Dec 13, 2018

Summer internships for high school students

While colleges increasingly emphasize the value of “experiential” or “hands-on” learning within their own communities, high school students are discovering real benefits in setting aside time during their high school careers for internships or other out-of-classroom experiences. In fact, they are finding that internships provide amazing opportunities to gain significant work experience while exploring long-term career options.

But these opportunities don’t magically appear. You have to plan ahead and do a little networking.

And now is a good time to begin nailing-down plans for next summer.

Although college students usually stand at the head of the line for internships, businesses and nonprofit organizations are increasingly holding positions open for students currently in high school or those transitioning to college. But make no mistake—these positions are getting increasingly competitive.  And many application deadlines are coming significantly earlier than in past years.

It may take advance planning and persistence, but opportunities are out there.

Why intern?

Going through the internship application process teaches much-needed job search and employment skills. Preparing a résumé, asking for recommendations, landing an interview, and understanding what it means to be a responsible employee are all skills that give high school students an edge in college and beyond.

And it’s no secret that internships strengthen college applications, as these opportunities introduce students to career fields or potential majors and reinforce valuable research or lab skills.

An internship helps students understand how professional organizations function in the real world. While learning and working, interns have the opportunity to refine career goals. In fact, a summer internship can serve as a “trial period” to test ideas about professions and industries without making any long-term commitments.

If you’re especially lucky, these kinds of opportunities can also lead to award-winning science fair projects, journal articles, or patents.

Where are the internships?

Local businesses and organizations sometimes have formal internship programs designed specifically for high school students. But for the most part, these programs do not offer housing and are usually limited to students able to commute or living in the immediate area.

For example, here is a sample of the many organizations making internships available to high school students in the Washington, DC area:
For a great list of opportunities outside of the DC area, check the webpages maintained by the Rochester Institute of Technology ( ).  Scroll down for high school students and note that while the dates may not be updated the links are). 

Be aware that some internship opportunities are “salaried” positions, some have stipends, and some are strictly volunteer.  Again, they are generally highly competitive, and some deadlines may already be past.  So make note for next year.

Also, many organizations don’t advertise the availability of summer internships. This is when you have to do a little investigative work on the internet and through other kinds of public job listings. Use your networks—parents, relatives, family friends, teachers—anyone who may have contacts in businesses or organizations of interest to you.
At the end of the day, internships are great ways to get to know yourself a little better while building skills that will make you competitive for the future.

Dec 1, 2018

Judge refuses to dismiss case against Common App

The Common Application just received yet another setback in its multiyear legal battle with CollegeNET, the software developer behind the Coalition Application.

U.S. District Judge Marco A. Hernandez issued an order and opinion on Wednesday denying the Common App’s motion to dismiss  the CollegeNET suit, in which CollegeNET claims to have been harmed by Common App tactics designed to suppress competition and monopolize the college application market. 

"Plaintiff alleges that the challenged restraints in the membership agreement amount to a group boycott or refusal to deal in both the admissions and online college application processing markets," writes Judge Hernandez. "In other words, member colleges who would otherwise be competitors and independent decision makers in the marketplace for online application processing services have, by virtue of their membership, limited their participation in the market."

According to Law360, the judge found that CollegeNET had adequately shown that the restrictions—including linked products, exclusivity discounts and rules preventing member colleges from offering cheaper alternatives—are anti-competitive.

CollegeNET launched litigation in May 2014, alleging that the Common App dominated the college application market by forcing schools to either conform to its membership restrictions or lose potential applicants and associated revenue.  A year later, the suit was denied, but in October of last year, a Ninth Circuit panel reversed the ruling. The Common App then took the matter to the U.S. Supreme Court, which declined to take up the petition. According to court records, a new motion to dismiss was filled in July, which was denied on Wednesday. 

While the Common App argued that it has just 24 percent market share when comparing its institutional membership to the total number of colleges in the U.S., the judge referred to CollegeNET’s claim that the market share was more like 60 percent when based on the number of applications processed.

The order also denied a request from the Common Application to have the suit transferred from Oregon, home base for CollegeNET, to Virginia, where Common App corporate offices are located.
All in all, it wasn’t a good day for the Common App, which claims the suit has cost the nonprofit literally millions of dollars in legal fees.

In an email sent to Common App members last year, executive director Jenny Ricard wrote, “Our non-profit membership association has spent several million dollars defending itself against these frivolous claims” and went on to suggest that she would prefer these legal fees go toward expanding the Common App’s “outreach and access programs.”

And the legal fees have only increased as the two organizations continue to prepare for their big day in court. 

So what does all this mean for college applicants and those who advise them? First of all, the lawsuit is making colleges—about 100—that share membership with the Coalition a bit uncomfortable. This discomfort has resulted in a little foot dragging on the part of some institutions when it comes to actually launching the Coalition Application. It took the University of Virginia several years to launch its version of the Coalition Application, which it didn’t manage to get off the ground until this October—just weeks before the November 1 early application deadline for fall 2019.

The lawsuit may also be the root cause behind several colleges quietly deciding to walk away from the Coalition. It’s no secret that every application submitted through the Coalition to a college that also offers the Common App represents dollars lost to the Common Application organization.

But then again, a few colleges are beginning to complain about costs associated with the Common App, which may be trying to recoup money lost to lawyers by increasing fees associated with applications submitted through the system. Currently, fees are based on level of service which results in wildly different applications from colleges able to afford the more expensive ‘bells and whistles’ offered on the high end versus the more stripped-down applications offered at the lowest cost level. 

Finally, it takes money to innovate. After over five years on the CA4 platform, it may be time for the Common App to begin thinking about a more substantial update than simple tweaking. In this regard, a collaboration involving use of Liaison as an outside platform for the Common App’s new transfer application may be worth watching.

At the end of the day, the bad blood arising from a lawsuit pitting the two most visible application platforms against one another is doing nothing for the industry. Rumor has it that CollegeNET offered settlement terms, which the Common App has resisted so far. It’s worth noting that many of the practices causing the initial complaint have been discontinued by the Common App. But product preference has been firmly established to the point that students are still being steered by school counselors away from the Coalition, the Universal College Application and other competitors to the more familiar Common App with its exclusive and long-standing relationship with Naviance.

In the meantime, student applicants are blissfully unaware of the tensions that exist behind the scenes between the two application giants. They know the technology is different, and they generally know which colleges accept what application. But as long as they are free to choose whatever platform will best represent their credentials to colleges, there’s no reason to know more. The litigation will end eventually—most likely long after they’ve moved into freshman dorms.

Nov 8, 2018

The 'reading advantage' in college admissions

In an increasingly connected world, reading beyond what pops up on a mobile devise is dropping to the bottom of priority lists for many teenagers. And for those of us dedicated to books and the power of reading to educate, inform and entertain, this is REALLY bad news.

It’s hard to think how anyone can build fundamental communication skills without dedicating significant time to reading, whether for pleasure or information gathering. And it’s not just about developing an interesting mind or expanding vocabulary. Students who aren’t readers often don’t write well. They have a hard time imagining as well as organizing thoughts, developing arguments, and articulating ideas. 

For college-bound students, this is more than just bad news—it’s a crisis. Colleges not only care that you read, they also care what you are reading as well as what you have learned from the experience.

These concerns play out in many different ways in the admissions process, and the most successful applicants are often those who set aside time in their busy schedules to read. And not just what appears on your daily “feed.”

For high school students, being aware of the reading advantage in college admissions is key. Here are five excellent reasons you would be wise to make time for reading:

It’s no secret that many of the most academically challenging courses in high school require strong reading skills—the ability to absorb and retain a large volume of material in a relatively short amount of time.
Advanced Placement (AP) as well as International Baccalaureate (IB) curricula in social studies, literature, and language are notoriously reading-intensive. And colleges want not only to see you’re taking these courses but also that you’re succeeding with good grades

Summer is usually a great time to “study forward” by obtaining AP/IB texts and reading beyond what is assigned or expected by the first day of school. Get ahead and stay ahead of the reading. You’re bound to see results in terms of improved reading skills, better grades, and less stress.

Test Scores
You can pay thousands of dollars to the best test prep company in town, but nothing improves test scores like being an active reader.  Both ACT and SAT are designed to challenge reading skills both in comprehension and interpretation.  And those students who didn’t stop reading in middle school are bound to be more successful test-takers.

Push your reading level higher by mixing pleasure reading with more academic magazines, journals, or texts. Challenge yourself by not only reading from AP/IB course materials but also taking the time to annotate texts and look up vocabulary words. A little extra time devoted to reading can pay off in a big way in terms of improved test scores—ACT, SAT, and AP.

Colleges have learned that a good way to get to know a student in the application process is to ask about their reading habits. For example, one of the supplemental
essay prompts required by Columbia University during 2018-19 asked, List the titles of the books you read for pleasure that you enjoyed most in the past year.”  In fact, Columbia asked three questions designed to probe applicants’ reading tastes and interests. Stanford, Wake Forest, Princeton, Emory, Colgate, Davidson and a number of other schools have their own versions of questions designed to probe reading habits. 

Knowing these kinds of essay questions may be in your future, why not dive into a wide variety of literature? Don’t limit yourself to a single genre or to reading only fiction or nonfiction. Mix it up. Go a step further and read something that relates to potential career and/or academic interests. And be sure to keep track of what you have read noting best books or interesting magazines as well as favorite authors. 

If you’re applying to a college that either recommends or requires a
personal interview, you had better come prepared with at least one favorite book about which you can knowledgeably speak. The “reading” question appears in many different forms, but the bottom line is that if you stumble here and can’t come up with a title or are forced to reach back to middle school, you could be in a bit of trouble. And you wouldn’t be alone. It’s shocking to interviewers how often students can’t remember the last book they read for pleasure or respond with cheesy middle school novellas. And worse, they might remember the title of something read for class, but they either have the story all wrong or simply can’t remember any element of the plot.

Avoid the embarrassment and read some good books as you have time. Take notes, think about what you read, and even talk over the best books with friends or family. Know why you would recommend a book. And get feedback on your recommendations. Don’t think you have to re-brand yourself as an intellectual by only reading great literature. Interviewers can have fairly ordinary literary tastes. And don't try to “fake it” by suggesting a book you think will make you seem smart. If you're honest about what you like, you might be surprised to find that you and your interviewer share tastes in authors to the point that an interesting conversation ensues.

All kinds of research shows that reading is way more effective at reducing stress than listening to music, drinking a cup of tea or even taking a walk in the woods.  Significant side benefits include an increase in emotional intelligence and empathy—character traits increasingly shown to be wanting in adolescents. And reading also turns out to be a very good way to focus energy and improve concentration. 

But if none of the above moves you to pick up a book, then focus on this: readers live longer! ‘Nuff said.