Wednesday, September 30, 2015

What's in a College Part 1: Liberal Arts Colleges

Hello everyone! Today, I begin a series on the different types of colleges and universities there are available to you. The first type I am going to discuss is the Liberal Arts College.

Liberal arts colleges are typically on the smaller side and focus mainly on undergraduate education. Because of the smaller size, you are able to have a better connection with your professors and establish rapport with them a lot easier. You can discuss the course material more easily with them, ask them questions about career opportunities, and even attend events around campus with them and their colleagues. Usually classes will be larger in the introductory courses, since a lot of students take these (25-40 students), but once you get into your major-specific courses, your classes tend to be even smaller (10-15 students).  You become close with your fellow students and professors while creating lasting friendships and relationships.

A liberal arts curriculum means that you have to take classes that are required for your major, as well as, classes that fit "general education distribution requirements." This means that you will also have to take a class or two in psychology or education, a type of science, a foreign language, mathematics, literature, art, and history. The specific requirements vary between colleges, but this type of education helps you get a well-rounded academic experience. This is especially helpful if you are going into college undecided; you can wet your feet in many genres of courses, while still meeting requirements for graduation in 4 years.

My experience: I attended a small (1,200 students) liberal arts college for my undergraduate education and it was the perfect setting for me. I wanted a community atmosphere with traditions, close connections with faculty and administrators, as well as, many unique opportunities to become involved on campus. I received all of these things plus more at my alma mater, Elmira College. I enjoyed taking classes in the different subject areas, as well as, being able to dance, be a Resident Assistant, work in multiple offices, and join as many clubs as I wanted. I made my college experience what I wanted and I enjoyed every second of it. Also, liberal arts colleges have fantastic alumni who donate to the college, so usually they offer really great scholarships as well. For me, this was a HUGE perk!! (Because of my scholarship, it was cheaper for me to go to a private college than it would have been to go to a public, state school.)

US News and World Reports establishes a list every year of the best colleges in the nation. Here is their ranking of the best Liberal Arts Colleges. Disclaimer: Don't judge a school based on its ranking. You need to find a college that best fits your needs, expectations, and desires for a college education. Use these rankings as an opportunity to research some liberal arts colleges that you're attracted to at first glance to see if you actually want to pursue them!

enjoy the chase,

P.S. These photos are of Hamilton College, a prestigious liberal arts college located in Clinton, New York. 

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Writing your Admissions Essay

For those of you who have yet to write your admissions essay, you are in luck! Tonight I am sharing with you my tips for writing a great admissions essay and sharing my experience with writing my undergraduate and graduate admissions essay!

  • Picking your Topic -  The Common App has published their 2015-2016 essay prompts for those students who will be applying through the Common Application. (This will most likely be the only way you apply to your colleges. Some schools still have their own applications, but this universal application makes it easier on you!) If you click on this you can find the essay prompts that you can write about! When you pick your topic, choose something that you can write about, something that makes you excited but that you can easily articulate why it excites you. **If you can't put into words why babysitting your sister while your mom was going back to school helped you transition from a child to an adult, then don't choose that as a topic. Write about something that you can easily discuss and get your point across. 

Pick a topic that you are excited about and can easily discuss!
  • What to Cover - This essays tells a story about your life; about what's important to you. This gives the admissions committee a glimpse into your life that they can't see from your transcripts and resume. Because of this, it is important to portray the best, authentic version of yourself, but don't lie or over-exaggerate to prove a point. You may also want to consider explaining in terms of the writing prompt how your experience will help you in college. Most importantly, make it interesting and fun to read for the committee ... after all they have thousands of essays to read!

Don't be like Brick Tamland! 
Pick your essay topic and let the spirit move you!
  • Proofread, Proofread, Proofread!! - I cannot emphasize enough about how important and necessary it is to read, reread, and re-reread your essay! Check for spelling and grammar errors. Check for weird sentences that just don't sound right. A great way to check your essay is to read it out loud to a parent, sibling, or a close friend; someone who is going to be honest but supportive. You may also consider having a mentor look over it to get their advice on it. Your essay should be well-written and representative of the type of work that you will produce in college. If you want to produce A+ work in college, then take the time to look it over, proofread, and make sure your essay is as perfect as it will get!
For my undergraduate admissions essay, I wrote about my community service hours at a local arts festival. I knew I wouldn't be able to articulate why my dad is my hero, nor could I explain how important dance was to me; so I chose a topic I was passionate about but could still discuss. I wrote it creatively like a narrative, but also with the intention that I planned to continue my volunteerism into college. (Sidenote: in my acceptance packet, the Director of Admissions at my alma mater added a hand-written note about how my experiences at the art festival would fit well with the Community Service and Internship requirements at the college.)  

For my graduate admissions essay, I discussed how important door tags were to my experience in college and in why I chose to pursue a Master's degree in Higher Education. (Door tags are things with your name that RAs put on your college room door.) I basically just analyzed how important they are for creating a community atmosphere in a residence hall, but it was also through my experience as an RA that I chose to pursue a career in Student Affairs at the college level. I individualized the essays for each university I applied to, while discussing their Mission and Values. I worked for a month to perfect it and had it read over by Career Advisers on campus, my mentor, and my boyfriend to ensure that it was the best it could be!

These are the door tags I made for my
last Winter term as an RA!!
No matter what, make your essay something you are proud of and excited to share with others. This is the first ticket to your future in college, so make sure it is a First Class with air conditioning and free WiFi ticket!

enjoy the chase,

Don't forget to follow the blog on Twitter @Chasing_College to keep up-to-date with new blog postings and relevant articles in the world of college life!

Friday, September 25, 2015

Friday Favorites

Hey everyone ... Happy Friday!! I don't know about you, but I have had a long week of work, preparing assignments, working on projects, and trying to further my career. I hope your weeks were just as productive! In the next few weeks I will examine the different types of colleges there are, ie: private, technical, research ... etc, as well as, discuss the art of crafting your admissions essay. Until then, here are some things I am currently obsessed with!

PEP TALK by Kid President - I saw this video in the fall of my senior year of college and it has changed the way I think about things. You are awesome, always remember that! You have something to give this world and don't forget, "It's everybody's duty to give this world a reason to dance." - Kid President.


41 Scenic College Campuses That Were Made for Instagram - These pictures were part of my inspiration for this blog. College campuses have such an other-worldly feel to them and these photos really capture it. When you find the college that is right for you, you will get that 'other-worldly' feel as soon as you walk around campus!

Getting from College to Career - I mentioned this book by Lindsey Pollak on my Twitter account the other day. I just finished reading it and am so inspired about my career in higher education. Whether you are a sophomore in high school, a freshmen in college, or a first year graduate student, this book will help you so much. It talks about interview tips, suggestions about finding internships, and so many other things to help you prepare for your life in and after college!

Four Things New Applicants Should Know about the Common App - I will be discussing the Common Application more in depth later on, but I wanted to share this article, as it is important to get mentally prepared before you start applying!

BIG 10 Mascots - Last year, the mascots for some universities in the BIG 10 Conference made a parody of Taylor Swift's hit 'Shake it Off.'  It's just a really funny video that always makes me smile and laugh.

Have a great weekend everyone and Happy Homecoming for all those High Schools and Colleges who are celebrating this weekend!

enjoy the chase,

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

What to Do at a College Fair!

Hi everyone! Now that school is in full swing, so are all of the awesome opportunities to attend a college fair in your area! A college fair is a great chance to meet with representatives from a bunch of different schools without having to travel super far.

At a college fair, each college has a table with a display set up which provides information on the college's location, their majors, extra-curricular and athletics offerings, and unique opportunities available on their campuses. They also will have some pamphlets and brochures for you to take with you! Here are some tips/suggestions for you to have a great college fair experience!
  1. Bring a Bag! You are going to be collecting a lot of materials from athletics brochures, study abroad worksheets, to business cards. It is best if you have something to put all of that information in. Some college fairs provide plastic bags for you, but others don't so you will want to be prepared! My suggestion is either a back pack or a tote bag, that way you can drop stuff in your pockets as you are walking around.
  2. Wear Comfortable Shoes! You are going to be standing and walking around a lot, so be sure you are wearing comfortable shoes.  Some High School Guidance Counselors suggest you dress up to attend a college fair and if you are going with your school, you should probably follow their suggestions. However, if you are going by yourself, with some friends, or with your family, you can dress nice but still be comfortable! This isn't an interview, it is just a chance to get more information about the colleges! Jeans are fine to wear with your comfortable shoes, but please no sweatpants or yoga pants!!
  3. Make Stickers with your Information! So, I never knew about this as a High School student, but it saves you a lot of time and effort of continuously writing your name and information on hundreds of recruiting cards. (It probably won't be 100, but trust me, after the tenth it will feel like it!) So, these stickers/labels can be found at office supply stores or even at Walmart. You will want to include the following information:
    Full Name and Gender
    Mailing Address
    Telephone and Cell Phone
    Name of your High School
    Intended Major
    Extra-Curricular Activities or Athletics you are interested in

    You can type the information out and print it on the labels for you to have the day of the college fair. Peeling off a sticker and putting it on the recruiter card will help save a lot of time. If you don't have the access to these or you are short on time, write up an index card with all of that information so that you don't take as much time filling out the recruiting cards. (This will be better than looking at your phone at each booth trying to find your cell phone or home phone number.) This will also give you more time to speak with the representative and actively listen to what they have to say!
  4. Have a Game Plan! Most college fair organizers put out a list closer to the date of the event of the colleges that are registered to attend. Once you get this list, make a game plan for which universities you really want to visit and what specific questions you want to know. **If you are just starting your college search and this is your first event, then having a game plan isn't necessarily essential. As long as you go into the event with an open mind and a willingness to stop at different tables and chat with the admissions representatives, then it will be successful for you!
  5. Be Independent! Whether you go to the college fair with your parents or go with your friends, don't cling to them. This is your opportunity to go out there, meet with representatives, and start formulating your future! If you are only going to the tables that your parents and friends want, you may miss out on your dream school's table. I definitely suggest you take your parent's advice on what college tables to visit, but visit some of the ones that you want too!
NACAC (National Association for College Admissions Counseling) holds National College Fairs all across the country during the fall. If you go to this website, you will be able to find a college fair near you! Don't forget to ask your guidance counselor if they know of any local college fairs that you can attend close to home. 

enjoy the chase,

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Setting Goals

Hi everyone. I hope you all had a great week and are settling well into your classes and getting excited for the events to come this Fall!  So, yesterday was my 23rd birthday and I am using that as inspiration for today's post; Making Goals.

If you have ever read Sean Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens, you know that he stresses the importance of Habit 1: Being Proactive and Habit 2: Beginning with the End in Mind. (If you haven't read it, I highly suggest doing so. I got it as an 8th grade graduation gift and the lessons in it transformed my High School and College experience. Parents: this is a great gift for your child or even a niece or nephew.) Both of these habits can be supported by making goals in and out of school.

Some examples of goal lists include:

Goals for this year
Goals for college
Goals for the next ten years
Goals for Senior year
Goals for next Softball season

Your goals should include items, events, and experiences you hope to accomplish within that time frame. Anything from applying to five colleges, to getting three home runs this upcoming softball season. They can be simply worded like, "Get my Bachelor's Degree in Nursing" to "Travel to Italy, see Papal mass, throw a penny in the Trevi Fountain, and go to the Colosseum." These are your goals, not anyone else's. Think about what you want out of life and what you want out of that time frame and commit them to paper.

Setting goals can help you realize your dreams and what you want out of certain experiences like college or your Senior year of High School. Planning ahead can make sure that your experience is worthwhile and you accomplish all that you want! 

Write your goals in a format that is going to make you excited about them. Use decorative paper, bright colored pens, a cool app on your phone or tablet, and tack them to your bulletin board to keep you accountable and focused on what is important. It is going to be much easier to skip that trip to the store when you need to study, if your goal list is staring you in the eye!  

** Don't forget to reevaluate your goals every so often and cross them off as you accomplish them! Feel free to add new goals, too, if your dreams change, so can your goals!

enjoy the chase,

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Wish I Knew Wednesday

"I wish I had known about taking some of my pre-requisite courses online the summer before I started college, so I didn't have to worry about completing my program on time." 
Hailey T., 21, Afton, New York

Knowing the requirements for the program you are going to enter is important as soon as you enroll at that college. Some programs have a specific timeline that is necessary for completion within the two or four years (depending on the length of the program). A huge example is a Nursing or and Education program; you have certain courses you need to take before you can start your clinical rotations or student teaching. If you have yet to complete the pre-requisites for the courses that you need, then you will take more time to complete your degree because of that.

Once you are enrolled as a student, reach out to your program director or your Academic Adviser to discuss the timeline for your program with them. If you don't have a specific course that is needed to start the first sequence, then ask them what they suggest you do. They will know your options, ie: courses at that university or from another college that can be transferred in and count as that pre-requisite. Online courses are becoming increasingly popular, so the opportunities to find a course you need to take quickly can be more feasible. You will, though, want to check with your university's Registrar to make sure those credits and that class will transfer into the university. 

You have to take an active role in your academic experience. Talk to your Academic Adviser, other professors, the Dean of Academic Affairs, whatever it takes to make your education a success. Find options and do not just settle for one answer; it may be the only option, but you'll never know until you look down other avenues. 

enjoy the chase,

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Dear Parents:

Today, I am writing to you, not just as a blogger or a graduate student, but as a daughter.

First and foremost, thank you for bringing your child into this world. Whether they were brought into this world pre-maturely, surrounded by love, on a snowy evening, or in the early morning, they were brought here to live out a purpose. Your child may know today, tomorrow, or fifty years from now what their purpose in life is, but without you, this purpose would never be fulfilled.

Second, your support and love to your children will help them succeed in high school and in college. Research shows that adolescents who have parents that take an interest in their schooling are more likely to succeed in high school and are more likely to stay in college once they enroll. The conversations you have with your child matter and make all the difference.

Third, be present. If you haven't before, start now. Every moment you are not emotionally connected with your children is a moment lost that you will never get back. You don't have to have super meaningful, thought-provoking conversations, but as long as your show your love to your child, that will mean the world. Attend their baseball game, drive them to dance class, sit at the table while they do their homework, ask them how a class is going, invite them to go shopping with you, walk the dogs together; simply put spend time together. Once comfortable, your child will talk. Trust me when I say these moments are the most meaningful and life-changing your child will ever have.

Fourth, help them navigate the college search process. If you didn't go to college, or you don't know what it takes to be a college student in the 21st Century, that is okay. There are resources out there for you, this blog being one of them, use them! You know your child's personality and you know the environment that they would thrive in, so help them pursue that environment, even if it takes them away from you.

Finally, cherish the moments you have now! Since your child first learned to crawl and talk, first stepped on a school bus and rode a bike, first hit a home-run or landed a triple pirouette, first went to prom, and first drove a car, you know that time is moving quickly. As your child grows wings and begins to fly, help them soar and guide their flight. Don't push them away and out of the nest, instead welcome them home every chance you get.

enjoy the chase,
daughter of tom and sandy

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Throwback Thursday

Happy Throwback Thursday everyone! In honor of my Alma Mater's first week of classes this week, I wanted to share some photos from my Freshmen Orientation five years ago!  It is hard to believe that it has been five years since I began my journey in higher education.

My alma mater is Elmira College, which is a small liberal arts college located in the Southern Tier of New York State. I was attracted to Elmira College instantly; the culture and the on-campus opportunities are what guided my decision to attend!

I majored in Foreign Languages and Adolescence Education to become a French teacher. I enjoyed my academic career, but through my Student Teaching, I knew that the classroom was not meant for me. I was able to work for three years in the Office of Admissions, over two years as a Resident Assistant, and as Academic Chairperson for the 2013 Orientation Executive Committee. These three experiences led me to pursue a Master's Degree in Higher Education Administration. 

My first day of Orientation was marked by moving into my dorm room, meeting my roommate, catching up with my Orientation group, and lots of ice-breakers! The roommate matching system worked great, my roommate and I were so similar. We had some great times in our Freshmen year and they continued on into the rest of our years on campus too! 

The culminating 'family' event at Orientation was the Welcome Ceremony where each Freshmen stated their name, class year, and hometown out loud to everyone in attendance. We also got our class beanies that we wore throughout the entirety of Fall Orientation (4 days). I was so glad to have my parents there to witness the beginning of my journey at EC. They were instrumental in my college search process and really helped me make my college decision! 

Freshmen Orientation and the first week of classes can be overwhelming at times (I know it was for me), with all of the new information, trying to find your classes, figuring out the Dining Hall ... etc.  These overwhelming moments won't last though as you begin to fully transition into a college student. You're only a new student for a week ... then you are just a student!

enjoy the chase,

P.S.  If you continuously feel overwhelmed, even after the first two weeks, reach out to your RA (Resident Assistant) for help. They will be able to give you some tips on making it through and will be able to give you some resources to help with your anxiety.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Visiting Campus: Part 4 - 1st Visit vs. 2nd Visit

Hi everyone! For all you upstate New Yorkers, I hope your first week of school goes well! If it is your Senior year, be sure to meet with your Guidance Counselor soon to keep them up-to-date on your college search process!

Today, I am going to be talking about your first and second visit to a college how you should approach each differently. This will help you make your decision to apply to the university, as well as, help you decide where you ultimately want to go!


  • This is when you want to get the overall impression of the college. Find out its culture, what the students are passionate about, what types of programs they have, how their campus is ... etc.
  • You can do your Admissions Interview at this point if you want. Mostly this is an opportunity for the college to get to know you and for you to get to know the finer aspects of the college and how they apply to you. **It was in my first visit and specifically the interview that I realized I didn't want to apply to a specific university anymore. If I hadn't visited, I wouldn't have known that it wasn't the right fit for me. 
  • Attend during an Open House or a Junior Visit Day. These days are designed for students new in the search process to get more general information about the university. There are a lot of great presentations to give you an inside look at the university, too.

  • This is best during a one-on-one visit, an overnight visit, or during an Accepted Student Day. They can be designed towards your needs and the needs of an accepted student that wants to make their decision. (Check out my post on Overnight Visits here!)
  • Insider Tip: If you visit close to May 1st (the National Enrollment Deadline) chances are the university will do anything to make you happy, as long as you give them timely notice to prepare. Use this to your advantage to get to know exactly what you want and need to make your final decision!
  • Visit the places that you want to see. Use this one-on-one time to visit the chemistry lab, the video production studio, the squash courts, and the row house across town. If there is a place that is vital to your major, you will want to look at that place at every college in order to compare them when you make your final decision.
  • Ask all of your questions on this final visit. You should leave the campus knowing everything you want to know and everything you need to know. Also, if an Admissions Counselor says that they need to ask someone specific about your questions, follow up with them! They know how important it is for you to get answers, so be sure to follow up with them if you haven't heard back in a week to two weeks.

I hope this comparison between your visits helps you, once you get to that stage! For myself, visiting both of the colleges I applied to really solidified exactly why I wanted to apply there. I knew that each university's culture fit my personality, I liked their academic programs, and their campus feel. If it weren't for both of my visits to each university, I wouldn't have known!

enjoy the chase,

Friday, September 4, 2015

Visiting Campus: Part 3 - What to Bring to Your Visit

When I was preparing for my own campus visits, 6 years ago for undergrad and 2 years ago for grad school, I consistently researched what to bring on a campus tour, what to wear, and what questions to ask. I got very little guidance and had to use trial and error until I got it down to a science!

What to Bring:
  • Folder and Notebook: You will want something to carry any hand-outs you get, as well as, a place to keep your questions and to take any notes during presentations or conversations. 
  • Pen/Pencil: Obviously to take notes. *When meeting faculty and other administrators, if they talk with you about things you are interested in or chair the program you hope to study, write down their name and e-mail address so that you can send them a quick e-mail when you decide to apply!
  • Questions: Research the university's website before you visit so that you know what you want to ask. (Below, I've made up a list of some good questions to ask if you can't think of anything)
  • Résumé: This isn't required by any means and you can use your own judgment, but you may want to have a small résumé for your interview or just for your Admissions Counselor to add to your profile. (You can include academic awards, clubs and organizations, and part-time jobs)
Hamilton College, Clinton, New York

What to Wear:
This was one thing that I really needed guidance for before I visited my first college ... I even instant messaged my Admissions Counselor to ask her what she recommended her students wear to interviews/visits. Here are my suggestions:
  • You'll want to look nice, as to make a good impression, but you also want to be comfortable when walking around on your campus tour. 
  • Unless you have a prestigious scholarship interview or an audition for a program, you won't need to wear a suit and tie or a fancy dress. 
    • Khakis, dark wash jeans, nice button down shirt, blouse with a sweater, conservative-length skirt (A little shorter than knee length or longer)
  • Check the forecast for the college town before you leave. You won't want to leave your raincoat or umbrella at home if it's going to rain!
Navy Khakis, Flower Blouse, Cream Sweater
Brown Ballet Flats, Brown Satchel

Some Questions to Ask:
  • To Students:
    • What's your favorite place on campus?
    • What do students do on the weekends? Do they go into town a lot or just stay on campus?
    • Do you think the faculty are easily available outside of class?
    • What has been your favorite experience here so far?
  • To Admissions Representatives:
    • What is your university's student body like?/What is your typical student like? ie: values, aspirations, actions.
    • If this campus was known for one thing, what would you say it is?
    • Why did you choose to come here? (As an alum or as a new employee)
Colgate University, Hamilton, New York

I hope this helps you prepare a little better for your campus visit! My major suggestion though is to go to each university with an open mind. Every college campus is different; each one has their own identity, their own students, and their own culture, so don't judge one based on another. **Also, don't forget to go to the book store and pick up a t-shirt as a souvenir!

enjoy the chase,

P.S. Follow us on Twitter @Chasing_College