Timing & Preparation: The Common Application

The Common App makes it easy to apply to multiple colleges and universities.

by Lee Norwood, Annapolis College Consulting, July 1, 2019

Junior year is in the books. Summer is finally here. You have a moment to exhale……… Done? You had your moment. Now teens and families need to start thinking about other things like your final college list and the applications for numerous schools.

In the old days, applying to 12 colleges meant 12 different college applications; now things are much easier.  The Common Application, which is accepted by more than 800 schools, including some located outside the U.S, is one place where a student can enter their basic demographic information and extracurricular activities that will be able to be sent to multiple schools. You do not have to use the Common App, but it certainly makes life easier.

“The idea behind the Common App is to try and reduce the barriers that students face when applying to college,” says Jenny Rickard, president and CEO of The Common Application.

The Common App may be confusing for some families who are new to the college application process.  So, we decided to answer some of the burning questions of the day.

[Get tips and tactics from college students on how to use the Common App.]

Starting before the Common App opens August 1

By working with us on your resume and personal statement, you are already preparing for the Common Application which opens August 1st.

You want to dig deep, discuss as a family, and include your extracurricular accomplishments on your resume. Gather details and show an impressive story. Perfecting your resume first really helps because it makes the application a bit easier because you will already have strong statements and utilize the specific number of characters in the best possible way.

To stay on track, we love the Common App’s mobile app to stay on top of deadlines, invite recommenders, and set reminders.

Students don’t have to submit their college applications during the summer, but starting the Common Application in August will give them the opportunity to review the specific additional requirements for schools they’re considering, draft supplemental essays and get some of the tedious background information completed before they start their busy senior year.

To start, applicants can go to commonapp.org and click on the “Get Started” button to get details about how to create an account and log in to work on an application through the platform. The official application opens August 1st, so don’t fill in the details in your Common App account yet.

SOME GOOD LINKS TO HELP YOU

 [Avoid these big college application mistakes.]

WHAT CAN YOUR ESSAY/PERSONAL STATEMENT BE ABOUT?

Essays are 10-30% of the admissions decision, so take your time and answer with interesting details. The Common App essay prompts for the 2019-2020 school year will be the same as the seven prompts used last year and have a 650-word limit.

Your main personal statement essay really needs to show the admissions department who you are and why you would be an asset to their campus. The prompts are just that, you want to tell an impressive story that compels the reader to want to learn more about you. Differentiate yourself from others. Don’t write the essay that has already been written: sports injury, church mission trip, grandmother being your idol, etc.

Some colleges will ask you to write additional supplemental essays. Each essay should be completely different and focus on different aspects of you while answering the specific question. The essays should be able to tell the reader who you are, what core values are important to you, if you have a unique skill or ability, and that you will bring something of unique worth to their campus.

Not all schools require students to submit an essay and some require additional essays or information. Applicants can see the requirements for all schools on the Common App when they log in to their student accounts or download a PDF from the Common App’s website.

Students can also preview supplemental questions for schools before they start their applications through the platform’s Applicant Solutions Center.

[Learn common reasons why college applications get rejected.]

Is the Common App Mandatory?

No. But it sure makes life easier. Many schools allow students to apply online through their websites. Some states have application systems that students can or must use in order to apply to schools.

Other platforms accepted by some schools include the Coalition Application and the Universal College Application. And while there are some exceptions, many schools that use those platforms also use the Common App.

Do Schools Prefer to Get the Common App?

Colleges that allow students to submit applications through multiple platforms don’t have a preference on which one is used, but high school counselors might. The Common App’s integration with Naviance, a college and career readiness software provider, makes it easy for counselors to submit documentation for colleges, experts say.

 A few colleges require that you do use their specific application, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Georgetown University in the District of Columbia only accept applications through their school websites. The University of Maryland, Virginia Tech, and University of Washington in Seatlle only accept the Coalition App.

5 Things About College Roommates Incoming Freshman Ought to Understand

1. College Roommate=Friend?

Maybe, maybe not.  Surviving and thriving as a freshman can be rooted in maintaining a healthy roommate relationship. Your dorm room is your home, and the person(s) you share it with is an important part of your college experience. Some relationships seem to evolve naturally and are comfortable, but even the most agreeable relationships require a bit of effort. Rule of thumb-behave towards your roommate the way you want your roommate to behave towards you.

2.  Communication is Essential

As the initial excitement of being away from home begins to wear off, you will settle in to a new routine. You and the people you share a dorm with all come with your own personalities and habits. One of you may like to go to bed early, the other stays up late. One of you may like to have friends over often, the other not-so-much. Be patient, have fun, and do your best to communicate clearly. Contribute to building a solid relationship based on respect. If things don’t go well, and you’ve spoken directly with your roommate(s) about the issues, you should consider talking with your RA. 

3. Responsibility, Yours and Mine

Are you living with a rule-breaker? Know this: you are not responsible for anyone else’s behavior. You are responsible, however, for your own. If your roommate is breaking campus rules, and you do not agree with the rule-breaking, start the conversation. Once you have addressed these issues with your roommate, you should consider talking with your RA, if the behavior continues. Rules are there for your protection. Don’t jeopardize all your hard work by disregarding what could become a problem for you. Ignoring a problem won’t make it go away.

4. Respect Goes Both Ways

This one seems really simple, but you’d be surprised how we sometimes miss clues others are sending that are meant to signify a breach of trust. Sometimes we cross invisible lines of tolerance and need to deal with the consequences. You are joining a campus full of students who come from many different lifestyles. As you begin this college journey, be mindful of others and of yourself.  Building strong relationships with people who are positive and trustworthy requires patience, accountability, and kindness.

5. Privacy, Please

Privacy today extends beyond the obvious. A decade ago, the word privacy implied discretion in its simplest manifestation. In other words, a few years ago, a roommate who was comfortable exiting the shower without covering up in a reasonable amount of time, was considered an invasion of your privacy. Today, an invasion of privacy has much greater and far-reaching implications. In a matter of seconds, someone’s privacy can be shattered by the seemingly innocent posting of a photograph or comment on social media.  Long story short, some errors in judgment cannot be corrected. In the name of fun, think before posting anything!

Will You Be Able to Help Your College-Age Child in a Medical Emergency?

The HIPAA Privacy Rule can get in your way

By Susan Feinstein
July 23, 2016

Important Documents

Moms and dads who still think of themselves as protectors and advisers, even after their children become legal adults, often don’t consider the real-world implications of that milestone birthday. They and their young-adult children need to think about the unthinkable in advance. Three forms—HIPAA authorization, medical power of attorney, and durable power of attorney—will help facilitate the involvement of a parent or other trusted adult in a medical emergency.

If a student attends college out of state, fill out the forms relevant to the home state and school state to avoid any challenges. If the school has its own form, sign that one too, Warsh said. “When the doctor or medical institution sees it, you want them to be familiar with it and recognize it,” she said.

Once the forms are completed, it’s a good idea to scan and save them so that they are readily available on a smartphone or home computer.

You don’t need a lawyer to do this. Many websites have downloadable forms. But a lawyer’s involvement can benefit in making sure you are using the right form, explaining it, and advocating on your behalf in case something goes wrong.

HIPAA authorization: A signed HIPAA authorization is like a permission slip. It permits healthcare providers to disclose your health information to anyone you specify. A stand-alone HIPAA authorization (not incorporated into a broader legal document) does not have to be notarized or witnessed. This document alone, signed in advance by her son, would have sufficed for Warsh to get information from the hospital treating her 18-year-old son. Young people who want parents to be involved in a medical emergency, but fear disclosure of sensitive information, need not worry; HIPAA authorization does not have to be all-encompassing. The young adults can stipulate not to disclose information about sex, drugs, mental health, or other details they might want to keep private.

Medical power of attorney: In signing a medical POA, you appoint an “agent” to make medical decisions on your behalf in case you are incapacitated and cannot make such decisions for yourself. Each state has different laws governing medical POA and, therefore, different legal forms. In many states, the HIPAA authorization is rolled into the standard medical POA form. Whether the medical POA requires the signature of a witness or notary varies state by state.

For the sake of clarifying often-used terms: A medical POA sometimes goes by other names, such as healthcare power of attorney, designation of healthcare proxy, or durable power of attorney for health care. It is one type of advance directive. The other type is a living will, which specifies your wishes with regard to interventions in life-or-death scenarios in case you are unable to do so. In many states, the language for the living will is also incorporated into a hybrid document that includes the medical POA and HIPAA release.

Durable power of attorney: As an additional step, young-adult children might consider appointing a durable power of attorney, enabling a parent or other designated agent to take care of business on the student’s behalf. If the student were to become incapacitated or if the student were studying abroad, the durable power of attorney would be able to, for example, sign tax returns, access bank accounts, and pay bills. Durable POA forms vary by state. In some states the medical POA can be included in the durable POA form. “The durable power of attorney is sweeping,” Wolk said. “You do not want to give it to someone who you do not trust.”

5 Things to Help You Succeed in College

By Lee Norwood

1. Your Attendance

The easy peasy way to ensure success is to show up for class and sit in the front. This will help with focus! Your attendance is a strong predictor of future success. And at the cost per credit hour you are paying…it makes sense to maximize your time.

2. Follow the Syllabus

The first day of class is usually the day you receive your class syllabus. It contains important information that you need to succeed in that class; required textbook(s), course policies (suchas attendance), schedule of assignments and their deadlines, contact information for the professor and his/her office hours, etc. If the expectations from your professor are not clear, please ask. It will be up to you get it right; and everyone wants to help a student who seeks to be successful.

3. Professor Access

Professors do a lot more than teach. They conduct research, write articles and books, speak at conferences, facilitate workshops, etc. This is why professors are not always on campus and why they schedule office hours when they are available to students. Professor/TA’s hours are either included in the course syllabus or are posted on the professor’s office door. If you need a more specific one-on-one appointment, just ask and include when you would like to meet and the reason for your request. Professors can have a huge impact on your careers and life. Connecting with them can lead to amazing research opportunities, internships, and even job offers. My son found his first great job through a professor.

4. Class Choices

Each semester you will have the responsibility of choosing courses to fulfill your graduation requirements. This can be quite fun because there are usually several unique, quirky and interesting options available within general education (a.k.a. core) requirements. As you move through your curriculum, many classes are required and must be taken in sequence: 201 before 202 before 301 etc. Although it seems logical to forge forward on a certain track, there may be other considerations such as the opportunity to take a special class with an awesome professor that begs the opportunity to veer off course. Be flexible! Broaden your horizons.

When you need assistance with scheduling classes or staying on track with your major, talk with your advisor. Advisors know the system and can be very insightful! We want you to graduate on time and working with an advisor will help.

5. Registration and Procrastination

Register early! Classes fill up. Colleges may provide a few days for registration, but don’t procrastinate. Be prepared so when registration opens, you’re ready to grab the classes and the schedule you desire. If you chose getting a Starbucks and hanging out with friends before heading back to your dorm to log in when registration opens, then you are not allowed to grumble when one of the classes you wanted filled up in less time than it took your barista to make your half-skim, half-soy, no foam latte.

Your Senior Survey & Letter of Recommendation

Your high school counselor can be a great ally in assisting you during the college application process. One of the ways they can support you is by writing a letter of recommendation about you to colleges. So how do they know what to write?

Apart from meeting with you, guidance counselors use your responses to the “ Senior Survey” to understand your goals and strengths, and will pass their insights on to the colleges that are considering your application. An Assistant Director of Admission at Chapman University says “High school counselors are our partners. They provide valuable information about our applicants and we trust them to be honest and forthright with us. Their letter is often the most important letter we read in a file.”

Just like your high school counselor provides accurate information to college admissions offices, you should be honest and thoughtful in your responses. Stay positive, even when asked about what you did not like, or what your weaknesses are. If you’ve faced challenges, talk about them! You can downplay issues to an extent, but not to the point that you’re glossing over something serious.

You should also know that your high school counselor is quite busy. It’s not uncommon for a counselor to use quotes from your answers to the survey verbatim when writing your recommendation letter. That is why it’s important to make this a priority and put forth the effort to provide excellent responses.

Your school may have different questions, but this gives you an outline for answers. Put effort and thought into answering them!

1. What are your plans for next year? Be specific! Name colleges you are interested in, potential majors, as well as possible graduate school and career ideas.

2. Which courses at our school have you enjoyed the most and why? 2 – 3 short strong sentences.

3. Which courses at this school have you enjoyed the least and why? 1 sentence and do not bash the teacher, nicely explain why.

4. Is your high school record an accurate measure of your ability and potential? If not, why not? This takes introspection and is worth thinking through and answering intelligently.

5. Have you participated in any summer programs, work or study opportunities that have been of significant importance to you? Please describe. 3 – 5 sentences.

6. What do you believe are your greatest strengths and your greatest weaknesses? Explain. Please list one small minor weakness and do not go into a lot detail. If you can show how you are addressing it, even better.

7. List 5 adjectives that describe you and explain. You can use the personality profile that we did to find these adjectives.

8. What do you plan to study in college and why? (If you haven’t decided on a particular major or concentration, what academic area(s) interest you?)

9. What is your favorite thing to do that you don’t think I know about?

10. What has been your most memorable positive experience at this school? Or what accomplishment are you most proud of and why? Please describe.

11. List all extracurricular activities, including sports, clubs and community organizations. Include years of participation. Please give them a copy of the activities sheet or resume if you have it done.

12. Is there anything else you think is important for us to know as we develop your letter of recommendation? Here you can thank them for their support, or tell them how you have matured this year.

Show your answers to your parents for quality assurance before you submit it to your high school guidance counselor.

The Summer After Senior Year: What’s A Parent to Do? Breathe & Read…

We know this is a busy month with AP testing, graduation, parties, life, etc., so we are hoping this message helps ease some of the stress you may be feeling about your student heading off to college later this summer. 

If your student is still trying to make a final college decision, we are here to help!  Please reach out to us to set up a meeting or a phone call.  We understand this is a big decision and choosing the right college will not only impact your students’ life, but yours as well.

Most of your students have already paid the Freshman Enrollment Deposit and completed the housing contract.  The next step is to complete registration for your college’s summer orientation.  Please remember that the date will not be confirmed until your student’s orientation registration is paid in full. And make sure your student has their college e-mail set up and that they are checking it regularly.

College websites should have a full checklist including information on everything from Placement tests, housing needs, and hotel options, to exactly what forms are needed for immunizations.

When thinking of moving and packing to begin your student’s freshman year, it is a good idea to coordinate with your student’s new roommates as to how to furnish their new “home.” You only need one microwave, one fridge, possibly an icemaker (the newest cool dorm accessory) and the right tools in case you are lofting, lifting or assembling bunkbeds, shelves etc. For students who will be traveling from far distances, shipping your items to the college is a great option and waiting to shop locally can help too.  You will receive your college address after room selection and will be able to ship items shortly. For room ideas and other interesting tips, you and your student should follow us on Instagram @annapcollegeconsulting.

The Summer After Senior Year First, breathe. Second, read below.

By Lee Norwood  
We know this is a busy month with AP testing, graduation, parties, life, etc., so we are hoping this message helps ease some of the stress you may be feeling about your student heading off to
college later this summer.  If your student is still trying to make a final college decision, we are here to help!  Please reach out to us to set up a meeting or a phone call.  We understand this is a big decision and choosing the right college will not only impact your students’ life, but yours as well.   Most of your students have already paid the Freshman Enrollment Deposit and completed the housing contract.  The next step is to complete registration for your college’s summer orientation.  Please remember that the date will not be confirmed until your student’s orientation registration is paid in full. And make sure your student has their college e-mail set up and that they are checking it regularly.   College websites should have a full checklist including information on everything from Placement tests, housing needs, and hotel options, to exactly what forms are needed for immunizations.   When thinking of moving and packing to begin your student’s freshman year, it is a good idea to coordinate with your student’s new roommates as to how to furnish their new “home.” You only need one microwave, one fridge, possibly an icemaker (the newest cool dorm accessory) and the right tools in case you are lofting, lifting or assembling bunkbeds, shelves etc. For students who will be traveling from far distances, shipping your items to the college is a great option and waiting to shop locally can help too.  You will receive your college address after room selection and will be able to ship items shortly.

For room ideas and other interesting tips, you and your student should follow us on Instagram @annapcollegeconsulting.

Enjoy your summer! It will be a short one.  
 

10 Things Any Student Can Do To Improve Their Success

The college process is complex, and you can’t control all the elements, but here are things that you should do to improve your success.

  1. Eliminate interruptions during study time. No calls, texts, emails, social media—nothing but you and the subjects.
  2. Stop activities that you don’t enjoy and will not add significantly to your college applications.
  3. Allow time to focus on yourself. Taking of 30-60 minutes for your sanity can keep your energy level high and improve your productivity on the elements you find difficult.
  4. Remember to be grateful. It will improve your relationships with teachers, parents and friends. For instance, tell your teachers that you appreciate they are teaching and find it meaningful.
  5. Attend three high school events (sports, music, drama, etc.) and show your support for the people who are participating. It will come back to you on many levels.
  6. Put your hand up at least once a day in a class where participation is invited.
  7. Identify the activity that means the most to you and think of one new way you could contribute or otherwise make an impact within it.
  8. Start making healthy choices.  Ensure that you are eating balanced meals throughout the day, getting at least 8-9 hours of sleep each night, and 30 minutes of physical activity.  Starting to implement these habits now will help you to carry them over to when you are in college.
  9. Remember that sometimes it is better to follow your heart and not the crowd.  It is very easy not only in high school, but college and life beyond to get caught up in what the crowd is doing.  Only go along with the crowd if you feel it is the right thing to do.  If it doesn’t interest you or you feel it won’t help you to be successful then listen to your heart and skip it.
  10. Don’t quit when things get tough.  In life things are bound to happen such as a personal crisis, problem, or frustration.  When things become difficult, remember to advocate for yourself and reach out for help.  Don’t stop coming to class or other activities and notify your instructor/coach/etc. of your problem (in as much detail as you feel comfortable).  Then, make arrangements to make up any missed assignments/work in a timely manner.

 

Essential Skills College-Bound Kids Should Know

Prepare for Independence:

This is a list of activities students should know how to do before they leave home. The list is long, but not difficult so review and persevere. Sometimes they will have to learn by trial and error. Most of the items listed apply to all students; some will not be experienced until they live off campus on their own.  If your student is not able to do all things listed prior to leaving for college don’t sweat it.  If they continue checking items off this list while in college, they are headed in the right direction.

Financial Matters:

  • Write a check
  • Cash a check
  • Know your debit card balance – Download your banks app
  • Know how to transfer funds (via phone app is even better!) – Look into PayPal or Venmo as an easy way to transfer money
  • Pay a bill (check or online) – Look into auto draft as an option to avoid any late fees!
  • Advise debit/credit card companies of card use when travelling – This only applies when you’re going out of the country
  • Withdraw cash from an ATM
  • Save for a goal
  • Pay rent & utilities (split with roommates) – Again, investigate autopay if necessary.  If one person will be paying the entire bill, set up an automatic transfer so that you’re never late on payments and they don’t have to “bug” you for your portion
  • Use campus “points” with meal plans
  •   Calculate a tip – Your cell phone can do this for you.
  •   Pay for dinner
  •   Cancel a membership – be sure to confirm whether there are any fees for cancelling before the contract is up.
  •   Figure out the cost of postage and shipping

Travel Matters:

  • Make travel arrangements – air, bus, train
  •   Navigate an airport, train or bus station
  •   Deal with a cancelled flight
  •   Take an Uber or Lyft, have the app and know how to use it
  •   Get around locally without a phone
  •   Pack a suitcase – When traveling for a trip, you can use this handy list to make sure you don’t forget anything: Pack This!
  •   Follow TSA rules
  •   Catch the local train/subway
  •   Check tire pressure
  •   Change a tire
  •   Check the oil
  •   Jump-start a car
  •   Parallel Park

Wellness Matters:

  •   Make an appointment (hair, dentist, doctor)
  •   Self-prescribe over-the-counter meds – When in doubt, if you go to the local pharmacy (CVS, Rite Aid – you can tell someone there your symptoms and they can easily recommend an over the counter medication to you)
  •   Know basic first aid
  •   Locate the campus health center
  • Know when to call a doctor or go to a doc-in-the-box
  • Carry a medical insurance card and know when to use it

Meals and Laundry Matters:

  •   Cook a meal – simple things they like
  •   Go food shopping – what to look for in fresh food items
  •   Load a dishwasher
  •   Put out a kitchen fire
  •   Buy clothes
  •   Return a purchase – Key thing is to hold onto your receipt!
  •   Do the laundry – remember to go back and move it to the dryer and back to your room
  •   Remove a stain
  •   Iron a shirt
  •   Sew a button
  •   Importance of good nutrition and vitamins
  •   How to store leftovers
  •   When to toss old food

Household Matters:

  •   Hook up cable
  •   Change a name on utility bills
  •   Unclog a toilet/sink
  •   Check the smoke alarm/CO2 alarm
  •   Fix basic household problems
  •   Renew car license plates & insurance
  •   How to vote absentee

General Matters:

  •   Think critically and question the status quo
  •   Manage your time
  •   Dress properly
  •   How to approach and meet new people
  •   Be a respectful house guest
  •   How to ask for help

And last, but not least, most important matters:

  •   Negotiate a deal
  •   Write (not email) a thank you note
  •   Say “no” with confidence

TIP: When hurting and in doubt, call home

You probably have mastered some of these before high school graduation. Be as ready as possible so you have a smooth transition and success.

There are some life lessons that we cannot predict nor protect you from: broken hearts, failing a test, making friends, losing friends, or saying they are sorry. Believe in yourself, and continue to move forward and upward, understanding that there will be setbacks.

Visiting Colleges

Planning

Plan your college visit ahead of time and see a number of suitable colleges in the same geographic area. You can use the website GoSeeCampus.com, and click on Trip Planner which can show you routing from one university to another, as well as nearby hotels. Also, when you input each college on the list it usually gives you links to the colleges’ websites so that you can sign up to attend the information session and the tour. Then it will tell you the distance between the schools, and the roads that you can take. Google Maps also works well for trip planning. Do not plan to visit more than two colleges in a day, as it becomes very stressful and hard to remember the details of each college.

Do You Need to Visit

The general rule of thumb that college admissions counselors use is that if you are within four hours of the school, you should take the time to visit the college to show that you are truly interested in them. Further than four hours the school does not require it, but you will need to show interest, see this article Demonstrate Interest. Most big universities do not track your interest level at all, as it is mostly a numbers game for them. If you have chosen the right classes, you have a GPA the college looks for, and test scores in the college’s range, you should get admitted. Touring colleges will hep you determine what is important to you and broaden you understanding of choices, Options for Visiting a College.

Being Engaged

This college visit is an important opportunity for you to really understand what the college can offer you, and if it is a good fit. Do not let your cell phone or a conversation with a friend distract you from this task. Decide which of these questions you want to ask the tour guide, Questions to ask on a College Visit. Silence your cell phone and be engaged so that you have accurate memories.

Eat at the College

I generally recommend that people go to the cafeteria and eat, so that you have an idea of the quality of food and the atmosphere. Additionally you can either observe students or sit down and talk to some and get a more candid picture of the college. You can learn a lot from students who are on campus and they should answer your questions honestly. Just remember that there are many opinions, but the more information that you have the better your decision will be.

Interviewing

I always recommend visiting schools when they are in session so that you can get a better feel for their students and the atmosphere. This can be done during any holidays or spring breaks, as well as quick visits on Saturdays. Most colleges give two tours on Saturdays and some also do Sunday tours. Going in the fall can be a very busy time for colleges, so you may need to plan quite a bit ahead to make sure you can be part of the group. If it is a college that recommends that you interview with an admissions representative on campus, make sure that I have time to prepare you for the interview.

Use My Checklist

Use a checklist to write down your thoughts, so you won’t confuse information from one college campus with another. While you are on the tour ask questions that you have to the tour guide or the person running the information session. Just realize that these people are not always candid, and most are being paid by admissions to represent the college.

After the visit take the time to record what you really liked, as well as the aspects that you did not. Think about whether that school could be your home for the next four years. Put an approximate rank on the school and feel free to change that as you go. These notes will help you when you need to make a decision at the end.