Wednesday, July 29, 2015

7 Tips for Email Communications with Colleges

This article first appeared on on July 29, 2015.

I know email is so “old school” that most teens don’t see the purpose of using it. Text, IM, SnapChat and Instagram are all more immediate and the preferred means of communication. Students: when it comes to day-to-day communication with your friends, you get to pick your communication vehicle. When it comes to college applications, you need to embrace email.
True story: this year one of my students never checked his email. He got multiple email messages from the Honors College at our flagship university telling him that his application was missing one component. He never saw them and followed up, so he was denied admission despite being an ideal candidate.
Here are some tips related to email communication with colleges:
1. Use a neutral email address. Your name is the best choice if possible. “SparklyPony” or “FootballFanatic” may have been great when you picked them, but for college applications it is ideal to stick with something clear and simple. Check the display name. This week I was surprised when I worked with a student whose email address was his name, however the display name was “John Doe” rather than his. Even if you cannot get your name as the actual email address, put your name as the display name that the reader sees.
2. You probably won’t remember to check multiple email addresses. If you are using a separate one for college, have the emails forward to the one you are willing to check on a regular basis.
3. Starting now, commit to checking your email a minimum of twice per week. Pick two days and put a recurring pop-up reminder on your phone. If this is unlikely to work for you, get an accountability buddy. That person agrees to bug you/remind you twice per week to look at your email and makes sure that you actually do so.
College students walking to class. Photo by: Nazareth College
4. Go on the admissions website of the schools that you are applying to and sign up to be on their email list. This is one way that you demonstrate interest. This will ensure you are notified when the admission rep will be in town, when you can sign up for alumni interviews, and they will send you any critical notices like changes in deadlines. Most colleges use their list as a marketing tool, and try to send news stories/videos/interactive options that will keep you interested in actually applying. Note: the school can tell if you open the emails they send you. Signing up and deleting everything that comes to your inbox is not a good idea.
5. Treat emails you send to colleges as if they are part of your college application, because they often are added to your file! That means you should use full sentences, capital letters, and proper punctuation. No text speak like “LOL” or “gr8”.
6. If you email a college after you have applied, be sure to put your common app ID number or the college-generated student ID number in the subject line, along with your full name.
7. When you get an email request, respond! This sounds obvious, but many students don’t actually do it. For example, if you receive an email alerting you that one of your recommendations is missing, go and get the scoop. Then respond to the college via email with the news such as, “My coach will complete it this weekend and upload it through the link the Common App sent him. Thanks for letting me know this was missing.”
Once the college application process is over you can once again decide to avoid email, however it is likely that the college you choose will be sending you important information about roommate matching, orientation and class enrollment, so you might consider this whole email process as practice with a tool you will use in your more “grown-up” life.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Fall Recruiting Season Begins

This article first appeared on on July 22, 2015.

It may still be summer, but the fall college recruiting season is getting underway.
Colleges send their admissions representatives to visit cities around the country because it is an effective marketing method. Over the next several months, hundreds of representatives will be visiting Portland, Oregon -- and Portland high school students. Traditionally, some representatives come directly to local high schools; others will rent space and have a larger information session open to the broader community.
Some representatives will also search their mailing lists and reach out to students through an invite for a coffee, a pizza party or an interview. Regardless of how they find students or how students find them, there is an abundance of local opportunities for students to broaden their understanding of different colleges and decide if they are a good fit. Attending these events is also a way that students demonstrate interest, which is a factor that some schools take into account when making admissions decisions.
Here are some upcoming events that are worth your consideration:
This is a group of 40 liberal arts colleges. Although they may not be the “name brand” schools you recognize, these are wonderful places where students have transformative experiences. I highly recommend that all students 9th-11th grade come and check out these schools. Seniors, if one of these schools is on your list, please look at these and make it a point to connect directly with a school representative. A representative is the person likely to read your application and it works to your advantage if he or she remembers you.
Wednesday, July 29, 7-9 pm
Oregon Convention Center
Portland Ballrooms 252-255
777 NE MLK, Jr. Blvd.
Portland, OR 97232
The program begins promptly at 7:00 p.m. with a 30-minute information session, and a college fair begins immediately afterwards, lasting approximately 1.5 hours. Pre-registration is not required.
Represented Schools: 
  • Agnes Scott College  
  • Allegheny College                  
  • Antioch College                     
  • Austin College                       
  • Beloit College             
  • Birmingham-Southern College                       
  • Centre College            
  • Clark University                    
  • Cornell College                       
  • Denison University               
  • Earlham College                     
  • Eckerd College                       
  • The Evergreen State College              
  • Goucher College
  • Guilford College         
  • Hampshire College     
  • Hendrix College
  • Hillsdale College
  • Hiram College
  • Hope College
  • Juniata College
  • Kalamazoo College
  • Knox College
  • Lawrence University
  • Lynchburg College
  • Marlboro College
  • McDaniel College
  • Millsaps College          
  • New College of Florida
  • Ohio Wesleyan University
  • Reed College
  • Rhodes College
  • Southwestern University
  • St. John's College
  • Saint Mary's College [CA]
  • St. Olaf College
  • Ursinus College
  • University of Puget Sound
  • Wabash College
  • Whitman College
  • Willamette University
  • College of Wooster

At the same time, you could opt instead to hear from The University of Chicago:
Wednesday, July 29, 6:30-7:30 pm
Catlin Gabel School
8825 SW Barnes Rd
Portland, OR 97225
Pre-registration is requested.
And mark your calendars now for the August visit of the Claremont College Consortium.
  • Claremont McKenna
  • Harvey Mudd
  • Scripps
  • Pitzer

Note that Pomona is part of this consortium but will not be present at the Portland reception.
Saturday August 15, 2pm
Doubletree by Hilton
1000 NE Multnomah St.
Portland, OR 97232
Pre-registration is requested.
Prospective students and their families are invited to a reception for the Claremont Colleges. Attendees will hear from admission representatives from Claremont McKenna, Harvey Mudd, Pitzer and Scripps about the benefits of attending their college, as well as the advantages of participating in this type of college consortia.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Grade-by-Grade College Prep Checklist

This article first appeared on on July 15, 2015.

Here’s a handy checklist for 9th-11th graders to ensure you stay on track for college admissions.

9th Grade

  • Take the most rigorous classes you can handle, and review after first semester
  • Understand your GPA and why it matters
  • Understand standardized tests and create a general timeline for taking them
  • Find one extracurricular and one service venue that you will commit to for four years
  • Start a record/hour log of activities, awards and service
  • Explore your interests
  • Visit colleges when your family travels
  • Read for pleasure, keep a vocab log, play family word games
  • Job shadow your parents
  • Athletes and artists- capture video
  • Use your summer well
  • Ask your parents to run college financial calculators

10th Grade

  • Continue to take challenging courses and plot your courses through high school
  • Take the optional PSAT and set a testing timeline
  • Take on additional responsibility in your primary extracurricular and service area
  • Start a college visit journal and visit a small, medium and large school
  • Start attending college admission rep info sessions at your school and in town
  • Attend local college fair
  • Take an interests, values and personality assessment
  • Job shadow at least three family friends
  • Apply for summer internships or a summer job or take a summer community college class
  • Athletes and artists-hone skills, capture video, work on portfolio/sign up on recruiting sites
  • Register on scholarship match websites
  • Do test prep the summer between 10th-11th grade

11th Grade

  • Continue to take challenging classes including honors, AP or IB in subjects that interest you
  • Get your school Naviance login and create account
  • Attend local college fair (again!)
  • Identify college characteristics that are important and create initial list (20-30 schools)
  • Use days off from school for college visits
  • Plan and take a spring break college visit tour
  • Do very detailed school specific research and keep notes
  • Continue attending college admission rep visits at your school and in town
  • Take a benchmark ACT and the PSAT in the fall
  • Prep and take the ACT or SAT in the spring
  • Take SAT Subject tests (only for very selective colleges) in May or June
  • Athletes register with NCAA Clearinghouse
  • Make it a point to get to know at least two teachers very well; request rec letters in May
  • Get a copy of your end-of-year transcript!

If you are a senior and need month-by-month guidance, check out last week’s slideshow.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Month-by-Month Guide for High School Seniors

This article first appeared on on July 8, 2015.

I am a big fan of working ahead to reduce stress. I think it easier to have a pleasant senior year if you complete a good chunk of your college application tasks over the summer. The below timeline is an aggressive one, designed to move you through the steps you need to deal with to apply for college. (These are not school specific deadlines. You need to double check those on the website of every school you apply to.)

Click here to see slideshow: Month-by-Month Guide for High School Seniors

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Create Your Visual Arts Portfolio During Summer

This article first appeared on on July 1, 2015.

My advice to performing arts students was to work on audition materials over the summer and I echo that to visual artists; summer is perfect time to get creative and work on your portfolio! A summer job, goof-off activities with friends, or the reflection of the sun off the river can all provide visual inspiration.
The admission process for visual arts majors often has added requirements. You have to submit the same application for academic admission as every other student, and then you may need to prepare a portfolio showcase your talent. You will want it to include your very best work, so you probably create a lot of pieces you (or an artistic advisor) reject before you decide what to actually include. This takes lots of time (typically more than 100 hours) so it is ideal to work on this when you don’t have added academic stress.
There’s some great news related to portfolios—you don’t have to rely on your own judgment. Admissions officers at schools that want a portfolio are willing to give you a free portfolio review. You make an appointment and bring in loads of samples of your craft (drawings, paintings, photos, sculpture). You will get advice as to which pieces to include, why those pieces are being suggested, and what you still need to create in order to be competitive for admission. Both Oregon College of Art and Craft and Pacific Northwest College of Art make this review available, so book one soon so you have time this summer to act on their advice. 
If you are a rising senior with a solid list of schools you are applying to, the best way to get started is to create a document where you compile the exact portfolio requirements of each school. Most likely, you will be asked to upload your portfolio to Slideroom and you will find the link to each school’s Slideroom site on the portfolio page of the school website.
If you are a rising sophomore or junior you probably don’t yet know where you plan to apply. That’s okay! You can still use summer to work on elements of your portfolio. (Advance notice: sophomores and juniors, mark your calendars for National Portfolio Day, which will take place in Portland on January 10, 2016. Representatives from regionally and NASAD-accredited art, design and film schools will be in town to connect with potential students and provide support for portfolio development.)
Below is a list of the most commonly requested components for an assortment of visual arts programs. 
Technical Theatre
  • Resume
  • Portfolio showcasing your five best production projects (could be a lighting plot with cue-to-cue; sound concept and recordings; costume designs, samples of sewn work and photos of completed ensemble; set designs with conceptual description, drawings and photos of completed construction; stage manager’s production script and cast notes)
  • 3 recommendation letters from technical theatre teachers, producers or directors

  • Cinematic Arts Personal Statement that gives the reader a sense of you as a unique individual and how your distinctive experiences, characteristics, background, values and/or views of the world have shaped who you are and what you want to say as a creative filmmaker.
  • Creative Resume highlighting 5-7 pieces of what you consider to be your best creative work. These projects should demonstrate your ability to convey a story or message through creative, artistic or technical talents. Include more recent items and projects in which you were the driving force or had a leadership role. Note that this a listing and not samples of the actual work.
  • Narrative video (2-5 minutes) in which you had a major creative role. The video can be either live-action or animation, fiction or documentary, but it should reflect your aesthetic tastes and intellectual and emotional interests 
  • 3 letters of recommendation from art, drama, film/TV, or journalism teachers or a boss or supervisor from a job, internship, or volunteer project where your duties included something of a creative nature

Visual Arts
  • Artist's Statement:explain what you make, how you make it, and why you make it
  • 10-20 visual art or design pieces, which may be executed in any medium, in black-and-white or color, and may include, but are not limited to, drawing, painting, design, printmaking, collage, photography, sculpture, jewelry, fashion, furniture or fiber art. Portfolio pieces may represent classroom assignments as well as independent projects. The portfolio should be purposeful, demonstrate originality of concept, use of appropriate materials and visual literacy. Favorable consideration is given to strong 2-D and 3-D work that shows attention to technique, drawing, scale and original design. The majority of drawings submitted in the portfolio should be from direct observation, rather than other sources (such as photographs). Still life, landscape, figure drawings, portrait, perspective, and diagrammatic drawings are all recommended. Portfolios are reviewed on the following qualitative measures: aesthetic awareness, composition, drawing, design, color perception, spatial perception, quality of presentation, technique and originality.
  • Some colleges have a school specific assignment such as submit a drawing of a bicycle
  • Artistic resume that includes art awards, classes and teachers inside and outside of school, a list of the media you work with/prefer
  • 3 recommendation letters from teachers or others who have witnessed your creative skills and potential

  • Artist's Statement: explain what you make, how you make it, and why you make it
  • 8-12 traditional visual art or design pieces from direct observation, 
  • Animation samples that include 5-10 figure drawings, one 2D traditional animation, and 2 - 5 3D computer graphic images
  • 3 recommendation letters from teachers or others who have witnessed your creative skills and potential

Product Design
  • Statement of purpose: Define your interests and experience in the field of industrial design and related areas such as engineering and architecture. What sorts of products do you want to make and why? 
  • A portfolio of 10-20 digital images of your best and most recent work (any media)
  • Submit sketches and finished drawings of three or more original product designs (furniture, lighting, medical and computer equipment, or consumer products such as coffee makers, sporting goods, communications devices or personal stereos). Emphasis should be on the function of the product, as well as the aesthetics and originality of the design. Projects should show a thorough researching and exploration of a product from beginning through intermediate sketches to a final finished rendering of the product. Inclusion of photos of 3D models is optional. Of primary importance are exploratory sketches that show a variety of solutions and ideas for each product presented. 
  • Resume
  • 1-3 recommendation letters

Fashion Design
  • Resume
  • One-page statement of interest in the fashion program and the fashion industry
  • 1-3 letters of reference from teachers, instructors, coaches or employers
  • Art and design work to include each of the following:
         - 1 – 2 sketchbooks of current work (date your work)
         - 2 examples of art or design work with a brief, written analysis of why you included these particular pieces
  • 6-10 self-sewn garments made from commercial patterns, draping or applicant's own drafts that demonstrate a range of skills. Provide at least 4 different types of garments, i.e. skirts, pants, tops, dresses, jackets in different types of fabrics. Garments should include each of the following garment components: darts, two different types of zippers, two different types of pockets, set-in sleeves, collars, cuffs, buttons and buttonholes. At least one garment must be lined. Photographs not accepted.
  • A journal of fashion industry-related reading and information about design/manufacturing companies

  • Personal statement that describes your professional aspirations and why you are interested in Architecture. This could include what sparked your interest in the discipline, what experiences you have already had in relation to art, construction, design, or craft, and what in the built environment inspires 
  • Portfolio of 10-20 digital files that demonstrate your graphic abilities. Please include graphic and/or written materials, such as freehand drawings, basic design work, planning, painting, construction, furniture making, clothing design, ceramics, photography, origami or anything else exhibiting creative thought and execution. If you have some experience with paper modelling or wood modelling, include one or two works. While work with architectural content is not required, students who choose to submit architectural images in their portfolio should submit work that reflects design, not drafting skills.
  • 3 recommendations, at least 2 of which are from academic sources. 

Remember, these are not the exact requirements for any specific visual arts program. You must check the exact requirements at each of the schools to which you are applying.