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November, 2010

Be Unique…Be Daring…Go for that class you never thought you’d take..

lysa-85Hi guys! I know its been a while since I last posted. Sophomore year is bit more hectic than I thought it would be…or maybe that’s just because I am in Organic Chemistry and slowly drowning in all of my work for that class. But, on another note, I hope your year is going well and that you all have a great Thanksgiving!

Check out my video post! : )

Dumb Questions?

abigail-85I’d like to say that over a year ago I was in the same position many of you are in now: searching for the right college. To be honest, I was worried more about the financial aspect of higher education than actually looking for an institution. I had no idea where to begin and for first-generation students the college process may appear more daunting, but if you are willing to put in some time you will get through it.

ASK, ASK, ASK! Don’t be afraid to ask questions! You may think that you’ll look dumb because your classmates seem to know what they’re doing or where they’re headed. But, you’ll only hurt yourself by not getting the information you need. You may be wondering: “Where do I find the Common Application? What should my essay be about? What is the college curriculum and rigor like? Where can I obtain fee waivers (if you receive free/reduced lunch, many colleges will waive the application fees)? Where do I want to go to school? Do I want to tan outside in sunny California or brave the New England winters?”

Remember that you are not alone in this process and if you ever have a specific question or don’t feel comfortable approaching one of your teachers with something in particular, please don’t hesitate to ask any of us here at the CSO program.

Happy Holidays!

P.S: Keep a look out for a video blog with my fellow CSO scholar and Dartmouth peer, Irvin Gomez!

Giving Thanks: Past and Present

ashley-85As Thanksgiving is upon us, it is once again time to give thanks, and I want to give thanks to those in my past and in my future who have helped me get to where I am today.

I am very thankful for those teachers who were always there to help me, two specifically. A teacher in high school was probably the first person that made me feel like I truly belonged and had faith in me and in my future.  This year I have a sociology professor that has helped me find the right path for me and my future.

An obvious group to thank are always friends, who are always there to support and help me when I am down, and family, although there are some who have made this a difficult process, there are others who have made it worth it. Especially my brother, who I pretty much would be at a lost if it weren’t for him.

Of course I want to thank CSO. Not only do they give me help with paying for school, but they also give me the opportunity to help others like me, which is what I want to devote my life to doing.

Lastly, I want to thank my uncle, who passed away. He was the father that I never had. I am eternally grateful for what he did for me and I am not sure I would be here if it wasn’t for him. I never got to thank him but I am more and more thankful everyday and I wish I would have told him that.

So my advice to you: thank the people you are grateful for. We take so many people and things for granted. I know at times it might feel like it is you against the world, but you will find that some of the people you least expect to be helpful are sometimes the most helpful.

College Essays: Happy Days!

jenny-85     Not really. Not for me anyway. I applied to so many schools that I felt quite overwhelmed by the whole process.

     Although the Common Application helps out the main essay, many schools require supplemental essays, which may be short or long depending on the question. Now, what’s really annoying, is the word limit. You want to utilize what you have, but I found it extremely difficult. I constantly cut off and substituted words, trying to make my answers fit. Even though they are annoying, these questions are very important, so do your best. Try to put as much as you can into your answer. I don’t mean that you just should list all the extracurriculars or community service activities you do. Write about them. Describe them. That’s when the word limit becomes your enemy.

     Then there’s the main essay that every college will look at. I rewrote that essay about ten times before my English teacher decided that it was alright. “Alright” meaning I still needed to touch up on it. I wrote about how my aunt’s cancer changed my life. My friends wrote about their families, sports, sibling, life experiences, or passions. Some wrote about experiences that changed their lives, and others wrote about chasing dreams and passions. What you write about is up to you. It is your story, tell it to those who will read it.

     As for revision, get your friends to read it. Enlist a teacher’s help. Read it to yourself quietly. Read it out loud. Is the grammar in agreement? Did you spell something wrong? Did you forget a period? Admissions officers will be paying attention to your writing. If they see a student with grammar and spelling mistakes in their essay, they may think, “Well, this student obviously sent me an unfinished essay. They’re probably not serious about this school to care enough to look their essay over.” My advice: please be careful and take this seriously.

     And for those of you that go “Aw, man. I don’t want to do this”, your future is in your hands. No one will be able to write your college essay for you because your story is yours, not theirs. They cannot tell it as you can. Your college essay will help the school determine whether they want you in their incoming class or not. Take up that pencil and write. You have work ahead, and your future.

Transitioning: B-school to E-school

duylam-85Well, I suppose it’s quite appropriate that this post would be about a fairly large event in my life given that my last post was months ago.

It’s been 3 months since I traded in case studies for problem sets.

Read more of Transitioning: B-school to E-school

TAKE A CHANCE

lot-85How many students my age have blogs that are read in mass? I’m suspecting that not many do, but that’s how wonderful and unique this position is. I have the honor of sharing my first year college experience with people all across the country. I have the pleasure of partnering with an organization that seeks to obtain such a noble goal of pushing for more diversity within colleges all across the country. I’m in a family of scholars who are passionate about spreading the gospel of higher education and I am blessed with the ability to share my triumphs, my struggles, and my wisdom with you. My goal is to not only to offer advice about the procedual steps on how to get to college, because that type of information is readily available, but to also discuss the mindset of a successful college student, a subject that is hardly talked about enough. There are certain intangible qualities that separate the mediocre or pedestrian students from the elite. Qualities such as being a visionary or a leader are not measured through GPA or ACT scores; they come from within and are invaluable as you make that transition from high school to college.

One of my first blogs was about having vision for the long term-It’s a game of chess-but since most of you are making final decisions about which school to apply for or what scholarships to seek out, I feels it’s important to seize on quality opportunities that fall your way.

Looking back I find it quite humorous that I almost passed up the opportunity to blog about my first year experience. I remember receiving an e-mail from Miami University advertising an open position for students to gain scholarship money and blog about their college experience. I couldn’t see myself in such a position and I did not consider my skills worthy enough for it. I at first paid little attention to it and I must admit that I turned in my application at the last moment. I mailed it and forgot about it until weeks later when I was asked to move onto the next step and finally I received the phone call that truly changed the way I saw myself. I remember getting the call and conversing with a CSO administrator about the amount of applicants that applied for the position. To my dismay roughly 1,000 students from across the country applied and I was one of ten students chosen. The odds had a profound effect on me. Out of hundreds of applications someone saw me and found me noteworthy enough to standout from the pack. My talents where showcased through my writing and that is how I am able to have this position.

So what does this have to do with you or your experience? I share my story because I came so close to not having it. I doubted myself and I doubted my abilities, and the worse thing to do during the scholarship or college application process is to lower standards or expectations out of fear. Have faith in your ability to convey your intelligence, experiences and ideas in an essay or even in an interview. Be bold in the opportunities that you seek because those will enrich your life well beyond just college. I am asking you to expand past the known capabilities, as ambiguous as that sounds, so when the opportunity presents itself just like it did for me, you will know when to act.

There is no college or scholarship that is out of reach. The first critical step is to have faith in yourself and the rest will come.

ABCs, more important than 123s

shaun-85Many high school students are under the impression that getting into college is all about the numbers—that is, test scores, GPA, and APs. But the truth is, colleges come across a much larger percentage of applicants that fall into their average GPA and SAT pool than they are able to admit. So what do they look at to determine who will receive those golden “Congratulations!” letters? First and foremost, The Essay.

Essays are without a doubt the most grueling (and therefore most dreaded) element of the college application process. Some applicants will sigh in relief to see that one of their colleges doesn’t require a specific essay, and others will apply to schools (*cough* Davidson) that require several supplemental essays in addition to those attached to the Common Application. You may be thinking, “How in the world can I write 53 essays before the January regular decision deadlines?” Here are a few tips:

1. Before you do ANY writing, read through ALL of the essay prompts. It is more than likely that you will be able to use one essay, especially if you choose your topic wisely, to answer several prompts. *Note: If you do use an essay for more than one school, be sure to carefully proofread and change the name of the school accordingly. Your Dartmouth admissions counselor doesn’t care about all of the reasons you want to attend Vassar.

2. Quality is admired above quantity. Admissions officers don’t want to read (and would probably stop half way through) an essay that was the length of a doctoral thesis. Say what you want to say in the most succinct and sophisticated way possible, and impress them with your ability to convey your thoughts and experiences clearly.

3. Don’t be afraid to take risks and write about something unconventional. My college advisor always told us to pretend that our essay was the last in an admission officer’s pile at 4:55 on a Friday afternoon. They have read tediously similar essays all day, and in order for them to remember yours it will have to have a wow factor. An admissions officer once told me that the best essay she ever read was about peanut butter. Be creative!

4. Lastly, be sure to SHOW rather than TELL. This is the difference between saying, “It was a hot day and I was nervous,” and opening the reader into your mind with “My heart raced and I wiped my sweaty palms on my faded blue jeans while my gaze flickered anxiously at the clock.” Which essay would you rather read? Incorporate all five senses, use synonyms, and work on explaining one moment with as much detail as possible rather than explaining your whole life story with bland word choice and vague phrasing.

Writing this many essays may not be fun, but on the bright side, you will never have to do it again! Try to see your essays as an opportunity to show the admissions officers a wonderful and unique side of you that isn’t reflected by your test scores and GPA. Good luck!

C-Cubed & Turkey Day

seanna-85In typing this blog last year, I wrote about the influence of certain mentors who helped support and motivate me during the college application process.  As a sophomore, I’m still thankful for those people and remain in contact with many of them, but the situation is slightly different.  Many great schools have mentoring and support networks already in place to help the transition for first-year students.  Last year, I had an Academic Faculty Advisor, a mentor from the Office of Black Student Affairs, and two Sponsor Mentors living in my hall.  The organizations were so influential that I called back home to mentors in Arkansas and raved about how friendly and encouraging the campus environment was.  This year, that situation has changed, as well.

The campus is still friendly and encouraging, but I now serve as one of the mentors in a few of the programs.  I’m an Ujima Mentor through OBSA, the female sponsor in one of the first-year residence halls, and a tutor for a local outreach program.  Within these roles, I’ve found more reason to be thankful for those that have helped and continue to help me in the college process. 

Amazing mentors leave an impression that cannot be replaced.  They set the standard for future legacies to sustain diversity and support within a community by offering themselves as networks of understanding, strength, and change.  My volleyball coach used to say that the team was only as strong as the weakest link.  In considering Pomona College as a 1,500 student team with faculty, staff, and other organizations, we remain resilient and impactful because we watch out for one another, striving to empower each team member to the best of their abilities. 

This year, I’d like to give thanks to all mentors who work every day in service to others.  Through cohesion, collaboration, and cooperation, we secure advancement for everyone.

“The function of leadership is to produce more leaders.”-Unknown

Decisions, decisions, decisions.

irvin-85I could totally be cliche and let the college applicant know that I was in his or her shoes just a year ago, looking for the place where I would spend the next four years of my life and really wondering if I would find the right place. And after looking at various places, I felt that gut feeling telling me that this was the place for me to go. Again, roll out the cliches.

The college process is scary, intimidating and stressful. You are deciding the next four years of your life and it all depends on an application and the person that reads that application. Do not be scared if you have not found the one place where you really want to go. This is a normal feeling. Some people do not know where they want to go until days or even hours before committing to a college. I was the exception to this rule since I found Dartmouth as the perfect place for me within minutes of being on campus. Again, I felt that tingling in my heart and the peace of mind when I stepped on campus and all of it told me that I would love to be here for the next four years. Go with that gut feeling, that would be my best advice. If it feels right and if, after taking a holistic view of the college, you like it, then chances are that it is the right college for you.

Once you have found a college, you need to apply. Again, the application process might be even more stressful than finding places to apply to. There are a lot of essays and many short responses that you have to take care of. My best advice for you is this: do the applications for your top three schools first. Release as much of yourself in those applications, in other words, put your heart and soul into them. By doing this, you will gain the momentum which will allow you to finish the other applications. Put equal effort into these since you don’t know how decisions might turn out and you might end up getting denied from your dream school and accepted into a school that you did not consider. It is always good to have options.

A few tips on applications:

1. Proofread them once.

2. Proofread them again.

3. Have someone else proofread them.

4. I think you get my point on how important proofreading is.

5. Be yourself. Do not try and impress anyone by pretending to be someone you are not. College admissions officers will accept you for who you are since they see a place for you in the college. If you choose to be someone that you are not, you are only hurting yourself.

6. The essay. Man, the essay. Be creative, be yourself, be true to who you are. Do you like Gossip Girl and love Newton’s Laws of Physics? Do you love soccer and find Dickens an amazing writer?  Find a way to integrate them both into an essay. Ask your college counselor for tips on what not to write about, you do not want to be cliche.

7. Proofread your essay.

8. Take time to relax and enjoy the last year of high school. You’re only a senior in high school once, make it worth it.

9. Accept and realize that there is always a possibility of being rejected. Have that in your head as you apply and be prepared for an eventual heartbreak. BUT…also be prepared for celebrating an acceptance letter.

Best of luck seniors!