If you are familiar with the college application cycle, you know that December of senior year, students enter one of the most intense phases of the college admissions process, when schools start releasing decisions from the binding Early Decision and the Early Action application pools. All of the work from the last four years comes into high definition as students await some of the first answers that their class will receive. To add to the pressure, some of the most selective schools in the country are rendering decisions. Even when a senior has not applied under one of these plans, stress levels elevate as they watch their classmates receive this news. When a student or a peer of theirs is admitted or denied (and language matters-colleges do not accept or reject…they admit and deny) the temperature can increase throughout a school building. Students that received positive news are ecstatic while disappointing news can feel like the end of the world.
In my first year counseling students, I wanted to find something to help balance this experience. I could not find anything so I wrote my own piece. If you know a family with a senior, feel free to share it with them:
“As early application results come in, I have noticed a heightened state among college-bound seniors as they wait for results from the schools where they applied. I searched my archives of articles to find something that might help students take stock and maintain perspective, but none of the articles said what I wanted to say, so here are my two cents. Keep your eye on your own ball. Do not pay attention to the admissions chatter. Think about what you are looking for in a college and what you want your life to look like after the 45 months that you will spend at college. Consider your strengths and weaknesses as a student as well as how you learn best. Continue to explore areas of study and career paths that interest you. Make a list of things you would like to accomplish in college like studying abroad or completing an internship. Explore the websites of ALL the colleges where you are applying and see if anything jumps out at you. College admission is just the beginning. The kids that “win” at the college game (if there even is such a thing) are the students that arrive on campus with a sense of purpose, use their four years well and graduate on time. In precisely five months you will be submitting a deposit to the lucky school that gets to have you for the next four years. Use this time to ponder what you want in a college so that when your choices are on the table, you have a deeper sense of what you want in a school.”
My core objective with my consulting practice is to help families alleviate stress in the college admissions process. And one of my goals with this website is to share resources that can help families to that effect. I have been doing on line monthly webinars that are open to anyone that would like to attend. I finally got them organized on YouTube with titles and an overview for each one. If you are looking for information about paying for college, how to demonstrate interest, write an essay, build a list or visit a campus, you will find resources to help you! You can access it here. Feel free to leave comments and please reach out if there is a topic you would like me to cover or if you would like me to add you to my email list for the webinars. You can follow me on IG @august.consulting or my FB pages, August Consulting and Two River College Admissions.
I listen to an amazing podcast called “Your College Bound Kid” that is chock full of information that can help families at the begin of the college admission process as well as seasoned professionals. Recently they shared a piece on college visits at high schools that had some great advice that I thought was worth sharing.
College admissions offices go on the road in the fall to visit individual *high schools to promote their schools and recruit students. These presentations take place during the school day, either when students are in class or during lunch. Students can connect with admissions representatives after school at colleges admissions fairs and regional presentations too. Here are some things to know about taking advantage of this opportunity:
The person that comes to your school is most likely the person that will do the first read of your application. They will remember you when they review your file!
Appearances count-come prepared: clean and presentable.
Put your hand out and introduce yourself-explain that you visited, you are applying, you are hoping to visit, etc. These people are trained to talk to adolescents and they will continue the conversation. All you have to do is introduce yourself.
Make eye-contact and be attentive.
STAY. OFF. YOUR. PHONE.
Come with a couple of good questions about the school that you can’t google.
Sometimes these meetings can be like a group interview-engage and participate but do not dominate the conversation. Admissions reps are looking to see what you might be like in class. They want to see how you contribute to an environment.
Follow up with an email with any questions or just to thank them for the presentation. These meetings show demonstrated interest.
Colleges are quite intentional about the high schools that they visit. They spend significant amounts of money to have their reps travel around the country. If they come to your school, it is for a reason-they are trying to expand their application funnel in your area or they have a good track record bringing in students from your school.
The rep will have deference and influence with your application when they can say that they know your school and actually met you. They also might reach out to your school counselor to ask more about you after a visit, so this is an important resource for teenagers applying to college to take advantage of!
*These visits are typically scheduled well in advance and shared on high school calendars. Juniors and seniors are usually invited to attend. Take time to learn the procedure at your high school for attending these meetings. They are an incredible opportunity!
“If you are applying to a number of schools with admit rates
of 1 out of 3 or less, expect unpredictability.”
Assistant Vice Provost and Executive Director
Georgia Institute of Technology
We are deep in the heart of October, one of the busiest times for applicants in the college admissions cycle. I have seniors putting the final touches on their applications, waiting for scores from the latest SAT, making a final decision around a binding Early Decision plan and planning campus visits over the New Jersey break in November. Suffice it to say, I am busy. So for this blog, I am leaning on the wisdom from Rick Clark from the Georgia Tech admissions office. His recent post shared three critical lessons that I summarize here:
Highly qualified students are regularly denied admission at ultra-selective schools.
It is critical to have hard conversations as a family about college costs and how you anticipate meeting them.
College admissions is not fair-be prepared for decisions that are unpredictable.
Rick’s post, “College Admissions: 3 Messages You Need to Hear” can be read here. He explains these lessons far more eloquently and in much more detail. Good luck!
I am organizing my next set of college visits in November and I realized that I am overdue to share about the schools I visited on my trip from New Jersey to Salt Lake City, Utah in August. I visited the following eleven college campuses:
University of Cincinnati
St. Louis University
University of Kansas
University of Denver
University of Colorado-Boulder
Colorado School of Mines
University of Utah
What are my takeaways? We have a rich and varied choice of post-secondary institutions in this country. There are so many types of schools and students that start their college application process early will have the luxury of exploring these options without the stress of having to make a decision.
Which was my favorite? Hard to say! I loved the town of Golden, CO, the home of Colorado School of Mines. Wash U and U of St. Louis were both located with convenient access to St. Louis, which seemed like an incredible place to go to college. Kansas and Indiana were sprawling flagships; if you are looking for a large school, these could be great options. The University of Utah campus is modern, clean and has stunning mountain vistas. Miami of Ohio is as pretty a campus as I have seen; a public ivy with a traditional feel that is a bit larger.
What I really loved about the schools that I saw was that they all (with the exception of Wash U/St. Louis) have manageable admissions thresholds.
I am going to post photos of my visits over the next few weeks on Instagram. My handle is august.consulting on IG if you want to follow along. My next webinar is Monday, October 9th, with the latest news and notes in college admissions before I take a dive into writing college essays. Feel free to join me or share the link from my IG story with anyone that might benefit.
I am writing this from the Delta Lounge at Newark airport on my way to Salt Lake City for Family Weekend at the University of Utah. Other colleges offer three days of events for students to share with their loved ones. At the U, as the University of Utah is typically called, the weekend revolves around one thing and one thing only…football. Their football team is ranked #12 in the country and competed in the Rose Bowl against Penn State last year. They are currently undefeated and they play UCLA tomorrow. I thought it would be useful to take a look at how college football and college admissions intersect.
This is big business for the colleges. Some schools have media contracts that support a significant percentage of their athletic budget.
The saying, “There is no bad press” applies here. College football gets the school’s name out in the mainstream media in a way that would be almost impossible to replicate on their own.
Colleges buy advertising during the game to promote the school.
Many students approach the college search with the goal of attending a school with “game day”. They have seen the ESPN broadcasts from colleges and they want a campus where they can participate in that experience.
When a school does well in the national football arena, their popularity goes viral and the application numbers surge. Think of the University of Tennessee; they were inundated with applications last year.
Look at Coach Prime at University of Colorado Boulder-I think that level of exposure will change the numbers at UC Boulder; my guess is the admit rate will plummet.
I will be cheering on the Utes tomorrow. Good luck to all the teams on game day!
I am deep in the heart of the supplemental essay season and helping my students get as much of this work done before they head back to senior year, so here are some quick thoughts on why the supplements can be easier than the main essay:
They are shorter-The average tends to be from 100-300 words. Some are as short as 50!
They ask more direct questions-The main essay is more open-ended and this can be stressful for students. Supplements are more specific and ask things like why you want to pursue a certain field, what is a meaningful extracurricular or how their college is a good fit for you.
Some are short answer-Some schools ask you to finish a sentence, tell what you did last Thursday or make a list.
They are whimsical, lighthearted and fun-One prompt asks where and what they should eat in your hometown.
Sometimes they aren’t even there!-There are plenty of schools that do not even ask for extra writing.
Greetings from the heart of college application writing season! Most of my students spent July focused on their main essay so that when August 1st rolled around, they could focus on the many different types of supplemental essays that individual colleges often require. My last post focused on five things to know. This post will highlight five things that you should NOT write about:
Do not recite your extracurricular resume. The colleges can see where you spent your time. Use this space to share something that is not already part of your profile.
Do not regurgitate your academic achievements. They can see your GPA, the rigor of your coursework and the letters of recommendation from your teachers and counselor. That is plenty of information.
Do not use this piece to vent about an issue. The overall arc of your writing should lean positive. This is not not a place to unload about something.
Do not use this essay to share about how another person has impacted you. This essay needs to be about YOU, not about someone that has helped shape you.
Do not brag or boast. If you do it right, your profile will speak for itself.
I am late with my July blog post! This is because I am deep in the heart of application season and this means I have LOTS of writing taking place with my 2024 cohort. Most of them have their main essay completed or coming down the final stretch. Their Common Apps are polished and ready to go. So the next thing on the college application timeline…supplemental essays.
Whether you are writing the main essay (and I regularly tell my kids that many colleges are test-optional, rarely are they essay optional), here are some tips to help you get started and help your story shine:
Use the prompts to share a facet of your experience that is not already in your application.
Write from the heart. This is a uniquely personal piece and if you are open and honest, you will allow the admissions reader to have a deeper sense of who is coming to their campus.
This writing takes time. Rarely does anyone write a draft that is ready to send in. This is a process where you continue to revise and edit the piece until you feel like it tells your story .
The main essay is 650 words. This is about one page. Many students feel like this is going to be a dissertation but actually it is a brief piece of writing.
Here is a goal to help keep you on track and help you shape your writing: your essay should be so specifically about you that if the final draft didn’t have your name on it, and it was found somewhere in your community. people would know to return it to you because it was abundantly clear that it was your story.
“This little college thing, this is just a bump in the road”
Dr. Jaime Ryan from “Never Have I Ever”
I enjoyed Mindy Kaling’s Netflix program, “Never Have I Ever” that chronicles a teenager, Devi Vishwakumar, through her high school career. As Devi and her peers approached the college application journey, I thought the show did some great things to highlight different aspects of college admissions. (Spoiler alert, if you haven’t finished the final season, you might want to stop reading). Here are some of the things that they got right:
They profiled Arizona State University. One of the leads in the show, Paxton Hall-Yoshida, attends this school, has a rough start and withdraws. When he wants to go back, he calls the school and starts to explain why he left. They tell him that there is no need to explain and they welcome him back by saying, “Congratulations on being a Sun Devil again”. ASU is well known in higher education as a school that admits all sorts of students and has strong outcomes. They have an 88% acceptance rate and they retain 86% of their first year students. I think it is awesome that they showcased a school like this on the show.
One of the most popular kids in the school, Paxton Hall-Yoshida, goes to ASU and struggles. That happens! Confident students can go away to college and have a challenging time.
One of the characters, Fabiola, is admitted to Princeton University. She is interested in robotics and learns that Howard University has a program that is exactly what she wants. After careful research, she chooses to forego the more selective school because she feels that Howard has the better program for her. Sometimes the less selective school is a better fit.
Devi’s friend, Eleanor, decides that college is not for her and pursues a career out of high school. College is not the best option right after high school for every teenager.
Devi only applies to colleges in the Ivy League and she is not accepted to any of them. She is only waitlisted at Princeton. This is not an unusual outcome. One of the hardest things to convey to families is the reality of ultra-selective college admissions. Students that apply to selective schools cannot count on being admitted. And I thought it was great that they modeled this reality on “Never Have I Ever”.
So what aspect of the series did I think that they missed the mark? In the end, Devi is in constant contact with the Princeton admissions rep and ultimately gets off the waitlist. I am not saying that this is impossible, but it is highly unlikely (and the fact that Devi is in regular phone contact with her admissions representative is also not something I have ever seen.) Take a look at some data on acceptances from the Princeton waitlist over the last ten years:
% Accepted From Waitlist
As you can see, most years, there is a minuscule chance of Princeton accepting students from the waitlist, specifically a 3.4% chance. If you take away the numbers from 2021, the admit rate drops to 2.4%. So kudos to Mindy Kaling and the crew that produced this fun series. Just remember that the waitlist is usually closer to a no than a yes!