Will MIT change and challenge the test-optional movement?

Will MIT change and challenge the test-optional movement?

Probably not. 

Great piece by Jim Jump if you are following the test-optional movement. A highlight:

There are, of course, some global reasons why test-optional policies will not go away. One is the decision by the University of California and Cal State systems to no longer use test scores in their admission processes. As a result, colleges that recruit heavily in California will have a hard time reinstating test score requirements. But students outside California may also rebel against colleges that return to requiring test scores. The Ivies may be able to get away with it, but two years ago, when the pandemic accelerated the number of colleges going the test-optional route, an admissions dean friend postulated that colleges farther down the food chain may find that students may simply refuse to apply to colleges that aren’t test optional.

Read it here in full!

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Sal Khan: Test-Optional College Admissions Adds Ambiguity and is Bad for Students

Sal Khan: Test-Optional College Admissions Adds Ambiguity and is Bad for Students

Interesting read if you are following the test-optional movement and related debates. Sal Khan is the founder of Khan Academy, a non-profit that partners with the College Board. Read the interview here

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Focus on the next fours years, not the last.

Focus on the next fours years, not the last.

The class of 2022 is resilient. They’ve weathered a pandemic, the confusion of test-optional, okay at best online schooling—the list goes on. 

Great read in Charter by S. Mitra Kalita. “Bottom line: You’re going to be fine. Let’s focus on the next fours years, not the last!”

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Class of 2022 Acceptances

Class of 2022 Acceptances

Our students rock! We are grateful they chose to have us along for the ride. This year was extraordinarily tough, and we are so proud of the work they put in. Their efforts did not go unnoticed by colleges either. Although we are believers that the journey is just as sweet as the reward, we are celebrating the reward (acceptances) in this post.

Below you will find some of the schools where the students we worked with earned acceptances year:

University of Pennsylvania*
Cornell*
Dartmouth*
Duke*
Stanford*
Georgetown*
Williams*
Harvard
Brown
Princeton
University of Chicago
University of Virginia*
Vanderbilt
WashU
JHU
Wesleyan
Boston College*
Northeastern*
St. Andrews*
Tulane*
Bates
Bowdoin
Colby
Vassar
Claremont McKenna
Emory
Indiana University Kelley School of Business*
University of California, Los Angeles*
University of Miami*
University of Michigan*
University of Richmond*
University of Rochester*
University of Texas, Austin*
University of Wisconsin*
Bard*
FIDM
Parson’s
Pratt
Baylor*
Chapman*
Clemson*
Coastal Carolina*
College of Charleston*
Colorado College
Fairfield*
Fordham*
Grinnell
Lehigh*
Loyola Chicago*
Macalester
Miami Ohio*
SDSU
Marymount Manhattan
McGill
NJIT
Penn State*
Oberlin
Ohio State*
Rhodes
Quinnipiac
Santa Clara*
Sarah Lawrence
Southern Methodist University*
St. John’s
TCNJ*
University of Delaware*
University of Florida*
University of Illinois*
University of Iowa
University of Maryland*
University of Massachusetts, Amherst*
University of Pittsburgh*
University of San Diego
University of South Carolina*
University of Tampa*
University of Tulsa
University of Vermont*
University of Washington*

*multiple students admitted

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Helping Teens Weather College Rejection

Helping Teens Weather College Rejection

Rejection stinks! But it’s a normal part of life and college admissions. This short article is for parents. Hang in there. In six months from now, the college application process will be very far in your rearview!

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2022 Waitlist Strategy

2022 Waitlist Strategy

We predict big waitlists again this year.

Are you on one?  Reach out for individualized advice, and keep reading below!

For an example letter, please subscribe to our blog (link below) and email us

Getting admitted from the waitlist is not easy. However, it is possible with a viable strategy and some persistence. Although we do not suggest being overly optimistic, here are some of the strategies that have worked.

First, get familiar with the WL data from past years. How many students are offered spots on the WL? How many accept their spot, and more importantly, how many does school X ultimately admit? Some of these numbers are dismal, but it is best to know what you are up against. Look at the Common Data Set first (http://www.commondataset.org/). A few other sites to review:

Before implementing waitlist strategies (below), it is important to deposit at a current top choice school (a school where you have been admitted) and get excited about the prospect of attending. Take advantage of admitted student days and other events that connect you with potential future classmates, including joining “Class of 2026” social media groups. These forums are often very informative, fun, and can help you take your mind off the waitlist waiting game.

Once you have accepted a spot on the WL, deposited elsewhere, and familiarized yourself with the waitlist data, consider the strategies below. Not all of them are novel, but without much to lose, why not do all you can so you can look back without any what-ifs?

  • Write a waitlist letter. This 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—but most importantly—it needs to fill in any GAPS from your original application and highlight a few specific value-adds you will bring to X campus. This is where individualized feedback can be critical.
  • Consider including:
    • Academic Updates: Spend some time talking about coursework and school projects, and make connections to future courses of study. You can even drop in related courses you’d like to take at school X, like those you’d include in a Why School essay, but only do this if you did not submit an essay of this type when you applied, otherwise you are being redundant and that is not well-received.
    • Extracurricular Updates. But only if significant and can be connected to how you will add value to the school where you are deferred. This includes school and non-school clubs, service commitments, and/or other leadership experiences you can highlight. Like the academic paragraph(s), making connections to similar opportunities you plan to undertake in college can be helpful additions. For example, if you talk about a new project you spearheaded as VP of your school’s Interact Club, you may want to include that you hope to lead a similar project within a specific club or group at school X. Being very specific is important.
    • The additional ways you have connected with and continued to get to know school X since you applied. This could include setting up an informational interview with a local alum, a current student, reaching out to your local regional alumni group (more on this below), or continuing to connect with your regional rep via email.
  • Make sure you read and follow any specific WL directions that are shared with you. You might be asked to send updates to a specific WL manager, or upload them on your applicant portal. If you previously connected with your rep (you should have at the beginning of the process), reach back out and ask them if they have any advice for you as a waitlisted candidate. Keep this line of communication open; do not send updates every week, but stay in touch to continue to demonstrate interest.
  • Ask your guidance counselor to call the admissions office and advocate for you, as well as provide any additional information they may have that will support your candidacy.  Ask them to back up what they say on the phone in an email if they have time. Make sure they send updated grades/transcripts promptly. Your grades should have remained the same or gotten better, not dipped.
  • Obtain and have an extra letter of recommendation sent, but only if the school welcomes extra LORs.  A teacher, coach, or someone else close to you who can speak to your potential contributions to the university could draft this letter. Some schools explicitly state on their WL docs they do not welcome or want extra LORs; if that is the case, don’t send. *Side note on alumni letters­ and letters from well-known and or famous people. Many students ask if these are helpful to send, and the answer is no unless the person knows well you or they are a very high-level donor with solid connections to admissions (even then, why count on someone else?). If you think that a big name vouching for you will help, it generally doesn’t as a stand-alone factor, and officers can see through these often brief and less than meaningful notes.
  • Worth saying again: Make sure you follow any directions they provide!

Additional strategies…

  • Check if school X has a local alumni group (Google search) and if so, reach out to them and ask if there is anyone willing to meet with you via Zoom for an informal informational interview. Use this meeting as an opportunity to learn more about the school, as those learnings might be good fodder for a WL update.
  • Use social media to your advantage. Don’t be afraid to follow your WL school on TikTok, Instagram, or other social channels to connect. Don’t forget to open all email correspondence from the school, as schools track opens/clicks as interest.

You don’t need to…

  • Show up on campus or engage in other over-the-top moves that you think will make an impact. They won’t. Please understand that this type of behavior is not appreciated or welcomed.

More questions about the WL? Email us!

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Personal Statement Do’s and Don’ts

Personal Statement Do’s and Don’ts

It’s almost time to start writing essays!

Our essay experts know best. Check out these 10 tips from Emma that will help you write the most effective personal statement. Interested in working with Emma? Contact us.

Now is the best time for juniors to start with us!

  • 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 an 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.

For more, grab a copy of The Complete College Essay Handbook. It’s a no-frills, practical guide that will give students the confidence and know-how they need to craft the best essays for every single school on their list—in less time and with less stress.

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News of the Week!

News of the Week!

Dartmouth College announced an anonymous $40 million gift that will enable the college to offer need-blind admissions to international students. That brings to six the number of colleges with the policy: Amherst College, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard, Princeton and Yale.

Five students say leading colleges and universities are acting as an illegal “cartel” in violation of antitrust law. One of the students’ lawyers is a former prosecutor in the Varsity Blues case

Harvard is slow-marching the ACT and SAT into decline and diminished relevance

Some colleges reject the idea, but most appear to be allowing students to visit—with certain precautions.

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(Late) News of the Week!

(Late) News of the Week!

Harvard, Yale,  and other Ivies report near-record numbers of early-admission applications…and on another planet (New Jersey), Princeton joins a small group of schools not releasing admissions data, citing impact on applicants’ anxiety. Side note: This is not how to solve anxiety around college admissions. 

Harvard extended its test-optional policy for four more years. But the main reason Harvard and its counterparts are dropping the test is that it’s in their interest to do so.

A news flash? Binding admission offers do not, in fact, oblige you to attend. If you can’t afford to go at the price that the college has asked you to pay, you can back out.

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Our Early Admit List (12/22)

Our Early Admit List (12/22)

Whoa. Our students rock! We are grateful they chose to have us along for the ride, and this year, an extraordinarily tough year, we are so so proud of the work they put in. Their efforts did not go unnoticed by colleges either. Although we are believers that the journey is just as sweet as the reward, we are celebrating the reward (acceptances) in this post. 

Below you will find some of the schools our students gained acceptance to so far this year!

The Ivy+ Set:

University of Pennsylvania – multiple students
Cornell – multiple students
Dartmouth – multiple students
Duke – multiple students
Harvard
Stanford
University of Chicago

Our Fan Faves:

Boston College
Claremont McKenna
Colorado College
Emory
Miami Ohio – multiple students
St. Andrews – multiple students
Southern Methodist University
Tulane – multiple students
University of Rochester

All About Early Action:

Bard
Baylor – multiple students
Clemson – multiple students
Coastal Carolina – multiple students
College of Charleston – multiple students
Fairfield – multiple students
Fordham – multiple students
Indiana University Kelley School of Business – multiple students
Loyola Chicago – multiple students 
Macalester
Penn State – multiple students
Ohio State – multiple students
Santa Clara – multiple students
Sarah Lawrence
University of Delaware – multiple students
University of Massachusetts, Amherst – multiple students
University of Pittsburgh – multiple students
University of South Carolina – multiple students
University of Tampa – multiple students
University of Vermont – multiple students

…and many more on the way for the class of 2022 (college class of 2026)!

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