Monday, December 31, 2018

Freshmen Experience World Before Moving On Campus

What do Prince William, Prince Harry and Malia Obama have in common?  They all did a “gap year” before heading to college.  Their activities during this year included travel to Australia, Africa, Lesotho, Belize, Chile, Bolivia and Peru.  Taking a year to travel, pursue academic (or non-academic) interests, and delve into volunteer work before settling into college is not a new concept.  But, often, this is a luxury for children of wealthy families as it costs considerable money to support oneself, even while pursuing noble causes. 

Colleges are now looking to expand the gap year opportunity to students of lesser means.  Duke University, this year, sponsored a few dozen students who presented compelling gap year plans.  The money came from a half-million-dollar donation by a couple of philanthropists (who happen to have a daughter attending Duke) who plan to ultimately contribute $10 million to permanently endow the Duke gap year program. The couple also has a son who attends the University of Pennsylvania where they have made a comparable offer.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

High School Seniors Still Have College Options

If you’re a high school senior, with hopes of attending a great college in the fall, all is not lost if you have not yet applied to, or gotten accepted to, your dream college.

While the application deadline has passed for all of the Ivy League colleges, and many other elite institutions, there are more than 500 colleges whose application deadlines for the 2019-2020 academic year fall on or after January 15th.  There are also about 200 colleges that have a “rolling admissions” policy, which means they review applications until they have accepted enough students to fill their class. 

While this is not the ideal time for college-bound students to begin the application process, those who find themselves in this boat – due to procrastination or any other reason – should follow a few guidelines.

Monday, December 17, 2018

The Impact of an Ivy League or other Elite Degree

Economists, as well as the public in general, have long debated the issue of whether or not it really matters where a student attends college. Statistics clearly cite the financial impact of attending, and graduating from, college as increasing one’s lifetime earnings by approximately $1 million.  But there is often controversy as to the importance of an “elite” degree.

An article published this month in “The Atlantic” reports that parents in the U.S. currently spend about half a billion dollars each year on independent education consultants whom they hope will help their children gain admission to the country’s most elite institutions of higher learning. (This figure does not include money spent on SAT prep, private tutoring, or travel to visit colleges.) These parents are targeting the eight renowned Ivy League colleges/universities, as well as a handful of other extremely competitive schools, for their offspring.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Lure of Entrepreneurship –- Prepare to Be The Boss

Students who hope to be entrepreneurs have two options, according to the December 2018 issue of Entrepreneur magazine.  They can start their own business and learn as they go, or they can attend a college with a strong program in entrepreneurship.  Those who choose the latter route should carefully research their options, as there are many programs with an extremely impressive track record.

The University of Michigan is ranked  #1 by Entrepreneur due to the strength of its “Center for Entrepreneurship.”  The University has more than 4,500 students enrolled its 68 entrepreneur-related courses.  Most impressively, its graduates in the past five years raised $20 million to launch more than 800 startups.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Identify and Get Accepted to Your Ideal College

Students in search of the perfect college all have a couple of criteria in common.  They want a college that offers a great program in their major of choice that will put them on track for a well paying career.  They also want a college to which they can likely gain admission. 

There are many tools that students can use to identify colleges that offer a strong program in their chosen field.  U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Colleges,” for example, lists the colleges and universities with the most reputable programs in various areas of business: Accounting, Entrepreneurship, Finance, Insurance/Risk Management, International Business, Management, Marketing, Supply Chain Management/Logistics, and others. It does the same for various areas of engineering: Aeronautical, Biomedical, Chemical, Civil, Computer, Electrical, Industrial, Mechanical. There are also a host of websites that list the top colleges for a gamut of other fields.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Benefits of Taking SAT Early in High School Years

December 1st is the last chance for students to take the SAT in 2018.  The next opportunity will be March 9th, followed by the first Saturdays in May and June.  These dates are important not only to high school juniors. The advice of U.S. News & World Report, whose guidebook is basically the bible to the college industry, is for students to start taking the SAT exam early in their high school years for several reasons.

First of all, students can now take the SAT as many times as they want and (most) colleges will never know how many times they have taken the test.  When the time comes for students to submit their scores to colleges, they can choose their highest scores, even “super-scoring” (mixing and matching), to send the test results with the best Math score from one test and the best Reading/Writing score from another test.

Athletes who hope to continue their sport in college particularly benefit from getting early SAT scores.  College coaches often want to see SAT scores before deciding whether or not they are interested in recruiting a prospective athlete.

Monday, November 19, 2018

What All College Bound Students Should Think About

People in search of a new home are often told that the three most important factors are location, location, and location.  Students in search of their ideal college should keep that in mind, as it can greatly help them to narrow their search.  Students can also learn from the experiences of their peers who are just a bit older.

For the last several years, the trend has been that the majority of New Jersey students who leave the state to attend college do not go far away.  The “top 10” most popular colleges with Garden State students are all within a relatively easy drive: Penn State University, The University of Delaware, Drexel University, New York University (NYU), Villanova University, Temple University, Saint Joseph’s University, Syracuse University, Lehigh University and the University of Maryland at College Park.  So college bound students would do well to start the search for their dream school by touring these schools that have, year after year, attracted thousands of their peers.

Monday, November 12, 2018

“Early Decision” II Deadlines Coming Soon

Procrastination is never wise – and that is particularly true when it comes time to apply to colleges.  Students with a top choice college that offers “early decision” ideally met the November 1st (or in some cases, November 15th) application deadline. These students usually have a considerable advantage over regular applicants because, in applying early decision, they guarantee the college that they will attend, if accepted. (Financial strain is the only exception.)  Since most high school students apply to several colleges, it’s extremely helpful to colleges to identify those students who will definitely enroll – and pay tuition – if accepted.

Students who apply early decision usually hear back from colleges by mid-December as to whether or not they were accepted.  Good news can make the holidays a joyful time as families celebrate that the anxiety-ridden college application process is over.

But often times students who apply early decision are waitlisted, or deferred, by the college.  This means that their application has been put in the pool with all other applicants and they will be notified by the regular notification date, which is typically April 1st.  Students who are waitlisted are no longer bound to attend the college, even if accepted later on.

Monday, November 5, 2018

U.S. News 2019 College Rankings Revealed

The 2019 issue of U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Colleges” – often viewed as the bible to the college industry – has hit the newsstands.  New Jersey’s Princeton University is still in first place (for the 8th consecutive year) as the “Best National University.”  It’s followed by Harvard (2nd), Columbia, M.I.T., University of Chicago and Yale (tied for 3rd), Stanford (7th), Duke and University of Pennsylvania (tied for 8th) and Johns Hopkins and Northwestern University (tied for 10th).

While a college’s overall ranking may be of interest, the best use of rankings, for most students, is to identify the specific criteria that are important to them.  In the U.S. News rankings, for example, each school is rated on its average freshmen retention rate.  This is the percent of freshmen that return to the college for their sophomore year, indicating a level of happiness or satisfaction with their college.  The top 25 national universities all reported first-year student retention rates of 97% to 99%, with the exceptions of Georgetown and University of Southern California (96%) and Emory University (94%).

Another category lists the percent of classes with fewer than 20 students, and another lists the percent of classes with 50 or more students.  A popular New Jersey college with small classes is The College of New Jersey which seldom, if ever, hosts a class in excess of 50 students.

Monday, October 29, 2018

NJ Students Tend to Leave Garden State for College

New Jersey is known for its “brain drain,” with more than 30,000 high school graduates heading out of state for college each year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.  And it’s not making up for the loss, as only about 4,000 out-of-state students head into New Jersey for college.  This made New Jersey the state with the largest net loss of students in the nation last year.

By contrast, neighboring Pennsylvania, a much larger state with many more colleges, saw only 16,000 of its students leave for college. At the same time, it attracted close to 32,000 out-of-state students, many from New Jersey, giving it the largest net in-migration of students in the country.

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.

Monday, August 27, 2018

10 Tips for Filing Impressive College Applications

1) Know why you are applying to each specific college, and clearly express those reasons. Does the college have a great program for your intended major? Does it offer impressive internships, or have a high acceptance rate to med school? Does it host a study abroad program in a particular country that would benefit your academic interests?  Let each college know the specifics as to why it’s a great fit, as colleges strongly favor applicants whom they believe will attend their school, if accepted.

2) Cover the basics – which means earning a great GPA while taking a competitive course load and posting impressive SAT scores.  Many high schools in New Jersey offer twenty or more AP courses, and colleges consider how competitive a course load you took based on the options you were provided.  As for SAT scores, the “average” SAT score at several New Jersey high schools, including Montgomery, Princeton and West Windsor-Plainsboro North and South, all topped 1,300.  So the bar is set high for students who want to stand out among their peers.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Money Magazine Names Princeton University #1

Money magazine, just this month, released its rankings of  “The Best 25 Colleges in the U.S. Right Now.” In compiling its rankings, Money considered criteria in three specific areas: educational quality, affordability, and alumni financial success. For the third straight year, Princeton University was #1.  No other college in New Jersey made the list, although one did in Pennsylvania (University of Pennsylvania) and one in New York (CUNY Bernard Baruch College). 

Princeton continuously stands out for its academic excellence, its outstanding financial aid program (which is much more generous than that of most other schools), and its success in producing graduates who snag competitive, high-paying jobs soon after leaving the renowned ivy-covered campus.  The statistics that garnered top honors for Princeton include an estimated price tag, for the 2018-19 academic year, of $19,000 (with average aid) that includes room, board, and fees, $7,500 median student debt, and $69,800 annual early-career earnings. 

Money is not the only magazine that is singing Princeton’s praises.  For the past seven years, U.S. News and World Report has also ranked Princeton University #1 in its “Best Colleges” rankings. The U.S. News rankings also focus on academic excellence, with particular emphasis on outcomes such as freshman retention and graduation rates.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Summer Launch of the “Common App”

Back in 1975, administrators from fifteen colleges got together and decided to create one application that students could use to apply to any or all of their colleges. This was the birth of “The Common App” which, as of 2018, is accepted by more than 800 colleges and universities across the United States.  More than one million students are expected to use this year’s Common App – which went live with its latest updates on August 1st – to apply to more than four million colleges and universities.

The Common App is an online application that asks a series of questions in several categories, including: parents’ educational history and current employment, students’ SAT/ACT/AP test scores, senior year courses, high school activities, and intended college major.  There is also an essay of 250 to 650 words that is required by the majority of Common App colleges. Students, this year, have a choice of seven essay topics, one of which states, “Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.” So the topic options are truly limitless!

Monday, August 6, 2018

Elon Musk Inspired by Internships

Students who want to follow in the footsteps of Elon Musk would do best to seek out an internship.  Elon Musk actually did three internships on the early steps of his road to success, first gaining experience with a summer internship at Bank of Nova Scotia, and later doubling up with a daytime internship at Pinnacle Research Institute and a nighttime one at Rocket Science Games.

To this day, interning within your preferred industry is considered to be one of the most important things a student can do.  According to a 2018 Job Outlook survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), it’s often more important than your college major or GPA.

New Jersey colleges are well aware of the importance of internships and most work hard to provide students with such opportunities. The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) reports that nearly 80% of its business students complete at least one internship or cooperative experience (paid, for credit work temporarily replacing classes) during their college days.  The college attributes this, in part, to the reason that more than half of its business students have one or more job offers in hand by the time they graduate. The companies with which TCNJ students launch their careers include: Bloomberg L.P., Citibank, Deloitte, Goldman Sachs, Johnson & Johnson, Madison Square Garden, Target, Federal Bureau of Investigation (F.B.I.) Morgan Stanley, NBC Universal, Tiffany & Co. and Trenton Thunder.

Monday, July 30, 2018

August SAT Exam is Extremely Popular

College Board is once again offering a summer SAT exam, building on last year’s success when the SAT was administered in August for the first time in decades. But interested students should sign-up soon if they hope to take the August 25th SAT, prior to the start of their new school year, as they are already in a “late registration” period with a final deadline of August 15th.

Having eliminated the January SAT exam, and replaced it with an August exam, College Board believes it is providing numerous benefits to the approximately two million students who take this test each year.  Summer is a popular time for students to prepare for the SAT, without the pressures of school, homework and afterschool activities.  By taking the exam in August, students have the opportunity to put their newly acquired SAT strategies and skills to the test without waiting until October – which they had to do prior to last year.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Colleges Nationwide Feature Amazing Amenities

If you haven’t stepped foot on a college campus in many years, you probably won’t believe your eyes.  Many “dorms” are in the form of suites and include kitchens with upscale appliances, living/dining rooms, and maid service to keep everything clean. The food often rivals, or surpasses, that offered in restaurants in students’ hometowns and includes a host of ethnic varieties as well as gluten-free and vegetarian options.  The recreational amenities often mimic those found at resorts.   

Are colleges spending their endowments and treating students to these amenities? Absolutely not.  College costs continue to rise and the average student loan debt continues to increase, reaching $39,400 for last year’s graduating class.

But even in the face of rising student debt, colleges defend their spending as a marketing tool to help them attract students. The National Bureau of Economic Research confirms that colleges do indeed draw more applicants by spending large sums of money on facilities and amenities.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Choose Ideal College for Specialized Major

A college education is certainly intended to expand students’ knowledge in many areas of life.  But it’s also meant to prepare students for careers that will likely be the focus of their lives for decades after they graduate.  So, in choosing a college, students should carefully consider which institution would best prepare them for the particular career of their dreams. 

Students who are fascinated with self-driving cars, and want to pursue an education in this field, would do well to consider Carnegie Mellon University’s computer science school.  Some computer vision graduates at this Pittsburgh-based university are being offered starting salaries as high as $200,000.

Monday, July 9, 2018

The Ideal High School Timeframe

Students (and their parents) often wonder what they should be doing during each year of high school to avoid the stress of an anxiety-filled senior year.

The truth is that much can be done during the early part of freshman year to set students on the path of success. Colleges admire students who show longevity in their activities, so the sooner students identify their clubs, sports, volunteer work, or other activities of passion, the longer they have to build a track record of accomplishments.  Freshman year is the perfect time to take on a new musical instrument or sport that might make a student particularly attractive to colleges.  A demonstrated commitment to volunteer work could earn a 50% to 100% tuition scholarship to The College of New Jersey which seeks “Bonner Community Scholars” and expects 300 volunteer hours each college year.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Top College Board Resources for College Planning

According to its website, The College Board is “a mission-driven not-for-profit organization that connects students to college success and opportunity.”  It was founded more than 100 years ago -- back in 1900 – and its membership association today is made up of more than 6,000 educational institutions.

If you ask students about The College Board, they’ll tell you it’s the organization responsible for the SAT exam as well as all of the Advanced Placement tests.  In last year’s graduating class, close to 2 million students had taken the SAT at least one time.  That’s because it’s a key admission criterion of most competitive colleges, and also plays a significant role in determining the amount of merit scholarship money awarded by most colleges.

Monday, June 25, 2018

The “Test Optional” College Policy Effect

The University of Chicago recently announced that it will no longer require its applicants to submit standardized test scores from the SAT or ACT.  It’s joining the “test optional” movement, which actually began about 50 years ago at Bowdoin College in Maine and has added colleges and universities to its list ever since. But before students break their #2 pencils, there are some points to be considered.

Why are colleges tempted to waive their test requirement? Statistics have shown that college applicants who choose not to submit test results scored, on average, 100 to 150 points lower than those students who did divulge their SAT scores.  Therefore, by not including the SAT scores of these students, if admitted, test optional colleges are able to artificially boost their average SAT score for admitted students which makes them appear more selective and move higher in the rankings race. The higher they rank, the harder they typically become to get into.  Currently, the University of Chicago ranks as the 3rd “Best National University,” according to U.S. News & World Report, with an 8% acceptance rate.  It tops six of the eight Ivy League schools, surpassed only by Princeton and Harvard universities.  If the University of Chicago gets a surge of additional applicants, attracted by its new test optional policy, its acceptance rate will likely drop even further making it harder – not easier – to get into.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Google Launches College Search Feature

Google has formally immersed itself in the college search process. It announced, just last week, that it would start showcasing important statistics to help students and parents who need relevant and accurate data regarding the colleges and universities in which they are interested.  

For example, a Google search of Princeton University highlights that the average annual cost, after aid, is $9,000.  Many families assume that the cost of attending this elite institution is well out of their price range, not realizing that Princeton’s need-based aid dramatically alters the cost-of-attendance.  For example, the average cost of attendance is $7,000 for students with an annual household income of $48,000 to $75,000, and $18,000 for those with a household income of $75,000 to $110,000.  

Other featured information, secured from a Google search, includes a university’s acceptance rate, graduation rate, typical SAT test scores, and rankings both on a national and international level.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Ivy League Acceptance Rates Continue to Decline

Numbers don’t lie, and recent statistics support the claim by former Ivy League admissions directors that getting into an elite college or university is more competitive than ever before.

The statistics given for the Class of 2021 reflect declining acceptance rates at the Ivy League schools: Harvard 5%, Columbia and Princeton 6%, Yale 7%, Brown 8%, The University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) 9%, Dartmouth 10%, and Cornell 13%.  For the Class of 2001, two decades earlier, Harvard University (typically the most competitive of the Ivies) had accepted more than 12% of its applicants.

A recent Business Insider article cited reasons for this trend, quoting former admissions directors at several of the nations top colleges and universities. 
“The rise in the number of international applicants to the most selective institutions in the US has inflated the number of overall applicants, as well as, in some cases, the GPA and testing profiles,” according to Cat McManus, a former dean at UPenn and admissions officer at Princeton.  However, McManus added that selective colleges often have a limit on the number of international students that they are seeking for each incoming class. So this trend alone cannot take full blame for the declining acceptance rates.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Unique Skill Set Offers Students an Advantage

One of our SAT prep students recently gained a lot of attention for being accepted to all seven of the Ivy League schools to which she had applied, as well as to Stanford University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.) She has chosen to attend M.I.T. and major in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

Of course, Diana had earned stellar SAT scores and had a most impressive G.P.A.  But I was curious about her other accomplishments, and met with her recently to hear her words of wisdom as to what she believes it takes for a college-bound student, in this day and age, to meet with such success.

Monday, May 28, 2018

The Importance of Having a Productive Summer

“You can steer yourself any direction you choose,” according to Dr. Seuss. The problem, for many students, is that they have no idea how to set themselves on course.  Fortunately, the summer will soon be here and freedom from an academic schedule provides the perfect opportunity for students to immerse themselves in some area of passion that may ultimately steer them towards their ideal career.

No student is too young to pursue an area of interest.  I recall having a love for writing as far back as the first grade, and I often wrote to my favorite authors and other people of interest.  I even wrote to President John F. Kennedy to let him know that I was going to have my tonsils removed.  (I thought he would want to know and, yes, I did receive a “get well” card from the White House!)

Monday, May 21, 2018

Develop a Compelling Resume for College Applications

What’s the best way to make sure that college admissions officers know about all of your accomplishments?  Compose a resume.  That way, you don’t have to worry about fitting in the important details of your activities and achievements on the limited space allocated on most college applications.  

The best time to first compose a resume is early in your high school years. Then you will have time to fill in the gaps that become evident when you put your life story in writing.  Resume categories typically include: Education (listing your G.P.A., SAT scores, A.P. courses, and other academic accomplishments such as summer courses taken on college campuses), Athletic accolades, Volunteer activities, Work experience, Extracurricular involvement, and, hopefully, details of a “passion project” where you are engaged in an activity that demonstrates a talent or interest not common among your peers which will ultimately help you stand out to college admission officers.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Develop Great Writing Skills for College Success

One of the greatest challenges for many college students, regardless of their field of study, is the requirement to write abundant, lengthy, informative essays that are well structured and grammatically correct.  Many students feel unprepared for this undertaking, and dread the impact that poorly written papers will bear on their grades.  They are wise to be concerned as colleges of all levels of competitiveness have, for many years, stressed the importance of writing skills in the college classroom. 

Even Harvard University, typically considered one of most elite colleges in the country, noted a weakness in the writing abilities of its students as far back as 1872 and implemented a mandatory undergraduate writing program.  More recently, the director of Harvard’s Expository Writing Program led a study in which she tracked the college writing experiences of more than 400 students.  After completing a one-year writing program, three-quarters of the students said they had become more involved in class and better understood and applied concepts they had learned.  More than half of the students said they were able to explore and research new ideas in their majors.

Monday, May 7, 2018

400 Colleges Still Have Openings for Fall 2018

More than 400 college and universities still have openings, financial aid, and housing available to qualified freshmen and/or transfer students for the fall 2018 semester.  This information comes from the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) which releases a list, in early May of each year, of schools that still have room for students seeking admission for the upcoming fall semester. May 1st is the national response deadline for most colleges in the U.S.  By that date, students must choose the college they will be attending in the fall and send in a deposit to reserve their seat (and room and board, if they are planning to live on campus).  Since most students apply to a multitude of colleges, it’s impossible for colleges to know for sure how many students will actually enroll until the reply deadline rolls around.  After May 1st, colleges that have not met their target enrollment are anxious to accept additional students in order to bring in the tuition money necessary to keep on budget.

Monday, April 30, 2018

College Internships are the Key to Job Offers

The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) reports that nearly 80% of its business students complete at least one internship or cooperative experience (paid, for credit work temporarily replacing classes) during their college days.  The college attributes this, in part, to the reason that more than half of its business students have one or more job offers in hand by the time they graduate. The companies with which TCNJ students launch their careers include: Bloomberg L.P., Citibank, Deloitte, Goldman Sachs, Johnson & Johnson, Madison Square Garden, Target, Federal Bureau of Investigation (F.B.I.) Morgan Stanley, NBC Universal, Tiffany & Co. and Trenton Thunder.

Of course, TCNJ is not the only college that recognizes the importance of internships. According to a survey conducted by U.S. News, the average proportion of graduating seniors nationwide with internship experience hovers around 42 percent.  But the numbers vary dramatically among colleges. Some schools reported more than 95 percent of graduating seniors had internship experience; some reported less than five percent did.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Should High School Students have a LinkedIn?

Do college admission officers look up the social media accounts of their applicants when deciding whom to accept and whom to reject?  Some do and some don’t, but according to a recent article on “U.S.,” a substantial number of colleges and universities pay attention to what applicants have posted on their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts. In fact, statistics from a recent study indicate that 35% of college admission officers in the U.S. have reported looking at the social media accounts of their prospective students to learn more about them.  According to the study, they believe that  “social media can provide a more authentic and holistic view of applicants beyond the polished applications.”

College-bound students, therefore, should be very careful of the images they are projecting of themselves on social media sites.  Among the type of posts that admission officers view negatively are those of students brandishing weapons and those where students use obscene language.  After all, the job of college admission officers is to identify students who will not only succeed academically, but will also reflect positively on their institution.

Monday, April 16, 2018

5 Strategies to Stand Out on Your College Applications

When college admission officers are deciding whom to accept (or reject) from their school, there are certain criteria they are keeping in mind while evaluating stacks of applications.

1) What special talent will the applicant bring to the college campus?  The student body, at most colleges, consists of thousands of students.  What a college typically needs is not thousands of well-rounded students, but thousands of students who each have a talent that contributes to an accomplished student body.  The more unique the talent that an applicant highlights on his/her application, the more attention it will likely garner from the admission staff.  While colleges typically have many applicants eager to play football, basketball or soccer, there are many fewer applicants featuring talent in synchronized ice skating, fencing, women’s golf or men’s gymnastics.

Monday, April 9, 2018

One Stop Shopping for 350+ Colleges Worldwide

Where should students start the information gathering process in their search to find the perfect college? The answer may be very close to home. 

Hillsborough High School is hosting its 13th annual College Fair this Monday, April 16th, from 6:30- 8:00 pm.  Representatives from more than 60 colleges and universities, mostly in the NY/NJ/PA area, will be hosting tables filled with materials and will be available to answer individual questions on any college-related topic. All local and neighboring high school students and parents are welcome to attend.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Are AP Courses Really Necessary?

Advanced Placement (AP) courses are college-level courses, with the curriculum written by The College Board – the same folks who bring you the SAT exam – and offered to high school students. AP courses are offered in 36 subjects in the Arts, English, History & Social Science, Math & Computer Science, Science, and World Languages & Cultures.  AP exams are offered each May and students who score 3 or higher (on a scale of 1 to 5) are offered college credits by many of the nation’s colleges and universities.  Last May, more than a million students nationwide took close to 4 million AP exams.

Parents and students often ask, “Are AP courses really necessary?”  The answer is both yes and no – depending on the student’s ambitions and college goals.  When students apply to college, they are basically in competition with their peers.  Most colleges want a geographically well-rounded student body. So college admissions officers will compare all of their applicants from the same high school and favor those with the most impressive academic record based on SAT scores, GPA, and competitive course load.  While there is no college in the country that outwardly states a requirement for AP courses, students are well aware that these higher-level courses, that indicate an ability to successfully complete college level work, are viewed most favorably by college admission staff.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Proven Strategies to Score High on the SAT Exam

It’s not a secret as to what’s on the SAT.  In fact, several actual SAT exams, that were administered over the past two years, are available online at Khan Academy and in print in The Official SAT Study Guide by The College Board. So the most basic strategy for acing the SAT is to become thoroughly familiar with the test material ahead of time.  By taking prior exams, and learning how to correctly answer past questions, students will be well on their way to earning an impressive score on the day of their real test.

Students should also know, and understand, the directions for each test section in advance so they can use all of the allotted time to earn points rather than to figure out what they need to do.  This is particularly important for the open-ended math questions where students have to solve problems and then correctly bubble in their answers. Students need to know, for example, that if their answer is one-and-a-half they need to record their answer as 3/2 or 1.5. If they bubble in 11/2 the computer will read it as eleven halves and they will not get credit.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Five Strategies to Save Thousands on College

When talking about college debt, the statistics are never encouraging. In fact, the story gets sadder each year.  The average recent college graduate has amassed a debt exceeding $35,000 and joins the ranks of 44 million borrowers who collectively owe $1.3 trillion in education debt. The key is to avoid being a part of this grim statistic by considering some highly effective strategies.

1) When choosing potential colleges, high school students should consider a wide range of schools.  Students will find that if they apply to a college that is a tier below the level of school to which they could likely get accepted, the scholarship money will almost certainly be much greater.  Students planning to major in business, for example, often seek to gain acceptance to NYU’s Stern School of Business where the cost hovers around $70,000 a year for tuition, fees, room and board. These same students could reasonably expect to be welcomed at St. John’s University in New York, St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, and a host of other institutions with impressive business schools, substantially lower costs of attendance, and generous merit money (to attract strong students) which does not get paid back.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Top Tips for Spring Break College Tours

Spring break offers a unique opportunity. It’s one of the few times during the school year when college classes are in session while high school classes are not.  Typically, colleges schedule their spring break in early March while high schools hold theirs in late March to early April.  This provides the ideal opportunity for high school students to visit campuses while college life is in full swing.

If parents are available during a student’s spring break, it’s the perfect time for a road trip to visit out-of-state colleges.  The vast majority of students attend college within five hours of home, so the destination does not need to be a far off locale.  If a student dreams of attending a big city school, then a tour of colleges in the Boston or Washington D.C. areas may prove fruitful.  If a student prefers a suburban or rural environment, then a drive through Pennsylvania offers an option of touring close to 100 different colleges and universities. 

Monday, March 5, 2018

A US President’s Travel Program for Students

There are limitless ways for students to become immersed in the multitude of cultures around the world.  One of the most impressive programs, that targets middle and high school students and has withstood the “test of time,” is People to People.President Dwight Eisenhower created People to People in 1956 to provide young people with opportunities to become immersed in other cultures in the hopes that their experiences would lead to a new generation of globally minded citizens. A key part of most People to People trips is the “homestay” during which time students get to live with host families and experience day to day living in a culture that is vastly different than their own. Students also typically get to meet with government officials and discuss the different political climates and issues between their countries. An additional perk is that they gain access to some sites that are not typically available to the public.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Admission secrets college applicants need to know

Be nice.  That’s one of the many bits of advice offered in a recent “Business Insider” article that warns students and parents that their communication with people at college admissions offices is tracked.  So venting, or being rude, to the person who answers the phone is definitely not a good idea as it will likely get noted in the student’s file. Those cautionary words were attributed to a former Yale University admissions official.
A student seeking admission to an elite university needs an application that’s not just good, but great.  Due to the monumental number of applications received by top schools, you need your application to stand out in the pile.  Otherwise, your application will likely be marked with the acronym “SP,” which stands for standard positive. So consider how you can make your application particularly memorable.  Those words of wisdom were accredited to a former Stanford University admissions reader.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Six years is the new four, students sadly find out

“What is your four-year graduation rate?” This may be one of the most important questions that college-bound students and their parents can ask when considering a potential college.  A recent Money article reported that six years is now the new four, stating “the failure to graduate students in four years has become so commonplace that schools are now showing you their six-year graduation rate.”

Sometimes there’s a good reason for students to take six years to earn a diploma.  Perhaps they switched majors and many of their credits did not carry over to their new course of study. On the other hand, perhaps it was out of their control.  Maybe some of their required courses were not readily available, requiring a longer than expected college stay in order to meet graduation requirements.  Either way, students and parents who are budgeting for a college diploma need to know, in advance, whether to multiply the annual cost of attendance (including tuition, room, board, books and fees) by four or by six.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Shadowing a professional promotes career awareness

A pilot project launched at Immaculata High School, the Career Shadowing Program, provides its seniors with an ideal opportunity to experience their intended career first-hand by being immersed in the work environment.  Twelfth-grade twins Michael and James Dowling, along with their classmate, Sean Doran, shadowed an Immaculata alumnus at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City.  Two other Immaculata seniors, Megan Adam and Nolan Leger, were immersed in the world of architecture by working alongside professionals designing renovations for their own school.


As the deadline arrives to register for the March SAT exam, New Jersey students recognize that the bar is high. While the national average SAT score for the graduating class of 2017 was 1060 (out of 1600), New Jersey students scored significantly higher. Statewide, they averaged 1085.  But locally, many high schools posted average scores hundreds of points higher, topping at 1477 at the Middlesex County Academy for Mathematics, Science & Engineering Technologies. 

Also in Middlesex County, the Academy for Allied Health and Biomedical Sciences placed second with average SAT scores of 1413 and John P. Stevens High School placed third at 1273.

In Somerset County, students at Montgomery High School earned the highest average SAT scores of 1313.  Ridge High School came in next at 1281, followed by Somerset County Vo-Tech at 1231.

Saturday, February 10, 2018


While the majority of college-bound students want to spread their wings after graduating from high school, about 25% start their higher education at their local community college. New Jersey is home to 19 community colleges, including Raritan Valley, Middlesex County and Mercer County in Central New Jersey. Their tuition hovers around $4,500 a year for students who take 15 credits each semester. (There are no room and board fees, as housing is not provided.) For the 2,000 students each year who become NJ Stars, graduating in the top 15% of their class and meeting certain requirements, community college is actually free of charge.

Friday, February 9, 2018


High school students who are dreaming of attending an Ivy League university can have their dreams come true sooner than they planned. All eight Ivy League institutions are offering “pre-college” programs, including the three Ivies that are an easy commute for Central New Jersey students: Princeton University, Columbia University and the University of Pennsylvania.
Princeton University will be hosting a three week Summer Institute for the Gifted (SIG) program from July 22nd through August 11th on its iconic Princeton, NJ campus. Students aged 13 through 17 can choose from a wide variety of courses in the Humanities, Math, Science, Technology, Visual & Performing Arts, and Fitness & Recreation. The application deadline is May 15th and tuition ranges from $4,895 for commuters to $5,795 for residential students.

Thursday, February 8, 2018


Whether preparing for high school midterm exams, upcoming SAT or ACT exams, or the exams that are looming ahead as a new college semester begins, students should follow some time-honored strategies.
First of all, students should always set a study plan in advance, and adhere to its details. Setting aside specific dates and times to study, and keeping those times sacred, is key to staying on schedule. There are absolutely no advantages to last-minute cramming, but many disadvantages including sleep deprivation and increased anxiety.