5 Ways to Explore College Campuses Before Your Official Visit March 5th, 2015
Campus Tour

Ways to Explore Colleges Before Your Official Visit

Official campus tours aren’t the only way for you to see college campuses. Throughout the year, colleges offer many programs for high school students. Plus, online virtual tours and social media provide an additional means to experience the campus. Here are five ways you can explore college campuses before you schedule an official visit or tour.

Pre-college programs: Most colleges offer some type of pre-college program for high school students in the summer. Programs can be daylong workshops or multi-week college class experiences. Check out colleges near you (or colleges you’re interested in attending) to see what pre-college programs they offer. During a pre-college experience, you’ll get to see the campus and even meet faculty who could become your professors.

Academic competitions: Colleges across the country host various competitions for high school students. For example, Model Congress provides an opportunity for high school students to participate in simulations to discover how the government works. It’s a sort of competitive debate team experience. Competitions for Model Congress are held at universities such as American International College (MA), Columbia University (NY), Princeton University (NJ), the University of Pennsylvania, Yale (CT), Harvard (MA), and the College of William and Mary (VA).

Similarly, some regional competitions for students participating in FIRST LEGO League (a national program for students interested in robotics and technology) are held on college campuses. This year, some of the FIRST LEGO regional competitions are being held at the University of Maryland, University of Minnesota, Bradley University (IL), Xavier University (OH), Central Washington University and Lehigh University (PA).

Before or after your competition, take time to walk around the campus. Volunteers helping to host the event could be current students or professors, so feel free to ask them questions about the school.

Virtual tours: Most college websites now have videos, photos, 3-D maps or interactive maps with pop-up virtual tour guides to give you a virtual tour of the campus. A virtual tour can give you a sense of how big a campus is (if there are lots of buildings, or just a few), what the dorms are like, and what classrooms or other inside spaces on campus are like.

Social media: Most colleges have social media accounts. And the students do, too. Search social media sites like Twitter or Instagram for keywords that include the college’s name you’re interested in. You can then see what students and others are saying. Colleges may also post various videos on YouTube, so you might be able to get a glimpse into some classrooms, dorms, labs or other campus facilities by watching videos.

Concerts or theater productions: Many large colleges have big arenas for their sports teams, but between games they may host public events such as concerts. Other colleges may have auditoriums that host musicals, plays, band and choir concerts, and other shows. If a concert or show at the college interests you, attend the show. Before the show, walk around the campus or even grab a bite to eat at a restaurant on campus or in town to see what life there is like.

Of course, you’ll eventually want to schedule an official campus tour at a few of your top college choices, but these alternate ways to explore college campuses can give you insight before you’re ready to take that step.

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College Major of the Month: Sociology March 3rd, 2015
College Major

College Major of the Month: Sociology

Pop quiz: What do Ronald Reagan, Michelle Obama, Jesse Jackson, Regis Filbin and Robin Williams have in common? They all majored in sociology in college. If you’re interested in studying society and the social behavior of groups, cultures and organizations, sociology might be a possible college major for you. Let’s explore this month’s College Major of the Month.

What jobs exist for sociology majors? According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, sociologists study the behavior and interactions of groups of people and organizations, particularly in the context of social, political and economic forces. A degree in sociology can lead to a career as a policy analyst, survey researcher, statistician, demographer or high school teacher. Additional graduate work in sociology could lead to a career in research for nonprofit organizations, businesses or the government.

The American Sociological Association website has more information on career opportunities for sociologists with a bachelor’s degree.

How much money do sociologists make? The average starting salary for sociology graduates with a bachelor’s degree is $37,100, according to a 2013 National Association of Colleges and Employers’ Salary Survey. The median annual salary for sociologists across all career levels is $74,960, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What are the education requirements for sociologists? For many sociology jobs, you’ll need a master’s degree or Ph.D. Sociologists typically specialize in a specific area, such as health, education, crime, families, poverty, gender or race and ethnic relations.

How can I prepare in high school to major in sociology? Take courses in sociology, psychology, as well as statistics, if they are available at your high school. Volunteer at social services organizations in your community.

What scholarships are available for sociology majors? Many colleges with sociology programs also may offer scholarships specifically for sociology majors, so ask the admission counselors at the colleges you’re interested what sociology scholarships they offer.

Image credit: Courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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College Scholarships Ending in March 2015 February 26th, 2015
Scholarship Money

Apply for College Scholarships

This month there are several scholarship opportunities available for high school students in any grade, including scholarships for musicians, leaders, volunteers, children of veterans and women interested in technology and engineering. Read on to see eight college scholarships with deadlines in March 2015.

Barbara Wiedner & Dorothy Vandercook Memorial Scholarship Foundation Peace Scholarships: High school seniors and college freshmen can apply for this scholarship. Applicants should have demonstrated leadership or personal initiative in activities involving peace and social justice, nuclear disarmament or conflict resolution. Awards are $250 to $500. Deadline: March 1

Children of Warriors National Presidents’ Scholarship: The American Legion Auxiliary sponsors this scholarship, which offers awards ranging from $2,500 to $3,500 to students who excel in academics and volunteer, and who are also a child or grandchild of a veteran. High school seniors can apply. Deadline: March 1

Glenn Miller Scholarship Competition: Vocalists and instrumentalists can make an audition CD to apply for these scholarships. Awards range from $1,000 to $4,000. Deadline: March 1

EngineerGirl Essay Contest: This year’s annual essay contest focuses on engineering in sports. Students in grades 3 through 12 can submit entries about one technology used in a sport you enjoy. Awards range from $100 to $500. Deadline: March 1

Frame My Future Scholarship Contest: Submit an original creative image (photo, collage, poem, drawing, painting) for a chance to win $1,000 for college. Finalists will be selected from entries, and the public votes for winners. Deadline: March 3

Women in Technology Scholarship Program: College-bound women can apply for this scholarship, which awards $2,500 scholarship to multiple women each year. Applications are evaluated on academics, community involvement, extracurricular activities, leadership qualities, career path and essay. Deadline: March 9

Kohl’s Cares Scholarship Program: Students ages 6 and 18 who volunteer can be nominated for this award. National winners receive $10,000 and regional winners receive $1,000. Deadline: March 15

Superpower Scholarship: Students ages 13 and up can write a 250-word essay on which superhero you’d like to change places with for a day. Deadline: March 31

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It’s Time to Start Applying to Pre-College Summer Programs February 19th, 2015
Pre-College Summer

Deadlines for Pre-College Summer Programs

In the middle of winter, you might not be thinking about summer just yet, but colleges across the country are. Many pre-college summer programs have already begun the registration process for this summer. In many cases, they accept or enroll students on a first-come, first-served basis, so you’ll want to register or apply for the program ASAP.

Here’s a list of a few pre-college programs by the month of their application deadlines.

March Deadlines

California College of the Arts Pre-College Program: Study art, architecture, design or creative writing over the summer in California’s Bay Area. The priority application deadline is March 16.

John Hopkins University Discover Hopkins Programs: These programs focus on the health studies field. Apply by March 15, particularly if you plan to apply for financial aid.

April Deadlines

Emory University (GA) Pre-College Summer Program: In this program, meet professors, enroll in college courses for credit and stay in a dorm on campus (or commute if you live nearby). The earlier you apply, the better chance you’ll get your residential preferences and course preferences. Apply by April 1 to be considered for financial aid for this program.

Michigan Technical University Summer Youth Programs: This university offers a variety of programs. Deadlines vary by program, but most have deadlines as early as April or May.

May Deadlines

Carnegie Mellon University Pre-College Programs: Choose from a variety of programs to suit your academic interests. Apply by May 1.

Syracuse Summer College: Syracuse University’s (NY) Summer College for high school students lets you take two-, three- or six-week college classes (some for college credit, others not for credit) in a wide range of disciplines. Apply by May 15.

June Deadlines

The University of Pennsylvania Summer Academies: Penn has Summer Academies on biomedical research, chemistry research, experimental physics research and social justice research. Penn also has a general pre-college program for rising juniors and seniors. You may even be able to earn college credit for courses you take through Penn’s program. Apply by June 1.

July Deadlines

University of Maryland Young Scholars Program: This summer program is open to rising high school freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors. During the program, you’ll take one college-level, three-credit introductory course. The official application deadline is July 15, but students who are admitted by April 18 must confirm their admission by April 20. Check the program website for complete list of deadlines.

Other Deadlines

National Student Leadership Conference programs: The NSLC offers many prestigious leadership programs at colleges across the country, and on topics from biotechnology and business to culinary arts and medicine. You must be nominated by a teacher or guidance counselor. Check with your guidance office for deadlines. If you’re accepted into the program, enroll as soon as possible to reserve your spot.

Look for other programs at colleges in your area by Googling your location or the name of certain college, and the term “pre-college programs.”

Image credit: Courtesy of Rowan University Publications via Flickr Creative Commons.

Who We Are: Information you can trust. For 20 years My College Guide has produced an annual magazine chock full of free college info for high-achieving high school sophomores and another edition just for high-achieving juniors! Check out our participating colleges.

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Apps to Help Write College Application Essays February 17th, 2015
Apps for Essays

Apps to Help Write College Application Essays

The most difficult part of writing any essay is finding a good idea and getting started. If you’re having difficulty crafting your college application essay, consider using one of these mobile apps to help you get started.

All College Application Essays (iTunes; Google Play)
This free app has application prompts for more than 750 colleges, including college essay prompts on the Common Application. The app can help you figure out what you need to write for each college you’re applying to, how to submit each essay and how you can manage your application strategy and your essay writing workload. Just make sure you’re using the most up-to-date version, so it has the correct essay prompts for the year you’re applying.

College Essay Techniques (iTunes for $1.99)
This app provides advice on choosing a winning topic, telling your story effectively and how to write long and short supplemental essays. It also provides examples of Harvard admissions essays.

College Essay Brainstorm (iTunes for $.99; Google Play for $2.99)
Download this app to help you brainstorm college essay ideas for Common Application questions. It provides prompts based on which Common Application question you want to work on and helps you focus on brainstorming and recording the good ideas you come up with.

Essay Writing Guide (iTunes for $2.99)
Developed by a college English professor, this app aims to guide you through writing any kind of essay, including college application essays. It provides tips on organization, content, style and mechanics, and it includes a glossary. See how it works in a YouTube video.

For additional help on your college application essay, talk to your English teacher or guidance counselor.

Image credit: Courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Who We Are: Information you can trust. For 20 years My College Guide has produced an annual magazine chock full of free college info for high-achieving high school sophomores and another edition just for high-achieving juniors! Check out our participating colleges.

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50 College Admissions Offices on Twitter February 12th, 2015
Admissions on Twitter

College Admissions Offices on Twitter

In the last decade, the number of colleges and admissions offices on Twitter has surged. More colleges are tweeting to engage current and future students (you!), showcase photos of student life and tout news about the school.

So, what can Twitter tell you about a college? A college’s Twitter account can help you learn more about the school, the activities that happen on campus and more. Plus, if you have questions, you can tweet the admissions office to get an answer.

Check out these 50 college admissions offices that tweet regularly.

Who We Are: Information you can trust. For 20 years My College Guide has produced an annual magazine chock full of free college info for high-achieving high school sophomores and another edition just for high-achieving juniors! Check out our participating colleges.

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How Many Colleges Should You Apply To? February 5th, 2015
Apply to College

How Many Colleges to Apply To

Some students apply to more than a dozen colleges, while others apply to one or two. But how many colleges should you really apply to?

Well, there is no magic number when it comes to applying to colleges. However, many experts recommend you apply to about five to ten schools. Consider these tips to narrow your college options and choose the right number of colleges to apply to for your situation.

Narrow your college choices. If you hadn’t already noticed, dozens of colleges will send you brochures or e-mails. Do your research early, find out which ones interest you most, and then visit them in person if you can. To narrow your choices, ask yourself these questions: How big or small of a school do I want? Do I want to be in an urban, rural or suburban setting? Does the college have my major? Does the college offer clubs for activities I like to do? How close to home do I want to be?

Identify at least three colleges to apply to. Most experts recommend you have a least one “safety” school (a school where you’re certain to be accepted), a “probable” school (one you’re likely to be admitted to, but the jury’s still out), and a “reach” school (a highly selective school it would be awesome to attend, but that only accepts a small number of students each year).

Having a good mix of schools on your list—ones you like and would be happy attending, even though they may not be your first choice—will ensure your applications are well-rounded so you’re sure to receive at least one (if not more!) college acceptance letter.

Consider application costs. It can be costly to apply to colleges since many schools have application fees of $50 or more. Still, some colleges offer special promotions when you can apply for free. If you need to stick to a budget, be very selective with the schools you choose to apply to.

Also, make sure you’re on the e-mail lists of the colleges that interest you so you can receive notifications about special times when you can apply for free (if available.) If applying to any college is a financial hardship, talk to your admission counselors to see if the application fee can be waived.

If you’re still unsure how many colleges to apply to, schedule an appointment to talk with your high school guidance counselor. He or she can help you determine what your best options are and help you create a plan for applying to a manageable number of colleges.

Image credit: Courtesy of Villanova University Campus. © Villanova University

Who We Are: Information you can trust. For 20 years My College Guide has produced an annual magazine chock full of free college info for high-achieving high school sophomores and another edition just for high-achieving juniors! Check out our participating colleges.

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College Major of the Month: Software Engineering February 3rd, 2015
Software Engineering

College Major of the Month: Software Engineering

We all know that engineering careers pay well. Engineering always seems to be listed on lists of the top-paying jobs. But did you know there are dozens of different types of engineering you can major in at college? Because of this, we’ve decided to focus this month’s College Major of the Month on one of these engineering specialty areas: software engineering.

Software is increasingly prevalent in the devices we use every day. Think about the iPad apps that record your fitness activity, the crash avoidance sensing systems in new cars, the avionics systems that control how airplanes and drones operate, and the automated systems that let Amazon.com quickly get packages to customers. Software engineers play a role in developing these technologies.

What is software engineering? Software engineering is a field where you can design, develop and maintain software systems. According to the Association for Computing Machinery, software engineering “integrates significant mathematics, computer science and practices whose origins are in engineering.”

What jobs exist for software engineering majors? The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the need for application developers and software systems developers to grow rapidly in the coming years, largely as a result of the growing number of products that require software.

Landing an internship or co-op experience while in college is important. It will enable you to get real-world experience in software engineering, which will improve your appeal to employers when you graduate.

What are education requirements for software engineers? A bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution is typically required for entry-level jobs. Look for schools accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET).

Courses may cover topics such as networking, databases, artificial intelligence, computer science theory, software design, software verification and validation, and software management.

Graduates need to have an understanding of mathematics, writing code and computer programming. Communication skills are also important for software engineers so that you can communicate well with customers and other members of your project team.

How much money do software engineers make? The median annual salary for software engineers is about $90,000, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. According to Payscale.com, salaries for software engineers range from $52,456 to $117, 267 per year. Salaries depend on education level, experience and location, among other factors.

How can I prepare in high school to major in software engineering? Take as many computer classes as you can in high school, such as computer programming. Also take as many math classes as you can because knowledge of math is a foundational skill for software engineering.

Groups that promote STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields, like FIRST LEGO League, have extracurricular activities you can get involved with. If your school doesn’t have a group like this, talk to your teacher or guidance counselor about starting one. Also, attend a pre-college summer program or engineering camp at a college near you.

What scholarships are available for software engineering majors? Many technology companies and professional organizations offer college scholarships for software engineering majors. Look for scholarships available for software engineers and well as for computer science majors, since both fields are related.

For example, Google offers a $10,000 Generation Google Scholarship to high school seniors each year. Microsoft offers scholarships to current college students pursuing a career in the software industry. The Society of Women Engineers offers scholarships for female students pursuing various engineering disciplines.

Image credit: Courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Who We Are: Information you can trust. For 20 years My College Guide has produced an annual magazine chock full of free college info for high-achieving high school sophomores and another edition just for high-achieving juniors! Check out our participating colleges.

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College Scholarships Ending in February 2015 January 29th, 2015
Scholarship Money

Apply for College Scholarships

The scholarship application season is in full swing! Whether you’re going to college next fall, or have another year, there are college scholarships you can apply for now. See our list of six college scholarships with deadlines in February 2015.

AXA Achievement Community Scholarship: This scholarship is for high school seniors who have ambition, determination to set and reach goals, and demonstrated respect. Special consideration is given to students with “achievements that empower society to mitigate risk through education and/or action in areas such as financial, environmental, health, safety and/or emergency preparedness.” Twelve scholarships of up to $2,500 each are available. Deadline: February 1 (but only the first 10,000 applicants will be considered)

Edison Scholars Program: High school seniors who live an area serviced by Southern California Edison, and who have a financial need and plan to study math, physics, chemistry, engineering, materials science, computer science or information systems can apply for this scholarship. Up to 30 scholarships of $10,000 per year each are awarded each year. Deadline: February 1

Rent-a-Center Make a Difference Scholarship: Customers and immediate family members of Rent-a-Center, Get It Now!, Home Choice and Acceptance Now may be eligible to apply for this scholarship. High school seniors or currently enrolled college students can apply. Awards are $1,000 each. Deadline: February 2

Teens for Jeans Scholarship: DoSomething.org is sponsoring a $10,000 scholarship contest for students who host a clothing drive to collect jeans to donate to homeless youth. Sign up to get more details. Deadline: February 15

The Gallery Collection Create-a-Greeting-Card Scholarship Contest: For a chance to win a $10,000 scholarship, you can design your own greeting card cover. Submit a photo you took, artwork you created or computer graphic you designed for the front of a greeting card. The winner also gets $1,000 for his or her school. Deadline: February 18

Sweet & Simple Scholarship: Anyone age 13 and up can apply for this $1,500 scholarship. To apply, write a 250-word essay about a gift you received and why it meant so much to you. Deadline: February 28

For even more college scholarships to apply for this month, see our list of last year’s February scholarship deadlines. Many programs are annual, so programs on last year’s list may offer scholarships again this year.

Who We Are: Information you can trust. For 20 years My College Guide has produced an annual magazine chock full of free college info for high-achieving high school sophomores and another edition just for high-achieving juniors! Check out our participating colleges.

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Colleges That Dish Up Organic Food January 22nd, 2015
Organic Dining Centers

Organic Food at Colleges

Nearly 53 percent of Americans ages 18 to 29 seek out organic foods, according to a 2014 Gallup Poll. If you’re one of these people (or you want to be), you may know that the multi-billion dollar organic food market continues to grow each year. And college dining halls and cafeterias are taking notice.

Many colleges offer organic food options. Here’s a sampling of just a few of the campuses that provide organic and sustainable foods.

College of the Atlantic (ME): According to this college’s Dining Services Web page, its “kitchen emphasizes the use of local, organic ingredients.” The college uses meat that is humanely raised and seafood from sustainable sources. The college dining services uses some organic produce from the Beech Hill Farm’s Farm Stand. The farm is run by a collaboration of students, faculty and farm managers.

Duke University (NC): The Blue Devils’ dining services says it “has a strong reputation for high quality dining services, which includes a commitment to sustainability.” Many of the dining locales on campus include organic ingredients.

Evergreen State University (WA): About 30 percent of the dining center food at this college is from local sources or is organic. Poultry and beef come from local vendors that raise the animals without antibiotics or added hormones. The college’s juice vendor—Columbia Gorge Organic Juice—offers several varieties of juice made with organic fruit. There’s also a certified organic farm on campus.

Middlebury College (VT): Students at Middlebury run the Middlebury College Organic Farm. Some of the produce grown on this farm are used in the college’s dining centers. The college’s dining services uses a much local produce as it can, such as locally grown fruits and vegetables, maple syrup and dairy products.

St. Olaf College (MN): This college has its own student-run organic farm, too, called STOGROW. The campus dining services buys vegetables and herbs from this farm, and uses meat and poultry raised antibiotic-free and without growth hormones.

University of California, Berkeley: This college is home to America’s first certified organic college dining hall. All salad bars in dining centers on campus are 100% organic. In addition, dining centers in the residence halls offer organic trans-fat free peanut butter and organic, cage-free eggs.

Yale University (CT): This Ivy League school has a Sustainable Food Program, which incorporates an organic food component. Students grow organic fruits, vegetables, herbs and more on the one-acre The Yale Farm located on Yale’s central campus. Yale’s dining services use hormone and antibiotic-free beef, cage-free chicken and organic fair trade coffee, among other sustainable and organic food.

Image credit: Courtesy of stockimages/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Who We Are: Information you can trust. For 20 years My College Guide has produced an annual magazine chock full of free college info for high-achieving high school sophomores and another edition just for high-achieving juniors! Check out our participating colleges.

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