Admissions counselors from colleges across the country are making the rounds at local and regional college fairs this Spring.
Sure, you can do most of your research online. But really, you should mark your calendar and visit a college fair.
High school students in New Jersey have three to chose from during the last week of April:
April 24th @Mercer County Community College 6-8PM
April 25th @Meadowlands in Secaucus 9AM-12 and 5-8PM
April 26th @Brookdale Community College 6:30-8:30PM
Or check out www.nacacfairs.org to find college fairs around the country
Why attend a College Fair?
It's a perfect opportunity for high school students and their parents to meet one on one with multiple college admissions representatives in one location.
Students can learn more about the colleges from counselors and faculty who attend the fair. They can ask questions about majors, class size, course offerings, campus life, and athletics. They can talk with admissions counselors about grades, GPA, standardized test scores and the all important college application essay requirements.
Students can narrow their list of prospective colleges, saving valuable time and resources.
What to bring?
Students should bring their list of schools.
They should bring printed labels with their name and address to leave with admissions counselors.
They should bring a positive attitude and be prepared to use the opportunity to network with admissions counselors at their "A" list schools.
When it's over?
Send a written thank you note to counselors at schools to which they plan to apply.
Juniors should start thinking about SAT/ACT prep courses, and definitely start thinking about essay ideas.
It's a done deal by now for some high school students. They have completed and submitted their college applications. For others, the deadlines are just around the corner. Most who are planning to apply for the 2018 Fall semester have started the essay process. And if not...let's get going on this.
The Final Draft Essay Process uses 6 Steps to complete the essay.
US News and World Report has published some tips to help students with the writing process from the former Director of Admissions at Stanford University and current Director of College Counseling at San Francisco University High School, Jonathan Reider.
Here they are:
1. Be concise. Even though the Common Application main essay has only a suggested minimum of 250 words, and no upper limit, every admissions officer has a big stack to read every day; he or she expects to spend only a couple of minutes on the essay. If you go over 700 words, you are straining their patience, which no one should want to do.
2. Be honest. Don't embellish your achievements, titles, and offices. It's just fine to be the copy editor of the newspaper or the treasurer of the Green Club, instead of the president. Not everyone has to be the star at everything. You will feel better if you don't strain to inflate yourself.
3. Be an individual. In writing the essay, ask yourself, "How can I distinguish myself from those thousands of others applying to College X whom I don't know—and even the ones I do know?" It's not in your activities or interests. If you're going straight from high school to college, you're just a teenager, doing teenage things. It is your mind and how it works that are distinctive. How do you think? Sure, that's hard to explain, but that's the key to the whole exercise.
4. Be coherent. Obviously, you don't want to babble, but I mean write about just one subject at a time. Don't try to cover everything in an essay. Doing so can make you sound busy, but at the same time, scattered and superficial. The whole application is a series of snapshots of what you do. It is inevitably incomplete. The colleges expect this. Go along with them.
5. Be accurate. I don't mean just use spell check (that goes without saying). Attend to the other mechanics of good writing, including conventional punctuation in the use of commas, semi-colons, etc. If you are writing about Dickens, don't say he wrote Wuthering Heights. If you write about Nietzsche, spell his name right.
6. Be vivid. A good essay is often compared to a story: In many cases it's an anecdote of an important moment. Provide some details to help the reader see the setting. Use the names (or invent them) for the other people in the story, including your brother, teacher, or coach. This makes it all more human and humane. It also shows the reader that you are thinking about his or her appreciation of your writing, which is something you'll surely want to do.
7. Be likable. Colleges see themselves as communities, where people have to get along with others, in dorms, classes, etc. Are you someone they would like to have dinner with, hang out with, have in a discussion section? Think, "How can I communicate this without just standing up and saying it, which is corny." Subtlety is good.
8. Be cautious in your use of humor. You never know how someone you don't know is going to respond to you, especially if you offer something humorous. Humor is always in the eye of the beholder. Be funny only if you think you have to. Then think again.
9. Be controversial (if you can). So many kids write bland essays that don't take a stand on anything. It is fine to write about politics, religion, something serious, as long as you are balanced and thoughtful. Don't pretend you have the final truth. And don't just get up on your soapbox and spout off on a sensitive subject; instead, give reasons and arguments for your view and consider other perspectives (if appropriate). Colleges are places for the discussion of ideas, and admissions officers look for diversity of mind.
10. Be smart. Colleges are intellectual places, a fact they almost always keep a secret when they talk about their dorms, climbing walls, and how many sports you can play. It is helpful to show your intellectual vitality. What turns your mind on? This is not the same thing as declaring an intended major; what matters is why that subject interests you.
If your son or daughter is still struggling with the essay, contact us at
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Let's face it, if you want to perfect a skill, you need to practice. You need to study, review and repeat. No surprise, it's all the same when it comes to good writing. Take a quick poll, and you will find that there aren't a lot of people who want to jump in and practice writing. More specifically, if you politely ask a young adult or teen to practice writing an essay, journal entry, letter, research paper, etc., you are likely to hear, "you're annoying."
Unfortunately, a lot of new research and studies show that quality, thoughtful writing has gone the way of the typewriter. According to the experts at the Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence and Educational Innovation at Carnegie Mellon University, writing is a complex intellectual task involving many component skills, some of which students may lack completely. Those writing skills include mechanics, grammar, sentence structure, and spelling. It involves planning a writing strategy, communicating ideas clearly and concisely, constructing a reasoned argument, using evidence and sources and organizing ideas effectively.
Who wants to do that, when "Generation I" is texting, tweeting, snapping in their own new social media language that hardly employs any of the aforementioned skills.
The reality is that our students need to practice to have a more sophisticated skill set when it comes to writing. They will be writing essays on standardized tests, essays in English, literature courses, history classes and science reports. And then, of course, there is the formidable college application essay, which has been called a "high stakes competitive writing task." If you have a high school senior, or know one, this is crunch time for quality writing, right now.
If we need to start somewhere, let's try this: let's get our students thinking about the fundamentals of grammar. It may seem overly simplified, but there is a subject, a verb, adjectives and adverbs to bring description and interest to the sentence. Let the sentences tell, talk, speak, inform and even entertain. Let the writer become a storyteller to engage the reader. If the writer is seeking to persuade, back it up with facts, with evidence, with sources.
Writing doesn't have to be an obstacle. We know our teens are capable of creating content. The best written work never happens without practice, research, imagination, creativity, editing and revision.
Here are some useful tips for parents to help their student become a better writer:
While we, as parents might feel, "They should know all this by now", it's never too late for anyone to improve their writing skills. It's worth the investment of your time as a parent, and their time, to improve as a writer.
As a mother of three, I am all too familiar with the challenges my children face when tackling a writing assignment.