April 14, 2021

Summer Vacay and College App Essays

Friends at Beach

Hi Soon-to-be-Seniors,

Happy Last High School July! 

That’s a big deal.  Next year at this time you will be a Graduate, getting ready to begin your college experience, taking on even more of the responsibilities and freedoms of your adult life. 

If you have been planning to get a jump on college applications this summer, it might be starting to feel like a big cloud on your summer that seems to get bigger every day.  But you can get on top of it by doing 2 things.

Thing 1

Spend an hour and make a Time Map for your applications.  Basically, this is a list of your schools, in the order of their application due date, soonest to last, with all essay prompts next to each.  Many of the college planner programs do this for you.  If you don’t have access to one of those, just Google the info and then copy and paste. Many schools will post their essays by August but a lot of them can be found on their websites right now — including UC’s and the Common App.  

Once you have this you will always know where you are with all your applications, what’s the next writing you have to do, and where the pileups are.  It will help you to work this into your life once school starts.  It will also show you where one essay might work for more than one school.  At a glance! 

Thing 2

Write your essay in 10 minutes*.  That’s a LITTLE bit of an exaggeration, but not much.  It’s a great writing trick that I’ve used for many years and it REALLY works.  It can help you get the ideas out of your head and on the page – which is the hardest part of any writing. 

Think of it.  By the time school starts you’ll be mostly in the polish stage.  And you will still have had plenty of time for job, 😎 beach, family and friends.

If you want to try the 10-minute essay*, or if you have other questions, just click the link. Mary@Handfelt.com



The College Application Video Essay

Two months ago, 5,697 new freshman began their college careers at UCLA.  That’s out of the 80,522 that applied for admission.

UC Berkeley had a record high 67,665 applicants for 4,500 spots.  The situation is not quite as bad at other California universities but the message is consistent:  it’s tough to distinguish yourself from an overwhelming pool of high-achieving applicants.  

For smaller, mostly private colleges and universities, some students are producing video-essays to get them out in front of the pack.  What started with 2 schools inviting video essays in 2009 is now an acceptable if supplemental (in most cases it WON’T replace a written essay) option for making the kind of impression that written words just can’t equal.  

To find out more about video essays, including some great tips in case you’d like to give it a try, check out this article from The New York Times.  And make sure you check out the last video by Kyle Sanford, applying to Massachusetts Institute of Technology fall 2013.  It’s AWESOME!!!!  


College Move-In Tips

Bringing your student to college is an emotional and logistical obstacle course fit for the X-Games. The actual process of moving into a dorm is the military equivalent of relocating to a new theatre of operations. But here are some College Move In Survival Tips fresh from the Front that might make the move to college a little easier!

College Dorm Stuff

Let’s start with moving the STUFF. Here are the facts. Girls have more than boys. A LOT more. And you will, no doubt, surrender the use of your living room to countless piles of it as it awaits transport. But its mostly crushable fabric with a bucket or two of potions and lotions. Since we were moving our princess to Chicago, a mere 1732 miles away (but who’s counting), we considered but nixed the idea of driving her to school. Instead, we got our Southwest Airlines Credit Card to pay for our Southwest Airlines flights (earning miles on our MILES) and loaded our 2 large bags per person plus carry-ons!

College Move In

For the stuff we would buy new we took advantage of the Bed Bath and Beyond “shop here, pick it up there” program (FABulous); the local store gave us a “college shopping list” and one of those scanners. We walked around like brides-to-be, scanning this and that with abandon. Our order went into the hands of their program specialist who assured us it would be waiting for us at a BBB nearest our University. And it worked JUST LIKE THAT. Even better, once in Chicago we had the chance to revisit our choices, which were only slightly overindulgent, opt out of a few items, and use the whole fistful of BBB coupons we had been collecting (even the expired ones).

We still required a trip to the local Target for the best color selection of plastic storage/organizing baskets, for hand-sanitizer, Kleenex, TP (yes, her dorm does not supply toilet paper!) etc. 47 trips up and down 4 flights of stairs and the kid was moved in.

Dorm Technology

Guys move-in to college with TECHNOLOGY — that and 4 pairs of shorts, 8 t-shirts, 2 sweatshirts and a couple pairs of shoes. But the computers, speakers, extra screens/TV’s, guitars, amps and game components can take up a whole car. That’s before you add the skateboards, a mountain bike, and maybe golf clubs or a surfboard.

I’m so glad that our son was only a day’s drive away. We caravanned a few cars and got the job done. Fewer trips up the stairs. Zero concern for color coordinating baskets and bedspreads. In fact, on-site shopping consisted of the local Costco for major snacks, and Best Buy for cables/connections and to scope out the flat screens. A guy who has to fly to his university better have a technologically well-endowed roommate!

Paperwork on Campus

If your student’s Orientation takes place around move-in, make sure he/she brings a high school transcript, copies of test scores, including all AP test scores, and transcripts for any college classes he/she may have taken.

Your school will also want immunization records. In fact, you should also get from your doctor two prescription refills — one for the home pharmacy and one for a pharmacy near the school. You don’t want to transfer the prescription outright because you can be sure that the prescription will run out when they are home for winter break. And make sure your student has a health insurance card with them.

Banking is something else you need to sort out. For my son, we opened an account close to home at a bank that had an ATM on the campus. But that wasn’t possible for my daughter. Fortunately, the university has a great set up with a local Chicago bank — free checking, ATM’s and an office on campus. In addition, the online banking function includes a calendar with all of the school’s major events on it, including the dates that tuition is due! Ask the school what the banking resources are before you go.

College Move-In, Saying Goodbye

The emotional aspects of letting go are much more difficult. Which is probably why many schools set a time of departure for parents that appears on the Move In Schedule. With my youngest and only daughter, I was really anticipating that my husband would have to sling me over his back and carry my writhing body off as my horrified daughter tried desperately to lose herself in the crowd which would surely have gathered.

Fortunately, it was nothing like that. I think the reason was that our departure followed a two day Orientation, which had a full slate of optional parent programs. Trundling from here to there, occasionally climbing up on pedestals and balustrades to catch a glimpse of the students (and my BABY) as they passed by, gave us the hours we needed to settle in and get comfortable on the campus. Our brief encounters with our student included introductions to her new friends and polite exchanges that reassured and impressed me with what great kids she will be with. All of it enabled me to have a happier — and more dignified– parting, knowing what a great adventure she is embarking upon.

Like camp. Only a tad bit longer. I can handle this.