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Have you seen the latest poll results?

These days, that’s quite the popular question. But I’m just not into polls. They fluctuate. They’re subject to sample size and geographic location. And they’re just not the real deal.

Maybe that’s why I’ve never cared for college ratings. After all, the college experience is about maximizing a particular student’s talents and passions through a college program. I’m also concerned when I ask a student why a particular college is on the list when that school just isn’t right for that student, and the response is how highly it’s ranked or how good it’s supposed to be.

Last weekend, the New York Times published “Why College Rankings are a Joke” by op-ed columnist Frank Bruni. In the piece, Bruni describes his visit to University of Maryland Baltimore County, a college that may not top the lists but nonetheless showcases wonderful teaching and a high-achieving, diverse student body. States Bruni, “The rankings place clout above learning, which isn’t easily measured.” Hopefully, Bruni’s audience will take note.

Good things are going on at UMBC.

Alternative Admissions (Summer, Winter, Global)

Every year, I hear more about colleges with nontraditional start dates, including the summer before the typical fall start or the winter after. There are also students who begin their studies abroad rather than at the flagship campus.

While indicating a willingness to start in a different season or on another campus could help your student’s chances, don’t assume that’s the case. Here are some examples related to admissions:

Penn State asks applicants whether they would enroll in the summer rather than fall. PSU explains, “Admission to this session is slightly less competitive than fall admission.” For more on how Penn State reviews applicants, click here.

In contrast, Middlebury, the liberal arts beauty in Vermont, allows students known as Febs to enter in February, but it asserts that there is no admissions advantage.

When is it Too Early to Talk About College?

I can tell you when it’s too late: when the student is a senior! At that point, it’s difficult to scout campuses, compare programs and make decisions about applying Early. Parents of juniors: Do not allow your student to “fall” through the cracks!

Financial Aid: Off to An Early Start

Financial aid is so important, and it raises so many questions. Can’t wait? Take a look at FAFSA Go on the HESAA website. It contains videos and information to help you create a Federal Student Aid ID and file the FAFSA. Also, this link from College Board is very straightforward.

Don’t Fall for Testing (Unless You Have to)

Should your senior take the SAT or ACT in the fall? That depends. Here are some thoughts:

If your student is a Regular Decision candidate who really needs to raise his or her score, there is an SAT on November 5 that has a registration deadline of October 7. You’re already in the late registration period for the October 22 ACT, and there is no ACT in November.

The November test date can also be used for taking SAT Subject Tests, which are usually for students interested in engineering, math and science.

If your student is a junior:

  1. The best SAT date is March 11, 2017.

  2. The best ACT date is April 8, 2017.

  3. The best SAT Subject Test date is June 3, 2017.

Do not rush these tests to “get them over with.”

You Just Never Know . . .

Every year, I counsel stellar candidates who seem like they could be scooped up by an elite college. Yet I caution parents and students about worst-case scenarios and prepare them just because . . . you never know. In “The College Application Advice I Wish Someone Had Given Me,” an article by the Huff Post’s Ann Brenoff, we learn of the “Tufts Syndrome,” presumably named for the intellectual institution near Boston that some say protects its yield (the statistic indicating what percentage of accepted students actually enroll) by waitlisting or just not accepting very qualified applicants. (Possible assumption: Tufts is a backup choice.) Brenoff insists that students be sure that target college knows that the student means business. That’s exactly the reason I spend so much time counseling students on the importance of their supplemental essays.

Tufts University is an intellectual powerhouse close to Boston.

Interview Prep

Last week, I mentioned that I was teaching “Mastering the Interview.” Today, the students learned about extending their responses by practicing their responses to classic interview questions (“What do you want to be doing in 10 years?” “Tell me about your strengths and weaknesses.” “If you could pick a day with no distractions, what would you do?”) Some realized that by sharing their responses, they are officially college applicants.


This year, I’m seeing a refreshing number of senior physics majors. If your student is into math and science, check out this link from Khan Academy inviting candidates to make a short film and possibly win scholarship money or even a science lab for school.

Seasons change, but admissions concerns remain. So please email me with questions.


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