One of the statements that you always here from investment houses is, “Past returns are not guaranteed” and the same is true of statistics in college admissions. It is helpful to see the admit rates and test scores of the accepted class of a college. These tools are useful guides to determine if a school might have a place on your list. But the challenge is that these numbers can go up or down in any given year, much like the stock market.
There is a wonderful school with a national reputation in a beautiful city that high-achieving students used to be able to apply to Early Action and receive a letter of admission with a generous merit scholarship around Thanksgiving. This was an excellent way to go into the holiday season, with an acceptance in your pocket. Two years ago this school pivoted and stopped doing that. High achieving students were deferred into the regular decision pool around Christmas. Last year a selective state flagship that used to let in many high achieving students Early Action went in an entirely different direction. They put the majority of the early applicants into the regular round and accepted a much lower percentage of students. Every year in professional groups, as colleges release decisions, there is chatter about a school that used to be reliable to admit a certain type of kid making a change that leaves counselors and consultants scratching their heads.
And for the class of 2020, George Washington University has announced that they are going “right-size” their undergraduate population and reduce the size by 20% over the next five years. So if GWU is on your list, wherever you classified it, high probability, 50-50 or, reach, you probably need to go back and revisit the data with this new information. The good news about GWU is that they have announced this early enough that applicants will be able to plan accordingly. The article about this change is here.
In the end, all we can do is use the data from prior years as a general guide. One never knows how a school’s institutional goals might change from year to year, or how the applicant pool might shift the numbers. Kudos to GWU for announcing their plans so early in the application cycle!
I am so excited that one of my favorite schools, The University of New Hampshire, is going to allow the class of 2020 to apply test-optional. The University of New Hampshire (UNH) is a state flagship located in Durham, NH. It is one of the only land grant, sea grant, and space grant schools in the country. They have about 12,000 undergraduates but the campus has a cozy feel with a deep sense of community that comes out to support the hockey and football teams. They offer an array of programs that are so numerous, that I have linked them here. If you go and visit, make sure you check out the Dairy Bar, where they serve the most delicious ice cream, made with ingredients from cows that are part of the Fairfield Dairy Center, right on campus.
Kudos to UNH for offering test-optional admissions!
My current cohort of applicants is putting the final touches on their Common App essays as I write this. There are days when I feel more like a stalker than a consultant. As I was wrapping up things with my graduating seniors this past month, many of them thanked me profusely and told me that they could not have done this without me. Meanwhile, my rising seniors do not express the same sentiment. We are in constant contact, sometimes daily, to develop and create a good piece of writing. My current kids may cringe when they see my text/email/phone call right now, but when they are done, I bet they will be happy. I am pushing them to get their Common App completed in a way that will allow them to shine and that includes a meaningful, well-written essay. Here are a few more things to think about in terms of writing and college applications:
1) Start With a Journal Entry-When a student has a topic that they would like to explore, I suggest that they write a journal entry to get started. This takes the pressure off. They do not feel like they are sitting down to write The College Essay. They can relax and just get their thoughts on paper. And I beg them to ignore the word count. Most kids’ better ideas and thoughts come out in the second half of the entry and if they stop at the word count, we never get to see the writing that jumps off the page. I feel like the first paragraph or two is like an orchestra warming up, with unorganized, discordant tones. The gems start to appear in the second half, so I always encourage them to keep going.
2) This Piece is Short!-One of my most favorite clients ever is going to be a junior at the University of Vermont and this has availed me of the opportunity to fly from Newark to Burlington. Have you ever flown this route? This is a short hop; the minute you reach cruising altitude, they announce that you need to prepare for landing. And the Common App essay is the same way. Sometimes kids have this beefy topic that they want to address and I tell them that they just don’t have room.
3) Get a Good Editor-The secret sauce in my operation is my editor. She holds a Masters Degree, she is a National Board Certified Teacher, she teaches English at a secondary school loaded with uber-achieving students, she works in the college admissions world and she is a contributor to the New York Times Learning Network. She has a deep sense of what the college essay needs to do and how to make that happen. Sometimes I send her a polished essay for a final edit. Other times I send her something in early draft mode to see if she thinks we are on the right track. Either way, she is an invaluable set of eyes. And here is the great news, she is available to help you! If you do not need my services, but think that your student might benefit from hers, get in touch with me and I will share her contact information with you.
So if you have a rising senior, the best thing that they can do it write here, write now!
I am slipping this post under the wire. My goal is to write a minimum of once a month and June ran away from me, in part because I have been working hard with my rising seniors on their applications.
The essay is a critical part of any application and also one of the most intimidating steps to take. So if you are applying to colleges, how do you start to break the process down into manageable pieces? Here are three things to do that will help you get started:
Read Other Essays, Part A-One of the exercises I do is to have students read an essay and I time them while they read it. It typically takes around two minutes and thirty seconds or so. And when my client has finished and I announce the time, I tell them that they have about two minutes to tell the admissions committee something about themselves so what do they think they should write about? Teenagers are always surprised at the brief amount of time it takes to read the essay. The truth is that 650 words are just not that long.
2. Read Other Essays, Part B-Grab a book from your local library that contains multiple college essays. I give all my full package clients 50 Successful Harvard Application Essays so that they have something to work with. Sit for 20-40 minutes and read essay after essay, until you feel like you have a sense of pace, scope and an idea of what you would like to write about.
3. Start Writing!-I tell my students that once they have an idea, they should start writing. The truth is, that most kids have great instincts and they usually suggest a topic that works. The first step is to start a journal style piece about their story and what they want an admissions office to know in the two minutes or so (see #1) that they will read the essay. I remind them to pay no heed to the word limit at this point (I will explain why in Part 2).
Once a rising senior takes these steps, the essay is underway and they have punctured the balloon of procrastination/overwhelmed/scared or whatever they are feeling as they go through this process. Every kid feels relief and excitement that their essay has started to take shape. If you know a rising senior, I hope these steps help. Stay tuned for Part 2!
“Communities are built like Legos, one brick at a time. There is no hack.”
~Jenny Anderson, Beyond Mindfulness
A friend posted the most beautiful piece on community in March. It was written by Jenny Anderson and it resonated with me. I have been the recipient of support from my community in ways that are too numerous to mention. I have benefited from the small things, like a class mom organizing a holiday event at school and I have literally been picked up and carried by my community when the unthinkable has happened. When I reflect on community, my first thought goes to the town where I live, but really, I have had the fortune to be a member of many communities. I have my SLU community from college, a professional community that I work with every day, a community of moms that I raised my kids alongside, that love my kids like their own, as I do theirs and I have my ADK/ski community, a group like no other. The essence of the article that touched me spoke about how we have to give to really be part of a community. And it made me question if I have given enough. I know I have received, in ways large and small, but have I really given?
I worked hard this past month to open my new office on May 1st, which is a significant date in the college planning world. May 1st is National Decision Day when seniors must decide where they are going to college. I thought it would be a meaningful day to open my doors. And the beautiful article about community gave me an idea for how I can give to my own community.
The whole month of May, I am available to meet with anyone who would like to talk about the college admissions process, free of charge. I am dead serious. Come talk to me for an hour and bring your questions, no strings attached. My real hope is that after an hour, you have enough information that you don’t need any more help. If this sounds unlikely, keep reading.
Several years ago, when I was in the middle of my certificate program at the University of California, Irvine, I heard a local mom lamenting about college admissions. I offered to come over and speak with her children. I met them on a Sunday morning and spent an hour walking them through the steps of finding a good fit for college. Last month, when I posted the news about my office, this parent reached out to me to thank me and update me on where all of their children ended up. Each one of these kids chose a great school, all quite different from each other, but the right fit for the individual student. So, take it from experience, an hour can go a long way.
So if you are stressed or confused, or overwhelmed, or maybe you know someone who is, come talk to me. You can send your child, you can come with your child, or maybe you would like to come alone. Or just come see my office and have a Perrier. My seniors are all settled on their schools and my juniors aren’t in application mode yet, so I have time. Consider it a thank you for all of the times that my community has taken care of and supported me and my family. The article about community is here. I look forward to hearing from you!
I posted earlier this month about the office lease that I secured in late March. I got access to my space early April and I set a goal to be up and running by May 1st. This is a significant day in the college admissions world because it is National Decision Day, the deadline for all seniors to place a deposit at the college that they plan to attend next fall. I thought it would be a neat idea to have my office ready to go on the same day.
It has been a whirlwind of online orders, trips to Homegoods and Target, painting and sanding, hammering and drilling (special thanks to my better half for all his game in this department) to make all of this happen. Some pictures are below to document our work!