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For College Applicants, Will March Go Out Like a Lamb?

Sure enough, March is coming in like a lion. But for college applicants awaiting their decisions, will it go out like a lamb? Many colleges aren’t announcing admissions decisions until the very end of the month—some even later. So here are some things parents and students can do in March.

Learn How to Handle the Tough Questions

“So, where is Andrew going to college?” Andrew has no idea, and his parents are understandably in panic mode. Of course, Andrew’s friends are all set. So, what does he tell people when they ask the dreaded question? The Washington Post published a very timely article, “Tired of People Asking You Where You’re Going to College? Here’s What to Say.” The main idea: Acknowledging and responding to uncomfortable questions helps sharpen social skills. As for the dreaded question, the Post interviewed independent school counselors and consultants. Their advice to applicants:

  1. Emphasize that there is a range of schools on the target list rather than a first choice.

  2. Deflect the question by asking the adult about his or her college decision-making.

  3. Say that the information will remain private until a decision is made.

  4. Come up with a somewhat humorous response to use under the right circumstances.

Prepare to Wait (Even Longer)

Wait lists are not for the impatient. When it comes to college admissions, they rarely yield the desired outcome. In The College Solution, Lynn O’Shaunessy addresses the likelihood of getting of a wait list (i.e., not too likely), supporting it with statistics from colleges such as Harvard and Notre Dame. Importantly, she suggests reasons colleges place large numbers of students on waiting lists to begin with (i.e., keeping yield numbers high, showing selectivity, keeping alums happy).

I have counseled students who were waitlisted and eventually were offered a place in to top colleges (e.g., Harvey Mudd, University of Virginia). But having seen disappointments as well, I urge students to communicate with admissions and move on. If you have questions about how to handle a specific wait list, please email me.

Stanford wait-lists students, but rarely does it offer them spots.

Debate the Major

Nothing about merit-based scholarships is contentious. But college majors? Now, that’s the source of much discussion, especially relating to the liberal arts. A recent Inside Higher Ed article, “Liberal Arts Students Are Getting Less Artsy,” analyzes trends in majors at leading liberal arts colleges. It notes that the decline in liberal arts majors coincides with adoption of STEM majors and double majoring (e.g., economics and political science). At Williams, where the number of art and art history majors are down, new majors include Arabic, environmental studies and statistics. Davidson has added a digital studies program. Wellesley noted a 29 percent increase in math and science enrollments, particularly in computer science and neuroscience. Barnard launched a new curriculum this year based on six modes of thinking: technologically and digitally; quantitatively and empirically; social difference; global inquiry; locally (i.e., New York); and historical perspective.

Looking back, many Wellesley grads surveyed said they would’ve liked to have taken more courses in the arts, languages and non-Western cultures and fewer in STEM. The debate continues.

Students can enjoy the beauty of Williams while studying . . . statistics!

Ask a Shark

Why not ask Mark Cuban for his advice on the choice of major? According to the killer shark, liberal arts might be the way go. Speaking to Business Insider, Cuban states, “I personally think there’s going to be a greater demand in 10 years for liberal arts majors than there were for programming majors and maybe even engineering . . .  when the data is all being spit out for you, options are being spit out for you, you need a different perspective in order to have a different view of the data. And so having someone who is more of a freer thinker.” Cuban identifies English, philosophy, and foreign language as just some of the majors that will do well in the future job market.

Mark Cuban graduated from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, by the way, and it sure didn’t hurt him.

Here’s the missing piece: the liberal arts major is also going to have to love business or at least the application of the data! In a Business Insider article on workforce automation, an AI recruiter states, “The best thing a college student can do to ensure they will succeed in an automated workplace is to chose an industry they love, and ensure they focus on learning creativity and communication skills.”

IU’s Kelley School of Business

Think About Recommendations

Recently, Her Campus reported on the importance of the teacher recommendation. The author, an undergrad at Barnard, included some insightful comments from Barnard’s Associate Director of Admissions, Kelly Sutton-Skinner: “We’re not only learning about a student’s intellect and how they engage with academic content, but we’re also learning about their personalities and…what kind of presence they are in an academic environment.” The article explains that the teacher asked to write a recommendation may not necessarily be the easiest grader; in fact, it’s sometimes better to have a teacher who can address growth and improvement.

Barnard uses teacher recommendations to gain insight into student intellect and engagement.

It is never too early for students to think about the best teachers to write their recommendations. Certainly, juniors should have them locked up before they leave for the summer.

Work on Social Media Skills

Last week, I took part in a webinar sponsored by ZeeMee, a Silicon Valley company that enables students to embed a profile on certain college applications. (See my article on social media in the college process from late last year.) ZeeMee, which is free, is built on the premise that Gen Z students know digital media and will readily use it to communicate their story. Why not show those admissions officers that their performance in and out of the classroom makes them worthy of a spot on the team?

Look for Funding

At a recent meeting at the Lawrenceville School, I heard good things about Raise.Me, another growing platform. Raise.Me allows students to follow colleges and accumulate points known as micro-scholarships for everything from APs to extracurriculars. (Each of the partner colleges creates its own unique micro-scholarship program.) On a predetermined date during the senior year, Raise.Me submits student data to colleges, and they match or raise the value of the micro-scholarships for admitted students.

So far, 400,000 students have signed up. Partner colleges, including Carnegie Mellon, Oberlin, Tulane, Northeastern, and Penn State, are paying for site usage. I’ll continue to watch Raise.Me and will encourage your high school student (except seniors) to sign up and test it out.

Integrate SATs into Your Summer Plans

Just when your students think it will be safe to go back in the water, there’s danger lurking.  College Board is adding a summer sitting of the SAT, administering its tests on August 26, 2017. The advantage for the student, of course, is to take the test unburdened by schoolwork. Here’s a registration link and a useful list of Subject Tests.

Regarding SAT Subject Tests: It’s important for the student to take the tests when the material is fresh, which is usually June, not August. If a student is a prospective engineer or Georgetown applicant, the tests may be required. (Some colleges accept the ACT with Writing instead.) Of course, we don’t know which colleges will change their requirements for the next application cycle.

Coke or Pepsi? SAT or ACT? The ACT will add a July test beginning in 2018.

It’s March. Bring on the madness!


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