The Morning After Ivy Acceptance Day…

“‘But they did everything’ They took all the hardest classes, aced the tests, spent summers in interesting ways, contributed to meaningful service programs, wrote amazing essays by themselves, and even got the teacher who is generally unimpressed to write a passionate letter. What more, you ask, could they have done? The answer here is nothing.”

Patrick O’Connor, Ph.D

I write this after the most selective schools in the country have released their decisions and left so many people scratching their heads. Most of these schools have a single digit acceptance rate and Harvard announced that their 2023 admit rate was 3.71%. If I told you that there was a 90%+ chance of a tree falling on your driveway tonight and crushing your car, you would move the car. But human nature has a level of optimism and that leads to people focusing on the chance of admission-there is a 3-9% chance of getting in. And every year, when the Ivy schools and schools of their ilk release their decisions, I hear about people that are shocked. Patrick O’Connor is counselor and a sage voice in the college admissions world. He explained this better than I ever will be able to so I am going to share his post, “College Admission and the Best in Class“.

If you got the answer you wanted, congratulations! And if you didn’t, I hope Patrick O’Connors piece helps you understand why it is so hard to earn acceptance to an ultra-selective school.

The Final Stretch of the 2023 Admissions Cycle-Five things to know!

We are at the end of the college application cycle for 2023. In the next few days, the remaining admissions decisions will be released and many of these will come from some of the most selective schools in the country. Whether you or a loved on gets the answer that you want, here is are a few things to remember that will help you keep perspective:

  1. College admission decisions are ALWAYS about the college. They are never about the student.
  2. College is what you make of it. Plenty of students head off the selective colleges and do not apply themselves. Conversely, there are many students that head to regional, public schools that are near their homes and crush it. (And these colleges often admit most of the applicants).
  3. Colleges do not reject or accept students. They admit or deny and this language matters. A denial from a school does not feel good, but it is not a rejection.
  4. Colleges accept or deny applications, not students. This is not a personal decision about the applicant.
  5. Colleges admit or deny students each year based on an internal set of institutional priorities. There is no way of knowing what those priorities are from year to year. Maybe they needed male biology majors last year and this year they need musicians with high test scores. You can read more about colleges and institutional prioritiesfrom Rick Clark of Georgia Tech here.

Whatever happens, remember you are in the United States of America, probably with hot and cold running water, a roof over your head and food in your belly …and your are going to COLLEGE!

PS I am linking a few pieces I wrote last year about this very thing here, here and here. I hope this lends perspective, however the final answers go.

College Admissions Bit & Pieces, Spring 2023

My March post is overdue and that is because everytime I settle on a topic, another subject or piece of news came up and replaces the idea that I was planning to write about. Finally I decided to write a piece with all sorts of bits and pieces about what is going on in college admissions right now. So here goes:

If you have a senior in high school, then you know that we are in the final stages of colleges releasing their decisions. In the next two weeks, applicants should receive their answers. And deposits are due by May 1st, so in less than six weeks, seniors will know where they are heading in August!

If you are the parent of a high school student and you are wondering how colleges make their decisions, there is a fabulous piece by Rick Clark, who heads up the admissions department at Georgia Tech. The post is titled, “The Two Most Important Letters in College Admissions” and he explains how colleges organize their Institutional Priorities. These priorities then become the driving force in how a school admits their class in any given year. 

The Common App reports that applications per applicant are up significantly in the 2023 cycle. The number of distinct applicants has gone from 1,006,531 in 2020 to 1,215,022 in 2023, an increase of 21%. However, the amount of applications submitted by each applicant has increased. Total application volume went from 5,274,166 in 2020 to 6,833,836 in 2023, up 30%. You can read more about the Common App data here

Columbia University announced that they will be permanently test-optional. Several other ultra-selective schools followed suit. I suspect we will see more schools make similar announcements. The test-optional era creates new questions for applicants. Should I test? And if so, when those scores come, should I send them? 

Jeff Selingo is a journalist and author who is an expert on college admissions and a voice of reason on the national level. He wrote a superb piece in the New York Times last week, “The Cynical Reason College Applications Are Surging” He gives a clear explanation of where we are and how we got there. I highly recommend this article.

The other bit of news is that I am starting up again with my monthly webinars! I took a hiatus to develop several pilot programs to work with students on their college planning in a group format. Several parents asked me about them and I promised them that I would return. So the first one will be April 3rd, at 8 pm, which coincides perfectly with the last colleges releasing their decisions. I will share more information about this as the date gets closer.

A Valentine For My Seniors

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 student, 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.

Kudos to the SUNY System!

Happy February! I am a little late with my blog this month so I hope that the good news I share makes up for my tardiness.

In college admissions, there is so much stress around acceptances, test scores and cost. College admission news is fraught with headlines that provoke anxiety about a complex process that has become even more so in recent years. So it is a happy occasion for me to share some positive news that is simple, straightforward and offers some relief to families that are sorting out the college journey with their students. 

The State University of New York (SUNY) has rolled out a tuition match program for eight states. This allows students from Connecticut, Illinois, California, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts to attend twenty two of the SUNY campuses at the same cost as the student’s respective state flagship. The beauty of this program is that it could not be more clear or direct. There is a link to their website here

Kudos to the SUNY system for offering families a program like this that cuts through all the stress and anxiety and creates simple, affordable options for students from these eight states. If you are seeking affordability and reside in one of the states I listed above, take a look at the SUNY system to see if there is a campus or a program that could work for you!

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Thoughts on What Juniors Should be Doing Now

Happy New Year! I am a tad late with this month’s post because I am busy scheduling my juniors to work on college planning and I have a draft written about the amazing new opportunity in the SUNY system that I will publish shortly. But for now, here is a piece I wrote a few years back about what college-bound juniors should be doing now:

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 importa

Early Decision/Action: What to do When Deferred, Denied or Accepted

December is the month when things kick into high gear in the admissions cycle. Some of the most selective schools in the country release their decisions in either an Early Decision round, which is binding, or Early Action, which is not binding. This is an intense week for seniors. Even if they haven’t applied on an early plan, watching their peers can elevate stress and anxiety. Here are some steps to take for each specific outcome:

DENIED

  1. First of all, you must remember that college admission decisions are never about the student, they are always about the college and their institutional goals in a given year.
  2. Give yourself 24-48 hours to feel the disappointment and process the emotions you are going through.
  3. Review your list and talk to your school counselor to make sure that you have a balanced list for the regular decision round of applications.
  4. Proof your applications, submit them and confirm that your supporting documents (letters of recommendation, transcripts and test scores) are submitted by monitoring your application portfolio.
  5. Renew your academic focus and plan to do you best work for the remainder of your senior year.

DEFERRED

  1. A deferral leaves applicants with some hope of admission, but can be disappointing. If you are deferred, give yourself some space to process this decision and take a break before you roll up your sleeves and get back to work.
  2. Carefully review all of the information from the college to see if there are steps you need to take to continue your candidacy. If there are, follow the directions exactly as directed.
  3. Review your list of schools for regular decision and make sure it is balanced. Schedule a meeting with your school counselor to review your list and get their input. (School counselors can have important context and insights).
  4. Determine if there is new information that you want to add to your file. If you have already submitted your application, reach out to the school to ask how you can share these materials.
  5. If the college will accept a Letter of Continued Interest (LOCI), write a draft and proof it carefully before you send it.
  6. Work hard on your academics to make sure your midyear grades are the best that they can possibly be.

ACCEPTED

  1. Cheer, scream, do whatever you need to celebrate. Feel free to share the news with anyone in your family that is not involved with a senior applying to college. (If you have cousins or other family members that are seniors, wait to share your news with them).
  2. As you begin to share the news with the general public, be aware that many of your peers might not have received good news-they might have received a denial or a deferral. Be thoughtful and sensitive as to how you decide to share your acceptance(s).
  3. Let your guidance office know about your acceptances.
  4. Be sure to send an email to the teachers (and anyone else) that wrote you a letter of recommendation.
  5. If you were accepted Early Decision, make sure that you pull any applications that you have submitted to other colleges.
  6. If you have been accepted to any colleges, as a courtesy, let them know you will not be attending.
  7. Read the information in your acceptance letter to see if there are other steps you need to take in your portal. Some schools will expect you to submit a deposit by a certain date or fill out other paperwork to enroll.
  8. Keep your grades up and enjoy the rest of your senior year!

December College Admissions Stress Antidote

It’s that time of year again. December starts the next phase of the admissions cycle. The most selective schools in the country release their first round of Early Decision letters. This is where the rubber meets the road. If you have a senior in high school that you care about, be aware that this month can be quite stressful, even if they did not apply ED.

My first year of counseling seniors, I looked far and wide for some sage advice to temper the pressure and anxiety that I see in school. I could not find what I was looking for so I sat down and wrote what I wanted to say and I have posted it every year since. So if there is a senior in your life that you care about, please share this 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.

Taylor Swift and College Admissions

In some ways, the ticketing process for concerts these days reminds me of the rules surrounding early admissions at selective colleges.”

~Jeff Selingo

Taylor Swift tickets go on sale tomorrow so I wanted to post this in honor of her new album and her tour this summer. Jeff Selingo, who wrote the book Who Gets In and Why; A Year Inside College Admissions (which I highly recommend if you haven’t read it) wrote a piece about how getting into college resembles trying to get tickets to Taylor Swift in his newsletter, NEXT. He compares Early Decision to the way that fans have to pre-register for the Ticketmaster lottery. You can read Jeff’s piece here.

If you know a senior applying to college or a fan hoping to get tickets (or both!) good luck to them!

5 Steps to Submitting College Applications

The November 1st is the deadline to submit Early Action or Early Decision applications for many schools and that date is looming for high school seniors. There is so much that goes into preparing an application for submission. Students have to take great care with the activities and honors sections of the Common App, ensure that they have answered all of the college-specific questions, crafted a meaningful personal statement, requested letters of recommendation, completed transcript documents from their high school and determine if they are testing and/or sending their scores to the colleges on their list. In addition to this, applicants may want to write an additional information piece or need to fill out a proprietary application as well as write supplemental essays.

This is a stunning amount of work but once this is finished, there is an entirely new set of tasks an applicant must complete to physically submit an application. This requires another set of detailed steps that need their focus and attention. Here is a step-by-step list of how to tackle this process:

  1. Review the PDF of the application in the Common App, sign the FERPA waiver, load your credit card information and hit submit.
  2. Determine if any of the schools on your list require the Self-Reported Academic Record otherwise known as the SSAR/SRAR. This is a platform where students have to load all of their transcript information and then submit this information virtually to the college. You can look here to see the list of schools that require this step.
  3. Scores-If you are submitting SAT or ACT scores, these are submitted from the ACT or the College Board. The student must log into their respective accounts and send the scores to the colleges on their list.
  4. Transcripts-Each high school has a protocol for sending transcripts and letters of recommendation. Make sure that your students knows the steps that they needs to take to ensure that their documents are sent in a timely manner.
  5. Establish and monitor portals-Once an application is received, the college will email the student a link to a portal where they can monitor their file to confirm that their application is complete.
  6. Go out to dinner and celebrate!

There is a reason that College Applications are the Stuff of Greatness!