unCommon Holidays for Early Decision Applicants

Late last week, Early Decision applicants starting hearing from colleges. Early Decision is not for every student, but it can be enormously beneficial when the student knows what he or she wants and does not need to compare offers of financial aid.

Parents of Early Decision applicants: If your student receives great news, celebrate! And if he or she is deferred or denied, help in whatever way to show your support. Rather than dwelling on “what went wrong,” which is likely nothing at all, focus instead on the next set of choices. (It may be beneficial when deferred to write to admissions and reassert interest, especially if your student can share developments since the application was submitted. But wait until January to do so.)

Parents of Regular Decision applicants: It is essential to make sure that student choices have been accurately communicated to counselors before going on winter break.

Parents of juniors: Instead of getting nervous when hearing seniors talk about “who’s heard” and “who got in where,” make sure your student has given serious though to likes, dislikes and objectives to start a viable a college list. If you would like to meet, please email me.

Snapchat: You’re In!

Notify applicants by text? That’s so last year! Snapchat is a new tool for admissions decisions, at least at the University of Wisconsin—Green Bay. Applicants will get an image and a letter.

It’s not a mascot; it’s Snapchat!

Standardized Testing News

Last week, College Board allowed school counselors to dip into its portal and see the summary scores for those who took the October PSAT. It is also possible that your student will receive an email enabling him or her to access results. Regardless, College Board will be sending reports to schools by early January. Just remember:

The PSAT is a very helpful benchmark. It pinpoints possible weak areas and allows us to give advice about taking the real SAT.

Unless your student is a candidate for a scholarship, the scores contain information that stays between us. No college ever sees a PSAT score.

Every year, a student’s skills get stronger, so you should expect to see an increase.

Test scores serve as a reminder that following directions, reading critically, and applying their knowledge are life skills.

My recommendation remains the same. All juniors should try both the SAT in March and the ACT in April and repeat whatever test is higher. The best source of prep is from the test maker, so your student should use the PSAT test booklet, the College Board blue book, and the ACT red book as a first resort. If you would like to work in depth on testing strategy, get in touch with me. I would be happy to work with your student or refer you to an expert at Noodle Pros.

How Colleges Look at GPAs

As I often say, colleges emphasize junior year transcript and rigor when they assess applicants. Things like test scores, extracurriculars, and recommendations are all considered in what most refer to as a “holistic review” of the candidate. But admissions officers have quite the challenge because they are evaluating thousands of applicants from thousands of high schools around the world.

Last week, an article by Cristina Quinn suggests that many colleges “isolate . . . core courses for each year of high school (English, Math, History, Science, and Language)” and recalculate a GPA that focuses primarily on these subjects: “A or A plus=4.0, A minus=3.67, B plus=3.33, B=3.0, B minus=2.67, C plus=2.33, C=2.0, C minus=1.67, D plus=1.33, D=1.0.” They also award points for rigor. (“If your schools offers 4 and you take 3, give yourself a 3. Work on a scale of 4. If your school only offers 2 honor or AP courses per year, and you took 1, then give yourself a 2. If more were offered some years than others, average your findings.”)

Regardless of how admissions officers look at transcripts, they will not hold students accountable if their high school does not offer particular AP or Honors courses. That’s why high schools make a school profile available to colleges.

Ivy League? It’s an Athletic Conference!

That description comes to us from Peter Johnson of Columbia Admissions. The purpose? He wants people to understand that there are wonderful choices out there and not to get hung up on a college for the wrong reasons. In this great YouTube video, Peter urges students to think about the educational approach taken by any college, including Columbia and the other colleges in “this athletic conference in which we’re a part . . . You have to took beyond that and look at the real reality of the educational and social experience that the student might have on a campus.”

In my research, I am always checking out new majors, innovative joint programs, and consortia and am wowed at the options available to your students. Often, students who believe that they need to be in “an Ivy” have not yet walked other campuses and experienced firsthand the wealth of opportunities if they keep up their end of the bargain. The bottom line: It always works out!

Columbia: Great university, but a 3-7 season.

Stay warm!

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