Okay, okay, I know you’re thinking, “Wow! All this talk about me… Aren’t I just half the equation? Don’t I need to be thinking about what the colleges are looking for-not just who I am, what I want, and what I have to offer?” You’re right, let’s shift focus and examine what college admissions personnel are after…
I have even alluded to it in previous posts… remember that part about being a detective? First, you get clear on what interests you, what you need, and what you want. Second, you start the exciting (and potentially overwhelming) process of discovering the settings that are a match with your interests, wants, and needs. Third, once you have panned for gold-as I fondly call the process of sifting through and narrowing the field from (a potential 4,400) ten to twenty colleges that truly spark your interest, you need to get down to detective work… Look at and listen to these resources:
college print materials (brochures, posters, catalogues)
visiting college representatives (at your school or at college fairs)
college guides (Fiske, Peterson’s, Barrons, to name a few)
magazines (US News and World Report, Newsweek)
alternative guides (Colleges that Change Lives, The Insider’s Guide to the Colleges 2007: Students on Campus Tell You What You Really Want to Know, Best 361 Colleges)
Ask these questions:
What are the schools looking for in their student body? How can you tell? (What shows up in their materials-written, in pictures, on their sites and in videos)?
What values do they discuss? What is you feeling as you read and look through the materials? How would you describe each of the schools?
Small class size
Study Abroad programs
Reputation of the institution
As you are reviewng the schools’ materials, think about what you seek in a school: which schools are potential matches and which are “misses”?
See if you want to work this out on your own-or look for a post within the week for some examples of my detective work… I’ve already chosen one place I’ll investigate. Would you like me to do a little work for you? Tell me a college/university that’s of interest and I will check it out and post the information.
Great idea alert!!! Get a notebook, dividers and pocket folders, a stack of file folders, or create a folder on your computer. You will be generating a LOT of information, you want to handle it from the start – it will cut down on feeling overwhelmed or lost! Think now about how you want to organize the information – by college or by topics you are researching….
If you have a question, please post it – if you’re thinking it, you can bet that others are too! If you want some personal attention, drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Learning from others’ missteps (okay, maybe learning from our own)
Have you ever made made a mistake? Had a series of unfortunate circumstances grow immeasurably worse because of a bad decision? Take heart – on two counts: you are just like everyone else, we all make mistakes, and we can learn from them and do better the next time!
Just last week I was all set to draw parallels between what Jet Blue did (and failed to do) and what you need to avoid when going through your high school years and when applying to colleges… You remember the Jet Blue fiasco from last month, right – flights cancelled, people stranded all over the country, and stuck in airports for days?
Jet Blue’s management made a series of bad decisions which impacted its service at that time, and their reputation for months to come (not to mention the financial losses from those days of mismanagement and the loss of future passengers… will you fly Jet Blue in winter?)
Today is a different day! Amazingly, happily, Jet Blue just made the right move both last night and today. The company cancelled over 200 flights rather than face the same problems because there’s a winter storm in the northeast. There’s lots to be learned from Jet blue’s debacle and its recovery:
When things start going wrong, be sure to…
Handle it asap…
whether it’s a “bad” grade for a test or a quarter, or a “bad” year because of personal or family changes/difficulties. Check in with all areas of your life to see how you’re thinking and feeling – we all go through ups and downs, the key is to recognize where you’re at and respond appropriately.
If you need help “fixing” the problem, reach out for resources.
Get the support you need from folks in school, your family, friends, or from your community. Who will you turn to for support – probably there are different answers for different types of obstacles that you will face.
Own up to your mistakes
There is (almost) nothing more appealing that folks who recognize their mistakes, sincerely explain the circumstances, (not justifying actions, just explaining), and show how they have corrected the situation and learned from it.
Don’t let it happen again (to the best of your ability).
Think pro-actively – I know, planning for the unforeseen or unlikely seems almost like having to peer into a crystal ball – yet, in Jet Blue’s case, the management could have imagined bad weather… What might you imagine as stumbling blocks – problems you would need to respond to FAST so that they don’t snowball? Those might include a very difficult subject and sagging grades, perhaps a poor relationship with a teacher, a personal problem or family issue that gets in the way of concentrating on your work, making your motivation, grades or relationships suffer.
So follow in Jet Blue’s footsteps and recover from your mistakes! I have a friend who often talks in terms of “lessons learned” – it’s something we all can – and need – to do!
I was all set to write a companion piece to the first blog-in which the focus was on you. My thinking was that it would be appropriate to turn the spotlight on colleges this time… starting to get into the nitty gritty of what they’re about and what they’re looking for… As I sat thinking that you need to be detectives – sussing out what the colleges are telling you, if you look closely enough-I realized that you have soooo many more roles to play, and started spinning that thread. Here’s my thinking… You need to be all these (though happily, not simultaneously), ready?
Expert – knowing about yourself (getting clear about your strengths, challenges, best academic and social environments), and how to take good care of yourself during this lengthy process
Student – ready to learn about all aspect of the process (timelines, testing, applications, essay writing, visiting campuses, sharpening your interviewing skills, thinking/talking about finances/scholarships)
Project Manager – managing all the aspects of the college search and selection process and your school work, your social life, your family, and additional commitments.
“Resource finder”/bloodhound – discovering who knows what you need to know and how they can help you move forward with the tasks at hand
Observer – of college/university environments – online and in person, what do they look and feel like, who do they attract, is that the environment you see yourself in?
Detective – sifting through the hype that the colleges, your friends and family send in your direction
Interviewee – learning to speak with ease about your accomplishments, areas where you might have had difficulty, and conveying who you really are – being your authentic self
Interviewer – asking great questions, showing that you have done your “homework” and are curious to learn more about the environment
Decision-maker – easing into the role as the one who ultimately has to decide which setting is the right one for you
Wow! It’s huge and you can do it! You already have many of these skills – when you start feeling overwhelmed use your skills in finding resources and in self-care to inform and support you. It is your show-be sure to use a supporting crew.
It’s happening again – the craziness of college “rankings,” the undercurrent of tension about who’s getting in where…You can barely turn around without hearing the latest information about the “hottest schools.” US News and World Report, Kaplan/Newsweek, on television, and on the radio…(though I have to say that I liked National Public Radio’s pieces on the topic).
Time to take a deep breath!
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