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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  

Boston College Un-Restricts Its Early Action Policy

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

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

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

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

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

What To Do If You've Been Deferred

Monday, March 05, 2018

What To Do If You've Been Deferred

The email or letter usually goes something like this:  "Thank you for submitting your application to X University.  We have taken the time to review your impressive credentials but, due to an especially large volume of applications in our early round, we have decided to take a second review your application later in the admissions cycle..."

Take heart -- your student's application is still in the running!  As the popularity of early applications continues to rise, it is becoming more common for students to find that the "early decision" they were hoping for may just take a little more time.  When students' applications have been moved along to the Regular Decision (RD) round, they may likely receive a decision by mid to late March and no later than April of the senior year.

In the Meantime

Students should be anything but passive as they wait to hear back.  Active waiting consists of being in touch (reasonably) with the college over the coming months. Colleges may appreciate knowing that they are a top or first choice for the student.  The schools value useful updates such as:
  • increased SAT/ACT/SAT Subject Test scores
  • complete semester grades and/or most recent quarter grades, especially if they've improved
  • an update on awards; accomplishments; or even a new job
  • maybe some impressions of a recent college visit or contact that reflects the student's sincere interest in the college or underscores their sense of fit
What schools don't want is to be besieged with loads of additional recommendation letters, especially if these don't add anything new.  If there is, however, something significant or indicative of character or accomplishment, then perhaps an extra letter may be supportive if the college invites it.

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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

Second Semester Juniors: What’s the Game Plan?

Saturday, January 06, 2018

With nearly half of the school year in the rear view mirror, many juniors are thinking about what’s to come in the remaining months. If you’re blessed with a “glass half-full” perspective, high school juniors have a whole 5 - 6 months in front of them to make good progress on their college plans. Many students kick off 2018 with several excellent opportunities at their disposal, most of which require good planning and smart use of our most precious and fleeting resource: time. 

What to Focus On Now

With mid-year exams on the horizon, one of the best plans of action now is to gain an early start in prepping for these exams.  In my practice, I note that a large number of students find that the precious ground they’ve gained in a semester of classroom success is later dampened by a lesser midterm exam grade. Too many students pay too little attention to a significant exam that could push their semester grade up or down several quality points, potentially affecting the GPA.  Hindsight can’t override a C+ on a midterm exam that brings down a student's A- work somewhere into the B or B+ range.

KEY: Begin to gradually prepare for mid year exams. Don’t cram!


Standardized Testing

Spring can be the ideal time for students to sit for the SAT or the ACT. The 2018 testing calendar starts off with a Feb 10 ACT and a March 10 SAT.  Starting test prep now will allow approximately 5 weeks of prep for the ACT; 4 weeks beyond that for the SAT.

KEY: Prep for standardized testing doesn’t happen overnight. At the very least, students need time to understand the tests and how to approach them. Don’t go in cold!


Planning for Campus Visits

Winter/Spring breaks present an excellent opportunity to check out campuses for size; location; vibe; facilities; connecting with athletic coaches; student support services, as appropriate. Planning well now for these upcoming months will bring a huge return when it comes to narrowing lists later on, thereby reducing the last-minute crush of to-do’s at the beginning of senior year.

KEY: Visit campuses when students are present. 


And the Rest...

Then there’s more to the story for students to plan ahead and make the most of their summers through work; camp; internships; research opportunities; service; etc.  Early winter (now!) is a great time to set plans in motion for summer.   In the midst of winter, thoughts of June-July-August feel close to a dream, but before we know it the boots and gloves will slip off and our juniors transform into rising seniors.
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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

Early Application Popularity Continues to Steadily Grow

Friday, January 05, 2018

More and more, rising early action (EA) or early decision (ED) applications are impacting the college admissions landscape at colleges and universities across the nation.  

The application calendar continues to push back toward early in the senior year, with some colleges using a slightly different set of admissions criteria or aiming to fill seats in the early rounds. Others employ the early schedule to manage their inflows both in the admissions office as well as in the financial aid office.  

The Reality Behind Applying Early

Early applicants typically find themselves in a smaller pool than do regular decision applicants, hence admissions officers may be able to devote more time to reading each individual application, potentially resulting in a more nuanced review. In addition, since ED becomes a binding commitment to attend once the student is admitted, students who pursue this route are thereby indicating to the college that the school is the student’s clear first choice. For those schools that aim to fill a significant percentage of seats in the early rounds, applying ED may enable the applicant a higher likelihood of admission versus waiting to submit an application with a much larger regular decision (RD) pool.

Still, some schools pursue a policy of accepting only "stand-out" applicants in the early rounds, more often than not deferring these applicants to the RD rounds. Deferred applications are later reviewed, enabling colleges to make decisions across a larger and complete pool of applicants.

Given that students applying ED are at the time of application making a commitment to attend regardless of financial need, it is commonly said that ED is the bastion of those who have the means to pay for college without the need to compare favorable merit, grant or loan awards. ED may also appeal to those students who have begun their college process relatively early and/or have taken the time to visit individual campuses to enable a single-choice focus.

Although not all colleges offer ED or EA schedules, there is no controversy around the stark reality that, generally speaking, ED or EA policies help drive applications to colleges. Given the growing numbers of early applications many colleges have been seeing over the last several admissions cycles, the clock on the college timeline ticks on with the trend toward early application likely to continue.  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


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


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