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What’s Going on Now in the College Process?

A few weeks into a new year, college-related topics continue to make headlines. New Jersey’s own Scott White, a veteran school and independent counselor, wrote about the harm students cause themselves by taking too demanding a course load in high school. As recapped in Inside Higher Ed, White stated that the phrase “We expect applicants to take the most demanding schedule available to them” can actually “send students, so many students, into depression and despair and hopelessness.”

White cited 2013 research from UNC supporting a smaller load of APs: “The study found a strong [positive] correlation between students taking up to five college-level courses in high school and their first-year grade point average  . . . For students taking six or more college-level courses, gains in first-year GPA were marginal or even negative.”

When students come to me determined to go to an elite college, I tell them the expectation is that they show rigor in the transcript, taking advantage of what their high school offers. I also make it clear that the era of judging candidates strictly on their academics is over; what separates them from the pack is doing something they love. That’s why we embellish the app with great supplemental essays and use social media and ZeeMee for differentiation.

Hot Colleges

Is your student thinking about college outside of the United States? This week in the Huff Post, counselor Greg Kaplan addresses the benefits of college in the United Kingdom, stating, “For international students from the US, the tuition at St. Andrews — arguably one of the most famous and prestigious colleges in the UK — costs less than the in-state tuition for some flagship state schools.”

St. Andrews even takes the Common App!

“For some, attending college across the pond may provide a world-class education at a lower cost than available to them at home. As globalization continues to drive economic growth, many students will find an international college experience invaluable for their careers and personal growth, which is what college is truly about,” explains Kaplan.

In and Around Campus

What’s behind a good college? A good college town! SafeWise used FBI crime statistics and evaluated safety and outreach programs to come up with its list, The 30 Safest College Towns in America, released last month. Included are two NJ towns: Princeton and Montclair.

Other favorites include: Hanover, NH (Dartmouth); Williamsburg, VA (William & Mary); and Amherst, MA (Amherst, Mass Amherst and Hampshire).

Feeling safe in Princeton (and glad to get in)

This week, Education Dive shared statistics on affordability. Vermont, we learn, is one of the most expensive states for higher education across all metrics. Is it worth it? I asked Fumio Sugihara, Director of Admissions at Bennington College, who replied, “Vermont doesn’t have a lot of population, so even though we have a fairly high post-secondary graduation rate our colleges are more dependent on out of state students then other states. This might skew the the aggregate tuition assessments because out-of-state students pay more to attend our in-state institutions.”

Vermont, Sugihara believes, “provides one of the most unique backdrops for higher education. The scenic beauty and ability for students to be engaged directly with the natural resources of Vermont are hard to come by in other locations. Next, the diversity of higher education offered in Vermont is noteworthy from high recognized culinary programs to a well recognized (historically significant) military academy to highly selective private and public institutions to fine arts. I’m constantly amazed at the diversity of higher education offerings in Vermont, as compared to states that have more population and higher education.”

Sugihara characterizes Bennington as a “progressive college with a true focus on each individual student that emphasizes a liberal arts education unfettered by conventional approaches. Students are mentored and taught to be creative whether it’s developing their Plan, our course of study to a bachelors of arts, or in each class. We believe that creativity is required in any academic and life undertaking whether it be the science, the arts, the humanities, or a profession.”


According to Marks Education, which analyzed reports from the two testing giants, more students are taking the ACT versus the SAT, but the gap is shrinking. While the increase in the number of students receiving accommodations has definite advantages for those students with disabilities who manage to obtain them, there are clear inequities in the accommodations process.

How do you help your student plan for testing? What makes a good test-prep firm? If you’ll be near Hoboken next Tuesday, January 23, attend Testing Post-PSAT in a High-Stakes Environment, 7:00 pm at The Hudson School, where I counsel two days a week. Admission is free, but registration is required. To register, submit the form at

You can also get virtual tickets to:

  1. Tuesday, February 27: Mapping and Financing Your Student’s College Future

  2. Tuesday, April 17: Social Media and Your Student’s College Future

Financial Awards

I’m always thrilled when a senior tells me about getting a financial award from a favorite college, especially when it’s unexpected. But what happens when the best awards are not from a top choice? That’s when negotiations come in. This week, Yahoo Finance (who owns them, anyway?) interviewed Kelly Peeler, CEO of financial aid company NextGenVest. Peeler explains the best circumstances to appeal an offer of financial aid, which are a change in family circumstances or having a college that is really high on the student. She urges students to not commit to a college right away so as to maintain some leverage.

Summer Programs

Information on (expensive) summer programs continues to pour in. There’s so much . . .  for so much! Duke’s programs look particularly strong, including Duke Summer SessionSummer College OnlineSummer Academy and Intensive STEM Academy. About the online option, Duke says, “You can learn from a Duke professor without the cost and hassle of travel. By enrolling in our online Medical Neuroscience course, you will earn college credit and take a powerful step forward into a groundbreaking field.”

Duke: a beautiful place to spend the summer

I’ll continue to keep you informed about everything college. Be sure to email mewith questions and concerns.


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