Not Just Your SAT Scores

School testMany times Americans are unaware of how fortunate we are to be living in a society where numbers, at least in the college admissions process, are only one piece of the puzzle.  American colleges and universities consider various criteria in assessing applicants.  Aside from your typical standardized test scores (SAT/ACT/SAT IIs, etc.), admissions officers examine students from the context of the whole person.  How does the student perform in school?  What else does the student do outside of academics?  Is the student dealing with any other challenging life circumstances?  Imagine a culture where your test scores were the only factor utilized in deciding whether you go to college or not.  I’m pretty sure that if SAT scores were the only area considered, I would not have been admitted to college.  I honestly do believe that my essays along with my alumni interview really made a difference for me.  I feel so lucky to have had a chance to present myself in the form of an essay and to be recognized for it.  To elucidate just how different things are in other countries, I want to show you some photos taken in China during the “gaokao,” the time when high school students take college entrance exams, which are the sole determinant for Chinese university admissions.

What do you see? What do you feel?

stockvault-college-campus-quad147829I can’t believe it’s March and that we just turned our clocks ahead for daylight saving.  Thank goodness this winter is almost over.  Many of us were cooped up indoors this season due to the artic freeze blanketing the country.  With the warmer weather approaching, I want to stress the importance of visiting college campuses.  A school’s environment is just as important as its academic ranking in U.S. News and World Report.  I highly recommend seeing the college when it’s in session because the setting provides a better picture of what it’s like to study there.  For example, during my first trip to San Francisco, I decided to tour the campus of U.C. Berkeley.  Not only did I learn about the history of the school, but also, I experienced a noticeably energetic vibe about the place.  In between class times, as students walked quickly to and from, I felt an eagerness and excitement that I’ve never seen at college campuses in the northeast.  Students here are ready to learn for sure!  Obviously, you cannot get this kind of information from just looking on the university website.  When visiting schools, you should take a good look around.  What do you see?  What do you feel?  Is it what you expected?  Do you think you’d like to go to school here?  What is it about his place that you like and don’t like?  Knowing clearly what you want in a college is half the battle when deciding where to apply.  Here’s a recent article from Forbes about the importance of college visits:


Importance of Standing Out

one_redI’m constantly reminding my students the importance of standing out from the crowd.  During the college admissions process, when you’re being compared with thousands of other applicants, you must somehow distinguish yourself from all the rest.  Yes, you made the SAT cut, but now what?  How are you going to advance to the next level and get accepted?  The essay is the one place where you can truly stand out.  Write a memorable essay, and your reader will remember you as “the kid who …” – See what I mean?!   I specialize in helping students to showcase their personalities through their writing.  Does your son or daughter feel challenged by writing?  Is your child having difficulty picking a good essay topic?  Would you like an experienced professional to review his/her college essays?  Considering how competitive it is to get into college nowadays, getting all the help you can only makes sense. 

Time (Management) is of the Essence!

My favorite time of the year has officially begun with the first day of September.  The smell of the air and feel of the cooler weather brings me back to the days of when I was a school girl!  It’s an exciting time of the year, especially for seniors as it’s their last year of high school.   While looking forward to this final year, all seniors face the inevitable question of where they are going to be next year.  For those going on to college, the fall is a time of much anxiety and stress.  Early action and decision deadlines begin November 1st, with the rest of the deadlines following through to the spring.  Fall grades are also a very important part of the admissions process and is the last opportunity for students to bring up a grade point average.  Additionally, seniors are still active in their extracurricular activities including sports, clubs, and volunteer work.  Being pulled in various directions can be confusing to students who are dealing with very important life decisions.  Where should they place their energy?  There’s not a lot of time.  Getting help during this critical stage of the college applications process is crucial.

Seniors – Take Advantage of the Summer

The summer before senior year is really the best time to get started on college applications.   Students have all the time in the world to brainstorm essay topics and to fill out The Common Application , which becomes available on August 1, for the 2013-2014 applications cycle.  Working on college applications during the school year is challenging for most students.  With extra-curricular activities and AP classes, seniors are often overwhelmed with all that they have to do.  Where should they put their energy?  Students don’t want to let down coaches, advisors, teachers, and employers and have difficulty with time management.  Busy parents may not have the time to micromanage all the details of the process.  Having an extra pair of experienced eyes and ears can be extremely helpful during this period.

Where do I go next year? – Finding a Middle Ground

It’s been a while since I Iast wrote, but I’ve been busy helping students with deciding where to go for next year.  Over the years, as I have been assisting students with making this very important decision, I have learned the following: 1) It’s becoming more competitive to get into college nowadays, 2) The cost of a college education is doubling every 18 years (Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority), and 3) More students are seriously looking toward local state colleges and universities for higher education.  Of course, these findings make sense considering how expensive college has become along with the fact that the United States is still recovering from the economic crisis of 2007 to 2010.  Many parents lost their jobs due to layoffs and may have even suffered a significant loss in their 401Ks.  Now these parents are concerned about their mortgages and retirement.  What happens to paying for their kid’s college education?  Finding a Middle Ground image 5.29.13What might be the first priority in the mind of an 18 year old high school senior is probably the third, fourth, or even fifth priority for her parent/s.  How do we come to some kind of middle ground?  Sorting these issues out is not easy for parents or their children.  Having a knowledgeable, impartial third party to assist with these decisions can alleviate much of the tension between parents and children.  Both parent/s and child are provided with a much needed sounding board before coming to a resolution that will work for all parties involved.


Tufts Asks for 250 Words of Wisdom

I’ve been meaning to share the below article from the New York Times.  The article is a useful tool in showing students how their essays, in fact, convey deeper messages to the admissions officers about who they are as a person.  I’ve used this article in helping students to understand how to go about answering essay questions.  Often times, students believe there is only one correct way to answer the questions.  Aside from avoiding illegal or immoral activity or controversial subject matter, i.e. abortion and gay marriage, students should feel free to write about whatever speaks to them.  During the college applications process, the goal is to get accepted to your top choice school and not to change political policies, just yet…save that for after you’ve been admitted!  You never know who is reading your essay and what their personal beliefs may be.  You wouldn’t want your choice of essay topic to jeopardize your acceptance.

Record Applications for Undergraduate Class of 2017

I thought I’d share an article from Tufts Alumni News about the record breaking number of applications received by the University this year.  For the first time in the history of Tufts admissions, the acceptance rate falls below 20 percent.  Over the years, as I’ve chatted with my college friends, we’ve noted how much more difficult it is for kids to get into college nowadays.  Many of of honestly believe that we probably wouldn’t be accepted under today’s standards and stiffer competition.  While many of us were on our own when going through the college applications process, having a knowledegeable and trustworthy person to look over your application materials seems ever more vital now.

Inside the College Admissions Process

While the below article is from February 2011, much of it still rings true today.  There are so many factors that come into play in the college admissions process.  The admissions game doesn’t really follow a particular set of rules which is why the process seems so mysterious to most of us.  There is no predetermined formula to gain admission to a certain college because the process is subjective.  In the end whether you are admitted or not is dependent on what one or a few other members of an admissions committee thinks of you based on hard core facts, including your grades, test scores, extracurricular activities, and community service, and what you choose to write about.  As revealed by the admissions officer, the college essay can be the tie breaker for two applicants with similar grades, test scores, and activities.  Again, there is no magic formula for that essay either, but there are some key things to keep in mind when writing it.  In my next post, I will share with you what one competitive university looks for in a college essay.  For now, I leave you with the article…enjoy!!

SAT, ACT No Longer Required For Admission To 800 U.S. Colleges And Universities

As an honor student who was certainly challenged by the S.A.T., I have always appreciated the fact that the American college admissions process is multifaceted in its approach toward evaluating students.  Here in the United States, standardized test scores are only one part of the puzzle.  Getting good grades, being able to write a solid essay, and taking part in extra curricular activities are just as important as obtaining high scores on the S.A.T.  Imagine a system that only admitted students based solely on exam scores – that’s how the education system works in China.  Not only do the scores determine if you can move on to college, but also, those scores also place you into a major field of study, with high scorers getting their first choices.  I remember teaching ESL in Hong Kong, and many of my students studying construction were doing so because that’s what the college had accepted them for.  Construction was their fourth choice, and these students could either study construction or join the work force.  I’m so glad to be living in the U.S. where our futures are not determined by one test, and we have freedom to study whatever we wish.