Give Thanks

We are grateful for awesome clients that trust us to guide them through the college and graduate school admissions process!

If you recently applied to college, my guess is that you did not do it alone. When I work with a family, I often am not just working with the applicant, but parents, other tutors, and sometimes (though not as common), another counselor! Show some gratitude this Thanksgiving holiday by sending a heartfelt thank you to the people that helped you make it happen. People you might want to consider giving thanks to are your parents, guidance counselor, teachers, letter of recommendation writers, anyone else who read your essays/app, and of course, your tutors if applicable, just to name a few!

Oh, and PS, keep working on your ED II or RD apps! Putting in a few hours over the break could be a gamechanger come mid- to end of December. You will be thankful to not be working on apps after 12/15!

 

*Stay in the know! Subscribe*

November Monthly Action Plan – By Grade

Seniors:

  • Send official test scores to schools that require you to send official test scores. To submit official scores, you must pay and have them sent through either the ACT or College Board. Please do not send official AP score reports to colleges; colleges do not ask for official score reports from AP exams until you are admitted/you decide to attend a school.
  • Many schools require submission of RD apps by 12/1 for merit award consideration. Please do not press pause once ED/EA apps are submitted. Some of these schools include BU, USC, Wake, Vandy, UConn, Clemson, and Richmond. College Kickstart has a list here outlining schools with 2019-20 Merit Scholarship Deadlines, but you will need to check the admissions website of the schools on your list to be 100% sure.
  • Track your application status. Once your applications have been submitted, you often are provided a “portal” from each school. Track the status of your app to ensure schools received all of your application materials. Follow up with your school counselor ASAP if a school is missing your transcript or a letter of recommendation. Check your JUNK/SPAM email folder regularly (daily), so you do not miss correspondence from schools. If you have any questions about what you see on your portal, please reach out to the school directly and ASAP.
  • Work on your “interest letter” for your top choice school (or schools!) if you have decided to write one.
  • Prepare for interviews!

Juniors:

  • Keep updating your resume and preparing for standardized tests.
  • Visit the websites of the schools you are interested in. Explore the admissions and academics pages. Start to think 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. 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!
  • Visit colleges in person. Fall is a great time to visit colleges. Please note, there are not many students on college campuses during December/January, so plan accordingly.
  • Some summer program applications will open over the next few months. If you plan on applying to an application-based summer program, check deadlines now so you can plan ahead.

Sophomores and Freshmen:

  • An impressive academic record is the most important admissions factor at most colleges. How are your classes going?
  • Beyond academics, colleges also look to admit students who take part in meaningful extracurricular activities. You don’t need to join every single club at school (that is a bad idea, actually, please do not do this!), but if you are not involved in any ECs in or out of school, let’s discuss what might make the most sense for you at this time. You want to take part in a few things and try to continue with those activities (if you enjoy them) throughout high school. One definite “must” is something that allows you to serve others and give back to your community.
  • 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!
  • Some summer program applications will open over the next few months. If you plan on applying to an application-based summer program, check deadlines now so you can plan ahead.
  • Independent reading can play into how well you do on the SAT or ACT. Enhancing your skills during high school will not only help you perform better on college entrance exams but 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 an impact.

 

*Stay in the know! Subscribe*

 

You’ve Submitted Your Early Applications – Now What?

Congrats! Getting your early applications submitted is a huge accomplishment. Hopefully, you can take a weekend or two off from college application work and relax a bit. However, don’t relax too much or completely stop where you are! There’s plenty that can be done after you’ve pressed submit.

  • Continue to work on application materials (essays). Many schools require submission of RD apps by 12/1 for merit award consideration. Please plan to submit apps by 12/1 if the schools on your list fall into this category (you can find out by looking on their admission website). Some schools where this is the case include BU, USC, Wake, Vandy, UConn, and Richmond. College Kickstart also has a list here.
  • Track your application status. Once your applications have been submitted, be sure to track them online to ensure schools received all of your application materials. Follow up with your school counselor ASAP if a school is missing your transcript or a letter of recommendation. Check your JUNK/SPAM email folder regularly (every day), so you do not miss correspondence from schools.
  • Prepare for interviews. Read my post on interview prep here, and start to practice with a teacher, friend, counselor, or family member.
  • Write an “interest” letter. This letter should fill in any gaps and or address things that you were not able to address in your application. This can be very helpful if a school has no supplemental essays. Consider including:
    1. A paragraph or two on academics if the school did not ask for a “why school” essay.
    2. A paragraph or two on extracurriculars if you were not able to cover these interests in much detail (or at all) in your application. Convey how you plan to contribute to the school via one or two important EC commitments.
    3. A paragraph that talks about the ways you have connected with and continue to get to know the school. This could include campus visits, setting up an informational interview with a local alum/a current student, or continuing to connect with your regional rep via email.
    4. A paragraph that reiterates your interest in the school, and that if admitted, you will attend. *If you are not 100% committed to attending, do not say so in the letter. This is also a given if you are applying ED.

Don’t forget: your grades are also very important! Do your best to maintain your grades/GPA; some schools will ask for midterm grade reports (or even call your counselor to check in on your progress!), and you want them to show consistency or an upward trend, not a downward trend.

 

*Stay in the know! Subscribe for news, tips, and advice*

June Monthly Action Plan – By Grade

Seniors:

Congrats on your graduation! Enjoy a summer free of college applications.

Juniors: 

Time to get to kick it into high gear!

  • It might seem like a silly piece of advice, but many students are not aware that each school has a set of application instructions that are not located on the application. I suggest you read them on each schools admissions website prior to tackling the application process.
  • Many colleges don’t proactively ask for online resources yet, but you may have an interest in creating a digital portfolio (LinkedIn, SoundCloud, personal website, and/or blog). Now is a great time to work on these extras, as well as your formal resume.
  • As you begin your essay work, consider opening a Common App account. Unlike in past years, if you open up an account now, it will not be deleted before August 1, 2018. You can read more about account rollover here.

Sophomores:

  • Continue working on your resume.
  • Thinking about how to explore your academic interests this summer? There are tons of options, and you should be doing something “academic” this summer if possible. Please note: something “academic” is not limited to a class or formal academic program. Have questions? Contact us to discuss.
  • Interested in understanding what exactly the Common Application is and how it works? Unlike in past years, if you open up an account now, it will not be deleted at the end of this application season. You can read more about account rollover here.
  • Summer before junior year is a great time to begin test prep! Here are a few resources to get you started:

PSAT

-https://www.khanacademy.org/test-prep/sat/new-sat-tips-planning/new-sat-how-to-prep/a/full-length-psat-nmsqt

ACT

-http://www.act.org/content/act/en/products-and-services/the-act/test-preparation.html

-http://www.amazon.com/ACT-Prep-Black-Book-Strategies/dp/0692027912/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1437782060&sr=8-1&keywords=act+prep+black+book

-http://www.amazon.com/The-Real-Edition-Prep-Guide/dp/076893432X/ref=pd_bxgy_14_img_

SAT

-https://www.khanacademy.org/test-prep/sat

Freshmen:

  • Continue working on your resume. Consider exploring your academic interests — reading is a simple and easy way to do so!
  • Interested in understanding what exactly the Common Application is and how it works? Unlike in past years, if you open up an account now, it will not be deleted at the end of this application season. You can read more about account rollover here.
  • Looking for community engagement or volunteer opportunities? Something meaningful to get involved in that you might want to continue throughout high school, someplace where you might make a real difference? Ask upperclassmen how they spend their summers or check out https://www.idealist.org for opportunities near you.
 *Stay in the know! Subscribe for news, tips, and advice*

What Colleges are Really Looking for in Applicants

Fairfax, VA – The Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA) released its ranking of What Colleges Look for in High School Students, based on an annual survey of nearly 2,000 independent educational consultants. While grades and standardized test scores are near the top of these annual rankings, a number of significant changes and surprises are challenging the assumptions about college admissions. Number 1 on the list: A challenging curriculum. New to the list: The family’s ability to pay tuition. The much-discussed social media presence of students? Not so much.

Many students and parents are surprised to hear that the leading criteria universities want to see isn’t grades* (#2) or standardized test scores (#3), but rather evidence that a student took as rigorous a high school curriculum as they could. “Colleges want to know that future students don’t shy away from a challenge,” said IECA’s CEO, Mark Sklarow. “Grades and scores are important, but it is far better to accept a challenge, show some grit, and earn a slightly lower grade if necessary than to breeze through high school with easy courses and straight A’s.”

*(This does not hold true at all schools, especially uber selective schools, where B’s don’t generally fly for normal applicants)

Item #4 in the ranking—the essay—is also the most misunderstood, according to IECA. The essay tends to be more important at smaller and independent colleges. But too many students think the essay is about construction, grammar, and format. The association warns that while these matter (typos and bad grammar should never happen), the essay must show insight into a student’s unique personality or life-shaping experiences. An essay that worked in an English class is unlikely to be one that is appropriate for the college application. “This essay should help the reader—that all-important admission counselor—better appreciate who you are, what shaped you, and what makes you tick,” says Sklarow. “That doesn’t mean a student needs some life-altering trip; rather a simple ongoing volunteer commitment or personal interaction may be worth sharing.”

Two new items ranked on the 2018–19 list from IECA. Debuting at #7 is the family’s ability to pay. While some schools are “need blind” in their admissions decisions, most are not. Increasingly, according to IECA, colleges take into consideration who can contribute to the school’s bottom line. The other new criteria this year was a student’s character and values (#12). Colleges increasingly contemplate what campus life will be like and how a particular applicant will add—or detract—from the campus. Colleges want to see leaders, students with special skills or talents, and those who have been active in campus activities, as well as those whose values fit a college’s view of itself. Colleges also seek diversity, striving for a campus made up of those from varied cultural, social, economic, geographic, religious, and occupational backgrounds (#9).

Much has been written in recent years about two areas: demonstrated interest* (how an applicant demonstrates a genuine desire to attend) and social media (what a student’s online life reveals). The IECA rankings showed these areas to be of less importance than other items.

*(Also not always true. The Common Data (set) confirms it is considered at many schools. It might just be considered LESS at some schools. However, do not be misled; it is still considered)

Sklarow cautioned that “Every college is unique, so each emphasizes something different in its process of reviewing applications. One of the great benefits of hiring an independent educational consultant is their knowledge of such differences, and their ability to share this information with students as they guide them through the application process.”

 

 *Stay in the know! Subscribe for news, tips, and advice*

Newly Added Common Application and Coalition Application Schools (2018-2019 School Year)

UT Austin will now accept the Coalition Application. First-time freshman applicants are still required to submit the three short answer essays in addition to one longer essay from either Apply Texas Essay A or the Coalition Application options.

A few other popular Coalition App schools include University of Washington and University of Maryland, both who exclusively use the Coalition App (and not the Common App).

The Common App also announced a few new additions for 2018, two of which are very popular with the students I work with: Penn State University and University of Pittsburgh.

Also added were University of Iowa, University of Utah, and Michigan State among others. You can read the full (current) list here.

 

*Stay in the know! Subscribe for news, tips, and advice*

Don’t Miss the Opportunity to Interview

Not all colleges require interviews. In fact, many do not even offer them. At schools that do, they are not always evaluative or even considered in the admissions process. That being said, I still suggest you interview. Why? It is a way to demonstrate interest, learn more about the school, and help the school learn more about you. Sounds worth it to me!

College Kickstart compiled some helpful interview data regarding colleges that require or strongly recommend interviews, and how that interview is used (or not used) in the admissions process. Head on over to their website to check it out!

 

*Stay in the know! Subscribe for college admissions news, tips, and advice*

No College Talk Thanksgiving

Great article yesterday in the New York Times. Parents of seniors give it a read!

If you have a high school senior, and your child has decided to apply somewhere early decision (or early action or early something or other), the application is most likely in and done by now. And with Thanksgiving approaching, my first piece of advice is that you shelter your high school senior from her or his loving family this Thanksgiving by absolutely prohibiting any talk of college and applications.

Believe me, your senior does not want to discuss this. Not with uncles, aunts, cousins or loving grandparents. The right thing to do under these circumstances is for the parents to tell everyone that college is a forbidden subject — and the best way to explain that is to say, we are all sick of it, and we have promised ourselves and our child a respite. Let’s all find another subject.

Happy Thanksgiving!