April is the Craziest Month for Seniors and their Families

Jane Kulow, aka Dr. StrangeCollege, is back with advice for seniors and their families as application season nears the finish line of decisions. 

 

April is the craziest month.

T.S. Eliot may have called April the cruelest month, but for high school seniors that label might go to March. After the long autumn months of writing college applications and the cold winter months of awaiting a response (and hoping for the best), March delivers the stark reality of college admission decisions:  yes, no, or would you like to wait for a possible yes later (at very low odds)?

Which brings us to the craziness of April and the decisions seniors and their families face. Even when the student is accepted into his or her favorite school, most families will want to look closely at each of the colleges offering admission.

Closely, and quickly: the May 1 deadline for the student’s decision fast approaches.

Here’s what many senior households may wish to do this month:

Visit the campus

If you haven’t yet visited the campus, now’s the time to take a look, before anyone writes a deposit check. Virtual visits may be great, but they cannot convey the smell of the freshman dorm, the path from one end of campus to another, or the typical style of students at the school.

Or visit again

Sample Questions, More Details on the Redesigned 2016 SAT

The College Board today released some 250 pages of specifications for the redesigned 2016 SAT, including sample questions. According to Cyndie Schmeiser, chief of assessment for the College Board, today's information includes "everything a student needs to know to walk into that test and not be surprised." However, the College Board announcement stressed that all the information about the redesigned test is in draft form, "not a full reflection of what will be tested," and subject to change.

College Admission reported the major changes in the redesign last month -- Big Changes Coming to the SAT in 2016:

·        The essay isn't gone, but it's optional and will be scored separately. Students will be asked to read a passage and analyze how its author used evidence, reasoning and stylistic elements to build an argument. The essay will be scored on the strength of that analysis, as well as writing ability.

Seniors: No second guessing, no keeping score... and stay committed!

This week we have more great advice for seniors from Mark Moody, Co-Director of College Counseling at Colorado Academy

The most consistent message from our office to students in senior spring is, "Protect your community." Everyone is taking the first steps towards their own journey right now. Next year each of you will be in a place of your choosing, immersed in your own experience. Your opinions of others' choices, and their opinions of yours, aren't really relevant to those decisions. Support each other. Resist the temptation to keep score, or to try to second-guess the complicated, subjective, and unknowable processes by which admission committees arrived at their offers and denials. Don't take disappointment personally, and don't make it personal if someone you know was offered admission to a place you weren't. Enjoy your final weeks of high school, finish strong in the style you're known for, and stay committed to the activities and friendships that have sustained you until now!

Juniors: This one says college, that one says university -- What's in a name?

 

As you research colleges for an initial list of schools to which you may apply, understanding how they "name" or characterize themselves may provide important information. Whether a school is a “college” or a “university” can make a difference.

Most— but not all— colleges and universities offer a liberal education. That doesn’t refer to politics! “Liberal” in this case goes back to the original meaning of the word: “unrestricted.” It’s an educational approach where a student is called on to examine problems and issues from multiple vantage points and learns how to think, communicate, question, and probe. The rationale behind a liberal education is that the world is changing rapidly and training for a specific discipline or job is ultimately less practical than learning how to be ready for a world unknown.

Undergraduate education in the United States is dominated by institutions that hold to the notion that a liberal education is the best way to prepare for a life of significance, meaning, and means. There are, however, also terrificc options that do not insist students be liberally educated.

Be Ready to Listen, Book Parents Weekend and more: Next Steps for Parents

As parents, we know that sometimes the best advice can come from fellow parents who have successfully navigated some developmental step or landmark -- or land mine -- in their children's lives. Here are two of the savviest moms we know -- Lisa Endlich Heffernan and Mary Dell Harrington of the excellent blog Grown and Flown -- on next steps for parents of seniors.

 

This is a moment to rejoice.  Your child was accepted to college and all of your effort and his have resulted in this success. There may be some small disappointments, there may euphoria and there may be some big decisions ahead, but this is one of life’s big moments and it should be noted and celebrated. Let your nearly grown child know just how proud you are and acknowledge how much of his effort it took to get to this moment. 

Once your family has taken a time to savor this special moment, there are a few more practical matters that need your 

Book the revisits.

Your child may be making a very real decision between two or more schools they have not seen in a year, or more.  See if the school has official revisit days when pre-frosh return for an organized program.  If such a program exists, make certain to book a place in the program and hotel reservations if needed.  If there is not official program, make plans for your teen to take another 

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

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

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

Seniors: No Double Depositing

May 1, the National Candidates Reply Date, is the deadline for formally notifying one college you will accept its offer of admission -- and sealing the deal with a check for the nonrefundable deposit.  Keep in mind that you have signed a certification on your application form promising you will send a deposit to only one institution.  Double- depositing— sending deposits to two or more schools in order to keep your options open— takes places away from other students.  Your acceptance letter is conditional, and it’s easier than you think for the colleges to find out if you have deposited at more than one institution. If you ignore your ethical obligation and send deposits in to more than one school, you run the risk of both colleges rescinding your admission.

 

Financial Aid Checklist for Decision Time!

It's decision time! Your financial aid award letters will usually arrive with your letters of acceptance, or soon thereafter. Even though you will be celebrating and contemplating your choices, you will also need to be focused and diligent about evaluating your financial aid offers. College advisor Alice Kleeman is back with advice and answers for your questions during this important time.

 

·        You will often receive financial aid offers (also called "financial aid packages" or "financial aid award letters") with your admit letter or shortly thereafter.  Review these offers carefully. Ask questions at your College and Career Center or Guidance Office if you don't understand your letters.

·        Colleges vary tremendously in their cost of attendance, present their costs in different ways, and offer different amounts of financial aid in different combinations. This can make it difficult to understand which combination of price and student aid award is best. Here are some tools for comparing financial aid awards:  

                      US Department of Education College Affordability and Transparency Center

                      College Board Big Future

Decisions: Do you have the patience...

High school counselor Barbara Simmons joins us today in our ongoing series of reflections, advice and practical guidance for students and parents on all things decisions. Read on to find out how an ancient Chinese text, the Tao Te Ching, also known as "The Way," may offer some guidance: 

 

Decision – that word even has the sound of  ‘final’ –landing on the suffix of ‘ion’ – ‘zuhn.’ "Decision” originates from the Latin which means “to settle” on something – having cut off other options.

The definitions provided for decision refer to making a judgment – making up one’s mind – and, perhaps like many of you, I frequently have a difficult time making up my mind – even though I know the satisfied and grateful feeling I have when I DO make up my mind.  But the “trick” or “key” to decision-making comes well before the “making up one’s mind".  Decision making has as its foundation knowing our minds well enough to make our minds up, to settle on something without regrets.

Especially for members of the senior class in high school, there ARE decisions that arise in different times in one’s life that must be made when two seemingly VERY GOOD options appear. But it has also happened that two choices appear that would seem to be clearly marked as “good decision” vs. “bad decision” and circumstance might have us choose the seemingly less desirable option.