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  • Annie Reznik

    Title: Counselor/CEO

    Company: College Guidance Coach

    • verified

    Former Admissions Officer at
    University of Maryland, College Park
    Years of Experience
    10

    Colleges I Attended
    Mercyhurst College
    Degrees
    Bachelor's Degree
    Certifications
    IECAmember
    Professional Affiliations
    NACAC
    Prior Job
    Friends School of Baltimore
    Prior Title
    College Counselor
    About Me
    I am an experienced college admissions professional that has worked on both the college and high school sides of admission. At the University of Maryland, I directed the freshman review process for over 25,000 applications annually, chaired the admission review committee, and developed the recruitment strategy for managing annual enrollment goals. As a member of the college guidance department at Friends School of Baltimore, I counseled hundreds of families through the college search.

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  • Intro Video

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  • Admissions Expertise

    • Any tips on getting the most out of campus tours and info sessions?

       

      1. Ask specific questions.

      Don’t throw your guide softballs like, “So, what are your most popular majors?” Instead, ask questions that will produce unique responses. Try asking, “What are some of your unique on campus traditions?” or “What’s your favorite thing to eat in the dining hall?” or “What type of student wouldn’t fit in here?”

      2. Visit a class.

      The percentage of tour time spent on academics is paltry. But, academics are the point. Just because the website doesn’t advertise it, you can sit in on a class at almost any college that you visit. Before you visit, read through course descriptions. If something sparks your interest, contact the professor yourself and set up a time to sit in on the class. Or, visit a “signature” required course like Reed College’s Humanities 110.

      3. Spend time on campus off the tour route.

      At most colleges, the tour showcases the best a school has to offer in under an hour. But, taking time to walk around areas off the route may help you to learn about the nuances of an institution. If you are able to see the entire campus on tour, go “off route” by people watching in the student center for 15 or 20 minutes. Overhearing student conversations, viewing the bulletin board announcements, and entrenching yourself in the culture of a school will help reveal distinguishing characteristics of any institution.

    • Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

       

      Rankings, college representatives, friends, family can all provide a perspective on a school or your search. But, you know yourself better than anyone—trust your instincts. Be careful not to think in terms of "the one," this is college, not marriage.

    • Are there activities/organizations that impress highly selective colleges?

       

      Parents and students often assume that highly selective college admission offices are seeking renaissance men/women. But, colleges are seeking a well-rounded community, not necessarily well-rounded individuals. Highly selective colleges are particularly impressed by students who have demonstrated a depth of involvement in a particular area of passion. Students who parlay their passion into a service project or school leadership role are especially impressive. My advice regarding extracurricular involvement for every student: push your passions for personal gratification, not college entrance.

    • Can colleges revoke admissions offers? What behaviors can cause this, and how can students protect themselves?

       

      Colleges can and do revoke admission offers for two primary reasons. First, serious disciplinary infractions that involve suspension, expulsion or criminal charges will be carefully evaluated by college officials and can jeopardize admission offers. Secondly, significantly diminished academic performance can prompt a college to revoke an offer of admission. Students can protect themselves by abiding by all school policies and maintaining academic performance.

    • Can the number of times you contact a college impact your chances?

       

      Nearly all colleges keep track of contacts with individual students, such as meeting at a college fair, visiting campus for an interview, attending an event, etc. Keeping track of student interactions informs future recruitment planning. However, some colleges use "demonstrated interest" (or the indication that you are seriously considering matriculation to an individual institution) as factor when making admission decisions. Colleges began to use "demonstrated interest" to off-set students who apply to a large number of institutions with little intentionality. And, the practice has evolved as a technique for maintaining a low admission rates and a high yield rates (both figures are used to calculate several national rankings). If you are applying to a school that utlizes "demonstrated interest" to make admission decisions, be sure to take advantage of all optional interactions (such as interviewing or meeting with a representative visiting your school). However, don't "demonstrate interest" on a daily basis--that will likely become annoying.

    • Do rich kids have an automatic advantage in college admissions?

       

      Students for whom cost is not a factor benefit in a myriad of ways. Here are my top 3 ways that students from financially comfortable backgrounds may have an advantage in the college admission process:

      1. Early Decision: Applying through a binding agreement is a more viable option for students for whom final cost is not a factor. Most colleges and universities offer admission at a higher rate through early decision.

      2. Need Aware: Increasingly, the economic downturn is impacting admission decisions colleges make with clear benefit for "full pay" families. Check out the NY Times article: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/10/business/economy/10reed.html?pagewanted=all

      3. Far and wide: When cost is not a factor, students apply to schools far from home with greater ease. Visiting schools nationally and having the capital to return home via air once enrolled are privileges afforded to financially comfortable families.

    • Does class size matter?

       

      Small classes may be important for students who value discussion-based learning or for whom background noise is distracting. Meanwhile, some students may relish in the opportunity to hang back and let the professor do the heavy learning lifting at the front of the lecture hall. Think hard about how you best learn. Choose schools that offer opportunities that match your ideal.

    • Has social media impacted the way colleges communicate with students?

       

      Absolutely! Colleges seek any opportunity to make connections with students. They want students to follow them on twitter, allow them to populate a news feed, and showcase great offerings 24/7. But, just as students recycle a direct mail piece, they are in the driver's seat when it comes to social media communication campaigns. This fall at the National Association of College Admission Counselors annual conference in New Orleans, a student panel emphatically informed college representatives that they'd prefer social media be social. Colleges are all for posting on facebook and tweeting with hashtags, but it really all depends on whether or not students "like" them.

    • How do you deal with overbearing parents during the college process?

       

      The best way to manage overbearing parents is to take the reigns. Demonstrate that you are managing the process by setting up college visit appointments and logistics yourself, posting a deadline chart of the fridge informing your parents of the plan for meeting deadlines, and thoughtfully listening to your parent's perspective. While students should drive the process, parents are key stakeholders who deserve a voice. By showing your capability and preparation you will buy their trust (which will help them back off). But, at the same time, managers of any operation know that you can't risk upsetting a key investor. Identify ways for your parents be part of the process and keep communication lines open.

    • How do you go about contacting alumni from a school you're interested in?

       

      The easiest way to connect with alumni from a particular school is to contact the school directly. Some high schools keep track of graduates willing to share their college experiences. Your college counselor might have some suggestions if you are hoping to talk to a current student or recent graduate of a particular college.

    • How do you know if community college is right for you?

       

      Most students would benefit from taking courses through a community college. From a financial standpoint, the lower tuition rate makes community college an extremely attractive option. Taking transferable summer courses at a local community college can enable students to minimize graduation debt levels. Also, many community colleges are incorporating increased academic and student services than in the past. For example, Montgomery College in Maryland offers a highly competitive honors program and merit scholarships.

    • How many schools should students apply to?

       

      Students should apply to a balanced list of between 6-10 schools. Every student should apply to at least two foundation schools (strong likelihood of earning admission). Also, students should stretch themselves by applying to at least one realistic reach school (admission is possible, but not probable). Middle schools (chance of admission is about 50/50) help mitigate unexpected admission trends in either the reach or foundation categories. When a list is perfectly balanced, applying to just 3-4 schools is reasonable. Applying to more than 10-12 schools is a sign that the college search part of the admission process isn't over. Narrowing schools after receipt of admission offers is becoming more common as financial concerns influence final enrollment decisions.

    • How should you approach a college visit as an accepted student?

       

      At different points in time, families find the college search, application, and selection process akin to courtship. After acceptance, the entire wooing process shifts. Colleges roll out the red carpet for accepted student visits. When you approach a college visit as an accepted student, be wary of style over substance. Will it be as beautiful covered in three feet of snow as it is with freshly changed flower beds? The head of the department sounds amazing, but will I be able to get into her course? Before you visit, spend some time creating a list of 3-5 characteristics that really matter to you. Then, rate the visit on these qualities rather than allowing extraneous factors (like the way you felt when they introduced the band you play YOUR fight song or the "free" iPad you receive as an incoming freshman) to impede your view. Ultimately, keep in mind: will this school enable me to achieve my goals?

    • Once accepted, how do you choose between colleges?

       

      When you are trying to identify the best school, think less about the schools and more about you. When you focus on factors, not specific schools it will bring clarity to finding the best fit for you. What are the 3-5 most important characteristics of a college for you? Be as precise as possible ("fall football feel" is better than "good vibe" and "excellent classic ballet instruction" is better than "dance major"). Assign weights to these factors: is dance going to be 50% of the decision? or are you likely to change your major?

      You should solicit opinions from key stakeholders (i.e. parents). When you collect feedback from others, don't let them tell you the best school--ask: what characteristics do you think are most important for me to find in college? Ask them assign weights, too. You may think that money is the most significant factor to your parents, when in reality they most value the quality of instruction at a given institution.

    • Should students approach the college process differently in this economy?

       

      In the present economy, prospective students should understand agony of indebtedness with better clarity than previous generations. Minimizing student debt should be a priority for every student's search. Here are some key factors to help establish a financially fit college search:

      1. Seek schools with a high percentage of four-year graduates.

      2. Examine statistics related to student expense such as: average student indebtedness post-graduation, percentage of students receiving merit aid, and average award.

      3. Prepare to pay. Get a job and plan to contribute at least $2000 annually to your college education.

      4. Pay attention to price. Even though few pay sticker price in higher education, starting off with a significantly lower price can certainly influence the final cost.

      5. Collect credits elsewhere. Use the summer to take a couple of classes at a local community college that will transfer back to your more expensive home institution. Maximize your opportunity for credit through high-school based for credit programs such as Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate.

    • What are freshman retention rates and why do they matter?

       

      Last Saturday, a senior told me that he plans to ask about retention rate during his college interview. His reasoning was simple, “If people like it, they’ll go back the next year.” A college’s retention rate has long been used to quantify student satisfaction. But, what is a good retention rate? The national average freshman retention rate is 75%, about a “C” on a high school grading scale. Using the same scale, a freshman retention rate of 90% is in the “A” range.

      If retention rate is an important factor in your search, you have a lot of great options. Nearly 150 esteemed institutions boast an average three year retention rate over 90%. Visit collegeguidancecoach.com and check out a couple of my “Top 15” retention rate lists created using the publicly available data at IPEDS. If you’d like to view a complete copy of my Retention Rate Honor Roll (sortable spreadsheet of all colleges and universities with retention rate averages above 90%) email collegeguidancecoach@gmail.com.

    • What are some differences between rural, suburban, and urban campuses?

       

      When students are weighing the value of rural, suburban and urban campuses, they are really considering: Accessibility and Community. Urban campuses will undoubtedly offer great benefits of accessibility (internship/job opportunities, great off campus excursions, easy travel to and from), but may be lacking in providing a central, cohesive residential community. Meanwhile, Denison University is known for a great on-campus community despite the sparse surroundings. The student camaraderie that comes from building a community together is an appealing alternative to an indistinguishable city/college atmosphere. As you determine the best campus type for you, consider the importance of accessibility and community to your personal and professional goals.

    • What are some questions you should ask on an overnight stay?

       

      Great Questions to Ask on an Overnight Visit

      1. Is this how you typical spend an evening on campus?

      2. Why did you choose this school? Where would you have gone if you didn't go here? Why?

      3. What is something you didn't understand about the school before you enrolled?

      4. Who are the campus resources you couldn't live without?

      5. What type of student wouldn't fit in here?

    • What are some tips for college visits?

       

      1. Ask specific questions.

      Don’t throw your guide softballs like, “So, what are your most popular majors?” Instead, ask questions that will produce unique responses. Try asking, “What are some of your unique on campus traditions?” or “What’s your favorite thing to eat in the dining hall?” or “What type of student wouldn’t fit in here?”

      2. Visit a class.

      The percentage of tour time spent on academics is paltry. But, academics are the point. Just because the website doesn’t advertise it, you can sit in on a class at almost any college that you visit. Before you visit, read through course descriptions. If something sparks your interest, contact the professor yourself and set up a time to sit in on the class. Or, visit a “signature” required course like Reed College’s Humanities 110.

      3. Spend time on campus off the tour route.

      At most colleges, the tour showcases the best a school has to offer in under an hour. But, taking time to walk around areas off the route may help you to learn about the nuances of an institution. If you are able to see the entire campus on tour, go “off route” by people watching in the student center for 15 or 20 minutes. Overhearing student conversations, viewing the bulletin board announcements, and entrenching yourself in the culture of a school will help reveal distinguishing characteristics of any institution.

    • What are the most important factors to consider when choosing a college?

       

      All students should spend time self-reflecting during the college search in order to identify great college matches. Ultimately, students need to know: who am I? what are my goals? Below are some questions that help me propose college matches for students; they might help you to narrow your focus.

      What class/teacher/book challenged you?

      How do you learn?

      What do you dream about?

      What do you wish you had more time to spend on?

    • What are the most important things to do and ask during a college visit?

       

      1. Ask specific questions.

      Don’t throw your guide softballs like, “So, what are your most popular majors?” Instead, ask questions that will produce unique responses. Try asking, “What are some of your unique on campus traditions?” or “What’s your favorite thing to eat in the dining hall?” or “What type of student wouldn’t fit in here?”

      2. Visit a class.

      The percentage of tour time spent on academics is paltry. But, academics are the point. Just because the website doesn’t advertise it, you can sit in on a class at almost any college that you visit. Before you visit, read through course descriptions. If something sparks your interest, contact the professor yourself and set up a time to sit in on the class. Or, visit a “signature” required course like Reed College’s Humanities 110.

      3. Spend time on campus off the tour route.

      At most colleges, the tour showcases the best a school has to offer in under an hour. But, taking time to walk around areas off the route may help you to learn about the nuances of an institution. If you are able to see the entire campus on tour, go “off route” by people watching in the student center for 15 or 20 minutes. Overhearing student conversations, viewing the bulletin board announcements, and entrenching yourself in the culture of a school will help reveal distinguishing characteristics of any institution.

    • What are the most politically active colleges?

       

      When I think of politically active colleges, American University and George Washington University quickly come to mind given their proximity to Capitol Hill. But, Cornell College in Iowa stands out as an under the radar politically active campus. As a college representative put it, "there's nothing quite like a presidential election in Iowa." The four-year college and election cycles ensure that every student graduates with caucus experience.

    • What are the quickest ways to research colleges?

       

      1. College Navigator allows user-defined searching on a number of key parameters. http://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/

      2. Perfect for students that loathe rankings, USA Today’s college search tool is based on the National Survey of Student Engagement. The methodology couldn't be more different than US News. http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/nsse.htm

      3. The "Inside College" site is a list maker's dream! Available lists span everything from “Schools for Gleeks” to “Schools with Distinction in Dance” to “Schools with a Club Sailing Team.” http://www.insidecollege.com/reno/home.do

    • What exactly are US News and the College Board?

       

      US News: A magazine that offered one of the first comprehensive rankings of colleges. Typically, "US News" related to the college admission process refers to their "Best Colleges" rankings which are published annually.

      College Board: A non-profit organization best known for their college entrance exam, SAT. College Board also developed the ubiquitous Advanced Placement (AP) curriculum, the Profile (a financial aid form), and the SAT subject tests. College Board's website offers a wealth of college admission resources which are often over-shadowed by the test administration component of the organization.

    • What if you can't visit a school?

       

      If you can't visit a school meet with representatives from colleges on your home turf. Admission counselors travel extensively and are usually quite willing to set up meetings with prospective students at school, local coffee shops, or at a regional college fair. Your guidance counselor (or a specific college) can help you connect with students currently enrolled (or alumni) at a particular college of interest. In the current economic climate, more and more students are waiting to make a campus visit until after they have an offer of admission in hand.

    • What kinds of students should consider hiring an independent college counselor?

       

      All students benefit from the opportunity to seek a well-matched college setting through one-on-one conversations with an experienced admissions professional. However, certain types of students are particularly well-suited for outside support.

      Here are some examples:

      1.Specialists: Students with specific skills and interests benefit from tailored advice. Students planning to pursue fine arts majors (such as dance, music, or art) will typically need to take additional steps to earn college admission. Likewise, future engineers or architects benefit from nuanced expertise. Any student with a firm career plan is a “specialist” that gain much from targeted guidance.

      2. Student athletes: The college application process for student-athletes is two-fold comprising both an academic and athletic evaluation. We have worked with students in each of the following sports: baseball, basketball, football, soccer, lacrosse, tennis, and track.

      3. Transfers: Students that transfer high schools are well-suited to outside support. From transcript evaluation to letter of recommendation selection, our counselors help colleges put your story together with ease.

      4. High-achievers: Students who seemingly “do everything well” should take the time to make a great choice for college. It’s important for high achieving students to evaluate their strengths and goals deliberately to find well-suited institutions. Students with stellar credentials need the most help preventing others from making up their minds for them.

      5. First generation college students: Most first generation college students we have worked with have exceptional parental support for achieving educational goals. However, they sought College Guidance Coach for expertise to navigate the college admission landscape. As one mom put it, “It’s like the decision to hire a tax guy or wrestle through the paperwork yourself.”

      6. Busy parents: In most families, both parents work full time. Finding time to manage the college process poses a challenge. See the “tax guy” comment above.

      7. Under-motivated students: Families that seek support early in high school (freshman or sophomore year), often are more concerned with sparking academic motivation rather than securing college admission. We meet with freshmen and sophomores once per quarter (when grades come out) to set goals and discuss strategies for success related to time management, minimizing stress, and managing competing priorities.

    • When should students start the college search?

       

      Maintaining focus on academic success is the most significant way students can prepare for the college search process early in their high school career. Searching for colleges prior to junior year can prove distracting. Junior year is the ideal time to start the college search process because elements of a student's academic profile (grades, classes, tests scores) are more fully formed.

    • Where should students begin with the college search?

       

      Typically, the college search and application process begins in earnest during a student’s junior year. To begin the college process, try a “template trip.” Template trips offer students the opportunity to try out different college sizes (large, small), types (research, liberal arts), and settings (suburban, urban) in one trip. Some families may create a template trip in their home state, city, or region to minimize travel expenses. While other families may allow the student to choose the destination for a long-weekend trip and explore a new city’s neighborhoods via college campuses. Broadening the search process to ‘template’ schools enables students to focus on appealing attributes of a college rather than on specific institutions.

      As you plan your trip, make sure to vary the selectivity of your template trip as much as possible. Exposing a student to MIT, Harvard, and Wellesley presents diversity in many respects, but in over-emphasizing the highly selective nature of college admission many high school students will be intimidated rather than inspired.

    • Who should come with you on college visits?

       

      Visiting colleges with friends, neighbors, or siblings can be a great way to start your college search. But, as you get closer to making decisions about application and enrollment, you will want to include a stakeholder on your visit. Stakeholders (aka parents) don't want to invest without first-hand information.

    • How important are college rankings when choosing a college?

       

      The other day I asked a student, "What is the best college in the country?" Predictably, she responded, "Harvard." We opened the Princeton Review's "The Best 376 Colleges," and learned that for the "Professors Interesting" rating, Harvard earned a lowly 71. The student and I both knew that "interesting, engaging professors" was high on her list of desired characteristics in a future academic home. For her, Harvard University is not the most highly ranked college, despite earning a top ranking from various publications. Identify your 5 most important characteristics and rank colleges for yourself. Don't rely on rankings that may not include factors of importance to you.

    • I want to make the most of campus visits. What should I do, look for, and ask while I’m there?

       

      1. Ask specific questions.

      Don’t throw your guide softballs like, “So, what are your most popular majors?” Instead, ask questions that will produce unique responses. Try asking, “What are some of your unique on campus traditions?” or “What’s your favorite thing to eat in the dining hall?” or “What type of student wouldn’t fit in here?”

      2. Visit a class.

      The percentage of tour time spent on academics is paltry. But, academics are the point. Just because the website doesn’t advertise it, you can sit in on a class at almost any college that you visit. Before you visit, read through course descriptions. If something sparks your interest, contact the professor yourself and set up a time to sit in on the class. Or, visit a “signature” required course like Reed College’s Humanities 110.

      3. Spend time on campus off the tour route.

      At most colleges, the tour showcases the best a school has to offer in under an hour. But, taking time to walk around areas off the route may help you to learn about the nuances of an institution. If you are able to see the entire campus on tour, go “off route” by people watching in the student center for 15 or 20 minutes. Overhearing student conversations, viewing the bulletin board announcements, and entrenching yourself in the culture of a school will help reveal distinguishing characteristics of any institution.

    • We don't have time or money to visit some schools I’m really interested in. What can I do?

       

      If resources for the college search are limited, try this approach:

      1. Find a Type, Locally

      In most parts of the country, students can visit a variety of institution "types" without driving more than 2 hours from home. I recommend that all students conduct a "template tour" to start the search. Visit www.collegeguidancecoach.com for a detailed explanation.

      2. Create an Initial List

      College Navigator and College Board offer comprehensive search tools to identify schools that match your ideal "type." Use these tools to create a list of about 30 schools to research. Try to make the list balanced based on likelihood of admission (don't include all "reach" schools). And, keep your "type" in focus, not name recognition.

      3. Use the Web to Narrow

      Research the schools on your initial list via the internet. For each school, read the mission statement and take a tour. Check out resources that are not developed by college marketers, like student reviews on Unigo. Spend time at Barnes and Noble perusing schools in the Fiske Guide or Princeton Review over a cup of coffee. Colleges are increasingly making use of social networking, so visit Facebook pages or follow colleges on twitter for a pulse on the latest on campus happenings. Your research will likely yield a narrowed list of schools.

      4. Let Them Come to You

      Take a trip to visit schools only after you know that you've earned admission, before that time meet with representatives from a college on your home turf. Admission counselors travel extensively and are usually quite willing to set up individual meetings with prospective students. Your guidance counselor or the college can also help you connect with students currently enrolled (or even alumni) at a particular college of interest.

      5. Only Make Decisions with Offers In Hand

      In a job search, everyone knows: without an offer, there’s nothing to decide. But, in the college search, many students lack the patience to hold off on commitment until April of senior year (which is when all aid offers are available). Waiting for the offers can turn a “first choice” at full price into the back-up when “second place” comes with a $20,000 scholarship.

    • What's the best time to visit a college campus?

       

      It's best to align your visit with the school's calendar, not your own. Ideally, you should visit a college while school is in session (some colleges release in early May) and plan to arrive mid-morning on a weekday when students are most often busying about campus (peak class time: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.). Early in your search, visiting multiple schools per day is fine, but as you are refining your list spend more time on each individual campus.

    • What process does an application go through? How many people see it?

       

      Processes vary significantly based on the size and type of institution. Most selective colleges use a holistic review process based on several academic and non-academic factors. In a holistic review process, one or more individuals will read a file and render an admission decision. Students without a clear decision after one or more reads are discussed in a committee format. Depending on the circumstances, a file may be read by 2-3 individuals or as many as 20 different people. After decisions are made, the class is evaluated as a whole and small tweaks may be made to outlying decisions. Jacques Steinberg's book "The Gatekeepers" offers a great inside view of the admissions process at a highly selective institution.

    • What does an ideal incoming class look like?

       

      Each individual institution has a different version of an ideal class. But, all admissions offices are charged with selecting a class specific to the individual needs of the university in an effort to create a positive learning environment. Colleges want to find students who will persist in achieving graduation at their institution. Selecting students that will find academic success and an niche for engagement outside of the classroom has positive affects on retention and graduation rates. Another dimension of creating a positive learning environment stems from the recognized and documented value of a diverse student body on learning outcomes. The way that a college strives for diversity will vary based on the present and historical representation on campus. Diversity goals may be related to major choice, socioeconomic status, geography, gender, race, or learning style.

    • Is there any benefit to checking "no race" on the application?

       

      The Supreme Court ruled that colleges and universities may use race as admission factor for the purpose of achieving diversity (an educationally beneficial and desirable quality). Race may be used as a "plus factor" when conducting a holistic review of candidates. Checking "no race" in effect precludes race from serving as a "plus factor" for admission consideration. Students from racial backgrounds that are traditionally under-represented on campus benefit in a holistic review by providing a specific response to optional race questions. Therefore, checking "no race" offers no distinct advantage or disadvantage in the admissions process.

    • What are some common myths about the admissions process?

       

      Students and parents over-emphasize the importance of getting into one particular school. The pursuit of a "hot ticket" in admissions leads students (and parents) to make poor decisions. A student's commitment to maximizing the opportunities available in college has a far greater impact on the post-graduate career landscape than alma mater name recognition.

    • Are admissions officers open to establishing relationships with college counselors?

       

      In most cases, admissions officers are eager to build relationships with counselors. Establishing a connection with a counselor lays the foundation for recruitment by empowering the counselor to convey messages for the college/university to a greater number of students and parents.

    • Has the economy affected college admissions offices?

       

      In recruitment, the economic downturn has forced colleges and universities to do more with less. Admissions offices, like all higher education departments, are expected to keep budgets as trim as possible. However, with development officers struggling to replace endowment losses, colleges rely more heavily on enrollment for annual operational budgets. Some strategies that colleges have employed: tuition increases, reduce tuition discount rate, shifting to a financial "need aware" admission process, adjusting in-state and out-of-state enrollment targets, and using scholarships to improve student enrollment.

    • Does gender bias exist in college admissions?

       

      The effort to achieve balanced male/female enrollment ratios has been viewed by some as gender bias. Presently, women far outpace men in college application and matriculation which makes achieving a gender balanced class a challenge for all colleges and universities. Most colleges and universities recognize the value of classroom diversity for improved learning outcomes. And, families seeking a collegiate environment actively seek gender balance.

    • How has technology changed the admissions process?

       

      Technology has enabled admissions offices to cast a wider recruitment net by developing web-based marketing materials that can reach students throughout the US and far beyond. Admissions offices have also made use of technology to improve application processing which enables them manage higher application volume and to render and release admission decisions more quickly.

    • How has the current economy impacted admissions offices?

       

      In recruitment, the economic downturn has forced colleges and universities to do more with less. Admissions offices, like all higher education departments, are expected to keep budgets as trim as possible. However, with development officers struggling to replace endowment losses, colleges rely more heavily on enrollment for annual operational budgets. Some strategies that colleges have employed: tuition increases, reduce tuition discount rate, shifting to a financial "need aware" admission process, adjusting in-state and out-of-state enrollment targets, and using scholarships to improve student enrollment.

    • How do admissions offices compare weighted GPAs to unweighted GPAs?

       

      Admission offices assess student achievement within the context of a student's school. Some schools recalculate averages to develop a consistent number for each applicant. Other schools achieve the same equity by a contextual and holistic application read. But, regardless of the specific process involved, admission readers assess course rigor and academic achievement based on the offerings and scales provided by the high school.

    • What trends have you noticed in admissions?

       

      The prevailing trends in higher education all relate to the economy. Individual students and families are applying to a greater number of schools, considering public universities more, and waiting for financial aid offers before making final decisions. In an economic downturn, enrollment is vital to the sustainability of institutions. Many institutions are shifting from a "need blind" admission process to a "need aware" process which factors a family's finances into the final outcome. And, though financial aid packages may be leaner merit aid may be used more widely and aggressively to attract high caliber students.

    • Why do some colleges have supplements to the common application?

       

      A well devised review process should reflect the college's mission and goals. Application requirements stem from creating a review process grounded in institutional identity. Supplemental essays enable very distinct institutions to tailor the Common App to their institution's specific goals and mission. While supplements can seem cumbersome, they may reveal something about the school to which you are applying. And, the supplemental responses should resonate a student's compatibility with the institution.

    • How tailored to each school should an application be?

       

      Trying to figure out 'what they want' is one of the most common mistakes that students make on the college essays and short answer responses. When you write, focus on your strengths (not the attributes of the institution) and tout your talents and accomplishments (not theirs). You should be able to use the same personal statement to fulfill each college's longer essay requirement. And, when you write about "Why Fill-in-the-Blank University?" your response should reflect the way your goals and talents align with the learning environment (do not list accolades of which the school is undoubtedly aware). In some cases, tailored responses occur because the college's application is devised to reflect the institution (ie Wake Forest University, College of William and Mary, University of Chicago).

    • Can students apply to college online?

       

      Nearly every college and university in the country accepts admission applications online. Submitting documents online improves the speed and accuracy of processing.

    • Do all the pieces of the application need to reference one another?

       

      When I worked at the University of Maryland, it took days just to open the mail from our priority deadline much less process and electronically file the information. Make it easy on admission offices by placing identification information (name and birth-date) clearly at the top of each document. Be sure you use your full legal name.

    • Do colleges view online applications the same as paper applications?

       

      Colleges and universities prefer to receive applications online. Speed and accuracy are improved with online processing. However, universities that still offer paper submission of applications do so to ensure accessibility. Some students may have limited access to high speed internet which is required for online application completion. Admission offices review paper and online applications with exactly the same process to ensure equal access.

    • Does submitting your application ahead of the deadline improve your chances?

       

      In admissions, deadlines are more than dates. Colleges publish both deadline date and type. For example, the College of Charleston offers and Early Action November 1 deadline. Students are reviewed equally within deadline groups, regardless of submission date. So, College of Charleston applicants who meet the Early Action deadline of November 1 (whether the application is complete on September 15 or 11:59 p.m. on November 1). Submitting an application early offers students the advantage of confirming that materials have been received by the deadline. Most deadlines are "received by" dates, not "post-marked" dates.

      One caveat: some schools offer a Rolling deadline type, meaning that applications are reviewed as they are completed. When the class is full, the college stops offering favorable admission outcomes. Students should try to apply to schools with a Rolling deadline program by November 1.

    • What are some common red flags that can hurt an application?

       

      Academically, students should offer an explanation for progressions that will raise concern in the admissions office. It's always better to fill in the blanks yourself than to leave it to the imagination of a reader/committee.Here are some common items that warrant explanation:

      1. Transferring high schools (particularly for junior or senior year)

      2. Outlier low grade

      3. Significantly changed performance from one year to another (or semester to semester)

      4. Altering the level of course (changing from Honors to non, or vice versa)

      5. Dropping a core academic course

    • Is a student-submitted resume suggested? How/when/where?

       

      All high school seniors should create a resume. Resumes are excellent tools for sharing information in a standard format. To create a resume, start with a template from Microsoft Word (your guidance office may also have samples). Before submitting your resume, have your guidance counselor, English teacher, or another trusted adult proofread it for clarity and accuracy.

      You should bring a resume with you to each college interview, supply each person writing a letter of recommendation with a copy, and send it along with your college application. You will need to update your resume annually as you apply for scholarships, seek internships, find part-time employment, and prepare for life beyond college.

    • What exactly is the common app?

       

      For students the "common app" is a streamlined method for submitting college applications to multiple institutions. The Common Application is a non-profit organization formed by admissions officers seeking a way to decrease the college application burden on students. The organization requires member institutions to comply with a set of guidelines regarding application design and review. In recent years, Common Application membership and usage has skyrocketed.

    • What is a college admissions hook?

       

      In college admissions, a "hook" is something that makes a candidate stand out in a competitive review process. Students who possess a characteristic, experience or quality that is desired by the institution are said to have a "hook." Perhaps you are a tuba player destined to dot a famous "i." Or, maybe you are interested in pursuing a major that is traditionally under-subscribed. The "hook" question is one that reminds students that admission offices ultimately make decisions that fulfill the needs and mission of their institution.

    • What are the best ways to stay organized during the application process?

       

      1. Narrow Your List

      In the fall of your senior year, you should create a narrowed list of schools to which you will apply. Keep the final list small (6-10) and balanced (equal number of likely, 50/50, and reach schools) for your sanity (and the sanity of those around you).

      2. Make a Chart

      When this list is finalized, make a chart to keep track of supplements, deadline type and date, sending standardized test scores, working with your school counselor to send letters of recommendation and transcript, scheduling and completing an interview, etc. No need to reinvent the wheel, check out this great sample from College Board: http://www.collegeboard.com/student/apply/the-application/8435.html

      3. Check it Twice

      Put the final chart on the fridge (or some other central, regularly viewed location). Check tasks off as you complete them. Create a once-per-day, very short "check in" routine (before bed, when you get breakfast, after dinner) to review your deadlines.

      4. Take Help Graciously

      With your chart prominently posted, others (parents) will likely create a routine of checking-in (probably more than once a day). Take the reminders graciously (yes, let them nag).

    • How can students get the best high school teacher recommendations?

       

      Select teachers who know you best

      You may have received an “A” in AP US History, but if you rarely interacted with the teacher, this may not be your best bet for a recommendation. Rather than focusing on the teacher who gave you your best grade, identify a teacher who took the time to know you personally.

      Ask for recommendations in person

      Don’t email or text your request. Visit the teacher or counselor during the school day and ask personally for a letter of recommendation. Be prepared to provide the recommender with important information about where to send the letter and the deadline.

      Plant the seed of your request early

      If you had a great year in AP US History, ask your teacher to write a letter of recommendation before you leave for summer vacation. You can solidify your request in the fall, but your teacher may use the summer break to work on these types of requests.

      Arm your recommender with information

      Let the teacher or counselor know everything you were involved in throughout your high school career. Make sure you include activities outside of school, including church activities, jobs, volunteer work – all of these help show who you are and help the recommender get a better sense of what to write. Also, tell your teacher and counselor about the colleges you are applying to. Share your reasons for selecting these schools, and let the recommender know your plans for college and the future.

      Say “Thank you!”

      Send a thank you note to each of your recommenders. A handwritten, personal note of thanks is courteous and demonstrates your good, professional manners.

    • How can planning increase a student's chance of getting great teacher recommendations?

       

      Select teachers who know you best

      You may have received an “A” in AP US History, but if you rarely interacted with the teacher, this may not be your best bet for a recommendation. Rather than focusing on the teacher who gave you your best grade, identify a teacher who took the time to know you personally.

      Ask for recommendations in person

      Don’t email or text your request. Visit the teacher or counselor during the school day and ask personally for a letter of recommendation. Be prepared to provide the recommender with important information about where to send the letter and the deadline.

      Plant the seed of your request early

      If you had a great year in AP US History, ask your teacher to write a letter of recommendation before you leave for summer vacation. You can solidify your request in the fall, but your teacher may use the summer break to work on these types of requests.

      Arm your recommender with information

      Let the teacher or counselor know everything you were involved in throughout your high school career. Make sure you include activities outside of school, including church activities, jobs, volunteer work – all of these help show who you are and help the recommender get a better sense of what to write. Also, tell your teacher and counselor about the colleges you are applying to. Share your reasons for selecting these schools, and let the recommender know your plans for college and the future.

      Say “Thank you!”

      Send a thank you note to each of your recommenders. A handwritten, personal note of thanks is courteous and demonstrates your good, professional manners.

    • How important can athletics be as a hook for college admissions?

       

      Keep in mind that the notion of "hook" is borrowed from journalism where writers strive to hook the reader in with an attention getter. In that sense, athletics is a great attention getter. However, the first step in any college admission process is to determine that a student is capable of success. Highly selective colleges deny many students that demonstrate the potential for success, athletes included.

    • What should prospective students know about intercollegiate sports?

       

      Start early

      Vince Lombardi said, “To be early is to be on time, to be on time is to be late, to be late is to be forgotten.” His words ring true for the college process, particularly for student athletes. College coaches are restricted from contacting players outside of NCAA regulated periods, however, students can put themselves on a coach’s radar in advance of the official recruitment period. Check college websites for “Prospective Student Athlete” forms to indicate your interest in pursuing an athletic career at a specific institution.

      Grades count, even freshman year grades

      Even the most esteemed college bound athlete needs to demonstrate solid academic performance. Grades from ninth grade to eleventh grade are used to compute a student’s NCAA core academic grade point average. Students broaden athletic opportunities by consistently working hard in classroom.

      Take the test, early

      Standardized tests (either SAT or ACT) are a chief component for attaining academic NCAA eligibility. High school juniors should plan to take the SAT and ACT for the first time in December or January of junior year. Academic eligibility can be achieved prior to the start of a student’s senior year. Early academic clearance enables college coaches to focus on your athletic performance. In addition, familiarity breeds success: taking standardized tests multiple times offers the best opportunity for a solid score.

      Consider all options

      Only 2% of high school students earn a college athletic scholarship, though far greater numbers play sports in college. Keep an open mind about pursuing athletics in college. Division III institutions don’t award athletic scholarships, but offer students competitive athletic opportunities balanced with strong academic programs.

      Select classes carefully

      All students who play sports and have even the slightest interest in college athletics should select courses carefully beginning freshman year. While your school may count “History of Jazz” for graduation, the credits may not count when the NCAA computes your core academic GPA. Visit egligibitycenter.org to determine if you are enrolled in NCAA approved classes.

      Register with the NCAA Clearinghouse

      At the conclusion of your junior year, register with the NCAA Clearinghouse at eligibilitycenter.org. There are four components to completing this registration: submit the online questionnaire, provide payment (fee waivers may be available), submit an official transcript through your high school, and submit official SAT or ACT scores. When all components are received, the NCAA will evaluate you for eligibility.

    • How do prospective students get recruited for their sport?

       

      Typically, student athletes get onto a college coach's radar through a high school coach. Because of strict communication regulations through the NCAA, coaches have limited ability to reach out to students themselves. If you are interested in a particular program, have your coach contact that college coach.

      Another option is to complete the college's Prospective Student Athlete form available online. This will ensure that the coach has all relevant information about your athletic achievements and goals.

      Finally, gaining eligibility early makes it easier on college coaches. Visit the NCAA Eligibility Center website to begin the process of demonstrating amateurism and academic eligibility.

    • Where should I start my college search if I want to major in the arts?

       

      If you are serious about pursuing the arts, I would recommend that you pick up Elaina Loveland's book: Creative Colleges: A Guide for Student Actors, Artists, Dancers, Musicians and Writers. While a bit older, it offers advice coupled with real examples to help students understand the admissions process for prospective artists.

    • What are the best ways to prepare for the SAT and which study methods are worth paying for?

       

      Self-disciplined students can manage test preparation without outside support from a tutor. Paying for assistance can be useful for students who need someone else to establish a plan, deadlines, and structure for preparation.

      The best way to ensure strong standardized test performance is to take a challenging high school curriculum. More so than achievement in individual classes, demanding schedules predict strong SAT performance. However, at the time that students begin to fret over standardized tests there isn't much room for adjustment in this area.

      Leading up to your first SAT or ACT, emphasize repetition in your preparation. Just like a crossword puzzle or the game show Jeopardy!, the style of inquiry is more challenging than the content. Increasing exposure to the style of a standardized test will improve the outcomes. Most test preparation companies and individual test tutors focus on simulating the test environment. But, students shouldn't feel compelled to take the SAT or ACT over and over again. Rather, repeat the style of questions in specific skill groups through at-home practice questions. One excellent College Board resource is to the Skills Insight tool which enables students to practice skills in a desired test-band range. Visit the site for more details:

      http://sat.collegeboard.org/practice/sat-skills-insight

    • What is the best way to handle getting waitlisted or deferred?

       

      When things don't go as planned, make a new plan. Use the set-back as a time to re-evaluate your goals and find alternate paths for achieving them. If you are prepared to attend the "bad news" school under any circumstances, take steps to express sincere interest in enrolling if space becomes available. Next, take action and apply to additional schools, revisit, or take whatever steps necessary to become comfortable with Plan B.

    • How can you get in off the wait list?

       

      Determinations about wait list activity are driven solely by the needs of an individual institution. Wait list activity varies wildly because both the timing and number of wait list admissions depends upon enrollment decisions made by admitted students. Wait lists enable enrollment managers to secure class sizes with pinpoint accuracy. From year to year, it is impossible to predict the likelihood of admission for students who have earned a position on the wait list. To put yourself in the best possible position, provide colleges with new academic information (updated grades) and a sincere expression of interest.

    • How can you get in off the waitlist?

       

      Determinations about wait list activity are driven solely by the needs of an individual institution. Wait list activity varies wildly because both the timing and number of wait list admissions depends upon enrollment decisions made by admitted students. Wait lists enable enrollment managers to secure class sizes with pinpoint accuracy. From year to year, it is impossible to predict the likelihood of admission for students who have earned a position on the wait list. To put yourself in the best possible position, provide colleges with new academic information (updated grades) and a sincere expression of interest.

    • What are the best ways to prepare for the SAT and ACT?

       

      There are two key predictors of success on college admission standardized tests. The first predictor of success on the SAT and ACT is taking a challenging high school course load. However, by the time that "test prep" comes to mind, course selection is long since set. The second predictor of success is repeated exposure to the test. Test prep tutors and companies focus on repetition to help students earn improved scores. Make sure that your test prep plan focuses on test experience not content.

    • How important are standardized test scores compared to other pieces of the application?

       

      The significance of standardized test scores varies from university to university. At the highest level, great standardized test scores may have less weight than you imagine (for example, students with perfect SAT scores are denied admission to Harvard). More broadly, most colleges and universities agree that academic performance in high school is a stronger prediction of academic success than standardized test scores. Standardized test scores enable colleges and universities to compare students from different high schools. This is particularly important given the high variability in course offerings and grading.

    • Standardized tests: Which ones? When? How many times?

       

      1. Test the waters, early

      All students should plan to take the PSAT (practice SAT exam) and PLAN (practice ACT exam) during both sophomore and junior years. Early exposure to the format of standardized tests will improve both confidence and performance for the official sitting. Students should plan to take their first SAT and ACT exams early in the spring semester of junior year. This timeline offers students ample opportunity for targeted preparation for a second sitting.

      2. Familiarity breeds success

      The more familiar students are with the format of an exam, the higher the likelihood of earning a score befitting ability. Both the SAT and ACT formats are similar to a crossword puzzle, or the popular television show, Jeopardy!, in that the questions are posed in an unusual format. Frequent puzzlers or quiz show loyalists have an advantage over novices because they get the quirks of how questions are posed. Prior to taking the SAT or ACT, students should understand the layout, question types, and directions that they will encounter. One of the most effective and proven forms of test preparation is taking full practice exams.

      3. Senior year sitting

      Unless you earned a perfect score on the SAT or ACT, always plan on taking a standardized test during senior year. Something happens in the summer between junior and senior year that more often than not improves performance on standardized tests. Whether it is maturity, information synthesis, or greater seriousness of purpose, senior year testing is often the time students earn their strongest score.

      4. Take both the ACT and SAT

      Nearly all colleges and universities accept either the ACT or SAT. It is to a student’s advantage to try both tests and determine a preference. It isn’t necessary to repeat both exams. Only repeat the stronger of the two tests. Keep in mind that colleges and universities want to report high scores, too. So, they will take your best score regardless of test administration.

    • How can a student figure out which standardized tests to take, when, and how many times?

       

      4 Basic Test Strategies for Students

      1. Test the waters, early

      All students should plan to take the PSAT (practice SAT exam) and PLAN (practice ACT exam) during both sophomore and junior years. Early exposure to the format of standardized tests will improve both confidence and performance for the official sitting. Students should plan to take their first SAT and ACT exams early in the spring semester of junior year. This timeline offers students ample opportunity for targeted preparation for a second sitting.

      2. Familiarity breeds success

      The more familiar students are with the format of an exam, the higher the likelihood of earning a score befitting ability. Both the SAT and ACT formats are similar to a crossword puzzle, or the popular television show, Jeopardy!, in that the questions are posed in an unusual format. Frequent puzzlers or quiz show loyalists have an advantage over novices because they get the quirks of how questions are posed. Prior to taking the SAT or ACT, students should understand the layout, question types, and directions that they will encounter. One of the most effective and proven forms of test preparation is taking full practice exams.

      3. Senior year sitting

      Unless you earned a perfect score on the SAT or ACT, always plan on taking a standardized test during senior year. Something happens in the summer between junior and senior year that more often than not improves performance on standardized tests. Whether it is maturity, information synthesis, or greater seriousness of purpose, senior year testing is often the time students earn their strongest score.

      4. Take both the ACT and SAT

      Nearly all colleges and universities accept either the ACT or SAT. It is to a student’s advantage to try both tests and determine a preference. It isn’t necessary to repeat both exams. Only repeat the stronger of the two tests. Keep in mind that colleges and universities want to report high scores, too. So, they will take your best score regardless of test administration.

    • Is the SAT still as important as it used to be? If so, how?

       

      In some ways, the SAT is as important as ever. It still represents just one of two tools (ACT being the other) college admission offices can use to academically compare students from different high schools. The void created by the absence of any universality with regards to course offerings, requirements, and grading in high schools is still filled reasonably well through standardized tests. However, most colleges and universities conduct full-file, holistic review processes in which the SAT (or ACT) is just one factor among many in determining admission offers. One sign that points to the SAT's diminished value in the admissions landscape: an increasing number of schools enable students to opt out of submitting standardized test scores. Fair Test (www.fairtest.org) maintains a complete list of schools that have optional test score policies.

    • Are there ways to waive college application fees?

       

      To ensure that your college application fees are waived by colleges, obtain a fee waiver for the SAT or ACT through your high school guidance office. Most colleges and universities will waive application fees for students possessing a test fee waiver. Beyond a test waiver, you can submit a written waiver request to colleges and universities. However, waivers are not likely to be granted without clear demonstration of financial hardship. To encourage applications online or from specific students (children of alumni, for example), colleges may have broader fee waiver policies.

    • Are retirement funds considered on financial aid forms?

       

      Retirement funds are not factored into the EFC (estimated family contribution) generated by the FAFSA. The EFC serves as the base for calculating financial need at most colleges and universities. However, retirement fund information is collected through the CSS/Profile form and will likely be incorporated into aid distribution decisions for colleges requiring this form.

    • Got any advice to help with the math section of the SAT?

       

      Check out the College Board's Skills Insight tool. You can examine the skill areas necessary to earn scores in your desired range. Once you assess your areas of improvement, spend time reviewing the concepts and attempting practice questions for that skill area. http://sat.collegeboard.org/practice/sat-skills-insight

    • Is there a difference in financial award for students who are accepted off the wait list?

       

      Admission to a university from the wait-list is rare, but receiving a financial award after earning admission off the wait list is even more rare. The wait list is all about space. If fewer students enroll than originally anticipated, space allows for more admission via the wait list. Because students who receive good financial awards typically take a school up on the offer of admission, money is rarely available during the late admission season.

    • What is work study?

       

      Work study is a federally funded campus employment program. Colleges determine recipients of work study and individual campus offices manage hiring student workers in a variety of settings. While the federal government provides funds to universities to pay student employees. Work study awards are often a part of financial aid packages, yet students rarely use the money earned toward tuition, room and board. Rather, the income is used on incidental expenses or books. Also, work study funds are only paid for work completed. So, students who don't find a position right away or who can't work many hours may lose out on the total award amount.

    • How can students save money during the college search?

       

      Inflated sticker prices and aid calculation variability make it difficult for families to know what numbers to plan on. To craft a college search aimed at minimizing student debt, focus on the following:

      1. Graduation in Four Years or Else

      Pay attention to a school’s published graduation rate when searching for a good college match. Most school’s publish a six-year graduation rate, but financially focused searchers will collect a four-year rate from colleges they visit. With costs over $50,000 at many private institutions, four year graduation must be the plan from the beginning.

      2. Consider Community College

      In the wake of rising costs, community colleges have positioned themselves to offer students a first-rate education at a reasonable cost. Some community colleges have honors programs for the particularly academically motivated student. And, graduation rates for students that transfer from community college honors programs are much better than for students that matriculate as freshman. Montgomery College (MD) and Miami Dade Community College (FL) are two examples of excellence in 2-year education.

      3. Find the Best Financial Fit

      Families often become consumed with “getting into the best school.” But, a less selective school may be more likely to provide merit aid for a highly qualified candidate. Don’t leave money out of conversations about finding the right fit. A financial fit is important, too.

    • Is it possible to negotiate the school’s offer?

       

      To remain competitive, colleges negotiate financial awards more and more. Consider these tips for successfully increasing an offer:

      1. Don’t Ask Often

      Negotiate an offer only for a first choice institution when money impacts the final decision. Maintain the mentality: it can’t hurt to ask, but the answer is probably “no.”

      2. Ask Early

      Evaluate offers right away so that you have time to negotiate. There is very little time between receipt of financial aid package and the national candidate reply deadline.

      3. Request a Specific Amount

      Be precise about the award increase that will be a “difference maker.”

    • Is there any benefit to checking “no race” on the application?

       

      The Supreme Court ruled that colleges and universities may use race as admission factor for the purpose of achieving diversity (an educationally beneficial and desirable quality). Race may be used as a "plus factor" when conducting a holistic review of candidates. Checking "no race" in effect precludes race from serving as a "plus factor" for admission consideration. Students from racial backgrounds that are traditionally under-represented on campus benefit in a holistic review by providing a specific response to optional race questions. Therefore, checking "no race" offers no distinct advantage or disadvantage in the admissions process.

    • What exactly is Affirmative Action and how does it affect minority students?

       

      Affirmative action is a blanket term that refers to any policy that aims to balance and improve racial inequities. The Supreme Court ruled that colleges and universities may use race as admission factor (thus use affirmative action) for the purpose of achieving diversity (an educationally beneficial and desirable quality). Race may be used as a "plus factor" when conducting a holistic review of candidates.

    • How many schools should I apply to?

       

      Students should apply to a balanced list of between 6-10 schools. Every student should apply to at least two foundation schools (strong likelihood of earning admission). Also, students should stretch themselves by applying to at least one realistic reach school (admission is possible, but not probable). Middle schools (chance of admission is about 50/50) help mitigate unexpected admission trends in either the reach or foundation categories. When a list is perfectly balanced, applying to just 3-4 schools is reasonable. Applying to more than 10-12 schools is a sign that the college search part of the admission process isn't over. Narrowing schools after receipt of admission offers is becoming more common as financial concerns influence final enrollment decisions.

    • Is early decision important for international students?

       

      Applying to a US institution as an international student requires a nuanced review of credentials. Because of unique admission considerations, deadlines for international students are often earlier than for domestic students. If a school does not have a separate deadline for international applicants, it behooves students in this situation to apply in advance of published deadlines. Visa eligibility, review of foreign credentials, and verification of finances will prolong the process for international students. The binding aspect of Early Decision programs should not impact international students differently than domestic students. At some institutions, early decision presents a slightly better likelihood of earning admission. However, students should carefully consider this contractually binding choice: it is only the right fit for some.

    • TOEFL or IELTS, which test is better for college admissions?

       

      Unfortunately, this question doesn't have a one-size-fits-all answer. Each college admissions office will provide a unique perspective. Many schools accept either test as a demonstration of English proficiency and therefore it is in a student's best interest to try both. However, English proficiency tests should not be used to project a student's likelihood of success at an individual institution. And, while a school may have identified a minimum score as demonstrative of English proficiency, colleges and universities will not supply a minimum score for admission, as these are not college entrance examinations.

    • How many TOEFL exams should I take before the application deadline and can I ask for a fee waiver?

       

      The TOEFL examination is used to determine a student's language proficiency. It should not be used to determine a candidate's potential for academic success at a given institution. Therefore, you should determine the minimum score needed to demonstrate proficiency and prepare and take the TOEFL until that level is satisfied. Unlike the SAT, an above average score won't be a plus factor for admission. If you do not meet the minimum score to satisfy proficiency requirements, don't be discouraged. Some schools (University of Maryland for one) offer semi-intensive English instruction alongside collegiate coursework for students still needing support for proficiency.

      As for a fee waiver, domestic students should seek one from their high school counselor. Students who will need an F1 visa for matriculation are unlikely to receive a fee waiver for the TOEFL.

    • I am an international student applicant, how do I write an effective college admissions essay?

       

      For US institutions, content is more important than grammar proficiency in a personal statement. College admission offices seek a unique, authentic perspective of a student. If you would like specific advice for writing your essay, I recommend that you visit the Purdue Online Writing Lab which has a host of resources for brainstorming, writing and revising a personal statement.

    • Is a college admissions interview necessary for an international student?

       

      First, check with individual colleges for requirements regarding interviews. If interviews are optional, it is a great idea for international students to connect directly and personally with a representative from the institution. Most colleges and universities will accommodate students for interviews through web-based video chat or through phone appointments. While, I highly recommend an interview, do not worry that you will negatively impact the likelihood of by passing on the option.

    • Should I apply for financial aid as an international student?

       

      International students who will be enrolling on an F1 or J1 visa will not be eligible for federal financial aid programs. Most private or institutional aid is also limited to US citizens and permanent residents. Students who live abroad but will not seek a visa for study will be eligible for aid and should apply.

    • Are there similarities between US college admissions and the Chinese domestic college entrance exam?

       

      No. Typically, US colleges use a holistic review process for admission. Admission offices use a variety of factors, such as high school achievement, standardized test results, personal essay, interview, and extracurricular involvement to render a final decision. The Chinese domestic college entrance exam is the single factor used for admission.

    • I am an international student, how do I select the correct major?

       

      Major selection is a challenging component of the process for international students because each college has a unique vernacular which can make identifying a desirable field of study nearly impossible. However, unlike many collegiate settings outside of the US, major choice is a much less significant component of the application process. If you are certain of your field of study and can't locate it on a list of majors provided by a college, connect with each individual college directly. If you are unsure of your major course of study, indicate "undecided" or "undeclared."

    • How do I select my first year curriculum during online registration, and how does an ESL program factor in?

       

      Typically, international students register for classes through an orientation session just before the start of classes in the fall. At that time, a student is assigned an academic adviser who assists with course selection based on general education and major requirements.

      If you are in a position to select your first year curriculum on your own through an online system, you should also inquire about available support.

      If you have been admitted to a university on the condition of participation in an ESL program, you will typically take general requirements alongside ESL courses for the first few semesters (for example, you might take 2 intensive ESL courses and then 9 credits of general coursework). Your academic adviser will help you navigate building a schedule with appropriate ESL coursework.

    • How are international students evaluated?

       

      While each individual college and university handles international evaluation slightly differently, the process will closely resemble the sample outlined below.

      Admission offices will begin by evaluating a student's academic credentials. Translated transcripts are evaluated within the context of the sending country by carefully trained experts in world-wide educational systems. That information is combined with standardized tests to determine a candidate's ability to successfully navigate the academic demands of the institution. Applicants who have the potential for academic success will be reviewed holistically through the general admission process. Academic eligibility does not mean that students will earn admission at competitive, highly selective institutions. A complete review of a candidate's personal statement, recommendations, and extracurricular involvement will determine the final offer of admission. After a candidate has been identified as an accepted student in the admission office, visa eligibility will be determined through a review of a candidate's certification of finances or I-94 form.

    • What financial aid is available for international students?

       

      International students who will be enrolling on an F1 or J1 visa will not be eligible for federal financial aid programs. Most private or institutional aid is also limited to US citizens and permanent residents. Students who live abroad but will not seek a visa for study will be eligible for aid and should apply.

    • What can international students do to enhance their chances of getting financial aid?

       

      International students who will be enrolling on an F1 or J1 visa will not be eligible for federal financial aid programs. Most private or institutional aid is also limited to US citizens and permanent residents. Students who live abroad but will not seek a visa for study will be eligible for aid and should apply. To offset costs, International students should seek institutions that use merit scholarships to actively recruit students from abroad.

    • Should students disclose a disability on the admission application?

       

      Disclose your learning difference if it helps tell your story. For example, a student that received a diagnosis mid-way through high school which impacted academic performance should share the information in their application. Filling in the dots of your progression helps admission officers distill the big picture of your application.

    • Is the disability support services provided in college the same as those in high school?

       

      In terms of learning differences, accommodations provided are largely the same. Students with documentation are able to gain needed accommodations for both classroom and test settings. But, the overall philosophy and emphasis is different. High schools support students by helping them to gain understanding about their learning style. Colleges presume that students know themselves and are prepared to self advocate.

    • What are the best ways for students with disabilities to find the right college?

       

      Finding the right college fit requires students to know themselves well and students who have been diagnosed with a learning difference are armed with specific insight into their their learning style as well as their academic strengths and weaknesses. Using this knowledge, families can find learning environments most suited to the individual student. For example, students who receive accommodations for distraction-free seating assignments in high school will be best served enrolling in colleges with small class sizes. View self-awareness about your learning style as a strength that will allow you to find an ideal college match.

    • How does a student establish college eligibility for disability support services?

       

      Each college will have specific expectations and requirements. Some colleges have specific programs for students with documented learning differences. Students take skill-building classes alongside academic courses. In this case, eligibility is established during the admissions process. Otherwise, identifying pertinent accommodations or resources at a specific college is a student's responsibility. Eligibility for services would take place after matriculation (though most student support centers welcome individual appointments with prospective families). At a minimum, colleges require an up-to-date neuro-psychological or educational evaluation complete with recently collected testing outcomes. Institutions may request information from the student's former school to understand the past context of accommodations.

    • When should a prospective student make contact with the disability support office?

       

      Meeting members of the disability support office prior to applying makes a lot of sense of some students. The philosophy, services, and approach can very wildly from one college to another. If your college experience depends on a specific approach or accommodation, call and speak with a member of the office before you step foot on campus. If you are more concerned with the overall atmosphere and are seeking the "safety net" of support for your learning difference, wait to visit until you visit campus.

    • Can I get extra time on the SAT if I have a learning disability?

       

      Disability Support Services through the College Board evaluates requests for extended time on the SAT. Your school counselor submits a request for extended time (or other testing modification) on your behalf. Typically, if you have a diagnosed learning difference and have been granted extended time (or other testing modification) by your school or district through an IEP (or equivalent), you will earn extended time (or other testing modification) for the SAT. The evaluation process can be lengthy. Apply plenty of time in advance of test administrations and make sure your evaluation is current (within 3 years).

    • How should I go about my initial search if I am disabled?

       

      Students who have undergone a neuro-psychological or educational evaluation have an enormous advantage in the college search and admission process. Finding the right college fit requires students to know themselves well and students who have been diagnosed with a learning difference are armed with specific insight into their their learning style as well as their academic strengths and weaknesses. Using this knowledge, families can find learning environments most suited to the individual student. For example, students who receive accommodations for distraction-free seating assignments in high school will be best served enrolling in colleges with small class sizes. View self-awareness about your learning style as a strength that will allow you to find an ideal college match.

    • How can parents help students with the college search and application process?

       

      Students should be the CEO of the process. Students manage the process and make decisions. Parents serve an important role as key investors, as such they should outline expectations and parameters at the beginning of the process and then turn the reigns over. Investors shouldn't be entangled in day to day operations.

      If you want to be more involved, think of yourself as a personal assistant to your student. Help make the boss look good. Take great notes that helps the boss prepare for upcoming meetings and appointments. Manage the boss’ calendar and schedule appointments. If you go shopping for the boss and you come back with a suit that he doesn’t like—take it back. Trying to talk the boss into the suit you chose might get you fired. The stakes are too high to lose the job. Don’t make up your child’s mind for him. Don’t make decisions.

    • If your parents are too involved, can they hurt your chances?

       

      Prospective college students are on the brink of legal adulthood and therefore most institutions expect students to be the primary point of contact from the admissions process onward. No one expects that parents will be completely hands off with the admissions process. In my years of working with highly involved parents, I can't recall any behavior egregious enough to negatively impact a student's admission.

    • How can parents help students with the application process?

       

      Students should be the CEO of the process. Students manage the process and make decisions. Parents serve an important role as key investors, as such they should outline expectations and parameters at the beginning of the process and then turn the reigns over. Investors shouldn't be entangled in day to day operations.

      If you want to be more involved, think of yourself as a personal assistant to your student. Help make the boss look good. Take great notes that helps the boss prepare for upcoming meetings and appointments. Manage the boss’ calendar and schedule appointments. If you go shopping for the boss and you come back with a suit that he doesn’t like—take it back. Trying to talk the boss into the suit you chose might get you fired. The stakes are too high to lose the job. Don’t make up your child’s mind for him. Don’t make decisions.

    • Any advice for parents on paying for college?

       

      Tips for Managing Ballooning College Costs:

      1. Graduation in Four Years or Else

      Pay attention to a school’s published graduation rate when searching for a good college match. With costs over $50,000 annually at many private institutions, four year graduation must be the plan from the beginning.

      2. Consider Community College

      In the wake of rising costs, community colleges have positioned themselves to offer students a first-rate education at a reasonable cost. If community college isn't a full-time fit, consider taking required courses at a local community college in the summer and transferring the credits back to the four year institution.

      3. Find the Best Financial Fit

      Families often become consumed with “getting into the best school.” But, a less selective school may be more likely to provide merit aid for a highly qualified candidate. Don’t leave money out of conversations about finding the right fit.

      4. Be Wary of Costly Extra Experiences

      Paying to work? That is what internships amounts to at many schools where credit is offered for hands-on experience. Study abroad, internships, and community service trips round out a college experience, but at what cost?

      5. Set Expectation for Student Contribution

      A too often untapped resource for funding a college education: the student. Many students in college work part-time, but the money is for “personal expenses.” Devise an income-based student contribution plan before your student chooses a school. Students should be financially invested in their education.

    • What role should parents play as their children are applying to college?

       

      Students should be the CEO of the process. Students manage the process and make decisions. Parents serve an important role as key investors, as such they should outline expectations and parameters at the beginning of the process and then turn the reigns over. Investors shouldn't be entangled in day to day operations.

      If you want to be more involved, think of yourself as a personal assistant to your student. Help make the boss look good. Take great notes that helps the boss prepare for upcoming meetings and appointments. Manage the boss’ calendar and schedule appointments. If you go shopping for the boss and you come back with a suit that he doesn’t like—take it back. Trying to talk the boss into the suit you chose might get you fired. The stakes are too high to lose the job. Don’t make up your child’s mind for him. Don’t make decisions.

    • How can I help my kid manage the stress of the application process?

       

      1. Listen

      Support your child’s burgeoning decision-making abilities by listening. The college applications process offers ample opportunities to foster discernment. For example, let your junior choose the destination of the family’s first college trip.

      2. Limit “cocktail conversation”

      Avoid talking about your child’s college process with family and friends. Your conversation will inevitably reach your son or daughter and break an important trust. Losing open communication will heighten everyone’s stress.

      3. It’s not personal; it’s just that it’s personal

      Don’t expect your child to share an essay or personal statement with you. Insuring his or her ownership of the process is paramount to limiting stress. If you can’t bear a typo, have your teen entrust another adult to proofread materials.

      4. Temper your enthusiasm for “super-reach” schools

      It’s easy to love Princeton, but with an admission rate consistently below 10 percent, no one is likely to earn admission to Princeton. A solid admission process is built with a balanced list of reach (possible, but not likely), middle (50/50) and foundation (quite likely) schools. Favor foundation, middle and reach schools equitably.

      5. Start early, but not too early

      Encourage your child’s academic motivation and extracurricular involvement beginning in ninth grade. Admission committees will review information from freshman year. However, hold off on specific college search and application conversations until junior year to avoid burnout.

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