Studying Abroad – The Process

Picforblog

By Ariana

I think studying abroad is something almost every college student, if asked or surveyed, would say they would be interested in. Actually partaking in studying abroad is something only about 10 percent of college students do, depending on where you search on the web.

It is important to be active in your plans to study abroad.

In my case I knew I wanted to do it, I figured out a time when I could go (with my academics, and how long I wanted to go for) and then did some research on where to go. It doesn’t have to be as extensive as you would think, as along as you’ve narrowed down some countries, and chosen a time frame (year, semester, summer or winter program) it becomes possible to sit down and compare the ins and outs of programs.

My college has a study abroad website with a list of all the programs offered, as well as some affiliated programs, which is where I found my programs. As far as choosing the time frame, I worked with my academic counselor to formulate a plan for going abroad and still graduating on time.

I had a tough time deciding between two programs – one in Greece and another in Spain. I have always wanted to go to Greece, but the Greek programs that I looked at were more expensive and offered less within the program. When I looked at Spain they offered so many more excursions and it had a better price tag!

So now I am here!

The next step after deciding where you want to go is going through the application process. I would recommend applying early.

Learn from my experience – I waited till the last minute to apply,  even though I was well aware of the deadline, I just had a little self-doubt. In the end it worked out, but it added stress to the process.

I think having doubts or fear is a normal part of the process, traveling to new country by yourself and then living there for three months or maybe even longer is a scary thought, but I knew I was going to do it, even if it was the last day I could apply.

Side Note: You can’t ever let fear take over your life and it’s important to be aware of it, and not let it stand in your way of opportunity, knowledge and growth. It’s a wonderful thing to be able to take your life somewhere else for a bit, take advantage of it!

The reason why I also think you should apply early is because getting a visa is not exactly easy and the process can be long.

I would advise you to try to be as proactive as you can with filling out all your paper work or anything that’s needed from your program, getting letters of recommendation, filing out financial forms, getting your passport (if you don’t have one already, or getting an old one renewed) and getting classes reviewed by your college to ensure the credits will transfer (if they aren’t already in the system).

But I promise, all this work will pay off, because the world is waiting for you!

Until next time!

-Ariana

Changing Your Mind Isn’t A Crime

transfer

by Cara

College is a time of change. Some are minor such as studying a different foreign language than the one you did in high school. Other changes are more major like moving to the other side of the country for college.

I’ve changed a lot this year, and I will be making my biggest change this fall. This week is the end of my first year of college and the end of my time at the University of St. Thomas. In the fall, I will be transferring to the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities.

I’m the type of person who tries to plan ahead for everything. I even have a spreadsheet with my four year plan for college plus one year post grad.

Transferring was not part of that plan.

For many months, I attempted to keep the thought of transferring out of my mind. I kept telling myself that it was normal to feel a little nervous about starting college, but the level of hesitation I felt was much more than a little. If I mentioned my fear that I’d made the wrong decision, I was so worried I would disappoint everyone and that I’d look like a failure.

I think I focused too much on achieving what I thought people expected of me instead of what I really wanted.

My courses at St. Thomas were a variety of new and familiar subjects. I joined a mentorship program and a dance club. I spent my weekends attending the on-campus concert and movie events with free food. Regardless of what I did, my experience was still not what I envisioned it to be.

I didn’t feel like I fit in.

At the U of M, I feel secure enough to authentically be myself. I am comfortable there, but not comfortable to the point that I won’t be able to grow as a person. I feel welcomed enough try new things there like joining student government or writing for the school’s newspaper. I’ve loved the U of M since I attend a week long business camp at their Carlson School of Management. It has a diverse student body, a club for every interest, and it’s close to where my family lives.

My academic interests have also changed. Instead of one of my majors being marketing, I will be doing a management minor. I will still be pursuing a major in journalism, and I’ve added another major in political science. It’s great to head to college with an idea of what you’ll major in, but keep your mind open to falling in love with new subjects.

The experiences you have during the summer and throughout college will help you discover what you enjoy the most.

Transferring isn’t something to take lightly. Deciding to transfer solely because you want to be with a friend, you have a bad roommate experience, or you want to attend a higher ranked school are all potential reasons to reconsider whether a transfer makes sense. Your college experience will be what you make of it, but if you feel it’s not working out for numerous reasons it can’t hurt to explore your options. I’m glad I went ahead and applied early to transfer. Months later when I knew for sure I wanted to transfer, it wasn’t too late.

I thought I would be done with the whole college application process until it was time for graduate school. At times, applying for transfer admission felt more stressful than senior year.

Once you’re accepted to a new college, there’s still more to be done. You have to figure out which courses will toward your degree at the new college. Placement tests and orientation must be completed again. Financial aid can also be just as confusing as the first time. Typically, there are less grants or scholarships available directly from your college when you’re a transfer student. Federal aid and outside scholarships tend to stay at the same amount if you are not leaving the state.

I’ve learned that each person has their opinion of the ideal college experience and one is not more valid than the others.

If something doesn’t feel right after your first college semester, talk to your advisor. Sometimes getting more involved in campus activities, finding a new roommate, or changing your major is all it takes to improve your situation. If you still feel it’s not working, know that there’s nothing wrong with transferring.

Ultimately, what matters is that you pick the best option for you and that you are happy.

Just When You Thought You Could Relax

Just when you thought you could relax

by Guanani

Whew! The flustered, harried college application season is over at last. Schools have been listed, essays have been churned out, and the stressful frenzy has finally quieted. The weight is off your shoulders, and now you can enjoy the last semester of high school in peace.

“So, are you excited for college? Where are you going?” your aunt/friend’s parent/other well-meaning adult suddenly asks, shattering your pleasant illusion.

You’re not done yet, and a new anxiety sets in.

One year ago, I had no idea where I would be in seven months. I didn’t know how I felt about leaving home. I wanted to just focus on enjoying senior year. I didn’t feel like explaining myself over and over again to various acquaintances who were attempting to make small talk.

On many occasions I felt like ignoring these kinds of questions and not thinking about my academic future. Alas, that would be rude. So I gave half-hearted, generic answers like: “Well, I just finished applying, so I won’t know where I’ve been accepted until April…”

I became so annoyed by the prevalence of these questions that one night, at dinner, I asked my parents to completely stop asking me about college unless it was extremely important. They were good sports about it, even though they didn’t understand why talking about college bothered me so much. In retrospect, the repetitive questions not only aggravated my anxiety about waiting for acceptance or rejection but they were also a constant reminder of my uncertainty about the future in general.

To my past self I would say, “Worry not: admissions are way less of a big deal once you get there, and lots of cool stuff happens, and the future will still be scary but you’ll be so busy studying gas laws and biking across cities that you won’t notice as much.”

So take heart, waiting seniors. Put thoughts of admission and the ever-elusive future on the back burner, encourage your family to do the same, and grab your second semester by the horns. Go out of your way to enjoy all the fun things about high school (while still working hard in your classes, of course). Preemptively and aggressively begin non-college small talk with your relatives, if necessary.

The semester is yours, and you can deal with admission/rejection when you get there.

Filling out your FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid)

FAFSA Steps

by Lucillia

Thinking back to my senior year, the year when high school students must fill out the FAFSA (Federal Application for Student Aid), I procrastinated doing it. Besides regular schoolwork, college applications and scholarships, it felt like just another application that I honestly did not want to fill out. Anyways, as I have come to find out with most things, it was not that bad after I just did it. I think I filled it out in half an hour.

Completing the FAFSA is one of the most important steps on the path to college – whether that means technical school, community college, or a 4-year college or university. The way my old College Possible coach put it is that with the FAFSA, you are literally getting money for filling out your personal information.

Here are my tips for filling out the FAFSA:

  • MAKE SURE YOU FILL OUT THE FAFSA.
  • GET HELP! You want to make sure that you fill out the FAFSA correctly. There’s lots of help available. If you’re a Minneapolis Public Schools student, go straight to your Career & College Center, which has lots of great FAFSA workshops, resources and personal support. Or talk with one of your high school counselors.They’re there to help you!
  • DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT use fake sites like FAFSA.com. Make sure that you only use the ACTUAL FAFSA site at https://fafsa.ed.gov. The help tab on the home page, as well as the Frequently Asked Questions section, are really helpful.
  • FAFSA is absolutely free to fill out. You will know if you are on a fraud web site if it asks you for payment.
  • Carefully read everything. Directions are there for a reason! I know a woman who changed her last name, and because the FAFSA requires your birth name, everything got messed up, and basically she had to wait a whole year to go to school and fill out the application again the following year. YIKES!
  • You also have to fill out the FAFSA every year you are in school.
  • My coach sent me this YouTube link with videos about the basics and it was really helpful. Check it out!

Fill out that FAFSA — and good luck!

Summer Break: More Than Just A Time For Fun

summer

by Cara

There’s more to summer break than binge watching Netflix, going to the mall with friends, and staying up late just because you can. While the summer is a good time to relax, it’s also a great time to start planning ahead for the path you’ll take after high school. Making use of your summer break by taking part in programs will look great on college and scholarship applications.

Whether you want to get an early start on the college application process or explore your academic interests, there is a program for you. The programs I attended during the summer helped me decided what to study in college, and I also think they helped me stand out in my applications.

Below are three summer programs that I think are worth checking out. The best part is all of these programs are free, and one of them even pays its participants!

Questbridge College Prep Scholarship

The Questbrige College Prep Scholarship is not a traditional scholarship because you do not receive money to pay college expenses. Instead, it is a pathway to summer opportunities and getting a head start on the college application process for current juniors.

I didn’t apply to this when I was in high school but I know a lot about the application process because it’s similar to their senior year program for which I was a finalist. Seniors can apply for their National College Match program that helps high-achieving, low-income high school seniors gain admission and full four-year scholarships to selective colleges such as Columbia, Stanford, and Yale.

Students selected as College Prep Scholars will receive free test prep, priority consideration to receive all-expense-paid college visits, early access to the National College Match application, and assistance from Questbridge to strengthen their National College Match application.

Scholars may also receive one or more of the following: full scholarships to college summer programs, an invitation to a college admissions conference, personalized college essay support, telementoring with college students, and/or Quest for Excellence Awards.

The application opens in February and will be due on March 25, 2015.

To be eligible, students must be juniors who are planning to apply to college during the fall of their senior year. They must also meet the citizenship requirement by being a U.S. citizen, Permanent Resident, or international student attending high school in the United States.

Questbrige is looking for students who have shown outstanding academic ability despite any economic challenges their family has faced. Many College Prep Scholars come from households earning less than $60,000 annually for a family of four and have also experienced long-term economic hardship.

When looking at your application they look at academic achievement, financial need, and personal circumstances. To apply you need to submit a transcript, one recommendation from a core subject teacher, an essay and short answer questions, financial information, and any test score information if you have taken any of these tests: PSAT, SAT, PLAN, ACT, Subject Tests, IB, and AP.

Most students selected have an average GPA of 3.88, an ACT score of 27 or higher, and are in the top 10% of their class. One of the great aspects of this program is that they are willing to consider your personal circumstances, so don’t let a lower GPA, ACT score, and/or class rank stop you from applying.

Carleton Liberal Arts Experience: July 5-11, 2015

I did not attend this program, but I think it is a great opportunity for current sophomores, especially those interested in attending Carleton College or another small liberal arts college. Students spend the week living at Carleton and learning about liberal art education by taking courses in science, art, social sciences, and technology.

Workshops are also held to inform participants on topics such as ACT prep and the financial aid process. The program covers all costs including living in the residence halls and travel to the Carleton College campus.

To be eligible, students must plan to attend college after high school. They must also be of African American descent or have an interest in African American culture. The application requires students to answer seven short essay questions, submit a transcript with their freshman and sophomore year grades, and submit at least one letter of recommendation from an academic teacher.

The application is available now and is due on April 1, 2015.

GopherBusiness Program: July 17-25, 2015

This program is run by the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota.
Participants compete in a business case competition, take business classes, live in the dorms on campus for a week, and visit local businesses.

The business case competition involves a different local non-profit each year. The program is free and you even earn a stipend! If you attend the Carlson School after graduating from the program, you will also receive a scholarship.

From the program website, “each year, we select approximately 45 students to be a part of the GopherBusiness program. It’s a highly selective program. GopherBusiness applicants should be:

  • Current high school sophomores or juniors.
  • Interested in business, non-profit or organizational leadership.
  • From a diverse background; a future first-generation college student; from an economically disadvantaged background; students with disabilities; females; or students of LGBT and related identities.”

The ideal applicants for the program will have a minimum 3.4 cumulative grade point average, strong math and science coursework, and demonstrated leadership and involvement.

When I applied to the program, the application required a couple of essays, a list of activities I was involved in, and a form that my counselor needed to fill out.

The application for this summer’s program will open on February 6, 2015 and is due April 3, 2015.

Getting to live on a college campus for a week during the GopherBusiness camp really helped me feel prepared to leave for college this past fall. I met so many great people and I’m still in regular contact with my roommate and people from my competition group.

If you have any interest in studying business after high school, I highly recommend this program.

Feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions about applying to these programs!

Finding A College That Fits

 It Doesn’t Need To Feel Like Searching For A Needle In A Haystack

college search

by Cara

When it was time to decide which colleges to add to my list, the first big decision I made was between attending a 2-year community college or a 4-year college. I knew from the start that I wanted to attend a 4-year college, but I also applied to one community college. Thankfully, because of scholarships, I was able to attend the type of school I desired, but community colleges can be a great way to save money before transferring to a four-year school.

I didn’t add any colleges to my list solely because they were public or private. I think it’s a good idea to include some of each when making your list. Public universities offer lower rates to in-state students, but many private colleges have more scholarship funding to offer.

Big schools can mean more major and minor offerings, a larger amount of resources and opportunities, and an abundance of school spirit at sporting events. Small schools can offer smaller class sizes and a more close-knit community of students.

I chose a medium sized school, University of St. Thomas, because I felt like it offered me the best of both worlds. The class sizes are small enough where the professors can get to know you, there’s a sense of community, and I’m still able to enjoy the type of school spirit I desired.

Having a general idea of what I wanted to major in helped me narrow down my list. My interests are in journalism and marketing, so I researched both programs at each college to which I applied. Keep in mind that the college you attend doesn’t have to be ranked number one in the subject you want to study in order for you to receive a quality education. Personalized attention that a small program may offer, compared to a larger well-known program, and the amount of hands on experience available are more important.

I choose a school with an urban location because I love living in a major metropolitan area. I’ve lived in Minneapolis my whole life, so moving to St. Paul for college has allowed to stay close to my family while still enjoying my independence and a new city.

The communications industry is something I’m interested in so I knew it would be easier to find internship opportunities in a big city rather than a rural location. There’s always something to do on the weekend whether it’s going to the mall, an art museum, or the movies. Getting there is never a problem because of the public transportation system in the Twin Cities. There can be plenty to do on campus, but I considered where I’d be able to spend my free time in the city before I made my decision.

After I decided which factors would determine the colleges I’d put on my list, I needed a way to find a list of colleges. The College Search feature on the College Board website is a great way to generate a list of schools that meet your criteria. You can even indicate how important each factor is in case the colleges you’ll consider must have an urban location, but even though you’d like a small school body you don’t want to eliminate all larger colleges.

I’d recommend having 5-7 schools on your list, so when May of senior year arrives you have enough options. With so many options available the college search can be overwhelming at times, but because I decided which factors were important to me in the beginning I was able to end up at the college that fits me best.

Feel free to leave me a comment if you have questions. Best of luck in your search!

When it comes to Scholarships, be like Mr. Krabs

Mr._Krabs'_Love_of_Money

by Lucillia

Who doesn’t love free money? However, if anybody needs it, I am pretty sure that college students would top the list.

When I first started high school I didn’t think that college was really a choice of mine. Going into my freshman year of high school, my brother was beginning his freshman year at St. Cloud State. Before the first semester ended, however, he moved back home due to his inability to keep up with the costs. The thing that really worried me was that my parents said they wouldn’t co-sign a loan for him. And if they wouldn’t do it for him, then they sure wouldn’t do it for me. But I was naïve back then. There are sooo many ways to pay for school above and beyond just taking the entire cost out in loans.

Going into my sophomore year of high school, and looking back on his poor decisions I realized where he messed up. He got good grades, but he wasn’t really involved, he wasn’t networking and he wasn’t enrolled in any college prep programs such as AVID or College Possible.

Despite my fear of not being able to afford college, I really wanted to go. So I kind of “over did it” with my involvement. But boyyyyy, did it pay off!

Long story short, I was awarded three scholarships. One from St Thomas that covers pretty much everything except room and board, and two others to cover my room and board. If I hadn’t gotten the scholarships that I did, I wouldn’t have been able to go to St Thomas.

Some factors that I believe to have helped me to succeed in securing scholarships:

1. College Possible (I won’t go into details in what they do, blah, blah, blah, check out the link – but just know that you should join!);

2. I was also an AVID student;

3. Educational Talent Search student;

4. I took challenging courses; and

5. I networked.

I also went to college visits that my high school’s College and Career Center (CCC) hosts. Sometimes students go out as field trips and sometimes they have Admissions Counselors from a particular college come and give small presentations about their school.

Now remember that I never could have even dreamed about going to an expensive private school. But I decided to go any way. I personally talked my Admissions counselor and went on my way. A couple of months later he was back at my school, wanting to speak to me. I didn’t know what to expect, but he ended up selecting me as a Dease Scholar.

The moral of this little story is networking. Learn what it is, and do it often. You never know who you are going to meet, and when an opportunity will present itself. It’s very important to always leave a great first impression. It’s also great to be involved. Programs like College Possible, AVID and TRIO can help you out so much in the long run.

Yes it is a lot of work, and exhausting. But in the end, it’s so worth it!