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What Is An "Adversity" Score?

Tuesday, June 04, 2019

Since the College Board recently announced the gradual rollout of their new contextual index, dubbed the "adversity score," numerous parents have inquired about this latest quantitative measurement and how it might impact the perception of their student in the Admissions Office.  "Will my child be regarded more or less favorably?  Will living in a more highly-resourced community make my child look indulged -- or even 'spoiled'? If I move to a different neighborhood, how will it affect my high schooler and younger kids?" What influence will this numerical value have on admissions outcomes for the majority of students taking the SAT?

For most students the index, formally referred to as the Environmental Context Dashboard will, on its own, likely not have a major impact and, like all elements that go into a holistic reading of a college application, will be reviewed in broader context. 

The Stated Intention

In recent years the College Board, along with other major players in the sphere of higher education, has begun to publicly comment on the reality of how socio-economic advantage directly contributes to higher standardized test scores as well as a likelihood of admission to more selective institutions.  For the many students who either live and/or attend high school in less resourced or socially-challenged cities or neighborhoods, the "adversity score" aims to shed light on the environment many of our students have had to manage, thereby allowing greater insight to the context in which these peers live and learn.  

The index aims to quantify a student's neighborhood, family, and high school educational environment while excluding considerations of race.  The numerical value comes from an analysis of census data along with information the College Board collects.

Students do not see their dashboard score, adding to the opacity of this number and its impact on admissions.

Bottom Line

In my view the College Board, referencing their strength in student data collection, is attempting to repurpose the copious amounts of student data they collect via each test registration.  My sense is that this rollout is more about monetization of data on behalf of the College Board rather than a substantive element that will significantly impact how the vast majority of colleges will evaluate admissions files.  The College Board appears to be attempting an approach of quantifying students' living and learning environment.  But ask anyone how their living and learning experience could effectively be boiled down to a number?

Beyond quantifying elements too nuanced to be calculated, most important is that all students receive a fair and contextual evaluation of their applications and are reviewed in view their potential to succeed at any institution.  In sum, every individual, professional and institution dedicated to the mission of higher education should be vigilant that all students are awarded the opportunity to attain their potential to study, learn and engage.

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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

Oh, Canada!

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Interested in learning more about Canadian colleges and universities? More and more, families are expressing interest in the world of higher education beyond our northern border.  In view of escalating costs at domestic institutions, increased competition, advancing levels of selectivity, and the currently strong US dollar, many are considering the value proposition of quality higher education at a lower price point.

Canadian universities offer students a four-year education taught in English, precluding language barriers for students for whom English is their language of choice.  

Note that while US colleges and universities employ a holistic admissions process in which applicants are evaluated across a spectrum of criteria in addition to GPA and test scores, Canadian universities typically focus on applicants' numbers and don't bother to evaluate factors such as recommendations and demonstration of interest.

The Maclean's University Guide offers a robust resource as an overview of what programs stand out for undergrads and graduate students alike.  Attending "university" in Canada might be an attractive and compelling possibility.  Oh, Canada!

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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

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  

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  
 

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