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End-of-Summer Tips for High School Students in the Age of Covid

Alyse Levine, Founder & CEO of Premium Prep College Counseling

This summer has been highly unusual, to say the least. I hope you have had some solid down-time and found creative ways to safely socialize with friends. Maybe you’ve even had opportunities to dig into a favorite activity or pastime. A range of high school school plans will be rolled out over the next month, and whereas there are differences between them, it is safe to say that none are “normal.” And there remain a lot of unknowns. That said, we have spent the past four months educating ourselves, speaking to admissions counselors, attending webinars, huddling together as a team, and doing whatever else we can do to stay up-to-date and make sure that we are prepared to properly advise our students and families. This will certainly be a school year like none other. Yet, there are concrete steps you can take to maintain a smooth college process. This blog post contains valuable tips for all high school students.

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What Counts?

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

What counts?

I’ve been thinking about this question for some time now. Come to think of it, I’ve been pondering it my entire career. The concept first arises when a student is gearing up for high school. Suddenly “It counts.” What does that mean? Did everything that preceded this moment somehow not count? In many ways, “What counts?” has become the essential question of college admissions—and the one I am probably asked most often. I think most of us in college counseling and admissions have a sort of sixth sense about it. We’ve used our inner compasses for years, and usually the answers are pretty clear. And yet, too often, “What counts?” is overly influenced by “What will get me in?” 

But maybe now something has changed.

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7 Tips for Acing Your College Interviews

Alyse Levine, Founder & CEO of Premium Prep College Counseling

The college interview is a time-honored tradition, and yet most people are uncertain as to its exact purpose and how to approach it. Caricatured in countless movies and television shows, it often gets a bad rap, reinforced by older friends and relatives quick to share stories of their own awkward encounters. An overly intense interviewer peppers the applicant with impossible questions. An enthusiastic interviewee puts their foot in their mouth and immediately sinks their application. In reality, the college interview is rarely that rough, and, while certainly not irrelevant, it is not nearly as important as grades, activities, test scores, and essays. However, in a world of increasing competition and inflated credentials, the interview can be an important factor. It may not alone determine your chances for admission, but it remains an opportunity to distinguish yourself from other applicants. Some colleges require an interview and have a very formal process built into their application process; others do not require it but do encourage applicants to interview with an admissions representative or alumnus, on-campus or in a student’s hometown. Either way, it is important to take the process seriously. It is a chance to showcase the less tangible aspects of your application, interests, and character, have a conversation with someone knowledgeable about the school, and build a relationship with an admissions officer or alum. Here are seven tips to make sure you are college-interview ready.

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End-of-Summer Tips for High School Students

Alyse Levine, Founder & CEO of Premium Prep College Counseling

That collective groan you here? It’s students everywhere realizing that summer is ending. Like clockwork, the emails from school administrators have started to arrive in your inbox and class schedules are being released, signaling that you’ll soon be back to the grind. By all means, do what you can to squeeze out what you can from these remaining vacation days; sleep late, hang out with friends, relax. But, whether you like it or not, it’s time to begin thinking about the academic year ahead. School is right around the corner, and this is a great time to get things in order and prepare for what’s to come. This should absolutely include building in some down time for yourself; it’s so important to take care of your mind and body. Yet, I have found that having a plan and some basic goals can also help mitigate the stress.

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How to Nail Your Personal Statement

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

When it comes to college applications, nothing looms larger than the personal statement. It has acquired an almost mythological quality in our culture. Ask around, and most adults can readily tell you what they wrote about. And the hype is not misplaced: the personal statement remains the cornerstone of the college application. It is the primary way for applicants to speak directly to admissions officers, showcase their distinctive qualities and experiences, and make a case for why they belong at a particular school. It is also the essential way for those officers to get to know you as a person, beyond transcripts and test scores. Due to its significance, the personal statement can be intimidating. Applicants feel pressure to write something unique, while being both confident and humble, mature and youthful, exceptional and relatable. Not to mention that most high school students have never written about themselves in such a direct way. But, there are ways to organize your approach and make your essay process as painless as possible. Here are my tips for a successful personal statement:

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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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