Category Archives: College Advice

College Admissions Advice and Financial Aide Strategy from New York’s College Counselors

Landing The Helicopter: Parenting for College Success

By Kathy Laberge, College Admission Coach 

It’s late August, and we know what that means! Family cars sporting snappy new college decals are loaded with computers, books, school supplies, linens, clothing, and tons of other essentials. Childhood homes are in the rear-view mirror as first year students are transported to their new colleges.

The beginning of college is an exciting and intimidating time for both parents and students. It can be difficult to break certain parental habits, but the new living and learning experience is the perfect opportunity to make a transition. Several College Advisor of New York admissions coaches are proud parents of college and university alumni. We feel your pain and we appreciate your excitement. We’ve been there. And we want to share some hard-earned advice. 

Children in college do not become college students overnight. They need to learn how to take an important exam, write a lengthy and convincing paper, and deliver a presentation in class. While they are doing the work of education they must concurrently determine how they personally best learn, handle social tensions with friends, manage situations with others who may not be their friend, responsibly supervise their own finances, do laundry, feed themselves, and control their own schedule.

The true business of college, education, is critical. The evolution from high school senior to college graduate is a long transition. Faculty know freshmen are still essentially high school students at college, at least until those first semester, mid-term grades are posted. Those scores are important, but they are not the final course grade, so if they deliver a wake-up call be thankful, not critical. It can be an emotional blow learning you are no longer at the top of your class. Your child may need to wrestle with his own priorities and create study habits that work for him. In fact, succeeding academically in college typically requires much more work than most students expend in high school.  Very few students make it through a challenging and varied college curriculum with a perfect 4.0. There is no single correct way to master course materials and a bit of trial and error is to be expected.

An excited and expanded mind is the higher education reward. Let your children be the architect of their own success. Ownership breeds responsibility. Students should select their courses with the help of their academic advisor and faculty. In most cases core requirements and the required classes specified for a major and will be the primary focus and be spread across eight semesters. The few elective slots will still be challenging so allow your child to dabble in another interest.  

There are no parent-teacher conferences in college. Professors do not want to hear from parents. However, professors are eager to hear from students, so, remind your child the faculty is there to help them. Professors lament their empty office hours and are disappointed when students do not take advantage of their multiple and sincere offers of assistance. Multiple research studies have shown that students who build relationships with a faculty members who shares their interests are much more engaged in their studies and graduate at higher rates than those who don’t.

Please protect the last month of the semester. In many college courses, up to 70 percent of the course grade is awarded in the last month. Do not distract your child with vacation plans, worries about finances, family events, or other activities during the crucial November-December and April-May periods. These are “make or break” times for your child. Respect them. 

The first night, week, month, and semester may be choppy. Chances are you will hear about all the misery and tribulations. In fact, your child may actually begin to talk about transferring, but we strongly recommend letting them struggle through to the end of the academic year. The exciting and engrossing activities typically outweigh the bad stuff, and many kids end up finding their niche sooner rather than later. If you think your child is experiencing a dilemma, please resist the urge to solve the problem. Express your support and perhaps brainstorm options for assistance. If your son or daughter does not know how to find help on campus suggest they ask their Resident Advisor (RA). Every campus offers extensive student life resources. There are safety nets available for academic, physical, emotional, and any other problem you can conceive. Problem solving skills are one of the unsung achievements earned at college.

The two most important aspects of college for your student are:  1.  That he or she develop a true interest to enjoy throughout life, and 2. That he or she develop a strong sense of independence.  Let your child grow into his or her passion. Parents can now sit back and enjoy their rewards! 

Why College Admissions Essays Just Became More Important

By Dr. Dean Skarlis, Founder and President

In the college admissions world, there are many long-standing truths.  In terms of what counts most with respect to how admissions officers evaluate applicants, the three most important elements of an application are a student’s grade point average, their SAT or ACT score, and their essays and applications.  (In addition, the rigor of a student’s academic curriculum is critically important for those who seek entrance to highly selective colleges). 

But the current Covid-19 crisis has caused a dramatic change for current high school juniors.  What’s different now is that a growing number of colleges are waiving or de-emphasizing their SAT/ACT requirements for at least one year due to the lack of availability of the admissions exams this spring and early summer.  As you may know, the March, May and June SAT and the April ACT exams were cancelled.  As of this writing, it is unclear as to whether the June ACT will also be cancelled.  Moreover, the July ACT and the August SAT are still up in the air.  In addition, many high schools have moved to pass/fail grading systems for the final portion of the current school year.

As a result, college essays and corresponding applications will now be much more important.  This trend actually began about 15 years ago.  As the Common Application became more popular, and internet research began to avail students of more information about more colleges, students began to apply to more schools.  The resulting volume of applications was simply too much for admissions counselors to handle, so many schools dropped interview requirements.  College admissions counselors began to rely more heavily on a student’s essays to add a personal element to the otherwise highly objective decision-making process. 

The trend of more applications has continued.  According to the National Association of College Admission Counseling (NACAC), more than 36% of students applied to 7 or more colleges in 2019.  So a process that used to be highly personalized became much less so. 

But with the elimination of testing requirements, and the implementation of a pass/fail system of grading, college essays instantly became more critical.  Many officials now speculate that the student’s writing will be the second most important piece of his/her application, following their academic GPA.

For the past 16 years, we have spent considerable time each summer helping students conceive of and write strong, genuine admissions essays.  What will be different this year is that we have begun the process earlier – in May – primarily because students have more time, but also because we recognize the increased importance of helping students write more about who they are, so admissions officers understand them on a deeper, more personal level.  This requires our staff to get to know students on a one to one basis so we can help them illuminate what makes them unique, and why that’s important in their admissions applications.  This is our favorite part of the admissions process since it enables us to get to know students on such an intimate level.

This year, more than ever, students will need to craft pieces that stand out among the pile of applications sitting on the desks of their evaluators.  Not only will their writing need to be stronger, but their message will need to be crisper and clearer.  There is, however, one cautionary note:  Many parents believe their student’s essay needs to be exceptional, if not perfect.  This couldn’t be further from the truth.  In fact, the more honest and genuine a student’s writing is, the better their chances for admission.  We’ve seen far too many essays that seemed perfect, but were either not the student’s own work, or were so heavily edited that they caused an admission rejection.  This balance between strong writing and making certain that the student’s voice is clear is something we strike each year.  If you think your son or daughter needs help with this critical part of the process, please contact us here.

High school juniors should make the best of their time during the pandemic restrictions

By Kathy Laberge, College Admission Coach 

May of your junior year is traditionally a hectic and rewarding time. Student calendars revolve around exams and proms. This year, of course, is completely different; juniors are conducting their coursework virtually and doing their best to socialize that way as well. We have had our movements restricted for more than six weeks and it’s simply human nature to feel a decline in motivation. At The College Advisor of New York, we say fight that urge! There are a variety of ways to make the best of this situation. It’s easy to think we are in an indefinite holding pattern, but, someday the world will reopen and when it does we want you to be poised to hit the ground running.

You know high school isn’t cancelled. You know how closely the junior year is examined by college and university admission offices. Yes, there are still papers to write and exams to take. Yes, you may be worried about how cancelled standardized tests, reduced class requirements, or pass-fail grading will affect college admission assessments. Maybe your activities have been halted by social distancing requirements. Perhaps you are comforted by hearing “You are all in the same boat.”  But is that actually true? Can’t you pilot your personal boat to a well-prepared success instead of trusting the currents to keep you afloat?

We think the creative students who display their ingenuity will be rewarded when their college applications are reviewed next fall. And we believe you should make the best of your summer as well. Jobs and internships are uncertain so now is the time to plan how you will make the most of the summer.

Our advice on this topic mirrors the advice we give our students in all areas. Be yourself!  So, if you are a musician then you can spend your extra hours perfecting a challenging piece or picking up another instrument. Researchers can deep dive into the intricacies of their inquisitiveness. Artists now have the large blocks of time needed to create fully realized works. Writers can write and rewrite to their heart’s content. Programmers can develop an app from nothing, and inventors can produce the objects of their wildest dreams. Athletes can work hard on developing their strength, speed and skills…What do you do? What is your passion? This is your chance to indulge it!

This summer you can take a college level class online. Universities and colleges have made tremendous strides in their virtual presentation over the last eight weeks. You may already be aware of virtual tours and admission zoom chats geared toward potential students. But campuses need to accommodate their existing students as well. More courses than ever before are available online and more faculty are prepared to conduct them. This is your opportunity to explore an academic interest and experience how college instruction takes place. 

Last, but by no means least, time can be spent on your college search. Perhaps you cannot get on campus, but you are able to research college websites. Remember that we are offering a, “bring the college visits to you” series.  Check out our Facebook Page for details of upcoming events.  Many college websites are boundless. You can move beyond the admission overview and analyze the school’s approach to your anticipated major, Read course descriptions and faculty biographies. Read student blogs and take advantage of the offers to chat with someone who shares your interests. Remember that we have students at most if not all of the colleges on your list, so just ask, and we will connect you with current students or alumni at the schools you’re considering. Look at the career counseling department and see if it equipped to assist you in your next step. Ask questions. Although campuses are physically closed, a great deal of business is still taking place via email. And remember to take notes. You will need them to write your application essays.

We know colleges value students who challenge themselves, those who are creative, and who demonstrate determination to learn despite restrictions. Remember, not all learning is conducted in a classroom. You can be your own best teacher by asserting your curiosity.  

Keep up your momentum. Stay engaged. Be ready for a post pandemic world.  

Important News for Accepted Seniors

Deb Coco, College Admissions Coach

At The College Advisor of New York, March and April are normally months when we advise our students to attend their final school visits. Colleges and universities call these “Admitted Student Days” and they are one of the most valuable components of the entire college decision process.  These events offer students and families one last chance to step onto campus and ask themselves, “Do I see myself here?”

However, there is nothing normal about this spring and we are in the midst of coast to coast campus closures; all the normal procedures are being amended on a day to day basis.  Here are our suggestions in light of the Coronavirus crisis. 

At this point you should have heard from all the schools to which you applied and be thinking about your top 3 choices.  Normally, May 1 is decision day and you are required to send your deposit and paperwork to become a fall 2020 freshman.  But we are seeing schools change this date to June 1, even later in some instances.  This is a fluid, school by school situation, but is likely to become the norm as the situation warrants.  Please click here for a list of schools who have shifted their decision deadline. 

More importantly, we recommend that you contact your top choice schools (you may have to do so via email) and inquire what their process is for accepted freshman. If they plan to hold their Accepted Student Days in late May, we advise you attend.  Although one more school visit is probably not your idea of fun, it’s important.  From personal experience, Admitted Student Days played a crucial role in 2 of my 3 daughters’ school choices; they had great options and were just “betwixt and between.”  Some colleges just knock these days out of the park.  They roll out the red carpet, open the athletic buildings, dining halls, auditoriums, residence halls AND let you attend lectures.  They host student and faculty panels which enable you to gain a deeper and more personal understanding of the college. 

Most schools are now doing this virtually via webinars and online meetings.  Please do attend.  While it won’t be the same as an actual campus visit, you can learn more about each school from your living room.  These programs were what ultimately swayed my children: hearing from some top faculty in their fields of study.  They left knowing they’d found the right school. What a WONDERFUL feeling.  And, on the flip side, you might learn that a school you thought looked incredible in November has lost its bloom – this happens too, so it is never time wasted!

Other ideas for helping you make your final choice include talking with one of our former clients who now attend your schools of interest.  Because we’ve been at this for 16 years, we are very likely to have a current student or alumnus at just about every school on your list. They can provide unbiased , invaluable insights.  Finally, you should try to join unofficial campus groups on social media platforms.  If you’re into robotics, follow the Robotics Club on Twitter.  If you play baseball, join the Facebook group for baseball players.  This will help you get past the official word of the college.

So yes, doing more college visits sounds time consuming, but we certainly have a little more time these days.  And we don’t know what the next few months will look like.  But if these “visits” are an option, please make use of them.  You are looking at 4 very expensive years and you’ve worked hard to get this far; it is worth taking the time to truly seal the deal with confidence.  In the meantime, we advise that you do more research about your top choices online and reach out to us with any concern.  And of course, stay safe!

Trends in College Admissions

By Deb Coco, College Admissions Coach

It’s the time of year when many of us have made and are trying to keep New Year’s resolutions.  At The College Advisor of New York, rather than looking forward, we are looking back over the last admission season for the trends that affect the families working with us.  The following three trends have emerged, and we believe parents and students who understand them will be more successful in navigating the college admissions process.

Like any other business, college admissions is affected by the economy.  We might not want to believe that profit is part of the formula when it comes to higher education, but a school’s bottom line is a huge factor in the admission process.  What does this mean for the applicant?  For starters, it means that more than a student’s academic prowess and abilities are being scrutinized, despite college admissions officers professing to be “need blind” in the process.  The truth is that there are very few need blind colleges in the U.S.  Schools work to “shape” their admitted pool, in part, based on finances.  They seek to ascertain how many – and which – families will pay in full, and how many will receive assistance by either scholarship or aid.  The total cost of college tuition, room and board continues its ascent; at the end of this decade we now have a handful of schools that have reached the $80,000 a year mark – yes, you read that right. If your child selects one of these schools, four years would exceed $325,000, once you’ve added in expenses, travel, books etc. 

For this reason, one of the most valuable components to our process is our financial aid guidance.  Our families are evaluated as soon as they begin working with us.  We then create a customized plan based on your unique financial situation and ability to pay.  It’s crucial to know how colleges will assess your ability to pay, and there is more to it than your child’s grades and test scores.

In that respect, if you have worked with one of our admissions coaches you understand the term “Demonstrated Interest” all too well.  This is because over the past five years we’ve seen a huge rise in the importance of students proving their commitment to the schools to which they plan to apply.  Demonstrated Interest is tracked by most colleges and they take it very seriously.  What does that mean?  When a student visits a school, they need to begin the process of expressing interest.  Register for a tour on the website so admissions officials know you took the time to visit.  Should your child want to apply, they need to follow that school on Instagram, Twitter, or the social media platform of their choice.  These are just a couple of examples of how students need to prove their interest. We teach our clients the other aspects of Demonstrated Interest.  It goes back to the business model mentioned above.  Because yields have decreased markedly, schools are more likely to accept a student who has demonstrated an interest in attending; they want to offer an admission slot to a “sure bet.”  It is one of the simplest things a student can do, but one that has proven results.

Finally, there are college essays.  Like Demonstrated Interest, we’ve watched this soft factor go from standing on the sidelines of the admissions process, to being one of the most important components.  If you work with us, your student won’t be left wondering what to write about, and they’ll have it completed before the beginning of their senior year — we take it very seriously.  Do colleges read essays?  Most definitely.  And they look for very specific elements, which are different than many families expect. But our students also write some of the best essays out there, because we know what schools want, and more importantly, what they do not want.

The process of applying to college is overwhelming.  It can be emotional and exhausting (not to mention expensive).  We are here to navigate it with you, and each year we tweak our approach based on industry trends, so as to put our families in the best possible position.  We are now in a new decade that will bring with it even greater challenges and complexities as colleges compete for applicants, and the process becomes even more competitive.  Let us help you.  Please contact us to schedule a consultation by clicking Here!

Hurry Up And Wait

By Deb Coco

So, you’ve hit the submit button . . .what happens next?  First, I tell all my students that it’s prudent to follow up with college admission offices and verify that they’ve received ALL the components of your application.  You should do so about a week after you’ve applied.  Believe me, we’ve seen the fall-out of panic when students realize they forgot to send their test scores or their supplemental essay…it happens.  And, because there are so many moving parts to this process, (transcripts and recommendations from your high school, test scores from The College Board and ACT, in addition to the applications themselves) it just makes sense to “trust but verify.”

The most important quality during this phase of the college admissions journey is patience.  The majority of our students begin working with us at some point in their sophomore or junior year, so once the application deadlines have come and gone, they are more than one-year in.  It is at this point that the real waiting begins.  Acceptances for Early Action and Early Decision normally begin to roll in around the holidays, but Regular Decision notifications won’t be available until February or early spring.  That can feel like a lifetime of running to the mailbox.

Just hold tight because many students will receive at least one “deferral” letter.  Deferrals place students who applied under the Early Action plan on a “wait list” until the entire application pool is reviewed – usually in the spring.  Most schools will offer the option of remaining on the deferral list or not.  This can cause some last minute anxiety, but unfortunately is quite common.

It is also very common for students (and parents) to JUMP at the first acceptance letter that rolls in.  At this point, worry sets in and there is sometimes fear the first could be the last.  We cannot stress this enough – HOLD TIGHT!  Even if that were the case, (which it never is) with the exception of Early Decision, you have until May 1 to make your final choice and send in your deposit.  We highly recommend you wait until you’ve heard from all of your schools.  Why?  Well, you took the time to write the essays and complete the applications, and in most cases visit the schools.  So, a bit more waiting is part of the game.  And, you just never know:  what if some merit money or scholarship is part of an acceptance that you don’t wait for?  Once you’ve “signed on the dotted line” with a school, it’s a done deal. 

We also recommend that all students take advantage of Accepted Student Days.  When spring rolls around and all letters have gone out, you will be invited back by schools and they will roll out the red carpet for you.  Go back and look with fresh eyes.  Visit a class, have lunch in a dining hall and walk around town — is this the right match?  It may sound like too much work, but I can’t tell you how many times we’ve heard that this was THE visit that changed a student’s mind.  It is quite different to tour after you’ve been admitted!

The take away is that this process is long and drawn out, with curves and speed bumps.  The sigh of relief after pushing the “submit” button is closely followed by worry, both by student and parent.  Waiting is hard, and nowhere is that more evident than waiting for a letter of admission to arrive.  I tell my students that the best way to fight the anxiety is to understand that the work is done.  Don’t look back and don’t fret . . . it’s time to let go and let the process play itself out.  Senior year comes but once in your life, so congratulate yourself on a job well done, sit back, relax, and await good news! 

College Admissions Application Tips

Welcome to August!  As of today (August 1, 2019), the Common Application is open for students applying to start school in fall 2020.  The Common Application is an important tool offered by more than 800 colleges across the country.  However, please note that not every school accepts this application.  There are some schools that  use The Coalition Application or have their own school specific application that must be completed.

As students work to complete the Common Application, there are several places where students seem to stumble.  We compiled a list of ten tips to help as students start exploring their own application this month.  Take a look!

1 – Login/E-mail Address 

Make sure to choose an e-mail address that is appropriate (first initial, last name, etc.) and can receive e-mails from the Common Application and college admission offices.  Some high school e-mail addresses will not accept e-mails from outside sources.  Double check!  In addition, if your school uses the Naviance software, you need to make sure you enter the proper email address in the Common App.

2 – Family

In the citizenship section, be sure to list your social security number if you are planning to apply for federal student aid.  Your social security number is used to match your application with your financial documents.  If you are NOT applying for aid, you can leave this blank.

3 – Education/Colleges/Universities

This is tricky because many students HAVE taken college classes through their high school.  However, those classes WILL be listed on the high school transcript.  ONLY list a college in this section if the student has taken a course outside of their normal high school curriculum, such as through a summer program.

4 – Education/Grades

Make sure that these numbers match the high school transcript for GPA and rank!

5 – Education/Honors

These spaces should be used to list ACADEMIC honors only.  Recognitions such as National Honor Society, Student of the Month, Honor Roll, etc. go in this area.

6 – Testing

This can be a little tricky and should be approached carefully with your college coach.  Only above average test scores should be listed in this section (including SAT, ACT, SAT 2 or AP exam scores).  However, ALL scores MUST  be sent directly from the testing company to the college admissions office. For SATs and Subject Tests: www.collegeboard.org and ACTs: www.actstudent.org. If you have any questions about what scores to send, PLEASE ask before doing so.

7 – Activities

A place for the student to shine!  List all of the activities from grades 9 – 12 including part-time jobs and family commitments (if applicable).  Be sure to provide a reasonable estimate for hours spent and participation dates.  The order of these activities is important as the first three spaces should be used for activities where the student spends the most time.  In some cases, these three spots may be the only ones carefully reviewed by the admissions office (see your college coach for more details).

8 – Writing/Personal Essay

Be sure that this is spaced/formatted correctly after it is copied/pasted from the original source.  Save then double check!

9 – Writing/Additional Information

Not all students need to complete this section.  However, if there is something that dramatically impacted the high school transcript, it can be explained here.  Try to be brief, give the facts and explain what was done to improve/correct the situation.  Your college coach can also help with this!

10 – Courses/Grades

This area is only required by certain schools.  After the colleges are added to the application, it will be clear if this section should be completed.  If you have questions about this section, please ask your admissions coach!             

At The College Advisor of New York, our students have access to our Application Clinic, which takes place at our office during the month of August.  During these workshops, our expert staff members walk through the application step by step as our students work on their own application at the same time.  Later, after the student  completes the application, it is carefully reviewed and revised by their admissions coach.

If your student is looking for application assistance, we can help!  Our coaches are glad to help new clients work through just the application and essay sections of their application as they approach senior year.  Give us a call at 518-512-3021 or Click Here to schedule an appointment!

What Happens Now?  The Post November 1 Admissions Waiting Game

By Deb Coco

November 1 is a big milestone for high school seniors and college admissions.  Early Action is the first in a “series” of possible application deadlines for college seniors.  At The College Advisor of New York, we encourage most of our students to submit their applications (if offered by colleges on their list) prior to this deadline.  So at this point in the process, most of our students have submitted one, if not all, of their applications.  As busy as that made the beginning of the fall semester, most students – and their parents – experience relief in getting the applications out the door.  Deadlines are still out there – from December until March 15 — but things are beginning to quiet down for our seniors who’ve been writing essays for what seems like months.

So you’ve hit the submit button . . . what happens next?  It is prudent to follow up with college admission offices and verify that they’ve received ALL the components of your application.  You should do so about two weeks after you’ve applied.  Believe me, we’ve seen the fall-out of panic when students realize they forgot to send their test scores or their supplemental essay…it happens.  And, there were some incidents this year of scores from testing boards being lost in the shuffle.  It took students and parents quite some time to get it straightened out, so checking in to verify your application is complete is worth what little time it takes.

And now, it is time for patience.  The majority of our students begin working with us at some point in their sophomore or junior year, so once the application deadlines have come and gone, they are more than one year in.  It is at that point that the real waiting begins.  Acceptances for Early Action and Early Decision normally begin to roll in around the holidays, but Regular Decision notifications won’t be available until winter or early spring.  That can feel like a lifetime of running to the mailbox.

Just hold tight because most (if not all) students will receive at least one “deferral” letter.  Deferrals place students who applied under the Early Action plan on a wait list of sorts until the entire application pool is reviewed – usually in the spring.  Most schools will offer the option of remaining on the deferral list or not.  This can cause some last minute anxiety, but unfortunately is quite common.  As much as we’d love to tell students that once you’ve submitted, you can sit back and relax, that is no longer the case.  Admission boards will be watching to see that you continue to do well in school, right through senior year.  And in the case of a deferral, it’s even more crucial.

The take away is that this process is long and drawn out, with curves and speed bumps.  The sigh of relief after pushing the “submit” button is closely followed by worry, both by student and parent.  I tell my students that the best way to fight the anxiety is to understand that the hardest work is done and now it is time to let go and let the process play itself out and go back to being a high school student for just a few more months!

 

Anything Worth Having Is Worth Waiting For . . .The New Variable of Spring Admission

By Deb Coco

In the ever changing world of college admissions, there is a new “kid on the block.”  For years there have been 4 types of acceptances:  Accepted, Deferred, Waitlisted or Denied.   Enter “Spring Freshman” and things just became a bit more confusing for students, parents, and those advising them.

We noticed a few years ago that Northeastern University, (an extremely desirable school with a huge applicant pool) began admitting some students with an acceptance AND a caveat; if they wanted to enroll they would have to agree to be a “Spring Freshman” through the “NU In” program.  Northeastern sends their spring admits abroad, so for the student who might have been considering junior year in another country; this could be considered a win/win.  But, it does mean they won’t be entering with the freshman class they expected.  For some students this is exciting, for others it is frustrating, but for parents it poses many questions.  Here are some points to consider.

In the 2017 admission cycle, we have already had a few students receive acceptance under spring programs.  Their parents were confused and questioned the parameters of the program.  As Dr. Dean explains: “It’s a way to over-enroll so that when the school loses students in the fall, it will be able to fill those spaces, much in the same way airlines over sell their planes knowing that some passengers won’t show up.  It’s actually a great way for the University to maximize its revenue.”  Maximize its revenue you ask?  That sounds like something a business would do.   But this is an institution of higher learning!   And here is a common misconception about the inner workings of academic institutions.  They are first and foremost businesses.  Their business is education, but the competition is bountiful and there is a lot of money at stake.  So this is where the numbers game begins.

The number of college applications has skyrocketed in the last decade.  While there is little cumulative data to support this point, one interesting statistic shows the unbelievable volume of applicants to UCLA.  The flagship of the University of California public university system received 113,000 applications this year.  That is a jump of 11% over last year (102,000).  But amazingly, UCLA received only 55,369 applications in 2008, indicating that in the past decade the number of applicants to UCLA has more than doubled!  So even beyond the highly selective Ivy League, large public universities are feeling the effects of more applications than they are equipped to accept.  However, there are students within that pool who they do not want to turn away altogether.  So, they must overcompensate for the normal drop-out rate after fall semester.  According to US News and World Report, as many as 1 in 3 students do not return for their sophomore year; that is a staggering number.  And thus, Spring Admission was conceived.  Each year more schools come onto the scene with their own spring programs – some well known names include Tulane University, University of Maryland, Binghamton University, USC, Cornell University, and Hamilton College.  And, given the plot graph for applicants vs. admission spots, we are likely to see this list increase each year.  Schools are able to offer admission to more than they can accommodate during fall semester, and students who hoped to attend “X” school are given the chance.

So what is a student to do when the college of their dreams tells them its spring or nothing?  Get the facts.  Every program is different – Each has a different name and different structure.  As I mentioned, Northeastern’s “N.U In” is spent studying abroad.  Not bad, right?  The fine print here is very important because if you are a financial aid or merit recipient, you need to make sure that this does not affect your qualifications.

The University of Maryland’s “Freshman Connection” program allows students to live on campus, but they are forced to take classes only on Monday-Thursday after 3 pm, and on Fridays.  Why?  This is yet another business decision:  Most college classes take place between 8 am and 3 pm, and very few college professors teach classes on Friday.  In addition, students in the program are only allowed to register for classes after traditional freshmen.  These are significant concessions for some students, so it’s important to fully understand the specifics before you commit.

Other schools suggest that students offered spring admission look outside the school towards community colleges to fill credit hours.  This may not sit well with some students, and it is EXTREMELY important to research whether the classes you take will transfer once spring arrives; often they DO NOT.  I can’t tell you how many times we’ve had students who want to transfer from one school to another discover the classes they took at one college will not be accepted by their transfer school.

The take away here is to read the fine print.  Not all spring programs are created equal; some will seem enticing and others not.  Ultimately, it is up to each student and family to decide for themselves if the school of their dreams is worth waiting just a bit longer to attend.

 

 

So you’ve submitted your application, what now?

By Deb Coco

November 1 is a big milestone in the world of college admissions.  Early Action is the first in a “series” of possible application deadlines for college seniors.  At The College Advisor of New York, we encourage many of our students to submit their applications (if offered by colleges on their list) on this deadline.  And therein lies one of the many caveats to this process – not all schools offer “EA” and not all students should use it, if indeed it is offered.  There are six possible admission plans in the world of college admissions:  Early Action, Single Choice/Restrictive Early Action, Early Decision, Regular Decision, Rolling Admission, and Open Admission.  Confused?  It’s important that you understand the difference because they are not all created equal, and if misunderstood, each can affect the outcome of your candidacy.

Early Action is the earliest available deadline.  If a school offers this 11/1 or 11/15 option, we normally advise students to select it.  However, every EA pool is different and it’s important to have a knowledgeable college consultant advising you on whether or not your qualifications are suited to the Early Action pool at the schools of your choice.  EA is non binding, allowing applicants to apply to more than one EA school; it does not require a final decision until the May 1 deadline.

Early Decision is a binding contract, meaning students may only apply to one “ED” school and if accepted, they MUST attend.  We advise “ED” to very few students, simply because most 17-year-olds are not secure enough with their decision making to commit to the college of their choice, early in their senior year.  We believe that in most cases, it is wise for students to apply to at least 7 schools and weigh the options when the decisions come in.  Being “wed” to one school can actually cause angst at the 11th hour and there is no way – other than the school not offering an adequate financial aid package – to wiggle out of an “ED” acceptance.

Regular Decision and Rolling Admission are just as they sound and the most common.  Regular decision deadlines range from between January 1 and March 15.  Rolling is “anytime” meaning students will submit when they’ve completed their application and schools send decisions on a “first come first served” basis, typically within 3-5 weeks of submission.

So, you’ve hit the submit button . . . what happens next?  First, I tell all my students that this process has many moving parts and their application represents just one.  Official standardized test scores need to be sent from the testing companies (ACT and The College Board) unless you are applying to “test optional” schools.  High school transcripts, school counselor and teacher recommendations are transmitted from the student’s high school.  It is crucial for students to be in constant contact with their school counselors to assure that their documents are sent out on time.  It is prudent to follow up with college admission offices and verify that they’ve received ALL the components of your application.  You should do so about a week after you’ve applied.  Believe me, we’ve seen the fall-out of panic when students realize they forgot to send their test scores or their supplemental essay…it happens.

The most important quality during this entire journey is patience.  The majority of our students begin working with us at some point in their sophomore or junior year, so, once the application deadlines have come and gone, they are more than one year in.  It is at that point that the real waiting begins.  Acceptances for Early Action and Early Decision normally begin to roll in around the holidays, but Regular Decision notifications won’t be available until early spring.  That can feel like a lifetime of running to the mailbox.

Just hold tight because most (if not all) students will receive at least one “deferral” letter.   Deferrals place students who applied under the Early Action plan on a “wait list” until the entire application pool is reviewed – usually in the spring.  Most schools will offer the option of remaining on the deferral list or not.  This can cause some last minute anxiety, but unfortunately is quite common.

The take away is that this process is long and drawn out, with curves and speed bumps.  The sigh of relief after pushing the “submit” button is closely followed by worry, both by student and parent.  As Tom Petty told us so well, “the waiting is the hardest part” and nowhere is that more evident than waiting for a letter of admission to arrive.  I tell my students that the best way to fight the anxiety is to understand that the work is done.  Don’t look back and don’t fret . . . it’s time to let go and let the process play itself out.  Take some comfort that your essays are written, the “I’s are dotted and the T’s are crossed!  Senior year comes but once in your life, so congratulate yourself on a job well done, sit back, try to relax and I wish you the best of luck!