Mar 28, 2009

Taking Stock

As I am sure most of you are aware, colleges across the country have begun the process of rolling out admissions decisions. The time-honored tradition of waiting beside the mailbox for a "fat" envelope has largely been replaced by runs to the computer lab or a mad dash upstairs for a look at results flashed on a computer screen. This year has been pretty much of a puzzle for college admissions prognosticators. Between the impact of the economy on application decisions and the lingering issue of how financial aid will be distributed to those who need vs. those who merit, the consensus is that nothing seems to "make sense" anymore. Seniors are experiencing the madness first hand, and the underclassmen who are "on deck" should be taking note.

To put some of this in perspective, I am attaching two articles. The first is by one of my favorite commentators on the college admissions process, Jay Mathews, who provides a guide to surviving April. Please pay particular attention to the first recommendation:

In the second article I am attaching, Barry Schwartz, a psychology professor at Swarthmore, takes a harsh view of the entire process:

Regardless of where you happen to stand in the college admissions lottery, be assured that your confusion is shared at almost every level. Imagine how the admissions office at Williams College felt when their applications unexpectedly dropped by 20% or think about the administrative headache experienced by UVA as applications increased by 16% from last year to this year. And, none of these schools has any idea how their offers of admission will be received. Between now and May 1st, high school seniors are finally in the driver's seat and colleges will work hard to insure that "yields" are at or above those from previous years.

Mar 15, 2009

Demonstrated Interest

As many of you know, I spend lots of time going over the concept of "demonstrated interested" in college admissions decisions. In a nutshell, "demonstrated interest" is shown when you take the initiative to reach out to a particular school. This can be accomplished by visiting a campus or by a number of other methods we may have already covered in our conversations. Today's Boston Globe confirms my suspicion that demonstrated interest may very well represent a "tipping point" in some admissions decisions:

In your website reviews, you may have noted that some colleges are very forthright about the role of demonstrated interest. For example, Emory University in Atlanta devotes an entire web page to this admissions factor:

Other schools aren't quite as direct. Don't assume, however, that they don't care!

But why would admissions staff care about demonstrated interest? Because they want to admit students who are excited about going to their school, and studies have shown that students who take the time to communicate with admissions offices are among the most enthusiastic and are likely to attend once admitted. Colleges are frankly confused about the increasing number of "stealth" applicants who have had no communication prior to sending an application. One theory is that the increased use of the Common Application has resulted in scatter shot applications about which students care very little. But remember, like most good things, this can be overdone. So be judicious in how you show demonstrated interest.

As an aside, demonstrated interest can also be especially important for those students who have been placed on a wait list or who were deferred from their first choice school. It takes a slightly different form, but remains a crucial factor in decisions made about individual candidacies.

Ms. G

Mar 8, 2009

Hang In There Seniors!

The tide is about to change:,0,4495429.story?track=rss

For the underclassmen among you, these articles argue strongly for casting your net wide. As we've discussed, you really need to consider financial as well as academic safety schools when developing your college list. The goal is to be able to have a range of schools from which to choose, some of which take less of a bite out of family finances and future retirement opportunities. And, with the availability of merit scholarships, financial safety schools do not need to be in-state.

Good luck to all the seniors about to receive notifications! My fingers are crossed!

Ms. G

Mar 5, 2009

Tuition Free? Test Optional?

Not too long ago, I wrote about "best values" among private/public colleges and universities. Suppose I told you that beyond best values, there are colleges that are actually tuition free? Although the most obvious examples are the various military academies, a number of other schools offer options that provide virtually free postsecondary educational opportunities. A list of "100 Free College Rides You Don't Need Daddy to Pay For" was recently compiled by AdvantageEDU:

While some of these schools may not be of particular interest to you, there are other opportunities for receiving substantial support that may be more appealing and should probably be considered during your search for a college that fits both your academic and financial aid requirements. Although still in the testing stage, a website is being developed by Cappex which provides very detailed information on the vast array of merit scholarships offered by schools throughout the country. Before clicking on the student start button, I recommend searching this site through its directory:

Yes, for the most part, grades count. But you know this already! That's why I keep nagging about GPA's and other annoying numbers related to academic performance.

Now after you've thought about how much money you can save by looking for schools with great financial aid or merit scholarship programs, you might also want to consider those schools offering test optional college admissions. FairTest, the national center for fair and open testing, recently released a list of 818 colleges and universities requiring neither the SAT nor the ACT in their admissions processes:

Be aware! Many of these schools substitute outstanding academic performance (those pesky GPA's again) or ask for other evidence of academic ability (extra essays, portfolios, etc.) in place of test scores. While offering some relief to those for whom testing is a problem, these options hardly represent a free pass to college. In fact, it's sometimes easier just to take the test(s) and submit the scores.

Ms. G.