August 2020
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Dear College Freshman: Advice from Current College Students

The first day of freshman year is scary; new people, new classes, new places. We asked a few college students to share their words of wisdom as you prepare to begin classes this fall. Here’s what they want you to know:

“Make sure to get involved in different clubs and activities. This is a great way to make new friends and feel like a part of your campus community!”

      -Caitlin Merrill, Saint Anselm College

“I’d say the biggest piece of advice I can give to any incoming college freshman would be to get involved as much as you can. That first week on campus is very crucial and will be a great memory to look back on as the years go by. Go to the club meetings, support your sports teams, try out for sports teams, take that class you’ve always wanted to, introduce yourself to someone studying alone in the library, take that risk and tell that special someone you think they’re cute! College is a great time to connect with yourself as an individual. It’s a little taste of freedom before walking into the real world. These four years are very special and they go by incredibly fast so try new things, study hard, and make memories that will last a life time!”

      -Abby Rogers, Skidmore College

1. Go to the Involvement Fair: The involvement fair is a great place to make connections and start your involvement on campus. Most colleges usually have plenty of diverse clubs and organizations, so you’re bound to find something you’ll be interested in. It’s important to know how much you can handle though. If you think you’ll struggle with classes and clubs, just take note of organizations that seem interesting to you for future involvement. 2. Ask for Help: When you’re in college, you’ll be surrounded by and provided with many resources to make your experience go smoothly. If there’s anything I wish I had done as a freshman, I wish I had taken advantage of those resources more. 3. Check in Every Now and Then: If your parents and/or family are anything like mine, the start of my college experience was as big of a step for them as it was for me. Especially if you’re the first child, this is a huge milestone for your family. You might get annoyed, but let them help you move in, and make sure you give them a call once in a while once school starts. It’s important to start establishing your independence, but make sure you make some time for the people who mean the most to you. It’ll mean the world to them, I promise.”

      -Hailey Tremaine, Southern New Hampshire University

From the counselors at the Center for College Planning, we congratulate you as you begin your college career!

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Get Organized

You might have heard that time flies during your senior year in high school. With submitting college applications, filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), keeping up with schoolwork, and enjoying your final year of high school, life gets busy. By being prepared and organized, you can streamline the college application process. We recommend creating a college planning binder to keep track of the college planning materials you will need from day one to May 1st when, in most cases, you will make your final decision and submit your college deposit. Here are the three steps to creating an organized and effective college planning binder:

  1. Get the materials. If you choose to organize a print binder, you’ll need a few things: a three ring binder, inserts that you can use for dividers, and paper.
  2. Start assembling. Before using the dividers to create individual sections, write out a table of contents listing each “chapter” in the binder. This will help you to easily find the materials you need later on. So what should be included? Here’s a list to get you started:
    • Your college list ‑ This section will list the schools you are exploring and/or applying to. Remember that your college list is fluid ‑ the first day you sit down to write your list will likely look different than the day you click “submit.” Check out this handout to use in this section, which will allow you to compare and track colleges, their application requirements, and financial aid information.
    • An individual section for each college or university ‑ Here is where you can keep track of usernames and passwords, contact information for admissions representatives, pamphlets or documents received from the school, deadlines, and verification emails received once the application is submitted.
    • Scholarships ‑ Use this section to list potential scholarships, their deadlines, and application requirements. Looking for scholarships? Start by checking out our scholarship database here.
    • College essay and/or personal statements ‑ This section will keep your college essay and any supplemental personal statements required by individual colleges or universities.
    • Brag sheet and letters of recommendation ‑ When asking teachers, school counselors, coaches, or supervisors for a recommendation, it is helpful to provide them with a “brag sheet” or college resume that lists your accomplishments as a high school student. This section will have the names of those who are writing a recommendation, their letter (if they provide it to you), and a copy of your student resume. Need inspiration? Here’s a sample of a college resume.
    • Standardized tests ‑ This section will keep verification of completing a standardized test (SAT, ACT, SAT subject area, AP) as well as scores and upcoming test dates.
    • Financial aid and FAFSA ‑ This section will hold the printed copy of your FAFSA for the 2021-2022 academic year, the Student Aid Report (SAR), and your FSA ID.
  3. Use it. The key to the success of a college planning binder is to use it often. When you write your college essay, add it. When you ask for a recommendation, add it. When you get your SAT/ACT score, add it. Remember: this is a resource to help you manage the moving parts of applying to college.

If you prefer to keep it green, here are a few suggestions for organizing your college materials:

  1. Create an email just for college planning. Setting up an email that is dedicated to correspondence between colleges and yourself is a great way to remain organized and professional. Consider setting up an email signature that lists your name, high school, and contact information ‑ so admissions representatives have an idea of who you are when you outreach. Sites like Google also have an attached calendar to email accounts, which allows you to enter application deadlines, information sessions, interviews, and other important college planning dates. Another helpful tip? Keep your college planning email professional ‑ for instance,
  2. Become familiar with Excel or Google Sheets. A virtual spreadsheet is a great way to manage deadlines, application requirements, and financial aid information for a variety of schools. Have you written the college essay? Filed the FAFSA? Done a virtual tour? Adding categories and pages to your spreadsheet will help you remain organized and motivated throughout the process.
  3. There’s an app for that! College planning apps like YouVisit or, and organization apps Google Drive or Evernote, will help you to plan for college and remain organized throughout the process.

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Common App is Now Open for 2020 - 2021!

The Common App opened on August 1st and is ready for you to begin your application! This online application is accepted by more than 800 schools worldwide and sends one application to several colleges simultaneously. The Common App eliminates the need to complete multiple applications, while allowing users to manage application deadlines and track the status of submitting an application. If you are not sure if a college or university accepts the Common App, visit the “Explore Colleges” section of their website where you can determine if a particular college or university accepts this application.

Did you know the Common App essay prompts for this academic year are also available? Get a jumpstart on your application process by taking a moment to familiarize yourself with this year's essay prompts and read helpful tips for writing your college essay. New this year is the optional question about COVID-19’s impact on you. Check out July’s edition of the Varsity Letter, or this article from the Common App, to learn more.

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High School Seniors ‑ We Want to Meet You!

College on your mind? As you begin the fall semester of your senior year, there will be deadlines to meet, college essays to write, and transcripts to collect ‑ so, let the Center for College Planning (CCP) help! Meeting with one of our college counselors will give you an opportunity to map out your specific admission and financial aid timelines, while creating a solid plan for the upcoming academic year. We can help you create and review your list of colleges, review the admissions process, and talk about applying for financial aid. Call us at 888.747.2382, ext. 119 to schedule your FREE and VIRTUAL 60-minute appointment!

Our college counselors invite you to attend our next “Applying to College 101” webinar Wednesday, September 9th at 5 p.m., and here’s the link to register. If you can’t attend this workshop, you may also watch a pre-recorded version of this same workshop here.

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Summer Book Club

Beginning college means exploring your independence ‑ and with independence comes responsibility, especially in the kitchen. If you live on campus, you will likely have a meal plan and eat the majority of your meals in the dining hall. Whether in the dining hall or the dorm, eating meals with others is a great way to build friendships. Although your student ID will buy you meals in the dining hall, you may crave a microwave mug cake while cramming for tomorrow’s exam or perhaps you want to host a “Friendsgiving” celebration before you leave for the holidays. Regardless of how often you plan to cook, we recommend checking out Recipes Every College Student Should Know by Christine Nelson before starting college. This book features a variety of simple recipes from Breakfast Burritos to Chocolate-Covered Popcorn, as well as budgeting guides, safety tips, and nutrition information. Who knows, maybe this book will inspire you to change your major to Culinary Arts and Sciences!

As we transition from the summer to fall, you’ll likely be reading more textbooks than cookbooks. If you’re heading to college soon, now is the time to start saving cash for textbooks! Colleges usually advise students to budget $600 per semester for their books. There are many ways to purchase your textbooks, so take a moment to learn more about hard copy versus e-books, as well as some helpful tips on how to find books for your classes without breaking the bank.

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Major Spotlight on Psychology

Do you find yourself thinking about thinking? The broad field of psychology studies human behavior and analyzes how we think, interact with others, and process information. Although many students will pursue psychology-related careers or graduate school, a major in psychology can be applied to nearly any job; as a recent graduate and business owner put it, “psychology is the business of life.” This month we spoke to Julia Brau, a rising senior at Southern New Hampshire University, about her passion for psychology and how it’s inspired a love of research.

Center for College Planning: Why did you choose a major in Psychology?

Julia Brau: I chose a major in psychology after taking my first psychology course as a freshman in college. I found myself completely fascinated by the theories, experiments, and assessments I was learning about. I quickly developed a greater curiosity for the subject and realized that it was something I wanted to study long-term. I enjoyed both the clinical and research applications of the discipline and realized that it could be applied to almost every aspect of human life. There is something really special about a subject that aims to understand the subjectivity of the human mind! I also enjoyed that there were so many different subfields of psychology to study, such as cognition, neuropsychology, development, psychopharmacology, and counseling. This major provides many different avenues for students to explore, many of which overlap with one another. This does not tie a student down to a specific area, but allows students to synthesize their learning around many different areas!

CCP: As a high school student, did you know what you wanted to study in college?

JB: As many young adults do, I thought I knew what I wanted to study in college, but it wasn't long before I discovered that my initial field of study wasn't for me. I was admitted to my university as a game art and development major, but through my general education courses, I determined that I was much more passionate about psychology. I found myself looking forward to my psychology course more than my major courses and realized that my curiosity was centered in a completely different area. Switching majors can be shocking and a difficult decision for many students, but I truly believe that the college experience is designed for students to make that kind of self-discovery. Without general education courses, I wouldn't have found my true passion. With this, I think it’s really important to know that your interests may change and that what you’re passionate about in high school may not be what you’re passionate about in the next few years. Taking a variety of different courses in different subjects that you may not have considered before can actually be really helpful in guiding you in the right direction, whether you realize it or not!

CCP: What can students expect from coursework in Psychology?

JB: Coursework in psychology can range from introductory courses in various topics of psychology from personality psychology to biopsychology. These courses are really designed to give you a solid background in these areas, depending on what you take. Many can be quite writing intensive, but this writing will help strengthen your critical thinking and analytical skills. There will also be courses in research methods that are often required, and these help you to learn and practice your skills in designing psychological experiments and studies. Many students also take on independent research studies, which I highly recommend! This will help you not only further your learning in a specific area that interests you, but will also allow you to apply the work you’ve learned in your courses and build valuable relationships with professors and peers. Many programs also require internships, which can be extremely important if you have an interest in clinical psychology. They can help you discover what population you want to work with in the future and provide resources in building rapport with future clients.

CCP: What has been the highlight of your career as a psych major?

JB: The highlight of my career as a psychology major has definitely been my independent research study that I conducted. I discovered that I had a love for psychological research through this project and was able to construct my own study from beginning to end. I think this strengthened my confidence as an aspiring scientist and allowed me to think critically about science and the work that I was doing. I used to be really nervous about the statistics that come from research methods, but jumping into something that made me uncomfortable helped me realize that I really wanted to work hard to become better at it! Getting involved in research and designing my own project made me feel like I had a place in a greater scientific community and helped me build skills beyond a required research methods course. I also found that beyond this, some of the biggest highlights of my career as a psych major came from being involved in things that were beyond my comfort zone. With the right support and encouragement, you are more than capable of doing hard things!

CCP: What advice do you have for students beginning the college search process?

JB: When searching for and visiting colleges and universities, do not be afraid to ask questions and reach out to people. It can be daunting, but more often than not, it will help you determine what school feels most like home. Specifically, for a major in psychology, you may want to see if there is a psychology club, or a Psi Chi International Honor Society chapter on campus. It would also be helpful to see what types of internships psychology students have had, and if there are any research labs that study concepts you may be interested in. Then, once you are on campus, you have an outline of the major organizations and people you may want to connect with! I also think it is important to choose a college that will sustain any changes you decide to make throughout your years there. For example, if you change your major, you may want to make sure there are other options available that you'd be interested in and that those departments have the best resources for you to succeed. Also, once you've entered college, do not be afraid to get involved and come out of your shell. Your comfort zone feels safe, but growth doesn't happen in there. Moving beyond that zone will shape you into the person you want to be, and college is a fantastic time to do that!


Thirsty for knowledge? The Coca-Cola Scholars Program is open to high school seniors with a minimum of a 3.0 GPA. This scholarship does not require an essay, but does ask for grades, community involvement, school activities, and employment. The scholarship application opens this month and the deadline is October 31, 2020.