Posts Tagged ‘college admissions’

Who Cares about College Rankings?

November 8, 2018

Quite frankly, I am sick of college rankings. If it isn’t U.S. News, it’s Forbes, Money or endless other publications ranking what they consider the best colleges and universities.  The college rankings can tell us anything from the most connected schools to the best value universities. These college rankings measure different attributes that may or may not be important to a family when they are considering schools for their child. Often they are more confusing than helpful.

Many college rankings are oversimplified and downright unfair. They can be the result of professors, students, or even the universities themselves answering questionnaires that have been sent to them by a magazine or newspaper.  Many times college administrators are asked to evaluate colleges with which they have no knowledge, not just their own school.

Rankings often lead to misleading conclusions. Some colleges will spend money to improve something that will help their ranking, but may not benefit the students at all. Many use college rankings in their marketing materials.  These rankings often ignore factors that are of concern to prospective students.  Too frequently, they contain the same schools over and over.

As a private college counselor, I pay very little attention to these rankings because I want my students to consider colleges that are right for them. The highest ranked schools may not be the best fit or a college where they will have a successful academic and social experience. That to me is what is far more important than any ranking.


How to Support Your Child During the College Admissions Process.

October 29, 2015

The college admission process is not easy for teenagers.  It has become far more difficult than ever before with different test options or test-optional schools, a multitude of deadlines from early decision to early action II, to finding the hook in a college essay that will work for more than one college. Most teenagers need their parents support and encouragement during this time. They need parents to provide guidance and advice when they are asked, but not to interfere more than necessary. It is important to remember that your teen is going through the college admission process, not you. When visiting colleges, don’t be the one to ask all the questions. College essays should be in their voice. It is fine to help your student brainstorm different topics that could help a school to get to know him or her better. But, college admissions officers can detect when parents have overstepped their boundaries with the college essays. Parents should not try to persuade their teen to look at particular schools because that is where they attended or they have a bias either in favor of a particular college or against it. Encourage your child to look at a variety of schools so that they will have options in the end from which to choose. Your goal should be to help you child choose a college that offers the best fit: Academic, social, and financial. Where will your child be the happiest?

How to Get the Best Teacher Recommendations for College

May 21, 2015

Teacher recommendations are an important, but sometimes overlooked part of the college admissions process. They are one of the few opportunities that an admissions committee gets to read about a student’s character, motivation and personality. Teacher recommendations are not always mandatory, but they often provide the admissions committee with positive statements about a student as a college applicant.

Teacher recommendations are important for college admissions because they give a picture of a student in an academic setting. Students should make sure to ask a teacher who teaches in the core classes: English, science, math, social studies, or foreign language. Many schools like to have two teacher recommendations, each from a different subject area.

Teacher recommendations are intended for colleges to get a better picture of how a student might fit into their freshmen class. Colleges read all of your recommendations and factor them into the college admissions decision. Although it may not feel like students have much control over this aspect, they probably have more control than they realize.

Students should not wait until their senior year to request teacher recommendations. Teachers get busy in the fall and the more recommendations they have to do, the less time they will have to spend on them. Meet with two teachers before the end of your junior year and talk about what you would like them to write on your recommendations. Make sure the teachers know about you both inside and outside of the classroom and what you feel you can bring to a college campus.

Colleges prefer teacher recommendations come from teachers you have had for at least one semester because they want an honest evaluation of how you compare to other students in your class. If you have a teacher who also knows you outside the classroom in athletics or extra-curricular activities, that can give a college an additional perspective on you as a potential college applicant. Unless a school specifically requests it, don’t use a coach or someone who cannot speak to your academic achievements and capabilities.

Make sure your teacher recommendations focus on the academic issues related to your college choices, so that the teacher can provide specific information to support your applications. Or, if the colleges are known for their debate team, the teacher could mention that you have excelled in a particular area in your high school speech and debate club.

According to recent research, teacher recommendations are the fifth most important factor in the college admission decision. Of the top five factors – grades in college prep courses, SAT and ACT scores, class rank, essay or personal statement – this one give an admissions committee something more personal than grades and test scores are able to provide.

Teacher recommendations often give a school some idea of how students will fit into their particular campus and how successful they will be completing four years of study. As colleges continue to receive increasing numbers of applicants each year, the need to stand out from the competition is also increasing. Teacher recommendations might be that piece of information that distinguishes you from other applicants in college admissions.

How to Find Test Prep that Works

January 17, 2014

I am a firm believer in test prep for the SAT and ACT.  It is time right now for high school juniors to get prepared for the two admissions tests coming up this Spring.  I usually suggest students take both tests to see how they do.  If they score higher on one than the other, they can concentrate on that one if they wish.  Colleges do not need to receive scores from both tests and would rather get the highest score that the student can get.

College Direction has been offering test prep for the SAT and ACT for over twenty years.  The classes meet once a week for six weeks for 2  1/2 hours.  The classes are limited to nine students.  The six week course help students gain practice on real tests and the score improvements have been impressive, but realistic.  All this and test prep is affordable too.

I have been able to answer  “yes” to the following questions posed by this article as to what parents and students should look for in a good test prep course.  College Direction offers all this and more.  If you want to improve your opportunities for college admissions and scholarships, test prep is the place to start.

College Admissions and the Overly Involved Parent

January 7, 2014

Parents are constantly criticized for being overly involved in their child’s college admission process. Some of the criticism may be for a good reason, but some may not. When a college admissions office reports that they received a phone call from someone claiming to be an applicant, they knew for sure it was the parent calling. The voice was definitely not that of a prospective student and the question was the kind that only a parent would ask. Overly involved, yes!

Many parents, however, are going through the college admission process with their child and they realize how dramatically things have changed since they applied to college. They are right. College admissions has become far more competitive than it ever used to be and there are just too many students applying to schools with too few spots available.. Perhaps, for this reason, parents want to help their child be as competitive as possible and think that assisting with the college applications and essays might help. Some parents also realize that most high school students don’t get the college advising or attention they need from the high schools they attend. Thus, the parents take over and offer the best advice they can.

As a college consultant, I find that most of my students’ parents are very supportive of their children and try not to interfere but let their teenager be in charge. They call with their concerns, but this is usually a conversation between the two of us and they simply have questions that need clarification. This is how it should be. The college admission process is a big step for high school students, but it is also a wonderful opportunity for self-assessment and growth. Parents should be involved, but not obsessed.

Now for the parent who is over the top. This is a quote from the Director of Admissions at a well known university. “We always have parents who open the decision letters while their child is still at school. They call and ask, ‘What am I going to tell her when she gets home? She will just be devastated.’ We always reply, ‘Well, you might want to start by explaining why you’re opening her mail.” Overly involved, yes!

What do colleges receive from high schools for every college applicant?

September 4, 2013

Most students apply online to colleges and universities.  The applications they send include their basic information, extracurricular activities, and college admission essays.  The high school is no longer responsible for sending out applications.  It is strictly the responsibility of the student.  Two things that high schools mail to colleges for every college applicant are the official transcript and the school profile.

We all know that the official transcript includes all of the classes and grades that a student has received up through their last completed semester.  Many do not know what the school report includes.  Here is a link to a good explanation:


College Admissions – College Acceptance is Conditional

May 2, 2013

With final college decisions and deposits due today, May 1st, high school students know where they will be attending college in the fall. Don’t forget that this school will require your final transcript in order to finalize your college acceptance. This is not a time to slack off and miss classes or blow off your finals. No one wants their college acceptance rescinded and schools can do this if they see a significant drop in grades.

Waiting lists have increased at almost every college and university this year.  If accepted students allow their grades to drop significantly their final semester or are caught cheating, plagiarizing, or involved in a senior prank or behavior that leads to arrest, it gives an admissions committee the option to revoke their acceptance and take a student off the wait list who is more than eager to attend.

Beware:  Every college acceptance is conditional and if you look carefully, you will see that in the fine print of your Congratulations letter.

College Admissions: Do Not Even Think about Double Depositing

April 25, 2013

As the college admissions season winds down,  families are weighing up the pros and cons of the colleges to which their child has been accepted.  They are studying the financial aidaward letters to determine which schools are offering a better package with more scholarships and grants, and fewer loans.  Everyone realizes this is a big decision to make and sometimes it is difficult to decide which school is the best one for each student.   Should you flip a coin or what do you do?

May 1st is the universal date for high school seniors to make their college decision. Some students might be up in the air about two colleges and think that sending in a double deposit is a good way to handle the situation. Don’t do it. Not only is it not ethical, but students and parents have a responsibility to commit to one school, and one school only. You could jeopardize your acceptance to both colleges or universities and be out of luck completely if you do so.

What do the super bowl and college admissions have in common?

January 31, 2013

Is it a stretch to see a commonality between the super bowl and college admissions?  Maybe not as much as you think.

High school juniors are just beginning the college planning process.  They are choosing the dates when they will take the SAT and ACT, sighing up for a test prep course, and researching colleges that might be of interest.  Many are already feeling stressed and overwhelmed.

Students are involved in their school work, extracurricular activities, sports, and community service.  They know that college admissions continues to get more competitive every year.  They also know that it will take more that a strong GPA and high test scores to get into many colleges.

Going through the college admissions process is a team effort:  students, parents, high school counselors, teachers, and perhaps a private college counselor, all working together to make the college outcome a good one.

Students could learn some important lessons from the Super Bowl teams as they get ready for their big day.  Both need some good strategies, a supportive team, and the ability to keep their eyes on the goal at the end.  For the Super Bowl players, it a win and Imagethe famous ring.  For high school students, it is getting into a college that is the right fit for them.

Senioritis – A disease affecting high school seniors

January 16, 2013

Senioritis is defined as:
“A crippling disease that strikes high school seniors. Symptoms include: laziness, an over-excessive wearing of track pants, old athletic shirts, sweatpants, athletic shorts, and sweatshirts. Also features a lack of studying, repeated absences, and a generally dismissive attitude. The only known cure is a phenomenon known as graduation.” Urban dictionary

What causes senioritis?  High school seniors have taken their last SAT and ACT test, submitted their college applications and essays, and finished their final exams.  They are now beginning their second and last semester of high school.  Many of them are just plain “over it.”  Some are apprehensive about the changes after graduation and others are experiencing burnout.  They are tired of the academic and social scene and ready to move on, but this too causes anxiety and moodiness.

Some high school seniors will skip their classes, ignore their homework, and be apathetic to things they used to enjoy.  They may be uncommunicative with their parents and seem uninterested in their future.  Chances are they have senioritis.  While it is easy to provide answers as to how this can happen, high school seniors need to understand that colleges will receive their second semester grades and will not look favorably on students who have been academic slackers.

What can a parent do about senioritis?  As a private college counselor, I suggest that you direct your high school senior’s attention to this article for a good dose of reality.