Today is April 20th and the clock is ticking toward the May 1 deposit deadline. If you have a senior, you must submit a deposit to one school, and only one, by May 1st. I have been fielding phone calls from families that are crisscrossing the country to attend open houses for admitted students and trying to come up with an answer as to where they will be heading in August. They are running out of time to make a final decision and it is stressful. Some of these kids are looking at apples to apples colleges. Others are trying to decide between state flagships and small, liberal arts colleges. If you are a parent of a child that is trying to make this decision in the next 10 days, I have a few suggestions:
1) $$$-Take paper to pencil and write down room/board/tuition for each school and add up the cost of attendance. Do not include books 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 this school requires airfare, add what you think the travel costs will be for freshman year. The next step is to take this number and multiply by 4. Do this for each school and if you anticipate tuition going up, please factor that into your four-year costs. Do this for each college that your child is considering attending. When your family sees the four-year expenses at each institution, it will provide some important data that could impact the decision.
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 that. 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 is comfortable with going away.
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 together, 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 at this school. But I beg you to say nothing and be aware of your body language too; just remain neutral. If your student wants to talk, 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 where to attend college 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 are going around your head like a ticker tape. I suggest that you do not talk about this except at designated times. Use this time to take your senior out to dinner and limit your conversations about college to those specific times.
One last word on this phase of the college admissions process; at some point in their college career, your child is likely to have a rough patch. They are going to have a moment when they look in the mirror and think that College A was not the correct choice and that they should have attended College B. It is imperative that your child own this decision and that is why you need to stay neutral and let them evaluate their choices after a visit, without your input. If you feel like your child is really going down the wrong road, after you have given them time and space to evaluate their options, then you can speak up and offer them guidance. Good luck!
We are entering an exciting stage of the college admissions cycle; decisions are coming out! And I cannot tell you how thrilling it is to hear from a student that has good news. Last night I was relaxing by the fire when I received a text out of the blue from a client that one of their top choices had sent them an acceptance letter. And today I received another unexpected text in the middle of a busy Saturday, from a client letting me know that they were accepted at a school that would be an incredible fit for them.
Many colleges and universities give a precise date that informs applicants as to when they will receive an answer about their application. Other schools provide a general idea of when they will notify Regular Decision applicants. When I know a school is releasing their decisions on a specific day, I am on pins and needles with my fingers crossed, waiting to hear. But not every school adheres to a strict schedule. And sometimes when they give you a date, they still might release their decisions earlier than expected. And that is what made the answers that I received in the last 24 hours so exhilarating; the schools that my clients texted me about were not expected to release decisions until March. The exciting news was entirely unexpected.
By spring of senior year, I have been working with many of my clients for years. We have worked late into the night on essays, battled deadlines, worked around illness and injury, celebrated successes and setbacks in their high school careers, and I have come to know them very well. The Regular Decision phase is the crescendo of all our work, and I just love it. And truth be told, sometimes the news is not always positive. Rejection is part of this process, and it never feels good. So tonight I am celebrating the outstanding texts that I received this weekend. Good luck to all the future Catamounts and Blue Hens out there!
January of junior year in high school is where the admissions cycle starts to accelerate. Many families contact me after the holidays. They get through December, enter the New Year and realize that it is time to address college admissions planning with their junior. So what should an 11th grade student be doing at this stage? Here are a few thoughts:
TESTING PLAN A junior should have at least one set of PSAT scores that can be used as a starting point. I recommend that clients take a practice SAT and a practice ACT to determine if they favor one test over the other. Once we have established which test they are going to take, we look at when those tests are offered and when the student has the most free time to prep (i.e. we stay away from busy periods with extracurricular commitments) I like to see at least one test before the end of junior year. If the scores come back on the high side, we are all set and can move on to other aspects of college planning. If a student is not satisfied and wants to pursue more testing, we have plenty of time to organize another round of test prep and testing.
COLLEGE VISITS Before a family invests alot of time and money to visit colleges, I suggest that they go see a range of schools that they can daytrip from their home. It is not important which specific schools that they see but that they see different types of schools. If you live on the Boston/DC corridor, it is easy to see a small liberal arts college in a rural setting, a medium sized school with a large sports program, a college in an urban setting and a state flagship, etc. When a student has seen a variety of sizes and locations, they can quickly determine what they like and do not like. This provides important information as we build and sculpt college lists.
FINANCES It is important to have a conversation about what role money might play in college planning. Do you anticipate that your child will take out student loans? Who will pay for books? Do you expect your child to work while they are in school? The sooner your child understands how finances might impact the final decision that they make in the spring of their senior year, the better.
GRADES As always, academics play a huge role in college admissions. The academic transcript is the most important piece of the puzzle, so make sure that your grades are the best they can be!