New VCU students and families, don’t forget to sign up for VCU Alert

by Christal Holmes, Assistant Director for Admissions Communications

Whether you want to stay up-to-date on the latest information about campus emergencies, weather delays or cancellations, you should sign up for the VCU’s text messaging and e-mail alerts. 

VCU students, faculty and staff can sign up for the alerts using their eID and password to enter the main VCU login screen.  You can also use this login to add or change a cell phone number or add up to two e-mail addresses that will receive alerts.

Parents and community members are encouraged to sign up here to receive text message alert notifications.  After signing up, non-VCU subscribers can log in to change their settings or add additional cell phone numbers and e-mail addresses.

If you have questions or need assistance signing up for the VCU Alert system, please contact the VCU helpIT Center at 804-828-2227 or helpIT@vcu.edu.  You can also find out more about VCU Alert online at http://alert.vcu.edu/index.php.

College planning tips for high school seniors, part I

by Christal Holmes, Assistant Director for Admissions Communications

Over the course of the year, we’re going to be writing a series of blog posts dedicated to the seniors out there in order to help get you through the final year in high school and prepare for the transition into college. While we realize it’s summer and you may be focusing on having some fun in the sun, we also want to help keep you on track with some helpful tips and hints!

August

If you haven’t started, you will want to begin thinking about different colleges that are of interest to you.  Do some research to see which schools best match your interests.  Consider things like your major(s) of interest, whether you prefer a large or small school, if you’d rather be in a city or in a rural town, and distance from home –including in-state or out-of-state.  Once you’ve got your list of schools and your “wish list,” begin to narrow down some of your choices and determine which schools you’d like to visit in the upcoming weeks and months.

This is also a great time to think about counselors, teachers, community leaders, etc. who know you best and can speak towards your academic abilities and/or leadership in your school or community.  These will more than likely be the people that you will want to ask about writing your letters of recommendations for college.  Begin contacting your recommenders to see if they’ll write recommendations on your behalf, and provide them with enough information about yourself (and more than enough notice) so that they can write a recommendation that best represents you, and allow you to meet your application deadlines.

September

September can be a busy month.  In most cases, you’re heading back to school and trying to get the hang of your new class schedule, along with making time for your extracurricular activities.  In between all of your usual daily activities, you’ll want to make sure that you’re brainstorming ideas for college essays and writing drafts (I strongly advise that you have several people, like your teachers, counselors, and/or parents, proofread over your essays).

This is also a great time to sit down and make a calendar of SAT and/or ACT test dates, scholarship/financial aid deadlines, and college application deadlines.  Make a note to remind yourself if the college deadlines are for early decision (binding application that indicates that if admitted, you’ll attend that school), early action (non-binding application allows you to receive an earlier decision than regular admission), regular admissions or rolling admission.

Starting in the fall, admissions officers from colleges and universities throughout the country visit high schools and meet with students to talk with them about their institutions and the admissions process.  While many visits are done over the course of the school day, a lot of schools or school districts will host admissions/financial aid information nights and college fairs that allow you to hear from, and interact with, a number of representatives from several institutions.  Make plans to meet with representatives who may be visiting your school or hometown in the upcoming weeks; most schools will publicize this information in the Guidance Office or College/Career Counseling Office.  While meeting with representatives in your high school and taking online virtual tours are great ways to begin learning more about your school(s) of interest, nothing beats a campus visit!

As you go into your senior year, remember that it’s important to maintain, or build up, you GPA.  Colleges and universities make admissions decisions often using your grades up through the junior year in high school, but we will often ask to see your mid-year grades from the senior year to ensure that you’re maintaining your academic performance.  Also remember that if you’re admitted into a school, the admission is usually offered pending your final academic performance in high school.  If your grades slip between your junior year and completion of your senior year, some schools may rescind their offer of admission – so stay focused!!

Look out for Part II of this series in the upcoming weeks.

Tips on transitioning from high school to college

by Erica Jackson, Graduate Student Assistant

Isn’t it such a relief when you finally complete all of those applications, take the last standardized test that you can possibly take, and you don’t have to wait on pins and needles for the postman to come with the envelopes that determine where you end up for the next four years? It’s over! You’re in! Now what?

For recent high school graduates, the hard part of getting into college may be over, but there is a whole other process that has just begun. There is so much planning to be done, shopping to do, and all within a summer’s time. Here is some advice on tips and suggestions of things that incoming students should know before coming to college. Hopefully these tips on everything from studying to sleeping will help make the transition to college a bit easier.

1.  Stay Organized! Staying organized with everything will help make your journey from the last days of high school to the first day of your freshman semester a lot easier. Just as you were organized with making sure applications were in on time, SAT/ACT tests were scheduled in advanced, and your school work was completed on time, make sure to keep that same momentum going. Of course you want to enjoy the summer break before going off to the next phase in your life, but keep in mind that the “going to college” process has many layers beginning with registering and attending New Student Orientation on down to keeping a calendar of important assignment due dates and exams. Many students also decide to be involved in clubs and organizations when they come to college, so you’ll also need to figure out how your involvement in extracurricular activities will fit into your class schedule. The earlier that you start with organizing your schedule, the more relaxing and enjoyable your transition into college will be.

2. Don’t be afraid to make new friends! For students leaving home, often for the first time, going to college is new, it’s fresh, and everyone is excited and not really sure what to expect all at the same time. Be okay with reaching out to people and making new friends. The great thing about attending a college or university is that there are many different types of people, who may have come from all parts of the world! Making those initial connections in the beginning could create great memories and lasting friendships that you can have for a very long time.

3. Invest your time wisely! Another great thing about coming to college is that you have a plethora of opportunities to take advantage of. There are classes that can range from Biology to Mandarin 101, something that may not have been available in your high school, but you’ve always wanted to learn. You can join clubs and organizations, explore the new city or town you live in, hang out in the dining hall all night long, the opportunities are endless. While there are hundreds of things to do, learn, and explore, keep in mind that while you’re in college for the experience, you are primarily here for an education. While it is okay to take some elective courses, and explore around before declaring your major, remember that time is money. Someone, somewhere, (maybe even yourself) is paying for this education, so you want to stay on track to graduate in a traditional amount of time. On the other side of this, don’t be afraid to explore and try new things, you may run across something you never realized you were good at or even interested in such as the pancake eating club, or interpretive dance!

4. Don’t forget to call home everyone once and a while! You may be out exploring, studying, and making new friends. You may become a very busy person once you come to college. Your schedule changes and you may find yourself always on the go, before you realize it, a week or month has gone by and you have become fully entrenched in your role as a college student. A good piece of advice is to share to this with the ones you love. Although as an esteemed new college student off on your own, your independence has grown tremendously, you don’t have to check in or call, or worry about curfew because you have come into this new role of being your own boss. Even though you are an adult and watching over yourself, someone is back at home probably thinking about you. For some students, mom and dad will always be on speed dial, but others may think that a phone call every few months will do just fine. Keep in touch with family. Staying connected with home is helpful with transitioning to a new environment. You may feel liberated and free, and off to great things, but having that connection to home will help in those times when the homesick feeling starts to settle in. Your family wants to know you’re safe and okay, and may even want to hear about the new theories and discoveries you are cooking up in your labs!

5. Take care of yourself! As stated before you probably will be off exploring, and engaging in every possible thing you can imagine. You may be up until 3 and 4 a.m. working on projects and papers and eating pizza for breakfast on your way to class. As a college student sometimes you will have a hectic schedule that forces you to alter your sleeping, eating, and daily patterns. Just remember to take care of yourself. Give yourself time to sleep properly, be aware of your stress levels, nutrition and exercise (the Cary Street Gym is a great place to work out and membership is included in your student fees!). College coursework is different from high school; assignments are more demanding and time consuming. There are events going on, socials taking place, and you may not have the same routine every day. Try to get as much rest as you can, eat well-balanced meals, and monitor your levels of stress. Keep in contact with family to keep them aware of how you are feeling so that they can help you to take care of yourself as well. If you feel like you may becoming stressed or sick, reach out to those around you, or take advantage or campus resources such as your student health services, counseling centers, advisors, and even professors.

VCU to observe Independence Day holiday

The university will be closed for the Independence Day holiday on Thursday, July 4, 2013; information sessions and campus tours will not be held.  Information sessions and campus tours will resume on Friday, July 5, 2013.

We hope that you have a happy and safe Independence Day!