2020 was a tumultuous year that not even the most clairvoyant of planners could’ve expected. And even though this goes without saying (and you’re probably tired of hearing the phrase ‘in these unprecedented times’), the pandemic had wide-reaching and unpredictable effects, and the college admissions process was not immune to these effects. Even the best and brightest of students had to navigate a confusing mess of ACT cancellations, rapidly-changing university policies and uncertainty about what the future of post-secondary education would look like. Despite this uncertainty, our students refused to give up or be beaten down by a global pandemic.
One such student is Kyle Bascom, a soon-to-be Purdue Boilermaker who kicked the pandemic’s proverbial butt and fought hard to regain control over his college destiny. Kyle is living proof that perseverance is key in dealing with what is always a difficult college admissions process, and we were lucky enough to sit down with Kyle on Tuesday to learn more about his resilience through an already difficult endeavor made even more difficult by an unexpected crisis. Here are our key takeaways from that conversation. The full video interview is available for free here!
It was really, really stressful for EVERYBODY.
Every single one of us has been tasked with blindly navigating an unplanned crisis since early last year, and although some of us have felt the effects of the pandemic more than others, the truth of the matter is that everybody had to pivot. Many of us feel like the rug has been pulled out from under us and we’re stressed, exhausted and confused. It’s okay! You’re not alone in this, so just take a step back and a deep breath and just do the next right thing. Yes, Kyle came out on top when the dust had settled, but in his own words the process was ‘very, very stressful.’ ‘Nuff said…
“Have fun and enjoy it while you can!”
Kyle dealt with a tremendous amount of uncertainty and upheaval throughout this process, but he kept his cool throughout and just kept getting up whenever he was knocked down. His advice to current high school students: “You just gotta keep livin’ man…L-I-V-I-N.” Okay, maybe that’s a Matthew McConaughey quote, but it’s essentially what he was saying. Never forget that this is about outlining the next season of your child’s life, and if you follow Mr. McConaughey’s advice, it can actually be FUN. Although this past year was particularly capricious and stressful, lots of people still managed to find the silver lining, and it’s all about seeing this process for what it is. You don’t have to torture yourself to be successful in this process, and if possible it should be looked at as an exciting time full of endless possibilities and opportunities. The world is your oyster!
Hindsight is 20/20…especially in 2020.
Here at OnCampus, we’re in the business of ‘removing unknowns’. This process is made significantly easier when you’ve already sat down as a family to discuss your child’s college trajectory and figure out what steps need to be taken to find, be accepted to and afford the University of You. Nothing puts a bigger smile on our faces than seeing students and families that have decided to seize the day and take on an active role in the college search process. Kyle and his family are living proof that staying ‘active’ throughout this process does pay off, and they actually drove as far as Sioux City, Iowa, just so Kyle could take the ACT! In our experience, it’s hard to get beaten down by the system when you keep getting up every time. Although we’ve all lost a considerable amount of control in our respective spheres of influence, one of the ways to regain some control and plan ahead is to schedule a free consult! The best way to stay active is to actually be proactive, and the best problem-solving is always done before the problem arises. It’s always better to put in the blood and sweat now to avoid tears later on down the line! Schedule your free consult with Tom here, we’d be more than happy to address any questions or concerns you may have.
Hilary is an all-star!
While she is the mother to our children and I’m contractually obligated to praise her, Hilary really does serve an invaluable role within our system. Throughout our conversation, Kyle couldn’t seem to help himself from bringing the focus back to her and how helpful the essay work they did together was. It was clear that she’d really made a positive impact on his college process. Here’s Kyle on what it was like to work on essays with Hilary: “I worked with Hilary
on my essays and that was so helpful. I was so stressed about my essays. My big thing is once I get a couple sentences on paper I’m fine. I just can’t get that first sentence down and the fact that she was able to help me do it so quickly was extremely helpful and then giving me the layout for the UW essay as well was also very helpful. Once I had that layout I wrote it very easily and I feel like I did pretty well on my essays.” This from a hardlined logical-mathematical type who excels in STEM but just needed a little guidance when it came to more abstract, nebulous fields like writing…and obviously, he crushed it.
Structure is key.
Finding, gaining admission to and affording the right college for you can be a very overwhelming and hectic process, but establishing structure (a timeline, goals, action plans for achieving those goals, etc.) is paramount. When Kyle was asked what he believed the primary benefit to partnering with OnCampus was he explained that, “For me, it’s kind of about taking a load of stress off because I know that I have a date where I’m going to get it done. I don’t have to do it on some Saturday where I wake up and watch YouTube for three hours and then I don’t want to do it. I have a date where I know I’m going to get it done so it just takes that stress off because I’m not waking up every weekend wondering whether or not I have to write an essay.” Most children, and frankly plenty of adults, aren’t great at getting ahead of big projects and breaking them into smaller, more manageable/understandable chunks. Structure is one of the most effective ways to avoid the pitfalls of procrastination and one of the benefits we’re most proud to be able to provide our students.
Hey Kyle, it was a privilege and honor to work with you and Purdue is lucky to have you!
We’re HUGE believers in the power of campus visits for your college planning process. OnCampus College Planning founder and campus visit proponent Tom Kleese says, “Any college visit is better than no college visit.” He urges students and families to visit campuses near your home, while on spring break, on a daytrip to your favorite city, wherever and whenever you’re able. Start visiting campuses long before you’re thinking about where you might want to attend college. Why? Because whether or not that school makes it onto your list of schools you consider attending, every campus visit teaches you something about College in general. Campus visits help you compare and contrast campuses and types of schools. You will make more informed decisions about schools that interest you if you have visited a few college campuses before you begin your college planning process.
We’ve heard students say, “Once I am accepted, then I’ll go visit.” If at all possible, visit college campuses as part of building your list of potential colleges, versus waiting until you’ve applied (and long before you’ve decided where you’re going to school).
We help students and families make the most of campus visits. The campus visit is the single-most important aspect of researching colleges. College websites are great. Phone calls to the admissions office are fine. Reaching out via email to professors is good. But nothing compares to the insights you gain from getting on campus.
We wrote a comprehensive 23-page Ebook called the Campus Visit How-To Handbook. It’s awesome. It’s effective. It contains a two-page Campus Visit Capture Tool at the end. But it’s lengthy. And it’s a bit overwhelming. We wanted to come up with something briefer and simpler.
A friend recently introduced me to the “bullet journal”. At first, I thought she made it up. She’s wicked creative that way. But it’s actually a thing! Do a Pinterest search for “bullet journal” and you’ll be hit with a barrage of bullet journal templates, hipster fonts and Martha Stewart-esque watercolor marker drawings specially designed for your bullet journal. Sooooooo extra. But the idea is actually really simple. Take brief “bulleted” notes to capture what you want to remember.
Our goal is to inspire you to action. Visit college campuses. If you aren’t sure where to start and need help finding your list of colleges to visit, check out our College Search services.
Get the most out of each visit. Our Campus Visit Bullet Journal condenses the info in our jam-packed campus visit e-book into one page you can print out and use when visiting campuses.
Ask questions not only of admissions representatives and tour guides, but also students you see around campus, professors and even your server at the restaurant. Jot brief notes on your campus visit bullet journal.
Here are three magic questions to ask students you encounter:
Why did you choose College X? (NOTE: Always try to use the name of the college when asking questions instead of a more generic “this college” or “this school”.)
Do you mind if I ask what other colleges you considered, and what tipped the scales in favor of this college?
If you had a magic wand, what one thing about this college would you change?
Ask about campus hotspots and hangouts.
You can simply ask, “What are some of the best places to hang out on campus as a student?” Jot these down. Then check them out. Whether it’s the student union or a local coffee shop or burger joint, you’ll get a feel for this school’s unique hotspots. And you’ll probably catch a glimpse of what a “typical student” looks and acts like. Do they seem like people you’d like to surround yourself with? This is insight you won’t get from a phone call or email, or even the college website.
Connect with professors and staff in your area of interest.
There’s a huge difference between taking the general campus tour and investing the energy to spend time with the key contacts in your specific field of study. Not sure what you want to study yet? No problem. Pick something you’re interested in (business, math, art, healthcare, writing). At least three weeks before your campus visit, call that department and speak with the administrative assistant or program coordinator. Explain that you’ll be visiting and you’d like to meet with someone in that department while you’re there. The administrative assistant or program coordinator should know who to put you in touch with. During your meeting, ask them what a typical freshman course load looks like for someone in that field of study. Ask what kinds of careers people typically pursue with a degree in that field. Ask them what criteria or attributes they find make a successful student in that field. Whether or not you choose to pursue that field of study matters less than the insights you’re adding to your arsenal.
Eat twice: once on campus and once off campus.
No Olive Garden, McDonalds or Buffalo Wild Wings allowed. You get plenty of that at home. Most campuses will provide you with a voucher to eat free in the campus cafeteria, which is another great opportunity to check out the student vibe on campus, as well as the food. For off-campus eating, pick a local eaterie from among the hangouts and hotspots for a chance to do the same. It won’t surprise some of you to learn that checking out new restaurants is one of Tom’s favorite parts of the campus visit.
Show me the money. Ask questions about cost and merit aid.
This topic gives you another list of questions to ask of your tour guide and admissions personnel, as well as students you meet. Ask the admissions rep who gives the opening presentation about their key criteria for earning merit aid, whether it’s GPA, ACT score or other criteria. Ask about the average cost of on-campus housing and apartment rental. Ask about the quality of public transportation in the area or whether most students have a car on campus. These factors impact your estimated Cost of Attendance, which is critical as you learn about the cost of attending college in general, and compare and contrast this school with others.
Capture your thoughts.
Shedule downtime during your campus visit. It’s a good idea to take a break and process your thoughts. If you’re staying overnight as part of your visit, this can be at your hotel at the end of the day. Or you can simply find some quiet time at the local campus library or student union, grab a cup of coffee and jot a few notes on your bullet journal page. What do you like about this school? What concerns you, or what do you find disappointing? You can be brutally honest, since your campus visit bullet journal is for your eyes only. No one is going to judge your answers. There’s no right or wrong. Be honest about what you want, need, don’t want and don’t need in a college experience. It’s unique to you, and it’s for your own benefit.
Commit to next steps and a timeline.
Typically when you finish a campus visit, you’ll have amazing new insights, plus more questions. If this school is one you’d like to know more about, capture your next steps and commit to a timeline for achieving them. Perhaps the program coordinator or professor you spoke with mentioned the name of someone else in the department that can answer your questions. Jot that down and reach out soon via email or phone. Perhaps you became curious while on the tour about a student club or organization your tour guide mentioned. Maybe you didn’t have time to get to all the great hotspots and hangouts you learned about, and you want to check out their websites. Maybe you want to check out the school’s full course catalog or the graduation requirements for your field of interest and need to make a note to do that once you get home.
Take action. Schedule your next campus visit.
Are you a high school freshman who’s focused on a strong start to high school with no clue as to whether you want to attend college or where? Are you a sophomore who’s trying to balance a busy academic semester and the demands of several extracurricular activities? Are you a junior who’s just beginning to think about college planning? Are you a senior overwhelmed with the college application process? No matter who you are, your next campus visit is closer than you think.
Your high school considers a college visit to be an excused absence, which indicates the educational value they place on visiting college campuses. We agree. Talk to your family. Then schedule a day and visit a college right in your city. Or take a day trip to a college in a nearby city. Going out of town for the holidays? Take time now to see what schools are nearby and schedule a campus visit while you’re there. Schedule your next campus visit and put this Campus Visit Bullet Journal to work for you soon.