Struggling with supplemental essays? Here's a tip for answering a common one, "Why do you want to come to College X?"
The best answers focus on the fit between you and College X. Yes, there's that all important word "fit" again! This is often the question that can clarify whether in fact you are applying to the best fit colleges for you. If you have done your research on College X and considered what it is that you love so much about it, then this question should be easy to answer. Yet if you find yourself struggling to come up with an answer, then you either have lots more digging to do on College X's website or it might not be such a great fit for you after you all. That's okay - better to realize that during the application process than after May 1!
So let's say that College X is an awesome fit for you. How are you supposed to answer the question? Most importantly, be specific. That means connecting what you have done in high school to what are going to do at College X. What can you link from your current activities and classes to what is offered at College X? Classroom learning and signature programs are key, so be sure to include the ones that match the interests you have shown through your transcript and activity list. Name a class or two that you would love to take, and briefly link it to something you are currently studying or in which you have shown a strong interest. Remember your extracurriculars, too! How will you positively impact your future classmates and campus life at College X? Will you play intramural sports? If yes, which ones? Will you go abroad? To which country and why? Show them exactly how you will immerse in student life at College X. Let your excitement - and genuine interest in College X - shine through!
Real Question of the Week from the CCPI Inbox:
Is the Russell Group the Ivy League of the UK?
The topic of university prestige never fails to spur debate. What role, if any, does university prestige play in the short term for a student, and in the longer term? Is a university's prestige relevant globally, on a country-by-country basis, regionally, locally, or within a specific industry? Is it relevant at all? Is prestige about creating a network of contacts for life? Can a university name on a CV lift it from the middle of a pile for a first-time job seeker? Or is prestige a potential negative for a student, perhaps attaching concerns about elitism or a "silver-spoon" mentality in the minds of some employers? What confers prestige: reputations dating back hundreds of years, perceived quality of job placements, low rates of admission, number of famous professors, consistently strong sports legacies, production of well-known graduates, or other factors? It's all debatable.
Let's look at some facts and widely-held beliefs about the UK's Russell Group.
What it is:
The Russell Group is a consortium of 24 universities in the United Kingdom, officially formed in 2006. The universities share a significant commitment to research through public and private sector funding, in addition to other characteristics. See the online Profile for full details and read about the Russell Group via this website link.
What it is not:
The Russell Group is not an athletic conference like the Ivy League in the United States.
Whether being a member of the Russell Group confers "elite" status to a university remains controversial. Some believe it is akin to an informal club of university chancellors. Others view it as an elite group of universities defined primarily by each member university's strength in garnering significant research funding. The group has also been referenced as a lobby for research funding for its member universities.
In any case, although membership in the Russell Group might carry some prestige, the most important rankings are not overall university rankings but rankings by course.
The University of Edinburgh is a member of the Russell Group, but University of St. Andrews is not. Does that mean that St. Andrews is not as "good" a university as Edinburgh or as the other members of the Russell Group? No. For example, St. Andrews and University of Bath rank in the to five in most League Tables for a course in business or management. Yet neither is in the Russell Group.
Prestigious or not? Take a closer look at who's who on the list of Russell Group member universities. You are sure to find significant research funding among their ranks, as well as a few ivy-covered buildings.
All waitlists are not created equal.
Take the cases of both Dartmouth and Tufts. In short, Tufts seems not very promising, and Dartmouth seems to offer a slight glimmer of hope.
Tufts does not offer much information publicly. Last year, they did not accept anyone from their wait list. Not even one student. They did not report any information about wait list admits in the prior two years. Tufts does make mention of "typically anywhere from zero to twenty-five" students admitted off the wait list in a blog post (see link below).
Unfortunately, Tufts does not provide its statistics to the College Board, either. However, take a look at the image below, "TUFTS-2015", from the Tufts 2014-2015 Common Data Set paperwork (http://provost.tufts.edu/institutionalresearch/files/CDS_2014-2015.pdf). This is a fact sheet required by the Federal government.
Yes, that is ZERO admits off the wait list from last year's admissions cycle.
For 2013-2014, Tufts chose not to answer. See "TUFTS-2014" below. And they also did not report for 2012-2013. See "TUFTS-2013" below.
Are you seeing the numbers? Or more correctly, the complete lack of them?
If you prefer more clarity than just a few zeros, here is Tufts' page about their wait list, with their advice.
There is more information available on Dartmouth's wait list. The statistics have varied over the past 10+ years from as few as ZERO admits off the wait list to a high of over 100 just last year (2015 fall entry).
Dartmouth College Wait List Statistics (from the College Board)
Fall 2015 entry
Accepted place on waitlist: 963
Offered a place: 129
Fall 2014 entry
Accepted place on wait list: 1133
Offered a place: 0
For more information, and trends over time, see DARTMOUTH -10 YEAR WAIT LIST HISTORY below for a chart showing wait list acceptances from 2003-2013 at Dartmouth, based on numbers released by Dartmouth under mandated Federal guidelines. The article in which this data is found is here: Dartblog: "Waitlist Use Up Again"
There's even more information on Dartmouth's website. An important page to read is this: Waiting List Information | Admissions - which is Dartmouth's procedure for the wait list.
The LinkedIn article below outlines how wait lists are used, and how to approach them. It's lengthy, but filled with great advice from Parke Muth.
TUFTS - 2015
TUFTS - 2014
TUFTS - 2013
DARTMOUTH - 10 YEAR WAIT LIST HISTORY
one set of opinions about being wait listed:
Stand out from the crowd of college applicants. Create your story around a theme that is unique to you.
Rome wasn't built in a day.
Developing your story takes time. Start by getting involved: take part in extracurricular activities at school, delve into academic interests, and explore careers via internships. The payoff: a better idea of your academic strengths and a narrower set of activities that matter to you. Your themes will emerge where these intersect.
Add commitment, initiative and leadership.
Pick one theme and build your story around it by pursuing your interests with sustained commitment. Will you teach yourself a programming language like Python and write an app for your school? How about participating in scientific research at a local university, blogging about it, and presenting your work to faculty and students? Can you start a special project to support one of your volunteer commitments?
It's all about you.
Be authentic. Create a challenge that fits your unique strengths and interests. Uncover your story.
It's never too late...
...to pursue and explore your interests and talents. Like to write? Email the editor of the school newspaper and sign up to be the newest staff writer. Interested in the arts? Volunteer to help build sets for the next theater production. Not only is it rewarding to be involved, but colleges notice students who can manage their time and make a difference in their community.
Try a handful of clubs and activities in grades 9 and 10. Narrow and deepen your focus in grade 11. Stay involved through grade 12, take on leadership roles, and leave your mark through sustained commitment. Pick up new friends and learn important skills like public speaking, teamwork, and project planning along the way.
This summer, balance fun and needed downtime with meaningful activities. Work experience, an online course via Coursera or edX, or classes on a university campus, like those at OSC, Lanterna or Oxford Royale, will expand your horizons. Enjoy exploring academic interests.
Piece it together.
Make your involvement count. Do the activities fit your academic interests and other strengths? Be thoughtful when choosing how to spend your valuable time. Put the pieces together to craft the cohesive story that is uniquely YOU.
From Forbes Magazine:
Duke's Dean Of Admissions: Who Gets Into Top Colleges, Why And What Makes The Difference
The competition to land a spot at America’s top colleges is as fierce as ever. An inside look at the mysterious process of admissions, plus what students and parents should be doing to have the ultimate advantage.
Interested in straight talk from the Admissions Dean at a highly selective US university? Christoph Guttentag of Duke University tells it like it is. Grab your popcorn and a comfy seat, and listen to over 40 minutes of insightful comments on almost all aspects of the college application, from the impact of course selections, to recommendations, and everything in between.
Digital footprint, digital literacy, digital native, digital citizen. High school students are well-served when they consider each of these in the process of getting ready to become college applicants.
But what about college counselors? Does it matter if a 50-something (for argument's sake only, of course!) is tweeting, facebooking, podcasting, blogging and updating a website? Is it even age-appropriate?! Our own children might just wonder.
In order to serve our clients best, we need to stay up-to-date and on top of the ways in which technology can inform and improve our profession. We spend time on social media platforms in order to stay abreast of the latest news and information. If the College Board or the ACT tweets a change to their tests, we need to know because you need to know. It's that simple.
We follow blogs, we belong to industry associations and read their news feeds, we routinely visit websites of our colleagues in college counseling across the globe, we search for tutoring, test prep and college counseling sources on Twitter, and we even listen to podcasts on these topics when we're running. But all that information is lost if we don't pass it on to you. We take responsibility for sifting through the data, spend time distilling it to its most salient points, and pass it on to you. Like Cliff Notes for higher education!
When hiring a college counselor, will you review his digital presence? We think it advisable in the quest to understand the extent of their knowledge as well as to gauge whether their philosophy regarding the admissions process matches that of your child, and of your family. If you turn to a college counselor for essay and application writing support, you might want to check their ability to turn a phrase. Are their website and marketing materials clear, concise, and free of grammatical and spelling errors? Find out if a college counselor has his digital finger on the pulse of the industry, because college admissions is evolving in record time.
Don't get us wrong, we don't live online. We visit college and university campuses, we meet with admissions officers, we network with colleagues, and we spend lots of time with our clients, face-to-face.
Once upon a time, we were Luddites. Digital citizenship is not a choice for us, it is an integral part of our commitment to you.
Financial and visa requirements are among the most critically important, as well as most complex, challenges faced by the newly-accepted international student. In fact, these requirements can seem like a barrier, and get in the way of the student’s matriculation at her chosen university. We believe that forewarned is forearmed, and to that end, we've done some research for you.
We have summarized the key requirements at each of four US universities in the table below. Of note, you will find that requirements are presented in a different format at each of the university websites. This is the initial barrier, that of time and energy to research the requirements at the universities to which you have been accepted. Then, get ready to decipher the instructions, which are presented across multiple web pages on the university sites: in a FAQ section, a special web page for international students, PDFs attached to pages via links, multiple pages on drop-down menus for international students and more. The final barrier is execution: of the proper forms, online questionnaires, and attendance at required orientation and mandatory “check-in” sessions either in person or online.
Mitigating these barriers are the professionals on-campus who are dedicated to assisting you and other international students. Each of the universities that we researched has robust, if not consistently organized, information online. Contact information is readily available, and there are on-campus offices where you can go for assistance. Take advantage of these resources. Although barriers exist, the you are not alone as you work to understand the financial and visa requirements for your chosen university. Our message to you is to do your homework on these topics before arrival on campus.
Take a look at the table below to get a sense of how differently colleges approach these requirements. Now, get online and check out the requirements at your university!
Test preparation, aka test prep, is everywhere. Gone are the days when your only options were to buy and slog through books as big as the Yellow Pages, or to sit in a fluorescent-lit classroom with twenty other nervous high school juniors or seniors.
The books and classrooms are still there for those of you who like that sort of thing. But for the rest of you test prep seekers, you now have options. Lots of options. There is a dizzying array of online options: videos to teach you how to solve certain types of problems, practice tests, pages of test-taking tips, and even test-taking competition with peers of your choosing. Much of it is free, many require your email address at registration so that they can market services to you, and others offer access to their software and videos for a monthly or annual fee.
What do we recommend? One-to-one, and sometimes small group, tutoring. Don't get us wrong: we like to listen to Sal Kahn as much as the next guy. We also know that there are some students who have the discipline and the time to manage the test preparation process on their own. They can set up a schedule, commit to it, and carry it through using any tools, from online test prep to the test prep tomes that were around when we were your age (before the invention of Starbucks). If you are this type of student, then the online test prep offerings are right up your alley. Many students have gone the self-study route and been very successful.
But we strongly believe that every student learns a little differently, and that a personalized approach, tailored to your particular test-taking needs, is going to be more efficient with your time. We know how busy you are with your academic priorities. Find the right tutor for your learning style.
So, take a look at the vast array of test prep options available to you online, in print, and in the offices of your local test prep provider.
We're here, too, to help you navigate these decisions. Call or stop by our offices. That's where you'll find us, delivering the best available support to our students, just the way they like it.
Everyone likes the idea of receiving scholarship money. What's not to like? But how many students are willing to put in the hours and effort required to apply for scholarships and financial aid?
We promise not to sugar coat our advice. The truth is, searching for scholarships and financial aid is not for the faint-hearted.
The timing for most scholarship and financial aid applications begins in earnest after January 1. Yes, that's just when you've finished your college applications and collapsed on the sofa. There is money out there for students in grade 11, and even grades 10 and 9, but most students are motivated to search for financial support in grade 12, when the concept of going to university is on the verge of becoming a reality. We get that. Don't flog yourself about waiting to go for it, just go for it!
We are there to support you beyond the search. We recommend useful sites, but we can also be there to encourage and guide you through the sometimes arduous process of completing applications once scholarship and aid matches have been found. The good news is that you'll be a pro in essay writing by January of your grade 12 year! And when it comes to filling out financial aid forms, we can help you figure out how best to fill in those blanks.
Visit our Resources and Links page for a list of our favorite, and most helpful, sites. Is there a scholarship out there for you?
We can't say it enough: finding colleges that "fit" your wants and needs as a student, and outside the lecture hall, is the goal of your college search process.
You've read our blog post about great web sites for college search, and you've spent time on all of them. Pages upon pages in your Fiske Guide are dog-eared. Your copy of College Match by Stephen Antonoff is fraying at the corners, and you've completed the insightful self-assessment questionnaires within. The local college fair was last month, and after making the rounds, you've filled an entire book shelf with college brochures. You should be ready to narrow down your list of colleges, right?
It's time for campus visits, the gold standard for determining college fit. Campus visits can help you to differentiate between various colleges, just like test-driving a car or trying on a pair of jeans can help you to make an educated choice. Can you see yourself as a student We recommend visiting as many colleges on your preliminary list as possible. Take a tour, listen to an information session, and pick up the school newspaper. Sit in one of the dining halls at mealtime and observe. Talk to students - choose a few at random - and ask them about their favorite class or what they would change about the college if they could. If you have time, visit a class; some colleges even let you spend the night. By the time you're driving off campus, you will have a feel for whether or not you could see yourself there for the next four years, whether the campus social life is the best fit or you, and if the professors are as approachable as you'd like them to be.
Sounds great, right? Who wouldn't enjoy the road trip with parents?
Don't answer that...
Perhaps your holidays are already booked for the coming year. Maybe finances preclude you from making the rounds. Did you think that your list was all set, and all you needed was to log in to the Common Application website? What now?
Enter the age of the virtual campus tour. With a virtual tour, you can see the campus and listen to a tour guide from the comfort of your living room. "Walk" from building to building and across the quads. Follow links to videos, 360 degree photos, and other files to get an in-depth look at various points on the tour. Every college has yet to be represented, but thousands are already online.
Once again, we've done the detective work so you don't have to. The best places to start are the websites of the colleges on your list. Search in the Admissions pages of the site for virtual tours.
If the virtual tour on the college's website isn't quite what you expected, you have other options. We've reviewed some of the better known sites, and summarized our findings in the table below. Our favorites are Youniversity TV (best for students early in the search process) and YouVisit.com (better for students who are looking for rich detail). Once you've browsed these sites and taken the virtual tours, feel free to delve a little deeper. If you're interested in watching a few video interviews of students on varied topics, go to College Click TV. Just be sure to listen to these with the understanding that each is one person's opinion - to get a more balanced view, listen to several on the same topic.
So, what are you waiting for? Get out there, or get online, and visit!
www.collegelab.orgYou've got to start somewhere.
In the college admissions journey, the first and most important stop is self-assessment. That's right. Look inside before you look outside. Get to know yourself. It's hard (read: impossible) to find a college that fits your needs and wants if you haven't thought about what you need, or what you want.
College Match, by Stephen Antonoff, is a concise workbook with valuable insights that we use regularly with students to better understand their wants and needs. If you're tired of working on paper, you can go online to BigFuture's Step-by-Step guide. You'll find a list of questions with interactive features. By the final screen, you'll have a list of criteria that will help you in the search for the colleges that "fit" your learning style and your academic interests, as well desired location, size, campus setting, and social alternatives. Now you're ready to begin.
News flash: you don't have to sift through reams of description and statistics, or mile-high piles of college brochures to find the right fit colleges. Phew! There are some really useful books that can help you find colleges that meet your criteria. Case in point: The Fiske Guide to Colleges. We love it.
Prefer something less like a phone book? CollegeLab is one of several online tools which can personalize the college search process. It's our favorite, but we're biased (Alicia is the CEO)! Search for "college search" and you'll get almost three billion hits. That's a lot, so we've narrowed it down for you. Simply visit any one of our favorite sites, enter the criteria from your self-assessment process (the most important step - did we say that already?), and voila, your college list starts to take shape.
One more thing. Start big. Think about a funnel, broad at the top and then gently narrowing, so that the fit is just right at the bottom. Your college search process should be the same. In order to come up with the best fit at the end, you need to start with a broad list. Keep an open mind.
What are our favorite sites for college search, you ask?
This list would not be complete without mentioning Naviance, Unigo and other fee-based, online service offered by some high schools to facilitate collaboration between student, school and parents on all aspects of the college admissions process. If you are fortunate enough to have access to one of these, use it! If not, you should be all set with the resources above.
It's official - our very first tweet.
We have to stay on top of our game. We are committed to bringing you the best. That means keeping up to date with all of our favorite acronyms, from the AP to the IB, the ACT to the SAT, and from UCAS to the Common App.
How do we do it? Well, to be a leader, sometimes you have to also be a follower!
We follow the College Board, the International Baccalaureate Organization, the ACT, UCAS, the Common Application, many of your favorite colleges and universities around the globe, and much more. When we're up to date, you're up to date. That's our promise.
Remember the frustrations with the "new" Common Application last fall? We spared our clients countless headaches and lost hours because we follow @commonapp. They might not have been too skillful about the back-end integration of their web site, but they were speedy about posting site changes and work-arounds when the web site problems were at their worst. Hint to all you rising seniors: maybe you should be following @commonapp, too...
But social media can overwhelm. Your Twitter feed is probably long enough, without adding some of our favorites. Don't despair! That's where we come in. We distill the mountains of tweets into bite-sized packets of information that are relevant to you. Keep your Twitter feed manageable- we've got you covered.
What's a great way to unwind and learn something new at the same time? Listen to a podcast while on your daily walk! The admissions process can be stressful at times, but having an expert by your side can help to alleviate some of the pressure. You can have many experts at your disposal for free when you hunt around the internet for podcasts on the college admissions process. There are a surprising number of admissions experts sharing their wisdom across various podcasts. I've listed some of our favorites below. Listen, be entertained, and learn something new.
Podcasts are informative and can be great resources on all aspects of the admissions process. Many are actually enjoyable - you might even get a laugh out of them! Try the podcast on NPR's This American Life called How I Got Into College.
The podcast is recorded by Ira Glass, creator and host of This American Life, the most frequently downloaded of all NPR podcasters. How I Got Into College is divided into four sections: a prologue and three "acts." Each "act" can stand on its own in terms of content, although together, the four acts weave a complex narrative which reflects on the topic from several vantage points.
It is well-done, entertaining, and it offers a contrarian viewpoint on the sometime capriciousness of the college admissions process. Yes, it's entertaining!
Hooked on podcasts? We've compiled a list of some of our favorites for you. Happy listening!
Technology has transformed the college admissions process, as it has so many other aspects of our lives. Although technology has made the process more accessible, this transformation has also brought about several pitfalls.
The benefits of technology in the college admissions process are manifold. Research on the thousands of U.S. colleges and overseas universities has been simplified: rather than waiting for a view book in the mail, students can visit a college's website, take a virtual tour, surf College Confidential to raise their blood pressure, and "Facebook" their friends on college campuses to get real-time feedback on college life. Naviance, BigFuture and other online searchable college databases can ease the search process for a great fit school, as students can sort and search for the characteristics that are most important to them. Students can more easily apply to a longer list of colleges because of online consortiums such as the Common App, the Universal College Application, and UCAS. The list of benefits that technology has brought to the admissions process also includes the ability to:
· prepare online for standardized tests
· estimate the cost of attendance via financial aid calculators
· compare costs at a number of colleges
· create art portfolios or YouTube videos of performances
· send transcripts and recommendations electronically
· search for scholarships
· post athletic statistics online for recruiters
· create an online searchable academic profile
· read the student campus newspaper and course evaluations
· interview via Skype
· sign up for admissions tests
· interact with admissions officers and current students via blogs, Twitter, and Facebook
From the perspective of a college admissions officer, the Internet has both complicated and simplified the process. The sheer number of applications to most colleges has exploded as a result of the relative ease of online applications (except for the nightmare of the Common App this year!), which is a complication, although a "happy" complication if one is interested in driving one's acceptance rate into the ground. The admissions officer has a simplified way of accessing application information, as it is now digital. He can also register inquiries at fairs on a tablet or phone and almost instantaneously send prospective students materials. In addition, colleges embrace technology so that they can:
· communicate with students on a one-to-one basis (events, email blasts and online chat)
· inform students of missing material and notify applicants of their decisions online
Despite these benefits, students, families and admissions officers can run into problems as a result of technology. Occasionally, students can receive bad information from online sources, so it is important to understand from whom the information is coming. In addition, the ease of applying can also cause students to think that they can wait until the last minute to apply, and the resultant rush can force mistakes and essays of poorer quality. The sheer volume of information creates issues for some students. Videos, photos, blogs, podcasts, and seemingly endless text can amount to information overload.
How can we help students and their parents to navigate the use of technology?
We can show you how to use technology to your best advantage in the admissions process, and how to avoid information overload. The number of new and useful tools is ever expanding, but we are always searching for and evaluating the best online resources so that you don’t have to.
Keep records of your application in Naviance, and learn how to use its self-assessment and research tools. We can assist with other online research, from scholarship programs to entering recommendations into the Common App, and from working with UCAS to reviewing a student's essay drafts via email.
All of the foregoing, however, cannot substitute for the one-to-one meetings and conversations with students and their families throughout a student's high school years. Students can rely on our counselors to complement the use of technology in the admissions process with wisdom, experience, and good, old-fashioned listening skills.