Top 5 “DONT’S” For Any College Interview

Since it’s college interview season, I thought I’d share my top 5 “dont’s” for teens to be aware of before they interview. Unfortunately, I’ve seen all of these occur enough that they made the list.  Beware.

  1. Don’t go in unprepared. Know about the school, your major, the student body and why you want to go to that particular college.
  2. Don’t chew gum. It’s rude, loud and distracting.
  3. Don’t look at your phone or hold your phone during the interview. Shut the phone off and put it away.  No text, call or email is so important that you would need to take it during this 20/30 min interview.  In addition, the interviewer doesn’t want to hear it  buzz, chirp or vibrate from your pocket or purse.
  4. Don’t dress like you are going to the gym. Leave the sneakers, hats, sweatpants and leggings at home. Dress like you would to go to a nice dinner with your parents or a high school graduation.  Dress pants, khakis, or skirt paired with nice blouse or shirt with a collar are a few good options.
  5. Don’t say IDK or rather “Hum… I don’t know.” to the interviewer.  I understand that this statement is sometimes just a space filler or a nervous response for teens, but train yourself not to say it in the interview. Please!

Good luck everyone.

How Many Colleges Should I Apply to?

I’m pretty old-school when it comes to this question having worked at colleges for the past 17 years. Personally, I recommend 7. Two “reach” schools, three mid-range schools, and two “safety” schools.

A “reach” school is a school that you would love to attend, but you’re not quite sure you have the chops to get in. Maybe, your SAT is a bit lower than their average SAT. Or, maybe your high school GPA is a bit lower than the average applicant. Whatever the reason, I still encourage students to shoot for the stars (within reason) and not discard two top choice schools because of one thing missing from their background/application.

Mid-range schools are schools that fall within your academic background, offer the major you want to study and all around provide an environment/campus that you’d be happy attending. A mid-range school is not a slam-dunk, but there is a very strong chance that you will get in based on your background, fit and academics.

A “safety” school is pretty much self-explanatory based on the name. It’s a school that you are confident that you will get into based on your academic profile and background. Make sure that the safety schools you pick are still schools you’d be happy to attend. Don’t think of them as some sort of last resort, because they aren’t. Many students attend their safety school because of location, convenience and/or cost.

Before applying, be sure that you would be comfortable attending any/all of the universities that you have selected and do not put all your hopes into one school. That can sometimes,be a recipe for disaster and why put yourself in that position.

What Every Parent Needs to Know About the College Process

Choosing a college can be the first real big decisions you and your child make together.  Managing expectations, finding the right schools and honing in on the proper academic program are no easy tasks—especially when you’re negotiating the deal with an eighteen year old child. Please keep in mind that you and your child are allies in the search and not on competing teams. Work together, find out what they are looking for in a college and share with them what is important to you during their college experience. There can be a healthy balance for all involved. I would encourage the college dialog to at least begin after your child’s sophomore year.  This way they will grow accustomed to hearing the word “college” and believe it or not this will cause them to start thinking about it as well.  Set a time-line for your family.  Remember that college applications are mostly due by April of their senior year (the prior December if you are interested in early decision.)  So, work backwards from this timeline and you’ll be able to keep everyone on track.

Some issues to think about during the process: When should your child approach their guidance counselor for some preliminary information about colleges?  Who will research other schools not mentioned by the HS counselor?  When will you set aside time to sit down together and discuss the college options. In addition, applications need to be ordered, which takes time and college visits need to be organized.  Please remember that writing well-developed essays takes time; generally more time than students typically a lot for. This is where the bulk on the application time will be spent.  Not all colleges ask the same essay questions, so the earlier you receive those applications the better. One suggestion that I have is after you have chosen your top 3 schools, go ahead and request their application from the previous year. This way you will have a feel for what their essay questions generally look like and you can get a jump-start on the process before their new application comes available. You never know – they may just use the same questions.  Lastly, recommenders need to be approached. Trust me, no one likes being approached in the 11th hour and asked to write a recommendation.  If you want a well thought out and thoughtful letter or recommendation, talk to your recommenders early in the process. They will appreciate your respect for their time.

Setting up a structured time-line for you and your child will help everyone involved understand the process more thoroughly as well as reduce burnout.  Your child needs to manage their time and energy to have well-developed and competitive applications completed by deadline. Most importantly, listen to your child and their wants when it comes to choosing a college. Remember, it is going to be the next four years of “their” life.  This may be one of those times when the old at edge “mother knows best” may not apply.  Work with your child, this can be a great experience for both of you.