Category Archives: College

While nothing in the 21st century college application process approaches conventional levels of transparency, the rise of test optional admissions has added a whole new level of ambiguity and opacity to an already stressful process. Nothing has changed, of course, when applying to colleges that are open-admit or select the majority of applicants. The real drama occurs at the selective and highly selective schools. Not only is a smaller percentage of applicants than ever selected at some of these schools–lower than 4% at certain institutions–but the blurring of qualifications has added entirely new levels of confusion, even for experts. Colleges universally adopted test optional admissions policies during the pandemic, in part because a handful of national SAT and ACT test dates and a flood of local test center administrations were cancelled. Test optional admissions also served to lower anxiety during a time when both applicants and the schools themselves were…

Read more

Don’t you hate that feeling when college essay deadlines loom, and you’re still trying to figure out what to write about? Don’t panic, or at least not yet! Sure, the application essay carries a lot of weight in selective college admission, but, at least, you are writing about a topic you should know very well by now: YOU. While we can’t tell you exactly what to write about, we can offer specific insights that you should consider at each step in your essay crafting process. If the following articles and podcasts aren’t enough, read to the end for a more targeted solution: Getting Started on your College Essay: Brainstorming and Free-Writing Writing a Strong College Application Essay: Drafting Writing a Strong College Application Essay: Revision and Completion 7 Steps to an Amazing College Essay   Still not sure how to craft your perfect college application essay? We’d love to help…

Read more

If you’re wondering what factors matter in selective college admissions, I’m happy to summarize the list in a few words: ALL OF THEM. When you are applying to schools that accept 10% or less of applicants, nothing is really optional from test scores to supplemental essays. The good news is that not every factor in admissions carries equal weight. A few years back, we shared what really matters in college admissions, as assessed by the NACAC 2018 State of College Admissions report. Much has changed since then, but perhaps not as much as one would think. After all, the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA) recently released the results of a 2020 nationwide survey of IECA member independent educational consultants that shared major similarities with the NACAC report. What matters? Grades still reign supreme, both qualitatively (honors, AP, IB) and quantitatively (the higher the better) to admissions officers. SAT and ACT…

Read more

I recently had the pleasure and privilege of presenting an SAT and ACT strategy session to a group of young adults. This in itself is hardly unusual, as I’m basically always teaching teens, except for when I’m training adults. The particularly awesome aspect of this engagement was that these 75 students were located in Nigeria, as part of a week-long bootcamp organized by EducationUSA. This non-profit network supported by the U.S. Department of State promotes U.S. higher education to international students and supports those students through the application process. The globe-spanning distance separating Zoom participants was the only truly remarkable aspect of this seminar. In all other ways, the students asked the same questions and shared the same concerns as any U.S. high schooler, excepting, perhaps, the concerns about TOEFL/IELTS testing and passport concerns. Rest assured, teenagers everywhere struggle with timing on the reading sections of the tests and worry…

Read more

Every year, millions of college applicants contend with billions (slight exaggeration) of questions about which schools to apply to and how to present the perfect applications. The question of when to apply hasn’t always felt pressing, but ignoring timing may be a big mistake this year. Early Decision and Early Action represent the primary options available to students who want to signal a strong intent to attend if accepted. Early Action is a less binding but also less influential indicator of intent. Early Decision, on the other hand, is an agreement with teeth to attend the single college that accepted you. In exchange for flexibility–and perhaps leverage in financial aid negotiations–applicants gain potentially significant admissions advantages. The power of enrolling Early Decision varies from school to school and year to year. To find out how beneficial ED was in last year’s cycle and what this year holds for applicants, I…

Read more

  When the 4th day of July rolls around, we citizens of the United States sometimes ponder questions deeper than just where to watch the best fireworks. We think of patriotism and pride, and even the most cynical among us contemplates what really makes America great. If thoughts like these have been rolling around in your head lately, here’s something to consider about American excellence… According to a 2014 tally, over 300,000 students outside the United States took the SAT in more than 1,000 international test centers across 175 countries. In Hong Kong alone, one 2013 SAT administration was inundated by 10,000 test takers. The ACT commands similar–and, in some countries greater–numbers of international test takers, and both tests have seen more test takers last year than ever. Why should students across the world take the SAT & ACT, when only colleges and universities within the U.S. use these scores…

Read more

6/123