by Lee Shulman Bierer for High School Counslor Week
“Yea, junior year is almost finally over, time for a vacation” is a frequently heard refrain in many households these days.
Yes, they absolutely deserve a break, but let me be the bad guy and tell them not to waste their summer away. Give them some “decompression time” where they can push aside their mathematical equations and US history dates and allow them to soak up a little sun with their accomplishments. While it’s important to rest and recharge the batteries, after a few days it’s time to regroup and get the upper hand on preparing for the fall’s college application process.
Here are three things students can and should be doing this summer:
- Build, grow or shrink your college list. By summer’s end, you will want to have a finalized college list. Getting there will depend on where you’re at in the process and how much time and energy you’ve invested to date. Some of you have already visited some schools and many of you haven’t yet started. Dedicate the necessary time to creating a balanced list with reach, target, and safety schools. Spend time researching your schools by checking out: The academic fit – do they have majors that match your interests? The social fit – do you like the city/college town, the surrounding area, i.e., is there enough to do? The financial fit – are you likely to receive need-based or merit-based money? Then focus your summer campus visits on your target and reach schools. The rationale for holding off on visiting your safety schools is that you can check them out next spring if you aren’t accepted at any of your target or reach schools.
- Prepare your brag sheet or activities resume. Most every college application will require you to list your extracurricular activities, community service commitments, leadership roles, etc. Take the time to work on your own personal document. A neat, concise, well-organized brag sheet helps you communicate to a college that you are a serious applicant. It is a great way for you to share the variety of things you’ve done, contributions you’ve made to your high school and/or local community, and a wonderful jumping-off point for potential college essays. You can also give your brag sheet to your high school counselor and recommenders to help them prepare a more meaningful recommendation for you. If you have the chance to interview at a college or the opportunity to meet a college representative, having your brag sheet handy is a great idea.
- Get going on the applications. The Common Application with 800+ members (www.commonapp.org) opens on August 1, but many colleges open their applications earlier and allow students to register where they can obtain their user names and passwords. I highly recommend that you create a document that keeps track of each of the colleges’ direct links to their applications and your personal user names and passwords along with each college’s application deadline.
An interview is a chance for you to meet with someone who represents the college. It’s a great way to show your interest in the college, to start a relationship with people there and to show what you’re all about. Here are some types of questions you may encounter and tips for answering them.
Before Your Interview:
- Make an interview appointment with one of the colleges I want to attend.
- Mark the date and time on my calendar.
- Research the college by checking out its website, brochure, and course catalog.
- Make notes about why I want to attend this college.
- Make notes about my academic background and high school experiences.
- Make notes about my life outside the classroom, including activities, community service, and hobbies.
- Get familiar with common interview questions and do some practice interviews with a friend or family member. Take turns being the interviewee and the interviewer.
- Prepare questions about the school to ask the interviewer.
- Get directions to the interview.
- Choose appropriate clothes to wear for the interview.
- Gather documents I might need, such as test scores and my high school transcript.
During the Interview:
Interviewers may ask questions like these:
- Why do you want to attend our college?
- What can you contribute to our college campus?
Why they ask: They want to know that you’re really interested in their college. They also want to know what you can bring to the campus. Tip: Talk about what you’ve learned about the college and why you feel it’s the right place for you. (Remember that you have to research a college ahead of time to answer this type of question well.) Discuss your extracurricular activities and achievements that show your character.
- What three adjectives best describe you?
- What are your strengths and weaknesses?
Why they ask: They want to see that you can think and speak about yourself. Tip: Give examples of how your chosen adjectives describe you. Talk about how you’ve used your strengths to accomplish something. Talk about how you overcome your weaknesses. For example, you can say, “I have a hard time learning new languages, so I set aside more time to study them.”
- What activities do you find most rewarding?
- What is your favorite book?
- What do you want to do after graduating from college?
Why they ask: They want to get to know you better and learn about your aspirations and values. Tip: Think about the why: Why are those activities the most rewarding? Why is a book your favorite? If you have a major in mind, talk about why you’re interested in that subject. Discuss how you think college can help you meet your goals. Be sincere and honest in your answer — don’t say things just to impress the interviewer.
- If you had a thousand dollars to give away, what would you do with it?
- What’s your opinion on the immigration debate (or another topic in the news)?
- If you could change one thing about your school, what would it be?
Why they ask: They want to see that you are informed and curious and a careful thinker. Tip: Stay up-to-date on news and current events. Do you have strong opinions on certain issues? Can you explain your position? Try to spell out your system of values to yourself and think about how you apply it.
More college interview tips
- Have a conversation. Don’t try to memorize a script.
- Ask questions. Do express your interest in the college.
- Be yourself. Don’t try to answer questions based on what you think the interviewer wants to hear.
- Prepare. Do practice interviews with friends or family. Take turns asking questions.
After Your Interview:
- Make notes about the interview.
- File away any business cards with contact information that the interviewer and other admission staff offer.
- Send a thank-you note to the interviewer. Thank the person for his or her time and refer to something specific we discussed.
Need Interview prep? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Weil College Advising Team