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4 Sites You Wish Were Around When You Were Applying To College

4 Sites You Wish Were Around When You Were Applying To College

Fzzzztt!  Sparks are flying out of my computer like it’s the 4th of July, and after a few seconds the plastic around the keyboard begins to transform into a molten soup of graphite-colored pudding.

I work with high school seniors and counselors. As my laptop spirals down into an epic – and literal – meltdown, I can’t help but wonder what this sort of catastrophe would have meant for the college applicants of the past (i.e. before the year 2000). It would have been horrendous. Fortunately, the advent of cloud-based apps solved that problem.

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But what about the basic challenges related to building a decent college list, finding essay requirements, finding scholarships, and preparing for standardized tests?

Those challenges have not gone unnoticed by the educational technology community, and thanks to the innovative work of a handful of enterprising organizations, the college application landscape is changing in spectacular, mind-blowing ways. So….without further ado, here are four college planning sites you wish were around when you were applying to college:

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1. Zoomita

This application essay management system is truly revolutionary. Zoomita’s arrival has made the hardest part of the college application process a lot more manageable- and its free.

  • What does it do? Students create a college list. Then Zoomita reveals all of the required, optional, “sometimes required”, and program-specific essays for that list. Zoomita is also a sweet document management system that organizes all essay drafts in chronological order.  The concept of a doc management system without files or folders is….awe-inspiring.
  • Why is this important? Essays are the most time-intensive, anxiety-provoking part of college apps. Zoomita cuts through all of that like a samurai sword through tissue paper.
  • Social? Students can invite anyone to review a draft, much like Google Docs. The Zoomita team is also building a crowdsourcing system with anti-plagiarism technology that will allow students to get their essay reviewed by anyone on the app.
  • Drawbacks? We really want to see the crowdsourcing stuff. Please build that already.

2. Raise.me

Microscholarships. The coolest…thing…ever. Even better, it’s free.

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  • What does it do? High school students automatically earn scholarship money for getting a good grade in a class, participating in an after-school activity, volunteering, etc. Raise.me essentially rewards students for things they are already doing, and helps incentivize students to keep up the good work. Brilliant.
  • Why is this important? The cost of college is a major roadblock for many students and families. This site lowers the price-tag for college, while incentivizing exactly the type of behavior that makes students more attractive as candidates, and helps them succeed in college. Whoever thought of this is a straight-up genius.
  • Social? Most of the app is organized around individual performance, but students can earn additional scholarship money by inviting other students to the platform.
  • Drawbacks? Hard to think of drawbacks, other than the fact that the scholarships are not actual cash in your pocket, but are deductions from the cost of attending college.

3. Khan Academy

This online course juggernaut has an entire section dedicated to standardized test prep, and another section dedicated to college admissions. There are tons of exercises and practice materials available here, free of charge.

  • What does it do? Students take classes, watch videos, and browse exercises to develop their test-taking and application-building skills.
  • Why is this important? College applications in the United States favor students with a higher socio-economic status. Khan Academy is helping to level the playing field.
  • Social? Each lesson includes a thread where students can ask questions, provide comments, vote on responses, etc.
  • Drawbacks? It’s pretty hard to complain about free, high quality test prep.

4.  Big Future (College Board)

The publisher of the SAT offers a suite of college matching, career exploration, and financial aid resources on its Big Future website, free of charge.

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  • What does it do? Students can search for schools by type, location, majors, test scores, and a variety of other factors. Students can then create their own college list from the search results. The site also includes videos and articles on a range of other application-related subjects.
  • Why is this important? Applying to college is really about finding the right match. With close to four thousand U.S. colleges to choose from, it is nearly impossible for students to find all of their potential matches without the help of college-matching apps like the one on Big Future.
  • Social? Not really.
  • Drawbacks? It would be nice if the financial aid information for each college broke down average tuition by income.

It’s amazing to see how far we’ve come in the last 10 years. Who knows what the next 10 years holds? I can’t wait to see.

Featured photo credit: COD Newsroom via flickr.com

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Last Updated on March 23, 2021

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

One of the greatest ironies of this age is that while various gadgets like smartphones and netbooks allow you to multitask, it seems that you never manage to get things done. You are caught in the busyness trap. There’s just too much work to do in one day that sometimes you end up exhausted with half-finished tasks.

The problem lies in how to keep our energy level high to ensure that you finish at least one of your most important tasks for the day. There’s just not enough hours in a day and it’s not possible to be productive the whole time.

You need more than time management. You need energy management

1. Dispel the idea that you need to be a “morning person” to be productive

How many times have you heard (or read) this advice – wake up early so that you can do all the tasks at hand. There’s nothing wrong with that advice. It’s actually reeks of good common sense – start early, finish early. The thing is that technique alone won’t work with everyone. Especially not with people who are not morning larks.

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I should know because I was once deluded with the idea that I will be more productive if I get out of bed by 6 a.m. Like most of you Lifehackers, I’m always on the lookout for productivity hacks because I have a lot of things in my plate. I’m working full time as an editor for a news agency, while at the same time tending to my side business as a content marketing strategist. I’m also a travel blogger and oh yeah, I forgot, I also have a life.

I read a lot of productivity books and blogs looking for ways to make the most of my 24 hours. Most stories on productivity stress waking up early. So I did – and I was a major failure in that department – both in waking up early and finishing early.

2. Determine your “peak hours”

Energy management begins with looking for your most productive hours in a day. Getting attuned to your body clock won’t happen instantly but there’s a way around it.

Monitor your working habits for one week and list down the time when you managed to do the most work. Take note also of what you feel during those hours – do you feel energized or lethargic? Monitor this and you will find a pattern later on.

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My experiment with being a morning lark proved that ignoring my body clock and just doing it by disciplining myself to wake up before 8 a.m. will push me to be more productive. I thought that by writing blog posts and other reports in the morning that I would be finished by noon and use my lunch break for a quick gym session. That never happened. I was sleepy, distracted and couldn’t write jack before 10 a.m.

In fact that was one experiment that I shouldn’t have tried because I should know better. After all, I’ve been writing for a living for the last 15 years, and I have observed time and again that I write more –and better – in the afternoon and in evenings after supper. I’m a night owl. I might as well, accept it and work around it.

Just recently, I was so fired up by a certain idea that – even if I’m back home tired from work – I took out my netbook, wrote and published a 600-word blog post by 11 p.m. This is a bit extreme and one of my rare outbursts of energy, but it works for me.

3. Block those high-energy hours

Once you have a sense of that high-energy time, you can then mold your schedule so that your other less important tasks will be scheduled either before or after this designated productive time.

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Block them out in your calendar and use the high-energy hours for your high priority tasks – especially those that require more of your mental energy and focus. You also need to use these hours to any task that will bring you closer to you life’s goal.

If you are a morning person, you might want to schedule most business meetings before lunch time as it’s important to keep your mind sharp and focused. But nothing is set in stone. Sometimes you have to sacrifice those productive hours to attend to other personal stuff – like if you or your family members are sick or if you have to attend your son’s graduation.

That said, just remember to keep those productive times on your calendar. You may allow for some exemptions but stick to that schedule as much as possible.

There’s no right or wrong way of using this energy management technique because everything depends on your own personal circumstances. What you need to remember is that you have to accept what works for you – and not what other productivity gurus say you should do.

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Understanding your own body clock is the key to time management. Without it, you end up exhausted chasing a never-ending cycle of tasks and frustrations.

Featured photo credit: Collin Hardy via unsplash.com

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