Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Newsletter you Need to Send to your Juniors, Now

By Patrick O'Connor Ph.D

School counselors across the land have been caught off guard with a handful of colleges sending some admissions decisions to some students in the last week.  It’s hard to sort out why this is happening, but it certainly gives counselors more to talk about—especially with the students who have heard nothing from these colleges, and want to know why.

Since admissions decisions are only going to get messier, it’s time to send one last e-mail reminder to your juniors.  They’re going to have to take a backseat to the admissions merry-go-round that’s ramping up, but there are a few things they need to hear from you, as they get ready for Spring Break.

Here goes:

Spring Break Plans All in Place?
Many juniors have plans to visit college campuses over Spring Break.  This is a wonderful time to get to know a college better—just make sure you follow these simple guidelines:

  1. Call ahead.  You want to make sure the college isn’t on some kind of break the day you’re visiting, so be sure to call the admissions office to make sure the college will be open.  You also want to make sure they’re offering tours that day; tours are the best way to get a feel for what a college sees as its strong points, so make sure you sign up for the tour.

  1. Personalize Your Visit.  Make sure your visit includes time to sit in on classes, talk to professors, catch up with friends attending that school, or simply sitting in the middle of campus to get a good idea what the college “feels” like.  You may need to contact specific departments to schedule appointments or class visits, but start with admissions.

  1. Record your impressions right away.  You want to make sure your memories of a college are accurate and fresh, so be sure to write down your thoughts about a college in the car, right away—before you talk, Tweet, or share your thoughts with anyone else. If your parents are going with you for the visit, write down your thoughts before talking to them, then share your ideas freely.

  1. Don’t know where to go?  Start local.  If you aren’t sure where to visit, think about visiting a college that’s close to home.  By taking the tour and sitting in on classes, you have something to compare other colleges to—and you may be surprised at what a great college choice you have that’s just down the block. It’s best to visit a college campus when students are there, so don’t wait until summer—call that college down the street now.

And Don’t Forget Testing Plans!
Given the early application deadlines many colleges will have in the fall, students want to be sure to have at least one set of ACT or SAT scores on file by the end of junior year. Counselors have talked with students about their plans during the first appointment—but if a student has to follow up by registering for the test, now is the time, since seats are filling up for the spring test sessions.

Vacationing?  Be Safe
Some juniors may be heading to warmer climates for Spring Break, with or without your parents.  It’s always good to take a break from school, but it’s never a bad idea to keep your wits about you.   Your impressions of Spring Break should be good ones you keep in your heart, not bad ones you have to share on a college application; make good decisions about where you go, what you do, and who you go with.

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