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Is Grad School now “expected”?

Is Grad School now “expected”? While almost all of our seniors have long since turned in their applications to college, there are some of our former students who are now college seniors who are looking at their final semester. They are about to enter the workforce…or are they?

We’ve all heard that a bachelor’s degree simply isn’t “what it used to be.”  There are a number of reasons for that:

  • Simple numbers: more people are getting undergraduate educations than ever before.  Unless the job market is growing at the same rate that degrees are, this means there are more college graduates chasing the same number or – in a recession – fewer – jobs.
  • The greater numbers mean that potential employers are seeking greater differentiation from the bucketfuls of students who are coming to them with “Finance” or “Marketing” degrees.  Unfortunately, not enough students focus on getting thoughtful and relevant internships, useful study abroad programs, or even the most basic work experience.
  • The recession in the US economy has caused a slowdown in hiring, which means that new graduates aren’t just competing with their fellow classmates, but against those who may have graduated 1, 2, or even 3 years ahead of them.

Some students choose to tough it out – working in non-related fields in order to have a job to pay the bills or to stay employed.  Others don’t wait for a solution to be handed to them and choose to start a business.  But increasingly since 2008, many students are choosing more schooling.

It’s unexpected, isn’t it?  After four years of school, students are signing up for…more school!  Mind you – it’s also more expensive per credit hour with more challenging requirements.  Since they have not made alternate plans, the idea that “a Masters certainly can’t hurt,” has inspired tens of thousands to get one, but it is not always to their benefit.  Why?  Because we have the same related problems listed above:

  • Marketplaces adjust to supply and demand.  When there are a lot of oranges available for sale, prices go down and demand is sated.  When there are a lot of MBAs available on the job market, the degree no longer carries cachet, which leads employers to look at other factors – Was there an emphasis within the MBA which is distinctive (a particular one these days is “Business Intelligence” which marries nicely with the megatrend of big data)?  Or, was there a useful capstone or study abroad program in a relevant field?  Did the student just get a Masters right after undergrad (this means that there wasn’t the rich work experience which informs any real MBA program)?
  • The flatter worldwide job market increasingly means that you aren’t just competing within your country anymore.  You may be competing against candidates from other countries who share your qualifications.
  • Instead of improving their chances to be hired by increasing their qualifications, students who have not distinguished themselves now find themselves in far deeper debt than when they started, shiny undergraduate diploma in hand.

What can we do?  Well here at Get Smarter we’re always trying to prepare our students for life, not just for their next standardized test.  So here are three things to keep in mind as you prepare for undergraduate life:

1.    Do not expect a University to land you a job.  Parents increasingly put pressure on universities to deliver “jobs.”  And universities increasingly game their statistics by hiring new graduates internally.  Parents should not expect a university or college to provide a job for their young graduate.  A university can give you a degree – and hopefully teach you to think and learn at a high level so that you will be an asset to any firm (perhaps your own) – but it can’t control what the marketplace wants from possible employees (or can offer).

2.    Don’t let college “happen” to you.  Be the person your advisor actually knows by sight.  Attend those lectures and extra activities offered on campus.  Get involved with a group or two – and no, a fraternity or sorority is not solely the answer to all that, even though the time they demand would make you feel that way (fair disclosure: the author is a member of a business fraternity).

3.    Be as serious about landing internships and summer jobs as you are about your studies.  For those of us who are not college athletes who may possibly turn professional, this undergraduate life can set up the next decade of our pursuits.  ‘Nothing says that taking your future seriously has to exclude fun, but remember that when fun beckons, and serious things are not done, the mark of future success is upon those who accomplish those serious things while others temporize.

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Which School is Right for You: Two Big Factors

Which School Is Right For You?

You’ve studied and you’ve prepared, but what comes next? Determining what colleges to apply to and attend is difficult as there are so many factors to consider. Which school is right for you?  At Get Smarter Prep, we aim to help you achieve your highest possible test scores that provide you with the ability to choose the school that is best for you.

There are a multitude of considerations that contribute to this decision, including your goals and personality. We’ve narrowed it down to two top decision making factor: Size and Location. The benefits and considerations listed below are generalizations, so do not hesitate to reach out to a specific school to learn more about their programs.

Size

The size of the school affects the size of classrooms, size of athletic programs, and numerous other activities that will impact your overall experience.

Attend a Big University

Benefits that come with big colleges include a seemingly unlimited list of majors and minors, well-funded sports teams, diverse academics and student activities, state-of-the-art research facilities, and a variety of housing opportunities. A con for big schools could be that while the research facilities are top-notch, classes may be taught by a teacher’s assistant, rather than a professor.

Students who succeed in large colleges are not afraid to take advantage of the opportunities available and aren’t afraid to speak up. General education courses typically contain hundreds of students, which is a shock to many students.

Attend a Small University

Conversely, benefits of small colleges include personal attention from professors and more hands-on learning opportunities. While there may be fewer majors to choose from, there may be options to design your own major if you realize what you planned on studying isn’t the perfect fit. Smaller schools are able to knit a tighter community because you can meet a higher percentage of students and teachers than at a larger school.

Location

Location is one of the biggest factors since you’ll spend the next four years in this place. When deciding whether you want to go to a college that is a few miles from home or one across the country, take time to reflect on the following considerations.

Attend a University Close to Home

The pros to attending a college close to home include the ability to drive home to visit family more often. Not every school provides A+ food, so a home-cooked meal after a series of stressful exams could be just the ticket. With schools that offer in-state tuition, you and your family can save a significant amount of money, while still affording a top-notch education. Even if you are close to home, you don’t have to go home every weekend, as there are so many opportunities to make the campus your new home away from home.

Attend a University Far From Home

If you’re looking for a completely new experience and a chance to become more independent, going to a college in a different state is a good idea. You are already familiar with the area you grew up in, so why not take the chance to experience a new area and climate!

Nervousness is normal because you are taking a risk and pushing yourself to become more independent. You may fall in love with this new city and decide to continue living there after college. Besides, receiving care packages from family is a lot of fun, and you may have the chance to tag along with a new friends’ family over the holidays if you can’t fly home. There are also rideshare programs at most schools if you need to find a ride home.

While new adventures are great, airfare prices may restrict you from attending big family events or just seeing your family on a regular basis. Out-of-state tuition costs are typically higher, and you’ll need to figure out a game plan for shipping or storing your belongings during the summer.

Decisions, Decisions

Regardless of how close you are to home or what size college you attend, your college experience will be what you make of it. While size and location factors are definitely something to take into consideration, it’s important to choose the school that’s right for you.

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MidAmerica Nazarene University

Name: Caleb Pierce
College: MidAmerica Nazarene University
Major: Chemistry

1. What first drew you to MidAmerica Nazarene University?

I was focused on smaller schools with solid results in helping students get into Medical School (obviously my plans changed). As a serious added bonus, I was recruited for both football and baseball – and the coaches were great!

2. What other colleges were you considering? 

Colorado College was on my short-list, as was University of Denver, K-State, University of Illinois, Purdue University, and Northwest Nazarene University.

3. How was the adjustment from high school to college?

My transition socially was fantastic! I enjoyed high school – but thoroughly loved college! My biggest challenge was blowing out a shoulder and not being able to compete in either of the two inter-collegiate sports I had been recruited for.

4. What was your favorite class? Why?

I loved my Analytical Chemistry course. I took the course my Junior year, with three other students and we frequently had to complete presentations on various topics! I still remember some of my handouts – one had a coversheet with photos of great scientific minds, plus a photo of me – completely absurd, yet informative!

5. What clubs or groups were you involved in? 

I was certainly one of those students that was over-involved in college. I certainly could have spent a bit more time studying! I was a Resident Assistant for three years, worked in Admissions, an active member of the Pre-Med club, helped with on-campus events (three year champ of Mock-Rock), hosted my own KMNU TV show (what were they thinking?), was an avid sports enthusiast (I only missed one football game – home or away – in my four years, and didn’t miss a single home basketball game), and shadowed several physicians.

6. Anything else you want to tell us?

College is whatever you make of it. Take full advantage of the resources available – both socially and academically. Be prepared to work hard – and don’t take anything for granted.

7. In one sentence, what do you love about your school?

I love that it’s a place where a student is encouraged to focus on their studies, grow in their personal lives, and serve others in word and deed.

Caleb Pierce is a Tutor and the President at Get Smarter Prep.

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Preparation is the Key to Success

Preparation is the Key to Success

Whether you’re taking your ACT, SAT, AP tests or your History final, when it comes to education and testing, preparation is the key to success.  Here are some ways to be prepared for any class or test:

1)      Get organized.

Have a dedicated binder or folder for each class you are taking.  File each class’ notes followed by the assignments related to that material.  By keeping your school work organized, you will be able to refer back to your class notes and materials to review the concepts.  When you finish your assignment, put it in the appropriate binder to avoid forgetting to take it with you.

It’s also a good idea to keep a calendar at the front of your binder with all your assignment due dates written down.  For long term assignments, set a reminder to go off on your smart phone 2 weeks, 1 week and 3 days before the assignment is due to avoid procrastinating on the project.

2)      Put pencil to paper.

While you’re in class, take notes.  When you do your assignments, take notes and show your work.  There’s no point in taking notes if you can’t understand them later.

3)      Prepare your materials.

When you do your homework, find an uncluttered work surface, and organize your materials before you begin.  Have a pencil (or two) and an eraser handy.  Make sure your calculator batteries are working.  Get some scratch paper.

4)      Give yourself some time and some quiet.

I know you’re busy.  Volunteer hours and extracurricular activities don’t leave as much time for homework as you might like.  Write a homework appointment in your schedule, and don’t stand yourself up!  By setting aside time for homework each day, you won’t overbook yourself.  (Share your calendar with your parents, so they know not to schedule activities over your homework time)

When it’s time to do your assignments, turn off the TV.  Turn off the ipod.  Silence your phone.  Focusing on one thing at a time is a lost art in our multi-tasking, over-stimulated culture, but focusing on one task at a time and eliminating distractions makes you more efficient.  Because we aren’t used to focusing on one thing for an extended period of time, this might be hard for you at first.  Try this: set a timer for 15 minutes, and work diligently during that time.  When the timer goes off, set another timer for 5 minutes, and take a break.  Repeat.  When focusing for 15 minutes gets easier, gradually increase the work time by five minute increments.

Since everyone has a different learning style, your best method of preparation might look a little different than this.  You can learn what your learning style is and learn how to best apply that style to all your classes throughout high school (and on into college) with Get Smarter Prep’s Study Skills class.  Study skills like time management, organization, and homework planning will serve you throughout high school and college, and will even be great skills when you enter the work force.  Study skills also cover speed reading, reading comprehension, and writing skills.

 

 

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GSP & UMKC Partner

GSP and UMKC Partner

GSP and UMKC Partner

As a recent alumnus of the University of Missouri – Kansas City School of Law and a current employee of Get Smarter Prep, I was thrilled to learn that the two were finally going to partner up for an LSAT class. To me, it seemed a match made in heaven and something that should have happened a long time ago. Get Smarter Prep is well-known in the Kansas City area for its ACT and SAT test prep and its individual attention to students’ needs.

UMKC law school is also known for its smaller class sizes and focus on individual students’ needs. The first class through the new partnership is in full swing and the class is set to finish right in time for the June LSAT.

Get Smarter Prep developed the material for the six week course and UMKC is providing the location as well as law school professors who are willing to work one-on-one with the students to help them determine what score they will need to get accept at UMKC. The law school professors are even willing to talk to the students about the other important aspects of law school admissions, such as the personal statements and their grades during undergrad.

I was fortunate enough to teach the first class of this brand new class this past week and I was extremely proud of each and every student after class. The first class was Logic Games and for most students, Logics Games are a struggle. In fact, when I took a poll in class, seventeen out of the twenty students raised their hands when I asked if Logic Games was the area they dreaded the most on the LSAT.

We started off the class rather slow but as the two hours went on, students became more engaged and the “light bulb” went off for some students who were really struggling at the beginning. The class as a whole worked really diligently throughout the two hours, which is no small feat when you are working on logic games after logic games.

During our short break and even at the end of class, students were coming up to me to ask questions and were really engaged. I felt that our first LSAT class as a GSP-UMKC team was successful and I am looking forward to seeing the students’ scores after the six weeks of class.

If you are interested in taking the LSAT test prep through GSP and/or attending UMKC School of Law, please do not hesitate to contact me as enrollment@getsmarterprep.com. I’m a strong believer in GSP and the results that can be produced from our test prep and I’m a UMKC roo through and through.

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Finals in College

Finals in College

Unlike in most high schools, finals in college are spread out across a week’s time, with each class getting assigned a particular day and time. This doesn’t mean that you won’t have two finals on one day, but it does mean that you’ll have significantly more time to study between tests than you did in high school. Sometimes students grow complacent and assume that they’ll have plenty of time to study for each class, but unfortunately, final exams in college tend to be comprehensive (ie. over everything you’ve learned that semester). Unless you’re awesome at last minute studying (many of my students think they are but their scores say otherwise), I suggest preparing your study schedule weeks in advance.

When I was in school, it seemed like all the final paper due dates and final exams happened at the same time. It seems like this is still the case as I watch my students start to glaze over and stop doing their homework right before finals weeks.

I suggest that, with your syllabi in hand, you sit down in mid-April with your calendar and figure out a game plan that keeps you on track to finish everything. Maybe you’re going to write a page a night to get that Econ paper finished by mid-May. Maybe you’re going to review anthropology lectures for 15 minutes after dinner to prepare for the final.

Planning makes sure that your future self, who could potentially be working into the wee hours of the night for a week straight (during what tends to be some of the most beautiful weather of the semester), is not going to curse your lazy, Game of Thrones-watching past self.

 

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Summer College Prep

Summer College Prep – Spring is in the air!  Prom is just around the corner, and finals are getting closer.  After finals, comes summer.  For many students, this means swimming pools, barbecues, camping trips, and general relaxation.  For the class of 2014, however, summer is the ideal time to write essays and complete college applications.

Imagine, if you will, going back to high school in August.  It’s your senior year.  You’re the top dog on campus.  It’s your last chance to participate in pep rallies, school plays, and high school sports teams.  Your friends start to ask you where you’re going to school next year.  Your teachers start to ask you where you’re going to school next year.  You still don’t know where you want to apply.  Your friends start to get acceptance letters.  You start to freak out.  Now, in addition to homework, tests, and all your extracurricular activities, you need to find time to complete your college applications.

Now imagine going back to school in August.  It’s your senior year.  You spent part of the summer deciding which schools would be a good fit for you next year.  You honed your essay writing skills.  When college applications were available on August 1st, you were ready to go.  By the time school started, you were well on your way to completing your applications.  Now with pep rallies, school plays, sports and volunteer work vying for your attention, you’re so glad that you have your college applications done.  By the time winter break rolls around, you already know where you’re going to school next year.  You no longer dread the question “where are you going to college?” because you know the answer.

Which student would you rather be?

Get Smarter Prep can help you navigate the college application process with ease.  Learn what majors and careers are a good fit for you.  Get help narrowing down your college list to the top schools that fit your personality.  Learn to write a college essay that admissions officers won’t easily forget.

By starting early on your applications, you not only reduce your potential stress levels, but you also have a better shot at getting the money you need for the school you want.  All financial aid has a deadline, and some aid is given on a first come, first served basis.  Plus, a lot of scholarships require an essay submission, so it is beneficial for you to have an essay you can be proud of.

You can still hit the pool this summer, but don’t forget to take a break for your college applications!

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Springtime for Sophomores

Seniors have heard back from their schools and are finalizing their college choice in preparation for the May 1 deadline. Juniors are taking the ACT or SAT, SAT subject tests, and AP exams. Those two grades have clearly defined paths to college, but what about Sophomores? While spring of sophomore year seems far away from applying to college, there are three things you can do to strengthen your future college applications.

1. Take an ACT and SAT practice test and determine which test is a better test for you.

We recommend that the students take both an ACT and an SAT practice test near the end or just after their sophomore year. That way, you go into fall of junior year with a plan. Are you in range to be a National Merit scholar? If so, you can sign up for one of our summer classes in preparation for the PSAT. Do you play a winter sport and a spring sport? Another great reason to prepare in the summer and take one of the fall tests! Every student is different. Taking a practice test at the beginning of the summer ensures your student has time to decide which test and test date is best!

2. Finish the year with your highest possible grades.

Yes, this seems like an obvious one, but it really is important! If you have a bad test day, you can retake your SAT or ACT or driver’s license test, but once sophomore year is over, you are locked into those grades. Grades are a key piece of college admissions puzzle, so it is crucial to do your best.

3. Take advantage of the summer.

While it is tempting to spend the summer relaxing before the stress of junior year, you post-sophomore year summer is a great time to get a jump start on college. You are interested in botany but your high school doesn’t offer it? Take a course at a local college or community college. Not only will it look great on your resume, but it will be really interesting! Want to start saving money for college? Get a job! Jobs look great on your resume and give you a great opportunity to make business connections. An anecdotal example: my grandfather worked as a delivery runner for a law firm one summer; after graduating law school, he was hired by that same law firm! Too busy to have the set schedule of a job or class? You can always volunteer, write a paper to submit to your favorite magazine, research colleges, or take test prep!

Most sophomores have no idea where they might want to attend college, and that is perfectly okay! Following these three steps will ensure that when they do choose where to apply, they will have the highest amount of possibilities.

 

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