11TH GRADE: TIME TO START THE COLLEGE SEARCH AND APPLICATION PROCESS


By 10th and 11th-grade college talk should be consistent—especially if you are, or have a student who is—aiming to attend a selective college or university. That said, we start the majority of our work with students, which includes applying to summer programs, narrative development (your “story” for college), developing your college list, and completing the personal statement and resume, in 11th grade. There is no better time to start the process than right now!

Juniors should consider the following:

  • It is test prep time! If you have not started yet, start now.
  • Meet with your school counselor. S/he will write one of your letters of recommendation for college, and the letter will be much more personal if you know each other! Talk about your plans for this year and next year; let them know about your preliminary college list, any visits you have scheduled, and your testing plan.
  • Now is the time to build your story for college! Have you gotten more involved with any of your extracurricular activities, especially those that relate to your academic interests? Look for leadership opportunities in school and consider activities outside of school as well. Think about ideas for new and different activities, or for how to get more involved in your favorite activity (academic and non-academic).
  • Visit the websites of the schools you are interested in. Explore the admissions and academics pages. Start to think about your major of interest and how the activities you are involved in support this interest; you should be exploring your interests outside of the classroom/school!
  • Visit colleges in person! Spring is a great time to visit colleges. Talk to students, faculty, and staff, and take notes about classes, clubs, etc. you might want to include in your essays.

Email us or fill out the contact form to schedule a consult and find out how we can support you in your college planning and application process!

 

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Starting the Common Application

You can roll your Common App account over year-to-year, so there’s no better time than now to open an account, get familiar with the system, and get some of your app work completed.

Create Your Account

There is no preparation required for this step, so you can create your account as early as you’d like. All you’ll need is some basic profile information—like your name, date of birth, address and phone number. And of course, you’ll need to provide a valid email address.

Note: Your email address will become your username and the Common App’s primary method of sending you updates and reminders, so make sure that you provide an email address that you check on a regular basis.

Gather Your General Application Information

While every school has a different list of college-specific requirements, the general application information (the base Common App data) will remain constant for all schools on your list.

You’ll be asked to list your activities, entrance exam scores and exam dates, parent or legal guardian and sibling information, and for some schools your high school grades and courses. Get a head start and save yourself time by collecting this information before you fill out the application.

Specific Requirements

Just like every student is unique, so is every school. No two schools will have the same requirements—so work to understand these requirements early on.

How? The first thing you need to do is read the Application Instructions on each school’s website. Please take the time to read the application instructions in their entirety. On the Common App, you can also check out the Requirements Grid and download the Requirements Tracker worksheet.

Add Schools to Your Dashboard

The Common App presents you with the opportunity to search from more than 700 schools (private, public, large and small), find the ones that meet your needs, and then add them to your My Colleges list—a convenient place to track the work ahead of you.

Once you log in, simply click on the College Search tab to find schools based on their name, location, deadline, or distance from your home.

Note: If you add schools to your Dashboard before the Common App refreshes for the 2018-2019 application year, any data you fill out on the school-specific pages can and most likely will be erased. If you add schools to your Dashboard after the refresh takes place, your information will be saved for the duration of the 2018-2019 application season.

 

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Happy Holidays! And Congrats Admitted Students!

What a crazy month! Most “early” programs have released decisions, and we couldn’t be more proud of where the students we have worked with gained admission! Check out some of the schools on our current admit list:

MIT
Harvard
Duke
University of Michigan
Franklin and Marshall
Villanova
Georgetown
Cornell
Drexel
Northwestern
Vanderbilt
Northeastern
New York University
Boston College
UT, Austin
Tulane
University of Pittsburgh
George Washington University
Indiana (Kelley)
Santa Clara

Although nothing makes us happier than when a student gets into their top choice school, we are equally grateful for having the opportunity to get to know an unbelievably talented group of students who trusted us to guide them along the way. So congrats again, happy (app-free) holidays, and thank you!

Repost: Taming the Admissions Anxiety

Timely post by Bari Walsh on Harvard GSE’s Usable Knowledge page. Give it a read below!

You’re at a holiday gathering in your neighborhood, and the parents, once again, are talking college — exchanging the vitals on where their kids are applying, or where they’ve already gotten in. When one father beams about the highly selective schools his daughter is targeting, you don’t immediately beam back. Your son is applying to some state schools and a few private colleges, but after a tough fall term, he’s also thinking about working for a year and taking classes at the community college.

You look around and notice that the kids are standing nearby, soaking up the very different moods each parent is conveying.

The Weight of College Pressure

In a highly competitive world, the college process feels fraught with pressure — for students and parents alike. For the vast majority of families in America, that pressure centers not on personal achievement or the bragging rights of a selective college but on affordability, access, and equal opportunity. Only about 4 percent of U.S. students go to colleges that accept less than 25 percent of their applicants, and most American kids either don’t attend or don’t graduate from four-year colleges, says developmental psychologist Richard Weissbourd, who studies the social and emotional lives of teens. The barriers confronting that majority need to be front and center in public conversations about college, he adds.

But a different and also serious problem is affecting students in middle- and upper-income communities, where debilitating academic and social pressure is fueling a public health crisis of anxiety in high-achieving schools and districts. Some research has shown that rates of depression, anxiety, and substance abuse are higher among affluent teens than any other group of young people, and achievement pressure is a significant contributor. “But you can see this even without reading the research,” says Weissbourd. “You just need to spend some time in a high school where this is going on, and you can see how wound up kids are about college and where they’re going to get in.”

College admissions is an important rite of passage in America — a time for parents to engage their kids in deep conversations about their hopes and dreams, their values, and what kind of adults they imagine they’ll be.

All of which is too bad, he says, because the college admissions process is an important rite of passage for many in America. “It’s a wonderful time for parents to really listen to their kids — to hear about their hopes, their values, their expectations for college, and to learn what kind of adults they imagine they’ll be,” Weissbourd says.

With colleagues at his Making Caring Common project, Weissbourd produced a report last year called Turning the Tide, seeking to tame the excesses of the college admissions process and reframe it to prioritize ethical and intellectual engagement, not just long brag sheets of accomplishments. More than 175 admissions deans have signed on to the report’s recommendations. Some of those guidelines, and other advice Weissbourd offers, are summarized below.

Doing the Admissions Process Right

  • Listen to your child. Find out what she hopes for and expects from college.
  • Be a guide and a facilitator, connecting your child to information and to big-picture thinking about the purpose of college.
  • Put the focus on finding the right college for your child, not on applying to or getting into the “best” college.
  • Unclutter your own anxieties; make sure you’re hearing your child’s wishes and considering her best interests, not filtering them through your own hopes, your peer-driven status worries, or your own unmet college expectations.
  • Prioritize quality, not quantity, when it comes to extracurricular activities. Prioritize service opportunities that your child finds meaningful.
  • Make sure your kids are eating and sleeping well.
  • Encourage your child to be authentic, truthful, and reflective in the application process.
  • Make the process meaningful for you and your child: use these conversation starters to talk to your teen.

Confronting Status Concerns

Magazine rankings and other ratings systems fuel the idea that “one college is in some objective sense better than another college, or that there are 25 ‘best’ colleges in the country,” Weissbourd says. It’s a harmful idea, because “what you really want kids to be thinking about is not what’s the best college, but what’s the best college for them.” There are many hundreds of good colleges out there, and any one of them might be the right one for your child. Weissbourd encourages parents in high-achieving districts to visit some schools that aren’t highly selective, expanding everyone’s understanding of what a “good school” is.

Rates of depression, anxiety, and substance abuse are higher among affluent teens than any other group of young people, and achievement pressure is a big contributor.

But status pressure is real, and kids experience it every day. “We have to have better conversations with kids about what status means and what it doesn’t mean, about the advantage of going to a high-status place and the disadvantages. We have to confront it more squarely,” he says. Students who go to a highly selective school may reap a reputational benefit or gain access to a strong alumni network, for example — but it’s also possible that the student body will be less diverse, or the campus culture more competitive and less nurturing. “As long as parents or students have this perception that there are 20 or 30 great colleges in this country, we’re going to have really stressed-out kids who are anxious about getting in. And many will end up feeling ashamed because they don’t,” Weissbourd says.

Turn the Pressure Down . . .

What’s the “right” amount of pressure for parents to apply? It depends on the child, the family, and the community.

Some kids aren’t thinking about college at all, and in those cases, parents should start talking generally about the importance of college-going in about ninth grade, helping kids develop a college identity and a pathway for work and career.

Other kids start worrying about college way too early, starting with test-prep tutors in middle school. In high-pressure communities, “the conversation about the application process really shouldn’t begin until 11th grade,” Weissbourd says. For parents in these communities, he offers a quick list of “don’ts”:

  • Don’t spend every dinner talking about college.
  • Don’t arrange every family vacation in high school around a college visit.
  • Don’t pop vocabulary cards at the dinner table to prepare for the SAT.
  • When it comes to applications and test prep, don’t over-coach your child. Think twice before hiring outside tutors.
  • Pause and reflect if you find yourself spending too much time worrying or thinking about your child’s achievements.
  • Discourage your child from overloading on AP and honors courses.

. . . And Get Real about the Source of the Pressure

“Our data show that when you ask parents what’s most important to them in child rearing, they prioritize raising a caring child over a high-achieving child,” Weissbourd says. But when you ask them what they think other parents in their community prioritize, they say other parents prioritize achievement.

“So you have a large majority of parents thinking that the problem is a large majority of other parents, and that doesn’t square,” he says. “We need parents to realize that when it comes to achievement pressure, the problem isn’t ‘them,’ it’s ‘us.’”

Illustration: Wilhelmina Peragine

Ivy League Admit Rates (Early)

Early admission rates just keep getting lower. However, they are significantly higher than regular decisions rates, so there’s that! Harvard only admits around 5% during regular decision. Thank you Business Insider for the nice chart above (minus Cornell and Columbia).

For more early admission numbers, head on over to College Kickstart—the best place, in my opinion—for all of your admissions-related data needs.

If you did not get admitted to your top choice school early, highly consider ED II. Applicants (and parents) need to understand the RD numbers. The RD round is tough and ED II can present a significant advantage over RD. Read this chart. Pay particular attention to the percentage of the class filled by early plans.

 

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What to do if you’ve been deferred

Some colleges and universities just can’t admit all of the students they would like to via early decision or early action (“ED” or “EA”), so they defer a few and evaluate them again during regular decision (“RD”). These candidates have a shot (albeit small) at getting admitted RD. However, some schools just defer everyone or almost everyone—the dreaded courtesy deferral. Most students that fall into this category should move on. But before doing anything to “work” a deferral:

1. Stay positive for RD, or preferably, early decision II (“ED II”), and keep moving forward!

2. Consider ED II. Not all schools have ED II; check your Common App to see if ED II is offered at any schools on your list.

3. Understand the RD numbers. The RD round is tough; it is smart to get familiar with the RD numbers and understand why ED II can present a significant advantage over RD. Read this chart. Pay particular attention to the percentage of the class filled by early plans.

Other Tips:

Get your guidance counselor’s support. Have your guidance counselor call the admissions office and advocate for you, as well as provide any additional information they may have that will support your candidacy. Ask them to back up what they say on the phone in an email. If they are willing, have them send an additional note to the top 1-2 schools on your list.

-Make sure updated grades/transcript are sent promptly. Your grades should have remained the same or improved, not dipped.

Get an extra letter of recommendation*. This letter could be written by a teacher, coach, or someone else close to you who can speak to your background, performance, and potential.

*Side note on alumni letters and letters from well-known or famous people. Many students ask if these are helpful to send, and the answer is no unless the person really knows you or they have a solid connection to admissions.

Make contacts locally and talk to students and alumni. Reach out to local alumni chapters and ask if there is anyone willing to meet with you for an informal informational interview. Use this meeting as an opportunity to learn more about the school, and demonstrate your interest in attending. Information learned in these meetings are beneficial to include in your deferral letter.

 -Write a deferral letter. This letter should contain information updating the school on what you’ve been up to, both inside and outside of the classroom since the time you applied.

Secondary Efforts:

-Visit the school and swing by admissions to reiterate interest. Sit in on a class and take advantage of any admissions events and/or programming you may not have the first time around. Keep in mind that if you already visited and the school is more than a drive or train ride away, this might seem extravagant.

-Use social media to your advantage. Don’t be afraid to follow your top choice schools on Facebook, Instagram, Snap or other social channels. Most schools also have LinkedIn pages you can follow. These touch points likely won’t help significantly, but can’t hurt as a way to demonstrate interest.

 

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Class of 2022 Early Notification Dates

It’s time to start hearing back from early action and early decision schools—exciting! Some schools have already released early decision or early action results—Tulane, Northeastern, Georgia, and of course, schools that release on a rolling basis like Penn State and Temple.

College Kickstart is updating their list of decision release dates daily. Check it out here to find out when you might be hearing from the ED and EA schools on your list!

 

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December Action Plan – Freshmen & Sophomores

As high school begins, it’s not too early to be thinking about your plans for applying to college! Here are a few items to keep in mind as 2017 winds down:

December Action Plan

  • Now is the time to build your story for college! Have you gotten more involved with any of your extracurricular activities? Have you thought about what you might want to major in? Think about how to get more involved in your favorite activities (academic and non-academic). A great place to start is Khan Academy: https://www.khanacademy.org
  • Many 2018 summer program applications will open soon. Begin thinking about your plans for summer 2018 now so you can get ahead of deadlines and work on applications if needed.
  • One way that your “story” is conveyed is through your resume/activity sheet. Start working on it now.
  • Have a dream school? Check out their website to get a sense of what it takes to get admitted. For example, some schools require or highly recommend you take a language all four years of high school and, for certain majors, take a certain level of math. Some schools (although very few) require SAT Subject tests and depending on what classes you are currently taking, you might be able to take some as early as this June. In addition to looking into testing requirements, try to get a sense of what your target schools recommend your high school curriculum look like—then take a look at your curriculum to make sure you’re on track to fulfill these recommendations/requirements.

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December Action Plan – Juniors


Juniors have a lot to work on and look ahead to this month!

December Action Plan:

  • Meet with your high school counselor. Does s/he know what your plans for college are? Does s/he know you well—or know you at all? Your counselor will write one of your letters of recommendation, so it’s important to establish a good relationship now to receive a more meaningful letter next year.
  • Grades from your junior year are incredibly important to college admissions officers. Study hard and keep your grades up!
  • If you have not started compiling your resume, start drafting one over the holidays.
  • Think ahead to spring activities and potentially starting the personal statement.
  • Many 2018 summer program applications will open soon. Begin thinking about your plans for summer 2018 now so you can get ahead of deadlines and work on applications if needed.

 

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December Action Plan – Seniors

Seniors! Many of you have already heard from one or more of your early application schools, and many more schools will release decisions on or around December 15th. Still, there’s plenty to do as early application decisions roll in. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

December Action Plan

  • Track your application status. Once your applications have been submitted, be sure to track their status online to ensure schools have received all of your application materials. Follow up with your school counselor ASAP if a college is missing your transcript or a letter of recommendation. Check your JUNK/SPAM email folder daily so you do not miss correspondence from schools.
  • Do you have any updates that might benefit your early application? An award or big upward trend in your grades? If so, please contact me about sending an update email to your early schools
  • Do the schools on your list require you send midterm grade reports? Check requirements online and talk to your school counselor about having them sent to schools as needed
  • It is very difficult to write your essays and complete your applications from December 15 through January 1 because of the holidays, and…
  • It’s always a good idea to submit apps two to four weeks ahead of RD deadlines as some schools have early RD deadlines for scholarship or interview consideration (for example, Duke should be submitted by 12/20 for interview consideration).
  • Meet with your school counselor. Share your RD list and make sure they know to send docs accordingly and far in advance of deadlines.
  • Prepare for interviews!

 

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