Big Changes Coming to the SAT in 2016

A redesigned SAT will debut in the spring of 2016 with more "relevant" vocabulary words, a return to the old 1600 scoring scale, an "optional" essay and new policies to help low- and middle-income students. David Coleman, president of the College Board announced the changes, citing the fact that only 20% of teachers see the test as a fair measure of the work students have done in school.

            The big news?

Seniors: Listen to Spock, Not the Scary Stories!


March Madness! No, not basketball! It's that time of year when the headlines and hallways are ablaze with scary stories of record numbers of college applications, 6% acceptance rates, and financial aid letters leaving students confused and misinformed.

Yes, more students are applying to more colleges, competition for seats at some colleges has increased and the cost of college continues to rise. But reality runs counter to most of what you read and hear in the media. The number of colleges that are highly selective is TINY! The vast majority of colleges accept two-thirds or more of their applicants. In UCLA’s most recent Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) annual survey of first-year students at four-year colleges and universities, 79 percent reported being accepted to their “first-choice” college.

We know it's hard to resist the onslaught of scary stories. But if you've done the proper research and applied to a balanced list of eight to ten colleges, taking into account both selectivity and affordability, you will do well. Really.

Juniors: Interviews, overnights, shadows... What kind of opportunities do your colleges offer for visits?

Interviews, overnights, and shadow programs… Colleges offer prospective students many ways of learning about their campuses. Part of preparing properly for a successful college road trip is understanding what opportunities are available at each of the colleges in which you're interested. Here's what to look for:

Carolynn Laurenza, Uncommon Charter School

Carolynn Laurenza grew up in a farm town in the middle of western Massachusetts' Pioneer Valley, also known as the "Five Colleges" corridor because it's home to Amherst, Mount Holyoke, Hampshire and Smith Colleges, and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. This might have presaged her choice of profession in life.

Today, Laurenza is the College Placement Coordinator for Uncommon Charter High School in Brooklyn, New York. A graduate of Swarthmore College, she earned a Masters in Education from University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Laurenza spent three years as a guidance counselor at a regional public high school in the "Five Colleges" area before joining Uncommon Charter in the summer of 2011.

"It's a different reality," says Laurenza, who was named a "Counselor that Changes Lives" earlier this year. "As a public high school guidance counselor, you're juggling many types of social/emotional issues, the administrative needs of the school, trying to help kids in all grades and doing college counseling. At Uncommon, I get to focus on college counseling."  

How the Cost of College Can Make You Feel like You've Fallen Down a Rabbit Hole

When a $60,000 tuition bill is called a discount on a college education, blogger Jane Kulow wonders what they're smoking... In The Price of College, Kulow looks at the college cost learning curve parents must face. Her savvy recommendation that families look closely at the values and financial health of schools, as well as advice about what parents should ask about how colleges arrive at their "net cost" is recommended reading for all. See the whole column here

University of Delaware's Jose Aviles Answers Six Questions

Delaware became the "First State" in 1787. But the University of Delaware can trace its roots to a small private academy founded 44 years earlier, in 1743, by the Reverend Francis Alison. The first class of Alison's "Free School" would include three individuals who later became signers of the Declaration of Independence -- George Read, Thomas McKean and James Smith. Today, the University of Delaware is a Land Grant, Sea Grant, Space Grant, Carnegie Research University, located in the suburban community of Newark, midway between Philadelphia and Baltimore. The Declaration of Independence signers are memorialized on residence halls on the UD campus, described by the Washington Post, as "a stunning landscape of Georgian Colonial red-brick, white columned architecture to rival anything conceived by Thomas Jefferson."

Juniors: Time to Plan your College Road Trips

Juniors, now is the time when you and your family should sit down and plan when and where college trips are going to occur. Time, distance, and cost are all considerations for families making college visits. But planning ahead is another element of approaching the application process wisely by being organized enough so that you and your parents are not constantly nagged by doubts and concerns.

With some dates in mind for visits, then check the website of each of the colleges you plan to visit to obtain dates and times for tours, information sessions, interview availability, and other opportunities. Make a reservation if required. Do this as far in advance as possible so you can get a spot on a date that works for your family. Some schools may not require you to reserve a space for info sessions or tours but ask you to let them know in advance that you’re attending. Do this.

If the college requires or strongly suggests an applicant interview, arrange an appointment for when you are on campus. There are usually a limited number of time slots for interviews, available on a first- come, first- served basis.

A Fellow Traveler's Advice on Parenting Through the College Admission Process

Lists are objects of affection here at College Admission.  There's nothing like a checklist to help students and families break down the big challenge of college applications into its manageable parts. According to author Maria Konnikova writing in the New Yorker, "…lists tap into our preferred way of receiving and organizing information at a subconscious level; from an information-processing standpoint, they often hit our attentional sweet spot."

So we were so happy to see this list of sixteen pieces of excellent advice from Mary Dell Harrington of Grown and Flown -- College Admissions: Don’t Go It Alone-- which hits the sweet spot of parenting through the college application process.

Thank you, Goodreaders!

Thank you, thank you to the more than 730 readers who entered our book giveaway on Goodreads! And to the lucky ten selected by the Goodreads staff: your book is on the way! Stay tuned for future giveaways and, in the meantime, please visit us here at additional thanks to the wonderful site Goodreads!

Seniors: Find out how colleges handle outside scholarships in calculating your aid award

Seniors, you should still be applying for scholarships at this time. But, as you do, please check with the colleges to which you’ve applied about how they handle scholarships from private groups and organizations— known as “outside awards”—in the calculation of their financial aid award. Different colleges calculate their impact differently.

Colleges are legally prohibited from over-awarding federal aid. In other words, the total amount of aid a student receives cannot be greater than a college’s cost, and usually not more than a student’s overall calculated financial need. Some colleges count half an outside award toward grant aid and half toward student self- help, lowering the student’s work- study or loan amount by the equivalent of half the outside award. Others count the entire outside award against loans and work- study, and only lower the institutional grant portion of an aid award if self- help is brought down to zero. Still others count the entire outside award against institutional gift aid.

Best advice: always apply for a scholarship, but check with every college and university on your list about their *outside scholarship policy* so you can understand what happens to your need-based financial aid package when you win a merit scholarship.