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  • Suzan Reznick

    Title: Independent Educational Consultant

    Company: The College Connection

    • verified

    College Specializations
    Cornell University, Barnard College, Bates College, Columbia University in the City of New York, Connecticut College, Harvard University, Hamilton College, Wesleyan University, Colgate University, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Skidmore College, Muhlenberg College, New York University, George Washington University, Bucknell University, Dickinson College, Oberlin College, Kenyon College, University of Maryland-University College, Pennsylvania State University-Main Campus, University of Pennsylvania, University of Miami, Yale University, Dartmouth College, Trinity College (CT), Brown University
    Years of Experience
    12
    Languages Spoken
    English

    Colleges I Attended
    Columbia University New York University
    Degrees
    Bachelor's Degree, Master's Degree
    Certifications
    Certified Educational Planner (CEP)
    Professional Affiliations
    IECA, NACAC, HECA, NYSACAC
    Prior Job
    Westchester Community College
    Prior Title
    Adjunct Professor
    About Me
    I have worked successfully with hundreds of families through the college search/application process from academic "superstars" to those who might be "academically " challenged since 2000 .
    Member

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  • Intro Video

    Viewing this video in: English
  • Admissions Expertise

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

       

      Information (info) sessions begin to all sound alike. Each campus will tout its outstanding faculty, great facilities, and wonderful opportunities etc. How can you see past this “sameness”? First you need to understand that the purpose of the Info session is to sell as many students as possible on applying to that school. So, you need to be awake and aware of what makes each visit different. Try not to judge the school on its’ food court alone or its new gym. Can you “see” yourself as a student on that campus? Also and this is tough- do not judge the school based on the personality of the tour guides alone, because the odds are that if you attend that school you will NEVER see that annoying Jock/nerd/diva again.

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

       

      But they are NOT the best way to get started choosing colleges! They may be useful in confirming details about a school and I did say may!. Aunt Fannie's hairdresser's nephew would likely not have the same experience at college ABC as you would, so why would you care if they were happy? And guidebooks, not to mention relatives may just have the WRONG, outdated information. The basis that many rankings use are just very limited and never seem to focus on what really matters- which is how engaged in learning is the student body.

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

       

      Schools need to fill their sports teams, their theater, their orchestras, their newspapers etc etc. So, there is not one type of activity in particular that would especially impress them. What they are really looking for is not the student who has joined 20 clubs in High School, but perhaps the students who has founded and lead maybe just one club. They want students who have shown a deep commitment to maybe two different activities and have demonstrated talent and leadership. Schools are no longer looking for the "well-rounded" student but what they describe as the "pointed" student, so that they can put together a well-rounded freshman class.

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

       

      When a college offers you admission, it is based on your present academic performance. If your grades significantly take a nose-dive because of- so-called "seniortits" many colleges will ask you why. If you cannot offer them a real reason- i.e. health or family issues etc, they have the right to revoke your offer. So, it is not a good idea to feel that you no longer have to do the required work. One college has a policy, for those students with poor year-end grades, to offer required summer readings followed with a 20 page paper. This is the students' only option if they want the option to enroll in September . Additionally - getting into serious trouble- drugs/drinking/cheating can also cause a college to revoke admissions.

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

       

      But don't just contact them for the sake of contacting them. Don't become an annoyance. Yes- having contact now does impact acceptances because all colleges are focused on their yields. A yield is the number of students who will accept their offer of admissions and attend. One key factor in determining yield is the level of interaction that a student has had with a college including, tours, open houses, Information sessions and interviews. If you call or email a college- have a genuine reason for doing so. Do not contact them for information that would be easily available on their website. Do reach out to coaches, professors and admit staff when it does make sense for you and there is a real need on your part.

    • Do colleges look more favorably on applicants who can pay full tuition?

       

      If you might be on the "application bubble" your ability to pay full tuition, especially now, will make the difference! It will move you possibly off the top of the wait-list and into the accepted pile. Yet, no school wants to accept any student who might not be capable of succeeding at their institution, so poor grades will still restrict your options!

    • Do prep school students have an automatic advantage?

       

      College do not necessarily prefer prep school students. Most, if not all, colleges want to create a diverse freshman class. This diversity includes: geographic, racial, religious and socio-economic. Colleges often like having "first-generation" students too. That refers to students where neither parent has a college degree. Where a prep school student does have an advantage is that most prep schools have college counselors, whose main job is to assist those students with choosing and applying to college. Those counselors usually would have a relatively small case-load as compared to public schools and are given the time to attend college conferences and network with admission officers. A public school student can make up for this by working harder both in choosing and/or applying to colleges, or he might consider working with an Independent Educational Consultant. To find a qualified consultant in your area, please check out the website for IECA.

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

       

      It is not your job to reach out to alumni. Assuming that you might be interested in an alumni interview, you need to request them. Often an interview will only be offered after your applications has been submitted. Schools prefer to ensure that they would not be wasting their alum's time, unless you are serious about their school. But you cannot be sure of the schools' policy unless you reach out to admissions. Then you may be given the contact info or the alumni might be contacting you first. While alumni interviews do not "count" much in your admissions decision; it can give you some needed insight into a campus. And it would put you on the radar of a college, especially if you have not yet had the chance to visit.

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

       

      Having taught at a community college for over a decade, I do know what a wonderful opportunity it can be for many students. It is a great option if there are financial and/or personal issues that would not allow you to begin your college career away from home. For some students, it can offer them a chance to bring up their GPA so that they could then transfer to a "top" college. I had one client who after attending her local community college was successfully able to transfer to Cornell University! If you believe that for whatever reason you are not "ready" to go away, then I strongly suggest that you pay a visit to your local community college and see if it would be the "right" beginning for you.

    • How important is it to visit each college and network with the admissions reps?

       

      It has become increasingly important both to visit college campuses as well as set up meetings /interviews at the admissions office. To begin with, it can be very difficult to decide which of the 3,000 plus colleges would be a "best fit" for you. Visiting campuses , in part, to determine your comfort level can be key. In addition, because students are applying to so many more colleges then they did even 5 years ago, it has become increasingly difficult for colleges to determine a given student's "interest" in attending. The best way for schools to determine your level of interest is to literally count how much contact have you had with them. If they have no record of your attending information sessions, interviewing or coming to their Open Houses then they consider you a "stealth" applicant ( someone who has flown under their radar). This can seriously impact your chances of acceptance!

    • How many schools should students apply to?

       

      There is no magic or correct number of schools to apply to. Some high schools will even set their own limits. You should not be applying to any schools that you would really have no interest in attending. I usually suggest building a list from the bottom up. Choose two "safety schools that you can see yourself attending. These are the schools that would be the most likely to offer you merit money. Then add about 4- 6 "target" schools. That would be defined as those schools whose mid-range academic profile would be a match to your profile. That would include your GPA and test scores. Finally add as many "reach" schools as you are willing to spend the time and the effort completing those applications. So, a typical student might be applying to as few as 8 schools and as many as 12. Applying to lots of reach schools do not necessarily increase the odds that you would be accepted to one of them, especially if your list contained any of the "Ivy league" schools. One of the Ivies last year rejected over 800 valedictorians!

    • What if you can't visit a school?

       

      Visiting colleges will provide you with the best sense of how well they might "fit" you and your needs. If you cannot visit, whether due to scheduling conflicts and/or cost- there are other ways to show them "the love". Attend local college fairs, where you have the opportunity to chat with admissions officers. Often they will travel and offer mini Info sessions at your high school. It is also common for them to host Open Houses, perhaps at the home of an alum or at a local hotel. Do go on their website and email them with any real questions that you might have. Do request an alumni interview, if available in your area. Some schools even count contact as a sign of how interested you might be- so be sure to show them that you are seriously interested in attending that college.

    • What kind of student should be looking at a highly selective school?

       

      While colleges do consider many factors in making admit decisions: such as geographic, racial and religious diversity, ability to pay, talent( in sports/arts etc) demonstrated interest in a campus and legacy. The key factor for all schools would be your likelihood of being academically successful if you were to be accepted. In order to determine this- your HS transcripts is carefully evaluated, both as to your grades and the level of challenge ( i.e. AP/Honors/IB Classes). After the transcripts, your test scores are given the most attention. Colleges will list the average GPA and SAT scores for their most recent freshman class. Check and see if your academic profile comes close to who they accepted last year, to determine if you have a chance at admissions.

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

       

      A top college consultant will visit between 25- 30 campuses each year and attend yearly educational conferences. They are attuned to changes in the field and can provide a "reality" check when it comes to creating college lists. Their focus is not on your getting accepted to the most selective schools, but to the one that offers the "best fit" for you where you will be more likely to thrive and be successful. A consultant works both with "ivy-bound" students as well as those that be academically challenged. They can ensure that no deadlines would be missed and all testing would be completed in a timely fashion. They can offer you an objective read on your applications essays and can serve, when necessary, as a buffer between you and your parents. To ensure that you would be working with a competent and ethical college consultant- check if they are members of IECA, HECA or NACAC.

    • How important are college rankings when choosing a college?

       

      Colleges sadly are not ranked on how successful the education is at a school. They are often ranked on relatively unimportant factors such as: alumni giving, faculty salary, SAT scores of incoming freshman,and what presidents of competing schools think. None of these factors would in any way impact your college experience! The best comparison that I can offer is one that I read many years ago in a newspaper article. The author stated that using college rankings to judge schools is the same as a restaurant reviewer making his judgments based on the silverware on the tables!

    • Can what I post on Facebook affect my chances of getting accepted?

       

      Admissions folks neither have the time nor the desire to spend hours checking profiles, but it’s possible for a scorned girlfriend or an extremely competitive classmate to sabotage you. Pictures of your cherished beer can collection or unflattering party photos will do you a disservice. In the college admissions race, view your profile as your grandmother might, and clean up any language and photos she might find offensive. My grandmother used to say “Wear clean underwear in case you get into an accident and have to go to the hospital."  You don’t want to get caught wearing ripped boxer shorts!

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

       

      Imagine you are an anthropologist/detective who needs to observe inhabitants in their natural setting. Can you determine how they socialize, study and what’s important to them? Can you get a sense if these “natives” are the people that you would want to hang out with? Check them out carefully: do they dress like you or are they too “preppy”, too “funky”? Talk to them. Ask concrete questions: how do they spend their weekends? What was their best and worst classroom experience? And finally, be sure to eat some food in the cafeteria. Could you live on this for four years?

    • As a high school junior, what are the most important things for me to do before senior year?

       

      While continuing to achieve the best grades possible, prepping for standardized tests, and taking on leadership roles in your extra-curriculars, you need to give yourself time to figure out what type of environment would "fit" you best.

      During your junior year, you should be already visiting college campuses. And asking yourself key questions : Would this school make sense for me? Would I be happy here? Is it the 'right" distance from home ? Does it have the size I want? What about the academic strengths/programs? Understanding your own needs/desire can be key to making the best choices. Do you love to ski, so being in a rural location, near a mountain, might be crucial to your happiness or do you thrive more on the energy of an urban location.

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

       

      Visiting college campuses is important for two reasons: it allows you to evaluate how well that school “fits” you and it shows the colleges that you might say yes, if they accept you ! Signs of interest from applicants has become one of the determining factors when colleges make their admissions decisions now. Thus you need to find alternate ways of judging campuses, whether through reading their viewbooks, websites, and guidebooks as well as visiting websites such as Unigo. You also need to show your colleges that you are a serious applicant. Hence you need to reach out to them, whether thru emailing admissions with questions, having interviews locally (often with alumni) and attending open houses.

    • What makes a school large or small and what are some advantages and disadvantages of each?

       

      Colleges are totally focused on the undergraduate experience, while universities also have to serve the needs of their graduate students. At a major university, of perhaps 15,000 students or more, when a professor needs a research assistant he will invariably choose a more experienced graduate student. This is not so at a college. For students who require some nurturing and a supportive environment, choosing a college would make more sense.  In order to be successful at a university, you need to be very assertive to satisfy your academic and social needs.

    • If I haven’t found the right extracurriculars, can I still appear to be a dedicated student?

       

      Colleges today are looking for students who they deem "passionate", who are excited about intellectual ideas, who desire to learn for its own sake. They view extracurriculars the same way. They want to see that you feel strongly about your activities, whether it is sports, community service or in the arts. if your schools does offer options that excite you- look to your neighborhood. Volunteer, join a community theater or try an atypical sport likes fencing or martial arts. Don't allow yourself to feel limited. You can even take an online class or get a job! It is not about finding the "right" activity, but one that would offer you some personal satisfaction. Make it right!

    • What are the most accepted or exaggerated myths about the college admissions process?

       

      The longer the essay the better: I have seen students’ essays that run close to ten pages. Admissions offices do not have the time or inclination, even if the story is riveting to you, to spend that much time on one essay. The essay needs to impress the reader with all your many accomplishments: NO. Your essay should impress the reader with your personal qualities: compassion, responsibility, perseverance. Often the smaller “slice of life” stories work best. The bigger the words used the better: Again, filling your essay with “SAT” words can be a big mistake, especially if you use them incorrectly.

    • What should students consider when choosing between a small and large school?

       

      Are you comfortable sitting in large rooms (with over 500 hundred students) listening to lectures and taking note? Or do you prefer more discussion-based classes, where the professor knows your name? In general, smaller schools offer smaller classes with more accessible faculty where you feel part of a community rather quickly. While you can gain a wonderful education at a larger university, you may have to work harder to find your place there. At a big school, there will be more majors, more clubs and of course more students; so you need to be more aggressive in navigating the system in order to receive the type of educational opportunities that you desire. Whereas smaller schools may prove to be more supportive and nurturing.

    • What should you do if your high school doesn't offer advanced classes?

       

      With the transcripts, colleges receive a document known as the high school profile. This form will list the range of courses available at your high school, including the list of AP classes offered. This way you will not be adversely judged by not taking a particular AP class, if it was not even offered at your school. If you are still concerned about the lack of rigor on your transcripts, you always have the options of taking some classes at a local community college. If that would not be convenient, then you take college classes online.

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

       

      While summers are often the "best" time to visit because students are on vacation, so are the college students. If you visit over the summer, you will miss out on seeing what the students look like, and how comfortable you feel in that culture. Do the students seem artsy and quirky? Do they sport nose rings and green hair? Or do they seem more "preppy" to you? Often this sense of "fit" or comfort level is more of a gut feeling. Also being on campus, when the college is in session gives you the opportunity to meet and chat with professors, who can be quite gracious and generous with their time. My favorite time of year to visit is either the Spring or the Fall, when the weather is beautiful and the campuses are at their best. Don't forget though winter may be a "challenging" time on many campuses.

    • Where should students begin with the college search?

       

      Beginning a college search can appear to be overwhelming! There is just so much information out there. If you check on the PSAT/SAT “Yes” to I would like to receive information on colleges, then The College Board has your permission to sell your name and contact info to hundreds of schools. So, it should not be much of a surprise that your mailbox will soon not be big enough to contain all those very glossy brochures and viewbooks, all having incredibly attractive students on the cover and the sun is always shining!! Clearly what the schools will be sending you is beautifully written and photographed propaganda- a great sales pitch, but not the best place to begin your journey. Where you need to begin, and this is more difficult than skimming thru guidebooks or websites is to begin asking yourself the “tough” questions. This requires some deep reflection. “What would it take to make me happy”? ‘Would I prefer a large urban school with lots of energy and opportunities or a smaller private school, perhaps in rural location, which might have a stronger sense of campus community and where I could ski?” “Do I know what I want to study?” ‘How far from home would I feel comfortable going?” “Am I looking for schools with a strong sports culture and Greek life or do I prefer a campus whose culture is more focused on the Arts?” Is Religion a factor? Weather? Clearly you need to begin by coming up, at least initially, with a profile of the type of environment that would make you the happiest. Then as you continue your research you need to be honest with yourself as to where your academic profile (grades and test scores) fits with the schools that you would want to attend- that is where you then reach for the guidebooks and websites!

    • Tuition aside, what benefits and drawbacks exist by going to school in-state vs. out-of-state?

       

      Going farther from home, for college, will require you to become more independent and self-sufficient. It will not be so easy for your parents to resolve whatever issues or problems that will crop up during your college years. You will also more likely be exposed to students that may be very different from you either racially, religiously and/or in their political beliefs. Are you prepared to take on those types of challenges? Also, the farther away you attend school the less likely that you will be able to come home often for visits .In fact, if you require a plane to return home, you may only get to see your family a few times a year for the major holidays. For many students, and their parents, this might not be an acceptable option. Determining the “right” distance to go from home is just one of the many factors that need to be considered in judging where to apply.

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

       

      In some cases the supplement can ask you to write one or more additional essays. In other cases, the college might just request that you answer some questions. With a few notable exceptions, the more selective a college is- the more likely that the supplement will be challenging to complete. The most common extra essay asks the often key question of "Why do you want to attend our school"? I call that question the "Love Letter Essay". And if you cannot answer that question, perhaps then you need to ask yourself why you would want to go to that school! While it can be tough, try to avoid a generic one size fits all essay and ensure that you are answering with a genuine response.

    • How can students stand out on their application?

       

      Since the Common Application, as well as other online applications, do homogenize the output, you need to ensure that your applications do have the kind of impact that is needed for success. Don't assume that the colleges know what acronyms such as SADD. MADD etc would stand for. Spell it all out for them. And don't assume that they will know that you founded that club and ran a food-drive that raised money for starving orphans! Give them all the key details, that fit, on your applications. Your application is NOT the place to be humble- if you received an important award of honor- make sure that you list it ( with an explanation if necessary). Choose the topics carefully for your essays, because this a critical component of your application. The essay should not be a laundry list of accomplishments, but the chance for your personal qualities to shine through.

    • How tailored to each school should an application be?

       

      Given that The Common Application is used now by 456 schools, it has become progressively more difficult to “tailor” your college applications. While the Common AP is a great time-saver and many colleges use it as their only application; it definitely does homogenize the applications. So it becomes even more important for a student to try to stand-out in their essays. It is in the supplements however, where one is often asked “Why do you want to attend our college” (what I refer to as “The Love letter” essays) which offers the best chance to focus on the individual schools. You need to make those essays as specific as possible- try to focus primarily on why exactly each school matches you! And try to avoid crafting generic essays that might fit a hundred colleges.

    • Can students apply to college online?

       

      It saves them time and money when you apply online. While many schools still offer the option of a paper application, the majority of applications submitted now are completed online. Sometimes it can be more difficult to proofread your online application, so do check carefully that you have made any mistakes BEFORE hitting the submit button..

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

       

      Having students apply online saves admissions offices both time and money. A paper application needs to either be scanned into their system or have the data uploaded. If a student does not have access to a computer, they would not be faulted and online and paper application will be considered exactly the same way. In other words, it will not disadvantage a student to submit a paper application.

    • Does it help to include supplemental materials with your application?

       

      is an old expression that admissions officers use. Be careful and strategic as to what additional , unrequested, information that you might include. If the school allows you to send/upload forms/resumes that support a specific talent such as music, art, theater, sports, then it is indeed in your best interests to include such information. Even if you do not plan on majoring in music, dance or theater, all schools hope to have a diversity of talent on their campuses. As for sending in some additional recommendation/reference letters, consider asking individuals who can write from a new perspective that might enhance your overall application. Those letters need to be adding new information about either your character or talent to your folder, whether from an employer, someone who might have supervised your community service or an acting/dance/art teacher.

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

       

      A student, who has strong test scores but poor grades or vice versa, sends a very clear message to a college admissions office; he might be perceived as a “bright underachiever” or a “grade grind” without real intellectual abilities. Having a consistent profile can be key to having a successful outcome. For a student, with a high GPA to have any D’s or C’s on their transcript would indeed be a “red flag” and might require an explanation. Additionally, if a student’s English grades and Critical Writing SAT scores are not in line with the quality of his or her essays that will certainly set some alarms off. At selective colleges, there is the expectation that a student would challenge herself to the extent of her abilities. So, a student with a high GPA but no or limited AP level classes might be seen as inconsistent and lacking in genuine achievement.

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

       

      The Common Application now has 12 boxes, where a student can list: school activities, jobs, interests, hobbies etc. If you really have more activities/accomplishments then the space would provide then you do have the option of uploading a resume in the Additional Information section. What you have listed on your resume however should not be redundant to what you have already listed. And it should indeed add something to your overall profile. Having a resume can be helpful though, you might want to give it to your teachers, who will be submitting recommendations for you and your guidance counselor as well. Some students like to bring a resume to a college interview, which can facilitate conversation.

    • What exactly is the common app?

       

      The Common Application(CA) is a non-profit organization that offers students the opportunity to apply to more then 450 schools using just one application. Ten years ago, there were maybe one hundred colleges who accepted the CA and they were mostly small private schools. Today, many major universities , including large state schools like Michigan accept the CA. All of the Ivy league schools are now on the CA and many school no longer have their own application. The CA offers the student the opportunity to answer all the key information about: family, education, test scores, activities plus a personal statement that would then be sent to all of his schools.

    • What is a college admissions hook?

       

      All schools expect to put together a bright freshman class and to do that they review your grades, classes and test scores. But, because there are so many bright students applying each year, they do a finer review of each application looking for those with a "hook". A Hook could be defined as having a special talent. That talent could certainly be athletic- i.e. a state ranked athlete. Or your talent might be in the arts, where you have an extensive theater, music or dance resume. There are many different types of hooks and colleges need to fill their sports teams, their orchestras, debate teams, newspapers etc. with the most talented students possible. Having a hook will not take the place of a poor academic profile, but for those students "on the bubble" it might certainly make the different as to their admissions decision.

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

       

      Often students make the mistake of asking the teacher who gave them the highest grade for a recommendation letter. That teacher may not really know you very well, on a personal level, and be at a loss as to how to describe you and your best qualities. Sometimes, it is in the classes where you might have really struggled, but still achieved success that would make for a stronger recommendation letter. Especially if you have earned the teacher's respect for what you overcame. Also, if one of your teacher serves as an adviser to an extra-curricular activity that you have become seriously committed to- that teacher knows you now in a different light and could comment on additional skills and /or passions. Whomever you do decide to ask- please ensure that they actually do like you!

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

       

      Teachers are not required to write you letters of recommendation, so do understand that they would be doing you a favor. The most popular teachers can get overwhelmed with requests, and begin to say no. So, the best plan is to confirm with your teachers that they would be willing to write you a letter by the end of junior year. In general, English teachers and History teachers are often the best writers, You might want to hand them a copy of your resume, to help them have some context for their letter. And a short Thank-you note would be much appreciated by them.

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

       

      Smaller schools can afford to read applications holistically as they have the time and manpower. That is why it is predominately the small liberal arts colleges that are "test-optional". When you are applying to large universities, they will be less impressed by your essays and your achievements and more focused on the key question. If accepted can you be a successful student on their campus? Grades are always the most important part of your application. After your grades, your high school curriculum is what matters. They consider very seriously how willing you were to challenge yourself by taking the most advanced classes available at your school. Your test scores are then the most important factor.

    • How can you get in off the wait list?

       

      For all of my clients who have been deferred or wait-listed, I advise them to send a letter to the admissions office. This letter is a way or confirming their continued enthusiasm for the school as well as providing any new information that might impact their admissions decision. The letter could include any new clubs, leadership, awards and/or honors. It might not be a bad idea to send an additional recommendation letter and/or an additional essay or writing sample. You need to convey to the college that you are a strong applicant and would be likely to enroll if accepted.

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

       

      There are choices now as to which test you might prefer- the ACT or the SAT I. With my students, I would say that about one third score better on the SAT, one third score higher on the ACT and the final third score about the same. As a result, I suggest to my clients that they sit for both the SAT I and the ACT in the Spring- compare the results and if they are happy- then they do not need to retest. If they feel that they could do better- then choose either the ACT or SAT I to prep for over the summer and give it one more shot. I hate to see too much time and money spent on test preparation at the expense of student's schools work as that is much more important in gaining admissions! SAT II's are one hour achievement test which are only required by the more selective schools. I advise students to sit for two of them, if they are applying to those colleges, in the areas of their greatest strength i.e. Biology or History etc.

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

       

      For some students that might mean purchasing a books, such as The College Boards' Real SAT Exams Putting in the time, by themselves, studying on a regular basis might be sufficient. Other students might benefit from taking a SAT class, and there are so many options today( at various prices ) including online classes or even working with a tutor thru Skype. Other students might find that working with a private tutor to be more effective, whether it is because they have academic challenges or that they are very bright and a class might move too slow for them. A good private tutor can focus in on how you learn best and only spend time on those sections of the exam that you need help with.

    • What makes a great college essay?

       

      The ultimate point of a college essay is to engage and hopefully convince the reader that you would be an asset on that campus. You need the essay to wow them with your personal qualities while sharing an engaging story, perhaps- a snapshot of your life. The tone could be funny or sad, reflective or poignant, but you NEED that reader to like you, so that they would support your application in admissions. If your essay does not reveal some sense of your best personal qualities are i.e. maturity, leadership or compassion then it has failed.

    • Is it ok to have someone proofread your essay?

       

      There are so many errors that are just not picked up by spell-check or grammar-check. The mistake that I found particularly amusing is the student who accidentally wrote whales when she meant to say Wales. So having someone that you trust can be key. But be careful that in their desire to assist you, that your "voice" does not get lost. You essay should sound like it was written by you- a 17 or 18 year old and not by a 40-something. And while English teachers know all the grammar rules, college essays should not sound like a book report. Boring. Personal essays showcase a more casual and creative style of writing. Don't show your essay to more then one or two individuals because if you follow everyone's advise- it could end up being weaker.

    • Is it okay for parents to help edit their child's college essay?

       

      I have seen too many essays where parents "helped" and as result, the essay lost the student's voice. Too many words had been added that just did not reflect the student's vocabulary or mode of writing. College admissions readers are bright and intuitive and can tell when an essay has been "helped" too much. I see no problem with parents doing a grammar/spelling check as well as offering suggestions on how an essay could be improved. Just be sure that it still reads like it was written by a 17 year old and it shares the story that is important to them and not just an important sounding topic that a parent thinks would be more impressive .

    • What are some do's and don'ts for the admissions essay?

       

      Don’t bore the reader; that is key to your success. The topic of your essay does not really matter, as long as you avoid the over-used topics- i.e. scoring the winning goal, my summer of community service. Other topics that might be considered “inappropriate” touch on Sex, Religion and Politics. You do not want to inadvertently offend your reader, so you need to also curb your use of “taboo” language. Your essay should be one that only you could write- it needs to reflect who you are. Don’t try to use big SAT words just to impress. Better to impress admission with your personal qualities. Clarity of thought is always preferred.

    • How should the college essay tie into the rest of the application?

       

      Your entire application should present a cohesive sense of who you are. There is the activities chart- which needs to be carefully thought out and filled in. Then you have the two essays - the 150 word extra-curricular essay and the personal statement. The longer essay should NOT be laundry list of your accomplishments, but present new information, that is not already on your application. Your topic should support “who” you are- the accomplished actor/artist/ or pre-med hopeful. It is your chance to give your application that ‘third” dimension and allow your “voice” and personality to come through.

    • How important is the essay?

       

      An excellent written essay could be a “tipper” factor for a borderline admit student to get accepted. On the other hand, a poorly written essay, with a bad choice of topic, can tip a students’ application into the reject pile. Essays will be more important for smaller schools that are committed to reading holistically. These smaller colleges want to ensure that the students that they accept would contribute positively to campus life both with their talents, leadership abilities and personal qualities. This should all be apparent in a good college essay.

    • How does the interview work?

       

      No colleges require interviews and many large schools just do not have the man power to handle interviewing the thousands of students who might wish for one. Smaller colleges, who are more focused on holistically reviewing students and building a congenial freshman class want to interview potential students. It also offers admissions officers a chance to convince students to apply. When you call a college to ask for the times of the information sessions and tours, that is the best time to also inquire if the college offers interviews and if you could schedule one at that time. Many schools only offer alumni interviews with folks who live in your community. While they may not "count" as much as an on campus interview- it still shows colleges that you are serious about applying.

    • What are some tips for acing the college interview?

       

      Do your homework before the interview and be fully ready to answer that key question- WHY you want to attend College ABC. It might be a good idea to take a campus tour, before your interview, so that you can be very enthusiastic about their amazing new-library, science center, student center etc. Go on their website and be sure that they do indeed have the programs that you want. It might be embarrassing to tell an admissions officer that you want to attend their school because of their fine business program, when they do not offer Business! Dress as if you value the interview and your interviewer's time. No cell phones, baseball caps or gum-chewing. Do shake his/her hand, make eye contact and be sure to pick up their business card so that you can send them a thank-you note!

    • How many schools should I apply to?

       

      Most students apply to between 8 and 12 schools on average. I have seen students apply to as many as 20! Considering that you can only attend one school and having over a dozen offers can be anxiety producing in and of itself- there is no reason to go overboard. The majority of your time and effort should be focused on getting the best grades possible, not writing 20 essays! What is key is "spreading the risky" by applying to a range of selectivity in your schools. Having the attitude that - if I apply to every Ivy, one will accept me- may leave you without any options for college. Have at least two schools that would be considered a "safety" school and the majority in the "target" range should offer you many great options.

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

       

      Parents should play a key role in this very daunting process; but it can be challenging for them to define exactly what their role should be and what boundaries are necessary. Often parents, who can be more anxious then their children, become over-invested in the entire process. Their success as parents becomes connected to their child’s success in gaining acceptance to their top college choice. Also it can be very painful to see your child “rejected” from where they hoped to attend, even if their aspirations might not have been realistic. I have seen cases where parents drive the process by making all the phone calls, doing all the research, online and in guidebooks. In some cases, these parents have even filled out the applications to save their child “the time”. That would certainly constitute crossing the boundaries of what would be acceptable. In the best case, the parent’s role should be of support and guidance. They usually need to chauffeur their teens to visit campuses, but they should try and wait and listen to their child’s reactions to a campus BEFORE they share their opinions. They also need to be honest, at the beginning of the process, on what they can afford to spend. Proofreading applications and essays can also be of invaluable assistance, but when parents “help” write essays - it may become clear to an experienced applications reader!

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

       

      I have heard of actual cases where the parents were SO annoying: constantly calling the colleges, butting in on interviews etc that the admissions office decided that accepting that student would only mean future problems for the college! Also, if a parent does write a students admissions essay and it clearly does have the parent's "voice" and not that of a 17 year old ( especially if the essay is much stronger then the student's average grade in English) that could really backfire!

    • How can parents help students with the application process?

       

      Your child needs to be the one who actively drives the process. If they have trouble getting their applications and essays completed then how successful will they be at college on their own? Now is not the time to make excuses and "baby" them by filling out their applications and/or writing their essays. Your job is to chauffeur them to college visits and try to wait to hear their reactions before jumping in and telling them how much you loved/hated a particular college campus! You should encourage them to reflect deeply on what type of environment would suit them best. Be honest as to what you can really afford to spend and how far from home you might be comfortable with. But allow them this opportunity for some independence here. Show them that you trust them, within boundaries, to make good choices. Read and comment on their essays, but do NOT rewrite them for your kids, just because you think that you could do a better job! And most importantly, allow them to take on the risk of failure. That will make them so much more resilient for their future.

    • What should parents do during campus visits?

       

      This is the hardest role to take, to be passive rather then active in voicing your thoughts about a campus. That is not to say that you should not every share your reflections. Just that it would be more useful for your children, if you wait to hear their reactions BEFORE you share your observations.

      After the visit, be a sounding board, ask key questions while waiting to share what you thought. Ask them if "they could see themselves" at that school. Were they impressed or disenchanted by the info session and/or tour guide? Did they like the campus and find it attractive? I had one mother who actually counted cigarette butts on each campus and used that as some sort of screening process!

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

       

      You have always been a key player in your child's life; now you have to take on a different role. If you can allow them, within limits, some independence in choosing their colleges, it will better support their transitioning to become adults. Of course, you can define those limits based on price and distance from home. You should be now be their sounding board, their chauffeur, and the holder of the checkbook. Try to support and help them make good decisions instead of driving the process!

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

       

      The Common Application(CA) becomes available on August 1st. In addition, many of the large state applications come online over the summer as well. I urge my clients, even before their college lists are set, to complete their CA over the summer - before their senior year begins. That can be a huge accomplishment and a big stress reducer.

      Parents can help the process by creating lists and/or excel spreadsheets of whats needs to be done and the dates due. While ED dates are usually due on 11/01 or 11/15- Early Action (EA) due dates can vary. Forms need to be handed in to teachers and/or guidance. Test scores need to be sent and lots and lots of supplementary essays need to be written! It can be a very overwhelming process for anyone, let alone a 17 year old student! They do NEED your support and understanding at this critical moment in their lives.

    • How should I deal with my parents stressing me out?

       

      The college process may be the first time in their parenting where they are helpless as to the outcomes. All parents want one thing- that their children be happy! In the past, if you wanted a toy or had a problem at school- they could pretty easily deal with most situations - ensuring a good outcome for you. At this moment- they have very little control over the results , especially if you have set your heart on one particular college. Even gifting a school money cannot ensure an acceptance for you, so your parents may be feeling pretty anxious right now. I have had Type A moms who had to deal with sons, who had ADD- this was a "challenging " situation for both mothers and sons!

      Can you honestly communicate with your parents that they are increasing your stress? And can you reassure them that you are indeed on top of all your applications/essays and that there is no reason for them to feel so stressed themselves? If they get that message, that you are indeed capable and competent, then they may be better able to relax and allow you to deal with your applications on your own.

    • What do students need to know about transferring?

       

      The deadlines for transferring are different, then for freshman applications, and may vary from college to college. Be aware that not all of your credit will be accepted. No grades below a C- will transfer. And often the requirements of the new schools might be very different then your original schools, so do not be too disappointed if you lose some credit. No college will accept more then 60 credits- the typical equivalent of two years work, since if they will be granting you the diploma- they require that, at the very least, 50% of your class work was completed at their campus. Usually if you do apply after two years of college, they will be only considering your college transcripts and not your high school grades or your SAT scores for admissions. So, if you did not do well in HS, but was very successful at your first college, you would now be in a better position to apply to a more selective school.

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