If you have a teenager in your life applying to college, at some point you will hear the word “holistic admissions”. The definition of the word holistic is clear but families often wonder exactly what that means for their student. Johns Hopkins University published a video that provides a clear explanation of what holistic admissions is and how they use it to evaluate an applicant and bring in their class. Enjoy!
“Communities are built like Legos, one brick at a time. There is no hack.”
~Jenny Anderson, Beyond Mindfulness
*This is a repeat post marks the third anniversary since I opened my sweet little office. The offer still stands for the whole month of May…anyone can come talk to me about college…with no charge. If you know a family that could benefit from this, please have them get in touch with me.
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. 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!
“College is one of the most complex and expensive purchases one makes”
Breaking Ranks: How the Ranking Industry Rules Higher Education & What to Do About It By Colin Diver
If you are the parent of a senior (as I am), there is a good chance you are spending the month of April visiting colleges, attending accepted student days, weighing financial aid offers and talking to your student about their choices. This is not an easy business. You are weighing a large decision on not only the nuts and bolts of an education and the cost involved, but a choice that rings deep in your heart. There are so many facets that factor into this decision and I think that the deepest one under them all is this-will my kid be ok? That is really all we want as parents at the end of the day. Here are some tips as you walk through this jungle on your way to a May 1 deposit:
- $$$-Take paper to pencil and write down the room/board/tuition. Do not include books, travel or personal expenses. Once you have that princely sum, subtract any scholarships or grants. Do not include loans in this number. If travel to and from the school requires airfare, add in what you think the annual costs will be. Take this number and multiply it by four. This is the four-year cost for your child before any tuition increases. Do this for each college your child is considering. When your family sees the four-year costs at each institution, it will provide important data that could influence the final choice.
2. Distance-Revisit the idea of distance. It is easy for a 10th or 11th grader to believe that they want to go to college on the other side of the country. It is an entirely different thing to actually do it. They will be making this move in about four months. As this becomes reality they might have a change of heart. Evaluate this aspect and make sure that your child (and you!) are comfortable traveling a significant distance, especially in light of the pandemic over the last two years.
3. Major-If your child thinks they know what they want to study, take a deep look at the program that each school offers. This may impact the final decision.
4. Mum is the word-When your child returns from a visit, or you are traveling home from an accepted students day, say nothing. I have no doubt that you will have opinions, possibly strong opinions, you might even feel panicked at the prospect of your child attending a specific school. But I beg you, to say nothing and be aware of your body language too; just remain neutral. If your child wants to talk, you should listen, otherwise, say nothing. Allow 24-48 hours for the dust to settle and then talk about it.
5. Boundaries-If your child is still deciding in late April, it might be all you think about. You might be mulling the choices over in your head 24/7 and have pros and cons lists lying all over your house. Do not bombard them with your thoughts, which might be going around your head like a ticker tape. I suggest you only discuss this at designated times. Take your senior out to dinner and limit the conversation to when you are out.
As you child thinks about their options, remember this quote from Colin Diver’s new book, Breaking Ranks: How the Ranking Industry Rules Higher Education & What to Do About It:
“Unlike apples and oranges, or refrigerators and cars, college is not simply a short-term consumption activity. It is a long-term investment in human capacity—the ability to do financially, socially, emotionally, and even spiritually rewarding work; to teach oneself and others how to learn, adjust and adapt; to analyze, reason, evaluate and create; to appreciate beauty, ingenuity, order, complexity and subtlety.”
These words define why your child is going to college and can help guide your family to a good decision. Good luck!
“It is so much more about your type of skiing and being proud of your skiing than it is where you end up in the results.”
~Ryan Cochran-Siegle, US Ski Team Silver Medalist
I loved watching the American skier Ryan Cochran-Siegle win a silver medal last month in the Olympics. Ryan, or “RCS” as he is known, hails from the famous Cochran family of northern Vermont. His grandfather cut trails on their property in Richmond so his children could ski and this grew into Cochran’s Ski Area. You pass it if you travel south on I-89 outside of Burlington. Ryan is part of the second generation that has competed at the international level. I have been to their ski area, met several of them and even heard an incredible story from Marilyn Cochran about our dear friend, Jeff Pier*. I have sampled their Slopeside Syrup and their generosity. Years ago, RCS’s cousin, Robbie Kelly, sent us a US Ski Team coat (pictured below) from the World Cup circuit when one of my children was in the hospital. But I think what I love most about the Cochrans is that they openly advertise that they want people to come ski their hill and that cost is not an issue. A season pass for a family costs $250. And if that presents a hardship, they will work something out with you.
So how does this relate to college admissions? When he was interviewed after his run he said something like, “I just wanted to have a great run and do my best. When I came across the finish line, I knew I had done that, before I ever even saw my time or where I placed.” And that is the piece that every college applicant needs to do. What does that mean?
- Take the time to think about what you want to get out of the college experience.
- Consider what you want your life to look like after college and how you can best use the eight semesters to get there.
- Put the thought and research into building a list of schools that you love with a range of acceptance likelihood.
- Work on your applications well before the deadline so you can take the time and care to put forth the strongest application possible.
If you do these four steps, then you will be following the same model as RCS. His quote above says it all–do not focus on the outcome. Your focal point should be on yourself and your amazing efforts!
*The story is too long and not admissions related but my husband or I will happily tell anyone who would like to hear it 🙂
“Great kids are denied every year…Admissions, unfortunately, are not a meritocracy; many factors go into the process, and yes, hearts get broken. But hearts heal. Let your kid be disappointed. Let yourself be disappointed. Be sad. Your kid and you might be sad for several days, in fact. You need to process the mind shift –– give everyone time and space to do that. Then, dust all of yourselves off and start moving towards excitement for their next step, wherever it is.”
~Allison Slater Tate
Discuss the possibility of a denial (And yes, language matters. The word denial is gentler than rejected.) well before the decision release date. Have a plan if the answer is yes (I addressed this in Part 1 & 2) but more importantly have a plan if the answer is not what you had hoped. Here are some suggestions:
~Parents and children should create time and space to process this potentially painful and disappointing information. Clear your calendar and have a strategy around the next meal, most likely dinner. Your child (and you) might need some comfort food and a place to curl up and process a denial from a college.
~This plan should involve how and when the information will be shared and with who. Let your child take the lead here. Feel free to turn your phone off.
~ The smart money will stay away from social media, where others might post about their childrens’ acceptances. Be aware of the possibility of hearing that someone you know was admitted to the school that denied your child. This can really sting.
~Take all the time you need. It might take days to get over this. It is fine to stay in limbo.
~Your child does not have to start sorting through their acceptances to pick a school right away. It is more than alright to acknowledge this disappointment.
~Be gentle with your child and with yourself. This is the first “No” that the universe has issued for many of these kids.
~If all else fails, keep reading the wise words above from Allison Slater Tate until you feel better.
So let’s say you get an acceptance letter from Super University. You LOVED this school when you toured the campus, the college has a single digit admit rate, you put forth the strongest application you could and sent it into the ether with your fingers crossed. And…THEY ACCEPTED YOU!
- Celebrate with your family-go ahead and scream and yell and hug and scream and yell some more.
- Share the news with anyone in your immediate circle that IS NOT a current college applicant or the parent of a college applicant. Call your aunt on the other side of the country, reach out to the family that you babysit, let your neighbor know.
- Let anyone that helped you with the college process know the great news. You should tell your guidance counselor, the teachers that wrote you letters of recommendation and any alumni that lent support.
- When you are out in the world in a public space, conduct yourself with humility and grace. Do not boast or brag about your acceptance. (Save the happy dance for when you are in the privacy of your home).
- I suggest that you do not post the news on social media. If you were admitted to a college with a single digit admit rate, there are nine or more other students that are receiving a letter of denial for the one letter of acceptance that you received. There will be time to share the news online, but take a beat and wait to post this exciting news after the dust has settled.
- I recommend that you take great care in how you approach your peers that are in the middle of the application cycle. Do not call them screaming and yelling that you got in. (Follow the directions in #2 above) If you have a close friend that got disappointing news, they will need time and space to process the sting of a denial.
And stay tuned for Part 3 tomorrow…
“I know this season is SO HARD. Your kids have been through trauma the past few years –– we all have –– which makes this even more emotional, even when the news is good. Hug your kids. Tell them you are excited for them no matter what. Tell them this is not a measure of their worth, that they have huge things ahead no matter where they go, that all steps forward are steps forward. Consider doing it BEFORE they get their decisions. And then every day for the rest of the time you have them at home. They will squirm, but they need reminding all the same.”
~Allison Slater Tate
The penultimate stage of the 2022 admission cycle has thirty days left. By April 1st, 99% of the colleges will have rendered decisions on their applicant pool. Whether you get the answer that you were looking for or not, there are some Do’s and Don’ts that families should follow. In Part 2 of this blog, I am going to start with the scenario for the student that received an acceptance to a reach school that feels like a dream come true. Part 3 will focus on what to do if the news is not what you had hoped.
If you have a senior that is waiting to hear from a college where they submitted an application, here are some suggestions;
- Create time and space for these answers to come in. Most colleges announce the time that they will release their decisions. Make a plan to have your student get their answer in a place where they feel safe and supported. Clear your schedule so that your home is quiet and you are available for them. Do not host your younger child’s pasta dinner for their hockey team at the same time that your older child is getting their decision from Yale.
- Have a plan for how to celebrate if the answer is YES! Is it dinner at their favorite restaurant? Putting on their favorite music and having a dance party? Breakfast for dinner? I am sure you have some idea of how your student would like to celebrate. Just make sure that the celebrating is done in the privacy of your own home.
- Create a plan in case the news that your child receives is disappointing. Maybe they need to stay in their room for the evening, maybe they want some comfort food delivered, maybe they need to be with you. Talk about this in advance so you are prepared.
- Remember that as a parent, an acceptance will feel great, but a denial might sting you as badly as it does the student. Create a plan for yourself in the event that your child does not get the decision that they want. You might need some space to process this.
- Keep all of this news private until your student is ready to share.
The words that I quoted above from Allison Slater Tate are gold. If all else fails, just keep reading them!
Years ago I came across a post on the Grown and Flown Facebook page that caught my eye. A woman wrote about taking her daughter to visit her alma mater and running into a professor that she had studied with when she was an undergraduate. When he learned that her daughter was a prospective students, he gave some sage advice about deciding on a school. His words were so simple and comforting that I thought I would share them with you.
“Almost any school will give you a good education if you work hard,” he went on. “It just doesn’t matter that much. Pick one because you like the size or the area, or because you can afford it. Then go enjoy it. Study hard and don’t party too much, make some lasting friendships. Just go, and be happy. It doesn’t matter where.”
Colleges should release their remaining decisions in the next six weeks. Whether you are admitted Early Decision, or still waiting for your first acceptance, you are heading to college in about six months. You might be a little nervous, or you might feel quite confident about the next stage. As we come down the final stretch of the application cycle, take the words above to heart. You are going to soar in college…you’ve got this! Happy Valentine’s Day.
The College Board announced significant changes to the SAT. They plan to convert the exam from a paper and pencil test to a full digital administration. The class of 2025, who are currently in ninth grade, will be the first cohort to take the SAT in the new format.
Adam Ingersoll, of Compass Prep, is a leader in the test prep world. He wrote an excellent overview of changes in his blog that I have posted below. He provides a superb overview of what is known and what is unknown at this point in time. Stay tuned as I anticipate that more information will be forthcoming about this change from the College Board.
“Happiness is an inside job”
~William Arthur Ward
Last week I traveled alone to join my family for Christmas and I had some time to think about the current application cycle. This ED/EA round was a wild ride and I was reflecting on the results that I saw at a range of different schools, large and small, public and private, highly selective and less so. Most of my comprehensive clients had at least one good choice as they headed into the holidays and I saw a common theme in their process that I thought would make a good blog post. The quote “Happiness is an inside job” kept playing in my head but I substituted the word “college” for “happiness”. As I thought about these students and their journey over the last year or more, here is what I saw that led to their success:
- Self-Reflection– It is critical to step away from the drumbeat of college admissions and think about what one is looking for in their college experience. Students that took the time to think long and hard about what they want to study, what type of climate or location they want to reside in and what their other priorities are have a deeper sense of what they want in a school. If you are a passionate surfer, how important is ocean access? If you anticipate going to medical school, what kind of support do you need as an undergraduate? Do you value the ability to go home for the weekend? Where does cost come into play for you? These are just a few examples of the way that I have seen students triage their priorities for college. As students solidify their priorities, they can lean into their list of schools with more confidence.
2. Finding Hidden Gems-The other critical step that I see families take is when they step away from seeking prestige and start looking at campuses that are hidden gems, quietly excelling at educating their students in ways that do not garner fanfare. I worked with a family this year that had never heard of a school that I recommended. They did the homework and the more that they researched, the more that they fell in love with the college and thought that it could be an excellent fit. When the student received an Early Action acceptance letter in mid-December with a meaningful merit scholarship, they were over the moon. This never would have happened if they hadn’t done the research to learn more about this hidden gem. Letting go of selective admissions and finding schools that meet your needs is a deeply personal step that can reap huge benefits for a student.
3. The Ultimate Stressbuster– If a high school student wants to have peace on the road to college, the ultimate way to eliminate anxiety is to build a list of schools that they love. The essence of this is to find a couple of schools that you love where you have a high probability of admission. This is when stress really leaves the building. I wrote about this in detail in this post. When a student finds a college that is a good fit for them AND they are a high-probability candidate, they can forge ahead with more confidence and less stress.
At the end of the day (or at the end of the year as I write this post) finding a college with a good fit is an inside job. No one can do it for you. It is like trying on clothing to see if it fits. Only you can put on a garment and look in the mirror and decide if you like how it looks and feels. And when I think about the common traits of my full-package clients, they looked inside to see what they really wanted in a school and then did a deep dive to find those colleges that fulfilled their priorities.
The photo below is an awesome cloud line that we saw over the break. I hope you and your loved ones have a healthy and happy 2022.