Thirty Days & Counting…Part 3

“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.

Thirty Days & Counting…Part 2

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! 

DO

  1. Celebrate with your family-go ahead and scream and yell and hug and scream and yell some more. 
  2. 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. 
  3. 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. 
  4. 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).

DON’T

  1. 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. 
  2. 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…

Thirty Days & Counting…Part 1

“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;

  1. 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. 
  2. 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. 
  3. 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. 
  4. 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.
  5. 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!

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 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.

Big Changes for the SAT

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.

College is an Inside Job

“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:

  1. 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.

Reflections on the EA/ED Decisions

I have been thinking about how to write this piece and talk about the part of the admission cycle where colleges release decisions to students that applied either on a binding Early Decision (ED) plan or a non-binding Early Action (EA) plan. I procrastinated because I did not know where to start. Posting the definition of chaos felt like the right starting point, so here goes…

I knew something was off earlier this month. When students started to receive decisions from Auburn, it left college counselors scratching their heads. I did not have any EA applicants at Auburn, but I paid close attention. Auburn had a 115% increase in applications compared to the same point in time last year and they were deferring students that one would expect them to admit. This was a harbinger of things to come.

I had several highly qualified students that applied EA to the University of South Carolina. We had pegged this as a likely school to admit them and we took advantage of the early plan to have an acceptance before Christmas. All of my students were deferred. And at that point, I knew we were in for a wild ride.

I continued to see strong students deferred at every type of school, reach, target and likely, public and private. Schools like the University of Vermont, were deferring qualified candidates and telling them that if they wanted to be considered in the Regular Decision round, they needed to submit another writing piece. This is an entirely new approach in the UVM admissions playbook.

The selective colleges with binding Early Decision plans always have low acceptance rates, but when large state schools like Auburn, South Carolina and Vermont are deferring students that in other years were likely to have been accepted, it left me shaking my head.

I saw plenty of acceptances too! It was not all doom and gloom. But it was difficult to make sense of who was admitted, deferred or denied. I feel like the colleges might have been overwhelmed with applications and this was reflected in the decisions they made.

By the end of the day on December 16th, I breathed a sigh of relief when the last of my comprehensive students received an early acceptance. If you have a senior applying to college and you think they should expand their list, it might be a good year to let them go ahead and send out a few more applications. I would imagine that this chaotic landscape will continue into the spring.

December 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.

The First Acceptance!

“I am thrilled that I have just received my first acceptance to college! I’m extremely grateful for all the things you have done to help me achieve this goal! While I understand that this is not the end of the college admissions process and that I’ll be submitting my other applications…I still feel as though a gigantic weight was taken off my back. “

There is nothing like the first college acceptance that a senior receives. It doesn’t matter who they are, if the college is highly selective or not, it NEVER gets old. I received the email above from a student over the Thanksgiving holiday. Their relief and excitement was palpable.

If you have a high school senior in your life, December is where things heat up. The Early Decision answers are released, January deadlines loom and the pressure kicks in. I LOVE it when a senior gets a “yes” before Thanksgiving, the dynamic shifts and they know they are going to college next August. Good luck to your student as they enter this next stage of the admissions cycle!

Discovering Gold in College Admissions

“The Road to College is a Journey of Self-Discovery*”

Happy November 1st! If you are the parent of a senior that is submitting early applications with an 11/1 deadline, I am sure you have been busy! 

The quote above came to mind as I was working with a last minute senior that reached out to me last week for some help with their writing. They had a prompt that asked them to describe a community that they are a part of and their place within that community. 

As they considered this question, they had a meaningful revelation; their family had relocated during high school and they changed schools. Their athletic pursuits had allowed them to form a new community almost immediately. They realized that their athletics, which in this case is really a lifetime sport, will always allow them to connect with others and they took great comfort in this discovery as they considered the prompt. 

The other community they considered writing about was their job at a busy Jersey Shore restaurant with “ocean views and overpriced cocktails”. They wanted to talk about their place in the community  of dishwashers, chefs, hostesses, managers, waitstaff, bussers and runners. It is a cross-section of backgrounds, ages, education levels and race. But they all work together in a tightly choreographed routine to facilitate smooth restaurant operations.

So what did I advise? They should write about the restaurant community. It will show the college an entirely fresh context; their ability to get along with a diverse group of people and work together. This is a quality that colleges want to bring to their campuses. I have no doubt the athletic piece could have been quite good, but the schools aren’t going to learn as much about the applicant and they can already see the student’s deep involvement with their sport in other parts of the Common App.

I shared the quote about the journey to college as one of self-discovery with the student. The revelation that they had about their sport is their own treasure, a gem that they can take out into the world.

I hope your student has made important self-discoveries in this process and has their own nugget of gold to take with them. And I hope they have great success with their decisions in the coming months!

*I take no credit for this quote, I read it somewhere a long time ago.