Category Archives: College

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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  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…

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The first step in writing a strong college essay is to brainstorm some potential ideas to write about. Once that’s done, it’s time to start to sculpt your ideas into possible essays. Essays? Plural? Yes! Often, it’s hard to know which ideas that emerged from free-writing and brainstorming exercises are going to lead to the essay you want; you have to try writing an essay based on one idea, and see how it emerges, and then maybe drop that idea for a while to tinker with another possible essay topic. Writing is a maddening process of trial and error. Sometimes we just need to sit down and force ourselves to write, and sometimes it is better to take a break for a day or two, so that we can come back to our writing with fresh eyes. Sometimes it takes time for an idea to marinate and grow in our…

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Is there any aspect of the college admissions process that is both simple to understand and easy to execute? If so, I haven’t found it after decades in education. Not only does even basic questions about the college process require detailed explanations, but the answers seem to be changing much faster than ever before. Over the last two years, I’ve been having in-depth conversations on the Tests and the Rest podcast with national experts on every aspect of college admissions, and we all agree that this may be the most dynamic time ever in higher education. So, now that we’ve established that everyone needs more and better information about college admissions, the next step is finding it. Facebook can be an excellent place to find information, but you cannot always be sure about how accurate or trustworthy your sources are. Plus, even the more credible college Facebook groups bring together…

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Why do people lie so much? Why do we persistently spout demonstrably false statements simply to provide others who cling to the same skewed biases purchase to elevate rumors and wishes to the level of accepted fact, even when all evidence belies our flawed reasoning? No, I’m not talking about politics here. Instead, let’s turn those jaundiced eyes to college admissions policies. The global pandemic may not have inspired the crusade against standardized test scores in college admissions, but it certainly energized the opposition. The expansion of test optional admissions, while the farthest thing possible from a panacea for structural educational inequity, empowers more students to apply to selective schools they might have otherwise given up on. Unfortunately, such policies don’t materially improve an applicant’s chance at admission to those schools. The writing on the wall for the coalescing college graduating class of 2025 suggests that higher education still places…

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