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Attracting Merit Money

Friday, October 12, 2018

If college affordability is on our minds, so should be the plan to bring down costs when possible.  Students who stand out in the applicant pool, if admitted, have the potential to save thousands of dollars in merit awards over the course of a four-year education.  

Colleges want to be generous with financial awards when sensible and supportive of both the institution and student body. Merit money becomes more likely when applicants bring something to the table that colleges desire. 

For some schools, it could be all about statistics — in the form of higher test scores than the middle 50% of the student body applies or enrolls with. Often, a student’s outstanding track record of community service or contribution may attract merit awards. At certain colleges, it may be demographic, geographic or identity diversity that catches the notice of Admissions. Simply put: Merit awards are financial incentives to attract student enrollment to fulfill a college’s larger objectives or educational mission.

Another reason merit awards are desirable is that typically (but not always) they are assigned without regard to financial need and do not have to be repaid. In other good news, many generous colleges automatically consider merit potential at the time of application so students do not necessarily have to complete lengthy scholarship applications. Gift money, bring it on!                 _________________________________________________________

Marla Platt, M.B.A. is an independent college consultant based in Sudbury, MA through AchieveCoach College Consulting, providing personalized guidance to students and families throughout the college planning, search and admission process. Marla is a professional member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association and NACAC.  Contact Marla via www.achievecoach.com  

If You Have Time for Just Three Things...

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Are minutes in the day shrinking or is the calendar just moving faster?  Sometimes it feels like both are happening.  Seniors in the midst of finalizing early applications know this better than anyone -- while high school junior, sophomore and freshman parents are astonished at the fact that their students are moving up the high school ranks en route to their college futures.


In reality, the college process has sped up in many regards, with all students in my practice completing at least one early application.  For juniors, early fall is a great time to gain a head start on pieces of the college process and optimal for seeing schools when the weather is still good and academic obligations have yet to pile up.


Most seniors are done with application tasks by now -- but not all.  Some students are still making campus visits and re-visits as well as making one final attempt to boost SAT/ACT scores. For juniors ready to step into their college process, it's worth taking time during the next couple of months for the following:


1.  Register and prep for standardized testing
Chances are a student will be required to take either the SAT or the ACT as a condition of application to at least one intended college.  Some students align with and focus exclusively on one of these tests, while others try out both to see which one best fits their testing style.  At the very least, it's smart to visit the SAT or ACT websites to sample the style and types of questions one may encounter on these exams.  Most students will begin testing during the winter of junior year, if not earlier, espeically if their winter and spring schedules are full with extracurriculars.

2.  Schedule campus visits

It takes more than a little planning to organize student and parent calendars in order to make campus visits a priority.  With busy weekends full of homework, projects, athletic and family obligations, campus visits may easily slide onto the back burner.  Before you can say "summer’s here,” senior year has arrived with its own set of priorities that may tighten up schedules even more. Besides, it’s best to visit schools during the normal ebb and flow of the academic year rather than during summer break when there are typically few students in attendance. Prospective applicants need to view campus life in action, in part, to determine a good college fit.

3.  Don't ask teachers yet for college recommendations…

... but start to consider the fact that most schools require at least one academic teacher's evaluation.  Students should begin to think about connecting in some way with teachers and how to get to know them better in or out of the classroom -- or both.


The college process is made up of many more steps than mentioned here, but with these three items underway students and parents are off to a good start! ________________________________________________________________

Marla Platt, M.B.A. is an independent college consultant based in Sudbury, MA through AchieveCoach College Consulting, providing personalized guidance to students and families throughout the college planning, search and admission process. Marla is a professional member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association and NACAC.  Contact Marla via www.achievecoach.com  


Asking the Right Questions

Sunday, August 12, 2018

As part of a well thought-out college search, probing beneath the glossy surfaces or published standardized testing numbers can reap insights. Georgia Tech's Rick Clark, Director of Undergraduate Admission, blogs about the wisdom of digging beneath the stats that colleges love to boast about.  

Typically, college information sessions, while an excellent marketing resource for learning about campus offerings, admissions requirements and student outcomes, skew toward broad-based marketing content that schools share to enthuse parents and prospective applicants. Class sizes? Faculty-to-student ratios? Graduation and retention rates? Employment or grad school outcomes? Not surprisingly, the statistics tell only part of the story.
By digging deeper, students can become smart, insightful college shoppers by listening between the lines and learning to --- Ask Good Questions.

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Marla Platt, M.B.A. is an independent college consultant based in Sudbury, MA through AchieveCoach College Consulting, providing personalized guidance to students and families throughout the college planning, search and admissions process. Marla is a professional member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association and NACAC.  Contact Marla via www.achievecoach.com  

Carnegie Mellon No Longer Seeking Demonstrated Interest

Monday, July 09, 2018

In an effort to enhance access and equity in their admissions evaluation process, Carnegie Mellon University has come out with a new policy eliminating the element of student demonstrated interest.

Included in this effort to better align the admissions process with student access, the university will no longer offer evaluative interviews.  Instead, the interview will serve as a informational tool to help applicants better connect with CMU resources and programs. 

CMU's evolving policy extends beyond the initial application process itself. If at the end of the standard admissions cycle the university should decide to establish an applicant waitlist, CMU will no longer encourage or accept the submission of additional inputs such as extra recommendations; research projects; outreach letters to admissions representatives; etc. Rather, CMU plans to request from those students offered a place on the school’s waitlist a response paragraph to a yet-to-be-determined prompt.  

For now, CMU says that they will hold back on publicizing such prompt so as to not to pre-empt a decision about whether or not they will eventually establish a waitlist.  As of this writing, students will have to patiently stand by to see how CMU will ultimately handle waitlisting at the end of the current admissions cycle.

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Marla Platt, M.B.A. is an independent college consultant based in Sudbury, MA through AchieveCoach College Consulting, providing personalized guidance to students and families throughout the college planning, search and admissions process. Marla is a professional member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association and NACAC.  Contact Marla via www.achievecoach.com  
 

An Important Piece of the Pre-College Talk

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

When all the talk has been about getting into college, it's essential to dedicate some conversation around emotional well-being when away at school.

Preparing students for college success goes way beyond just the books.  It begins with communication.   READ MORE 

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Marla Platt, M.B.A. is an independent college consultant based in Sudbury, MA through AchieveCoach College Consulting, providing personalized guidance to students and families throughout the college planning, search and admissions process. Marla is a professional member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association and NACAC.  Contact Marla via www.achievecoach.com.

Boston College Un-Restricts Its Early Action Policy

Wednesday, June 20, 2018
Beginning with the 2018-19 admissions cycle, Boston College has quietly loosened its Early Action policy to allow students the option of applying via a binding Early Decision commitment at another college.

Previous to re-drafting its Early Action application policy, BC had in place a "Restricted Early Action" plan that permitted students to apply to the college under a non-binding early plan, however requiring that students refrain from submitting a binding ED application to other institutions. In acknowledgement of this more liberal policy, BC has posted their preference for students applying ED elsewhere to consider not applying to BC via an Early Action plan:

"Candidates who have selected the Early Decision I option at another college are free to apply through Early Action to Boston College. However, such candidates have identified that college as their absolute first choice. They have entered into a binding agreement to enroll at that college, if admitted and therefore are not free to fully consider a possible acceptance from Boston College. Thus, we strongly request that Early Decision I candidates consider not applying Early Action to Boston College."

According to the college, as demonstrated interest is not a factor in admission consideration an early application will not weigh in a candidate's favor.  For the most recent admissions cycle, BC points to filling 30% of its class via Early Action.  BC also offers the option of Regular Decision; there is no binding ED plan available to applicants to the school.

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Marla Platt, M.B.A. is an independent college consultant based in Sudbury, MA through AchieveCoach College Consulting, providing personalized guidance to students and families throughout the college planning, search and admissions process. Marla is a professional member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association and NACAC.  Contact Marla via www.achievecoach.com  

ACT Soon to Become a Longer Test

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

With a new experimental section tucked in following its Science section, the ACT will require an additional 20 minutes of testing time starting this September.

It's not unusual for experimental questions to be included in standardized testing in order to try out new question types, gauging student performance and likelihood of correct or incorrect responses. This method of "testing" the test questions is designed to ensure statistical validation and reliability. The SAT too had long utilized experimental questions during test administration, currently providing their experimental section to students who forego the optional essay.

Testing Out the Test Questions

While responses to experimental questions do not count for or against a student's total score, test takers need to be aware of the extra time -- and additional stamina -- required to get though a 3-hour and 35-minute test, soon to be an additional 20 minutes longer.  While the ACT has displayed a modicum of courtesy in placing this section following the four main sections, including Reading, Math, English and Science, students who are signed up to take the essay portion need to save up additional energy and focus for this last piece at the very end.

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Marla Platt, M.B.A. is an independent college consultant based in Sudbury, MA through AchieveCoach College Consulting, providing personalized guidance to students and families throughout the college planning, search and admissions process. Marla is a professional member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association and NACAC.  Contact Marla via www.achievecoach.com  

Another Shift in the SAT/ACT World

Monday, June 18, 2018

When registering for the SAT or ACT, students are asked to consider whether or not to sign up for the optional essay. Since the number of colleges actually requiring the essay has been steadily decreasing as of late, it has been something of a toss up as to whether or not to advise students to spend the extra time and money to complete the essay component of standardized testing.  

Since students typically sit for these tests well before settling on a final list of colleges, there was no telling early in the game which of their intended colleges would ultimately require the essay. Thus, the safe bet has been to just sign up for and write the essay in the event that an intended college does in fact require it.

Recent Trend

Increasingly, the trend of late has been for colleges to no longer opt in to review the essay score. Over just the last two months with Harvard, Yale and Dartmouth deciding to drop their essay requirement, there are now only 25 colleges that still require the score.  It is worth noting that nine of these -- over a third --are universities of the California system.

However, there are a few colleges that still recommend the essay portion specifically for placement purposes (ex. Manhattan College and the University of Miami), however seemingly ignoring the score when considering a candidate for admission. While there is a larger number of schools that have a policy of recommending the SAT/ACT essay, the intended purpose is, however, unclear.

As to the list of colleges requiring the essay score, the names are likely to change as schools continue to re-evaluate their policies.  

Image credit:  Caiaimage/Sam Edwards/Getty Images

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Marla Platt, M.B.A. is an independent college consultant based in Sudbury, MA through AchieveCoach College Consulting, providing personalized guidance to students and families throughout the college planning, search and admissions process. Marla is a professional member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association and NACAC.  Contact Marla via www.achievecoach.com  




Crafting the Personal Statement

Sunday, June 17, 2018


As final exam season begins to wind down, students turn their attention to the next phase of their application college process: writing the personal statement.

Unlike a typical classroom paper or analysis, the essay component of a college application invites the student to share a focused perspective or experience that allows Admissions a view into personal purpose; strength or character.  A personal statement can emerge from unexpected places.  Sometimes there is a funny story to share.  Sometimes there is a significant turning point that provides meaning to the student's experience.  

Emory University shares with readers examples of personal statements written by accepted students along with insightful comments shared by admissions officers who have reviewed these applications. Regardless of the story or the background of the writer, introspection underpins each essay. 
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Marla Platt, M.B.A. is an independent college consultant based in Sudbury, MA through AchieveCoach College Consulting, providing personalized guidance to students and families throughout the college planning, search and admissions process. Marla is a professional member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association and NACAC. Contact Marla via www.achievecoach.com







Hanging Out In Waitlist City

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Decision letters have been mailed out and the National Reply Date deadline of May 1 is here and gone. It's time to heave a happy sigh because the college application process for most seniors is finally in the rear-view mirror -- but not for all. For some applicants, the final story is an inconclusive one if placed on a waitlist, meaning they technically are not rejected -- but neither are they accepted. From Boston to Seattle, Portland to Miami, the trend many students are seeing is not admission, not rejection, but instead one of "no decision."

What's Behind the Waitlist Game?

In order to manage yield rates, an ever-important factor that goes into USNWR rankings (and you know not to pay any mind to a magazine's rankings, yes?) colleges have increasingly been playing a waitlist game that serves only to help them manage their acceptance/attendance numbers. By waitlisting applicants, colleges afford themselves flexibility because they can later pull in additional students after extensive review of initial acceptees who actually take their offered spot. Striking is the fact that it is not unusual for colleges to waitlist hundreds, if not thousands, of applicants, in some cases waitlisting more than the entire freshman class population.

How to Approach the Waitlist

First, recognize that at many schools the waitlist is little more than a holding pattern. If offered a spot on a college's waitlist, students need to confirm right away their intention to accept a spot. And then what? According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, students need to carefully follow directions for next steps required by the school. In general, waitlisted students can continue to express interest by writing a brief letter to admissions expressing sincere commitment to attending and WHY; forwarding any new and improved test scores; updating strong final grades; a new and insightful recommendation; notification about significant awards or achievements.

Know that unlike waiting in line for a seat on an over-sold flight, there is no "position number" on the waitlist. Another consideration for waitlisted students, in addition to continued weeks of uncertainty, is the likelihood that financial aid funds will be spoken for by the time colleges comb their waitlists for possible admits.

Hope springs eternal in the world of college admissions but, because movement on waitlists is typically slow and infrequent, the best approach is to deposit where accepted, proudly purchase the school T-shirt and commit to attend. Most students would be gratified to know that the schools that have accepted them view them as a fit and an asset to the school community. So celebrate your well-earned success: Woo-hoo and congratulations to all our seniors and their families!!

Image Credit: Rob Dobi
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Marla Platt, M.B.A. is an independent college consultant based in Sudbury, MA through AchieveCoach College Consulting, providing personalized guidance to students and families throughout the college planning, search and admissions process. Marla is a professional member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association and can be reached via www.achievecoach.com  




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