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What should college-bound students be doing during this recession?

When students see news flashes about college grads working at McDonalds because they can’t get jobs, high school students may begin to rethink their own goals. Unemployment just hit an all-time high since the Great Depression. In this unpredictable economy, many high school students are wondering how their parents will finance their college education. Nobody knows when this recession will end, or if we’ve actually hit bottom yet.

Many California state colleges have reduced the number of students they can admit, and they’ve slashed the number of courses being offered. Community colleges are unsure whether they can afford to continue their winter and summer sessions.

Even though the future may seem bleak, college grads still earn over $200,000 more than those who didn’t finish college. This recession is not here forever. When we pull ourselves out of it and begin to prosper as a nation once again, it will be those students with college degrees that will be leading the way.

In this tight economy, private colleges are offering more full-ride scholarships to under-represented minorities and to families that make less than $60,000 per year. Which students benefit from this? Those who stand out from their peers.

What these admissions committees want are students who also excel outside of the high school setting, students who demonstrate true creativity, initiative, and leadership, students who show the potential to become the next Bill Gates or Hilary Clinton.

How can you convince colleges that you have this level of talent and potential? The best way to do it is with an independent project—unlike a class project that consists simply of posters and presentations or volunteering at a local soup kitchen, an independent project is an original undertaking outside the classroom that reflects the student’s vision, initiative, tenacity, and leadership.

What could this project be? Ideally the project should reflect a student’s current passions and future aspirations. Students can start businesses, organize non-profits, write publications, produce films, conduct experiments, advocate for change, publish their own books, or build innovative alternative energy models.

When students do projects, they become confident leaders. Their projects not only help them get into top-ranked colleges and receive scholarships, they also make a difference in their community. And, in this economic climate, it may be the students who help bring us out of this recession.

Susan Tatsui-D’Arcy is the college advisor at Merit Educational Consultants, LLC and author of Beat the College Admissions Game: Do a Project!. You can purchase this book at and meet with her online or in person. Call (831) 462-5655 to get started now!



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