Archive for the “Seventeen College Q&A” Category

There are some exciting things happening over at Seventeen.  They recently launched Seventeen Get Advice! which allows users to ask and answer questions to their heart’s content with sections covering guys, beauty, fitness, prom, sex, money, family, fashion, entertainment, and, of course, college!  I’m a featured college expert, so you can check out my advice and ask me questions by looking up 17collegeadvicegirl on the site. The thing I’m most excited about is the chance to answer specific questions about college from girls across the country (and world) in a real-time manner.  Hope you’re having a great week, and maybe I’ll see you soon on Seventeen’s Get Advice!


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Q: “I’ll be a senior in high school next year and still have no clue what I want to do. Help!”

–Brittney, 17, Calhoun, LA
A: Don’t worry; you’re not alone! High school goes by so quickly, and suddenly there are so many decisions to be made. Do you want to go to school? Get a job? Take a year off? Go to a four-year or two-year college? Try out a vocational program like cosmetology or fashion design?

The choices can be overwhelming, but it’s important to think through your options so that if you do, say, want to go to college, you’re not missing out on any important steps you need to take to get there. The first question you need to answer is whether or not you want to continue your education after high school. (If your answer is yes, skip to the next paragraph.) If you don’t want to continue your education beyond high school, then you can start looking into job opportunities during your senior year. But if there’s any part of you that might want to go back to school at some point, then make sure you don’t slack off during senior year. Colleges will still take into consideration your high school transcript even if you apply several years after you graduate.

If college or a two-year program is something you see in your future, then make sure you keep up your grades and meet all the basic requirements for admission (i.e., take the necessary math, English, science, and foreign language classes; sign up for standardized tests). Apply to a variety of schools, so that you keep your options open after you graduate. You can always decide in the spring of your senior year whether or not you want to go directly into a four-year college, take a year off, or do a two-year program at a community college or vocational school.

Visiting campuses or programs during your senior year may help you figure out what you want to do after you graduate. Sometimes you just don’t know until you see the possibilities that are out there! Good luck!

For more of my answers to your college and career questions, check out Seventeen’s College Q&A!


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Q: I really want to go into fashion merchandising marketing at the Fashion Institute of Technology, but I don’t have any experience working with clothes. What else can I say in my application essay that would make me stand out and seem right for their college?

–Esther, 16, St. Louis, MO

A: Your college essay should give an admissions officer a glimpse into your personality and character, and it’s a chance to discuss aspects of yourself that may not show up elsewhere in your application. Without knowing more about your background and experiences, it’s difficult to recommend what exactly you should say in your essay to stand out. However, keep in mind the following recommendations to get those creative juices flowing as you work on your application.

1.Keep it personal. The essay is your chance to say things that test scores and grades can’t communicate, so you want to give a college a sense of your personality and character. Are you funny? Caring? Serious? Courageous? Creative? Motivated? Tell stories that showcase your strengths and let your personality shine through in your writing style. Remember that every question asked in the application is an opportunity to talk about yourself. So when a college asks, “Why are you interested in XYZ school?” talk about what you can bring to the campus and how XYZ school can nurture you as a student.

2.Make connections. Think about your reasons for wanting to study fashion merchandising and marketing. Do you have a great sense of style? Do you keep up on the latest trends? Have an eye for color, fabrics, and texture? An interest in the history of fashion? Are you a shopaholic? Do you know the power of a few choice accessories? It’s important to not just say you’re interested in a particular field but to show how your experiences have shaped your interest. That means talking about the events, books, magazines, people, and moments that have inspired you, and demonstrating how you continue to cultivate your interests and talents at school, at home, and in your community.

3.Proofread. Keep in mind that the college essay is first and foremost a writing exercise to demonstrate your command of the English language as well as your ability to organize your thoughts to make a cohesive statement. The biggest essay buzz kills are spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, and typos. So don’t just rely on your computer’s spellcheck. Have someone you trust read your essay to look for anything out of place.

For more of my answers to your college and career questions, check out Seventeen’s College Q&A.


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Q: “Do all colleges make you take both the ACT and the SAT?”

–Annie, 17, New Orleans, LA

A: Most colleges require either the ACT or the SAT, but it’s a good idea to take both in order to see which of your results are better. Once the results are in you can choose which schools you want to receive your scores. More selective colleges, like the University of California system, also require the SAT Subject Tests in addition to either the ACT or SAT, so make sure you give yourself enough time to sign up and study for all the tests required by the schools where you’ll be applying.

And if all this talk of standardized testing has you a little stressed out, there are many colleges that don’t require standardized testing, and instead offer alternative admission requirements like additional essays or a minimum grade point average. A list of those colleges and their requirements is available at The National Center for Fair & Open Testing.

For more of my answers to your college questions, visit my college and career Q&A on!


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Q: “I never seem to have time to visit schools. Is it really important to visit the schools before you apply?”

–Kristyn, 18, Philadelphia, PA

A: I think it’s a really good idea to visit colleges before you apply because brochures and websites can all start to look and sound the same. Nothing will give you the sense of what it will actually be like to live on a college campus like visiting and seeing for yourself the dorms and classrooms and athletic facilities and, of course, the students. I know it gets a little crazy once senior year hits to find the time to visit college campuses, and it can also be pricey if the schools you are applying to happen to be more than a car ride away. But keep in mind that you’re making a decision about the next four years of your life, and don’t you want to do all the research you can to make sure you’re making the right one?

There’s no excuse not to visit the schools in your local area. In fact, a lot of college applications even ask if you have visited campus, so make sure you can answer that question in the affirmative! Obviously, if you live across the country that won’t be as much of a possibility, but if you live in New York City and you’re applying to Columbia University, go check it out! If campus visits aren’t going to happen before you apply, at the very least you should find some time between applying and getting your acceptance letters to visit the schools where you’d like to attend. It can save you a lot of heartache come freshman year if you rule out now the things that you don’t like about certain campuses, things that you wouldn’t know unless you actually visit.

Now, if time and money are making it impossible for you to visit any college campuses, then you might want to check out the online college fairs at CollegeWeekLive. On Nov 12 and 13th, CollegeWeekLive will host its fall online college fair, connecting thousands of students with more than 200 colleges and universities. It’s an opportunity to chat online with admissions officers, current students, and college counselors, and it won’t cost you a penny! You can register for CollegeWeekLive’s virtual college fair at, and you can even catch yours truly giving a presentation on how to stand out in your college applications. While visiting an online college fair can’t take the place of an actual campus visit, it can be a very useful tool that along with all your other research will help you make an informed decision about which colleges or universities you’d like to attend.

And check out more of my answers to your questions at Seventeen’s College & Career Q&A!


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Q: “I’m a junior in high school, and my mom is totally pressuring me into joining at least three clubs, plus driver’s ed. Will colleges really not accept me if I’m not in a lot of clubs? How many do you think I should join?”

–Meghan , 16, New York, NY

A: So there’s a huge misconception out there (by some well-intentioned people, read: parents) that admissions officers want students to fill in all the blanks on those college applications. But wildly joining clubs that A) don’t really mean anything to you, B) take time away from doing the things that are really important like getting good grades or doing something that really inspires, and C) you’ll only be committed to for a year or less just isn’t a good strategy when it comes to applying to college.

My advice is to first think about the story you want to tell in your application. Are you an artist, an amateur fashion designer, an aspiring doctor, or a music buff? Do you love travel and culture and learning new languages? Are you a science wiz who Tivo’s CSI and dreams about a career in forensics? Join clubs that complement your interests and that will help you to tell your story in the college application, whether that’s one or five. Just make sure you can handle the time commitment and still keep up your grades. Plus, you want to show involvement with a club or activity over a period of time. Being a member of a club for two to three years is going to be a lot more impressive than a six-month commitment. And here’s a tip: clubs like National Honor Society, while a great honor, don’t necessarily say anything about your hobbies, interests, or personality, unless, of course, you have a position of leadership within the organization.

And while we’re talking about leadership, one of the things you really want to focus on during your junior and senior year of high school is proving yourself as a leader. Go out for officer positions in the clubs or activities that matter to you most. If by your senior year you have a few solid commitments to activities along with some demonstrated leadership, you’ll be on your way to telling a great story in your college application.

For more of my answers to your college questions, visit Seventeen’s College Q&A!


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Q: “I’m artistic, so I think I want to be a graphic designer, but I’m not 100 percent sure what they even do. I don’t want to try to get into that field if I end up realizing it’s not as fun as I had hoped it would be.”

–Angelia, 16, Louisville, OH
A: If you’re artistic with a keen eye for details, then graphic design could be an exciting and fulfilling career. It’s also one of the hottest growing jobs right now, so your chances of getting hired out of college are pretty awesome. Basically a graphic designer is responsible for the visual look of a company or product. This could include designing everything from the company logo, stationery, presentation folders, film graphics, animation, flyers, product catalogs, advertisements, and Websites to magazine or newspaper layout. Graphic designers may work in a larger design or advertising firm, be an in-house consultant for a corporation, or do contract work for individual clients on a freelance basis. The job can be incredibly creative since a designer is responsible for coming up with fresh ideas for reaching an audience with eye-catching concepts. If you’re interested in a particular career but not sure you’ll actually like it once you get in the trenches, then try it out during a summer or semester-long internship. And for more information about graphic design, visit the American Institute for Graphic Arts (AIGA) website. Also, check out these schools that offer accredited graphic design programs:
Arizona State University
California Institute of the Arts
Carnegie Mellon University
Maryland Institute College of Art
Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design
Parsons The New School for Design
Pennsylvania State University
Pratt Institute
Rhode Island School of Design
San Francisco Art Institute


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Q: “What should I do if I have a low PSAT score?”

–Kristi, 16, Corinth, TX
A: The good thing about the PSAT is that it’s practice, so don’t freak out if your score is lower than you would have liked. Colleges aren’t going to see that score, and knowing how well you did on the PSAT is just going to help you get ready for the real deal: the SAT.

Take a look at your PSAT score breakdown. Did you do better in one section or is it pretty much even? If you aced one section but didn’t do so well on another, then you’ll still want to study for the entire test but really focus more on improving testing skills in your weakest section. Take practice tests online, buy a study guide, or enroll in a test prep class. There are several testing dates in the spring, so don’t just sign up for the first one available. Give yourself enough time to study and prepare for the test.

You may also want to consider taking the ACT, which is widely accepted by most colleges and universities, and is a different testing format from the SAT. It’s a good idea to take the SAT and/or ACT in the spring of junior year, and then take them again in the fall of senior year. Your scores may improve considerably the second time simply because you’re more familiar with the testing format and material, not to mention you won’t have the first-time test jitters.

And always keep in mind that test scores are just one of many factors that are considered in your college application; they aren’t nearly as important as the grades you’ve maintained throughout all four years of high school!

To read more of my answers to your college and career questions, visit Seventeen’s College & Career Q&A!


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Q: Why is it necessary to write essays to get into some colleges and universities?

–Sarah, 17, Calabasas, CA

A: Believe it or not, colleges are actually interested in more than just academic grades and test scores. They want to know how you think and what you have to say, and one of the best means of getting your voice heard is through the college essay.

The reason many schools ask for an essay is to give you a chance to showcase your personality, creativity, and unique sensibility that might not be captured elsewhere in the application. This is your chance to shine and speak your mind, and the cool thing about the essay is that there are no wrong answers! It’s really an opportunity to take control of one aspect of the college application and leave a great impression on the admission office.

An awesome essay can be the tipping point that pushes a good application into the acceptance bin, so take some time to think about what you’re going to say and how you say it. And don’t forget to proofread! A stellar essay can be totally ruined if it’s riddled with spelling and grammatical errors. Have someone else that you trust look it over to make sure it’s absolutely perfect.

For my top ten essay topics to avoid, check out the chapter “Writing Your Story” in my new book Seventeen’s Guide to Getting Into College.

So, what do you think you’re going to write about for your college essay?


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Q: “How can you make your own college-worthy résumé?”

–Katrina, 15, Torrance, CA

A: Most colleges request that you fill out their unique application, not attach an additional résumé of activities. However, it’s really important to get into the habit of keeping track of your involvement, leadership, and awards so when it does come time to fill out those applications, you have an updated list of all your accomplishments or what we call in the admissions world a “brag sheet.”

Colleges want to know what you’ve been up to since the beginning of ninth grade, so keep a running list of your commitments, number of years involved, hours spent each week, leadership positions held, and any notable accomplishments you achieved. You’ll also want to think about which activity is the most meaningful to you and why, since that question may show up on a college application or during an interview. Keep track of any honors, awards, or recognition you receive during high school, and don’t be modest! You can always edit your applications later to include the activities and awards that matter most.

A brag sheet will be a helpful tool as you fill out your college applications, and it’s also a good idea to make copies for your counselor and teachers when you ask them for recommendations. Chances are they’ll be able to write a more detailed letter if you’ve made them aware of all your activities and accomplishments. And if you need a template to get started on your brag sheet, check out page 65 in my book Seventeen’s Guide to Getting Into College!

For more of my answers to your high school, college and career questions, visit Seventeen’s College Q&A!


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