July 2020
Ice Cream Cone image

Colleges with Summer Weather Every Semester

Does the arrival of summer weather bring you to the sandy shores of the ocean or the lake? Do you prefer flip flops over winter boots? In New Hampshire and northern New England, our summer season is considerably shorter than other regions of the United States. Many high school students leave their home state each year for a variety of reasons: scholarships, financial aid, sports, academic programs, independence, or a college’s location. Each of these reasons are important to consider when choosing a college or university, but if a beachy campus with warm weather is a factor, how do you find the right one? Visiting campus often gives students an idea if the school is right for them ‑ touring a residence hall or the quad might make you say, “I love it here!” or “On to the next!” For campuses far from home and the pandemic preventing visits in person, the best way to get a feel for a college or university is to go on a virtual tour. Interested in seeing colleges in southern California or South Carolina? Although a plane ride might not be an option, virtual tours allow you to see the same sites and locations as an in-person tour. Check out the college’s admissions webpage to find their virtual tour, or use Campus Tours to check out a variety of colleges in one place.

As you begin to look for colleges and consider where you might apply, let us help you! The counselors at the Center for College Planning are interested in hearing about your passions and dreams! In college preparation appointments, we can create a college list and discuss your options. To schedule a free appointment, call us at 888.747.2382, ext. 119.

Understanding Fit Image

Understanding “Fit”

In the United States, there are over 4,000 colleges and universities. That’s a pretty big number. Although this number might be intimidating, it also tells students that with the variety of colleges and universities there is likely a school for every learner. So what does it mean to find the school for you? How do you know “it’s the one?” Here are the three major categories to consider when choosing your perfect match:

  1. Academics. This is a big factor. At the core of your college experience will be your academic program, or your major. You do not need to declare a major on day one, but think about the learning opportunities you would like to experience. Academics reach beyond the content of a course, for example: Do you thrive in large lecture halls or small seminars? Do you like hands-on learning or writing research papers? When thinking about your “perfect fit,” the academics of a college or university are critical and it is important to feel challenged, yet supported. Check out professor reviews, academic catalogs, and the webpages of individual majors to get a taste for academic life on campus. Many colleges and universities are also hosting virtual student panel sessions ‑ attend these if offered! This allows you to network with current students and ask the questions admission representatives may not be able to answer.
  2. Campus life. Each school has its own, individual vibe. Some schools cheer on the football team each weekend where others praise the school’s orchestra. Although academics are at the core of your career as a college student, your experiences on campus outside of the classroom are equally as important. Think about the type of experience you would like to have ‑ maybe it’s trying out for the acapella group or maybe it’s volunteering for community service projects. Finding campuses that offer your interests, inside and outside the classroom, is an important step to finding the right fit.
  3. Cost and financial aid. Earning a college degree is expensive. Although many students realize the high cost of higher education, they tend to forget that cost is a major factor in the conversation on “fit.” Financial aid is available ‑ oftentimes through grants and scholarships which means no repayment ‑ but it is rare to see a student’s education covered entirely by free money. Be realistic about what is affordable for you and have a candid conversation about paying for college. Although you should not cross your dream school off your college list because of cost, have a plan in place for how you will afford your degree. Maybe that means studying on the weekend to boost your GPA and SAT or ACT score for scholarship money, or maybe it means looking for a part-time job to pay for books. Also, look into the school’s data for job placement after graduation; higher rates of employment after graduation means that you will be more likely to pay any college loans.

Common App Image

How the Pandemic Has Changed the Common App

The Common App will open on August 1. This form is used by over 800 colleges and universities — public and private, large and small, highly selective and somewhat selective. Schools on the East Coast, the West Coast, with some international schools, and every region in between. To use the Common App, participating schools agree to approach admissions holistically. This means their application must have quantitative information, like grades and test scores, as well as qualitative items like essays, interviews, recommendations, and optional short answer questions about the student’s circumstances.

Many students are familiar with the college essay as a critical component to the Common App, which asks students to write about their identity and experiences. Given the COVID-19 pandemic, officials expect many students will consider writing their college essays on the coronavirus. Although there is no right or wrong topic for the college essay, know that the Common App will be adding an official question to the application that allows students to describe how the pandemic has impacted them and their families. Here’s how the question will read on the Common App:

Community disruptions such as COVID-19 and natural disasters can have deep and long-lasting impacts. If you need it, this space is yours to describe those impacts. Colleges care about the effects on your health and well-being, safety, family circumstances, future plans, and education, including access to reliable technology and quiet study spaces.

  • Do you wish to share anything on this topic? Y/N
  • Please use this space to describe how these events have impacted you.

Found in the “Additional Information” section of the Common App, it is not a requirement to answer this question, but if you choose to, you will have 250 words to respond. The COVID-19 question accompanies a second “Additional Information” question that allows students to discuss circumstances that were not disclosed earlier in the application. Students have 650 words to answer this question, but again, it is not a requirement. For more information, check out the Common App’s blog post on the addition of the COVID-19 question. We also recommend checking out the Common App’s Application Guide for First Time Students and NHHEAF’s webpage on Applying to College. Both websites will guide you through the Common App and how to begin the process!

Science icon

Major spotlight ‑ Physical Sciences

In popular culture, we are familiar with the physical scientist as a mad scientist-like figure writing complex equations on a window or hunching over a table with beakers and test tubes. The major similarity between what we see in film and real life is that students majoring in physical sciences have the opportunity to change the world; well at least how we understand its physical structure. This month, we spoke to Isabel Bogacz from Tilton, NH who is one of these students changing the world through science. Isabel graduated with her bachelor’s degree from St. Lawrence University in 2017 and is now a Ph.D. candidate at the University of California Berkeley in Physical Chemistry. Here is Isabel’s advice for women in science, students interested in the physical sciences, and words of wisdom for students beginning the college search process:

The Center for College Planning: What is the most exciting aspect of learning about physical sciences?

Isabel Bogacz: When I first began college I thought I wanted to major in Biology, as I really enjoyed that in high school. However, when I started classes at St. Lawrence University I really fell in love with chemistry and physics. Problems in chemistry always felt like a puzzle to me. Each class I take I learn some more tools to help me solve bigger and more complex problems. I loved that throughout college each class I took built on the one before.

CCP: What can students expect from coursework in the physical sciences?

IB: Coursework in physical sciences is intensive and broad. Typically, a significant amount of math courses is required. Even courses that aren’t based in a mathematics department will be mostly math based. Many higher-level classes require regular use of calculus, trig, and algebra. However, you don’t need to be a math genius to do well. Generally speaking, once you learn the necessary tools the harder part becomes the science behind the math. Math is more of a tool that helps you arrive at a certain answer, and typically the math used is pretty well defined. However, if you progress to a higher level there are many chances to integrate a love of math or computer science with physical science. Another side of learning in the physical sciences is a lot of lab courses. This is great for hands-on learners. These classes add a significant amount of hours to your class schedule but are typically where concepts are cemented.

CCP: What advice do you have for women interested in pursuing a degree and career in the physical sciences?

IB: It is extremely important that women pursue STEM degrees. The field is rapidly changing to become more inclusive but there is still a long way to go. We need more diversity in science not only with respect to gender, but race, socio-economic background, age, sexual orientation and more. It can sometimes be hard to be the only woman in on a project or in a class. However, good mentors and friends will help you through anything. There is no one piece of advice that I’d give to women interested in pursuing a degree and career in the physical sciences. It is important that you realize that your journey will be different than anyone else’s. It may be longer, shorter, harder or easier but that’s okay. I think it’s mostly important to remember that as long as you are doing your best that’s all you can control. Additionally, as I said above, find a mentor and things will be easier.

CCP: How important is research to an undergraduate student’s college experience?

IB: Research during undergraduate is the single most important part of your college experience. You can be an absolute perfect student with perfect grades and still be denied from graduate/professional programs for not having research experience. Of particular importance are summer research opportunities, most of which are fully funded and offer room and board. Even if you don’t have plans to get an advanced degree, undergraduate research is beneficial in many other ways. Research is a way to apply what you learn, develop problem solving skills, and learn how to ask important scientific questions. Research is how you take science out of the classroom and into the real world.

CCP: What skills, outside of academics (e.g. math and science) do students learn as a physical science major?

IB: Physical science degrees give you so much more than mastery of applied calculus or the periodic table. I think the most relevant is problem-solving skills. People often go on from degrees in STEM to fields like business, law, and consulting. This degree will teach you how to look at a variety of clues and draw conclusions. This may sound simple in theory but in practice it is often very, very hard. Other skills you’ll learn are time management, sorting through large amounts of info to find the important things, and critical thinking.

CCP: What advice do you have for high school students beginning the college search process?

IB: The most important suggestions I have for students looking at colleges is to follow your gut, look for scholarships, and find places where you get outside of the classroom opportunities. Classes are great and you’ll learn a lot, but finding a school where you’ll have the opportunity to work directly with experts in your field, and learn in a collaborative environment is the key to becoming the best scientist you can be.

Summer Book Club image

Summer Book Club ‑ July’s Recommendation

Embarking on the college journey is the perfect time for self-reflection and introspection. If you’re considering what you’ll study in college or what you might do after graduating high school, check out the book, The Crossroads of Should and Must: Find and Follow Your Passion, by Elle Luna. This book addresses two paths that we encounter in our lives: what we feel we should do versus what we feel we must do. For Luna, choosing what we must do ‑ our passion ‑ over what we should do ‑ what we feel others want us to do ‑ is scary but necessary. This book will help you to reflect on what you feel you must do after high school graduation and might give you the inspiration you’ve been looking for.


The Lincoln Forum’s Platt Family Scholarship Prize Essay Contest encourages full-time college students enrolled in an American college or university to reflect on Abraham Lincoln and his role in the United States’ history. This year students are asked to respond to this question: As America commemorates the 100th anniversary of women's suffrage, discuss how women, who could not vote in 1860, nevertheless exerted influence on the era of Abraham Lincoln. The deadline for submission is July 31.