Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Wish I Knew Wednesday

"I wish I'd known where to look for scholarships and other ways to access them."
Tyler P., Leonardsville, New York

Scholarships are so important, whether your parents are paying for your education or you are. For myself, scholarships were necessary for affording my education. I am grateful for the Academic Scholarship I received from my alma mater for all four years of my education, but I still needed other scholarships to help offset the cost of textbooks, on-campus living arrangements, and the meal plan. 

Below I am listing some great resources for you to search for different types of scholarships. 
  • High School Guidance Office - This is rather obvious, but most schools offer scholarships for a variety of reasons; in memory of alums who have passed, from local businesses, and from the faculty association. In addition, local organizations will advertise their scholarships to that office, so feel free to check in every few weeks to see what scholarship opportunities are available to you!
  • - This website has a ton of listings for scholarships. All you do is fill out a profile with what you plan on studying, where you are from, and what extra-curricular activities you are involved in. Then, they match you to the scholarships which apply to you and your high school experiences. Check it out here:
  • Military Organizations - This is a huge area for scholarship opportunities. Some scholarships are eligible for students whose parents, grandparents, aunts/uncles, brothers/sisters, or children are serving or have served in the United States Military. Specifically if you have a veteran in your family who is actively involved in an organization, like the American Legion, you can potentially apply to scholarships for the local organization, as well as, the national organization. (My grandfather is a retired member of the Special Forces and is actively involved in his local chapter, so I applied twice -- one for the local and one for the national. I was awarded two very high amount scholarships from the local and national organization, all thanks to my grandfather who read a Special Forces magazine which discussed the scholarship.)
  • US Government Websites - The various departments and offices within the national and local government provide scholarships for a variety of students. These could be based on potential majors or based on your performance/interests in high school. My suggestion is to do a simple search on their website of "scholarship" and just see what comes up! One example, if you are a student with a disability, is the list of scholarships that the government consistently updates for students who are eligible, depending on the area of your disability.
  • Community Organizations - See what your community area offers too! Most churches, if you or a family member is an active member, provide scholarships to students from the congregation. Also, if there is a Masonic Temple, a historical society, a sports organization, or an arts society, check with them to see if they have scholarships available, or if they know of other organizations who offer them. Talk with your coaches, your teachers, and your neighbors to see if they have other suggestions about scholarship opportunities in the community.
  • Parent's Place of Work - Depending on where your parents or guardians work, they may offer scholarships to employee's children. Whether they are private companies or city/state positions, the Human Resources Office may have information on the scholarships they offer. This information may be available on the company's intranet or in their weekly/monthly reports. It doesn't hurt to simply ask the HR officers to get a definite answer of whether they offer scholarships to employee's children.
I hope my suggestions have provided some great ideas for looking into scholarship opportunities. Whether a scholarship is fifty dollars or five thousand, any little bit counts ... always remember that! You will continuously want to check these resources for new scholarships. Also, you should NEVER have to pay to get a scholarship, so if you have to pay to apply for something, then it is not worth your time or money and it is probably a scam. 

Cazenovia College, Upstate New York

Good Luck everyone on your scholarship search and on your scholarship applications!! Let me know if you find a good one!

enjoy the chase,

Sunday, October 25, 2015

To Do: Soul Searching

Hi everyone! I hope you all had a restful weekend and were able to cross some items off your "College To Do List!" Speaking of 'to do's,' I wanted to share with you all a conversation I had with a family this weekend while I was working at an Open House. This student is a Junior in High School and she kind of knows what she wants to study but isn't 100% sure and she wanted some advice. Here is my advice to essentially any student in high school, college, and graduate school:


Honestly, this is probably the most influential piece of advice I can give a student. If you don't know what you want to study, that is okay and if you do, that's okay too! Some students will change their major once, some five times, and others none ... each student is different and they go through college differently too. Because of this, you need to do some deep-down thinking to figure out what you truly want to do. 

During my college search, my academic plans changed probably every six months. At first I wanted to study Political Science and Public Relations, then I wanted to student French and International Relations/Studies, then I wanted to study French and History, and then I entered college as a French and Adolescence Education major. Different experiences, thoughts, suggestions, conversations, and events helped propel my changes in academic programs. Even after my first year in college, I thought about switching to a Psychology major. So many people are going to shape your thoughts on what you want to study: parents, friends, boyfriends/girlfriends, grandparents, teachers, a random presenter in your US Government class. I'm here to tell you that it is okay to change your mind while you are still searching for a college! 

Here's my solution: Fall in love with a college that offers all of the things you may be interested in! The College Board (the same company in charge of the SAT) has this quiz/survey-type thing where you can search a variety of characteristics: housing, athletics, majors, location, diversity ... etc., and then colleges that fit that criteria will show up. I used this tool constantly from my 8th grade year to my Senior year to find the schools that would fit the major I liked at that moment. (My alma mater consistently showed as a result, which I why I chose to visit the first time). Once you find a college that you enjoy being at, then the academics will come. It is easier to do an internal change of your major as opposed to needing to find an entirely new university that offers that one. 

Especially if you are a sophomore or a junior in high school, you do not need to latch yourself to a major just yet. I would be mindful of the courses that you choose to take, just in case there are pre-requisites and then you ultimately do decide to pursue that major. Ultimately though, you have plenty of time to find that program and career that you are meant for. (I didn't find mine until my junior year of college!) 

So check out that survey and research some of the schools on the list, then in six months, try it again and see if any of the universities stay the same! You have time, so you use it to figure out yourself first and grow as a student!

enjoy the chase,

Friday, October 23, 2015

College Application Playlist

Hi everyone and Happy Friday! I don't know about you, but I have had a long week with work and school and when I'm stressed out or have a big project coming up, like applying to colleges, I like to get in the zone by listening to music. Today, I am sharing some of my favorite and most inspiring 'college application' songs!

Lose Yourself - Eminem

This song, although it has some coarse language at times, is actually quite inspiring, especially the opening lyrics, "Look, if you had one shot or one opportunity to seize everything you ever wanted in one moment. Would you capture it or just let it slip?" College can open so many doors for you and help you seize the opportunities you need to live the life that you want! 

Don't Stop Believin' - Journey

So, Don't Stop Believin' is literally one of my favorite songs of all time and I thank my parents for introducing it to me. Not only did I quote in my Valedictorian speech as a Senior, but I also 'sang' it in my Senior Play. It has such a good message and when you're filling out your goals section, don't feel discouraged and believe in yourself!

Brave - Idina Menzel 

This is a little bit more of an emotionally inspirational song and it will probably come in handy for those Senior year slideshows, but just remember, "I might be afraid, but it's my turn to be brave."

I Believe - Yolanda Adams

'I Believe' by Yolanda Adams is such a great song, it is positive, upbeat, and inspirational, while still having a great tune to dance to. (This is obvious by the video from the film Honey.)
I believe I can
I believe I will
I believe I know my dreams are real
I believe I'll stand
I believe I'll dance
I believe I'll grow real soon and
That is what I do believe

Unwritten - Natasha Bedingfield 

So, not only can this be applied to your life going from High School to a University, but also for your college admissions essay! The transition between High School and College gives you the chance to write your future and write what you want to happen. If you work hard, put your mind to it, and do everything in your power to succeed, you can write your own story exactly how you want to. 

Dream On - Aerosmith

This one is rather obvious, but also incredibly inspiring, so enjoy!

I hope these music tracks get you in the mood and excited to start applying to colleges and planning your college search! I also hope these tracks will help you transition from Fall to Winter and then to Spring as you prepare for your final moments in the school year! 

enjoy the chase,

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Wish I Knew Wednesday

"I wish I'd known if the money I spent would be worth it."
Lindsay H., 25, New Berlin, New York

This is a tricky thing to give advice on because everyone values education differently and everyone values money differently. When you're planning your college search and ultimately decide the college/university and the academic program you will pursue, this question will pop in your head probably once a month. Even as a graduate student, I still question if I have made the right choices in all of my college decisions. 

Unfortunately, we cannot see into the future. (As it is "Back to the Future" Day, I find this conversation quite appropriate.) Until we are in that moment, we will never know which career will make us happy, which city we live in will provide the most opportunities, or even whether the money we spend pursuing a major will yield any job offers. 

Because of this uncertainty, it is important to make your time worthwhile in your college search and then eventually when you enroll at a college. My #1 piece of advice is to weigh your options; weigh your options between majors, schools, cities, dorms ... everything. Have conversations with your parents, siblings, friends, teachers, coaches, mentors, people on the subway, the only lady down the street, everyone! Talk to them about what you want to pursue and your reasoning behind it. Actively discussing your options and opinions will only make them more real for you and help you choose the path that you want for your college education. In addition, these conversations and the thought process that leads to your ultimate choice will help you immensely when you feel discouraged. You chose this path for a reason; because you believe it and you believe it will lead to the life that you want. Then don't let any bad grade, awkward experience, or peak at your student loan amount discourage you and make you doubt yourself or your dream. 

Make use of your time and make every second count in your college search process. Be an inquisitive consumer, question things, seek knowledge, and ultimately follow the career that is going to make you happy and that you are going to enjoy doing for the next fifty years. This is your journey ... no one else's! 

enjoy the chase,

Monday, October 19, 2015

Exploring the Common Application

Happy Monday everyone!!

In hopes of helping the younger readers or those who have never gone through the college application process, I am discussing some concepts about applying to multiple universities through the Common Application. Here is a step-by-step approach to creating and submitting your college admissions application!
  1. Create an account on to get started. There isn't much you need for this other than your identifying information (name, date of birth, e-mail address, and phone number). 
      • It is really important that you create and use a semi-professional e-mail address when you are applying to colleges, for scholarships, and for financial aid. Something as simple as your first initial and your last name would be fine. This is how CommonApp and most universities are going to be in contact with you about various things, so be sure to check this e-mail address regularly (every few days).
  2. Add the colleges you want to apply to into your queue. You can search for your colleges by name before adding the school to your "My Colleges" list. This is how your application and materials get sent to these institutions. If you don't have a university on the list, then they won't receive your application and thus you won't have the chance to be accepted to that school.
  3. Because each college/university has their own requirements and expectations, it is necessary to compare all of these requirements to make sure you don't miss something. Some universities are exam optional, some require two academic letters of recommendations whereas others require one academic and one personal, and some require a different personal statement. You don't want to miss out on an opportunity simply because you misread or forgot something!
      • When I was completing my graduate school applications, I created an Excel document (if you have a Gmail account, you can use the Google Docs 'Sheets' application) to keep track of when applications were due, who I had as references, the number of words my personal statement had to be, and any other requirements that were unique. This helped keep me so organized so that I didn't forget anything or misinform anyone.
  4. You'll want to organize all of your information in one place so that when you are applying you have it ready to go. You will need the following items, no matter the university: a copy of your high school transcript, a list of extra-curricular activities (in school, volunteer, athletics, arts), test scores and dates (SAT, ACT, or Subject Tests), and parent/guardian information. All colleges require this information, so this will go in your general profile. Be sure to have accurate information because once you've submitted your application, you can't go in and change it.
  5. Now you are ready to officially start your application. This is what you have been working so hard towards ... to go to college and get a degree! This is going to be rather daunting and applying does take some time, but just know that it is worth it. If you have to set aside some time each week to devote to applying, that is perfectly fine! Just make sure you keep your deadlines in mind so that you don't miss any! 
      • During my application process, I spent all of my study halls gathering my information and spent each Saturday completing my applications and organizing everything. I was able to complete everything on time and received my first college decision in the middle of November! 

Applying to a college is a very daunting and sometimes overwhelming task, but once it is over and you feel an immense amount of pride in yourself and in what you have accomplished in your high school years, you will be thankful it is over! You have so many great things to come in the next several months and you will accomplish even more to be proud of! Enjoy this time and make every moment count!

enjoy the chase,

P.S. If you have more questions about the CommonApp, here is a link to their Frequently Asked Questions webpage! Good Luck to all you college chasers!

Saturday, October 17, 2015

When an Admissions Counselor Visits

Hi everyone! Today I am going to talk to you about what you should do when a college admissions counselor visits your high school. This typically happens in the fall and your guidance department may only advertise this for Seniors, but essentially if you are thinking about college and a university interests you, then why not stop by!

So, the set-up of the high school visit varies between each high school and each college that visits. At my high school, all of our visitors used a conference room in the guidance office, whereas at some other schools, a counselor may have a table in a common area or in the lunch room for a lunch-time visit. No matter the set-up, go and visit these counselors if you think you have an interest in their college; trust me, they want you to talk to them!

Typically your high school will announce that an admissions representative will be visiting a few days in advance, so make sure you're prepared. If you need to get a pre-signed pass from the guidance department to go during a class, then do that early enough so that you can also notify your teacher that you'll be missing class. Prepare your questions for them or if there is anything specific you want to discuss with them. Sometimes it is easier to talk with counselors in person, if you have really dynamic and specific questions that you want addressed. Think of thoughtful questions that can help you with your college search process!

In addition, if you know that the visit is happening before the day-of, please dress appropriately. I always say this, but dressing nicely (I'm talking nice jeans and a nice top, not necessarily a dress or a suit) helps make a good impression with the representative and it shows that you take your college search seriously! However, if you have late notice and just see the table the day of their visit, then don't let the state of your outfit deter you from asking the admissions counselor your questions.

My Experiences: 
In the fall of my Senior year of high school, I visited with an alum from a SUNY school in my high school's guidance office. I knew I wanted to apply to a SUNY school, so I researched this specific one and it had all of things I wanted: a Foreign Language and Education department, the opportunity to dance, a hockey team, and scholarship opportunities. So, I prepared my questions and had a great conversation with the alum. The conversation got me really excited about the university and about planning a visit to do a tour of campus!

During my time as an undergraduate, I was able to act as a high school representative and visit my own high school to meet with students who had an interest in the college. I did this twice; my Sophomore and Junior years of college. Being able to meet with the students to discuss my experience as a student and answer their questions about the college was really rewarding. So, whether the representative is an admissions counselor, an alum, or a current student, still visit their table. They can answer all types of questions that you have and may even be able to suggest things for you to do when you tour campus!

enjoy the chase,

P.S. If you have a twitter account, be sure to follow @Chasing_College to stay up-to-date on all of my posts and articles that I think will be helpful to you in your college search and transition into college life!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

What's in a College Part 5: Vocational/Technical Colleges

Hi everyone! Today, I am talking to you about vocational and technical colleges. In a previous blog post, I spoke about deciding whether or not to go to college and what your options would be if you chose not to. Well, in that post I briefly mentioned the opportunities for vocational and technical colleges, but below I explain more in-depth about the colleges and what you can expect from them.

A vocational or technical college is one where your program of study is specific and you only take courses that relate directly to that. At these institutions, you may not earn an Associate's degree, but instead you may be granted a license or a certification. Some programs that you could study include: cosmetology, medical coding, crane operating, and automobile repair. There isn't much of a "Student Life" experience at these colleges, however that isn't really their purpose.

The academic experience at a vocational/technical college is truly unique. These institutions are solely focused on you getting your license and using it to find the right job. The programs are highly specific and can rarely be applied to another career. While this may be intimidating, if you know what you want to do for your career and you don't want to 'waste' two to four years of your life getting a degree in something that isn't applicable to your career goals, then you should pursue the schools that offer the program you want. While some programs only last a month or two, others may take a year or more to complete. Each program is unique and has their own offerings, so be sure to research all of the places you are interested in and weigh the pros and cons of each.

Danielle J.'s experience: "I attended John Paolo's Extreme Beauty Institute to earn my cosmetology license. My experience with John Paolo's was very educational. It wasn't nearly as expensive as my SUNY education, and the time spent there was much shorter, with the goal of getting students working as soon as possible. My education was focused on precisely what I needed to know to work in the industry, which was nice not having to pay for and attend extra elective classes I had no interest in. Altogether, minimal time and money was spent at John Paolo's and I had a career within the week of my graduation."

If you think a vocational/technical school is what's most right for your future and where you want to be, then pursue it. See what is around in your community for programs and experiences and then research out into other areas to see what else is offered. Most importantly, remember that your college journey is unique to you, so be sure to follow your dreams and plan accordingly for them!

enjoy the chase,

Thursday, October 8, 2015

What's in a College Part 4: Community Colleges

Hello all! The week is winding down and most colleges are preparing for their Fall Break (four day weekend)! For you High School students, this weekend is a great opportunity to visit some campuses because you have Monday off for Columbus Day!! So, enjoy your weekend everyone, but first I'm going to talk about community colleges!

A community college is a two year state school which offers Associate Degrees and courses that can be transferred to a four year university to earn a Bachelor's Degree. These colleges can be small or they can have a large number of students on their campus. Each one truly has their own personality and type of students.

When looking for a community college that fits your needs, you need to think of the program you want to study, whether you want to live on campus or commute from home, the type of lifestyle you want to live at college, and what extra-curricular activities you want to do .... essentially, just because you choose a two year school, it doesn't mean you need to sacrifice your needs or expectations in a college. Attending a two year program means that you will need to fit every opportunity possible into those two years. If you have the chance to do an internship, do it; if you have the chance to be an RA in a residence hall, do it; if you have the chance to help your professor with research, do it!! Less time doesn't mean less opportunities, it just means you need to be extra proactive.

Oftentimes, students will attend a community college to take college courses and save some money by living at home. This is a justifiable option and it is rather common nowadays. If you plan on transferring to another university for your Bachelor's degree, you will need to keep that in mind when it comes to your grades. You'll want to keep working hard in your classes in order to keep your GPA high and make you a desirable candidate for transfer admission. Also, you will want to see if your community college has an "articulation agreement" with any four-year colleges to help make the transferring process a little easier.

My boyfriend went to a community college for his Associate's Degree in Diesel Technology (to work on big tractors and tractor trailers) and had some great experiences during his time there. He was able to be in the Agricultural Engineering club, complete an internship with Caterpillar diesel engines, was able to make the Dean's List for a semester, and prepare his GPA for potential transfer if he chooses to pursue a Bachelor's degree later on. He graduated in 2 and a half years and was able to work part-time during his last semester while finishing two classes. All of these opportunities were available to him because he went to a community college, if he had attended another college, he may not have had these same opportunities nor taken advantage of them!

Going to a community college is a very viable option to help you save money and to help you take some courses to see what academic program you are interested in. Don't discredit community colleges, they are still a great place to get a great education!

Next week, I will be discussing vocational and technical colleges and what you can expect from them!

enjoy the chase,

Monday, October 5, 2015

What's in a College Part 3: Large Public Universities

Today on the blog, I am discussing large public universities and the type of experiences you can expect from these institutions. Please note that each university, although they fall into the same category, have their own unique characteristics too.

These universities are established state-wide and have many separate campuses in different locations. Think: SUNY, Penn State, University of North Carolina, and UMass. Their various locations allow more students from in and out of state to gain the rewards of an education in that system. For you, if you choose to live at home and commute to college, you would be able to find a campus near you. In contrast, if you wanted to move further away from home, but still get the perks of being in-state, you can do that too!

In terms of academics, large public universities offer a wide variety of majors and programs. These can be typical majors like Business or English, or rare and specific majors like, Meteorology (SUNY Oswego), Design and Theatre Technology (UNC-Greensboro), and Peace and Conflict Studies (UMass Lowell). In addition, many universities offer EOP programs and Honors programs for students that qualify. (These are extra opportunities to get involved on campus and find the resources that are going to help you the most while in college.) Additionally, large public universities offer research grants for students to take part in. Whether they are small scale studies or larger ones, you can still gain experience working in your field through research!

Campus Life on large public campuses is its own entity, they have so many things to offer to students, no matter their backgrounds. Students can join a sorority or a fraternity, can be involved in student government, can play a sport, or can simply enjoy the event and activities that happen daily on campus. These universities appeal to such a wide array of students, so they need to offer many different clubs, events, and experiences for all of their students. Joining a club and taking an active role in an aspect of campus life will really help you make friends and find your belonging when on a campus of 10,000-50,000 students.

Finally, a pubic university can oftentimes be the most affordable option of your college choices. Many times these universities will charge a specific, discounted rate if you are a resident of that state. This can greatly impact the amount of money you are spending on your college education. Also, if you choose a university which is close to home and choose to commute for a year or two, that will help you save even more money on your education.

If you are unsure of whether a large public university is for you, I suggest that you visit a campus and check it out. Like I said, each one has their own unique character with their own values, mission, and expectations for students. Go and check them out and find the one that best fits your educational goals!!

enjoy the chase,

Friday, October 2, 2015

What's in a College Part 2: Research Universities

Happy Friday, everyone! I hope you all had a great week and are starting to make plans to visit the campuses you are interested in or have plans to attend a college fair soon! Today I am going to discuss the profile of research universities and the type of education you can expect from a university like this!
Harvard University's Annenburg Hall

Research universities are larger and attract students from all across the world. They have a well-known campus, successful graduates, and a prestigious reputation; think: Brown University, Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Georgetown University. Their main business is research, so they hire researchers as professors, their staff are involved in research, and their campuses develop the latest and world-changing studies on important topics in science, psychology, and law. (Think Cal Tech from Big Bang Theory)

I have never attended a large research university, so upon my own search, I found an article posted by US News and World Report about the perks of enrolling at a research university. If you know for a fact that you want to study a specific topic, you want to do research, you plan on going directly into graduate school after college, then a research institute may be for you! The culture on these campuses are unique in that everyone is interested and excited about their field of study and want to share that knowledge with the world. At research universities you have more opportunities to work on research yourself and help professors and TAs with their ground-breaking research, too!  These universities also have great facilities as far as, classrooms, laboratories, and libraries. An education at a research university could serve you well if you are looking for a highly specific major and know you want to perform studies and contribute to your field in research.

These research institutions, however, are highly selective in that they only accept the best and brightest students in the world. If an education at a research institution is something that you really want, I suggest you talk with your guidance counselor right away. You may need to take certain courses at your high school in order to meet pre-requisite requirements, as well as, take certain SAT subject tests in order to be considered for admission. You also will need to focus more time on test preparation for the SATs and ACTs to have comparable scores. It is possible to make your college dream a reality, but you may have to work a little harder than the rest of your classmates ... think about the rewards you will gain in the long run though!

If it is truly your dream to attend a large research university as an undergraduate, do everything you can to make it a possibility and don't let anyone sway you from chasing your college dream!

enjoy the chase,

P.S. If you decide you want to wait and apply to a research university for graduate school, that is okay too! If you know ahead of time that this is a long-term goal, then work towards it during your undergraduate education; take test prep courses, do small-scale research on campus, act as a TA (if your campus allows), and make the best grades you can!