Other ways to show you don’t care: submitting right at the deadline (or even late), accidentally naming the wrong school in your essay (i.e. telling Lehigh you’ve always wanted to go to Penn). It used to be that not listing the school first on your FAFSA signaled lesser interest but the FAFSA reporting form was recently changed so it no longer sends your complete list of schools to each school. Thank goodness.
Whether you decide to stay on the waitlist is up to you. If Penn is your first choice, I wouldn’t bother with the others. Even for students who are waitlisted at their first choice, I counsel them to find the best fit college that accepted them and move on. Sitting on the waitlist just drags out the process even longer (often through the summer) and very few students get off the list anyway. Here are some ideas for what you can do if you decide to stay on the waitlist.
As a homeschool parent, you will be responsible for filling out the school's portion of the Common Application. Here's a great rundown of common answers to Common App questions from The Home Scholar.
There are five huge changes to college admissions for the Class of 2017.
1. Standardized testing--as you probably already know, the SAT has completely revised their test, not just the questions but the whole format. For example, students no longer lose 1/4 point for wrong answers (often call the guessing penalty). So guess away! The ACT has changed significantly in the last year as well, but they did it kind of undercover. You now will have a "paired passage" as one of the four reading passages, where you not only have to demonstrate comprehension, but also the ability to compare and contrast the passages and their perspectives. The ACT writing test has been completely revamped. Instead of a five-paragraph persuasive essay, students are now asked to evaluate three different perspectives on an issue, determine their own perspective on the issue and then write a persuasive essay comparing and contrasting all of them. It sounds more difficult, but actually the new essay is considerably more formulaic, so I think it's easier.
2. Test prep--Free or almost free test prep is now available for both the ACT (in partnership with Kaplan) and SAT (in partnership with Khan Academy) to anyone who is willing to put in the work. This is huge.
3. Applications--There's a new application on the scene: the Coalition App. This application complements the Common App and the Universal App. Most of the Coalition members will continue to accept the Common App and Universal App and, since this application is new, there are bound to be some bugs in it this year. Learn more about it at Coalition for Access & Affordability.
4. Common Application--The Common App has changed their policy to allow students not in their senior year of high school to begin working on their applications at any time. They used to purge all data on August 1. Now, if you've registered as something other than a graduating senior, your data will stay in your account. This is pretty great because it means that you can begin your applications before August 1, when you may have more time to work at it little-by-little.
5. Financial Aid--The federal government is changing their process for determining financial aid eligibility. For the Class of 2016, students had to apply to colleges in the fall, then wait until February or March for their parents to complete their prior year (2015) taxes before they could file the FAFSA (the Free Application for Federal Student Aid). Schools provide net price calculators to help applicants see how much they are likely to have to pay for each individual school, but filling them out is a tedious process. Now the government has moved to a prior-prior year standard. That means that the 2015 taxes can be used to determine federal student aid eligibility starting in October of 2016 for the 2017-2018 school year. This change effects all students who have to fill out the FAFSA, but benefits the Class of 2017 the most, because they will be the first class in history to know what their expected family contribution will be BEFORE they choose which schools to apply to. No more shooting for the moon and then finding out later that you can't afford it.
Keep your eyes and ears open as these changes are implemented over the summer. It's going to be a great application cycle!
This answer was originally published on Quora on May 7, 2016. Follow me on Quora for more great content!
I think you already know the answer. Desperation is never healthy for you and, as in most cases, can blind you to the bad fit between you and the object of your affection. The reality is that there are numerous best fit colleges out there for you. You can be amazing and have a wonderful experience at all of them. If you feel you have to change yourself to be accepted anywhere: at a particular college, in a group in high school, with “friends”, that’s a clue that being in that place, with those people, is not right for you. You know this deep down, otherwise you wouldn’t be asking this question.
Just like with friends, your best college is one that is excited about you as you are about them. You are an amazing human being. You’re smart and you’re motivated (otherwise you wouldn’t even be considering MIT). You have a lot to contribute to make the world a better place (otherwise you wouldn’t be participating in extracurriculars). You need to be you, and let the colleges come calling.
So to stop obsessing about MIT (you don’t have to forget about them completely but do stop obsessing), and start looking for other colleges that have what you want from MIT. Want to go to school in Boston? There are LOTS of colleges there. Want an engineering school? There are plenty of those across the country as well. Want a school with a famous name—well, that’s going to be harder, unless you already have a famous name, too. (Like Malia Obama or Emma Watson, who could literally apply to any college and be accepted.) The more colleges you learn about, the less you will obsess about a particular college or “League.”
Take a look at the Colleges That Change Lives (ctcl.org). This is a group of small liberal arts colleges that focus on undergraduate teaching. You will get a great student-focused education at any of those. Visit the College Board’s Big Future site and use their “college search” function to find colleges you’ve never heard of that fit your criteria. Create an account at Raise Me, and find out how much merit aid you have already earned at lots of different colleges, and then investigate them. Talk to your school counselor or independent counselor about creating a college list that fits you.
TL;dr Don’t change yourself for anyone. You are perfect the way you are, and there are a bunch of colleges out there that will think so, too!
This answer was first published on Quora on June 19, 2016. Follow me on Quora for more great content!
7/25/2016 0 Comments
But I digress. Whichever high-powered political science school you apply to, you will need:
The one thing you should not do is create an organization or program because you think you need one for college admissions. Just like joining all the clubs in school just to show you’re “involved,” admissions officers can see right through this. Showing true leadership—born of passion, not obligation—is what is going to make you a stand-out candidate.
In addition, you need to research all the schools you are going to apply to and make sure each one is a good fit for you. Applying to every school you think is an Ivy simply because they are an Ivy is a recipe for disaster. You will definitely be rejected by some, just because the straight-laced student who fits in at Harvard or Princeton will not fit in at Cornell (the Ivy League ag school) or Brown. Don’t waste your time applying to schools that don’t fit you!
 National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y)
 United States Senate Page
 The Congressional Award is the United States Congress’ award for young Americans.
This answer was first published on Quora on July 18, 2016. Follow me on Quora for more great content!
As The Grinder would say, “But what if you do?” Take Zack as an example. Zack took a trip to Colorado to visit colleges, primarily Colorado College in Colorado Springs. It was summer and he hadn’t really thought about where he wanted to apply, but CC sounded interesting (they have a block schedule, so you only take one class at a time), so he put it on his visit list. He chose not to request an interview because he didn’t know if he wanted to apply.
Early November rolled around and Zack decided, “Sure, I’d like to go to CC.” Because he knew that CC is highly selective and would require a full admissions campaign, he visited the school website to request an alumni interview.
But there were no slots left for interviews in his area! In early November!
The College Interview is an important tool in your admissions toolbox. Remember, the Admissions Committee is trying to get to know you better, to understand what kind of roommate you’ll be, what kind of student in the classroom, what kind of leader on campus. What better way than to sit down with you and have a friendly conversation?
Your interview is often the first time you have a real, adult conversation. I’m not talking about chatting with your boss or your friend’s parents. Talking to teachers doesn’t really cut it. This is like a business interview, one where you’ll want to prepare in advance with some good stories to share that make you look good.
Some common interview questions, and answers:
As you can see, many of these questions are best prepared for ahead of time. You can find other great practice interview questions and suggested answers at About.com. Practice a bit with a parent, teacher or counselor before you go on campus visits. This is actually the best reason to interview at a school you’re not sure you want to apply to. It’s perfect practice, so when you interview when it really counts, you’ll be polished and confident.
Not interviewing is not the end of the world—simply asking for an interview shows interest—but getting in there and making a good impression goes a long way toward getting you some positive buzz around the Admissions committee table. At highly-selective schools, a good interview can be the difference between an acceptance and a spot on the waitlist. Be prepared.
Now that the acceptance euphoria has died down, you still have a couple tasks to do:
Nearly every student who comes to me for test prep is battling one thing: text anxiety. Even if you have a weak grasp of pronoun rules or have forgotten most of your pre-algebra, even if you’ve never had test anxiety in any other testing situation, the anxiety is there.
It makes sense: No one likes to be judged. Some students struggle with perfectionism. Others believe that the ACT/SAT is crucial to getting into the right college and therefore having a happy life. (Nothing could be further from the truth.) So here are some ways you can manage test anxiety.
In terms of standardized tests, if your score isn’t what you want, then go back and practice some more. But I would also suggest that you think long and hard about why you want an astronomical score. Just to see if you can do it? Then there should be no stress; you’re only competing against yourself. To get into your dream school? If your score is in the ballpark and the rest of your application is strong, a point here or there won’t make or break you. Focus your energies on the other parts of your application. If you’re nowhere near, we need to talk about refocusing your application strategy. Everyone can get into their best fit school, one where they will thrive academically, socially and financially. Probably you haven’t even met your best fit yet.
1. Make sure the school is worth visiting for you
In the early stages, when you’re not sure whether you want a public or private, urban, suburban or rural school, this is less important. You really need understand your preferences about location and size before you start narrowing down your college list. So your first few tours, in junior year or even earlier, give you important information about the schools you will eventually choose. For example, I had a student who decided during the walk from the car to the Admissions Office that the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities was not for him because it was too big and there wasn’t a recognizable campus. So he knew to think more critically about large, urban schools.
However, once you’ve got a feel for these basic things, be more selective. Check out the campus website: do they have the major you want? Do they offer the sports or activities you want? Do they match you in terms of size, location, gpa/test scores, and financial aid? Ideally every college on your final list should be a match in all of these areas. That student who didn’t like Minnesota had the University of Nevada-Las Vegas on his final list: a large, urban public school, but with a well-defined campus and the specific program he really wanted.
2. Sign up for a tour
Always check the website to find out when the tours and info sessions are and whether they have space for you before you show up on campus. Schools can usually squeeze someone in, but its better and more professional to let them know ahead of time to expect you. One of the ways you demonstrate your interest is by visiting campus, thus it’s important to always let Admissions know when you are visiting. Many of the Raise.Me schools will even give you microscholarships for visiting! Some schools, like UC-Boulder, want you to create an account on their student portal before you can sign up for a tour, but most just want some basic information. They base the number of free lunch tickets, admissions info folders and swag on the number of people they’re expecting, and you wouldn’t want to miss out on swag, would you?
3. Be prepared
You will be walking the campus for at least an hour—wear comfortable shoes, dress in layers, bring a hat, a water bottle and an umbrella, if necessary. Colorado College, in Colorado Springs, has 300 days of sun a year, but I happened to tour on one of the few rainy days. I was not prepared, but they were, with both bottles of water for people who aren’t used to how quickly you dehydrate at altitude and with an umbrella stand full of golf umbrellas we could borrow for the tour. ;-)
Also have a way to take notes and pictures of the campus. This will help you remember the tour later, when you’re narrowing down your college list. If you take notes on your phone, like I do, it’s good policy to tell the guide or information session presenter that you are taking notes. If they see you appearing to mess with your phone instead of listen, that might give them a bad impression of you.
4. Ask the right questions
There’s always going to be some mom at the front chatting with the guide (it’s probably me!) but take this time to ask your tour guide those weird questions you’ve been wondering about. Here’s a list of questions that will help you learn about the school’s culture—what it’s really like to go there:
5. Assess the climate
I’m not talking about the weather but rather the social climate. Look at the students walking around campus: are they smiling? Do they make eye contact? Do they look relaxed or very focused? If you ask for directions, will they answer or ignore you? Does your guide have a sense of humor, if that's important to you? Some schools have a very intense campus climate. This isn’t necessarily bad, especially for a student who is looking for a lot of academic rigor, but make sure that climate matches you and your expectations.
6. Check out the bulletin boards
7. Go off the beaten path
The guided tour will take you to all the hotspots, but don’t leave campus as soon as the tour is over. Wander around the student center a little bit—what kinds of students are there? What are they doing? Eat lunch in the cafeteria, or at the campus hangout your guide mentioned. Is the food good? Read the campus newspaper—what is the campus focused on? How expensive are the books in the bookstore? Does the area around the campus look safe?
8. Make connections
Unless you are sure you won’t want to apply, or if the school is close enough that you can get there whenever you want, take advantage of your time on campus to make some connections. This means sitting in on a class, staying overnight with a student, interviewing with admissions, and/or visiting the department of your potential major to ask some questions about what it’s like to major in X at this school. If you can connect with a professor in the department and chat a bit about his or her work, so much the better. These opportunities will need to be set up in advance, so be sure to plan ahead.
Interviewing with Admissions is a good idea even if you’re not sure you want to apply; it’s excellent practice for interviewing at your top choice schools. And be sure to send a short thank you note to everyone who spends time with you one-on-one. It can only reflect well on you and your future application to show yourself to be polite and professional.
In conclusion, a half-day visit will not tell you everything you need to know about campus. Doing your research, connecting with current students online or making multiple visits (if possible) will help you prepare for your visit, and help you refine your experience as you narrow your college list. You’ll be spending the next 4-6 years on the campus you choose to attend—doing this legwork ahead of time means you are much less likely to have a bad campus match and need a transfer.
It’s time to start that college list! Especially if you are interested in the more highly selective schools, you need to use winter and spring of your junior year to get started, because your early action and early decision applications will be due in October or November.
Luckily, the Common Application has changed their policies so you can begin filling in your app now, and the data will carry over for the new school year. Visit Common App.com to get started. They even have an app!
Wondering how to find colleges? The first thing to do is to make some decisions about what you want: big or small, urban, suburban or rural, close to home or far away, liberal arts or something more research or pre-professional? Grabs some friends and take a weekend tour of a college near you just to get a feel for what to expect. What do they focus on? What kind of student do they want? All of this will give you some ways to narrow down your list.
Then go to a college search engine. My favorite is Big Future. Put out by the College Board, Big Future lists all the schools in the country and allows you to sort them all sorts of ways: size, location, major, ACT/SAT score, whether or not they have a marching band, etc. If you have a Raise.Me account, you can use that to search for some schools. Links to other great search engines can be found on the resources page of this website or in the “Launchpad” column of your Custom College Plan, under the Resources tab above, or by Googling "college search." Using these college search engines, you can build a preliminary list and start making some decisions about where you’d like to go. One good way to find colleges that fit you is to find strong programs in the majors you are interested in. Another is to check out the Colleges That Change Lives, the Peterson Guide or Cool Colleges… The one place you should not look is one of the rankings magazines.
But what if you’re undecided? Some scientifically developed assessments--personality type, multiple intelligences and learning style inventory--are available to you through Custom College Plan. These quick quizzes can give you some clues about what majors and careers might interest you and suite your personality. They will not tell you definitively who you should be when you grow up, but rather they’re meant to give you some ideas to learn more about. If you don’t already have a Custom College Plan account, you will receive a one-month free trial as part of the assessment package. Or you can Google "personality quiz", "multiple intelligences," or "learning style quiz" for additional information.
So how many schools should you have on your college list? Somewhere between 4 and 10. According to the College Board, applying to four schools gives you an 86% chance of being accepted to at least one (unless you’re only applying to hyper-competitive Ivies, in which case you have a less than 10% chance of being admitted no matter how many you apply to). Eight schools, in a mix of good fit and reach schools, is about average.
If you want personalized help building your college list, drop me an email through the Contact Me page. Building the college list is one of the most exciting parts of the admissions process and I’d love to help!
Lessa Scherrer is an college admissions consultant who has worked with college-bound students for many years. She is a member of NACAC and WACAC and also teaches ACT Prep, speed-reading, college study skills and college-level writing.
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