There’s a lot of great college advice out there, but sometimes it can be a little scattered. So we went straight to one of the best sources for tips, tricks, and information about college admission and campus life — counseling experts.
There are two types of college counselors. The first type helps high school students narrow down which school they should go to, and help them with things like writing essays, getting recommendation letters, and applying to colleges. The second type of counselor aids students who are already in college. They can work with the student to find career paths, choose classes, give academic help like study tips, and even help with personal problems like homesickness.
Both kinds of college counselors are invaluable resources to have. They act as guides through a time that can be a little overwhelming. Let’s take a look at some pieces of advice straight from 5 different counseling professionals.
We’ll start with some admissions advice.
“Pay attention to demonstrated interest: Colleges want to accept students they believe will attend as it raises their yield. Students can demonstrate interest by writing exceptional essays especially the supplemental essays that are specific to the college. Students need to show that they have knowledge about the college and how to be an asset to that college community. Communicating with schools to show your interest can be done quite early in the process.” — Jeannie Borin
This tip comes from Jeannie Borin, a recognized expert on college counseling and admissions. She is the founder of College Connections and writes for the Huffington Post. She knows that enthusiasm counts. Colleges want to know that a student wants to attend their school. By showing initiative and reaching out to the school, students can earn favorable bonus points in terms of potential admission. And the more a school learns about an interested student, the better they can determine if that student would be a great addition to their college.
“Summer is a great time to get started on college essays. Take notes on the various schools and how one differs from the rest.” — Jeannie Borin
Without the distraction of homework and tests, students can use parts of their summer vacation to get a solid head start on the admissions process. The more time students have to write, review, and edit their essays, the better. Sometimes a well-written essay can be the tipping point of being accepted into a school.
“Don’t Procrastinate – No matter how well you think you perform under pressure, waiting to do things until the last minute never pays off. College applications and essays benefit from careful proofing and revising, which means first drafts must be completed well in advance of application deadlines. Submitting your college applications several weeks in advance of the deadlines (instead of at the last second) allows time to make sure all your materials are received by the college in time, therefore reducing stress and scrambling if anything needs to be resent. Beginning application tasks long before deadlines allows you to keep a clear head and be thoughtful in your approach to your application—a win-win for everyone involved.” — Meredith Principe
Coming from Meredith Principe, Campus Bound’s VP of Operations and College Counseling, this tip is vital for graduating high schoolers. The first sentence applies as good life advice, and the rest for students getting ready for college. With applications, sooner is always better. The materials presented to potential colleges need to be the students very best work, so it’s always best to allow ample time to write, revise, and perfect applications.
Once in college, navigating campus, classroom, and work life can sometimes get tricky. Here are some counselors with tips on college survival.
“Having a system for keeping track of classes, homework, projects, and appointments may seem unnecessary when things are going smoothly for you. But when things get busy and chaotic (final exam week, for example), the advantages will be clear. Find a calendar, phone app, software, or day planner that you like and will use—then stick to it.” — Meredith Principe
A great and useful habit to get into, keeping things organized will always help in both the short and long-term. Knowing when things are due can help with prioritizing tasks and maintaining an orderly schedule — making things much easier to control.
Meet the Faculty:
“Get to know your academic advisor. They can assist you with course planning, career advice, study skills, and academic success strategies.” — Eric Stoller
This tip comes from former academic advisor at Oregon State University, Eric Stoller, who now works as a consultant and is a higher-education speaker. Stoller stresses the importance of students developing a relationship with their academic advisor (sometimes used interchangeably with “college counselor”). The more advisors get to know a student, the better they can help formulate an academic plan fit for them. Advisors are have a wealth of knowledge about varying aspects of college life, and their job is to share that knowledge with students.
“See your advisor every semester and get to know at least one new faculty member during office hours each semester. Start your career planning in your sophomore year—your senior year is too late!” — Kate Torno
For 15 years Kate Torno has been advising in the field of student affairs and currently works as the academic advisor for students in the English department at the University of Iowa. Her tip builds on Stoller’s; it’s important for students to get to know advisors, but it’s equally as important to visit them regularly. College is prime time for meeting all sorts of new people, and that includes members of the faculty like advisors and professors. Building relationships with staff members is just as important as making new friends with classmates. Mentors like advisors and professors can offer advice and help to the students who seek them out. Additionally, starting to figure out what a student wants to do after college is best done sooner rather than later. Advisors can help put students on the right path and give them proper resources in order to find that dream job.
“Use social media to connect and engage with your campus community. Share resources and use social networks for learning and career development.” — Eric Stoller
Colleges are latching onto 21st century tech in order to connect with students better than ever before. Students can follow the Twitters and Facebook pages of student organizations, campus-wide events, and other opportunities to get involve in college life. Potential employers also browse through social media outlets to see how engaged recent graduates or interested interns are with their community. Social media is a great way to connect with people, maintain a network, and gain lots of information.
“College is a great time to pursue new interests. In most colleges, there will be an activities fair within the first two weeks of school when all of the groups on campus set up a table and have current members available to recruit new members. Take time to visit as many tables as you can and listen to what they do, find out what kind of group they are – service, social, religious, athletic, etc. Don’t necessarily gravitate to the things you did in high school. Treat it like an adventure. Not only will you learn something new, but you will have a built-in friend group!” — Deborah Zatkowski
Another counseling professional from Campus Bound, Deborah Zatkowski has been involved with college counseling and admissions for years, holding multiple prestigious positions. Zatkowski knows that in addition to academics, college is a time for exploration and discovery. With so many new opportunities available, students can find entirely new hobbies, pursue new areas of interest, and build a diverse network of relationships.
“How many times do you hear someone groan about a lower grade than expected and say “but I studied so hard!” It may not be the hours that were put in, but the way in which the time was spent. Students need to realize that there are people on campus that can help make studying more productive. If the faculty member, or teaching assistant, offers a study group, make sure to attend. If you are unclear about the teacher’s expectations, visit one-on-one during his/her office hours. In addition, most colleges have academic centers or areas where students can go for extra help. Take advantage of the many ways you can seek assistance so that the time you spend studying is time well spent!” — Deborah Zatkowski
Studying in college can be very different from studying done in high school. Luckily there are numerous resources on campus to ensure students are preparing to the best of their abilities for tests, projects, and papers.
The College Experience:
“You will get as much out of college as you put into college—in the classroom and extra-curriculars. You’re paying a lot for each course—don’t skip. Bring a question or comment each class period. Get involved in at least one organization, service activity, or residence hall event each year. Work part-time or do at least one internship while in college.” — Kate Torno
Read that first line over and over again. College is a hub of opportunities, but it’s up to the student to take them. To truly make the most of the college experience, students must engage. It’s not enough just to show up to class, take notes, and go home. Excelling in college means being involved, taking on challenges, exploring new interests, and cultivating experiences of all kinds.
With these tips in hand, navigating college admissions and campus life can be a little easier. Thank you to all five experts for sharing their advice!