Start Now: College Counseling for High School Juniors

Start Now: College Counseling for High School Juniors

We’ve seen too many students wait until the summer after 11th grade to try to develop and implement the strategies needed to tackle the college application process successfully and with ease. Often, there is just not enough time to do the pre-work that results in the most effective essays, outreach, and positive admissions outcomes.

The best time to start? Now.

Juniors, right now you can:

  • Develop relationships with admissions officers and regional reps (the people who make key decisions on your application) as well as current students and faculty (we can fill you in on why these connections are so important)
  • Create a testing plan that has you ready for apps due on 10/15 or 11/1 and not cramming last minute
  • Open up a Common App account to get familiar with the system
  • Make the best of campus visits and leverage contacts at colleges on these visits
  • Craft a preliminary college list that maximizes the 5+ application plans colleges now use

We hate seeing the second half of junior year go to waste!

We speak to everyone we ultimately work with for at least 30-minutes free of charge to determine how we can best support you. If we feel like we can’t we will provide referrals.

Contact us today to discuss what you can do now to always stay a step—or three—ahead of the game.

 

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How to Marie Kondo Your College List

 

Managing expectations while developing a college list is not easy. High school students today deal with a lot of “noise” from peers, parents, teachers, counselors, and if they are really unlucky, random people who have no business talking to them about college (I am looking at you Jay the Lyft driver). It is a hot topic and social media chatter does not help. Where they will go, what they will major in; there seems to be nothing sacred about the journey and no one feels compelled to keep their mouth shut.

And then there’s the critical issue that comes up with many of the students I work with: getting into the most selective American colleges is more fiercely competitive than ever before, with many schools reporting a record number of applicants (again), and corresponding record low admit rates (again). To many, this news is fear-inducing. How will I (or my child, parents have a lot of college-related fear, too!) possibly get admitted to a “top” college or university?

Answering how is hard. There are no silver bullets in this process, and the reality is with college admit rates under 10, 20, 30 percent at the most selective colleges and universities, most applicants won’t get admitted to these schools.

But here’s the thing: there are hundreds of other amazing schools that, in a heartbeat, most students would be happy attending. There is a nasty misconception that the most selective colleges and universities offer some magical golden ticket to greatness and a happy, fulfilling, and successful life. This is a myth. A name is just a name. Yes, brand means something to many people, and over time having a certain college on your resume might help your salary tick up, but it won’t help everyone and in the ways that many people think it will.

Instead of trying to become the applicant you think one of these uber selective schools will admit, I suggest a path of far less resistance and more authenticty—a path that includes looking at colleges where you have a realistic chance of being admitted, colleges that, perhaps, spark real joy.

But again, how?! Try taking a page out of Marie Kondo’s book. The KonMari Method is Marie Kondo’s minimalism-inspired approach to tackling your stuff category-by-category rather than room-by-room. Here’s how I have applied it to creating a college list. There are six basic rules to get started:

  1. Commit yourself to tidying up your list
  2. Imagine your ideal college
  3. Remove colleges from the list first (the ones you know you will not attend); before getting rid of colleges from the list, sincerely thank each of them for serving a purpose
  4. Evaluate your list by category.
  5. Follow the right order
  6. Ask yourself if each college sparks joy

The categories to consider, in order:

  1. Academic offerings
  2. Financial considerations, cost
  3. Extracurricular offerings, social life, and happiness of students
  4. Eligibility and competitiveness for admission
  5. Miscellaneous Items (admit rates, legacy, special programs, study abroad etc.)

As you tidy your list ask yourself: why do I want these colleges on my list? Do they spark joy, meaning, does what they have to offer academically, extracurricularly, socially, and financially get me excited to attend? Am I more drawn to the name of the school, the brand, the prestige? What will school A (that I probably won’t get into) offer me that school B (that I probably can get into) cannot and vice versa? Am I evaluating colleges in a way that emphasizes my college priorities (and not my parents or my peers)?

Kondo believes that if you tidy your space, you can transform your life. I believe that if you tidy your college list, you can transform your college application journey. Shoot me an email to schedule a free 30-minute to learn more about how BMC supports students on their college applications and more.

 

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Dear Therapist: I’m Worried the College-Admissions Process Is Rigged Against My Son

Repost! It is a bit long, but Lori Gottlieb’s message is so important for families who are in or approaching the college search and application process. I encourage both parents and students to take 10 minutes to read the entire piece, but if you don’t have time for the full read, here are the main takeaways: Parents, how you handle the application process sets the tone for how your child will respond to it. You have the potential to turn a situation that your child would otherwise handle just fine into one that’s not fine. The messages that you send have the potential to either prepare them for adulthood or hold them back much more than not being at an Ivy League school would.
 
Here is the full article:
 
Dear Therapist,  
 
My son is in the middle of the college application process. He has very good grades and very good SAT and ACT scores; he is an Eagle Scout and a captain of the cross-country team. He is also white, male, and upper-middle-class—and that is the problem. According to all of the statistics and reports, he should be accepted at Ivy League schools, but he has not been. He will eventually get into a “good” school, but it is my guess (based on what we are seeing with his peer group) that he will be overqualified for the school he ends up at. He is very frustrated and very upset. How do you explain to a bright, eager boy that the system is rigged against him? For example, his twin brother, who has similar grades and an almost identical resume, is going to the U.S. Naval Academy, and his application process, though difficult, was smooth and straightforward — Lisa, Mendham, NJ
 

Dear Lisa,

The college-admissions process has become so brutally intense in recent years that it can make anyone lose perspective, and I think that’s what’s happened here. Of course, you’re not the only parent who sees her hardworking and accomplished child do everything “right,” imagines him or her thriving at a particular school, and is frustrated when the child does not gain admission. But if you don’t step back and look at the bigger picture, you’ll be depriving your son of an education that will be far more valuable to him in the long run. So let’s back up.

From the moment kids are born, they take their cues from the adults around them about how to respond to experiences in the world. For instance, when a toddler stumbles in the sandbox, the first thing she does is look at her parent for a signal. If the parent calmly says, “Whoops, you fell down,” and then smiles reassuringly, the child will likely get the message that the fall was no big deal and get right back up. But if the adult looks alarmed, yells, “Oh, no! Are you okay?,” and rushes over to check for injuries, the child may, in turn, become alarmed: Wait, am I okay? I thought I was okay, but maybe I’m not! Later, if the child doesn’t get the lead in the school play—despite how talented this child may be—she’ll also take her cue about what this means from the adults around her. If her parents say, “That’s so unfair! Jane only got the part because the drama teacher is friends with her mom,” or “Jane’s parents are on the board,” the girl might think, Yeah, this is so unfair. Jane’s not nearly as talented as I am. The world is rigged. Why even try?
 
If, on the other hand, the parents say, “We know you really wanted the lead and we hear how disappointed you are. You worked so hard preparing for the audition. Maybe you’ll get the lead the next time around, but meanwhile, the part you did get will be fun, too,” their daughter may still be disappointed, but she’ll be learning about resilience. She’ll take in the message that sometimes we don’t get what we want, even when we’re qualified to have it. She’ll learn that sometimes we might be really good at something, but someone else is even better. She’ll learn that there’s not just one thing that can be enjoyable or fulfilling, but many things—like acting in a play she loves, even if she’s not the lead this time around. She’ll learn that the world is not an all-or-nothing place, where you either succeed or fail. She’ll learn that if she really wants something badly enough, she can try again another time and figure out what would increase her chances. She’ll learn that even if Jane got the role mostly because of her talent but partly because the teacher (consciously or not) favored her, there will come a time when she, too, will get something—an award, a job—not only because of her talent, but also because of, say, the boss’s strong relationship with the colleague who referred her, or the fact that they both grew up in the same town, and an equally qualified candidate will be rejected. 
 
The kid who learns these lessons early on will probably still be upset if, despite her stellar application, she doesn’t get admitted to her top-choice school. But she won’t walk through the world feeling as though there’s a conspiracy going on, nor will she walk onto campus the first day of freshman year believing that she won’t be challenged and that her peers are either similarly overqualified or simply beneath her. And if she does find that she’s not getting what she wants at her very good but not Ivy League school, she will know she can talk to an adviser to see what opportunities might be available that she’s not yet aware of, or even apply to transfer elsewhere. Either way, she won’t spend her senior year of high school anticipating how unfulfilling her college experience will be, thereby creating a very unfortunate self-fulfilling prophecy.
 
So how do you explain to your son that the system is rigged against him? You say, “Son, the world is an unfair place and the system is rigged against you.” And then you watch him grow into an angry, unfulfilled adult with a chip on his shoulder who will probably have grossly misguided ideas about women and people of color and his own value and worth and abilities. But if you’d like a better future for him, let me suggest the following. Start by getting more accurate information, such as the fact that it’s extremely challenging to get into an elite college, and that the vast majority of applicants to these colleges have very high test scores, along with a stunning array of extracurricular activities and prestigious awards or honors. Dig deeper than anecdotal information and you’ll discover that there isn’t a reliable statistic or report out there that says that an applicant with very good grades and very good SAT and ACT scores who is also an Eagle Scout and a captain of the cross-country team “should” be admitted to a particular Ivy League school—regardless of gender, race, or ethnicity. Ask professionals in the admissions field, such as an experienced college-guidance counselor, whether a student with your son’s resume who happens to be a woman of color might still be rejected from the school of her choice. You may be surprised by the answer.
 
Having this information might help you separate the reality from the reaction you’re having, and this, in turn, will help you talk to your son in a more productive way about what is, for most families applying to top-tier schools, a grueling and anxiety-provoking process. Remember, he’s taking his cues from you, so if you can view this from a more balanced perspective, so will he. Instead of coming from a place of outrage on his behalf, approach him from a place of curiosity and ask, “How are you doing with this college-application process?” Then listen to what his frustration is about. Is he getting the message (from you? his school? his friends?) that the name of his college defines his worth or is a statement about his intelligence? Does he believe that going to an Ivy League college leads to a better job or a better life or some kind of happiness he won’t find at another very good school? 
 
Help to disabuse him of these faulty notions and explain to him that college is about the right fit, not the most prestigious name, and that no matter where he goes—including an Ivy League school—there will be students just like him, as well as students who are both more and less accomplished on paper, because colleges try to put together a group of outstanding people who will mesh well. Tell him that you have every confidence that he will choose, and be accepted into, a school where he meshes well and maybe even makes the friends he’ll have for the rest of his life.
 
In other words, how you handle the application process sets the tone for how your son will respond to it. It’s true that sometimes there isn’t enough to go around—there are only so many leads in the school production, so many spots at a given college, and so many openings for a job someone really wants. At the same time, parents have the potential to turn a situation that their kids would otherwise handle just fine into one that’s miserable. At that point, it’s the parent creating the child’s misery, not the situation. The messages parents send their kids have the potential to either prepare them for adulthood or hold them back much more than not being at an Ivy League school would ever do. You have a great opportunity right now to teach your son well.

Reflections on taking a gap year

 

New York Times readers who’ve taken a year off from their education, what many now call a gap year, were asked what they learned and what tips they have for those who are considering the same. Some of the responses included in this Education Life article were edited for length and clarity, and I’m posting some below. I do not think a gap year is right for everyone, but students who it is right for know how to conceptualize the time, outline their goals for it, plan it (for the most part) themselves, and have indicated a way to measure their success. Gap years are not years off. In fact, they are very much the opposite. Here’s what some gap-year-takers had to say about it:

By taking a gap year, you are making the brave decision to slow down. I deferred my admission to Claremont McKenna College for a year. I made a few plans, but ultimately left my gap year full of gaps. I worked as a salesperson. I took a class at a community college. I road-tripped with my best friend. The one thing I scheduled was a three-month-long trip to the South Pacific, a gift from my parents that I combined with some of the money I made in the fall.

For my gap year I lived with my parents and siblings. I worked a variety of jobs: for a land surveyor, nights at a convenience store and as an inventory checker. I hated them all, but they got me out of the house and put some money in my pocket. I felt lost. My friends were gone and I didn’t fit in with my family dynamic. The highlights of my months were my military service weekends. I made close connections with my fellow soldiers and looked forward to the challenges and camaraderie of our training time. Recognize that the gap year is a time of transition. When you feel alone and like your life is stuck while your friends are away on their own adventures, remember you are experiencing a challenge few accept. You will learn more about yourself during your gap year than most of your friends will learn during their first year of college. In addition, you’ll develop skills that will serve you in life: resilience, self-reliance, courage and patience. Your gap year will be the furnace that will temper your steely resolve to achieve when you arrive at college.

I decided a gap year would be the best choice for me because I felt exhausted after going through high school. Even though I come from a low-income family, there are programs like Global Citizen Year that provide scholarships for students of all backgrounds. (I paid $5,000 through outside scholarships and my own fund-raising.) Though there are many struggles at times with limited resources to take care of mental and physical health, the experience over all has been very meaningful. I am learning three languages here: French, Pulaar and Malinke. I even decided on what I want to study in college: linguistics. For work, I teach English at the local high school two days a week, and on the other days I work at my host family’s community garden. Since my host father works for the Peace Corps and Trees for the Future, I get to learn a lot about sustainability and foreign aid. Mostly, the trip is worthwhile because I got to meet my host family, who have guided me through Senegalese life as a Vietnamese kid who doesn’t know a lot about what he’s doing.

My experience with a gap year was not without its challenges. I went to northern Thailand, taught in a rural school and did community work with a monastery. The school, community and people were amazing. It was the other students in the gap year program that made it especially challenging. The majority of the people I was with picked Thailand so they could party. My weekends became party central, which was not what I signed up for. But all in all, I learned much more than I would in first-year university, about myself, rural education, public health and other cultures. I was forced out of my comfort zone on multiple occasions, and it served me well in the long run. I recommend doing your research. I fell for the company with the great promotional videos and website, and I paid for that, and my experience wasn’t as great, as far as gap years go.

If you are considering a gap year, we can help walk you through planning considerations. Feel free to reach out to us!

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Class of 2021 Waitlist Admit Rates & Notification Dates

More on the waitlist, this time admit rates and notification dates, from the best college admissions data source out there, College Kickstart. The landscape doesn’t look that much different than last year. How the waitlist plays out always depends a lot on yield, so how many students a school said yes to actually put down a deposit and say they are going to show up in the fall. Some schools do a much better job of this than others. These schools have a high yield, and will not go very deep if onto the waitlist at all. The schools that have not done a good job at predicting yield will head to the waitlist to fill seats as needed. Unfortunately, students can hang out on the waitlist well into the summer, which drags out a process that for most should be finished on or around May 1. For all the waitlisted students out there, we feel your pain, but there are some things you can do to keep yourself busy. Check out our post on what to do if you are waitlisted.

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Ivy League Admit Rates Are Insane. Look Elsewhere

Early applications increase across Ivy League

Class of 2021 Shattering Ivy League admissions records….

Headlines like these are frequent as of late following what have been increasingly low admit rates the past few years.

This year was tough, and sadly, I do not see the admit rates for the top 10-15, even 20 or so colleges and universities in the US getting any higher. The Common App has made it too easy to apply to 20 schools (I love you Common App, but…it’s true), and too many students make misinformed decisions when developing their application strategy (this is where I come in and try to help). There are lots of other problems with the system, too; it is definitely broken.

I do not have a catch-all solution. Less legacy and other preferential admissions policies, and more transparency by colleges and universities could be a start, but this seems unlikely short-term. One thing I do feel strongly about that I think students and parents have control over is their laser focus on the Ivy League and other uber selective schools (schools with admit rates under 20%). It is time to start looking at the many other colleges and universities that offer similar experiences. It is time to get over whatever it is that makes these select few schools so appealing (brand, prestige, etc.) and see them for what they really are: schools that are like many others.

This process ends up being demoralizing for many students—but it doesn’t have to be.

Students and families can start by being realistic about this process early on. Look at the admit rates and internalize what these numbers mean. Be honest about your odds of admission to these schools if they are on your initial list. Even with perfect grades and a tight narrative, any school with an admit rate under 20% is very hard to get into. Any school with an admit rate under 10% is nearly impossible to get into.

Think deeply about why you want to go to college and what you want from your college experience. Is what you want only available at the top 10, 20, or even 50 schools in the country according to US News? I highly doubt it. If you are stuck on brand, image, and prestige, call yourself out and move on! It matters far more what you do in college and the type of person you become than where you go.

 

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