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Early Start College Planning

Motivational Speaker; Life Balance

"Together we achieve more."TM




Posted on March 20, 2017 at 1:15 PM Comments comments (397)


Spring break is coming!  Like you didn't know!  It's this week to a few weeks off for most all students across the U.S.  While this might be a time to go on a vacation just for fun, how about taking a vacation and making an investment in your future at the same time?  Whether you are in seventh grade or a senior in high school, part of this time could be spent visiting a college campus near where you are vacationing, or to make the purpose of your vacation an exploration of those schools that have admitted you for next Fall.  

It is important to get on a scheduled tour of a college, especially if you have been admitted.  A phone call to the Admissions Office or checking on-line for scheduling procedures can help with getting you a spot on a tour in advance of your visit. On tours like this, a student guide takes you around the campus, showing you highlights and discussing his/her experience as a student there.  If it turns out that your intended major is the same as that student's current major, you can ask him/her direct questions about the department and what it's like day to day to be in that major.  

If you are younger than a senior, consider the work you have done to date to identify your strengths, weaknesses, your interests, what "rings your bell" and how those items might be expressed on this particular college campus.  Do they have at least one major that really interests you?  Are you willing to go to the department office and ask to speak to a faculty member, department counselor or someone else who could give you more information?  Think of this experience as a scavenger hunt.  You are looking for information that would help you consider how appropriate this college might be for you as a future applicant.

Having the character trait of curiosity definitely helps on a college campus visit.  You want to know everything you can to decide if this is the place where you will spend at least four years of your life.  

To make this experience the most it can be, it helps to do some research at home before you commit to visiting a campus, but it's not manditory. Remember though, as you go through life you will make decisions increasingly on your own.  It's a very good idea to start early with habits that help you learn how to make good decisions, not just about where to go to college, but about anything in life.

Whether you stop in at a college near your vacation spot or schedule a tour in advance, you are setting yourself up for a successful college choice when the time comes to actually apply.  If you start early, in seventh or eighth grade, you will have literally years of viewing campuses and will make a much better decision when making applications, and will have had fun doing it!  A win-win!

As always, I would appreciate your thoughts and comments to this installment of Early Start College Planning.

All the best,



Posted on April 10, 2016 at 12:35 AM Comments comments (90)

Know yourself?  Who can really know themselves?  Well, you can but it takes some work.  If you are willing to commit the time early in your college search years, you will make a better decision when it's time to apply to college.  If you are in seventh or eighth grade, this is the ideal time to begin to question yourself about your strengths, weaknesses, preferences of all sorts. If you're in high school, that's fine too, but you will have a bit less time to explore your strengths and interests before the college application process starts.  Using a notebook can be helpful in recording information about yourself.


Let's say you are interested in science and have always been curious about medicine.  Unfortunately in life, sometimes things happen in our lives that are life-changing, like a relative developing cancer and ultimately dying from it or some other disease.  For some, that's all the motivation they need to pursue a medical career. You talk with your family doctor about what it took to become a doctor.  As you get older, you have the opportunity to "shadow" your doctor for a day, to see what being a doctor is really like.  You begin to look at the types of courses students take to prepare for their college major and what sorts of majors most doctors pursued in college.  You talk with your school guidance counselor to see if he/she can direct you to any materials to help you learn more about becoming a doctor.  

Or let's say you have always been a person who can "draw anything."  You also like to paint.  So you create work that you frame and hang in your room or other parts of your family's home.  An art contest is advertised in a local newspaper and your parents encourage you to enter.  After the judging, you've won in your category!  With this affirmation, you begin to think of yourself as an artist, not just someone who likes to draw.  This causes you to begin to look at art classes you can take in school, think about taking private lessons, entering other contests, and beginning to learn how to create a portfolio of your work.  You look at the world differently.  Now the whole world is your canvas, and before you didn't notice all the things you are beginning to notice as possible subjects for your next art piece.  

When experiences like these happen in your life, you can take advantage of them more readily if you have assessed yourself over time and are "open" to these new experiences.  Connecting with others who share your passions is another way to develop yourself, learning from them and they from you.  So, is it worth the effort to get to know yourself? ABSOLUTELY!  Get going, your life will be what you make it.  No time to start like the present.  Have fun with this process.  You have a few years to discover yourself, change your mind and discover new things about yourself.  When you do apply to college or any other form of education beyond high school, you will be more likely to know what you want, to have done a good amount of exploring to find an educational situation that will fit your needs, and will have given yourself enough time to enjoy the process.


Until next time...


P.S.  I'm always interested in your comments, so let me know what you think.  If you have questions, that's even better!  Ask away.  I'm here for you. 


Posted on February 23, 2016 at 2:40 PM Comments comments (0)

Welcome to this first edition of The Early Start College Planning blog!  I am very excited to share my insights about college planning with you!  As you read this edition, think about yourself, who you are, what interests you, what you want for your future.  Go ahead, DREAM!  Let yourself be open to possibilities as you start this life-changing process to create the future you want for yourself!  Have fun!

Middle school years are not too early to start planning for college/post high school training. One way to start this process is to keep a notebook on your strengths and interests as you go through middle school and throughout high school.  Here is a list of items to consider when thinking about the college going process as a middle school student. 

1. Where in the U.S. or overseas would you like to go to college?

2. Are you basically outgoing or more reserved? If outgoing, a larger school might appeal to you. If more reserved, a smaller environment might serve you better.


 3.   Larger schools often have lots of activities, sports, etc.  At smaller schools, it might be easier to feel included.  Which might appeal to you more, given what you know about yourself at this time?


 4. Location matters.  Do you want to attend a school in a more populated area with many off campus possibilities, or would a small college town atmosphere appeal to you more?

5. Does "going away" to college scare you?  If so, consider local colleges that might be an hour or so away from home.


6. Perhaps starting at a community college might best fit your needs early in your college years. Consider local community colleges.

7. Do you have a talent?  Are you a strong student?  Do you play an instrument, have a particular skill, play a sport, aspire to more leadership opportunities?  These are areas in which you might receive scholarship/financial aid money to attend college.  Keep these areas in mind as you consider different colleges and the opportunities they may offer you.


While I could list many more items for consideration, this list is a good starting point to consider as you begin your college search process.


Be aware that as you pursue answering these questions, others will arise and you may change your mind many times about any or all of the issues raised above.  THAT'S OK BECAUSE YOU ARE STARTING EARLY! YOU HAVE TIME TO CHANGE YOUR MIND. This is the most important value of starting early to set goals for yourself regarding your future after high school.


Go online to do searches by part of the country or by state.  For example, you could search "four year colleges in New England with strong engineering programs" to bring up schools with solid engineering programs.  Look at their websites.  See what courses you have to take to be an engineering major.  Check out how their campus looks.  See if they show photos from different seasons of the year.  Can you see yourself living there and spending four years in that environment?  Make a folder on your desktop with colleges you like, so you can go back and revisit their websites in the future.


Have fun with this process.  Don't spend too much time on it at one sitting unless you are motivated to do so. Do however, commit each week to spending time online for maybe 15 minutes at a time.  Let your awareness of your strengths and interests guide you as you look for colleges online or explore local colleges by visiting them. BE CURIOUS about your future.  At this time in your search, it should be fun and a time of gathering information about yourself and possibilities for your future.  Write down names of colleges you like in your notebook and maybe a sentence or paragraph about what interested you.  

Please respond to my blog if you find any of these ideas helpful, or if there are questions you have about anything in this first edition.  I look forward to your feedback.

Until next time,

John Cotter