We’re going on break

by Christal Holmes, Campus Visit and Communications Manager

The university will be closed for winter break from Saturday, December 22 through Tuesday, January 1, 2013. We will resume our regular office hours on Wednesday, January 2, 2013.

While our staff members enjoy meeting with prospective students and their families, along with reading applications, we are all looking forward to a (brief) break from the office and spending time with our families and friends. We do hope that you take some time out from the college search and application processes to enjoy the holiday season with your families and friends as well!  (But be sure to keep in mind your application deadlines…VCU’s deadline is January 15, 2013.) 

During the university’s closing, information sessions and campus tours will not be conducted. Our staff will not be available to check application statuses by phone and we will respond to e-mails once we return to the office.

If you applied online, you can check your application status online too.  Just use the same log in information you used when you submitted your application.

From VCU’s Ritter-Hickok House to each of your homes, Happy Holidays and a prosperous New Year!


Conquering exam week

by Christal Holmes, Campus Visit and Communications Manager

Everywhere you go on the VCU campuses this week, the topic of discussion is finals! For the next week and a half student schedules will revolve around study group sessions and exam times. Every breakout room in the library is reserved, all night study sessions are the norm, and students are loading up on what most consider the studying essentials: coffee, snacks, and music.

While exam weeks aren’t always the most fun times of the semester, many students look forward to getting money by selling their textbooks back to the campus bookstore and seeing the results of their hard work in the form of final grades that have been earned. For those who participated in Commencement exercises over the past weekend, they will look forward to becoming official alumni of VCU and receiving their diplomas. The best reward for most students though probably comes in the form of a month-long winter break that will allow plenty of time for getting sleep that has been lost during exams!

During what can be one of the most stressful times of the year as a student, VCU students can take part in a number of stress relieving activities that are being held throughout campus. In addition to the annual Midnight Breakfast at Shafer Court Dining Center, a number of VCU departments come together and sponsor the RamEXscream Exam Break. This is another annual event that takes place on the Shafer Court Compass and gives students the opportunity to do just what the theme for tonight’s event says, “Let It Out,” while racking up on things like free t-shirts, coffee mugs, hot chocolate, and being the first to hear the 2013 Homecoming concert artist announcement. Other places on campus, like our Office of Multicultural Student Affairs (OMSA), open their office doors during their business hours to students looking for a quiet alternative to library so that they can study.

If nothing else, you can be sure that many of our students will definitely be taking a study break on this Saturday, December 15, to watch the Rams take on our former coach, Anthony Grant, and his team from the University of Alabama in men’s basketball. For those of you who are not on campus to cheer them on in the Siegel Center, don’t worry, you can still catch all of the action on the CBS Sports Network — tip-off is at 4 p.m.

Do you have tips on how to cope with exam week stress for our students? If so, feel free to share them with us! Good luck to our VCU students during exams!!

It’s December, do you know what your senior should be doing?

by Christal Holmes, Campus Visit and Communications Manager

Hello parents! This blog series is just for you (students and counselors can feel free to read along too). So often parents ask us what it is that they should be doing to help their students during their senior year. Many times they acknowledge that they became involved in the process too late, or that they just don’t have a clue where to begin. The college admissions process can be stressful and often overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are some tips to keep both you and your students on track from now through the beginning of 2013.

If you haven’t already done so, sit down with your students and identify their top schools in which they plan to apply for admission. Create a calendar of deadlines with your students including target dates for not only submitting the application, but requesting that transcripts and test scores be sent to those schools. Make note, or a checklist, of any supplemental information that needs to be submitted in order to complete the application process, such as essays, an art portfolio or audition, or an interview.  Be aware of deadlines!

If they haven’t already done so, your students need to take the SAT or ACT as soon as possible! An application to almost any university will not be complete without at least one set of test scores on file. Students that are planning to retest are encouraged to sign up for the next available test dates so that their scores may be submitted in time to be considered during the application review process.

Before leaving for winter break, your students should ask teachers or counselors for letters of recommendation. If they’re like me and don’t want to stress out after break, they’ll submit all of their college applications before they leave for winter break as well. Remember that teachers and counselors receive tens, if not hundreds, of requests from seniors asking for letters right before application deadlines hit. Some will even put a limit on the number of recommendations that they will write for students. Ask your students who they have in mind to write recommendations for them and make sure they put in their requests soon. Not only will this allow the recommender time to formulate a fitting recommendation, but it will allow students to ensure that it’s submitted to colleges on time too.

As the end of the year approaches, parents should save their year-end payroll stubs if they show earnings for the year so that students can begin to complete the FAFSA in January. Remember that the earliest that students can complete the FAFSA is January 1 –- you can learn more about the FAFSA on our Financial Aid Office’s FAFSA FAQ website. You’ll also want to have your students contact colleges to obtain any financial aid applications that they may require in addition to the FAFSA and find out their deadlines. Remember that most financial aid is offered on a first-come, first-served basis.

December is also a great time to begin applying for funding and scholarships, outside of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Check with high school counselors to see if there are community awards that your students may be eligible to apply for. Also think about various clubs and organizations that you or other families may be involved in that offer awards: fraternities, sororities, social clubs, civic organizations, and religious affiliations/organizations are all great places to start.

Hopefully these guidelines will help you and your students be prepared to tackle the application process. Through it all, remember to be supportive of your students and let them know that you’re there to assist them as best as you can. Encourage them to continue excelling academically (many schools will request to see mid-year senior year grades). You’ll also want to encourage them to contact colleges if they have questions during the application process or if they want to make sure that information has been received on time. Finally, remember to breathe and enjoy the process– this goes for students too. As stressful as it may be at times, it’s all worth it in the end.

Check back in January for a follow-up entry on what you and your students can be doing once the applications have been submitted.