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:
An increased number of applicants, resulting in a lower (i.e., more selective) acceptance rates;
Fewer low-scoring students report their scores, inflating the average test score for admitted students.
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.
Because Rick Clarke and the rest of the admissions team are magic. I don’t know any of them personally FYI — but I sure wish I did. If you don’t, please read the GTech Admissions blog — and this post by Katie Mattli!
BEING SEEN—THIS ONE IS FOR THE JUNIORS
As I was falling asleep last night, my head was buzzing with the conundrum of painting a picture of our campus for students in this new climate. How do I make connections? How do I share a story without the campus backdrop that tells so much without words? How do I help them see us?
Then in the dark, staring at the ceiling, I remembered: we ask students to do this every year. Every time they begin a college application, they are essentially trying to make colleges see them through their only medium: words. At my fingertips, I have social platforms, pictures, phones, websites, webinars… a whole slew of tools beyond the written word to paint the campus story for prospective and admitted students. If I only had words, I would have to intentionally craft a careful and thoughtful message.
So, this blog is filled with application tips and thoughts, dedicated to all those soon-to-be seniors who will only be using words to be seen in the admission process.
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!
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.
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.
Most of our students now know where they are heading to college this fall! We will update this list once RD releases, but take a look at some of the college and universities where they have been admitted so far:
University of Colorado, Boulder
University of Maryland
University of Massachusetts, Amherst
University of Miami
University of Michigan
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
University of Richmond
University of South Carolina
University of Vermont
University of Virginia
University of Wisconsin, Madison
Although nothing makes us happier than students getting into their top choice schools, we are equally grateful for having the opportunity to get to know an unbelievably talented group who trusted us to provide guidance along the way. So congrats again, and thank you for having us along for the ride!
College admissions can be heartbreaking on many levels, but what’s “the worst” is the number of applicants who think they can get lucky in regular decision—especially at schools with ED II, and who report RD admit rates under 10%. Even for students with a strong resume and “great” numbers, the odds are against you. At the most selective schools, there is not much luck to be had.
You’ll need something special (or a special combination of things) to get a fair look at a top-top school in RD: be at the top of your class with perfect or near-perfect grades, have little/no competition from classmates, be a legacy, and often very important, attend a high school that has an already established pipeline to these schools. You’ll need some awesome essays, too.
It might help to see that a 5% admit rate = 95% rejection rate
I know this sounds negative, and anyone who knows me knows that I am a glass half full type of person, but it’s time to start seeing rejection rates for what they are, especially if your list is full of schools with admit rates under ~25% (meaning the RD rate could dip to under ~10%).
Sometimes [insert uber-selective school here] just needs a new library, or full-pays, or more women from Idaho, or a flute player. So…
Don’t take it personally if you don’t fall into that tiny, tiny pool; you are, I promise, still enough.
“College admission is NOT about finding the one ‘right’ college for you, but discovering the many — across multiple levels of selectivity — that will welcome you and challenge you to grow as a student and a person.” — Bill Conley, vice president for enrollment management, Bucknell University
“Even directors of admission get rejected. As a high school senior, I was denied admission to my first choice college. Now, I am the director of admission at the university I attended. Point being: Things have a way of working themselves out. Just like the John Lennon quote, ‘Everything will be all right in the end; If it’s not all right, it’s not the end,’ you are going to have ups and downs and might have to deal with some stinging rejections. These are rejections of your application, not of you as a person. But these things happen with a purpose. There’s more than one ‘perfect school’ for you, and even if it doesn’t seem apparent at this very moment, eventually, things will be all right.” — Jeff Schiffman, director of admission, Tulane University
“Families hold significantly more power in their college search and student’s success than they typically imagine possible.” — Candace Boeninger, associate vice provost for strategic enrollment management and director of undergraduate admissions, Ohio University
“No one is entitled to enroll at the selective institution of their choice. Your hard work and ability increase your college options but not your ability to choose exactly where you will go. It is a process where you can do absolutely everything right and not get what you want. For some students (and parents), it’s the first time that happens.” — Mike Sexton, vice president for enrollment management, Santa Clara University
“Every institution has different resources and priorities, so every process will be different. Trying to boil it down to a one-size-fits-all will you leave you frustrated, and probably looking like a generic applicant.” — Santiago Ybarra, director of admission, Pitzer College
“We enjoy ADMITTING students. I am not a Dean of Denial and there is no Denial Committee. I am a Dean of Admission and lead an ADMISSION Committee. We look for reasons to admit students, as opposed to reasons to deny them.” — Kent Rinehart, dean of admission, Marist College
“Students do want to find great places that will help them be successful in the next phase of their educational journeys. Colleges do want to find students who will thrive on their campuses. We all get a bit blinded by side issues of selectivity, perceived prestige and fine distinctions of quality.” — Matt Malatesta, vice president for admissions, financial aid and enrollment, Union College
“Selectivity has nothing to do with the quality of education.” — Heidi Simon, senior associate director of admission, University of Kansas
“We need to tell students: That their social and emotional well-being in a postsecondary education environment is as important as being ready for the rigors of the educational or classroom challenges. That they are not defined by an acceptance letter, T-shirt or bumper sticker. That wherever they go, they will be successful and happy and they will be supported.” — Jody Glassman, director of university admissions, Florida International University
“The vast majority of colleges admit more than half of their applicant pools. Their graduates go on to live happy, successful and fulfilling lives — even when they don’t attend the handful of highly selective colleges frequently cited in the media.” — Mary Wagner, assistant vice president for enrollment management, executive director of admission, University of South Carolina
“Much of the admission decision rests on factors beyond the student’s control by the time the application is submitted.” — Heath Einstein, dean of admission, Texas Christian University
“The various rankings will do more harm — making you overlook a great school — than any good you might expect after a well-researched college search process.” — Andy Borst, director of admissions, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
“College admission offices strive to support and serve a diverse and talented array of prospective students while fulfilling institutional expectations and strategic priorities. It is in the hope of serving both student and institution that admission offices navigate the complexities, challenges and incongruent priorities of these two extremely important but often disparate masters. Finding mutually successful outcomes both has become the all-consuming, challenging and increasingly difficult work of admission professionals today.” — Mike Steidel, dean of admission, Carnegie Mellon University
“ ‘Fit’ works both ways — students and colleges should both be true to their identities and goals when making decisions about whom they should admit (colleges) and where they should enroll (students).” — Brian Troyer, dean of admissions, Marquette University
“Most public colleges and universities have a greater responsibility to in-state students because of the state funding that is received. Therefore, we charge a tuition premium for an out-of-state resident.” — Clark Brigger, assistant vice president for undergraduate education and executive director for undergraduate admissions, Pennsylvania State University
“You can only attend one institution, and applying to more than 20 means a lot of extra work on the back end, for the student/family, trying to determine the best fit. We understand that many students are in search of the best deal (gift aid) from a university, but you can also use our net-price calculators to obtain an idea of how much you might be eligible to receive.” — John Ambrose, interim executive director of admissions, Michigan State University
“There are three key steps — students decide where to apply; colleges make admission offers; and students have control again in the end when they decide where to enroll. And when one considers that students have significant ownership of their curriculum and the grades they earn, they actually have great influence on all three stages of the admission process.” — Todd Rinehart, vice chancellor for enrollment, University of Denver
“Families should be more focused on the rooms they walk into every day, i.e. their kitchens, living rooms, classrooms, than admission committee rooms they’ll never enter. Admission decisions are not fair. They are neither a value judgment, an assessment of parenting acumen, or a prediction of future success.” — Rick Clark, director of undergraduate admission, Georgia Institute of Technology
Alumni interview season is upon us, so I wanted to get a post up for seniors looking to get a sense of what’s in store for 2019-2020.
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, writing admissions essays) 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 one of my 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 in person!
I am once again reposting this blog from Senior Assistant Director of Admission at Georgia Tech, Katie Mattli. If you think GT might be on your list, or even if it is not, this is a fun blog to read, and more important than it being fun (and often funny), they keep it very real. Real is something many college applicants—and their parents—lose sight of during this process. If you ever feel yourself veering off the path of real, head the Georgia Tech admissions blog.
I like quirky historical novelties and the Livermore Light Bulb, or known to its friends as the Centennial Bulb, is one of my favorites. Never heard of it? Let me explain. Yes, there is indeed a light bulb in Livermore, California so famous it has a name and actual caretakers. Why? Because the Livermore Light Bulb has been softly glowing in the Pleasanton Fire Department for 117 years! In fact, it just had a birthday in June. The Centennial Bulb has a website, a festival, a children’s book, and –this is my favorite part – its own Bulb Cam. You can literally watch a light bulb glow in real-time, which I find humorously whimsical.
What does a light bulb have to do with college admission? A few things actually.
Don’t second guess your interests.
I mean it. Live them loud and proud. I’m writing about a light bulb I like and you are still here, so that proves authenticity is interesting. The applicants who get my attention in the admission process are those who, for lack of a better phrase, really like stuff. All kinds of stuff. They hear about a cause, read about a historical event, or learn about a theory and they dive in for the pure pleasure of learning more about it. You can sense joy in their application—joy in sharing something that really engages them. Students always ask, “How can I make my application stand out?” Follow your true-North passions and your application will naturally have a strong voice in the crowd.
The Centennial has been glowing for so long because no one remembered to turn it off – for a long time. It turns out that switching lights on and off all the time actually reduces their shelf life. It makes me wonder how often we, students and adults alike, take stock of what is healthy for us. We don’t have care instructions attached to our lives, but if asked we could probably name the basics. We are the opposite of lightbulbs. We can, and should, turn off to recharge. You should sleep. You should eat. You should spend time with friends. Do you live by your calendar? Then put your self-care appointments on the docket with reminders such as “lunch,” “snack,” “aspirational bedtime,” and “breathing room/free time.” A healthy student will thrive in high school and in college. I haven’t made any clichéd references to lightbulbs and burn out here, but you get the picture. Don’t get so caught up in the everyday noise that you forget to be healthy.
Who is on your maintenance team?
The Centennial Lightbulb has three different organizations devoted to keeping that little four-watt light bulb softly glowing. Before you start the college admission process, take stock of who is in your corner. Who are the folks in your inner circle? Choose carefully. Do they see your value? Do they give you honest feedback? Do they encourage you? Do they keep you anchored? The vast majority of students headed to college had help along the way. Family members are not the only people who hopefully have your back. Don’t forget you can create a supportive network staring with a favorite teacher, a retired neighbor, a high school guidance counselor, your coach, a friend who graduated last year. Reach out, ask for some time, make an appointment, start a conversation. It takes a village.
Keep your eye on the long game.
Physicists have studied the Centennial and have discovered its filament is thicker than today’s commercial lightbulbs. It is made of sterner stuff. The college admission process can rattle highschool students. I think students believe they are focusing on their future (hence the anxiety), but I think they have lost sight of the long game. After years of watching students and their families navigate applying to college, here are my thoughts on the admission long game and students who are made of “sterner stuff”:
Finding a good fit is the ultimate goal. Your best-fit school may not be your best friend’s best-fit school. Get comfortable with that. Put institutions on your list where you will thrive. That is the long game.
Ignore the myth of “the one.”A college will not be the making of you but your decisions in college will. That is the long game.
Be happy for others. Time will prove to you that what feels like a competition now dissipates with age. If your buddy gets that coveted acceptance or the Val or Sal spot, cheer for them. It shows character and you will be happier for it. That is the long game.
Enjoy senior year. This is your last homecoming, last high school debate competition, last playoff, senior night… Enjoy them! That is the long game.
The school year is almost here! Enjoy the final few weeks of summer. And, if you are a rising senior and want to make the most of August (this means completing applications!) contact us! We can help you head back to school with a long list of college application items checked off your to-do list.
Here’s what should be on your radar this month:
The Common App refresh is complete. If you have not done so already, register for the Common App (www.commonapp.org) and other school-specific applications as per your list (for example, the University of California), and fill them out.
Continue to complete essays!!! Senior year fall grades count. The more you complete before you go back to school, the more time you should have for your coursework.
Continue to visit colleges and connect 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!
Begin to finalize your college list. It’s important to know which colleges you’ll be applying to so you can a) work on essays and b) finalize application strategy (when you will apply and where). Will you be applying early action? Early decision? Do you have an ED II school in the mix (you should instead of relying on RD)? If you still have tests to take in August, September, or October, confirm your EA schools and work on those apps.
Touch base with the teachers writing your letters of recommendation. They will be very busy once school starts; be proactive and drop them a note now reiterating your thanks, as well as letting them know when you plan to submit your first apps (this can be far in advance of actual deadlines, for example, in September if testing is complete).
If you haven’t done so already, schedule a meeting to discuss your 11th-grade game plan with your guidance counselor. Your counselor will write you a letter of recommendation for college, so make an effort to get to know them and for them to get to know you.
This year, try to get more involved with 1-2 main extracurricular activities (bonus if these support your academic interest). Look for leadership opportunities, but also keep in mind demonstrating leadership goes beyond leading a club or team. Consider activities outside of school as well.
Now is the time to plan the rest of junior year in terms of testing. When will you take the ACT or SAT? Will you need SAT Subject Tests? How many and which ones? When might you take them? Have you started formal test prep? Please contact us if you would like suggestions for tutors and other prep resources. Now is the time to start test prep!
Once you have some test scores, come up with a preliminary college list, so you can…
Begin to visit the websites of the schools you are interested in. Explore the admissions and academics pages. Start to think about your major of interest and how the activities you are involved in support it. You 100% should be exploring your academic interests outside of your coursework.
Fall is a great time to visit colleges and engage in extended research and outreach. Over the years, I have found that students who take these “extra steps” consistently get into their top schools…and many more.
Sophomores & Freshmen
An impressive academic record is the most important admissions factor for the majority of colleges. A rigorous course schedule that is in line with your strengths can help demonstrate 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 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 ones that really interest you, where you are involved in a significant way. Evidence of leadership, initiative, commitment, and meaningful engagement is important. You may also want to consider an internship, research position, job shadowing opportunity or part-time employment in an area that interests you. Starting your own club, website, or community service project are also lovely options, but keep in mind you don’t need to do it all.
Schedule a meeting to discuss your high school game plan with your counselor. Your counselor will write you a letter of recommendation when it comes time to apply to college, so make an effort to get to know them and for them to get to know you.
One of the most significant factors in a strong performance on the verbal portions of the SAT and the ACT is independent reading. Enhancing your skills during high school will not only help you perform better on college entrance exams, but it will also prepare you for success in college and beyond. Regular reading of articles and editorials (e.g., New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The Economist) in addition to studying vocabulary lists and signing up for “Word/Article/SAT Question of the Day” can have a significant positive impact.
Many schools allow 10th graders to take a practice PSAT. The experience of taking the PSAT as a sophomore will give you a sense of what to expect on future exams. However, don’t feel like you need to study for this test. It is just practice!