DePaul University

Juniors: Do you know what "test optional" means?

There have been a lot of headlines lately about standardized testing. There is no question standardized testing is in a period of evolution. As a result, you will be hearing more and more about schools that are "test optional."

In recent years, many colleges have looked more closely at the use of standardized test scores and some have adopted a “test- optional” policy. That means they are flexible about submission of standardized test scores. But it's not as obvious as it sounds. At some schools test optional means students are no longer required to submit SAT or ACT scores. At others, however, it means students may be asked to submit the results of AP, IB, or SAT Subject Tests in lieu of SAT or ACT results. Eligibility to not submit test scores may also be contingent on other factors— for example, applicants might need to rank in the top 10 percent of their class or have a GPA of 3.5 or above. Furthermore, applicants can sometimes be required to meet alternative admission requirements such as submission of graded writing samples, additional teacher recommendations, or in- person interviews. You will need to check the testing policy of each school to which you are applying.

You should never go to the best institution you get into...

Did you know? You should never attend the best college you're admitted to? Some fascinating statistics and counter-intuitive insights from the master of such Malcolm Gladwell. Thank you to DePaul University's Associate Vice President for Enrollment Management Jon Boeckenstedt for forwarding this amazing short talk by Gladwell at Google's Zeitgeist Americas 2013. As Boeckenstedt points out on his Admissions Weblog, Gladwell covers a number of issues parents and admission officers always want to hear more about including whether it's better to be a small fish in a big pond and why firms that only hire from the "best schools" are probably making a mistake. It's worth the time to watch here!


Daniel Gin, Niles West High School

Dan Gin had been a generalist high school counselor for four years when he boarded the Illinois Association for College Admission Counseling (IACAC) Bus O' Fun Tour. Road tripping for a week through ten college campuses in Illinois, Indiana and Michigan, Gin realized he had found his calling. "I could be the one who helps students find the right college," he said. And for the past eight years, Gin has, as the College and Career Counselor at Niles West High School in Skokie, Illinois.

Set in a suburb eight miles north of Chicago, Niles West is a culturally diverse public high school serving more than 2,600 students. Among those students, there are 96 different spoken languages, with the most common being Urdu, Spanish and Assyrian. Thirty per cent of the students are English language learners. Another 30% are on free and reduced lunch. And since Skokie is in the first ring of suburbs on the borders of Chicago, one in four students are transfers. So as the only college counselor on staff -- though he's assisted by 11 generalist counselors -- Gin faces some special challenges.

Friday Links for your Delight and Elevation


Awesome People Reading, a Tumblr, featuring Marilyn Monroe, Martin Luther King, Loki, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and Woody Woodpecker... among others.

From DePaul University's Associate Vice President for Enrollment Management via the Facebook page of College Admissions Counselors: Time for the annual reminder of why we do what we do. John Ciardi's 1950–ish address to freshmen at Rutgers: Another School Year: Why? So many wonderful thoughts in this piece we couldn't pick one to excerpt. Read it in its entirety.

It's Just Another Part of the Adventure

We've been thinking a lot lately about parenting through the college application process. Decision time is when your anxieties roll in and you need to marshal all your critical thinking and parenting skills. So here are some words of wisdom culled recently from better wordsmiths than we.

Don't miss Joan Didion's reality check on her denial from Stanford:

Jon Boeckenstedt, DePaul University, Answers Five Questions

Jon Boeckenstedt, associate vice president for Enrollment Management at DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois, joins us this month to answer five questions about the largest Roman Catholic university in the country.  

Founded in 1898, with just 70 students, today DePaul has almost 16,500 undergraduates, and is also the largest private university in the state of Illinois. The school has five campuses throughout the Chicago area, with the two main campuses located on 36 acres on Chicago's north side in the Lincoln Park neighborhood and in the downtown Loop.

FairTest's Updated List of Test-Optional Schools

There's a lot of talk about testing at the moment -- the SAT and ACT have just been administered and results of the PSAT arrive soon. But remember that today there are hundreds of four-year colleges that have deemphasized ACT and SAT scores in making their admission decisions. And the National Center for Fair and Open Testing (FairTest) has updated and redesigned their listing of the more than 800 schools with test-optional policies.

"To make our list even more useful," says FairTest Public Education Director Bob Schaeffer, "FairTest rechecked requirements at all the schools. At the same time, we eliminated multiple listings of those that maintain several campuses. For applicants who care about rankings, it is worth noting that nearly 150 colleges and universities on our test-optional list rank in the top tier of their respective academic categories."

Students can find the free comprehensive list of these schools online here at  National universities on the list include Wake Forest, New York University, Arizona State University, Kansas State University, University of Texas at Austin, and DePaul University. And national liberal arts colleges include Dickinson College, Bryn Mawr, Augustana, Middlebury, Hamilton, Mount Holyoke, and Pitzer College.

Elite Colleges and Independent Counselors


For the last couple of weeks, we've been following a lively discussion in the wake of a blog post from Lynn O'Shaughnessy -- Elite Schools Dissing College Consultants. In her words, the blog post shares her take "on why I believe the Ivies and other elite schools routinely dump on independent college counselors. The use of high-priced consultants reminds these schools that the system is rigged and most students need to be rich to get into these institutions." Independent counselors, high school counselors and admission deans have weighed in via a discussion on LinkedIn and in the Comments section of her blog.

Like many issues in the application process, the decision to hire an independent counselor is complex. Students and their families must carefully consider the costs and benefits and the decision should be driven by the student.  In our book -- coauthored by a former dean of Stanford, Swarthmore, and Sarah Lawrence -- we take a very balanced approach, outlining the situations where an independent counselor can be a beneficial addition, with the main focus on how to find and properly evaluate a counselor for those who will go that route.

DePaul University joins the Gourmet Guide

Like all good foodies, the DePaul University admissions staff isn't afraid to forage far and wide. No surprise, as well, since the largest Catholic university in the country, has two Chicago campuses (as well as three suburban locations). Located both in the downtown Loop and on 36 acres in the heart of the near north Lincoln Park neighborhood, DePaul hosts more than 16,000 undergraduates. So check out the Admissions office recommendations for where to eat when visiting. You'll find all of the Chicago standards -- ribs, hot dogs, and pizza -- as well as Korean and Greek restaurants, a seafood diner, and fancy French fare wih a side of celebrity sightings at the Paris Club. Dig in here

Loans: A roundup of expert advice

For families evaluating their financial aid at this time, here's a roundup of advice from some experts on the role of loans in funding a college education.

Jonathan Burdick, dean of admission and financial aid at the University of Rochester, has an excellent guest post at the College Inc. blog for the Washington Post -- Five steps to a prudent student loan.

For more insight from an expert, check out our own guest post from Jon Boeckenstedt, vice president for Enrollment Policy & Planning at DePaul University for his thoughtful look here at when and where borrowing is worth it.