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Freshman files: Academic adjustments

March 3rd, 2020

Transitioning from high school to college can be a big change, especially when it comes to academics. College coursework traditionally involves a larger workload and different ways of thinking than high school students are used to, so how can you prepare before stepping foot onto that college campus?

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Istock photo via USNews

Learning from the experiences of others is a great way to understand the world around us. For this reason we’re sharing another “Freshman Files” post related specifically to academic challenges and successes experienced by our first-year college students. Our students were generous in responding, so please carve out time to digest all that they’ve shared.

  1. They learn the importance of time management and organization

My academic transition to college was fairly smooth but not devoid of challenges or learning hurdles. I have definitely developed new organizational and study skills that have proven to be imperative to my academic success. Despite these needed adjustments, I managed to earn a 4.0 for my first semester at UT. **happy dance** (University of Texas in Austin, Texas)

I definitely found it a bit hard at first to hold myself accountable for my work, especially without these adults in my life there to remind me to put my phone away, or not watch tv on my computer instead of doing homework. But, I quickly found a work environment that worked for me in the library (away from my bed and my friends!), which has been working out really well for me. I would say that everyone has to find what works for them in terms of how much initiative they must take to get their work done …. (Tulane University in Louisiana)

So far, the thing that sticks out to me as being relatively challenging, especially at the beginning of first semester, has been learning to manage my time well. I have learned very quickly how different college is from high school and that although professors are there to help you, they treat you like adults and expect you to handle things yourself. Although this was very different than what I was used to in high school, I have grown accustomed to it, and it is no longer a big deal. (Duke University in North Carolina)

Although the courses are certainly more demanding than what I took in high school, I feel like they’re mostly manageable as long as I put in a good amount of effort. When I arrived, I was expecting to be faced with the archetypal scenario of “student who excelled at their high school ends up being average or below average at their new university,” but so far I’ve found that this isn’t really the case. My experience has been that it is still possible and reasonable to do quite well in classes if enough effort is put in. (Stanford University in California)

I’m thoroughly enjoying my time at Harvard, though I did find the transition surprisingly challenging. The two dimensions of college life that were hardest to adjust to were challenging academics and time management—two things I didn’t expect to be so hard to balance. I found that the days quickly slipped by because there is simply so much happening on campus. … After using my break to reflect on where my time wasn’t very well spent last semester, I’ve been able to adjust my schedule and, so far, have had a much more balanced and relaxed second semester.  (Harvard University in Massachusetts)

  1. They take classes they are interested in

Academics have been challenging, but all my classes have been pretty interesting. Last quarter I took math, engineering analysis (math and coding basically), intro to comp sci, and design thinking and communication (a project course). Math was especially difficult for me. The first midterm took me by surprise, but I was able to pull my grade back up by the end of the quarter. It was my first B+, but it was the proudest I’ve ever been for a grade because I worked incredibly hard for it! Getting straight A’s is also a lot less important now in my opinion. What matters more than the grades in classes is that you’re taking courses in what you’re interested in and actually learning the material. My courses this quarter are also very difficult, but I got a lot more freedom to select my classes this quarter so I’m much more excited about them all. (Northwestern University in Illinois)

I have really enjoyed diving deep into my courses this semester – I am taking Ethics in Business, Global Media Studies, Introduction to Macroeconomics, Writing, and Deviant Behavior. I am definitely facing a heavier workload this semester, but am embracing it and taking the challenge really well so far. (Tulane University in Louisiana)

  1. They become self-advocates

I received learning accommodations and have been extremely impressed with the Student Disability Services (SDS) offices at UT. After submitting documentation and fulfilling my intake appointment requirements, I have come to recognize how important self-advocacy is in college life. Since I have been aware of my learning disability for many years, I am able to articulate my academic struggles and needs as a result of my dyslexia. This proved to be crucial in receiving accommodations and achieving academic success. After communicating my documentation and desired accommodations, the SDS offices not only fulfilled my requested accommodations but also offered me accommodations that I had never received previously. Apart from extended exam time, a low-distraction testing environment, and laptop usage for notes and essays, I now receive early class registration, a spell-check aid, and calculator access. I utilize the SDS offices often and am so happy to report that advisors are always eager to help and easily accessible.  (University of Texas in Austin, Texas)

Getting to know your professors is very easy! Even in a bigger classroom setting, I always try to check in with my professor about my progress via email and sometimes by going to their office hours, especially if I am struggling to grasp a particular concept. … you are expected to advocate for yourself, so you must reach out to your professor first and build that relationship, as it doesn’t always happen naturally, especially in bigger, lecture-style courses, where you may not be able to make a personal connection with the professor right away. But, I have found every professor here to be incredibly helpful and resourceful, as they truly want you to succeed and do your best work, so they will always be there for you if and when you need them. (Tulane University in Louisiana)

  1. They stay positive and adjust to the rigors of college life

Probably the biggest takeaway that I have had from college so far is the way that classes teach you how to think. In my limited experience thus far, my classes have been very limited in the factual knowledge and memorization departments, but rather teach their students how to think. I noticed this especially in a history class that I took first semester. I went into it thinking that it would be like history classes that I had taken previously, but I was very wrong. This class taught me how to see history in a totally different way and to pay attention to how things are all connected, not just memorize dates. (Duke University in North Carolina)

I’ve had an excellent (and very busy) transition. … I took a lighter academic load Autumn Quarter in order to ease myself into the transition, but this quarter I’m taking quite a few more classes, including a few more difficult ones; however, they’re all very interesting and engaging and I appreciate the challenge, despite the stress they cause and amount of time they eat up. (Stanford University in California)

I would say that for the most part, assignments differ from high school in that there is a lot more pressure on you to check in with yourself about your own understanding of a subject matter. … Additionally, assignments typically have more weight in college, so it is crucial that you leave yourself enough time to complete assignments, as procrastination will not earn you a grade that it may have been able to earn you in high school. Lastly, professors hold incredibly high expectations for students … so do not be discouraged if when beginning a course, you are struggling a little bit, the material is supposed to challenge you! (Tulane University in Louisiana)

We always appreciate our students’ willingness to share their experiences with such openness and honesty. These small write-ups can have such an impact on high school students who are about to embark on this journey in the near future, so we thank our former advisees and wish them continued success!

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Emotional IQ and the connection to college applications

February 18th, 2020

Shrop Ed advisees have grown accustomed to hearing me stress the importance of developing as a person first, maximizing potential and impact, which results in the secondary benefit of becoming a stronger college candidate. This is a lifelong skill, not just for the sake of college admissions but, more importantly, for everything that follows.

Mindfulness, the practice of being present, is a valuable tool that strengthens self-awareness, self-management and empathy (emotional intelligence). Having a high emotional IQ is linked to long-term success and according to Belinda H. Y. Chiu, author of the book The Mindful College Applicant, it can also help you through the college admission process. The article linked below is a Q and A with Chiu, highlighting ways to cultivate these important skills during this crucial time.

Article referenced below from Inside Higher Ed, published January 13, 2020 written by Scott Jaschik

‘The Mindful College Applicant’

College admissions has had a tough year of scandal and embarrassing headlines. Belinda H. Y. Chiu offers a solution: for college applicants to be more “mindful.”

Drawing on her experience in the high school and college sectors, she outlines her vision in The Mindful College Applicant: Cultivating Emotional Intelligence for the Admissions Process (Rowman & Littlefield). She responded to questions about the book via email.

Q: This past year has seen a college admissions scandal and plenty of other reports of admissions favoring the wealthy. What makes you think higher education is going to change?

A: From ancient times in Greece and India to today, higher education — what is taught, how it’s taught and who is taught — has been constantly changing. And factors like wealth, class, gender and race have always been at play. Many institutions of higher education are making concerted efforts to broaden outreach and access by making standardized tests optional or committing to admit more students [who are] first in their family to attend university, and to strengthen financial aid by eliminating loans or tuition for qualifying families. Of course, there’s still much more to do to address inequities. But if change is the one constant, that means change is always possible.

Read more at Inside Higher Ed>>

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Freshman files: Making connections

February 11th, 2020

One of the best things about college is the fresh start, surrounded by thousands of potential new friends. This makes for the perfect opportunity to be your authentic self, find your niche, make friends who love you for who you are.

Sounds simple, right? Not always. In the first Freshman Files post of 2020, we share reflections written by several ShropEd advisees about the first half of their first year in college. This post will help you gear up for your incredible journey on a new campus next fall.

  1. They joined organizations they care about

“All in all, I have been enjoying Fordham quite a bit! I met a lot of good people and became friends with them. Joining the club soccer team was probably one of the best decisions I could have made. All the lads on the team are all great kids and its just a big family over there, so I’m glad I joined the team.” (Fordham University in New York)

“I love it here. It took a while, but I have met some wonderful people and am starting to build wonderful friendships. I’ve definitely learned important lessons, like deciding what kind of people I want to be around, but now I feel much more confident and self-assured that I know how to make the right choices for myself. … I auditioned for SIKOS (Smith Improv Comedy Organization of Smith) and got in. So, I have been doing that and loving it since last semester. I also auditioned for Celebrations, the student run dance company, and have been doing that since last semester as well …” (Smith College in Massachusetts)

“I ended up joining a couple of groups upon arriving on campus, which have all been great ways to meet friends and decompress outside of class. I auditioned for and was accepted into both the Stanford Chamber Chorale, Stanford’s small-group singing ensemble, and the Stanford Harmonics, one of Stanford’s acapella groups. Between the two of these, I have around 10 hours of music rehearsal per week, which is certainly an interesting position to be in as a prospective STEM major. I’ve made some of my closest friendships through these groups …” (Stanford University in California)

  1. Sometimes it just isn’t easy but they persisted

“Initially, I was unaware of the extent to which Greek organizations influenced social life. I quickly realized that they dictate a majority of the social events, at least for freshmen and sophomores. … I had an unsatisfactory experience with rush, in which I was not invited back to houses I felt I could have fit in, and ended up without a bid. Since then, the Dean of Student Affairs has helped me with a process called Continuous Open Bidding ” (Tulane University in Louisiana)

Overall the transition has been smooth and now I’d say I feel fully transitioned, but it takes time to find your groove and what you actually care about. My first roommate was a little bit of a nightmare, but I just changed rooms last week and things are much better now. …I got to move into the room of the person I was already planning on being roommates with (next year) and she is a lovely individual. …” (Smith)

  1. They keep an open mind

One thing I was a little concerned about coming into Duke was how easy/difficult it would be to make friends and spend time with people who aren’t on the track team. This has turned out to not be an issue at all, as there are ample opportunities to do so, and some of my close friends are people that aren’t on the team. For this reason, I would say that any advisees that you have who might share this concern should not worry about that being an issue. Duke does a great job of providing an environment for students to connect, and I’m sure most universities do the same. ” (Duke University in North Carolina)

“Overall, though, I’ve had so much fun on campus. I’ve found a wonderful group of friends and I enjoy meeting new, interesting, passionate people every day. I’ve also been lucky enough to have established close relationships with incredible professors and TAs, including those for my writing and global health classes. I’ve found that college has already helped me become more open to new experiences.” – (Harvard University in Massachusetts)

“I am still constantly astounded by the caliber and achievements of the people around me. Just a couple of weeks ago I found out that one of my dormmates was on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list last year, and it seems like every other person I meet was either a medalist in some sort of science olympiad or a founding member of a successful tech startup. I’m sure this is a common experience of many other first-year college students, but it seems to be especially true at Stanford. It’s incredibly invigorating to constantly be around such successful and amazing people” – (Stanford)

  1. They take advantage of experiences off-campus

I’m enjoying the campus being so close to the city, and am using it to my advantage.” – (Fordham)

“The school does have many programs in place, however, to get you accustomed to life in New Orleans. I have been paired with a Town Mom, who has shown me around New Orleans. She is in a Mardi Gras Krewe, and even took me to an official Mardi Gras ball, which was an incredible experience!” (Tulane)

We’re grateful to these students for sharing their experiences and wish them much continued growth and success! Stay tuned for more Freshman Files reports on other topics in weeks to come.

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You hit submit, now what?

February 4th, 2020

Regular decision applications have been sent off for review and early action deferrals will soon be reviewed again: the waiting game is in full force. For some high school seniors who sent their applications in the fall, a lot can happen between their submission and the final decision in March. Is there anything applicants can do to increase their chances of admission during this downtime? Sure!

Photo from Northwestern University’s additional material upload page via

When significant progress has been made since the application was sent off, updating your profile can make a difference in the outcome. Many times students are able to use the update link through their portal on the college’s website and I believe this is always the best path if offered. If not, emailing one’s admission contact or the regional admission officer is wise, with clarity in the subject line, such as “Update information for (full name), Fall 2020 applicant.”

If you have been questioning whether or not you should provide an update to your application, the article linked below from Medium will help you make that call.

Article referenced below from published February 15, 2019 written by Theo Wolf

Guide to Sending an Update to Colleges After Applying

So you’ve sent in your applications and now you’re nervously waiting to hear back. You might be wondering if there’s anything more you can do to help sway the decision. The answer is yes! While we don’t recommend inundating the admissions office with updates (there’s a classic story known in college admissions circles about a kid who sent postcards to the admissions office every week), in some cases it can be helpful to send an update to the schools you’ve applied to.

Should I submit an update?

You should submit an update to colleges if you have made significant progress in some aspect of your candidacy story, whether you’ve greatly developed your Spike, won a major award, received serious recognition from a well-known website, etc. If you haven’t done anything noteworthy, an update email is unnecessary, as it will be unlikely to move the needle on your application and may actually annoy admissions officers (they have a massive amount of reading to do this time of year). You don’t need to send an update on grades (unless it’s requested of you), since that will be in your counselor’s midyear report. We particularly recommend an update if the college cares about demonstrated interest.

Read more at Medium>>

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