Not Ready for College this Fall? Start in Spring.

Many students don’t think about deferring college till spring because the concept is foreign to them. Since they were 4 or 5 years old, school always starts in September. So it’s more about habit than anything else. They also feel that they are “behind” their other classmates and high school friends if starting in spring.  Once you are on campus, no one knows or cares when you started.  However, there are many benefits to starting college in the spring term instead of fall if needed.

If you just aren’t ready for college, then wait.  Going to college before you are ready can cause a lot of issues once on campus such as lack of focus, poor grades, premature dropping out and changing of majors many times over.  If needed, take some time to think about your future and your career in a “constructive”  way that fall.  One of the benefits of a spring start is that you are competing with fewer students for those required first semester classes and therefore, you are more likely to get them.  Also, your orientation is smaller and you get much more personalized attention from staff and faculty about living on campus and choosing classes. If you feel that your credits are dragging, take a few summer classes to make up for the spring start.  As I said, take advantage of the fall term when everyone else is away at school (September though December) in a constructive way by interning, working and/or meeting with professional in your desired field to make sure it’s the right fit for you.  Then you can start in spring more confident about your choices.  High school to college is a very big switch and some teens are better with change than others.  Taking a semester off isn’t a cop-out, it’s a small choice for some families and students.

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Ask an Admissions Expert: Dr. Carol Langlois

My latest interview on college admissions for Varsity Tutors.

VT: How far ahead of time should a student begin working on his or her college application?

Carol: Families are starting the college search process earlier and earlier. I recommend that as a family you “start” the college conversation during the end of the sophomore year to gear up your teen for the junior year search. I use January of the junior year as the starting  point. I find that telling families “slow and steady wins the race” helps them think through this process. We basically have one year to help you and your teen put his or her best foot forward, the finish line being December or January of their senior year.

VT: What are the best ways to go about selecting a terrific essay topic?

Carol: Look at a bunch of college essays from the year before to familiarize yourself with what the schools will be looking for. That way you won’t be surprised when you actually start your applications. As a rule of thumb, I recommend to students that they think about their best English paper. Pull it out, read again and remember why it was your best paper. Then, keep that in mind when writing the essays for the colleges you have selected. A lot of times, I find students becoming very conservative with their essays. Writing about what they “think” colleges want to see. I start with students by having them brainstorm; having them think outside the box when it comes to some of these questions, then create an outline, which will build into an essay. Don’t think a perfect finished product will happen in one session. You need to go back to these essays and reread, and rediscover. I guarantee the way your essay looks at the beginning of this process is not the way it will look in the end.

For more from this interview, go to: 

http://www.varsitytutors.com/blog/ask+an+admissions+expert+dr+carol+langlois?locale=san_francisco&state=ca

Helping Your Teen Survive Freshman Year of College

My parents taught me many skills in life to prepare me and keep me on the right path.  As the youngest of seven, I had the advantage of observing trial an error by my older siblings.  By the time I came around, my parents had fine tuned their parenting skills.  Among the most important skills I learned from them were responsibility, hard work and dedication/discipline.  My parents did not believe in handing out money simply on demand. I had an allowance that I earned, was always told ways in which I could earn extra money around the house and I had my first job at thirteen. As a family, we had weekly responsibilities within the house that were to be completed on time or evening/weekend activities were forfeited. There was no whining or questioning, we knew the rules and simply obeyed or disobeyed and paid the consequences that were enforced on a consistent basis.

More importantly, from that responsibility, hard work and dedication came a sense of “independence” which I feel was the glue that truly helped me (and my siblings) succeed in college.  I could balance my check book, change a flat tire, get the most bang for my buck at the grocery store, think quickly on my feet and maintained an emergency fund all before freshman year of college. All thanks to my parents. That way the only unknown factor that I really needed to adjust to was the level of work expected of a new college student.  I watched many students and friends crumble around me because they couldn’t manage their time, money, relationships, and the daily pressures of day-to-day college living.  I truly think teaching children to be independent by way of responsibility, hard work and dedication/discipline is part of that check-list of life skills necessary for a successful transition to college.