Prep Talk Blog > February 2009

Truth: You never have to think about college at all. If you don't want to explore a lifetime of increased career opportunities, higher earning potential, elevated standards of living, and better health insurance benefits or learn more about yourself before joining the "9 to 5" grind, then you can delay thinking about college forever.

If you want a chance to actually "get in" to the college that is right for you, then training should begin much earlier. For great tips tailored to your high school grade, click here!

Top reasons to think about college NOW rather than later:
  • The students that want to go to your future college are already gearing up.
  • You have to know what it takes to win admission so that you can adequately prepare.
  • There are over 3500 college and university options out there! You owe it to yourself to explore the ones that would be the best fit for you.
  • Building a relationship with college admissions officers takes time.
  • College costs are all over the board. You have to come up with a "paying for college" strategy that will actually allow you to attend and afford to stay in.
  • Beyond competing for acceptance, you also have to compete for financial aid and scholarships. Need-based aid is often "first come; first served" and merit aid often goes to the early bird with the best qualifications. Don't miss the "college aid" bus and be left holding the whole tuition bill.

My advice: Take your college future seriously and train like you would for any other major competition with a big prize. How you handle your college search and where you end up enrolling could set the stage for your adult life. If you are a freshman or sophomore, determine how you are going to take the most advanced high school courses that are available. Start exploring colleges that interest you and don't get bogged down with choosing a major or where you will finally enroll. You can be proud of yourself for taking an active role in exploring and planning your college future!

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Good news for Skypers and instant messengers, college admissions officers are increasingly interviewing students over the internet.

The Washington Post reports that these webcam interviews are gaining popularity as colleges are trying to reach prospective students online. Although the online interview is an emerging trend with just over 200 colleges currently on Skype, more colleges are expected to join the video chat space over the next few years. As a high school student, you are in an excellent position to start sharpening your interviewing skills now!

Whether online or in-person, your college interview can be a huge factor in winning the hearts of college admissions officers.

Here are a few tips for how to prepare and present yourself for a college interview:
  • Focus on building a solid college resume to guide your interview and keep admissions officers focused on your application strengths and defining characteristics.
  • Look at your college resume and build a set of talking points that further describe how your years in high school and life experiences have prepared you to excel in college. Your talking points should guide your answers to common college interview questions.
  • Practice your interviewing skills with adult family members and friends who are accustomed to the job interview process. If you are conducting an interview online, you should "rehearse" online as well. During your online or offline "mock interviews" ask about your  level of enthusiasm and energy, body language, eye contact, posture, speech patterns, grammar and general presentation style.
  • Each time you practice your interviewing skills, have your coach score your performance.  When it comes time for the real thing, you will be confident that you have answered these questions before and will have your verbal and non-verbal communication styles well-refined.
  • For more college interview tips, check out this short video in the My College Options® Resource Center
Some extra advice: College is real life- not "Second Life"!  The tried-and-true steps in the college admissions process are still your roadmap to getting in to your future college.  Online resources and tools make the process much easier to navigate and you can explore thousands of college options with the click of your mouse. But- when it comes time to make "the big decision"- go see for yourself.  Campus tour videos and virtual communication tools, like online chat, are great ways to get a "big picture" view of a college from the outside in. But, if you are actually considering attending a college, you need to explo

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You've sent in all your college applications, but you're still waiting to hear back as to whether you are accepted or rejected. It's a difficult time, full of anxiety and curiosity, and it's hard to stay focused on school and other activities. After all, a simple "yes" or "no" will determine how you live the next four years of your life.   

The Professor's Guide at US News and World Report has recently created a list of 10 tips for staying sane while you're waiting to hear back from your prospective schools. Here is a summary of the excellent advice.

1. Check on the status of your application to ensure all the necessary components were received. Many schools allow you to look online and make sure they received everything, or contact the admissions office if you can't find out online. I can personally attest to the importance of double-checking; I didn't get into one college because they never received my transcript, and I didn't find out until too late since I never bothered to check.

2. Don't worry that you could have written a better essay or worked harder in a certain class. Instead of beating yourself up about what you've done so far, just relax and know that the ball is no longer in your court. 

3. Don't call the admissions office to find out if you were accepted or to ask why you haven't heard back yet; they won't be able to give you any information you don't already know.

4. Think about what will need to happen once you are accepted or rejected and plan ahead. Create a plan in case you don't get into your school of choice, and remember to get started on your FAFSA. 

5. Write notes or emails to personally thank everyone who helped you in the application process, including guidance counselors, teachers who gave you recommendations, and friends who proofread your essays. 

6. Prepare yourself emotionally in case you are not accepted to your first choice school.

7. Write down all the positive things about the schools that are not your first choice. This way, if you don't get into your number one, you can easily recognize the pros of the other schools. 

8. Don't have a "poor me" attitude, and don't assume that the decision process is taking a long time because you didn't get in. It's also important to stay supportive of friends who find out they are accepted to schools before you do. 

9. Don't stress out over college admissions so much that you can't enjoy other exciting senior-year moments, such as prom and graduation parties.

10. Remember that transferring schools is always an option, so if you don't get into your school of choice right away, it doesn't mean that you will never have another chance to attend.

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Getting accepted begins with getting noticed!

I recently read a great article by Kerrie Troseth, a guidance counseling expert, on how to build a relationship with your future college admissions department. She recommends that students -- not parents -- make contact first. College admissions officers want to enroll students who are dedicated to pursuing their educations and who show dedication through "demonstrated interest".

So, how do you demonstrate your interest in a college? First, you need to do a little digging and find out why this college interests you.  Check out the college's website, read articles and blogs about the campus, and check out campus tour videos. Once you have a pretty good list of questions and topics of interest, you are ready to introduce yourself to the admissions officer.


How to get on the admissions radar:

  • Establish communication: This gets your file started!
  • Ask informed questions: Read through the college website and ask specific questions about the admissions process.
  • Establish a communication plan with the admissions officer: When should you call or email with additional information?
  • Request deadlines for the application and financial aid processes.
  • If the college admissions officer asks about your current high school courses, respond promptly. You should also ask for AP or Honors course recommendations.


If this college is becoming one of your top college picks, take action and schedule a campus visit.

  • Try to get a "custom tour" that focuses on your needs and interests, rather than a standard run-through.
  • Get a look into the facilities where you will be spending your time as a student (science labs for scientists, performance halls for musicians and actors, sports fields or courts for athletes, etc.)
  • Pay careful attention to dining facilities and their inhabitants. You need to know what you are going eat and who you are going to eat with for four years.
  • If you have your heart set on your future major, ask to meet with the department head and ask questions about your future field of study.
  • Tour all of the dorms and try to visit in the daytime and at night. Communal living is a new experience for most people and you need to see if you can thrive in this type of environment for four years!
  • When you find a college that may be right for you, see if you can participate in a summer program or camp by registering through the college.

As Kerrie mentions in her article, most high school students flood admissions offices with applications to colleges they have never even tried to contact before!

My advice: Stand up and get noticed early! Not only will you have a much better shot at "getting in"- you also have a much better idea about the college that you are getting into.

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Viewbooks are so yesterday. Today's generation is the web savviest class of college applicants yet, and paper-and-ink catalogs don't do the trick anymore. That's where Unigo.com comes in. Made by students for students, the website gives soon-to-be-collegegoers an authentic glimpse at what it's like to be on campus.

Most recently featured on Wired.com's The Hopkinson Report, Unigo.com is a young operation which relies only on students, not admissions officers, to supply its content. With student reps in colleges throughtout North America, the website uses its networks of current college students to survey their peers on everything from Greek life to quality of teaching to political attitudes. The lengthy responses are then posted in their entirety, with each college's profile page maintaining a collection of these surveys along with videos and photos of the school. Colleges themselves aren't allowed to edit their school page or post anything. The result? One of the most comprehensive college databases out there and possibly the most authentic in terms of representing the student voice.

For high schoolers researching potential colleges to apply to, reading up on schools on Unigo may be a good supplement to traditional approaches like attending information sessions or even visiting campuses. Instead of learning about universities through the one-sided views expressed in marketing materials or by tour guides, today's college applicant can log on and tune in to the latest videos, interviews, and photos from real students attending their schools of choice.


If they weren't irrelevant before, then viewbooks are now definitely a thing of the past.

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