A Valentine For My Seniors



I came across a posting 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 visiting the college as 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.”

You have all worked hard to compile a list with a range of schools that suit you for a variety of reasons. We have talked at length about loving your list. Your applications were submitted a long time ago. So as we come down the final stretch, take the words above to heart. And when all of the colleges have released their decisions, if you have a hard choice to make, read the paragraph above one more time. You are going to soar in college…you’ve got this! Happy Valentines Day.

Testing, Testing, 1, 2, 3…

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If you are the parent of a college-bound high school student, you will probably need to interface with either the College Board and the SAT or the ACT Inc. and their test. I recently gave a presentation that I designed, called “A Path to Peace in College Admissions” and there were multiple questions about testing, when, which, where, etc., so I thought I would write a bit about testing.

The college admissions testing machine is a bit like the Sorting Hat in the Harry Potter series*. The scores that you receive won’t necessarily get you into a school but they can keep you out. Furthermore, many colleges peg their merit scholarships to standardized tests, so if you are going to test, you need to put your best foot forward.

Where: You should be able to sign up for testing on the College Board website or the ACT website. You will take the test at one of the local high schools in your area. They are administered on Saturdays. Testing centers do fill, so the earlier you sign up, the more choices you will have. This is important if your student has accommodations because each testing site has a limited amount of seats for students that need extra time or other testing accommodations.

Which: The SAT test is 50% math and 50% language. The ACT is 50% language, 25% science and 25% math. Your student needs to consider their skills in each of these areas. A student that enjoys math but not science might fare better on the SAT. A student that thrives in the sciences and loathes math might favor the ACT. One way to explore this is to simulate an exam with a practice test from both. You can score them and see if your student favors one test over another. Sometimes the scores are fairly even but other times one test emerges as a stronger option. Either way, colleges accept both tests and there is no advantage or disadvantage to which one you take in the colleges’ eyes.

When: The general rule of thumb is that these tests should be taken in the spring of junior year. But each family needs to look at their personal situation and decide. If your student is an in-season athlete in the spring, perhaps prepping over the winter for the first ACT in February or SAT in March makes sense. If your child anticipates sitting for multiple AP and/or IB tests in the spring of eleventh grade, perhaps getting an earlier start on the SAT or ACT makes sense. The same thing holds true if your child needs to focus on SAT II Subject Area tests in June. Either way, you want to leave school junior year with some hard test scores. If your scores land where you want them to, for the schools that you are considering, great. If not, you have time to plan for more testing between August and December of senior year.

Prep: There are numerous ways to prepare for the test. But let me say this; a motivated student can do their own prep. Before you spend a lot of money on SAT/ACT tutoring, sit down with your child and figure out how much structure they need. There is a wide range of options, everything from a private tutor coming to your home to classes at a local test prep establishment, to online classes and subscription services. Consider the choices, the costs and ask your child for an honest assessment of how much structure and support they need.

Test Optional Schools: One final note on testing-you can skip the testing process altogether. I have worked with families that have students that they knew would not thrive in the testing environment and they decided to forego it completely and apply to colleges that offered a test-optional admissions policy.

*I have to give credit for this Harry Potter analogy to a parent I worked with. It resonated with me because it is so true and I have been using it ever since!

Thoughts on the 2019 Application Season

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I have one last student that is working on essays and as we close out 2018 and look forward to 2019, I have a few humble thoughts on the current admissions cycle.

Don’t Look For Fair-Do you see a Ferris wheel or cotton candy anywhere in the college admissions process? I didn’t think so. Do not look for fair because it is not here. I have parents reach out to me (clients and/or friends) that are floored at how the early decision answers came back. Students that are at the top of their class are overlooked while other applicants that are literally not in the same class academically are accepted. This is an eye-opening part of the admissions season and there is nothing fair about it.

The Early Bird Catches the Worm-Not really. What I mean to say here is that students that are done with their applications and have everything submitted before November 1st for ALL of their schools are going to have a more enjoyable senior year and a relaxed holiday vacation. If you are racing against the January 1 deadline right now, you know what I mean.

ED Has a New Meaning-The early decision round this year seemed increasingly competitive. I heard a colleague jokingly say that ED no longer stands for Early Decision. The initials mean Early Deferral.

Have a List You Love-The stress of the admissions cycle is reduced when a student is not under pressure to receive an acceptance letter from one specific school. When applicants love their list, they can relax and feel confident that they will have some acceptances to sort through and that things will work out for them. I say it all the time and I said it here and here, but it still holds true-love your list!

There is no Tooth Fairy for Tuition-The cost of college continues to grow. Families need to talk about what is affordable for them early in this process and not just hope that scholarships magically appear.

I hope you have a healthy and happy 2019 and good luck to all the current applicants!


Why is December 1st Such a Significant Day in College Admissions?

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December 1st is an important day in college admissions because, in exactly five months, every senior must place a deposit at the school that they will attend in the fall. The National Deposit Deadline is May 1st, so seniors are starting to make a turn toward the home stretch.

One of the best people writing regularly about college admissions is the Director of Admissions at Georgia Tech, Rick Clark. It doesn’t matter if you are considering applying to Georgia Tech or not. His blog can help any family that is on the college admissions journey. His latest piece, Preparation Day, speaks to the December 1st phenomena. It’s a real thing!

We are entering a new stage as the early decision schools start to send their acceptances, denials, and deferrals in December. There is an accelerated level of anxiety in many schools as these decisions are released. I wrote the piece below for the very first group of seniors that I worked with, and it still rings true. I hope it is helpful as we begin the final leg of the college admissions process. Enjoy!

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 Yes!




It happened yesterday! I got my first text of the season from a student that received an amazing letter of acceptance and it never gets old. There is something so exciting about being admitted, especially heading into the Thanksgiving break. This student has a yes from a school they love, with a highly ranked program in their major. Congratulations to this client and all the other future Spartans!

Why Snow Makes Me Think of Colleges



Today was the first snowfall of the season and it got me really excited for winter. Two of my favorite college students sent me pictures from their snowy campuses. I am working with a student this fall that wants to prioritize access to skiing. I have been meaning to repost the piece that I wrote last year about schools that are close to the slopes. The snow that fell today was just the inspiration that I needed. My piece is below. Feel free to chime in if you think there is a school I should add!

“The skiing cosmos is difficult to explain to anyone not immersed in it. The act of skiing differs from traditional sports in that…it requires specific orographic and meteorological phenomena. Because skiers depend on planetary forces much larger than themselves —and, like surfers, must work in harmony with them—a kind of otherworldly euphoria overtakes them when they do it well.”

—Porter Fox, DEEP: The Story of Skiing and the Future of Snow

Last spring I shared a piece from Time/Money on my Facebook page about colleges for students that like to ski. I posted it half-heartedly; the winter ski season and the college admissions season were both waning and it seemed like a good fit. I recently opened up the article and read through the schools that they listed and thought to myself, “Woah, this list will not do”.

I often have clients looking for colleges and access to skiing is on the top of their priority list. They are not necessarily looking for a ski team, but rather the ability to get to a good hill in less than an hour. The words that I read in David A. Rothman’s book, Living the Life: Tales from America’s Mountains and Ski Towns come to mind when I think about this type of student. Rothman writes about getting a season pass at a new mountain. He says, “At that moment…I could feel my little world tilt on it’s axis. I hadn’t bought a season’s pass at a new ski area in fifteen years…if you’re a skier—really a skier—shifting your allegiance from one hill to another is a big deal”.

And there are those words, really a skier, that made me decide I had to make a list of schools for the type of client that is really a skier. I don’t put myself in that category but I know plenty of people who qualify. Lots of college kids like to ski and can make do at a school that offers the opportunity to ski on the weekends or occasionally skip class and go during the week. The type of skier that I am talking about is the kid that is sitting in class on a Tuesday morning watching snow pile up and wants to be on the slopes in an hour or less. And this kid is committed to 50+ days a year, so this ski hill needs to keep them engaged. I am talking about someone who opens their season on their local WROD (White Ribbon of Death for the uninitiated) and ends at Killington in May (or any other fine ski center that stays open until Memorial Day), a skier that makes getting on the hill a priority above all else (besides academics, of course). If there is a mid-week dump, this kid wants to get to the hill ASAP; they are not waiting for the weekend. If you are trying to figure out where you can blend your ski passion and your education, this post is for you.

When clients come to me and say they want skiing access, there are fewer choices than you might think. My criteria are as follows: more than 1,000 students, an average SAT score of over 1,000 and less than one hour to a ski slope that will keep them engaged for the winter (I realize this is subjective) Here are a few that will work in no particular order. I put the college and the ski area that is within an hour. My list is just a start. I welcome your insights and comments on schools that I might have overlooked. Enjoy!

  1. The Vermont Schools, University of Vermont, St. Michaels College, Middlebury College, Champlain College, Norwich University. These schools are within 60 minutes of Sugarbush, Stowe, Smuggler’s Notch, Mad River Glen and Middlebury has it’s very own hill, called the Ski Bowl.

  2. The Denver Schools, Colorado School of Mines, Regis University, University of Colorado-Denver, University of Denver are within an hour or so of Eldora and/or Winter Park/Mary Jane

  3. Dartmouth College-Okemo/Skiway

  4. Williams-Mt. Snow

  5. SUNY Plattsburgh-Whiteface

  6. SUNY New Paltz-Hunter

  7. Bard-Hunter

  8. Western State Colorado University-Crested Butte

  9. Fort Lewis College-Telluride

  10. UC Boulder-Eldora

  11. University of Nevada Reno-Lake Tahoe Resorts

  12. Fort Lewis College-Purgatory

  13. The Utah Schools University of Utah & Westminster College, Snowbird/Alta/Solitude/Brighton/The Canyons/Park City/Deer Valley

  14. University of Montana-Montana Snowbowl

  15. Montana State University-Bridger Bowl

  16. Skidmore College-Gore Mountain


What is a Superscore?

If you are a junior or a senior in high school and plan on taking the ACT or the SAT, you may have heard the word “superscore” and wondered what it is. A superscore is when you combine your best scores from more than one test date. For example, If you take the SAT and get a 610/EBRW and a 700/Math, your total score is 1310. If you take the test again and get a 650/EBRW and a 670/Math, your total score is 1320. But if you take your best score from each test date, you add 650/EBRW and 710/Math which adds up to a “superscore” of 1360, which is a stronger score than either of the individual tests. The ACT works the same way. The one thing that you cannot do is superscore between the ACT and the SAT. If your superscore is dramatically better than any of your individual tests, take care to check that the colleges that you are considering will use a superscore. The link here from the Princeton Review should help you determine how the schools on your list will calculate your score. Enjoy!


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