Celebrating our 4th Anniversary: A Year in Review

A birth represents new beginnings, and that’s been the theme for this past year at Landmark 12 Consulting.

We’ve celebrated a birth in the literal sense, when my daughter (L12’s newest office assistant) was born in March. And we also celebrated the one-year anniversary of being in our Hutchinson Square office, which has been a rebirth of the business, metaphorically speaking.

A new office, in the bustling, adorable Square, has resulted in substantial growth for Landmark 12, so it’s a good thing we have a new assistant! Ellington isn’t able to answer phones yet, of course, but she provides hours of entertainment for employees and clients alike (which is an invaluable skill, in my opinion).

There’s also another reason to celebrate—It’s L12 fourth anniversary. It’s hard to believe that when I started out, the business was home-based and had a different assistant—my son, Smith. Last year, when he went off to preschool, I decided it was time for L12 to fly the coop, too, so I moved the office to the Square. The same month I transitioned into the commercial space, I also realized I’d be making another major transition: I’d soon become the mother of two. When I found out I was expecting Ellington, I remember feeling a rush of emotions—happiness, excitement, elation—but I will also admit the business owner in me felt worried, too. I remembered all too well those early days of the business, trying to concentrate with a screaming infant in the background. It was tough. L12 has seen such significant growth in these past four years… I was worried a life-change personally would mean a set-back professionally.

Now that Ellington is eight months old, and I finally feel like I’m coming up for air (the infant months are challenging, aren’t they?!), I wouldn’t call this period a set-back at all. It’s simply been adjusting to a new normal. Not only has Ellington been a welcomed addition (and the missing link) to my family, she’s been the same for the Landmark 12 family. She was meant to be on this journey with us.

When I started the company, new to both entrepreneurship and motherhood, I undoubtedly felt overwhelmed as I stumbled and clawed my way through that challenging time. But when Elle arrived, I realized… I’ve got this. Juggling a business and a family is not easy, but I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again—There’s not much that a mompreneur can’t handle.

With that being said, let’s pop the cork and celebrate the accomplishments of the past year:

  • Landmark 12 was one of only three local companies to be named a Business of the Year finalist by the Greater Summerville Chamber of Commerce.

 

  • My family and I were featured on the cover of West Summerville Neighbors magazine, highlighting the story of how Landmark 12 was created to encourage future entrepreneurs to invest in both their dreams and the Summerville community. The article also described the importance of “mompreneurs” in the business world.

 

  • L12 successfully increased the number of pro bono clients. We take pride in our mission, and in keeping with our goal of helping as many students as possible, we were able to serve 12 percent of our clients in previous years on a pro-bono basis to provide low-income families access to college planning assistance, but last year, we assisted 20 percent. We believe the educational development of our youth is vital to our community.

 

  • I was a presenter at the Berkeley County Career Conference, which consisted of events designed to prepare students for entering the workforce.

 

  • I was a presenter at both Career Day and College Fairs in Dorchester District II schools, as well as a classroom guest speaker to students interested in the fields of business and entrepreneurship. I also volunteered several times by answering students’ questions about college applications, admission essays, and scholarships during their lunch breaks at various tri-county high schools.

 

  • I’m an active, involved, and proud member of the Summerville Chamber of Commerce and enjoy participating in Chamber events to meet fellow business owners and Summerville residents.

 

  • Most importantly, Landmark 12 has continued to grow and expand its service offerings. In addition to assisting high school students and undergraduates with their college planning and scholarship needs, L12 also helps post-graduate students by finding scholarships for those who are attending law school, chiropractic school, and graduate school just to name a few. I’m also proud to say our service area continues to expand. We have clients in almost every school in the Lowcountry’s three districts, and the number of out-of-state clients continues to grow with students as far away as California.

I am grateful for these successes, and I’m also grateful for setbacks. No company experiences smooth sailing all the time. There were moments during L12’s rebirth that were extremely hard, but when you think about it, giving birth is one of the most difficult things a human can endure (can I get an “amen” from all the mommas out there?!). It’s painful; it’s emotional; it can be frustrating and scary. But it’s also one of the most rewarding and gratifying experiences of a woman’s life. For me, since giving birth is still a fresh memory… I remember holding Elle for the first time feeling enlightened, hopeful, inspired, and blessed.  On a smaller scale, I choose to think of the professional challenges I’ve faced this past year with the same optimism. There have been far more victories than setbacks, and as one year closes and another one begins, that’s a “win” in my book. I’m ready to start the next chapter of this book feeling enlightened, hopeful, inspired, and blessed—Thanks to Ellington and Landmark 12.

I’m excited to watch both of them grow.

College Planner: How to Avoid Writing a Cliché Essay for College Applications

Even though students are only a couple of months into the new school year, it’s college application season, which means high school seniors are having to juggle their classroom requirements with their college planning.  And for many of them, they’re already starting to feel like they’ve bitten off more than they can chew.

It’s cliché—“biting off more than you can chew”—but it’s true.  And it’s also very fitting for this blog because I’m writing about avoiding clichés when it comes to college application essays.

My opening line would’ve been much more memorable and attention-grabbing had I used something original.  And that’s the point I’m trying to make.  When sitting down to write those essays, students need to put a lot of thought into the topic to avoid making their entries sound just like everyone else’s.

I know students are overwhelmed—I see it week after week: My clients are juggling their high school coursework in addition to filling out multiple college applications.  The applications themselves are time-consuming enough, but add on the essays and personal statements, and the requirements can quickly become stressful.

Here’s a mistake I often see: By the time students get to the essays, they are exhausted with the entire application process and want to rush through them.  They write about the first topic that comes to mind, not pausing to question if that topic is original and creative.

I read a great article in the Huffington Post which lists the seven cliché college application essays students should avoid:

  1. A service project shows your passion for helping others.

“Many students choose to write about their participation in a community service project or a church mission trip,” says Marie Schofer, director of admission at Cornell College. “These are fantastic experiences that are personally meaningful and reflect on your character. The only problem: Regardless of where you traveled or what type of service you performed, the conclusion is always the same. You like to help people. This is great,” she explains, “but unfortunately, it won’t differentiate you from other applications.”

  1. Your family’s history in a specific profession.

“Being proud of family heritage is a wonderful thing, but expanding on family and the roots the family may have in a specific profession is not helpful in selling [yourself],” says Christopher Hall, associate professor at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. “Mick Jagger may be a fantastic performer and singer,” he adds, “but this does not mean that his children will have the same potential. [You] should discuss personal talents and abilities and not the legacy of talents and abilities of [your] great-grandfathers and great-grandmothers.”

  1. Overcoming an athletic injury.

As Drew Nichols, director of freshman admission at St. Edward’s University, explains, “Most university applicant pools are diverse, and many include prospective students who have overcome substantial hardships such as growing up in poverty, difficult family situations or serious illness. The ‘athletic injury’ essay often indicates a lack of self-awareness on behalf of the applicant regarding their own privilege. If not being able to play soccer for a semester is the most difficult thing [you have] had to encounter,” he says, then it “doesn’t serve to demonstrate significant resilience or an understanding of the considerable challenges some of [your] peers have faced.”

  1. A rundown of a national disaster.

The point of a college essay is to get to know you, which gets lost when current events are the main focus, says Michelle Curtis-Bailey, senior admissions advisor and Educational Opportunity Program coordinator at Stony Brook University. After Hurricane Sandy hit New York in 2012, she says, “Many students in the application cycle wrote about the hurricane, as it occurred in late October, peak college application time. Once again, the message is lost as the whole focus was more like a journal entry recounting what happened in the life of the students and their family without a clear connection to the individual. On a whole, we are aware of the impact that disasters have on the lives of our applicants,” she says, but “the full scope of the college essay shouldn’t recount those types of experiences.”

  1. A mission trip helped you to understand the struggles of impoverished youth in the U.S.

“We often get essays which describe wonderful experiences working in impoverished international countries doing such things as building houses, helping community members learn English and so on,” says Hall. “But as soon as a connection is made by applicants that this experience can help them understand the plight of inner-city youth of America, or that that they have acquired special skills through these experiences to emotionally connect with impoverished U.S. youth, the power of their service work is diminished.” Hall says, “Comparing U.S. inner-city youth and communities to Third World or impoverished countries demonstrates a lack of empathy and understanding of the differences in culture.”

  1. The sports game highlight reel.

“The game-winning catch or other sports highlight is another popular essay topic,” Schofer says. “It is important to understand that the admission counselor reading your essay may not be familiar with your sport and will probably have no emotional attachment to the outcome of the District 5 semi-final game.” If you do choose to write about a sports topic, Schofer recommends “an essay that debates the merits of the baseball’s infield fly rule or a descriptive essay of your warm-up routine.”

  1. Talking about your role model.

“The challenge with this topic is that we often see essays written about the parent, grandparent, teacher, or coach,” says Curtis-Bailey, adding that “most of these essays are written solely about the ‘other person’ with no reference to the student.” She suggests avoiding this topic if you “are unable to show the connection of how the traits and characteristics of that individual are similar or even a model of tangible action that [you desire to take] or have taken.”

“While it might be true that a grandparent has been of great influence to the applicant,” Nichols points out that “this essay has been written hundreds of times over. When you’re competing against hundreds of other students who have submitted the same answer to the prompt,” he says, “it becomes more difficult to make your essay distinctive and to really stand out.”

So how do students avoid submitting a cliché essay?  The Huffington Post writer suggests, and I agree, that when it comes to these essays, authenticity matters most.  Students need to consider what makes them unique and what makes their stories distinctive.  They need to remember to always paint themselves in an accurate light and not pretend to be someone they aren’t.

Of course, this is all easier said than done.   Landmark 12 Consulting can help students brainstorm essay topics (and avoid the clichés).  We also assist with the entire application process from start to finish, so give us a call today.

After all, students, it’s time to bite the bullet, break a leg and get down to business. Don’t just sit there like a bump on a log– the clock is ticking.  Let’s get this ball rolling.  It’s sink or swim.  And calling Landmark 12 is as easy as 1, 2, 3.

Catch my drift?

College Planner- All College Applications are Not Created Equal

“One of these things is not like the other…”

Anyone remember this song from Sesame Street? Maybe not. Maybe I’m the only one who has a three-year-old son who watches this episode on repeat. Regardless, this song is on my mind, and even though it may sound crazy, it’s about to illustrate my point.

In the song, kids are encouraged to find the differences between objects, like apples and oranges, which sometimes causes confusion. This confusion is not much different from that of my clients when they’re asked to compare apples and oranges metaphorically during the college planning process.

When it comes to college applications, my clients go into the process assuming all applications are the same. They quickly discover, though, that each college has different requirements; Some require interviews, some don’t. Some require letters of recommendation, some don’t. Some require standardized test scores, some don’t. And the list goes on. On top of that, all colleges have different deadlines and admission plans such as early decision, early action, regular decision and rolling deadlines. It sounds very overwhelming and confusing, right?

Colleges do have some things in common, though, when it comes to the admissions process.  Admissions officers want to see evidence that a student has the academic readiness to undertake studies at their particular school.  Officers also want to see that a student’s educational goals align with that college’s, and they want to know the student will provide a positive contribution to the university’s campus.

Colleges go about finding this information in very different ways, though, which can add to the stress of this already overwhelming process.  I read an interesting article posted by U.S. News and World Report that I feel accurately and succinctly explained the differences in college admission models:

1)     Open Admissions Model

The open admissions model does not require standardized test scores such as the SAT or ACT. Nor does this model ask applicants to submit personal statements or recommendation letters. This admissions model is most commonly used by community colleges in the U.S.  It exists for colleges with a mission to provide equal access to a variety of educational backgrounds.

Colleges with open admissions models provide higher education opportunities to students who may require additional academic preparation, students who are seeking vocational or technical education, or students interested in reducing the costs of a four-year degree through transfer partnerships with bachelor’s degree-granting universities.

2)     Threshold Admissions Model

Universities which use threshold admissions models are those who publish very clear standards of admission. They tend to provide a minimum required GPA, SAT or ACT score for admission, but will likely not request a personal statement, essay or letters of recommendation. This admissions model is used by many U.S. colleges and universities, and is common among public institutions. This model is used by selective schools in an attempt to be open and clear with students as to their likelihood of admission.

3)     Holistic Admissions Model

Selectivity is also a tenet of the holistic admissions model. Where this process is employed, a university is more likely to provide the average academic profile of the previous year’s admitted class. This gives some insight into what GPA and standardized test scores may be competitive for admission.

Additionally, holistic admissions will often require that applicants provide an essay and recommendations from teachers,  counselors or other community leaders. Many admission officers consider this model one that strives to consider the broader experiences of an applicant, and that allows the admission team to compose a class that is both strong in academic ability and diverse in experience.

So, when I say “one of these things is not like the other,” it can certainly apply to the admissions process.  At first glance, three college applications may look the same, but two may be holistic admissions models and one may be a threshold admissions model. Students can get a sense for which model will be used to review their application by visiting the admissions website of a university. It’s important to know that many universities will employ some combination of these models.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, Landmark 12 Consulting can help. As a college planner, I alert my clients to all deadlines and requirements, edit student resumes and essays, and then answer any questions they may have about the applications themselves. When it comes to the applications, there’s no need to stress about comparing apples and oranges—I’ll break the admissions process down into manageable, bite-sized pieces, making the entire process a lot easier to swallow!

College Planner: The “Don’t-Do” List for College Applications

Finalize a college list?  Check.  Complete campus tours? Check.  Begin college admission applications?  Check.

 With senior year in full swing, many high school students are busy juggling their classes and college admissions requirements.  It’s one of the most stressful times in their young lives.  Many of them are taking challenging coursework to better prepare them for college, actively engaging in extracurricular activities for their student resumes, and trying to manage the long list of application deadlines.  The to-do list goes on and on, and many students feel like they can’t check requirements off fast enough.  It quickly becomes overwhelming.

 To help during this stressful time, I thought I would provide a “Don’t-Do” list.  It’s a short run-down of the things students don’t need to worry about.

 First, don’t sweat the small stuff.  It’s trite but true.  Students get so caught up in trying to earn the top grade, being the best player on the field, and being elected to a top position in their clubs that they aren’t cherishing this very special time in their lives.  True, it’s important to demonstrate work ethic and dedication when applying to college, but it’s easy to go overboard. Try to relax, and don’t take yourself too seriously.  Enjoy high school because the real world is quickly approaching.   

 Speaking of grades, teams and clubs… that brings me to my second “don’t-do.”  Don’t fluff up your student resumes with a thousand extracurricular activities, many of which you minimally participated in or don’t care about.  You’re not fooling anyone.  College admissions officers know you’re exaggerating because no one can be actively, passionately involved in that many things.  So list the ones that you’re most proud of; the ones you held leadership roles in or were very involved with; the ones that best represent who you are.

 And speaking of those admission officers, here’s my third “don’t do: Don’t bombard them with calls and emails.  Often times, that “urgent” question you have isn’t really that urgent, and if you took some time to really think about it, or research it, before picking up the phone, you could probably come up with the answer yourself.  Also, there’s a reason that the FAQ section exists on colleges’ websites.  Always check that first before potentially setting yourself apart from other applicants in a not-so-flattering way.

 Finally, the last two “don’t-do’s” are actually “to-do’s”.  (I just couldn’t help myself.  I love a good to-do list):  Don’t forget to proof-read your applications and don’t wait until the last minute to start on essays.  With those applications, it’s easy to get into a rhythm, since you’re filling out so many, but it’s also easy to make mistakes.  You want that application to be the best representation of who you are…so always proof-read.

 As for the essays, they’re a great way to show the “real” you.  They are your chance to set yourself apart from other applicants… in a good way.  So make sure you allow yourself plenty of time to brainstorm ideas, write several drafts, and of course, proof-read. Essays always take students longer than they thought they would.  So consider yourself warned.  Also, it could be argued that this part of the application is one of the most important, so give it the attention it deserves.

 Still feeling overwhelmed (especially since I just gave you two extra to-do’s)?  Don’t stress.  Landmark 12 Consulting can help with everything listed above.  We’ll even manage your to-do (and your don’t-do) list.  That way, you’ll be able to breathe a sigh of relief.

 Hey, it’s trite but true.

College Planner: How Parents Can Make the Back-to-School Transition Easier for Kids

I LOVE to-do lists. Love them. I make them for myself, my husband (much to his dismay), my son, and of course, my clients.

But today, I’ve made a list of to-do’s for the parents who are reading this blog.

It’s that time of year that most parents look forward to: Back to school.  Many of you skip happily through the crowded, chaotic school supply aisles while your kids begrudgingly throw notebooks into the shopping cart because you know the big day is right around the corner… You survived the summer!  Success.

But whether you’re thanking your lucky stars, or feeling a little down because you’ll miss the liveliness in your home, you want the transition from lazy summer days to hectic school-day mornings to be an easy one for your kids (and yourself).

Check out this list from the Huffington Post that promises to make the new structure of a fall schedule less jarring, regardless of whether you have a seven-year-old or a 17-year-old:

Back Up Bedtime:

No matter what age your child is, chances are the bedtime hour has vacillated a bit over the past three months. Use these weeks before school to start transitioning into an earlier bedtime and a more structured wake-up routine. Ever try to wake a 15-year-old boy at 6:30 a.m. after a summer of sleeping until lunch? Exactly.

 Collaborate on Calendars:
Add school and sports events to your calendar now, and share that information with your spouse and any other important people in your life. If your child is old enough to carry a smartphone or iPad, have him update his own calendar. This will encourage him to be responsible for his activities and can be a useful tool for tracking homework deadlines and social engagements. If your child is younger, discuss what each week will look like and create a chart that will help him understand his schedule. If your child can’t read, use stickers (a sticker of a soccer ball on Wednesday, for example).

Manage Medical Mayhem:
Make sure your child — no matter what his age — is up-to-date on vaccinations and physical exams. It’s easier to accomplish this task now rather than wait until the day before football practice starts.

Communicate About Communication:
Do you want your college freshman to connect with you daily? Weekly? Via phone? Via text? Via email? Clarify your expectations around this issue now to save headaches and heartaches later. Remember that your college freshman is, for the first time, out on his own. Maybe he doesn’t want to check in with you daily; or fill you in on every last detail of his day and night. Maybe you DO, in fact, want to hear his actual voice once or twice a week and would rather not find out about his life on Facebook. Communicating about communication will alleviate future confusion.

If you are parenting a younger child, carve out time at the end of each day to talk. Avoid asking: “How was school?” unless you are ok with getting a “Fine” in response. “Tell me during your science lab” or “What was the funniest thing that happened today” will get your child talking.

Navigate the Necessities:
Handle haircuts, new shoes, lunch boxes, school supplies, clothes and toiletries now. Let your child have a say in what he wants to wear on a regular basis and pick your rules sparingly. Forcing a kid to wear collared shirts and khakis while the rest of the pack is in sport shorts and sweatshirts are, um, mean. Agree that you have final say on special occasions (picture day, school plays, etc.).

For the college-bound, stores like Bed Bath & Beyond will allow you to shop for items in your home state and pick them up in another state, making packing the car that much easier. As for clothes, remind your child that less is more in a tiny space — and that you can always send needed items if necessary. Or use this as a way to entice them home more often…all’s fair in love and empty nesting.

Make It Easy:
Hoping your college freshman will send letters to you? His grandparents? His siblings? Provide him with a stack of funny cards and other various stationary along with a book of stamps and a list of addresses — and then just hope for the best. Offer a gentle reminder about how HAPPY his grandparents would be to receive a handwritten note from him. Remind him that his grandparents have been putting money in his college fund since birth!

Parents of high-schoolers, once you get your students prepared for the fall semester, Landmark 12 can take it from there.  We’ll help them prepare for college.  We assist with identifying possible majors, help with creating a college list, alert them to deadlines at those schools, coordinate campus visits, and locate scholarships. The one item on our to-do list is to make your list more manageable.  Give us a call today!

College Planner Shares List of Back-to-School Must-Haves

The carefree days of summer are coming to a close (sorry, kids), and everywhere you look, there are reminders that in just a few weeks, the first school bell will ring and students will trudge back to class.

During a recent shopping trip, I noticed the school supply aisle was already completely packed with students and their families, getting a jump-start on those back-to-school bargains.  I saw them filling their carts with pens, notebooks, binders—the usual stuff.  But for students about to head off to college for the first time, many wonder what they’ll need in addition to those backpack staples.

I recently read a Huffington Post article that listed items college students need but often forget to pack.  Check out these suggestions:

1) Markers, colored pencils, or crayons. Not every project or assignment is submitted online. At least once a semester, prepare to be a little creative. True story.

2) Surge protectors. An essential for adding extra and often necessary outlets.

3) Robe. You’ll be extra thankful you stuffed this cover-up in the suitcase while walking down the long halls to the communal bathrooms.

4) Carpet. They warm up a room, give feet something soft to step onto, and add a pop of color in a shared space.

5) Sewing kit. Buttons fall off (ugh, we know). They also usually can’t wait until Thanksgiving break to be mended.

6) Vacuum. It’s better to be prepared when accidents happen. Plus, some roommates are just cleaner than others.

7) Disinfecting wipes. Cleaning can be a burden (who really has time?), but wipes help get this quick and painless job done.

8) First aid kit. It’s smart to be armed (with Band-Aids) and prepared .

9) Emergen-C. For those times that everyone on the floor has caught the flu, power up with extra vitamins.

10) Sleeping mask. Sometimes sneaking in those zzz’s happens when the sun is shining or your roomie is burning the midnight oil.

11) Quarters/change. Not all machines use cards. Quarters will most likely come in handy for those unavoidable late-night snack machine raids.

12) Earplugs/noise-cancelling headphones. There’s no telling when your neighbor will decide to have a mandatory late-night dance off. At 2 a.m. on a Tuesday. The night before your Econ final.

13) Toolbox. The right tools — hammer, flat-head, nails — can come in handy when least expected.

Soon-to-be-college-students, as you’re packing these items in your bag, don’t forget to bring along your senses as well.  Not those senses (smell, sight, taste, etc)… Your common sense, sense of adventure and sense of humor.  Those will come in handy at college, too!

High schoolers, you obviously have some time before you need to worry about what to pack for college.  Your goal this school year, especially for juniors and seniors, should be making sure that when it is time to head off to college, you’re going to the one that’s right for you.  Landmark 12 Consulting can help with that.  We’ll assist you with choosing a college major, find schools that match your interests, guide you through the application process, and locate scholarships for you.

Because before you need to think about surge protectors, toolboxes and sewing kits, you’ll need to first focus on SATs, campus visits and career paths.  And Landmark 12 will guide you every step of the way.

Summer Job or Internship? College Planner Explains Which is Right for You

Beaches, bathing suits, and beautiful weather.  That’s how most teenagers are hoping to spend their summer vacations.

But for those who have just graduated high school, the real world is quickly approaching.  In fact, as a college planner, I see many students faced with their first professional decision this summer: Whether to get a job or internship.

Either option will provide great learning opportunities, but making the decision will come down to a few factors: Money, skills and goals. One big question to ask yourself is if you need to make money.  If so, a job may be the way to go.  While certain internships are paid, many are not. Even if you find a paid internship, it may not offer the same amount of money a job would.  So if you need to start making (and saving!) money for college in the fall, explore the job opportunities that are available.

That brings me to my second point: Skills.  If you decide that a job is the best choice for you, it would be ideal to find one in your chosen career field.  While most jobs will teach you responsibility, time management and communication skills (and those are all very valuable), if you can land a job that allows you to discover and develop skills within an area that interests you, you will be that much further ahead.  Getting exposure to a field, no matter how low on the totem pole your job is, will help you to decide if it’s a career path you want to continue pursuing.  If it’s not, at this stage of the game, you still have plenty of time to explore other options.

It is oftentimes easier to find an internship in your chosen field.  However, some internships are often considered watered-down versions of the actual jobs offered at a particular company or in a particular field.  My advice is to make the most of your experience.  If your responsibilities include making copies and coffee, make sure you also come in early and stay late to shadow employees or ask questions.

Last but not least: Goals.  Now’s the time to figure out what yours are.  You don’t have to map out the next 50 years, but you should have an idea of what you’d like to see happen in the next five.  If you’re still trying to choose between a job and an internship, ask yourself which one is more likely to get you closer to achieving your goals.  It’s like a puzzle: Ask yourself which puzzle piece (job or internship) will help the big picture to come together.

One other important factor to note relates to students who are already in college but faced with this decision.  Those students need to consider college credits.  Though many internships require that you work for free, they can offer college credits.  If you’re in need of credit hours, and money isn’t a major priority, an internship may be your best option.

With that being said… Cheers to the summer!  (And cheers to making your first professional decision).

College Planner Explains What Juniors Can Do Now to Prepare for College Admissions

Juniors—Come on down!

If you have friends who are seniors, you see that their chaotic and stressful yet amazing and exciting 12th grade experiences are coming to a close… and yours is about to begin.  I’m sure if those seniors had one piece of advice to give you about the college planning process, they’d say to start early.

So, juniors, it’s your turn.

As a college planner, I see many students who wait until the beginning of their senior years to think about college.  Then, they call me in a panic, overwhelmed by the mountain of work that lies ahead of them.  For those students, I reassure them that it’s not too late to begin the college search and admission process.  However, I believe it makes a world of difference if juniors start now and use their time off in the summer to start climbing that mountain.

If you read my blogs, or know me personally, you know I’m a huge fan of to-do lists.  They keep me on track, keep me motivated and keep me aware of my goals.  I’ve come up with a to-do list for juniors that, if started early, will relieve a lot of stress and pressure from senior year.

First, use this time now to set up an internship, job shadowing opportunity or summer job that will allow you to experience a career field that you’re interested in.  If you don’t know where to look for those opportunities, I can certainly help, or you can reach out to the career specialist or guidance counselors in your school.  Getting first-hand knowledge about a career field is extremely beneficial because it will confirm your desire to choose it as a major when applying to colleges in the fall, or if you discover you don’t like that field, it gives you time to explore other options.

Second, start looking over college applications to get an idea of what they require.  While many deadlines for the upcoming application period have not yet been announced, you can look at previous dates to get an idea of a timeline.  Look over essay topics.  Brainstorm ideas.  Write a practice essay.  Then, this summer, fill out an application to get ahead of the game.  The Common Application is accepted by hundreds of colleges and is a good place to start.

Third, if you haven’t already done so, start making a college list.  Research the schools.  Read reviews.  See if they offer the major you’re interested in.  Learn as much as you can about that program.  Many colleges will give out names of alumnus in your area who will share their experiences.

Once you’ve started that college list, then it’ll be time to visit campuses.  I suggest visiting as many campuses before the summer begins as possible.  If you go now, you’ll be able to see what the campus is like with an entire student body.  Take a tour.  Talk to students.  Sit in on a class.  Eat in the cafeteria.  Meet with professors in your field of interest.

Before school lets out for the summer, start collecting reference letters from teachers who are familiar with your work and character.  These will be required for many college applications and if you get them now, it’ll be one less thing you have to do in the fall.

The summer is also a great time to build your student resume by participating in extracurricular activities, to take the ACT/SAT, and to begin the scholarship search.

Landmark 12 Consulting assists with everything I’ve just mentioned.  Our goal is to make the college admissions process as stress-free as possible, no matter where you are in that process.

With that being said, as Bob Barker would say: Juniors, come on down!  But instead of The Price is Right, I’m changing it to The Time is Right (Now).  So get started!

College Planner Explains How to Choose a Compatible College Major

“I have no idea what I want to be when I grow up!”

That’s the most common complaint I hear from high school students.  However, as a college planner, I believe it’s completely unreasonable to expect a 16 or 17-year-old to know what they want to do professionally for the rest of their lives.  After all, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average person will change careers an average of seven times throughout his or her lifetime.

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Careers.  Not jobs… Careers.  That’s a lot of changing directions and starting over.

However, while I understand high school students can’t possibly have a firm grasp on their future careers at such a young age (after all, I certainly didn’t.  I am a career-changer, so I can relate), I also think they should have as much knowledge about the job market and careers that interest them as possible so they can make an informed decision.  And hopefully, an informed decision will cut back on the number of times they change careers.  My goal is to help students at least pick the best career cluster for them.  They can’t expect to choose the exact job they’ll have for the rest of their lives, but I would at least like to see them in an appropriate field.

As a college consultant, I am a big proponent of job shadowing, internships and summer jobs (in a field of interest).  That is the first thing I recommend to clients because it’s a great way to get their feet wet in a career they think might interest them. And the experience will help them either rule that field in or out. If students have absolutely no idea what career they’d like to pursue, I will give them two assessments, a Personality test and a Career Cluster test, and then combine the results of both to give students an idea of what careers best suit their abilities, interests and strengths.

It also helps to know what careers are popular right now and why.

The STEM (Science, technology, engineering and math) and healthcare fields are the fastest growing according to data from College Factual.  The College Factual article suggested that students who have STEM majors tend to go on to well-paying careers that closely align with the skills they learned in college. They are less likely to be underemployed and more likely to be earning a competitive wage.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently released a list of the fastest-growing occupations in the U.S. The top spot went to wind turbine service technicians. Other STEM careers, as well as healthcare jobs, included forensic science technicians, physical therapists, physician assistants, audiologists, and optometrists.

STEM and healthcare weren’t the only fields to make the list, though. Business-related careers or jobs in finance also made the cut (financial advisers and operations research analysts).

I encourage students with questions about choosing a major (or anything about the college application process), to contact me, and I will be happy to walk them through this exciting, yet stressful and confusing, process.  One of the best parts of my job is helping students to solve that age-old dilemma of what they’ll be when they grow up!

College Planner Explains the Negative Impact Senioritis Can Have on College Admissions

Senioritis.

As I type this, many seniors stricken with this sickness are wandering around their high school campuses in a zombie-like state– burned-out, worn-out and checked-out. As a college consultant, I see it happen year after year.

The Urban Dictionary describes Senioritis as this: “A crippling disease that strikes high school seniors. Symptoms include: laziness, an over-excessive wearing of track pants, old athletic shirts, sweatpants, athletic shorts, and sweatshirts. Also features a lack of studying, repeated absences, and a generally dismissive attitude. The only known cure is a phenomenon known as graduation.

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There may only be one cure, but I have some remedies to alleviate Seniorities symptoms.  (I’m going to make this blog as short as possible because I know if there is a Senioritis-stricken student reading it, I don’t have much time before they stop processing info).

Here’s what you need to know: All joking aside, Senioritis can have some serious consequences.  Colleges will rescind letters of admission if they see that a student’s final senior grades have significantly dropped.  In fact, most acceptance letters explicitly state this.  If admissions officers see a drop in grades, they may ask the student for a reason, and if that reason is not deemed acceptable, the officers will revoke admission.

Here’s what you should do:

  • Maintain a challenging course load and give it the same time and attention you gave it at the beginning of senior year. Maintain the same level of effort.  Don’t give up now.  The end is in sight!  You can do it!
  • Stay organized. There’s a lot going on at the end of senior year: Homework, tests, prom, social events, deadlines for college paperwork, etc.  Mark everything on the calendar and plan ahead.  Prioritize your time.  It’s important to enjoy all that senior year has to offer, but do it responsibly and not at the expense of you grades and college acceptance.
  • Don’t stress and obsess over the admissions process. That will only lead to poor grades and poor choices.  Hang in there.

If you’re suffering from Senioritis, don’t feel guilty.  As a college consultant, I see it all the time, and it happens to the best of students.  Hopefully these remedies will provide relief until you are cured.  Graduation, here you come!