Applying to College

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?

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."  

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."

How Teachers Make a Case for Their Students

In "The Art of the College Recommendation Letter" in Atlantic Online, teacher Andrew Simmons pens a revealing look at how teachers make a case for their students. It's a wonderful message for students and parents and a model for teachers. One of the many terrific takeaways: "...I am uncovering and illuminating what has not been made clear. I am not, like a good news reporter, free from bias. I think my students deserve careful consideration. But I have a responsibility to emphasize that without resorting to hyperbole. Students get themselves into college, but when teachers tell their stories well, we can give admissions officers a more enlightened perspective." 

How to Mind your Manners while Applying to College

Lisa Endlich Heffernan of the excellent blog Grown and Flown has some great advice for students -- and parents -- about best behavior and student etiquette so the college application process carries you where you want to go. 

The college process is a long campaign -- it can be exhausting, distracting and anxiety-producing. So good manners should have a place of prominence.  But it is all too easy for an overwrought, otherwise distracted teen to forget what they have been taught.   As a parent I was often distracted by the details of the process, too, and failed in my job of reminding my sons to mind their manners along the way.  So here are a few reminders, I wish I had had.

 

College Love

John Carpenter has advice for the college lovelorn in this month's guest blog.

Don’t do it.  Don’t fall in love.

It’s the month of love, and you’d have to be blind or an old grump not to see the messages everywhere, brandished in hot pink letters and decorated with cupids and hearts.  I particularly like those little candy hearts that have messages stamped on them such as BE MINE, FOREVER YOURS, and YOU’RE A CUTEY. And of course, because just about everything in this world makes me think of college admissions, February is a month that is also very much connected to what juniors and seniors are going through in that regard. 

For seniors, this short month feels like the longest month, and for juniors, February means watching what seniors are going through while beginning to get serious about their own college search. For both groups, the messages of love are everywhere:  view books, websites, college fairs.  Pick me!  Apply here!  Make us your first choice!  And my message to you:DON’T DO IT. 

Don’t fall in love. 

With a college. 

Not quite yet. 

Best Advice for College Visits

The rite of passage that is the college visit is one of the most important influences in determining where students will eventually apply. Walking across a campus, grabbing a cup of coffee in the student union, buying a sweatshirt at the bookstore… For students, these experiences offer the chance to try on a college and see if it fits and, for parents, these trips can be an important step in the letting- go process. At this point in the year, many juniors may be planning spring visits to campuses and seniors may soon be thinking about return visits as they make decisions. So this month, we asked our high school counselors: "What is your best advice for college visits?" Here's to road trips!
 

Carolyn W. Clark
Director of College Advising
The Brearley School
New York, New York

College visits start with dreams of ivy-covered walls but often end in total confusion about what you saw and what you thought.   Yet there is no better way to learn about a school than to visit—if you do it right. 

Juniors: Sign up for College Rep Visits at Your High School

Regional representatives from the admission staff of colleges visit high schools throughout the country each year to meet with interested students, both in the spring and fall. These meetings usually take place in small groups for 30 to 45 minutes, to answer questions and provide the latest information about their colleges and admission policies.

Check your high school’s policy about attendance at these sessions. Most schools allow juniors time off to attend, beginning in the second semester. But there may be different requirements. For example, juniors may be allowed to attend only if the session occurs during a free period. Your first responsibility is to your academic work. Check with your counseling department for the college visit schedule.

Maureen McRae Goldberg of Occidental College Answers 8 Questions

February is Financial Aid Awareness month. As students and families research financial aid, fill out the FAFSA, and assess their options this month, we asked Occidental College's Director of Financial Aid Maureen McRae Goldberg "5 Questions." And she graciously answered eight for us.

Occidental College is a private liberal arts school located in the oak and eucalyptus covered hills of Los Angeles' Eagle Rock neighborhood. Designed by Rose Bowl architect Myron Hunt, the campus' stucco and red tile roofed Spanish Colonial architecture covers 120 acres. No surprise then that Occidental has been the setting for more than 80 movies and television shows -- from the Marx Brothers' Horse Feathers to Star Trek III, as well as Glee, Parenthood and Arrested Development. It has also been a feature film stand-in for the real-life college campuses of Stanford and Princeton.

Courtney Skerritt, The Hockaday School

Courtney Skerritt is committed to single sex education. She attended a women's college, an all-girls summer camp for ten years, and today is Associate Director of College Counseling at The Hockaday School in Dallas, Texas, the largest independent girls' school in the country. 

"There is something special about girls' schools that is hard to put into words, but when you walk across the campus you can see it and feel it. I see an inspiration in them. They've been given the okay to believe in whatever they want to believe in and from that comes an amazing confidence. It's not for every girl, not for every student," says Skerritt. "But what I hear from my students is how much they really appreciate the ability to focus on their academics. Our girls have an active social life and they're dedicated to their friendships but when they're here, they're here. "

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