Thursday, September 26, 2013

Applying to University of CA campuses—tips from the UC Counselors’ Conference

Last week I attended a UC Counselors’ Conference at UC Davis.  Admissions directors from each of the 9 UC campuses updated us on current enrollment, new programs and new facilities.   Other UC admissions professionals  gave presentations on completing the UC application.  It was a very informative conference so I wanted to highlight some of what I learned in a blog post.
First, in listening to all of the 9 presentations, I was struck by how strong many  of the campuses
are in science (STEM programs) and science research.  UC San Diego, Berkeley, Davis, Riverside and Merced all have superior programs in various scientific fields, and each would be an excellent choice for someone interested in either basic science or health fields.  All 9 campuses offer engineering.  Currently the program is impacted at UC San Diego and some of the other campuses require applicants to declare the major on their application.   While arts and humanities were not as featured during the conference, we did learn about the new film and television major at UCLA and the UC Santa Barbara Admissions Director emphasized her campus’s College of Creative Studies. 
To learn more about specific universities’ programs and majors I recommend planning a campus visit this fall.  Several schools are planning a special “Preview Day” for prospective applicants on October 19: Davis, Merced, and Santa Cruz.  For the first time, UCLA Undergraduate Admissions is also hosting an open house on September 28.   Other campuses are hosting campus and virtual tours throughout the fall.
Tips about the Application Process:
--As you fill out the application, be sure to have a transcript on hand to record grades accurately.  (You will need to submit an actual complete transcript by July 1 and it’s very important that all the grades match.)
--Avoid acronyms and abbreviations wherever possible.  They are very hard for admissions staff to decipher.
--For the personal statement, present yourself as if you were giving an interview.  Reflect your intended major or field of interest if you have one.   Use “I” statements. 
--You can split the two essays that total 1,000 words however you like as long as both essays are at least 250 words.
Overall, we learned that the number of applications each year is increasing at a rate of about 11%, which makes all the universities competitive, though some schools and programs are more selective than others. Admissions staff evaluate applications using 14 different factors to place student achievement in context.   Each campus follows its own review process for applications and makes its own decisions.  Contrary to urban legend, it is best to apply to multiple campuses, as long as they “match” your interests, in order to better your chances of admission. 
Dates and deadlines:
October 1—the UC Application opens—register online.
November 1-30 –the period to submit applications.
Early January—update any scores from tests taken in the fall.
March—notifications received by email.
May 1—intent to register due.
We learned that between 60-70% of applications are submitted during the last three days before the deadline!  Hope your student is not one of these this year!  On November 28, Thanksgiving Day, the Help Desk will be closed.
Aside from these tips and warnings, I highly recommend applying at least one University of California campus. The financial picture in California has substantially improved recently, which prevented budget cuts this year and has even allowed for some modest spending  increases.  The UC system still offers  a superior education at a “bargain” sticker price compared with many other public universities. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Time Management through the College Application Process

If your family is like mine, this fall is already stressful for your high school senior.  Balancing schoolwork and extra curricular activities is always difficult but add applying to college to the mix, and the schedule appears almost unmanageable.  No wonder your teen may be having trouble prioritizing working on his or her applications.

As I talk about time management with my advisees and my daughter, I realize different students find different methods for organizing their college application process.  Yet I think the HOW is just as important as the WHAT.  By this point, most students know what steps they need to accomplish to finish their college applications.  We parents might help our teens better by discussing with them how they plan to manage their tasks, rather than constantly reminding them of what tasks they need to accomplish in any given week. 

Here are a few suggestions to help students devise an effective time management method—

1) Remember Stephen Covey’s popular time management system back in the 90s?  Covey’s son Sean adapted his father’s Four Time Quadrants as an effective tool to show teens how to prioritize their activities in his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens. Covey labelled the Four Quadrants
as: Procrastinator, Prioritizer, Yes-Man, and Slacker.  Too often urgent homework deadlines or club/sport activities take the place of more important but less time bound goals.   Here is a recap of Sean Covey’s Habit Three: Put First Things First.   After prioritizing daily, weekly and monthly activities, fill out your own Four Quadrants chart and highlight the tasks that appear in the second quadrant. 

2) Make a master list of all the tasks you need to complete the college application process from registering on the Common Application website, to signing up for standardized tests, to asking teachers for recommendations.  Using Covey’s Four Quadrants, prioritize the items on the list.  At the beginning of each week, identify a block of time you can devote to college applications.  Include a few of the to-do items from the master list on each weekly schedule. 

3) Use an online calendar to set up self-paced “deadlines” for college essay drafts.  Schedule these deadlines least a couple of weeks before any real application deadlines to allow for feedback from teachers/ other trusted adults or friends, revising and editing.  Include automatic reminders sent to email a few days before each deadline.