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NACACNet > Collaboration & Networking > Blogs and Communities > Admitted Blog
July 28
​Writer’s Block? Tips to Help You Craft Your College Essay

essayUSE.jpgWant to get a jumpstart on your college essay?

Admission professionals, including several NACAC members, offered guidance to applicants in a recent article by NBC News

Some words of wisdom: 

• "Be concise and thoughtful in your statement and try to convey your voice and style in your words. This is the one spot on your application where your personality gets to shine, so don't treat this like a formal school assignment."
— Jeannine Lalonde, associate dean of admissions, University of Virginia 

• "Leadership during personally challenging times is important, but so is being part of a team working together to create something positive," he added. "At the end of the day, we want to know who you are and how your experiences have shaped you and the world around you."
— Doug Christiansen, vice provost for university enrollment affairs and dean of admissions and financial aid, Vanderbilt University (TN)

• If writing about why who want to attend a specific college, don’t be generic. "Think of it like a second or third date: If the person you're with asks, 'Why do you like me?', you can't just say, 'Because you're hot' or 'Because your student-to-faculty ratio is 12:1.'"
— Ethan Sawyer, The College Essay Guy (CA)

Read the full article and check out NACAC’s Top Ten Tips for Writing a College Essay.

To comment on this post, sign into the NACAC website (see top left corner of this page). Admitted writer/editor Mary Stegmeir welcomes additional comments and story ideas at

July 27
Use Your High School Courses and Activities to Prepare for College

studentactivitiesuse.jpgYour post-high school years hold tremendous promise. 

At college you’ll have the opportunity to make new friends, follow your interests and — hopefully— find a satisfying career.

However, nearly half of all students who enter college fail to graduate with a bachelor’s degree within six years.

“There are two reasons why kids flunk out,” said Amy Thompson, a counselor at York Community High School (IL). “They are either academically unprepared or they are emotionally unprepared.”

Increase your chances for success by making the most out of your high school years.

Buckle down in classroom.
Taking rigorous classes in high school doesn’t only help you get into college, the knowledge and skills you acquire work double-duty, preparing you to be successful in your pursuit of a degree.

Seek out honors, Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) courses in subjects that interest you.

“You want to take the most demanding courses you can while maintaining your sanity and still achieving good grades,” Thompson said.

Look for courses that require lots of writing and critical thinking—two skills you’ll be asked to use in almost every college class. Don’t panic if the material seems difficult at first. Developing good study habits and time-management skills in high school can help you persevere in college, even when times get tough.

Some rigorous courses actually allow you to jumpstart your postsecondary education. Students who do well on AP tests, for example, can earn college credit. Some high schools also partner with local colleges to offer dual-credit courses for high school students.

Get involved.
From athletics to theater to volunteer work—there’s a whole world of extracurricular activities open to high school students.

“It can be overwhelming,” Thompson said. “But the one piece of advice I give students is don’t just join something to pad your resume. Pick something you’re genuinely interested in.”

Your goal: By senior year, “be in a position that shows not only your devotion to the group, but also some level of initiative or leadership on your part,” she said.

“Admission officers can see through the applicant who joins a million different clubs in their junior or senior year,” Thompson noted. “Use your activities to show colleges who you are.”

Universities are looking for students who will make the most of the opportunities available to them. A high school record that includes extracurricular activities helps show admission officers that you’ll be a valuable part of their campus community.

Finish strong.
Your senior year of high school will be hectic.

In addition to applying for colleges, you may find yourself leading a student organization or sports team.

It can be tempting to sluff off in the classroom, but stay focused. Senior year grades and courses still count.

“You need to maintain your academic performance, and do at least as well—if not better—because you don’t want to have your admission offer rescinded,” Thompson said.

When planning out your schedule, make sure that you’re on-track to meet college entrance requirements, including at least two years of a foreign language and four years of math, science and English courses.

“Colleges want to see that you know how to work hard, and that you have taken advantage of the courses and activities your high school has to offer,” Thompson said.“A strong finish in your senior year helps make you a more attractive candidate.”​ ​​ ​​​​​

To comment on this post, sign into the NACAC website (see top left corner of this page). Admitted ​writer/editor Mary Stegmeir welcomes additional comments and story ideas at

July 26
​Students: Start Searching Now for On-Campus Jobs

workstudyUSE.jpgPlanning to work during the school year to help pay for college?

Incoming freshmen should start searching now to increase their odds of landing a great campus job, according to a recent post on Homeroom — the official blog of the US Department of Education. 

“If you’re interested in working part-time while in school, it’s best to start checking out those opportunities early, even before you get to campus or start classes,” notes blog author Susan Thares, who works with the department’s office of Federal Student Aid. 

Starting to explore job opportunities now can be especially helpful for students whose financial aid package includes work-study funds.

“Being awarded work-study does not guarantee you a job,” Thares explains. “Some schools match students to jobs, but most schools require students to find, apply, and interview for positions on their own…The most sought after work-study jobs are often filled quickly.”

Read the full blog, which includes other money management tips, and learn more about paying for college

To comment on this post, sign into the NACAC website (see top left corner of this page). Admitted writer/editor Mary Stegmeir welcomes additional comments and story ideas at

July 25
Opinion: Expanding Access to Undocumented Students Begins in Admission

undocumented2USE.jpgA few changes to college admission practices and policies could help increase educational opportunities for undocumented students, according to a recent essay published by Inside Higher Ed.

In the piece, Lily McKeage — program director at a college access organization in New York City — asserts that universities must take “a far more deliberate approach” when recruiting and serving undocumented students. 

“(T)here is a great difference between accepting students and making college truly accessible,” McKeage notes. “If (colleges) are serious about their stated commitments to access, opportunity, and diversity, they should recognize their potential to make a difference.”

Specifically, McKeage calls on institutions to:

1) Train admission staff to counsel undocumented students. 

2) Adopt admission and financial aid policies that consider undocumented students as domestic applicants, eligible for aid based on demonstrated need. 

3) Publicize their commitment to working with undocumented students. 

“Some institutions have dedicated admissions pages specifically for undocumented students that include FAQs, resources, and contacts,” McKeage writes. “Publicizing such information is a small but meaningful act: it provides targeted support, which undocumented students so rarely get, and makes a statement that they are truly welcome.”

Read the full essay and check out NACAC’s college search tips for undocumented students​

To comment on this post, sign into the NACAC website (see top left corner of this page). Admitted writer/editor Mary Stegmeir welcomes additional comments and story ideas at

July 22
​New Recommendations Seek to Increase College Access

lowincomeUSE.jpgPreliminary findings from a forthcoming study suggest altering recruiting and admission practices could increase the number of low-income students who attend selective colleges. 

The research, which is being conducted by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, builds on earlier findings showing that students from households in the bottom income quartile make up just 3 percent of enrollment at the nation’s most competitive schools.

By contrast, 72 percent of students at America’s top selective colleges come from the country’s wealthiest families.

“More than ever, a college degree today is needed to get a good job and a middle-class income,” Harold Levy, the foundation’s executive director, wrote in a recent Huffington Post column. “…This makes it critically important to enable people of all income, racial, and ethnic groups in our great and diverse nation to have the opportunity to attend college based on academic merit, and for the brightest among them to be able to attend elite schools where they can fully development their talents.”

To meet that goal, the group is recommending that colleges and universities:
1) Make clear the true cost of college attendance after financial aid.
2) Encourage more low-income students to apply.
3) Make the college application process simpler.
4) Practice need-blind admission.
5) Remove “poverty penalties,” such as rewarding applicants for demonstrated interest — a practice that can disadvantage students who don’t have the funds to travel for college tours.
6) Recognize the barriers low-income students have overcome.

Read the full issue brief and check out more strategies to help low-income college students succeed

To comment on this post, sign into the NACAC website (see top left corner of this page). Admitted writer/editor Mary Stegmeir welcomes additional comments and story ideas at​.

July 21
Opinion: Colleges Must Improve Supports for Student-Parents

parentsUSE.jpgColleges need to do more to support students who are raising children, according to a recent op-ed by Jamie Merisotis, of the Lumina Foundation, and Anne-Marie Slaughter, of New America. 

Data show that 4.8 million students — roughly a quarter of all US undergraduates — are parents. But more than half of such students leave college without completing a degree.

“Just as we pressure employers to improve their benefits, we need to pressure colleges to help student-parents succeed,” note Merisotis and Slaughter, whose piece was published by The New York Times

Reforms supported by the pair include:
Allowing students to receive financial aid in regular installments over the course of the school year, rather than in a lump sum.
Providing on-campus child care.
Streamlining the finacial aid regulatory process required for schools that offer competency-based online courses.

“By making these changes, we can help student-parents improve their prospects and our economy,” Merisotis and Slaughter write. “Over the next decade two-thirds of all jobs in the United States will require education beyond high school, yet only 45 percent of Americans have a degree or certificate — a gap we must fill to remain competitive.”

Read the full column and check out NACAC’s tips for adults returning to college.

To comment on this post, sign into the NACAC website (see top left corner of this page). Admitted​ writer/editor Mary Stegmeir welcomes additional comments and story ideas at

July 20
College-bound? Use Text Messages to Stay on Track

UpNextUSE400.jpgGot questions about college?

A new text-messaging service can help you stay on track throughout the search and selection process. 

The free tool, dubbed Up Next, delivers personalized messages to help you meet admission and financial aid deadlines. Text the word “college” to 44044 to get started. 

Up Next, which rolled out on Tuesday, is part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Reach Higher initiative and Better Make Room campaign. The service sends prompts to your phone reminding you to complete important tasks, such as registering for a college admission test or filing a FAFSA.  

“All a user needs is a mobile number to sign up,” according to Up Next designers​. “Then, after answering a few simple questions, Up Next does the rest. When it’s time for a task to be completed, a text is sent to the user’s phone.”

Learn more about the service, and check out NACAC’s free Guide to the College Admission Process

To comment on this post, sign into the NACAC website (see top left corner of this page). Admitted writer/editor Mary Stegmeir welcomes additional comments and story ideas at

July 19
Loan Forgiveness Available for Counseling and Admission Professionals

debtreliefUSE.jpgStill paying off your student loans?

Good news is on the horizon for school counselors and college admission professionals: Public service employees are eligible to have their debt wiped off the books starting next year under a new federal loan forgiveness program.

Applicants are urged to start the process now by filing paperwork with the federal government, according to a recent post on Homeroom, the Department of Education’s official blog.

Not sure if you’re eligible?

- Do you work for the government or a not-for-profit organization?
- Are you a full-time employee?
- Do you have a direct loan?
- Do you have a qualifying repayment plan?
- Have you made at least 120 monthly payments since Oct. 1, 2007?

If you answered “yes” to those questions, you’ll likely qualify for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program.

Of course, there are plenty of caveats. Even if you answered “no” to one of the questions above, it’s possible that with a few adjustments, you can take advantage of the program.

If you don’t have a direct loan, for example, you can consolidate your federal student loans into a Direct Consolidation Loan in order to qualify, according to Homeroom blog writer Ian Foss. He also suggests switching to an income-driven repayment plan.

“If you’ve been making payments under the 10-year Standard Repayment Plan, those qualify, but you still need to get on an income-driven repayment plan or your loan will be paid off before you can get forgiveness,” Foss writes.

Applicants should submit the necessary paperwork to the federal government at least “once per year or when you change jobs.”

“Why? Because it means you won’t have to submit 10 years’ worth of forms when you ultimately want to apply for forgiveness,” Foss writes. “It also means that you can apply for forgiveness with confidence.”

For more information, check out NACAC’s policy brief on Loan Forgiveness and Tax Deduction Benefits for College Admission Counseling Professionals.

To comment on this post, sign into the NACAC website (see top left corner of this page). Admitted writer/editor Mary Stegmeir welcomes additional comments and story ideas at

July 18
​Report: Hispanic Students Are Underrepresented in Highest-Paying Majors

latinostudentUSE.jpgAlthough more Latino students are pursuing postsecondary education, most are not enrolling in the highest-paid majors. 

Job growth over the next decade is projected to be strongest in healthcare, consulting, marketing, finance, and STEM fields — occupations where Hispanics remain underrepresented.   

“Even though Hispanics represent 17 percent of the total population, they have low concentrations of degree holders in those growing fields,” according to a new report from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.  

For example: Just 6.5 percent of Hispanic students pursue healthcare majors; 11 percent enroll in engineering programs. 

“Majors play a large part in earnings, with salaries in STEM fields often 60 percent more than the median earnings in education and liberal arts and humanities,” the report notes. “…While no major lines up perfectly with the mentioned growing occupations, Hispanics choosing majors in those fields will be better positioned to successfully obtain higher paying jobs.”

See the full report, and read about strategies for supporting Hispanic students in the latest edition of The Journal of College Admission.  

To comment on this post, sign into the NACAC website (see top left corner of this page). Admitted writer/editor Mary Stegmeir welcomes additional comments and story ideas at

July 15
​Study: College Scandals Reduce Student Applications

newspaperUSE.jpgWidely publicized campus scandals reduce the number of applications colleges receive, according to a new working paper from Harvard Business School

A group of researchers analyzed 124 scandals that occurred between 2001 and 2013 at the nation’s top 100 colleges. 

Their finding: Extensive media coverage of scandals — ranging from cheating to hazing to rape — has a significant effect on student applications. 

“A scandal covered in a long-form news article leads to a 10 percent drop in applications the following year,” according to the study. “…To put this into context, a long-form article decreases a college’s number of applications roughly as much as falling 10 places in the U.S. News & World Report College Rankings.”

The study suggests that students look to the media as one source of information about campus life. 

Researchers noted that when a scandal is covered by the media, colleges are more likely to take action to prevent future misconduct. 

“Not only are they providing information to potential applicants, but our finding suggests that media is serving the purpose of holding colleges accountable by deterring future scandals,” they wrote.

Read the full study and learn how to address questions about campus safety when speaking with potential students.

To comment on this post, sign into the NACAC website (see top left corner of this page). Admitted writer/editor Mary Stegmeir welcomes additional comments and story ideas at

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