Digital footprint, digital literacy, digital native, digital citizen. High school students are well-served when they consider each of these in the process of getting ready to become college applicants.
But what about college counselors? Does it matter if a 50-something (for argument's sake only, of course!) is tweeting, facebooking, podcasting, blogging and updating a website? Is it even age-appropriate?! Our own children might just wonder.
In order to serve our clients best, we need to stay up-to-date and on top of the ways in which technology can inform and improve our profession. We spend time on social media platforms in order to stay abreast of the latest news and information. If the College Board or the ACT tweets a change to their tests, we need to know because you need to know. It's that simple.
We follow blogs, we belong to industry associations and read their news feeds, we routinely visit websites of our colleagues in college counseling across the globe, we search for tutoring, test prep and college counseling sources on Twitter, and we even listen to podcasts on these topics when we're running. But all that information is lost if we don't pass it on to you. We take responsibility for sifting through the data, spend time distilling it to its most salient points, and pass it on to you. Like Cliff Notes for higher education!
When hiring a college counselor, will you review his digital presence? We think it advisable in the quest to understand the extent of their knowledge as well as to gauge whether their philosophy regarding the admissions process matches that of your child, and of your family. If you turn to a college counselor for essay and application writing support, you might want to check their ability to turn a phrase. Are their website and marketing materials clear, concise, and free of grammatical and spelling errors? Find out if a college counselor has his digital finger on the pulse of the industry, because college admissions is evolving in record time.
Don't get us wrong, we don't live online. We visit college and university campuses, we meet with admissions officers, we network with colleagues, and we spend lots of time with our clients, face-to-face.
Once upon a time, we were Luddites. Digital citizenship is not a choice for us, it is an integral part of our commitment to you.
The Test Prep Revolution
Test preparation, aka test prep, is everywhere. Gone are the days when your only options were to buy and slog through books as big as the Yellow Pages, or to sit in a fluorescent-lit classroom with twenty other nervous high school juniors or seniors.
The books and classrooms are still there for those of you who like that sort of thing. But for the rest of you test prep seekers, you now have options. Lots of options. There is a dizzying array of online options: videos to teach you how to solve certain types of problems, practice tests, pages of test-taking tips, and even test-taking competition with peers of your choosing. Much of it is free, many require your email address at registration so that they can market services to you, and others offer access to their software and videos for a monthly or annual fee.
What do we recommend? One-to-one, and sometimes small group, tutoring. Don't get us wrong: we like to listen to Sal Kahn as much as the next guy. We also know that there are some students who have the discipline and the time to manage the test preparation process on their own. They can set up a schedule, commit to it, and carry it through using any tools, from online test prep to the test prep tomes that were around when we were your age (before the invention of Starbucks). If you are this type of student, then the online test prep offerings are right up your alley. Many students have gone the self-study route and been very successful.
But we strongly believe that every student learns a little differently, and that a personalized approach, tailored to your particular test-taking needs, is going to be more efficient with your time. We know how busy you are with your academic priorities. Find the right tutor for your learning style.
So, take a look at the vast array of test prep options available to you online, in print, and in the offices of your local test prep provider.
We're here, too, to help you navigate these decisions. Call or stop by our offices. That's where you'll find us, delivering the best available support to our students, just the way they like it.
Everyone likes the idea of receiving scholarship money. What's not to like? But how many students are willing to put in the hours and effort required to apply for scholarships and financial aid?
We promise not to sugar coat our advice. The truth is, searching for scholarships and financial aid is not for the faint-hearted.
The timing for most scholarship and financial aid applications begins in earnest after January 1. Yes, that's just when you've finished your college applications and collapsed on the sofa. There is money out there for students in grade 11, and even grades 10 and 9, but most students are motivated to search for financial support in grade 12, when the concept of going to university is on the verge of becoming a reality. We get that. Don't flog yourself about waiting to go for it, just go for it!
We are there to support you beyond the search. We recommend useful sites, but we can also be there to encourage and guide you through the sometimes arduous process of completing applications once scholarship and aid matches have been found. The good news is that you'll be a pro in essay writing by January of your grade 12 year! And when it comes to filling out financial aid forms, we can help you figure out how best to fill in those blanks.
Visit our Resources and Links page for a list of our favorite, and most helpful, sites. Is there a scholarship out there for you?
It's official - our very first tweet.
We have to stay on top of our game. We are committed to bringing you the best. That means keeping up to date with all of our favorite acronyms, from the AP to the IB, the ACT to the SAT, and from UCAS to the Common App.
How do we do it? Well, to be a leader, sometimes you have to also be a follower!
We follow the College Board, the International Baccalaureate Organization, the ACT, UCAS, the Common Application, many of your favorite colleges and universities around the globe, and much more. When we're up to date, you're up to date. That's our promise.
Remember the frustrations with the "new" Common Application last fall? We spared our clients countless headaches and lost hours because we follow @commonapp. They might not have been too skillful about the back-end integration of their web site, but they were speedy about posting site changes and work-arounds when the web site problems were at their worst. Hint to all you rising seniors: maybe you should be following @commonapp, too...
But social media can overwhelm. Your Twitter feed is probably long enough, without adding some of our favorites. Don't despair! That's where we come in. We distill the mountains of tweets into bite-sized packets of information that are relevant to you. Keep your Twitter feed manageable- we've got you covered.
Technology has transformed the college admissions process, as it has so many other aspects of our lives. Although technology has made the process more accessible, this transformation has also brought about several pitfalls.
The benefits of technology in the college admissions process are manifold. Research on the thousands of U.S. colleges and overseas universities has been simplified: rather than waiting for a view book in the mail, students can visit a college's website, take a virtual tour, surf College Confidential to raise their blood pressure, and "Facebook" their friends on college campuses to get real-time feedback on college life. Naviance, BigFuture and other online searchable college databases can ease the search process for a great fit school, as students can sort and search for the characteristics that are most important to them. Students can more easily apply to a longer list of colleges because of online consortiums such as the Common App, the Universal College Application, and UCAS. The list of benefits that technology has brought to the admissions process also includes the ability to:
· prepare online for standardized tests
· estimate the cost of attendance via financial aid calculators
· compare costs at a number of colleges
· create art portfolios or YouTube videos of performances
· send transcripts and recommendations electronically
· search for scholarships
· post athletic statistics online for recruiters
· create an online searchable academic profile
· read the student campus newspaper and course evaluations
· interview via Skype
· sign up for admissions tests
· interact with admissions officers and current students via blogs, Twitter, and Facebook
From the perspective of a college admissions officer, the Internet has both complicated and simplified the process. The sheer number of applications to most colleges has exploded as a result of the relative ease of online applications (except for the nightmare of the Common App this year!), which is a complication, although a "happy" complication if one is interested in driving one's acceptance rate into the ground. The admissions officer has a simplified way of accessing application information, as it is now digital. He can also register inquiries at fairs on a tablet or phone and almost instantaneously send prospective students materials. In addition, colleges embrace technology so that they can:
· communicate with students on a one-to-one basis (events, email blasts and online chat)
· inform students of missing material and notify applicants of their decisions online
Despite these benefits, students, families and admissions officers can run into problems as a result of technology. Occasionally, students can receive bad information from online sources, so it is important to understand from whom the information is coming. In addition, the ease of applying can also cause students to think that they can wait until the last minute to apply, and the resultant rush can force mistakes and essays of poorer quality. The sheer volume of information creates issues for some students. Videos, photos, blogs, podcasts, and seemingly endless text can amount to information overload.
How can we help students and their parents to navigate the use of technology?
We can show you how to use technology to your best advantage in the admissions process, and how to avoid information overload. The number of new and useful tools is ever expanding, but we are always searching for and evaluating the best online resources so that you don’t have to.
Keep records of your application in Naviance, and learn how to use its self-assessment and research tools. We can assist with other online research, from scholarship programs to entering recommendations into the Common App, and from working with UCAS to reviewing a student's essay drafts via email.
All of the foregoing, however, cannot substitute for the one-to-one meetings and conversations with students and their families throughout a student's high school years. Students can rely on our counselors to complement the use of technology in the admissions process with wisdom, experience, and good, old-fashioned listening skills.