Category Archives: College

The world sure has changed a lot over the last thirty years, hasn’t it? I remember the absolute thrill of the earliest days of video games, when playing Pong or Space Invaders represented the cutting edge of fun. Yet, my son’s PS 4 renders games in real time with all the cinematic realism of feature films. If we recognize on a daily basis the quantum leaps technology makes every 18 months or so, why do we cling to a view of college that still resembles higher ed in the 20th century? Everything we think we know about college–from applying to attending to paying for the privilege–is changing at a rate that even professionals cannot keep up with. Believe me, I know. Every week, I speak with counselors, educations, and admissions professionals who study higher education from every angle. We all observe a lot more misinformation and myths than actual facts.…

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While test-optional admissions has always been a reality for some college applicants, the current prevalence of this policy introduces an awful lot of uncertainty into already anxiety-provoking process. In previous years, students whose test scores didn’t meet a school’s stated standards often turned their attention elsewhere. These days, more and more students choose to roll the dice by applying without scores–to their detriment. The media has been promoting a story that the last year of expanded college admissions, where more students than ever representing more diverse backgrounds and socioeconomic strata than ever have applied to highly selective schools, represents a triumph of test optional policies. Yet, that narrative remains misleading without data on which students were accepted. We don’t have all the numbers, but professionals I trust on the admissions side have estimated that 85-90% of accepted students to most test optional schools over the past five years sent scores,…

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Is any aspect of college admissions more mystifying than the determination of financial aid? The concept of “need” and how different schools consider need in both admissions and aid decisions goes deeper than most people realize. For clarity to the topic of need blind and need aware admissions, I turned to college consultant Jona Jacobson. Jona Jacobson is an independent educational consultant based out of Rochester, NY who coaches students on choosing colleges and completing their college applications and essays. A former attorney and substitute teacher, Jona is in her ninth year of advising students and families through the college application process, both locally and nationally. What are five things you will learn in this episode? What do the terms “need,”  “need blind,” and “need aware” mean in college admissions? What is gapping? Do all colleges meet 100% of need? Does need or the lack thereof influence admissions decisions? What does it…

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One of our greatest pleasures at Chariot Learning is helping students unlock the substantial scholarship opportunities tied to outstanding grades and test scores. It’s no exaggeration that an investment in test prep often comes back tenfold in merit aid. However, when you help as many motivated, authentic, and endearing students as we do in the college admissions process, you can’t help but want to find more ways to support them. From that thought arose the Tests and the Rest Counselor Select Scholarship. My podcast partner Amy Seeley and I both wanted to add something new to the constellation of local, national, and organizational awards students contend for and consulted with scholarship expert Monica Matthews on the best way to proceed. The concept behind the Tests and the Rest Counselor Select Scholarship is to provide a way for one student per school in multiple states to be nominated for the scholarship…

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In response to a new re-evaluation of the criteria for popular college rankings, I was moved to write something of a rebuttal on LinkedIn, which is shared in its entirety below. For the sake of our community and the families and educational partners we serve, allow me to add some further thoughts: Our long national obsession with U.S. News & World Report college rankings has become unhealthy and unproductive in the effort to connect students with their best-fit schools. Focusing with tunnel vision on the most selective 100 colleges ignores thousands of potentially better options. Selectivity does not necessarily guarantee either specific educational quality or suitability. Most of my colleagues–educators, school counselors, and educational consultants–care much more about basing school choice on student values, interests, goals, and restraints than which colleges rank highest in easily-gamed lists.   What is Really Wrong with College Rankings? Generation after generation of ambitious college…

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Once you’ve brainstormed your options and decided which initial draft is your winner, the final step in writing a really strong college application is to read, rewrite, rework, and rethink your essays over and over again. This revision process can be a hard journey to travel alone. Like any formal writing project, it helps tremendously to have someone read your work and comment on where the writing is clear and where it isn’t, where the language is strong and memorable, and where it is weaker. Aside from the usual writing help, a college-essay coach can and should also help you stay mindful about the specific genre of writing this essay falls into. This essay is different from any other essay you will probably write in your life. You not only want your essay to display the usual hallmarks of good writing–lively word choices, sustained focus on a central idea, correct…

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