10 Things About College Admission That Might Surprise You Reply

Portrait of stressed female student in library

A lot of stuff can surprise you in the college admission process—and they’re not always the good surprises, like finding money in your jeans or those magical extra French fries at the bottom of the bag.

Luckily, we’re here to take some of the shock out of these common college admission surprises. Because the more you know, the less likely you are to be caught off guard…

  1. Surprise! Taking tough classes is better than getting a high GPA

College admission folks would rather see you get a “B” in a challenging class than an “A” in an easier one. They want to see you pushing yourself academically—and they definitely don’t want to see you pad your GPA. So take the toughest course load you think you can handle, especially if you have any AP, honors, or other advanced classes available to you.

  1. Surprise! A long list of extracurriculars won’t impress colleges

College admission reps would also much rather see that you committed yourself to one or two extracurricular activities, especially over a longer period of time. That’s way better than joining 17 clubs spring of junior year. Admission counselors are looking for depth, not breadth of involvement. They want to see passion! So join the clubs you love, devote as much time to them as you can, and look for leadership roles that fit you.

  1. Surprise! That “optional” interview isn’t actually optional

Okay, it’s not like you won’t be considered for admission if you don’t participate in an “optional” interview. But college admission interviews aren’t that common, so when a school suggests participating in one, they probably think interviews are pretty important. Also, participating in an interview shows you’re really excited about attending the college. Admission counselors call that “demonstrated interest”—and it could give you a little bit of an edge compared to the kid who didn’t participate in an interview.

  1. Surprise! A recommendation letter from a VIP isn’t that helpful

You might be tempted to e-mail someone like your state senator, school superintendent, or Neil Degrasse Tyson in hopes that they’ll write you a college recommendation letter. But unless the VIP happens to know you really well, don’t waste your time (or theirs) trying to get a recommendation. Colleges only want to see recommendations from people who know you well enough to speak to your character and strengths, whether it’s your favorite teacher, mentor, coach, drama director, employer, pastor, etc.

  1. Surprise! The most expensive colleges on your list might be cheaper in the long run

Here’s the thing: financial aid changes everything—and you never know what kind of financial aid package you’ll get until you apply. It’s totally possible that the most expensive school on your list will offer you enough aid to magically become your cheapest option. Or you might find the school offering you the biggest financial aid package made a huge chunk of that “aid” student loans. Or you might get a big scholarship from one school that only lasts freshman year, whereas another school offers a smaller scholarship that gets renewed all four years and is ultimately worth more… Confusing, right? Instead of hunting down the cheapest colleges you can find, focus on applying to schools that really and truly fit you. Then make sure you fully understand your financial aid award letters when you get them (they come with your acceptance packages).

  1. Surprise! Admission counselors are looking at your social media accounts

You might’ve already been warned about this: yes, colleges look at your social media accounts, and, yes, you should delete any questionable posts. However, you don’t want to erase yourself from the Internet. In fact, you want admission counselors to find you and see all the fun, interesting stuff you do and care about. Look at your social media through a college admission counselor’s eyes: do your posts reflect the kind of thoughtful, creative, passionate student they’d want to admit?

  1. Surprise! Asking for financial aid can sometimes hurt your chances of admission

Learn these two terms if you haven’t already: need-blind admission and need-aware admission. Colleges with need-blind admission don’t care if you apply for financial aid, and they won’t consider it when they review your application. But colleges with need-aware admission do consider it—and they might weigh your financial need against you. It’s not necessarily an admissions deal-breaker. But, at need-aware colleges, all else being equal, the student who doesn’t need aid will get in before the student who does need financial help. You can typically figure out if the schools on your list are need-blind or need-aware by doing a little online research, or you can e-mail or call the admission office to ask.

  1. Surprise! The PSAT matters

It’s not just a practice run for the SAT. The PSAT is also the qualifying test for the National Merit Scholarship Program. If you score high enough (in the top 50,000-ish test takers), you could be eligible for a National Merit scholarship. (Here’s the breakdown of how to qualify.) Not only that, but most colleges love admitting students who crack the top 50,000, even if they don’t end up winning an official National Merit Scholarship. That might get you a leg-up in admission—and maybe even an institutional scholarship. So give the PSAT your best shot.

  1. Surprise! The college that sent you brochures and e-mails might not accept you

Yes, colleges and universities send out marketing materials to students they think might be a good fit for their institution, students they very well might accept. But they also send brochures to lots of students in hopes that lots will apply—which might boost their selectivity rate. At the end of the day, you should absolutely, positively apply to any and all schools that fit you. Just remember, a brochure isn’t a guarantee.

  1. Surprise! Admission counselors actually read your application essays

They really do. Why would they ask for them if they didn’t? Colleges use the essay to get a sense of your personality, values, motivations, and college readiness. It helps them see if you’re a good overall fit for their institution—and the kind of student they should admit. So take advantage of your application essays. Show the admission committee why they should invite you to join their campus. And tell the story only you can tell.

Did anything on this list surprise you? Or have you encountered any other surprises in your college search? Let us know in the comments!


Jessica Tomer, Editor-in-Chief, CollegeXpress

Jessica Tomer is the Editor-in-Chief for CollegeXpress, a free college and scholarship search site designed to guide students through the entire college journey—admissions, financial aid, majors, campus visits, you name it. She is an education advocate, storyteller, and grammar nerd. Like many of her fellow Emerson College alumni, Jessica is a news junkie and bookworm. You can get in touch with her on Twitter: @CollegeXpress or @JessicaTomer.

3 Creative Way to Earn a Side Income to Pay College Tuition Reply

According to data fromBeautiful waitress with a tray The Institute of College Access and Success, a whopping 70 percent of students graduate with student loans. In fact, research shows that the average 2016 college graduate has about $37,172 in student debts.

What’s more shocking, however, is the fact that tuition and college fees keep rising sharply every year. In fact, an analysis of student fees from 1995 to 2015 found that the average tuition and fees at private National Universities has increased by 179 percent, the average tuition and fees at out-of-state public universities has risen by 226 percent and the average tuition and fees at in-state public National Universities has increased by a massive 296 percent — all in 20 years. If available research is anything to go by, it will take most students at least 21 years pay off their student loan debts.

How do you lessen your student loan debt burden and earn an income on the side? The following six ways will allow you to earn income on the side to pay your college tuition:

  1. Online Jury Duty: The law field is getting increasingly interesting, with a lot of different cases and rulings coming out with unexpected angles. In an attempt to be more prepared, trial attorneys have realized that they need to go beyond theory and get some practice before they get in front of a real judge — and they are leveraging the Internet for this: by working with online juries.

By working as an online jury, you will have the opportunity to review real cases before they get to the court; the aim of the attorneys is to see if their case can stand, and you can often earn up to $60 per case. This quickly adds up towards your tuition. You can find countless companies that pay online juries by doing an online search.

  1. Start an Online Business: You can also earn side income to pay for your tuition by starting an online business. The advantage to starting an online business is that it can be done at the comfort of your home, on your computer, and it won’t interfere with your studies. Here are some tips to help you if you decide to start an online business:
  • Partner to promote other people’s products: Save yourself the stress of having to create a product. Simply find a product that is selling well, and promote it as an affiliate. You get a commission for every sale, and this quickly adds up.
  • Start your own blog: Blogging can be one of the most effective things you will do as a college student. Not only does it help your ability to write and express yourself, it can also be a good source of income. A blog will also be useful for you after college: there are several examples of people who got their dream jobs due to their blogs.
  • Create and sell your product: This has the most potential, and if done right you can earn you enough to pay off your tuition within a year or two. However, it takes a lot of work — especially initially. It also involves several complexities, such as doing market research, creating an email list, looking for affiliate partners, etc.
  1. Become a Freelancer or Consultant: Research estimates that 40 percent of America’s workforce will be freelancers by 2020.

The surge in the number of freelancers, consultants and contract workers is mainly due to the Internet — more and more people can work remotely and still be as efficient. For you, as a college student, taking advantage of this could be the key to paying off your tuition. Some tips:

  • Establish the skills you can offer to potential clients: this could be design, writing, programming or artistic skills. You can work as a freelancer or consultant irrespective of the skills you have.
  • Take advantage of top freelance sites like Upwork to find clients that are looking for freelancers.
  • To give yourself an edge, take things to the next level by compiling a list of potential clients and reaching out to them directly.

John Stevens is an entrepreneur and founder of HostingFacts.com, an online portal that reviews web hosts. He is a regular contributor to Standford’s blog, Business Insider, Entrepreneur.com and other major publications. Follow him on Twitter @hostingfactsj.


All views and opinions of guest authors are theirs alone and are not representative of the views of Petersons.com or its parent company Nelnet.

 

A Step By Step Guide to Writing the Best College Admissions Essay Reply

Office of Admission Sign on WallCollege admissions essays are seen as an insurmountable obstacle in your college application. Most students haven’t written an essay quite like it before, and now this piece of writing will confirm whether you get into your chosen university? It’s too much pressure.

It helps when you have a guide you can follow. This step by step guide will show you how to go about writing your essay, and give you tools that will help. Soon you’ll have an essay that you can really be proud of.

Step One: Really think about your prompt

Many an essay has floundered because the writer hasn’t quite grasped what the question was asking of them. They may have read it once, got the wrong impression, and then started writing. Really spend some time reading, rereading, and thinking about the prompt. How can you relate to it, and what experiences can you bring to it?

Step Two: Brainstorm your ideas

Now you need to get together all of the ideas that are floating around your head. Sit down with a piece of paper, and start writing down everything that comes to mind when you think of the prompt. Get down as much as you can, as you’ll be narrowing down your ideas soon. Reflect on all the experiences you have, and which ones will be relevant to your essay. Write down the ones you think will work in your essay.

Step Three: Plan out your essay

This is the point where you’ll be writing out your outline for your essay. It’s important that you don’t miss this step, as if you do you’ll find it much harder to write the essay. Plan out what you’re going to say, when you’re going to say, and how it will answer the prompt given. Use the information you got in the brainstorming session to inform your plan. You’ll pick the best ideas and experiences from that to include in your finished piece.

Step Four: Get writing

Now you’ve done all the planning, so you need to get writing! Sit down at your computer, and work on a rough draft. Don’t worry too much, just get it all down. You’ll be editing it in the next steps. As you’re writing, remember to be yourself. The admissions committee are looking to see what you’re like as a person, so be tempted to show off, or pretend to be someone you’re not. Just let your real self shine through.

Step Five: Proofread and edit

Proofreading and editing is one of the most important jobs you’ll have to do with your essay. You’ve got your basic rough draft, now you need to polish up. It’ll take a few passes until it’s perfect, but keep at it. Look for spelling and punctuation errors, confusing or run on sentences, and incorrect facts. A good tip is to give the essay to someone else read over. They’ll be able to spot errors you can’t, as you’re too close to the text.

Step Six: Use online tools to polish your work

Writing The College Application Essay: This resource has detailed instructions for the different sections of your essay. Also, there’s a plenty of samples to check out and take inspiration from.

Australian help: This educational portal can be used almost anywhere to brush up on your skills. Watch tutorials and do short tests to get you feeling confident in your chosen topic.

The Writing Center: This guide gives you some detailed, usable advice for writing your essay. It includes advice on avoiding too much style in your essay, and how to research your ideas.

Personal Insight Questions: This video gives you some ideas on how to present yourself in your essay. You’ll think about what answers you’ll need to give to tell the committee what they need to know about you.

Readability Score: Your essay needs to be easy to understand, but how do you know how readable it is? This tool allows you to check it against several readability tools, so you know the committee will be able to really get what you’re telling them.

UK Writings: It’s not that easy to write, edit and proofread a great essay. This interactive online writing tool will work with you to organize and plan your essay.

Examples of Awesome Personal Statements: It’s always easier to write when you have some examples of successful essays to hand. This is a great depository of such examples to draw on when you’re struggling with your own essay.

EssayEdge: Get admission essay suggestions from experts in their field, all graduates from Ivy-League schools such as Harvard and Yale.

If you follow this step by step plan, you’ll be able to write the best essay you possibly can. You’ll wow the committee reading your essays, and convince them they’re the student they want for their university.


About Gloria Kopp

Gloria Kopp is a web content writer and an e-learning consultant from Manville city. She graduated from the University of Wyoming and started a career of a creative writer. She has recently launched her Studydemic educational website and is currently working as a freelance writer and editor.


All views and opinions of guest authors are theirs alone and are not representative of the views of Petersons.com or its parent company Nelnet.

Designing a Study Space to Increase Productivity Reply

You’ve made a pact with yourself—this is the semester you’ll finally nail that 4.0. But it will take a lot more than just hitting the books to get there. In fact, our environment, quality of sleep, and mental state can play a huge part in our overall productivity. Our brains are wired to respond to external stimuli, so if you really want to succeed in your classes, it helps to pay attention to the design of your study area as well. Here are a few tips you can use to give your area a productivity makeover.

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Clean Up Your Room

Now that you’re out on your own, it can be easy to forget about picking up. And with five classes, a research project, and making time for socializing, you hardly have time for eating, let alone chores.

Unfortunately, you’re not doing yourself any favors if you’re not keeping your dorm room or apartment clean. Researchers at Princeton University found that cluttered spaces adversely affect productivity; too much visual stimuli makes it harder to focus on the task at hand. The external sensory elements compete for your attention at a subconscious level, so even if you can’t feel it, that essay is probably taking longer than it should. It’s like your roommate’s holding band practice right next to your laptop.

Just picking up regularly will help, of course. But you should also concentrate on clearing clutter from your desk, dresser, and bedside table surfaces, too. It’s all too easy to cover these spots with wallets, toiletries, books, and other items—but this stuff counts as clutter to your mind, too.

Change Your Lighting

Experts say that Americans don’t really have the best ideas when it comes to lighting. Specifically, we tend to flood our interiors—and especially our workspaces—with a little bit too much light. Very bright spaces can cause what’s known as “disability glare”—which actually makes it harder to see the textbook in front of you. While you probably don’t have much control on your dorm or apartment’s overhead lighting, you’ll generally find your concentration improved if you switch off the big fluorescent lights and rely instead on a variety of eye-level lamps.

Another thing to consider? The color of the light has a huge impact, too. Bulbs typically range from cooler colors—blues and whites—to warmer yellowish, orange, and reddish hues. While studies show that cooler lights tend to energize, if you sleep near your study area, you should be wary about installing these bulbs. Cool-colored light can affect your circadian rhythms, particularly if you do most of your studying in the late afternoon or evening. And if your internal clock gets off schedule, the quality of your sleep will plummet, making it much harder to concentrate.

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Transform Your Desk into the Perfect Workspace

First thing’s first: if you’re reading this from bed, don’t! Using your mattress for studying, surfing the web, or anything other than sleeping can really wreck your night’s rest. A study published in the Journal of Sleep Research found that participants who used cell phones and computers in bed got much less sleep than those who didn’t. That’s because your brain forms a subconscious association with this spot as a place for waking activities.

So, if you want to be more productive and get better rest, it’s a good idea to get to know your desk. To make working there more amenable, clear off everything except the items you regularly use, like a pen and a pad of paper. If you can, try to divide your workspace into two different “zones”—one for taking notes by hand, and one for using your laptop. And make sure you have a trashcan at the ready so that you can keep clutter in check once and for all. Your education is too precious to let a little disorganization stand in your way!


Erin Vaughan is a blogger, gardener and aspiring homeowner.  She currently resides in Austin, TX where she writes full time for Modernize, with the goal of empowering homeowners with the expert guidance and educational tools they need to take on big home projects with confidence.


All views and opinions of guest authors are theirs alone and are not representative of the views of Petersons.com or its parent company Nelnet.

5 Research-Backed Actions that Will Increase Your Chances of Success in College Reply

According to data from the U.S. Department of Education, fewer than 40 percent of new college students graduate within four years and barely 60 percent graduate within six years.

People fail to graduate for so many reasons, but achieving success in college isn’t as complicated as most people think. The following five actions are proven by research to increase your chances of success in college:

  1. Join a Study Group

Fans of the Game of Thrones TV series are familiar with the saying, “the lone wolf dies but the pack survives.” This couldn’t be truer when in college, especially when it comes to studying!

One of the most important things you can do to help your chances of success in college is to join a study group. Research shows that being part of a well-organized study group can increase a college student’s chances of success; a particular study of 110 students documented an average increase of 5.5 points in the final exams of students who were in a study group compared to those who weren’t.

  1. Don’t Joke With Your Daily Sleep Requirement

Many college students believe that the key to success is to burn the midnight oil, but research disagrees.

Scientists have found that lack of sleep impairs attention and working memory, and that it can also affect attention and decision-making. Furthermore, researchers have found that sleeping right after you study is the best way to make sure you recall what you study.

Proper sleeping habits won’t only help you overcome college stress, it will also make recall — and as a result increase your chances of success in tests and exams — extremely easy.

  1. Be Active Involved in Your College Education

In a study of 25,000 college students, researchers found that students who spend 40 hours or more weekly on academic work are three times more likely to have As compared to students who spend 20 hours or less weekly on academic work. Researchers agree that active involvement is the most important factor that determines success in college.

While this sounds like bad news for part-time students, all hope is not lost. Effective time management can help you get a lot more out of your time; it also helps if you wake up earlier and work on college activities first thing in the morning. Researchers have found that the most early hours of the day are the most productive for most people.

  1. Develop Your Writing Skills

One of the most important skills you can develop to help you succeed in college is your writing skill. Not only will this make it much easier for you to write required essays, but it will also make your other assignments easier.

Research has linked writing and journaling with an improvement in communication skills (even verbal skills!). Researchers have also found that trying to explain a concept — either by writing or verbally — reveals our understanding of the concept, helping us discover and work on knowledge gaps.

You can develop your writing skills in numerous ways: take a formal writing training, use online resources to learn how to write, set up a blog, and make it a daily practice to write.

  1. Effectively Utilize College Resources

Very few students utilize college resources, but research has found that college resources impact student success to a great extent. A particular review of over 2,500 studies concluded that, “The impact of college is not simply the result of what a college does for or to a student. Rather, the impact is a result of the extent to which an individual student exploits the people, programs, facilities, opportunities, and experiences that the college makes available.”

Utilizing college resources was found to be especially effective if done in the first year of college. Make effective use of library resources, academic support services and experiential learning resources to increase your chances of success in college.


John Stevens is an entrepreneur and founder of HostingFacts.com, an online portal that reviews web hosts. He is a regular contributor to Standford’s blog, Business Insider, Entrepreneur.com and other major publications. Follow him on Twitter @hostingfactsj


All views and opinions of guest authors are theirs alone and are not representative of the views of Petersons.com or its parent company Nelnet.

How Many Times Should You Take The GRE And When Should You Start? Reply

how-many-times-should-youThese days, many students are realizing that submitting GRE scores is a part of the graduate school application process. With this reality in mind, you may be wondering when you should start preparing for the GRE and how many times you should take it. Review the short outline below to obtain answers to these questions and more:

It’s Never Too Soon To Start

If you’re wondering when you should begin preparing for the GRE, know that it’s never too soon to start. Familiarizing yourself with the format and content of the exam can alleviate test anxiety and empower you to attain a higher score. As such, it’s a good idea to get started immediately. Luckily, there are a wide range of learning resources at your disposal. For example, companies like ETS, Barron, Peterson’s and Kaplan provide a wide range of test prep material you can use to study for the Verbal, Math, and Written components of the exam.

Taking online courses in the fields of English, Math, and Writing is another technique you can implement to prepare for the exam. If you’ve already obtained your bachelor’s in English, you may want to consider completing an online masters computer science program. This can make you a more competitive candidate for a grad school program while also sharpening your reasoning skills.

How Many Times Should You Take The GRE?

Before you decide how many times you should take the GRE, consider the following facts:

  • You can take the computer-based test once every 21 days.
  • You may take the GRE up to five times within one year.
  • If you cancel your GRE scores, the test that you took still counts towards the five annual test dates.

There are several reasons why an individual might want to take the GRE again or several times. Generally, the reason pertains to the score. In some cases, an individual might not have had sufficient time to prepare for the exam. When this happens, a substandard score may be the unwanted outcome. If you know that the score you’ve obtained is below the average score that individuals admitted into the learning institution attained, it’s definitely a good idea to retake the exam.

Keep in mind that you can take the GRE as many times as you want and submit your highest scores to the college in question. However, if you’re taking the test over and over to try to attain a perfect score, keep in mind that the GRE is not the only component of your application process. You’ll also want to concentrate on other critical elements like your letters of recommendation, statement of purpose, curriculum vitae, writing sample, etc.

If you’re serious about acing the GRE so that you can get into your dream school, now is the time to start studying. Review the information and instructions found in this quick reference guide to get on the path to an excellent score today!


Kara Masterson is a freelance writer from West Jordan, Utah. She graduated from the University of Utah and enjoys writing and spending time with her dog, Max.


All views and opinions of guest authors are theirs alone and are not representative of the views of Petersons.com or its parent company Nelnet.

Living in your first apartment: Life off campus versus life on campus Reply

Late Night StudyYou’re all settled into your first apartment. The mattress topper miraculously fit through the door, all your clothes made it into a new closet and you’re plastering your walls with photos of friends and mementos of campus events from last year. After all the hours you’ve spent moving into your first off campus location, your stomach grumbles and you think, “Oh, time to go to the dining ha—oh, right.”

What changed?

In short, off-campus life carries with it a set of responsibilities that may have been irrelevant to think about when you lived on campus. Universities typically support students housed on campus in every possible way by supplying them with essentials, mainly so that students only need to worry about their studies. The moment you switch to an off-campus apartment situation, you’re more independent from your university and a few aspects of life become a bit more prominent.

  1. Having to care about bus times

Back when you were an on-campus student, you may have had the luxury of being oblivious in terms of when city buses come up to your campus bus stops. Since all the city buses ultimately lead downtown in most college towns, you may have just hopped on whatever bus number showed up outside your residence hall. Now that you’re an off-campus student, you have to care about bus numbers and bus arrival times.

Most students don’t have their own cars, or if they do, their university might not have the most parking spaces in the world. Maybe those several hundred-dollar parking permits aren’t looking so good to your wallet. If you do rely on buses to navigate through town, living off campus will mean you have to plot out the best routes to use to get from your place to class in time.

  1. Grocery shopping and cooking for yourself

Most universities still allow off-campus students to purchase a 5-day or 7-day meal plan, but you’ll find it much less convenient to use any on-campus dining halls anyway if you live in an off-campus apartment. This means you’ll have to budget your money and time so that you’ll have plenty of good food each day, and you may start packing a lunch and some snacks to take up to campus each day.

If you’re not ready to cook for yourself completely just yet, you might consider inquiring with campus dining services about a modified meal plan that gives you a set number of meals per term. If, however, off-campus living signifies a need to provide all of your own food, make a plan for when you’ll hit the grocery store each week and how you’ll transport groceries home.

  1. Making more intentional efforts to stay updated on campus activities

If you’re a very involved student on campus who works many jobs and is in many organizations, you may realize from moving off campus that it’s now a lot harder to make weekend meetings or evening study sessions at the library when you no longer live within five minutes walking distance of all campus facilities. This may mean factoring more travel time into your schedule to arrive at your commitments on time.

Additionally, living off campus may make it harder for you to access community events and functions on campus. The reality is proximity to every event is a luxury on-campus students have, but off-campus students can still attend campus functions as long as they remember to stay updated on what’s going on.

Off-campus students may not see all the flyers at campus bus stops for the ‘90s dance party happening in the main lawn, or they might not hear about the annual activism conference happening next Saturday. This means off-campus students should follow social media pages run by their university and check campus event calendars regularly to avoid missing anything exciting. Sometimes off-campus students might coordinate carpools or offer rides to other off-campus students to make commuting easier.

  1. Reduced access to all of your friends at once

The beauty of living on campus lies in the access you have to all your friends living in the same building or even on the same floor as you. You never run out of people to visit when you live on campus because most students in your grade level are housed together, creating a close-knit feeling of support and community.

The switch to off-campus living means you’ll have to explicitly plan when to hang out with certain friends, because chances are some of your friends have also moved off campus. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing because living off campus often grants you more space to spend time with others, but you’ll find you have to put more of an effort into setting up hangout dates with people who used to be your next-door neighbors on campus.

While it does carry with it its own challenges, off-campus living can provide students with a healthy amount of independence they might not have had when living in the on-campus residence halls.


By Julia Dunn, Uloop News. Visit uloop.com for more college news and to search for off-campus housing, tutors near campus, jobs for college students, and more.


All views and opinions of guest authors are theirs alone and are not representative of the views of Petersons.com or its parent company Nelnet.

Take the PSAT in your Freshman or Sophomore Year Reply

Pretty student doing homework

The Preliminary SAT, or PSAT is a test that most take in their junior year. It is however available to take as a freshman or sophomore if you wish to take it and it can be taken multiple times. If you are like most students, the prospect of taking yet another standardized test not appealing. There are already many tests to take, especially in your junior and senior year. This one, though, might be worth your time. Here are two compelling reasons to take the PSAT at least once in your first two years of high school.

The National Merit Scholarship Program

When you take your PSAT as a junior, you are also taking the qualifying test for the opportunity to win a National Merit Scholarship award. This award can be substantial and some colleges have set aside additional scholarship money for the winners of the scholarship if you attend their institution. Only those with the highest scores on the PSAT are eligible to win the scholarship, so you can imagine that there is some considerable competition. That being said, many students who take the test see it only as preparation for the SAT. Those who take the time to prepare for the PSAT will have an advantage and will be more likely to get a high score.

One of the best ways to prepare is to actually take the test. If you take the test as a freshman or sophomore, then you’ll know your score and you’ll know what parts of the test that you should work to improve. Plus, when you take the test that counts toward the scholarship you’ll be experienced at taking it.

Preparing to take the SAT

The SAT test can be one of the most stressful aspects of your senior year, which is already a very stressful and busy time. Your SAT score is used, among other things, to determine whether or not you will be admitted into a college. A great SAT score expands your choice of prospective schools, and a poor score can limit that choice.

Anything you can do to prepare for the SAT test will do two things: It will reduce your stress level when it comes time to take the test, and it will give you a better chance of doing really well on the test. Luckily, the SAT is very similar to the PSAT. If you take the PSAT as a freshman or sophomore, then you’ll know what you need to work on to do better. When you take your PSAT as a junior, you’ll have already practiced the test once or twice and you can use your scores on the PSAT to really focus your SAT Prep. There are many ways to prepare for the SAT, but all of them work better if you know what you need to focus on.

Taking the PSAT early gives you the opportunity to reduce your stress level later on and could end up giving you some scholarship money as well. Why wouldn’t you do some of your study and preparation in your first two years of high school if it could make things easier in your last two years of high school and help you get the best scores possible?

Read more about the PSAT on www.petersons.com.

Your Social Profile and Your Career Reply

Kiev, Ukraine - January 11, 2016: Background of famous social media icons such as: Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, Linkedin, Tumblr, Myspace and others, printed on paper.

Repeat after me:

All of social media matters. Facebook. Flickr. Instagram. Pinterest. Medium. Linkedin. Snap Chat. Twitter. Vimeo. YouTube. These sites and others are important in a job search. Without the boring, parental or punitive tone, let’s quickly explore why. Over the last few years social media has become more of a factor in candidates being excluded from consideration.

And even if ones’ profile is password protected, I’ve seen that go south rather quickly. Having supported some of the best brands on the planet, it is not foreign to request login credentials. Worst, there are websites that archive social media traffic and portray your digital contributions and pictures oftentimes unknowingly.  I know that cruel internet.

All things considered, this is a critical time for you. You, your parents and other family members have invested resources and time in this educational journey. All of such so that you might secure a fantastic new role with a promising organization. The last thing you’d want is to be denied consideration based on your social media footprint. Let’s rethink your next post.

So before you fire off that resume or pop up for the next scheduled interview, let’s assume everything can and/or will be seen by the person you are scheduled to meet. As a Recruiter, I put each candidate through a quick social media forensic exercise. Here’s what we look for:

Linkedin

  • Photo should be clean, professional, visible – captured via camera if possible
  • Profile should be complete, include details, and paint a picture of who you are
  • Contact information of some sort should be visible – a social media handle or other

Instagram

  • Post pictures that are not offensive or frowned upon by the employer
  • Be conscious of who you follow and or whose pictures you “like” in the process
  • Algorithms are always tweaked too the advantage of the host – not you – be mindful

Twitter

  • Measure your emotion in those 140 characters – don’t always hit send (immediately)
  • Use tools to distribute thoughtful updates and filter questionable content
  • Respect that social recruiting (follows, hashtags, likes, etc) are methods of finding you

Soundcloud

  • Record a crisp introduction to be shared via email/social media with employers
  • Briefly cover defining characteristics, an impact example(s) and contact information
  • Separate yourself from the average job seeker that sits at a keyboard and hits enter

I’m not suggesting you can’t have fun, or post incredible pictures from an office party, or holiday weekend. In fact, I encourage that. I’m asking that you reconsider if the post or tweet will have any potential impact on your mission. I’m suggesting to you that as a recruiter, I’m able to uncover more about you with your email address than you might know.

I’m saying think twice – tweet that. Truth is, a part of your brand will be created through your decision to say no. Progress require a critical injection of confidence and an elevated level of awareness beyond these artificial boundaries of acceptance established by others. Try this slogan: I’m comfortable is the old 20!


About Torin Ellis:

Human Capital Strategist // Interview Architect // Diversity Maverick // Engaging and high spirited. Creative, high voltage, ready to pursue results. Author of Rip The Resume available on petersons.com and where books are sold.


All views and opinions of guest authors are theirs alone and are not representative of the views of Petersons.com or its parent company Nelnet.

Your “After College” Survival Guide: How to Survive as a Fresh College Graduate Reply

Saving for educationBeth Bowman graduated college bubbling with excitement. She had accrued over $25,000 in student debts, but it didn’t matter because she felt she was pursuing a degree that will help her land her dream job of being a cultural consultant for a non-governmental organization. Now out of college, she was excited about her prospects.

However, Bowman soon realized the hard way that we don’t live in a perfect world. After sending about 500 job applications — to which she got no response — she now manages at a job as a policy administration specialist, a job that does not require a college degree.

Bowman’s story isn’t an isolated example.

Statistics from Pew Research Center show that it is becoming increasingly harder for college graduates to find good jobs: a whopping 44 percent of college graduates work at jobs that don’t require a college degree, and 20 percent of college graduates work in low-wage jobs that pay below $25,000. That obviously doesn’t justify today’s average student debt of $37,172.

Here are some survival tips to help you cope as a fresh college graduate:

  1. Make Preparations before Graduating College: Considering the difficulties in getting quality jobs faced by college graduates today, it is best to start making preparations before graduating college. Research shows that employers still value job experience — and having experience as a paid intern makes things even better.

The good news is that you don’t have to be out of college to get relevant job experience. You can still intern while in college; look for relevant organizations that have internship organizations for you while you’re still in college, and slowly build up your work experience. By the time you graduate, you don’t have to be disadvantaged due to lack of work experience.

  1. Get Creative About Job Applications: As a fresh graduate, don’t assume that you can get hired by applying to advertised jobs. Some sources show that up to 80 percent of jobs are unadvertised.

Instead:

  • Regularly reach out to family and friends to inquire about unadvertised job openings they know of.
  • Avoid having your life story on your cover letter. Research shows that recruiters spend less than 10 seconds going through it. Keep your cover letter short and simple.
  • Don’t ignore the internet in your job search. Apparently, 80 percent of recruiters have hired people through LinkedIn. Create and polish your LinkedIn profile.
  • Don’t just wait while you try to get hired. Take advantage of technology to accelerate your prospect of getting hired: you can start a blog or create a simple website. Case studies abound of people who got hired through their blog/website, and many said employers were wowed more by their blogs than by their degree.
  1. Pursue Side Jobs and Alternate Career Options: Many college graduates wait for years, sending hundreds of job applications, without getting their dream job and spending all that time doing nothing. This eventually leads to depression.

Get creative about other ways to earn while looking for your dream job. You can easily find side jobs that will help you sustain yourself while pursuing desirable job opportunities; income from these side jobs reduce pressure on you and help cater to some of your day to day responsibilities.


About John Stevens

John Stevens is an entrepreneur and founder of HostingFacts.com, an online portal that reviews web hosts. He is a regular contributor to Standford’s blog, Business Insider, Entrepreneur.com and other major publications. Follow him on Twitter @hostingfactsj.


All views and opinions of guest authors are theirs alone and are not representative of the views of Petersons.com or its parent company Nelnet.