Nevertheless, taking time off can be a daunting prospect for students and their parents. Students often want to follow friends on safer and more familiar paths.
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Parents worry that their sons and daughters will be sidetracked from college, and may never enroll. That fear is rarely justified. High school counselors, college administrators, and others who work with students taking time off can help with reassurance that the benefits far outweigh the risks. Occasionally students are admitted to Harvard or other colleges in part because they accomplished something unusual during a year off. While no one should take a year off simply to gain admission to a particular college, time away almost never makes one a less desirable candidate or less well prepared for college.
This remarkable time offers opportunities that previous generations and students in many other countries today could not imagine. Colleges, for example, now reach out through their recruiting programs to talented students from every economic background. Financial aid makes college a reality for outstanding students on a scale that was not possible before. Graduation rates at leading American colleges and universities remain extremely high and students express satisfaction with their college experiences. It is important to remember that access to higher education around the world is at present limited to a lucky few.
Those fortunate enough to enjoy such a privilege have a responsibility to use their talents to provide expanded opportunities for future generations. Our young alumni and alumnae have been successful in meeting the formidable challenges they have faced since college. But they continue to remind us that the rigors of competing in the new world economy impose high standards on everyone. Those whom parents often want their children to emulate either used their own ingenuity to give the public a product or image it desperately wanted, or happened to catch a hot wave of the time, or ideally both.
While their achievement stands as an ideal for which others strive, others cannot by definition duplicate that achievement because it is induplicable. So the problem can often be well-meaning but misguided parents who try to mold their children into an image of success they value; and their children, being moldable as they are, often get on board and go along with the program before they have any capacity to make such a choice for themselves. Yet the paradox is that the only road to real success is to become more fully oneself, to succeed in the field and on the terms that one defines for oneself.
Burnout is an inevitable result of trying to live up to alien goals. The fact remains that there is something very different about growing up today. Some students and families are suffering from the frenetic pace, while others are coping but enjoying their lives less than they would like. The good news is that students themselves offer helpful suggestions about how best to handle the challenges they face.
In part because of all the obstacles that confront them from the earliest stages of their lives, this generation has emerged generally more mature, sophisticated, and, at their best, better prepared to cope with the demands of the twenty-first century. They learn at an early age how to cope with both victory and defeat and with the formidable demands placed on them by adults and peers.
Yet many would benefit from a pause in their demanding lives. Let us hope that more of them will take some sort of time out before burnout becomes the hallmark of their generation. Residential Life at Harvard provides the opportunity to develop your own community through shared experiences.
Find information about selecting high school courses that best prepare you for liberal arts colleges with high academic demographic such as Harvard. Harvard offers generous need-based financial aid for all students, regardless of nationality or citizenship. Skip to main content Skip to page submenu. Paying the admissions application fee is a hardship for my family. Can I get a waiver?
Can I self-report my test scores? Should You Take Time Off? Related Topics. Residential Life Residential Life at Harvard provides the opportunity to develop your own community through shared experiences. A serious athlete or musician or dancer may change schools for a better athletic program, even moving far away from home to do so, and perhaps to an academically weaker school. Academic demands also ratchet up, supported by special tutors and the beginnings of SAT prep in middle school. In high school, SAT prep becomes a way of life for some students, with night and weekend sessions.
From a more cynical perspective, such advice steers students toward travel abroad, community service, or other activities solely to enhance college application essays or interviews. Such services may command thousands of dollars, and assistance in preparing applications ranges from appropriate to plagiaristic.
Videotaped mock college interviews are features of some packages, as are guided tours of colleges. The pressure of gaining entrance to the most selective colleges is commonly blamed for much of the stress we observe. But those of us who work in college admissions recognize that college is only one of many destinations in the fast lane. The fallout Faced with the fast pace of growing up today, some students are clearly distressed, engaging in binge drinking and other self-destructive behaviors.
Counseling services of secondary schools and colleges have expanded in response to greatly increased demand. Professionals in their thirties and forties - physicians, lawyers, academics, business people and others - sometimes give the impression that they are dazed survivors of some bewildering life-long boot-camp. Often they say they missed their youth entirely, never living in the present, always pursuing some ill-defined future goal. Some early remedies What can be done to help? Fortunately this young fast-track generation itself offers ideas that can reduce stress and prevent burnout.
It can be very brief or last for a year or more. It can be structured or unstructured, and directed toward career, academic or purely personal pursuits. Parents, some of whom experienced the first wave of fast-lane childhoods themselves, are often distressed by how little uninterrupted free time they have to devote to their children. Bring summer back. Summer need not be totally consumed by highly structured programs, such as summer schools, travel programs, or athletic camps. An old-fashioned summer job that provides a contrast to the school year or allows students to meet others of differing backgrounds, ages, and life experiences is often invaluable in providing psychological downtime and a window on future possibilities.
Students need ample free time to reflect, to recreate i. A school with a slower pace or a different academic or extracurricular focus can be a better match for certain students in the long run. Using the senior year The senior year of high school presents some special challenges and opportunities.
The U. Students and their families react to this particular stress in a number of ways, and many want the college admissions process over with as soon as possible. While early admission programs may be right for some students, many observers have begun to ask whether too many students are applying early. They wonder if students are taking enough time and care to select colleges that best match their academic interests, career goals, and personal aspirations. Some students have concluded that it is a virtual necessity to apply early, whatever the circumstances, for fear of being left behind.
We concur with these observers that early admissions programs have not always served students well. In addition, they are not equally available to all students given the great disparities in guidance counseling and other resources in the United States and elsewhere. We eliminated our early admission program in recent years in part to encourage our students to use their secondary school years in the most effective manner possible.
While we have restored early admission to meet the rising demand for this option—and have instituted changes to encourage students from modest economic backgrounds to apply early—we hope all students will use early admission in a thoughtful manner and only when it is appropriate for their individual needs. Some high schools help their seniors in the transition from high school to college by allowing a slightly reduced course load, along with alternatives such as community service, research projects, and internships that might help with career exploration.
Colleges can help themselves as well as their prospective students by declaring and demonstrating that they are not judged simply by the number of AP or other advanced credits amassed at the end of senior year. For example, those students with particular strengths in the humanities and social sciences often believe colleges expect them to take calculus when they might be much better served by another algebra course or statistics—or another language—instead.
No matter which path they take, students who can find ways to reduce stress and use the senior year well arrive at college much better prepared to take full advantage of their first year of college. For more than four decades, Harvard has recommended this option, indeed proposing it in the letter of admission. That being said, they can also be a hotbed for stressed-out and misinformed students and parents , so take what you read with a grain of salt.
Once you have a reasonable list of colleges, check out their individual websites. First impressions are important! College websites typically provide basic information i. This will give you a sense of the school's values, culture, and definition of success. Then ask yourself: do their values align with yours? Here are some of the college search guidebooks we recommend :. Your high school counselor or maybe even a private college counselor can be an invaluable resource in your college search, with everything from giving you a heads up about college fairs to recommending specific colleges and scholarships based on what they know about you.
So try to develop a relationship with them as early as you can. Do what you can to maintain a connection with your counselor and advocate for yourself , but also help them help you by doing as much research on your own as you can like using this college search guide! You can also look for college search help through your high school or community, like info sessions after school or at your local library.
Perhaps best of all, these resources are free! Is the experience the same as visiting in person? Not by a long shot. But virtual campus visits are a great introduction to a school, and later on they can help jog your memory of what a school was like without going all the way back to campus. You'll find more tips on visiting campuses below! A college's social media posts can provide quick but effective insights into its benefits and culture. Schools might tweet to prospective students or post YouTube videos ranging from serious admission advice to viral videos shot on campus.
Throughout your college search process, take some time to ask your parents, family friends, and teachers what they think of your criteria and the schools you're considering. You can also learn a lot from asking older friends and siblings about their college experience. These trusted individuals may suggest something you never thought of. Imagine buying a house. You would inevitably do research online. You might even take virtual tours of the homes that appeal to you. But before you sign on the dotted line, you will need to actually walk through the house yourself.
You need to step inside to see if it feels like home. And if it's worth the investment. In spite of the depth and breadth of college search tools you have at your disposal, they are no exceptions to visiting campus in person. A successful college visit will give you a real sense of what your life might be like if you enrolled there —and whether it matches what you want.
If you hate it, note the things that really turn you off, so you know what to look for at the next school. The best time to visit is typically when classes are in session, the college is alive with students, faculty are accessible, and the campus is buzzing with activity. Of course, for many students and their families, summer is a much more convenient time. That's okay too. Maybe you can make some campus stops on your way to the beach, amusement park, or family reunion. A summer visit is better than no visit at all. Most schools will have special summer visit hours too.
Before leaving a campus, find out the name of the admission counselor responsible for applications from your high school too. This person will likely be your best resource if you apply for admission. What should you do during a college visit?
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Keep in mind that colleges vary in what they offer. You may also want to attend a class related to your academic interests, meet with an athletic coach, attend a theater production or student recital, or spend a night in a dorm. Plan what you want to learn on each campus visit in advance, and be sure to ask questions that are important to you and your family.
There's also much to be said for informal, or DIY, campus visits , where you look beyond the perfectly planned "official" tour. Most importantly, allow yourself to absorb the campus environment during your visits. Can you see yourself studying there? Living there? Making friends? If you can't visit your colleges at all, it's important to do additional research. You can ask if your colleges send representatives to your high school or conduct any information programs in your area.
Or see if you can speak with a current student, faculty member, or alumni. Better yet, ask if there are other students from your town who attend the school; the college may be able to coordinate an interview with someone closer to home. You have worked your tuchus off and used all of the college search criteria in this guide to find schools that meet all or most of your needs.
First, high five! Otherwise, this is the time when your college search spreadsheet becomes your best friend, hero, and favorite thing ever. You can even assign points to these criteria and tally them up for each school. You should also consider the cost of tuition, percentage of the student body receiving financial aid, and average amount of aid; this information will help you and your family rank the school for its financial feasibility too.
Truly, legitimately, genuinely happy. Keeping an open mind is often the secret to success in college—and that "safety" school might be your dream school after all. Your list of schools will probably be pretty fluid throughout the college search process, as some schools are removed, while others are added.
Continue to speak with your school counselor and family to help pare down your final list of colleges. You probably want to do a gut check too—why are there so many schools on your list?
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Be brutally honest with yourself. With the wide array of colleges in the country, why would you submit an application to a school you would never ultimately attend? First, you should know what each college requires: Are they a Common Application member, or do they have their own application? Do they require an essay or writing sample? How many letters of recommendation do you need? Most importantly, what are their application deadlines? You should keep track in your college search spreadsheet too! From the beginning of your college search process to the end, always remember that people want to help you—counselors, family, friends, teachers, coaches, mentors, and more.
So when you need some help, ask for it. Then the final decision is in your hands, right where it should be. And when you enroll at the college of your dreams, the time you put into your search will have been completely worthwhile. We hope you found our Ultimate Guide to the College Search helpful! If you have any questions for the CollegeXpress staff or our Experts , let us know here or through Twitter, Facebook, etc. Tags: finding the right college right college college search university search perfect college expert advice admission process.
How to think about your college search Are you convinced—and terrified—that you need to somehow find the single perfect college for you from the more than 4, two- and four-year colleges and universities in the United States? It's a place where: You're comfortable being yourself—but also challenged to be better. You learn how to learn , communicate well, and solve problems— skills all employers want to see , no matter what industry.
And you can get this kind of education without breaking the bank and taking on crazy amounts of student debt. When to start your college search Not sure when to begin your college search—or what you should be doing? Your high school years Real talk: the best preparation for your college search is to do your best academic work throughout high school and take advantage of activities that are meaningful to you. Regardless of what year you are—freshman, sophomore, junior, or even senior—you can make the most of high school by doing the following: Take the most challenging high school classes you can.
College admission officers would rather see you take tough classes than have a perfect GPA in intro courses. Work hard and do as well as you can in those classes. Your future self will be so grateful for a decent GPA. Get involved in extracurricular activities you truly care about.
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Stick with them too, because when it comes to high school activities , quality is better than quantity. Be aware of the subjects and hobbies that make you happiest. Maybe they have the potential to be a college major or career someday! Look for part-time jobs, volunteer positions, and internships in areas that interest you.
Think about where your college funds are coming from. Sit down with your family to see what they have planned, and start saving your own hard-earned cash and looking for college scholarships that fit you. Junior year You should start digging into your college search junior year. Using this guide is a great place to start. Create a file and spreadsheet to manage your college research, testing, and application information.
We created a sample spreadsheet you can use! Spring semester and into summer Meet with your high school counselor to discuss your college plans.
Attend college fairs, if possible. Visit as many colleges that interest you as you can. Create or update a record of your accomplishments, involvements, and work experiences over the past three years. Choose strong courses when registering for senior year classes. Consider IB and AP courses, if available eligible scores on the related tests might mean college credit—which can save you time and money. Register for all applicable standardized tests if you have not done so already, and continue to prepare for them.
Start exploring financial aid possibilities and looking for college scholarships. Stay involved by working to help pay for college, attending a summer program , or getting an internship. Start thinking about your college application essays. Pick a topic and write a practice essay. Request recommendations or follow up with people you talked to in the spring. Make sure you have taken all necessary standardized tests well before your college application deadlines.
Narrow down your colleges to your final list. Download and fill out your university applications. Keep track of all deadlines! Ask college financial aid offices about all financial aid forms you need to complete. Keep track of those deadlines too! Write or finish your application essays. Ask a teacher or two to read them. Send in college applications as needed by the given deadline. Spring semester Continue sending in applications with later deadlines or rolling admission policies.
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