Visit Tips.

  • Go to the admission session and take the official tour. Some schools care about students showing Demonstrated Interest. When you attend an official tour and admission session, it is noted in your file and might be considered as part of your admissions decision. These sessions vary in the amount of information they provide but try not to judge a school based solely on its presenter or tour guide.
  • Plan your trip early. The most informative part of a tour is often meeting with a department head or professor in the subject area you are interested in studying, or even sitting in on a class. You need to request this opportunity at least two weeks in advance.
  • Build in time to explore. Allow time to eat in one of the dining halls and explore the surrounding area. Take the time to find the essentials you need to feel at home (the closest Starbucks, coolest music venue or best cheeseburger).
  • Research each college before you visit so you’ll have specific questions to ask. Do you want to know about research opportunities within your major?  Do you know if the major you are considering has higher admission standards than other majors?  Are you interested in themed housing? Do you have questions about financial aid or scholarships?  Know what you want to know more about.
  • Pay attention to the students on campus. Are they happy and friendly?  Do you hear students talking about academics outside of class? Do students all look the same, or do you see a diverse student body? If you are comfortable, approach a group of students and introduce yourself as a prospective student; ask them why they chose their school, what they love and what they wish they could change.
  • Pick up a copy of the campus newspaper. The tour guides share what is new and wonderful, but to really understand what is happening on campus and what current students are concerned about, the campus newspaper gives you the inside scoop.
  • Take good notes and pictures to help you remember the details of your visit. Write down what you learned, liked and what didn’t quite fit before you get to another campus. If this is a school you eventually apply to, you might have to write an essay about your visit and answer “Why this College?” essay questions.
  • Don’t rush back home. Ask campus staff for the best places to eat and visit off-campus. This could be your new home. Have fun!

 

UK University Tour

 

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Each year, I work with students curious about attending colleges outside of the US, and they are most often interested in Canadian or UK universities. So, I jumped at the invitation this past February to join a group of 30 US and international college counselors on a 6-day Northern England University Tour that included nine UK universities: Newcastle University, Northumbria University, Durham University, University of Leeds, Sheffield Hallam University, University of Sheffield, University of Manchester, Liverpool John Moores University, and the University of Chester. My trip concluded with a day in London to network with 21 London university representatives (including Imperial College London, University of Exeter, University of Liverpool, and the University of Nottingham) as well as attend a UCAS application workshop (the application used by most UK universities).

It was an incredible trip, as not only did I get to see the beautiful English countryside, Medieval castles, and diverse universities, but I also learned a lot about what kind of student would and would not be a good fit for earning their undergraduate degree abroad. Below is a quick summary of the most important things I learned about the differences between the UK system and the US system.

Things I learned:

1-Students in the UK finish their degree in three years instead of four. UK degrees do not include general education requirements or university core curriculums. Instead, students jump right into their course (major), so the degree length is shortened. Master’s programs are one year in length instead of two. For students wanting more than just a study abroad semester but are not quite ready to be abroad for three years immediately after high school graduation, a one-year master’s program abroad is a great option to consider.

2-Students need to know what they want to study when applying to UK universities, as students apply to specific colleges and often specific courses of study. Additionally, it is unlikely that a student can change colleges once they have applied. Students might be able to change courses (majors) within a college early on, but it is not guaranteed. Some colleges offer “dual honors” where students can study multiple subjects, but this is usually only offered in the College of Arts and Social Sciences. Since at least one-third of US undergraduates change their major at least once (according to Inside Higher Education), this is important to consider before applying to UK universities.

3-Since students apply to a specific college or course, each course can have different admission requirements. Some courses (majors) have higher academic requirements than others. Additionally, students are mostly surrounded by students within their specific college in both their housing and their classes; this is in contrast to US universities, where students take more than half of their classes (general education courses plus electives) with students from different colleges and disciplines.

4-When students write their admission essay on the UCAS (UK) application, they should not write an insightful, “slice of life” story demonstrating their character like they are asked to do on US applications. UK universities and colleges want students to advocate for why they are a good fit for the academic course they are selecting.

5-The grading system is very different. In the UK, university grades are given on a percentage scale. Anything below 40% is a fail; 40-50% is a Third; 50-60% is a 2.2; 60-70% is a 2.1, and anything over 70% is a First. A student might be told that a good grade is 60% or above and that an excellent grade is 70% or above. Additionally, students are not regularly quizzed or graded on multiple assignments and tests. Students in the UK might receive a course grade for only one or two comprehensive exams.

6-Accommodations are different. In the US, it is part of the first-year experience to share a room with a randomly-assigned roommate and survive at least a year of dining hall food. In the UK, most “accommodations” are single rooms with a small kitchen. It is rare for students to have meal plans, as they do in the US. There are food venues on campuses, but most students live in self-catered housing where they are responsible for their own meals.

7-The legal drinking age in the UK is 18, and university students are known for their Pub Runs. Students should be prepared to take it slow. Read more here for social tips.

8-The cost of an education in the UK can often be less expensive, especially given the shortened length of time to graduation. In the UK, the government sets the limits for tuition fees, and each individual school sets its own fee up to that limit. According to a law passed in 2012, universities in England may charge up to £9000 (approximately $14,300) per year for UK residents. Fees for international students can be higher, and accommodation costs vary widely, so you need to do your homework. In the United States, the government has very little control over higher education costs, and instead let supply and demand dictate what universities charge and what they discount for merit, financial need, or talent.

9-Athletics are part of the social life here, but athletes are not treated with as much reverence as they are at US colleges. Top athletes in the UK are removed from the traditional education experience earlier, so student-athletes that attend UK universities all prioritize their academics over athletics. Most athletes join teams in a more casual way (coming to tryouts the week prior to classes), and athletic scholarships are very small in comparison to the US athletic scholarship system. UK university athletes are part of the general population instead of having separate dining halls and housing, and athletic facilities do not have the bells and whistles or high-tech amenities that US colleges use to attract recruits.

10-Students studying the UK need to be very independent. Students at UK universities do not rely on administrative staff for support and direction as much as students have been trained to do in the US. For the right student, a UK education could be a wonderful experience and education.

For summaries of each of the universities I visited, visit my website’s College Visits page later this month or contact me for a consultation.

 

Selecting and Connecting with Colleges

springstudentSpring semester junior year is typically when high school students seriously start thinking about college. For many students, this can make them feel overwhelmed or anxious, as they don’t know how to start putting together a college list. I strongly encourage students to write down their fears along with their dreams, then find a trusted advisor to help talk through each concern and wish. Students (and parents) often get stressed out when they hear about college-related things other people are doing. From my experience, the best way to combat this anxiousness is with that old saying, “Knowledge is Power”. Students should get to know themselves better and focus on putting together a list that supports their values, not someone else’s. I encourage students to focus on creating a list of five or six college qualities that they believe will be important to their success and self-efficacy. Then use these qualities to create a best-fit college list. Qualities can include majors and programs, or simply the ability to let students explore before choosing a major. They can also include location, size, alumni support, study abroad programs, academic support, small class sizes, internship or research opportunities, school spirit, specific activities, and on and on. Students and families should also consider financial needs as part of this exercise. Continue reading

Spring + HS Junior = College Visit Season

IMG_0993Spring is a great time for juniors in high school to visit colleges they have been researching, in preparation for a productive summer of finalizing their college lists and working on their essays and applications.  What?  You haven’t been researching colleges? Don’t stress! But now is the time to start so that you know where to apply this summer and fall.  Read here for tips on putting together your college list: http://bit.ly/collegelisttips.

Even if you do not have a rough list of colleges you are considering, there are opportunities within driving distance for you to explore this spring. I recommend visiting a large, state university in your home state, along with a few, smaller private colleges.  Visit an urban school, along with ones in suburban or rural settings.  Take notes on what you like from each visit and use that information to find similar schools in different geographical locations.

For Oregon residents, both flagship universities are offering Junior Visit Days this spring that include the typical campus visits and admissions sessions, plus special interest sessions. For more information and to register, check out the links below:

Oregon State University (February 19, March 26, March 30, April 6 or April 13)

University of Oregon Duck Days (March 9, March 16, March 23, April 6, April 9, April 20 or April 27)IMG_1025

Even if you don’t have travel plans this spring, you can virtually visit any college.  One of my favorite virtual tour sites is YouVisit.com, which closely mimics a real, on-campus tour.  Try this one for Colgate University in Hamilton, NY.

Many families use Spring Break to visit colleges. Make sure you book your plans soon, as Spring Break tour dates often fill up quickly. You should also check here for college spring break dates, as some campuses suspend their tours during the college’s Spring Break. Before you head out on your tour, you need to prepare to make the most of your visit.  Continue reading for my favorite College Visit Tips.

  • Go to the admission session and take the official tour. Some schools care about students showing Demonstrated Interest. When you attend an official tour and admission session, it is noted in your file and might be considered as part of your admissions decision. These sessions vary in the amount of information they provide but try not to judge a school based solely on its presenter or tour guide.
  • Plan your trip early. The most informative part of a tour is often meeting with a department head or professor in the subject area you are interested in studying, or even sitting in on a class. You need to request this opportunity at least two weeks in advance.
  • Build in time to explore. Allow time to eat in one of the dining halls and explore the surrounding area. Take the time to find the essentials you need to feel at home (the closest Starbucks, coolest music venue or best cheeseburger).
  • Research each college before you visit so you’ll have specific questions to ask. Do you want to know about research opportunities within your major?  Do you know if the major you are considering has higher admission standards than other majors?  Are you interested in themed housing? Do you have questions about financial aid or scholarships?  Know what you want to know more about.
  • Pay attention to the students on campus. Are they happy and friendly?  Do you hear students talking about academics outside of class? Do students all look the same, or do you see a diverse student body? If you are comfortable, approach a group of students and introduce yourself as a prospective student; ask them why they chose their school, what they love and what they wish they could change.

2015-12-29-15-53-53

  • Pick up a copy of the campus newspaper. The tour guides share what is new and wonderful, but to really understand what is happening on campus and what current students are concerned about, the campus newspaper gives you the inside scoop.
  • Take good notes and pictures to help you remember details of your visit. Write down what you learned, liked and what didn’t quite fit before you get to another campus. If this is a school you eventually apply to, you might have to write an essay about your visit and answer “Why this College?” essay questions.
  • Don’t rush back to the hotel. Ask campus staff for the best places to eat and visit off campus. This could be your new home. Have fun!

 

Summer Tips for High School Students: Planning is key!

I was recently inplanningphototerviewed by Stephanie Kralevich with KPTV’s More Good Day Oregon about what high school students should be doing this summer to get ready for the college application process.  Below are the recommendations that I shared with her for summer planning, general tips for preparation, and advice for visiting colleges.

Stephanie: What should current high school students be doing right now to get ready for the college application process?

Kristen/College Bound & Ready: The best advice I can give to students right now is to use their summers wisely.  Summers are a great time for students to explore their interests and develop their leadership skills, whether that is through volunteering, working in a job or internship, or learning a new skill.  Colleges are very interested in how students spend their free time, so I encourage students to demonstrate their leadership, initiative, and impact in the activities they choose.  Below is my general timeline for students throughout their high school experience:

Student, Typing, Keyboard, Text, WomanFreshman Year: Be the best student you can be: work to achieve good grades, learn how to ask for help, and create good study habits. Start making your summer plans early. The best internships and jobs for teens often have early (February/March) deadlines. Here are two popular, Portland-area options for teens: OMSI Teen Science Alliance and Portland Parks & Recreation. Continue reading