Tag: College Applications

How to Choose a Major

Many of us struggle to settle on dinner plans, so when it comes down to picking a college major — a decision that has shaped the courses and career paths of numerous lives — it is no wonder that some are left feeling stumped. So, if you don’t know where to start on the road to a fulfilling college experience and possible profession, consider these five questions.

  1. Where are you applying?

As you begin to weigh your options, it’s important to note that every school may not have the major you’re looking for. With that said, try not to immediately settle on a college solely because you fell in love with the campus or the institution is popular or prestigious; these are valid reasons, but shouldn’t be the primary driving force behind why you choose to enroll somewhere. If your dream school happens to offer your major of choice, that’s great! If not, you may want to reevaluate your college list.

2. How competitive is your major?

Of course, some schools are more selective than others when it comes to certain majors. Depending on where you are applying, these majors may vary. So, if your major of choice happens to be highly competitive, remember that your applications will have to be stronger; this is where solid admissions essays, great teacher recommendations, and a robust activities resume will come in handy. On the other hand, as the demand and competition for your chosen major decreases, your chances of admission may increase.

3. What’s your career path?

This is a question that many people struggle with — even after college. So, if you are unsure about what you want to do with your degree right now, don’t worry. There are tons of resources out there to lead you in the right direction. For instance, a career aptitude test is a great place to start. The YouScience aptitude test is a favorite of mine, and you can request to take it for free through Crosby Scholars. Your hobbies and interests can additionally serve as guiding lights, shaping where you’ll end up professionally. Moreover, consulting with a counselor or advisor may clear up any uncertainty you have about the future. In short, having a career goal can make a world of difference when deciding on a major.

4. Do you like your major?

Though a bit silly on the surface, answering this question early on will save you from stress and anxiety down the line. A word of advice: try to avoid choosing a major based merely on its potential to grant you a large paycheck. Of course, financial security is important, and money is a considerable driving force for most things in life, but compromising your passion for monetary gain can be detrimental to your mental, emotional, and social well-being. However, never sell yourself short and underestimate your abilities. Reaching for goals outside of your comfort zone can be very rewarding, so consider investigating majors that both interest and challenge you.

5. Do you have a backup plan?

If you lean more towards the indecisive end of the personality spectrum, I would consider weighing different options when it comes to choosing what you plan to study. For instance, attending a two-year college is a great way to save money and complete general education courses as you explore your interests. Taking a gap year is another potential path if you need more time to unpack your passions or gain work experience. Additionally, try researching institutions that offer exploratory studies programs or don’t require you to declare a major freshmen year; most four-year institutions will allow you to change your mind down the line. Declaring a minor is another option to consider for those who cannot seem to settle on one area of interest.

After answering these questions, you’re hopefully one step closer to your ideal major. If not, it’s okay! With persistence and determination, you’ll surely land on your feet.

Power in YOUR Story

Some people have to be prodded to share their stories and other people you just can’t shut up.  Have you heard the phrase “Listen & Learn”?  I know all too often we listen to be able to interject our experience or our story.  I can see the scene right now, and if I was totally honest, I have caught myself doing it.  Two plus people having a conversation.  (If you are having a conversation with yourself this is an entirely different conversation :)). 

So, at this point you are thinking, why am I reading about telling my story on a Crosby Scholars Website?  What does this have to do with college access?  How does this affect me?

I have found that stories can get a student into a school, can help a friend avoid a mistake, can inspire others to support a program.  I recently asked our alumni and students to share their Crosby Scholars Success Story.  My hope is that their story will help future students to know that it is possible to achieve their goals.  I hope to share these stories in a future blog.

Now, let’s address how your story can get you into school.  College applications are ALL about telling your story. 

Your transcript tells your academic achievement story.  But it is only part of the story.  People can’t see the struggle the effort and the work you put into those grades.  Your high school adds to the story.  What your school offers AP, IB, College Level Classes, when viewed in conjunction with your grades, shows how you challenged yourself and took advantage of opportunities. 

Your Activities tell your story – Did you take time to do other things while going to school?  Are you an athlete?  Musician?  Are you a leader?  What clubs or groups did you align yourself with?  Your activities show your passions and interests and can make your transcript even more impressive.  Example, if you don’t have time to participate in 10 clubs at school, you might think, wow I don’t have a very impressive story.  But, if you worked 20 hours a week to help your family with finances and you still kept your grades up, that could be more impressive than joining 10 non-descript clubs. 

Your Common App Essay tells your story – If it doesn’t, IT SHOULD!  You have 650 words to relay your story.  I read hundreds of essays each year and one of the biggest mistakes I see is that students use a large number of those words telling someone else’s story.  Like your proximity to someone that has a really dramatic story gives you credibility.  NO!  Use the essay to share about YOU!  Make sure people walk away with a greater understanding of who you are, what you want and how you want to get there.

College specific supplemental questions tell your story – Colleges are looking for more insight.  The more selective the school the more questions you have.  Most of the time these questions get to why you want to attend a school and how you will use the opportunities available.  Sometimes the questions are weird, “List the first 5 songs on your playlist?” What on earth does that have to do with anything. You would be surprised at what tells your story.

Social Media Accounts Tell your Story – Not every college looks at your social media account to determine if you are good fit, but everything you put out there is not going away.  Schools, scholarship organizations, teachers, and future employers, can see your story online.  Have you ever googled your name and city and state?  What images appear?  What story shows up?  Your good, bad, and ugly has a part of telling your story. 

There is Power in your story!  Sharing about your struggles, achievements and experiences can earn you friends, give you access to experiences, and help others learn.  Use your power, TELL YOUR STORY!

Early Decision vs. Early Action: What’s the Difference?

Picture this: you’ve created your college list, and you’re struggling to decide when to apply. You begin to think, “Should I apply early?” The short answer to your question is yes! However, like most things in life, there’s more than meets the eye. 

Early action and early decision: two deadlines you most likely have come across if you have begun or are interested in beginning your college application process. But, when deciding which deadline you want to meet, it is important to know what these terms mean for you as you start to send materials to each school on your list. If you have decided to apply early, you may be thinking, “Aren’t early action and early decision the same?” Well, I’m here to tell you that they couldn’t be more different. Here’s how. 

Early Decision

If you’re thinking about applying early decision, you must first recognize that this choice is binding. Put simply, students admitted to a school through early decision are required to enroll in that college. It should also be known that some schools only accept early or regular decision applications; Duke University, for instance, uses this approach. With that said, taking note of the application requirements of each school on your list early on can prevent future headaches and heartache down the line. Another aspect to keep in mind when applying early decision is your potential financial aid award package. Financial aid award dates and policies vary by school, so you don’t want to wait months to receive a less-than-stellar offer from a university you’re now obligated to attend. In other words, when deciding when and where to apply, you must ask yourself, “Am I, or my family, prepared to take on the financial responsibilities of each school on my list?” If the answer is no, you may want to reconsider submitting that early decision application. Here are some other quick facts to note: 

  1. The early decision deadline for most schools is early to mid-November. 
  2. Applying early decision informs the college that they are your first choice.
  3. You cannot apply early decision to more than one school at the same time.
  4. If you are not admitted to an institution, you will be rejected or deferred. 
  5. If you are deferred, your application will be considered again for regular admission, and you can then apply to other institutions.
  6. For schools that require early decision applications, you can apply early and choose to receive your admission notification during the regular decision period. 

Early Action

Unlike early decision, applying early action is a non-binding option, meaning that you are not required to enroll in a college if you are admitted. This gives you the flexibility to apply to, and if you’re accepted, weigh financial aid packages from many schools at once. Here are some things to note about early action:

  1. Deadlines: Oct. 15th for UNC-Chapel Hill and Nov. 1 for most NC schools
  2. Applying early action gives you access to scholarships and financial aid early on.
  3. Your major of choice can affect when you need to apply. For instance, some Design and Engineering programs — among others — require students to apply early action. 
  4. Don’t forget about COVID-19! Applying regular decision may affect your chance of admission, as colleges now want to fill their seats earlier. 

So, what did we learn here? For starters, assessing the strength of your application and budget is key if you’re considering applying early decision; being bound to a college you can’t afford is never a good spot to be in. And if you are still unsure when to submit your applications, applying early action is a safe and effective way to go. 

I know. I know. This probably seems like an advertisement for early action, but it’s ultimately your decision when and where you choose to apply. Just don’t apply too late, okay?