Thoughts heading into winter break

As we near the holiday break, we hope you are looking forward to some time to relax and recharge. Junior year coursework and activities demand a lot of your time and energy, but so too does the upcoming college process.  We thought we should share some thoughts to consider as we turn the page on 2021 and welcome 2022 – which is sure to be an exciting year for you!

Earn the Grade
Return to school in January with a renewed motivation to do your best. Remember to work hard in all of your classes. While upper level classes require a great deal of work, you must also respect your required courses and electives.  A student who flourishes in AP math and science courses, but earns Cs in Physical Education (without an extenuating circumstance) shows an inconsistent work ethic. 

Earning good grades now will open up more opportunities for you to take advanced level work in your senior year. Senior year grades offer an important snapshot of your ability in advanced courses and your willingness to work your hardest amidst the added pressure of the college process; but junior year grades tell your academic story from September through the end of the academic year. Putting forth your best effort in your Junior year will make an impact on your teachers.  These are the same teachers from whom you will likely seek recommendations to complete your college applications.

Stay Involved
Involvement in your school community certainly looks different than it did when you were in 9th grade. As club meetings and opportunities for volunteering return, look for ways to participate. Be thoughtful: Rather than join clubs for the sake of filling in space on your application forms, focus on those things that mean the most to you.  If you haven’t already, consider running for leadership positions, or simply be a good mentor to those still finding their way.  Perhaps you haven’t found your niche yet because of the way your school changed how they approach activities to meet COVID restrictions or simply doesn’t offer what you’re interested in.  Get the ball rolling by starting something new or getting creative!  Stay true to yourself and your own interests, and the activities section of your application will be a genuine reflection of who you are.

Testing Plans

You have likely received your recent PSAT scores, so take some time to examine your strengths and weaknesses.  These areas will help you focus your preparation for official spring SAT tests.  Depending upon the schools you are interested in, we will establish a testing plan that may include the SAT and/or the ACT. For your reference, here is registration and test date information for both tests:

Test dates and registration deadlines for the 2022 SAT can be found here. 

Test dates and registration deadlines for the 2022 ACT can be found here. 

College Knowledge
Many times, the data and rankings you see about a college can cloud the reality of whether that school is a “good school” or a good school for you. Are rankings the best information to use when beginning the college search? Bestselling author Malcolm Gladwell takes on the validity of rankings in his podcast. We think it’s worth a listen. 

Best wishes for a healthy and restful break!

Fall College Application Tips for High School Juniors and Seniors

Summer always seems to fly by too quickly and the new school year is already upon us! Here are a few fall college application tips to help you in learning about colleges.

NACAC Virtual College Fair – Sunday, August 29 from 1:00 – 6:00 p.m. EST

Many colleges also have individual presentations during the afternoon

Click here for a link to all of the upcoming NACAC Virtual College Fairs this fall.

The Rhode Island Association of Admission Officers (RIAAO) is hosting its annual college fair in person this fall on October 24 at Bryant University. Colleges from across the country will be in attendance.

Also, be on the lookout for a college visit schedule at your high school. Visits may be in person or virtual, but if a school you are interested in is visiting your high school, register for the visit if your schedule allows. It is a great and convenient way to learn more about a college, meet the admission counselor, and show interest in the school!

Filling out college application

Finally, a post would not be complete without sharing the latest admission blog from Rick Clark of GA Tech. In his latest post, he explains different ways of application evaluation through the lens of Olympic events.

Summer 2021 Update

Wherever your adventures take you, we hope you have a fun and productive summer. Below you’ll find a college process checklist that we’ll work on together over the next couple of months. Our goal is to help you take advantage of the summer to complete your Common Application, work on writing samples, finalize your résumé, and make a plan to submit your applications. We want you to return to school in the fall feeling confident about the process and ready to take on your senior year.

We look forward to continuing to work with you and seeing your applications come together!

Summer Checklist

  • Stay on top of SAT and ACT test dates and registration deadlines.
  • Register for College Visits whether you plan on visiting virtually or in person.
  • Complete your Common Application. The Common Application for the 2021-2022 admission season is scheduled to go live on August 1 but you can work on specifically the Profile, Family, and Education sections now. That information will “rollover” to the updated version of the Common App on 8/1.
  • Work on your college essay and supplemental statements. The 2021-2022 Common Application essay prompts are already posted here. You can also explore the admission sites for the schools you’re applying to and GuidedPath for school-specific supplements.
  • Send us your final Junior year grades so that we can note your progress and re-evaluate your chances of admission at the colleges on your list.
  • Finalize your college list.

College Visits

College campuses are starting to open up and welcome on-campus visitors. Not only is this exciting news for prospective students, but for admission counselors and student volunteers who thrive on personal interactions with applicants! Many schools still have restrictions in place, so register early for visits and be respectful of all rules and regulations.

Most schools are also continuing to offer a host of innovative and convenient virtual visit options. From live chats with students to virtual campus tours in real time, these visits are great options if you can’t make it to campus or simply don’t feel comfortable doing so yet. Don’t forget to register for virtual visits, as well. Attendance can still be capped for virtual visits and appropriate links may only be sent to registered participants.

You may also want to consider in-person or virtual admission interviews. Chat with your counselor about scheduling a Mock Interview to prepare. This webinar also offers great tips and insights into the interview process:

Big picture

Summer Reading

Check out this Beach Books post from the Tulane University Admission Blog. Although already two years old, the piece offers some valuable insight (and a few recommendations) into why it might be a good idea to pick up a leisure book or two this summer, for your personal enrichment AND in preparation for the admission process.

Between summer assignments, jobs, vacations, and well-deserved time with friends, it might be difficult to find time to dive into a book, but it’s also worth your time. In addition to college interview questions, you might be asked to discuss a book you’ve read in a supplemental statement. Mentioning a recent book or article you’ve read might also add depth to a statement on a related topic. If you’re not much of a reader but you care about the stock market, pick up the Wall Street Journal. Ask a teacher for a scientific journal recommendation if you’re interested in research. If you’re commuting to an internship or have a plane ride to an exciting vacation planned, download an audiobook that sounds interesting to you. The key is to find something you care about. That way, you’ll stick with it to the end and be able to address it in an interview or written statement with genuine passion.

Wishing you a wonderful and productive summer! It’s so rewarding for us to see the college planning we’ve done come to fruition!

Second Half of Junior Year – What’s Next?

Junior Year – Kicking off the Second Half

As you begin the second half of junior year, we want to share some important information and helpful articles as your attention turns back to the college search:

  • Now that you’ve received your PSAT Score, there are a couple of things that you can do to prepare yourself for the SAT. Get the most from your PSAT Score Report, and share your results with Khan Academy to start practicing for Spring SATs.
  • In addition to GuidedPath, you can look into colleges and universities using CollegeBoard’s Big Future search tool. Narrow your list based on factors like location, type of school, major, selectivity, and more.
  • Think Summer! Spend some time thinking about how you’d like to spend the summer between your junior and senior year. Whether you plan to work, attend camp, participate in a summer pre-college program, or play a sport, there are lots of great options. The Tips on Trips and Camps website is a good resource to learn about travel programs and camps.

What students should know about the GPA scale

Colleges and high schools can calculate GPA differently. Learn more in this article from U.S. News and World Report.

The many flavors of test-optional college admissions

While preparing for the SAT and ACT is important, there are hundreds of schools (including many prominent and popular institutions) that do not require test scores for admission. But what does “test-optional” mean? Well, it depends on the school.

Survive college application season with the family in one piece

With family gathering and the “college conversation” looming, this Wall Street Journal article presents some nice reminders to students and parents about navigating the process to come.  

You Pressed Submit. Now What?

You Pressed Submit.  Now What?

After the Common App Confetti, there is a sudden shift in the college process dynamic once your application is out of your hands.  You have spent months preparing your application materials and now it seems like the only thing left on your to-do list is to wait for your admission decision.  And wait.  And wait.  The weeks leading up to application deadlines go by in the blink of an eye.  Time crawls, however, in those weeks leading up to your decision notification.  You may be tempted to second guess those last few essay edits or overthink what a recommendation has added to your file.  Instead, be confident in how your application represents you and spend time on the worthy tasks below.

Check admission portals and your email regularly, but not obsessively.

Many colleges and universities have established admission portals for applicants to check the status of their application; others prefer to correspond via email.  Keep track of your usernames and passwords, and check in a few times each week to make sure you are up to date on any information a college or university shares.  

Work hard in your classes.

Regardless of whether you apply early or regular decision, your senior year grades will be evaluated.  Most colleges review the first quarter or mid-trimester grades of early applicants, and mid-year or first trimester grades of deferred and regular decision candidates.   

Later on in the process, your admission to colleges and universities will be contingent upon successful completion of your senior year.  Admission counselors can reach out to students for more information if the final transcript grades are inconsistent with previous achievement.  

Work hard on your other applications.

Continue to make progress on your regular decision applications while you are in the application and essay writing frame of mind.  When you receive your early admission decision(s), you may be admitted to your first choice school and your process may be finished.  At that point, you will not mind the extra work you put into applications you no longer have to submit.  However, if the early process does not work out as you had hoped, it can be overwhelming to have to process your emotions, put your best foot forward on regular decision applications, and navigate the holiday schedules of your family and school personnel.  Trust us, you will be grateful that your regular decision applications are completed in advance.

Complete Financial Aid requirements, if applicable.

If you are applying for need-based financial aid, get started early in the process and submit all forms by the posted deadlines.  Colleges and universities vary in terms of their exact requirements and deadlines, so it is important to research the financial aid policies at each school.  Below are the most commonly required financial aid application forms.

Admission Decision Notification 

If they have not done so already, colleges and universities will notify you of when and how you can expect to receive your admission decision.  Most schools notify applicants electronically via the admission portal or email.  Spend some time thinking about how you want to receive your admission decisions.  Do you want to be out with your friends and have an email pop up on your phone?  Do you want to log into the portal in the privacy of your own home?  Consider all possible scenarios to ensure you are ready to receive your news.

Virtual College Visits

During a recent conversation with one of my colleagues, she told me that in the 1970s, her dad moved into his freshman college dorm three hours away from home, sight unseen.  I’ve been asking myself lately if this is how students in the class of 2021 will begin their college experience.  The answer is no.  You have so many resources available to you in 2020 that simply did not exist 50 years ago.  In response to COVID-19, colleges and universities have seriously amped up their virtual visit options.  Below, you’ll find some details on what you can expect in terms of college visits and how you can use the rest of the summer to prepare for the application process.

In addition to the more traditional online information sessions, campus tours, and interviews, many colleges and universities are offering chats with current students and/or professors, general admission sessions such as mock admission committees, and financial aid podcasts.  Keep in mind that registration is often required for programs happening in real time.  Check the websites of the schools on your college list to see what they offer and consider engaging in these programs before school starts this fall.  

We encourage you to spend some time tracking your online visits.  Note the positives (a well-spoken, honest panel of students, an innovative virtual campus tour, etc.) and the negatives (a professor that seemed distant, an indistinguishable campus tour, etc.).  These factors will ultimately help you narrow down your college choices.  Also, write down any questions you might have after your visit.  Following up with an admission counselor about something you noticed in a virtual session could help strengthen your understanding of a university and show the admission counselor your level of interest and thoughtfulness.

In addition to questions regarding your personal and academic interests, the questions listed here may help you get a more holistic picture of the school community.

  • What is the surrounding neighborhood like?  What is the relationship between the campus community and the nearby neighborhood?
  • Where do students go between classes?
  • What isn’t featured in the virtual campus tour that you wish was included? 
  • What was it like to be a freshman on campus?
  • What has been your biggest challenge at your school? 
  • What could be updated at your school? (By design, virtual tours highlight the picturesque parts of campus on the sunniest of days.  Dig a little deeper to get a more balanced, realistic impression of the school.)
  • What are the issues that students care about on your campus?

Here are some sample general admission programs that may be of interest as you embark on the college process:

University of Pennsylvania Selective College Admission and Essay Writing Workshops, among other topics