This post today on Forbes' blog discusses how the use of technology has revolutionized the college application process, and, in turn, the selectivity of the nation's top colleges. Many schools have seen precipitous drops in their acceptance levels in the past year, with Columbia University posting the most significant year-over-year drop after deciding to allow the Common App in 2010. In just one year, Columbia increased its applicant pool by more than a third, and saw its selectivity drop to just 6.7%. With this kind of selectivity, diversifying your number of applications to increase the odds of success is the best solution.
College Essay Organizer is discussed in the article as a service that can help you manage your large number of applications easily - but the schools that Steve Cohen cites are particularly good examples of where our site excels. Schools like NYU, USC, and Syracuse are very popular, and the amount of work required to apply there - and their departments especially - can be deceptive. Make sure to get out in front of the work that's required of you and pace yourself accordingly.
Another benefit of College Essay Organizer that Cohen points out is the simple fact that we help you keep the requirements manageable! College Essay Organizer is the site that puts all your requirements in one place, and can be modified as your college list grows or contracts. Instead of managing a large number of applications, PDFs, and essay documents, our Essay RoadMap technology can function as a repository for all your work during the application season. This makes a complicated process simple and keeps things sane.
Tomorrow, May 6th, at 8am, we'll be at the technology seminar at the IECA Conference in Philadelphia. Make sure to stop by and get a sense of what College Essay Organizer can do for you!
This week in Philadelphia has been great. We've had many happy users coming by to introduce themselves in person, and lots of new people getting to know the site and what it can do for them. For those of you who haven't come to the College Essay Organizer booth yet - we're giving special discounts to all who make a purchase at the conference, so come find us and say hello. Most of the time we've been settled in at our table in Salon H.
College Essay Organizer is a product that reveals its benefits best with hands-on experience. We're giving demos all day long and have a lot of new features to show that improve the experience for both student and counselor, including the new Upload Draft feature and the new ways you can manipulate of the Essay RoadMap results to suit your needs. The site's scope and ease of use are improving every day and we're proud to show it off to the people we serve best.
Today's blog post comes from Lee Bierer, independent counselor and principal of College Admissions Strategies in Charlotte, North Carolina. Additionally, Lee has been writing the weekly “Countdown to College” column for The Charlotte Observer, that is syndicated nationally by McClatchy Newspapers, for over four years. Lee specializes in three areas of college admissions counseling: college identification and selection, application strategy and scholarship search. You can learn more about her and her services at www.collegeadmissionsstrategies.com.
Now is the right time for high school juniors and their parents to be thinking about colleges and the admissions process. It's not too early, and, thankfully, not too late.
Many families find the most important first step is to discuss options and expectations.
You don't want your child poring over catalogs from colleges in the Northeast if you really want him within driving distance. With private schools costing $20,000 to $50,000 per year, you owe it to yourself and your child to have a frank discussion regarding finances. He needs to know how much has been saved and your expectations for his financial commitment toward college, typically student loans.
Parents and students should independently make a list of a dozen or so colleges that would be a good fit for the student.
Before you begin, have your son or daughter compile PSAT or SAT scores, high school grades, and rank in class or estimated grade point average. These stats will guide you, but understand that only half of students fall within SAT ranges listed in the guidebooks. While grades, rigor of curriculum and SATs are typically the most important criteria, factors such as extracurricular activities, college essays and letters of recommendation make a difference.
Borrow or buy a current guidebook, and spend some time reading about a range of colleges and universities. Try to reduce your biases and think about what kind of college or university will best serve your child.
Basic areas to consider: size, location, academic offerings, retention rate (how many freshmen return for their sophomore year), cost and availability of financial aid. Depending on your student's interests, you may want to include sports teams and Greek life. (How important are fraternities and sororities to the college?) Some guidebooks offer a quality-of-life rating that provides a peek into campus culture and the surrounding community.
Listen to your student - Once you've done your homework, compare notes and listen to your student's wants and needs. Take a look at the schools that you have in common and discuss why each of you listed them. Encourage everyone to participate in brainstorming and try to minimize judgments. Then hone both of your lists into one with 15 to 25 colleges to explore in more detail. As you narrow the list, keep two things in mind:
- Academic factors: Where will your student be challenged, but not shoved or overshadowed? Where is the learning environment that matches your student's personal learning style?
- Social factors: Where will your student be comfortable? Where will he fit in?
Make sure your child "owns" his role in the admissions process. This first exercise often sets the tone for what can be a wonderful collaboration.
3 Tips for Picking a College
- Don't focus too much on prestige or rankings.
- Don't assume that schools that cost more are of higher quality.
- Don't believe there is only one perfect college.
Today's blog post is from Erin Avery, an independent educational consultant based in Fair Haven, New Jersey, who specializes in the college and boarding school search and application process. A graduate of Oxford and Yale, Avery is a Certified Educational Planner and creator of CollegeApp, available on the App Store. You can learn more about her and her services at averyeducation.com.
Ed. Consultant Erin Avery: “So, where geographically are you considering attending college?”
Son: “I don’t know…I was thinking of maybe an island.”
Father: “Yeah, Long Island.”
Yesterday, I sat beside a father and son duo, not unlike many cradled in the inner sanctum of my office’s worn leather armchairs. Often, as depicted above, parent and child come with divergent perspectives: rightfully so based on their respective worldviews and life experiences.
This is why I always welcome parents, guardians or other loving stakeholders to participate in the all-important Essay Brainstorming Session. The results are phenomenal. The invited “guests” act as time capsules, jogging the student’s memory of past notable examples of characteristics demonstrated, or character embodied. They may recall that precise anecdote that illustrates the quintessence of the student. Ultimately, if it is conducted properly, the essay brainstorming session is akin to a love-fest wherein the student hears and has mirrored back to him or her a chorus of voices affirming his or her unique gifts to the world.
In my role as an educational consultant, I have to admit, I am always scanning my conversations with you, my client, for “essay-worthy” content. I simply can’t help it. I have met myriad teens in my near decade of private practice. By employing my strength-based methodology, I passionately echo back to each student how incredible I find him or her. High school students never cease to astound me! While peers and society attempt to smother teens with the gag order of conformity, I bathe you in affirmation for your daily courage to choose to be yourself.
I have seen my share of Eagle Scouts, Congressional Medalists, National Merit Finalists, Point and Figure Charting experts, even oyster gardeners, and the accolades continue. Yet be mindful that the most profound essay topics need not be the most cataclysmic. At a symposium last spring, the New Jersey reader from GW shared, as she welled up with tears, that her favorite essay amid her applicant pool was written by a student portraying the profound impact on him of his parents’ 25-year marriage. (Her second favorite essay topic was on the sneaker-odor of the applicant’s car.) Your story can (and often must) be drawn from the quotidian, everyday seventeen year-old lived experience. Do not grant one instant to counterproductive feelings of inadequacy if you have not yet discovered a cure for cancer (but get on that, would you?). Rather, own who you are and where you are. If you are presently staring at a blank screen, go grab a decaf frappuccino with someone who loves you and if you are too embarrassed to ask them blatantly to sing your praises, ask him or her what s/he would say at your funeral (morbid, yes, but effective!). Still stumped? Google and read “The Desiderata”. Works like a charm.
Nothing like getting that fat envelope in the mail, is there? Nope, nothing like it at all. First thing that comes to mind for most is, "I'm done." Images of fleeing, running through a field, perhaps jumping a prison wall. Glory days.
Not so fast. You have so little high school left in front of you, but so much... other... school... things. Or as those of us not suffering from senioritis would say, you've got opportunities in front of you. Keep your eye on the prize and remember that with your academic courses especially, maintaining decent grades is essential for holding your place in any class formed in 2011.
While the odds of your having an offer rescinded are low - about one in a hundred and fifty, even at the more selective schools - if you represent yourself one way and turn in a final transcript that is significantly different, you can expect trouble. Just have a look at this statement about senioritis from the director of admissions at the University of Washington in Seattle:
"When they say, 'I'm taking a fourth year of language, I'm taking AP (Advanced Placement) this and AP that,' and when you see their final transcripts, it is underwater basket weaving and intro to breathing ... you wonder if you are on the same planet," said Admissions Director Philip Ballinger. "They don't look the same. You were duped."
So take it easy, but not quite that easy. Keep those APs going and your foreign language too. And pass those classes, friends.
Over at the New York Times' The Choice, a great chart of up-to-the-minute admissions figures has been made available, and it makes clear that the trend of applying to many schools is showing no signs of letting up.
There are a number of caveats that they point out in the write-up under the chart, most notably that the budgets for advertising schools' applications have been increasing as well. The schools are in the business of increasing the number of applicants just as much as the students are in the business of hedging their bets by applying to more than ten schools a piece.
But what does that mean to you?
Notice that certain schools' acceptance rates dropped significantly from 2010 to 2011 without their academic metrics (like accepted student GPA or SAT scores) improving at the same level. These are schools that have found effective ways of boosting the applicant pool and driving down the acceptance rate without necessarily increasing competition for qualified students.
So it's not as much doom and gloom as you might think. If the schools are making an effort to increase the applicant pool without necessarily increasing the pool of applicants that deserve to be at the school, you are going to appear just as competitive as you would have in previous years, despite the increasing number of applicants. More than anything, you'll need to be focused on efficiency and making sure your pile of applications isn't overwhelmed by the typical homework you have to do in the first semester of your senior year. Get organized!
By now you’ve most likely heard from your colleges, and if you’re reading this, it means that you’ve survived. Regardless of the results, congratulations on simply making it through the arduous college admissions process! No matter how you fared, you probably have lots of mixed emotions right now, and understandably so. The application process continues to become more and more competitive with each coming year.
This article by Jacques Steinberg of the New York Times will give you an overall picture of what admissions looked like at many of the top schools this year. Sometimes it helps to see the actual numbers to put everything in perspective, but as Steinberg warns us, this is far from a complete picture. He begs us to remember that “there are an estimated 2,000 four year colleges in this country –and…the vast majority accept nearly all who apply. That a fine education can be had at so many institutions, without some of the agita inherent in the decisions chronicled above, cannot be emphasized enough.”
As you move toward making a decision that will affect the next four years of your life and beyond, it might be comforting to know that the college application process may have been the most stressful part. Most people end up enjoying their college experience much more!
After all the waiting you have done, the last thing you want now is to be put on a wait list! But what happens if you are one of the 10% of applicants who find themselves fated to wait a bit longer? This article by Zach Miners offers some helpful tips for seeing the bright side of a possibly taxing situation.
The first step is to decide whether or not you would actually attend the college if you were accepted. If it is definitely your first choice, here are a few steps you can take to increase your chances:
- Let the college know that you would like to remain on the wait list.
- If you have new information to share about your accomplishments, write a compelling letter letting the college know.
- Definitely let the college know that you would attend if you were accepted, but don’t become a squeaky wheel or worse yet, try to bribe officials!
- Make plans to enroll at another college so that you are sure to have a spot somewhere in the case that you don’t get off the wait list.
- If you haven’t interviewed yet, call the college to try to set one up. Personal contact along with genuinely expressed enthusiasm for a school can help tip the balance.
- Don’t take it personally if you don’t get in. Only about 30% of students get off of wait lists, and in some cases, even fewer spots are available.
While it may be challenging to sit tight for another few weeks or months, use the time to do more research on the schools that you have been admitted to. Every school has its advantages and disadvantages, so try to focus on the positives. And if you do find that the school you attend is not a good fit, you can always apply for a transfer after a year, but chances are, you’ll end up loving it!
As the date approaches for you to finally receive a decision from colleges after months, perhaps years for some (especially parents), of waiting, many will have pearls of wisdom to share with you both before and after one of the tensest moments of your life.
Of course we have our own opinions on how important it is to maintain a positive outlook and remember to see the bigger picture. After all, what you will walk away with from your college experience, wherever you end up going, is really about what you put into it.
Our own acumen aside, perhaps the best (and most entertaining) counsel we’ve heard, is a letter addressed to seniors written by Mitch Albom, writer for McClatchy-Tribune Information Services. Check it out. You won’t regret it, and you might even have a few laughs! Nothing like bringing humor into a situation to keep things in perspective.
Brian Harke, Associate Dean of the University of Southern California, dishes out some common sense advice regarding the last phase of the college application process in this Huffington Post article. For all the nail-biting seniors waiting to see whether their colleges send them back thin or thick envelopes: don’t fret, life will go on. As he himself attests, not everyone gets into his or her first choice, and they end up doing just fine.
As we enter the end of this lengthy process, and notifications are sent out in the coming weeks, let’s (parents and students) keep things in perspective. For those who receive “rejection” letters, keep in mind that it is not personal, but rather an indication that perhaps another school will be a much better “fit.” And for those who do get accepted to their top choices, let’s be considerate of others and keep things in check.
So as we step into this important moment, the culmination of much sweat, dreams, and emotion, remember to exhale. Once the dust settles, the world will look very much the same.