The College Workout

College Spotlight: The Colleges of the Lehigh Valley

Amy Jasper Tuesday, May 10, 2016

In early April I participated in the Lehigh Valley Association of Independent Colleges (LVAIC) Counselor Tour. LVAIC is a consortium of six unique colleges and universities within the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania. They collaborate on various opportunities for students and faculty including class cross registration. This area of Pennsylvania was once best known for the Bethlehem Steel mill, but since it's closing, the area has reinvented itself and has much to offer. A restaurant scene, unique shops, natural beauty, and a thriving medical and health network combine to make this a great area to attend college. LVAIC is comprised of Cedar Crest CollegeDeSales UniversityLafayette CollegeLehigh UniversityMoravian College, and Muhlenberg College. What I enjoyed most about this tour, aside from the beautiful and picturesque campuses, was that these schools were just minutes apart yet they differentiate themselves with their campus environment, academic opportunities, and success stories. Each has it's own feel and each could provide the right fit for the right student. Here are just a few of my takeaways from each, but I encourage clicking on the school links to explore them further.

Muhlenberg College (Allentown, PA):  Well known for it’s top-notch theatre and dance program that produces six main stage productions a year. Last year 15 seniors performed senior showcases and agents signed 11 that night. The program also boasts a very strong alumni network in NYC and Los Angeles, many of whom are successful actors and writers. Majors in the sciences are a close second in popularity with numerous research opportunities and a 94% success rate with first time applicants to med school. This is a thriving community of students who are socially aware, very active, and quite supportive of their peers. New program: After becoming the first liberal arts college to have a Public Health minor, they now have a major also.

Lehigh University (Bethlehem, PA): Best known historically as an engineering school however it has much to offer beyond that. Arts & Sciences is the largest school and the Business school is quite strong.  Entrepreneurial spirit is nurtured with programs in place to carry students from ideas to inception resulting in over 50 start-ups a year. Has 11 ABET accredited engineering programs. All engineers take a common freshman year then declare a major. Engineers can study abroad and be a part of the total college experience (participate in band, theatre, etc). Lehigh has a strong DI athletic culture. Unique offerings:Integrated Product Design (IPD) major that culminates in producing a product; Integrated Degree in Engineering, Arts and Sciences (IDEAS) is a four-year honors program that allows students to earn a bachelor degree with concentrations in both colleges like bioengineering and international relations.

Moravian College (Bethlehem, PA): Prides itself, and rightfully so, as a school that “transforms kids.” The president is very active and present on campus hosting office hours and forging relationships with students. He even has a pet greyhound (the school’s mascot) that is well known around campus. This school is a hidden gem. It is a nurturing community with a faculty and administration who know and support each student. All students are given a MacBook and iPad and they are very generous with need-based aid (90% of students receive aid and 98% gift aid). Popular majors: Health Sciences, Public Health, Computer Science, and a robust music program (is a Steinway school).  

Lafayette College (Easton, PA): A traditional liberal arts college, but with engineering, that seeks to help students find their passion and engage it in meaningful ways. Five engineering majors are offered and all share the same freshman year courses. As the smallest comprehensive Division I college in the country, Lafayette offers the full college experience with sports, a Greek system, and numerous activities. Students are engaged intellectually, involved, and see the world. Unique programs: Gateway Program in Career Services walks students through career exploration, x-ternships, and coaching to lead to significant plans after graduation; a robust internship stipend program designed to help students who have unpaid or low paying internships.

Cedar Crest College (Allentown, PA): A women’s college emphasizing leadership across all disciplines and civic engagement. They help young women harness their potential to do great things. A well-structured first year experience includes classes, a common read, weekly meetings with one’s mentor/advisor, and a monthly lecture series. Graduation in four years is guaranteed. Popular majors: Forensic Science, Nursing, and the Health Sciences.

DeSales University (Center Valley, PA): A Catholic university administered by the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales. A rather young institution, it is celebrating is 50th anniversary. An emphasis is put on building the whole person and graduating students who are ethical and will be a positive force in the world. Strong Criminal Justice major that includes training at the Allentown Police Academy. Graduates are immediately hirable as police officers. Popular programs: expansive business program with 11 majors with new ones in Forensic Accounting and Supply Chain Management; Nursing; and TV/Film.

College Spotlight: University of Arizona

Amy Jasper Thursday, January 21, 2016

The University of Arizona, in the charming city of Tucson, is a flagship public university that definitely does "big" well. 32,000 undergraduates call this palm tree-lined campus home. It is a distinct one square mile biker friendly campus that does not feel large and impersonal. Arizona boasts a transformative environment for its students that produces employable, innovative, and creative adults ready for the world. The University of Arizona does many things (beyond its numerous NCAA accomplishments) quite well. Here are a few of the highlights:

  • Its highly regarded Department of Astronomy has the largest undergraduate and PhD programs in the country.
  • The College of Engineering offers 14 undergraduate majors.
  • The McGuire Entrepreneurship Program is one of the highest ranked entrepreneurial programs of public universities.
  • Most unique major: the Race Track Industry program in the School of Agriculture.
  • Offers the nation's only BA in Law. This undergraduate degree is for careers that do not require a law degree.
  • The School of Dance is one of the top five dance programs in the country.
  • The SALT Center (Strategic Alternative Learning Techniques) is designed to assist students with learning and attention challenges. It is nationally renowned and serves as a model of success for other institutions.
  • Most unique residential offering: Navajo-Pinal Hall which is four floors of dorm rooms under the scoreboard at the football stadium.
  • Wins the Best Weather Award: the campus enjoys 350 days of sunshine a year. 

Study Tips for Exams

Amy Jasper Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Exam time is right around the corner for many students. Success in a class is typically a result of quality studying throughout the year, not just for the exam. The good news is it's never too late to attain or refine strong study skills. 

  • Create free simple learning tools for any subject using Quilzlet's ( flashcards, tests, and study games. I love this resource and it's useful from grade school to graduate school.   
  • Create a quiet clutter free space to study. If you find music helpful, use headphones.  Study groups tend to be more social than helpful so going it alone is usually best.
  • Throughout the semester, review all of your notes and re-read important passages in your text book.  Although you may sometimes find success in cramming, in the long run it is not in your best interest. In college, the volume of work not only increases tremendously but it is also harder. Cramming will not be your friend so break the habit now.
  • Have a healthy snack to keep you focused and not hungry or crashing after a sugar rush. Nuts, fruit, milk, and whole grains are some options. Chips, cookies, candy and caffeine are tasty but are not healthy snacks. 

Should I Take SAT Subject Tests?

Amy Jasper Thursday, April 23, 2015

Some colleges require or recommend that applicants take two or three SAT Subject Tests. Unlike the SAT or the ACT, these are hour-long content based tests. Each test is on one subject and a student can take up to three in one sitting. There are 20 SAT Subject Tests in five general subject areas: English, history, languages, math and science. You should choose the tests that will best showcase the subject areas where you excel. A few other things to consider:


Check the college's website to see if it requires any specific Subject Tests or if you can choose. For example, a college may require that prospective engineering majors take the Math 2 Subject Test and a at least one science Subject Test.


Take the subject test right after you've completed the recommended classes in school because the material will still be fresh. Look here:

to find the recommended preparation guidelines for each subject as well as practice questions. The May and June test dates of sophomore and junior years tend to be the best dates for this.  

Prepare. Try the free practice questions, download the Getting Ready for the SAT Subject Tests practice booklet or use other preparation resources. 

Remember, all colleges and universities do NOT consider SAT Subject Tests in their admissions process. The best way to confirm testing requirements is directly on the college's website.

Register for subject test here:


College Spotlight: University of Alabama

Amy Jasper Monday, February 02, 2015

Although it was a rainy day when I visited the University of Alabama last week, the campus was absolutely beautiful and I confirmed that there is a great deal more to Alabama than football. 49% of it's 30,000 undergraduates are from in-state with 46% coming from outside the state of Alabama and 5% from other countries. Several things make Bama appealing to out of state students: affordable tuition, generous scholarships, and the educational opportunities that a major research university offers. A few take aways from my recent visit:

  • Over 600 National Merit Scholars are enrolled at the university. (One of the largest numbers in the country among public colleges.) Scholars receive the value of tuition for up to five years of undergraduate and graduate studies, a $3500 per year stipend for four years, a $2000 grant for summer research or international study, one year of housing, and an iPad. 
  • 86% of freshman return for sophomore year.
  • Degrees are offered in over 200 fields of study including a five-year STEM/MBA program.
  • The university has produced 15 Rhodes Scholars, 14 Truman Scholars, 41 Goldwater Scholars, and currently has eight graduates who have accepted Fulbright Scholarships for 2014-2015. 
  • Freshmen have the opportunity to be a part of a learning community which are groups of 12-15 peers focused on a similar intellectual interest.
  • 25% of freshman are in the Honors Program.
  • The campus boast the largest Starbucks in the country.
  • And I must include a bit about football: Sophomores, juniors and seniors are guaranteed tickets to all seven home games and freshman to three or four. Roll Tide.

Juniors: Spring Semester To Do List

Amy Jasper Monday, February 02, 2015

  • Register for at least one SAT and/or ACT spring test date(s) and prepare. Consider taking SAT subject tests in May or June. Find complete testing information at:  and
  • Don't get spring fever. Continue to put your best effort into your classes. Need help? Ask for it.
  • Stay organized.
  • Schedule challenging courses for senior year. Do not slack off.
  • Meet with your school counselor to create a list of colleges that you want to seriously consider. Make sure the list has a balance of reach, target, and likely schools. 
  • Continue to visit and research colleges of interest.
  • Continue conversation with family about your college plans.
  • How will you pay for college? Learn about financial aid at
  • In the spring, ask a teacher who knows you well to write your teacher recommendation for college applications in the fall.

DEFERRED: When the Answer Isn't Admit or Deny

Amy Jasper Monday, February 02, 2015

This year found many more students applying Early Action to several schools. As a result, several colleges deferred more students than usual. Being deferred is an admissions decision that, from a student's perspective, isn't really a decision at all. Deferred means "we like you but need a few more months before we decide if we will offer you the opportunity to join our student body." The good news is there is a possibility that the student may be admitted. The bad news is that a student has to wait. If a student has been deferred, there are a few things that can be done to demonstrate continued interest in the college and a desire to attend.

 Write a letter/email: Express your continued interest and intent to enroll upon admission. Reiterate why the college is the best fit for you. Update them on any achievements or other pertinent information that has occurred since you applied. This should not be too long. Be respectful of the fact that admissions representatives are still very deep in reading applications. Also remember that they will receive your mid-year report (first semester grades) from your school counselor after semester grades are finalized.

 Send any additional materials that could be helpful: an additional letter(s) of recommendation, extra materials that might strengthen your application (research, etc). The key is to give the admissions committee any possible information that can help them make a positive decision. 

 Be certain you understand the college's deferral policy. If in your deferral letter you are specifically told not to write or send additional materials for consideration, then you shouldn't.

It's September Seniors: Keep Calm and Do This Now

Amy Jasper Thursday, September 18, 2014

  • Register for ACT, SAT, and/or SAT II.
  • Meet with your school counselor to discuss the schools to which you are applying and what you need to do to have your transcripts and recommendations sent. Follow your counselor's directions and adhere to their deadlines.
  • Request letters of recommendation from your teacher(s).
  • Create a chart of your college deadlines and requirements. Remember that short of a natural disaster, colleges are not flexible with deadlines. You must be on time.
  • Complete essays in a timely fashion. Have someone proofread your essays and applications.
  • Meet admissions representatives who visit your school.
  • Have official test scores sent to the colleges to which you're applying.

Five Tips for a Successful Admissions Interview

Amy Jasper Thursday, September 18, 2014

  1. Research the school. You should know all of the basics: size, location, majors of interest to you, ways you want to become involved on campus, etc.
  2. Practice eye contact in the mirror. Admissions interviews are designed for the interviewer to get to know you, not to scare you. It's a conversation. Be thoughtful and comfortable when answering questions. 
  3. Silence your cell phone and spit out your gum.
  4. Greet your interviewer with a confident handshake and smile. 
  5. Have your own questions. For example, you may ask an admissions officer: "What were political, social, or academic issues that concerned students last year?  How did the administration react?" If it's an alumni interviewer: "How did your experiences at University X shape your career and life experiences after graduation?"

Love What You Study

Amy Jasper Thursday, March 27, 2014

Love What You Study by Michael Valacer Notre Dame '17

“What can you do with that?”

The question every liberal arts major ever has heard again and again. And again. And again. By parents and friends alike. My philosophy professor this past semester told us about a student who was given two options by his parents: go to his local state school for less than $20,000 a year and study whatever he liked, or go to Notre Dame for $55,000 a year and study engineering, to ensure a return on their investment. 

Freshmen often choose their majors because of the job prospects. Yet, as this year has gone along, many of my friends who are engineers and science majors with expectations of being millionaires a decade after graduating or who want to be well-paid doctors once they are done with their education have gone one of two routes almost universally: many are either no longer enrolled in the Colleges of Engineering and Science, or they are working their you know whats off just to keep their GPA above a 2.7. Even my friends who thus far have maintained good grades in their science and engineering majors have suffered for it. My friend Katie, a pre-med student who had a 4.0 last semester, mentally broke down the night before her Chemistry 101 final and began laughing manically and doing cartwheels through the library before her friends removed her to the relief of the other students studying there. My friend Henry is a chemical engineer who pulled 3 or 4 all nighters in the ten days before spring break, though he still has a GPA of around 3.5.  This is not to diss their majors, Katie loves her science classes and Henry says his chemical engineering class is his favorite class, but it has come at a cost that would not seem worth it for four years if they were just doing it to get a job and not for love of their studies, as other students have done.

            The irony is, two of the past three years, a higher percentage of Notre Dame's liberal arts majors have either a job, enrolled in graduate school, joined the military, or are doing full-time volunteer work than their compatriots in the College of Engineering, and were either tied or within two percentage points of their peers from the Colleges of Science and Business.  Philosophy, one of the biggest punching bags in the liberal arts, had zero percent of its graduates seeking employment after college. Zero. The nine classics majors in the class of 2011 all had jobs or graduate programs, including two students studying to be doctors at the University of Chicago, a very prestigious school.  And they did this not without studying hard materials, but without working themselves into the ground and while still being able to enjoy college and their studies. 

            Again, I wish not to diss the engineers and scientists who make the cut and love their studies.  They will all be very successful and will probably make much more money than me, as most data shows. But time and time again, I hear how college is supposed to be the best four years of our lives. So don't ruin that by studying something you hate and which controls your life.  Study what you love, and love what you study.  You will excel in those fields, and will be just fine in the long run.  There's no reason you can't enjoy every aspect of college.


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    My College Fit
    Amy Jasper
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    Richmond, VA 23233

    Phone: 804-368-1015


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