Tuesday, June 28, 2016

College Orientation Essentials

Hi everyone! Congrats to all of the graduates who walked across the stage this past weekend!! Your next step is college orientation if you are choosing to continue onto college. There are plenty of essentials you need, so read on for my thoughts!!

College Orientation is a really exciting time! You meet all of your new classmates, professors, your Advisor, and start your life at a new school! Orientation will be filled with information sessions about housing and dining services, campus safety, registration and placement tests, as well as, icebreakers and social events to help you make new friends.

This fun-filled and somewhat exhausting program can last from 9:00am all the way to 10:00pm depending on the type of program your new college runs. It could also be one or two days during the summer or a week before classes start in the Fall. No matter what though, there are some important essentials that you will want to bring with you to Orientation. 

Because I'm trying to constantly improve this blog for you all and try new things, I made a video explaining all of the essentials that I think you will need with you for your College Orientation! 

Again, these are all of my suggestions and things that were helpful to me during my Orientation experience, as well as, what I saw other students needing when I was an Orientation Leader. Just be true to yourself and make Orientation the best experience possible! If there are items you think I forgot or that you are definitely not leaving behind, feel free to comment below or comment on the YouTube video here!

enjoy the chase,

Friday, June 24, 2016

Saying Good-bye to High School

Hi everyone and Happy Friday! I don't know about you, but this week has truly been a whirl-wind for me (don't worry, I'll share an update soon). This weekend marks the graduation festivities for a lot of the high schools in my hometown area in upstate New York and I wanted to address that in my post for today!

Saying 'Good-bye' to High School can be a very profound experience for students as they embark on their next journey, so I wanted to share with you all my thoughts on overcoming the sadness and celebrating the joy! Cue Vitamin C's Graduation (Friends Forever) circa 2000.

For myself, I was not too sad to leave my high school when the time came around, actually I was moreso happy to be moving onto bigger and better things, that doesn't mean that I wasn't emotional as I said my last good-byes to teachers, and fellow students. What was important for me as I began that transition was that I stayed in contact with those friends who I knew I wanted to keep in my life. Now, with the use of social media it is pretty easy to see what others are doing in their lives, but I mean deciding that you are truly going to stay in contact with people will help with your transition.

High school was not meant to last forever ... true story, but that doesn't mean that you can't cherish your times there walking the halls, gossiping with friends, playing sports on the fields, or chatting with your favorite teacher. It will all stay with you as you move on and as you adapt to your next phase in life: college,work, family life ... etc.

But, there will come a day, maybe not next week, or next month, or even next year, that your favorite high school memories will be replaced by your favorite college memories and it will be more important to stay in touch with the group of guys from your basic training group than from your high school soccer team. While it is hard to recognize that life is changing and these moments won't stay the same forever; greater and better things are coming to you, as long as you welcome them! If you stay stuck in your high school years, you will never grow and you will never expand your mind past 12th grade, even if you get a Doctorate!

My challenge to all of you High School Graduates is this: when you're standing up on that stage getting your diploma, shaking your principal's hand, and turning your tassel, think about your favorite memory from high school - a slow dance with your sweetheart, a game-winning hit in Softball, the last paragraph of your favorite speech from Debate Team - and then think about the one experience you want to have in college - saving someone's life as a student nurse, hanging out with your brothers at your fraternity house, or carrying a championship trophy on your shoulder. Both of these moments are connected and cannot happen without the other. High school is important to us because that is where we have been the most vulnerable, the most intelligent, the most excited, and the most feared in our entire life. Well my friends, you are 17-18 years old, life is just beginning and you have plenty more to learn, experience, and fear!

So, when you are up on stage this weekend thinking of your memories and goals for the future, don't forget that the best is yet to come ....

congratulations and enjoy the chase,

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Creating a College Culture in Your Home

Hi everyone! I am off to a meeting today, but before I went, I wanted to talk to you all, especially you parent readers, how important it is to create a college culture in your home. College culture, as defined by moi, is the atmosphere in a specific area (home, school, business) that promotes a college education and college-going tendencies.

For those of you who don't know, this blog was part of my professional contribution in order to graduate with my Master's Degree ... a big part of that contribution was doing a lot of research. One thing that I found and thought was so interesting is that students who come from homes with an established college culture are more likely to attend and succeed in college. You may be saying to yourself, that's great but how do I do that? I am here to give you my suggestions, based on all of my research (if you want to read my paper, I'd be happy to give you a synopsis!) and experience!!

1. Talk about college in your home
This may seem obvious, but it actually doesn't happen as much as you'd think. I know a lot of students, friends, and even family members where college was never part of a home conversation. It is easy to talk about, you can connect with it sports, academics, clubs, travel, experiences, anything! Just start the conversation!

2. Walk around college campuses
It is summer time, so use this beautiful weather to walk around college campuses with your family. If you live next to one locally, make that a part of your daily walk or just make a trip each month. When you're on vacation or in a city that your student loves, walk around some campuses while there. Being in that city will get them excited thinking about spending four years of their life living there too. Many colleges have beautiful walking paths and gorgeous buildings to look at, so head on over after you read this post and immerse yourselves in the beauty of chasing college!!

3. Tell stories about your college experience
Your child needs to know your crazy stories with life lessons. Not only is this a great way to connect with them, but it also lets them see how exciting college can be, besides studying and writing papers. Ironically, it was my dad's in-the-classroom stories that got me most excited about going to college, but no matter the subject matter, talking about it gets it on your student's mind!

4. Talk about why you didn't go or what you wish you had studied instead
If you didn't go to college, have a real conversation with your children about what you think you are missing because you didn't go. I've read a lot of case studies and heard from a lot of students that the reason they are so passionate about going to college is because their parents didn't have the opportunity ... something to think about! Even if you did but wanted to major in something else, talk to your students about that. It can help them steer away from Nursing and go full force into their love of Theatre or History!

5. Help them find a passion
While this may not be directly related to college life, but helping your child find something they are passionate about can lead them directly to college. Whether they are passionate about Baseball and want to play for another two or four years, college is that opportunity. It may also take shape of summer camps or visit opportunities that take place on college campuses, or careers that you need a degree for. All of these things can help your student realize college is for them, so make sure you are helping them find and pursue that passion!!

6. Take them to enriching activities
A final way to increase the depth of college culture in your household is by taking your children and their friends to enriching activities. Enriching activities could be: dance performances, classical concerts, art shows, museum exhibits, town hall meetings, sporting events. Anything that is going to have your child stopping and critically thinking about something is going to help their brain grow and thus their desires for the future. Opening their eyes to every opportunity out in the world can truly help them see where their future and college lies!

I hope you all found this post interesting in terms of creating or increasing the parameters of your family's college culture. It is something that is never fully achieved and will never be perfect, but every little step, conversation, and event can help make your student all the more excited and interested in going to college!! Have a great day!

enjoy the chase,

Sunday, June 19, 2016

How My Dad Helped My Chase for College

Hello everyone and Happy Father's Day to all of the dads out there who rock at their job (and the moms who play double-duty)!! I have a very close relationship with my Dad, so I wanted to share with you all how he has helped me through my personal college search process.

1. He has supported me in everything I've ever done, including my academic and career goals. Dads - just being there for your children is so important to their future decisions and goals. 

2. He has gone on every college visit with me, navigating each school's parking lots and making sure we visit each campus' hockey arena!

3. He listened to me ramble endlessly the February, March, and April before I graduated High School about my pros and cons list for each school. (He also added his own pros and cons in there!)

4. He helped me apply for FAFSA, which in itself I owe him the world for ... that thing is confusing and frustrating to a teenager who doesn't even have taxes that need to be done!

5. He drove 8 hours round-trip to two college visits on the Canadian border in the middle of November, while I was on crutches and after I refused a golf cart tour for both colleges ... that's love! He had a smile on his face the whole time (well, I don't know if it was a smile, but it certainly wasn't a grimace!)

6. He talked with me while I weighed every possible major change, idea, concern, question, and plan for the future.

7. He ensured that every college I looked at and applied to was my own decision and was exactly what I wanted to pursue. 

8. He drove and picked me up at college for all of my college breaks and for some weekends that were spent at home for the first three years.

9. He moved me in and out of dorm, after dorm, after apartment, after apartment. Every move (except three), he and his strength were there to help lift that mini fridge up and down three - four flights of stairs. 

10. He and my mom came to every Honor Society Induction that I had at college, including the ones where I was installed as an Officer and every dance show!
Through my entire chase, my dad (and mom) has been there to guide and support my decisions and I could not be more thankful for that!

Thank you to all of the dads out there who do a superb job at raising your children and caring for them throughout their years. You truly are rockstars!!!

enjoy the chase,

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Throwback Thursday: High School Graduation

Hi everyone and Happy Thursday! Today I wanted to throw it back a little to 6 years ago when I, myself, graduated from high school! It doesn't even seem like it was six years ago that I walked across that stage and retrieved my High School Diploma and really began chasing college!

I've mentioned in a few posts and in my 6 month Q&A video that I graduated from high school as Valedictorian. Because of this, I was able to address the class and give the graduating speech. While it was something sentimental, where I talked about our memories and hopes for the future, I also added in lyrics from my favorite song! Make sure that your speeches, your graduation cap, your thank you's, whatever you need to do represent who you are and stay true to your personality!

My fiance, Tyler, and I did not attend the same high school, but we were both able to attend each others' ceremonies, as they were on different days. This was maybe the third picture we had ever taken up to this point, but it is also one of my favorites! On your graduation day, make sure you get pictures with all of your high school friends and family members so that you can hang them up in your dorm room or frame them and give them as a gift!

You always have to have a cheesy picture and something that shows how genuinely happy you are that you graduated. While you may not think it is a huge accomplishment to graduate from high school, (My thought was always, "Duh, of course I'm going to graduate), for some of your peers, it was truly the hardest thing they will ever do: pass their exams and walk across that stage. Celebrate this accomplishment and be happy that high school is behind you and you have the whole world in front of you! 

A standard event in my hometown area is to have a graduation party to celebrate your graduation. You typically invite a lot of your friends, relatives, community members, and even some teachers.  If you plan to have a celebration, make sure you enjoy every moment of it and take the time to speak with everyone who comes. There's a chance you will get lots of gifts and cards, so try to make your guests feel special too!!

For those of you graduating this year, congratulations! I always say this, but it is an accomplishment and a reason to celebrate, so make sure you take the time to reminesce on how you got to this point and be thankful for all of the help you've received on the way. For those who are looking forward to it next year or in a few years, give yourself some goals for next year and set out to make it your best school year yet! For all of those alums from high schools around the nation, use this week and next week to share your Throwback Thursdays about your graduation day and remember how truly thankful you are that your high school years are behind you!!

enjoy the chase,

P.S. Follow me on Instagram at @skylarclapperton to see all my #tbt posts

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Decorating your Graduation Cap

CONGRATULATIONS GRADUATES!! This is such an exciting time of year and it only feels more real once you receive your cap and gown for the graduation exercises! Today, I wanted to do a fun post for you all that inspires you even more as you get ready for graduation.

A big part of High School and even College graduation ceremonies is decorating your cap to say exactly what you want it to! Whether it is relief for making it to graduation, hope for a future job, excitement for going to college, or even just gratitude for the people in your life, here are some creative ways to say what words cannot!

Keep it Simple

When I graduated from High School, I really wanted to decorate my cap, but I was so busy preparing my Valedictorian Speech, organizing for my party, and worrying about everything else in life, that I just put rhinestones on it. It was a simple, yet elegant way to add some great decoration. 

Monogram It

A really simple but cute option is just putting your monogram in the center of your mortarboard. You can find some pre-made ones on Etsy or just draw one on yourself with paint markers!

Quote a Book, Song, or Movie

Nothing says "you," quite like your favorite book or song lyric. You can pick a quote from Dr. Suess or from a Stephen King novel, whatever encompasses exactly what you are feeling as you walk down the aisle and receive your diploma! 

Include your future Major or College

People get really creative when including their majors or the colleges they plan to attend on their caps. It can just be drawing something like this tooth one for becoming a Dental Hygienist or an apple for going to college to become a teacher. You can even include something about your new school, like their mascot or emblem! 

Show your Passions

Whether you performed in Musicals, love coin collecting, or spruce up old furniture to sell on Ebay, find a way to include it on your cap design. It could be something as simple as music notes for the singers or the beautiful "I Hope you Dance" for the dancers!

Collage of Memories or Pictures

Another great way to say "Thank you" and show your gratitude for your family and friends is by including some pictures and memories from your time in school. There will most likely be a Senior Slideshow shown throughout the ceremony, but why not give your own slideshow with your favorite pictures and memories from the last 4-12 years. 

A simple Google Image search or search on Pinterest can help you find some inspiration for decorating your mortarboard. You can find all of these decorated caps and more on my Pinterest Board entitled: The Best is Yet to Come: Graduation Caps! It also may be a fun idea for you and your group of friends to have a decorating party a few nights before the big day! Feel free to tag Chasing College on Twitter or #ChasingCollege on Instagram so that we can see your graduation caps!! No matter what though, make sure you enjoy the start to the graduation festivities and make your cap an extension of who you are and what you hope your future holds!

enjoy the chase,

Monday, June 13, 2016

Starting the College Search in Middle School

Hi everyone! I hope you all had a great weekend and were able to spend some time celebrating graduations or reunions! Shout out to my cousin Corrin who graduated this weekend from High School! It's such an exciting moment for everyone, so make sure you take it all in and help those around you celebrate!!

Today I wanted to talk to you all about starting the college search in the Middle School years. Now, I'm going to be candid with you all on this post, since there's a lot of talk about this in education. But, should students start their college search in Middle School?

In Middle School, students have so many things coming at them - peer pressure, puberty, discovering who they are, playing new sports, and learning new mathematical equations ... oftentimes, middle school is the first time that students are able to become more independent and start making their own choices.

Because of these all-important changes, is it necessary for students to start taking college prep classes, preparing for elite high schools, and visiting colleges and universities to meet with admissions counselors? My answer - NO!

If an elite, private high school is on your radar, that's great but middle school is a chance for you to create your own habits, make friends, and start becoming aware of the world we truly live in. They need to use this time to begin establishing their academic life and what type of students they plan to become.

My suggestion, though, is for parents to start having conversations with their student and their friends about future college and career options. They don't need to decide on a university or a specific major, just yet, but start planting the seed and creating that college culture in your home.

Listen when your child talks about guest speakers or something they really enjoyed in school, this may give you indicators of where their career interests lie! Something to remember as you travel through your child's career and college chase ... a strong skill does not always equal a career. Just because I was good at Math does not mean anyone should hire me to be their Accountant -- just something to think about! No matter what though, be there as your child discusses their interests and what they are thinking about in the future!

For those of you in Middle School or parents of Middle School students, it is important to at least think about careers and talk about these things with your students when they get really excited about something, but by no means are you expected to be taking SAT prep classes before you turn 13!

enjoy the chase,

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

All About the New SAT

Hi everyone and Happy Wednesday! I was reading through some materials on the new SAT the other day and I thought I would share all of this new information with you all, plus a little guidance.

Since the dawn of time (or at least my time), there has pretty much been the same format to the SAT - Critical Reading, Writing, and Mathematics, with the Writing portion having an essay. The combined scores for each section were scored based out of 2400 ... not anymore.

Since March of this year, CollegeBoard has been using this "New SAT." Now, this exam only effects the graduating class of 2017 and future classes, but it is important that we all be aware of these changes and how they impact the college search journey! Here are the changes:

  • No penalty for wrong answers. Take as many intelligent guesses as you need to!!
  • The vocabulary that is being tested will be more familiar and useful to you - you will just need to know the different definitions for the word.
  • The questions require more steps and complex thinking to complete.
  • There are fewer sections in the new version, but the sections are extended for a longer period of time. 
  • The two sections are Mathematics and Evidence-Based Reading and Writing
  • The essay is optional
I found this really handy website from the Princeton Review (here) that helps to explain the differences between the old and the new, but also really describes what you can expect the design of the test to be! 

If you see the last bullet point, it says that the essay is optional (requires 50 extra minutes of your time), however don't consider it as optional. This is a place where you can gain some great points in your score and you can showcase your writing style, which most universities want to see anyways! The essay is designed to show your reading comprehension skills and your ability to understand persuasive writing and how it is created - both skills you will need in college. My suggestion, is for you to take it and see how you do, and then if necessary take it again in the fall or a few months after you receive your score. If you think you'd do poorly on it, it may open up the opportunity for you to take a remedial English course over the summer before college starts to help better your skills, which is not a bad thing at all!! 

I hope this provided you all with a little more insight into how the new SAT is formatted and to help you know what to expect going into the test, once you sign up for it (there are no testing dates over the summer, so plan to take it first thing come the Fall!)

Please let me know if you have questions or let me know what your experience with the new SAT was like! I'd love to here!!

enjoy the chase,

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Tips for Dorm Shopping

Hi everyone!  So, if you've learned anything from my gift guides or Youtube videos, you know that I love a good bargain and that is no different when it comes to shopping for a dorm room or a new apartment! Once you graduate from high school or college, you start thinking about what items you will need to bring with you into your new residence, so I thought I would share my tried and true tips for dorm shopping!

You can find some of the coolest things at flea markets and garage sales during the summer months. From tables and chairs to televisions and printers, you are sure to find something that fits your needs when you're out looking at garage sales. Check out your local paper to see when your neighborhood's Community Days are for the best chance of finding some great garage and estate sales! A great thing about flea markets and garage sales is that prices are usually negotiable, so if you aren't happy with a price, ask if they'd be willing to go lower. 

Did you know that some colleges and universities sell old televisions, computers, and dorm furniture to the public? Yeah ... it's pretty great! Again, you will want to search your local newspaper to see if this is the case, but you can get your hands on a great desk for your new apartment or a desktop computer for a small price! 

At the end of the school year a lot of college students are trying to sell the things that they don't want or won't be able to bring back home, so walk through some local college towns around the time of Move-Out and Graduation to find some great deals. Also, college students can be lazy, so if you're not opposed to dumpster diving, you can find some great furniture (think: futons, computer chairs, cabinets and shelves) that they just threw away so they don't need to bring it home. I've gotten a lamp, storage containers, and a coworker found a $300 office chair with no damage! Talk about a great freebie!!

Do not discredit stores like TJ Maax, Marshalls, HomeGoods, Big Lots, or any other 'Discount' Stores. You can find high end, designer items at lower prices. Think coordinating towels, awesome bedspreads, and even a side table for your living room. If you start looking at these stores now, you can find some really great pieces by the time you move into your new dorm room or apartment in the fall! 

When you're looking for furniture for your first apartment, don't be afraid to talk to your family and friends about pieces they may be able to help you with! You never know who is planning to down-size, move, or just redecorate, so plant the seed early! My fiance and I are planning to move into our first apartment together in a few months, so for the past year we have been on the lookout for family members who are redecorating and getting new furniture, luckily we have already scored a dining room table and a lounge chair for almost no cost! When sofas and couches can cost you easily $400, you want to get as many nice things as possible at a cheaper price!!

Something you want to keep in mind, though, is the space that you have available. In dorm rooms, you are already given your furniture (bed, desk, dresser, closet/armoire), so the only things you will want to think about our any extra lamps or storage pieces that will be compact and fit in small spaces! If you have a studio apartment or one with less square footage, you will also want to find pieces that can do double-duty. Storage ottomans are great and so are storage chests that can act as a coffee table! 

No matter what, make sure you are finding pieces that you love and are going to last you a while! If you only think you want it for a year or two, then go ahead and buy the pressed-cardboard put-together items from Walmart or Kmart, but if you truly want something that is going to last you, then search it out and don't be afraid to spend a little bit more for quality! 

Shopping for my dorm room and my apartment have truly been my favorite over these past years and I hope they bring you some exciting bargain hunting as well!!!

enjoy the chase,

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Admissions Essay Topic Prompts

Hi everyone! I cannot believe it is already June and 2016 is almost half-way over! How are you coming on those New Years Resolutions? Personally, I have not been keeping them all going strong, but summer is here and I am ready to get back on the band-wagon to a "better me!" What better way to work on those resolutions than by preparing for your future? Today I have compiled some sample topics/prompts that you can use as inspiration for writing your college admissions essay, sample scholarship essay, personal statement for graduate school, or just to refine your definition of yourself!

First, I wanted to share with all of you Juniors or anyone looking to return to college the prompts that the Common Application has provided for this coming year's college admissions application! You can find them here, but if you don't find any of these as inspiring and the university allows you to write about a topic of your choice, read on to get inspired by my suggestions.

Why are your choosing a specific major or career?

What travel experience has impacted you the most?

What will your future look like and how will you get there?
Who is your hero and how have they impacted you?

Why is a college education important to you?

How will your talents add to the university's academic programs or campus culture?

What inspires you most in this world?

 Talk about a transformative experience you had in high school/college.

 When you're at the age of 80, what will you have hoped to accomplish in your lifetime? 

What makes you excited to pursue a college education?

Describe how a teacher or coach helped you better yourself.

How have the arts (music, dance, theater, art) impacted your education?

How do/will you give back to your community, currently/in the future?

What is your biggest passion? 

 I hope this list inspires you all to get started on your admissions essay and you work on perfecting them over the summer! In my undergraduate admissions essay, I talked about my passion for community service and how that impacted my relationships with people, and for my graduate admissions essay, I discussed the events that led to choosing the career/program I did!

Your essay gives the admissions committee a better glimpse at what you bring to the table. This is your chance to eloquently brag about yourself and talk about those amazing experiences you've had that fit no where else on the application. 

Do you already have a topic in mind that you plan to write about? Share below so that you can hopefully inspire a peer's essay too! Have a great rest of the week everyone!

enjoy the chase,