Friday, January 13, 2017

Spring Checklist for High School Juniors

Spring semester junior year in high school is a good time to begin more deliberate preparations for college.  Many checklists are available online from College Board, Peterson's and other sources; here are a few recommendations I would like to make from my experience as a college professor, academic advisor and independent educational consultant:
--Research possible careers, majors and colleges using tools on Naviance or other search
--Schedule a family meeting to discuss college finances, financial aid and scholarships, and an overall timeline for the college application process.
--Meet with your college counselor at school to discuss the college application process and make a preliminary list of schools.  Also make sure you and your counselor discuss your fulfilling A-G requirements for CA universities.
--Make a plan to prepare for and take standardized tests.  It’s a good idea to take the SAT/ACT twice in order to improve your score.  Many counselors recommend taking both tests once, and then repeating the test you score best on.
--Consider hiring an independent advisor, if you attend a large, public school or need extra guidance.  Ask friends for recommendations or check the online directory at Higher Education Consultants Association for a list of local consultants.
--Begin planning summer activities and employment early.  The summer after junior year is a critical time to gain experience in responsibility and autonomy as well as earn money to save for college expenses.
--Focus on a strong academic performance this semester as these are among the most important grades college admissions staff will evaluate.
--Plan to visit college campuses during school breaks or summer vacation.  Sign up for tours online ahead of time.

--Begin keeping a list or journal of possible ideas for application essays.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Summer Science Programs for High School Students

Happy New Year!  
January and February are the months for high school juniors (and sophomores) to apply to summer science and internship programs in the Bay Area and at nearby UC campuses. 
Stanford University offers a number of programs through the Office of Science Research including unpaid internships in laboratories, the Space Weather Monitor Program and the Institute of Medicine Summer Research Program
UC Santa Cruz and UC Davis feature COSMOS, or California State Summer School for Math and Science, with a host of topics or “clusters” students can explore in a four- week residential program.
You can also check out Pathways to ScienceNational Database for programs both in California and across the U.S. for paid internships.   A couple of local possibilities are the Perception Science Internship at UC Berkeley and the Arthritis Foundation Summer Science Internship at either UCSF or Stanford. 

All these programs are selective and require an application consisting of short essay responses, a transcript, standardized test scores and teacher recommendations.  Of course many universities across the country offer pre-collegiate summer school terms—which are less
selective, but also can be quite pricey.  I recommend these only for students who want to dig deeper into a particular subject at a more advanced level—not for enhancing a college application.
All in all the SF Bay Area offers plenty of opportunities for high school students to explore their interests in STEM during the summer. 

Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Value of Work Experience for College Applicants

This application season as I’m helping students prepare their resumes and activities sections on their applications, I’m noticing that probably fewer than half of my advisees (primarily high school students from the middle and upper middle class have paid work experience.  
This is a troubling trend to me for a couple of reasons: first, it may indicate that homework loads and course curricula have become so challenging for many students that they have little time for anything else outside of school work; and second, many students are missing out on a vital opportunity to develop responsibility and self-sufficiency. 
Increasingly, colleges and universities are recognizing the value of paid work experience among their applicants.  An article in the education section of mentions several reasons why admissions committees favor applicants who have held jobs including learning teamwork and collaborative skills and gaining perspective on the labor market.

Several of the new University of California Personal Insight Questions Writing could be answered convincingly by describing one’s leadership development on a summer job or an after school babysitting “gig.”  Personal Statements reflecting on work—whether learning new skills or learning to interact with fellow employees and managers—might also help demonstrate an applicant’s maturing attitude or narrate how the writer learned to deal with a difficult customer or boss.
As your teenager contemplates his or her extra-curricular activities for the next season, checking out part-time work or volunteer positions might be a good idea.  Also, January through March is a good period to secure a summer job such as camp counseling or paid internships.  Another way for teens to gain workplace skills is through volunteering in an after school tutoring program, like Healthy Cities or Project Read or signing up to be a volunteer coach through the PAL Athletic League.  Many short time assignments are also available through Hands On Bay Area.
And this holiday season there will be plenty of short-term retail jobs available for teens with some sales experience.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The LIST is critical: thoughts on 2016 admissions

With admission rates lower this year than last year, and lower last year than the year before, the college application frenzy is at an all time high.  As applications were up at all University of CA campuses, admission rates decreased and the same is true for many elite, highly selective colleges and universities including Stanford and the Ivies.  See this recent post by College Kickstart.  

How does one create a balanced college list given this trend toward more and more selective
admission among the “brand name” colleges?

Here are a few of my recommendations:
  • Keep the college search in perspective—it’s about a four-year period in a young adult’s life, an important launching period, of course, but there is no one correct path or best school.
  • Read Frank Bruni’s book Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania  for myriad reasons and examples why going to an elite institution is not a prerequisite for success in career or life.
  • Balance your list realistically—consider selectivity, type of school, location.
  • Look for fit vs. prestige—do the schools on your list offer the academic majors and programs as well as extracurricular opportunities that you seek? 
  • Consider EA (Early Action) and ED (Early Decision) applications but be careful not to apply ED if financial aid is a consideration.  Remember that ED acceptances are binding.
  • Focus on target schools and consider reach and lottery schools as outliers—possibilities not probabilities.
  • Prepare for rejection and waitlist notifications that may arrive in the spring.  It’s good to be positive and hopeful but it’s also important to prepare oneself for at least some disappointment.
  • Make sure every school on the list is one you want to attend.
If your high school junior needs help developing a realistic, balanced college list, feel free to call me (Beth) at Peninsula College Advising to schedule a no-obligation orientation session to my college advising services: 650-743-1959.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Boston College and Boston University: which is your match?

Last week during a sudden April snowstorm I visited both Boston College, a Jesuit University, and Boston University, a large private institution.  While both are located in Boston and easily to confuse by name, each has distinct attributes that make them unlikely to appeal to the same candidates.  Below are a few highlights of each school:

Boston College:
A medium sized university of approximately 9,000 undergraduates and 5,000 graduate students, Boston College is proud of its Jesuit identity and emphasizes its emphasis on a liberal arts education, its service culture and its attention to what it calls, “student formation,” or the personal and spiritual
development of students.

Boston College consists of 4 schools in order of size: Arts and Sciences (65% of students), Business (20%) , Education (10%), and Nursing (5%).  All students take 15 core courses, a typical Jesuit general education approach.  About 80% of students participate in community service through outreach in the Boston community or alternative spring break. 

The college guarantees 3-4 years of housing depending on program and freshman are housed either on upper campus or a short bus ride away in Newton.

What distinguishes Boston College from other schools including its larger counterpart Boston University:
--all professors teach undergraduates
--the school offers many internship and other opportunities in the Boston community
--strong school spirit
--a robust  alumni network

Boston University:
When I attended the campus information session I noted the admissions counselor’s emphasis on the university’s flexible and diverse curriculum.  As the school has over 16,000 undergraduates (about 32,000 total enrollment) creating smaller communities within the school is critical. 

Students can do this through joining clubs or organizations during “Splash,” the giant activities fair every fall, going on one of the over 100 study abroad programs, working with a professor on research, or taking part in a specialized major or program.  One example of a new program is the Pardee School of Global Studies located within the School of Arts and Sciences.

Boston University guarantees four years of housing and 86% of students live on campus all four years.  The student body is quite diverse with a high percentage of international students.  It is easy to transfer between schools and programs unlike at some universities.  Other special programs include a highly selective 7 year accelerated medical or dental program and EPIC (Engineering Product Innovation Center), at the School of Engineering where students practice hands-on design and proto-typing.

Both schools offer the advantages of a medium and large-sized university: a wide range of majors and classes, hundreds of activities and internships to choose among, and a strong school identity and culture.  Boston College is more likely to appeal to students interested in community outreach, public service or business while Boston University is a very cosmopolitan campus with for self-motivated and urban savvy students who are proactive and assertive in reaching for their academic and career goals.