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Wait List 101--10 Difference Making Actions to Take!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

If you have accepted a place on the wait list of your first-choice college, the next thing to do is to spring into action and, despite the daunting odds discussed below, perform these 10 tasks. And you need to do them with a confidence you may not feel.

These actions fall into three major categories: letting the college know how very much you want to come; reminding them of how you will contribute to and enhance their campus community; and informing them of your ongoing involvement in activities, as well as any new accomplishments you have achieved and any new recognition you have gotten.

  1. First and foremost, make sure, in a letter to the dean of admissions and to your regional rep, that you let them know that, despite all the other colleges you have been admitted to, going to their college is what you want and, if you are admitted, you will definitely come.
  2. Have your guidance counselor or school principal communicate the same message. This school is your first choice! If accepted you will definitely come.
  3. In the same letter from you to the dean of admissions and to your regional rep, be sure to enumerate any new forms of recognition you have received. If you have made all-state in a sport, cite that. If you have been chosen from state choir to now be in the national choir cite that. If you have been given an award as employee of the month cite that.
  4. Be sure also to mention ongoing activities that you have continued beyond January 1, or the due date of your application, and of which you are proud.
  5. Getting to the most substantive part of the letter, please reiterate all the ways that you think you and the college are a good match. Tell them how you see yourself on the campus. What will you contribute to the college community? What are the plans you have and the places you look forward to being? Thoroughly describe three or four activities you can see yourself doing. Will you be doing research in their neurobiology lab? Will you be performing in, or an audience for, the improv theater? Will you be on the co-ed flag football team? The frisbee team? Will you be a member of the art coop? Or a leader in the new meditation space? A helper in the organic garden? A member or the investment team?
  6. Be sure also to mention any new recommenders whose letters are in the mail to the college.
  7. With reference to this, you need to search in your mind to consider if your contacts and your parents’ friends, as well as employers, athletic or arts coaches, or other contacts could write a recommendation that would strengthen your waiting list spot.
  8. When you are looking online at the college, it is very important, in general, that you thoroughly look at the college’s website. Look at all the majors you might be interested in, look at what their requirements are, look at what special opportunities they might have, look at other majors that might be related. Look at study abroad opportunities. Look at clubs, activities, sports, and student life information. Open, also, every email and communication from the college. Colleges are using the number of clicks and the electronic interest you show as an indication of your real interest. And you want to be VERY interested and attentive.
  9. I recommend you visit the school. Colleges may tell you not to and that they are busy wooing the students they have already accepted (It’s reality.). But you can walk around, take another tour, and just say hello to admissions. I know too many stories about students of mine who have gone to see their school one more time and be offered admissions during that visit. It happens.
  10. Finally, be prepared for whatever happens. The odds are long (see below) and you never know what the college’s situations is. Maybe so many students have accepted their offers of acceptance that the school is worried about where it will house all of its students for the next year. But one thing is certain, you’ll never get in if you don’t, at the very least, try.

    The odds of being accepted!

    This kind of information for a college can sometimes be found on the admissions website of a college. Or sometimes elsewhere on other websites. It is always available through the “Common Data Set (filed by colleges each year with many educational and publishing organizations)” for each university. To find it search for “common data set for 2016 + university of ________”.

    For example, in the recent (2014-15) data for the University of Richmond, it was reported that offers to be on the wait list were made to 3,621 students.  Out of those, 1,466 students accepted this offer and were placed on the waiting list. Out of those, 12 waitlisted students were ultimately admitted. In other recent years Richmond reports they have admitted up to 131 students off the wait list.

    The University of Virginia reports the same kind of data. In 2014-15, they offered 5,543 students the chance to be on the wait list. Of these, 3,456 students accepted. And of these, 42 students were accepted. In another year as many as 402 students were accepted off the wait list.

New SAT Scores--Looking at College Admissions Profiles

Monday, May 23, 2016

The College Board recently (5/9/16) released concordance tables which compare March, 2016’s SAT scores (resulting from the first administration of the new version of the SAT) to previous SAT scores—scores that were calibrated and refined during the years between March, 2005 and March, 2016. It is especially important to understand the equivalent value of the new SAT scores when comparing these SAT scores to reported admissions criteria on Naviance or any published data-based sources which used the SAT scores previous to March, 2016 to report current admissions outcomes.

 

If you or your student are planning to use ACT scores as a way to evaluate your chance of admission or to submit standardized test scores to colleges then this has no bearing on those scores.

 

When you evaluate March SAT scores, however, it is very important that you bear in mind this new concordance information. For instance, if your student or you, if you are the student, got a 1300, on the new March SAT this is equivalent to 1230 on the old SAT. So whether you look at Naviance or another data source reporting SAT scores for various colleges, you need to use the equivalent old SAT score, not the new score to compare yourself to this previously collected data posted as a reflection of admission’s trends in various colleges. (Right now, the data represented in Naviance and other data bases is from the years previous to this year's, 2016's, graduating class. So it is listed in old score SAT terms.) 


The same is true of any data on a college website, or in national guides, either in print or online, like Fiske Guide to Colleges, for example. This data is all based on old--pre March, 2016--SAT test score data.

 

So be sure to adjust your thinking about the new scores and make the adjustment when looking at data collected and published using old scores.

 

The charts correlating the new and old scores may be found on the College Board website at:

https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/pdf/higher-ed-brief-sat-concordance.pdf

 I found pages 8 and 9 especially helpful as far as converting students scores to the old equivalent scores.


 Jan Rooker #SAT scores #college admissions #student advice #parent advice

 

Supplemental College Essays Matter!

Monday, May 16, 2016

The question is usually some variation of “Why Do You Want to Attend Our University?” And the answer to this question plays a much larger role in college admissions than you might expect. Usually found in the section of the application called supplemental essays, this question is the first thing college admissions counselors read, after they have reviewed a student’s grades and standardized test scores.  

A panel of admissions officers, who spoke at the May, 2016 Independent Educational Consultants Association Conference, in Boston, Massachusetts, analyzed the relative importance of the different parts of the student application. They said particularly, however, that they especially looked forward to reading this essay, eager to see why the applicant wants to attend their college.

The panel of counselors said that they read this even before the personal student essay, or the high school counselor’s recommendation of the student, or the teachers’ recommendations.

This is very significant feedback for students who, as the summer approaches, will be starting their college applications for the 2016-17 admission’s season. Especially so, as high school students, who are often rushing to finish applications, do not pay enough attention to this essay, thinking it unimportant compared to their personal essays.

Here is more information about the supplemental essay that the counselors shared. They said that they looked, first, to see if the student had shared any insights or revealed any knowledge about himself. Did the student know what he was looking for in a learning environment? In a social environment? Did she know in what career direction she might be heading?  The first part of this essay, then, should show evidence of self- reflection and self- knowledge?

The second part of the “why us?” essay needs to show that the student knows about the college and its campus. Hopefully the student has been to an information session. And to the campus for a tour. Or taken the virtual tour. Has the student read any of the student blogs on the college website? Looked at postings on Instagram about the college? Studied the majors that are offered? Looked at related programs of study? Figured out whether the academic atmosphere on campus is collaborative or competitive? What role do sports play on campus? What role performing arts? What is the character of social gatherings? Is there community awareness?

Finally the student needs to talk about how she sees herself fitting in on campus. What activities and programs will the student participate in? Will he play intramural sports? Do research in the physics lab? Perform in a comedy group? Sing in a girl’s a cappella group? Paint himself blue for the big game? Where does the student see himself fitting in?

How will the student ultimately contribute to make a difference to life on this campus? And, above all, who does the student hope to become during the time on campus?


 

Five Reasons to Love UC's Personal Insight Questions

Sunday, April 03, 2016
In March, 2016, UC introduced a new essay format for students applying to be undergraduates. The format includes eight questions, from which the applicant is allowed to choose four about which to write. Each answer is to be no more than 350 words. The actual question prompts are included at the end of this article. 

I really love this new format. First the “personal insight” questions make high school students feel comfortable by allowing them to choose among prompts for ones that they like. Second formulating answers to them will help provide real insight to high school students struggling to figure out who they are. The University of California says this about the questions, “The personal insight questions are about getting to know you better — your life experience, interests, ambitions and inspirations. Think of it as your interview with the admissions office. Be open. Be reflective. Find your individual voice and express it.”

Third, more than other essay prompts, these prompts signal the kinds of things a college is looking for in its incoming class. Fourth applicants get to write about four of the eight prompts and so can stress four different individual aspects without seeming disjointed, which they might if they had to write one long essay. Fifth each answer is long enough (350 words) to give a student space to explain thoroughly. As the University of California website says, “Expand on a topic by using specific, concrete examples to support the points you want to make.”

Here are the UC Personal Insight Questions, following by advice from the UC admissions offices on how to answer them, if you are having trouble getting started. 

“Questions & guidance 

Remember, the personal questions are just that — personal. Which means you should use our guidance for each question just as a suggestion in case you need help. The important thing is expressing who are you, what matters to you and what you want to share with UC. 

1. Describe an example of your leadership experience in which you have positively influenced others, helped resolve disputes, or contributed to group efforts over time. 

Things to consider: A leadership role can mean more than just a title. It can mean being a mentor to others, acting as the person in charge of a specific task, or a taking lead role in organizing an event or project. Think about your accomplishments and what you learned from the experience. What were your responsibilities? Did you lead a team? How did your experience change your perspective on leading others? Did you help to resolve an important dispute at your school, church in your community or an organization? And your leadership role doesn’t necessarily have to be limited to school
activities. For example, do you help out or take care of your family? 

2. Every person has a creative side, and it can be expressed in many ways: problem solving, original and innovative thinking, and artistically, to name a few. Describe how you express your creative side. 

Things to consider: What does creativity mean to you? Do you have a creative skill that is important to you? What have you been able to do with that skill? If you used creativity to solve a problem, what was your solution? What are the steps you took to solve the problem? How does your creativity influence your decisions inside or outside the classroom? Does your creativity relate to your major or a future career? 

3. What would you say is your greatest talent or skill? How have you developed and demonstrated that talent over time? 

Things to consider: If there’s a talent or skill that you’re proud of, this is the time to share it. You don’t necessarily have to be recognized or have received awards for your talent (although if you did and you want to talk about, feel free to do so). Why is this talent or skill meaningful to you? Does the talent come naturally or have you worked hard to develop this skill or talent? Does your talent or skill allow you opportunities in or outside the classroom? If so, what are they and how do they fit into your schedule? 

4. Describe how you have taken advantage of a significant educational opportunity or worked to overcome an educational barrier you have faced. 

Things to consider: An educational opportunity can be anything that has added value to your educational experience and better prepared you for college. For example, participation in an honors or academic enrichment program, or enrollment in an academy that’s geared toward an occupation or a major, or taking advanced courses that interest you — just to name a few. If you choose to write about educational barriers you’ve faced, how did you overcome or strived to overcome them? What personal characteristics or skills did you call on to overcome this challenge? How did overcoming this barrier help shape who are you today? 

5. Describe the most significant challenge you have faced and the steps you have taken to overcome this challenge. How has this challenge affected your academic achievement? 

Things to consider: A challenge could be personal, or something you have faced in your community or school. Why was the challenge significant to you? This is a good opportunity to
talk about any obstacles you’ve faced and what you’ve learned from the experience. Did you have support from someone else or did you handle it alone? If you’re currently working your way through a challenge, what are you doing now, and does that affect different aspects of your life? For example, ask yourself, “How has my life changed at home, at my school, with my friends, or with my family?” 

6. Describe your favorite academic subject and explain how it has influenced you. 

Things to consider: Discuss how your interest in the subject developed and describe any experience you have had inside and outside the classroom — such as volunteer work, summer programs, participation in student organizations and/or activities — and what you have gained from your involvement. Has your interest in the subject influenced you in choosing a major and/or career? Have you been able to pursue coursework at a higher level in this subject (honors, AP, IB, college or university work)? 

7. What have you done to make your school or your community a better place? 

Things to consider: Think of community as a term that can encompass a group, team or a place – like your high school, hometown, or home. You can define community as you see fit, just make sure you talk about your role in that community. Was there a problem that you wanted to fix in your community? Why were you inspired to act? What did you learn from your effort? How did your actions benefit others, the wider community or both? Did you work alone or with others to initiate change in your community? 

8. What is the one thing that you think sets you apart from other candidates applying to the University of California? 

Things to consider: Don’t be afraid to brag a little. Even if you don’t think you’re unique, you are — remember, there’s only one of you in the world. From your point of view, what do you feel makes you belong on one of UC’s campuses? When looking at your life, what does a stranger need to understand in order to know you? What have you not shared with us that will highlight a skill, talent, challenge, or opportunity that you think will help us know you better? We’re not necessarily looking for what makes you unique compared to others, but what makes you, YOU.”

Determining College Fit—By the Numbers

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Very often when students use a short-hand way to determine if a certain college is a good fit, they look up the standardized test scores for the college. But what test score number he uses to make the assessment matters.


Of course, we all know that good fit, even just thinking about the academic part of fit, does not have to do with just the incoming abilities of the students as predicted by their standardize test scores. Besides basic academic abilities, there is also the level of intensity toward academic pursuits on a given campus. And the competitiveness of students--for example, does the campus culture foster collaboration or competitiveness? And academics is influenced by the work/ play style on the campus. And the kind of majors taught and amount of research done on a campus influence the academic atmosphere. And there are more. But these aside, students often look for a short-hand way to determine academic fit.

So if a student is using a number that he calls the average SAT or ACT score of students at Somename State University, it matters where he finds that number. If he is using the score produced by a program called Naviance which is employed by many high schools to give students information about the scores and GPAs of students from their high school who have been “accepted” to this college, then he may be seeing a much higher average score than might exist for those attending this school. This is because some of the students who were accepted to this college will not attend, and the ones who will most likely not attend are those at the very top of the chart. High scoring students tend to apply to more colleges than most other students and have more choices in the end of the process.

If, instead, the student looks on the admissions page of Somename State University’s website for a profile of its average student, he may or may not get the score of the average student “attending” the university. The website may give the average score of the “accepted” students. Or the website may give the score of the average student who is “attending” the university. This is where careful reading matters.

Two places where the student can be sure to find the right reported score for a student “attending” the university in which is interested are: a website called collegedata.com, and a website containing a published document called The Common Data Set for Somename State University for 2016, for this year, for instance. This document contains the data that the college is required to file with the U. S. government each year.

When I did a recent investigation with a student of so called Somename State University, for instance, the score on Naviance at his high school for the average accepted student was 1360 on the SATs. The website for the university sited an even higher score for the average “accepted” student. But when we looked up the information for this university on the collegedata.com site we learned that the score for the average attending student was 1275—85 points lower than what my student had been expecting. It turned out that the school—based on standardized test scores, only—appeared to be a good fit for the student.

Another source of information about standardized test scores that we found helpful was Wintergreen Orchard House data. There the data for attending students is described this way: students who scored: 500-599 44%, 600-699 45%, and 700-800 11%. So, in this case if your student's score was 570, you would know that he or she would fall into the group with scores in the lower half of the attending students and might have to work harder than most.

Of course there are other issues to discuss concerning “averaging” test scores, but that is for another blog. 

To get into College, Be a Thermostat, not a Thermometer

Thursday, February 18, 2016

If you register the temperature and don’t try to do something about it when it is too hot or too cold, you are only a thermometer—you can record the situation but not change it. If you are a thermostat, on the other hand, you can call for heat or call for cool air when you sense that the temperature is not optimal. “I heard this admonition when I was growing up,” said a recent autobiographer talking about his childhood. Being a thermostat, his dad always taught, is the goal of life. It seems that Harvard University agrees with this criterion. See their recent discussion of what makes a good candidate (“Turning the Tide: Inspiring Concern for Others and the Common Good through College Admissions,” 1/20/16) .

Being a thermostat, not just a thermometer takes the kind of confidence that not many 16-year-olds have, however. For most of their lives they have been working hard to fit in, to first learn and then uphold standards—at school, in their families, on athletic teams and in their friend-groups. Asking a 16-year-old to look outside herself, identify an issue that needs fixing and become a change-agent is challenging.

But sometimes it happens. One of my student clients decided to help children who had to undergo chemotherapy. She saw, because of her hospital volunteering, that often these kids lost their hair and felt embarrassed. So she set to work collecting hats for the children. She asked sports teams like the Yankees and she asked celebrities to donate a hat. Then she asked everyone in her high school to donate one hat. Soon she was filling boxes and delivering them to local hospitals. And the National Cancer Society gave her an award.

A student, who lived in Massachusetts, spent time going to beaches on cold nights in October and November to search for sea turtles. Sea turtles on the East coast travel north for the summer to feed; then swimming south, many get stuck in Cape Cod Bay. Then the cold water causes their muscles to freeze. In the timeline of their species, the glacial creation of Cape Cod is recent. So, when their instincts tell them to swim north to feed, and then south for winter to reproduce, they get disoriented around the relatively new peninsula of Cape Cod. Working with the Massachusetts Audubon Society, and the Gulf of Maine Institute, this student with others made and launched wind-floats to help track the ocean currents in order to predict where the turtles would wash up on shore at night.

More recently a student worked on an issue about which she wanted to know more and about which she could see many students in her high school needed guidance—the issue of teens not getting enough sleep. This student began an independent study to learn as much as possible about deterrents--such as, coffee, TV and computer screens, late-night eating--that hinder healthy sleep. She also did a survey in her school to see how many of her peers, unaware of sleep deterrents, were using them and getting less than optimal sleep. Finally when she made her presentation of the findings from the survey and research, she invited not only the independent study committee, but the high school teachers who teach health courses and the vice-principal in charge of curriculum. In the end the health teachers agreed to include her findings in a unit the following year on how to get optimal sleep.

Each of these students was exceptional in his or her ability to see and affect issues outside his or her own circle of life. Each was successful in bettering the common good. However, each of them did these things because of a developed interest in an area. If you are looking to explore areas where you might become a change-agent, start with your natural interests and look for projects there, look outside your circle of life, but not too far.. Do something like my varsity baseball player who painted all of the little league dugouts in his town. And good luck!

To Get into College, Be a Thermostat, Not Just a Thermometer

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

If you register the temperature and don’t try to do something about it when it is too hot or too cold, you are only a thermometer—you can record the situation but not change it. If you are a thermostat, on the other hand, you can call for heat or call for cool air when you sense that the temperature is not optimal. “I heard this admonition when I was growing up,” said a recent autobiographer talking about his childhood. Being a thermostat, his dad always taught, is the goal of life. It seems that Harvard University agrees with this criterion. See their recent discussion of what makes a good candidate (“Turning the Tide: Inspiring Concern for Others and the Common Good through College Admissions,” 1/20/16) .


Being a thermostat, not just a thermometer takes the kind of confidence that not many 16-year-olds have, however. For most of their lives they have been working hard to fit in, to first learn and then uphold standards—at school, in their families, on athletic teams and in their friend-groups. Asking a 16-year-old to look outside herself, identify an issue that needs fixing and become a change-agent is challenging.

But sometimes it happens. One of my student clients decided to help children who had to undergo chemotherapy. She saw, because of her hospital volunteering, that often these kids lost their hair and felt embarrassed. So she set to work collecting hats for the children. She asked sports teams like the Yankees and she asked celebrities to donate a hat. Then she asked everyone in her high school to donate one hat. Soon she was filling boxes and delivering them to local hospitals. And the National Cancer Society gave her an award.

A student, who lived in Massachusetts, spent time going to beaches on cold nights in October and November to search for sea turtles. Sea turtles on the East coast travel north for the summer to feed; then swimming south, many get stuck in Cape Cod Bay. Then the cold water causes their muscles to freeze. In the timeline of their species, the glacial creation of Cape Cod is recent. So, when their instincts tell them to swim north to feed, and then south for winter to reproduce, they get disoriented around the relatively new peninsula of Cape Cod. Working with the Massachusetts Audubon Society, and the Gulf of Maine Institute, this student with others made and launched wind-floats to help track the ocean currents in order to predict where the turtles would wash up on shore at night.

More recently a student worked on an issue about which she wanted to know more and about which she could see many students in her high school needed guidance—the issue of teens not getting enough sleep. This student began an independent study to learn as much as possible about deterrents--such as, coffee, TV and computer screens, late-night eating--that hinder healthy sleep. She also did a survey in her school to see how many of her peers, unaware of sleep deterrents, were using them and getting less than optimal sleep. Finally when she made her presentation of the findings from the survey and research, she invited not only the independent study committee, but the high school teachers who teach health courses and the vice-principal in charge of curriculum. In the end the health teachers agreed to include her findings in a unit the following year on how to get optimal sleep.

Each of these students was exceptional in his or her ability to see and affect issues outside his or her own circle of life. Each was successful in bettering the common good. However, each of them did these things because of a developed interest in an area. If you are looking to explore areas where you might become a change-agent, start with your natural interests and look for projects there, look outside your circle of life, but not too far.. Do something like my varsity baseball player who painted all of the little league dugouts in his town. And good luck!

 

 


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