It's the end of summer, the weather's getting cooler and it's also college application time. We recently came across this very brief article on how Jessica Yeager, a graduate of Harvard and MIT, managed to get offers from 7 Ivies! Read more here.
Our take on this : Start early, dream big and do your research. The last point is we at Lucent Education feel that we can make the biggest difference. It's good and well to be able to get information off websites and YouTube videos, but nothing beats getting advise from people who have actually been there and have experience helping others get there too! Have a look at what our clients say about us!
As always, drop us a message or visit our Facebook page for more info!
With summer well and truly underway, we hope that you are using these warm and lazy days productively! Pokemon Go might be getting everyone off their couches and into the streets, but a little more effort productivity-wise goes a long way!
NPR Ed recently posted a piece on how high school students need more than just college-prep. Employers are increasingly expecting college graduates to possess some measure of competency at jobs, be it punctuality, customer-service or professionalism. It was suggested that any summer job, including ones that may seem 'pointless' or 'dead-end', might actually make students a lot more competitive out of college.
So there. We think it's definitely time to don those aprons and learn a few new skills - be it latte art or flipping burgers! Even better, go experience the work environment of a career you've never thought of being in. If jobs are hard to come by, volunteer to offer your time. There are few employers who would say no to bubbly enthusiasm and an extra pair of hands!
If there are any industries that you might be interested in and are looking for an introduction, do drop us and e-mail!
My younger sister, there's a large age gap, just graduated from Oberlin. It was her absolute first choice school - turning down other exceptional institutions to be there. She was considering pursuing music - and Oberlin Conservatory is one of the top in the nation, if not the world. During graduation weekend, this stood out. The spirit of the school is very performance oriented - from the O!Circus to steel drums to taiko - there was a performance every afternoon during graduation/alumni weekend, somewhere on campus. I really enjoyed hearing the senior recitals at Finney Chapel - the musicians are quite talented!
Oberlin's known for being quite liberal - and that showed. From man buns to an all-sex system for bathroom usage in dormitories, the school definitely inspires a tree hugger type feeling that you get when walking across the better known UC Berkeley (Cal). But, there's a more casual feel to the culture as compared to schools like BU, Tufts, Middlebury, Amherst. It's similar to how ballet dancers, perfect and tidy during performances, wearing gritty, ripped clothing during practice. Perhaps in the perfection of performance, Obies (as they call themselves) turn to a grittier, more laid back version of themselves as they walk through campus.
The school is composed of 2 schools - liberal arts & conservatory. I do believe that the conservatory's culture spills over into the rest of the school's culture. The tour guide even said that although she was a violinist, her goals weren't to pursue music in college, but wanted to be around performance (and she will be minoring in dance). However, from conversations with students and actions of the students at graduation - there is a clear differentiation of the two programs. As there were only about 700 graduates total, each name was announced. The conservatory was first - and not too long after the completion of the dual degree students, the conservatory students began to leave their seats. Ok - 3 hour long graduation, I'd be tempted, too! But, if one of my best friends was in the liberal arts college - I'd stay put and get ready to cheer for him/her. This was telling for me. Not in a negative way, but to share with prospective students that the two are separate entities and with as much muddling there is between them, there is still a clear divide between conservatory and liberal arts students. It all makes sense - you'd be spending a lot more time in classes with those in the same school.
Overall, Oberlin has an excellent academic reputation. Some of the newer buildings are LEED certified, the spaces are beautiful, the campus inviting. For the right student, what an awesome undergraduate experience! I would heavily consider the liberal arts school if you fit into the following categories:
Your life is filled with lots of accomplishments, events, and memories. So, there's a huge urge to want to share all of that in your college application essay. With between 500 and 750 words to work with, it's impossible to get all the wonderful things you've accomplished and want to share with the admissions officer into this one essay, at least not in any sort of meaningful way. So, resist that urge to list a bunch of events! There are multiple parts to your application - the resume, your grades, short essays, standardized testing, and recommendations. All of these components will contribute to giving the admissions offer a rich picture of who you are.
Let the resume tell your chronological accomplishments from work, volunteer, and extra curricular activities. Let recommendations brag about the more qualitative pieces of who you are - personality, drive, etc. And, let the essay tell the reader how you think, your aspirations, and where those aspirations come from. In most cases, this stems from a story or series of events that are pivotal in your life. Here are some questions that might help you pinpoint these types of events:
Once you settle on the topic, don't forget to expand on the story and why it's significant, how it's changed who you are/your goals, and how it ties to your aspirations for the future or your more immediate next steps.
After reading thousands of college application essays from students at all different levels of writing, I've learned that the most powerful essays are ones that are genuine. For whatever reason, the right words flow, the thoughts are better conveyed, and the essay never feels forced or over-edited. It's a win-win for the prospective student: it's easier to write the essay & it's a more memorable essay for the reader, too.
We can tell when a portion of the essay feels forced - when a student starts writing what they think should be written instead of their own thoughts and perspective on their life and future. Or a parent interferes and suggests what they believe an admissions officer would like to read. Big ideas and strategy for the essay can come from many different places (parents, peers, other mentor figures), but we find that something wonderful always emerges when the student finally gets to writing their own thoughts down. It's always a transformative process, guiding students through this new type of writing - about themselves, their thoughts and desires for the future. Regardless of writing skill level - a genuine essay is one of the ingredients that is most powerful.
Most families know that every component of the college admissions process is important. Families know the importance of grades, challenging coursework completed, and the cumulative GPA. Many students also take test prep courses or get private tutoring for SATs and ACTs. But what about the admissions essay? Is it just another essay – similar to the assignments at school?
The essay is the one component of the application that can really set a student apart from the pack. With selective schools, for every enrollment slot, there are 5 students with the same scores, GPA, and extracurricular leadership stats. The essay is the only real opportunity to set yourself apart from the others once you hit your senior year – the grades, coursework, and typically test taking is already completed. Your words paint a picture of your past, how you think about your future, and what you’ve learned from your experiences thus far. It paints a picture for the admissions officer – who you are, where you can contribute to the school, and what you can bring to the campus that isn’t already there. Often time, it’s what gets a student into a reach school – when all else equal, the essay is what tips the scales in an invitation to enroll at a school.
Okay, so we know it’s really important.
It’s important, and also a skill that hasn’t been honed by most 16-18 year olds that are looking to attend college. The admissions essay isn’t a book report, analysis of a concept, or summary of a historical period. It’s partially a marketing essay and partially a personal thought essay – both of which aren’t studied much in high school. If a student regularly writes their personal thoughts about life and daily ongoings into a diary – that is likely the best practice they are getting for this type of essay. However, these journal entries aren’t likely getting proofed for structure and effectiveness in getting a point across to the reader. So… a few tips on the essay writing process:
Of course, Lucent Education helps students through this process – it’s our specialty. We take the mystery out of it, helping students hone in on the skills to write these types of essays through one on one support; "on the job" type support with revisions, questions, and conversation. We never compromise the authenticity of the writer's words and our goal is to help students find their voice in the essays so that they come across genuine, individual, and thoughtful. Just as it takes many hours to learn how to put together a great book report, we structure an effective plan to help applicants learn while completing their admissions essays.
There are several logistical factors that go into choosing a school before you start even talking about fit. Included in those are: cost and location. These are the first two topics that I suggest parents to focus on when discussing options for college prior to diving into the nitty gritty. These can really be deal breakers when it comes to making the decision as a family in which colleges/universities to apply to. This is also the time to consider application to some schools that might be out of geographical or financial reach because they are such great opportunities that you’d like to test out the waters (see what financial aid package comes through or make a visit or two to Colorado?) prior to making a final decision to rule it out.
Ok, the next section is the nitty gritty I mentioned above – it’s about fit. What type of college, surrounding, environment will help you thrive and accomplish your future goals – that’s fit. There are a ton of components to fit and what will be the “best” college to help you thrive. First consider the items below and what your preferences might be.
You now have a good idea of what types of schools you should be looking at. Coupled with your test scores and school grades/ranking, you have a good idea of where you will fit on the spectrum. For students looking to be at a more competitive or rigorous school, you might consider taking this information to the ranking reports and see which schools might be a good fit. Others might use a resource like...
...to narrow down on small class sizes, large campuses, or programs with a lot of academic support services.
Okay, I know that feels a bit backward because I haven’t yet talked about a good academic match. Well that’s because for the majority of students don’t have a really specific niche yet and that’s because many students haven’t experienced enough to know what they don’t know about the opportunities in careers in the world. For the majority of students, I’d recommend having a general idea of the industry or job function you’d like to go into after college and narrow down the application list to those that have that type of program available (think broad: marketing = marketing, psychology, sociology; business = applied math, economics, business; teaching = child development, psychology, education).
If in the rare case you are one of those high school juniors/seniors that knows what they want to be – the above list is still something to think about, but you may want to apply the thought topics to list of schools that already exists for your specialized interest (music conservatories/colleges, programs with strong pre-med or combined degree programs, business schools, etc).
The next step after creating a solid list (the usual is between 7-12 schools) is visiting them (if you haven’t already) and making sure the schools are diversified in terms of possibilities for acceptance (reach schools vs match schools).
Good luck in finding a few great choices for your best fit!
Choosing to concentrate in Natural Science for my undergraduate degree was not a difficult conclusion to arrive at. I’ve always had a fascination with all living things and grew up with a whole host of pets from tortoises to parakeets. I enjoyed Biology very much in school, did reasonably well and it felt to me like the most natural progression to continue doing what I enjoyed most at college level.
The more difficult question to field was when asked what I wanted to do with a degree in Natural Science. I used to envy my friends who chose more conventional paths – you become an engineer after an engineering degree and a doctor after a medical one. Although it might seem blindingly obvious that the conclusion of a science degree would be to become a ‘scientist,’ I had no idea what scientists actually do minus the crazy-haired, wild-eyed ones I saw on television bent on world-domination. And like every good college student, you ignore the problems you cannot answer and promise to ‘look into it’ some other time. And so I did, and looking back, I am quite thankful as it gave me the time and the freedom to actually enjoy the degree.
Although I did eventually end up becoming a ‘scientist’ of some sort, many of my friends did not. We went to the same dissection classes, the same microscopy workshops but many chose career paths that do not involve safety goggles and lab coats. Some became management consultants, putting the analytical skills they learnt in class to good use in the corporate world. Others joined the civil service, taking positions that involved structuring science policy in schools and universities. And there were others who decided to go to graduate school, eventually deciding that they wanted a career in medicine or law.
Others, like myself, chose to pursue a doctoral degree in the sciences, spending much of our time dedicated to full-time research with the final aim of providing a body of research which is novel and of intellectual value to the academic community. In real world terms, this actually accumulates to a lot of thinking, reading and talking to people about science. I discovered that I thoroughly enjoyed the process of identifying a relevant problem, thinking of the right questions to ask, designing the experiments to answer these questions and finally, to look at the answers and decide whether they are relevant to support your conclusion. Looking back, I guess it was not too big a surprise as I have always enjoyed observing nature in motion, be it the neighbors pets or the metabolism of a cancer cell.
So I was fortunate that I did eventually, find out what to do with my science degree. But what might you be able to do with yours?
There probably isn’t a single right answer for this, but I think the most accurate one is probably, anything you want! Choosing a major is declaring your interest at that point in time, with a strong conviction that you will be motivated to make the most out of it. Certainly do not take it to mean that you are bound to it. While there are very many science-related careers that might benefit from a science degree, there are as many or not more that are less conventional yet as relevant to using the skills you learnt in science. Having a trained scientific mind is an asset to be reckoned with. Science is driven by a curiosity to ask the simple questions about everyday occurrences and the tenacity to find a hypothesis to describe these observations consistently. These qualities are extremely valuable in any field and I strongly believe that if nothing else, my degree definitely taught me to never stop asking questions.
Go to college focused but with an open mind. Pursue what interests you most in the present and never stop talking to people about what they want for the future while thinking about your own. Take the time to ask yourself what you are good at and what to improve on. It’s what I did and hopefully, you too will arrive at the same conclusion as I did on what to do with your science degree.
The title to this article is pretty intimidating. If you’re a college senior (or rising senior) and starting to get serious about going to more selective schools, a good start to writing your essays is to outline and highlight important pieces of your life. You can also polish this outline to use along with your resume when you ask your teachers, coaches, and mentors for recommendations.
Ok, you’re ready to get started? The easiest way is to start from the present and start listing your biggest highlights from high school, some of which will already be on your resume. Then think back further to highlight various aspects of your life. Have you encountered birth or death? Have you led a group of your peers in a petition? Have you started your own business selling lollipops you made at home? Are you your grandma’s favorite? Were you overshadowed by siblings or cousins? Did you argue with your parents about getting serious about swimming instead of tennis?
Next, think back on the little things that have happened in your life that might have impacted you in a big way. What are the inside jokes your friends have about you? Are there stories that your parents tell about you to their friends? Check in with your friends and family and ask them about what they felt were big moments in your life or the highlights of your personality.
Now that you have a good list of highlights, start to think back on each of these moments in your life and write a few phrases about how they made you feel, what you learned, or how it affected your future goals. For some of the moments, you’ll have a hard time articulating, others you’ll realize that they were defining moments in your life. After completing this portion of the exercise, start to prioritize the moments that you’d like to share with the college admissions officers. Mainly, prioritize the moments that truly represent who you are and help to share your unique story with application readers.
Here’s an example of how your outline might look:
-Brother is born (I was age 3)
-I used to watch him in the back of our van as our parents shopped; we always rough housed by I once flipped him so hard that I could tell this was unlike any other time. This is when I realized my responsibility for him.
-Big family dinners each week
-We traveled over an hour each week to visit the family on my dad’s side; with over 15 cousins and still counting
-The inside joke of the family was that my cousin J was super talented, cousin F was a genius, and I was the cutest of them all; took this to heart and found a passion I could work hard at and excel at in my own terms
Now that you’ve put together some important moments and lessons from your personal history, you have a rough outline to work with. As suggested earlier, you can now pick out the pieces that you feel will convey who you are and make you shine to include in your college application essays. However, your application doesn’t include just your essays. With the outline that highlights your life, you have a lot of good information that you can still share with the admissions committee.
Before putting the essays together, it’s time to think about how to strategically piece together an entire application package. As an exercise, make columns for the different components of your application: essays, resume, and interview. With your “highlighting your life” outline, think about how you’d categorize the top 10-15 topics. Is the topic one of the easiest to describe in two sentences or less? Then it’s probably best in your resume. Is it a deep personal philosophy? That might be better suited for one of the essays. Is it about one of your favorite teachers, but doesn’t really fall into something you can write a whole paragraph about? Perhaps save that for the interview since many interviewers ask about your favorite class or teacher.
Many applicants sit down and tackle each component of the application separately, however, the admissions officers will be looking at the whole package – so you should be completing it as a whole package. Take the time to be intentionally strategic about what you want your entire application to convey about you.
A lot of high school juniors (3rd year students) already have plans to visit colleges that are of interest to them and have perhaps even narrowed down the potential schools down to around 20. However, what I hear a lot from both parents and students is what else is there even to do before the applications are out in the Fall?
My answer: a lot! This is the time to get all of the hard leg work out of the way so that essays are easier to write, information is easier to input, and stress levels are down for the Fall when you juggle school work, sports, extra-curriculars AND the application process.
The first big project that you can work on is the resume process – peruse some of the resumes you find online for both content and visual appeal. Then take a hard look at your high school career AND your accomplishments throughout your life time. A lot of your current involvements in school might have started from much earlier than high school. For example, you may have been playing soccer since the age of 5, and now you’re the co-captain of your high school team. This extra piece of information gives the resume reader a better picture of the type of dedication you have to the sport or activity. Also, be sure to include activities that you intend on completing during your last year of high school.
The resume process is ongoing as it’s a working document. So, have a few trusted friends and adults help you think about any holes you might be missing and how to best word your activities, leadership experience and awards. But, do not finalize and leave it there untouched as you continue with the rest of your application. Conversations with friends, family, and teachers might spark memories of an important project or competition you may want to showcase. Continue to revisit it periodically until you are ready to submit it to the colleges.
The resume is a great place to start for the application process as it has obvious practical purposes as well as a good reason to start thinking about your own history and accomplishments. This will segue into the next few projects that you can work on as a junior in high school to help prep for the application process: brainstorming pieces of your life that you’d like to make sure are highlighted in your final application, mock interviews, and approaching teachers about recommendations.
Look out for more blog updates on preparation for the college applications!
Navigating the waters of the American immigration system can be confusing. For many international students, getting a visa to study in the promise land is just the first step. Getting the authorization to work there and gain some international experience after graduation is a key part of their personal development. Given that it’s such a big factor in their experience abroad, it is a shame that many students do not know more about the immigration or work authorization process before deciding on their tertiary education plans.
So how does it all work? Here’s the path of the typical international student.
You’re accepted! Now what visa do you apply for?
The visa that most students apply for is the F-1 visa. If you are married, your spouse can apply for the F-2 visa. The F-1 visa will allow you to work part-time on campus, work under practical training during and after school, and of course, be a student in the United States.
Other visa types include the J-1 visa for those who are sponsored by the government or a company and the M-1 visa for those attending vocational schools. The most common is the F-1 so the remainder of the article shall talk only about the F-1.
Step 1: The university sends you a document called an I-20 that verifies your acceptance, lists your course of study, duration of study, and the estimated cost.
Step 2: Fill out Form DS-160
Step 3: Make an appointment for an interview at the US embassy
Step 4: Pay the visa fee at the bank specified by the embassy
Step 5: Compile documentation which will include acceptance letter, I-20, passport valid for at least 6 months, proof of financial support such as bank statements and letter of support from your parents or financial aid grants, academic transcripts, any proof that you’re bound to your home country and intend to return, TOEFL scores are helpful.
Step 6: Go to your interview. Answer questions honestly, clearly, and confidently.
Step 7: Get your application approved and go back the next day to pick up your passport complete with visa!
You’re a student! School’s going great but either you want to get an internship or an internship is required for you to graduate. How do you do that legally? Apply for CPT!
Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
CPT is a status that authorizes you to work off campus when you are a student. It is really meant for students for whom an internship would be a key part of their academic training.
This is something you can apply for if:
1) You have been at school full-time for one academic year
2) Your internship is clearly in your field of study
3) There is a CPT course you can enroll in for your program
4) You only intend to work part-time (20 hours) when school is in session or full-time during the break
Caveat: You cannot do this if you are in your final quarter/semester at school. It is also not advisable to be on CPT for more than a year since it will prevent you from using your OPT time.
Procedures vary from school to school so check your international student website for instructions. Typically, it is just a matter of signing up for the CPT class, filling out a form for your international center to sign off, and getting your employer to give you a letter proving your employment.
You’re about to graduate and you want to work in the U.S. before going home. How do you stay?
Optional Practical Training (OPT)
You can apply for optional practical training or OPT in order to work legally in the United States post graduation. OPT allows you to work in an area related to your study for up to 12 months. Applying for OPT is a simple process. However, it is very easy to violate your F-1 status under OPT by accident.
How do you apply for OPT? The application is done through the international center of your school and usually just involves filling out a form, picking appropriate start dates. After you get a revised I-20 from your school, you fill out some documentation and request for an employment authorization document from USCIS. A few months later, you get a card authorizing you to work.
Beware that on OPT, you can only be unemployed for 90 days after your official start date. You also need to update the school on your address etc every 6 months.
Normally, OPT is only valid for 12 months. However, if you have a science, technology, engineering, or math degree, there is a possibility that your OPT will be extended for another 17 months.
Obtaining a STEM extension that you have a degree in one of the above fields. Your employer must also be enrolled in the E-verify program (which not a lot of employers are).
Your OPT time is running out! You love your job and you’re not ready to go back to your home country yet.
You will need your employer to apply for a work visa for you. Employers typically hire a lawyer and take care of the whole process.
The only thing that makes the H1-B process complicated is that, there is a quota system. Only 65,000 new H1-B visas are issued each year. An additional 20,000 visas are allocated to foreign nationals who have masters degrees or higher from U.S. institutions. During good economic periods, the quotas have been known to fill up within a day of applications being accepted. In bad times, the quota never fills up. During times when the quota is exceeded, a draw is conducted to determine who will get the visa.
Applications are due on 1st of April and H1-B visas are issued on the 1st of October.
What do you do if your OPT expires before October when your H1-B visa kicks in?
Nothing. The cap gap law allows you to stay in the United States and work in your “immigration limbo period”.
There it is, the typical immigration path of the international student.
*Disclaimer: Always talk to your embassy, US embassy, or immigration lawyer as each person’s circumstance can result in different outcomes.
College, Graduate School, and Career Coaching.