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National Merit Cutoffs for Class of '20 Announced

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

The folks who create and score the PSAT, also know as the National Merit Qualifying Score Test (NMQST) have announced the cutoff score for Commended status.  The qualifying score, also known as the Selection Index, remains the same as last year:  212.

Students of US citizenship scoring in the top 50,000 of test takers nationally qualify for official Commended status.  Of this group, approximately 16,000 test takers who later sit for the SAT go on to achieve "confirmation scores" that place them in top tier of scorers will likely advance to the Semifinalist level.

CALCULATING THE SELECTION INDEX

In order to calculate one's Selection Index, the student needs to refer to their PSAT for the two test sections:  the Reading and Writing section and the Math section.  Index calculation is as follows:

* Remove the zero after each section

ex. A section score of 700 converts to 70

* Multiply the Reading and Writing section score by 2; then add the Math section score

ex.  Reading and Writing section score is 720           Math section score is 700

(72 x 2) + 70 = 214

Since this result is higher than the cutoff of 212, this student's test score is qualifies for National Merit Commendation.

For more information on how students advance into upper rankings of National Merit recognition, click to 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 and can be reached via www.achievecoach.com

Tips for the ACT Reading Section

Monday, March 04, 2019

The ACT is commonly known at the "sprint" test: Test takers need to move quickly and steadily to make it through the race. Of the four required sections of the ACT, including Math, Reading, English and Science plus the optional essay, the Reading section typically challenges students' pacing and focus.  With 35 minutes available to answer 40 supporting-evidence questions across several passages, test takers need to rely on their skills in efficient and active reading to achieve solid performance in this section.

Thanks to the generosity of the good folks at Method Test Prep, a standardized test preparation tutoring service, AchieveCoach College Consulting blog readers can access here highly helpful tips and suggestions for effectively managing the Reading section of the ACT.

Even if the ACT is not their thing, students can still put to use these tips relating to organization and focus whether sitting for the SAT or actively reading short or long essays as part of school-related assignments.  Through these helpful suggestions, readers and learners of all ages could benefit from the pacing and strategy suggestions in The ACT Reading Quick-Tip Guide.
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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 and can be reached via www.achievecoach.com

Appealing a College Rejection

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Like it or not, letters of rejection come with the college application territory. While it's rare for colleges to revisit their admissions decisions, students who have significant new information to share may potentially find an ear.

While it's never pleasant or easy to open a letter of rejection, a disappointing college admissions decision should never be considered an indication of a student's worth or potential.  With record numbers of applications at all selectivity tiers of colleges and universities, there can be minute differences between two applicants, one of whom receives a "yes" and the other a "thank-you-for-applying" response.  

Numerous factors go into an application review, some of which are objective, like grades and test scores, and others that are purely subjective, such as community impact or letters of recommendation.   On top of all the mystery is the part that is completely opaque: the pool of other applicants and their application stories. 

The best approach after receiving a rejection notification is to calmly acknowledge the decision, even if it is surprising or feels "unfair." Assuming the student had applied to a reasonable list of colleges and had already received acceptances, then it's time to appreciate those "you're in!!" notifications and how much those schools value the applicant and what they would bring to the college's community.  

Unlike reconsideration after a deferral, a denial is typically a final decision and rarely overturned. Still, if an applicant has a signficant or material information to share with Admissions that never was included in the original application, it may be worth a "Hail Mary" for the student to contact their regional admissions representative.  First step: Find out if a re-read is even possible.  Suggested approaches for when it would be reasonable -- and not desperate -- to contact Admissions are all about being positive and specific.  

What not to do includes:
  • telling the college that they made a mistake
  • demanding an additional review
  • making excuses around poor past academic performance
  • submitting additional recommendation letters or essays
But doing these could support the student's case:
  • pointing out factual errors in the application that were discovered following submission
  • explaining extenuating circumstances that would present the student in a more positive light
  • informing Admissions of significant recent accomplishments or awards
  • clarifying strong interest in the school and a (truthful) commitment to attend if admitted
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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 and can be reached via www.achievecoach.com

Bucknell University Pilots A Test-Optional Policy

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Bucknell University has announced a five-year pilot test-optional admissions policy beginning with the entering freshman class of 2020.

Bucknell's new policy will allow most applicants the choice of whether or not to submit standardized test scores at the time of application.  As a result, other application elements will receive greater focus within a holistic review, including grades in academic classes, rigor of curriculum, fit with intended major, extracurricular involvements and achievements, and more.  

Students still required to submit standardized test scores at the time of application include recruited varsity athletes, international applicants and homeschooled students.

Most colleges offering a test optional approach will yet require test scores from matriculating students in order to support institutional research on the relationship between test scores and college success.  Happily, the option to include or exclude SAT or ACT scores at the time of application could widen opportunity for students who shine in other areas that better reflect their strengths. 

Bowdoin now joins the growing group of over 1000 test optional colleges, according to FairTest.org, The National Center for Fair and Open Testing.

Freas Hall is home to Bucknell University's Office of Admissions. Photo by Chris Shipley

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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 and can be reached via www.achievecoach.com

Making Time for College Fairs

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

College fairs provide a one-stop shop experience for college-bound students and parents to gather information about schools and their offerings, as well as connect with admission representatives to ask specific questions relating to student needs and interests.  Typically, fairs take place in the spring and fall and are free to attend.

The larger fairs often ask students to sign up in advance. Registrants will receive an entry pass and details about which colleges will be in attendance as well as general information such as hours, parking, and tips on how to get the most out of their visit experience.

Clicking on the following live links will bring you to info and registration pages for several upcoming Massachusetts and Boston-area fairs.  Remember to bring along interest, energy AND your comfortable shoes!

The SERF Spring College Fair at Lincoln-Sudbury High School

March 16, 2019

The TEC Spring College Fair at Westwood High School

March 27, 2019

The Boston National College Fair

April 4 and 5, 2019

The Springfield National College Fair

April 8, 2019

Colleges That Change Lives

May 18, 2019

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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 and can be reached via www.achievecoach.com

9th Grade, Before the College Search

Wednesday, January 23, 2019
It all counts!

With five months into their freshman year, 9th graders have been learning how manage their day-to-day, including the mundane elements of high school life such as the bell schedule or remembering Pizza Friday. Our freshman boys and girls are occupied with how to find their way into clubs or onto teams, not to mention figuring out the fluid nature of the social structure in their new school.  

For most, college is still a distant notion — a concept at best. And that’s fine because in our culture there is far too much discussion — and pressure — around the college conversation. Yet it’s important to be "applicant-ready" when the time comes. And that means setting a solid foundation for academic success and knowing what colleges will, shortly down the road, want to learn about your student.

So with their very first completed high school semester and grade report, a student is on the path to becoming a potential college candidate.  The grades students earn early on in high school will affect their GPA as much as grades earned as upperclassmen. Ninth graders content with earning Bs and Cs may find their college choices affected later on.  As much as upward grade trend does count, so do numbers.

Building an all-around good start

Let's support our kids by reminding them that the essentials of a good high school start include:
  • solid grades in academic courses...
  •  … and study skills grounded in time management and focus
  • organizational skills
  • firm reading skills, steadily developing 
  • a successful start to foreign language so the student is set up to pursue at least two years of the same foreign language, typically the base requirement at many (but not all) colleges
  • same for math, as a foundation in this subject prepares a student for further success in upper level classes. As with foreign language, students need to solidify the foundation in order to be successful.
  • understanding how to access support if the student requires assistance ex. teachers for outside help; school counselors; resource staff 
  • learning how to balance academic life and social life, finding a foundation in each
  • most of all, taking care of the self -- and that includes sleep and sustenance
Learning the ropes -- asking for support -- building confidence -- all combine to smooth the road in high school for our first-year boy and girls.
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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 and can be reached via www.achievecoach.com

The Common Application Announces 2019-20 Essay Prompts

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

This post is an edited reprint of last year's announcement that the Common Application would again use the prior year's essay prompts.  The same approach holds for the 2019-20 application season, including the 650 word count maximum.

The Common Application has announced its 2019-20 college essay prompts, reflecting no change from the prompts established in last year's admission cycle.  

Over 700 US and international colleges utilize the web-based Common App. Students choose among seven essay prompts, providing a platform for students to to create a personal statement that conveys aspects of their character; unique experience; personal growth; or individual focus. Students are permitted a maximum of 650 words to convey their personal statement through one of their chosen Common App essay prompts.

Here are the prompts for the upcoming admission cycle:

2019-20 Common Application Essay Prompts

1. Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story. 

2. The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience? 

3. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome? 

4. Describe a problem you've solved or a problem you'd like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma - anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution. 

5. Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others. 

6. Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more? 

7. 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. 


"Through the Common App essay prompts, we want to give all applicants - regardless of background or access to counseling - the opportunity to share their voice with colleges. Every applicant has a unique story. The essay helps bring that story to life," said Meredith Lombardi, Associate Director, Outreach and Education, for The Common Application.

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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

Launching Juniors Into Their College Process

Monday, January 21, 2019
With the second high school semester underway, now is the season for juniors to launch their college search and application process.  Parents and students frequently hear from me that this process starts with self reflection, that is, students holding up their personal mirror and honestly evaluating themselves for what a mutual college fit might look like.  

High schoolers can start by thinking about what is most important in their college experience and considering what that might look like as they build a list of colleges that call to them.

Looking for perspective from an additional expert in the college world? Jeff Schiffman, Dean of Admission at Tulane University, offers some solid big-picture advice for juniors heading into the college search and application process. Tap here to 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 admission process. Marla is a professional member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association and NACAC.  Contact Marla via www.achievecoach.com  

Starting 2019 on the Right Foot

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

The first month of the calendar shines brightly with opportunity for a fresh start and a view to the year in front of us. When it comes to college planning, this is a fantastic time for students and parents to start anticipating quarter by quarter what to accomplish to advance to the next stages in the college process.  Now is the moment to look to inspiration and energy and continue planning ahead!

Front and center, let’s start with our seniors

1. Prepare well in advance of mid-year exams. More than once, I’ve seen these results make or break a semester of classwork, testing and papers.

2. Per #1, keep up or improve grades --  especially if deferred in the initial admissions round. After having deferred an applicant, colleges will most likely search for evidence of academic progress via the second review.

3. Per #2, keep up grades even if admitted to an RD or ED college. After the admission letter arrives and a deposit is sent in, admitted students continue to remain under informal review because colleges almost always require a final senior transcript as evidence of continued, satisfactory academic progression.

4. Students should continue to update the colleges still reviewing their applications with useful updates such as awards; distinctions; or special projects.


Now for our juniors...

With one eye on the present and the other glancing a few paces in front, the KEY is to plan ahead and use time wisely.

5. Plan campus visits at your earliest convenience and when colleges are in session. That usually means following winter break and before spring break, according to an individual school's schedule.

6. Continue preparing for SAT and/or ACT during a timeframe that allows the most bandwidth for focusing on practicing the skills necessary for testing success.

7. Pay attention to progress in current classes to best plan for senior year course levels.

8. This is a wonderful time to consider stepping up extracurricular involvement, expanding leadership role, impact, etc. The more selective the college, the more important is a student track record of accomplishment outside of the classroom.

9. Summer already? These precious weeks can never come soon enough and before you know it, they’ve arrived! This is the time for juniors to begin summer planning, whether it is working close to home or away; developing a current business or project; test preparation; etc. etc.


And, of course, sophomores!!!

10. Keeping up your grades is key to future success in high school and beyond.

If sophomores experience an academic challenge such as struggle in foreign language or math; difficulty in organizing or completing assignments, this is the time to raise the issue and look toward a new approach or solution. (Yes, good advice for freshmen too!)

11. No longer newbies in the high school, sophomores are wise to think about their interests in or out of their school and develop these enjoyably and meaningfully.

Wishing ALL students and parents a healthy, happy and fulfilled 2019!!!

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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 admission process. Marla is a professional member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association and NACAC.  Contact Marla via www.achievecoach.com  



While Waiting to Hear

Monday, December 03, 2018

As college application season begins to slowly wind down, just as surely senior anticipation begins to ramp up!

With Early Action applications at some institutions due as early as October 15, colleges have begun to issue admission decisions to early applicants.

Early Decision candidates, applying to college under a binding one-choice agreement if admitted, typically see deadlines around November 1 or November 15.  Many colleges render their official Early Decision or Early Action decisions sometime around the third week in December, shortly before year end. Still, other schools offer Rolling Admission, issuing responses in succession as they review completed applications.

After all the effort invested into researching, visiting and applying to colleges, waiting can be a tricky game. Following the relief that comes after completing applications, teenage tensions can run high, whether students display their anxiety in the open or keep it under wraps. Parents, in the midst of the waiting game, may report that students display moody behavior or find it difficult to focus. And for the majority of students, the suspense of awaiting admissions decisions over the span of 3 - 4 months during the Regular Decision admissions timeline is something they are wholly unaccustomed to while living in an age of quick turnarounds and immediate feedback.

WHAT PARENTS CAN DO

Adults have a greater capacity to understand what is feels like to wait and manage the tension around uncertainty. Teaching teens to focus on the present moment and turning attention to the near term is a life skill that will serve them well in their near and distant futures. Not to mention that looking ahead, senior year practically evaporates, encouraging even more reason to focus on family time and maintaining relationships and activities in the here and now. Amazingly, you can now almost count on one hand the number of months remaining until high school graduation.

BUILDING BLOCKS IN THE PRESENT

While waiting for colleges’ decisions to arrive, it is key to be fully present in the "here and now" in order to build the best outcomes for the future. While awaiting decisions, students still need to own their responsibility of maintaining strong classroom performance.

Not only will continuing to build strong academic skills serve in the future while pursuing advanced education, it is an immediate necessity: Colleges will want to receive a final transcript reflecting the level of past performance and academic commitment demonstrated back at the time of application. Some schools may even ask for interim grade reports, including Quarter 1 or Semester 1 grades. Even if admitted under Early Decision or Early Action with a deposit paid to hold a seat in the freshman class, colleges reserve the right to retract acceptances if grades drop noticeably.  Yes, this happens!

TAKEAWAY

Stay the course and keep an eye on my perennially favorite "Three C’s” : Calm + Caring + Commitment.  Keep it up, students and parents!  And avoid temptation to take your eye off the road -- your colleges are still watching!

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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 admission process. Marla is a professional member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association and NACAC.  Contact Marla via www.achievecoach.com  


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