BEE HAPPY: a message for graduating high school seniors

I was walking my dog this morning when the clouds darkened and we passed this fading chalk message at the elementary school crosswalk. BEE HAPPY. This sweet message would later be washed away by rain, but its worth should not be clouded.

Honeybees have simple goals, much simpler than those of college students, to collect nectar and make honey. Yet bees do not fly in straight lines to accomplish that goal. They fly in a spiraling and seemingly disordered manner. As a soon to be freshman, maybe you’re embarking on your college journey with concrete aspirations of your future career, or maybe you’ll move into your freshman dorm room without the slightest vision of what your future holds. In either case, your path will likely not take the shape of a straight line but will mirror the honeybee in its unpredictable twists. As you prepare for your departure to college and to your own unique path to what lies beyond, think about these 10 steps you can take to sweeten the experience and lessen the occasional sting.

1.     Embrace the Change: Go into it with a wide heart. It might sound hokey, but it makes a difference when you’re embarking on a brand new experience. Whether you’re 10 miles or 1000 miles from home, it will all be new and different. Go into it with open arms and absorb the newness. Much of it will soon become routine.

2.     Welcome Diversity: Your classmates will likely come from around the globe. Listen to their ideas. Even those with whom you disagree will help shape you into a deeper, more empathetic and insightful person.

3.     Be Positive About Your Roommate. Be respectful. He or she probably comes from a background very different from yours. Go into it aware of that. Your roommate might not be your best friend and that’s ok. You’ll have ups and downs, but if you respect each other’s differences and feelings, you’ll learn to navigate not just your freshman year but many experiences to come.

4.     Get Involved. Clubs, dorm activities, Greek life, intramurals. Go to your dorm movie night. Knock on your dorm neighbor’s door. Put yourself out there even if you’re shy.

5.     Seek Help if You Need it. Every school has resources on campus to help. Take advantage of them. If you find yourself feeling especially anxious or sad, schedule an appointment with the counseling center.

6.     Let someone know where you are if you leave campus or town.

7.     Talk to Your Professors. Visit office hours. Ask questions. Review your paper or exam or simply get help on confusing material.

8.     Manage Your Time. Don’t save your studies for the last minute. Even the smartest students in high school can’t get by with last minute cram sessions in college. There is just too much material to cover.

9.     Bring a Foam Mattress Pad. Let’s face it, no dorm room bed is as comfy as home, but a memory foam mattress pad truly helps.

10. Text Your Parents. You want them to BEE HAPPY too, right?




Not to be outpaced by many aspects of the college planning process, deferrals are changing shape. A few years ago, a deferral simply meant the school wanted a little more time to evaluate you against more applicants and see if you can bring anything new to the table in terms of grades, test scores or accomplishments.

While these things are still true in most deferral cases, there is a host of other reasons colleges defer candidates and it’s important to understand them to give yourself the best chance at the fat envelope in your mailbox this spring.

1. Colleges need to manage enrollment. In order to protect their yield (the percentage of accepted students who actually attend the school), colleges look for indications the student will say yes if selected.

·      Are you likely to attend if offered a spot? In non-binding early action programs, colleges know you might have lots of choices come May 1st. Have you given them reason to think they’re your number one?

·      Are you using their school as a “safety”? Some selective schools fear highly qualified candidates might be hoping for a yes from an uber-selective school. Are your stats well above the mid-50% for accepted students? If so, they need to know you're serious about them.

·      Did you apply binding ED somewhere else? Sometimes schools defer candidates to wait out the ED notifications to see who is still around. This is in keeping with the “safety” school explanation above.

·      How will you compare to the regular decision pool? Once the regular decision applications arrive, is your application more or less competitive?

2. Admission reps don’t have time to review all the applications. This is a harsh reality of college admissions today and if schools receive more applications than expected, they simply might not have time to review them all by the early deadline.

3. You are a quality candidate but your application did not stand out in a significant way. This is the most common explanation for deferrals and if you suspect this is you, you’ll need to take action quickly.

So What Can You Do? Follow This 6 Step Approach.

#1:  Call the admission office and ask them if they can provide you information on your deferral. Specifically, ask them WHY you’ve been deferred and what you can do to improve your case. Tell them you want to attend.

#2: Ask your school counselor to call the admission office. Your counselor can ask specifically why you’ve been deferred and can advocate on your behalf.

#3: If the school accepts them, sign up to take or retake subject tests to demonstrate proficiency in areas of strength, particularly if they correspond to your intended major. The last date to register for the January 23rd SAT Subject tests is January 12th.

#4: Email your regional admission representative about your desire to attend. Inform the rep of any new accomplishments, awards, news about yourself, good semester grades, especially in AP classes, updated test scores that didn’t make it on time.

#5: Visit the school if you haven’t yet. Tell the regional representative when you’ll be coming and ask if he or she will meet with you.

#6: Ask another senior year teacher to write a recommendation on your behalf.

Your fate might depend on statistics. The applicant pool might simply be stronger, larger, more geographically tilted toward your region, high school, gender or major. While you cannot control the competition, you can, and you MUST, take action to improve your chances.

The 2015-2016 Common Application - Debuting August 1st

The Common Application in Numbers

0: The names of colleges that other colleges can see you’ve applied to (if a college specifically asks this question, you are not required to answer)

1: The number of times you can submit an application to a particular school (once you’ve submitted, you cannot make revisions for that school)

2: The number of times you can revise your essay after submitting it the first time

3: The maximum number of essay versions you may create

5: The number of 2015-2016 Common Application essay prompts 

5: The maximum number of ACT test sittings you can report 

5: The maximum number of siblings you can report

5: The maximum number of “Honors” you can report

5: The maximum number of higher education institutions you are permitted to report each parent as having attended

6: The maximum number of AP Test Scores you can report (you can include additional scores and planned test dates in the Additional Information section)

7: The maximum number of senior year high school courses you can report

8: The fewest number of characters allowed in your password, which also must    include at least one uppercase and lowercase character.

10: The maximum number of activities you can include (you can add more in the Additional Information area of the writing section) 

20: The number of schools you may apply to via the Common Application 

50: The number of characters allowed for the name of the organization and your position/ leadership role for each activity you describe.

150: The number of characters allowed for the description of each activity and your accomplishments for that activity. 

500+: The number of member schools who accept the Common Application

650: The maximum number of words for your essay (aka personal statement)

Infinity: the number of times you can revise your application prior to submission to the first school. Also the number of times you can correct mistakes and make changes prior to submitting to the next school (not including the essay).

©2015 Midwest College Counseling, LLC. All rights reserved.

Hey u high schoolers, take note!! Ur future profs deserve respect!!!

Email Netiquette tips for college students

“Hey Professor,” or simply addressing your professor in an email with no salutation at all doesn’t sit well with most college professors. Start your college career off by demonstrating professional courtesy in your email correspondence.

1. Spell words out properly: you not u

2. Include a greeting: Professor Smith,

3. Include a signature: Thank you, Alison Jones

4. Before asking questions via email, refer to the course syllabus to find out if the information      you need is there.

5. Do not use explanation points, all CAPS, smileys, winks, etc.

6. Do not use overly familiar language

7. Email is forever. If you need to discuss a heated or emotional topic, meet with your professor       in person.

8. Use a professional, not decorative, font

9. Respect your professor’s time by keeping your email short and concise

10. Take a critical look at your email address and change it if necessary.          swaglaxer14@I' might not get you the respect you’re hoping to receive.

The College Interview: What you Need to Know and How to Ace it

If given the chance to interview at a school of interest, make sure to do so, even if the interview is optional. Interviews are an excellent way to 1. Express your interest in the college, 2. Allow alumni or admissions representatives to get to know you beyond your application, 3. Find out more information about the college.

College interviews are either Informational or Evaluative. Interviews are conducted on campus by admissions representatives or in the applicant’s hometown by alumni. Some colleges offer admissions representative interviews on the road as well. Colleges will indicate whether the interview is evaluative or informational.

Evaluative Interviews are a way for colleges to assess candidates. The interviewer will take notes that will be shared with the admissions committee and be part of the applicant’s file. Evaluative interviews often occur senior year or after you’ve submitted your application.

Informational interviews are usually held on campus during your visit and can occur earlier than senior year. These interviews are usually conducted by admissions representatives and are a chance for applicants to find out more about the school.  Some schools offer informational interviews conducted by alumni in the applicant’s hometown. While informational interviews are not labeled as “evaluative,” be prepared to make a good impression, as the interviewer may pass along his or her impression of you to the admissions committee. Information on scheduling interviews can usually be found under “visits” on the school website.

On campus interviews are usually conducted by an admissions representative. This person will frequently be the first reader of your application, so it’s important to make a good impression. Check the school’s admissions website to find out how to schedule. Most schools require the student to schedule the interview online or by phone during a particular window of time. Some schools offer limited interviews so be sure to sign up early in the process.

Alumni interviews take place in the applicant’s hometown by local alumni of the school. For most colleges, the interviewer will contact you after your application is submitted. It’s important to check the admissions website and your emails from the college carefully though because some schools require candidates to sign up for these interviews. In most cases, the interviewer will contact you via email (they receive your email from the school) and set up a time to meet at a coffee shop or some other location that is relatively close to your home.

PREPARE for your interview. It’s essential to do your background research on the school and present yourself as having done so. Researching the school in depth will help you develop a list of intelligent questions (those whose answers cannot be easily found on the website).  If the college requires you to apply to a particular school within it, say, the School of Education, then make sure you understand that and can speak intelligently about that requirement. Know how the college refers to your intended major: is it Business Management or Business Administration, and do they call it a “major” or a “concentration.”  Your interviewer will look to measure your interest level in the school so it’s important to show you care enough about the school to have researched it thoroughly.

WEAR something respectful and appropriate. Think “business casual” or something you would wear to an extended family dinner or to a presentation at school. Avoid sweats, revealing clothing, too much jewelry, but do let your outfit reflect your personal style.

BRING two copies of your resume – one for the interviewer and one for you to speak from. Be one hundred percent confident in speaking about everything on your resume. Remember a notebook and pen to take notes. Write your questions in your notebook to have handy during the interview.

ARRIVE early! Give yourself plenty of time for unexpected traffic or parking issues. You can always sit in the car and review your interview questions for a few minutes.

GREET your interviewer with a firm handshake and a smile. Remember, this person’s goal is NOT to make you feel uncomfortable. Chances are, your meeting will be pleasant and you’ll come away feeling confident.

ANSWER questions about yourself and your reasons for wanting to attend the college. If friends or classmates have interviewed with the school, ask them how it went and what to expect. Be prepared for the following:

  • Why do want to attend this college? 

  • What would you contribute to this school?

  • Tell me about yourself.  

  • What are you interested in studying? Why? 

  • What do you see yourself doing in the future? 

  • What outside activities are you involved in? 

  • What do you do in your spare time? 

  • What are your strengths? Use specific examples. 

  • What are your weaknesses? 

  • How would your friends describe you? 

  • What makes you different from most people you know?  

  • Who is the most influential person in your life and why?  

  • What challenges or obstacles have you overcome and what have you learned from them? 

  • What is your favorite book?

ASK questions that demonstrate your knowledge and genuine interest in the school. Prepare these questions ahead of time and write them in your notebook.

  • What is about this school that has made you so connected to it? (Appropriate for an alumni interview.) 
  • What things do think are unique about this school? 
  • How would you characterize the student body? 
  • What kinds of students do you see thrive at this school? 
  • What are your favorite aspects of your own educational experience (good to ask an interviewer who attended the school)? 
  • How does the school prepare students for medical school, law school, internships, etc.? What support services are available?
  •  How are advisors selected for students? How is housing determined for freshmen?
  • Ask specific questions about your program of interest (but make sure the answers can’t be easily found on the website).
  • ASK for the interviewer’s contact information


  •  Don’t bring your parents
  • Turn off your cell phone
  • Maintain eye contact
  • Smile
  • Sit up straight and act interested in what the interviewer is saying
  • Sound genuine, don’t simply recite what you’ve practiced
  • Speak slowly and clearly. Take your time and don’t be afraid to collect your thoughts before answering questions.
  • Keep the conversation going in lulls by asking your prepared questions.

FOLLOW UP after the interview with a hand-written thank you note. An email will suffice only if you don’t have the interviewer’s physical address. Thank the interviewer for meeting with you and reinforce your interest in the school. Note something specific from your conversation to help the interviewer connect to your meeting. The thank you note is an excellent way to demonstrate interest.

A Midwest College Counseling Student’s Wake Forest Interview Anecdote:

“I think it was the interview partially that helped me be sure that Wake was the place for me. I was lucky because I had a great interviewer who had recently graduated. It seemed like Wake cared about me more than schools that weren’t doing these in-person, on-campus interviews. He first asked me about where I came from: family, community etc. He asked me about my interests and what I had as far as a life plan thus far. Then we talked more about school. He asked me what my favorite class was, what my favorite general area of study was, and about my school itself. I was also asked about my favorite book and why, as well as my least favorite book and why. Then, finally, as one would expect, I was asked what attracted me to Wake and why I believe I would be a good student there. It was truly a great experience. Not once did I feel like some sort of suspect in a dark empty room with an interrogator pointing a lamp in my face. It felt like a conversation between friends, casual, yet substantial in content.”

Deferred? Time to Take Action

The dreaded deferral, not the decision any college applicant likes to receive. The good news is, the college decided you are a qualified candidate for admission and will review your file with the regular decision applicant pool. If you applied early decision, this decision means an acceptance from that college is no longer binding. Whether you applied early decision or early action, your application will be reviewed again. So, what should you do to improve your chances for acceptance?

1.    Check the college’s website for instructions for deferred students. If there is not an express plea to refrain from calling the admissions office, then do so. Tell them politely you’ve been deferred and ask if you can find out why. If the college is your first choice school, tell them.

2.   Read any letter or email the college has written you in its entirety for instructions. Some colleges require deferred candidates to let them know they wish to be considered in the regular decision pool or their application will be automatically denied.

3.    Write a letter outlining any major accomplishments since your application. Include your first quarter or first semester grades if they were good. Include any improved test scores if you have not sent them already or think they may not have arrived in time for your application review.

4.    Send the college your mid-year report as soon as it’s available. Send additional test scores if available.

5.    Email (and call) your regional representative. Ask why you’ve been deferred and what you can do to strengthen your application at this point. Attach your letter.

6.    Ask your guidance counselor to reach out to the admissions office on your behalf. Communicate any changes in your credentials to your counselor. Were you named a captain for your winter sport? Did you win a photography, art or DECA award? Were you named the lead in the school play?

7.    Ask another teacher or other person to send a recommendation. Make sure the new recommendation highlights qualities not previously communicated to the college. Ask your guidance counselor for help in ensuring the letter is unique since he or she has likely read your other recommendations. If the college is your first choice, ask the recommender to include that in the letter.

8.    Send supplemental materials if allowed by the college and if you have pertinent materials to send. A newspaper article highlighting an accomplishment, a video, writing sample, or addition to your art portfolio for example.

9.    Make a back-up plan. Take a close look at the remaining schools on your list. Reevaluate Early Decision 2 options. Plan to visit schools that you have not yet had an opportunity to see.

Liberal Arts Colleges vs. Universities

Liberal Arts Colleges vs. Universities

How do they really differ?

Degrees Offered

Universities and Liberal Arts colleges both offer BA (bachelor of arts) and BS (bachelors of science) degrees, but Universities award graduate degrees (masters and doctorates) as well. While some Liberal Arts schools do have graduate students, the focus at these colleges is on undergrads.


Liberal Arts colleges are usually much smaller than Universities. While there are exceptions, typical Liberal Arts schools have student bodies of 2,500 or so students and are frequently located in rural or suburban settings.

Choice of Major

In addition to offering a broad scope of majors, Universities frequently offer   pre-professional programs such as law, business and engineering. Liberal Arts schools offer a breadth of majors as well, but might offer one or two choices of majors within, say within the biological sciences, while a University might offer several additional choices. Liberal Arts schools do not traditionally offer pre-professional programs. The Liberal Arts focus is on critical thinking and lifetime learning skills and to that end, many schools have core curriculum requirements in the arts, humanities, social and natural sciences and mathematics.

Research Opportunities

Research is intrinsic to Universities. With more available funding and well-equipped facilities, research occurs on a large scale, frequently with faculty at the frontier of their fields. Opportunities for research can be more limited at the undergraduate level however, particularly in the first two years. Liberal Arts colleges often have more accessible opportunities for research, albeit usually much smaller in scope and variety.

Class Sizes

There’s no hiding in the back of a large lecture hall at a Liberal Arts college. Classes at Liberal Arts schools tend to be smaller and focus on discussion-based learning. Universities tend to offer larger lecture-based classes, especially during the first two years, with breakout discussion or lab groups taught by T.As.

 Extra Curricular Activities

Liberal Arts colleges tend to compete in Division 3 athletics while Universities house Division 1 competitions. You’ll find lots of athletic opportunities at Liberal Arts schools, but you won’t find the pomp and circumstance of Big Ten or SEC University athletics. Both offer an array of extra-curricular opportunities from intramural and club sports to theatre, a capella groups, Greek life, community service and a myriad of special interest groups and organizations.

The College Essay

Hives, profusive sweating and anxiety attacks need not be part of college essay writing. College essays are not five paragraph English class papers. They are more like telling a story. Sit down at your computer and tell the reader something about your life just as if you were telling it out loud. Let your first draft go, don't halt writing to perfect your punctuation or that captivating opening. The important thing is to get the ideas flowing.

And when that idea starts to flow, use these tips as a guide.

Top 10 Dos

  1. Do create a bond with reader.
  2. Do be honest writing about yourself so the reader learns something about the way you view yourself and the world.
  3. Do develop a main event with lots of narrative and specifics
  4. Do show humor if it’s natural in your writing.
  5. Do show a weakness (did you learn something from it?). A touch of self-deprecating humor can be endearing.
  6. Do reveal something important about your character.
  7. Do demonstrate that you can create new ideas and that you have the practical skills to implement them.
  8. Do spend time finding the right idea. It will take less time to write the essay.
  9. Do let the first draft pour out of you. Go back and perfect it later.
  10. Do have a trusted adult or English teacher review your essay and make sure you eliminate all misspellings and grammar mistakes. (But see Don’t number 9).

Top 10 Don'ts

  1. Don’t brag. Don’t try to impress the reader.
  2. Don’t list your resume.
  3. Don’t tell the reader something that’s already in your application.
  4. Don’t be overly verbose (using vocabulary for the sake of including big words).
  5. Don’t use slang, text talk, ampersands (&), etc. and other abbreviations.
  6. Don’t stick with an idea that isn’t working.
  7. Don’t make yours a college essay cliché. Go ahead and Google that.
  8. Don’t think longer is better. Quality is more important than length.
  9. Don’t let others over edit your essay so it’s too perfect and no longer sounds like you.
  10. Don’t wait until the last minute! Give yourself time for 3-4 drafts.