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What will this summer mean to you?

July 18th, 2023

As summer weeks dwindle, students find great benefit in reflection. What have been the highs and lows of this summer? What have you accomplished over the last two months, and what has been truly meaningful? What will you remember most about the summer of 2023? Summer months can feel long or short, impactful or meaningless; it’s all up to you.

For students heading into senior year of high school, one way to make sure you have a productive summer is to get ahead of college applications. Our experience shows that students who have completed the Common App and main essay by the time school starts find they have much more room to breathe as senior year begins. Finding time for application work now will set you up for a much less stressful year ahead. The refreshed Common App launches on August 1st but there’s no time like the present to make headway!

Make this summer your most effective and powerful yet. The article linked below has some amazing ways to help you re-energize and re-focus to make what remains of this summer more meaningful. We appreciate The College Essay Guy’s insights and think you will, too.

Article linked below from The College Essay Guy, written by Andrew Simpson

How to Spend your High School Summer

During summers when I was in high school, I often felt torn—how much of the summer should I spend working to save more for college (be wary of loans and college debt)? How much working to save the world (how exactly I’d do this was always a little vague)? How much just spending time connecting with friends and family and living my life as fully as I could (if you’ve never been to Montana, a summer can easily fly by on the rivers and lakes and mountains)?

In this post, I’m going to assume that you’ve wrestled with some similar questions. And I’m going to walk you through some of what I would’ve loved to have understood back then, to help me decide how to spend my high school summers. (And I’m probably going to have a few more parentheticals.)

If you just want some options for stuff to do, you can skip down to here. But if you want to understand more about how you as a human being function, and how that understanding can lead you to living a happier life, read on.

Read more at The College Essay Guy >>

Authenticity and AI in the application process

June 20th, 2023

Artificial intelligence has become a hugely popular topic of discussion, including in regards to college applications and essay writing. This revolutionary tool is tempting for students of all ages, but especially those rising seniors approaching essay writing this summer. Spoiler alert: just because there is a technology that can take away the heavy lifting does not mean you should use it.

Many problems might arise if using this technology to write for you. For starters, students are required to confirm that Common Application work submitted is their own. We don’t know yet how admission offices will screen essays to detect authenticity. However, one could argue that submission of an AI-generated essay may be considered cheating, not only on the college application but also cheating yourself out of learning. Could it result in denied admission? The jury is still out, and we’ll learn more as the next cycle unfolds.

Essays are opportunities for colleges to get to know you and your unique, authentic voice. I recently attended a national conference where much time and attention were allotted to the impact of ChatGPT on admissions. The general consensus was that even if admission offices were to welcome the technology’s use with open arms (which is not yet the case), an AI-generated essay is bland. Although AI can use a collection of facts to generate a generic essay, that writing does not showcase individual voice or creativity.

Brennan Barnard, one of our favorite college admission experts to follow, recently wrote an article on the topic of AI use in college admissions. His article linked below places ChatGPT in the fuller context of the importance of authenticity on applications.

Article referenced below from Forbes, written by Brennan Barnard, published on December 21, 2022

I know what you’re thinking. “Another article about ChatGPT (Generative Pre-trained Transformer), the artificial intelligence wonder-bot from OpenAI, and how it is going to revolutionize society, work, education, and more.” Perhaps it will, but that is not this article. The rise of this extraordinary technology, rather than muddling it, makes it clearer than ever what constitutes authenticity.

If you or your child are applying to college, you have undoubtedly heard an admission officer talk about authenticity. Whether discussing the college essay or the activities in which you chose to be involved, they will denounce any kind of “secret recipe” for gaining admission. You will learn that the wrong questions to ask are:

“What are you looking for in an applicant?”

Read more at Forbes>>

First-year files: the world is your oyster

May 17th, 2023

The signs of May are all around us: prom, Derby, graduation, oh my! This time of your life is filled with excitement and of course I want you to soak it all in. Yet, it can be easy to get distracted and lose focus on what’s most important. My advice is to keep your head down and finish strong.

When the busyness slows, what are your plans for the months ahead? No matter your year in high school, it’s important to maximize your summer plans. Whether your summer involves a job, travel, coursework, research, or internship, draw as much from the experience as possible. This will not only reflect well on your college applications but, even more importantly, you’ll learn a great deal about yourself and the world around you.

In today’s edition of First-year files, Luisa M., a previous Shrop Ed advisee, shares her experience at University of Texas Austin. Luisa recognizes opportunity and doesn’t let it slip by. I am thoroughly impressed with her open mind; she is proof that with hard work comes great opportunity. We’re grateful to Luisa for her willingness to share and wish her much continued success!

I don’t think it’s possible to over exaggerate my experiences this year at UT Austin. Choosing to be a Turing Scholar, in the Computer Science Honors Program, was probably the best decision I could’ve made.

My classes here are very CS-heavy. Turing Scholars take Data Structures and Computer Architecture in their freshman year, and Operating Systems in their sophomore fall. These are classes that are usually taken as juniors and seniors in other colleges. The workload is pretty high, and it’s not uncommon to walk up into the dorm attic at 4:00 a.m. and find it taken over by your classmates, still coding away. Projects in Data Structures were fun, and a test of how many all-nighters one could pull (though I never pulled any). I thought some of our coolest projects were Web Crawler (the thing that search engines like Google use to find and index web pages) and Tetris. I’m currently taking Comp Arch in the spring, where we designed a programming language and wrote a compiler for it in the third week of class! Needless to say, the CS education here does not disappoint.

My classmates are all incredible, and I’m learning so much from them. Two of them made an AI for Tetris that got to several million pieces playing 10 hours straight. Another made and released an open-world video game, where you explore a world and go on quests. Though half of my class were Platinum-Tier USACO, USAMO qualifiers, or something else equally insane, I fell into the category of my class that had much less experience in computer science. I don’t feel out of place, though. The environment here is so supportive, with classmates and TAs all willing to help. And after all, we’re all here to learn something new.

There are just so many incredible opportunities offered at this school. Texas Robotics, where I’m an undergraduate researcher, is home to some of the top robotics labs in the country. I’ve gotten to talk with some of the most well-respected people in robotics and machine learning almost on a daily basis. I’ve also programmed robots, trained deep learning models, and gotten to walk a robot dog down Speedway. I’m also getting sponsored to attend ICRA in London, the largest robotics conference in the world, to compete in an international autonomous navigation competition. Being a freshman, I don’t feel there are less opportunities available to me. What opens doors is not academic year or age, but the amount of work you are willing to put in–which is what I love about being here.

Though I’ve had a great school year, I’m very much looking forward to the summer. This summer, I was hired as an intern at NASA. I’ll be working at the Ames Research Center doing research on their trio of robots currently serving on the International Space Station. These Astrobee robots help astronauts perform routine tasks on the ISS, and they’re pretty cute for floating space cubes! I have the amazing support at Texas Robotics and UT to thank for all the opportunities I’ve gotten so far, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds.

First-year files: life at a renowned business school

April 18th, 2023

Finding your perfect college match is no small task. You go on college visits, answer questionnaires, and do as much online research as you can to narrow down choices. Hearing a firsthand account from a current student is always eye-opening. It can really push you to consider factors that may not have crossed your mind before.

In today’s blog post, Zoe, a past Shrop Ed advisee, writes about life as a first-year at Babson College. Babson is a private business school in Wellesley, Massachusetts known globally for its excellence, particularly for its focus on entrepreneurship. Zoe really opens up about her experiences so far, from academic life to social life. We appreciate Zoe’s openness and wish her much continued success in the future.

When I applied to Babson, I did not have any expectation to get in nor to attend. But as I was trying to make my college decision, I ultimately chose Babson for the business focused curriculum, the diverse community, and the unique experiences that I would have, especially in the required first year course, Foundations of Management and Entrepreneurship (FME). I was initially quite hesitant, and I wasn’t sure if it was the right decision for me because I don’t consider myself the most creative or as having the “entrepreneurial spirit” that Babson promotes. However, although I have faced challenges, both ones that were expected and unexpected, I have really enjoyed my time at Babson thus far as Babson has provided me first-year experiences that have been unique and eye-opening.

The adjustment to life at any college is challenging, but something that went well for me was stepping outside of my comfort zone. This included small actions like raising my hand more to participate in class and volunteering to present for my group project and also trying new activities like rugby and dancing and, to my surprise, joining a sorority. There have been so many opportunities to challenge myself and get out of my comfort zone such as joining clubs and organizations, which I have learned new skills and interests and built new friendships and connections with people I otherwise would not have met. Another thing that has gone well is that I have been able to explore some of Boston. One perk about Babson is that there are no classes on Fridays. These days are typically reserved for internship work for upperclassmen, but as freshmen, we also get the day off. When I have a Friday without meetings or club events, I am able to utilize the Uber program that our student government provides ($15 off a ride to the nearest T station) and take a 30 minute subway ride into the city to walk around and explore.

Although towards the end of first semester and going into second semester I had found close friends, I initially found it difficult to find a group of people who I felt close with. When I arrived to campus, I felt that most people already had people they already knew and friends groups they were already a part of. However, once classes started and I began joining clubs and organizations that I was interested in, I began to find like-minded individuals who have now become some of my close friends. Another situation I found challenging was the amount of group work integrated into the course work, especially in FME. The required first year course runs through both fall and spring semester, and working in groups, students think of, pitch (shark tank style), plan, launch, run, and close a business through three main phases. Businesses range from service businesses like shoe cleaning and transportation to selling physical products such as adhesive pockets that stick to phone cases and hold dorm room keys and ID cards, which my group is doing. Through the three main phases, the size of the teams go from 3-4 to 11-14. Although I already knew group work would be difficult and there would be people who do not contribute, I did not anticipate how difficult it was to navigate communication among so many people and through the differing expectations that everyone has. Working through these obstacles as a project and venture manager has been a huge learning experience, and I feel that I now can be a better group member and group leader in the future.

One thing that surprised me were how many events happen around campus, both student events and professional, business-related events. There are plenty of opportunities to network with business professionals, which can be overwhelming at first because there are so many. There are also many activities going on around campus, which are great ways to interact with classmates outside of class on campus, one of the most popular being the Campus Activities Board’s Bingo nights. Another thing I found surprising was the amount of time I had compared to my high school schedule, especially during the first semester. My schedule has since become more busy, but it was an initial adjustment

with learning how to balance academic responsibilities, going out with friends, and attending events to get involved in school.

Something younger students thinking about Babson College should consider is the school and campus size. Babson is a relatively small school with small class sizes (usually maximum of 40 students in a class) and a small, more isolated campus. This is an advantage because you will form closer connections with your classmates and professors, but class participation is also a large portion of class grades and there is a high degree of emphasis on collaboration and group projects. Additionally, the campus always feels really safe and no school building is more than a 15 minute walk away, but it can begin to feel isolating after a while since the school is located in a residential area of Wellesley (which is why going out to Boston every few weeks is a great way to get a change of scenery).

Another thing to consider is the business focus of the school. Not only are you taking business courses, but the liberal arts courses often include a business aspect by relating the topic to business in some way, shape, or form. Since these classes integrate some sort of business, Babson does not accept many AP credits as they only take a maximum of 4 AP test scores of 4 or 5 and do not accept some of the typical AP tests like biology, chemistry, and physics. This was a bit frustrating at first because I felt that I had made an effort to take these classes throughout high school, but in the end, I realized that taking these classes really prepared me for the vigor and difficulty of these classes and built a strong foundation that I was able to use and build upon.

Ultimately, I feel that Babson has overall been a great fit for me. I have been challenged academically, socially, and from a business standpoint, and I have learned in areas that I have never before. If younger students are interested in pursuing business, I would encourage them to look into Babson as it can provide some unique opportunities to learn and build connections.