March Madness 2018 is heating up for college applicants!

This week, you may have felt the effects of a (hopefully final) winter storm, especially if you lost power. Some students feel powerless at this time of year as well. Seniors may have been deferred from their top-choice colleges or are simply waiting, not knowing their fate. For juniors, March is a rather intense month as well, with pressures to keep up grades, prep for SATs and ACTs, and maybe visit colleges. Here’s some information and insight to guide you through the next few weeks.

Testing Today many juniors will take their first SAT. For those who missed the deadline or weren’t ready, there will be another SAT on Saturday, May 5. The next ACT is April 14, or students can register now for the June 9 exam. A few notes on testing:

  1. Students should take both tests and repeat the better of the two.

  2. Expect that your student will probably have to take the exam a few times. That’s a function of gaining test-taking experience and having the right attitude on test day.

  3. Students with APs should probably forget about the May date. Your student will be overloaded and probably distracted.

  4. For students needing SAT Subject Tests, the best time is usually June since the coursework is fresh in their minds.

  5. Summer testing can be really helpful, so plan accordingly. The ACT will offer a July 14 test, and College Board will have an SAT on August 25.

This week, the Wall Street Journal published “The Truth About the SAT and ACT,” an excerpt from a book that’s been receiving some buzz in college-prep circles. I don’t necessarily agree with the their thesis: “Admitted, rejected, waitlisted? It often hinges, in now small measure, on those few hours spent taking the SAT or the ACT, the other widely used standardized test.” Neither do the many colleges that have gone “test-optional.”

Nevertheless, the article underscores the importance of identifying gaps that really can deeply affect a student’s college and post-college success. Here are some quotes I may be sharing for a while:

  1. “… fundamental skills in reading and math matter, and it has been demonstrated, across tens of thousands of studies, that they are related, ultimately, to job performance.”

  2. “They (the tests) evaluate a student’s capacity to read and interpret complex prose, think critically and reason mathematically.”

  3. “Gaining simple familiarity is one of the surest ways to achieve quick increases in scores.”

Do I ever agree with the last point! Your student needs a solid understanding of the structure of the test and question types.

Decisions (Finally?) Nearly all applicants should receive decisions by the end of the month, but not all colleges have posted actual dates. Students should watch their emails for notification date and time. I find that following colleges on social media is also quite helpful.

If your student is placed on a waitlist, there is a specific way of responding to that college. Get in touch with me if that’s your situation. But your student should always secure a spot. The common reply date for all colleges is May 1.

Demonstrated Interest In many previous blog posts, I’ve addressed the notion of demonstrated interest, especially the idea that showing a love of a particular college might benefit the admissions decision. Many elite colleges claim that they do not take demonstrated interest into account at all; however, showing knowledge of and love for a college is key when building supplemental materials (e.g,, essays, emails, even social media).

Could there be a relation between demonstrated interest and financial awards? This week, I reached out to financial planning expert Beau Kuhn, who responded, “We have not seen any direct correlation between demonstrated interest and merit aid. Merit aid tends to be awarded on the overall application and the strength of the applicant.”

Beau, who is based in Hoboken, is a stellar resource in New Jersey. Schedule a time to speak with her about financing college.

Curriculum So many articles about curriculum focus on STEM and business, but Wellesley, Bard, Amherst, Georgetown, Middlebury and Wesleyan are doing more; they’re teaching students about writing with a real-world emphasis. States a Wellesley news release, “The Calderwood Seminars teach students to translate complex arguments and professional jargon from their academic disciplines—such as economics, mathematics, and philosophy—into writing intended for broader audiences  . . .  The program was founded on the principle that public writing is different from academic writing—and is central to life beyond college.”

Recommendations When I hold meetings with junior families, the topic of teacher recommendations often comes up. That’s why this article in Her Campus was so relevant. In the article, Kelly Sutton-Skinner, Associate Director of Admissions at Barnard, clearly explains the purpose of the recommendations: “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.”


If you are the parent of a junior, make sure they ask teachers for recommendations by the end of the school year. Even if the teacher doesn’t write the recommendation until fall, he or she will remember that the student was kind enough to show interest early. Generally, a student should ask two current teachers who can speak to their attributes.

Sweet Travels in Austin In the last post, I mentioned Moira McCullough, whose business, Sweet Travels, includes hot spots for dining in college towns. Moira: I can’t wait to try Gloria’s Latin Cuisine and the Kerbey Lane Cafe.

Other than seeing the University of Texas, I’ll be hosting a workshop along with Will Powell of ZeeMee as part of the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA) Spring Conference. The topic: Mastering the Supplemental Sections: ZeeMee, Essays, and More! 


Related to my presentation topic, I read U.S. News‘ “A Complete Guide to the College Application Process” with interest. It omits exactly what I work on with so many wonderful students: stellar supplemental materials. I am sure Alan Katzman at Social Assurity would have something to say about that since he advises on social media strategies for college-bound students.)

College Visits Sometimes, being glued to a smartphone can have a positive outcome. That’s the case when prospective students use ZeeMee to discover authentic life on campus. No smartphones in class, of course! To quote ZeeMee: “If you want to see what #CampusLife is like at the school of your choice, what are you waiting for?! Download the ZeeMee app and start following real students . . .  on campus at your favorite #college/#university!”

What’s next? Some March Madness. Then spring will surely come.

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