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College Fairs Popping Up This Spring

Sunday, February 16, 2020

With spring weather on the horizon, college admission representatives from hundreds of institutions are making their way to college fairs throughout the country to meet prospective students and share their school's story.  Chances are that a college fair will be one of your stops along the college-shopping journey.

This spring, the "granddaddy" of area college fairs, NACAC Boston National Fair 2020, will be coming to town from Thursday, April 30 - Friday, May 1.

This widely-anticipated event expects to host more than 350 two-year and four-year colleges, nursing schools, business schools and trade schools at the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority located at 415 Summer Street, Boston.

Other Local College Fairs On Tap

By attending a college fair, students can learn about a wide variety of schools' offerings and connect with admissions reps. This is a bonus opportunity in particular for students and parents who may not be able to make in-person campus visits or who wish to gather more information before investing time and money in travel arrangements.

And before late April blooms, there are several college fairs scheduled for earlier in the spring.  Have a look at what is coming up in your local area this spring ...

** SERF College Fair - Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School
Saturday, March 21, 2020

12.15 - 3 PM

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** MetroWest College and Career Fair - Ashland High School
Saturday, March 21, 2020

9 AM - 12.30 PM
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** TEC Spring 2020 College FaIr - Westwood High School
Thursday, March 26, 2020

6.30  - 8.30 PM

http://tec-coop.org/student-programs/college-fairs/spring-college-fair-westwood-high-school
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** Providence NACAC National College Fair
Providence, RI
https://www.nacacfairs.org/attend/national-college-fairs/providence/

Tuesday, April 07, 2020
5:30 - 8:30 PM
401/458-6000
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** Arlington High School College Fair
Monday, April 27, 2020

6:30 – 8:00 PM
Arlington High School, 869 Massachusetts Ave

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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

Top 12 Tips for Campus Visit Success

Thursday, February 13, 2020
What? Already? The campus tour season is here. As you check out colleges during break and beyond, be intentional and make the most of time invested on the road.  Solid planning makes for worthwhile (and memorable) on-the-ground college research.

Looking to get the most out of exploring colleges? Check out these top suggestions for campus visit success:


  1. Register ahead via the campus website for information sessions and tours. Some colleges receive many hundreds of visitors in a week, and spaces may fill up.  If you need to cancel a reservation, contact the school so a spot can open for another visitor.
  2. Sign in when you arrive to campus so there is a record of you having taken the time to visit. This will also ensure you a spot on the school mailing list.
  3. Allow yourselves plenty of time to arrive and, most of all, to park and find the Admission Office. Do not assume that parking and the Admission Office are close to one another. And don’t assume that a tour or information session will take place at the Admission building.
  4. Even though it may sound obvious, wear comfortable footwear and bring a snack or drink with you as touring can tax one’s energy. Keep up the blood sugar.
  5. Bring extra pairs of dry socks (seriously). Even if shoes get wet in the rain, you will be much more comfortable if you at least can pull on dry socks for the next tour.
  6. Capture several photos of campus and nearby town, maybe even with you in them. Photographic images evoke deeper memories. 
  7. If you do not have time for both tour and information session, prioritize the tour.
  8. Don’t be shy about stopping a couple of friendly-looking students and saying something like: “Hi, I’m visiting today and wanted to get some thoughts about what students here think of X College. So what year are you in and what are you studying here? What are a few favorite things for you about your school?”
  9. Check out food places; fitness center; Career Center; Student Success Services or "Disability” Office; library; etc. if these are not included on your tour.
  10. Peek at posted signs; notices — anything that tells you what is being promoted or talked about at that school.
  11. If financial assistance is part of your college process, ask if admission is “need blind” or “need aware.” This will tell you how much the school considers demonstrated financial need when evaluating applications. You could also ask what % of demonstrated need the college will meet. If the school meets 75% of your demonstrated need, that means that the rest will be up to you to obtain.
  12. If the school says they offer merit awards, ask which financial applications, special essays, if any, need to be completed to be eligible for merit aid.
  13. What is the 13th tip you would like to see here?  Submit your favorite tip to marla@achievecoach.com, and you may see your suggestion added here next month.
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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


Starting College in the Spring

Monday, February 03, 2020

A growing number of students are receiving admission to sought-after colleges -- just not in the fall.

For years some northeastern elite colleges, including Middlebury and Hamilton, have engaged in an admissions practice offering a selection of students second semester admission. Midd "Febs"and Hamilton "Jans" share a mid-year enrollment calendar with a number of other highly-selective colleges and universities.

Same College, Alternative Path In

Today, students applying to a handful of schools on both coasts might see their admission offers contingent on an unanticipated timeline.  A sampling of schools and programs potentially offering applicants a later freshman start include:  

The Spring Difference 

Top-of-mind questions for second semester admits concerns the impact of a spring start on forging solid social connections. What will campus life be like for the new group joining established classmates who have been living and learning together on campus since fall orientation?

Students who begin college via the second semester option tend to report that their smaller cohort provides them with a more intimate, bonded social experience at their start of college. A strong January campus orientation program can serve to support those connections.  

Sometimes a later start incorporates a first semester international experience, the destination country compatible with the student's intended major. Participants bring these closer connections back with them to campus in January.

An organized program, such as the University of Maryland - College Park's Freshman Connection, offers spring admits an optional opportunity for a fall start, living on campus while choosing from selected classes. In contrast, other schools may leave the choice of fall programming entirely up to the student, potentially involving employment, volunteerism, or community college classes for credit. 

Cornell University's First Year Spring Admit (FYSA) program admits up to 50 students as "January freshmen," while recommending pursuit of enriching extramural involvements prior to arriving in Ithaca for spring semester.

The University of Southern California offers students the opportunity to pursue classes at affiliated American universities located in Europe where they may pursue classes for credit with students from around the world.

Regardless of the entry date, the premise supporting a January start is enrichment for the student prior to the start of college, bringing even greater anticipation and readiness for their educational experience.

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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 Best Recommendations For How to Succeed at College

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Where was the oh-so-wise Dr. Glenn Altschuler when I was in college? While I had not the good fortune to sit in on even one of the good professor's classes, I feel fortunate to be in the position today to channel his wisdom about bringing the best of study, personal care and time management skills to any student's university experience.  Amongst all that new independence and freedom that college students embrace, setting up for academic success in the first year sets the tone for what's to come down the road.

Dr. Altschuler, who has long been regarded as a beloved professor on the Cornell campus, presents Ten Recommendations for First-Year Undergraduates.  If I were to highlight one primary tip from his Top-10 for any budding college student, it would be to cultivate that very precious resource -- TIME -- learning how to think ahead and plan, plan, plan.  

Squeezing Into a 24-Hour Day

College life features a boatload of choices and possibilities to manage. Students benefit when they learn to operate in advance of what is coming the next day, the following week, and the month to come.  High school students who learn how to anticipate what lies ahead make the best transitions to college, earn the best grades and can dig into the wealth of offerings.  And what about self-care and time for social enjoyment?  The fun stuff counts, too. 

Learning how to "work smart" is smart.  Even without sitting in on any of Dr. A's lectures, students can still carry his good advice into their daily lives while still in high school, starting as a first-year, and beyond.

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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


Do I Need to Write the Optional SAT Essay?

Sunday, June 09, 2019

THIS POSTING HAS BEEN REVISED TO REFLECT FREQUENTLY-CHANGING SAT ESSAY POLICIES.

The optional SAT essay, requiring an additional 50 minutes of test takers' time, focus and energy, is swiftly becoming an artifact.  

Like the vestigial human appendix, at one point in time this component of the standardized testing landscape had its purpose. Today, more often than not, the essay score is simply disregarded, serving no true function in evaluating applicants, so says the testing policy at the vast majority of colleges and universities.  Still, every year we grapple with the wisdom of signing up for the optional essay.  

Testing Requirements Run the Gamut

How should students approach the decision of whether or not to sit for the optional essay?  General wisdom has long suggested that the smart and safe move would be to write the essay because without it colleges that do require this component will regard the main two-part SAT score, consisting of Evidence-Based Reading and Writing plus Math, to be incomplete.

So what are the policies that colleges hold around the essay?  Schools such as Bates, NYU, Quinnipiac, Connecticut College, UConn neither require nor recommend the optional essay and will not consider its score at the time of application review.  No longer does the College of Charleston or Occidental even recommend the essay, a relatively recent change.  As of last year, Duke stopped requiring it. None of the Ivies require the essay.  So who does?   

Look West

Primarily, the University of California system institutions (ex. UCLA; UC San Diego; etc.) and Stanford still ask for the essay.  A student applying to these schools will need to submit their essay score in order to complete their application. 

Future Tense

Another possible rationale behind writing the essay is as a back-up in the event a student later decides to transfer colleges, and the destination college is one that requires the SAT essay score for admission -- including transfer admission.  Without a complete score, the SAT two-part score may be regarded as insufficient.

International applicants whose language of instruction is not English may consider writing the essay to lend another perspective to their TOEFL or IELTS score.

In the present timeframe, if a student feels that they will likely have remaining mental focus to satisfactorily write the essay after completing the main SAT sections, then they might just pay the extra $15 fee and register for the essay.  And after once completing the essay and if satisfied with the two-part score, the student may not need to write the essay again in future testing scenarios.  In other words, when it comes to the essay more often than not it's "one and done."    

If a student wants to learn more about the essay section (highly-recommended prior to test day), click here to learn more about the approach to writing the essay and the skills assessed.

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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

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

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  


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