A faithful reader reminded us "It's that time of year again..." and asked us to re-post Joan Didion's essay on being denied admission at Stanford University. So to remind us all there is life after decision season, here you go...
"And of course none of it matters very much at all, none of these early successes, early failures. I wonder if we had better not find some way to let our children know this..."
Jody Sweeney, Associate Director of College Counseling at Philadelphia's William Penn Charter School, joins us for our next installment of reflections, advice and practical guidance for students and parents on all things decisions -- from strategy, decision-making and coping through how to talk about your news with parents, friends and nosy neighbors. We like her advice -- "Check your gut." And we love some of her coping mechanisms!
The envelope please: Whether it be thick or thin, or rather a peek online, the culmination of your college search is here. With May 1st as the National Candidates’ Reply date, it is just weeks until you finally choose where you will spend the next four years.
One of the mistakes we see students make in the college admission process is failing to find out enough about the academic life of a school -- what actually goes on in the classrooms. In a Chronicle of Higher Education piece, What We Don't Talk About on the Admissions Tour, James M. Lang, associate professor of English, director of the college honors program at Assumption College and parent to a member of the class of 2017, states the case for finding out as much about the teaching and learning as the food service on a college campus.
Like any parent of a prospective student at a residential college, we are preparing for our child to live on her own for the first time. What shape will that new life take? I want to be able to envision my daughter in her new room, and gain a sense of what her peers will be like, and know that she will have access to food and facilities that will allow her to lead a healthy lifestyle.
Beginning today and throughout the next week, we'll be posting reflections, advice and practical guidance for students and parents on all things decisions -- from strategy, decision-making and coping through how to talk about your news with parents, friends and nosy neighbors. We begin with the always excellent advice of psychologist Michael Thompson, author of The Pressured Child. We have always found Thompson's wisdom and sound bites to be indispensable for both turning points and moments of truth in our family life. We asked him how he got so smart about all of this -- and believe me, he is -- he told us, "Hey, I’ve been working with teenagers for forty-four years. Some lessons they just insist you learn." Read on to benefit from those lessons so you can support your teenager and seize the moment -- in the best possible way.
Seniors, here's a not-to-be-missed message from Mark Moody, Co-Director of College Counseling at Colorado Academy. We can't emphasize enough the power of this message. Read it! And then read it again. And then read it to your parents...
Debbie Stier thought she could motivate her son if she climbed into the SAT trenches with him. But what started for Stier as a scheme to rescue her son from "sliding by", became an obsession to superscore her way into the 97th percentile. One small traffic accident, a television purchase, an apology note written in "SAT words," a crisis in which her children moved out to live with their father and a large dose of humble pie later, Stier's enslavement to the SAT bore fruit. Most importantly, she was deemed by her son to be "the best SAT mom in the whole world." And seven -- yes, 7! -- SAT's later, she wrote The Perfect Score Project to share all she had learned -- from test prep and "bubbling" techniques to the secrets of snacking. But it's more than a book about standardized testing -- it's an intimate story of a family, a self-help book and a tale with a happy ending. We're a sucker for that combination.
Stier joins us today to answer our questions about her journey down the rabbit hole of answer sheets, the best free resources for preparing for the SAT, test day tips, the funniest thing that happened to her on the way to a perfect score and more…
As you receive financial aid offers (also called "financial aid packages" or "financial aid award letters") from the colleges that admit you, review these offers carefully. There is no standard financial aid offer or award letter format. Each college has its own way of reporting and itemizing your aid package. This can make it difficult to understand which combination of price and student aid award is best from offer to offer. Be a wise consumer! Make sure you understand what is being offered and what you are accepting.
For example, pay particular attention to how much you have been awarded in grants vs. loans. Note the proportion of loans to grants—and the actual amount your family will pay -- each year! Figure out whether the grants are for one year or can be renewed.
We're back with more advice about the wait list. As one of our counselors put it yesterday, being on a wait list is like flying standby. You haven’t been accepted and you haven’t been denied. You’re in limbo, and that can be stressful. But there are some things you can and should do as you decide whether or not to accept a spot on a waitlist and, at the same time, make plans to move forward.
Here's more guidance from the high school college counselors who answered our Question of the Month: "What is your best advice for students who are waitlisted?"
Rafael S. Figueroa
Dean of College Guidance
Albuquerque, New Mexico
You need to look at this situation in two different ways, simultaneously.
1. Pick a college that admitted you.
Tell them you are attending and send in your deposit. Put the colleges that waitlisted you out of your mind. Move on. Get excited about the college you have chosen, and focus on the great experience you will have there.
2. Don¹t give up on a waitlist college, if you really want to attend.
Let the college know that you remain very interested. Update them on any new information about you that is relevant to your admission. Be patient. Given the way that waitlist offers trickle down the chain of different schools, offers might not come until July or even August.
You got the admission office perspective at the info session and on the tour, but don’t forget to get the unofficial perspective during your downtime on campus. The best way to do that is to talk to current students who aren’t on the admission office “payroll.” Conquer any shyness and strike up a conversation with the girl studying on the quad or the guy in line at the bookstore. Most students are more than happy to talk with your about their experience! Your opening line can be as simple as “I’m visiting because I might apply to come here. Mind if I ask you something?” And then ask away:
• Why did you decide to go to school here?
• What was your biggest surprise about the school?
• How much time do you spend studying? Where do you study?
• How hard is it to get the classes you need?
• Do students get along well with each other?
• Why do students like the school?
• What are the drawbacks to going to school here?
• Who fits in here and who doesn’t?
• If you could change anything about this school, what would it be?
• How much time do students spend studying?
• How do you meet people on campus?
• What is the social life like on campus?
• What do you like most about the school?
• What was freshman year like? How difficult was the transition?