Common Application Adds Student & Counselor Question on COVID-19

Common Application Adds Student & Counselor Question on COVID-19

Next year, on the 2020-2021 application, Common App will provide students who need it with a dedicated space to elaborate on the impact of the pandemic, both personally and academically. The goal of a “common” space for this information is to provide consistent questions and language that colleges and universities can use to review applications.

Below is the question applicants will see:

Community disruptions such as COVID-19 and natural disasters can have deep and long-lasting impacts. If you need it, this space is yours to describe those impacts. Colleges care about the effects on your health and well-being, safety, family circumstances, future plans, and education, including access to reliable technology and quiet study spaces.

  • Do you wish to share anything on this topic? Y/N
  • Please use this space to describe how these events have impacted you.

The question will be optional and will appear in the Additional Information section of the application. The response length will be limited to 250 words.

The question will be accompanied by a more detailed FAQ to help students consider the kinds of impacts they may wish to report, including illness and loss, housing and employment disruptions, and shifting family obligations. **Please note, this is not a space to discuss all impacts of COVID — everyone has been impacted by it, but not all impacts speak to what schools are looking for here**

The new language will not replace the current Additional Information question inviting students to discuss circumstances and qualifications not reflected elsewhere in the application. That question, along with its 650-word limit, will remain.

Counselors will also find space in their Common App counselor forms to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on their school communities. The following optional question will be located within the School Profile section.

Your school may have made adjustments due to community disruptions such as COVID–19 or natural disasters. If you have not already addressed those changes in your uploaded school profile or elsewhere, you can elaborate here. Colleges are especially interested in understanding changes to:

  • Grading scales and policies
  • Graduation requirements
  • Instructional methods
  • Schedules and course offerings
  • Testing requirements
  • Your academic calendar
  • Other extenuating circumstances

This new question will be a text-entry response with a 500-word limit. Counselors may choose to use the space to offer details or to direct admission officers elsewhere to find the information, such as an uploaded school profile or web page url. Counselors will be able to provide this information only once, and it will populate the forms for all their students.

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May Monthly Action Plan – By Grade

May Monthly Action Plan – By Grade

Year-to-year things change slightly in college admissions, but nothing like this year! We are available at your convenience to talk about testing changes and how COVID-19 is impacting the college admissions landscape. We are monitoring how changes may impact the upcoming application process and will be posting relevant updates on the blog. Please let us know if you have any questions about researching and connecting with schools online, taking virtual tours, or thinking about alternate summer options if you were planning on attending an on-campus or travel program. Happy to answer questions via the contact form

Seniors:

    • Waitlisted at your top choice school? Read our waitlist guidance, and reach out if you’d like us to help you craft your WL letter and a personalized waitlist strategy.

    • Today is the national decision day. However, many schools have pushed their deposit deadlines much later. You can find a comprehensive list here via ACCEPT Group.

    • If you are having trouble deciding where to deposit because you have not been able to visit campuses, attend admitted student events, or talk to current students, please reach out as we have resources to share (including student contacts) that might help!

Juniors:

  • Now is a great time to begin brainstorming for your personal statement (aka the Common App essay). Thinking about working with someone to ensure your essays tell your unique story?

    Our goal is not only to help you write essays you are proud of and that showcase who you really are to colleges but also to help you improve as a storyteller, so you can arrive at college confident and ready to tackle your writing requirements. Contact us to learn more about our essay process; our students are starting essays now!!!

  • If your summer plans have changed, or are now up in the air, consider a ‘purpose project’—a project that you design and implement (with our help if you’d like!), which taps into your interests and talents (the things you love, that bring you joy, that you want to study in college, or that you feel could best help your school, community, or the world). A purpose project is connected to a deeper purpose and has tangible outcomes. Past projects from students include writing a book, completing a literature review or book challenge, creating a trailer for a documentary (and a non-profit, a school club, an app), spearheading an innovative volunteer event, fundraising for an organization in a creative way (selling artwork, an Etsy shop, etc.), and hosting a yearly beach clean-up. The possibilities are endless. 
  • Have you pinpointed two teachers to ask for letters of recommendation? Now is an excellent time to decide who to ask.

If you have some extra time:

  • Open a Common App account! Accounts roll over year-to-year, so there’s no better time than now to open an account and familiarize yourself with the system. 

  • Take the lead in bringing your school clubs together online (if they are not already). For example, if you are a member of the history club at your high school, suggest to the broader group a once-weekly meeting via Zoom. Members could take turns assigning readings for discussion. The Learning Network (NYT) is a great place to start; check out the current events conversation section. Other options might include: a book club, movie night + discussion, taking a class together on edX or Coursera, or even organizing a fundraiser (many online options for this!) to benefit a local hospital or relief group.

Sophomores and Freshmen:

  • Update your resume. 
  • If your summer plans have changed, or are now up in the air, consider a ‘purpose project’—a project that you design and implement (with our help if you’d like!), which taps into your interests and talents (the things you love, that bring you joy, that you want to study in college, or that you feel could best help your school, community, or the world). A purpose project is connected to a deeper purpose and has tangible outcomes. Past projects from students include writing a book, completing a literature review or book challenge, creating a trailer for a documentary (and a non-profit, a school club, an app), spearheading an innovative volunteer event, fundraising for an organization in a creative way (selling artwork, an Etsy shop, etc.), and hosting a yearly beach clean-up. The possibilities are endless. 

If you have some extra time:

  • Take the lead in bringing your school clubs together online (if they are not already). For example, if you are a member of the history club at your high school, suggest to the broader group a once-weekly meeting via Zoom. Members could take turns assigning readings for discussion. The Learning Network (NYT) is a great place to start; check out the current events conversation section. Other options might include: a book club, movie night + discussion, taking a class together on edX or Coursera, or even organizing a fundraiser (many online options for this!) to benefit a local hospital or relief group.

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Why You Should Read the Georgia Tech Blog (Even if You Will Never Apply There)

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.

Head to the GTech blog to read the rest!

 

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April Monthly Action Plan – By Grade

April Monthly Action Plan – By Grade

Number one on the action plan this month is everyone’s health and wellness (and this amazing video by students at Berklee College of Music)!

We are available at your convenience to talk about testing timeline changes or anything else you might want to discuss. We are monitoring how changes may impact the upcoming application process and will be posting anything significant on the blog. Please let us know if you have any questions about researching and connecting with schools online, taking virtual tours, or thinking about alternate summer options if you were planning on attending an on-campus or travel program. Happy to answer questions via email (contact form)!

Seniors:

  • Waitlisted at your top choice school? Read our waitlist guidance, and reach out if you’d like us to help you craft your WL letter and a personalized waitlist strategy.
  • May 1 is the national decision day. However, many schools have pushed their deposit deadlines much later. You can find a comprehensive list here via ACCEPT Group.
  • If you are having trouble deciding where to deposit because you have not been able to visit campuses, attend admitted student events, or talk to current students, please reach out as we have resources to share (including student contacts) that might help!

Juniors:

  • Now is a good time for a social media audit. Connecting with colleges on social is a way to learn about them and it demonstrates interest. Before you tweet to any of your top schools or like them on FB, follow them on Instagram, etc., please make sure your accounts put you in the best light. If you have any questions, ask us!
  • It is also an excellent time to determine who you will ask for your two core teacher letters of recommendation.
  • If you find that you have some extra time on your hands, consider:
      • Creating a digital portfolio (LinkedIn, SoundCloud, personal website, and/or blog).
      • Opening a Common App account and filling out the base data.
      • Contacting your regional reps and asking them for suggestions on how to learn more about their school/programs from afar.
      • Contacting current students as part of your extended research/outreach (see attached).
      • Working on essays!

Sophomores & Freshmen

  • Now is a good time for a social media audit. Connecting with colleges on social is a way to learn about them and it demonstrates interest. Before you tweet to any of your top schools or like them on FB, follow them on Instagram, etc., please make sure your accounts put you in the best light. If you have any questions, ask us!
  • It is helpful to understand how colleges view and define leadership! It is more than being the President of a club or the Captain of a sports team—these are just titles. Please read the PDF here to learn more.
  • Start a story journal. From big life events to small everyday situations, stories from your life drive your college application essays. If you start jotting them down now, as they happen or as you remember them, you will have a much easier time next spring when you start brainstorming to write your personal statement. No story is too big or too small!

 

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Kids Don’t Need to Stay ‘On Track’ to Succeed

Kids Don’t Need to Stay ‘On Track’ to Succeed

When parents portray success as a linear progression of SAT scores, acceptance to selective colleges, and high-powered internships, they set kids up for disappointment.

An important article by Madeline Levine (for parents and students!) that you can read here via The Atlantic.

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March Monthly Action Plan – By Grade

March Monthly Action Plan – By Grade

 

Seniors:

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

Juniors:

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

Sophomores and Freshmen:

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

10 Do’s and Don’ts for Writing the Personal Statement (aka The Common App Essay)

Our essay experts know best. Check out these 10 tips from Emma that will help you write the most effective personal statement. End of 11th grade or early summer is the best time to tackle this important essay, so start coming up with a plan now! Interested in working with Emma? Contact 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.

 

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Why to Reconsider Applying to Schools with Under 10% Admit Rates in RD

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.

 

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Choosing Classes in High School

UVA’s Dean J always has it right. 9-11th graders listen up! This advice applies beyond UVA.

1. All of your core classes are important.

A lot of people focus on the core areas that correspond to their current academic interest. I’ve even had people wave off certain subjects because they aren’t interested in them or they don’t come “naturally” to them. I wish they’d stop this. High school is the time to get a broad foundation in several areas and college is the time to specialize. We are most concerned with a student’s work in five core areas (in alpha order, not order of importance): English, Math, Science, Social Science, and World Language.

2. The number of APs or the IB Diploma don’t drive a decision.

Plenty of people want to know how many AP courses a student should take to be competitive in our process. We don’t approach applications this way. First of all, not everyone goes to a school with APs as an option. Second, some schools limit how many AP courses a student may take. Third, with the number of AP courses offered these days, you can rack up a lot of APs in just one subject. There could be students with big AP numbers who also haven’t take an advanced course in other core areas.
Similarly, students sometimes assume that full diploma candidates at IB schools (which are pretty common in Virginia) get in and everyone else is denied. If you are working on the full IB diploma, that’s fantastic. We will also be very interested in your grades and review which subjects you opted to take as your HLs. The full diploma isn’t the only route to an offer, though. There are students who weren’t able to get the full diploma done while still having some impressive HL work to show. We can admit them, too!

3. Doubling up in one subject at the expense of the core doesn’t “look good.”

There are some students who are so excited about a certain subject that they want to double or even triple up on courses in that area. I don’t think it’s smart to drop core subjects to load up classes in one area. Cover the core and use your electives to explore your interests.

Source.

 

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What Colleges Want

The following was taken directly from the JHU website, but it’s so applicable to any selective college/university, that I wanted to share it:

Academic Character 

How do you demonstrate your academic passions? What is important to you? To get a good idea of where your academic spirit lies, we’ll look at your transcripts and testing, but also your teacher and counselor recommendations.

Impact and Initiative

Our undergraduates contribute to our campus and our community. We urge students to think about how they can make a difference through service, leadership, and innovation. The admissions committee looks closely at applicants’ extracurricular activities and recommendations to assess commitments outside the classroom.

Personal Contributions

How do you engage with your community—academically, personally, and socially? What personal qualities do you possess that would make you a good fit for our campus? We’re looking for students who are eager to follow their interests at the college level and are enthusiastic about joining the campus community.

So what does all of this boil down to? Colleges seek students who are actively engaged participants in life! Everyone has time to:

  • Pursue their academic/intellectual interests outside of classes
  • Make an impact by meaningfully engaging in and giving back to their community

You don’t need that much time to make it happen. Ask us how!

 

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