High School Seniors: Are You Stuck Between Two Dream Schools?

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Your admissions letters are in, and the great news is that you’ve been accepted to your two dream schools. But how to choose? With so much on the line and four or more years to look forward to, picking the right college for you matters. This guide will help you make the hard choice without seconding guessing yourself.

 

Step 1: Make a Pros and Cons List

It’s an old trick, but a pro/con list really can help you sort through all those feeling just below the surface. Maybe one school has professors you love and a gourmet cafeteria while the other is a little too far from home. Count up the pros and subtract the cons. Whatever has the highest number wins. Plus, weighing each of these against one another in list form can help you see each of your options outside the flashy brochures.

 

Step 2: Visit Again

It’s not always possible, but if distance isn’t a factor, take another tour of the college. This is especially a great idea to do in the winter when the school isn’t full of flowering trees and students in shorts going to tons of college sponsored activities. If you still have those warm and fuzzy feelings, it’s true love. If you start to find faults on second viewing, it might not be worth it.

 

Step 3: Get Linked to an Alumni

Many schools love hooking you up with access to a recent alumni or graduating students. This person can be a great sounding board on if they think you’ll be a good fit culturally with the school. The trick is to ask for honesty, and you’ll get it. It may take awhile to build up this relationship, but it’s worth it for the valuable input.

 

Step 4: Go Off-Campus

While your schools may be relatively the same, the towns or cities that they are in may be the deciding factor. First, really think about what you love or hate about where you are now. Is city life for you or would you do better in a countryside with loads of nature? In addition, check to see how your school interacts with the town. Good town-and-gown relations is really important for students who want to fit in or explore.

 

Step 5: Check the Cold Hard Facts

Some schools win you over with beautiful campuses and awesome tour guides, but the real deal is in the numbers. How many students complete and graduate the program in four years? What is the job placement rate? How is school safety? All this data should be readily available if you ask an admissions counselor or advisor. If they’re less than forthcoming, be wary.

 

Step 6: Compare the Tuition Costs

It’s no secret that college tuition costs will follow you around for years after graduation in the form of student loans. Most dream schools are just not worth this price tag when another offers you competitive scholarship programs or comes at a lower cost. If money is a concern or at least a factor, your financial aid package should settle the score.

Reflecting on Senior Year: Planning for the Next Steps

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Reflecting on Senior Year- Planning for the Next StepsIf you’re anything like me, you’re about to start your last semester of college — and you’re totally freaking out about it. I know my last semester will likely be the most exciting one yet. I’ll be finishing up my year as the Online Media and Communications Coordinator for the St. Michael’s College Founders Society — a role that I’ve truly enjoyed taking on so far — and I’ll be writing a book for my senior research project as a Media Studies, Journalism and Digital Arts major. By the end of the semester, I’ll have graduated from my dream college a smarter, wiser, stronger person and I couldn’t be more thankful.

And as excited as I am to be embarking out into the “real world” soon thereafter, a lot of stress and pressure tend to accompany the idea of taking the “next step”. As I start preparing for this myself, here are a few of the tips and tricks I’ve found helpful and hope you will as well…

 

1.) Update and/or beef up your resume and LinkedIn profile.

As crazy as it sounds, you’ll be applying for real world jobs soon. Make sure you’re putting your best foot forward and effectively representing your accomplishments and professional identity.

2.) Keep an open mind.

If you’re one of those college students who doesn’t have an exact idea of what they might want to pursue post-grad, you are certainly not alone. I’m right there with ya. As you’re searching around for job opportunities, keep an open mind about where you’re looking and for what. Chances are you won’t find your perfect, lifelong career straight out of the gate. It may turn out that the career you’d always thought you wanted isn’t all it was cracked up to be, and another one is everything you’d ever hoped for. Leave your options open.

3.) Make an appointment with your college’s Career Services center. 

Get professional advice on every step of the process- resumes, job applications, interviews, what to look for, what to avoid, etc. This person won’t have any personal relation to you, so he or she won’t have any preconceived bias or preference on where you end up and what you end up doing.

4.) Confide in your friends.

Talking with friends of your’s who are also graduating can be helpful as well. They’re going through the same stresses, experiencing the same anxiety and confusion, and have the same questions that you do. Take comfort in knowing this is a step we all take. Four years in college doesn’t guarantee it will be easy, but it will guarantee that you are prepared to go through everything it takes to find your first post-grad job.

Best of luck!

 

What are your post-grad hopes and dreams? How will you get yourself there?

Coming Prepared For Your College’s Networking Events

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With Thanksgiving break having just come and gone along with several familial interactions, it’s getting to be that time — the time for seniors to start freaking out about entering “the real world” in just a few months’ time. There’s a chance your college is hosting some sort of career fair, career symposium, or another networking event. If you’re anything like me, you know you should probably be going to said events, but you just can’t seem to get past one itty bitty detail…how, exactly, does one network? 

It’s not your fault- you’ve been in class for the past three and a half years. Aside from a few discussions here and there about resumes and work-appropriate attire, chances are you haven’t had many networking etiquette chats.

Fortunately, there’s nothing to fear. Because turns out, networking really isn’t that much more than talking, eating, and maybe the occasional business card exchange. However, it’s the way you go about all of the above that could make or break a potential future LinkedIn connection.

1.) Know your own talking points.

How will you introduce yourself? What values and characteristics will be most effectively packaged up into an opening greeting that accurately conveys you as a professional?

2.) Know what to bring.

Something to write with, something to write on, copies of your resume, and a small stack of business cards if you have them. That’s pretty much it.

3.) Know what you’ll ask.

Not only will it be crucial to ask questions that you have about your own goals and aspirations, but it will also be key to ask others about themselves in your interactions throughout the event.

4.) Know that everyone is in the same boat.

While it may be easy to stand in the corner with your plate of hors d’oeuvres, networking will only be as beneficial as you make it. So go ahead, shake a few hands and make a little small talk. Worst case scenario, you’ll end the night having met some new people. Best case scenario, you make connections that could help you down the road in ways that you couldn’t possibly conceive right now.

Have fun and be yourself! Happy networking!

Move-in Series: 1 Month Out (aka Grind-time)

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Move in series 2

We’re back again with our Move-in Series. For those of you unfamiliar with the series, we are providing a step by step guide for high school grads preparing to move into the residence halls. Now that we’re a month away from move-in day, it’s time to knuckle down and take care of business. Follow the eight steps below to make the most of your time at home!

Step 1: Shopping Online

You still have plenty of time to order online and have things shipped before move-in day. Remember to stick to your budget, and pick out a dorm-room style that really speaks to you. Tip: don’t leave this till the last minute! You don’t want to end up settling for a last minute in-store purchase of something essential like your bedding or rug. Also, make sure you know how long items will take to ship in order to keep everything organized.

Be sure to check out OCM for the best deals and giveaways. Enter to win OCM’s Room Goals Instant Win Giveaway and stay tuned for future giveaways! Our blog and social media pages will keep you in the loop with all of the new products as well as college life advice.

Step 2: Professional Tasks

If you’re working a summer job, it’s almost time to put in your two weeks’ notice. Don’t wait until the last couple of days to quit your job. Leave on a good note so that you have a reference to put on your résumé – because perhaps you want to come back next summer and work again. Either way, make the right choice and give at least two weeks’ notice.

The next task is to build or update your résumé. A strong résumé should reflect your academic and professional achievements. You are bound to make connections in college both personally and professionally. So keep that résumé up to date; you won’t regret it! Take a look at our blog for more résumé help and advice.

Step 3: Network

Want to avoid that awkward silence when you first meet your roommate? Reach out to your roommate via text or social media. Before you get lost in conversation about who knows what, be sure to ask them about their plans for move-in day. Matter of fact, there are 11 essential questions that you need to ask. You’ll be spending a lot of time together over the course of the next year or two, so get friendly!

Talk to them about the serious stuff too. Let them know if you have any sort of medical condition in advance – that way, if something were to go wrong, they will know how to help.

Also, don’t be scared to reach out to your fellow classmates! You’re not the only one going off to college for the first time. You’re all in this together so make the most of it. It’s always comforting to see friendly faces in a new environment.

Step 4:  College Life

Do you want to be a part of Greek life? Are you interested in joining a club? Looking for inexpensive places to eat on campus? Start researching places to go and things to do before you arrive. Familiarize yourself with the school’s social media pages. That way, you can stay up to date with all the events going on around campus!

Make a list of things you want to get done freshman year. This is your time to explore, meet new people, and experience all that college life has to offer. Be adventurous and go outside of your comfort zone! Most importantly, don’t let this year pass you by. Perhaps you’ve always wanted to rock climbing — so do some research, pick a date, and take a new friend!

Step 5: Practice Makes Perfect

Let’s be honest, no one likes doing laundry. But you’re going to have to do it in college so you better practice while you’re at home. Continue to hone these skills that you will need to live on your own.

And with one month left, it’s time to take a hard look in the mirror. Take a minute and do a self-evaluation. Are you a messy person? How well do you get along with others? Keep in mind you will be sharing a room with someone new. Don’t be that messy roommate who forgets to do the dishes or take out the trash. Identify your bad habits, and work on breaking them while you still have time!

Step 6: Make a Quick Buck

As you sort through your belongings, put aside items that you no longer need. Sell these items online to make some quick cash. However, make sure you don’t sell off items that you plan on using after college, such as furniture. Consider selling old electronics, clothes, sports gear, and other items you might not need.

Now’s also a good for a short-term, part-time job like dog walking or babysitting. Check local listings and put up flyers around town. You may be surprised at just how profitable this type of work can be.

Step 7: Family & Friends

Don’t forget to spend time with those closest to you! Ask your family to go out for dinner. Plan a road trip with your friends. Whatever you do, make sure you spend some quality time with your family and friends! You might not be seeing them as much once you leave for school, so now’s the perfect time to spend time with them before the big move.

Step 8: College Registration & Other Deadlines

Have you kept up with all the due dates and deadlines for college registration? Keep in mind that scholarships and financial aid may take time to process and require you to manually log-in and accept any rewards. Don’t miss out on potential financial aid or a work study grant because you missed the acceptance deadline! Set reminders and check your college email daily. Take care of any paper work and send it in – you won’t want to be stuck doing this the first week of school.

Keep updating your class schedule as move-in day draws closer. Not sure what classes you should register for? Reach out to an academic adviser for assistance or reference your degree requirements. Figure out what times and professors work best for you. There are plenty of websites that rate professors so check those out before committing to a three-hour night class with one professor. Make sure you plan around your athletics and/or club activities. You might also want to consider scheduling a rest day to break up the week. It will help cut down on stress and can act as a great time to study or catch up with friends.

The Pros and Cons of Taking a Gap Year Before College

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Gap Year

When word broke that U.S. President Obama’s oldest daughter Malia was heading off to college, the world went nuts. But it wasn’t just because she was following her dad’s footsteps and going to Harvard. It was because she announced she would be taking a gap year before attending. Gap years, which are very common in Europe and South America, is time taken off between graduating high school and going to college. It usually lasts a year or two, and like the decision to go back to school right away, has some major pros and cons. Here’s what you should consider if you’re thinking of following Malia’s lead.

Pros of Taking a Gap Year

Take a Break

Let’s start with a question: After eight years of elementary school and four high school, how do you really feel? You’re almost certainly stressed, tired, and not really “in” it. That’s what gap year is for! It’s all about taking time for yourself to refresh your batteries and put the brakes on the formal learning process.

Explore

Gap years can also be informative. In Europe, most students use this time to travel and see the world. If gap year is for you, consider saving up for a backpack adventure with a friend or a road trip around the United States. You may find a whole side of life you never knew was out there — and you won’t have to wait four years to do it.

Give Back

It’s also customary to use a gap year to volunteer. Take on a big project locally or travel abroad to go really large with your giving. Making a difference while you kick back looks amazing on a resume or college application.

Save

But if volunteering isn’t for you, start your career early with an entry-level position. Save this income to pay off the next few year’s tuition in advance. You’ll thank yourself when your friends get their first student loan bills in the mail.

 

Cons of a Gap Year

It’s Complicated

Most schools in the United States are still not used to gap schools and are not in the position to give you an admissions answer a year in advance. You may have to do over the application process again or, if possible, ask for deferred admission.

Being Behind Schedule

Your friends will graduate before you. They’ll likely get jobs before you as well or move out of the house earlier. If you’re worried about missing out on those experiences or sticking with the normal timeline, a gap year isn’t for you.

You Might Not Want to Go Back

This is where it helps to know yourself. If you’re not that motivated to go to college (but need to anyway for your career), taking a gap year can be dangerous. At worst, it can take away the incentive to go back to school. Sometimes taking time off can cause us to procrastinate or help obstacles and distractions, such as a decent paying job, get in our way.

You’ll Need to Explain

While it most likely won’t happen, a future interviewer may notice the gap between college and a job. It may also come up when re-applying for school. However, you can always show the pros above to convince them that this was the plan for you and that you made the most of your gap year.

High School Students: What Does it Take to Get Into College?

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Getting into College

It may be summer, but as a high schooler, you probably have one thing on your mind: getting into your dream college. However, dreaming about your acceptance letter is just one part of the equation. Planning and working towards that stellar application requires a lot of work and foresight — and it begins today. These tips will help you prepare by showing you what it takes to get into college.

 

High School Students: What Does It Take to Get Into College?

Grades

If you want to get into a good school, you’re going to need to show them what you’re made of by bringing along an excellent report card. That doesn’t mean just passing; it means achieving. The more prestigious the school, the better grades in the tougher classes will be expected.

If you had a bad semester or you just can’t seem to ace your math courses, don’t sweat it too hard. College admissions counselors don’t solely weigh your GPA. They also want to see that if you failed, you managed to pick yourself up again.

Test grades matter as well, though not as much as you may think. While many colleges advertise an average ACT or SAT score, the numbers are usually just a guideline. Other activities and application materials will be weighted, too.

Activities

Most colleges want to bring on students that have school pride, are involved, and have ambitions outside of class. Activities can be a way of showing off your well-roundedness. Now is the time to sign up for Spanish Club or to try out for cheer leading.

If you’re an athlete, getting into college on a sports scholarship is a whole other monster. You’ll want to talk to your coaches as soon as possible about how to attract the right admissions counselors to see you play. If you’re planning on going into the arts, you’ll need to start building your portfolio, brushing up on your auditions pieces, or videotape performances. This will give you something to show when admissions season comes around.

Volunteerism and Work

Volunteering regularly in your community isn’t a requirement to get into college, but it can set you apart from the crowd. And it doesn’t take much at all! You can do little things like participating in a monthly park cleaning day or something much larger like organizing a coat drive at your school. Find a cause or issue that matters to you and get to work. Colleges like to see that you are driven to make the world a better place.

A second option/alternative to volunteering is to actually going out and get a job. Universities love to see future students take on adult-sized responsibilities like building a resume. Plus, as a bonus, you’ll start saving for school even earlier.

The Application

Finally, none of this would be evident to your college admissions advisor without that dreaded application. All colleges have a form of this with their own deadlines and admissions periods. Our advice is to focus in on a few key items: when early admissions applications are due, how many recommendation letters you need and how they must be sent in, and what (if any) essay(s) you need to complete.

Early admissions is a great way to show how serious you are about your school choice, but early admissions applications means getting everything ready way in advance of the normal application process. This means planning your recommendations (contacting, reminding, confirming) and completing your essay (writing, editing, re-reading). By planning out your application, as well as your qualifications, in advance, you can ensure you’re on target to get  accepted to your ideal college.

The Perks of May Graduation

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Can you feel it in the air? Spring is finally here! The weather is warmer, the days are longer, and your classes are finally wrapping up. And if you’re a senior, you probably have only one thing on your mind: GRADUATION! Having a commencement celebration this time of year is the best. Graduating in May is, hands down, one of the best times to put on your cap and gown. With so many opportunities to celebrate with friends and family as well as work on your future, you’ll be spending your summer on a graduation high.

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  1. The Weather

No list about May graduation could be complete without first mentioning the best perk of graduating at the end of Spring — the warm, beautiful weather! For most campuses, this means outdoor celebrations and ceremonies. Instead of being cooped up inside a gym or indoor stadium, you get the fresh air, warm breezes, and thousands of extra smiling faces to join you at your ceremony.

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  1. The Style

If you haven’t already, it’s time to go shopping for your graduation outfit! In fact, you might want two — one for under your gown and another to change into if your family and friends are throwing you an additional party. You’ll want something light, breezy, and colorful. Unlike winter grads who may have to graduate in snow boots and parkas, spring grads have much more style options to work with!

 

  1. The Jobs

Outside the actual graduation part, you’re probably also focused on landing your first job. While it may be discouraging to know that you’re one of many, that numbers game can actually help you. Major employers – especially in the business world – purposefully wait to hire in the late Spring through early Fall in anticipation of bright, driven graduates (like yourself) coming into the job market.

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  1. The Vacation

If you’re still soul searching about that first job or your future path, don’t stress! Because you are graduating in the summer, you may be able to take the next few months off as a “vacation” from school — and all that pressure. Use it to go see the world, volunteer in your community, or take on an internship (believe it or not, they do exist for graduates). You may never know what a little vacation can do or inspire you.

  1. The Parties

Ending the undergraduate stage of your life can be a mixed bag of emotions. Sure, you’re excited to have accomplished something so big and amazing, but leaving the comfort of campus can be downright depressing. This is especially true if you’re saying goodbye to your best friends and classmates. A party is the perfect way to cap off your college career, and there’s no better time to have one then in May when you can take it to the beach, make it a BBQ, or set up a fire pit. Grab your summer themed foods and drinks and your best friends and make it a night to remember forever!