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 Essaysso 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!
“Double dipping” has different connotations. In some places, it means a generous portion of ice cream. I remember years ago, a sweet little friend of one of my children telling me at an ice cream parlor that he was allowed to “double dip” and get two scoops. And who can forget the Seinfeld episode where George double dips at a party. But in college admissions, it has another meaning and you don’t want to get caught doing it.
As I write this, seniors have four more days to make a decision about which school they are going to attend next August. Most of my clients are settled but I have a few that are still visiting schools and trying to decide.
Last week I was speaking to a parent about this issue and I reminded them that they could only deposit at one school and if they “double deposited”, both schools could rescind admission. This parent was wide-eyed because they had no idea that there was such a severe consequence for placing two deposits. They were not planning to accept spots at multiple schools but they were concerned about where or when they should have learned this important piece of information.
If your student applied to a Common App school, this verbiage is in the application that they signed, “I affirm that I will send an enrollment deposit to only one institution; sending multiple deposits may result in the withdrawal of my admission offers from all institutions.” If your student did not apply through the Common App, there is usually a clause that states something similar in the paperwork that you send in to place your deposit. So…I know the clock is ticking and it might seem harmless to take a spot at two schools to buy more time but I strongly recommend that you adhere to the rules of one deposit. If you “double dip”, you may put your acceptances in jeopardy. If you are struggling with a decision, I am happy to take a phone call and offer my perspective on your choices. Good luck!
If you are the parent of a senior, you have exactly two weeks to make a deposit to a college that your student will attend in August. If your son or daughter knows where they are heading at the end of the summer, congratulations! If your child is still deciding, this post is for you. Several years back, I was in this seat with my own biological child. There was one week left to make a decision and there were three choices on the table, all of them quite unique from each other. Here are some suggestions that I learned from my personal experience. I wrote about them at length last year here, but the main points are listed below. Good luck!
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. 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, 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 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 owns 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!