Your senior year of high school might feel a little frantic — like a marathon of SAT tests and college applications and campus tours and the constant worry that you may or may not have answered that college essay question “correctly.” But there are things you can do now to set yourself up for success — and peace of mind — before you get to college. The advice comes straight from the experts: our Sweet Briar faculty and coaches.
Up Your Game
“High school is easy for most good students, but college is not,” warns biology professor John Morrissey, who also advises students on the pre-med track. “If you’re a bright student who is earning good grades in high school, you’ve probably been able to coast a bit. You’ve developed confidence in that approach, and you try to employ it when you get to college. Within a few weeks, you are shocked to learn that your time-tested approach is suddenly inadequate. You are smacked in the face with grades that are lower than you’ve received in the past, and panic sets in. You realize that you need to recalibrate your scholastic efforts by working longer and smarter than before. Your only hope is to discover this need to ‘up your game’ before the hole gets too deep to salvage fall-semester grades.
“What can you do to avoid the above scenario? Starting right now, in high school, change your attitude. Change your objectives and goals. Try to score 100% on each exam, quiz, project or presentation. Strive for perfection! This will force you to suddenly work harder and longer and smarter than ever before. If you can do this, you’re much more likely to arrive ‘pre-calibrated’ for the rigor and expectations of college. You’ll be able to avoid the academic shock most first-years experience.”
At the same time, says engineering professor Hank Yochum, it’s crucial to know your limits. “Don’t overextend yourself!” he cautions. “Learn to realistically budget your time and set your personal priorities. These great skills will be helpful throughout your college career and beyond.”
Ace That Essay
“Spend some time and effort writing a good college essay — the hardest part of many college applications,” notes anthropology professor Claudia Chang. “There are lots of tips online. Take the time to review them. Here are my guidelines for you:
- Who is your audience? Imagine a committee made up primarily of admissions staff but perhaps also faculty members. We want to know more about you as a person.
- Do you need to brag? Or be humble? Use a personal, friendly voice. Don’t just repeat your résumé, but if you have something you are proud of, let us know. Give us some details. Here’s your chance to show us who you are. Grades, SAT scores and recommendations only tell part of the story.
- Take risks and be creative. When we fill a first-year class, we remember that high school senior who wrote an unconventional essay.
- Proofread your essay. Ask your teachers or guidance counselor to look over it — and be sure to thank them for their efforts.
- Don’t sweat it too much, but don’t leave it to the last minute.”
“When you visit colleges, spend some time with current team members, especially the first-years,” advises swim coach Donna Hodgert. “Just a few months ago, they were in the same boat as you, trying to decide if Sweet Briar was the right place for them. First-years can offer great insight into the transition from high school athletics to college-level practice and play.”
Melora Kordos, who teaches musical theater and public speaking, agrees that communication is key. “Email the professors in the program(s) you are interested in and start a dialogue with them early on,” she says. “This way, you can start finding out about majors, minors, certificates and other opportunities you might want to get involved in before you get to campus, and you won’t lose a semester trying to figure things out.”
Trust Your Inner Voice
“Don’t worry about making a wrong decision,” Hodgert says. “In the end, 98 percent of our student-athletes tell us they ‘just felt Sweet Briar was the right place.’ Try to make the decision on your own without worrying about what your friends and parents want you to do. Be sure you understand your role on the team, and that it matches what you want for yourself as a player. Visualize yourself at the school and on the team. When the final decision comes to you, it will be a strong feeling that this is the right place.”