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Countdown to college: Stray from the cliché

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What do colleges want to know about you? That's a good place to start when you're brainstorming your college essay.

You know colleges don't want you to tell your life story in 500 words. But you keep pestering yourself, wondering: "What should I tell them?" Think about things you've done in high school, activities you've ...Read more

Countdown to college: Freshman survival skills — beyond COVID-19

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Don't be one of those college students that ends up on the evening news because they didn't take the pandemic seriously. Listen to the doctors and school administrators about dealing with COVID-19.

Today's column is about dealing with surviving the social and academic pressures of freshman year. While the initial adjustment period is over, ...Read more

Countdown to college: Think twice before submitting Early Decision

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Before you hit "submit" for that Nov. 1 Early Decision (ED) deadline, consider this:

Early Decision is binding. That means that if you are accepted, you must go. That's a great option if the college you're applying to is your dream school and you are 100 percent certain you can see yourself on its campus next fall. But, if you're ...Read more

Countdown to college: Returning home after the big drop-off

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Parents of budding college freshmen are feeling pride and angst these days - very likely more angst than pride, as families drop off their students for a definitively nontraditional college experience.

How many recent Facebook posts have you seen where parents shared their mixed emotions as they dropped their children off at college for the ...Read more

Countdown to college: The three types of essays — the good, the bad and the risky

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If they made a movie about nailing the perfect admissions essay, the title might be "The Good, the Bad and the Risky."

The Risky

Let's start with the risky. One of the favorite stories from admissions officers is a response to an open-ended essay prompt: "Ask yourself a question and then answer it." Here's what one bold...Read more

Countdown to college: Application mistakes to avoid

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College applications are out; let the careless errors begin.

A sloppy college application, while one of the easiest missteps to avoid, is probably among the most common mistake applicants make.

Here are pitfalls that you can easily prevent:

- A silly email address. If your student created their email address in the second grade and it ...Read more

Countdown to college: Helping teens deal with COVID-19 anxiety

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When our world changes suddenly, it's common to experience changes in our thoughts, feelings and behaviors. Feelings of anxiety, fear or worry are typical in stressful situations. Everybody is anxious. The COVID-19 pandemic has stressed everyone out. Between a fear of contracting or spreading COVID-19 to financial issues to a lack of social ...Read more

Countdown to college: Freshman essentials

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In the old days, a roll of quarters for the washer and dryer was considered essential. Today, with enhanced technology, most laundry rooms take credit or debit cards, and many even text students when it's time to transfer the wash to the dryer. So, while some packing details are different, much remains the same ... just with updates.

Beyond ...Read more

Countdown to college: How will colleges evaluate applicants in the Covid era?

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The playing field has essentially been leveled. Students aren't attending elite summer university programs, conducting research, participating in community service projects or mission trips, traveling to distant lands or growing in life-changing outdoor programs. Let's be real: They also aren't competing in sports, debating, tutoring, ...Read more

Countdown to college: What does 'fit' really mean?

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(NOTE: Lee Shulman Bierer is taking the week off. This is a "classic" column of hers from 2010 with advice that still applies today.)

It's the buzzword you keep hearing. It's the question you keep asking: "Is this college a good fit?" But what does "fit" really mean?

I break the fit concept into three major ...Read more

Countdown to college: Essay brainstorming can be a tough task

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Summer is a great time to ponder deep thoughts, and right about now rising seniors should be pondering their college essays.

The essay is the best opportunity for students to set themselves apart in the college application. Their grades through junior year are set, and while they may be able to improve their test scores in the fall, it's the...Read more

Countdown to college: Dare to be different

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If I could only give every family one piece of advice about college admissions and the college application process it would be this: Dare to be different.

Be different from the beginning.

Don't wait like so many other people until the summer after junior year - or even worse, the fall of senior year - to begin this process. Starting early ...Read more