Tag: college applications

Is your senior struggling with the college essay?

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Save Your Relationship; Leave it to the Pros

College Essay
credit: The Journal

As if today’s rising high school seniors don’t face enough pressure—about where they’ll apply to college, if they’ll get in, whether they’re making the right choice—there’s the looming hurdle of the college application itself. Sure, high school college counselors likely advised rising seniors to grind it out during the summer months. And if you have a child who actually followed this sage advice, congratulations. You’re in the minority.

The Mystic Secret of College Tours

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Photo via americancollegetours.org
Photo via americancollegetours.org

This past weekend I took my daughter Jane, a high school junior, on the first of what will surely be many campus tours. She is my fifth and last child to go to college, if you include the ex-stepkids, and I realized early Saturday morning that I know something about this process that I didn’t the first several times through.

Give Yourself an Early Holiday Present: Make Your Teachers and Counselors Your Best Advocates

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student at christmas

Some consider teacher and counselor recommendations to be the icing on the cake of a stellar college application, but they serve an integral role in the college application process.

Most understand that the strongest recommendations don’t succumb to platitudes like, “Johnny is a great, hardworking student,” or “Sarah always goes the extra mile in class,” but use anecdotes and examples to illustrate a student’s unique brand of excellence.

The best recommendations, however, also accomplish even more, like corroborating the writing ability in Johnny’s essays or explaining the extenuating circumstances that had an impact on Sarah’s grades.  Recommendations provide context to the many intangible aspects of a college application.

On the Common Application’s recommendation form, for example, teachers are required to rate each student according to 15 qualities that don’t necessarily factor into a student’s GPA (see below).  In my opinion,

teacher_evaluation_check_box2

it’s no coincidence that academic achievement, intellectual promise, quality of writing, creative thought, and productive class discussion feature at the top of the list.  After all, what college professor wouldn’t want a class full of students who excel in those five categories?

College counselors, on the other hand, fill out a form called the Secondary School Report in which, among other things, they rate the level of challenge of a student’s course selection.  Colleges take this evaluation very seriously: it helps them measure the quality of an applicant’s GPA.  All else being equal, a class schedule filled with honors and AP classes will always trump one without in the admissions process.

A College Reject Speaks Out

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Suzy WeissNow that college acceptance and rejection letters have been digested, the time is right for a little levity and perspective on the subject of college admissions. High school senior Suzy Lee Weiss’s article, published in the Wall Street Journal last month, delivers just that.

In case you haven’t read her article, To (All) the Colleges That Rejected Me, which has gone viral on the Internet, it’s worth a read—especially if you’re a college-bound student or the parent of one. 

Weiss’s tongue-in-cheek rant over her purported misgivings regarding what she should’ve done to get into the college of her choice include, but are not limited to, the following: starting a fake charity, raising awareness of Chapped-Lips-in-the-Winter-Syndrome, getting adopted by infamous Tiger Mom Amy Chua, and snagging an internship with a title like “Chairwoman of Coffee Logistics.”

Early Decision is a Bit Later This Year (Thanks, Sandy)

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Here’s one less thing to panic about:  many colleges are postponing their November 1 deadline for early decision applicants. But students hoping to get a couple extra days to obsess over their essays should take warning; every school is handling this differently.

  • Some schools, Johns Hopkins included, are accepting late submissions only from students in areas affected by Hurricane Sandy. So if you’re out there in Wyoming and just feel as though you deserve another day or two before you click “submit,” watch out — the admissions officers probably won’t take kindly to you.

Second Verse, Same as the First

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Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

“Getting In,” our column on college admissions, continues with writer Elizabeth Frederick moving on to child number two.  Will she be wiser the second time around?? -The Eds

When I think of Grace, it is sometimes an image of the round-cheeked, silken pre-schooler dressed in sequins, tutus, boas, and plastic kitten heels.  Sometimes, it is the middle school Grace of drawstring, dotty shorts and a team t-shirt.  Or the Grace of fuzzy pajamas wearing her old, purple glasses.  I think of the child with the invisible friend, who defended her from her dominant older sister, and of her remarkable capacity for deep, infectious belly laughter.  I think of her snuggled warm under a blanket, lost in a good book about a princess.  Until recently, I have not had to think of her as Grace, the independent.  Grace, the college student.  Grace, the one who will leave. 

How Many Applications is Too Many?

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Photo courtesy Wikimedia

Yesterday, we told you about the high-achieving student who applied to ten schools — both reaches and safeties — and didn’t get into a single one. With odds like that, the only solution is to apply to even more schools, right? Well, actually, no.

The average college student today will apply to more than nine schools, a figure that “seems much too high,” at least according to one admissions counselor writing in the New York Times. Jordanna Suriani argues that seniors apply to ten-plus schools haven’t thought enough about what they want, or they’re caught up in what she calls “the admissions game.” And now that most colleges accept the common application, it’s easy enough for students to put themselves in the running for large numbers of schools. But when students start hedging their bets and applying to schools that they’re not even interested because they’re panicked after reading too many stories about declining acceptance rates, they’re really only harming themselves.

Getting In: Some Colleges Still Accepting Applications

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It’s true that May 1 was the deadline for high school seniors to put deposits down at their college of choice – time to commit.  It should be a time of exhaling, of great relief to have the process completed, of celebration.  But, for a few of seniors, the chapter is not quite written.  For those who didn’t get in to the schools they wanted, or who woke up from a 12-month slumber having neglected to apply, there’s still time to find a college to attend come September.

There are still some colleges taking applications.  Check out the 2012 Space Availability Survey from the National Association for College Admission Counseling.

The survey, which has been generated for over 25 years, lists the 300+ public and private colleges that are still offering admission, housing and financial aid to qualified applicants.  Students should contact the college or university directly, ASAP (!!), to determine if the spaces available on May 2, when the list was created, are still there.  Also, there is no guarantee of admission.  The student must qualify – just like in the regular fall application process.  The survey will be removed from the NACAC website on June 29, 2012, so students should not dally any longer.

Harder is Better

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There is so much that goes into a high school student’s application to college: the transcript, the SAT/ACT scores, the essays, the extra-curriculars.  It’s hard to know what really counts – what the kids should focus on to improve their own chances.  Different schools are looking for different things, and those things can even change from year to year at any given college or university.  But one element seems to remain as the gold standard: grades.

“Research has shown high school GPA to be the number one predictor of success in college. But, let me be clear that all 4.0s are not created equal. It is all about academic rigor in high school course selection. And realistically, not all high schools are created equal either. There are great students at not so good schools and there are marginal students at superb schools. The students whom we seek are those who have “bloomed where they are planted,” demonstrating academic excellence, character and motivation wherever they are.” Martha Allman, dean of admissions at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Ms. Allman seems to be saying that the transcript is king, and the number is not a fixed asset – the good grade needs to be in the hardest course available to the student.  So, as your juniors are plotting out their fall semesters for senior year (as mine is now), you may want to encourage them to stretch – take the AP instead of the regular level, take the harder course over the elective that sounds fun.  It all seems so geared to the end game, which is a shame if you ask me, but if the end game is your child’s goal, make sure he or she understand the rules of engagement, and pushes for the big finish.  Coasting in senior year?  I don’t think so.

Oh, Snap! The College Application is Incomplete

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One of Emily’s best friends, let’s call her Zoe, had a total “oh, no” moment this week.  Zoe got an email from one of the colleges she is anxiously waiting to hear from — one of her “reaches.”  The college told Zoe her application was incomplete; the school had not received her SAT scores.  Zoe freaked.  She was certain she had sent them!  She had been very careful to double check her application “To Do” list before that magic December 31 date, and everything was done.  Or, so she thought.  But she didn’t have any proof — no confirmation sheet, no credit card receipt.  Now, she feared, her applications would not be accepted, and because of one stupid mistake, she would be out of the running.

To request SAT scores be sent to a particular college, a student needs to tell the College Board when registering for the test where the scores are to go.  If applying to more than four colleges (the number included in the registration fee), the student can make the request for reports online, which is what most kids do.  It is what Zoe did — she requested her scores be sent to nine colleges.  Unfortunately, sometimes the College Board doesn’t send them — thus, Zoe’s moment of crisis. 

As it turns out, Zoe is not the first person to have this blood-draining, hyperventilating moment of panic.  And the solution is pretty simple.  Zoe got in touch with her college counselor at school, who contacted the seven (!!) colleges that had not received her scores by the application deadline.  I guess it’s not the first time they have heard this story, because the colleges said the counselor could send a copy of Zoe’s “unofficial” score report which could be used until the “official” report arrived from College Board.  No problem.  She re-ordered the scores.  

But in the intervening moments, Zoe was sure her future was derailed.  She feared that the colleges would surely evaluate that if she couldn’t even get her scores in on time, she wouldn’t have what it takes to succeed at their school.  She thought that one stupid mistake could spell disaster for her entire admissions process.  If only she had printed a confirmation!  If only she had double checked the next day to make sure the scores had been sent!  Good news for Zoe, though:  College Board’s reputation precedes it, and a little leeway is afforded.  What I say to Zoe: cheap lesson.  Next time, though, print the confirmation page.   

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