Monthly Archives: April 2015

College Admissions’ Publishers Rankings Anxiety

Rankings Publications such as the US News & World Report Best Colleges use primarily non-subjective criteria to rank the best Colleges and their selectivity. This is why holistic Colleges still need to be aware of the profile of the typical admitted student, including their GPA, class rank and test scores. I call this phenomenon Publisher Ranking Anxiety. Do you want evidence of Publisher Ranking Anxiety? Let’s look at Stanford University, which has a reputation for applying a holistic approach to their Admissions. Go to and type in Stanford in the enter College name box. Choose the Admission tab and scroll down to Selection of Students. Many factors that can impact admission are listed, and factors are categorized as either Very ImportantImportantConsidered or Not Considered.

What factors does Stanford rank as Very Important?
  • Rigor
  • GPA
  • Standardized Tests
  • Class Rank
  • Recommendations
  • Essay
  • Extracurricular Activities
  • Particular Talent/Ability
  • Character/Personal Qualities

Even Stanford heavily weights GPA, class rank and test scores.

Colleges that take a holistic approach to College admissions choose to look beyond grades and test scores to assess an applicant’s potential, taking into consideration factors that may have made academic success difficult. Colleges also assess a student’s drive and leadership abilities.

Pixabay Human Head in WirePublisher Ranking Anxiety is my term for why Colleges that choose to take a holistic approach to admissions still focus on factors like test scores and GPA, because they are still worried how they will be ranked by publications such as the US News & World Report.

There was an interesting article in August of 2013 in the NY Times on holistic admissions. The author became an “external reader” for Berkeley, helping rate College applicants on a scale of 1-5. This article confirms what we already know – Admissions is complicated.

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PARENTS: Why Should I Help My Child Find the Right College?

Every parent of high-school aged children tells me, “No one helped me find a College to attend when I was in High School!”.  Most then go on to say “I wish they had.” and “There’s no way I could have figured out how and where to apply, in today’s College environment.”.  A few (brave? ignorant?) parents say proudly “I am letting my kid be in charge of this process.  I THINK it’s going pretty well.”

The #1 LOGICAL reason to help your child find the right College? 

Does money motivate you?

Does money motivate you?

  1. A student left to their own devices may not realize that a private school may be much more liberal with financial aid than the public school in their state: in-state public school tuition costs can actually be MORE expensive than a private College!
  2. They may not figure out that a reach school is MUCH less likely to offer merit aid than a safety school.
  3. Neither of you may realize that you can contest FAFSA’s OR CSS Profile’s assessment of your ability to pay, if  there are extraordinary circumstances in your home that were not accurately reflected in your financial aid forms.  (Are there extra family members living in the home that increase your expenses?  Do you have extensive medical bills that you are struggling to pay off?)
  4. Or they may not think about money at all, and be extremely disappointed when they get into their dream school, only to hear you say “There’s no way we can afford for you to attend that school”, after you meet with the College’s financial aid officer and determine the costs.

The #1 EMOTIONAL reason to help your child search for the right College?

We live in a small town, my daughters attend a small High School. When I asked my Sophomore to tell me what she would want in a College, she said “I want a BIG College in a BIG town”.  In other words, not what I have now!

Pixabay Kids Happy at Computer

Help Your Student Make a College Choice That Will Make Them HAPPY

I found a medium-to-small College NEAR a big town that I was sure she would love, and took her on a tour.  She loved that school.  I nicely pointed out that it was not a big College nor in a big town, so remember to be open-minded in her College Search.  That experience was much more powerful for her than me TELLING her that maybe she might not want to attend a big school in a big town.  You know your kid, and you know a lot more about the College experience and life in general – help your 16, 17, 18 year old figure out what they really want, not what they think they want. Remember, they are beginning to consider themselves as adults capable of making their own decisions. The way you give them advice can positively or negatively impact how they take that advice.

The College Search is a whole new game, much more complex and difficult than when we attended College.  I am hearing more and more stories of students coming home from a College and not going back, either attending a Community College while they try to figure out what they want to do, or transferring from College A to College B because they did not like College A. While not the end of the world, transferring Colleges is expensive:

  1. Did they complete the quarter/semester, or become so miserable, they left early?
  2. Will College B accept all of the credits from College A?
  3. Does College A and College B have different core requirements?  Most likely!

This all translates to more tuition, as it will likely take longer to graduate.

Transferring Colleges is disruptive and stressful, even if that transfer is the best thing for the student.  Do the academic calendars line up, or is the student sitting at home waiting to start College B, wondering if they have made a mistake, or possibly feeling like they somehow failed?  It’s easier to start at a College at the same time as the rest of the Freshman, who are all new to the environment.  That transition is HARD, which is why a key factoid Colleges share is their Freshman retention rate.  Colleges implement many programs for incoming Freshman to get oriented and to feel they belong, to increase that retention rate.  Coming in later that year or in future years can be a hard transition, both academically and socially.

Pixabay StressfulHelp your student!  If you don’t have the time or tend to butt heads, find the money to hire a College Counselor.  It may not come cheap, but outside buying a home, your child’s post-High School education will likely be the biggest investment you make (or the biggest loans your child acquires).  Spending some money up-front will likely save you money in the long run, and net a better outcome for your child’s happiness and success.

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*** is a division of Complete Systems, LLC ***


Setting Realistic Expectations with Limited Knowledge – The Early College Search

How do you set realistic expectations for your eligibility at selective Colleges before you have taken Standardized Tests or otherwise demonstrated your academic abilities?

The Early College Search Question You are on top of your College Search. You (or your child) aren’t yet well into your Junior year, but you want to make sure that you are doing all the right things (academics, extracurriculars, etc.) so that you are an Eligible College Student. Or maybe you want to take advantage of a family trip to see some potential Colleges. Excellent! Now what?

Starting Early is Immensely Helpful, but Requires Strategy

Starting Early is Immensely Helpful, but Requires Strategy

The Realistic Search – Many institutions state they use a holistic approach in their admissions process, which means they are looking beyond (not instead of) test scores and grades when considering your application. BUT that doesn’t mean they don’t heavily weigh your test scores and grades when considering your application. At highly selective Colleges, RARE exceptions may be made for a phenomenal athlete, a young Yo Yo Ma, a student who has overcome amazing obstacles or contributed in a spectacular way in their community (no, I don’t mean you went to the Humane Society every week to walk dogs).

If you don’t fit into one of the exceptional categories, you need to be aware that a student that doesn’t match a school’s academic (grades, test scores) profile is less likely to be accepted into that institution. Furthermore, these so-called “reach” schools are much less likely to offer you merit aid. Long story short, be realistic and compare your academic profile to that of a typical accepted student to know whether a particular school is a “safety” “match” or “reach” school. Remember that comparing your academic profile to the typical admitted student as your sole criteria for whether you are likely to be accepted into a College is oversimplifying the Admissions process.

PARENTS: Motivating Your Student by Exposing Them to a Great Institution A great way to motivate your child to do well in High School is to expose them to a great institution that motivates them. I don’t think too many kids would walk on Stanford’s campus and not think, “Wow, I’d like to go here!”. (When my kid said that, I said “I’d like to go here too!”) Downside: if there is no way their academic record or your wallet are going to make that school possible, you may be setting them up for disappointment. On the other hand, never say never when it comes to your child getting into a “reach” school. I think you need to make an educated decision about what schools to expose to your child, as motivation.

Report Card

There are ways you can use your limited knowledge and project some answers to help you target your search.

The Early College Search Answer – You may not be far enough in your high school education to know where you GPA is heading, especially as you might choose to add some more rigorous courses (Honors, AP) into your workload as an upper classmen. And at most, you have only taken the PSAT. But there are ways you can take your limited knowledge and project some answers to help you target your search. And there are many things you should be doing now to make sure you are an Eligible College Student.

Extending Limited Knowledge – This College Board webpage provides information to help analyze your PSAT scores, including a chart to convert Sophomore year PSAT scores to likely Junior year PSAT scores, and a chart to convert Junior year PSAT scores to likely SAT Scores (see Standardized Tests and  When Do I Take Which Tests? if you are thinking “huh?”).  This information is for 2014. If you are looking for the same information for a more current year, type psat to sat conversion chart (and the year) in your internet search engine. Think about how you handle the demands of a more rigorous class and how your extracurricular activities and personal life are impacting your ability to study and apply yourself in class. If you have not been applying yourself, now is a good time to make changes and set goals. A College will be impressed if you bring up your grades after a slow start, even if your overall GPA is not stellar. See Grades and Test Scores – How do I Fix This? if you feel your academic record doesn’t reflect your abilities.

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*** is a division of Complete Systems, LLC ***