apply to college

Is Early Action or Early Decision A Good Idea?

My daughter didn’t know about Early Action (EA) when she applied to college. I first learned about it as her friends started receiving acceptances before she’d even finished applying to schools. I thought the only early application option was Early Decision (ED).

The biggest difference between Early Decision and Early Action is that Early Decision applications are binding meaning the student is obligated financially to accept the tuition package offered. Early Action plans are non-binding and the student can put off their decision to accept their package until they hear from other schools. ED works like this; a student applies early to one school and receives their decision early (before May 1). If accepted, the student must accept the offer of admissions and withdraw all of their other applications. This can be quite a gamble because a family is deciding without being able to weigh other options. Other schools may offer the student more financial or merit aid, but the student will never know if they apply ED.  A student should apply to other schools as well in case ED does not work out. However, this is a costly proposal, knowing they must give up those other applications if admitted to their ED school. The only way to get out of a binding contract would be if the family can prove that they don’t have the financial means to pay the tuition. It is so important for students to have backup schools that they love. It’s not wise to rely on one favorite.

Early Action is a non-binding contract. In EA, a student applies to one school early and receives their decision early. However, they do not have to commit to that one school until they hear from the other schools they applied to. This allows the student to weigh all their options.

Students will apply EA or ED if they are very passionate about one school. It is important to remember that your child should only apply ED if they are certain they want to attend that school. Students will also use EA or ED to get into a difficult school that they might otherwise get into during regular admission. The acceptance rates for EA and ED are usually higher than regular admission acceptance rates. A loophole is that some schools do not offer EA or ED (like the UC’s) and others will either offer only ED or EA, not both.

In my experience, Early Decision is a gamble and Early Action is a safer and better bet. EA allows your student to weigh their options (particularly financial ones) while knowing early if they got into their dream school. Knowing what I know now, I would have advised my child to apply EA when possible and only do ED if there are no doubts in their mind that this is the perfect school for them.

What is the FAFSA and Why Is It Important?

The Free Application For Federal Student Aid otherwise known as the  FAFSA report  is the gatekeeper to college and university financial aid. Each family must fill out the report every college year. The first time it’s filled out is the year the student applies to college. The reports open on October 1. The application is FREE to fill out for all families and every college and university uses the same application so the application only needs to be submitted one time. When submitting you will select which colleges you would like the report to be sent. Additional colleges can receive the information at any time.

The FAFSA report determines the family’s Expected Family Contribution (EFC) based on several items such as bank accounts, income and properties owned. Students are encouraged to fill out the FAFSA report, but the language and details may not be something the student understands, so parental support is important. Some parents end up filling out the form for their student, especially the first year while the student is focusing on their college applications. But educating your student on financial documents not only makes them aware of your family’s financial situation but also gives them an introduction to similar applications they eventually will take on.

With the inherent costs of college, it’s not a bad idea to talk early about the reality of your family finances and how it will affect paying for college. There is nothing worse than your child getting into their dream school then later find you can’t afford to send them. Letting your child take part in these realities of finances will be helpful to all of you.

Several things are important when preparing the report and I suggest doing the worksheet beforehand. Make sure you have gathered all the items needed before starting as it will be easier than stopping and searching for figures. It’s a good idea to keep a log of specific figures that won’t change such as the year you purchased your home, the price you paid, the address of your employer, social security numbers.

I left myself an entire weekend day to fill out the FAFSA. That sounds intimidating, but it was necessary for me to gather all the info, fill out the worksheet and then fill out the online form. It’s not the easiest process in the world, but not the hardest either. The hardest part for me was realizing that my child was indeed heading off to college.

Once you fill out the report and submit, you will immediately receive an email from FAFSA with your EFC figure. This is the figure the colleges use to determine how much financial aid they might offer your student.

You will need to apply for financial aid each year your student is in college because family finances could change. Make sure you mark this on your calendar. And if you happen to have one student in college, your EFC will change for the second child since you are already paying one college tuition.

Applying to College and Your Friends

When it comes time to apply to college, you need a support team. And when I say ‘support team,’ I’m talking about more people than your myKlovr support team. I’m talking about your friends, too. They may not possess life experience, but as they’re going through the same things you are, they, better than anyone else, understand your hopes, dreams, and anxieties.

Friends are there to support you, and you are there to support them. However, just how much should you share about your college application journey with them? Are there any downsides to being 100% open with your friends? In this article, we’ll examine why keeping some information private might be a good idea.

When Sharing Is Caring

By all means, tell your friends where you’re applying to college. There’s no real downside. The only thing I’d recommend is not bragging about which schools or how many schools are on your list. Besides being silly, you don’t want to be embarrassed if you receive rejections from your top-choice school.

Stay humble, college applicants.

When Sharing Isn’t Caring

Let me recommend a line in the sand when it comes to sharing information:

  • Don’t reveal which scholarships you applied to.

Why not share scholarship information? First of all, think about your group of friends. In many ways, they’re like you. They take the same classes as you, probably make similar grades as you, and have similar interests. If you tell them about a scholarship you applied to, they might apply as well, creating more competition for you. And since scholarships tend to have fewer applicants than colleges, one additional application on the pile can lower your chances significantly.

Note: This advice also applies long after your college years. Don’t tell friends or family about the specific jobs where you apply. They might apply, too, and snatch that job away from you.

Supporting Friends as the Acceptances and Rejection Roll In

Once you apply to colleges and scholarships, there’s a lot of waiting, and you and your friends have to go through the motions until you receive the emails or letters that will change your lives forever. But there will come a day when you or a close friend find out the news. How should you react? Let’s look at some positive and negative scenarios.

If the news is bad…

If bad news should befall a friend, know that they’ll be sad or at least grumpy for a few days. Suggest that you do something fun, and more importantly, distracting together. Go to the movies, play mini golf, anything to remind your friend that life goes on.

If the news is good…

It’s time to celebrate! If you’ve received the good news, please don’t gloat over your friends. Gloating’s not nice. If they’ve received the good news, please forgive them if they should gloat. And as I’m sure you’ve (hopefully) already heard, don’t do anything illegal to celebrate. Colleges and scholarships love to rescind acceptances to high school seniors who get into trouble.

Final Thoughts

Besides keeping your scholarship applications a secret and not gloating if you should receive good news, there’s no wrong way to discuss the college application experience with your friends. Be there for them, and they’ll be there for you.

In other words, be a good friend. 🙂

What Looks Good on a College Application?

After attending multiple seminars with admissions directors and meeting with college counselors, it seems to be agreed upon that a well rounded college application is ideal. So what’s that look like for your high school freshman or sophomore?

Colleges expect a schedule full of rigorous classes, but they also expect to see room on the student’s schedule for electives. And consistency is important with electives. For example, a college tends to be more impressed if they see a student take art all four years of high school rather than art one year, drama the next, music the next and then skip an elective the senior year. Colleges look for growth and commitment in electives.

Colleges also want to see that the student has participated in any extracurriculars the school has to offer, whether that be sports, orchestra, musical theater or the school newspaper. These extracurriculars are just as important as the academics and electives. Schools don’t want to see that the student went home at 2pm to play video games on a daily basis.

Student leadership and community service rank high with admissions directors as do participating in clubs. But again, they want to see the student attending these clubs for four years and perhaps growing into leadership positions within the clubs. Starting a club is often an option in high schools, so if you child has a good idea, encourage them to partition the school to begin a club. Make sure they follow through and grow the club over their four years. Usually a club will need a teacher advisor. If the club is successful, perhaps that teacher would write a stellar letter of recommendation for the student. Seeing that a student can balance academics, create something new and navigate through the schools administration will bound to impress a college admissions director.

Obviously grades are an important factor in getting into college, but being well rounded is as well. Just as in life, being well versed in different topics will only help to expand your child’s world.

Does your high SAT / ACT score guarantee that you will be admitted to college?

The average SAT score for high school seniors admitted to college is approximately 1060/1600. The ACT score for the same group is around 20/36. However, averages can be misleading. For selective colleges that accept less than 25% of applicants, the test scores of their freshmen class are 30-35% higher than the national averages. However, we have found only four colleges with an average SAT score above 1500 and fewer than ten colleges with an average ACT score of 34 or higher. If your total SAT / ACT score is only 10-15% higher than the national average, you are likely a part of the top 25% of test takers. Yet this score may not be enough to make you a competitive applicant in the eyes of the top 25% of colleges and universities.

There is a definite correlation between standardized test scores and college admission success. You need to understand where your test scores place you against other applicants at a specific college. You should work on your SAT / ACT scores to maximize your chances of getting into the best possible college. That is why both the College Board and ACT offer tests designed for 8th-grade students: students can familiarize themselves with the testing process and improve their score over time.

Do high SAT / ACT scores guarantee that your dream college will accept you? Well, not really. College admissions officers are not robots focused solely on number, and this works to your advantage. They look for well-rounded candidates, not only great test takers.

High SAT / ACT scores equal a better chance of admission. If your scores are not quite where you would like them to be, you can still improve your admissions chances with the other parts of your application. Colleges begin by reviewing your high school transcript. Also, many colleges value AP courses and often prefer candidates with high AP scores. Your personal qualities play a role, too. For example, candidates who demonstrate a strong work ethic are more likely to graduate college; this is a trait that colleges want in every applicant they accept. Your extracurricular activities, passions, and interests can also make up for relatively lower test scores if you can tell a compelling story of who you are and how you can contribute to a college’s community.

At myKlovr, we compare your standardized test scores to your list of potential colleges, as well as help you identify specific areas, academic and non-academic, that you should focus on to become a more desirable college candidate. Finally, myKlovr helps you develop your personal story and gives you the tools to tell it distinctively and engagingly in your college application essays.

We believe that the earlier you begin thinking about your path to college, the more successful you will be when you apply. As a freshman or sophomore, you may think it is too soon to worry about college. But if you procrastinate, you may be surprised to learn that you are not ready to apply when you are a senior. Start with myKlovr today, and discover how to become the best college applicant you can be.

SAT or ACT? Which One Should I Take?

As a teenager, people are always telling you what to do. Clean your room. Mow the lawn. Don’t drive too fast. Don’t get into trouble. Take a standardized test to get into college.

But at least you get a choice of which test to take. Yay…?

All right: I know that having a choice of which test to take doesn’t come as much comfort. Both the SAT and ACT are difficult tests that require dozens of hours of study time to achieve a respectable score goal.

One thing that shouldn’t take up a lot of your time is deciding which test to take.

In this article, we’ll explore some fundamental questions: what are the differences between these two tests, which one should you take, and do you need to take both? By the time you finish reading this article, you’ll have a plan to determine which test works best for you.

So what’s the difference?

You ever hear the phrase “like apples and oranges?” Well, the differences between the SAT and ACT boil down to “like apples and apples.” Just like the Galas and Honeycrisps in the produce section of your local grocery store, very little separates these two tests other than a few small cosmetic differences:

  • The ACT has a Science Test, which is just a camouflaged, more difficult version of the ACT Reading Test.
  • The SAT and ACT Math Tests have slightly different background knowledge requirements.
  • The SAT has some grid-in questions on its Math Test.

There are a few more differences, but again, it’s not worth your time to know all of them.

Let’s get to the more important question:

Which one should I take?

In short, it all depends on your preference.  

That’s right: just like your apple choices at the grocery store, your personal preference plays an important role. Just about every high school student naturally performs better on one test over the other. That means before you do a single second of test prep, you need to discover which test best matches your natural abilities.

Here’s how you select your test: take a practice SAT and ACT. Choose two Saturdays a week apart and take a different practice test on each one. Simulate test-day conditions by using a quiet place in your home or a local library.

Whichever score is stronger (Compare your practice test scores to the latest percentile rankings for the SAT and ACT), that’s the test you will study for and eventually take.

End of story.

Do I Need to Take Both?

Should you take a practice test of both to determine which one better matches your natural skills? Yes. Do you need to study for both tests and report scores from both to your dream college when you apply? No. That would be a tremendous waste of the time and energy, both of which you need to polish other parts of your application and continue to perform well in your classes.

Before you protest, let me say that I get it: leaving the SAT or ACT score section blank on your application may make you feel like your application is incomplete. However, remember that when a college says they’ll take the SAT or ACT, that’s exactly what they mean. Having that one small blank space will not upset them one bit.

What if my school makes me take the SAT or ACT?

Some public schools require students to take the ACT or SAT in their junior year, usually during the school day. This is what it was like in the district where I taught for four years. If this should describe your situation, let’s look at some of the pros and cons.

Pros

  • It’s (likely) free.
  • It’s good practice.
  • Your school may offer a (again, likely free) test prep program leading up to test day.

Cons

  • You may not have enough time to prepare.
  • The test may not be the one at which you’re naturally more capable.
  • A low score may discourage you.

Consider a school-sponsored standardized test as a gift rather than a burden. In my experience working with students like you, the three pros significantly outweigh the three cons (and any others you may think up after finishing this article).

Final Thoughts

The standardized test-industrial complex wants you to believe that colleges view the SAT and ACT differently, or that there are significant differences between the tests. Insidious untruths, I say! Invest some time and energy in selecting a test. Then, and only then, create and follow through on a study plan.

Should Students Share What Schools They Are Applying To? 

“Don’t tell what schools you are applying to,” seems to be the word on the street. Instead, when asked the question, “What schools are you applying to?” students might answer, “A lot of schools.” This theory applies if the student doesn’t know the person asking very well. But the students you know well might tell you. I’ve noticed the teens sometimes sound sheepish when announcing their reach schools and apologetic for their safety schools. Generally they don’t want to disclose the schools they are applying to, so if they aren’t accepted, they won’t have to tell anyone.

My daughter chose to only tell her closest friends that she applied Early Decision. But then two other kids in her class announced they were applying ED to the same school. She decided it was best to tell them her plans too. At first they saw each other as competitors but as time to apply grew closer, they relied on each other for support and were the first ones they called when the results came in.

Sydney says it’s a case by case situation. Sometimes it’s helpful to know who is applying where. You might learn about a really cool school that you only heard of when a classmate applies. All the seniors are going through the same thing at the same time, so it’s almost impossible to keep the information to yourself. They tend to share with each other, but when they tell others outside of school, they might hold back.

Sydney’s school has a college banner making station. When a student gets accepted to a school, they make a banner for that school and it’s hung in the college admissions office. Even if they won’t end up going, they still make the banner. By April, the banners will be complete and the younger classes will parade past them with eyes on these schools that their peers will attend.

It’s intense now but it will all be over soon. A year from now these current seniors might be sitting on alumni panels at their high school talking about college to the next set of seniors. Some might even represent their college during a college education night. It’s been a long year of ups and downs. It feels like when they were toddlers and the mood and activity changed every twenty minutes. There are never any right answers. Stay flexible and listen to your child. Take your cues from them. If they don’t want you to tell the neighbors where they are applying, respect that. It’s their journey and we are their support team.

The Importance of High School Transcripts

Picture your dream home. Maybe it’s a chateau in France or beachside in Malibu. Maybe you have a pool or personal movie theater. No matter your tastes or desires, though, your dream home has something in common with that of every other reader’s. Can you guess what it is? Okay, time’s up.

Everyone’s dream home has a solid foundation underneath it.

You can’t see the foundation from the outside, but it’s the most important part of any house. A good foundation can hold up a house for a century or more, while a bad one can cause the structure to lean or crumble. So what does an article about getting in college have to do with proper home construction?

Your academic transcript is the foundation of your college application portfolio.

In this article, we’ll examine how your transcript tells a story more complicated than just course names and grades. We’ll even explore how it might affect you after you know where you’re going to college.

The Importance of a Solid Foundation

Continuing with our dream home metaphor, the house you see and everything in represents your extracurricular activities, awards, SAT scores, volunteer work, letters of recommendation, and extraordinary accomplishments that make you unique. However, the transcript foundation makes it all possible. Let’s see what this looks like in real life.

Ned is a college admissions counselors. He opens up your application to find lots of paperwork (or attachments if you applied online). He flips to the transcript. If it’s within or exceeds the ballpark of what his college wants in its next crop of freshman, he continues to review the rest of your application before making a decision. If the transcript is borderline good/bad, he might review one or two more items before continuing or stopping. And if the transcript is weak, he ignores the rest before putting your application in the ‘Thanks, but no thanks’ pile.

There Are Exceptions

Every college is different, and some specifically require their college admissions counselors to take a holistic approach: reviewing everything in an applicant’s portfolio before making a decision. However, with so many high school seniors applying to the nation’s top colleges and universities, college admissions counselors use tricks like the one in the previous section to weed out applicants they believe may not succeed academically. After all, nothing looks worse for a college than a high drop out rate.

So how college admissions counselors interpret transcripts beyond ‘Many A/B Grades=Good’ or ‘Many C/D Grades=Bad’? Lucky for you, one word sums up something just as important they hope to see when they review your transcript:

Consistency

Some students make straight As without effort while others struggle to make Cs. No matter a student’s academic potential, consistent grades paint a clear picture: an applicant will likely perform the same in college. An applicant whose grades are all over the place brings up many questions and concerns in the eyes of college admissions counselors. Maybe the applicant would excel if accepted. Maybe not. For the average college admissions counselor, the safe bet is to assume ‘maybe not’ and send the application to the reject pile.

Like before, there are exceptions. Students who struggle their freshman year and then improve academically throughout high school is a positive example of an inconsistent transcript. College admissions counselors are people, too; they understand that the transition to high school is not an easy one for some students.

Another important exception involves the courses themselves. A C grade in a World History is a lot easier to achieve than a C grade in AP World History. If you took many honors or AP courses in high school, consistency might not play as big of a role in college admissions counselors’ decision making.

What if you’re a senior? It’s January; your college applications are done and over. As Julius Caesar would say, “The die has been cast.” Before we wrap up, let’s address one question I bet that’s on your mind:

Do I still need to care about my high school transcript?

Short Answer

Oh yeah.

Long Answer

Your high school transcript doesn’t lose its importance when you apply to college or even when you receive an acceptance from your dream school. Depending on your situation, it may continue to influence your academic future for the next year or more. You may discover further scholarship opportunities which require you to submit a full academic transcript. A significant dip in your grades would not look good.

The other impact your transcript can have post-graduation is college course placement. Many colleges use a combination of transcripts, SAT scores, and placement tests to put incoming students into math and English courses. If you excelled throughout your senior year, your college might let you skip a course or two, the benefits of which include saving money and possibly graduating early.

So please take the advice of your parents, teachers, and me: don’t slack off the spring semester of your senior year. Future you will thank present you for your diligence and hard work.

Final Thoughts

For college-bound students, maintaining a consistent academic transcript pays off during college admission season and beyond. As you plan for the future, don’t forget the exceptions we’ve discussed. Polish every part of your application portfolio and double check that you have everything you need to apply.

Beyond that, good luck!

The Final Push for Application Deadlines. How Many Schools Do You Apply To?

So far my daughter has applied to seven in-state schools and one private school. This week she will finish her applications and apply to seven more private schools by January first.

Fifteen applications is way too much in my mind, but seems to be the average. The state schools have a different application than the Common App, but no additional writing supplement required. Some private colleges don’t require any writing supplements, some do. As we enter the last week of December my daughter still has some supplements to write. After final exams and holiday prep, she is exhausted. Senior year is a tough one no doubt. The grades count. The class load is rigorous and the college applications can take over all the free time. Not to mention last minute SAT and ACT tests.

I had hoped she would have completed everything by winter break. But she hasn’t. We aren’t traveling this break so she can focus on the last applications and get some rest. We are all burning out from this process. But it’s an important one so all I can do now is keep the healthy snacks coming, proof read her writing supplements and be there when she is ready to submit.

My tenth grade son is watching all this. He doesn’t say much about college, still focusing on the one school he wants to go to. But his senior year seems like a long time from now. His friends aren’t really talking about college, but they are interested in his sister’s journey. He wants to attend a performing arts school, which require audition tapes and in-person auditions. My daughter’s friends interested in these schools are just beginning the live-audition part. So we will learn from their experiences.

The college application process affects the entire family. It’s time consuming, expensive and emotional. I hadn’t realized how all-consuming it would be. I look forward to when we finally hear and my daughter knows where she’ll be going. But then she won’t be here with us, so there’s that. All this work and effort to watch your child move away from home. Coming to terms with this is the next phase in the application process.

The Early Decision Decision

My daughter Sydney decided to apply Early Decision to her top college. It turned into more of a family decision and a family effort to get out the early application. The deadline being November first.

About four o’clock on Sunday, my tenth-grade son who had burrowed himself in his room all weekend carefully tiptoed between his angst-ridden sister and frustrated father as they proofread her essay for a final time.

“Should I get my hopes up about tonight?” he whispered to me. We had promised a family dinner at his favorite restaurant once his sister submitted, partly to celebrate her submission and partly to thank him for his patience at being ignored during this college frenzy. We’d thought the application would have been done by Saturday morning but Sydney still wanted one more pass at the written supplements, needed to format the essay for the Common App, write Additional Comments, and create a resume for her Slideroom. She had prepped most everything but there were so many more details. Her dad and I took turns reading over things but between the application, play rehearsal and her full load of twelfth-grade homework, she was exhausted. We all were.

Sydney

I can’t help feeling that some of the household stress was based on the realization that if she gets into this college, it’s binding. She will be going. No turning back. How do you make that choice so early in your senior year? Why make that choice? Well, because the odds are much better to get in with Early Decision. In her case, 48% of applicants are admitted during Early Decision, whereas 15% are admitted during regular decision. It seemed like the best bet.

“If you got into all the colleges you loved and money was no object, would this still be your first pick?” I asked. “I can always change my mind, right?” she laughed, “Let’s do this.” So I retrieved my credit card, we paid the fee and she signed her final signature. It was seven-thirty and we were really hungry. We gathered around as she hit the submit button. And it was decided.

The evening ended in celebration at our favorite Mexican restaurant. The staff who have known Sydney since she was a baby brought over a dessert with a candle. We celebrated her hard work, dedication, and perseverance. Wherever she winds up will be the right place. This weekend’s Early Decision was the only first step. There will be many more decisions and celebrations to follow.

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