Ask the Consultant: Should I go Greek?

Deciding whether or not to join a fraternity or sorority can be tough, especially at colleges and universities where rush occurs in the fall of the freshmen year. You’ve barely stepped foot on campus when you’re asked to choose your BFFs for the next four years! (And they are choosing you). It’s like applying to college all over again!

So here are a few pros and cons to think about when deciding whether or not to go Greek.

PRO: Being in a fraternity or sorority can make a big campus feel smaller. In high school, did you have a tight-knit group of friends that hung together most of the time? Then Greek life may be a great transition to college.

CON: It’s expensive! Each semester there are dues to pay as well as fees for parties, formals, and swag.

PRO: If you join for the right reasons, not just for the parties, Greek life can be an excellent way to develop leadership skills and cultivate a network of alumni. Your LinkedIn is gonna’ explode!

CON: It’s time-consuming! Do you have high aspirations for a higher level degree? Something like medical or law school that screen by college GPA? Studies have shown that student’s GPAs drop while pledging a Greek organization.

PRO: All Greek organizations are philanthropic — some more than others. Are you a giver? You could find a niche!

CON: Hazing! Unfortunately, every pledging season brings stories of tragedy. Usually, these hazing deaths are the result of binge drinking. Do your homework before you join!

The Pros and Cons of the Summer College Campus Visit

teenagers-with-car_rY5IWBCBs.jpg

It’s already August, and you still have more colleges campuses to visit than you can possibly see in the fall before applications are due.  Plus, the fall semester is going to be challenging with that rigorous senior course load you have planned, and you don’t want to take too much time off.  What’s a rising senior (and their family) to do? 

Our advice is to use the few days you have available in the fall to see the leading contenders on your list and to use some time in the remainder of summer to visit others, if possible.  Campuses are generally much quieter in the summer months, but there may still be some students around doing research or other projects.  There is still great value in taking in the layout and feel of the campus, its location, the information presented in an Information Session and by the student tour guide and admission people are usually available to answer questions.  Additionally, it is often a great time to schedule an interview. You will get credit for demonstrating interest – provided you check in with Admissions - which some colleges weigh in their deliberations for admission. 

You may not get a solid read of the campus culture as you tour the quieter summer campuses, but you will get a sense of the place.  Note that start times for fall semester vary greatly, so check the academic calendar online at each institution – you may see more students than you expect with late summer visits as some college students may already be making their way back to campus.  It’s nearly impossible to see every campus during the school year, so it may be inevitable that you will have to compromise and visit a few in the summer! 

Entering High School? Plan Ahead!

Are you about to enter high school?  There are a few things to think about as you consider your course selection and look ahead.  One of the top factors that admissions people use to gauge a student’s competitiveness for acceptance is the rigor of the courses that the student took in high school.  Receiving all As in level 2 or college prep classes is not considered as competitive as earning As and Bs in level 1, honors, AP or IB courses.  You should aim high and challenge yourself to the best of your ability in high school.  

It’s never too early to map out your high school courses thoughtfully. 

Colleges want students who work hard, who participate and engage in their academics and broader school community.  They especially want students who demonstrate drive and a good work ethic.  So, when you’re debating between that easier class and one that may challenge you, think about how you want to position yourself for your future.  It may seem far off now, but the years will fly by, and you’ll be considering your options for after high school sooner than you think.  Be sure you plan well.

SAT Subject Tests: What is a good score?

June SAT subject tests just came out, and with the release of the scores often comes the question, “Is my score good enough to send?”

Most students that take SAT subject tests do so because they are applying to the most selective colleges and universities. As a result, they also tend to score well. A 770 on the US History exam places you in the 90th percentile. A 780 on the Math Level II subject test only puts you in the 71st!

As a rule of thumb, we like to say that a submittable score should equate to the selectivity of the institution to which you are applying. They have a 10% acceptance rate - your SAT subject test scores should be in the 90th percentile to be considered excellent. A 5% acceptance rate, better be in the 95th!

Yes, we know — those are some pretty high thresholds!

Top Ten Things to Pack for College

welcome-mat_zkiHX1C_.jpg

1. Carrying case for toiletries.  You will probably have to share a shower, and it may be far down the hall.  You will need something to carry your shampoo, soap, toothpaste, etc. And make sure it has holes for drainage. 

2. Earplugs. Even if your roommate says that they only snore “on occasion,” earplugs are a good idea to have on hand. 

3. Extension cords, flash drive and surge protector.  College dorm rooms are notorious for having only one outlet in the most inconvenient place possible. 

4. Over the door hangers, adhesive hooks, and poster putty.  There never seem to be enough places to hang things, so be creative.  And don’t forget the poster putty to cover those cinder block walls.

5. Crates, under the bed boxes and other storage containers.  A well-organized dorm room can be the key to success – and to a happy roommate.  

6. Air fresheners.  Don’t be “The Stinky Room.”

7. Lamps.  One single ceiling light will not be enough.  Make sure you have a good desk lamp (but not halogen since most colleges now ban them) as well as a lamp for your bedside.

8. Foul weather gear.  The weather may be unpredictable – don’t forget an umbrella and a rain jacket; snow boots; and a fan! 

9. First aid kit.  Band-aids, cold medicine, tweezers, antiseptic, antibiotic ointment, aloe vera gel, etc. 

10. Coat hangers.  The most commonly forgotten item!!

Congratulations Class of 2019… and get packing! 

Get a Job!

You earn more than extra spending money!

You earn more than extra spending money!

So what’s your plan for the summer? Lab intern? Hospital volunteer? Teen tour of Asia? SAT prep class? Spending some time at the beach?

What we hear less and less is, “I’ve got a job!” So maybe that is why the admission officers that we talk to say that they are impressed when a student spends their summer pumping gas, bussing tables, landscaping, or working the drive-thru.

Why? Because it shows that the student isn’t afraid to roll up their sleeves. And that is an important attribute to possess. Having a summer job demonstrates a strong work ethic, good people skills, and the understanding of the value of a dollar. And those are just the things that will make you a successful doctor, or lawyer or investment banker in the future!

The One Thing You Need to Keep in Mind When Starting Your College Essay

dsc-5160-782.jpg

Well-meaning professionals, parents, and teachers, and even their peers, pepper college applicants with advice full of don’ts. “Don’t write about the death of your grandparent.” “Don’t write about summer camp.” “Don’t write about your mission trip.” “Whatever you do, don’t write about catching the winning touchdown.” But the truth of the matter is that I’ve read some wonderfully poignant college essays about summer camp, grandparents, and mission trips. Why?

Because your topic doesn’t matter.

That’s right! Stop putting so much pressure on yourself to choose the perfect topic, to avoid the cliche, to be incredibly unique! If your essay is really, truly about you, it will be unique enough.

Our approach to the essay starts with the student, not the topic. What is it important that college’s know about you? From there, a theme surfaces. If a story about your mission trip to Honduras would be just as impactful if it happened in your backyard, it is a story about you. If not, it’s a story about Honduras. Use your theme as a jumping off point to delve more deeply into what makes you tick.

So regardless of what you choose to write about, make sure that you know why you are writing about that particular event or person. The best thing you can do to brainstorm the college essay is to look in the mirror and be self-reflective. You don’t need a “catch,” all you need is you!

Federal Loan Interest Rates Are Decreasing

graphicstock-image-of-crayons-and-red-apple-against-blackboard_HaQHZBR14b.jpg

Recent high school graduates have reason to celebrate.  Along with the milestone of attaining high school diplomas, students have the good fortune of lower interest rates on their Federal Direct Student Loans.  This is the first student loan interest rate decrease in three years.  For the 2019-2020 academic year, the interest rate on undergraduate subsidized and unsubsidized loans will decrease from 5.05% to 4.529%.  The rate on the Parent PLUS loan will also decrease from 7.6% to 7.079%. Borrowers currently in college will be able to take advantage of the lower rates on loans issued on or after July 1, 2019.  Let the celebration begin.

Juniors: Why You Should Request Teacher Recommendations Now

graphicstock-image-of-crayons-and-red-apple-against-blackboard_HaQHZBR14b.jpg

Most colleges require applicants to supply one or two teacher recommendations, and often a counselor recommendation as well.  But it’s only April, and college applications won’t be due until the fall, or early in 2019, so you may think you have plenty of time to ask teachers for letters of recommendation to include with your college applications. However, keep in mind that some teachers limit the number of recommendations they will write as they usually do them on their own time, sometimes over the summer if they have requests from juniors in advance.  

Ideally, you should choose two teachers from your junior year. They should be from different subjects; the ideal is one from math or science and one from social studies or humanities. But if you have other ideas, check with the colleges themselves to see what their requirements are.

So, now is the time to ask the two teachers who know you best if they would be willing to write a recommendation for you!  Get on their list and check that off your “to do” list for college application preparations. It’s an easy task to take care of now and important to help ensure that your application is as strong as it can be.