Success in Life


Success in life is more than just graduating from the “best” college.  However, finding the college that’s the best fit for you can help facilitate that success.  Your best fit college may not be the school ranked #1 by US News, or the school your parents went to, or the school your best friend is applying to – you get the idea.  So how do you find college that will help you pave the path to success?   

Jullien Gordon has some advice on that topic in this TEDxTalk.  Jullien talks about the four types of capital that you need to develop in order to achieve success  

  1. Personal capital 
  2. Intellectual capital 
  3. Social capital 
  4. Financial capital 

Understanding these four types of capital can help you choose a college that will open doors for your future.     

Take Action 

As Jullien explains, you must be able to answer the question “Why do I want to go to college?”.  To answer that question, you need to know yourself.  Use the summer to consider what these four types of capital mean to you and why you want to go to college.  An answer to this question will help you define the best fit college for you.    

read more

Pat yourself on the back

This is your last GuidedPath Guru message.  You did it!  You are off to college in the fall!   

Now is the time to:  

  • Pat yourself on the back!  Congratulations on a job well done. 
  • (virtually) High five your friends!  You succeeded together. 
  • Hug your parents or loved ones!  You could not have done it without them.
  • Give your teachers a thumbs up!  They appreciate knowing their classes influenced you. 

As an “official” freshman- you are on your way!  You are moving on to new adventures.  Connect with your college to find out what your next steps are as a freshman. 

It has been our pleasure to join you on this journey the past year.  We hope you have benefited from our tips and tools.  Let us know if you have enjoyed our emails this year.  Write us at support@guidedpathedge.net. 

Congratulations on your success and best wishes for your freshman year!   

read more

AP Scores and College Credit

AP Scores cropped

Although this year AP tests were “non-traditional”, many colleges have said that they will still award AP credit (see this list by Prompt).  AP scores will be available online beginning July 15.  Scores are released over several days based on the state in which you tested.  View the date and location schedule, and your scores, on the College Board website.  

What is the AP exam score scale? 

There is no “pass” or “fail” on the AP tests.  It’s important to understand the definitions of the AP scores. 

5 = extremely well qualified | Many universities award college credit  

4 = well qualified | Some universities award college credit 

3 = qualified | Some universities award college credit 

2 = possibly qualified | No college credit awarded 

1 = no recommendation | No college credit awarded 

Send Your Scores to Your College 

Be sure you send your scores to the college you are attending in the fall.  The college needs your official AP scores to award you any college credit.  Additionally, your college may use these scores for placement purposes.  Even if you do not receive credit, it’s important to send your official score report.  Check with your college to confirm their policy on awarding AP credit.  You can also find those policies on the AP Credit Policy Search site.  You may also hear this information from your advisor at orientation, or see your college credits on your school’s student web portal.      

What if I have other scores? 

Go to www.apscore.org to view scores on tests you took in previous years. 

I have other questions about AP scores.

You can contact the CollegeBoard directly for AP questions by emailing apstudents@info.collegeboard.org. 

read more

Goals for next year

For most students, it’s officially summer now!  Given how this year ended, it may be hard to think about school in the fall.  But now is a good time to reflect on this past year and set your goals for the upcoming school year.  

Look back at this past year: 

  • Are you happy with your grades?   
  • Did you enjoy your classes? 
  • Did you spend enough (or too much) time in extracurricular activities?  
  • Are there activities or classes you wish you could have taken? 
  • What one change will you make for school next year? 

Take Action 

Login to your GuidedPath account.  Do you have everything updated?  Update your profile.  Set a task with your goals for next year. 

read more

Summer Melt

It’s summer!!  It’s finally heating up in most places and you might feel like your melting.  However  ”summer melt”  means something very different for colleges.  Each year, colleges require students to submit an enrollment deposit to enroll as freshmen in the fall (usually by May 1, but this year June 1 for some colleges).  After that deposit deadline passes, colleges count up the number of deposits they have and decide whether they need more students to fill their freshman class.  If so, this may lead them to admit students who are on their waitlist.  Those newly admitted students probably sent deposits to other colleges but now those students tell the other colleges they are no longer going to attend.  So that college has an empty seat and so on and so forth.  That’s summer melt for colleges – students who had originally sent their deposit deciding later not to enroll causing the college to fall short of their freshman class goals.   

The pandemic has created anxiety of all kinds including for enrollment managers.  Predictions of students deferring college enrollment or staying closer to home has admission directors eyeing their waitlists.  Counselors are anticipating students may hear from more colleges about waitlists and other offers even late into the summer.    

What does summer melt mean for you?  Well, it means that if you were on the waitlist at a school you might get admitted.  And although unlikely, it’s possible that you could get a revised financial aid package from a school that admitted you.  This may cause you to rethink your enrollment choice.  However, unless it’s an admission offer from your dream college or a truly unbeatable scholarship award, you are probably better off to stick with your original deposit.  You spent a lot of time weighing your options when you made that initial decision.  Don’t second guess yourself unless there is a very compelling reason!  Stick with what your gut tells you and look forward to freshman year with excitement.  

read more

Essays, essays and more essays

The summer of COVID-19!  Is it looking a little different for you than expected?  No school, no summer job, no hanging out at the community pool or movie theater or coffee shop?  You may find yourself with some extra time these days.   

The college admission process is also looking different than expected for fall.  Many colleges have opted to be test optional for the first time.  This means that admission officers are faced with the task of distinguishing between highly qualified students without relying on test scores.  How do you choose between hundreds or thousands of applicants who have excellent grades and challenging classes on their transcripts?  Needless to say, your essay is one part of the application that can help you stand out.   

So why not spend some extra time this summer refining your essays.  Especially at test optional schools, your essay can take on special significance.  The Common App essay prompts are the same as last year.  If you haven’t already started on your Common App essay, now is the time.  In addition, Common App has added a special “Additional Information” optional essay about how COVID-19 has impacted you.  Should you write this extra essay?  Brad Schiller, founder and CEO of Prompt (a writing feedback company), has some advice for you in his blog.  You should also check to find out if any of the schools on your list require supplemental essays or short answer questions.     

If you are applying to colleges that do not use the Common App, check the college websites to get their essay topics.            

Take Action 

Write something!  Get a first draft of your college essays started now.  This will give you plenty of time to get feedback from multiple people (parents, counselor, teachers, even friends).  It will also give you a chance to put it aside for now and come back to it later.   

read more

Student Activism

It was hard to imagine 2020 being any worse, and then the country erupted over the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.  Communities have watched in horror as protests have boiled over into riots and confrontations with heavily armed police and national guard troops.  In a summer that already felt uncertain, the civil unrest adds a layer of foreboding that may seem almost impossible to bear.  But you can counter that feeling of helplessness with action.       

Student activism has long been the catalyst for political and societal change.  Many movements that have been dramatically advanced by student action.  No matter your political, social or personal beliefs, college is usually a place where you can find like-minded friends.  It can also be a place where your beliefs are challenged. 

You can advance anti-racism or another cause safely with some of the following strategies.    

  1. Educate yourself!  Being informed is the first and perhaps most important step to advocacy.   
  2. Vote!  Suffice it to say, the November election may be one of the most pivotal in the country’s history.  This may be your first chance to vote.  Be informed on the candidates (all of them – local and national) and don’t sacrifice your fundamental role in this democracy.   
  3. Make your voice heard!  Even if you are not old enough to vote, you can still influence others.  Campaign for candidates you believe in, advocate for causes that inspire you, share your voice in the classroom, with your friends and family, and on social media.  Keep these conversations respectful by being informed (see point 1).  Use your skills and talents – be that writing, art, photography, performing, or programming – to tell your story.   
  4. Take action!  Action is often amplified when people come together.  Join a group or club of like-minded students, attend a peaceful protest or demonstration, organize an event for your school or community, create a fundraiser for your cause.  Taking action not only furthers your ideals but also builds an individual sense of certainty or control.   

Although it is a heavy burden, it’s your generation that is capable of creating societal change.  Consider the America you want to live in and the role you want to have in building that community.  Upending an entrenched system may seem monumental, but history shows that change does happen.  As Ghandi said, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”  And for now – be safe and take care of yourself and your community.   

read more

Student Activism

It was hard to imagine 2020 being any worse, and then the country erupted over the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.  Communities have watched in horror as protests have boiled over into riots and confrontations with heavily armed police and national guard troops.  In a summer that already felt uncertain, the civil unrest adds a layer of foreboding that may seem almost impossible to bear.  But you can counter that feeling of helplessness with action.       

Student activism has long been the catalyst for political and societal change.  Many movements that have been dramatically advanced by student action.  No matter your political, social or personal beliefs, college is usually a place where you can find like-minded friends.  It can also be a place where your beliefs are challenged. 

You can advance anti-racism or another cause safely with some of the following strategies.    

  1. Educate yourself!  Being informed is the first and perhaps most important step to advocacy.   
  2. Vote!  Suffice it to say, the November election may be one of the most pivotal in the country’s history.  This may be your first chance to vote.  Be informed on the candidates (all of them – local and national) and don’t sacrifice your fundamental role in this democracy.   
  3. Make your voice heard!  Even if you are not old enough to vote, you can still influence others.  Campaign for candidates you believe in, advocate for causes that inspire you, share your voice in the classroom, with your friends and family, and on social media.  Keep these conversations respectful by being informed (see point 1).  Use your skills and talents – be that writing, art, photography, performing, or programming – to tell your story.   
  4. Take action!  Action is often amplified when people come together.  Join a group or club of like-minded students, attend a peaceful protest or demonstration, organize an event for your school or community, create a fundraiser for your cause.  Taking action not only furthers your ideals but also builds an individual sense of certainty or control.   

Although it is a heavy burden, it’s your generation that is capable of creating societal change.  Consider the America you want to live in and the role you want to have in building that community.  Upending an entrenched system may seem monumental, but history shows that change does happen.  As Ghandi said, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”  And for now – be safe and take care of yourself and your community.   

read more

When am I taking that test?

calendar-159098_1280

You may have heard last week that the University of California system – with 10 campuses enrolling over a quarter million students – announced it would be test optional for Fall 2021 admission.  The new policy phases in changes over the next four years ending with the university either creating a new admission test or eliminating the standardized test requirements for all students by 2025.  Although many schools have announced test optional policies for next year in the wake of Covid-19, the University of California announcement was likely the most significant and could represent a turning point for admission test requirements.   

What does this mean for you as an applicant?  Should you plan to take the SAT or the ACT?  The answer still largely depends on the schools you are interested in.  Although more and more schools are choosing test optional admission policies, the majority still require either the SAT or ACT to be considered.  FairTest promotes test optional policies and maintains a list of schools that utilize test optional admissions.  This list can help you determine whether the colleges you are considering are test optional.  However, you may not want to rule out a college just because they require the SAT or ACT.  In that case, it’s still best to register for one or both exams for the fall.         

Planning Your College Entrance Tests 

  1. Review the revised schedule for SAT or ACT test dates. 
  2. Register early for your test. 
  3. Allow yourself up to an hour to complete the registration online. There are lots of questions! 
  4. Upload a picture for your ACT or SAT / SAT Subject Test Registration.
  5. Opt in to the Student Search Service when registering for the SAT or PSAT, or the ACT Educational Opportunity Service (EOS) when registering for the ACT to receive emails or mailings from colleges.  

Take Action 

Use GuidedPath to view upcoming test dates and add the SAT or ACT to your test schedule.  This way you’ll receive registration and test dates reminders by email and/or on your GuidedPath account.   

read more

Old Friends and New

One of the biggest changes for freshman year is a new peer group.  You may have friends that you’ve been with since the beginning of high school or even longer.  Starting college should be exciting but it can also be anxiety producing as you think about moving on without your friends to support you.  As you and your friends head off in different directions, think about ways to stay connected: 

  1. Celebrate your accomplishments!

Graduation is a time to celebrate!  Congratulate your friends, maybe exchange gifts, and celebrate each other.  It feels good to have accomplished this goal together.  Honor your friends and tell them how much they’ve helped you become the person you are today.    

  1. Spend your summer together with meaningful experiences. 

Create opportunities to make memories with your friends this summer.  As states start to reopen, spending time with friends you haven’t seen in months may take on new significance. Plan some shared time – maybe a trip together, or a regularly scheduled meet up, or try something new.  Summer will fly by with work, vacation, internships, or other activities.  Prioritize time with your friends.   

  1. Reflect on what you love about your friends and think about new relationships.

There will be many opportunities for you to make new friends in freshman year – from freshman orientation on, opportunities for meeting new people abound.  This might be thrilling or terrifying depending on whether you consider yourself an extrovert or an introvert.  Stay true to yourself.  Think about the qualities you love and admire in your high school friends and consider ways to find people with similar qualities.  Shared interests (clubs, sports, activities) or common experiences (classes, dorms, pre-college orientations) are great opportunities to bond with new friends.    

  1. Plan a visit. 

No doubt, you will enjoy meeting new people freshman year.  It can also be fun to share your new place with your old friends.  If your high school friends are attending colleges nearby, make plans to visit each other.  Depending on what colleges allow for the fall, plan to spend the night together in the dorms, or spend a day together on campus.  It can be comforting to see old friends during your freshman year.   

Take Action 

Whether you are heading off to college near or far, with lots of old friends from high school or on your own, plan keep in touch with your high school friends.  You’ll likely have a chance to get together during college breaks.  Make an effort to maintain your friendships from home as you get to know a new group of peers.   

read more

End of year checklist

graduation-cap-1301194_1280

Senior Checklist

You are almost there!  What are your next steps? 

  • Finish strong!  Strive to finish the year with your best work.  We all know that the past weeks have been a challenge and online school is wearing on many people.  But honor the hard work you put into the year by finishing the last few days or weeks as the best student you can be.   
  • Check in with your college – often.  Situations at many universities are very fluid as administrators are trying to anticipate what the fall will bring.  No doubt you are getting updates via the student portal or by email but be sure to stay on top of changing information.  This may include updates for housing, orientation, registration, etc.  
  • Schedule new student orientation.  Many colleges may be making arrangements to move orientations to an online format for this summer – or delaying orientation until just before the fall semester.  Whatever the circumstance, you don’t want to miss it.  Orientation usually includes valuable advising information and will often be when you register for classes.   
  • Schedule placement tests.  Some colleges require you to take Math and/or other placement tests.  Find out the requirements and be sure to get it completed.  Sometimes your SAT, ACT, or AP scores will suffice, and you will not need to take a test.  If you have questions about placement test requirements, contact the college. 
  • Say thank you.  Tell teachers, counselor, coaches and others that have helped you, “Thank you”.  Give special thanks and appreciation to parents and family for support. 
  • Make summer meaningful.  Plan to work, improve your study skills, learn something new, or spend time (whether online or in person) with friends and family this summer.  Save any money you earn for when you start college in the fall. 
  • Get a physical.  You may need vaccine boosters or a physical exam from the doctor before beginning the fall semester.  Check with the college to understand their requirements.   

Take Action 

Use GuidedPath to record all your college decisions.  Mark the schools you applied to with admitted, waitlisted or not accepted.  Add in your financial aid awards too.  Turn each of the checklist items into a task in GuidedPath.   

read more

Admissions Stress?

Applying to colleges can be a stressful process under the best circumstances.  In 2020, with the education system turned on its ear, the admission process might seem near impossible.  Standardized tests are canceled for the spring, high schools are closed changing the dynamics of grades and extracurriculars, and colleges are shifting application requirements.  From week to week, it can be hard to keep track of the changes.  So, what’s a high school junior to do?   

Focus on what you can control.  Minimize your stress by focusing on the parts of the application process that you can affect.  Here are some suggestions of things you can do now for your college applications.     

  1. Start your Common App Essay.  Haven’t started any college essays? Now is a great time.  Look at the Common App essay topics – the personal statement has a choice of 7 prompts.  Or look at the schools you are considering to find out if they require additional essays.  You can view the essay requirements on the college profile in GuidedPath.        
  2. Register for Senior Year Classes.  We may not know what fall will bring in terms of in-person school.  However, you want to have a challenging senior year schedule regardless.  Your senior schedule may be doubly important if your school adopted pass/fail grades for this year.   
  3. Study for Standardized Tests.  Although spring SAT and ACT dates were canceled, and many colleges have adopted test-optional policies,  odds are you may still need to take the SAT or ACT.  ACT is planning to offer tests in June and July, while the earliest SAT is schedule for August.  Use this summer to do extra test prep especially if you will only be able to take the test one time.  GuidedPath offers a number of test prep resources.     

Although it may feel like the admission process for the coming fall will be anything but normal, trust that colleges and admission officers are still looking for the same qualities – good students and good citizens.  Getting a head start on parts of your college application will allow you to be more adaptable this fall as the process continues to develop.    

read more

Where will you fit in?

“Warm, welcoming, smart, and unpretentious– our university is filled with students who are driven to be the best they can be without striving to do so at the expense of others. They excel at allowing everyone to be comfortable with who they are, and not having to be a certain type of person in order to fit in.” 

Does this describe the type of college environment you want to be in?  Where do you fit in?  Which statement below describes you the most? 

  • I want a college where most of the students share my background and viewpoints. 
  • I want a college where some students have viewpoints and experiences different from my own. 
  • I want a college where many students have viewpoints and experiences which are unlike my own. 

Using your answer, look for the following when researching colleges: 

  1. What is the mix of undergraduate geographic diversity?  How many students are instate?  Outofstate?  International? 
  2. What is the racial/ethnic make-up of the student population?  Hispanic, Asian, Pacific Islander, Black, Native American, White, other? 
  3. Where would you find students who share your spiritual beliefs/values?  Colleges have Hillel for Jewish students, MSA for Muslim students, Institutes for LDS (Mormon) students, and worship opportunities or spiritual centers for many other students.  Where will you find your group? 
  4. Is there Greek life?  How many students join fraternities and sororities?  Are there Greek houses on campus to live in?  Or not? 
  5. Do students play sports?  Varsity, club, or intramural?  Are other recreation sports (biking, running, hiking, fitness classes) offered/available 
  6. Do students share a common passion or commitment?  Does the campus lean toward a particular political culture?  Are there any unifying values that define the campus climate? 
  7. How is your living arranged?  Do all freshmen live on campus?  Are there special living/learning communities you can choose from, like sustainability, international studies, arts, engineering, etc.? 

As you read about colleges, review their websites, and take virtual tours, be sure to ask these questions.   Learn as much as you can about the student body of the college.  After all, you will spend the next four years closely connected to the students in your classes and the community you in which you live 

Learn More 

GuidedPath offers a great way to look at the social life of a college.  

  • Check out the Social Experience section of each college profile.  What are the influential groups on campus?  What is the international diversity?  What events are popular on campus Where do students hang out?  
  • Review the Fiske Guide description (if available).  How does it describe the student body?  What is the Fiske social rating? 
  • Search for schools where you would feel comfortable.  In the Guided Search, you can search by undergraduate size, freshman and all students in housing, international student population, the Fiske Social and Quality of Life ratings. 
  • View the ready-made lists.  Looking for a school with a sizable Jewish population? Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) There are social tagged lists for these categories. 

Take Action 

Make notes in the Discussion section of each college about the social atmosphere.  What do you like or not like?  The ultimate question is, “Would I fit in here?  If the answer is a resounding YES then you should add it to your My Colleges list. 

read more

Graduation 2020

Graduation is a rite of passage that you have no doubt been looking forward to for some time.   And while Spring 2020 has brought a season of disappointments, canceling graduations seems particularly egregious.  This is the culminating celebration for years of hard work.  It should be a day that is celebrated with teachers, family and friends, and hugs, handshakes and high-fives.  Unfortunately, for most students that’s not possible right now.   

Perhaps it is precisely because we know nothing can replace standing next to your friends and throwing your cap in the air, communities around the country have come together to devise creative ways to mark the importance of this occasion.  There have been graduation car parades, ceremonies held at drive-in theaters, individual graduations hosted in living rooms, and virtual ceremonies featuring special guests.   

Speaking of special guests – celebrities, CEOs, pro athletes, and entertainers are all getting in on the act.  In response to a viral tweet by Eagle Rock High School senior, Lincoln Debenham, Barack and Michelle Obama announced last week that they would participate in multiple commencement ceremonies.  The first is this Saturday, May 16.  Called #GraduateTogether, it features the Obamas along with Lebron James, Pharrell Williams, the Jonas Brothers, Megan Rapinoe and others.  The event will be broadcast by ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC beginning at 8pm ET/PT, 7pm CT/MT.  This Forbes article details a number of other celebrity ceremonies including a May 15 Facebook event headlined by Oprah and a May 16 iHeart Media podcast of celebrity commencement addresses.   

We love you Class of 2020!  Our hearts break for the disappointments you have been handed this spring and yet we celebrate you all the same.  You deserve to be recognized and we will do that in whatever way possible.  We are so proud of your accomplishments and especially proud of the grace you have shown in adapting to these final weeks of your senior year.   

read more

College Budget

Admission offers received – check! 

Enrollment decision made – check! 

What’s next?  You’ll be getting a lot of information about next steps from your college for registration and orientation.  Meanwhile, you might want to start a conversation with your parents about a spending money budget for college.

Here are 6 money management tips for you to consider.

  1. Open a bank account and get an ATM card (if you don’t already have one).  You may want to research the local banking options at the school you will attend.  Many colleges have a bank or credit union on campus.  Make it a joint account (you and a parent).  That way you can access your money when away from home (in college). 
  2. Learn how to check your bank balance from your phone It’s a good practice to check your bank balance before you get gas or stop by Starbucks to be sure you have money in your account for the purchase. 
  3. Learn how to deposit checks.  Most bank mobile apps will allow you to deposit checks right from your phone.  Great for those graduation checks you will receive. 
  4. Create a budget.  A spending plan is essential.  Know how much money you will have each month from your financial aid, a campus job, or from your family.  With your parents, create a realistic monthly budget.  Then, your biggest task will be to stick to your budget. 
  5. Learn how to schedule & pay bills from your account.  You might have a phone bill or other bills you are responsible for.  Learn how to pay on time and keep within a budget. 
  6. Decide with your parents and if you choose, open a credit card account BEFORE leaving for college Credit card companies will offer many promotions for new students on campus – free shirts, new tech gear, etc.  Don’t be tempted by free stuff!  Open ONLY oncredit card and use this card as a “backup” (if you don’t have cash) to help establish good credit.  

Start practicing good money management skills now so that you have one less thing to worry about freshman year. 

Take Action 

Use the Cost of Attendance in GuidedPath to calculate your college budget.  Here you can find the amount listed as “Personal Expenses”.  Use this to calculate your college budget.  Divide the number by 9 months to determine your monthly budget. 

read more

What’s in a location?

How do you describe where you live?  City?  Suburb?  Country?  What aspects of your current location do you like or not like – and how far are you willing to go from home?  As you explore colleges, one thing to consider is the location of the college.  Location can make a significant impact on your college experience.  Think about where you want to go to school.   

Here are terms and definitions used in college “locations”: 

  • Major City: Population 300,000 or more: or within a 25-mile radius of a metro area. 
  • Small-Medium City: Population 75,000-299,999 or within 15 to 25 miles of a metro area. 
  • Large Town: Population 25,000-74,999 or within 10mile radius of a large town. 
  • Small Town: Population 5,000-24,999 or within 5mile radius of a small town. 
  • Rural: Population under 5,000, in or near a rural community. 

Things to consider related to location: 

  • Distance from home 
  • Nearest airport
  • Nearest large city 
  • Nearest outdoor experiences (beach, mountains, etc.)
  • Popular student gathering places on campus
  • Popular student gathering places off campus 
  • Nearest tourist attractions
  • Movies, shopping, restaurants, or other entertainment nearby
  • Employment/Internship opportunities
  • Your faith communityon or off campus

Be sure to explore all the options.  View the college website for virtual tours.  Check for info on the surrounding community   Most importantly, look it up on a map. 

Take Action 

Use the Guided Search to explore the location of colleges you are interested in.  GuidedPath offers search on location types.  Also check out: 

  • How many freshmen live on campus? 
  • Fiske Social Rating 
  • Fiske Quality Rating

read more

Saying Thank You

hand-226358_1280

This week, May 1 specifically, is traditionally the official end of the college application process – the finish line!  And although this year it may seem like a lot remains up in the air, hopefully you can find some happiness in knowing that at least the applications are behind you.   

As you wind down senior year, now is the time to acknowledge the people who have made a difference in your high school experience.  Teachers, counselors, coaches and others have all helped shaped the person you have become.  Take some time to let them know the impact they have made.  A heartfelt thank you note can make all the difference to a teacher or advisor, especially at a time when many of them are also struggling to adapt to these new circumstances.  Here are the top DO’s for saying “Thank you”. 

DO: 

  1. Say “Thank You” in writing.  Although a card is great, email will work as well.   
  2. Write the note yourself.  Don’t let your parent write these notes.  They should come from you.  
  3. Be specific in your expression of gratitude.  Include a favorite memory of class, or a game, or a moment that stands out to you in your relationship.   
  4. Tell this person how they made a difference in your life. 
  5. Set a deadline and write your notes/emails before graduation. 

Your teachers, counselors and others who have helped you through high school, rarely get a thank you from the students they served.  Especially this year, many will be missing the in-person hugs and high fives on the last day of school.  Make their day by remembering and acknowledging their contributions.  

“None of us got to where we are alone.  Whether the assistance we received was obvious or subtle, acknowledging someone’s help is a big part of understanding the importance saying thank you.”  Harvey Mackay 

Take Action 

Create a task and deadline for yourself to get your thankyou cards completed.  Use your Letters of Recommendation or Course Plan (in Surveys) to review all your teachers, counselors and community people who might need a personalized thank you. 

read more

Building teacher/counselor relationships

Hoping to get a great recommendation letter for your college or scholarship applications?  It’s hard to write a recommendation for someone you don’t know.  It’s especially important to have strong relationships with your teachers and counselor but it might seem difficult to cultivate those relationships in the era of “home learning”.  How can you reach out to your teachers?  Here are 3 tips to building good relationships no matter what your school situation is.   

  1. Show Up!   Get to know your teachers/counselor and give them opportunities to get to know you.  Be sure to show up for required class meetings (online or in-person) and also take advantage of “office hours” or other chances to interact with your teachers.    
  2. Speak Up!  Make your voice heard by asking questions during class or after hours by email.  Share thoughts and ideas, ask for clarification if needed, and be an active participant.  Use your voice, even by email.  This lets the teacher know you are engaged and interested in their class.   
  3. Stand Out!  Make yourself known.  Let teachers know your interests and get to know theirs; you may find common ground.  Although many extracurriculars are currently suspended, stay connected with activity advisors and collaborate on new ways to be involved even when school is closed.  Teachers will take notice when you take initiative.      

Take Action 

  • Update your Activity Record in GuidedPath.  Be sure to list all your activities.  Who are the advisors for each activity?  Focus on getting to know your advisors better. 
  • Start adding teachers’ names to the Letters of Recommendation form in GuidedPath.   

read more

Refocus

People around the world are adapting to a new normal.  Businesses are reinventing themselves, restaurants are offering delivery and takeout options, television news and late-night shows are broadcasting from home, and colleges and schools across the US have adopted online learning formats.  Now that you may be settling in to a different routine, it’s time to refocus your efforts and adopt some new strategies regarding college admission.   

Keep Your Grades Up 

Many colleges have announced that they will waive the SAT/ACT requirements for Fall 2021 applications.  Some are also discussing how to view junior year grades given the abrupt change to online learning and some schools adopting pass/fail grading.  Although it’s impossible to predict how every college will review their applications, maintaining a high GPA is the best advice.  Check in with your teachers, ask for help, focus on doing your best with what’s asked of you. Having consistently strong grades or even an upward trend can only benefit you in the application process.  

Study for AP Exams 

The CollegeBoard announced that both the May and June SAT dates have been canceled.  This means you can stop thinking about the SAT for now.  Instead, focus your efforts on studying for any AP exams you may have.  AP exams will be given online meaning that you may want to prepare for the test a bit differently.  CollegeBoard has a list of helpful tips in preparing for an online, open book/open notes exam format.  Acing your AP exams is another way to show colleges your academic chops and potentially earn college credit saving yourself money and time in the future.           

Consider Virtual Volunteering or other Self-driven Extracurriculars 

With most school extracurriculars canceled, it’s time to rethink your activity list.  There are countless creative ways to demonstrate your skills or interests to a college.  Jodi Glou, founder and president of Custom College Consulting, compiled a great list of virtual volunteering opportunities.  Virtual volunteering is a great alternative to canceled summer plans and also an opportunity to use your skills to benefit organizations that may no longer have the in-person staff or funding to accomplish their mission.   

Take Action 

Don’t stress!  Andrew Palumbo, dean of admissions and financial aid at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester, Mass, wrote an open letter to high school juniors this week.  While he admits that there is a lot to worry about right now, he says grades and SAT scores shouldn’t be on that list.  His message to students: “We’ll figure it out together.”     

read more

Acing AP tests or final exams

Worried about your upcoming AP tests or final exams?  In a normal year these exams can be anxiety producing, but this year that may be particularly true.  AP exams will now be offered in an online, open-note/open book format.  And as schools continue to cancel in person classes for the rest of the year, you may find yourself taking more online or modified final exams.    

With all the information available to you, an online, open book exam should be easy right?  Surprisingly, that may not be the case.  Open book/open note exams usual push students to synthesize responses that demonstrate comprehension rather than just regurgitating facts.  You should expect questions which may ask you to apply concepts in new ways.  The CollegeBoard has put together a list of tips for preparing for online exams.  Ultimately, knowing the material and having organized notes/resources will be your best strategy.  This means you should continue to devote study time to your AP exams just as you would if you were taking them in person.      

Thinking about scrapping the AP exams all together?  You are not required by the CollegeBoard to take the AP exam (although your high school may have different policies around this).  The main incentive for taking the exam is the possibility of college credit.  While many colleges are adopting test optional policies for admission, most have said that they will still award AP credit the same way they have in the past.  CollegeBoard has said that the AP exams will test content covered through early March.  You’ve already done the work for the exam; you just need to refine your skills.        

Take Action 

Find more tips and resources for preparing for AP exams on the CollegeBoard website.  You can apply these study tips to high school finals as well as future college exams.      

read more

Making a decision without making a visit

Although many schools have postponed their enrollment deadlines, some are sticking to May 1 which is right around the corner.  You may still be weighing your enrollment options.  With college visits off the table, the choice may seem more difficult than ever.    How do you make a final decision without making a visit?     

What’s in a visit
College visits let you “see yourself on the campus.”  But what does this mean?   Usually this is code for “how do you feel about the school?”  or “what does your gut tell you?”.  Walking around campus on a sunny day elicits a feeling.  But feelings are more often about people rather than places.  That’s why counselors tell you not to visit on a holiday or a Sunday when there are often less people around.  The campus doesn’t “feel” right without people.   

So – can you still evoke that same feeling without walking around?  Absolutely!  The campus may be closed but you can still connect with the same people.  Contact the admissions office to ask about your options – ask if you can talk with a student ambassador.  If possible, also talk with an advisor or professor in the academic area that interests you.  Check with your college counselor to find out if they know current students or alums from your high school or local community.  Talking with people – hearing their enthusiasm for the campus (or lack of) – will develop your intuition about a school.      

Other things to consider 
Going to college is a family affair.  Involve your parents and take their opinions to heart.  Together as a family, think back to what was most important when making your original list of colleges (things like – academics, location, size, activities).    

Four aspects of “best fit”

  1. Academic: Does the college offer your major or field of study?  Are there a variety of options if you are undecided?  What will your class sizes be?  What academic support systems are in place if you need help?   
  2. Financial: Is it affordable, both for you and your family?  Have you been offered scholarships or grants, or will you need loans to cover the cost?  Do a cost comparison to see which colleges offer you the best financial aid.   
  3. Social: Harlan Cohen, author of “The Naked Roommate” talks about the importance of identifying PEOPLE and PLACES you will feel comfortable with on campus (see Harlan’s webinar, 7 Big Mistakes HS Seniors Make When Picking a College).  Who will your people and places be?   
  4. Physical: Take an online tour.  Review the campus website for other virtual options – 3D or VR experiences can give you a great perspective of the physical campus.  And don’t forget to ask about the weather and the surrounding area.    

Take Action 
Review your pro and con lists but give credence to your gut feeling as well.  As with any big choice, it should be made with your brain and your heart.  And once you make your enrollment decision, look forward with enthusiasm – don’t second guess yourself.  The college experience is what you make it.  Your attitude and ambition will determine your success as much as the college you select.   


read more

What problem do you want to solve?

As “stay at home” orders continue on for many states, you may find yourself with some extra time on your hands.  Have you run out of puzzles, family game night getting old, have you reached the end of the internet?  Maybe it’s time to think about some of life’s big questions – like “what do you want to be when you grow up?”.  But before you start there, consider this advice from Jaime Casap.   

Jaime Casap is the Education Evangelist at Google.  He promotes the power of technology and the web as tools to transform education.  He’s also an author and sought-after speaker and he has some different ideas around choosing a career path.  He says the question of “What do you want to be?”  is the wrong question.  What do you want to be leads you to pick a job that exists now.  But things are changing rapidly – that job may not exist in the future.  Instead, Jaime says to focus on the three questions below.   

  1. What problem do you want to solve? 
  2. How do you want to solve that problem?  
  3. What do you need to learn to solve that problem (knowledge, skills, and abilities)? 

Check out this episode of his video blog for more detail as he travels to several locations to talk about this idea.  Fun tip – watch to the very end to see Jaime encounter a COVID appropriate piece of technology (even though this video was filmed a year ago).   

Take Action 

What problem do you want to solve?  Start small with a problem you could tackle right now.  It might not be your future career path but it’s a good exercise nonetheless.  Think about the unique perspective you can bring and check out some online resources (YouTube videos, websites or apps) that could help you build your skills.  Maybe the problem right now is your mom’s cooking.  If you solve that one – your family will thank you!     

read more

Decision Time – or is it?

May 1 is traditionally National College Decision Day.  Typically, schools require that students choose where they will enroll by submitting an enrollment deposit on or before May 1.  That makes April – decision time.  Of course, this year things are feeling very different.  A large number of colleges have already extended their enrollment deadlines to June 1.  Making a college choice right now may feel difficult (or easy depending on where you were in the process).  Regardless, you might be asking yourself some of the questions below.     

Can I ask for an extension?  

Of course!  It doesn’t hurt to ask.  Although the college may still have a May 1 deadline, many have said they will make extensions on a case by case basis.  You could be waiting on a financial aid appeal, or for more information from one college that would affect your decision at another.  Make your case requesting an enrollment deadline extension in writing to the admissions office.   

What if I’m on the waitlist?  

Unfortunately for many students, it seems like colleges are sending lots of waitlist offers this year.  Forgive the sports metaphor – colleges want a deep bench in case their freshman enrollment numbers don’t play out the way they typically do.  Waitlist updates could continue throughout the summer.  As with every year, it’s best to send an enrollment deposit to a second-choice college that has admitted you even if you are on the waitlist at your first-choice.  There is no way to know if you will get accepted from the waitlist.   

Maybe I should do a gap year?  

It’s possible – if you truly feel that’s in your best interest and you have a plan.  However, this may not be the best choice if you weren’t already considering this before the pandemic.  Most colleges defer enrollment for only a small number of students and they usually consider those requests on a case by case basis.  You should have solid answers for these three questions:  1) why do you want to take a gap year; 2) how will you spend your time; and 3) what will you learn from your experience?   

My school is not open, I haven’t talked to my counselor, what about my final transcript? 

Colleges understand that these are exceptional circumstances.  No one in education has ever experienced a disruption of quite this level.  Although colleges require your final high school transcript as a proof of graduation (and most also review your final high school grades), allowances will surely be made to get those transcripts submitted.   

We are doing online learning – they say our grades will be pass/fail.   

Again, colleges are going to be making way for a lot of exceptions.  Don’t panic about final grades not looking like they normally would.  High schools across the country are doing their best in this unprecedented situation.  Colleges understand that.  Whether it’s sending unofficial documents via email, or extending the deadline, or waiving final grade requirements – submitting final enrollment paperwork may look differently this year.  The same will likely be true for orientation, housing contracts, and registration.    

Take Action 

The best advice for now is to stay informed.  Visit the admitted student websites (often) for the colleges you are considering, attend any online enrollment events, and read all of the email communication you receive from colleges!  Be in touch with your advisor (and your high school counselor) as they may have updates about changes to deadlines or policies.  And finally, NACAC is providing this online resource to students and families as a centralized place where you can check for updates on all your schools.   

read more

COVID Admissions

The ripple effects of COVID-19 are just starting to make their impacts.  It’s safe to say that the coronavirus has upended the college admission process for the coming year.  You probably have a lot of questions and colleges are just starting to make adjustments to their admission process for next year.  Here are some of the topics that students and colleges are grappling with:  

I was going to take the May SAT but it is canceled.  

CollegeBoard and ACT have been monitoring the pandemic in an attempt to provide students with options.  Currently the June 6 SAT is still scheduled.  ACT has tests scheduled for June 13 (rescheduled from April) and July 18.  However, it’s true that you may only have one opportunity to take the test.  As a result, many colleges have announced they are going to be test optional (at least for the 2020-2021 application year).  FairTest has a list of test optional schools and schools that will be temporarily test optional.   

All of my activities are canceled for spring – what should I put on my activity list?  

Colleges understand – no sports, no spring performances, no student council or volunteer hours.  Your activity list may look a bit different than what you had planned.  Maybe it will include all the books you read while staying at home, a new language you taught yourself on Duolingo, or the tech support you offered your grandmother so you could all keep in touch.  If necessity is the mother of invention, maybe boredom is the mother of creativity.  Time to get creative.        

We are doing online learning – they say our grades will be pass/fail.   

Colleges are going to be making a lot of adjustments to the way they consider applications.  Don’t panic about your grades not looking like they normally would.  High schools across the country are doing their best in this unprecedented situation.  Many colleges are doing the same for their own students – offering them the option to have pass/fail grades.  They will be understanding of whatever your school decided for grading.   

I think COVID-19 will make a great essay topic.  

It’s possible that the pandemic has changed your school/life experience in dramatic ways.  It would be natural to think this would make a perfect college essay.  But don’t forget, many students are sharing this same experience. You want your college essay to stand out, attract attention, or be remembered by the admission staff.  Consider whether your experience or perspective is unique.  You don’t want to be just another coronavirus essay…    

What about college visits?  

Many juniors were planning college tours for spring break and those in person tours were likely canceled.  However, there are still plenty of opportunities to get to know a college.  Take an online tour, attend a virtual admission events, chat with student tour guides, follow a school on Instagram and comment on a post.  Not only does this help you gather information, but colleges also track these online connections as part of “demonstrated interest.”  Some colleges consider demonstrated interest in the admission process.  Hopefully, in person visits will resume in the fall.     

Take Action 

The best advice as always is to stay informed.  Visit the websites for the colleges you are considering to find updates on admission policies and requirements and be in touch with your advisor about changes to your upcoming applications.  NACAC is providing this online resource to students and families as a centralized place where you can check for updates on all your schools.   

read more

Financial Aid in the time of COVID-19

Although the COVID-19 pandemic has caused some schools to push back their enrollment deadlines, some colleges are still asking students to deposit by May 1.  Financial aid awards likely play a big part in your final decision.  But interpreting those awards might seem a bit like reading a foreign language.  Below are six common terms that you will see on a financial aid award and some ideas on how to assess your offers.   

In addition, it’s possible that your family’s financial circumstances have changed since you applied.  Whether that is related to the current coronavirus pandemic or other reasons, colleges have a process for reconsidering your financial aid award. This process is often called Professional Judgement.  We’ve included information at the end of this post on how to appeal your financial aid award.   

  1. Cost of Attendance – The Cost of Attendance is more than just tuition; it is an estimate of the total expense for one year of attendance.  It should include – 1) Tuition & Fees; 2) Room & Board; 3) Books & Supplies; 4) Personal Expenses, 5) Transportation (getting to and from the campus).  If the financial aid award does not include these items, search the website for the information or call the college.

  2. Expected Family Contribution (EFC) – The amount your family is expected to pay toward college (your EFC) is calculated by the FAFSA (Free Application for Student Aid).  You can find your EFC on the confirmation page you received when you submitted your FAFSA form.  This number should be listed on all your awards.  If it’s not there, ask the college why.

    Cost of Attendance – Expected Family Contribution = Need

  3. Student Financial Need – Use the financial aid equation above to determine your “financial need” for each school.  Then check the college’s award letter.  If the school’s total financial aid award is less than your financial need, you have a “financial aid gap.”  You must pay this gap (in addition to paying your EFC amount) with other sources of funding not provided by the school.  Scholarships from community groups or other sources, personal savings, or private loans are examples of how students pay their EFC plus any financial gap.  
     
  4. Grants and Scholarships – Grants and scholarships are awards that do not need to be repaid.  Are these grants or scholarships renewable (will you received them for just freshman year or every year)?  What are the eligibility requirements that you must meet to receive the scholarship for additional years (a minimum GPA, a certain number of course credits, etc.)? 
     
  5. Loans – Has the college included student or parent loans in your award?  This money must be repaid by you or your parents.  A financial aid offer with only loans may not be the best choice for you.  
     
  6. Work-study – A work-study award is potential income that you may earn by working part-time in a work-study position.  Most work-study jobs are on-campus which can make them convenient, but a work-study award does not guarantee you a work-study job.  You must apply for work-study positions like any other part-time job.  And just like other part-time jobs, you will receive a paycheck for your work-study earnings.  It is not automatically applied toward your cost of attendance.  Contact the university financial aid office to learn about the availability and application process for work-study positions.     

Are you being offered a mix of grants, scholarships, loans and work-study?  The more money you don’t have to pay back, or earn by working, (ideally – more scholarships and grants, less loans and work-study) the better.     

Take Action 

Enter all your admission decisions and financial aid awards into GuidedPath.  This gives you a list of all the awards colleges are offering you. 

To enter college awards: 

  1. Log into your GuidedPath account. 
  2. From your dashboard, click on the blue Decisions box. 
  3. Click on each college Decision Details. 
  4. Click on Responses: Admitted? Waitlisted? Not Admitted? 
  5. Click on Awards. Add each award from your award letters in this section. 

Enter Award type | Name of the award | Annual Amount | Total Amount (4 year amount) | Additional Information (if any) 

Repeat this process for EVERY college. Get all your numbers entered to prepare for the next step: Comparing Financial Aid Awards 

Appealing for Additional Financial Aid 

Especially in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, many families find themselves facing a very different financial reality than a few months ago.  If a parent has lost their job, has become ill which has caused them to stop work, has lost wages due to a quarantine or “stay at home” order, or even lost a substantial amount of savings/assets due to stock market changes, you may have good cause to appeal your financial aid award.  This Tip Sheet by Mark Krankowitz, author of How to Appeal for More College Financial Aid is a simple guide on how to start the process.     

In addition, Lynn O’Shaughnessy, author and higher ed/financial journalist, has tips on her blog The College Solution.   

You’ll need to contact the admissions or financial aid office at the college directly, but these two lists can help you get the process started.  

read more

School from home

Online classes or some modified version of schooling at home is the new reality for a large majority of students in the country.  The coronavirus pandemic has created huge education adjustment for everyone involved – students, parents, and teachers.  Many are now worried – especially juniors – about how this new version of school will impact your college admission prospects next year.   

Before you get ahead of yourself, start by thinking of how can you stay focused and productive today.  It’s important to maintain your junior year grades and to finish the year with strong learning gains.  Use these school-from-home tips to make the most of your time.     

  1. Maintain your morning routine – GET UP!  Sure, it’s tempting to sleep until noon but you’ll be far better off if you stick with a schedule similar to what you had in school.  Get up at the same time, get showered and dressed as you normally would, grab your breakfast and get started.   
  2. Create a work space – Very little productivity comes from sitting on the couch or lying in bed.  You need to find a work space to call your own – especially if your parents and siblings are home too.  Maybe it’s in your room, or at the dining table, or even in a closet.  Find a space where you can sit upright in a comfortable chair, preferably the same space each day, and as free from distractions as possible.    
  3. Schedule breaks – Well, maybe it’s not recess but schedule breaks in your day to have a snack, go for a lap around your house, or just zone out.  Just like time between classes, it’s important to take scheduled breaks throughout the day.  Decide what works for you – work 45 minutes, take a 15 min break; or work for 1 hour, take a 30 min break.  Also set a time for lunch.     
  4. Have a stopping time – Stop your school work at the same time each day, just like you were in school.   
  5. Take care of yourself – These are ever changing and stressful circumstances which can take a toll on anyone.  Practice small strategies for physical and mental health each day that will help you ward off cabin fever.  Get outside for a walk or other exercise (everyday if possible), stay connected with friends online, and plan to do something you enjoy each day.  Play a video game, cook a favorite food, or watch a new show.  It’s nice to have something to look forward to after a day of work.    

Take Action 

You obviously didn’t choose this situation and it is understandably will take some getting used to.  The goal here isn’t perfection, and some days will be easier than others.  But maintaining a routine, staying in touch with teachers and classmates, and completing some school work each day will help you fight boredom and stay on track for when school resumes.

read more

Testing Updates

As a senior, it’s unlikely that you were planning to take the SAT or the ACT but coronavirus cancelations may still impact your spring test schedule.  You may have AP or IB exams, or possibly SAT Subject tests on your calendar however, testing organizations are working swiftly to reschedule or revise most of these exams.  With updates coming in on a rolling basis from testing organizations and colleges, it’s important to stay informed.  Check your email regularly, create a system for organizing important information, and stay in touch with your counselor.    

SAT Updates  

  • The May 2, 2020 SAT and SAT Subject Test administration has been canceled.   
  • The June 6, 2020 SAT and SAT Subject Test administration is still scheduled.  However, CollegeBoard will continue to assess health and safety recommendations and provide updates to registered students as soon as possible in case of changes.   
  • Refunds will be issued to students who are registered for canceled test dates.  
  • College Board will provide future additional SAT testing opportunities for students as soon as possible in place of canceled administrations. 

AP Exam Updates 

  • Traditional face-to-face exam administrations will not take place. Students will take a 45-minute online free-response exam at home.  
  • Some students may want to take the exam sooner rather than later, while the content is still fresh. Other students may want more time to practice. For each AP subject, there will be 2 different testing dates. 
  • The full exam schedule, specific free-response question types that will be on each AP Exam, and additional testing details will be available by April 3. We’ll also unlock any relevant free-response questions in AP Classroom for digital use so students can access all practice questions of the type that will appear on the exam. 

IB Exam Updates 

  • The May 2020 examinations scheduled between April 30 and May 22 for Diploma Programme and Career-related Programme candidates have been canceled and will not be rescheduled. 
  • Depending on what they registered for, students will be awarded a Diploma or a Course Certificate which reflects their standard of work. This is based on student’s coursework and the established assessment expertise, rigor and quality control already built into the programmes. 

ACT Updates 

  • ACT has rescheduled its April 4 national test date to June 13 across the U.S.  All students registered for the April 4 test date will receive an email from ACT in the next few days informing them of the postponement and instructions for free rescheduling to June 13 or a future national test date. 

Special Note for Seniors 

The coronavirus pandemic has been hard on students everywhere but it can feel especially egregious for seniors.  This was your year!  Suddenly things like senior trips, senior prom, graduation, the “last time I get to…” are being snatched away.  We are heartbroken with you that your high school experience is ending this way.  

But this is still your year and there’s a lot of it left!  Communities around the world have come together in the midst of unprecedented circumstances.  You – Generation Z, more than any generation – have the tools, ability, and creativity to make something extraordinary out of these strange circumstances.  We hear you and we feel your hurt – but we are also excited to see you soar!  You were made for this!     

read more

Testing Updates

Coronavirus cancelations seem to be coming in from all directions – schools, weddings, concerts, even the Olympics have either been canceled or rescheduled.  The SAT and ACT are no exception.  It’s likely that your spring test schedule (along with your other schedules) looks very different now than it did a week ago.  With updates coming in on a rolling basis from testing organizations and colleges, it’s important to stay informed.  Check your email regularly, create a system for organizing important information, and stay in touch with your counselor.     

SAT Updates  

  • The May 2, 2020 SAT and SAT Subject Test administration has been canceled.  
  • The June 6, 2020 SAT and SAT Subject Test administration is still scheduled.  However, CollegeBoard will continue to assess health and safety recommendations and provide updates to registered students as soon as possible in case of changes.   
  • Refunds will be issued to students who are registered for canceled test dates. 
  • College Board will provide future additional SAT testing opportunities for students as soon as possible in place of canceled administrations.

ACT Updates 

  • ACT has rescheduled its April 4 national test date to June 13 across the U.S.  All students registered for the April 4 test date will receive an email from ACT in the next few days informing them of the postponement and instructions for free rescheduling to June 13 or a future national test date. 

AP Exam Updates 

  • Traditional face-to-face exam administrations will not take place. Students will take a 45-minute online free-response exam at home.  
  • Some students may want to take the exam sooner rather than later, while the content is still fresh. Other students may want more time to practice. For each AP subject, there will be 2 different testing dates. 
  • The full exam schedule, specific free-response question types that will be on each AP Exam, and additional testing details will be available by April 3. We’ll also unlock any relevant free-response questions in AP Classroom for digital use so students can access all practice questions of the type that will appear on the exam. 

IB Exam Updates 

  • The May 2020 examinations scheduled between April 30 and May 22 for Diploma Programme and Career-related Programme candidates have been canceled and will not be rescheduled. 
  • Depending on what they registered for, students will be awarded a Diploma or a Course Certificate which reflects their standard of work. This is based on student’s coursework and the established assessment expertise, rigor and quality control already built into the programmes. 

Take Action 

The good news is you will have time to take the SAT or ACT before college deadlines.  We may also see more colleges becoming test optional as a result of this spring.  The full impact of these cancelations and other changes on college admission won’t be known for some time.  Meanwhile, stay healthy and stay safe and stay connected (virtually) with your school and friends.  You – Generation Z, more than any generation – have the tools, ability, and creativity to make something extraordinary out of these strange circumstances. 

read more

Virtual Visits

The coronavirus has drastically altered life around the world, and while college admissions isn’t life and death, it’s safe to say that the admissions process has been upended.  Colleges around the country have canceled in person classes and most have adopted an online format for the remainder of the semester.  With that, it’s certain that spring college visits will be occurring in non-traditional ways.  So how can you get a feel for a college when the campus is closed?   

In the coming weeks, it’s possible that we will see many colleges postpone the May 1 enrollment confirmation date.  For now, it’s best to assume that you may need to make some choices without doing an in-person visit.  The NY Times had some great suggestions for “Making Decisions When Colleges are Closed”.  It boils down to using your virtual resources.  

  • Virtual Tour – Many schools already have a virtual tour available.  In GuidedPath, you can find nearly 500 virtual tours through YouVisit on the college profile pages.  Other collections of online campus tours include YoUniversityTV or CampusTours.com.   
  • Extended Virtual Visit – Admissions offices around the country are scrambling to enhance their virtual visit options for seniors.  Stay in touch with the schools that have accepted you to find out what they will offer.  Zoom meetings with admission officers, chats with student tour guides, FaceTime appointments with financial aid counselors, or phone calls with faculty or advisors.  Universities are excited to welcome you to campus as an admitted student even if that means welcoming you remotely.   
  • Crowdsource a Connection – Chances are you may know someone who knows someone who is a current student.  And now that those current students have largely returned home, they may be available and excited to chat.  Reach out to your friend network or your college advisor to make a connection.   
  • Stay Positive – Although it is certainly an unprecedented time for colleges and the country, college campuses aren’t going anywhere.  Students will return to school and you will have a place in a freshman class.  For now, it’s all about making the most informed choice possible.   

Take Action 

The best course of action is to stay informed and stay in touch with the colleges to which you have been admitted.  Check your email daily and check college websites for updated deadlines and procedures – including financial aid, enrollment forms, housing contracts, orientation and registration.  Expect a lot of communication from colleges in the coming weeks.  Be sure to have a method for organizing this information.  And keep in touch with your advisor to stay on track.    

read more

Virtual Visits

The coronavirus has drastically altered life around the world, and while college admissions isn’t life and death, it’s safe to say that the admissions process has been upended.  Colleges around the country have canceled in person classes and most have adopted an online format for the remainder of the semester.  With that, it’s certain that spring college visits will be occurring in non-traditional ways.  So how can you get a feel for a college when the campus is closed?   

If your spring break plans included college visits, what should you do now?  It boils down to using your virtual resources.  

  • Virtual Tour – Many schools already have a virtual tour available.  In GuidedPath, you can find nearly 500 virtual tours through YouVisit on the college profile pages.  Other collections of online campus tours include YoUniversityTV or CampusTours.com.   
  • Extended Virtual Visit – Admissions offices around the country are scrambling to enhance their virtual visit options and reformat spring visit days.  Stay in touch with the schools you were planning to visit to find out what they will offer.  Zoom meetings with admission officers, chats with student tour guides, and many other creative options will give you a first look at the campus.   
  • Crowdsource a Connection – Chances are you may know someone who knows someone who is a current student.  And now that those current students have largely returned home, they may be available and excited to chat.  Reach out to your friend network or your college advisor to make a connection.   
  • Stay Positive – Although it is certainly an unprecedented time for colleges and the country, college campuses aren’t going anywhere.  Students will return to school and you will have a chance to visit.   

Take Action 

For now, it’s all about staying informed on changes.  From new test dates for SAT or ACT, to possible changes to the admission timeline, stay in touch with your advisor for the most accurate information.  Check your email daily and check college websites often for updated deadlines and procedures.  Expect a lot of communication from colleges in the coming months.  Be sure to have a method for organizing this information.   

read more

Where will I be living next year?

One of the big questions for you as a student (and for your parents as well) is ‘Where will I be living next year?”  Be sure to explore the housing choices on campus and learn which choices are available to you. 

Housing Styles 

  • Traditional residence halls typically have double occupancy rooms off of a hallway, with shared bathrooms for several rooms.  This is usually the most common option for incoming freshman. 
  • Suite-style residence halls have more of an apartment feel.  Several students share a common living and kitchen area, with bedrooms sharing bathrooms.  Although often available to upperclassmen, some colleges offer these for freshmen. 
  • Apartment-style residence halls are as they say – student apartments.  These are most often for upperclassmen, graduate students, or married/family housing. 

Themed Communities 

  • Living/learning communities – Many colleges offer themed living communities.  Those themes may be honors, specific academic programs, language or culture based, or communities based on lifestyle commitments like green living or substance free. 
  • First Year Experience – Often in addition to housing together, classes are offered for first year students to take together.  Living in first year experience housing gives students opportunity to learn and grow together.

Other considerations 

  1. Meal Plans: How is the meal plan handled – all you can eat meals, or a la carte?  Are there options for extra dollars to use in the coffeeshop or student market?  What happens on the weekend for meals?  Think about your lifestyle (do you eat on the run or sit down for each meal) and choose a meal plan that fits.     
  2. Gender housing: Are there single-sex dorms?  Single sex floors?  Transgender friendly housing?  Single sex rooms (with both genders in rooms next to each other?)  How are the bathrooms set up?  What will make you comfortable?  
  3. Alcohol and Drug policies: Be sure to ask about party rules, for you and guests.  Is it a dry campus?  Are some dorms designated drug and alcohol free?  Obviously, all campuses follow the law when it comes to drinking and drug use, however some schools may have more strict policies for the campus or for certain residence halls. 
  4. Security: How secure is the housing?  Do you have to have ID to get inside the building?  What other security measure are in place?  Can you have guests?  What are the restrictions for guests? 

Take Action
Check online for each college’s housing options.  Make a list of criteria that are most important to you and ask about housing during your admitted student visits.  Make a choice and mark your choice in your discussion notes in GuidedPath. 

read more

How to Become a College Athlete

Do you have what it takes to play sports in college?  Many students do – either at the varsity level, or in clubs and intramural sports.  Each athletic division has their own athletic and academic eligibility requirements. More competitive divisions may want to see videos of your events.  It’s a good idea to keep a record of all your stats, awards and accomplishments.  Fill out the athletic questionnaire on each college website and call or email the athletic director/coach.  Game on!

Varsity Sports 

NCAA – National Collegiate Athletic Association 

The NCAA includes schools in Div I, Div II, and Div III.  They follow academic eligibility and recruiting rules.  Div I and Div II schools can provide athletic scholarships, but full ride scholarships are rare.  Div III schools do not provide any athletic scholarships.  But don’t rule them out.  These colleges may offer merit scholarships to make up for the lack of athletic scholarship money. 

Register with the NCAA Eligibility Center, if you are interested in a Div I or Div II school 

NAIA – National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics 

Made up of smaller 4year colleges across the US and Canada.  The competitive level is described as being equivalent to the NCAA Div II.  The NAIA offers athletic scholarships. 

Register with the NAIA Eligibility Center 

NJCAA – National Junior College Athletic Association 

The NJCAA’s mission is to promote and foster two-year college athletics in an affordable and competitive environment.  Many scholarship opportunities are available. 

Club and Intramural Sports 

Colleges also offer club and intramural sport leagues.  These are typically less competitive than varsity sports.  Club teams usually play against other colleges while intramural teams play other teams within the college (“intra” meaning within, “mural” (or muralis) meaning the walls).  Students take part in these teams to compete, have fun, and stay fit.  

Take Action
GuidedPath includes information in college profiles about sports offered at the varsity, collegiate club, and intramural level.  Evaluate the difference between the different athletic divisions.    

  1. Take the “Athletic Worksheet” survey in GuidedPath.   
  2. Use GuidedPath to determine if a college you like offers your potential sport.   

read more

College Size Matters

As you explore which colleges are the right match for you, consider the size of the student body.  How many undergraduates attend the college?  This can make a big difference in your experience on a college campus.  Think of college sizes in these four categories (based on undergraduate student attendance only).

Boutique Size (<2000) 

Over 500 colleges in the U.S. enroll fewer than 2000 students.  These schools are ideal for students with a strong participant learner approach to college.  You get to know your teachers and fellow students very well.  This provides opportunities to maximize your involvement in activities and construct your own learning experience.  Most boutique size schools are private, examples include Juilliard, Amherst, Pomona, California Institute of Technology, Davidson, and Haverford.

Liberal Arts Size (2000-5000) 

Over 300 colleges in the US fall in the Liberal Arts size category.  Some of the most well-known and prestigious colleges fall into this category including Dartmouth, Rice, Middlebury, Carleton, and Vassar.  Small class sizes with a focus on undergraduates, opportunities to engage with faculty and peers, and close-knit campus communities are all reasons to consider colleges of this size. 

Just Right Size (5,000-10,000) 

“Just Right” refers to the college that is not too big, not too small, as Goldilocks stated, it is “Just Right”.  The college is bigger than most high schools, yet small enough to still retain a personal feel.  This is the smallest group of colleges in the US, with just over 200 campuses.  Both public and private schools fall into this category.  Examples include: Princeton, Yale, Stanford, Duke, the College of William and Mary, many California State Universities, Texas A&M Corpus Christi, and many more.  This is a campus size where many students feel comfortable.

City University 

There are some universities that are comparable to the size of a large town or small city.  Students benefit from many choices however the trade-off is you must be your own advocate and reach out.  You have the freedom to create your own path on a campus of this size.  Of the 58 colleges in this category, most are public schools including Arizona State, UCLA, UC Berkeley, University of Colorado Boulder, University of Michigan, Florida State, UT Austin, University of Alabama and many other flagship state universities.  There are a few private schools in this category as well, including New York University, Brigham Young University and University of Southern California.

Take Action
Use the Guided Search to find colleges within each of these size categories.  Explore the college profiles. Comment on what you find in the Discussions tab. 

read more

What if I’m waitlisted?…

By now, application decisions should be rolling in to your inbox/mailbox.  If you haven’t already heard back from all your schools, the wait is almost over.  Most colleges aim to have final decisions to everyone who applied before April 1.  But what if your “final” decision isn’t so final?…  What does it mean to be on the waitlist? 

Why do colleges have waitlists?  Can’t they just say yes or no?  
With students applying to more and more schools, it’s become more difficult for colleges to predict how many of their admitted students will actually enroll.  Students are being accepted to many colleges – but you can only enroll at one.  That means many students who have been admitted to the college are not going to attend.   

Enrollment targets are a serious issue for colleges – too many students result in overcrowded dorms and classroom, but not enough can mean funding shortages.  If a college realizes they may fall short of their enrollment target, they can accept students from their waitlist to fill the gap.   

So – I’m on the waitlist.  What should I do? 
Essentially, you can reply to the waitlist offer one of two ways: 

  1. “No, thanks!”  Although the college offered you a spot on their waitlist, you are not obligated to accept that offer.  Maybe the school that waitlisted you is not your first choice – if so, no big deal.  You can let the college know that you do not plan to remain on their waitlist.   
  2. “Yes, I’m willing to wait.”  If you think this school might really be the one, let them know that you are interested in waiting.  Follow the reply directions in your decision to confirm you intend to remain on the waitlist.  It’s also a great idea to follow up with a personal email to tell the school – if they accept you from the waitlist you intend to enroll (only do this if it’s true).  You can also reiterate why you think this college is such a good fit and ask if any additional information like new SAT/ACT scores, senior year final grades, etc. could help to improve your chances of admission from the waitlist.       

You should seriously consider all of the admission offers you receive.  Schedule visits, compare financial aid packages, talk with your parents and your counselor, make a pro/con list, etc.  You have to confirm your enrollment with a college by May 1 (that’s the National Candidates Reply Date).  Most schools won’t make decisions about their waitlist until after May 1.   

In addition, there are typically only a small number of students admitted from the waitlist (sometimes not any).  You should confirm your enrollment with one of the colleges that has admitted you (even if you stay on the waitlist at another college).  It’s hard to hear that you are on the waitlist (especially if it was your first choice), but maybe it’s an opportunity to get excited about a school that really wants you (and hopefully they offered you great financial aid to prove it).  Many colleges can be a good fit if you have the right mindset.   

Take Action
Record your decisions and financial aid awards in GuidedPath so that you can make comparison before deciding where to enroll.  

 

read more

Top Tips for Admitted Student College Visits

admitted student visit - cropped - with white background

Receiving your letter or email of admission is a time for celebration!  What’s your next step? Many colleges will be inviting you to visit the campus as an admitted student. 

These visits can be: 

  • A designated day event on campus 
  • A designated weekend or overnight event on campus 
  • A designated window of time in which to visit  
  • A scholarship competition 
  • An orientation 

We have tips for making the most of these visits. 

Preparing for the visit 

  • Review your priorities for a good college fit.  As discussed in the blog What is College Fit, fit includes 4 components; academic, social, emotional and physical.  
  • Brush up on the details.  Refresh your knowledge about the school’s size, academic options, and other details that interest you.  Your visit will be more meaningful if you have the basics down. 
  • Explore advising options for your major.  When do you start advising? 
  • Review housing options.  Where would you live? 
  • Explore activities offered.  What appeals to you? 

On Campus 

Prepare a list of questions to ask during your admitted student visit.  Plan a visit when the college is in session.  You need to see the college from the perspective of a student.  As a part of the visit, see if you can make the following appointments: 

  1. Academic Advising.  If possible, meet with an academic advisor in your area of study.  Learn more about the courses and professors in your selected field of study. 
  2. Tour housing/dorm options.  Where will you live as a freshman? 
  3. Meet with a financial aid advisor.  What is your financial aid package?  Do your parents have questions that need answered? 

 As you visit the campus, ask yourself these questions: 

  • Would I fit in academically here? 
  • Would I fit in socially here? 
  • Do I feel comfortable with the physical location? 

After Your Visit 

  • Send a thank you for the visit. 
  • Record your thoughts as soon as possible.   

Take Action

Make plans now to visit colleges before May 1.  Use 3-day weekends, breaks, or anytime you have available to visit the colleges to which you have been admitted. 

read more

Why So Many Questions…

So Many Questions… 

Have you signed up to take the SAT yet?  Or maybe you’ve already taken the PSAT? Did you notice that there are questions about your grades, your interests, your intended college major, etc. in the registration?  What’s up with all those questions?    

The CollegeBoard Student Search Service 

Those questions are part of the SAT Questionnaire.  There’s also a box to opt-in to the College Board Student Search Service.  By completing those questions and checking the box, you are giving permission for the CollegeBoard to provide your information to colleges and scholarship programs.   

Why do colleges and scholarship programs want my information?  

You are searching for colleges that are a good fit.  Colleges and scholarship programs are doing the same thing – searching for applicants that are a good fit.  One of the ways they find applicants and promote their programs is by sourcing student information from the CollegeBoard.  Through the Student Search Service, colleges and programs can access your contact information and send you promotional materials by mail or email.   

Should I opt-in?   

That’s entirely up to you!  There are advantages to allowing colleges and scholarship programs to access your information – you may find out about a school or a program that is a great fit for you that you didn’t already know about.  However, it also means an influx of mail and email.  You can always filter this college email into a specific folder to keep it from cluttering your inbox.  You can also decide to stop participating at any time and contact CollegeBoard to opt-out.   

What about the ACT?   

ACT has the same kind of service for their test – it’s called the Educational Opportunity Service (EOS).  Just like with the SAT, colleges and scholarship programs are using the ACT to access to your contact information.  Opting-in to the EOS is completely optional and you must check the box on the ACT registration form to allow colleges to access your information.         

Take Action 

If you are a junior, it may be time for you to take the SAT or the ACT.  Spring test dates are: 

If you are a sophomore, your school may be administering the PSAT or the PreACT.  Check with your school counselor to find out the test date.   

Enter your test dates into GuidedPath so that you will receive registration deadline and test date reminders.   

read more

Making the Most of Your College Visits

The College Visit 

Depending on your time and interest level, plan one of the following types of college visits: 

Basic Visit 

  1. Attend an information session.  Ask questions about admissions, financial aid, choice of majors.  IMPORTANT: Get a business card from an admissions person. 
  2. Do a college and dorm tour.  What does the campus look like?  Where do freshman live? What are the housing options? 
  3. Eat a meal on campus.  Go to the dining hall or coffee shop and eat.  Introduce yourself to some students and ask questions.  You will be surprised at how much they want to share about the college. 

Extended Visit 

In addition to the basic visit schedule – an information session, a campus tour, and a meal on campus – ask if you can add the following appointments at the schools that you are most interested in:  

  1. Meet individually with an admissions counselor.  Ask more about special programs, what the college has to offer, and your admissions expectations.  IMPORTANT: Get a business card from an admissions person. 
  2. Meet with a financial aid advisor.  What types of financial aid and/or merit scholarships do they offer?  What questions do your parents have that need answered? 
  3. Meet with an academic advisor in the field of study that interests you.  Learn more about the courses and professors in your selected field of study. 
  4. Visit a class.  Before your visit, get permission to sit in on a class.  This gives you a feel for what college will be like, and what it would feel like to be a student there.

Overnight Visit 

Some colleges offer prospective students the chance to spend the night on campus to learn more about the school.  An overnight visit will provide great insight into student life on campus.  These visits are usually organized by the college, and include college tours, classes on campus, and the chance to stay in a college dorm with a college student host. 

Check with your counselor for a list of colleges that offer overnight stays. Save overnight visits for your top college choices. 

On Your Visit 

As you do the college tour of the campus, ask yourself these questions: 

  • Would fit in academically here? 
  • Would I fit in socially here? 
  • Do I feel comfortable with the physical location? 

Follow up after your visit 

  • Send a thank you email to the admissions representative that conducted the information session or that you met with individually. 
  • Record your visit using the Discuss Tab – or download our college visit form.  Pros/Cons can be listed on the Decisions Tab under Decision Details. 
  • Add visits as milestones or tasks.  Use college profiles to learn about a school.

Take Action 

Make plans now to visit colleges on your list.  Enjoy your visits and find out which school fits you best!

  

read more

Comparing Financial Aid Awards

 

scale compare costs - transparent

You got into the top schools on your list.  Each has sent you a financial aid award.  One offer looks better than the other, but is it really?  It’s important to compare apples to apples when looking at financial aid offers.  Here are 6 questions to ask: 

  1. What is the Student Budget?  Does the college list all the costs for going to college: 1) Tuition & Fees; 2) Room & Board; 3) Books & Supplies; 4) Personal Expenses, 5) Transportation (getting to and from the campus).  If the award does not include these items, search the website for the information or call the college. 
     
  2. What is your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) on your Student Aid Report?  The amount your family is expected to pay toward college is on the student aid report generated when you filed the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid).  This number is needed for comparing financial aid awards.  If your family contribution is close to or more than the student budget, then your awards from the college are going to be based on merit, and not on the financial need you have.
  3. Is there a gap?  You should know your EFC from filing your FAFSA.  To calculate how much financial aid you should be receiving, subtract your expected family contribution from the total student budget (all five items from question 1).  The remainder is your estimated financial need at the college.  Is the college meeting your full need, or only a portion of it?

    Total Cost of Attendance – Expected Family Contribution = Need 

  4. How much of your award is grants or scholarships?  Grants and scholarships are money that you will not have to repay later.  You want to maximize the amount of grants and scholarships you receive and minimize the amount of loan money you must take out.  Are the grants or scholarships renewable for four years?  What conditions exist for the renewable awards (a minimum GPA, number of credits completed, etc.)? 

  5. How much is in student or parent loans?  How much of the offer is a parent loan?  A financial aid award of $20,000 parent loan – but no grants or scholarships – is not a good offer.  Parent loans (when necessary) should ideally be used to help pay for the expected family contribution not meet your financial need.

  6. Is there a good mix?  Is there something missing?  Are you being offered grants, scholarships, loans and work?  Look for a good mix.  If you are not offered “work study” ask about it.  It is especially helpful If you are looking for a campus job to earn money for your personal expenses while in college.   

Take Action 

Use the EFC Calculator GuidedPath to determine your Expected Family Contribution.  Add in all financial aid awards into Decisions in GuidedPath.  Use the Cost Comparisons Tool to view and compare all your financial aid awards. 

read more

Road Trip: Preparing for Spring Break College Visits

continents

Using your spring break to visit colleges is a great idea, but be aware of spring break schedules for the colleges you wish to visit. It’s best to see a college when students are on campus. Here are a few tips to prepare for your spring college visits. 

  • Create a College Visit Itinerary. Using a map, look at college locations and decide on an itinerary that fits within your given time.  Don’t worry if you can’t see all of the colleges on your list. Focus on some of your top choices and then plan other school visits that are within the same geographic area. 
  • Register for college visits online.  Once you have a list of colleges to visit, register for campus tours online with the admissions office.  Resist the urge to plan “drive through” visits.  An official campus tour takes more time, but gives you a better feel for the college/campus. And don’t plan too many visits in a day –  one or two per day is best. 
  • Review your priorities for a good college fit. As discussed in the blog  What is College Fit, fit includes 4 components; academic, social, emotional and physical.  
  • Learn the basics.  Look up the school’s size, majors offered, and other details that interest you. Your visit will be more meaningful when you know the basics.
  • Create a List of Questions. Write down your Top 10 Questions for each college visit.  Focus on what you would study and who would you study with. 

Take Action 

Use GuidedPath to find links to college admission offices to schedule visits. Take a virtual tour of a college by viewing YouVisit videos from the “Tours” tab. 

Review the details on the colleges by clicking on the “Info” and “FISKE” tabs.  Watch for next week’s email: How to make the most of your college visits.  


read more

Finding money for college

search for scholarships transparent and cropped

You may have thought you were done with writing essays and sending applications, but not quite yet.  Now is the time to look for scholarships.  And don’t get discouraged.  In this case, one more essay or scholarship application could mean a big pay-off for you.  A few more hours of your time could turn into hundreds or even thousands of dollars!   

College scholarships typically come from three sources: 

  1. The colleges to which you have been accepted. 
  2. Local community organizations 
  3. National or larger regional organizations 

At your college 

Most scholarships come from the schools that have admitted you.    See the scholarship tab in GuidedPath for your schools.  It lists academic scholarships offered to 8 or more students. 

Start locally  

Local organizations are the hidden gems of scholarship money.  Although the awards are typically smaller in dollar amount, you also don’t have as much competition.  Many local scholarships are actually looking for applicants!  Churches, service organizations (like the VFW, or the Junior League), local charitable funds, even your parent’s employer may have scholarship opportunities.  The key is finding the information – who, what, when, where, why and how to apply!     

Check with: 

  • Your high school counseling office 
  • Parent organizations (PTA, Booster clubs, etc.) 
  • Your local library 

Expand regionally 

Use your residence as a means to get more money for college.  Many states offer scholarships to top students.  Check to see what is offered through your state.  Check deadlines for any state scholarships you qualify for. 

Compete nationally 

There are dozens of national scholarship search engines available.  Many are nothing more than a way to market credit cards or other products to you.   These are our recommended scholarship search engines.   

Take Action 

Add your college scholarship deadlines to your application plan.   

Review the scholarship tab for all colleges on your list and determine your eligibility for specific awards.  Add milestones or notes for the scholarships you are planning to apply for.

read more

It’s never too early to start your college essays.

Last week, the Common Application announced that the essay prompts for 2020-2021 will remain the same as they were in 2019-2020 application.  So, what are you waiting for?  Now is a great time to start brainstorming topics for your Common App essay.    

 2020-2021 Common Application Essay Prompts 

  1. Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story. 
  2. The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience? 
  3. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome? 
  4. Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma – anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution. 
  5. Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others. 
  6. Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more? 
  7. Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design. 

During the 2018-2019 application year, the most popular topic was #7: “Share an essay on any topic of your choice…” (24.1%).  With this last prompt, you have free rein to write about practically anything.  How should you decide?   

Keep in mind that the colleges will already have a lot of information about you in your application – your high school transcript, your activity list, demographic information, maybe even recommendations.  Your essay is an opportunity to tell the college something they don’t already know – to give them greater insight on what makes you – YOU!  The key is to find a topic that allows you to tell your most important story in an authentic voice.  

Take Action 

Look at each Common App essay prompt.  Give yourself two minutes for each question (set a timer) and jot down the first idea (or two or three) that comes to mind.  Some prompts may spark multiple ideas – some may challenge you to really think.  However, in less than 15 minutes, you’ve already created a working list of essay topics.   

Put this list away for now and try this exercise again in a week or two.  Do you find yourself gravitating to one or two of the questions?  Which answers come most naturally to you?  Which is your most important story?

read more

College Transition: Are you ready?

For many students, high school is like a second home.  It’s a place you feel comfortable.  You know where to find your friends and your favorite places to hang out.  Now, you’re getting ready to embark on a new adventure – college.  This will be unlike any experience you’ve had in the past.  How do you prepare?  What should you expect?

Harlan Cohen (the NY Times bestselling author of The Naked Roommate) shares some thoughts in this TEDx Talk video about what you need to do to prepare for college: Getting Comfortable with the Uncomfortable.

Watch Harlan Cohen’s TEDx Talk  

Take Action
Talk to your parents and friends about steps you can take to start getting ready to leave home and go to college next fall.

read more

Who’s watching your social media?

Alan Katzman, founder and CEO of Social Assurity, guides students on creating a winning social media presence. He is a pioneer in developing and advancing techniques to teach students how to use social media to build a compelling and reflective digital presence as a game-changing tool for creating academic and career success at all educational levels.  We’re giving you his top four reasons why you should be aware of how social media can impact your college planning. 

Reason #1: Admission Officers Are Looking at Your Social Media
Thanks to Kaplan Test Prep and its annual survey of college admissions officers, we know that at least 35% of admission officers in the United States looked at applicant social media during the 2016 admissions process. We also know that admissions officers are more likely to look when considering scholarships and when invited to do so by applicants. 

Reason #2: Since They’re Looking, Why Not Give Them Something to See?
College admissions officers have neither the time nor the interest to search social media simply to find reasons to reject qualified applicants. If and when colleges look, logic dictates they are looking to learn more about the applicant, opening the door of opportunity for the prepared applicant to make a strong impression and set themselves apart from other qualified applicants. 

Reason #3: The Best Offense is a Good Defense
Almost all colleges now have a prominent social media presence and encourage applicants to interact with them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and YouTube.  By optimizing social media to showcase their activities, interests, accomplishments, and service, applicants can freely and safely interact with colleges and may very well impress the right people as a result. 

Reason #4: Managing Social Media is an Essential Life Skill
Social media is here to stay and will continue to influence character and credibility assessments made by colleges, scholarship committees, and employers. Today, a thoughtful, transparent, and reflective digital presence across social media networks can help students achieve their academic and professional goals and aspirations.  

Take action
Review your social media accounts.  What would you like colleges or others to see about you? Want to do more?  Social Assurity offers online classes to get your social media presence right. 

read more

The Secret to Student Success

What do successful people have in common?  Is it brains, talent, fame or fortune?  No!  Arel Moodie, bestselling author and speaker, has a different idea.  In this TedTalk, Arel explains the secret to student success and how you don’t have to be the smartest or the most talented to be successful.   

Arel’s secret – effort – comes from his personal experience as a successful student and entrepreneur.  Numerous studies and authors agree with him.  Angela Duckworth, psychologist and distinguished professor at the University of Pennsylvania, is well known for her research on “Grit”.  Among the high achievers that she studied, grit (aka conscientiousness) is a common factor and outweighs IQ in predicting success.   

Watch Arel’s “Secret to Student Success” TedxTalk 

Take Action 

Are you struggling with an assignment or a class?  Adopt a “growth mindset”.  Your struggle has nothing to do with your IQ or your talent.  Instead, try strategically increasing your effort.  Make an appointment to meet with your teacher, raise your hand to ask questions, find a study partner who is doing well in the class.  Push yourself to work a little harder to improve your performance in the second half of the year.  

read more

Are you a procrastinator?

Are you a procrastinator?  Tim Urban, writer and blogger, thinks that deep down maybe all of us are procrastinators in some way.  In this funny TedTalk, Tim explains what’s going on inside the mind of a procrastinator and why we all need to take hold of our instant gratification monkey and get moving toward our goals.   

Watch “Inside the Mind of a Procrastinator”  

Take Action
Now that you’ve spent the last 15 minutes procrastinating by watching that TedTalk, time to get cracking.  Are you still finishing college applications?  Do you have an assignment you haven’t started?  Or maybe there is something bigger – something without a deadline.  What have you been procrastinating on and what can you start making progress toward today?    

read more

5 Myths about Paying for College

myth debunked

Here are 5 myths about paying for college that counselors often hear.  Don’t fall victim to these myths! 

1. My family maketoo much money to qualify for financial aid.
This is one of the biggest myths out there. You may not qualify for aid at one school, and qualify for lots of money at another school (see blog How Do You Get Money for College?)

2. It costs more to go out-of-state than to stay in-state. 
Not so. With increased tuition rates in many states, it is not always cheaper to stay in-state.  There are out of state tuition waivers available for many students. Also, colleges offer scholarships to students for athletes, scholars, certain majors, leadership, and other categories. Don’t narrow your list of colleges to just in-state schools.

3. It cost more to go to a private school than a public school.
Not necessarily.  Each family situation is unique and you may find it will cost less for your family if you attend a private school.  See blog: Can you Pay Less to Go To A More Expensive College? for Jack’s story of paying less at Dartmouth than CSU Los Angeles.

4. Outside scholarships help reduce what you pay out of pocket for college.
Not true. Scholarships don’t necessarily reduce your family’s out of pocket expense unless you pay the full cost of college out of pocket. Scholarships are part of your financial aid package. Colleges may subtract outside scholarships from their own merit awards, or from your student loan/work study allocation.  Ask colleges for their policies. This is why it is in your best interest to explore your choices for college.  Find one that best fits your situation and needs.  

5. Financial aid only helps with tuition.
Financial aid is available to pay for ALL college expenses: tuition, room and board, books, transportation, and personal expenses. Colleges realize you need to buy toothpaste and have a pizza now and then. Financial aid can apply to all of these costs. 

Take Action
GuidedPath offers lots of resources to help you plan for college costs. 

  • Take the EFC Calculator survey to determine your EFC and generate a strategy for reducing college costs. 
  • Read how the College Information Financial Aid Graphs provide insight into the financial aid packages offered to students. 
  • Utilize the Financial Aid Form Report in GuidedPath – it summarizes all the financial aid requirements for each of the schools on your list.   
  • Take a look at these financial aid documents prepared for GuidedPath Families including “Tackling the Basics of Financial Aid” and “How to Compare Financial Aid Offers.” 

read more

Late College Applications – Colleges are still looking for students

Did you get started late applying to colleges? Or perhaps you got your December test scores back and you are reconsidering what colleges you are applying to?  

Don’t worry! There are many colleges that you can apply to in January and after (even some through August). Here are a few tips for finding colleges/universities with open applications: 

  1. Schools with Rolling Admissions: Rolling admission schools review applications essentially in the order that they are received.  These schools will continue to take applications for as long as there are still spaces available in the freshman class.  The college does not wait for all applications to be submitted before giving you an admissions decision.
  2. Check the Regular Decision deadlines:  Many colleges have “regular” decision deadlines between January and March.  Although, your options for financial aid or scholarships may be somewhat limited the later you apply.
  3. Nearby Public Universities:  Public universities, especially those near you, may have local attendance areas.  Being in the local area may help increase your chances of being admitted.  Some have deadlines that are later than other public universities.
  4. Religiously Affiliated Colleges: Some religiously affiliated colleges or universities will have extended application dates.

Take Action
Each college profile lists the application deadline for the school.  Search for colleges in the above categories, then check their application deadlines.  If the deadline has not passed add it to your college list.

read more

Mid-year Checklist

checklist_modified

Welcome back!  You are half way to the end of senior year.  Hopefully your winter break has you refreshed and ready to dive back into school because this is a busy time of year.     

Review this MID YEAR SENIOR CHECKLIST to be sure you are on track.  Don’t delay – there are a lot of time sensitive deadlines in the next few weeks.

1. Meet with your high school counselor 

  • Request a copy of your seventh semester transcript for your records 
  • Request your counselor send transcripts to colleges as needed 
  • Ask about scholarship opportunities 
  • Check on graduation requirements/deadlines 

 2. Check on college applications 

  • Check your email and follow up on any requests for information 
  • Set up college email account if requested by college 
  • Complete any January-February college applications you are still working on 
  • Confirm your test scores have been sent to all your colleges 
  • Confirm all your recommendations have been sent and received by the colleges 
  • Email an update to any colleges about additional honors/awards received since submitting your application

 3. Finalize your financial aid  

  • Talk with your parents about their college budget for you 
  • Attend financial aid workshops with your parents 
  • Check financial aid deadlines for colleges 
  • Check scholarship application deadlines 

Take Action
GuidedPath is designed to help you keep you organized in the application process so that you don’t miss a task or deadline.  Your dashboard will already show many important deadlines (test registration deadlines, college deadlines, etc.) but you can add your own custom tasks.

read more

Mid-year Checklist

checklist_modified

Welcome back from winter break!  Now is the time to review your MID YEAR CHECKLIST.  January is a great time to get organized and jump start your college search.  

1. Meet with your high school counselor 

  • Review your PSAT scores with counselor and parents (if you took it in the fall) 
  • Ask for recommendations for summer programs 
  • Schedule next year’s courses 
  • Schedule your standardized tests for spring 
  • Discuss any school based standardized testing (AP, IB, other) 

2. Gear up for next year 

  • Explore summer programs 
  • Prepare for spring standardized tests using PSAT test scores as a guide 
  • Ask teachers about their recommendation policies (for summer programs, scholarships, or college applications) 
  • Job shadow or intern to learn more about potential careers 
  • Plan college visits

Take Action 

  • Take or review the Course Plan Survey to verify your next year course schedule will fulfill your graduation requirements 
  • Add your Spring testing schedule to GuidedPath in order to get registration and test reminders

read more

Happy 2020!

happynewyear2

It’s the start of a new year and a new decade (possibly – there’s debate about that).  However, there’s no denying that January 1, 2020 is the start of a year full of big changes ahead – graduation, college, new people and places.  Start the New Year off right with a few resolutions:   

  1.  Keep your grades up.  With only one more semester left in high school, you may be tempted to coast in to graduation.  Don’t let “senioritis” get the best of you.  Colleges will look at your final grades and can take back your admission offer if your grades are not up to snuff!   
  2.  Don’t procrastinate!  Another symptom of senioritis is procrastination.  Develop a system to stay on track of your assignments and deadlines.  Creating good habits now will make your freshman year of college will be a piece of cake.
  3. Use social media responsibly.  Does it pass the “parent” test?  If it isn’t something you would want your parent to see- don’t post it. 
  4. Pick up a book!  Make an effort to read a novel each month, or at minimum try reading one long-form journalism piece each week.  Reading will improve your vocabulary and make you a better writer.
  5. Make someone smile.  Find ways to bring happiness into someone’s life each day.

 Happy New Year from the GuidedPath team. 

 

read more