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College tips throughout the years

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Posted: Saturday, August 27, 2011 9:00 am

2014 and above: Colleges are now using social networking sites, such as “Facebook,” to try and recruit students by posting pages about their university. However, many of these same colleges may be looking at YOUR social networking page to get a better idea about YOU as a candidate for their school.  Just remember to keep this in mind when posting things (comments, pictures, etc...) to your Facebook pages.  Just like you may be doing research on the college on these sites.... the college can be doing the same to you! If you have a Facebook account and are worried about what others may see, you can set the privacy settings on your profile so only your friends can view most details.

2013: The junior year is THE time to get organized for handling the onslaught of college material that will be coming your way -- in the mail, in your email, and from college fairs and visits to your high school. The whole college search can be a little unnerving, a bit daunting, so just relax and take your time during this year and the summer that follows to really focus on finding the right mix of colleges for you. Ideally, by the end of your junior year you’ll have a list of no more than 10 to 15 colleges where you plan to apply.

2012: Scholarship Tip - Watch out for deadlines... and make copies before sending! To help keep yourself on track, impose a deadline on yourself that is at least two weeks before the stated deadline.  Use this time to proofread your application before you send it off.  Before sending your application, make a copy of the entire packet and keep it on file in case your application goes astray.  Make sure your name (and social security number, if applicable) appears on each page of your application to ensure that nothing is lost.

2011: When living in the dorm, take it all in stride. You may be required to live in a dorm your freshman year or may be in a college far from home. Don’t expect much in terms of privacy, personal space, quiet time, or even cleanliness. But enjoy some of its perks, namely the camaraderie with your dorm mates and the proximity to your classes.

Get to know your dorm mates and others in your residence hall. The people you live with, most of whom are going through similar experiences and emotions, are your main safety net -- not only this year, but for all your years. You may change roommates after the first semester or you may stay roommates for all four years -- just take the time to get to know your fellow first-year students.

2009-2010: As you head back to college this fall, take the time to find the ideal place for you to study. It may be your dorm room or a cozy corner of the library, but find a place that works best for you to get your work done -- while avoiding as many distractions as possible. Also figure out when you are most productive. Maybe you think best right after a big meal or like to stay up until 3 A.M. to read when it’s quiet; no matter when it is, make sure you schedule yourself a few hours a week to study during the time your brain is ready to hit the books

2008 and below:  Starting a job search is like becoming a sales rep for a short period of time, but you’re not selling a product, you’re selling yourself. Know your product, industry, selling points, customers, and market place. Give potential employers a reason to hire you. 

Prepare a great elevator pitch. A memorable pitch or “sound bites” will help people understand what you have to offer (and help make you memorable). When you’re coming up with your sound bites, ask yourself, “What were my greatest achievements?” and “What sets me apart from other candidates?” Ask yourself, “Would you hire you and why?”

Once you are prepared, remember that it will take time, skill, enthusiasm, and most of all, a positive, “can-do” attitude.

Bob McDonnell is executive director of Arizona College Planners, L.L.C., a member of the College Planning Network, the National Association of College Funding Advisors and the National Association of College Acceptance Counselors. For questions, email


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