Going to college soon? Being prepared will ease the transition.
Within the next few weeks, high school graduates will be heading to start their first year of college! It’s an exciting time, but it can also be pretty scary. Advance preparation won’t eliminate all of the anxiety, but it certainly can help you feel more confident. Here are some tips for students and your families as you get ready for this huge step in your lives!
Before school starts:
1. Use a reliable packing list so that you can be comfortable in your new home away from home.
2. Be sure you know how to use any new technology: laptop, notebook, netbook, tablet, cell phone, etc.
3. Explore your college’s website. Follow the school’s Instagram, Twitter and Facebook accounts for updates about events and workshops that will be hosted on campus.
4. Learn the layout of the school! Get a map and make sure it’s accessible when you are getting to know your campus.
5. Know how to stay safe on campus; acquaint yourself with safe rides and security systems.
6. Seek out your future roommate ahead of time to get comfortable and to share your plans for your dorm room.
7. Research ways to get involved in a few school-sponsored clubs or activities.
8. Talk to your parents about your concerns and expectations as well as theirs. Decide how and when you’ll communicate with them.
9. Be prepared to manage your own finances. You will need to keep track of your funds and pay off your credit cards when they’re due.
10. Learn about your school’s course registration procedures and timing so that you don’t run the risk of getting “closed out” of essential classes.
As soon as you get to school:
1. Take advantage of socials, welcome events and orientation to learn about the school and to meet new people.
2. Know what academic resources you’ll have on campus: tutoring services, the library system and hours, computer labs, etc. Don’t be shy about meeting your professors and taking advantage of their office hours.
3. Explore your school’s laundry options. Find the machines, buy detergent, read the instructions in advance, and bring quarters if necessary. Don’t wash new red items with the rest of your wash!
4. Some school laundry facilities allow for credit cards. Others offer laundry services, but you’ll need to label all of your clothes in advance and keep track of what you send in.
5. Organize all of your toiletries and shower necessities in a portable caddy. It would be a good idea to wear flip-flops in the shower for sanitary reasons.
6. Realize that you’re responsible for your own time management. This isn’t like high school. You need to be sure to wake up on time for classes, remember deadlines and do your homework so that you don’t fall behind.
7. Maintain a balance between schoolwork and your independent social life.
During the first semester, be sure to take care of your health:
1. Expect to be homesick, anxious and worried at times. It’s normal. Seek help when you need it.
2. Get enough sleep and eat sensibly!
3. If you feel ill, don’t ignore it. Go to Health Services for a diagnosis and appropriate medications.
4. Learn as much as possible about your medical needs.
5. Know the locations of the closest Urgent Care Center and Emergency Room. Be prepared to seek emergency transportation to these facilities.
6. Keep a handy list of your medications, doses, names and contact information of your doctors.
7. Discuss with your parents how to handle medical insurance procedures.
8. If you’re over 18, discuss with your parents whether you should have a health care proxy.
9. If you plan to be sexually active, be ready with protection.
And most of all, remember that college should be a time to learn, explore and enjoy yourself!
If you are a rising senior, you can start filling out your application now. Some colleges and universities have already started to notify potential applicants of their supplementary requirements and essay questions, and by August 1, all of the information will be posted on Common App. That’s great news for applicants who want to finish most of their work before September. However, no application is complete without the required or suggested number of recommendations!
It is very important to understand your options regarding recommendations, which can be found on the Common App in each college’s section called Recommendations and FERPA. You can access this tab only after creating an account on Common App, adding a college to “My Colleges,” and then scrolling down to “Recommendations and FERPA.”
Here are some tips about the recommendation process:
1. FERPA is an acronym for the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. In order to move forward with asking teachers to provide recommendations, you must read and understand the FERPA Release Authorization. Common App’s Help Center will guide you through the decision as to whether to waive your rights to see your teachers’ letters of reference.
2. Your high school will be using Naviance eDocs for transcripts, school reports, and teacher recommendations. Make sure that you know your school’s procedure for requesting teacher evaluations. Also, think carefully about which teachers would provide colleges with the most valuable information about you as a student. Most colleges prefer that you request recommendations from your junior year teachers who know you well.
3. Remember, this is an academic evaluation. It is a very good idea to thoroughly review the PDF of the teacher evaluation form so that you can make an informed decision about which teachers would give you the best references. Also, many teachers request that you provide them with a letter or notes about what you learned in their classes, what grades you received, what you enjoyed about the subject area, and other details about you as a student in order to help them fill out the form or write their own reference letters.
4. Once your teachers submit their recommendations online, you can click on “Recommenders and FERPA” on each college’s supplement to see the updated status.
5. Each college will indicate how many teacher evaluations are required or optional. However, do not overlook the option of adding references from “Other Recommenders” who know you in capacities other than the classroom. You may select, invite and monitor these references through Common App, not through Naviance; each person will be asked to log on with a user name and password and then upload their letters.
6. The types and number of permitted recommenders vary, and each college supplement will tell you how many are suggested. Options include: Arts Teacher, Clergy, Coach, College Access Counselor, Employer, Family Member, Peer, Other (Anyone else who does not fit into one of the above categories such as a mentor, co-worker, physician, etc.).
7. Most people consider it an honor to write something as important as a college recommendation. Be sure when you ask for recommendations to be respectful and polite as well as to provide all the information necessary in a timely fashion. And don’t forget to thank each recommender as well as to keep them informed of your progress and final decision as to the college you will attend!
What do Boston University, Carnegie Mellon, Columbia, Dartmouth, Fordham, Harvard, Princeton, the University of Virginia, and Stanford have in common? They all consider legacy to be a factor in admissions and reserve a small percentage of spaces for qualified legacy applicants. On the other hand, Baruch, UC Berkeley, Brooklyn College, Cal Poly, Cal Tech, MIT, and the University of Washington do not. Of the thousands of colleges and universities in the U.S., the advantage of legacy status depends upon the policy of each individual school.
What should you know about legacy?
1. If you are a rising senior who plans to apply to a college or university that considers “legacy” candidates, there is a good chance that your application will be viewed with more interest by admissions officers. You are considered a “legacy” student if one of your parents graduated from a particular university. Sometimes, depending on the school, grandparents, siblings and other close relatives provide some legacy status.
2. Colleges that take legacy into consideration do so for several reasons. They may assume that dedicated alumni maintain close connections to the college, participate in alumni association events and might be counted upon during fund-raising efforts. They are aware that families with a strong history at the college reinforce its positive image, and if you choose to apply and are accepted, you will most likely commit to that school early and immediately. It is also likely that you will continue your family connection with the school, both personal and financial, upon graduation.
3. However, be aware that legacy is not a guarantee of admission! You must also meet the university’s admission standards. You still need to be a competitive candidate in terms of grades, standardized test scores, and your potential “fit” into a college’s academic and social community.
4. To find out whether your parents’ attendance at a college will make any difference in your application, you can visit The College Transitions Dataverse which lists schools and notes whether legacy is important, considered, or not used as a factor at all. Often a school’s supplement on Common App will ask specific questions including whether you are related to any alumni, their names, year of graduation, etc. You can also read articles and blogs written by university admissions officers that clarify their policies and reasons, such as MIT, which does not take legacy into consideration at all.
5. If legacy is a factor and you want that status to be considered, it is advisable to apply Early Decision or Early Action to demonstrate your interest in the college and to indicate your absolute commitment to attend if accepted. Some schools like U Penn and Cornell will only consider legacy status if you apply early; otherwise, the advantage is lost.
6. Applying to a school because your parents went there has some benefits, no matter what the college’s policy may be. Most likely, you have already accompanied them on many nostalgic visits, sporting events, the campus and the surrounding community. This gives you an excellent perspective of what the school has to offer and whether you would be comfortable there. Many schools ask in their supplement how you got to learn about the school and often ask an essay question about why you want to attend. Having personal knowledge of the school can only help you write a convincing and detailed answer. You can also mention your family connection in the Additional Information essay on Common App.
7. Finally, since there is an expectation that a legacy applicant will commit to a school if accepted, be certain that the school is right for you, both academically and personally. Think about your own expectations, interests, and goals. Do you want a small liberal arts school in New England but your parents went to a very large Midwestern university? Are you interested in a particular area of information science which your legacy school does not offer? Have an honest and open discussion with your family as you move forward with your application process.
8. And please feel free to contact College Essay Whiz for guidance!
Margery was a blessing to me! I first met Margery in 2015 when I was applying to transfer colleges to complete my Bachelor’s degree. I decided to do this at the last minute and never considered how difficult it would be to write a personal statement as a transfer student. After a few weeks of trying to write my essays, I decided to find an essay coach. I looked at numerous companies but liked the personal attention that Margery gave in response to my email. She agreed to work with me and I got into 5 of the 7 schools I applied to, including my first choice, Mount Holyoke College.
Fast forward to Fall 2018 and my next round of applications for my Master’s degree. I knew that I needed help and immediately knew Margery was the best person for the job. It took a few months to write the four personal statements and two sample academic essays for my applications. It was hard work, but Margery was there to push me, encourage me, listen to my worries and ultimately to help me write the best essays I could write. So far I’ve been accepted to all four programs to which I applied. I have decided to accept a place at the University of York (in England) to study Medieval Literature and Languages. I am so excited for my future and I am so thankful that I had Margery to help me reach my goals.
– RB, University of York, England
The Common Application has expanded to over 800 colleges and universities for 2019-2020. Schools that previously required individual applications but are now on Common App include: CUNY schools Baruch College, Brooklyn College, and Hunter College; Duquesne University (PA); Elon University (NC); Florida Atlantic University, Florida Gulf Coast University, and the University of South Carolina. The full list of colleges and universities that will accept the Common App will be available on August 1, 2019, but you can log on now and learn about most of the member colleges and universities.
Although changes and updates to this year’s Common App are explained on the Common Application website, one major area that will not change is the list of Common App personal essay prompts. Rising seniors can log in with a user name and password right now. It is possible that the Common App website will be unavailable for a few days in July to update the individual college and university supplements, but all you need is your user name and password to recover all of your information. Even if you are a rising junior, you can log in and fill in much of the information. You can also put colleges in which you are interested on your “My Colleges” list and plan to visit them while you have time. Start the application now!
Of course, summer is the time to relax and unwind. Many students will be traveling, going to camp, or working. You should still have time to do some interesting and useful activities that will prepare you for college!
- Do some reading! If you have gone to the theater or seen a great movie, find the book it’s based on and read it. Choose a character in history like Alexander Hamilton or a period of time like the American Revolution and learn more about them. Think of a topic you are interested in following and read blogs, articles and posts that broaden your understanding
- Do some writing! Keep a diary of observations, your feelings, the people you meet, the obstacles you have overcome, etc. Take a look at the Common App prompts and jot down ideas for essay topics.
- Take some time to talk to your immediate family members and relatives. Learn about your background and your heritage.
- Spend a few days volunteering or doing some community service.
- Explore your own community: Learn about the local businesses, historical landmarks, the public library, restaurants with unique cuisine.
- Think about your interests and what sort of jobs you envision for your future. It’s worth knowing what you might want to major in as a college student.
- If you have a summer assignment for school, do it early rather than waiting for Labor Day weekend.
- If you are a rising senior, choose two or three colleges or universities in the same geographical area that you and your family might be able to visit and tour.
- Consider whether now might be the time to interview and make decisions about working with a college advisor. Many advisors may no longer be available by the end of the summer!
- Check out other long-range advice from resources like Princeton Review.
Margery was there when I needed her most. A bit less than a month before the early decision deadline — an already stressful time — the person who was originally supposed to be aiding me with the application process became unreachable. Amid my panic, in came Margery, taking me on as a client at the last minute and helping me finish and perfect my applications. By taking the time to learn about me, Margery helped me unearth more profound essay ideas and taught me how to make the most of the restricting word count in order to communicate my passions. I am still in awe of her dedication, professionalism, and grace. Thanks to Margery, I was accepted to all of my top schools— she is truly wonderful, and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to work with her!
— JB, Yale ‘23