Jul 12, 2017

‘Senioritis’—coming to a high school near you

For high school counselors and teachers, the symptoms of “senioritis” are all too familiar—an 'I don’t care attitude' characterized by lack of motivation and general bad behavior.

It usually strikes some time shortly after seniors receive college acceptance letters. And for those with early results, symptoms may start appearing as soon as mid-December.

School administrators report that the onset of senioritis usually coincides with warm weather and only becomes epidemic once the last Advanced Placement test has been completed.  It tends to be very contagious among second semester seniors, who are “so over” high school, they put social before school.

The CDC doesn’t track senioritis.  But judging by the uptick in daytime activity at the mall—before, after, and during school hours—it seems that many high school seniors are succumbing to advanced stages of what can be a crippling disease.

Although easy to catch, senioritis is hard to cure. Symptoms include skipping class, neglected homework, dropping out of extracurricular activities, failed tests, and way too many lapses in judgment or integrity. You can chart outcomes on a graph: as absenteeism increases, grades decline.

And devoting class time to Snap Chat, Instagram and Twitter may signal senioritis is out of control.
For extreme cases, a strong dose of discipline is required as students mindlessly indulge in troublesome behaviors including but not limited to pranks, truancy, substance abuse, or totally inappropriate postings on the Internet.

And there are consequences. Colleges accept students on the condition that grades and behavior will remain acceptable.

Decision letters contain carefully worded statements that usually read, “Your admission is contingent on continued successful performance,” meaning the last official part of your application process will involve a review of your final transcript as well as a report from your school counselor. For an interesting reference, UC Santa Cruz spells out their terms and conditions in excruciating detail on their website.

And here is an example from the University of Michigan of how the warning works
As an admitted freshman, the University of Michigan expects all aspects of your academic performance and conduct in your senior year to be consistent with the record you presented upon admission. Any significant decline in your academic performance, such as three or more C's, any D's, E's or F's, may be cause for revoking admission. Declining grades or a significant change in curriculum may also be cause for revoking admission. Although senior year grades are reported directly to the Office of Undergraduate Admissions (OUA) and reviewed, it is your responsibility to advise OUA of any serious decline in grades or changes in course selections previously entered on your application.”
 Failure to live up to expectations can have painful consequences such as
  • a rescinded offer of admission,
  • placement on academic probation before you even begin college,
  • delayed or second semester start,
  • remedial coursework,
  • a mandatory gap year to grow up,
  • loss of Advanced Placement credits or
  • reduced financial aid.
No kidding, these things happen.  Seniors who earn D’s during second semester may find they have no college to attend in the fall or suffer a serious loss of scholarship dollars. And those who blow off Advanced Placement exams stand to lose course credits worth a significant amount of money or a fast pass to early college graduation.

Statistics related to revoked admissions are notoriously difficult to obtain—no one really likes to talk about it. A few years ago, the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) reported that 1 in 5 or about 22 percent of colleges surveyed revoked offers. And the average number of offers revoked more than doubled from 10 to 23 per school in one year.

In an interview with the Daily Pennsylvanian, Dean of Admissions Eric Furda said the Office of Admissions usually sends warning letters to admitted students if they detect a “pattern of lower grades” or a failure.  Students are asked to provide an explanation, after which a decision is made on an appropriate course of action.

And it can be really costly*:
Your case has been reviewed by the Dean of Emory College and myself. I am sorry to inform you that our decision is to revoke your admission to the Emory College Class of 20--. I realize this turn of events is of great disappointment to you. On behalf of the Admission Committee, I want to extend our sincere appreciation for your interest in Emory. Should your interest in Emory persist, you may apply again to Emory College as a transfer student next year. Please note that we require one full year of college work and have a postmarked deadline of June 1st for transfer. Lastly, I offer you my best wishes for a productive, and above all, rewarding college career. Sincerely, Dean of Admission for Emory University.”
One local family was put to the test tracking down an errant son who took off for a mission trip to a remote part of South America immediately after graduation.  On receipt of a final grade report containing two “C’s,” the boy’s prestigious university sent an email demanding an immediate explanation with a clear threat that revocation of his admission was possible.

The young man was eventually located and provided access to internet services which he used to email a detailed explanation and apology to the college. He entered his freshman year on academic probation.

Note that colleges have more incentive than ever to take back offers. With record-breaking applicant pools, unexpectedly high yields, and huge wait lists, schools have many enthusiastic applicants happy to take the places of previously-admitted students who dropped key academic classes, let grades slip, or otherwise got in trouble.

In March, the University of Virginia invited several thousand students to be on their wait list, and not all have been released yet. You can bet a bunch of those kids would jump at the opportunity to grab a spot regardless of how it becomes available.

Most seniors will finish the year knowing they’ve completed a job well-done. This warning is not for you.

For those who haven’t quite managed to turn in your last three English assignments, please come home from the beach now…

*From a collection assembled by Kevin J. Kuczynski, Warren Consolidated Schools

The single best guide to all things that ‘matter’ in admissions

In the months immediately following publication of the third edition of Admission Matters, Sally Springer, lead author, was quite certain there would be no fourth edition. As Springer freely admits, “Updating a book like Admission Matters takes a great deal of time and effort and it essentially takes over your life for many months.”

Springer is right of course. But lucky for us, she and her co-authors, Jon Reider and Joyce Vining Morgan, had a change of heart and recently got back together to produce the fourth edition of Admission Mattersthe single, most useful college guide currently on the market.

Admission Matters is not just comprehensive, it’s a paper version of a great college counselor,” commented Maria Furtado, executive director of Colleges That Change Lives.

Jennifer Delahunty, former dean of admissions and financial aid at Kenyon College, agrees, “Filled with both common sense and sage advice, the fourth edition of Admission Matters is the only guide any high school student—and his or her parent—will ever need.”

Since publication of the last edition in 2013, there have been remarkable changes in financial aid, standardized testing and application platforms. Application numbers have exploded, pushing selectivity to the limits of comprehension at a number of elite colleges. And the skyrocketing costs associated with a college education continue to far outpace annual increases in the cost of living.

From the outside looking in, the entire process of selecting and applying to colleges appears totally out of control—characterized by neither predictability nor humanity.  And instead of looking forward to their next chapter, high school students and their families have come to dread even starting the conversation.

But along comes Admission Matters with a reassuring message—“College admissions does not have to be, and should not be, an ordeal.”

To back this up, the Admission Matters team worked hard to update information and incorporate changes in an easy-to-understand narrative designed to give readers confidence in themselves and their ability to master the process and not have the process master them.

While the fourth edition of Admission Matters will look familiar to those who have read and relied on the third edition, there is a good deal of new material “sprinkled throughout” in addition to thorough updates—some even made at the page proof stage, when they were important enough.

As someone who annually reads and reviews a considerable number of college guidebooks, I’m very choosy about which ones I recommend.  In fact, the list is very short.

Since I discovered Sally Springer and her book at a NACAC conference several years ago, Admission Matters has been and remains at the top of that list. This is because I want to recommend a guide that is up-to-date, accurate and offers the kind of advice I offer to families, in user-friendly terms.

Following its predecessors, the fourth edition of Admission Matters is thorough, crystal clear, and very direct about what college applicants need to do and how to do it.

The authors are seasoned professionals with more than 100 years of experience in secondary and higher education in the roles of high school teacher and college counselor, college admissions officer, college professor and administrator, and independent educational consultant. They are parents themselves who have undertaken the college admissions journey with their own kids.

Admission Matters covers all the nuts and bolts of college admission—from developing a balanced college list to applying for financial aid. Tucked into appendices, there are worksheets, an application timeline and an annotated list of additional resources.  And to keep Admission Matters as current as possible, the authors are maintaining a website with free updates and additional materials.

I highly recommend Admission Matters to anyone with a college-bound student going through the process this fall or anyone wanting to be a little bit better prepared for the future.

And this recommendation goes for admissions professionals in colleges, schools, or working independently.

You won’t find a better, more comprehensive admissions guide on the market today.
Admission Matters is available online and in bookstores everywhere.

NACAC reports over 500 ‘options for qualified students’ for fall 2017

Ohio Wesleyan University
According to NACAC’s (National Association for College Admission Counseling) College Openings Update (formerly  the Space Availability Survey) over 500 colleges and universities still have amazing opportunities  for qualified freshman and/or transfer students for fall 2017. And many of these schools also have financial aid and housing to offer.

Now in its 30th year, the Update is a wonderful search tool for counselors, parents and teachers as they work with students who have not yet completed the college application and admission process.  The listing applies equally for students who may have gotten a late start on their applications as well as for those who weren’t totally satisfied with admissions results received by the May 1 response deadline observed by many colleges.

Typically, colleges continue to join the Update after the public release date until the page closes on June 30. The Update isn’t really a survey, but more of a voluntary “bulletin board style” listing for NACAC member institutions or about 1,300 U.S. four-year colleges (leaving out about 1000 U.S. four-year colleges).  This year, about 64 percent of colleges on the Fall 2017 Update are private and 36 percent are public. NACAC member two-year institutions were also invited to participate, and a small number appear on the list.

Note that if an institution—of any description—does not appear on the list, it does not necessarily mean there are no openings there.  Not every college chooses to participate.

Nevertheless, the NACAC list contains some amazing opportunities in every corner of the country.
For example, Arizona State University, Belmont University (TN), the College of Charleston (SC), Drew University (NJ), Hofstra University (NY), High Point University (NC), Oregon State University (OR), Pennsylvania State UniversityOhio Wesleyan University, St. Joseph’s University (PA), Union College (NY), the University of Arizona, the University of North Carolina Wilmington (NC), the University of Oregon, the Wentworth Institute of Technology, and West Virginia University are posting space available for the fall.

And Appalachian State University (NC), Baylor University (TX), Elon University (NC), Marquette University (WI), Providence College (RI), Skidmore College (NY), Stevens Institute of Technology (NJ), the University of Delaware, the University of Denver (CO), the University of Florida, and the University of San Diego (CA) have spaces for transfers.

In Maryland, Coppin State University, Frostburg State University, Goucher College, Hood College, St. Mary’s College of Maryland, Stevenson University, Loyola Maryland University, St. John’s College, UMBC, the University of Maryland and Washington College indicate they will consider qualified freshman and transfer students.

To the south in Virginia, Emory and Henry College, Hollins University, Longwood University, Lynchburg College, Mary Baldwin University, Radford University, Randolph College, Randolph-Macon College, Shenandoah University, the University of Mary Washington, Virginia Wesleyan College, and Sweet Briar College also show space and resources left for students still looking for fall 2017 placement.

Note that this list is highly fluid.  "Admission is an ongoing process for many institutions,” NACAC CEO Joyce E. Smith has noted in the past.

Over the next several weeks, colleges will finish reviewing their incoming classes for vacancies and if they want to publicize openings, they will add their names to the Update.  Already, the list has risen from about 350 colleges when survey data was first published to 520 colleges and universities, as of this publication.  So keep checking back!

In addition to the NACAC survey, colleges still accepting applications may be found by searching the College Board, Common Application and Universal College Application (UCA) websites (specific instructions are found here). As of May 9, 2017 the Common App shows 327 members still open to new applicants, including Eckerd College (FL), the Florida Institute of Technology, Lynn University (FL), Marymount University (VA), North Carolina State University (NC), the University of New Haven (CT), Widener University (PA) and Xavier University (OH). The UCA lists 30 colleges and universities still accepting first-year students for fall 2016, including Bryant University (RI), Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (NY), the Rochester Institute of Technology (NY), the University of Tampa (FL) and the University of Wyoming.

The bottom line is that you need to move quickly.  Colleges will only entertain applications as long as they have space available.

For the most up-to-date information on specific colleges, contact the admissions offices of the schools directly.  You may be surprised how glad they are to hear from you!

James Madison University goes ‘test-optional’ for 2017-2018

James Madison University
Joining a growing number of colleges and universities, James Madison University (JMU) will be rolling out a test-optional admissions policy for 2017-18. Students seeking admission will no longer be required to submit tests results from either the SAT or the ACT as part of the JMU application process.

Unlike other Commonwealth universities, which have also decided to downgrade reliance on standardized tests in admissions, JMU will not be adding any “strings” to their new policy. There will be no minimum GPAs, similar to test-optional policies in use by Christopher Newport University, George Mason University or Virginia Commonwealth University.  Applicants will be entirely free to decide whether they want to include test scores along with their applications.

“We’re providing applicants to Madison the opportunity to build their best application which could include test results, recommendation, or personal statement,” explained Joe Manning, JMU’s Associate Dean of Admission. “We’ve determined that our students’ high school curriculum is a more consistent indicator of their academic success.”

As the university works to update their website to reflect the change in policy, information on the application process for the coming year has been communicated during on-campus information sessions, including one for counselors last month.  In a nutshell, JMU will only require that applicants submit an application for admission (one choice will be the Coalition Application), a high school transcript, and a senior schedule of classes. An applicant can also submit, if they choose, a personal statement, a letter of recommendation and/or standardized test results to be used in the review of their application. Because this is a substantial change from how things were done in the past, JMU is developing a method for applicants to request the university delete test results that may already be on file in the admissions office.

The new policy didn’t come as a huge surprise to counselors who have worked with Madison over the years. It’s been evident by their decisions that application readers placed significant importance on information conveyed via the transcript—grades and consistent rigor of coursework throughout high school. Test results, while considered, appeared to be of secondary importance in Madison’s admissions decisions.

And JMU is joining an impressive group of colleges and universities that have made the decision to reduce the role of scores in admissions.  According to the nonprofit National Center for Fair and Open Testing (FairTest), the list of test-optional schools has grown to more than 950 accredited institutions awarding bachelor’s degrees, with more than 275 highly “ranked” in their “tiers” by U.S. News, including such familiar names as Bowdoin, Mount Holyoke, Pitzer, Smith, Trinity College, Wesleyan, Wake Forest, Providence and College of the Holy Cross.

In addition to James Madison, the most recent schools to announce test-optional policies are Emerson College in Boston, University of the Ozarks and Wofford College in South Carolina.  In the DC/Maryland/Virginia region, American, Catholic, Christopher Newport, GMU, George Washington, Goucher, Hampton, Hood, Loyola Maryland, Marymount, Old Dominion, Radford, Roanoke, Salisbury, St. John’s College, Trinity Washington University, Mary Washington, VCU and Washington College have either test-flexible or test-optional policies in place.

There appear to be a number of reasons for the recent “surge” in test-optional colleges. According to Robert Schaeffer, public education director for FairTest, “Admissions offices increasingly recognize that they do not need ACT or SAT scores to make good decisions. They know that an applicant’s high school record—grades and course rigor—predicts undergraduate success better than any standardized exam.”

Register NOW: Test sites are in short supply for August SAT

When the College Board first announced the addition of an August test date for the SAT beginning this summer, cheers went up among those who had lobbied for adjusting the test schedule to accommodate the reality of earlier application deadlines. ACT added a September test several years ago, which turned out to be enormously popular among students with time to prep over the summer who wanted one last try before going the early admissions route. And the College Board finally saw the wisdom of doing the same.

But enthusiasm for the August test date wasn’t universally shared, particularly among test site administrators in school districts starting late in August or after Labor Day. They could easily see how difficult it would be to open buildings and find staff willing to end summer vacations early to proctor one more test.

And it appears they were right. A quick comparison of test site availability for the August 26 SAT as compared with the October 7 SAT shows that so far the College Board has come up a little short in finding seats for the test.

For example, the College Board ordinarily offers up to about 40 sites that are considered a reasonable distance (under 40 miles) from my Virginia zip code. For August, there are only 12 locations, and they do not include the high schools closest to my home which have been popular sites in the past. Instead of traveling 3.6 miles to take the test, my nearest site is about double the distance away--admittedly not too much of a hardship as long as seats remain open. But I certainly would not want to have to travel to some of the further locations suggested by the College Board, which would take me 35 miles from home and across the Washington Beltway!

Using information provided by the College Board, it appears that about 1,970 sites in the U.S. (including D.C., Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands) will be administering the SAT and SAT Subject tests on August 26. On October 7, however, almost 3,440 sites will be giving the test.

In Virginia, there will be 134 test locations for October and 84 in August. Pennsylvania will open 231 sites in October, but only 87 in August. In New York, it’s 263 locations for October, and 53 in August. Massachusetts has 140 test sites in October and 37 in August. And in New Jersey, students will have 203 locations from which to choose in October, but only 69 in August.

Note that the number of available test sites offered doesn’t necessarily correlate with or predict the number of seats available. In this area, it appears that the larger sites will be open for business in August, while some of the smaller sites have opted out.

The August date is also replacing the relatively unpopular January test, which will no longer be given. And it’s possible that sites simply don’t want to add another working Saturday to their calendars.

But given the convenience of the new August test relative to making decisions about application strategies—binding Early Decision vs. nonbinding Early Action vs. Regular Decision--and ensuring timely delivery of scores, it seems entirely possible that the new date could be very popular--possibly more popular than October.

"We're seeing a great degree of interest for the August test in all of our markets, coast to coast. Students have so many academic demands as juniors. APs wrap in May, then final exams, and then the early application deadlines hit in Mid-October to November.  August stands out as an excellent time to take an SAT, fully prepared, with minimal academic distractions," explained Jed Applerouth, founder and CEO of Applerouth Tutoring. "I'm personally a huge fan of summer testing.  Ideally students will be able to take these college assessments entirely on their own schedule.  The summer, not surprisingly, is one of the most spacious times for many students, affording them the time to focus, prepare, and go in with the greatest chance of success."

In other words, if I lived in Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania or Virginia, I would be registering NOW and not later!

ACT is countering with a summer test of their own. In 2018, the ACT will be adding a July test date to the standardized test calendar.

Top colleges for Fulbright student awards in 2016-17

Brown University
The U.S. Department of State together with The Chronicle of Higher Education recently announced lists of colleges and universities producing the most Fulbright students for 2016-2017.

And a spot on any one of these lists is one more bragging right for schools hoping to promote academic achievement to prospective students.  In fact, it’s way up there on the top of prestigious postgraduate opportunities including the Marshall, Rhodes, and Gates Scholarships.

Considerably larger in scope than the much older Rhodes Scholarship Program, the Fulbright Scholarship is the U.S. government’s flagship international exchange program. Since 1946, more than 370,000 “Fulbrighters” have participated, coming and going to more than 160 countries worldwide.

And it’s often a ticket to personal success.  To date, 57 Fulbright alumni from 14 countries have been awarded Nobel Prizes, and more Nobel laureates are former Fulbright recipients than any other award program.  In addition, 82 have received 88 Pulitzer Prizes, 29 are MacArthur Foundation Fellows, and 37 have served as head of state or government.

For prospective undergrads, the degree to which a college or university supports students interested in applying for honors such as the Fulbright can be an important consideration. And among those colleges that actively support global initiatives, the annual tally of grants offered may be a measure of institutional success.

The following are lists of top producers of Fulbright students by type of institution for 2016-2017:

Research Institutions
Brown University: 30
Georgetown University: 27
University of Notre Dame: 27
Harvard University: 26
University of Chicago: 26
Princeton University: 22
Columbia University 21
University of Michigan at Ann Arbor: 21
University of Pennsylvania: 21
University of Washington: 21
University of Wisconsin at Madison: 21
Yale University: 20
Stanford University: 19
Johns Hopkins University: 18
New York University: 17

Masters Institutions
Villanova University: 11
Loyola Marymount University: 8
Western Kentucky University: 8
Saint Edward’s University: 6
University of Portland: 6
City University of New York Hunter College: 5
Seattle University: 5
University of Scranton: 5
College of Charleston: 4
Elon University: 4
New Jersey City University: 4
Santa Clara University: 4
Trinity University: 4
University of Mary Washington: 4

Bachelor’s Institutions
Smith College: 17
Pitzer College: 15
Pomona College: 15
Oberlin College: 14
Bates College: 13
Bowdoin College: 11
St. Olaf College: 11
Amherst College: 10
Lewis and Clark College: 10
Carleton College: 9
Occidental College: 9
Depauw University: 8
Wellesley College: 8
College of the Holy Cross: 7
Grinnell College: 7
Hamilton College: 7
Middlebury College: 7
Wesleyan University: 7

Complete lists of Fulbright recipients are available on The Chronicle of Higher Education website.

6 reasons to tell a college you will NOT be attending

As the days tick down to May 1—College Decision Day or the deadline by which many colleges expect responses from admitted students—a key part of the admissions process tends to be overlooked by excited applicants anxious to move forward with their lives.

Beyond simply showing gratitude and good manners, students really need to reach out to those colleges they will NOT be attending in the fall to let them know the final decision.

“Say ‘Thank you’ as well as ‘No, thank you’,” said Tara Anne Dowling, director of college counseling at the Rocky Hill School in East Greenwich, Rhode Island.  “Thank you for taking time with my credentials, thank you for answering my questions, thank you for offering me a scholarship—all of it!”

In the afterglow of finally making a decision and sending in a deposit, students tend to forget about the other schools that showed enough confidence in their credentials to make an offer.  Sadly, they fail to see how much of an investment colleges have in the students they invite and lose an opportunity to reciprocate the goodwill.

It’s normal to feel a little awkward about communicating to a college that you are basically “rejecting” their offer. Humans are wired to avoid confrontation and communicating bad news seems to fall in this category. But don’t let this stop you from doing the right thing.

And why does it matter so much?
  1. They care.  According to Ms. Dowling, admissions officers very often become “invested in the students they are recruiting.”  They’ve read your file, recommended you to the admissions committee, and sometimes fought on your behalf for your admission.  These same folks may have also nominated you for a scholarship or otherwise extended themselves professionally to advocate for you.  It’s disappointing when someone who believes in you doesn’t receive the courtesy of a response.
  2. Institutional memory.  Admissions representatives build relationships with high schools and counselors that allow them to take chances on candidates for whom the school advocates. These tend to be those applicants whose grades or scores might be below the usual admitted student profile. You help future applicants when you reassure colleges of your gratitude and respond with respect. Similar to many other organizations, colleges can have long institutional memories and one bad experience may take a long time to forget. And by the way, these institutional memories can extend to a younger sibling or a friend who may apply to the same college in the future.
  3. Continued investment.  All that mail and all the phone calls you may be receiving represent a continued investment in you. They cost both time and money. While you might find some of the recruitment tactics annoying, they should be a signal that at least one step in the process remains undone.  If for no other reason, eliminate the daily barrage of emails and uncomfortable phone conversations by letting someone know you’ve made a decision.
  4. Wait lists.  The sooner you let a college know you’ll not be attending, the sooner the admissions office can make arrangements to free up space on the wait list, if that looks like a possibility.  “Think of kids on wait lists who are dying to find out if they can have that place that is currently being held by you,” suggests Ms. Dowling.  “You can help colleges clean up their records and make room for other candidates!”
  5. Constructive feedback.  Once a college knows your decision, it’s likely they will want to know which offer you selected and why.  This is your opportunity to provide a little constructive feedback which might help them formulate future policies in areas such as scholarship or financial aid. You could also help them improve recruitment or change admissions policies to be more applicant-friendly in the future.
  6. Transfer.  If none of the other above-listed reasons to let a college know you’re not attending fails to move you, consider the possibility that you may be circling back to this same admissions office and asking for reconsideration in the form of a transfer application. It’s entirely possible that what attracted you in the first place may come to be more important after a year at another college.  Don’t lose the opportunity to maintain good relations with an admissions office that may have a second opportunity to admit or deny you.
It’s not hard to let a college know you won’t be coming. You can use the assigned online portal to accept or decline the offer or you can email or text anyone in the admissions office with whom you’ve been working.  OR, remember that big packet you got in the mail?  There may be a postcard asking for you to respond—thumbs up or down.

And by the way, don’t forget about all the others who helped you along the journey—counselors, teachers, school administrators, transcript clerks and outside recommenders. They’ve cared enough to support your applications, and they deserve to know your options as well as your final decision.

Never miss an opportunity to make a good impression.  Let everyone who has believed in you know what you’ve decided as soon as possible.  And then go out and celebrate!