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My Next Chapter: Leaving One Family and Joining Another

As my graduation date awaits me, exactly two weeks from today, I have begun to reflect over the last couple of weeks about what it means to leave the closest people to me- my mentors, my friends, and especially my family- behind in order to replenish that circle with new professors, classmates, and ultimately, a college “family”.

My family is my main support system. I have a mother who picks out cute clothes for me, a father who gives me life advice, and a younger brother who is always the first one to stand up for me. All of that being said, it can be concluded that my family is extremely tight-knit. Having gone through numerous cross-country moves, we were each others’ best friends before we could pronounce all of the Spanish street names in California and before we knew the difference between home fries and grits in Virginia.

From birth, my family has been there for me. Now, fast-forward eighteen years and they are still there. As graduation draws closer and the process of going away to college approaches faster, my recognition and unconditional appreciation for this family unit has grown and deepened. Though I am excited, ecstatic, and completely overjoyed at being able to start a new life that I can call all my own, a story mentioned at a graduation a few years ago has always stuck with me. Two years ago, through tears, a senior girl delivered her graduation speech, at one point recognizing that her mom would “never be there to make a grilled cheese” when she got sick in college. Then, a lowly sophomore who had no idea what lie ahead, I grew misty-eyed even considering that thought… even though I’ve never once eaten a grilled cheese while sick (I would much prefer chocolate)! Today, I look back on that scene thinking two thoughts: 1. I hope no one mentions grilled cheese in their graduation speech this year, but also that, 2. That defining, yet completely random moment began to trigger the idea of just how much I appreciate my relationship with my family. Looking back, there are some situations in which I value time with my family most, such as family dinners, nights in and nights out as a family, and the establishment of traditions. Creating family time is crucial to having a tight-knit, connected family, which is an achievement, especially in today’s society. Family is not going to be around forever, so it is important to realize that Facebook and Twitter can be shut down for a little while in lieu of a family movie, a nice dinner downtown, or a Flying Squirrels game. Focusing on the time I have with my family is what creates lasting memories, whether my family be together or apart.

As the end of high school comes to a close, and the thought of not coming home to my house, pets, and of course, family, begins to set in even more, I am thankful for the periods of reflection I am able to have (such as now!), where I acknowledge how lucky I am to have such a close, united family. With the help of gatherings such as family dinners, nights in, and nights out, and the set up of multiple traditions, I am extremely glad to have so many fond memories with my family. Time flies faster than anyone ever thinks, and it is gone before anyone knows it. Though, there are always two sides to every story, so all of my feelings about leaving my family are bittersweet, as I also look forward to joining another, bigger family, my college family, soon too. This new family will be much larger than my current family of four at home, but I am eager to share with others what I have learned from the time I have spent with my true family, whether these new people throw in a grilled cheese or not.


140 Characters or Less, the Phenomenon that is Twitter

First, it was MySpace. Then, it was Facebook. Now? It is Twitter. With so many different ways to express oneself through the web, Twitter’s popularity with younger users is growing and businesses are giving it more attention.
With everyone from President Obama to Megan Fox having a Twitter account, you have to ask why  Twitter? What makes it stand out? How is it different from the other social media sites that litter the web? And, why do I need one?

Created as an outlet for social networking and blogging in 2006, Twitter is most famously known for its “140 characters or less” format, where users can “tweet” whatever floats their boat. The posts are set up so that they resemble text messages – easy to read, scroll through, and remember. It works like this: you open a free account, give yourself a user name, then pick who/what to follow (others will ask to follow you, you say Yes or No). With such an easy, user-friendly format, it is no wonder that millions of tweets are generated daily.

Twitter users enjoy the site for various reasons. It is easier to communicate with others and follow all of your favorite people and places. It is set up like an unending string of status updates. It doesn’t have photo albums, info pages, or games. Its beauty is simplicity and mobile access, yet you can view friends or celebrities tweets without having to deal with the annoying likes of Farmville, Mafia Wars, an unnecessary amount of “Spring Break 2k12!!!!” albums, and the 500 wall posts about a classmate’s birthday.

Most commonly people use Twitter to stay informed. I wanted a Twitter account not only so that I could stay connected socially, but also so I could stay connected as a citizen and be well-informed about socio-economic issues. Twitter updates constantly and depending on how many sources you follow, for example Fox News and CNN, you’ll know about natural disasters or where Peyton Manning is playing next season faster than everyone else.

Universities and secondary schools are on Twitter. I follow my school, as well as the university that I will be attending next year. It keeps me caught up with current events on both campuses, from sports scores to the groundbreaking of new buildings, to a cappella concerts. With Twitter, I can keep tabs on all of my
favorite restaurants, cupcake shops, and local stores. Oftentimes, these businesses announce discounts on Twitter and preview upcoming items. Since many people follow these locales, I can read reviews and check out advice about other hotspots.

You can follow virtually anything you want. I follow Self Magazine and ACAC, because they routinely publish healthy recipes and workout tips. But you can use Twitter to stay connected with friends and
family, too. Whether you moved away and still want to joke around with your long lost best friend, or you
just like chatting and sharing cool stuff (similar to Pinterest) with friends from school. Twitter is a great
resource for making, keeping, and strengthening friendships. And it is fun. There are thousands of
accounts for sports teams, television shows, and music groups, and a multitude of  parody and humor
accounts like #ThatAwkwardMoment and #SouthernBelleProbz. These types of accounts, though
seemingly pointless, are great additions to your Twitter feed because they’re never short on laughs.

Consider this, too. Twitter is a safe and easy way to find out about many new activities, ideas, and even, people. Whether you want to tweet alongside those that are just as obsessed with a book as you are, or you go through the “browse categories” section every once in awhile to find new recommendations, Twitter can be the answer to you discovering the best music artist you have ever heard or finding out about a  comedian you wish you were introduced to ten years ago.

Twitter is full of seemingly endless possibilities. You can share your thoughts and opinions with others through your tweets, express yourself through pictures and song lyrics, and connect with others (even celebrities!) through the following of a variety of people, places, activities, teams, restaurants, musicians, shops, schools, organizations … the list goes on and on. It’s fast, easy, and free, and you choose who you follow.


Forget Itchy Sweaters and Miles of Traffic -15 Reasons Why December is Amazing:

The wintertime is often given a bad rap, due to the grey skies, dark mornings, and ever-looming presence of first semester exams. However, what most people forget to acknowledge are all of the awesome perks of wintertime.

For everyone who has anxiously begun to await the holidays, and in the spirit of Robious Corridor’s “Best of” issue, here are the top 15 reasons why December is amazing… and why there should be a smile on your face and no sign of the Grinch in your heart!

1. Good Food: I don’t know one person who doesn’t appreciate the overabundance of goodies that are delivered to the house! From peppermint ice cream to eggnog, there is an unlimited amount of cookies to be iced, chocolate-covered pretzels to be made, and gingerbread houses to be built.

2. Winter Break: An occasion for sleeping in, spending time with family, and focusing on more important activities than schoolwork, such as catching up on Gossip Girl. (Just kidding, schoolwork is important too!)

3. Giving to Others: It isn’t difficult to give a few cans to the Second Harvest Food Bank, donate some old shoes to the Saxon Shoe Drive, or even learn how to make some Binky Blankets for those less fortunate. Giving to others is easy and fun, and can even be a bonding experience for families. Helping others is a true representation of holiday spirit.

4. An Actual Excuse to Drink Hot Chocolate: Pile on the marshmallows and whipped cream! There is  nothing better than a big mug of hot cocoa on a snowy day.

5. Scarf Season: They’re colorful, warm, and an absolutely great accessory. Coming in all different lengths and prints, no one can go wrong with this winter staple!

6. Overall Cheeriness of Society: It cannot be denied that there is a special feeling in the air during the holiday season. People are kinder and more understanding in general. Why? See the rest of the list!

7. Skiing/Snowboarding: Yes, surfing and lying on the beach during the summer are great ways to relax, but hitting the slopes is just as fun! In the mountains, there is still an opportunity to hangout with friends, all the while toning some muscles and burning lots of calories! (And on the sunniest days, there is the possibility of even getting a little sunburned too!)

8. Making Snow Angels: Feeling the winter chill on your face, seeing your breath in the air, and smelling the pine needles from the nearby trees say it all. Add resting in the soft snow and looking up at the clear, blue sky… sounds like perfection to me!

9. Ringing in the New Year: Between the sparkling cider and Dick Clark’s special every year, the night already sounds amazing! In addition, the annual conversation about resolutions is brought up again, so here’s your chance to make your pledge, whether it’s to get a higher grade in Calculus, exercise more often, or even just spend more time with family.

10. Basketball: This time of year is known for so much, but I always remember that I greet the beginning of the winter season with… no voice! As a sideline cheerleader for my high school’s basketball team, I lose my voice at least once a week, as I shout out cheers and words of encouragement to my favorite team. I look forward to basketball more than anything (besides Christmas!) during the wintertime. So, as a result, I usually refer to these chilly few months as “basketball season,” not wintertime!

11. Family: Need I say more? Spend time with them please! They’re important!

12. Holiday Music: The seasonal music is a great change of pace from the usual Q94, and is undoubtedly fun to sing along to, since almost every song carries a ridiculously infectious tune. For teenage boys to want to have a caroling club because they love this music so much probably says it all… and these friends of mine are definitely not singers!

13. No-Longer-Sweltering Weather: The crisp, cool air serves as the perfect catalyst for a peaceful (and successful!) jog through the neighborhood. Thanks to this lovely weather, you can break a sweat, admire the Christmas lights adorning every home, and run off those extra Christmas cookies you may or may not have stolen off of the cooling rack when no one was looking, all at the same time!

14. Decorations: Seeing colorful lights drape the trees and beautiful wreaths hang above every door frame… how can you not smile?

15. Fill in the blank with your favorite here! Everyone has that special tradition, favorite recipe, or funny story that makes their holiday season all their own. (Be sure to post your #15 to the Robious Corridor Facebook page too!)

While savoring this article (and maybe some good food and hot chocolate too!), here is your chance to think about that new years resolution (see #9!). I know my resolution consists of training for the Monument Avenue 10k in March! Whether it is a small resolution (remember to feed the dog everyday) or a big one (spearhead the project of redecorating the kitchen), take this holiday season to really think about what you’re thankful for, acknowledge the tasks you could do better (maybe make those your resolution!), and appreciate the activities you do well and enjoy.

In addition, with winter break being just days away, here is your chance to plan the best winter vacation ever! Decorate the tree with the family. Make cookies with friends.

The holiday season is more about giving, rather than receiving, so give the important people in your life quality attention, your favorite hobbies more time, and your biggest guilty pleasures extra indulgence. Anyways, it’s called the most wonderful time of the year for a reason!


Surviving the Road to College: Embracing Your Senior Year

5 college essays, 4 tests on Monday, 3 projects due in 2 weeks, and only twenty-four hours in 1 day… is all of that starting to sound like “The Twelve Days of Christmas” yet?
I am officially one month into my senior year, and boy, it is exhausting! Don’t get me wrong, the senior lounge food is really yummy, being allowed to wear college sweatshirts with our jeans on Fridays is an awesome privilege, and just walking around the Upper School knowing you’re a senior is pretty cool… but there is an unbelievable amount of stress, anxiety, stress, nervousness, stress, constant worry, stress, tension, and oh yeah… stress!

I never thought I’d be admitting how stressed out I am about this entire college process, but I am! However, fear not, because I am now writing straight to you to tell you exactly the ins and outs of this really fun, but really stressful time of senior year!

Don’t be too hard on yourself. I am a complete hypocrite for saying that, since I am a notorious  perfectionist, but it needs to be said! This is difficult for some people, like me, to understand, because
you need to make sure you do your very best work on anything college related. At the same time though, you should not be staying up until 1:45am on school nights doing work (oops…)!

Your college counselor is your best friend. My counselor has been my best friend from about the end of sophomore year, but starting to make nice the first month of senior year is better than never popping your head in the door at all!

My counselor always has great advice. I ask her about absolutely, positively everything. She is a very  insightful person, and is available to meet with me whenever I need her (which is about once a week), whether it’s a two minute question during break or a forty-five minute meeting after school. My counselor has been amazing in these ways (and this is a very, very limited list!):
• Helped me pick my classes for junior and senior years.
• Organized my schedule so I could take all of the classes I want, still take my elective, and get in all of my graduation requirements.
• Went over my PSAT and SAT scores with me so I knew where to focus my extra studying.
• Proof-read my resume
• Gave me feedback on my application essays.
• And very importantly, acted (and still acts!) as a life coach to me! Short story: I met with my counselor yesterday. The first thing she did was ask me why in the world I wanted to meet with her on a Friday after school!

The second thing she did was even more amazing- I had brought two folders, filled with applications, my resume, essay ideas, transcript request forms, and about six sticky notes of questions, with me to our meeting.

Within two minutes of me entering her office, she took the folders out of my hands and told me she wasn’t giving them back to me for the entire weekend…

I am supposed to get rest, focus on my schoolwork, and spend time with my family. I am specifically not allowed to do anything college related; she even had to proof a list I was taking home, making sure there wasn’t anything on it I could potentially do! Like I said, your college counselor is your best friend!

Please still study and do your homework! It’s first semester, and “senioritis” is not allowed until at least the beginning of second semester! Your teachers will thank you, your parents will be happy, and you will still be up for the Honor Roll, Headmaster’s List, and year end awards. Do note: colleges, if you’re applying early decision and/or early action, do not see your first semester grades. However, even after you are accepted, they will be sent to the college so they can see your progress. This is especially important if you get deferred*, for the college will specifically request to see your first semester grades in order for them to make a decision. Obviously, for regular decision applicants, the colleges will see your first semester grades, so it would probably be very smart to keep those grades up!

*Deferred: An applicant may get deferred when they apply early decision (binding) or early action (non-binding) to a school. This means that your application is then put into the regular decision pile. The college wants to find out a little bit more about you and your academic past, which would include the first semester grades of your senior year.

Your senior year is not the time to misbehave and/or get in trouble. Firstly, you have teachers writing you
recommendations, and the last thing you want is to not do your homework a couple of times and leave them with the idea that you don’t work to your fullest potential. Secondly, this is senior year, your last year
in high school. You want to leave a good impression, a positive imprint, or even, dare we say, a legacy, of yourself at your school once you graduate. Do you really want to go in front of the Honor Council, because you were too lazy to start your paper earlier and decided to plagiarize? What about being remembered for
getting suspended your senior year because you did something senseless and silly? I know I would much rather be remembered as “most likely to succeed” instead of “class clown!”

Give your family some attention. Yes, sitting on the couch watching TV after an exhausting week of school may sound tempting, but what about your dad, who is outside cutting the lawn by himself? And your mom, who packs your lunch when you’re running late and makes you a smoothie for breakfast when she knows you had a late night of studying? And your brother, who comes in your room just to flop on your bed and tell you about his day or his awesome play at practice? And, last but certainly not least, your cat who

sits in your lap while you’re at the kitchen table and your dog who watches you pull out of the driveway every morning when you head to school?

Cherish these moments; thank your parents for coming to your game or for picking up some art supplies when you just realized you have a project due tomorrow. They won’t be around you everyday for much longer, so appreciate the time you get to spend together.

Finally, don’t forget to have some fun! Besides trying your best to STAND OUT to colleges (remember that from the June issue anyone?) and write some killer essays, senior year is really about creating some of those final childhood memories… even though oldies like me, who turned eighteen before school started, are technically no longer children! Go to the basketball games, join some new clubs even though you’re a senior, get to know your teachers on a personal level, go to Homecoming, make new friends, and try any and everything!  This year is your last shot, so go all out.

You may have 5 core classes, 4 more weeks of fall sports practices, 3 tests tomorrow, and 2 songs you  have to perform with your chorus next week, but you only have 1 senior year. As my high school career begins to close, an even bigger chapter will begin to open. I look forward to everything college has in store for me- new friends, study abroad, internships, sororities, college-level sports, living in a new state, influential professors, studying journalism, tons of clubs to join, and every other amazing experience that
will come my way that isn’t even in my playbook yet!

However, that change is months away, and right now I am focused on one thing enjoying my senior year, living it to the fullest, and taking every opportunity I have. I think I’m even going to join a new club next  week (you can never stop building that resume guys!)!

I was on Facebook a few weeks ago, and a friend of mine had posted a status that I feel really relates to this important time in my, and every other senior’s, life:

“Today is life- the only life you are sure of. Make the most of today. Get interested in something. Shake yourself awake. Develop a hobby. Let the winds of enthusiasm sweep through you. Live today with gusto.”

I neither know who said this quote, nor where my friend got it, but I feel like it is very relatable to this stage in our lives.

Though I am not closing the high school chapter yet, I am closing the chapter of my Surviving the Road to
College series here. I hope I have inspired you, and I hope I’ve given you some worthwhile advice! All I can say is, really take the time to explore what college is right for you, send thank you notes after visits, use your summers wisely, always look to build your resume, realize that your college counselor is your best friend, and never, ever forget to STAND OUT!

Follow Robious Corridor Magazine on Facebook, and two months from now, I can give away where I will be attending college! (But of course, check us out everyday until then for more awesome updates from the editorial staff)!


Surviving the Road to College: Finding the Best University for Y-O-U

As summer is coming to a close, the reality of going back to school is really starting to hit. If you’re a rising senior, like me, this reality is hitting HARD. Today I have the application for my favorite school in hand (actually 4 copies of the application, thanks to my wonderful Dad!) and I’m beginning to count down the days until the early decision deadline… which is less than 3 months away! Thankfully, due to the major I’m interested in and the specific size and other details I am looking for in a college, one university came knocking a long time ago that I have secretly known all along would always be my calling… as long as I get accepted! If you don’t fall into the small group of people interested in early decision (which is 100% okay!), you may still be searching for that perfect match, that “this is where I belong” feeling, or that one building or professor or cool person that makes your decision click. So, in honor of the back-to-school season and those fast approaching deadlines, here is my gift to you – a complete run down on how to find the university that best fits Y-O-U!

For most of us, unless you’re planning on going straight to culinary school or some other similar institution, you have two options: a traditional education or a liberal arts education.

Liberal Arts

Liberal arts schools are growing and continue to be praised for their large amount (usually around 1/3 of your total college credits) of general education classes. Unless you already know that you want to be an engineer or a doctor, liberal arts schools are great because they can help you discover what you are truly interested in. Even if you go into your freshman year with a major in mind (the largest major for college freshmen is “undecided”), these schools are known for opening your eyes so wide you may switch that major, possibly even twice!

Liberal arts schools tend to focus on the extra experiences outside of the classroom that create a well-rounded student, such as internships and studying abroad. If you have dreamed of riding elephants in Thailand or walking down the Champs-Elysees with a nutella and banana crepe in hand, studying abroad would probably be very important to you. Liberal arts institutions have a higher rate of students who study abroad during their time at the university (at some schools, 70% of students study abroad at least once before they graduate!). You may be thinking, “Wow, how do all of these students manage to study abroad?” Some liberal arts universities have gone so far as to put into place a format for their school called the 4/1/4 (instead of the 2 semester system). This format has a fall term and a spring term while also having a January or May term. This term lets students participate in off-the-wall classes such as examining the success, from a business standpoint, of NASCAR, and also allows for short 3-4 week study abroad experiences and short internships.

When thinking about a liberal arts institution, take into consideration the cost and the size of the school. These schools generally tend to be private schools, meaning that they are not funded by the state, so they cannot offer in-state tuition. Besides not offering in-state tuition, the tuition in general tends to be higher. On the upside, the schools usually are smaller schools, for example, a few thousand students versus tens of thousands. A smaller school means smaller class sizes and professors who actually know your name. Though the athletic scene may be smaller at some of these schools, for many students, having your professor invite your entire class over for dinner at their house is a neat exchange.


After hearing all of those interesting facts and cool perks, you may already have your mind made up. However, a traditional education is just as awesome!
Traditional universities are not known to have a long list of general education requirements like liberal arts schools. If you are 100% set on your major, hearing this may want to make you jump up and down! No general education requirements typically mean that when you get to college, you can jump into that major you have been dying to explore. However, if you are undecided, that may sound a little scary. Academic advising is available and with the help of a professor and some research on your own, you may just have to do a little extra searching before school starts to find out what you may be interested in for a career. From the college searching I have done, I feel that traditional colleges are generally more focused on the classic areas of study, such as engineering, medicine, business, and law, as compared to the more liberal paths of study, such as psychology, teaching, communications, and world languages.

Traditional universities usually don’t place quite as much emphasis on study abroad and internships as liberal arts schools do. But these options are still around and are plentiful especially in certain majors and depending on how strong the alumni connection is with the university.

Since traditional schools generally are bigger state schools, the price is usually lower than liberal arts institutions. State schools also offer the less expensive in-state tuition, too. If you are worrying about the big size (since most state schools are generally those big football schools with anywhere from 16,000 to 56,000 students), do not worry, because there are many traditional schools that are smaller. The perks of going to a large traditional school tend to evolve around two words: school spirit. Whether it is the crazy college town connected with the university, the ESPN televised football and basketball games, or that every student seems to always have at least one piece of school colored apparel on, it can all be very alluring.

The Right Choice

No matter where you end up, whether it is at a small liberal arts school or a large traditional university, that school is bound to be a good fit. As long as they have the major you are truly interested in and you are happy with your classes, the people you are meeting, and all of the activities you are participating in, there ultimately is no way to accidentally choose the “wrong” college. All of this hunting and sorting and finding is about choosing what fits you best, personally, whether you feel at home with 1,200 or 48,000 other people. Happy searching!


Surviving the Road to College: Building Your Resume

When you’re not out visiting colleges, being at home during the summer months is the best opportunity for building your resume and making yourself a more marketable college applicant.Colleges today are not looking for average people. They want to see you up and moving, trying new things, being adventurous,
and testing the waters. As a result from these experiences, they hope that you have grown into a more
confident, interesting, and unique person, who would be a great asset to their university. Ultimately, you
need to stand out. As defined by the overly used dictionary on my laptop, stand out means to “project from
the surface, be easily noticeable, be clearly better or more significant than someone or something”.

So, yes, just like it sounds, colleges want you to… STAND OUT.
What is a Resume Anyways?

A resume is your long list of “Awesomeness” that you type up nicely to look fancy and official for the college admissions officers. You put just about your entire life story of high school on your resume, from your freshman year to today (or the most recent moment before you attach it with your application and send it in). Your “entire life story of high school” includes, (but is definitely not limited to!), the following:

• Sports- how many years you have played, leadership roles, and any awards
• Performing Arts- how many shows you have done, solo singing parts, leadership or standout roles, and any awards
• Visual Arts – how many years of study you have completed and any awards
• Volunteering- how many years and hours, your role and responsibilities, and any awards
• Academic awards and other honors
• Job Experience
• Clubs and extracurricular activities inside school
• How you spend your time outside of school- if you’re on a travel soccer team, dance five days a week,
participate in youth group, or are involved in boy or girl scouts, say so!

• Anything Unique- did you win the Pie-Making Contest at the town fair? Have you participated in pageants?
Are you SCUBA certified? Have you visited eight different countries? Did you study for six weeks at Boston
University? Do you enjoy running half marathons? Did you conduct field work in Africa last summer?
Anything unique that would separate you from everyone else is critical and important information. You’re trying to stand out, remember? (Funny how the words, STAND OUT, keep showing up!)

The Summer Before Your Senior Year

The summer before your senior year is absolutely crucial. There have been application questions and essays in previous years that have straight up asked “What did you do last summer?” If you’re freaking out reading that last sentence, then this article has now become extra, extra important to you! If you haven’t been out building your “Awesomeness” for your resume these past two summers, and you’re a rising senior, now is your chance to shine!

So How Do You Build Your Resume?

Right now, you have your entire summer in front of you. Here are your two options:

• Relaxing on a lounge chair by the pool doing absolutely nothing.
• Creating a bigger, better, more awesome you by getting involved and trying new things!

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that you’ve been stuck in school for the last nine months, having your brain fried like an overcooked chocolate chip pancake, and that summer is your
chance to turn your brain off, and let it melt to mush like a slushy in the ninety degree Richmond humidity.
However, is that the best option?  Even if you’re thinking yes, the answer is actually no! So, we’ll go with choice number two. Here are some local ideas for building your resume this summer:

• Get a job- yes, the beginning of June may be a little late to start job hunting, but it never hurts! Even if
the job is not your dream job, the entire point of getting one is to gain the experience, meet new people,
make some money, and of course, build your resume.
• Volunteer- organizations always need help and are usually more than willing to accept teenagers with open arms. Some of my favorite local (Richmond) organizations include Habitat for Humanity, Special
Olympics, and Comfort Zone Camps. Though, there are many, many, many other amazing organizations in the area too.
• Summer School- this idea looks absolutely horrible at first glance, but is actually full of creative, stimulating learning opportunities. Schools such as the University of Richmond and Virginia Commonwealth University have an abundance of summer classes available to teenagers. You can study journalism, fashion, a new language, math, science… you name it! Summer classes are your opportunity for staying engaged outside of the usual classroom, and opening yourself up to a whole new interest.

Here are some farther distance ideas for building your resume this summer:

• Leadership Programs- I absolutely, positively love attending leadership programs. They can be for a long
time (six or eight weeks!) or even just a weekend. These programs enable you to meet a wide variety
of new people, while gaining a new perspective on life, your future, and even your own self! Don’t ask me how many times I have googled “summer programs for high school students.” There are plenty out there, with all different focuses, that are sure to satisfy any high school student!
• Worldwide Community Service there are hundreds of organizations out there, (yes, I have searched them
up on Google!) that enable high school students to travel the country, and even the globe, volunteering
for different organizations and local peoples. Habitat for Humanity offers their Global Village building
opportunity, while other companies let students ride elephants in Thailand and surf in Belize, all the
while serving others.
• Summer Programs and Plain Ole Camps- whether you study creative writing or criminal justice, or splash into a lake from a tree or roast s’mores by a campfire, these adventures for high school students are opportunities for major growth. There are thousands of traditional camps, as well as all kinds of programs
held at universities across the country, that enable teenagers to have these life changing experiences!

Your Senior Year

At my school at least, your senior year is not only known to be the most fun year, but
also the hardest and most stressful year of your life. Even in your senior year, no matter those stress levels, it is still important to stay involved in school and extracurricular activities. If you haven’t gotten involved already, here are some ideas for building your resume your senior year:

• Join a club (or two or three!)- especially at a bigger school, getting involved in clubs is a great way to
meet new people. You’re able to take part in something you really like, and gain new friends and new experiences!

• Participate in sports- I know not all schools have “no cut” policies, so playing a sport might not be an
option at all schools. However, even managing a team can still get you involved with that sport, allowing you to become a part of the team even if you are the one sitting on the sidelines keeping score.

• Performing Arts- whether you think you are secretly destined for the spotlight or think you have the eye for
creating the perfect lighting effects, there are usually more than enough opportunities for participating in
theater, on or off the stage.

When you lay them all out, there really are so many options to build yourself a wonderful resume! However, the important thing to remember is that colleges want quality over quantity. Getting involved in a ton of different areas is definitely great, but colleges want to see commitment. For example, it looks better to be involved in three clubs, where you may be President of one, Secretary of another, and an average member of the third, rather than be a member of ten clubs, where you hold no leadership positions and don’t seem to do much. But other than remembering that old saying (the quality over quantity thing!), I hope that you feel prepared and energized to enter this summer with confidence.

The school year is finally coming to a close, and the light at the end of the tunnel (also known as summer!) is right at our fingertips. In response to that wonderful feeling of accomplishment, identified as “I actually completed my junior year!”, I will definitely be chilling on my lounge chair this summer. However it might be with my required reading or a draft of my next article. So, soak up that sun… while making smart choices. You’ll feel good, gain new experiences, build your resume, and, oh yeah, STAND OUT!


Surviving the Road to College: Campus Visits

Visiting colleges is like trying on clothes. You pick a ton of different pieces you like, and then go to the dressing room to see how they fit. There may be a few choices you immediately don’t like, a couple you think are okay, and one or two items that you absolutely love. You might decide to buy a new t-shirt because it’s on sale, while you can’t splurge on the latest maxi dress because it’s a little out of your budget. Similarly, when visiting colleges, its all about finding what fits you best, what feels the most comfortable, and what makes you the happiest.

Decisions, Decisions:

Once you’ve made a list of the colleges that are of interest to you, it’s time to figure out when is the best time to schedule your visit.

Fall: The fall is a great time to attend open houses, talk with new freshmen, catch a football game, and see the campus in full swing. Admissions departments often rave about the beauty of their campus in the fall; visiting is a perfect opportunity to go find out if they’re for real!

Winter: The coldest months of the year, more often than not, are the least popular time to visit colleges. The percentage of a freezing walk outside and a grey, unpleasant sky are high, and especially for a first impression visit, that’s not what prospective students usually want to see. During the winter, schools are closed a lot because of the many holidays, but when they are open, there is a chance that there would be less people on your tour because it’s not, say, springtime (I don’t know from experience though). However, those months are still a great opportunity for a visit, because any visit is better than no visit at all! Especially if the school is close and you can easily go back in the spring on a sunnier and warmer day, a winter visit can be a quick and easy analysis of the school.

Spring: Similar to the fall, spring is also a popular time of year for visiting colleges. The weather is usually very nice, which allows for visitors to see the campus looking beautiful. Visiting in the spring can be even more beneficial for juniors. You can take in the beauty of the campus, get to know the people and the atmosphere, and still not feel totally time crunched by application due dates.

Summer: The summertime is a very flexible time of year to visit colleges. With so much time off from school, the summer months are an especially great option for visiting far away schools. The only downfall to visiting in the summer is that there will be almost no action on campus- there will be no students, probably not any teachers, and no classes to visit.

Set It Up:

Once you have decided where and when you will visit, you need to set up your visit. Here are some things to look into when setting everything up:

Go to the college’s website, and mostly likely under admissions, you will find information regarding campus visits. There will be a calendar of available days that the college has open for admissions talks and tours (this does not guarantee you will get a space on that day; tours do fill up!). Make sure the dates and times (especially if you’re going to squeeze two colleges into one day) coordinate with your schedule. Colleges usually like to know you are coming to visit at least two weeks before your scheduled visit. This will give them time to confirm your visit and send you exciting and interesting information that you can read before you arrive.

There will be a form for you to fill out or a number to call to set up your visit with that college. If they give you the option to sign up for an admissions talk in addition to the tour, it is always a good idea to check that box. The talk will allow you to meet with the admissions department of the university and talk about important information such as deadlines and financial aid.

Get the address, map, and location information for where your tour will begin. You don’t want to be running around campus ten minutes before your tour trying to figure out the name of the welcome building you forgot to write down! Also, some universities will give you a printable parking voucher; don’t forget to print it and put it in the car.

Depending on availability and time of year, some universities allow you to meet with a department head if you are strongly looking at a college for one of its majors or schools. Also, if you are looking at a college in hopes of playing one of their varsity sports, there is a possibility that you can meet with that coach.

The Visit:
Here are some pointers to consider on the day of your visit:

-Arrive early. This will allow for you to be relaxed, happy, and in a good mindset about the day and the college.
-Shake hands and be on your “A Game” with good manners. Whether it be the college’s student tour leaders, admissions officers, or the greeter at the door, they will remember you!

-Dress nicely. I’m not saying jeans are bad (sweatpants are probably not a good idea though…), but a nice sundress or polo shirt never hurt!

-Be attentive. Ask thoughtful questions. Engage in conversation. Take it all in. That school could be your future!

-Go around and thank everyone (yes, everyone)! This includes the student(s) that led your tour, the admissions officer that led the talk, and the greeter that welcomed you with a warm smile.

In Addition to the Visit:

-Meet with a department head.

-Meet with a coach.

-Have a personal, private meeting with an admissions councilor.

-Interview. An interview is not offered at most schools. However, more selective schools highly encourage an interview. You will be able to find interview information under “Admissions” on the school’s website or by emailing or talking to an admissions representative.

-Check out the school store. Buy a sweatshirt or hat if you liked the school. I definitely have a collection of about eight college t-shirts now!

-Eat in the cafeteria. I have found that some college food really isn’t as bad as books and movies portray it!

-Meet up with a friend, old classmate, or old teammate (even if you don’t know them that well!) to talk about their experience at the school so far. In the cafeteria, I ran into one of my old teammates. She came over and talked to my parents and me, walked us around campus, told us how she has liked the school so far, shared stories that would only come from students, and showed us her dorm.

-Do an overnight visit. Most colleges offer the overnight visiting option. They will pair you up with someone that matches your interests, or you can stay with an older friend. However, if staying with a friend, make sure you still notify the school that you are coming. By notifying the school, this will put another “tally” by your name to count as another visit to the school in your admissions file. An overnight visit will allow you to experience the school straight through a student’s eye, and not as a visitor.

After the Visit:

-Keep all of the information you received. You will most likely want to look back on it and compare it with other school’s information come application time.

And if you really want to be impressive…

-Write a thank you note to the admissions officer and your tour guide(s). Remember their names and be personal about your visiting experience. They will remember you even more, and your nice letter has a good chance of going in your student file (brownie points!).

Visiting campus is one of the most crucial actions you can make when trying to discover what college suits you and your personality best. Visiting colleges is like trying on clothes… but you can’t return your college for a store credit! Take advantage of visiting, visit multiple times, and take it seriously, but don’t forget to have fun with it. Exploring your future is an exciting time!

Continue following me in June as I navigate through another SAT, more college visits, and the rest of the application process.


Surviving the Road to College: One Seventeen-year-old Girl’s Perspective on Everything from the First Visit to the Final Letter of Intent

I have always dreamed about going away to college. Hearing about the friends, activities, football games,
sororities, and parties just made me that much more excited as I sailed through my middle school years and onto high school.

Now though, being halfway through my junior year in high school, the idea of actually going away to college
is really starting to hit me. Sure, I fantasized about going to Stanford University when I was twelve, but what I didn’t realize as a young sixth-grader was all the important information I have to think about now. The transcript, standardized tests, my grade point average (GPA); even my hobbies, whether it be cooking or dancing, are important on a college application nowadays!

Today, I am beginning part one of a yearlong series on the college search process. This first article is going
to be a general overview of college, and a little bit about what I will be covering in the months to come. I am not a typical high school junior. In my free time, I enjoy avidly looking at college websites, pouring over the brochures I’ve received, and visiting sites such as The Princeton Review and The College Board. I will expand and talk more about these easy to use, free, and very helpful tools down the road.

Here are the main topics of what I will be covering in those future issues. The topics are aimed to help all of you applicants, parents of applications, and future parents and applicants through the college process, as I experience it right now too.

The College Process: What You Need to Know Now

Everything Academic: Applying  to college is first and foremost about your grades, transcript, the classes you’ve taken, and your GPA. Depending on these grades, a school’s academic caliber can give you an immediate indication as to whether you would be a good fit for that college or not.

Standardized Tests: You have 3 choices: To take the SAT, to take the ACT, or to take both. The SAT
and ACT are equally challenging and will both get you into college. However, they are graded differently
and have different components.

School and Non-School Activities: Colleges don’t just want to see a stellar academic record these days.
They are also intrigued by what you do outside of the classroom, and even outside of the school community. Do you play volleyball? For how many years have you played? Have you ever been a captain? Do you play the flute? Are you part of the marching band? Have you ever gotten a solo?  Are you a part of your youth group at church? Do you have a job or internship? Colleges want to know all about you and everything you love to do.

Community Service: Many colleges love for their school to help the greater community. So, they want to
see you already helping your local community!

The Summer: Summer is supposed to be a time for relaxing, kicking back by the pool, and doing nothing
academic whatsoever, right? Wrong! Colleges want to see you up on your feet whether you’re working a
job, taking classes at a local college, studying in Italy, or volunteering in Africa. Summers are no longer for
wasting away, my friends!

Visiting Campus: Visiting campus is one of the most crucial actions you can make when trying to discover
what college suits you and your personality best. Do the people seem friendly? Do the academics sound
challenging and interesting? Does the campus feel like a place you would like to be?

Meetings, Interviews, and all that stuff in between: Is a representative from a college coming in for a lunch
meeting at school? Are you thinking about going to visit that college? Do you even just sort of like the school? Go to these meetings! By attending, this will put you in the college’s database so they know you’re
interested and can have you on file. This is your opportunity, without having to go all the way to the college for a visit, to find out general information about the school, sign up for their mailing list, and talk with the representative personally.

Financial Aid: Financial aid is the topic parents know they need to read. Can your family afford this school? What types of packages are available? Are you a student who excels in the classroom or on the athletic field? You may be up for a potential scholarship. The subject of financial aid involves discussing what
the definition of financial aid is, how to apply for it, and what types of packages are available.

Applying: This is where everything above comes together. You’ve visited the school at least once. You’ve
talked with representatives and sat in informational meetings. You’ve printed out the financial aid papers.
You’ve had a productive summer. You’ve worked really hard at your GPA. Applying is when you’re rolling the giant package called yourself into action and giving it, in the form of an application, to the colleges you wish to apply to.

Signing that Letter of Intent: You’ve gotten your “Congratulations on your acceptance to…” letter in the mail, jumped for joy, put your acceptance as your Facebook status, and if you’re like me, have definitely cried tears of happiness and relief. Now, which school should you pick? Is there anything you can do to make the decision easier if you can’t decide? In the end, you will be able to decide, and there are plenty of options out there that can help you make that decision.

Continue following me on my “Road to College” in April, as I break down and discuss the details of campus


Santa’s Newest Christmas Wonderland: Richmond!

Winter is known to be the most wonderful time of the year, and it seems as though Richmond is ahead of the game in striving to make it the most Christmas-filled city around! Christmas is a big deal in Richmond. Opportunities for gift-wrapping jobs, volunteering as a stand-in Santa, and ringing jingle bells for charity abound. There are so many activities, yet so little time. But, what are all of these activities? Let me tell you all about it. So get on your wool coat, slip on those boots, pull on that hat, and get ready to go!

Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens’ “GardenFest of Lights”:
When: November 26th, 2010- January 10th, 2011
Cost: Adults $10, Children (3-12) $6, Children under 3 free (general admissions costs)
Contact: www.lewisginter.org or 804-262-9887

Why it’s awesome:

GardenFest of Lights is one of Richmond’s top holiday traditions, lighting up the Lewis Ginter gardens during the holidays since 1995. Not only does GardenFest use more than half a million lights, but this year they are using more LED lights than ever before. These environmentally friendly lights are totaling to about 18-20 miles worth of lights alone. GardenFest is a great activity to do with friends, a boyfriend/girlfriend, or out of town relatives, as well as children of all ages. There is a large display of model trains, dollhouses, and decorations for all ages, as well as visitations from Santa and the Fire & Ice Princess on select days for the younger kids.

The Jefferson Hotel’s Holiday Season 2010:
When: The Grand Illumination, November 29th, 2010- New Years Day, January 1st, 2011
Cost: Nothing! (*Unless you plan on eating, shopping, or staying at The Jefferson*)
Contact: www.jeffersonhotel.com or 804-788-8000

Why it’s awesome:

The Jefferson, one of the most well-known and exquisite hotels in the country, is known for its fabulous array of decorations throughout the holidays. The décor itself is worth going to have a look at, with there being a giant tree in the center of the hotel, as well as the always popular life-size gingerbread house, which is made out of real frosting and goodies!

Starting November 30th, there is live singing and instrumental music from area choirs and bands to get all into the holiday spirit. As well, as many seasoned Richmonders probably know, The Jefferson offers delicious food from a delectable menu, with extra holiday joy thrown in on special days including Christmas Eve, Christmas Day,
New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day.

The Richmond Ballet’s “The Nutcracker”:
When: Day and evening performances beginning December 10th and going until December 23rd, 2010
Cost: $15- $125 per ticket, depending on your seating preference Contact: www.richmondballet.com
or 1-800-982-2787 (specifically for tickets).

Why it’s awesome:

Seeing “The Nutcracker” is a classic staple of the holiday season. The show is completely child-friendly, with a heartwarming story line that should be cherished by people of all ages. The show becomes even more family friendly after select shows, when families can attend Clara’s Tea Party. It is a special tea party reception with favorite characters such as the Sugarplum Fairy and Clara, with opportunities for meet and greets, autographs, and pictures.

Legendary Santa at the Children’s Museum of Richmond:
When: November 26th- December 24th, 2010
Cost: No one has to pay to visit Santa! (*This does not include Children’s Museum general admission or special events such as “Sunrise with Santa”, “Sunset with Santa”, “Tea with Santa”, or purchasing photos with Santa*) Contact: www.c-mor.org or 804 474-7000

Why it’s awesome:

Legendary Santa is celebrating its 74th year in Richmond! This is definitely on the must-do list for children’s Christmas activities, where kids have the opportunity to tell Santa what they would like for Christmas, take pictures, and talk with the Snow Queen and Santa’s Elf. Special events, such as “Sunrise with Santa”, “Sunset with Santa”, and “Tea with Santa”, are even better opportunities to get your one-on-one time with Santa. These events, at an extra cost, provide fun activities for the kids
and promise less standing around and waiting in line for the parents!

Tacky Lights Tour:
When: Anytime during the holiday season, especially during the week leading up to Christmas (which is probably your best bet for the most lights and most holiday cheer!)
Cost: Besides the gas to drive your car, absolutely nothing! Purely free family fun!
Contact: www.tackylighttour.com

Why it’s awesome:

The name, Tacky Lights Tour, just sounds like a giant bunch of holiday joy, doesn’t it? Well, in fact, that is exactly what the tour is. There are tours throughout the entire area, including Chesterfield, Glen Allen, Midlothian, Henrico, Mechanicsville, and the greater Richmond region, which all have multiple displays per area. Similar to Lewis Ginter’s “GardenFest of Lights”, a tacky light tour is a great activity to do with friends and family, young and old. There isn’t any walking involved, so it is perfect for young children and older adults as well. There is no replacement for a cheerful family car ride with warm cocoa, jolly holiday tunes, and the opportunity to see tens of thousands of truly tacky Christmas lights that will put a smile on anyone’s face!