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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Test Optional Does Not Mean Test Blind

Test Optional Does Not Mean Test Blind

Important article via Applerouth on the move to test-optional at many schools. This mirrors what we have been discussing with clients. In short, test scores can and will still matter for most clients. Read the full article here–and some highlights:

While test scores are no longer required to complete an application, the vast majority of test-optional schools still welcome test scores and value strong scores in the admissions process

Test-optional admissions policies were already on the rise before COVID-19 led to test cancellations this spring. For many colleges, adopting a test-optional admissions policy can be beneficial. Test-optional schools tend to see the following changes in their admissions patterns:

These factors have been at work for years!

Whether you are looking at a school that is temporarily test-optional for the coming year or one that has a permanent test-optional policy in place, the same wisdom applies: test-optional does not mean test-blind. Sometimes students think that if a school is test-optional, test scores will no longer play a major role in admissions. This is a misconception. 

Test-optional admission opens a lane for students who do not test as well or have limited access to testing and supportive resources, like test prep, while continuing to value strong test scores. There are effectively two admissions tracks with slightly different criteria. Students who do not submit scores will be evaluated on the rest of their application, including grades and extracurricular involvement, but they lack the additional evidence that test scores can provide in a competitive admissions environment.

As we move toward a landscape with more test-optional schools, be careful not to conflate test-optional with test-blind. Testing continues to play an important role for many students applying to test-optional schools and will do so for the foreseeable future. It’s only natural: in the midst of heavy competition, applicants will take every opportunity to distinguish themselves.

 

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Free Digital Access to The New York Times Until July 6

Free Digital Access to The New York Times Until July 6

Starting this week, all high school students and teachers in the United States can get free digital access to The New York Times until July 6. If you want to sign up here’s how.

And…20 ways the paper can keep you entertained and informed. Hint: you can use it to explore your academic interests!

 

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April Monthly Action Plan – By Grade

April Monthly Action Plan – By Grade

Number one on the action plan this month is everyone’s health and wellness (and this amazing video by students at Berklee College of Music)!

We are available at your convenience to talk about testing timeline changes or anything else you might want to discuss. We are monitoring how changes may impact the upcoming application process and will be posting anything significant 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 email (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.
  • May 1 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 good time for a social media audit. Connecting with colleges on social is a way to learn about them and it demonstrates interest. Before you tweet to any of your top schools or like them on FB, follow them on Instagram, etc., please make sure your accounts put you in the best light. If you have any questions, ask us!
  • It is also an excellent time to determine who you will ask for your two core teacher letters of recommendation.
  • If you find that you have some extra time on your hands, consider:
      • Creating a digital portfolio (LinkedIn, SoundCloud, personal website, and/or blog).
      • Opening a Common App account and filling out the base data.
      • Contacting your regional reps and asking them for suggestions on how to learn more about their school/programs from afar.
      • Contacting current students as part of your extended research/outreach (see attached).
      • Working on essays!

Sophomores & Freshmen

  • Now is a good time for a social media audit. Connecting with colleges on social is a way to learn about them and it demonstrates interest. Before you tweet to any of your top schools or like them on FB, follow them on Instagram, etc., please make sure your accounts put you in the best light. If you have any questions, ask us!
  • It is helpful to understand how colleges view and define leadership! It is more than being the President of a club or the Captain of a sports team—these are just titles. Please read the PDF here to learn more.
  • Start a story journal. From big life events to small everyday situations, stories from your life drive your college application essays. If you start jotting them down now, as they happen or as you remember them, you will have a much easier time next spring when you start brainstorming to write your personal statement. No story is too big or too small!

 

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The Best Summer Programs for High School Students: Entrepreneurship

The Best Summer Programs for High School Students: Entrepreneurship

We have broken out entrepreneurship programs into a new post because of the popularity of exploration in this field. And yes, we know many summer programs will not run this summer, but we are going to share anyway for anyone looking ahead to next summer 🙂

Find some of our favorites below!

LaunchX

Join a highly-curated group of promising young entrepreneurs from around the globe for four intense weeks. You’ll learn from industry experts and work in a group of peer co-founders to build real products and solve business challenges in viable ways. LaunchX isn’t a business plan competition – students start real companies. These startups are driven by using the design thinking process to discover innovative opportunities, backed by extensive market research, multiple iterations of prototypes and user testing, and gaining traction through getting real customers and partnerships. Learn more here.

Cornell University, Social Entrepreneurship: Transforming Lives, Resolving Problems

This highly interactive, award-winning program tackles nothing less than helping you identify your hopes, dreams, and plans for transforming yourself and the world. The course is fast-paced and largely discussion-based. Under the leadership of Dr. Anke Wessels, you’ll learn the fundamental principles for solving problems, fostering innovation, and creating change—and you’ll then apply this knowledge to your own social venture. Learn more here.

Babson College, Introduction to the Entrepreneurial Experience

Introduction to the Entrepreneurial Experience allows you to develop your problem-solving and teamwork skills that you can apply in limitless settings, including business, nonprofit, government, and your career. In this course, we “learn by doing” and explore social, economic, and environmental problems through an entrepreneurial lens. You’ll gain exposure to key concepts in entrepreneurship, management, marketing, finance, business communication, and other disciplines. Learn more here.

The University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley Business Academy for Youth

Great ideas are everywhere. Yet, great businesses built on top of great ideas are far more rare. B-BAY, a proven business program for youth, lets you experience the powerful combination of great ideas and great business sense by developing a business idea and creating your team’s business plan—all in just two weeks. Learn more here.

Non-“Program” Ideas We Love

Khan Academy Modules

Free Online Classes from Top Colleges & Universities

Books

  • Outliers
  • Lost and Founder
  • The Lean Startup
  • Good to Great
  • Zero to One

Internships/Job Shadow/Volunteer

  • Ask us about this one via contact form here!

 

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We’ve Got You!

We’ve Got You!

We know this may be an uncertain time for you and your family, and we want to make sure that you know we are here to support you as you await your admission decisions, decide where you want to enroll, and try to figure out the rest of the school year.

If you are already working with us, please know that you can reach out at any time.

If you are not working with us and you need support as you navigate enrollment options or the transfer application process, please reach out. We are happy to answer questions at no charge, as appropriate (be mindful there are limits as to what we can advise on at this time), if you can no longer receive support from your in-school counseling staff and teachers. You can reach us through the contact form or via social media.

If you know a student without support at this time, please have them reach out.

Keep checking back as we post about important admissions-related updates. A few include:

ACT & SAT Testing Updates

The College Board and ACT are canceling and rescheduling some spring test dates. ACT updates are here and SAT updates are here. Students should plan to check for updates regularly, as things have changed very recently.

NACAC College Admission Status Update

NACAC has developed a tool that compiles updates from colleges and universities about how they are adapting to the impact of COVID-19. Many colleges are changing policies around school visits, deadlines for replying to offers and submitting enrollment deposits, and sharing other ways to get in contact. Please find the tool here.

Stay healthy and positive!

 

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The Best Summer Programs for High School Students: STEM

The Best Summer Programs for High School Students: STEM

There are tons of interesting and fun summer programs out there! However, the ones we most often suggest are those that help you explore your academic interests. As part of your college application, they help demonstrate your intellectual curiosity and commitment to an area of study (typically, the one you might pursue in college).

The following programs are some of our favorites for students interested in STEM.

Garcia Program, Stony Brook University

This is an intensive seven-week program for gifted high school students which combines formal instruction with independent research and allows students to design original research projects with guidance from Garcia Center faculty, students, and staff. Students can continue during the academic year in the Mentor Program, which allows them to plan a research schedule with a faculty mentor throughout the year. Pre-arranged transportation and class schedules are coordinated with local school boards to enable students from a large geographical area to enroll in the program. Almost three hundred high school students have participated in this program since its inception. Learn more here.

Research Science Institute, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Each summer, 80 of the world’s most accomplished high school students gather at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for the Research Science Institute (RSI). RSI is the first cost-free to students, summer science & engineering program to combine on-campus course work in scientific theory with off-campus work in science and technology research. Participants experience the entire research cycle from start to finish. They read the most current literature in their field, draft and execute a detailed research plan, and deliver conference-style oral and written reports on their findings. RSI scholars first participate in a week of intensive STEM classes with accomplished professors. The heart of RSI is the five-week research internship where students conduct individual projects under the tutelage of mentors who are experienced scientists and researchers. During the final week of RSI, students prepare written and oral presentations on their research projects. Learn more here.

COSMOS, University of California (Multiple Campuses)

COSMOS is an intensive four-week summer residential program for students who have demonstrated an aptitude for academic and professional careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects. Talented and motivated students completing grades 8-12 have the opportunity to work with renowned faculty, researchers and scientists in state-of-the-art facilities, while exploring advanced STEM topics far beyond the courses usually offered in California high schools. Through challenging curricula that are both hands-on and lab intensive, COSMOS fosters its students’ interests, skills, and awareness of educational and career options in STEM fields. Learn more here.

Simons Summer Research Program, Stony Brook University

Established in 1984 as an outreach program for local high school students, the Simons Summer Research program now attracts applicants from all across the country to the Stony Brook campus: Simons Fellows are matched with Stony Brook faculty mentors, join a research group or team, and assume responsibility for a project. The Simons Fellows conclude their apprenticeship by producing a written research abstract and a research poster. In addition to learning valuable techniques and experiencing life at a major research university, Simons Fellows attend weekly faculty research talks and participate in special workshops, tours and events. At the closing poster symposium, students are presented with a $1,000 stipend award. Learn more here.

MIT Beaverworks Summer Institute, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

The MIT Beaver Works Summer Institute (BWSI) is a rigorous, world-class STEM program for talented students who will be entering their senior year in high school. The four-week program teaches STEM skills through project-based, workshop-style courses. BWSI began in 2016 with a single course offered to 46 students, a mix of local daytime students and out-of-state residential students. In this course, RACECAR (Rapid Autonomous Complex Environment Competing Ackermann steering) students programmed small robotic cars to autonomously navigate a racetrack. The positive student reaction to our hands-on learning style led to the expansion of the program to include two additional courses in 2017, Autonomous Air Vehicle Racing and Autonomous Cognitive Assistant. To make sure students had the STEM background to participate fully in the three courses, the BWSI instructors developed online tutorials that students had to complete as a prerequisite for applying for the summer program.  In 2017, 98 students from 49 high schools nationwide enjoyed BWSI. Learn more here.

Non-“Program” Ideas We Love

Khan Academy Modules

Free Online Classes from Top Colleges & Universities

Highlights for High School

  • Via MIT. Learn more here.

Lab Internship/Shadow

  • Ask us about this one!

 

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Campus Visit Canceled? How to Get to Know Colleges Online

Campus Visit Canceled? How to Get to Know Colleges Online

The in-person campus tour is not the only or even the single best way to get to know a school, which is a good thing considering COVID-19 is causing most schools to cancel their on-campus visits programs. Neither is that gigantic Fiske guide, College Confidential (that site is stress-inducing, please stay away from it, same with Reddit), or what your older sibling or cousin told you based on findings from their college search process.

Meaningful college research should take place in several different ways, and luckily, it can take place from the comfort of your own home.

Here are five ways you can continue your college research and get to know schools while on-campus visits are on hold.

College/University Websites

Read the websites of the schools on your list, and not just the admissions and financial aid pages. I would read those—but to understand how to apply, not why to apply…unless it is one of the admissions office/officer’s blogs that I talk about here, as those might help you see why you’d want to attend.

I suggest starting with the pages of the department in which you hope to study (or think you might hope to study). What does the curriculum look like? How many and what types of classes are offered? Are there affiliated clubs, events, other special programs of interest? Find a faculty member who is undertaking research in your area of interest and reach out to them with three or four questions you have about the program or their research that you can’t find answers to online. If they are unable to speak to you, ask if they can suggest someone else who might be able to help. Can’t get through to any faculty members? Contact the department’s administrative assistant or department coordinator and see if they can help you make an initial connection. For example, here you can find the contact info for the program coordinator of Penn’s Department of Psychology. If not, ask your regional rep to help you get this information.

I also suggest pinpointing two or three clubs you might want to join. See if you can connect with a current student or faculty lead within each to learn more. Most club’s general admin contact info is posted online. Here is the contact info for Fordham’s Finance Society, as well as a zillion contacts for USC student clubs.

Lastly, you might want to get a sense of what the campus looks like and can do so via a virtual tour if you can’t go in person. Many colleges provide virtual tour options now. For example, here is one created by Santa Clara University in California.

CampusReel

Speaking of tours, whether you can get to campus in person or not, you will want to check out CampusReel for an insider look at the colleges and universities on your list. Real college students submit video clips that take you through a day in the life, dorms, dining halls, classrooms, and so on. For example, I enjoyed this video from a UC Santa Barbara student on what she wished she knew before she started. You will also get a pretty good sense of what the campus looks like in reality as the guides are not employees of the admissions office, and what you see is probably closer to what you will get compared to the virtual tour created by the school.

Coursera and edX

If you can’t get to campus and glimpsing a school’s academics firsthand is important to you (it should be!), then head over to Coursera and edX and sign up for a class. They are free, informative, and you might learn something, not to mention they give you an extra talking point (or ten) for application materials and interviews. You will get a sense of what college-level courses entail, and I also see it as a way to demonstrate interest. A few classes I like and have had students take include:

Network with Local Alumni Groups

Don’t know anyone who went to your dream school? Look no further than your local alumni group. If you are not sure if your area has an alumni group, ask Google. I entered “NYU alumni club NJ” and got the link to info on the NJ group right away. You will be sending a cold email but I don’t see anything wrong with that. You are showing interest in their alma mater. If someone is a member of their alumni group, they probably like to connect with people like you. You are demonstrating a desire above and beyond other prospective students to get to know the school, and they love their school! That is never a bad look. And if no one replies to you, at least you know you tried. If there is no local or regional group where you live, try to locate one closest to you. Again, there is really no downside to trying to connect with alumni to learn more about their school.

Social Media

Not the best way to get to know a school well, but some college accounts are not half bad. I follow a few schools on Instagram, and the “takeover” stories by admissions office staff and students can be insightful. I particularly like the UChicago and Barnard pages.

If you believe in finding a school that is best matched with your goals for college (not just a school with a certain brand, good sports team, etc.), the above outreach will help you figure out which school that might be—so use this time to get researching!

 

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