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Dr. Jane S. Gabin
Dr. Jane S. Gabin After 10 years in university admissions and another decade as a college counselor in the NY metro area, Dr. Gabin works as a researcher, writer, and independent educational consultant. She graduated from Queens College and has a PhD in English from UNC-Chapel Hill. She is a member of the National Association for College Admissions Counseling.
Q. My first year of college, ten years ago, was pretty bad – I ended up with a 1.9 GPA. Then I went into the military, and took some courses during this time. I did well, and got a B+ average. Now I want to transfer into nursing school, but with the low grades from that first year, my average is still only a 2.87. Could I simply not send that earlier transcript?
A: You are not the same person you were ten years ago. A decade in military service has given you experience, knowledge, and perspective. You are obviously more focused now, and most colleges and universities will be happy to give you another chance at earning your baccalaureate degree.
However, both the credits you may receive and the admissions decision will depend upon the institution and the program to which you apply. Even if you have a solid B+ average, I cannot guarantee that a specific nursing school will accept you. Ultimately, the ball is in their court. Here is what you ought to do:
I am a new immigrant living in New York City. I graduated from high school in Bangladesh in 2010, and now I want to apply to a college here. Is there any time limit about applying to college in the US after finishing high school?
A: Don't worry! You are in good company in New York City. A large percentage of high school graduates here are from outside the United States. The last time I taught a course at a CUNY college, 50% of my students had come from other countries, and this diversity lent a very exciting aspect to our class discussions!
It does not matter whether you graduated from high school two years ago or 20 years ago. As long as you meet the admissions requirements, you are qualified to apply. CUNY schools do have requirements. For example, applicants must have a certain number of years of mathematics, science, social studies, and so forth. You will also need to present test scores from the SAT or ACT.
My advice is to make an appointment with an admissions office staff member at your closest CUNY branch and ask if your credentials will meet the requirements. Bring not only your diploma but also your transcript or any other listing of the academic courses you took. If you do not meet all the requirements for one of the four-year CUNY colleges, you could start at one of the two-year community colleges, and then later transfer to a four-year school.
There are deadlines for applying to colleges in the U.S., and these usually range from January to March, for studies beginning the following fall season. So most schools in NYC are already fully enrolled for the fall. But you may be able to begin your studies in the spring semester, starting next January. Again, speaking to someone at a CUNY admissions office will give you this information.
New York City provides many opportunities to anyone who wishes to pursue higher education. The best of luck to you in your quest!
Q: I’m still in high school but I am wondering what I should major in. I would like to be a therapist or researcher or something along those lines I'm not sure which one. I really like helping people and definitely want to pursue this in college. But I don't know which job I specifically want to do. My question is what route should I take in college, like which majors should I go after?
A: While it’s terrific that you seem to have found a career focus, it is way too early even to think about a major. That fact that you want to work in a helping profession is highly commendable. And you can do this in more ways than you currently may think possible. Therapists come in a wide variety: psychologists, psychotherapists, physical or occupational therapists. Additionally, there are art, music, and play therapists. Activities often thought of as recreational are therapeutic in a clinical setting, such as a pediatric playroom in a hospital.
Q: My son applied to 7 colleges and was accepted at 3, waitlisted at one. He is now in a dilemma because he can't decide where to enroll, and he has to commit himself by May 1. Naturally, the school he likes best is the one where he is on the waiting list! We have visited only one of the other colleges, and he is not crazy about it. What should he do?
A: It actually sounds like your son has some good options! He has been accepted to two colleges he has not seen yet, and now is the time he ought to visit, if the distance and cost of travel are not too great.
I transferred from a public high school to a rigorous college prep school in my sophomore year. At my new school, I took Advanced Placement Calculus AB, AP World History, and Honors English. But I did poorly, getting a 3.2 GPA. Now, as a junior, I have a 4.2 GPA and am taking 3 more AP courses. Will colleges consider that I had an adjustment period when I transferred, and will this affect my chances of getting into a highly selective college?
A: I think you are actually asking three questions:
1. Is it advantageous to transfer to a private school from a public school?
2. Will colleges realize I had an adjustment period when I switched schools?
3. Despite the temporary dip in grades, will I be able to get into a highly selective college?
Q: My niece is a US citizen by birth, but grew up and attended school outside the country. Now she is graduating from high school and wants to go to college in the U.S. I need to know how to fill out the financial aid forms, using whose income and tax returns – or does she apply on her own? Please, we need some help!
A: As a U.S. citizen, your niece is entitled to apply for government student aid, and she can also be considered for other scholarships that are for U.S. citizens or green cardholders only. The process may seem daunting to you, but there is lots of assistance available.
Your first step is to complete the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) online. This document must be filed before most aid offers can be processed. Each state has a different deadline; in New York it is June 30. However, it is advisable to submit the completed application as soon as possible. Please remember that the first word in the FAFSA title is "Free"; that means there is no processing fee. You should not pay anyone to help you complete this form, nor should you pay anyone who "guarantees" that he or she can obtains scholarships for your niece.
Q: I applied to seven colleges, regular decision. There are three that I really hope I get into. The others are fine, but I’m not that excited about them. My counselor thinks I have a pretty good chance at most of them – but not the top three. And those are the ones where I most want to get accepted. I’m not going to hear anything for two months – and I worry that my applications will just get overlooked in the piles of folders. Now that everything is turned in, what else can I do to make the admissions people notice me? I’m an excellent baker – what if I sent boxes of my brownies to the admissions offices at my top choice schools? Or should I write an additional personal letter telling them how much I want to attend? Would handwritten letters make a better impression than e-mail notes? How many times do you think I ought to contact them?
A: Simply waiting is very difficult. I understand your desire to be active rather than passive at this point. You want to do something. But please resist the urge to communicate unless completely necessary. The main thing admissions readers want to receive, after an application is originally submitted, is an updated transcript. Right about now, high schools ought to be sending these to the colleges where students have applied. This is the major piece of information that will help determine the admissions decision.
Q: My daughter is a sophomore in high school. We've just begun the process of researching the college admission and selection process. Aside from providing very basic information, her school college counselors don't meet with parents or students until junior year. My daughter is a good, but not spectacular, student with no idea of what she wants to do or where she wants to go to school. To optimize her choices, I thought we might start working with a paid college consultant now. Does this make sense for us? If so, what should we be looking for in a quality counselor and where do we look?
Q: I have pretty much finished doing my Common Application and my essay. But I have left a lot of the supplements for the last minute, and the final deadline is January 1. Are these supplements really important? A lot of the questions are short. So, can I just rush through these – aren't they extra "busy work"? And what about sending Christmas cards to the admissions people – will that give me some extra points?
A: At some colleges, the supplements are even MORE important than the personal statement on the Common App. Unfortunately, many students see short questions as unimportant questions. Big mistake. When they ask, "What makes you think you are a good match for our college?" or "How did you learn about our school?" or "Why are you applying to _______ University?" they are looking to see if you actually know anything about their school! A vague answer will be a giveaway that the applicant doesn't know or does not really care.
Q: I'm applying to high school. How much does a student's high school affect college admissions? Do colleges look only at the big name NYC high schools? What chance does a senior have at one of the small high schools or a neighborhood school that colleges have never heard of?
A: We have heard the same question being asked about public vs. private schools. If I go to a private school, won't I have a better chance of getting into the University of X? And the answer is no. Depending upon which high school you choose, your experience will be different. You may be exposed to a greater variety of extra-curricular activities, or not. You may be in smaller or larger classes. It may take you 20 minutes or and hour and a half to get to school. But students at all high schools have a chance to get into their choice of colleges! Simply attending a school with a well-known name is not – by itself – an automatic guarantee of admission. This applies to all schools, public or private.