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Summer SAT/ACT Test Prep Progress

Two months ago my son agreed to do SAT test prep for twenty minutes a day. That plan went pretty well the first week, but we found that on weekends, his days were so packed he could barely find a minute to study. He’d been using an SAT test prep book at home and we were just about to go on a long road trip. I was worried his twenty-minutes-a-day plan would disappear. Then I discovered SAT and ACT practice apps I could download for free. I was elated. He was a bit bummed that he now had no excuse not to study on the road, but I convinced him the apps are game-like and might relieve some boredom on the long car ride.

These are a few that he has tried:

Math Brain Booster Games is a free download in the Apple Store. This game helps to build speed and mental math skills. It’s fun to pick up and “play” and has a timed element which gives it a competitive edge. Their description notes, “it will improve ATTENTION, REACTION and VELOCITY.”

The Daily Practice for the SAT®, free app from The College Board, has several parts. One that my son found helpful was the Scan and Score feature which allows you to take a photo of your SAT practice worksheet and obtain instant test scores. They offer an SAT Question of the Day, or the chance to binge on specific SAT practice questions. Not the funnest interface, but definitely closet to the real thing given that it was created by The College Board.

Magoosh offers the free ACT Practice Flashcards app. This harmless interface allows the student to move through a series of flashcards and set their own practice pace. By logging in, your child can keep track of their progress and easily pick up where they left off. Practice sessions for English include: Punctuation and Grammar, and Structure and Style. For Math: Integer Properties, Fractions and Ratios, Algebra, Geometry, Trigonometry and Advanced Topics. For Science: Earth Science, Biology, Chemistry and Physics.

So no need to let the family summer road trip be an excuse for your child to stop SAT or ACT prep. And parents, you might want to try the app once in awhile. There’s nothing wrong with a little mental math practice in your adult years. And besides, children learn from example, right?

Top 50 Best Colleges in the United States: myKlovr 2018 Rankings

Your virtual college counselor has arranged a list of 2018’s 50 best colleges and universities in the U.S. MyKlovr arranged a ranking-scale by combining the average ranking and data of some of the most reliable college rankings, including sources such as the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Niche, and more.

 

1) Harvard University

  • Location: Cambridge, MA
  • Student Enrollment: 29,652
  • College Type: Private

The oldest institute of higher learning in the country, Harvard is well known for its political science, social science, and law programs. With a beautiful campus and an 87% graduation rate in the standard four years, Harvard is the most prestigious and sought after university in the country.

 

2) Stanford

  • Location: Stanford, CA
  • Student Enrollment: 16,980
  • College Type: Private

Known for their Computer Science program, Stanford enrolls nearly 17,000 students with average ACT scores hovering between 31 – 36 points. Stanford’s location, close in proximity to Silicon Valley is a great incentive for living arrangements for many applicants.

 

3) Yale University

  • Location: New Haven, CT
  • Student Enrollment: 12,385
  • College Type: Private

Yale University is arguably the most selective Ivy League school with a rich history, tight community, and impressive alumni organization. Yale is also the alma mater of 5 U.S. presidents and 20 living billionaires.

 

4) Massachusetts Institute of Technology

  • Location: Cambridge, MA
  • Student Enrollment: 11,311
  • College Type: Private

Opened up to students in 1865 after the Civil War, MIT, is worldwide leader in physical sciences, engineering, economics, and biology.

 

5) California Institute of Technology

  • Location: Pasadena, California
  • Student Enrollment: 2,255
  • College Type: Private

CalTech is best known for their prestigious engineering program, social life, sports teams, and famous beaver mascot. The extremely small student body can be extremely appealing or problematic to potential applicants depending upon their individual interests.

 

6) University of Pennsylvania

  • Location: Philadelphia, PA
  • Student Enrollment: 24,876
  • College Type: Private

Upenn’s motto is “Leges sine moribus vanae,” meaning “Laws without morals are useless.” The competitive, yet respected reputation, as well as the city-feel location of this Ivy-League school is a huge reason why Upenn receives well over 37,000 applications each year.

 

7) Princeton University

  • Location: Princeton, NJ
  • Student Enrollment: 8,143
  • College Type: Private

Formerly known as the college of New Jersey in the 1800’s, Princeton is well known for their Econ concentration. It is no surprise that they also have a phenomenal financial aid program, graduating 83% of their students without student debt.

 

8) Duke University

  • Location: Durham, NC
  • Student Enrollment: 15,984
  • College Type: Private

With a shockingly small faculty to student ratio of 7:1, The majority of Duke’s students are enrolled in the graduate school. With a wide variety of majors to choose from, Duke is known for their top-tier athletic teams and facilities, including their lacrosse team who has won 3 national championships.

 

9) University of Chicago

  • Location: Chicago, IL
  • Student Enrollment: 15,391
  • College Type: Private

The university is composed of the College, various graduate programs and committees organized into five academic research divisions and seven professional schools. The University of Chicago scholars have played a major role in the development of many academic disciplines, including sociology, literary criticism, religion, and more.

 

10) Dartmouth College

  • Location: Hanover, NH
  • Student Enrollment: 6,350
  • College Type: Private

Dartmouth provides 57 majors for their students throughout their quarter plan. The most popular of these majors are Economics and Political Science. Dartmouth also has a unique Center for Professional Development, in which faculty members work with students and employers to achieve post-graduate success.

 

11) Rice University

  • Location: Houston, TX
  • Student Enrollment: 6,719
  • College Type: Private

With a competitive acceptance rate and 6:1 faculty to student ratio, Rice places great emphasis and support on academic achievement, as well as their sports teams, including their 14 Division one programs and wide variety of intramural sports.

 

12) Brown University

  • Location: Providence, RI
  • Student Enrollment: 9,458
  • College Type: Private

With an incredibly long history, Brown was the first school in the Ivy League, 7th oldest college in the country, and the first to admit students regardless of their religious affiliation. The unique city of Providence is also another reason many students chose to apply here.

 

13) University of Notre Dame

  • Location: Notre Dame, IN
  • Student Enrollment: 12,292
  • College Type: Private

Most Notre Dame students live on campus, hovering around 80% of the student-body. This is huge factor in the incredible turn-outs of their sporting events at Notre Dame Stadium, specifically football games, seating over 80,000 fans. Popular majors include finance, marketing, and accounting.

 

14) Vanderbilt

  • Location: Nashville, TN
  • Student Enrollment: 12,567
  • College Type: Private

Located in the middle of Nashville, Vanderbilt is known for their strong curriculum and upstanding reputation. Vanderbilt accepts students with average SAT scores between 1,430-1,580 and ACT scores between 32-36.

 

15) Washington University in St. Louis

  • Location: Lexington, VA
  • Student Enrollment: 2,172
  • College Type: Private

Named after George Washington and Robert E. Lee, W&L offers a wide variety of majors and minors. Their school motto is Non Incautus Futuri, meaning not unmindful of the future.

 

16) Amherst College

  • Location: Amherst, MA
  • Student Enrollment: 1,849
  • College Type: Private

Amherst is often referred to as the best liberal arts college in the country. Their academic reputation, political engagement, and scenic campus is a large factor in why students choose this school over many Ivy-League schools.

 

17) Georgetown University

  • Location: Washington, DC
  • Student Enrollment: 18,459
  • College Type: Private

Offering around 50 majors, Georgetown is made up of 9 grad and under-grad schools. They are best known for their Economics, Political Science, and Finance programs. They are also regarded as having a very active student body, especially when it comes to their sports teams.

 

18) Harvey Mudd College

  • Location: Claremont, CA
  • Student Enrollment: 800
  • College Type: Private

With an extremely small student body, Harvey Mudd’s mission is fairly simple and straight forward. As a liberal arts college, they aim to educate future mathematicians, engineers, and scientists. In fact, they have one of the best engineering programs in the nation.

 

19) University of California – Berkley

  • Location: Berkley, California
  • Student Enrollment: 40,154
  • College Type: Public

Often considered as the best public school in the country, UC Berkley specializes in Social Sciences, Engineering, Biological and Biomedical Sciences, Multi/Interdisciplinary Studies, and Mathematics and Statistics. Although the school has a massive student body, 52.3 percent of its classes have fewer than 20 students. It is also interesting to note that the average freshman retention rate, an indicator of student satisfaction, is 97 percent.

 

20) Swarthmore College

  • Location: Swarthmore, PA
  • Student Enrollment: 1,581
  • College Type: Private

Founded by Quakers in 1864, Swarthmore was one of the first coeducational schools in the U.S. It has an 89% four-year graduation rate. They also have a very small student-to-faculty ratio of roughly 8:1, giving students plenty of face to face exposure with their professors.

 

21) Williams College

  • Location: Williamstown, MA
  • Student Enrollment: 2,171
  • College Type: Private

Known as being one of the oldest and most prestigious colleges in the U.S., Williams was founded in 1793. They are also known for meeting 100% of admitted students’ financial needs.

 

22) University of Michigan – Ann Arbor

  • Location: Ann Arbor, MI
  • Student Enrollment: 43,651
  • College Type: Public

Michigan has an extremely unique curriculum when it comes to choosing fields of interests. Their most popular majors include more general studies such as Business, Economics, Psychology, and Computer Sciences. They also have a flourishing social scene that revolves around their top-notch sports programs including football, hockey, and basketball.

 

23) Johns Hopkins University

  • Location: Baltimore, MD
  • Student Enrollment: 22,686
  • College Type: Private

Founded in 1876, Johns Hopkins is known for their incredible medical school. It is no wonder that their most popular undergraduate majors are Nursing, Public Health, and Biomedical Engineering. Many students here have a lot of pride in their school and sports teams, specifically the lacrosse team.

 

24) Carnegie Mellon University

  • Location: Pittsburg, Pennsylvania
  • Student Enrollment: 13,503
  • College Type: Private

Carnegie Mellon is known for its programs in science and technology, but its seven schools and colleges include the College of Fine Arts and the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences. They are also known for their acclaimed grad-programs.

 

25) Tufts University

  • Location: Medford, MA
  • Student Enrollment: 11,137
  • College Type: Private

Tufts has a slim 16.1% acceptance rate. There is also a 9:1 student to faculty ratio at this university, creating a small, yet close culture. Their mascot, Jumbo the Elephant is very popular among their student-body and athletic programs.

 

26) Pomona College

  • Location: Claremont, CA
  • Student Enrollment: 1,663
  • College Type: Private

The top 4 most popular majors at Pomona are Economics, Mathematics, Biology, and Neuroscience. As you would guess, the student to faculty ratio and the class sizes are extremely small. It is also interesting to note that the average SAT and ACT scores for admitted students fall around the 95th percentile.

 

27) Claremont Mckenna College

  • Location: Claremont, CA
  • Student Enrollment: 1,349
  • College Type: Private

With a huge emphasis on academic achievement and athletic support, Claremont McKenna College was originally an all-boys college, but opened their doors to women in in the 70’s. For whatever reason, their men’s sports teams play as the Stags, while the women play as the Athenas.

 

28) University of California – Los Angeles

  • Location: Los Angeles, CA
  • Student Enrollment: 41,908
  • College Type: Public

At UCLA, the two most popular majors are Political Science and Psychology. They also have a phenomenal Economics program which is very popular among under-grads. The LA location is also a large factor in why students chose this University.

 

29) United States Military Academy

  • Location: West Point, VA
  • Student Enrollment: 4,348
  • College Type: Public

Students come to Army from all over the country to follow their code “a cadet will not lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate those who do.” interestingly, the Cadets have a 93% first-year retention rate and an extremely small faculty to student ration, allowing for plenty of hands-on learning and engagement with USMA educators.

 

30) Carleton College

  • Location: Northfield, Minnesota
  • Student Enrollment: 2,105
  • College Type: Private

Carleton has a rural setting with a campus size of 955 acres. It utilizes a trimester-based academic calendar and ranks as the 8th best Liberal Arts College in the 2018 edition of Best Colleges. Tuition and fees hover around $52,782 a year.

 

31) United States Naval Academy

  • Location: Annapolis, MD
  • Student Enrollment: 4,525
  • College Type: Public

Located a little over 30 miles away from Washington D.C., Navy has an incredible 98% first-year retention rate and an 8:1 student-to-faculty ratio. Students love to support the blue and gold at their division one sporting events, including football and basketball.

 

32) University of Virginia

  • Location: Charlottesville, VA
  • Student Enrollment: 23,883
  • College Type: Public

UVA specializes in liberal arts studies and business as their students’ most preferred majors. They also have an amazing alumni association. Olympians, astronauts, and U.S. political leaders have all graduated from the University of Virginia.

 

33) Haverford College

  • Location: Haverford, PA
  • Student Enrollment: 1,233
  • College Type: Private

Haverford offers a wide variety of majors. The most popular include Psychology, Biology, Economics, and English. The average SAT scores range between 1,350-1,530.

 

34) Emory University

  • Location: Atlanta, GA
  • Student Enrollment: 13,788
  • College Type: Private
  • year or above

Heavily affiliated with the United Methodist Church, Emory is one of the oldest private Universities in the country. Emory specializes in Business Administration and Management.

 

35) Middlebury College

  • Location: Middlebury, VT
  • Student Enrollment: 2,558
  • College Type: Private

This liberal arts school has a competitive 17.4% acceptance rate and has an 8:1 student to faculty ratio. With a beautiful north eastern campus and close-knit community, Middlebury has a 97% first year retention rate, a great indicator of freshmen satisfaction.

 

36) United States Air Force Academy

  • Location: USAFA, CO
  • Student Enrollment: 4,111
  • College Type: Public

All cadets at Air Force participate in intercollegiate or intramural athletics, a specialized leadership curriculum, and an intense training program. The Academy’s mission is “to educate, train, and inspire men and women to become leaders of character, motivated to lead the United States Air Force in service to our nation.”

 

37) University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill

  • Location: Chapel Hill, NC
  • Student Enrollment: 29,084
  • College Type: Public

UNC is tied with two other colleges as the oldest public university in the United States, dating back to 1795. Students can participate in over 550 officially recognized student organizations and are known for their talented sports teams, beautiful facilities, and strong social scenes and events.

 

38) Wellesley College

  • Location: Wellesley, MA
  • Student Enrollment: 2,510
  • College Type: Private

One of the original Seven Sisters Colleges, Wellesley is arguably one of the most famous women’s colleges in the world. Notable alumni include Katharine Lee Bates, Diane Sawyer, and Hillary Clinton. Their most preferred major is Economics.

 

39) New York University

  • Location: New York, NY
  • Student Enrollment: 50,027
  • College Type: Private

NYU is an extremely culturally diverse and international university that offers a wide variety of majors. They have campuses in Abu Dhabi, Shanghai, Accra, Berlin, Buenos Aires, Florence, London, Madrid, Paris, Prague, New York City, Sydney, and Washington D.C. NYU also has an impressive list of notable alumni, including CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, Olympians, heads of state, astronauts, and more.

 

40) Davidson College

  • Location: Davidson, NC
  • Student Enrollment: 1,784
  • College Type: Private

Known as the Wildcats, Davidson students have an average SAT score of 1,280–1,430. Their motto is “Let learning be cherished where liberty has arisen,” which is instilled among their high-achieving students and strong reputation.

 

41) Wake Forest University

  • Location: Winston-Salem, NC
  • Student Enrollment: 7,591
  • College Type: Private

Located just a few hours from the Blue Ridge Mountains and beaches of South Carolina, Wake Forest has a beautiful campus that offers intramural sports and plenty of outdoor trips.  Of the 6 schools that make up Wake Forest, the School of Law, School of Business, and School of Medicine are extremely competitive. Undergraduates are enrolled in either Wake Forest College or the business school.

 

42) College of William and Mary

  • Location: Williamsburg, VA
  • Student Enrollment: 8,484
  • College Type: Public

William and Mary has more than 30 undergraduate programs and more than 10 graduate and professional degree programs. Of their highly ranked grad schools, the first law school in the U.S. is one of them. William and Mary is also responsible for the nation’s first academic Greek society, Phi Betta Kappa.

 

43) Colgate University

  • Location: Hamilton, NY
  • Student Enrollment: 2,882
  • College Type: Private

Colgate’s academic departments and majors fall into one of four general divisions: humanities, natural sciences and mathematics, social sciences and university studies. Greek life plays a significant role in student life, representing nearly half of sophomores, juniors and seniors.

 

44) Boston College

  • Location: Chestnut Hill, MA
  • Student Enrollment: 14,354
  • College Type: Private

Boston College, founded in 1863 by the Society of Jesus is a Jesuit Catholic school that has been classified by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching as a university with high research activity. BC is made up of nine schools, including grad-programs, and competes in nearly 30 NCAA Division I varsity sports.

 

45) Lehigh University

  • Location: Bethlehem, PA
  • Student Enrollment: 7,119
  • College Type: Private

Lehigh is considered one of the twenty-four Hidden Ivies in the Northeastern U.S. They have four colleges: the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science, the College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Business and Economics, and the College of Education. The College of Arts and Sciences is the largest, which roughly consists of 40% of their students.

 

46) Santa Clara University

  • Location: Santa Clara, CA
  • Student Enrollment: 8,680
  • College Type: Private

Santa Clara is the oldest currently operating institution of higher education in California and offers a wide variety of majors, as well as 17 varsity athletic programs competing at the division one program. Students at this highly selective school tend to have ACT scores between 27–32 and SAT scores between 1,220–1,410.

 

47) Vassar College

  • Location: Poughkeepsie, NY
  • Student Enrollment: 2,436
  • College Type: Private

Vassar college is a top-tier liberal arts college that offers over 100 clubs and organizations for students to get involved with. Almost all students live on campus in 1 of 12 resident halls. Vassar has a solid 90% four-year graduation rate, and a 94% first year retention rate.

 

48) Barnard College

  • Location: New York, NY
  • Student Enrollment: 2,573
  • College Type: Private

Barnard College is comprised of two schools, offering a small, yet strong liberal arts school and a large, coeducational Ivy League institution, both in NYC. Barnard is an all-female college in Manhattan with a co-ed partnership with Columbia University, across the street.

 

49) Bucknell University

  • Location: Lewisburg, PA
  • Student Enrollment: 3,625
  • College Type: Private

Bucknell, being a very diverse institution offers nearly 50 majors and over 60 minors. Bucknell’s most popular are Economics, Political Science, Accounting, Finance, and Biology. They have an impressive first year retention rate of 93%.

 

50) Colby College

  • Location: Waterville, ME
  • Student Enrollment: 1815
  • College Type: Private

Colby’s campus encompasses a wildlife refuge and is close in proximity to a preserved lakefront property for environmental studies. There are approximately 100 student-run clubs and organizations on campus, ranging from the Colby Ballroom Dance Club to the Society Organized Against Racism. More than one-third of students are members of Colby’s intercollegiate varsity sports teams, the Mules.

 

So there you have it, top 50 colleges and universities in the U.S. ranked by myKlovr. If you are still not sure what schools to apply to, check out our college finder to find your perfect match today!

 

Sources:

 

Do Scholarship Programs Like FastWeb Really Pay Off?

With college prices soaring into the $70K range any bit of scholarship money can help. I’ve been exploring several online scholarship programs and wondering if they work. About a year ago I signed up for FastWeb.com. By plugging in a series of details about my daughter’s interest and talents, an algorithm generated a list of matches for independent scholarships. Many were state or city related and they ranged between $250- $10,000. Every day for a year I have received an email from Fastweb informing me about the many scholarship programs my daughter may qualify for.

In most cases, the scholarships required some work from my daughter in terms of an essay or short paragraph. For example, there is a National Rice Scholarship contest that is given to a student who resides in a state where rice is produced, California being one of them so my daughter qualified. In order for her to win, she’d have to write an essay about how rice was important to her life. She laughed at me when I suggested she write about her Japanese class in middle school making omusubi weekly for school lunches. She had no desire to write that essay, but more to the point, she really didn’t have time. She’d spent the year writing essays and supplemental essays for college applications plus all the essays for school. The last thing she felt she could do, was write about rice.

I was overwhelmed as well with the college application process and found myself ignoring these emails. I learned that thousands of kids would be applying for each scholarship so her chances were slim. Many of the scholarships were from corporations like Coca-Cola. Local Rotary clubs offered sponsorships too, but she had no direct connection to them. I did get my daughter to apply to one scholarship from a car company that offered $1000 for a photo with a car and a story. Since my daughter’s middle name is Lark, after the Lark Studebaker, we took a shot at that and sent in a photo and story. We never heard back, not even a generic reply.

Now that it’s summer and exams and essays are over, I am starting to open those emails from FastWeb and encourage her to apply for some small scholarships. Any bit will help to buy books or towards trips home. I’ve also learned about myscholly.com, another scholarship search tool.

It all comes down to time and money. The more time we put into seeking out scholarships, the more they might pay out. For parents with younger students, I’d suggest familiarizing yourself with scholarship searches and maybe prep your child for a couple. Have them start thinking now about how rice is important in their life.

Round Two: Planning Ahead for College Tours With Your Second Child

I found myself in NYC this past week with my family and as I walked by New York University it dawned on me that it was time to take my sixteen-year-old on college tours. He attended all the tours with his sister two years ago, but since his interests are different from hers, he wants his own college experience.

So I quickly got online and booked a couple of college tours in the city. His sister was a good sport and attended the tours with us. She explained to him that he needed to check in with the tour director, showing demonstrated interest was important and the college starts a file for you the minute you register for the tour. I noticed her nudging him to ask questions or to pay attention when he was drifting off.

Dinner conversation that night shifted from my daughter’s college talk to his. It was kind of surreal for all of us since we had just spent the last two years talking about my daughter’s college journey. It was fun to watch him think about his future and he had some serious ideas of where he wants to attend after touring all the schools with his sister.

So even if he toured with his sister, does he need to tour the same schools again for himself? I think so since the colleges do want to see demonstrated interest. And in the case of some schools, his sister toured a different department then he would be majoring in. Does this mean we need to repeat the same college tour vacation we had two springs ago? Do we take his sister with us who will then be deep into college herself by then? All these decisions are creeping up quickly. My short answer is to take him on a tour next Spring to a city that has a bunch of schools he wanted to see that his sister didn’t. And next summer we can regroup and narrow down his choices. He needs to figure out if he wants to go to art school, theater school or a liberal arts college where he can do both art and theatre. I am hoping he won’t need to do all the auditions our friend Anne did. But thrilled we have some good art school portfolio prep from our friend Edie.

We are back home now and the first thing Jasper did was come into my room this morning and ask if he could use my computer to look up some colleges he’d been thinking about. When I picked up the computer later in the day, I noticed all the schools he had looked at were in England. Looks like we will be heading across the pond for next summer’s college tour vacation.

A Tour of Freshman Summer Reading from Various Colleges and Universities

Since my kids were in middle school, I made a point to read each book that their teachers assigned. I liked to discuss the books at dinner and I was always curious about a book I hadn’t read. Julie of the Wolves byJean Craighead George was a surprise to me and sticks with me to this day. Learning about wolf packs from the POV of the wolf was something I could only get from this middle grade reader. Once in a while I’d read a book that seemed inappropriate like when Sold by Patricia McCormick was assigned to my sixth grader. Luckily, some of the other parents in the class felt the same way and we were able to discuss our concerns with the teacher before the students took it on themselves.

Summer reading in high school introduced me to some great reads like the tenth grade assignment of Americana by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, which my son is reading now. And everyone should have the pleasure of reading The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon  that was assigned to both my kids the summer before ninth grade.

A year ago I read a NYT article about summer reading for college freshman around the country. I was excited to see that summer reading would not go away once college began. I don’t remember being assigned books in summer. Keeping up with the books on this NYT article was a way for me to find books of interest that were contemporary and I was excited to find my daughter assigned two books this summer by her college: Island of a Thousand Mirrors by Nayomi Munaweera and Unflattening by Nick Sousanis. Sydney is loving Island of a Thousand Mirrors and I recently learned that Nayomi Munaweera tours hundred of colleges and will do a reading at my daughter’s school in the fall.

Among the schools asking students to read specific books this summer, I’ve found the following:  UC Berkeley – Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (because she will be there in person at her keynote event on August 23); Bard College – Bacchae by Euripides; Wesleyan University – A Body, Undone: Living on After Great Pain by Christina Crosby; Lafayette College – Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly.

I’m hoping my daughter will continue to share her reading list with me once she goes to college. It will give me some great reads as well as allowing me to have fun and intellectual discussions with her when she returns home. A shared interest in books can help keep us connected in a familiar way while she’s tucked away at in her new school and I am getting used to my empty nest.

SPOTLIGHT: Mary Shares Insight Into Her Daughter’s Acceptance Into A STEM Program

Mary and I have known each other since our daughters were in Kindergarten together. As always it’s fun for me to watch these little ones grow up and then see where they are headed for their careers. When I think back on Grace, vet school makes sense, but I also her remembered her being a talented actress and wondered if she needed to pick between acting and science. Grace has figured out a way to do both with a Liberal Arts Education.

Hi Mary, I understand Grace has chosen a liberal arts college with a STEM major. How did she narrow her interests down to pre-vet?

Grace has been interested in Veterinary Medicine for many years.  When she had the opportunity to take a research class in high school, she used it to further her interest in the field of captive animal breeding.  Her school supported her interest.

I know Grace has many talents and interests. How did she narrow down her study to science? Was it hard for her to decide to go into science vs. acting?

That is the great thing about the liberal arts college she chose, she will do both. 

When looking at schools, what were the most important aspects for her?

That the school would offer research positions to first-year underclassmen and that they have a strong pre-vet program.

Were universities or smaller liberal arts colleges more open to her continuing her research?    

Grace was very interested in a liberal arts college/university that valued her as a research student with an interest in her project.

Did she talk to the colleges/universities about her research?

Yes.  Since her research class was a big part of her senior year in high school and the proposal was submitted in her junior year, it was a major topic at most of her interviews.

Do you think her specific research helped her get into her top school?

Yes, mostly because they were aware that she was interested in their pre-vet track.  The fact that she would also be considered for her training/experience in theater/acting was a strong selling point.

Did she receive grants or merit aid related to her research?

Not as yet.  She will apply when she gets to school in the fall.

Can you explain about applying for grants that she will hear more about in the fall. This is the first I have heard about something like that.

There are places that the college will recommend, but if she doesn’t get a grant right away, she has looked into some outside sources. Such as,  http://sws.org/Awards-and-Grants/student-research-grants.html  and https://www.fastweb.com/financial-aid/articles/research-grants-for-grad-students

How much time will Grace devote to research while in her undergraduate program?

At this point, she is unsure. She has passed along the findings from her research to the San Diego Zoo and she will wait to hear back.

How involved were you in guiding her through this decision

I just listened to her as she worked out the pros-cons of each school.  I kept notes about what she and I discussed.  She was a very independent student and that theme continued through the application process.

Did she do an internship related to this field?

She did and does work with her Aunt and Uncle in Idaho.  Her Aunt has a practice and her Uncle is on staff at WSU Vet school. She shadowed the Vet at Adopt and Shop when she worked there. She does the same at the Annenberg Petspace.

Any final advice for other parents with children interested in pursuing a major in science?

Many high schools sponsor STEM symposiums and conferences.  Preparing and participating in several of those was beneficial to Grace.  The trend right now to promote girls interest in STEM, so that worked to her advantage.

Thank you, Mary! It was fun catching up with you and best of luck to Grace!

Summer SAT and ACT Test Prep

School has been out for a week and my son turns sixteen tomorrow. Talking about SAT and ACT prep is not a popular subject right now. For him his SATs are far in the future, the reality is that they are five months away.

We decided as a family not to get him an SAT tutor and he’s not keen on a test prep class. The options remaining are self-motivated online test prep or the old-fashioned test prep book. I know the last thing he wants to do this summer is to self-motivate and look through a giant paperback full of word problems and reading comprehension. But still, he needs to prep.

I started thinking about ways to get him to study that would be effective, efficient and not ruin his summer. The twenty-minute rule came to mind the other day. When my kids were toddlers I read that if you were trying to get work done but the little ones kept interrupting,  just sit down with them for twenty minutes. Give them your undivided attention either by reading to them, snuggling or playing, and then after the twenty minutes they would play by themselves for a chunk of time. That idea worked repeatedly for me, the best parenting advice I’d ever gotten.

I then recalled when my kids were in middle school and had to practice the cello, the assignment was: twenty minutes a night. And then when they started reading for school, they were instructed to read for twenty minutes a day. It seems like twenty minutes is a magic number. That’s when I came up with the Twenty Minute A Day Test Prep Practice Plan.

I was explaining this idea to my friend Lisa who is a therapist and she thought it was a great idea. Her daughter had just graduated high school and she was familiar with the struggles to motivate for test prep. “It’s proven that twenty minutes of intense concentration is a great way to retain information. We use that with kids with ADHD.” She suggested setting a timer, clearing the room of any media, study for twenty minutes and then take a four-minute break. The break should be stretching or restorative breathing. The break should be nothing mental, no looking at media! Then the student can decide if they can study for twenty more minutes. At the end of their study time reward them with a piece of chocolate or a look at their phone. She said time of day is not important, being flexible is. But doing it everyday will create good habits and eventually it will become routine.

I talked to my son about this plan. At first he thought twenty minutes a day sounded deadly, but then he remembered cello practice and decided it made sense. He agreed to do it, but asked if he could start on Wednesday, the day after his birthday.

I’ll check back next month, reporting on his Twenty Minute A Day Test Prep Practice Plan progress. Hopefully it will work for your student too.

Are Summer Programs Important for College Admissions?

My son’s college advisor told the sophomore class that what they do this summer will be looked at seriously by college admissions directors. Admissions directors see summer as a continuation of your student’s learning and expect them to take advantage of this time. So no lazy summers!

Colleges want to see that your student is either taking a summer course, doing an internship or has a summer job. I am happy to see three choices because summer courses can be expensive and not available to everyone. Most colleges and universities offer courses to high school students and allow them to stay in the dorms. NYU, for example, has a great selection of very appealing courses for high schoolers but they range from $3,000-$7,000 per student plus airfare and expenses. Sometimes junior colleges offer classes to high school students. The local JC in our area offer these classes for free.

Internships are a wonderful way for students to gain job experience as well as work in a field they are interested in. My daughter did an internship the summer before her senior year and her supervisor wound up writing a letter of recommendation for her college application. My daughter also found that on college interviews discussing her internships was a comfortable way to talk about herself and interests.

One thing I keep hearing from college counselors is that colleges want to see consistency. If your child goes the summer job route, then perhaps going back to that same place of employment each summer and maybe advancing in responsibilities or hours will show rigor and commitment.

If none of these options work for your child, if it’s too late to sign up for a course or maybe you are spending the summer with family out of state, then perhaps your student could write about their summer experience. Maybe they could blog about their experiences and their new environment. Or offer to write an article for the local newspaper. Even create a photography portfolio. Just see that they follow up the following summer, so when it comes time to apply to college, they will have a body of work to show.

Teenagers have lots of energy and when used wisely, they can produce a lot of great content. Sure they need to study for SAT’s but summer doesn’t have to be all about test prep, nor should it be. And a lazy afternoon once in awhile is probably a good idea too.

How Does Your College Freshman Choose and Manage College Roommates?

When I went to college I was assigned to a dorm with three roommates. Two of them became lifelong friends, but one of them I could not stand. I remember complaining to the school about her and they did nothing. So since she and I shared the smallest room of our quad, I found a way to move my bookshelf and wardrobe to surround my bed creating a barricade. I’ll never forget the look on her face when she came home that evening and found me hiding behind the tall walls of generic furniture. Well, at least for the remainder of the semester I had a bit more privacy. The following year I opted not to live in a dorm, but got an apartment with one of my friendlier roommates.

So how do you select a roommate you won’t have to barricade yourself from? Something that is different these days are social media introductions. I have gotten a kick out of reading in the acceptance letters, schools inviting students to join the “Accepted Students Facebook Group.” My daughter did just that and noticed many of the student posts tended to be on the subject of looking for roommates. So she started looking too. She and one of the girls whom she had been messaging with learned they had a mutual friend at another college. From this friend the two girls realized they might be great roommates and made that commitment to each other. Then they jointly posted a Facebook message saying they were looking for a third roommate. In the post, they listed their interests and brief bios and they met a third girl with similar traits. The three of them quickly committed to each other as roommates never having met or spoken over the phone. The three decided that if they lived in a quad room with four girls they would have a bigger room, a balcony and maybe an ocean view. They all thought that was worth living with a fourth and they decided not to look for a fourth roommate, but to let the college pick one for them.

All students fill out a questionnaire about what kind of roommate they would like by answering a series of questions from their favorite music, are they a morning person, favorite TV show, are they gamers, do they snore? My daughter filled out this questionnaire too, as well as adding the names of the specific girls she’d like to room with. She hasn’t gotten a confirmation back from the college whether her roommate choices will reflect her desired roommates, but she hopes it will. If for some reason the college makes different roommate suggestions, at least she would have gotten to know two girls pretty well over social media and will have some friendly faces on orientation day.

As far as managing roommates, most colleges assure the students that if they have roommate problems the RA (residential adviser) on their floor will be the first person to talk to. There are several steps in taking to switch roommates and although I have heard it can take a while, eventually the student will most likely get a different placement. We have a friend whose daughter did not like her roommate and asked her dad if she could get a service dog. Because apparently if you have a service dog, you get your own room. Her dad lovingly pointed out that although that might temporarily solve her problem, it didn’t sound like a great life for the dog being inside while she was at classes all day. Eventually this student waited out the wait-list of students requesting single dorms and was given one.

I’m hoping my daughter won’t have to barricade herself from her roommates or get a service dog and I hope the roommates she met through social media will turn out to be friends for life like two of my three roommates have become.

SPOTLIGHT: What’s It Like To Play On a Division III Team in College

A dad and daughter talk about playing Division III tennis in college. Dad would like to be referred to as Happy Dad (HD) and his daughter, Pleased Daughter (PD).

Before diving into the interview, here’s an explanation of the differences between Division I, II, and III sports: According to prepscholar.com, “Division I offers the highest level of competition and Division I schools’ athletic departments have the biggest budgets. Division III is the lowest level of competition in the NCAA, and Division III schools tend to have the smallest athletic department budgets.” The article here does a great job of explaining the differences in detail.

“Division III offers no athletic scholarships, tends to have the lowest level of competition, but the highest number of participants across all divisions. Division III schools offer an average of 18 sports per school. Also, Division III has the highest average percentage of the student body participating in sports.”

Thank you so much Happy Dad and Pleased Daughter for sharing your story with us.

PD, how much time at college is devoted to playing tennis?

PD: I play about two hours every day and a few days where I spend three hours on court if I decide to do an individual session separately outside of team practice with my coach. Then on weekends, matches can range from three to four hours and if we have back to back matches then I spend roughly six to eight hours over the weekend.

Do you travel with your tennis team? If so, is that challenging during the school year?

PD: Yes, during the season we have at least six away matches which requires us to travel to schools in Massachusetts as well as the greater New England area. It can be challenging if we have weekday matches because I would often miss classes. In the event that I missed class, I would have to catch up with classmates and my professors which was hard because I felt like sometimes I would fall behind. Also, it can be challenging socially because if we have overnight tournaments we miss weekends events on campus.

I can imagine starting college not having a group of friends is challenging for students. It seems like beginning with a group of students who share the same interests, tennis in your case, would help make the transition away from home earlier. What has your experience been?

PD: I think that in the process of transitioning into college, being on a team helped me immensely. I was able to meet new people through my teammates and I also made connections with other athletes on campus. Specifically freshman year we had our main season in the fall so our team arrived at school about a week and a half early to train during pre-season. During pre-season, our team got extremely close and I became a lot more comfortable with my new environment so when school actually started I already felt pretty familiar with campus. Also, I think naturally the athletes tend to gravitate towards each other because we all have a common understanding of what it is like to balance sports and school.

Does being on a sports team at college help to give you an identity, or a group of friends to be with?

PD: Currently, the majority of my friends are other athletes. I find that being on the tennis team does give me an identity as an athlete because people know that I play tennis and they wish me luck if they hear that our team has a match or they ask me how practice went when they see me walking across campus in my practice gear. I think that playing on a team gives me a sense of purpose and accountability because I am representing not just myself but also the team as whole every day.

Happy Dad how do you feel about your daughter playing on a Division II team?

HD: Division III sports can be very appealing because you get to play a sport you love and you get a good education. Many Division I athletes won’t study abroad because they can’t miss the time due to competitions.

What advice might you offer parents whose child plans to play sports in college?

HD: Students and parents can become very anxious and even hysterical during the college selection process; DO NOT FALL VICTIM TO IT. Do your best not to allow parents or other students to influence you. Encourage your student to only apply to schools they believe they would attend. Only visit schools they think they would attend. Parents be realistic about applying to a school that you can pay for and the student has earned.

Have conversations at the dinner table about what your child thinks they are looking for. Help them consider the pros and cons of each possibility. When I took PD to my alma mater she didn’t like it. No specific reason. That was the end of the conversation and it was off the list.

Finally, take the college selection experience as an opportunity to learn more about your kid and watch them make the first big decision of their life.

Thank you, HD and PD, I appreciate your talking to me and best of luck to you both!

Reflecting On My Daughter’s Senior Year

I wish the last two years with my daughter at home hadn’t been so hard. I wish she’d had more fun. In junior year, we were on her to get top grades. We knew it was an important year and didn’t want her to blow it. By senior year, she knew the routine and was hard on herself. Plus she had the added load of SATs, college applications and college essays. Although we spent a lot of time together through this process and touring schools, the majority of the time and talk was about college.

Now that she has been admitted and accepted, was this all worth it? Of course it was in a certain respect, but could it have been handled differently? I wonder how rigorous school work has to be. I just saw an article about Ivy League schools not being the only ticket to success. Does it really matter what school they go to in the end? Shouldn’t we be raising healthy well-balanced kids and not over-achievers? My children went to a Waldorf school for elementary and middle school. The philosophy there was to keep the children in childhood as long as possible. I always believed that philosophy and their motto: One Childhood, Live It Well.

Another thing I learned this year was not to trust the Net Price Calculators. This may be a situation in our family that is not reflective of everyone, however what happened with regarding financial aid was disappointing. Based on the FAFSA and our income, our estimated family contribution (EFC) was a manageable amount. And the same amount was reflected in the Net Price Calculators at most schools we applied to. However after the CSS profile was filtered in, the financial aid offered was not the same as anticipated from the Net Price Calculator.

When I look back on our year with what happened, my daughter working so hard, giving up many things to get into a top college and then us not being able to afford it, all those grownup factors coming into play, I wish I had been able to keep her in childhood just a little bit longer.

She has a younger brother and we are starting to think about some things differently. But even though he witnessed first hand his sister’s journey, he has already signed up for a rigorous course load next year and is taking on an additional special project as well as planning to be in the musical and play and on a sports team. Inherently these kids push themselves, I know that. I am proud that he wants to do so much. He still wants to tour some top colleges knowing we might not be able to afford them. But it’s his journey and all I can do is help guide him and support him.

So at the end of a very hard year I keep reflecting on the saying: One Childhood, Live It Well, and hope I can give my daughter one last summer of childhood before going off to college and hope she lives it well.

Consider Your Safety Schools Carefully – You May End Up At One

My daughter never thought she’d end up accepting at her safety school, but she has. It’s the first school we looked at over two years ago. It’s the one she said she’d never go to. And it’s the same one she applied to at the very last minute before the January first deadline hit.

So how did she wind up there and are other students making similar choices? In her case, she got into her reach school, but was given no merit or financial aid making it impossible to afford. And she has so many friends in similar situations.

The safety schools tend to be the schools the student definitely gets into. The student’s GPA will most likely be higher than the average GPA of accepted students, so there is a good chance student will be offered merit money at their safety schools. Safety schools could also include state schools or junior colleges.

With private schools averaging around $70,000 per year, the reality of affording one is daunting. My daughter and some of her friends had to think long and hard about whether student or family debt was worth it. It was a hard lesson for my daughter, but when she realized the cost to our family and that she had a younger brother who would be going to go to college soon, she chose her school more or less for financial reasons.

I know she never imagined herself at the school she will end up in, but she is getting increasing more excited now that her final decision has been made. She also sees a lot of her friends making similar choices and feels proud that she is making this choice too. The school she has chosen is a great school and I think more suited for her than her reach school. She knows transferring is an option and she will keep that in her mind as she begins her journey. She confided in me the other day that she had been worried if we spent the money on her reach school and it didn’t work out, she would have felt horrible. $70,000 a year is a lot of responsibility to place on an eighteen year-old.

My advice is to be careful when selecting your safety schools. Visit them and fall in love with them as you would your reach school. It’s kind of like dating. You can fall in love a couple of times, but the one you settle down with might never have been the one you thought you’d be with initially. Maybe at eighteen they don’t realize this either. Here’s a list to the Top Safety Schools By State from niche.com to start dreaming about.

What Does It Mean to Transfer and How Soon Should You Think About It?

There are several reasons to transfer colleges: your school is not the right fit; you have completed your general ed requirements and it’s time to dive into your major at a school with a specific program; financially it’s a better choice.

With every college my daughter was considering, I’d remind her she could always transfer. She finally told me to stop suggesting that. For her it was too trantransoon to consider leaving a place she worked so hard to get in to.

I transferred from a state school into my dream school in junior year. During my first two years at state school I took care of most of my general education requirements. It was affordable and gave me time to figure out what I really wanted to study. I could have stayed at the state school, but something in me wanted something different, more rigorous and in NYC. While at state school I lived at home, a ten minute drive to campus. When I tell people what college I went to I always answer with the one I graduated from not the one I transferred from. I don’t think I was ever asked in a job interview if I had transferred or not. It really never mattered. Where I got my diploma from was really all anyone cared about.

According to Inside Higher Ed, more than one third of college students transfer “at least once in six years.” And the New York Times recently reported, “this fall, Princeton will join a growing group of selective colleges that are focusing more on transfer students. The initiative is directed at attracting more low-income students, but middle-class ones are also likely to see benefits.” “To lure students, some two-year colleges are starting to look a lot like their four-year peers, offering study abroad programs, modern dorms and renovated cafeterias.”

I found this list on Transfer Web  with stats on transfer rates of the top fifty colleges and universities. It could be a good gage at which colleges are more open to transfer students.

It’s hard to convince your high school senior that transferring is a good option. They are dazzled by tours and fancy brochures. But if you can live at home for two more years, save money and then apply to your dream school, how great could that be? It was for me.

You have Made Your College Decision. Now How Best to Spend the Summer.

May first is College Admissions Day and now finally parents and students should be able to breathe. What a tremendous year it’s been. I am exhausted. Between travel and financial aid forms and emotions and decisions, it’s taken the best of me. But now that the decision has been made and the deposit paid, I can start to feel myself relax. A bit. But what happens next? It’s finally time for our family to begin planning for the summer. Taking into consideration what date college begins and how much money we can afford to spend.

When I asked my daughter what she wanted to do this summer she spelled her answer, “R-E-L-A-X”. I can’t blame her. But she will also get a summer job, hopefully something she can enjoy and save some money. And a little travel. Her dad spent the year before he went to college reading, all day, every day. He hopes she’ll do the same.

But what other summer options are out there? Several colleges offer incoming students a chance to start school this summer to become acquainted with the campus and to take one or two classes. There are summer programs available in the arts and sciences. And I know some students who are going back to the summer camps they attended as kids as counselors.

One parent of a college freshman told me the other day to take the family on vacation and take lots of pictures, “this will be the last time you are all together.” But does it have to be so dramatic? I hope not. I hope we can still take family vacations together. And perhaps if our students spend a semester abroad we could meet up with them before they head back to the states.

It can be daunting to think that this is the last time our family will be altogether. But at least for the freshman year, I like to think of it as extended summer camp. They’ll go away for three months and come home, then away for another three months and come home. At least I’ll try to keep that analogy going as long as I can. But right now I am relieved that we know where our daughter will be in the fall and can focus on the present as long as it lasts.

SPOTLIGHT: Mary Beth Shares Her Daughter’s Journey Applying to Art School

Mary Beth’s daughter Edie is a neighbor and classmate of my daughter.  I’ve watched Edie win countless awards and show her talents on stage as a performer, costumer, graphic designer and visual artist. 

Hi Marybeth, wondering at what point did Edie decide to apply to art school?

In tenth grade Edie was exposed to a lot of arts education outside of school and had access to admissions officers from various art schools. From there she kind of fell into the art school decision.

How many art schools did she apply to and how many of those did she tour? Did she consider being an art major at a liberal arts college or university?

She applied to four art schools and toured five. She had already done summer classes at CalArts and Otis College of Design. She applied to about a third art schools, a third universities and a third liberal arts colleges.

What’s the portfolio process like for art school?

In freshman year the art teacher at her high school told parents to hold on to all of our student’s art to start building the portfolio. Though colleges want to see recent work (second semester Junior year and more recent) it is informative to have past work to see progress as well as draw on past concepts, techniques and interests. 

Were the portfolio requirements the same for each school or did they vary?

Each college does have different portfolio requirements and seem to be indicative of the type of school they are. We attended a College Day offered through Ryman Arts when she was a sophomore. College reps held sessions about their schools. This program was very informative and helped us start to plan what schools would be a good fit for Edie and where we might want to visit. National Portfolio Day is an essential event to attend in junior year if you are considering art school. It is a big event where many art colleges send representatives to look at student portfolios. It isn’t really possible to see to more than a few school reps so going sophomore and junior year helps to get an understanding and make a plan for Spring of junior year or senior year. Some reps at the event may even be able to offer admission based on the quality of the portfolio. Others will critique the work and offer insights to strengthen work and presentation. For example one school was very structured and wanted more technical work – figure drawings and still lives, another school was less structured and was more interested in self guided projects and personal artistic endeavors.

How involved were you and your husband involved in the portfolio process?

My husband and I have art, photography and design backgrounds so we were able to support Edie. We gave her a little feedback on the work she included in her portfolio but she mostly did what she wanted according the advice that admissions officers gave her. We were able to help her with the photography of the work and creating the digital portfolio.

Did you consult an art school advisor? Or did you wish you had?

We did not consult an advisor, we talked directly with the schools at portfolio days, and shared the portfolio with school art teachers and friends who attended the schools she applied to. She had some friends using art school consultants and absorbed a lot of tips they received. Some of the college reps she met at National Portfolio Day stayed in touch and also offered feedback about her work. One college placed a lot of emphasis on presentation and flow of the portfolio. Her high school art teachers were very helpful in making the final choices for that portfolio.

If a student doesn’t have a lot of exposure to art or have opportunity to practice speaking about their art an advisor would be a good route. Also, portfolios are more than just the work! Students have to write about the work-describe their motivations, inspirations, techniques and more.   

How early did Edie start putting together a portfolio?

Most of the work she did for her final portfolio was done independently in late junior and early senior year. A lot of colleges she talked to wanted to see her most recent work and they asked that she didn’t include anything made before junior year. One college even remarked that they could tell class assignments from independent work and stressed how important work outside of class was for a student to show their thinking and individual style.

Has Edie made her final decision yet?

She ended up committing to a university with an film and arts program because she has so many interests in addition to art.

So it sounds like she didn’t want to be limited to art school in the end. Can you take other classes when at art school?

A lot of the art schools that she applied to had cross enrollment programs, for example students at the Maryland Institute College of Art have the option to take courses at Johns Hopkins, and Rhode Island School of a Design students could take classes at Brown but it can be a challenge to go to two different schools. Art schools have very distinct schedules that make it hard for students to cross enroll; RISD classes are six hours long and once a week whereas Brown classes are two hours long and three times a week. It’s difficult to make it all work so Edie decided that it would be better to go to one school with a good art program and similar course schedule than juggling two school’s schedules.

Any parting words?

Edie submitted work to competitions and art programs beginning freshman year. Attending the weekend classes at Ryman Arts and the summer program at CA State Summer School for the Arts gave her much more uninterrupted time to develop her skills. A few hours a week in the high school art class really aren’t enough time to explore media and develop the skills needed to produce a thoughtful body of work. Through these programs she also met a wide variety of professional artists and took trips to studios, museums and offices. All of this helps to develop the eye and builds an understanding for career options.

Competitions such as Scholastic Arts and Writing and YoungArts were good ways to see what work had traction. She didn’t win YoungArts the first year she applied but she gained a lot of skills and knowledge the next year and applied again and won. Awards from these organizations can provide opportunities for financial support and a future network of support.

I’d encourage people to pay attention to the curriculum and personality of each art school. There is a wide variety of approaches and emphases.

Thanks so much this was very helpful! And good luck to Edie!

What Does It Mean To Be Waitlisted?

“If you are waiting on a waitlist decision, please make sure you accept to at least one school by May first.” These were the wise words given by an admissions director to a group of parents at an admitted students tour I attended last week. “I’d hate to see your student not have a school to go to in the Fall.” He’s worried that students count on getting off the waitlist when the odds are very slim that they will.

Is there a way to rise to the top of the wait list? Some parents say a letter to the admissions director or department head will show fresh demonstrated interest. Some schools might ask students to update their letter of intent. I’ve heard that some students on wait lists have been asked by the college to write additional essays. If your student has not received any of these assignments, don’t panic. Just call the admissions office and they will explain their process.

I called the admissions office to the school my daughter was waitlisted to and waited about six minutes on hold then spoke to an admissions director. He told me the waitlist would open up on May 1 after all the other students had accepted. He said they’d start pulling students off the waitlist based on their major. If the History department had three openings, three history students would get those spots. He also told me we’d find out by May 15. That was a relief to know we wouldn’t have to wait all summer. I understand some schools will hold waitlists as late as July.

Waitlists can give a student hope but the realities of getting off the waitlist are daunting. Sometimes a waitlist reply can be a badge of honor. My husband likes to tell that he was waitlisted at Harvard. Our kids are both impressed and empathetic. How different would his life had been if he’d gone to Harvard? Who knows. But it’s a fun conversation around the dinner table, especially right now. So think of the waitlist as a badge of honor and make sure your student enrolls someplace by May 1.

Admitted Student Tours – Do You Attend These and How Many Can You Squeeze Into One Week?

I just came back from two Admitted Student Tours with my daughter and plan on going to a third next weekend. I have to admit while attending Prospective Student Tours on the East Coast last year, I never imagined we’d be spending this Spring break touring schools on the opposite coast.

Admitted Student Tours differ from Prospective Student Tours in that the admitted students are greeted with congratulations, SWAG, food and balloons. Many students have had multiple offers from colleges and universities and now it’s the time to decide on one. The schools use these tours to sell their school to the student and parents. It’s time to close the deal.

The tours are a good chance for students to meet peers who have been accepted and it’s a good time for parents to ask detailed questions, like a big one for both the schools we just saw: Is housing guaranteed for all four years? No in both cases. Only one year for one school and two for the others. A big reality if the student is far from home.

It’s a chance to ask specific questions about majors and even meet with professors. It’s a time to see the dorms and sample the cafeteria food. And it’s  time to really understand how far away home is.

When I think back to the ten schools in twelve days in four states I visited with my daughter on the East coast last Spring break, I realize of those ten she only wound up applying to two. And of all the schools she was accepted into, she had only visited one of them. The others she had learned about from brochures or meeting with campus reps who visited her high school.

In the end, my daughter may end up in a school in a state we’ve never been to. This is the school who offered her the biggest scholarship and who have the most interesting opportunities for her major. A year ago I never would have predicted she’d end up there. Nor could she. She had her heart set on a big city school in NY. But in the end, she wound up not even applying there. Instead she may be at the opposite side of the country at a small school in the mountains.

There truly is no road map for this journey. But I have enjoyed it none the less. It’s been amazing spending so much time with my daughter. And I am grateful to her for taking me along on this adventure with her.

Negotiating for Financial Aid. Does it Work to Call the FA Office?

I woke up this morning in a cold sweat. I’d just had a nightmare about calling the financial aid office of my daughter’s top school. In reality, I have not made the call yet. But I plan to and I am strategizing just how to do that.

In talking to other parents who have gone through this before me, I’ve learned the following tips: When dealing with financial aid officers, etiquette applies. Always be polite.  Always express your excitement that your student was accepted to their school. Always thank the school for the aid they have already offered.

Introduce comparative offers. Ask if the school could consider matching the offers. If there are no other offers to compare to, then ask if they can offer more aid which might entail explaining your financial situation.

Other advise I have received is to have your child write and call the financial aid office first. If the desire for more aid comes from the student, the school sees the student’s commitment. The parent should also call and email the financial aid office too because most likely the financial aid is based on the parents income and tax return which might need explanation.

Sometimes it’s necessary to have your child’s college counselor email or call on your child’s behalf. You might need as many advocates as possible if a lot of need is required.

The biggest tip I’ve learned is being to leverage offers. In other words, if your child received $5,000 in aid from their first choice school and $25,000 aid from their second choice school, the idea is to call the first choice school and tell them that your child very much wants to attend their college, that it’s the first choice, but they have received a better offer from another school. Then ask if the first school can match that offer. In some cases they may ask you to forward the other offer to them. They may match the offer or up their offer or just leave their offer untouched.

It’s hard enough to get through the application process and the emotion of offers coming in or being denied, but throwing the financial aid into the mix for me is the hardest part.

Spring Has Arrived and So Have SAT Scores

Traditionally the PSAT is taken in the Fall of tenth grade. Some students begin studying for it the summer before. Methods of study can be in the form of a PSAT practice book, online course, private tutor or an in person course.

Merit scholarships are offered for students scoring in the top one percent of the PSAT. The PSAT is a good indicator of how your child will do on the SAT. Some statistics say that SAT scores will rise at average 139 points from PSAT scores.

More and more colleges are putting less weight on SAT scores. SAT’s are not always the best indicator of the student’s ability and more and more colleges are becoming test optional. On the other hand, larger universities might rule out students with lower SAT scores. Each college or university will tell you what the average SAT score is for the students they accept. Lewis and Clark College has a Test Optional component where you send in additional writing samples and letters of recommendation instead of test scores if you are not a good test taker

If your child is leaning towards SATs it’s probably best to have them take the SAT at least twice. The first time they might have been nervous and just getting used to the test taking environment. Do you press them to take the test a third time? There are different approaches to this. One parent I talked to told me their child needed ten more points on his SAT in order to qualify for his dream school in Scotland, so that student has a huge motivation to retake the SAT for a third time.

My son is not a great test taker but he is a great student. He’s planning to take mostly honors classes next year as a junior and we have just had the conversation about SAT prep. As a family we decided that he would be better off not spending lots of time on SAT prep, instead spend that time on getting his GPA as high as he can. He will then focus on applying to test optional colleges.

Studying for the SAT is almost like taking on an additional class that requires daily homework and most importantly self motivation. There is only so much time in the day for eleventh graders. I’d say, pick and choose what is going to show you off the best. Can you add the rigor of SAT prep and not give up the school musical or sports team? If you can, then great, if it’s too much, then something has to give.

Sophomore year is a great time to research colleges and see how much weight they put on SAT’s. And then guide your child in the direction that suits them the best. There are over 4,000 colleges and universities in this country and not all require high SAT scores.

How Do You Make Your Decision Once All the Decisions Are In?

This is a pretty exciting week for seniors as the college decisions begin to arrive. If your student is fortunate to have been accepted to several colleges, then decision time is here. My daughter is still waiting on about five colleges to send their decision letters, but the majority have come in.

So what now? How to decide where to go? Several factors fall into play and cost is at the top of the list for most people. You’ll find that the offers and financial aid vary from school to school. Private universities and college acceptance letters usually come with a financial aid offer. We are still waiting on financial aid from the UC schools.

So once you narrow down the schools you can afford, what next? Most colleges offer tours for accepted students. If you have not already toured the campus, or are unsure if this is where your student wants to spend the next four years, then this is a great opportunity to see the school. Many accepted student tours fall within the Spring Break dates. This is great if you have not planned a Spring Break trip with your family. But it’s also tough if you now need to schedule last minute flights to visit schools.

In our case we can schedule a road trip and head up the coast to visit several California schools. Luckily we already did the East coast trip and don’t need to see those schools right now. I have heard from many parents that they did not do previous visits to colleges, but were saving the visits for the schools their student was accepted to. That’s a great way to do it and hopefully those families had kept Spring Break open for just that purpose.

It’s interesting to go from fantasizing about which school your student thinks they want to go through to what school they will end up in. A year ago my daughter found the small New England schools to be appealing and was convinced she did not want to stay in California. Now that she has been accepted to several California schools and several New England schools, she is thinking being closer to home might not be so bad.

At the moment I’m likening this experience to buying a new car. You get excited by the shiny brochures. You walk into the dealer and love the new car look and smell, but then you test drive a couple and discover the car you fell in love with at first isn’t the perfect match for you. Then you see the ticket price and begin to think more practically. You might not drive a shiny red convertible off the lot, but you will end up in the car that’s the right fit for you and your family. In the end it’s the same with college. After a lot of looking and practical thinking, your student will end up in the school that’s the right fit for them.

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