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5 Ways to Optimize Your College Process

By Alyse Levine, Founder & CEO of Premium Prep College Counseling

Throughout my career, I have been a big proponent of “the match.” There is a school out there for everyone, and finding that school is much more a matter of knowing yourself and learning your options than following over-hyped rankings, supposed prestige, or what others in your community are saying. To abide by that philosophy means having to search and discover according to your criteria. This requires first identifying those criteria and then setting your own course through the college admissions process. Translation: you need to do a lot of homework, and there are no shortcuts. Developing a list of schools can be a daunting task, as the variety of colleges and programs can seem endless. Narrowing down is the key, but being open-minded, exposing yourself to different types of schools, and understanding your specific wants and needs are the crucial first steps. Look inward before searching outward. For this blog post, I’ve compiled five ways to optimize your college process.

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Humanities Now!

By Alyse Levine, Founder & CEO of Premium Prep College Counseling

When it comes to college admissions, schools are always attempting to stay ahead of the curve. They try to anticipate what’s coming, what the world will soon need, examine their own trends, and adjust accordingly. The most popular disciplines are of course the ones with the most applicants and majors, often resulting in increased support and funding in those areas. But schools also hope to correct disparities in their application pools and maintain a balanced and intellectually diverse student body. From a college admissions perspective, the shift toward what are commonly called STEM fields has resulted in a glut of prospective students competing in those fields, while competition among students focused on time-honored but less “hot” areas like history, English, philosophy, and the arts has dropped significantly. Colleges know the value of the humanities and are actively looking for students devoted to them. If you’re passionate about such things, don’t hesitate to buck the STEM trend. There are benefits—both now and later.

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10 Tips for Visiting Colleges

By Alyse Levine, Founder & CEO of Premium Prep College Counseling

There is no better way to learn about a college than to visit it in person. Can you picture yourself there? Will the academic and extracurricular options satisfy your needs? Is the atmosphere appealing? Can you imagine this place as your home for four years? Students today can gather endless facts about the schools on their list and do “virtual tours” of each from anywhere. Yet the truth remains that, if you want to get a real feel for a particular college, nothing beats walking across its campus, attending information sessions, talking to students and admissions representatives, and touring specific departments, programs, or facilities. The campus visit is also the primary way to “demonstrate interest” in a school (see our previous blog-post covering this important topic), and it can be the most fun part of the college application process too! Though each school is a bit different in how it handles visitors, there are some rules of thumb to keep in mind when planning and executing this phase of your process. Here are ten tips to make the most of your college visits…

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The Transition to College

By Alyse Levine, Founder & CEO of Premium Prep College Counseling
With Special Guest: Perri Kersh, Owner of Neat Freak Professional Organizing

Phew! You’ve made it. No more SATs or ACTs, no more college essays, and no more anxiety about getting in. Breathe a sigh of relief, and give yourself a pat on the back. You’ve crossed the college-admissions finish line – CONGRATULATIONS! Of course, this is really only the beginning, the start of a crucial phase of your life–what all that work and anxiety was for. As you look forward and picture yourself at college, excitement will surely grow, and rightly so. But, be prepared to confront some fresh concerns–things you didn’t focus much on while applying to schools–as you turn your attention from admissions to attending. The sense of relief at being done with your application process often comes with a new stressor: the transition to college.

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Why Does it Seem so Hard to Get into College?

By Alyse Levine, Founder & CEO of Premium Prep College Counseling

There’s a scene in the 2017 Greta Gerwig film Ladybird in which the title character receives her college admissions results on her clunky 2000s-era desktop. The University of California system page informs her that she was admitted to only one school: UC Davis. She curses and slaps the computer. When her older brother tries to comfort her, she accuses him of not understanding her situation. The scene is funny because it’s so relatable; it taps into the painful reality of skyrocketing application numbers and plummeting college admission rates, a situation that has only gotten more intense since the time in which the film is set. That reality must be confronted by prospective applicants, as they grapple with their chances for admission to schools that are determined to climb the rankings. Why is it so much tougher to get into college now? What shifts occurred, both within colleges and within the college applicant pool, to create this hyper-competitive environment? How can students today deal with the increased pressure of college admissions? Are Early Decision (ED) options good ways to navigate the daunting barriers that some universities construct? What is going on?

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Spring Tips for High School Students

By Alyse Levine, Founder & CEO of Premium Prep College Counseling

No matter where you are in your high school career, the college admissions process often looms large. As I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, the process has changed dramatically in the past twenty years, and this has caused a great deal of anxiety among high school students (and their parents). It is important to be informed of the nuances and expectations in advance and to start planning early, while remaining loyal to who you are, following your passions, and keeping perspective and a healthy life-balance. Spring is a critical time for many of you: on the one hand, you’re in the homestretch, and it’s tempting to simply ride out the remainder of the year and launch into summer; on the other hand, it is crucial to remain on track and not to lose sight of your goals. I have found that some basic pointers can be enormously empowering for students—a way to ensure that you’re maintaining focus so that you can manage the stress and stay on top of things.

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6 Pointers on Extracurricular Activities and College Admissions

By Alyse Levine, Founder & CEO of Premium Prep College Counseling

With college admissions getting more and more competitive, extracurricular activities have become an increasingly important way to stand out from the pack. Colleges are paying close attention to what applicants do in their spare time–after school and during summers–and yet it’s not simply a matter of piling on the activities, playing as many sports as possible, and racking up the internships. Colleges value extracurriculars that show an applicant’s true passions; they should reflect who you are. What do you like to do? What sort of activities pique your interest? What is important to you? Whether you are in the marching band, Science Olympiad, or a varsity sport, whether you volunteer on weekends, work in a lab, or give tours in a local museum, extracurriculars help build and strengthen character. Colleges see your list of activities as a window into who you are as a person, your interests, commitments, and ethos. There are no shortcuts here. By starting early, focusing in, and really developing your interests, you can distinguish yourself in the applicant pool. And understanding how colleges judge extracurricular activities can ensue that you’re on the right track. Below are six fundamental pointers. You need not follow them all, but they’ll give you a good sense of how admissions officers think and how best to approach this crucial part of your college application.

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What Colleges Look for in Your Summer Experiences

By Alyse Levine, Founder & CEO of Premium Prep College Counseling

It may not feel like it right now, but summer will be here soon. School will be out, and you’ll have a few short months before it starts up again. Of course, summer is for relaxing and unwinding, but it’s also a time for self-growth, for you to develop your passions and enrich your experiences. Your extracurricular activities make up a crucial part of your college applications. They are opportunities to stand out from the pack, and college admissions offices are always looking for students who spent their summers in productive ways. Yet, the world of summer plans and programs is vast, and there is a lot of variance in how schools value different types of activities. What kinds of things really make an impression? How can students focus and deepen their interests in authentic ways, showing initiative, independence, and leadership? Are established summer programs worth it, or is it better to design a more “homegrown” experience? What about internships, research, jobs, volunteer work, and “service”? Whether you’re interested in developing new skills through workshops and summer classes, want to gain experience through a job or internship, or would like to give back to your community through volunteering, there are many ways to have a wonderful summer while also distinguishing yourself for college admissions. Here are some tips on how to begin thinking about your upcoming summer:

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5 Ways to Stand Out When Applying to College

By Alyse Levine, Founder & CEO of Premium Prep College Counseling

Every year, more than two million high school graduates apply to college. With so many students vying for a limited number of spots, it is crucial to find ways to shine. The college application is the means by which applicants introduce themselves to schools,  but applying to college involves so much more. It begins well before students submit their materials and involves many intangibles. With so much competition out there, admissions decisions often ride on the tiniest distinctions. This has caused a great deal of anxiety among high school students (and their parents), though alongside that stress there are some very real opportunities to be seized. Students can distinguish themselves by starting early, becoming informed about the nuances of the college application process, and taking some basic but important steps. Here are five tips to help you stand out from the pack:

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The Do’s and Don’ts of Parenting a College Applicant

By Alyse Levine, Founder & CEO of Premium Prep College Counseling

How did this happen? Your child is suddenly grown up and ready to start thinking about colleges. Wasn’t it just yesterday that she was starting kindergarten? Now she’s ready to apply to college? She may be talking to you non-stop about how excited she is to visit different campuses in her junior year, how nervous she is for her ACT and AP exams, and how ready she is to leave high school behind. Or, she may be conspicuously quiet about it all, even refusing to talk about it, and you sense the anxiety levels creeping up. You know how stressful the college application process can be–on both parents and kids–and so much has changed since you went through it yourself all those years ago. Though you’re excited that your child is ready to take these first steps into adulthood, you’re also hesitant and scared about what’s in store. What if she doesn’t get into the school of her dreams? What if she decides she wants to attend college across the country–or even a different country?! What if she wants to take a gap year before starting a traditional four-year education? What if she doesn’t even know whether or not college is right for her? In any parenting situation like this, it’s important to think hard about what’s at stake, what’s best for your child and family, and how to most effectively approach the college application process. Remember: as much as they may talk about leaving, they still look to you for guidance, reassurance, love, and validation. They might not act like they care what you think, but trust me, they want to make you proud. Here are some important Do’s and Don’ts every parent should keep in mind:

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