Off To College! 10 Things for Students and Parents to Think About…

Congratulations, graduates and parents!  You did it!  All that hard work paid off.  Graduation was amazing and now you and your family can turn your attention to the next big chapter in your life – heading off to college.  BUT…before you go, here are a few things to keep in mind.  Freshman year in college can be rewarding, but it can also be frustrating and maybe even a little lonely.  Think about these 10 ideas, and maybe even discuss them with your family before you go.  Being prepared by having a transition plan in place before you head off to college can save you (and your family) some headaches.

  1.  Attend freshman summer orientation.  This is your (and your parents) first opportunity to be part of the college community.  Learn about the many resources available to you, which are covered by your tuition (academic, health, mental health, clubs, etc.)  There are people at your college whose sole job is to assist students’ and families’ transition to college. Be sure to meet them! 
  2. Think about what you want to accomplish this year.  You considered reasons why the college should admit you, now it’s your turn. What do you want out of your college experience?  Academics – seek out professors and ask to do research projects.  Sports – read your emails to sign up and try out for clubs and intramurals: Get those free student tickets and go to the games! Are you interested in theater or the campus newspaper? Many colleges have over 100 clubs and activities, so SIGN UP!  Remember you will have a lot of free time in between and after classes, so fill your calendar with productive, meaningful activities.
  3. Attend the Orientation Week festivities on campus. How many ice cream socials or pizza parties can you attend?  Yes, they may seem fun or they may seem dumb, but you should go.  Attend the events which are steeped in the traditions at your school.  You will be there with everyone else who doesn’t know anyone, and it’s fine to just say, “Hey, how’s it going? Where are you from?” Voila! Instant friendships.
  4. Leave your XBox home.  You have to get out of your room to be part of your new school community.  Make it a goal each day to go out and meet at least one new person. Before long you will have a group of friends to hang out with. Read your emails to see when events are scheduled.  Sign up for stuff you like to do.  Meet people everywhere you go on campus.  Be mindful of your health – mind, body, and soul.  Fuel your brain by getting enough rest and eating well.  Take breaks from studying for physical exercise.  Keep your eyes and ears open for the many opportunities your college has to offer.
  5. GO TO CLASS! Wow, there are classes in college?  Yes, go to class.  Profs take attendance with an automated attendance tracker.  Sit in the front row of those huge lecture classes.  Your professors may not know your name but when you stop by their offices during the semester for help, they will know your face and know you attend class.  This gives you instant credibility, and maybe even the benefit of the doubt when you are .5 away from the next letter grade up at the end of the semester.
  6. Communicate with your roommate.  Who is this person sharing your 8×11 bedroom?  They may be great, but they also may be strange or worse.  Speak your mind and be clear about what’s cool and what’s not.  You have nine months to this school year, so speak up and get along as best you can.  If you are BFFs, that’s great, but if not, that’s okay, too.  There are many other kids to hang out with on campus.
  7. Keep in touch with your family. Decide when and how often you want to communicate and stick with it.  Texting each other 20 times a day won’t do anyone any good.  Mom, it’s okay to cry when you leave your baby at college.  The first two weeks are awful, but it does get better!  Students, it’s normal to feel homesick.  Be available for each other and you will get through.  The transition is a beautiful thing when it happens.  Students, stay on campus and avoid going home every weekend. Parents, stick to the communication schedule and be brave….it will get better!
  8. WARNING! Parents may be upset with this one:  Yep, alcohol, weed, and pills are on your campus.  Students, remember yourself and your purpose here.  It only takes one pill (laced with who knows what) to bring you to the hospital…or worse.  Your impaired judgement can land you in trouble, or get you expelled, so keep your wits about you. Consent for sex is a real thing. Ladies and gentlemen, you are in charge of your choices, so make good ones. Parents and students can and should talk about these issues before leaving for college.  What are your expectations? Speak up!
  9. Money, money, money, money.  Every student can have an on-campus job. Your college knows academics come first, so you CAN work 5 or 10 hours a week or more.  If you are looking for a significant amount money to finance your expenses, stop by the Financial Aid Office and check out scholarships and do the research for grants. Ask about ways to apply (and deadlines) for scholarships and grants not yet awarded. Apply to be a Resident Assistant next year to have some or all of your room and board expenses covered.  Read your emails. Your academic department will send out mass emails when it’s time to apply for scholarships and grants.
  10. Exhale when things seem overwhelming. It’s going to be OKAY!  Starting in a new school, with a new roommate, with higher academic rigor, and on and on can all add up to stress.  Just take one step at a time and remember that your entire freshman class is going through the exact things you are.  Reach out to your RA, give a call home for support, seek out tutoring help early in the semester. Whatever you need is available to you.  Take one step at a time and you will get to the other side.  Life in college can be great, but it can be frustrating at times.  Keep a positive attitude, keep your wits about you, use your resources, and don’t be afraid to reach out for help when you need it.  You can (and will) accomplish your dreams!

So there you have it:  Off to college with a transition plan and things to think about as you are settling in on your college campus in August.  Good luck to each of you and keep in touch with us!  We’d love to hear from you.

Gather 5 Friends and We Will Discuss Topics for Free

Gather at least five people – co-workers, friends, your club or professional organization!  We will discuss any topic for 30 minutes, and answer your questions.

Discussion topics…..

  • Define the characteristics of a good fit college
  • Identify personal interests and personality traits and how to use them to select colleges and career paths
  • How to develop a realistic college list, including admission probability
  • How to create a college application time line to reduce stress
  • How to make the most of your high school experience; tips to follow each year of high school
  • College essay brainstorming and creating the first draft
  • ABCs of Financial Aid and Scholarships
  • How to find the true cost of college and how to pay for it
  • How to make the most of college visits
  • Key factors colleges are looking for in your college application
  • Time management skills: How to stay on task and on schedule
  • How to study more effectively to do your best on tests
  • Summer Pre-Collegiate Experiences
  • Factors to consider when deciding where to attend college
  • Transitioning from high school to college: What to know and What to expect

Why College Application Essays Matter

girl learning person studying
Photo by Pixabay on

Why College Application Essays Matter
by Vera Murphy Trayner, Co-Founder of Veritas College Counseling

Imagine YOU are the college admissions rep at a university. You have hundreds of applications to review each week. You have to recommend to Admit…Defer…Decline. The applications you are reviewing have similar test scores, similar GPAs, and similar activities listed. What aspect of the application will set a student apart? It’s the essay.

Through the application essay, students are able to communicate directly to the college
admissions rep about who they are, what is important to them and why, what values they hold important, and what experiences they have had that has helped them grow into the young adult they are today. What skills, talents, values, interests, and experiences will this student bring to campus? How will this student build and complement our student body?

Now imagine that you are the high school senior applying to colleges. You’ve decided which colleges will be a good fit for you. The colleges have your desired program of study, are in the location where you would like to live for the next four years, have the student life options that would inspire your passions and growth, and have the students on campus who would be your friends for life and future professional contacts. The admit statistics are similar to your academic profile…plus or minus a little. It’s time to write your essay to secure your admission to the colleges of your choice.

Everyone has a story to tell. Everyone has a passion, an experience, and a unique perspective on life. How do you communicate that through the college essay? Let’s take a look at how to paint your own unique picture through your words.

  • If you have a choice, read through the essay questions and pick the question(s) that stand out to you as “easy.”
  • Take time to think about important experiences or people in your life who have changed the way you think and the way you view the world. Who is your mentor, your inspiration? What was that experience that made you stop and think?
  • Write down your ideas. Then look at your ideas and write a sentence or two about why the person was so important and how that experience changed your view? What did you learn about yourself?

You can use this outline to build your essay. Use vivid verbs, descriptive words, refer to a list of characteristics and values, and pick those that identify YOU! Speak from your heart. Take your time, leave your drafts and come back to re-read, edit, and build on your ideas. When you finish, ask a parent, teacher or counselor review your essay. Listen to their feedback and refine your work.

Your essay is a portrait of you, your values, and what you can uniquely bring to the college campus. THIS is what a college admissions rep is looking for! This is how your application will stand out from the crowd.

Vera Murphy Trayner is an Independent Educational Counselor based in Lutz. Veritas College Counseling offers individual counseling for students and parents to facilitate the college application process. Veritas also hosts workshops to highlight best practices for college search, applications and essays. Contact:; call or text 813-545-8178 or visit

Attention Seniors! Three Tips for Minimizing Stress When Applying for College


by Vera Murphy Trayner, Co-Founder of Veritas College Counseling

Welcome Back to School, seniors! This is your big year to shine. You’ve worked hard and played hard, and now it’s time to get down to the business of applying for college admissions. Once your “job” of applying to college is finished, you can relax and bask in the glory of your most memorable year.

August 1st marks the beginning of the college application season. The Common Application, the Coalition Application, and the many institutional (individual college/university) applications will be available. If you play your cards right, you can get a jump on the application process and finish strong (read: EARLY)!

Here are the Best Practice tips to help minimize yours (and your parents’) stress level. Give these ideas a try and you will be celebrating like a rock star rather than pulling your hair out on December 31!

  1. START EARLY:  Have you ever heard the phrase, “The early bird gets the worm”?  It’s never been truer than in the college application process.  State universities fill their freshman classes on a first-come, first-served basis.  Selective private colleges report a higher acceptance rate for those who apply Early Decision or Early Action.  Start working on your college applications over Labor Day weekend.  You can check college admissions’ web pages to see if their essay prompts are available NOW.
  2. ESTABLISH AND STICK TO A ROAD MAP:  Studies show that a person is more motivated and focused on a goal when a well thought out plan of action is in place to reach that goal.  Get out your calendar and write down the due dates for early action applications (or binding early decision, if you so choose). Work on ONE application at a time, and apply first to those schools highest on your interest list.  Work methodically and stick to your plan. Plan to submit all applications by Thanksgiving.
  3. STAY ORGANIZED!:  This item is key for your sanity. Keep track of the details in a binder, keeping tabs for each school, and create checklists for each required item you need to do to complete the college’s application.  Your checklist should include each college’s due dates for the admission application, financial aid and scholarship applications.  Every college will want one or more essays, your transcript, a teacher recommendation, a counselor recommendation, and a copy of your standardized tests, so begin gathering these items early. Make an appointment with a college counselor at the beginning of the school year to learn the process you will need to follow to request all of the paperwork needed. If you are applying to a specialized program, you may also be required to submit a portfolio of your work or additional recommendations.

Following these tips will give you the opportunity to reduce stress and anxiety, keep your parents’ questions to a minimum, and most importantly, to give you the peace of mind to sit back, relax, and watch the decisions roll in before you need to begin studying for finals!

Remember, your ultimate goal is to ring in 2019 with many college acceptances!

Vera Murphy Trayner is an Independent Educational Counselor based in Lutz.  Veritas College Counseling offers individual counseling for students and parents to facilitate the college application process.  Veritas also hosts workshops to highlight best practices for college search.  Contact:; call or text 813-545-8178 or visit

Summer is a great time to visit colleges!

white and blue passenger airplane aerial photography

Photo by Oleksandr Pidvalnyi on

Combine a campus visit while traveling on vacation – that way your college-ready child AND your younger children can get an idea of colleges.

Choose schools that will give you a sense of different types of colleges – big or small campuses, near a city or more rural, state university or private college…you can decide.


  • Before you go, register for your visit at the college’s admissions web page.
  • Plan to spend two hours at the college to attend the admissions overview group meeting and the walking tour of the campus.
  • Remember to take pictures to remember the school!
  • Pick up the college’s ‘viewbook’ to read later. You will learn what makes the college truly unique.

You and your child will enjoy your time AND you will both learn a lot about the school.  Most importantly, you will get a first-hand vibe of the school.

If we can assist you in any way, don’t hesitate to contact us!

Seats are still available for our “Summer Boot Camp: Get Ready for Your College Search!” the weeks of June 11-15 and July 23-27.  This one-week camp will be held on the campus of Corbett Preparatory School in Carrollwood from 3:30-5:00pm each day.  To register, go to