Graduating From High School – How to Make the Transition to College Life

Transitioning from high school to college can be a scary proposition. Many students come from small, rural schools and might be shocked by the size of larger state colleges and universities. Classes meet less regularly in college than in high school, and some students might be tempted to slack off. There are many differences between the two educational levels, and new high school graduates should know about these differences before starting school in the fall to make the transition as smooth as possible.

1. You Are not Likely to Be the Big Man On Campus

High school tends to have a number of popular cliques that tend to make life miserable for those who are outside the mainstream. In college, most of the former jocks will be just ordinary students. There are cliques, known as fraternities and sororities, but at many schools, not belonging to a fraternity is no big deal. Those who were big men or women on campus will likely just be a small fish in a big pond in college. Professors will be impressed with people who can bring something to the table in class.

2. Use College as an Opportunity to Learn on the Job

Most people think that college is a time to learn about one’s inner person and expand worldviews. This can definitely be the case, but it is not impossible to get valuable real world experience at the same time. Many schools have connections that can lead to co-op jobs or internships during the summer. These summer opportunities can then be used to gain experience for life after college. Those who are really fortunate might even get hired by the company that sponsored their internship.

3. Classes Meet Less Often

Most high school classes meet on a daily basis, and students are in school every day from around 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. This totally changes in college. Students can expect to meet exactly 2.5 hours each week for a class that will give the standard 3 credit hours. These classes will usually meet for 50 minutes on three days a week or 1 hour and 15 minutes on two days of the week. Because the average course load for a student is around 12-15 credit hours, many students will find themselves with much more in the way of free time. This does not mean that video games and daytime TV talk shows should take up this extra time. Studying and research will be a much better investment in terms of time.

4. College Takes Money

Unless they are fortunate enough to get a full ride to college, many students will experience a bit of sticker shock. Most high school students go to schools that are taxpayer funded. Even those who go to private high schools will usually have their parents pay their way. This will be a big change for many new college students. There will be the temptation to borrow everything needed. A much better route would be taking a part-time job to pay for as much of college as possible. Those who party through school will owe, while those who work will be in a better financial standing.

College is definitely a major shift for those who are new high school graduates. With proper planning, the transition can be much less painless than it might otherwise be.

Top Ten College Admissions Myths – Exposed

There are several college admissions myths which should be exposed before you apply. These myths often scare certain students from applying to the best schools. Never limit yourself from applying to top colleges because you believe these things:

(10) Applicants are pre-screened.

Whether using the common application or a school-specific application, college admission offices have enough staff members to read your entire application. After all, you pay an application fee for a reason and colleges want to make sure you get your fair chance. However, if your application is incomplete or missing crucial components (essays, transcripts, or supplements) this might explain why it is rejected, or pre-screened out, before it reaches the full committee.

(9) You must choose your major and stick to it.

When you apply to college, admissions officers know your major is bound to change. In fact, many admissions offices have reported that the majority of their students change their major by the end of their freshman year. Don’t worry about choosing your major. Pick a department or major where you have a genuine interest, and be open-minded to changing it once you’re enrolled.

(8) You must apply early decision or early action.

Yes, applying early decision or early action shows a student is committed to a particular college. But you do not have to apply early to be accepted, even to top colleges. In fact, if you’re deferred in the early decision or early application round, your application goes right back into the regular pool and will be re-evaluated again.

(7) Colleges have a certain profile of the “perfect” student.

While colleges strive to admit students who will fit into their college, there’s simply no way for a college to predict whether a student will be happy or whether they will actually succeed at their college. This is why colleges don’t set a particular admissions profile for the “perfect” student.

(6) Ivy League schools don’t give scholarships.

Although Ivy League schools say they only allocate “need-based” scholarships, there’s no doubt that certain schools issue other grants and fellowships based on other criteria. If you’re a top athlete, recruit or a national merit scholar, an Ivy League school will go out of its way to make sure you can afford their school.

(5) International students don’t receive scholarships or loans.

More colleges are looking to diversify their student body with international students; major banks and financial institutions offer the same financial opportunities for international students as they do American applicants. Scholarships and fellowships are available for international students.

(4) You should pad your resume with extracurricular activities.

Every admissions officer is a human being. Imagine that. Applications aren’t accepted or rejected by a computer. So when filling out this section of the common app, know that admissions offices can (and do) spot superfluous extracurricular activities. Further, they can certainly tell whether you added an extracurricular because you have a genuine interest or because it “looks good” on your resume.

(3) Recommendations don’t matter.

Great recommendations are vital. You cannot expect to be admitted simply with high scores and great grades. If an admissions officer sees a perfunctory or suspicious recommendation, it will set off a red flag. Bottom line: choose the recommender who knows you best and make sure they know where you’re applying and what your qualifications are.

(2) There’s a GPA Cut-Off.

Colleges generally don’t have a GPA cut-off. The reason admissions offices don’t have a GPA “cut-off” is because students come from all sorts of different high schools with varying curriculums and grade structures. Some students attend public schools, others private schools where the GPA ranges could be wider or narrower. Further, there has been much discussion about grade inflation, and colleges do know what particular high schools tend to have higher GPAs than others. Whether this is so-called grade inflation or not, the schools have an idea of what schools have a more competitive curriculum, including more AP, IB and honors courses. Be aware of your GPA and explain discrepancies in your transcript.

(1) There’s always an SAT/ACT Cut-Off.

Some state colleges do have a cut-off for SAT/ACT scores. But the majority of American Universities do not. So keep working on your test scores but don’t fear the mythical cut-off.

If your SAT scores or ACT scores aren’t as high as you’d like them to be, you can improve your score with test prep and admissions counseling.

Hope these admissions myths were answered.

College Visit – Caution

Here are the 4 key objectives of a first college visit; this assumes you will be impressed with the results of your visit, which will require a second visit with a different strategy.

1. Show up unannounced. You want to witness first-hand how flexible and accommodating admission people can be so that your gut instincts will help determine your first impressions. It’ll also tell you how hard the college works on making first good impressions.

2. Ask for the name of the admissions person who handles your geographical area. This is your contact person for future email contacts. Try to meet that person, introduce yourself, and get a business card. It would be wicked cool to trade business cards, so I would get one created with only your name, address, email address, and phone number.

If the college doesn’t assign admissions people on a geographical basis, ask for a business card from one of them and make that person your contact.

3. Ask about the school’s retention rate: “What percentage of freshmen return after the freshman year?” When you get home, look on the school’s website to see if the figure matches what you heard. If the answer is a high retention rate, you want to ask a follow-up question: “Is it because of a proactive college policy to recruit a diverse student body that includes non-A students, or does the school focus on the A students who almost always account for a high retention rate?”

These 2 questions will give you a sense of the school’s orientation or philosophy of recruitment. If you’re not comfortable with the answer, move on to another campus.

4. Ask the killer question that will be most difficult to answer, and as a parent you have a moral obligation to ask it. If the school is going to ask you to spend thousands of dollars, you want to demand an answer to this question: “Because campus safety is in the news all the time, how and when can I get access to the campus police’s records of crime on this campus for the past 12 months?”

This could be a real curve ball question, but you don’t care. Listen carefully to how your question is answered. If the answer sounds too practiced or too routine, such as, “Any incidents or crimes on campus are public record. You can call the local police to get that information.” If you hear this answer, you’re being lied to. The local police do not record all the campus’s incidents because the college wants to keep any real crimes quiet if they can. The most convenient reason to have a campus police force is to hide any potential public relations or image problems that could damage the school’s effort to recruit if disclosure of all crimes is made.

Uncomfortable Fact: Colleges are a business, and image is everything.

Student tour directors are programmed to tell you what you want to hear. Which is why I detest planned tours. You get far better information from students sitting at a dining hall table. But if you take a tour with a young and enthusiastic robotic tour guide, you need to ask questions they don’t hear; however, do not be surprised to hear other parents ask these 3 mind-boggling questions:

1. How’s the food here?

2. What are laundry facilities like?

3. Do students get enough sleep?

Colleges witness parents asking what they view as really dumb questions. These are the equivalent of asking, “Do you have running water?”

If you’re touring a college that requires $40,000 a year, you need to ask tough questions. If you don’t get the satisfactory answers WITH FOLLOW-UP research, perhaps another college will be glad to help you.

Comfortable Fact: There are over 4,000 colleges and universities out there, and you are in the driver’s seat to choose, not the colleges. They know it, but they won’t tell you that they know it.

It’s a game – a game you can win.

The Freshman’s Guide to the Social Scene at Brandeis University in Waltham, MA

First of all, I would like to point out that I do not condone underage drinking in any form as stated by federal law due to the proven health risks associated with this practice.

Two years ago, as an incoming high school senior ready to start applying to colleges, I sat down and thought to myself what exactly I want out of my four years of college. Number one on my list was a school that would provide me with a strong academic background to prepare me for medical school. Like many incoming college students, I wanted to find that oh so difficult to attain balance between work and play. Although work is a necessity to succeeding in life I wanted to find a school where I could have an equally strong social background. Needless to say, Brandeis was not near the top of my list.

During the application process, I would often look for forums describing the Brandeis social life only to be disappointed when the results were obtained. Brandeis is not known for its social scene, as fraternities are not funded directly by the school, like other big name universities in the Boston-area. I’m looking at you MIT. Then I saw comments that pointed me toward the notion that the Brandeis social scene was what you make of it. I found this odd, but if it takes a little drive on my part to have fun then there’s nothing that’s gonna stop me. I later applied to Brandeis and was accepted only to find that I controlled my destiny. If I’m in college for only four years then I better make the best of it.

Brandeis parties can be categorized into four different groups: frat parties, athletic team parties, miscellaneous group parties and private gatherings.

The fraternities at Brandeis include, Zeta Beta Tau (ZBT), Alpha Eta Pi (AEPi), Phi Kappa Psi (Phi Psi), Alpha Delta Phi (ADPhi) and Sigma Alpha Mu (Sammies). As far as parties go, Iwould rand ZBT the highest because they always have great music, a crowded dance floor, and plenty of beverages to go around. Also, another cool thing about the house is that there parties always include black lights and occasionally they throw white-out parties where everyone wheres white under the black lights. AEPi parties on the other hand, sometimes lack the active environment and instead provide a house to be drunk and merry in a relatively relaxed setting.

Phi Psi hasn’t had many notable parties over my freshman year, but they are looking to branch out over the next year. ADPhi has the same status as Phi Psi, party-wise, but we’ll know soon enough about their ability to compete with other frats. And as for Sammies, they are a fairly new fraternity, two years old I believe. Sammies is constructing a house over the summer with a bar so we should see great things from them. The best way to learn about parties is to have friends in the frats or at least in-the-know, but not necessarily be in one yourself. Frats are a great way to meet people, make lifelong friends and be invited to private parties with the sororities on campus, Delta Phi Eta (DPhiE) and Sigma Delta Tau (SDT).

The athletic team parties are a fun way to meet Brandeis athletes depending on what you’re looking for. These houses usually throw the pregaming events and random costume parties including Halloween, which are always huge.

The miscellaneous parties include those thrown by student groups (not affiliated with fraternities or sports teams). These include the random parties thrown in the Rosenthal sophomore quad that aren’t huge, but worth stopping off at before the bigger party of the night. The Purim party is also huge every year and thrown by the Jewish student life on campus. One of the most surprising organization to throw parties is the group of students that call themselves Flavor Country. These parties tend to be the biggest and best on campus. But you need to be tight with the guys who run these gatherings because there usually is an invitation only list for guys.

One of the best ways to have fun on campus is to definitely form a group of friends and make plans to get together and have your own parties. These are usually thrown in a suite or in some cases freshman dorms (Ahem!). Everyone is so busy during the week with schoolwork and extracurriculars that the only time to connect with your friends is during the weekends. So these private parties are a large part of the Brandeis party scene.

Whatever social path you do decide to take while at Brandeis, remember one thing: you’re only in college for four years. They will go by much faster than you can even imagine. It’s your job to not only craft the foundation of your future, but to also enjoy life as much as possible while you have the time to do so.