March Action Plan – Juniors

The college process is in full swing! Here are a few things to have on your radar and work through this month:

  • You should be meeting with your counselor at school to talk about your college list, testing plan, and letters of recommendation.
  • If possible, fit in a few more college visits. Are you going to sit in on a class? Do you want to try to meet with someone in your intended department of interest (major, minor, etc.)? Not all schools offer formal pathways to these opportunities, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make them happen.
  • Some colleges open up their on-campus interviews this spring. If you plan to interview, please prepare. You should always prepare for interviews, even if a school states they are not evaluative.
  • Do you know what major(s) you will mark on your application or is your strategy to go ‘undecided’? This is a critical part of the process that should be determined now.
  • Keep focusing on your grades, test prep, and strengthening your narrative through your extracurricular activities! By this time, you should have a plan for the summer and that plan should support your “story” for college.

 

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Reality Therapy. The Importance of Honesty in College Admissions

I’ve wanted to share an opinion piece by Jim Jump posted this past November, in which he discusses balancing loyalty (being a cheerleader) and truth (being an honest source of information) in college advising. A few excerpts are below, but I suggest reading the full article here. His “talk” is one I am familiar with:

Recently I met with the top student in my junior class. He has Ivy ambitions, and in a perfect world there would be no question that he would be admitted, but the college admission world, especially at the top of the food chain, is far from perfect. He is unhooked, so I felt obligated to give him the talk I give every one of my students applying to the Ivies and comparably selective colleges and universities.

In a hyperselective environment, where fewer than one in 10 applicants are admitted, no one’s credentials assure admission. Superb grades and scores are, to borrow phrasing from logic, necessary but not sufficient. Colleges and universities use the admission process to help achieve institutional goals and priorities, goals and priorities that may not be publicly stated. As a result an offer of admission is partly merit, partly meeting institutional needs and partly luck.

That message is not easy to hear for a student who’s done everything right and excelled in every environment they have been in.

Seeing highly qualified students get denied from schools that a few years ago they would have likely been admitted is tough. That said, when it comes time for these “talks,” I also like to remind students (and their parents) that where you go to college is not the single defining factor of your life; what is far more important is what you do while you are there (wherever “there” is), the relationships you build, and the person you become. In the end, those things lead to a successful, happy life, not the name of the school on your diploma.

 

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February Action Plan – Juniors

Lots on the to-do list this month, juniors! Here are a few things we think should be on your radar:

  • Now is the time to visit colleges! Are you going to sit in on a class? Do you want to try to meet with someone in your intended department of interest (major, minor, etc.)? Not all schools offer formal pathways to these opportunities, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make them happen. After all campus visits, even if you just sit in on a general info session and take a tour, send your regional rep and any admission representatives you met while on campus a follow-up/thank you email.
  • Some colleges open up their on-campus interviews this spring. If you plan to visit campus and interview, please prepare. You should always prepare for interviews, even if a school states they are not evaluative.
  • Many applications for summer activities/programs are now live. Next summer is a wonderful opportunity to do something really meaningful, perhaps even fun, that will help you tell your story for college! Make your plans now.
  • Meet with your college counselor and get a game-plan in place for spring/summer.
  • Start working on your resume. Some summer programs, internships, and interviewers will ask for this, so it’s useful to have handy.
  • Do you know what major(s) you will mark on your application? Do you have a clearly defined “story” for your college apps? If not, this is a critical part of the process that should be determined now.
  • Start to think about your senior year schedule. Do you know what you will be taking? Your senior classes should be the most challenging of your four years.

 

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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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TUTORIAL: COMPLETING THE TESTING SECTION OF THE COMMON APPLICATION

 

Video number four just posted on filling out the Testing 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 Testing 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 Testing section.

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

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Key Innovations for 2017-2018 Common Application

There are some changes on the horizon for the Common App! Many of the changes for next year’s application stem from feedback the CA received from admissions offices, high schools, and CBO counselors.

This release was a bit light on information regarding how the changes will be rolled out, for example, what is a limited release? Word on the street is some colleges will be using the courses and grades feature on a trial basis, but those schools are unknown at this time. I am very curious what schools will integrate these changes or integrate them on a trial basis, when some of the changes will take place, etc. Seems like it could be confusing for students, parents, counselors, and others who helps students with their apps. I will be updating this post and re-posting once more information is released, quite possbily in May and June.

Google Drive Integration: Students will now be able to easily access and upload documents, resumes, and school assignments while completing the Common App, and the college-specific sections of the application. We know that many school districts have adopted Google Docs and Google Drive to enable their students and teachers to create, collaborate, and access shared documents from any internet connected device. We also recognize that some students do not always have personal computers at home but use Google Drive on school or library computers to store their documents. We want to meet students where they are. By using the systems that they are already using, we are making the process more accessible for students.

CBO, Advising, and Recommender Enhancements: Students receiving support from advising and community-based organizations will be able to work with those counselors just as they work with their school-based counselors and teachers within the application. These individuals will then be able to manage their caseloads and view student progress within the Common App system. Also, any student who wishes to do so will be able to share a view of their in-progress application with their school counselor, CBO counselor, or other advisors.

Courses & Grades: Many students are required to submit self-reported high school academic records when applying to some colleges and universities. With Courses & Grades, students will be able to fill out their self-reported transcript information as part of their Common Application. By integrating the Courses & Grades section into the Common App, those students who are already sending this information will be able to complete and submit it with their Common App, making the process of self-reporting transcripts more standardized and streamlined for students, counselors, and colleges.

Courses & Grades was developed from the feedback of member institutions, high school students, and counselors. The Common Application hosted a series of student and counselor focus groups with beta testing to determine how to make the self-reported transcript process accessible and efficient. Courses & Grades will launch in limited release on August 1, 2017.

Sorry for the blurry pic, but this is the one that was provided on the CA site:

Spanish Language Resources: Key information for using the Common App will be translated so that students, parents and other family members who speak Spanish as their first language can better understand the college admission process, including applying for financial aid and receiving virtual mentoring. This new tool will also benefit counselors who will be working with these families and will need Common App materials in Spanish.

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Focused College Applicants Beat Well-rounded College Applicants Any Day

Being well-rounded is nice generally, but colleges are looking for students with something unique, a specific talent, skill, or interest to add to their next class. Students who drill down on their interests early on in high school will be better positioned to tell a clear, focused story in their college applications. By doing so, you hand the reader of your file exactly what they are looking for—you make it easy to see your value add.

You may love all five clubs you are in and the three sports you play, but how much can you meaningfully contribute to all eight activities? Suggestion: try to narrow down your interests and corresponding activities by the end of 10th grade, and think about how you can engage more meaningfully and at a higher level in the one or two things you love the most. It’s a bonus if these activities relate to your potential college major, or support it in some way!

Drilling down on your interests to develop a clear story or narrative for your college apps will go a long way in the admissions process, and is one of the focus areas of our college counseling work with high school students!

Remember, colleges seek to build a well-rounded class comprised of students with unique talents and skills, not a class full of generalists.

What’s Worse Than Waiting to Hear From Colleges?

….getting asked about it!

Later this month and throughout April, colleges and universities will notify students about their regular decision applications. Students will either be admitted, denied, or placed on the dreaded waitlist (although we have helped quite a few student get off the WL and into their dream school, ask us how!). Needless to say, it is a stressful time for all seniors who did not commit to a school after the release of early round results.

As we approach decision dates, consider giving this post (with video) from the Wall Street Journal a read!

University of California Seeks Cap on Out-of-State Students

From Inside Higher Ed: The University of California System on Monday announced a proposal to limit undergraduate enrollment from out of state, systemwide, to 20 percent, The Los Angeles Times reported. The proposal would allow the three campuses already over 20 percent—Berkeley, Los Angeles, and San Diego—to keep their out-of-state levels. The remaining campuses would be allowed to grow to 20 percent but not exceed it, but only if the proposed systemwide cap is not hit. The university system has significantly increased out-of-state enrollment in the last decade, to 16.5 percent across the system, citing state appropriations cuts that have increased the need for other sources of revenue, such as the higher tuition rates paid by non-Californians.

The Times reported that faculty leaders oppose the university plan and fear that such limits could result in the system losing both top students and revenue that it needs.

The UC Board of Regents will take up the proposal next week.

MOOCs for Potential Business Majors

As I have said before, MOOCs are a no-brainer for high school students who want to explore their academics interests and possible college majors. And for those of you who have not started exploring your interests outside of school, you should; it is not terribly time-consuming, especially with online options you can access 24/7, and colleges look favorably upon applicants who explore outside of school. These are also applicable to pre-MBA applicants!

The four below are from Coursera, and are available now for sign-up:

Creativity, Innovation, and Change, The Pennsylvania State University

Inspiring Leadership through Emotional Intelligence, Case Western Reserve University

Creating a Startup from an Idea, Israel Institute of Technology

Successful Negotiation: Essential Strategies and Skills, University of Michigan