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5 Tips For Making the Most of August

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Once the calendar turns to August, gears begin to shift. Some students are just beginning to feel like they even have a summer, especially if they've been busy taking classes or involved in special projects.  Others have been traveling or chilling during June or July,  just now getting down to business in advancing their college process. And for those seniors (or super-ambitious juniors and recruited athletes) who are seeking another standardized testing opportunity before classes start anew, we now have the August SAT to think about.

One truth is for certain:  Everyone spends summer on their own schedule, and one size surely never fits all! Topping off the stretches of a perfect summer break is about that special mix of downtime and "gettin' stuff done." 

Looking for some productive ways to spend the next several weeks before classes begin?  Here are some ideal suggestions for juniors and seniors:

1.  Check out a few college websites.  Identify a minimum of three desirable features of a school and keep track of these as time grows close to beginning applications. 

2.  Visit some colleges. Even though the summer vibe on most campuses will be less than energetic, there are still facilities to check out and college towns to explore.  No doubt, campus visits make for the best approach to learn about a school. 

3.  Set goals for the school year to come.  It's a helpful way to smooth the transition back to the classroom when students really think about what they need in order to make the upcoming school year a successful one. 

4.  Plan to become more involved in activities that truly hold appeal.   Deepening involvement in a few activities vs. taking a shallow stab at many not only makes for a stronger story at the time of college application, but also works to grow the individual student. Follow what you love doing!

4.  Read something.  As students move through high school en route to higher education, the skill set that will work to their best advantage, no matter the area of study, includes improving and broadening their scope of reading.  Read a book.  Read a magazine.  Read online.  Read!

5.  Follow the money.  It's never too early for students and parents to think about financial aid and paying for college.  Students and their families can learn about the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) as well as scholarship-based assistance through search sites such as FastWeb.

There are few times as fleeting as the precious weeks of summer. Take the time to both enjoy and make them count!

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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


Summer = Downtime + Productivity

Thursday, July 06, 2017

It’s a scientific fact (well, not really — but yet I think you’ll still agree): Summer is the most fleeting season of the year.  That’s because even though summer has the same number of calendar days as its three fellow sun-cycles, we define this time of the year by its long-awaited respite and big dose of freedom from the everyday demands of school life.  For rising juniors and seniors, these months are well-earned and precious. 

When students comment, “I’m so busy this summer — I have no time to…” I take that as code for:  I need my downtime.  Absolutely.  You need downtime to refresh and recreate so you can get back in the saddle when school starts up again in the fall.   But remember that no matter how full summer days are with a job or team practice, they will not be as busy or structured as when senior or junior year start up in full form.

Depending where you are in the college process, whether a rising college explorer or soon-to-be-applicant, there are several things you need to be doing —and accomplishing — during summer break:

+  Work on college essays. Steadily.

+  Prep for SAT or ACT  — or at least take some diagnostic sample tests.

+  If expecting to test or re-test for subject tests in August, begin studying right away.

see prior blog post --  It’s Here:  The August SAT 

+  Accomplish AP summer prep work, as is necessary.

+  Begin to prepare your Common App — (and/or Coalition App; U of CA; or Apply Texas apps).

+  Get a good start on organizing a portfolio if applying to arts programs.

+  Be in touch with athletics coaches or admissions reps.

And there is one more to-do on the list:  Get out into the sunshine and fresh air  — or into the studio, lab, or workplace; plane; train or car.  Play, work, socialize, day dream and enjoy summer in whatever ways you crave to refresh and rejuvenate before the calendar flips to September!

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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

Setting A Higher Bar and Access to It

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

"They believe they can get more students to go to college and stay there by making high school harder."

It's a perfect marriage:  opportunity coupled with access.  One high school in Spokane, Washington is working hard to build bridges between their typically under-challenged, low-income student population and challenging courses that normally would fall outside of their academic plan.  

Aside from building esteem through meeting the demands of harder classes and achieving academic success, high schoolers plant seeds that will support their preparation for learning and performance at at the college level.

Why Placing Students In Difficult High School Classes May Increase College Enrollment   READ MORE


Photo Credit:  Sarah Butrymowicz

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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

The New Way Colleges Read Applications

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

More and more competitive colleges are moving to an initial "committee-read" system in reviewing applications.  This method pulls file readers out of their former silos, allowing them to compare their evaluations more or less simultaneously in a joint review.  The University of Pennsylvania, one of the Ivies, initiated this approach back in 2013.  Most recently, other colleges that have successfully adopted this system report that they can manage more applications in less time.  

Potentially, this is a win-win method for both applicants as well as admissions departments that find themselves inundated with application files, whether real or virtual....  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 can be reached via www.achievecoach.com


Well, I Do Declare!

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Enrolling in College As An Undecided Freshman

“Great news!  Good for you!”  It's a well-earned moment for high school seniors with college on the horizon to glow in these words of congratulations from well-wishing friends, family, teachers as well as the random casual acquaintance.  So gratifying to receive these words of enthusiasm until the next breath brings the inevitable, “And what are you planning to major in?”

While many students will have a ready response to the question, the majority will hem and haw because, well, they don’t really know how to answer.  Let’s be realistic:  How many 17 or 18-year-olds applying to college truly know what they want to focus on for four years, let along pursue on the road to a lifetime of work?

In today's world, the intent driving pursuit of a college education can be very individual and experienced through many dimensions.  Ask any student about why he or she wants to invest in a college experience.   Is it all about learning -- or vocational support -- or a time and place to learn to be independent and grow up?  Maybe it is a stage in life to construct a broader world perspective?  Maybe it’s all of these?

Another Kind of "Early Decision"

Feeling early pressure to “know” what one wants to study in college puts students in a precarious position of having to laser in on an area from the starting gate that may be a wrong fit later down the road.  Most well-meaning adults (and, admittedly, this mostly includes parents) tend to conflate a college major choice with career path.  It's wishful thinking to equate a decision on a major from the get-go as a sure route to success at the conclusion of four years.  

Honestly, you can hardly blame bursar bill-paying grown-ups for this perspective.  After all, the cost of college today is to be taken seriously and quickly takes on the dimensions of an investment that we all hope supports a good “return."  

But consider how much a first year college student typically evolves once exposed to academic areas or other students who may open their eyes to learning they had never been exposed to before.  And consider that the high school curriculum most teenagers pursue is relatively limited and doesn't offer the breadth of coursework they would see in college.  The very experience of college itself is likely to open any student’s eyes wide to a catalog of areas to pursue. 

Typically, colleges report the most popular choice of major at the time of application is “Undecided.”  My personal spin on this is a more positive one:  Still Exploring.   Extending even further, how about: Potentially Interested in Many Things?  In a perfect world, this is the kind of attitude an eager undergraduate should bring along to college! 

Outcomes 

Broadly, what is the goal that students hope to achieve at the end of their four years?  For some, it's preparation and solid recommendations for graduate or professional school.  For others, it’s graduating with a bachelors degree debt free.   For many, it may be a job offer or a realistic shot at employment in a field of interest that affords a sustainable lifestyle and independence.

Stepping into freshman and sophomore years of college for many teenagers is about finding direction via exposure to a broad curriculum while testing and then embracing (or eliminating) possible directions based on experiences in introductory courses. Then when the time comes at the end of the second year to formally declare a major, truly invested undergrads may look toward a path to double majoring or majoring/minoring.  As any college grad will realize, there had been so much available to explore in college --  and so little time to absorb it all!   

Destination 

Filling in between the lines of what students major in and the requirements of the job market in any field goes beyond solely taking classes.  Today, students set themselves apart in the employment or professional school sandbox via experience gained along the way through internships; campus research and jobs; or volunteerism.  While it may come across as a bit of a paradox, it’s worthwhile to remind students at every bend in their educational path to gain experience outside of the classroom. As a result, they can be more hirable later on and later actually have a greater opportunity to apply what they did in fact learn in school.  

Given that students are bound to change their planned major as a result of potential exposure to areas of interest and fit, why constrain a high school senior with demands to determine a major before setting foot in a campus classroom?  For some students, their natural path has been clear for years, but expect most to explore the bricks in the walkway before branching off on the formal road.

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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

The Benefits of Talking to Yourself

Monday, June 12, 2017

For both parents AND students:

Increased focus, motivation and confidence.  According to a series of studies, talking to yourself -- out loud-- can provide benefits to learning and performance, potentially valuable in learning; task management; social interaction and even athletic performance.   The research points to how different ways of putting thoughts about yourself into words can reset how you approach a task.  An article from The New York Times explores another way we can all use self-talk as a tool. 

READ MORE

It’s Finally Here: The August SAT

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Coming to A Testing Center (Hopefully) Near You…


August 26, 2017 marks the (re)introduction of a summer SAT testing date, much to the applause of over-committed, rising high school seniors looking for an opportunity to prepare and sit for the SAT or SAT Subject Tests without the added pressure of a full plate of classes; extracurricular demands; and the time required in the fall to complete college applications.

This debut of the August test date is expected to draw a large number of test takers. Note that while the regular deadline to register is July 28, certain metropolitan areas, including Boston and New York City, are expected to experience high demand for the available number of seats.  Early registration is essential for preferred testing locations.

The availability of a summer testing date offers a number of potential benefits to students:

1.  The growth in the number of schools with Early Action/Early Decision/Priority application deadlines necessitates that students complete testing equally promptly.

2.  If a student has waited for the middle or end of junior year to test and would like the benefit of an additional testing opportunity, she can now do so without the demands of the senior fall staring her in the face.

3.  If a student was caught short in studying for Subject Tests, say amid the requirements of preparing for May APs toward the end of junior year, or perhaps missed the June test date due to other exigencies, there is still the summer to refresh recently-completed subject material.  This is valuable before the introduction of new coursework in senior year, particularly in courses that do not build in tandem ex. chemistry with little to no overlap with physics or biology.

4.  Initiating or refreshing test prep without the distraction of other academic pressures may enable the student to focus more on his preparation contributing, at least in theory, to a higher test score. Even though some school districts start up again in late August, the school year will not yet be in full swing.

5. At the very least sitting for a summer SAT, with the advantage of some breathing room in the calendar, can potentially make a huge difference for students disposed to anxiety in anticipation of high-stakes testing.

6.  For students who had put their eggs into the ACT basket but now want to try their hand at the SAT can now do so without having to wait for October of senior year to come around.  And…

7.  …those students who decide to — or need to — take the SAT in fall of senior year, can now potentially avoid the pressures of back-to-back October and November testing.  Testing as such, with precious little time in between to assess prior scores and shore up weak areas, is unlikely to be productive in significantly boosting scores.

For more information about the SAT, SAT Subject Tests or to register, visit the CollegeBoard website. 
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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

Protecting Your College Acceptance

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Amidst the excitement and milestones that mark the life of a high school senior and their family, admission into college and selecting a desired destination for the next four years runs foremost.  This culmination of months —  if not years — of planning, researching and actively applying have finally come to fruition.


After the admission letters have been mailed out; a final choice has been decided; and the deposit for a student's spot in the fall class has been paid, what could get in the way?


PAST AS PROLOGUE


It may surprise students and parents  to know that even after the acceptance agreement has been signed, in most cases colleges will still require submission of a final high school transcript.  That means that admission in the winter or spring of senior year is, in some ways, a preliminary acceptance.  Dartmouth College actually has a name for this:  the Post-acceptance Review.


Ultimately, an offer of admission is contingent on successful completion of senior year, generally consistent with the student’s past performance.   Colleges that do review final  transcripts have the option to question performance that has slipped significantly.  So what does significantly actually mean? 


LETTERS, DOLLARS AND SENSE


If a student has been accepted on the basis of a transcript that shows As and Bs but has shifted downward, say, into the territory of Cs and Ds, the admitting college will want to know why.  The same may be true if a student decides to drop academic classes or move down levels in the second semester or final quarter.  Admitted Early Decision or Early Action applicants should be particularly cognizant of fluctuating transcripts since these students apply to college so early in the senior year calendar.


Why do colleges care?  Because, at a very basic level, institutions of learning aim to enroll students who are likely to be successful at their institution.  A student graduating high school with lower grades than those posted at the time of application is likely to raise red flags about their academic focus and potential for success in the freshman year. 


That said, if there is an extenuating circumstance that gives context to dropping grades (ex. illness; job loss; divorce; etc.) then the student, hopefully supported in kind by the school counselor, should be prepared to rapidly address the situation through a clear and cogent explanation.  


There could be financial implications as well since merit or grant monies may also be on the line, especially if a student was awarded funds based on GPA, academic performance, or some similar benchmark.


STAYING ON TARGET


After months of immersion in the college process,  it's not surprising to find seniors exhaling and seeking the opportunity to lighten up on the accelerator.  Truly, the few remaining months of high school signify a time to celebrate a job well done and enjoy friendships and senior celebrations on the way to that long-anticipated graduation day.  A slight drop in grades is not the same as a full blown case of senioritis, so the key is to stay on the path to the finish line!    


In reality, colleges want to welcome the freshman class they have accepted!  


That said, Cornell University's College of Engineering doesn't mince words on the topic of dropping grades:

Can an offer of admission be rescinded if my senior-year grades go down? 

Cornell's offer of admission includes the following statement: "Our offer of admission is also contingent upon your satisfactorily completing any school work now in progress, and on your continuing to uphold high standards of character in activities outside the classroom." All enrolling students are required to submit a final high school transcript once they complete their senior year. Each transcript is reviewed to ensure that our enrolling students continued to succeed academically once they received their offers of admission. Students whose performance declined are asked to respond, in writing, with an explanation for the decline in academic performance. Responses are evaluated and a determination is made whether a student will be allowed to enroll, or if his/her offer of admission will be rescinded. The decisions we make in these cases are done thoughtfully, thoroughly, and bearing in mind their impact. This process usually occurs in June and we try to reach decisions as quickly as the process will allow so that students are definitively aware of their status and can plan accordingly.   

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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

A Community College Start?

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Huge Potential Tuition Savings for Massachusetts Students Through Commonwealth Commitment

In an effort to attract and graduate Massachusetts students through its in-state college system, the Commonwealth has in place a program to ease the way for admission while potentially providing significant reductions in cost of attendance.

The Commonwealth Commitment program provides a pathway for students to begin their studies at one of the 15 Massachusetts community colleges distributed broadly across the state and, by meeting performance and timeline requirements, later transfer to one of the state university or University of Massachusetts campuses.  

Averting one of the obstacles that community college students frequently face when transferring to four-year colleges, Commonwealth Commitment guarantees applicants that their credits will transfer to their destination in-state university.  Cost-wise, benefits accrue to students who successfully complete their studies at their transfer university in a designated period of time, realizing substantial cost savings through tuition freezes and rebates.  

Currently, there are six approved majors connected to the program, including History, Psychology and Economics, among others, with a number of additional areas of study to be approved for Fall 2017.  Availability of these programs will vary by university.

For more information about the Commonwealth Commitment, visit the Mass Transfer webpage.

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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

Parent of a Junior? That Is, Rising Senior!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

by Marla Platt, AchieveCoach College Consulting


Parents of high school juniors: Congratulations! In a few short weeks you will attain official status as a parent of a rising high school senior.

While our juniors are currently focused on final projects, papers and exams, (and the joy of handing in the last of the bunch!) they also have an eye on the next important stage in their education: preparing to engage fully in the college process.  


In preparation for moving smoothly through stages of getting ready to apply to college, by now your student should:

  1. have at least one result from the SAT or ACT
  2. be familiar with his or her transcript 
  3. be aware of courses still required for high school graduation 
  4. have already toured at least one college campus
  5. have several schools in mind to actually apply to 
  6. possess an understanding of what target; reach; good bet admission possibility means for them
  7. engage in an honest discussion with parents about college affordability
Summer break sits brightly on the horizon with fall of senior year following directly behind. Look forward to some carefree summer days and the special delight that comes with a well-deserved rest from the hectic pace of the school year.  Then be ready for fall when the calendar turns again!

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 member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association and can be reached via www.achievecoach.com





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