Merit Scholarship Deadlines

Most schools automatically consider you for merit scholarships when you apply (and without an additional application), but often you need to submit your app by a specific deadline. These early “merit/scholarship” deadlines might be earlier than your intended application deadline. For example, you need to submit by 11/1 or 12/1 for merit consideration at some schools.

College Kickstart compiled some helpful data regarding merit scholarship deadlines. Head over to their website to check the list out!


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Why High School Students Should Practice Mindfulness

Since I’ve been practicing mindfulness for many years, I’ve enjoyed reading more about it everywhere from psychology journals to the trendy wellness and lifestyle blogs I (embarrassingly) follow. If I can do it, I am certain anyone can, and it seems that everyone is.

What’s mindfulness? There are lots of variations of the definition, but I’ll use this one from UC Berkeley’s Great Good, The Science of a Meaningful Life website:

Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment.

Mindfulness also involves acceptance, meaning that we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them—without believing, for instance, that there’s a “right” or “wrong” way to think or feel in a given moment. When we practice mindfulness, our thoughts tune into what we’re sensing in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future.

What I think is so extraordinary about mindfulness is that it can literally change your brain. Research has found that it increases the density of gray matter in the brain that is linked to learning, memory, emotion regulation, and empathy. Give this a listen:

Decreased stressed.

Less likely to respond to one’s own negative thinking.

Reduces risk of depression and anxiety.

Mindfulness is important because students today often feel all of these emotions and more—but especially stress, negative thinking, anxiety and sometimes even depression—during the college search and application process. It’s the ability to regulate these emotions, just to name one important benefit, that mindfulness supports. Mindfulness helps students not feel overwhelmed by difficult emotions and allows them to create space between emotions and responses so they can think first and then react. Over time, students become better listeners, feel more present, and less distracted.

Research shows that being less distracted increases happiness. Happiness is always a goal I have for my students.

Students can’t change everything that happens to them—from losing the big game to not doing well on an important test, and especially where they end up getting admitted or not getting admitted to college—but they can change the way they experience life’s ups and downs. Contact us to talk about how mindfulness can help!

Why Choosing Wisely Early is Critical to a Successful Admission Process

Now more than ever before, colleges and universities are filling the majority of their class via early admission programs. Unfortunately, this means applying early is a must at many selective schools, as regular decision admit rates are at crazy lows. Here are some examples from an  Applerouth article on the topic. If these numbers don’t encourage you to choose your early school(s) wisely, I’m not sure what will!!!

Colorado College accepted 87% of its class through early admissions programs (they have ED and EA). Although hard to believe, the regular decision admit rate at Colorado College was just 5% this year.  For students applying ED, the admit rate was 26%.

The story is not much different at Vanderbilt. Vanderbilt accepts about 53% of its 1600 freshmen through its EDI and EDII programs.  This past admissions cycle, students who applied to Vanderbilt EDI or EDII had a 23.6% admit rate. Students who applied during the regular admissions cycle had an admit rate of just 2.7%.

Regular Decision candidates didn’t fare much better at Tulane.  Lindsay Hoyt, Assistant Director of Admissions at Tulane, said during a presentation in San Antonio that the university’s inaugural ED year was “successful” for the admissions office. She estimated that Tulane’s incoming first-year class for 2021 would have around 1470 total students, just 50 of whom had not applied either ED or EA.  

I often advise students (and their parents) to not waste their early decision card. It is not because I don’t want students to give their dream college a go—it’s because they may end up at a school that is far less selective than their profile warrants solely because RD is nearly impossible these days.

Here’s an example. Your top choice is Harvard. You have all A’s, a 34 ACT, 2-3 subject tests that are above 750, a strong but standard profile (which is most applicants), and attend a well-known competitive high school. You are not a recruited athlete, legacy, or underrepresented minority student. Harvard is a reach for you; I would advise you not to apply. You apply anyway and are rejected (or worse, deferred, which almost never works out!).

Your sights are still set on an Ivy, so you end up applying to all of them RD, plus Stanford, and Emory, Rice, JHU, Vanderbilt, and Duke. Best case scenario you get into Emory and *maybe* (with a bit of luck) get into Cornell, JHU, Rice, Vandy or Duke—but there are no guarantees for you at those schools RD. Chances are you’ll get into at least one, but you could not get into any of them depending on how the early round played out at your high school. If it was a bloodbath (this sometimes happens), you could get shut out of all these schools because competition RD will be that much greater at your high school. A smart option would be to apply somewhere ED II (UChicago is a great choice).

When you have to apply during RD, you need to cast a very wide net. You need to throw in some schools that are safe bets from your high school, and this means safety schools. Apply to your state school early just in case, or if you apply ED, pair that app with as many “match” EA’s as you can so you can avoid relying on RD. If you have a top choice on your list that has ED II, highly consider that option if you do not get into your first choice early.

Contact us to learn more about our college counseling services, and how we can work together to choose your early school(s) wisely!


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Notable Admission Rate Changes for the Class of 2021

Want to see if the admit rates at the colleges on your list have recently gone up or down?  College Kickstart compiled some helpful data regarding notable admit rate changes for the class of 2021. The schools listed are only those with significant changes in either direction, but there are quite a few VERY popular schools here! Head over to their website to check the list out!


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New Common Application Guidance on Essays/Writing Requirements

News from the Common App:

The Common App is providing a brand new feature! In response to feedback from the counseling community, The Common App created a resource to help applicants and those who support them better understand the writing requirements of our more than 700 member colleges.

The Writing Requirements resource is incorporated into our already popular “Members Live” FAQ, which we continually update as colleges publish their specific institutional questions. Clicking the “Writing Requirements” link for a college will take you to a designated page for that college where you will find the following information for both their First-Year and Transfer applications:

* All required and optional long-answer questions

* All required and optional questions that request a document upload

* The location of these questions (College-Specific Questions or Writing Supplement)

* Minimum and maximum word counts for each question

The listing does not include conditionally required writing questions, such as those triggered by an applicant’s choice of academic program. For that reason, the “My Colleges” tab of the Common App account remains the definitive record of each institution’s requirements. We will update each college’s unique FAQ on a weekly basis to reflect any changes within the “My Colleges” section.

We developed this tool to better support counselors seeking to learn more about writing requirements across our member colleges, as well as students working to budget their application planning time. And to those colleagues who have encouraged the creation of this enhancement, thank you for helping us improve how we serve you and your students.

UPenn’s Dean Furda and His Five I’s

Eric Furda, dean of admissions at the University of Pennsylvania, often writes in his Page 217 blog and on his Twitter feed @DeanFurda about how college discovery needs to be a mindful process where students aren’t only thinking about getting in, but about what is important to them.

Furda has devised a simple self-assessment method to help you identify your values, interests, and dreams—the Five I’s. It makes no difference if you are applying to Penn or not—the Five I’s is a valuable tool for all applicants. As you work on your essays and think about who you are and the value you can add to the schools on your list this summer, keep the Five I’s in mind:

Identity. “How do you see yourself and how do others see you? Be reflective about how you see yourself and how you want others to see you, in a genuine or authentic way. In this area, you could start thinking about teacher recommendations. How will a teacher talk about me? How will two different teachers put together a picture of me because they see me in a different light or because of how strong I am in an academic subject?”

Intellect. “How do you think and approach the acquisition of knowledge? I’m not [referring to your IQ], or talking about testing. I’m talking about how you process information and how you approach different subjects and subject matter. And how you then communicate that information to your teachers and to your peers.”

Ideas. “What do you think and why? We all have opinions out there, and particularly our children. So, what really makes you frame your reference? Where are these ideas coming from? What is the context? What do you think? Why are you thinking that? Then, how do you share that again within your community?”

Interests. “What do you choose to do when you have the time and flexibility? I would like to use this as an opportunity to say that this is not filling out an extracurricular list. This isn’t trying to fill the lines on an application so you look a certain way. I really want a perspective on how students are genuinely interested in what they are involved in — in the classroom, co-curricularly and extra-curricularly.”

Inspiration. “What really motivates you? I don’t think we need to feel that we have to have these moments every day. We’re not inspired every single day, and I think high school students may feel that we’re looking for those types of stories. It really isn’t the case. But when your heart is beating a little faster, when you’re feeling that something really is resonating with you, how does that come out?”

To learn even more, check out this episode of The Process. The Process is a special quarterly program airing on Sirius XM Channel 111, Business Radio powered by The Wharton School, offering guidance and insight into the college admissions process. In this four-part podcast series that began airing in the summer of 2016, Eric J. Furda, the dean of admissions at the University of Pennsylvania, invites guests and experts to explore all aspects of the admissions process, from discovery and decision-making to enrollment and transition. KWHS will be running these four podcasts throughout the summer in preparation for new segments of The Process that will begin airing this September. Give it listen!


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Gotta Have It: Standout College Application Essays

You might be finished your personal statement by now (congrats!), but if you haven’t this one is for you.

A bit about how I approach the process. I send out sample essays to the students I work with so they get a sense of “what works”. There is no one size fits all approach, but I’d like to think the sample essays I share all have a few things in common.

  1. Showed a side of the student not reflected in other parts of their app
  2. Explained something that was not going to be/could not be explained in another part of their app
  3. Highlighted a special interest/talent/experience
  4. Well-written

An awesome personal statement needs to hit a few if not all of the above (well-written is non-negotiable), and those that do not might represent a missed opportunity. We go through an extensive brainstorming process with students, which results in a topic that doesn’t miss the mark. If you’d like to learn more about how we help guide students on the essay writing process and make best use of what I believe is one of the only parts of the app you have total creative control over, shoot me an email.

Anyway, I initially started writing this post because I wanted to share a New York Times article that includes four personal statements that are quite good. Give it a read, and happy writing!


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Don’t Miss the Opportunity to Interview

Not all colleges require interviews. In fact, many do not even offer them. At schools that do, they are not always evaluative or even considered in the admissions process. That being said, I still suggest you interview. Why? It is a way to demonstrate interest, learn more about the school, and help the school learn more about you. Sounds worth it to me!

College Kickstart compiled some helpful interview data regarding colleges that require or strongly recommend interviews, and how that interview is used (or not used) in the admissions process. Head on over to their website to check it out!


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It’s time to fill out the Activities section of the Common Application. If you have specific questions as you watch it/fill out your Common App, feel free to shoot me an email or reach out via the link at the end of the video.

I also suggest joining our new Facebook group, Conquer the Common Application!!! We hope this group becomes a place where students, parents, and counselors can ask questions, share advice, and ultimately, get filling out the Common App right. Not everyone’s Activities section will look the same because not everyone takes the same tests or reports test scores at all, but it can be nice to see a sample. If you join the group, you can also access a PDF of a completed Activities section.

Please share this post with students or those that help students fill out the Common Application. Enjoy!

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