More Colleges Going Test-Optional (Update 6/26)

More Colleges Going Test-Optional (Update 6/26)

Okay, so just about everyone is TO for this year!

Some of the recent additions to the list are below, but please go to FairTest.org for a full list:

Amherst (1 year)
Babson (1 year)
Bentley
Boston University (1 year)
Brown (temporary)
California State Schools – CSU’s
Case Western University
Chapman University
Claremont McKenna (temporary)
Colgate (1 year)
College of Charleston
College of New Jersey
Columbia (temporary)
Cornell (temporary)
Dartmouth (temporary)
Davidson (3-year trial)
Elon (3-year pilot)
Fordham (2-year pilot)
Gonzaga (temporary)
Hamilton (1 year)
Harvard (temporary)
Haverford (3-year trial)
Indiana University
JHU (temporary)
Loyola Marymount (1 year)
Loyola New Orleans (TEST BLIND)
Macalester
Michigan State (1 year)
Middlebury (3-year pilot)
Northeastern (1 year)
Northwestern (temporary)
Oberlin (3-year pilot)
Occidental (1 year)
Ohio State (temporary)
Penn (temporary)
PSU
Pomona College (1 year)
Princeton (temporary)
RPI
Rhodes College
Rochester Institute of Technology
Rowan
Rutgers
Santa Clara University (2-year pilot)
SMU
Stanford (temporary)
Swarthmore (2-year pilot)
Syracuse
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)
UT Austin (temporary)
UVA (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
Yale (temporary)

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.

Also, test-optional and test-blind are two different things; watch out for articles citing schools as test blind when they really mean just test-optional.

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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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Fall 2021 Apply Texas and UT-Austin Essay A and Short Answer Topics

UT Austin updates! Time to start writing essays 🙂

Essay Topic for Summer/Fall 2021 Applications — Applying in August

Tell us your story. What unique opportunities or challenges have you experienced throughout your high school career that have shaped who you are today? = this, in most cases, can be your Common App essay!

All applicants must also submit three required short answers and may submit one optional short answer responding to prompts in your admissions application. Answers are limited to no more than 40 lines, or about 250–300 words, typically the length of one paragraph.

Required Short Answer 1:  Why are you interested in the major you indicated as your first-choice major?

Required Short Answer 2: Leadership can be demonstrated in many ways. Please share how you have demonstrated leadership in either your school, job, community, and/or within your family responsibilities.

Required Short Answer 3: Please share how you believe your experiences, perspectives, and/or talents have shaped your ability to contribute to and enrich the learning environment at UT Austin, both in and out of the classroom.

Optional Short Answer: Please share background on events or special circumstances that may have impacted your high school academic performance.

Essays are so important, especially for schools that require as many at UT does. If you are or you know a junior who would benefit from our guidance and who might want to work with one of our two essay experts (both Harvard grads who teach writing) contact us to schedule a free, 30-minute consultation call.  

 

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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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March Monthly Action Plan – By Grade

March Monthly Action Plan – By Grade

 

Seniors:

  • Many of you will be waiting on final admissions decisions, and then finalizing your college plans this month into next. Happy deciding, and don’t forget to thank everyone who helped you along the way.

Juniors:

  • Please make sure you are engaging in extended research/outreach with the schools on your list. 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.)? Have you been reaching out to and talking to students or alumni? Not all schools offer formal pathways to these opportunities, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make them happen.
  • Continue prepping for and taking standardized tests, as well as updating your resume. Now is also the time to confirm your summer plans.
  • Are you curious about which schools super score the ACT? SAT? Some schools super-score one test but not the other! Read more here: https://www.compassprep.com/superscore-and-score-choice/
  • Interested in seeing some schools? Take a tour via CampusReel. Visiting campus in person is great, but you won’t be able to tour all of the schools on your list. Plus, formal campus tours can be a bit limiting! CampusReel is one of my favorite ways to get a real insider look at colleges.

Sophomores and Freshmen:

  • Have you thought about what major(s) you will mark on your application? Most schools don’t hold you to it (you declare a major by the end of sophomore year at most schools), but they do want to better understand your academic interests and potential major path. Does your resume/activity sheet speak to your academic interests? Now is the time to start thinking about this!
  • Next summer is a wonderful time to do something meaningful, perhaps even fun, that will help you explore your interests and tell your story for college! Keep in mind: you don’t need to take a class for credit or attend a formal summer program. There are many ways to spend your summer that are beneficial.
  • Continue working on your resume/activity sheet. Some summer programs and internships may ask for this, so it’s useful to have it handy.
  • Interested in seeing some schools? Take a tour via CampusReel
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February Action Plan – By Grade

February Action Plan – By Grade

Seniors:

  • Once your applications have been submitted, be sure to track the status of each app online to ensure all of your application materials were received. Follow up with your school counselor ASAP if a college is missing your transcript or a letter of recommendation. Check your junk email folder regularly (daily), so you do not miss correspondence from colleges.
  • Interviews! Sign up for interviews for all of your RD schools as soon as possible (where available/and if still open), if you have not done so already.
  • For RD schools, consider writing interest letters to go out early this month—no later. If you have defer letters/essays that need to go out, get those out ASAP, too.

Juniors:

  • Keep prepping for standardized tests (ACT, SAT, SAT Subject tests) and working hard in all of your classes; your grades this year are very important.
  • Do you know what major(s) you will mark on your application? Do you have a clearly defined academic interest or set of interests for your college apps? This is a critical part of your application that should be determined now.
  • Continue working on your resume. Some summer programs, internships, and interviewers may ask for this, so it’s useful to have it handy.
  • Next summer is a wonderful opportunity to do something really meaningful, perhaps even fun, that will help you tell your story for college! Get those plans in place now.
  • Meet with your school counselor about your preliminary college list and go over your goals and plans for college visits.
  • Speaking of college visits: Are you going to sit in on a class? Do you want to meet with someone in your intended department of interest (major, minor, etc.), or a current student? Not all schools offer formal pathways to these opportunities, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make them happen; this all falls under what I call ‘extended research/outreach’ and it can be highly beneficial. **After visits, even if you only attend a general info session and take a tour, please send your regional rep and any admission representatives you met a follow-up/thank you email** This opens a line of communication with someone at the school, and demonstrates interest. I also recommend keeping a document with any notes and observations from your visits. These notes will come in handy when writing supplemental essays and/or when writing a deferral letter, or letters of interest.
  • Take a college tour via CampusReel. Visiting campus in person is great, but you won’t be able to tour all of the schools on your initial list. Plus, formal campus tours can be a bit limiting! CampusReel is one of my favorite ways to get a real insider look at colleges.
  • Some colleges open up their on-campus interviews this spring. If you plan to interview on an upcoming visit, please prepare. You should always prepare for interviews, even if a school states they are not evaluative.
  • 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.

Sophomores and Freshmen:

  • An impressive academic record is the most important admissions factor at most colleges. Work on creating smart study habits this year.
  • Will you be taking SAT Subject Tests this spring or starting your SAT or ACT prep this spring/summer? Begin to decide on a testing schedule and plan for how you will prepare for these exams.
  • Many 2019 summer program applications are now open. Please begin thinking about your plans for summer 2019 and work on applications if needed.
  • Start to think about next year’s course schedule. Do you know what you will be taking? Your classes next year should be more challenging than this year.
  • Now is the time to build your academic profile for college, and this means pursuing what interests you academically and intellectually outside of your classes. Have you gotten more involved with any academic extracurricular activities? Have you thought about what you might want to major in? Think about ideas for new and different activities or how to get more involved in your favorite activity (academic and non-academic); exploration now will help you begin determining what you might want to study in college. A great place to start exploring your academic interests is Khan Academy: https://www.khanacademy.org.
  • One way that your “story” is conveyed in your app is through your resume. Keep working on yours this month.
The College List: Balancing Risk

The College List: Balancing Risk

University of Michigan psychologist Clyde Coombs developed an innovative theory of risk. If you are going to make risky investment, you protect yourself by playing it safe in other investments. Successful people do the same thing in their daily lives balancing out risks in their portfolio. When we embrace danger in one domain, we offset our overall level of risk by exercising caution in another domain.

This is a good way to think about building your college list.

Some students like to take a big risk with their top choice school. Not always a good idea, but here’s where making good use of different application plans might be beneficial in balancing that risk. If you know Cornell is an “aspirational” school for you—beyond a reach—I would advise to not apply there ED. However, if a student decided they wanted to go for it (and I could not change their mind!), I would strongly advise they balance that decision by applying EA to a range of schools with different levels of selectivity that they liked. For example, UNC, U-M, Penn State, Ohio State, Richmond, and Clemson. I would also advise applying to all of these EA schools if the ED school choice was a bit more reasonable, say, Wake Forest. It is just a good strategy to apply EA along with ED!

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Start Now: College Counseling for High School Juniors

Start Now: College Counseling for High School Juniors

We’ve seen too many students wait until the summer after 11th grade to try to develop and implement the strategies needed to tackle the college application process successfully and with ease. Often, there is just not enough time to do the pre-work that results in the most effective essays, outreach, and positive admissions outcomes.

The best time to start? Now.

Juniors, right now you can:

  • Develop relationships with admissions officers and regional reps (the people who make key decisions on your application) as well as current students and faculty (we can fill you in on why these connections are so important)
  • Create a testing plan that has you ready for apps due on 10/15 or 11/1 and not cramming last minute
  • Open up a Common App account to get familiar with the system
  • Make the best of campus visits and leverage contacts at colleges on these visits
  • Craft a preliminary college list that maximizes the 5+ application plans colleges now use

We hate seeing the second half of junior year go to waste!

We speak to everyone we ultimately work with for at least 30-minutes free of charge to determine how we can best support you. If we feel like we can’t we will provide referrals.

Contact us today to discuss what you can do now to always stay a step—or three—ahead of the game.

 

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Rejection Often Happens Because of a Lack of Fit

When someone rejects you, it helps to remember that there’s another you.

I’m revisiting a wonderful article by Adam Grant from earlier this year because post-November 1, my mind tends to drift to mid-December—when college admissions decisions from the most selective schools begin releasing. I love the rush of October and seeing students “picture” come together in their applications. What I don’t love is the anxiety that leads up to decision releases and knowing how hard most students take rejection.

As someone who has been rejected an appropriate amount, How to Bounce Back From Rejection is something I believe I know well. However, it is not something you can really teach or prepare a student for when it comes to this process. But what Grants points out that I hope all students and parents can keep in mind is rejection often happens because of a lack of fit; it is not entirely personal or a reflection of your whole self as a student: 

We are more than the bullet points on our resumes. We are better than the sentences we string together into a word salad under the magnifying glass of an interview. No one is rejecting us. They are rejecting a sample of our work, sometimes only after seeing it through a foggy lens.

 

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