College decisions

Waiting, waiting, waiting...



Mary Dell Harrington of Grown and Flown joins us today to talk about the ups and downs students -- and parents -- weather as the wait for regular decisions winds down. It's always nice to have a fellow traveler with whom to share the experience. Read on for a friend's perspective...


Thick or Thin Envelope?

Welcome to the end of the waiting period, the last few weeks of March where kids who applied to colleges via regular decision still remain in the dark about whether they will receive the “thick or thin envelopes.” Our youngest child is one of those seniors and she (and I) know that the April 1 notification date is no longer some distant date in the future. It is practically now.

I have been down this road before with our son and his friends when they graduated from high school five years ago. I work as a PTA volunteer in the snack bar where we sell bagels, Snapples, and a host of comfort foods to hungry kids. From mid-December on, seniors accepted via early decision bounced up to the counter wearing new logo sweatshirts and broad smiles, expressing relief that it was all over. They could now finally begin to imagine themselves the following fall in Syracuse or Nashville or wherever. No more wondering, no more work to do.

Seniors: Listen to Spock, Not the Scary Stories!



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

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

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

And here's a mantra for you: It's not where you go, it's what you do when you get there. Just ask the head of Disney/Pixar Ed Catmull who went to Utah State, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen who went to Washington State, 30 Rock creator Tina Fey who went to University of Virginia…. And the list goes on.


Seniors: Do the Right Thing!

Seniors: Do the Right Thing!

For those of you who have applied under early action, rolling admission, or restrictive early action and been admitted -- Congratulations!

We now encourage you to do the right thing. If you know you will not enroll at some of the other colleges on your list, don’t apply to them. Go back through that original list and cross off those schools. Or, if you’ve already sent in your applications, let those colleges know your plans.

Don’t collect trophies in the form of admission letters from colleges you will never attend.

There are some exceptions to this rule. Some colleges very much want to make their case to you even if you have been admitted to another college under rolling admission, early action, or restrictive early action. If there are schools on your list you can still imagine you might attend, feel welcome to keep your options alive provided you are open to the case those colleges will make. And if you need to compare financial aid or merit scholarship awards, you will definitely want to proceed with applications to the other schools on your list.

As you can see, this isn’t simple. But matters of integrity rarely are. Think carefully, and for any school where you would just be collecting another acceptance letter, let that college know your decision as soon as possible so they can offer your seat to another student who wants to attend.

Seniors: No Double-Depositing!

A nonrefundable deposit will be due with your response to the college where you will enroll. 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.


For more information about admission decisions, including what to do if you're waitlisted, see Chapter 17, “Notification and Making the Decision" in College Admission: From Application to Acceptance, Step by Step.

Seniors, Think Carefully about Where and When You Get Your College News

Seniors, your news from colleges may arrive by snail mail, express, or email. Most colleges now offer a Web look-up option. But think carefully about when and where you want to sign in to get your news and whether you want to have a friend or family with you. Whether your news is good or bad -- and no matter how it comes -- finding out can be an emotional experience that may impact you and distract you more than you think it will. Be cautious.

For more information on deciding where to enroll, wait lists, and sharing your news, see Chapter 17, "Notification and Making the Decision," in College Admission: From Application to Acceptance, Step by Step.

It seems that all the friends I got just got to come interrogate me...

Calling all parents, aunts, cousins, grandfathers, unrelated alumni and well-meaning -- or not -- neighbors…  Tis the season when college admission decisions are about to arrive! So inquiring minds want to know if students have heard from the colleges, what they've heard from the colleges, where they will be going to college… And you don't even have to be a senior to get the third degree. Inquiring minds want to know if 11th graders are looking at parents' alma maters, made captain in lacrosse or are taking the SAT or ACT.

Here's the answer: it's boring, annoying and anxiety-producing and it's not motivating for students to be questioned about their college application process. You -- and your extended family and friends -- need to sit back, take a deep breath and stop. Our fellow bloggers over at Grown and Flown -- parents of two 11th graders -- have a highly entertaining and heartfelt column today on the ten toxic questions everyone should avoid asking any young person engaged in applying to college. They bring just the right recipe of common sense and humor to the subject. Check it out here. And take the advice -- please!

(Special thanks to Lynyrd Skynyrd for the header...)