Monday, October 22, 2018

The Secrets of Getting a “You’re Accepted!” Letter


An “Education Life” supplement published by the New York Times featured a cover stating, “Admissions is unfair:  Here’s why.”  Surrounding the cynical title were clues as to the criteria that might swing a college applicant to the acceptance or rejection pile. 

Before slumping into a depression, college bound students should take comfort from the fact that the vast majority of colleges accept at least half of their applicants.  In fact, U.S. News & World Report lists 100 colleges and universities that accepted between 95% and 100% of applicants for last year’s freshman class.  Included are many “specialty” schools, such as the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY, the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, CA, and Boston Architectural College in Boston, MA.

It’s the world famous institutions that, each year, collectively reject hundreds of thousands of students who could actually thrive at their schools.  This scenario plays out not only at all of the prestigious Ivy League colleges and universities, but also at other popular institutions.  The 2018 acceptance rate was 15% or lower at Johns Hopkins University, Amherst College, Vanderbilt University, Northwestern University, Duke University, University of Chicago, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and a host of other schools.

Monday, October 15, 2018

November Vacation Days Ideal for College Tours


Early November brings a break from school for New Jersey students.  Some districts close for Election Day, most close for Teacher Convention Days, and a few close for the entire week.  Students who anticipate attending college in their future might want to put these “vacation days” to good use.

Almost every college offers weekday tours, usually each morning and afternoon.  Visiting colleges and going on official tours is the best way for students to figure out exactly what they are looking for in their future dream school. With more than 300 colleges and universities within one hundred miles of Central New Jersey, students have a wide variety of options to choose from and can easily begin their college search without embarking on a lengthy road trip.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Early College Apps Increase Chance of Acceptance


What greater holiday gift is there for a college bound student than to receive a fat acceptance letter, or a congratulatory email, from a college of choice? But in order to have a chance of getting such good news by the holidays, students typically need to submit their college applications by the early deadline of November 1st or 15th.

Students can apply to as many colleges “early action” as they like and, if accepted, they are not required to attend.  They actually have until May 1st (National College Decision Day) to make their final choice. This differs from an “early decision” application that can only be submitted to one college and binds the student to attend, if accepted.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Why and When should students take the PSAT exam?


High school students throughout the country will soon be facing the PSAT exam, but many don’t understand its significance.  Students and parents often believe the “P” in PSAT stands for practice and that the test is merely a trial run for the all-important SAT exam.  In reality, the “P” does not stand for “practice,” or anything else, and it is so much more than a student’s first attempt at a college entrance exam.

Another name for the PSAT is the NMSQT, which does stand for something – National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test.  High school juniors who take the PSAT/NMSQT are on the official route of entry to the National Merit Scholarship Program. Fifty thousand high scoring students will ultimately qualify for program recognition – which carries considerable prestige.  Of these students, two-thirds will receive Letters of Commendation, but will not be awarded scholarship money.  One-third of these students will qualify as Semi-finalists and will move on to compete for a National Merit Scholarship which will ultimately be awarded to 7,500 students.

Monday, September 24, 2018

The Truth About SAT “Superscoring”


High school students throughout the country (and even the world) all want to get the highest scores possible when taking the SAT as it greatly impacts college admissions and scholarship awards.  Students get two separate scores on an SAT exam: Evidence-based Reading and Writing and Math.  (There is also an “optional’ essay that is only required by some colleges.)  The scores for each of these two areas range from 200 to 800.  Students often add their scores together for a “combined” SAT score in the range of 400 to 1600 points.

Many colleges report that they “superscore” and will consider the highest Evidence-based Reading and Writing score from one SAT exam and the highest Math score from another.  Problems arise when students misinterpret this policy.  Students often believe that when it comes time to submit their SAT scores they can choose to send their highest section scores from different SAT dates, and that is all the testing information colleges will receive.  With that premise in mind, some students will take an SAT exam and only focus on the Evidence-based Reading and Writing sections, not putting any effort into the Math sections. On a subsequent SAT exam, they flip their strategy and focus heavily on the Math sections, not worrying about their Evidence-based Reading and Writing score.  Their thinking is that they will ultimately “superscore.”

Monday, September 17, 2018

“Early” College Application Deadlines Are Looming


What greater holiday gift is there for college bound students than to receive a fat acceptance letter, or a congratulatory email, from their college of choice? But in order to have a chance of getting such good news by the holidays, students typically need to submit their college applications by the “early” deadline of November 1st or 15th.

Students can apply to as many colleges “early action” as they like and, if accepted, they are not required to attend.  This differs from an “early decision” application which can only be submitted to one college and binds the student to attend, if accepted.

Aside from the obvious emotional advantage of hearing back from colleges earlier, there is another key advantage to filing early applications.  Colleges are well aware that many students apply to eight or more colleges. It’s somewhat of a guessing game for college admissions officers to try to figure out which students, if accepted, would actually attend.  So many colleges, including some of the most competitive institutions, accept a substantially higher percentage of their early decision candidates knowing they will definitely enroll.  To a lesser extent, colleges also tend to favor early action students who have demonstrated a strong interest in their school.

Monday, September 10, 2018

The FAFSA Now Offers a Mobile Application


Parents concerned with paying for college will soon find out that the “paperwork” is about to get easier.  The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is going mobile.  This is the form that is vital for students and parents to file in order to be considered for college financial aid, including federal loans, grants, and work study opportunities.  It’s best for families to file a FAFSA as soon as possible after October 1st (when the latest FAFSA launches each year) as some colleges have early grant deadlines and some distribute aid on a first-come, first-served basis.

The FAFSA has been available online for years, but students and their parents generally needed to complete the form on a computer as it didn’t work smoothly on mobile devices.  But as of October 1st, 2018, the digital options are expected to work flawlessly, allowing anyone with a smartphone to successfully complete the form.  The MyStudentAid app can be downloaded from Apple’s App Store or from Good Play for Android devices.