As you are working on your college application essay, you will brainstorm, write drafts, edit, delete paragraphs, proofread, write and edit more, and possibly turn it in for a grade. More than likely, you'll write more than one college admissions essay and have to answer many "short" answers.
For each essay and short answer, you should RYEOL.
What does that even mean?
📣RYEOL means Read Your Essay Out Loud.
👉🏼Because YOU are the best editor of YOUR essay.👏🏼
While receiving feedback from an essay tutor or counselor is important, reading your essay out loud is the easiest way to identify grammatical errors, to make sure you are answering the prompt correctly, and to hear how your essay flows.
You don't have to get in front of a mirror like you are auditioning for a play, but you do want to speak clearly, with confidence, and, well, out loud. Whispering does not count. 😶
Visualize yourself reading your essay with the admissions reader or scholarship committee.
Read the question, then read your answer.
👂🏼Hearing yourself read the essay forces you to pronounce those fancy words you choose. Application readers want to hear your voice, not a cluster of sesquipedalian words you looked up in a digital dictionary.
👂🏼Hearing yourself read the essay in your voice will help maintain the consistency of your voice. Application readers know when you are not being yourself or when a parent or professional has written the essay.
Once you've completed your essay...
📣RYEOL once then walk away.
📣RYEOL a second time making your edits (remember, YOU are the best editor). Then invite a teacher, counselor, college student, mentor, or parent to read your essay and offer feedback.
📣RYEOL a third time and finalize your essay.
Now you can be proud of what you wrote.
I am sharing a series of seven thoughts from the Making Caring Common report, “Turning the Tide II” that addresses character in college admissions. This is specifically for parents.
As a recap, here are the first two lessons:
 Keep the focus on your teen.
“In an effort to give their kids everything, these parents often end up robbing them of what counts.”
 Follow your ethical GPS.
“The college admissions process often tests both parents’ and teens’ ethical character.”
 Use the admissions process as an opportunity for ethical education.
The college admissions process is the same for everyone.
The college admissions process is different for everyone.
Unfortunately, both statements are true. When applying for college, students are made aware that “there are vast differences in access to resources in the admissions process, and that college is unaffordable for staggering numbers of families.”
The Turning the Tide II authors point out that this where students may “struggle with how much they can embellish their applications and ‘play the game’ without compromising their own authenticity and integrity.”
One of the challenges students face is standardized testing. As FairTest.org summarizes in a report, “young people of color, particularly those from low-income families have suffered the most.”
Students from low-income families have lower scores because they lack the support and/or resources to prepare for the tests.
Boys are affected more than girls.
Students of color score lower on the admissions tests. This prevents them from being considered for merit aid scholarships (which rely on test scores more than GPA).
This has not always been the case. “Standardized” tests were created to make the college admissions process fair for all students.
Enter the coronavirus.
Since the testing sites are not able to host students or are booked because of local social distancing regulations, most colleges (public and private) decided to be test-optional for 1-3 years.
And many of those same schools are test-optional for merit aid scholarships as well. This means the high school GPA has more weight on admissions and scholarship decisions.
We are hoping this testing reprieve will challenge higher education to create a better, equitable college admissions process.
Parents, we have an awesome opportunity to help our teenager(s) navigate the ethics of education.
They need to be kind, be fair, be true to themselves, remain above reproach, and be prepared to support all claims made on their essays, tests, extracurriculars, and college applications.
What are we doing to help them develop character that lasts?
The mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual.
The group of qualities that make a person, group, or thing different from others.
Who you are when no one is watching.
Each of the above sentences define character. Developing your character matters because it is becoming a part of the college admissions process.
As the high school senior class of 2021 begins to write character-based essays for their college applications, underclassmen should continue working on their character. This is more than a 280-character post or a 500-word essay. Who you are is the one character that counts.
Character is developed through everything you do (shovel, build, read, serve, mow, watch…) and every person (parents, coaches, teachers, telemarketers, janitors, CEOs…) you communicate with (post, debate, lead, email, phone…).
Character is developed through your online and offline interactions.
Character is developed through your setbacks, struggles, and suffering because “suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Romans 5:3-4).
UCLA Basketball coach John Wooden said, “Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”
So, what are you? Who are you?
The Making Caring Common project, endorsed by over 50 college admissions deans, is seeking to “elevate ethical character, especially concern for others and the common good.”
Doing the right thing is not about building your reputation or résumé. Colleges are working to help potential students change their expectations from “look at what I’ve done” to “look at who I am.” You can’t develop character while you are applying for college. Essay readers will see a fraud within the first paragraph. You begin developing character when you are born, as you listen to the caring adults in your life, and as you apply what they teach you.
MIT Admissions Dean Stuart Schmill said that colleges are working hard to admit students who lead balanced lives, pursue interests with passion, and work with others. They are trying to move away from admitting students who are just checking the boxes.
Your application or resume introduces you to the reader. Think of it as a preview of the real you. In some colleges, two or more admissions officers independently review your application before sitting down to discuss it together.
Some colleges require students to interview with an alumni or admissions officer. They want to know if your application matches who you say you are. Let’s take it one step further. Would your academics, conduct report, relationships, extracurricular activities, volunteer work, and essay reflect who you are if the admissions official invited you to dinner at her house?
Paul wrote that “bad company corrupts good character” (1 Corinthians 15:33). Who you are will be impacted by the company you keep. So do you keep bad or good company. You reflect the values of those you hang around the most (online and offline) including Jesus Christ, your parents, youth leaders, YouTubers, TikToc’ers, teammates, and friends. Jesus said that “the tree is known by its fruit” with the tree representing each person (Matthew 12:33). “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad.”
Jon Mertz describes character as something “engraved within us.” The engraving isn’t always planned and clean. The word “character” comes from the Greek kharakter that means “engraved mark.” The character trace goes back to another definition of “to scrape or scratch.” For Mertz, the combination of engrave, scrape, and scratch fit well with what character really means. Here’s why:
David Brooks, author of The Road to Character, writes about people of character. He shared how we can take “the bad things that happen and turn them into a transcendent purpose” like Dorothy Day. From Bayard Rustin, he teaches us the “power of leading with self-restraint.”
Could you be someone Brooks writes about? Are you becoming a person of character or just a character? As prepare your college applications are you sharing who you are or who you want them to believe you are?
Brooks posed this question during his TedTalk, “Am I living for my résumé or my eulogy?”
Let me bring this home. Are you living your life to build your college application or are you living your life to build your character in the image of Jesus Christ?
Your profiles reflect what you profess.
Don’t overlook the power of your social media voice. Your words can bring life and health or crush someone’s spirit. And your negative, crushing posts can become viral…even on Snapchat.
The Chronicle of Higher Education shared that “an incoming Cornell University freshman and football player, Nate Panza, lost his spot on the team after his friend posted a Snapchat video of Panza using a racial slur (The Cornell Daily Sun).”
Paul urged Christians: "do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen" (Ephesians 4:29).
This is more than purging your posts.
This is more than scrubbing your social commentary.
While Panza offered his sincere apologies for what was captured on camera, there are still consequences. "I am heartbroken I have hurt people; those I know and those I do not. I take full responsibility for my actions.”
Some people need a change of heart; you may just need to change how you promote yourself online.
College bound teenagers, gain an advantage for college admissions by professionalizing your social media profiles (especially LinkedIn)!
Social media reviews at the college level has become significantly more nuanced than the commonly shared vision of an admissions officer Googling the name of a prospective student. As the way colleges are utilizing social media evolves, so must the social media advice offered to college-bound students.
Social Assurity is offering my readers a 50% discount for the Social Media Strategies for College Admissions Success course ($250 off) with code BRETT2020 through August 31.
Looking forward to seeing you soar!
Parents, once you and your college-bound student have created a working list of no more than 12 colleges, it will be time plan a virtual college road trip. That’s right, before you pack the snacks and spend lots of money taking a college road trip, you should take a virtual campus tour. Many college-bound students don’t consider public colleges that are more than 50-miles from home. In fact, over 5 million people live 45-minutes away from any higher education institution. And 31 million have access to only one public school. So a virtual campus tour could help your student find the right college – that they may have never considered otherwise.
Think about it this way: When you are ready to look for in a new house in a new city several hours away, you won’t just drive down random streets looking for houses to buy. You’ll spend time reviewing the listings online to see floorplans, backyards, neighborhoods, and comments about the local area. This is a virtual real estate tour. Let’s do the same for college and consider 3 benefits of taking a virtual campus tour.
You Can Afford a Virtual Visit
For many prospective college students and their families, visiting colleges is a challenging and expensive trip to take. A 2019 survey by Niche showed that rural, suburban, and urban high school students visited at least 3 colleges; some as many as 7. Virtual visits pave the way for college road trips.
Students may live in rural parts of the country without access to a major airport. In addition, flying out of a regional airport to multiple sites may be cost prohibitive.
Students may live in urban areas. While mass transit makes it easier to get around town, it may not allow them to visit some colleges easily. Even in cities like Boston and New York City, where families can visit many colleges by taking the train, going outside of the city may not be possible.
Students may live in single-parent households which could limit the opportunities of visiting colleges far away, even if they seem to be a good fit. An inexpensive virtual campus tour allows prospective students to save lots of money by “visiting” many colleges from home. And if it’s raining, you can visit the dorm without having to get out in the storm.
You Can Picture Yourself on Campus Before You Take a Picture, of Yourself, on Campus
Doesn’t that sound like Austin Powers introducing himself? Students, taking a virtual campus visit is one of the best ways to “picture yourself” on campus. Virtual tours may include photos, 360-degree panoramic views, short videos, or virtually-guided tours. Some colleges may allow you to interact with current students, alumni, or professors.
While you can visit some colleges using the “street view” on Google maps, sites like YouVisit and CampusTours offer quality, self-guided, 360-degree panoramic views of various spots on campus that allows you to get a virtual feel for the surroundings. Each view includes a short description with a photo or video.
Unfortunately, not all colleges include a campus tour. On the CampusTours site, colleges without a virtual tour are redirected to a map on the college website.
Through the GEAR UP VR app, the University of North Carolina System created a 360-degree tour of their 16 universities that can be viewed on a desktop, mobile phone, or VR headset. One bonus feature of the VR tour is the opportunity to go inside the buildings, which is not always possible or allowed on the regular tours.
You Can Hear First-Hand Stories
eCampusTours and YOUniversityTV include interviews from students, alumni, and faculty to give you a first-hand account of their college experience. These personal stories allow you to “hear” the campus. eCampusTours has a library of 1,300 colleges along with a general info page with information about the college, admissions, student body, programs, and cost. YOUniversityTV allows users to favorite or share the college tour. A host will narrate your tour and conduct interviews. In some videos, admissions officers shared who they were looking for as a potential candidate.
While many colleges produce virtual tours, some may also offer tours of the dining halls and dorm rooms like the University of Oklahoma.
If you don’t have time to look at multiple sites, I would recommend starting with CampusTours. The visually appealing tours are produced professionally, include a short description of the featured area, links back to the college, and encourages students to apply.
Just be aware that these “free” campus tour sites may have featured colleges scrolling on top along with paid ads on the side. For example, YOUniversity requires viewers to watch a commercial for a sponsored college before watching your selected college.
Once you’ve watched virtual tours of your preferred colleges, you can plan your road trip and ask well-informed and thoughtful questions. Now about those snacks!
“Three seniors at Brooklyn, New York high schools are determined to get their entire classes to college, even though they aren't even sure they are going to make it there themselves. They are working as college counselors in their three schools because many of their friends have nowhere else to turn for support.”
Does this resemble your high school? Why or why not?
What would you do if your school lacked college planning resources?
Unfortunately, some public high schools lack the funding to support a college resource center. Some school counselors can only spend 22% of their time to work with students planning to go to college. They also have to do mental health counseling, check on attendance, volunteer as bus monitors, administrative duties, and much, much more. While private high schools may have better resources and support, rural and urban public high schools need help building a college-going culture on their campus.
This is one reason why this documentary was filmed. To help the general public understand what students have to do to apply for college and why it can be hard for many. It’s the raw and the real.
Only 16% of students from low-income backgrounds obtain a bachelor’s degree, in comparison to 60% of students from high-income backgrounds.
To help fill the gap, many organizations and CBOs (Community Based Organizations) are working to provide the college-going resources needed for these students. However, school counselors and peer leaders are still needed. People (not programs) are the key!
“PERSONAL STATEMENT is a feature-length documentary that follows Karoline, Christine and Enoch through their senior year and into college. They work tirelessly as peer college counselors to realize better futures for themselves and their peers. They struggle and they stumble, but refuse to succumb to the barriers that prevent so many low-income students from attending and graduating from college.”
I had the opportunity to preview Personal Statement during the 2018 NACAC Conference in Salt Lake City (a conference for college counselors).
You’ll laugh at what happens at the dinner table. You’ll feel the suspense when the students open their acceptance notices. You’ll see the determination of three students. You’ll learn how hard it was for one student to simply fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). You’ll understand how their life experience becomes their personal statement.
There are thousands of high-achieving students who don’t know HOW or WHEN or WHERE to submit a college application. And there are hundreds of school counselors that desperately want to guide their students to discover the right fit college and career.
This is why I am encouraging all policy makers, parents, principals and people interested in higher education to watch and support this documentary. Especially if you work with low-income or first-generation college students!
HOW TO WATCH
Use this episode link: http://bit.ly/ARF_PersonalStmt to stream the film online.
You can check your local PBS station schedule to see when PERSONAL STATEMENT will be broadcast by your local PBS affiliate here: https://www.thirteen.org/schedule/
HOW TO SUPPORT
To help spread the message of this documentary, donate here. To make an immediate impact and support the college expenses of the main characters in the film (like Karoline above), donate here.
After watching the documentary, share your thoughts below…
Do early birds really have an edge in admissions?
The answer is often yes!
The purpose of submitting an application to a college early is to indicate your top preference for that college or a small group of colleges. They appreciate knowing you are likely to enroll if admitted. With Early Action and Early Decision, you hear sooner whether you’ve been accepted to your “dream” school” and there is often a significant admission advantage to applying early.
Knowing sooner allows family members to know what type of college swag to buy you for Christmas.
What is the difference between the three early application types?
Why Apply Early?
There are advantages or disadvantages to applying early. However, the following table shows an advantage in admissions when applying Early Decision at some of the top universities in the country. If you have a school that clearly stands out as your “Top Choice”, it may be wise to apply Early Decision to gain a better chance of admission.
You can now submit financial aid forms starting Oct. 1, using last year’s taxes - referred to as Prior-Prior Year (PPY). This gives colleges an opportunity to consider your financial aid or merit awards along with your admissions decision. Often students who apply early are offered more financial aid.
Contact me if you have any questions about how to apply to college or need someone to review your applications.
Credit: GuidedPath Guru
Standardized tests are used by colleges and universities as one part of the application process. Many high schools are utilizing the PSAT as a tool to measure student progress. Taking the PSAT/NMSQT as a junior gives you an opportunity to take a standardized test and see how you do, without having to worry that colleges or programs will see your scores. It’s also a great way to prepare for the regular SAT and it is the only test you can take (as a junior) to qualify for the National Merit Scholarship.
National Merit finalists could receive between $2,500 and full-tuition, depending on the kind of scholarship awarded. The three types include: National Merit $2500 Scholarships, corporate-sponsored Merit Scholarship awards, and college-sponsored Merit Scholarships.
What can you do to be as prepared as possible for this important test?
5 Steps to Prepare for the PSAT in October
Remember, the “P” in PSAT stands for practice. It’s just practice! So, if you miss the test date, do not worry. However, if you are a high-achieving student (all A’s), you can contact the PSAT/NMSQT administration to request information about retaking the test.
To qualify as a National Merit Semifinalist, you must be among the top one percent of all juniors in your state who took the PSAT. The National Merit website reports that “approximately 1.6 million students meet entry requirements, but only about 50,000 of the highest scoring students receive program recognition.”
Homeschooled students can take the test at a local high school or approved location. Contact the guidance counselor at the nearest high school to make arrangements.
Just as a reminder, seniors are encouraged to wrap up their SAT and ACT testing by December. Your test scores are a key part of your college applications, and colleges typically require you to submit test scores by their application deadline.
Here are the Fall 2018 test dates:
October 27, 2018: Registration deadline is September 28th
December 8, 2018: Registration deadline is November 2nd
To register for the ACT go to: http://www.act.org/content/act/en/products-and-services/the-act/registration-information.html
SAT Reasoning and Subject Tests
November 3, 2018: Registration deadline is October 5th
December 1, 2018: Registration deadline is November 2nd
To register for the SAT go to: https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/sat/register
Many graduating seniors have shared that if they could change one thing about their college planning they would spend more time using test prep to get higher scores and qualify for more merit aid! Studying for and taking the PSAT is the first step to help pay for college.
Hope you have a great week!
Credit: GuidedPath Guru
It’s essay season! How many do think you’ll write?
Twelve? Seven? Thirty-eight? More?
There are many factors that will cause that number to rise or fall. The number of college applications. (Remember the Million Dollar Scholar?) The number of essay-based scholarships…that ask different questions. If you’re using the Common Application. If your personal statement could be written once and shared multiple times. If the application requires that you pick four of eight questions.
Not only will the number of essays vary, your word limit will vary as well. Aside from short-answers, essay word limits could be 250 or even 1000 words! And word limit is just that – a limit. Do not exceed! Do not pass! Creatives, just this once, do not color outside the lines!
You’ve heard how important the essay is to the admission process. Highly selective colleges may give the essay more value than others. Some colleges use the essay as a final deciding factor if they’re on the fence about accepting your application.
At most colleges, the essay may be less than ten percent of an application, yet students may spend more time writing than completing the actual application. This is one reason to get your essay prompts early in the summer and start writing – especially your personal statement.
In the Journal of College Admission (Summer 2018), Ashley Dobson talked about about the essay process with a few seniors.
Angela Weiss said, “It took a lot of my time, especially first semester senior year. It was extremely stressful to balance applying for college and still balancing schoolwork.” She wrote fourteen essays.
Students are applying to more colleges than ever before.
Dobson wrote, “According to the Higher Education Research Institute, 35 percent of first-time freshmen applied to seven or more colleges during the Fall 2016 admission cycle. More than 80 percent of first-time freshmen apply to at least three colleges each year.”
This is one reason why students are hiring professionals to review their essays. While it is unethical and illegal to write admission essays, having them reviewed for content, structure, and grammar is beneficial.
College planners are good choices for many college-bound students who are attempting to balance athletics, academics, and applications.
Remember, along with writing the application essays, students have to complete research papers, projects and vocabulary tests. And take time to breath. There is so much to do!
The essay prompts are unique, but sometimes confusing.
The essay prompts are too philosophical, and not personal.
Dobson also heard from Anna Jace, who shared about the different approaches to writing. “We learn academic essay writing, so we learn how to form an argument and things like that. But for colleges, it was more creative writing and writing about yourself, which kind of took me by surprise.”
If you are an underclassman, understand that grades and grammar are the keys to success in college. Keep learning how to read. Keep learning how to write.
If you are a junior, make a note to begin writing your personal statement (250- and 500-word versions) in June. Then get the essay prompts from the Common Application, UC Application, or Coalition Application and start writing.
If you are senior, now that it is September, it is time to finalize your college essays. Here are some Do’s and Don’ts provided by Cyndy McDonald of GuidedPath.
College Essay General Do’s and Don’ts
Your college essay, along with your high school record, standardized test scores, and extracurricular involvement, will provide the basis upon which the college makes its admissions decision. A thoughtful, well-written essay can positively affect that final decision. Keep this in mind and take full advantage of the opportunity which the college essay affords you.
No matter how many essays you need to write, contact me if you have any questions or need someone to review your work.
In part one, I wrote about how easy it is for seniors to get distracted with drum rehearsals, AP classes, and homecoming floats. So hosting college planning seminar at your church, taking informal campus visits, and sharing important information on social media are ways youth workers can keep seniors focused on their college journey. You also need to
Challenge Seniors to Strengthen their Faith in Jesus
David played loud harp music, worked outdoors, took on challenges bigger than himself, made mistakes, failed and succeeded as a leader, sinned, and followed God with all his heart.
So will high school seniors.
So how can youth workers influence the spiritual lives of college-bound David’s?
Challenge them to attend church regularly – especially in the first two months of the school year. Why? It’s biblical (Hebrews 10:25)! Fuller Youth Institute researcher Kara Powell suggests that college students who do not join and begin attending a local church within the first six weeks of the semester, may not attend over the next four years. Seniors who serve will stay. Get them involved!
Challenge them to pray with and for one another. Pray about everything (1 Thessalonians 5:11). You can lead the way.
Challenge them to learn how to avoid (and respond) to temptation. It’s more than just running from temptation like Joseph from Potiphar’s wife. They need to learn how to stand firm, make wise decisions, be mature, and show self-discipline.
Challenge them to know who they are in Christ Jesus. Writing and reading their faith story will develop and strengthen their spiritual growth. Christian students who are not confident in their faith will lose their voice in a noisy college environment. Their faith story has three parts: before knowing Christ, the moment they put their faith in Christ, and after trusting Christ. Review it. Share it. Own it.
Challenge their beliefs. In my “I Believe” class, we discussed six major doctrines and examined the beliefs of our denomination, other denominations, and other religions. Then students wrestled with what they believed. Write it down. Share it out loud.
If our teenagers do not know what they believe when they begin college, there will be plenty of voices sharing theirs. School counselor and former youth worker Jen Lynch, said the best advice she gave her students was “the importance of putting a stake in the ground and deciding that you are going to follow Christ in college.”
Remember that Jesus hung out with people, talked about the future, and ate a lot of fish sandwiches.
Now grab some fish sandwiches and join the conversation!
Combining my youth ministry and educational consulting experience, I guide students to connect higher education with God's calling.