Changes to the Fall 2018 ACT

The ACT recently announced that it is making two major changes to the test that will go into effect in September of this year.

First, students who have been approved for time and a half (Timing Code 6) will no longer have a self-paced block of time in which to complete the test. They will now have a hard stop after each section. Please see here for more information on these changes.

Second, for students with regular time, the ACT will be adding a mandatory experimental section that will be 20 minutes long prior to the essay. This section will not be factored into your score and, perhaps, some students will use the time as an added moment of rest before diving into the essay.

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University of Chicago Goes Test-Optional

While over 1000 schools in the United States are test-optional, there has been a growing trend over the last few years for more competitive colleges to adopt this policy. You can find a complete list of test-optional schools here, but some of these colleges include College of the Holy Cross, Connecticut College, DePaul University, and George Washington University.

The University of Chicago, the first elite college to join this trend, just announced Thursday that it would no longer require undergraduate applicants to submit standardized test scores. According to Jim Nondorf, vice president and dean of admisssions, “Despite the fact that we would say testing is only one piece of the application, that’s the first thing a college asks you. We wanted to really take a look at all our requirements and make sure they were fair to every group, that everybody, anybody could aspire to a place like UChicago.” For more details, see this article.

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Changes for the 2018-2019 Admissions Season

Every year the admissions landscape shifts as colleges react to the past season and the changing practices of top colleges. There are a number of notable changes for this season, a few of which have been recently announced.

Washington University in St. Louis and the College of William and Mary are adding an Eary Decision II, following a growing number of schools beginning to offer this option. Not only does ED II help increase a school's yield, it also gives students more time to decide on their first choice and make their applications as competitive as possible.

Baylor will be adding Early Decision, and Penn State and Virginia Tech will be adding Early Action in the fall, giving students more options to choose from.

Wash U is adding a supplementary essay this year, making it more difficult for students who want to apply without doing any additional work. Now, they will need to demonstrate their interest by writing a dedicated essay for Wash U. See this article for more details.

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Early Application Decision Notification Dates

Waiting for early application decisions can be nerve-racking. And if you’ve applied to several schools early, you may be having trouble keeping up with all of the early notification dates. Here’s a list of some commonly applied to schools and their expected notification dates to help you get organized!

Barnard College – mid-December
Boston College - by December 25
Case Western Reserve University – December 17
Colorado College – end of December
Cornell University – December 11
CUNY – mid-February
Dartmouth University – mid-December
Fordham University – December 19
George Mason University – December 15
Georgetown University – in December
Indiana University – by January 15
Loyola University Maryland – January 15
Marist College – mid-January
Northeastern University – by December 15
Ohio State University – mid-January
Parsons The New School – end of December
Penn State University – by January 31
Rutgers University – January 31
Smith College – January 15
Stanford University – December 11
SUNY Binghamton – by January 15
Tulane University – December 15
University of Chicago – mid-December (will email applicants the exact date)
University of Colorado Boulder – by February 1
University of Connecticut – March 1
University of Massachusetts Amherst – by mid-January
University of Miami – mid-February
University of Michigan – by December 24
University of North Carolina – end of January
University of Pennsylvania – December 13
University of Richmond – January 20
University of Texas Austin – end of February
University of Virginia – end of January
University of Wisconsin – end of January
Villanova University – by December 15
Wake Forest University – December 22
Washington University – by December 15
Yale University – mid-December

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The College Admissions Process is Unfair

Now that those early application deadlines have passed, you have plenty of time to fret over whether or not you'll be admitted to your dream college. Regardless of how well you're handling the anticipatory stress, this article from the New York Times will help put the application process into perspective. Here are the take-home points to remember:

It's not all about you.
Colleges have their own agenda as to who they'll admit to create the perfect incoming class. Don't blame yourself if you are not a good fit with a particular college. You will find that it will all work out in the long run.

Grades and Test Scores are the number one factor.
Especially with larger schools, the process can be extremely data driven, but once you've made the first cut, individual differences among essays, activities, and recommendations become much more important.

Let the real you shine through.
Colleges can tell when essays are over-polished. They would prefer to see who you really are. More and more applications are including video formats that allow for a more authentic glimpse of applicants.

Diversity has an impact.
If your background sets you apart, make sure to share this in your personal story. Colleges will notice.

Money talks.
Colleges do need students who can pay all or part of the tuition, so it's not unlikely that a student could get rejected due to financial reasons alone.

Geography matters.
Colleges want to say that they have students from across the United States, so applying outside your region can benefit you.

Legacy doesn't always help.
Legacy can make the difference between similar applicants, but it will only take you so far if your qualifications are below what's expected for that school.

Community impact goes a long way.
Colleges are paying more attention to community service over a long period of time. While a fancy service trip won't help you (any may even hurt your application), service activities continued throughout high school will have an impact.

Demonstrate interest.
Colleges want to know that you value them and will attend if accepted, so make sure to show your love by visiting, connecting with admissions counselors, and opening emails.

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Common App Crashes Right Before Early Deadlines

The number of early applications submitted grows each year fueled by a hope of higher chances of admittance in the face of continually lowering acceptance rates. And students want to finish the stressful application process as quickly as possible.

The Common App has made it easier to apply to multiple schools for both domestic and international applicants, and application numbers continue to rise each year. That means millions of students are logging into the Common App a few days before a deadline, and November 1 is the most common early deadline. So it's no surprise that students were experiencing long delays and errors throughout the day yesterday as they scrambled to complete their early applications. In fact, this happens every year, and it came to a head last night when the site crashed leaving students panicking.

Fortunately, it's back again this morning, though users are still posting issues on the Common App's Twitter page. Hopefully, students will be able to successfully submit their apps today without missing their Halloween parties. For hard-working seniors, it would be a well-deserved break!

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The Not-To-Do List Written by College Admissions Officers

College applicants dream of getting into their top choice colleges, but, being teenagers, may not always make the best choices, and to be fair, neither do their parents. Here are some of the pet peeves of college admissions officers Joseph Connolly, a guidance counselor at New Oxford High School in New Oxford, Pennsylvania, learned from members of the National Association for College Admissions Counselors.

The annoyances centered around the areas of Communication, Not doing your homework, Gimmick overkill, overzealous parents, campus visits, and essay. Here are some of the highlights below:

  • Offensive or silly email addresses
  • Paying attention to your phone during an interview
  • Not responding to emails or responding using texting shorthand
  • Stating that you'd like to major in a major not offered by the university
  • Not spell checking your application
  • Using the wrong college name in an essay
  • Sending gifts from a cake in the shape of the school's mascot to life-sized sculptures
  • Parents attending interviews and jumping into the conversation
  • Not dressing appropriately for campus visits
  • Wearing a different college's sweatshirt when visiting a school
  • Acting bored and distracted when visiting and/or interviewing
  • Not answering all parts of an essay or responding to a question not asked
  • Writing about accomplishments many years prior to applying to college

Make sure to check out the complete list here before you turn in your applications!

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Planning a College Road Trip?

Now that we're into fall, seniors may be feeling the pressure to narrow down their college lists--especially considering that early application deadlines are just days away. While Early Decision is known to have advantages such as higher admit rates, nobody wants to be bound to a school that is in fact not a good fit!

For those of you planning last minute trips, U.S. News has put together some great resources for you here. To get started, just pick the state that you're heading, and take a look at their own notes on each school before you head out and get a feel for the schools yourself. Ultimately, visiting the school is really the only way to be sure that a school feels right!

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College Admissions Frequently Asked Questions

As we near early application deadlines, applicants can feel overwhelmed by all the choices floating around in their heads. It can be a stressful and confusing time, and no one wants to make the wrong decisions! Here are a few answers to frequently asked questions:

Is it better to declare a major even if you're undecided?

Generally, there is no issue with not declaring a major when applying to a liberal arts program as schools understand that interests can change. However, some schools like California Polytechnic State University require you to declare a major, so make sure to research each school's policy and talk to an admissions counselor before you decide.

Should I submit more than one recommendation? 

Schools may require only one, so make sure to have one strong recommendation that highlights your best qualities. Schools don't always prefer more recommendations as their time is limited, so make sure that any additional recommendations are strong, and check the school's requirements before deciding if it's appropriate to send.

If a school is test-optional, should I submit my scores?  

If you have strong test scores, then definitely submit them as schools love to report high scores. A test-optional school is geared most towards a student with a strong GPA who has struggled with standardized test scores, so in those cases it's best to take advantage of that policy.

For more answers to frequently asked questions, see this article.

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Important Steps as You Apply to College

Now that you're in the swing of working on your college applications, here are a couple important tasks:

1 - Whenever you get an email from a college, open it. Colleges track demonstrated interest more than ever. This means that when they send you an email, they track your activity. Make sure you open each email, click on each link, click on other links on that page, and leave those pages open for a while.

2 - Clean up your social media footprint. You may not think it matters, but colleges are Googling you more than ever and checking out your social media posts. With competition fiercer than ever, colleges are looking for reasons why you may be better or worse than other applicants. Make sure that anything publicly visible would make a grandparent proud.

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