ACT Releases June Site List and Policies

ACT Releases June Site List and Policies

The ACT finally released its list of testing sites that will be closed for the June 13 test date. Head to Applerouth for the full download.

A helpful tip +note at the end:

Students waiting to test should continue to prepare, though in a modified fashion. Continue to review relevant prep materials, though clearly with less intensity than if you were preparing for June. Students will have more time to prepare for the next official test, and research shows that students who put in more time preparing for these tests end up with higher scores.

Each subsequent test date should allow a larger portion of students across the country to complete their admissions tests. June was always going to be tough. The July ACT should allow more students to test, and the August SAT should accommodate even more students. By the fall, the vast majority of high schools and colleges in most markets across the country will likely have students on campus. At that time, administering these tests should be significantly easier. Continue to plan for your best testing outcome, even if you’ll have to wait longer than initially anticipated.

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From The Mouths of College Admission Deans

From The Mouths of College Admission Deans

Brendan Barnard wrote a three-part series where he asked admission leaders to focus on what they wanted students and families to know about applying to college next year. The common theme in their responses was, “WE GET IT!” They know that there has been major disruption and that everyone is learning virtually. They know that sports competitions, musical productions, and internships have been canceled. They are aware that many students will not take standardized tests and that grading policies in high schools are in flux. 

A few important insights/quotes for students and parents to take note of:

On transcripts/grading…

Jim Bock, vice president and dean of admissions at Swarthmore College agrees, saying, “there will be a big asterisk on spring 2020 transcripts for all students and colleges and universities are aware and understanding of that fact.” He adds, “we will work with college counselors to understand and accept the choices individual schools and districts make during these challenging times.

On activities/summer…

Often, students and parents mistakenly believe that they need to build a long list of activities and involvement in the name of admission to college. “More, more, more” is their mantra as they try to do—and be—everything to stand out in the application process. In some communities, daily schedules for high school students become unsustainable, as families rush from one commitment to another—usually leading to sleep-deprived, burnt-out young people (and parents). In other communities, students are working long hours at a job or caring for a younger sibling, and therefore worry that their college application will lack what they perceive as “traditional” extracurricular involvement. This resume building approach to admission is flawed and the current crisis has forced us all to slow down and look critically at what we do. Juan Espinoza, associate vice provost and director of admissions at Virginia Tech, says, “We recognize that organized extracurricular activities will be impossible, but we are impressed, by how students are finding ways to give back to their communities.”

Jim Bock, vice president and dean of admissions at Swarthmore College tells students, “many of you may have a little more time on your hands these days. Rest. Read. Reassess. Ask yourself, ‘Why do I pursue this activity or that program?’” He adds, “many students believe we count activities and that more is better. What we seek is commitment to a few activities, though there is no formula for a successful application.” He advises, “pursue what you want, and find the college that matches, and you will be much more satisfied in the end. You may also have less choice as you care for siblings and families, and there may not be the ability to work. We value all commitments.” Bock encourages students to “think about what has motivated you to do what you do? Would you do it all the same? Why are you doing it? When things return to the new normal (whenever that happens) how do you envision engaging with and impacting your family, your faith community, your school, or your larger community?” He says, “regardless, take care of yourself first and take it slow. There is time for reflection.” 

Some students had grand plans for the summer. Maybe they had been looking forward to being a camp counselor or participating in an internship. Perhaps they were eager to volunteer or work a steady job. Research, travel, spending time with a relative—many summer experiences have been, or likely will be, closed down by the pandemic. Applicants fear that dashed plans will ruin their college dreams. Heath Einstein, dean of admission at Texas Christian University suggests looking at it in a different way. He says, “summer presents an opportunity to be productive even if in different ways. For example, a student might not be able to secure a coveted internship, but they could still plant a garden in their yard or design a smartphone app or read books by authors from marginalized communities.” 

Mary Wagner, assistant vice president for enrollment management at the University of South Carolina explains that “thirst for learning and knowledge is always valuable and appreciated by the admissions committee.” She tells students that given that they are operating in a non-traditional classroom this spring, “consider other opportunities to pursue learning beyond the classroom over the summer,” adding, “you’re probably already doing something that could be considered an internship or research project of sorts. Perhaps you’ve taken on new responsibilities in your home or family. Is there a new skill that you are trying to learn online? Are you working toward a finished project or artifact that can show off what you’ve learned? These can be applied, creative, or reflective in nature. We find that students are pretty imaginative on this front and are self-taught in many areas.” 

Swarthmore’s Bock also points out that, “self-care is critical, and if you are unable to care for yourself, it will be difficult to care for others.” He encourages students to give themselves permission to prioritize their own health in the same way one might put their own oxygen mask on first during an emergency in flight. He says, “finding a way to give back to your team, club, faith community, family will come with time. Taking care of yourself in this crisis is a way to help others. It will take time, but there will be ways for you to share and care for others beyond your computer screen and devices.” 

On essays…

Temple’s Abbott, says, “I would advise to resist against writing about something that has consumed all of us around the world. Know in advance that colleges will fully recognize the impact of what COVID-19 had on your high school experience. Don’t let this one public health crisis (as dramatic as it was!) define you.” 

Source (three linked here). 

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Reminder: It’s Okay To Do Less

Reminder: It’s Okay To Do Less

We are entering the time of year when we re-post old (sometimes very old) posts. This subject seems relevant as we approach summer (and in the midst of COVID, when doing more can be tough anyway).

Colleges look for students with something unique, a specific talent, skill, or interest to add to their next class. Students who drill down on an interest or two early on in high school will be better positioned to tell a clear, focused story in their applications. By doing so, they hand the reader of their file exactly what they are looking for—they make it easy to see the value you will add on campus.

This might mean doing a lot of exploration early in high school and this is okay. However, don’t be afraid to find something you like, drill down on it, and not do too much else extracurricularly. You don’t want a resume that reads like a laundry list anyway.

Here’s what a few top colleges have to say on the subject via Niche:

  • “You [should] demonstrate a deep commitment to and genuine appreciation for what you spend your time doing. The joy you take in the pursuits that really matter to you – rather than a resume padded with a long list of activities – will strengthen your candidacy.” –Yale’s advice on Activities
  • “When we evaluate an applicant’s activity list, we’re not looking for a specific number of involvements or even specific types.  We are much more interested in seeing an applicant follow their passions and show dedication over time to a few specific involvements rather than spreading themselves too thin.” –USC Admissions Blog
  • “We are looking for students who will contribute their talents, interests, perspectives, and distinct voices to our community… We are more interested in your focus on a few activities over time (such as work, care for parents and siblings, service, or athletics), rather than membership in a long list of clubs—although we understand that some students can balance an assortment of activities.” –Swarthmore College, “What We Look for in a Swattie”
  • “You’re joining a team. And because we’re recruiting a team of people who will work together, we want a variety of strengths and talents that, together, will form a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. So, not every talented student needs to be talented in the same way.” – UNC-Chapel Hill, “Who We Want”

The question I ask a lot when thinking about activities: How much can you meaningfully contribute to more than a few activities? Narrowing down your interests and corresponding activities can provide the time and space needed to 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!

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

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More Colleges Going Test-Optional (Updated 5/29)

More Colleges Going Test-Optional (Updated 5/29)

More schools are announcing they will go test-optional given the obstacles and disruptions to standardized testing presented by COVID-19. We will be updating this list as more schools are added, so bookmark it!

Some of the recent additions to the list (go to FairTest.org for a full list) that are selective as well as popular schools:

Amherst (1 year)
Babson (1 year)
Bentley
Boston University (1 year)
California State Schools – CSU’s
Case Western University
Chapman University
Claremont McKenna (temporary)
Colgate (1 year)
College of New Jersey
Cornell (temporary)
Davidson (3-year trial)
Elon (3-year pilot)
Fordham (2-year pilot)
Gonzaga (temporary)
Hamilton (1 year)
Haverford (3-year trial)
Indiana University
Loyola Marymount (1 year)
Loyola New Orleans (TEST BLIND)
Macalester
Michigan State (1 year)
Middlebury (3-year pilot)
Northeastern (1 year)
Oberlin (3-year pilot)
Occidental (1 year)
Pomona College (1 year)
RPI
Rhodes College
Rochester Institute of Technology
Rutgers

Santa Clara University (2-year pilot)
SMU
Swarthmore (2-year pilot)
Texas Christian University (temporary)
Tufts (3-year trial)
Tulane (1 year)
University of California (temporary)
University of Oregon
University of Richmond (temporary)
University of San Diego
University of Southern California (temporary)
University of Washington (temporary)
Vassar (1 year)
Villanova (temporary)
Virginia Tech (1 year)
Washington & Lee (temporary)
Wellesley (temporary)
William and Mary (3-year pilot)
Williams

Please note: going TO does not mean schools will be “easier” to get into. And when a school goes test-optional, it does not mean that you automatically should apply without test scores. There are very few students who benefit from applying without test scores to many top-tier colleges.

The move to TO could also drive up application numbers (perhaps a goal of a school going test-optional at some institutions?), making these schools even more competitive than before. There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes in admissions offices (and higher up offices at colleges) that drives these changes; although they make look it on their face, changes are not always student-centered.

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Test-Optional Admissions and the Importance of Essays

Test-Optional Admissions and the Importance of Essays

When a college goes test-optional, the most important factors in admissions decisions are a student’s academic record (including courses taken, grades attained, and class standing if applicable) followed by application essays.

Other factors considered include leadership potential, extracurricular activities, special talents, and the ability to contribute positively to the campus community.

We have always considered essays a very important component of a student’s application, and the one they have the most creative control over. We hope students put some extra thought and effort into them this year whether they are applying test-optional or not! Why? There is no other component of the application where you have a better opportunity to showcase who you are and what you are all about to AdComs than the personal statement, and to an extent, supplemental essays. The Common Application also added a new short essay this year regarding COVID, so be on the lookout for tips from us on how to approach it.

Below you will find 10 tips from one of our essay experts, Emma, that will help you write the most effective personal statement, aka the Common Application essay. As 11th grade winds down (so right now!) or early summer is the best time to tackle this important essay.

Be on the lookout for future posts with tips on supplemental essays, the new Common Application COVID prompt, and how to use this summer to round out your academic and extracurricular narrative.

  • Don’t worry about the prompts. It’s helpful to read through the prompts to see if doing so sparks any ideas; however, there is no need to stress about writing an essay that exactly “answers” a prompt. Your goal is to write the best essay you can about whatever you decide is best to write about. Working with students 1:1, we totally disregard the prompts and usually find that their essay still easily fits under one of the questions. And, if not, there is often an open-ended prompt such as: “Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.”
  • Do open with a scene. A strong opening scene draws the reader into your essay. Admissions officers and their first-round readers have hundreds of applications to get through—make yours stand out from the first sentence. Intrigue them or scare them or make them laugh. Make them want to keep reading.
  • Do focus on a single story. You only have 650 words. Perhaps that sounds like a lot to you: it’s not. There is no reason you should worry about filling it up. Through our process, you will find out how to generate enough detail to write an essay about any story. Nor should you worry about cramming as much as possible into the personal statement. Remember that colleges have all of your application data and that trying to do too much in the essay will only end up making your essay feel rushed and scattered.
  • Do make sure that your story has a clear beginning, middle, and end. You can tell your story out of order—for instance, opening with a scene from a stressful moment in order to build suspense before jumping back into chronology—but you always want to make sure your story has each of these elements. Skipping any single one will confuse your reader and make your story feel incomplete (because it is!).
  • And yet don’t get bogged down in detail. We usually find students have trouble generating enough detail. But sometimes we get a student who is unable to summarize effectively, too. Having too much detail can make your story confusing and also mean that your reader will have trouble understanding what the most significant elements are. It usually also means you don’t have room for reflection—the most important element in the essay!
  • Do present yourself in a positive light. We actively encourage you to tell a story that showcases your vulnerabilities, failures, weaknesses, and mistakes. However, either your narrative or your reflection (or some combination of the two), needs to ultimately redeem you so that your essay, in the end, shows you to be someone who is actively working to improve—to rectify mistakes, move past failures, or strengthen weakness. Your essay should be honest, but its main purpose is to make you seem like someone admissions officers want to see at their colleges! Make sure you come off well.
  • Don’t use huge thesaurus words. Again: you aren’t trying to impress the admissions officers! You are trying to show them who you are—and you are trying to make them like you. Using big words can mean using words you don’t quite know how to use, and that will show. Even if you do know how to use them, unless your essay is about how much you love long words or languages, using the big, 25-cent words can make you sound pretentious and overly formal. The language should sound like you and be relatively casual—not curse-word, talking-with-friends casual, but maybe talking-with-your-grandmother casual.
  • Do use vivid, interesting words and varied sentence structure. Being casual doesn’t mean the writing shouldn’t be good or interesting! Do push yourself to use words you might not use in your everyday speech, and do mix up the sentence structure to keep the writing varied and exciting. Do feel free to include words from your personal vocabulary—words from the language you speak at home or from a regional dialect or words you’ve made up. That can add a lot of texture and personality to an essay. Just make sure you define the words for your reader if the meaning isn’t clear from context.
  • But don’t use emotional language: I was happy; I was sad. Instead, let an action depict the emotional state. That is, instead of saying “I was happy,” you might write, “I couldn’t help skipping a few steps down the street after hearing the news.” And, instead of saying “She was sad,” you might write, “Her shoulders slumped, and she cradled her head in her hands.” You can’t see emotion, and you always want to give the reader something to see.
  • And don’t use cliche—i.e. common, predictable, overused—language. Cliche language includes (but is definitely not limited to!) phrases like:
    • I need to be true to myself.
    • Time heals all wounds.
    • Every cloud has a silver lining.
    • Good things come to those who wait.
    • I learned more from them than they did from me.
    • Every rose has its thorn.
    • You win some, you lose some.
    • Little did I know.

Of course, your essay might have one of these messages at its heart. Maybe you did learn more from the kid you tutored than they learned from you. Maybe you did find the “silver lining” in a terrible situation. Both of these could make for great essays. But you want to verbalize that realization in your own unique and surprising way.

Unsure what to write about? We can help. Contact us! 

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Why High School Students Should Be On LinkedIn

Why High School Students Should Be On LinkedIn

No, admissions officers are not specifically looking for applicants to have LinkedIn profiles yet, although some colleges do have a space for a profile link (or other media link, like your YouTube channel, GitHub, or blog) on their Common App “Questions” section. 

Building a comprehensive LinkedIn profile is a vital first step to setting yourself up for max exposure in your early career, and maintaining a presence on the site is just as crucial as you navigate career changes, pivots, launch new ventures, and make other notable moves.

So why create one in high school? 

Even prior to COVID-19, students were online, and colleges were there, too. But today, and likely moving forward, online platforms are going to become increasingly important for sharing information — and not just between friends and family. Colleges have been trying to meet students where they are (in the past, Facebook and Snapchat, today, Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok), but many students are not taking advantage of the forum for connection that LinkedIn provides. We believe they should!

Beyond connecting with colleges and having a formal (and lifelong) space to record your career and extracurricular progression (extra coursework, publications, volunteerism, etc.), LinkedIn is the perfect place to connect to favorite teachers, coaches, counselors (me!) and mentors, and make it easy to stay in touch. “Networking” (aka building meaningful relationships) does not start when you enter the workforce, it starts now. 

LinkedIn publishes guides for students. Here is one to get you started:

https://university.linkedin.com/content/dam/university/global/en_US/site/pdf/TipSheet_BuildingaGreatProfile.pdf

A few additional tips:

  • Keep your profile current! If there are only two things you always keep updated, make sure you have an accurate headline and location. Set a calendar reminder to update your profile every 3-4 months.
  • Customize your public profile URL. Mine is https://www.linkedin.com/in/brittanymaschal. Fancy!
  • Use professional and accurate photos. No cropped shots where the shoulder of your best friend shows in the corner! Invest in a professional headshot, have a friend take one that looks like a professional headshot, or use your school photo/yearbook photo. Including a simple background photo is also a nice touch.
  • Don’t be shy! Showcase your accomplishments, ask people who have taught you or who you have worked with for recommendations, and connect with everyone you know!

Want help setting up your LinkedIn profile? Contact me today!

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Common Application Adds Student & Counselor Question on COVID-19

Common Application Adds Student & Counselor Question on COVID-19

Next year, on the 2020-2021 application, Common App will provide students who need it with a dedicated space to elaborate on the impact of the pandemic, both personally and academically. The goal of a “common” space for this information is to provide consistent questions and language that colleges and universities can use to review applications.

Below is the question applicants will see:

Community disruptions such as COVID-19 and natural disasters can have deep and long-lasting impacts. If you need it, this space is yours to describe those impacts. Colleges care about the effects on your health and well-being, safety, family circumstances, future plans, and education, including access to reliable technology and quiet study spaces.

  • Do you wish to share anything on this topic? Y/N
  • Please use this space to describe how these events have impacted you.

The question will be optional and will appear in the Additional Information section of the application. The response length will be limited to 250 words.

The question will be accompanied by a more detailed FAQ to help students consider the kinds of impacts they may wish to report, including illness and loss, housing and employment disruptions, and shifting family obligations. **Please note, this is not a space to discuss all impacts of COVID — everyone has been impacted by it, but not all impacts speak to what schools are looking for here**

The new language will not replace the current Additional Information question inviting students to discuss circumstances and qualifications not reflected elsewhere in the application. That question, along with its 650-word limit, will remain.

Counselors will also find space in their Common App counselor forms to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on their school communities. The following optional question will be located within the School Profile section.

Your school may have made adjustments due to community disruptions such as COVID–19 or natural disasters. If you have not already addressed those changes in your uploaded school profile or elsewhere, you can elaborate here. Colleges are especially interested in understanding changes to:

  • Grading scales and policies
  • Graduation requirements
  • Instructional methods
  • Schedules and course offerings
  • Testing requirements
  • Your academic calendar
  • Other extenuating circumstances

This new question will be a text-entry response with a 500-word limit. Counselors may choose to use the space to offer details or to direct admission officers elsewhere to find the information, such as an uploaded school profile or web page url. Counselors will be able to provide this information only once, and it will populate the forms for all their students.

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The Power of Early Decision

The Power of Early Decision

In 2018-19, Trinity College accepted 79.2% of early-decision applicants vs. 8.2% of regular-admission applicants.

At Tulane… 32.2% vs. 1.4% ED to RD.

To everyone who applied to college 15+ years ago, Tulane is not a safer school!. No one gets into Tulane in RD.

Acceptance rates are regularly three times higher for early-decision versus regular-admission applicants at colleges such as Brown, Vanderbilt, Grinnell, Kenyon, and Claremont-McKenna….this list goes on! They are regularly at least two times higher at other institutions, including Holy Cross, Amherst, Columbia, and Rice. Even removing athletes, legacy applicants, and other institutional priorities, applying ED presents an advantage.

The advantage is typically smaller for early-action applicants to highly selective institutions, and in some cases, it affords no advantage.

Jennie Kent and Jeff Levy compile and update an amazing resource that outlines (given the data available) the ED, RD, and % of the class filled in ED at many colleges in the US. This data makes very clear the weight of ED in the college admissions process, and families should review and consider this data as they craft their college lists. Find their work here.

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May Monthly Action Plan – By Grade

May Monthly Action Plan – By Grade

Year-to-year things change slightly in college admissions, but nothing like this year! We are available at your convenience to talk about testing changes and how COVID-19 is impacting the college admissions landscape. We are monitoring how changes may impact the upcoming application process and will be posting relevant updates on the blog. Please let us know if you have any questions about researching and connecting with schools online, taking virtual tours, or thinking about alternate summer options if you were planning on attending an on-campus or travel program. Happy to answer questions via the contact form

Seniors:

    • Waitlisted at your top choice school? Read our waitlist guidance, and reach out if you’d like us to help you craft your WL letter and a personalized waitlist strategy.

    • Today is the national decision day. However, many schools have pushed their deposit deadlines much later. You can find a comprehensive list here via ACCEPT Group.

    • If you are having trouble deciding where to deposit because you have not been able to visit campuses, attend admitted student events, or talk to current students, please reach out as we have resources to share (including student contacts) that might help!

Juniors:

  • Now is a great time to begin brainstorming for your personal statement (aka the Common App essay). Thinking about working with someone to ensure your essays tell your unique story?

    Our goal is not only to help you write essays you are proud of and that showcase who you really are to colleges but also to help you improve as a storyteller, so you can arrive at college confident and ready to tackle your writing requirements. Contact us to learn more about our essay process; our students are starting essays now!!!

  • If your summer plans have changed, or are now up in the air, consider a ‘purpose project’—a project that you design and implement (with our help if you’d like!), which taps into your interests and talents (the things you love, that bring you joy, that you want to study in college, or that you feel could best help your school, community, or the world). A purpose project is connected to a deeper purpose and has tangible outcomes. Past projects from students include writing a book, completing a literature review or book challenge, creating a trailer for a documentary (and a non-profit, a school club, an app), spearheading an innovative volunteer event, fundraising for an organization in a creative way (selling artwork, an Etsy shop, etc.), and hosting a yearly beach clean-up. The possibilities are endless. 
  • Have you pinpointed two teachers to ask for letters of recommendation? Now is an excellent time to decide who to ask.

If you have some extra time:

  • Open a Common App account! Accounts roll over year-to-year, so there’s no better time than now to open an account and familiarize yourself with the system. 

  • Take the lead in bringing your school clubs together online (if they are not already). For example, if you are a member of the history club at your high school, suggest to the broader group a once-weekly meeting via Zoom. Members could take turns assigning readings for discussion. The Learning Network (NYT) is a great place to start; check out the current events conversation section. Other options might include: a book club, movie night + discussion, taking a class together on edX or Coursera, or even organizing a fundraiser (many online options for this!) to benefit a local hospital or relief group.

Sophomores and Freshmen:

  • Update your resume. 
  • If your summer plans have changed, or are now up in the air, consider a ‘purpose project’—a project that you design and implement (with our help if you’d like!), which taps into your interests and talents (the things you love, that bring you joy, that you want to study in college, or that you feel could best help your school, community, or the world). A purpose project is connected to a deeper purpose and has tangible outcomes. Past projects from students include writing a book, completing a literature review or book challenge, creating a trailer for a documentary (and a non-profit, a school club, an app), spearheading an innovative volunteer event, fundraising for an organization in a creative way (selling artwork, an Etsy shop, etc.), and hosting a yearly beach clean-up. The possibilities are endless. 

If you have some extra time:

  • Take the lead in bringing your school clubs together online (if they are not already). For example, if you are a member of the history club at your high school, suggest to the broader group a once-weekly meeting via Zoom. Members could take turns assigning readings for discussion. The Learning Network (NYT) is a great place to start; check out the current events conversation section. Other options might include: a book club, movie night + discussion, taking a class together on edX or Coursera, or even organizing a fundraiser (many online options for this!) to benefit a local hospital or relief group.

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3rd Annual New York Times Podcast Contest

3rd Annual New York Times Podcast Contest

Awesome opportunity via the NYT/The Learning Network:

“We are running our Third Annual Podcast Contest right now for middle and high school students until May 19. To enter, students should submit a five-minute podcast on any subject they want, including sports, music, politics and literature. They can work individually or as a team, and they can create their podcasts from home.

If you’re not sure how to get started with podcasting, we just published two new resources that can help: our Podcasting Unit and our Podcasting Mentor Text. Each provides a step-by-step guide for creating an original podcast, and we offer 23 winning student podcasts as models.

Sign up for our free webinar on April 29 to help you learn more about our podcast contest and podcasting in general. After all, podcasting is a great way for students to strengthen their writing, research and digital media skills.”

 

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