January Action Plan – By Grade

January Action Plan – By Grade

Seniors:

  • If you have RD applications due in mid-January that you did not submit, finish those up ASAP. The same goes for 2/1 deadline apps; there is no reason to wait!
  • The process of applying to college is not over after you press submit, so keep checking those online portals! Some schools require a mid-term grade report as noted on the application instructions (found online). It can be helpful to generate that list and let your school counselor know so it is sent as soon as grades are released. Also, many schools require it even after you have been admitted. 
  • Grades are still important. Even one grade below your “normal” can be cause for concern; we’ve had students receive letters from schools after they had been admitted for a grade that “dipped” too far, threatening their admission could be taken away. Avoid this by maintaining your GPA.
  • If you were deferred, work on your deferral letter this month and aim to send it mid-month.
  • Thank everyone who helped you with your college process (especially your parents!), and take some time to enjoy what is left of high school between now and the rest of your admissions results.

Juniors:

  • Testing. Once you are in prep-mode it is best to just keep going. The sooner you are finished testing, the sooner you can begin to finalize your college list. If you have a preliminary list, February break is a great time to visits colleges. Plan some visits.
  • Confirm your summer plans. Next summer is a wonderful opportunity to do something really meaningful (and perhaps even fun!) that will help you tell your story to colleges.
  • 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.
  • Resolve to check your email daily. Why? Colleges communicate with students via email. Most schools track whether you open emails and if you click through them; more engagement is seen as more interest (schools use interest in the admissions process). Make checking and engaging with any college-related email a habit in 2021.

Sophomores & Freshmen:

  • Are you planning to take SAT subject tests in May or June? If so, come up with a prep plan now.
  • An impressive academic record is the most important admissions factor at most colleges. Study hard.
  • Speaking of courses, when do you pick your courses for 11th grade? Keep in mind you want to take a more rigorous course schedule each year.
  • Now is the time to build your story for college! Have you gotten more involved with any of your extracurricular activities? Have you thought about what you might want to major in? A great place to start exploring your academic interests is Khan Academy.
  • One way that your “story” is conveyed in your app is through your resume. Work on your resume now.
  • Many 2021 summer program applications will open soon. Begin thinking about your plans for summer 2021 now so you can get ahead of deadlines and work on applications if needed.
  • Replace one hour of social media, Netflix, or TV per week with time on Ted ED. Explore what intrigues you! Maybe it’s the history of cheese, particle physics, or what makes a poem a poem. Whatever you find interesting, take some time to be intentional about learning more in the new year!

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Peer Guidance Program: Go Beyond the College Tour!

Peer Guidance Program: Go Beyond the College Tour!

Given campus visit restrictions, students are finding it more challenging than ever before to get a sense of what a college is really like. Prospective applicants want (and need!) information they can’t always get online, and that they would often get by sitting in on classes, going on overnight visits, or even meeting with current students on campus through sports teams, affinity groups, or clubs they hope to join if admitted.

Whether students get to campus or not, we know from experience that they can craft smaller, more targeted college lists that reflect a deep knowledge of schools beyond rankings when they talk to current students and young alumni. Talking to peers is also the single best way to learn more about the social aspects of college and what it is like (realistically!) to follow a certain major path.

With that, we’ve launched a new Peer Guide program!

We have a small pool of college students who are available to meet with high school students and help guide them on all things their school, major, and college life in general. Here’s how it works:

Reach out letting us know the specific school or major you want peer guidance on, and we will let you know if guides are available and share their bio(s). *Please note, as we are piloting this program, we might not have a guide available for your college or major of interest; if one becomes available later, we will let you know

-You choose a guide(s) and let us know how much time you want with them (one hour is typically sufficient). Time with the guide is purchased in one-hour blocks, and we ask that you use the time with your guide within three months

-We intro the student and guide, and they take it from there! This is not a formal mentorship program, and students and guides will schedule their time together directly. *Please note, this is a near-peer, student-to-student program. Guides do not meet with or communicate with parents

We have guides from many popular schools including:

  • Michigan
  • Dartmouth
  • Duke
  • Tulane
  • Stanford
  • Princeton
  • Harvard
  • GWU
  • Georgetown
  • Cornell
  • Notre Dame
  • Northeastern
  • and more!

Email us if you are interested in learning more!

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Steps for Deferred College Applicants

Every year we work with a handful of deferred students on turning those defers into admits. Reach out to us if you want individualized, 1:1 guidance!

Some colleges and universities can’t admit all of the students they would like to via early decision or early action (“ED” or “EA”), so they defer some and evaluate them again during regular decision (“RD”). These candidates have a shot (albeit small at many top-top schools) at getting admitted RD. However, some schools just defer everyone or almost everyone! A not so nice practice. Most students who fall into this category should move on and focus on other schools. If you are not sure which category you fall into, reach out to us. 

If you’d like some general guidance on working the deferral, you’ll find it below. But first, a few notes before doing anything to “work” a deferral:

1. Stay positive for RD, or preferably, early decision II (“ED II”), and keep moving forward on other apps! Those are much more important now.

2. Consider ED II if you are currently not. Not all schools have ED II; check your Common App to see if ED II is offered at any schools on your list. Why? because….

3. The RD round is tough and this year’s early numbers (at top-top schools where numbers are NOT down) demonstrate it might be even tougher than before; it is smart to get familiar with the ED I and RD numbers and understand why ED II can present a significant advantage over RD. Read this chart by Jeff Levy and Jeannie Kent. Pay particular attention to the percentage of the class filled by early plans.

4. Don’t make the same mistakes again (or again, and again…). You should be very open to doing a thorough evaluation of what might have gone wrong with your early app(s). With fresh eyes, you might find a few things you would change. Or, with the feedback from someone else, see that you missed the mark. If you’d like an expert evaluation of your deferred app, our “redo report,” contact us.

Other Tips:

–Get your guidance counselor’s support. Have your guidance counselor advocate for you (call) and reach out to your regional rep (or whoever their contact is in the admissions office). Make sure updated grades/transcripts are sent promptly. Your grades should have remained the same or improved, not dipped.

-If you applied test-optional, consider taking and/or sending scores. Colleges have always valued competitive scores and this year is likely no different.

–Get an extra letter of recommendation if the school notes you are allowed to send one*. This letter could be written by a teacher, coach, or someone else close to you who can speak to your background, performance, and potential.

*Side note on alumni letters and letters from well-known or famous people. Many students ask if these are helpful to send, and the answer is usually no. And…some schools explicitly state not to send any extras.

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

-Connect with your regional rep and consider sending a deferral letter (aka a letter of continued interest). You should have connected with them prior to applying, so this email won’t be out of the blue. Ask if they have any specific advice for deferred candidates. Are reasons for the deferral that you can address in the coming months (grades, test scores or lack thereof, lack of demonstrating interest, or understanding the mission and values of the school)? If you had an interview and established a good relationship with your interviewer, you can also reach out to them to see if they have any tips. A deferral letter should contain information updating the school on what you’ve been up to both inside and outside of the classroom since the time you applied as a way to show your fit for the school, how you will add value, etc. It should not be a list of your accomplishments or a brag sheet. Contact us if you would like some help with your deferral letter.

Secondary Efforts:

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

 

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Optional Components of the College Application

Optional Components of the College Application

If you want to maximize your chances of acceptance, don’t consider any optional components of a college application optional. Here are some common optional components:

  • Essays
  • Interviews
  • Videos submissions
  • Letter of recommendation (any or extras)

Option to write an optional essay? Write it.

Option to Interview? Sign up (then prepare for it…more on that here and here).

Option to create and send a video introduction, for example, like CMC, U Chicago and Bowdoin offer? Do it.

Option to send an extra letter of recommendation, or to send one at all if optional (many schools require zero LORs, so if you can submit one as an option….)? Request one and have it sent.

Why submit optional materials? It means you want to go above and beyond what other applicants will do to demonstrate who they are as well as their commitment to being accepted to the school to which you are applying. You are giving yourself the opportunity to let the admissions committee get to know more about you. More of “you” to evaluate, assuming the you that you present is in a good light, is usually a good thing.

Also, for many AdComs, not submitting optional materials looks lazy. If I have applicant A and applicant B on the table, and all things are equal but A submits extra materials and B does not, there is a higher likelihood I am going with A. I like to see the extra hustle, and colleges do, too.

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Increase in ED/EA Applications from 2019 to 2020

Increase in ED/EA Applications from 2019 to 2020

Curious as to why so many deferrals and flat out rejections in this year’s early round?

Everyone thought they had a chance at a top-top school this year (what we’ve been calling a bit of COVID Confidence) but many admission offices are not playing the same game as in past years. Fewer legacy favors, a greater emphasis on applicants from diverse backgrounds, and yes, huge surges in app numbers have made it a tough early round.

Best pieces of general advice?

  1. Play your cards right with a smart ED 2 choice and broaden your list for RD — it does not get easier to get in during later rounds!
  2. Avoid making the same mistakes twice: have someone (like us!) provide a ding report so you can fix application errors, improve essays, and submit better apps in RD/ED2.
  3. Don’t stop after you press submit. More on this in a later post…

Stats via IECA listserve compiled by JRA.

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College Application Decision = Deferred. Steps for Deferred Applicants

College Application Decision = Deferred. Steps for Deferred Applicants

Every year we work with a handful of deferred students on turning those defers into admits. Reach out to us if you want individualized, 1:1 guidance!

Some colleges and universities can’t admit all of the students they would like to via early decision or early action (“ED” or “EA”), so they defer some and evaluate them again during regular decision (“RD”). These candidates have a shot (albeit small at many top-top schools) at getting admitted RD. However, some schools just defer everyone or almost everyone! A not so nice practice. Most students who fall into this category should move on and focus on other schools. If you are not sure which category you fall into, reach out to us. 

If you’d like some general guidance on working the deferral, you’ll find it below. But first, a few notes before doing anything to “work” a deferral:

1. Stay positive for RD, or preferably, early decision II (“ED II”), and keep moving forward on other apps! Those are much more important now.

2. Consider ED II if you are currently not. Not all schools have ED II; check your Common App to see if ED II is offered at any schools on your list. Why? because….

3. The RD round is tough and this year’s early numbers (at top-top schools where numbers are NOT down) demonstrate it might be even tougher than before; it is smart to get familiar with the ED I and RD numbers and understand why ED II can present a significant advantage over RD. Read this chart by Jeff Levy and Jeannie Kent. Pay particular attention to the percentage of the class filled by early plans.

4. Don’t make the same mistakes again (or again, and again…). You should be very open to doing a thorough evaluation of what might have gone wrong with your early app(s). With fresh eyes, you might find a few things you would change. Or, with the feedback from someone else, see that you missed the mark. If you’d like an expert evaluation of your deferred app, our “redo report,” contact us.

Other Tips:

–Get your guidance counselor’s support. Have your guidance counselor advocate for you (call) and reach out to your regional rep (or whoever their contact is in the admissions office). Make sure updated grades/transcripts are sent promptly. Your grades should have remained the same or improved, not dipped.

-If you applied test-optional, consider taking and/or sending scores. Colleges have always valued competitive scores and this year is likely no different.

–Get an extra letter of recommendation if the school notes you are allowed to send one*. This letter could be written by a teacher, coach, or someone else close to you who can speak to your background, performance, and potential.

*Side note on alumni letters and letters from well-known or famous people. Many students ask if these are helpful to send, and the answer is usually no. And…some schools explicitly state not to send any extras.

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

-Connect with your regional rep and consider sending a deferral letter. You should have connected with them prior to applying, so this email won’t be out of the blue. Ask if they have any specific advice for deferred candidates. Are reasons for the deferral that you can address in the coming months (grades, test scores or lack thereof, lack of demonstrating interest, or understanding the mission and values of the school)? If you had an interview and established a good relationship with your interviewer, you can also reach out to them to see if they have any tips. A deferral letter should contain information updating the school on what you’ve been up to both inside and outside of the classroom since the time you applied as a way to show your fit for the school, how you will add value, etc. It should not be a list of your accomplishments or a brag sheet. Contact us if you would like some help with your deferral letter.

Secondary Efforts:

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

 

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December Monthly Action Plan – By Grade

December Monthly Action Plan – By Grade

Seniors

• If you have been admitted to your top choice school and the process of applying has come to a close, congrats! Remember to maintain your GPA as schools don’t like to see your grade dip 🙂

• Track your application status. Once your applications have been submitted, be sure to periodically check your school-specific portals. Check your JUNK/SPAM email folder regularly (daily), so you do not miss correspondence from schools.

• Do the schools on your list require midterm grade reports? Check requirements online and talk to your school counselor about having them sent to colleges as needed. Also, re-share your RD list and make sure they know to send docs accordingly and far in advance of deadlines.

• It is difficult to write essays and complete applications between December 15 through January 1 because of the holidays, and…

• It’s always a good idea to submit apps ahead of deadlines. Aim to complete all RD/ED II apps by 12/15 so you are not in a time-crunch over the holidays and beat the RD app submission rush! Don’t forget to send official test scores, as required, to RD schools.

•If you still can, you should interview where possible…and consider which schools on your list you will send an interest/update letter to (no more than a month or so after you apply).

• If you were deferred, check back for a post on that soon (or look back to this time last year on the blog). If you need help creating your deferral letter and strategy, reach out to us.

Juniors

• Keep going on tours and attending info sessions (virtually of course!).

• Beyond academics, colleges look to admit students who take part in meaningful extracurricular activities, and summer is a great time to do something fun and meaningful that possibly explores what you might study in college. You might want to consider going beyond a pre-packaged program to something more self-initiated, like an independent study (will share more on this later in the month) or a purpose project.

• Start to think more about your major (or majors!) of interest and how your activities support this interest. Don’t forget: you should be exploring your interests outside of the classroom/school. But what if I do not know what my interests are?!?! Interests are not necessarily inherent, waiting to be found—they need to be cultivated. You have to get out into the world and work to determine them, and this can take time. We believe this is why it is important to start exploring early in high school. Explore through after-school programs, clubs at your school, a summer job, free classes online, by reading books, academic journals, or even watching Ted Talks. What we are getting at is, to really determine your interests, which might someday turn into your focus of study in college—or who knows, maybe even your passions later in life—you have to put some thought into it and do the work!

Sophomores & Freshmen

• An impressive academic record is the most important admissions factor at most colleges. How are your classes going? Review interim grade reports, and take stock of where you have room to improve.

• Beyond academics, colleges look to admit students who take part in meaningful extracurricular activities, and summer is a great time to do something fun and meaningful that possibly explores what you might study in college. You might want to consider a purpose project. 

• As we excitedly approach the holiday season, think about how you might be able to help out those in need. The holidays can be a tough time for many families, and high schools and community centers often have food drives, toy drives, coat drives, etc. where you could give some of your time (or food or coats or toys!). Get involved, give back!

 

Enjoy the holidays and winter break! Take some time to relax.

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College Admissions Interviews: Alumni Interview Protocols

College Admissions Interviews: Alumni Interview Protocols

Alumni interview season is upon us!

For many students, college admissions interviews are fear-inducing. And though there is some decent prep material online, you can often go right to the source for clarity on what the process entails. There is no reason to fear your alumni interview because many schools have their protocols and the guidance/instructions they give your interviewer available for you to review online—including possible interview questions.

Knowing the questions you might be asked is one thing but thoroughly preparing is another completely. You do not need to spend hours preparing answers to hundreds of questions to thoroughly prepare for alumni or any other college admissions interview. Canned responses sound unnatural. In my experience, taking the less stressful approach bodes well for students: they do not waste hours preparing, which can detract from other important tasks (homework, community engagement, application essays, sleep) and because they have not overprepared, they will sound far more natural and “themselves” therefore win over an interviewer.

Remember, so much of a college admissions interview (and this entire process!) is about likeability—rehashing your resume word-for-word does not make you likable, but being able to hold a conversation and do so with ease does! Getting to the point of doing so with ease is the hardest part for high school students (who have not interviewed all that much, typically), but over-preparing won’t help. Resist the urge.

Below, I’ve compiled a few of the alumni interview links for some popular, selective schools. Take some time to read over the information provided, but do not obsess over it.

You can find a general list of potential interview questions in older posts, but contact us if you want individualized help preparing for your college interviews—alumni or otherwise—or want access to additional materials. We’ve helped hundreds of students ace their interviews and gain acceptance to their first-choice colleges and universities—don’t miss an opportunity to shine live!

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November Monthly Action Plan – By Grade

November Monthly Action Plan – By Grade

Seniors

  • Keep writing apps, and make sure you are aware of early merit deadlines. Many are earlier than the RD deadline. Please do not save essay writing (or any part of this process) for the last minute. Submit applications as soon as possible!
  • Track your application status. Once your applications have been submitted, you often are provided a “portal” from each school. You need to check this periodically (and be checking your email every day too!). You track the status of your app to ensure schools receive all of your application materials. Follow up with your school counselor ASAP if a school is missing your transcript or a letter of recommendation. *Do not expect portals to be updated automatically; give schools some time and do not immediately email if you sent something but it is not reflected in your portal. They don’t like getting emails asking why it is not updated when you just submitted…two days ago.  Expect things to be slow this year as many schools are working in hybrid formats/not everyone is on campus at all schools, etc. Check your JUNK/SPAM email folder regularly (daily) so you do not miss correspondence from schools. This directly applies to the point above.
  • Continue connecting with students, faculty, and staff. Remember to interview where applicable and take lots of notes. The information you gather is often perfect material for supplemental “Why School” essays and interest letters after you apply!
  • Keep learning about the schools on your list. If your school hosts a college fair or individual college visits (virtually this year), please attend and meet the reps from the schools on your list. If you have already met them, it is still beneficial to stop by and say hello to demonstrate interest.
  • Prep for interviews. Remember, if the schools on your list have on-campus or local interviews that are candidate-initiated, you must schedule them. Check the schools on your list. All of this information is provided on schools’ admissions websites.
  • Have standardized test scores sent to all of the colleges on your list, if required; please send scores now so they arrive before RD deadlines. Some schools no longer require you to send officials, so please review each school’s application instructions to confirm. You can also review the list here: https://www.compassprep.com/self-reporting-test-scores/  *there is no penalty if you send them and they are not required at the time you apply. And if you are applying test-optional, this does not apply to you!

Juniors

  • If you look at your resume, are your academic interests clear? If yes, then your academic narrative is developed. A clear-cut academic narrative is beneficial; if you are undecided, then you should be exploring multiple interests. It is okay to be undecided as long as you are actively working on finding your niche. Please keep in mind that colleges aren’t looking for you to have it all 100% figured out; they are more concerned that you have interests and that you act on them (they want to see that you are intellectually curious and act on that curiosity!).
  • Now is the time to plan the rest of junior year in terms of testing. When will you take the ACT or SAT? Should you take SAT Subject Tests? How many and which ones? When might you take them? Have you started formal test prep? Now is the time to start! If you need test prep resources, please reach out. 
  • Visit the websites of the schools you are interested in, and explore the admissions and academics pages. Start to think about your major(s) of interest and how the activities you are involved in support these interests. If possible, we want to determine what major(s) options you will list on your applications sooner rather than later so you can best prepare yourself for talking about these interests in your apps. If you need suggestions for activities based on your interests (for example, Coursera courses, independent projects, etc.), let us know—we help with this!
  • Fall is a great time to visit colleges (virtually or in-person if you can), so plan some visits. Schools are offering many online opportunities, so take advantage of them now. Whether you can get to campus or not, take virtual tours via CampusReel, too.
  • Do you have a plan in place to get more involved with any of your extracurricular activities? Look for leadership opportunities in school clubs and activities outside of school too. Remember, leadership is far more than leading a school club or sports team. Read more here (What is Leadership)!

Sophomores and Freshmen

  • An impressive academic record is the most important admissions factor at most colleges. A rigorous course schedule shows intellectual curiosity, a willingness to challenge yourself, and that you are comfortable with hard work. Your number one priority this year should be your grades!
  • If you haven’t done so already, get involved in activities in your area(s) of interest both inside and outside of school. Seek out opportunities to develop leadership roles. Depth, not breadth of experience, is key. Most colleges prefer to see fewer activities, but in which you are involved in a significant, meaningful way. Evidence of leadership, initiative, commitment, and meaningful engagement is important. Avoid the laundry list resume.
  • Starting your own club, website, or community service project can show initiative, dedication, and leadership. If you are interested in creating an opportunity for yourself that is not available at your school or through a formal program, contact us, because we can help!
  • Schedule a meeting to discuss your high school game plan with your guidance counselor. Your guidance or college counselor will write you a letter of recommendation when you apply to college, so make an effort to get to know them and for them to get to know you.

 

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Don’t Press Pause After You Submit Early College Applications

Don’t Press Pause After You Submit Early College Applications

After you submit early apps, it can be tempting to press pause completely. Take a few days off if needed, but after that, get back to work! Please don’t sit around waiting for results or go back and read through your early apps. Focus instead on completing interest letters, your ED 2 app, and your RD apps. You can also…

  • Track your application status. Once your applications have been submitted, you often are provided a “portal” from each school. You need to check this periodically (and be checking your email every day too!). You track the status of your app to ensure schools receive all of your application materials. Follow up with your school counselor ASAP if a school is missing your transcript or a letter of recommendation. *Do not expect portals to be updated automatically; give schools some time and do not immediately email if you sent something but it is not reflected in your portal. They don’t like getting emails asking why it is not updated when you just submitted…two days ago.  Expect things to be slow this year as many schools are working in hybrid formats/not everyone is on campus at all schools, etc.
  • Check your JUNK/SPAM email folder regularly (daily) so you do not miss correspondence from schools. This directly applies to the point above.
  • Continue to learn about the schools on your list (and demonstrate interest) by attending online / virtual events. Tracking interest does not stop once your app is submitted, and don’t believe for a second that it won’t help you to connect with schools in this and other ways (beyond submitting the app). Show schools love!
  • Keep track of updates that might be relevant to and positively support your application. Schools benefit from knowing about meaningful awards, new test scores, things like that — not every single tiny thing you’ve done since you pressed submit.

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