Tag Archives: knowledge is power

Summarizing Important Variables

Defining and then summarizing important variables is a great tool for comparing options. In the College search, this process begins with deciding what should be included on the list of important variables to compare, but is refined as you realize you are willing to compromise when a College comes short on one of your variables but remains on the potentials list. Here is an example:

As you compare Colleges, you realize that a College you really like doesn’t offer both degrees you are interested in pursuing. Attending this College would mean either passing on one of those degrees or possibly lengthening your time in College, as you have to earn the degrees from two different Colleges. On the other hand, the College you really like has a strong music program and has both intramural and club swimming. The other Colleges that offer both degrees either don’t have much of a music program or don’t offer club swimming. You decide to leave that College on your potentials list, which leaves you pondering what is most important to you. If the College that doesn’t have a double degree isn’t eliminated, are there other Colleges you should re-consider, that you eliminated because they don’t offer the double degree? Does not having a strong music and swimming program a deal breaker?

Pixabay Spreadsheet

Breakdown of Important Variables

Here is a sample Breakdown of Important Variables Whenever possible, I try to make these breakdowns in Spreadsheet format, to make them both more sortable and for ease of comparison. But sometimes a spreadsheet won’t do, as in this case. Here is an explanation of what made it onto this sample breakdown.

  • The first four items all have to do with money:
  1. Tuition, Room & Board
  2. Scholarships
  3. Graduation Rate
  4. AP Credit

The first 2 items have to do with how much the College costs on an annual basis, the next 2 items are identifying how long you might attend the College. Notes are included about guaranteed housing or minimal required years on campus, in case how long you can/must stay on campus is an important variable for you. Knowing how many years you may be staying on campus can be important, because room and board may be less or more expensive off campus. If it’s difficult to graduate in 4 years and/or you are receiving very little AP credit, then you will likely spend more time on campus getting your degree, which increases the amount of tuition you will pay.

  • Campus Size

You may decide either the physical size of a campus, number of enrolled students and/or average class size is an important consideration for you. The person who made this breakdown was concerned mainly about the average class size, but wanted to consider the number of students, because even in a large school with small classes, the campus dynamic usually changes when there are many students on campus. They also wanted to consider whether graduate students were on campus, because that might mean graduate student teachers, less research opportunities for undergraduate students or possibly access to graduate level classes as an undergraduate. They chose to add campus size, because they felt it would be a consideration if the campus was unusually large, which might mean long walks to get to some classes, or unusually dense, in terms of the number of students compared to the campus size. In this case, there was one College that was unusually dense and another College that was unusually large. This might not be an important variable, but it may become one if it varies widely from the norm. I suggest looking not merely at average class size, but also how many classes have less than 20 students, more than 50 students, etc. You may choose to not list all of that information in this Breakdown, but you would add a comment if a College was unusual in the way the Class Size broke down.

  • Activities

The last 3 items have to do with activities that are important to the prospective student. Note that these items are not listed as a yes or no. The activities summary include factors the student has discovered that are relevant to their particular situation. For example, this student is interested in performing in a College Orchestra. They’ve learned that some Colleges give priority to music majors, which is important if this student is not planning on being a music major but hopes to play in the Orchestra.

Note that none of the items in this Sample Breakdown include any emotional/gut feedback. That information is compared separately. This breakdown is a logical summary to help you be practical about your potential Colleges. If the student fell in love with a College that did not show favorably in this Sample Breakdown, they will have to spend time either a) justifying why this College should remain on the potential College list, b) reconsidering what are the most important variables, or c) eliminating this College from the potential list.

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Be a Strategic College Applicant

After deciding WHERE to apply, a strategic College applicant must decide WHEN and HOW to apply to your potential Colleges.

Deadlines & Timelines helps you track what needs to happen before you can apply as well as follow deadlines. Early Decision, Early Action, Regular Decision, Rolling Admission and Restrictive Early Action help you determine the pros and cons of each application plan and identify which application plan may be best for your situation.

Pixabay Spreadsheet

Analysis of Application Plans Acceptance Rates

But that is a lot of information, so you need to create tools to help you evaluate how/when you will apply to each potential College – you need to be a Strategic College Applicant. For example, make a spreadsheet that breaks down acceptance rates by Application Plan for each of your potential Colleges. The spreadsheet will quickly help you identify clear advantages and disadvantages, in terms of acceptance rates.

Pixabay Sharing Information

Share Your Experience

Please leave a comment and share how you made your decision on WHEN and HOW to apply to your potential Colleges.

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Do I Fit the Adjusted Student Profile?

Pixabay A Different BirdAs you look at Colleges’ stats, you should begin to recognize variations from the norm. These variations are important in understanding both the nuances/personality of that College and how those nuances might affect your chances of being admitted. Once you know these nuances, you can assess how you feel about them and determine if you fit the typical student profile, after adjusting for something that does or does not apply to you (varsity athlete, or first generation to attend College, for example). Here are some examples.

Student Athletes – Chances of Being Admitted
Are you looking primarily at smaller, Division 3 private Colleges? Maybe you’ve checked out the 6 Colleges you are interested in, and noticed that typically 7-15% of males and 3-10% of females at those Colleges are varsity athletes. But then you notice that nearly 30% of a particular College’s male students are varsity athletes. It would be a good idea to determine why there are so many male student athletes at this College, and to adjust the typically admitted student profile to adjust for male athletes only (if you are a male athlete) or non-male athletes only (if you are not a male athlete), to get a better sense of your chances of being accepted at that College. Admissions Offices may have different Admissions standards, depending on whether you fit into a particular category. This will likely require asking current or recent students about their understanding of the reasons for the variation from the norm, as well as a frank discussion with an Admissions Officer, as Colleges don’t readily publish this sort of information.

Pixabay Swimming PoolStudent Athletes – Nuances
I found this example to be very interesting. The Claremont Colleges are a Consortium of 5 Colleges. The Consortium groups their varsity athletes onto combined teams. One team is comprised of students from Harvey Mudd (one of the country’s top math, science and engineering undergraduate Colleges), Scripps (an all womens’ College) and Claremont McKenna. The other team is comprised of students from Pomona and Pitzer. Here is a breakdown of the percentage of student athletes from the Harvey Mudd, Scripps and Claremont McKenna team:

COLLEGE % Male Athletes % Female Athletes
Harvey Mudd 16% 13%
Scripps 0% 15%
Claremont McKenna 40% 37%

One thing that makes these variations in athletics participation even more remarkable is that Claremont McKenna has 34% and 62% more undergraduate students than Scripps and Harvey Mudd, respectively. As I asked about these significant variations in varsity student participation, I learned some important information. Harvey Mudd, typically a very technical school, tends to have less athletically-orientated students (shall I say nerds?). Scripps, being an all womens College, has no male athletes and for some reason has less female athletes. So Claremont McKenna fills out the team with a lot of student athletes. That leads to the question, do more athletes apply to Claremont McKenna because they want to be a student athlete and/or to socialize with other athletes, or because they believe (or in fact are) more likely to be accepted into Claremont McKenna? Either way, I would certainly be considering whether my being or not being an athlete at one of these Claremont Colleges impacts my chances of Admission. But these athlete stats might also tell you something about these College’s atmosphere. Whether accurate or not, I’ve been told Claremont McKenna is more of a jocks College, and Harvey Mudd is more of a non-jocks/nerdy College. Beyond academics at these Colleges, you may have an opinion on which atmosphere appeals to your personality.

Cappex provides a fair amount of athletics information, including how many male and female students participate in a particular sport. College Niche actually provides what percentage of students are varsity athletes.

First Generation College Student

Likewise, determining if a College accepts a larger number of first generation College students might tell you something about that college. Do they have a mission to encourage all students to become College graduates, so they accept more first generation applicants? Did they realize that as they became more selective, they had a less diverse student body (which often but not always goes hand in hand), so have made it a policy to accept more first generation College students? Maybe they live in a more socio-economic diverse region, so they encounter more first-generation College applicants? Maybe their need-blind (they consider the applicant separate from their financial need) admissions policy translates to more students with parents who did not attend College and therefore require more financial aid to apply to that College? Time to find out more about why they have a larger number of first generation College students and ponder what that means, in terms of both the campus atmosphere and your chances of being admitted.

Pixabay SpreadsheetAs discussed in Organize Your College Data, it’s helpful to create a spreadsheet with a quick breakdown of the typically admitted student and related information, including number of applicants, acceptance rate, test scores, financial aid, endowment and your thoughts on whether a College is a Target (or Match), Reach or Safety school. It’s important to modify the criteria in this spreadsheet to target your special interests/situation.

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Finding Colleges With Strong Programs in Your Intended Degree

Pixabay Undecided

You may have no idea what you want to study. But even if you think you know what you want to study, you might change your mind

I’ve read articles stating that 80% of College students change their major at least once. Therefore, picking a College solely because of their reputation in a field of study you are interested in is probably not a great idea. On the other hand, if you think you want to be an Engineer, you might as well pick a College with a strong Engineering program. The question is, how do you find Colleges with strong programs in your intended degree?

If you are already keen to do a particular thing, you should certainly consider Colleges’ reputations in that field, but not as the only variable when considering a College’s Academic qualities. Maybe you start out in Engineering and then decide you would prefer to be a Surgeon. If the College you chose for Engineering has a good Science/Pre-Med program, then great. Otherwise you will be wondering if you should transfer Colleges. But keep in mind that if you are looking at years of post-undergraduate schooling to obtain a Masters or higher degree, maybe a College with a pretty good Science program is all you need for undergraduate school.

How do you figure out which Colleges have a strong program? 

  • Check to see where accomplished Professionals in that field of study attended College.
  • Ask those accomplished Professionals which College programs they hear good things about. You may hear that Professionals in that field went to a mixed-bag of undergraduate Colleges, but generally attended 1 of 5 strong Graduate schools.
  • Research options on the internet, in articles, publications for that field of study and various College-Search resources.
  • Clarify your research with an Admission Officer or with a knowledgeable Professional: is the specialty at this particular College more research-based when you are more interested in tangible applications? Is this particular College, which is listed in many articles as strong in writing, really strong in creative writing, while you are interested in non-fiction?
Pixabay Spreadsheet

Colleges With Strong Writing Programs

As you find potential Colleges with strong programs in your field of interest, add them to a spreadsheet. This spreadsheet tracks Colleges with Strong Writing Program, as an example.

Pixabay Sharing Information

Share Your Experience

Have you found a great resource for learning about strong College programs? Please share it by adding a Comment.

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What Parents Can Teach Their Kids About Money – If Your Parents Didn’t Teach You About Money, Read On…

The numerous links at the bottom of this post are just a few of the MANY articles and advice regarding what parents can teach their kids about money. Even if you have diligently taught your kids about money, you can find some good advice in these and many other articles. If you haven’t been teaching your kids about money, maybe these articles will get you started. If your parents haven’t taught you about money, please read on.

Financial Literacy
Champlain College’s Center for Financial Literacy, using national data, has graded all 50 states and the District of Columbia (D.C.) on their efforts to produce financially literate high school graduates. Amazingly, 26 states received grades of C, D or F; 29% had grades of D or F.

The first thing I find interesting about this study is that we are grading whether High Schools are doing a good job of teaching financial literacy. I believe that financial literacy is one of the most important life skills, so supplementing the financial awareness lessons learned at home in the classroom is a great idea. But I worry that High Schools aren’t always supplementing, but actually teaching basic financial literacy skills that aren’t being adequately addressed in student’s homes.

Pixabay Grade of CThe second thing I find interesting is that a lot of States are failing at this task. This confirms my strong belief that financial awareness must be fully taught at home. Even a 6 year old can be taught something about saving money. Here are a few examples of how my husband and I have taught financial literacy at home:

  1. One of the first lessons we taught our kids is that there are people in life who have money, and their are people in life who spend money like they have money. We stressed that often the people with the most money are the least likely to spend it on frivolous things. I remember one of my daughters coming home from elementary school saying she was pretty sure we were one of the poorer families at her school. That was most definitely not the case, so I was curious as to how she made that assumption. She said, “They have nice cars, go on big trips and they have lots of cool gear like Xboxes.” I understand that because we are in the enviable position of having enough disposable income, we get to pick and choose how we treat our kids to the child-luxuries of life (as in, the things they consider important). I also completely relate to families who can’t afford a lot of things wanting to treat family members to small luxuries, to make up for not being able to do all the things families with more money can choose to do. I grew up in a large family without a lot of money to spare and understand the dynamic.
  2. We regularly talked to our kids about ways we save money on expenditures, whether it’s buying an item in bulk to get it for a better price, finding coupons, waiting for a sale, or just plain waiting. Do I need a new pair of tennis shoes, a handbag or whatever, or can it wait? That doesn’t mean we didn’t splurge, but we make a conscious decision to splurge ON OCCASION. For example, we live in a small town without a lot of shopping. That means that sometimes finding the right item when we were in a larger town meant we didn’t have the option of waiting for the sale, we just needed to get the item when we found it. When we did not making smart budget-wise decisions, we try to discuss our reasoning to our kids.
  3. Pixabay Teddy Bear in Sweater

    How do you negotiate purchasing the luxuries of life?

    Whenever my kids asked me whether we could buy something, whether it was a box of cereal at the grocery store, or a new sweater at the mall, my first question was always, “How much does it cost?”. It amazed me how long it took them to figure out they should know the answer to that question before they asked. It’s not a matter of whether we can afford that particular item (fortunately, they were often asking for something that didn’t cost a lot). By asking the about the price, I am asking whether they have considered whether it is a good value; for example is there a similar item for less cost, or maybe a better quality item that will last longer for a similar price? As they grew older, they were much better at saying “Can I get this dress? It’s on sale for $xx, which is a lot less than the dresses I saw at the other store. I think it would be great for the wedding we are going to next week.” The answer was more likely to be yes, because they demonstrated that they were being thoughtful about this expenditure.

  4. One way we save money on a daily basis is rarely eating out. Yes, it’s time consuming to plan, purchase, prepare and clean up after each meal, but it’s also MUCH less expensive and MUCH healthier.
  5. Pixabay Calculator

    People are usually more careful with their own money

    Saving for something special was another important life skill we tried to teach our kids. We did buy them each a smart phone and paid for their data and cell plans. But we chose to buy the plan that allowed 2 GB per phone – if they went over that 2GB of data allowance, they had to pay for the overage. If they cracked the screen, they had to decide whether to pay to replace the screen or save up for a replacement phone.

    One of our daughters wanted an iPad, which we definitely considered a luxury item. She saved most of her allowance for over 6 months, worked in our yard, being paid “a penny a weed”. Saving enough for an iPad was still a struggle, so we gave her cash as a birthday gift, giving a little more than we normally would, indicating that we were trying to match her efforts to help her attain her goal. When she had enough for that Ipad, she was much more thrilled with her purchase than if we had just bought her an iPad for her birthday. We hope that she applies that same financial constraint and work ethic when she buys her first car, rather than taking out a loan that she pays back over 5 years.

  6. We all set our own financial priorities, and things we consider essential others might think is an unnecessary luxury. My advice is to make sure you are being thoughtful, and consider how your actions demonstrate your values much more distinctly than what you tell your kids about money.

Pixabay Piggy BankWhy Allowances Are a Good Idea
After demonstrating to our kids through our own actions what we do to save money, we needed them to start setting their own budgets and learning how to live within those budgets. That’s why allowances make sense. I had no allowance (and was given no spending money) when I was a kid, and thought it would be smart to do the same for my kids. Then I read an article about how the best way for your kids to learn how to manage their money is to start at a young age. The only way that I could think of to make that work was to give them an allowance.

Here’s how we started: beginning in 1st grade, they received a weekly allowance of 75 cents. BUT, a quarter was put in a box they decorated for College Savings, a quarter was put in a box they decorated for Long Term Savings, and a quarter was put in their piggy bank, for spending money. It didn’t take them long to realize that 25 cents didn’t buy much, so they were forced to save their piggy bank money for several weeks or even months before they could even think of using it to buy something. That might seem cruel, but the reality is that we were already buying everything for them – clothes, food and non-essentials. Each year on their birthday, their allowance was increased, but a third of the allowance went into each savings category. Once they had enough money, we deposited these funds into a bank account. Unforuntately, with very low interest rates, they didn’t get to see much growth in their savings, beyond what they were adding each week. Eventually, they had enough money saved they could choose to purchase a couple of stocks, if they wished.

Their allowance made a big jump when they started High School, because we told them that while we still bought the food they ate, the clothes they wear, their shampoo and other essentials, they now had to buy their own make-up, movie tickets, optional meals out (going out for ice cream with friends, for example) and other discretionary spending. We realized that as they gained more independence, going on outings with friends without us, there would be more occasions where they would have to make decisions regarding how they spent their money. We wanted those discretionary purchases to come from their own discretionary fund, rather than asking us to buy those non-essentials for them.

They quickly learned that between the ticket and concessions, going to a movie theatre was an expensive date night. Their compromise was to either bring in a box of candy to share they had bought for much less at the grocery store, or even better, to suggest to their date that they watch a movie at home via Netflix or video streaming. Sure, that meant I was providing the food, but I really preferred for them to be at our house, so I knew what they were up to. I was willing to take on the cost/effort of providing the food for them and their friends, which was my financial priority. Movie tickets also became a well-appreciate stocking stuffer. I find it interesting when families who I consider to have limited financial means regularly go out for movies. Again, maybe this was how they chose to treat their kids, or maybe movies are an important luxury for them, or possibly, they aren’t really thinking about the cost of that evening out.

Learning the Value of Money Through Work
Nothing teaches a teenager the value of money quicker than having a job.
Busting their butt for hours and making minimum wage is a very quick lesson in finances. It is also a means to teach them that if they want to live off of more than the minimum wage, they needed to acquire more knowledge and skills, which means continuing their education beyond High School. If your kids are earning money through work, make sure that all of their wages don’t go to luxuries.

Does money motivate you?

How do teenagers learn the value of money?

I had always planned on having my kids work when they were in High School, like I did. But between their school sports and other extracurriculars as well as a very rigorous academic workload, working during the school year, other than occasional home/pet/baby sitting, wasn’t an option. Likewise, the summers have not all resulted in regular jobs. We live in a small town with a fairly large University. The competition between College and High School students for summer jobs is fierce, which meant our decision to use summer time to be involved in enrichment and/or academic camps, travel and time with extended family, required flexibility. Employers did not need to accommodate our daughters’ summer schedule, as there was a long line of students behind them willing to work without any time constraints. So unless we have been able finagle an internship or other flexible job, my kids haven’t spent a ton of time working outside the house. I think in the long run, this will be a good decision, as their busy schedule has required them to learn strong time-management skills and their life experiences traveling, etc. make a well-rounded person. But in the short term, I wish they had spent more time working. I felt we had to be more creative and thoughtful in teaching our kids financial literacy because of our choices for how our family used the summer holidays.

How you choose to handle your student working will be customized to your situation. My only suggestion would be to avoid the extremes – don’t let your kids work so many hours their grades and social life (yes, that matters too) suffer, nor let them lay around after school all day with very little to do. We all know that teenagers with lots of free time is a recipe for disaster. I think most teenagers would admit that not having much to do isn’t really a good thing.

Pixabay Playmobile Figures TalkingIt’s Never Too Late
I realize that most of you reading this website don’t have a toddler at home. But regardless of the age of your child when you begin to actively teach financial literacy, it’s never too late to have a big impact on your child’s ability to manage money. Even if this has not been a big topic of discussion in your home, as you are preparing to send your child off to College, you can have some great conversations regarding money management. I think it’s important to not have those conversations be about anxiety. If you are fearful about money, try to not convey that anxiety, express it more as a concern, and make the discussion constructive. There is a lot of stress on a new College student’s shoulders, dumping more stress on them as they arrive at College does not help them.

I found it difficult to ask other parents of College-aged students how they have arranged the College Budget – this can be a sensitive topic. I decided to break the ice here by sharing our College budget plan. If you are comfortable doing so, please post a comment sharing your family’s College budget plan.

Articles with Advice on Teaching Your Kids About Money:






http://payoffpilot.com/financial-tips-advice-students/ (Thanks to the Girl Scouts Troop who alerted me to this website!)




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Teachers’ Letters of Recommendation

Many Colleges request two Letters of Recommendation (LOR) from Teachers who have  recently taught you an Academic Core Subject (English, Foreign Language, Math, Science or Social Studies).

The Teachers you choose will write one letter each that goes to all of the Colleges you apply to, often via The Common Application.

Unrestricted Stock Small Blue Peacock

What makes you stand out from the crowd?

An easy way to estimate how highly a College considers those LOR is to check Collegedata.com.  Type in the name of a school, choose the Admission tab and scroll down to Selection of Students. Many Factors that can impact admission are listed, including Recommendations.  Factors are categorized as either Very ImportantImportantConsidered or Not Considered.  Generally speaking, selective schools will heavily weight the LOR – they are overwhelmed by applicants with amazing academic qualifications, so hearing from your Teacher what makes you remarkable can make a big impact (and an underwhelming LOR also makes a big impact).

Even if your College of choice lists LOR as Considered, it is a smart practice to procure the best possible LOR, because a) you never know what might put you over the edge from rejected to accepted, or b) it may put you in the running for a Scholarship and c) LOR are one of the few opportunities for someone besides yourself to write about what makes you special (see Establish a Relationship With Your Counselor for the other opportunity).  When Admissions Officers are reviewing hundreds if not thousands of files for many students with good grades, test scores and extracurricular activities, your essays and LOR are your opportunity to stand out from the crowd. If you don’t have good grades, test scores and extracurricular activities, the LOR can help to explain why – Mary is a diligent student who applies herself despite working many hours after school to help pay her family’s medical bills, for example.

Tips for LOR

Unrestricted Stock Graphic Calendar

If you apply ED or EA, your LORs will probably be due by 11/1

1. If you are applying to any Colleges Early Decision or Early Action, those letters will be due approximately 11/1.  Some Colleges also require an earlier application date (maybe 12/1) in order to be considered for Scholarships.  That means if you ask a teacher from your senior year to write that LOR, they will only have gotten to know you for 2-3 months, unless they also taught you in prior years.  You better make a big early impression, or ask a Teacher from your Junior year to write your LOR.  If you are reading this after your Junior year, you may be thinking uh oh, if you can’t think of 2 core subject Teachers from your Junior year who would be willing to write highly of you.  Time to quickly make impressions on your Senior Teachers! See Establish a Relationship With Your Teachers for advice.

Letter of Recommendation Image

Do some of your Teachers have a reputation for writing great LOR?

2. Talk to older students to see if they have learned anything about which Teachers write good LOR – often times students don’t really know, because the letters are submitted directly by the teacher onto the Common Application, with no copy going to the student.  STORY: An excellent student who was interested in writing asked their disorganized English Teacher to write them a LOR; they were worried about the outcome, but they felt it was important to have an English Teacher’s LOR, because they were indicating on their application that they wanted to be an English major.  The Teacher submitted the LOR and then apologized, admitting they waited until the last minute and didn’t do a very good job.

3. Ask Teachers who you think write well and will praise you highly.  Enough said.

4. Your Teachers are being inundated with requests to write LOR.  The longer you wait to ask them, the more frustrated/stressed the Teacher, which may not be good for your LOR.  Give your Teachers as much notice as possible that you would like them to write you a LOR.  If you plan to ask a Teacher from your Junior year, give them a heads up the end of your Junior year.  If they want to wait until the next academic year to write your LOR, remind them immediately in the fall.  Likewise, if you are asking your Senior Teachers, let them know as early into the year as possible.

Unrestricted Stock Open Blank Book

What qualities do you want to emphasize to prospective Colleges?

4. Make it easier for your Teacher to write a LOR and use this opportunity to highlight traits you think would impress the Colleges you are applying to, by creating a resume tailored to that Teacher.  Teachers usually want to help you get into your dream College, so you need to help them help you.  Specify in the beginning of your resume what traits or qualities you would like them to highlight in their LOR. What makes you an outstanding student?  The resume you hand your Science Teacher may indicate that you want to highlight your ingenuity and ability to solve problems in unusal ways.  The resume you hand your Language Teacher may indicate you want to highlight your willingness to spend time outside of class organizing activities for your French class that resulted in a more cohesive experience. Remember that these LOR will go to ALL prospective Colleges, so you want the message to be valuable for all of the Colleges you are considering.  These resumes are EXTREMELY important, so it’s important to spend time thinking about what you want to include in them. See Resume for more advice.

5. Your LOR resume should only briefly cover your accomplishments that are already listed on your academic record. It might be important for the letter-writer to know that you have taken 5 AP classes, but they don’t need to know which classes, so they can list them in the letter – your transcript will tell the College Admissions Officer those details, don’t waste that valuable space. But if you have taken 4 AP Science classes, for example, that is an important item to point out in your resume. Likewise, the Teacher writing your LOR should have access to your High School Academic Record, so they don’t need a list of classes you took and grades you received.

6. You might choose to ask a Teacher from a subject in which you have not necessarily excelled, if you have been diligent.  You might choose to ask your math Teacher to write you a LOR, because even though math is your weakest subject, that Teacher has recognized how you have persevered despite difficulties.

Handwritten thank you notes are the best. Make an effort at your verbiage.

Handwritten thank you notes are the best. Make an effort at your verbiage.

7. Send a hand-written thank you note to anyone who writes you a LOR, preferably along with a small gift.  Starbucks gift card?  Homemade cookies? During those long class hours, you’ve probably picked up a lot about a Teacher’s personal life.  They will appreciate that you gave them homemade cookies, because they LOVE homemade cookies, but never get them.

Do not underestimate the importance of Letters of Recommendation.  How well you handle this process has direct impact on your eligibility.

Does your High School have their own nuances to the LOR process? Better ask your Upperclassmen – time to acquire information via Word of Mouth!

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Admissions Interview Preparation

Pixabay Job Interview

Initial Impressions During an Interview are Important

You are a rising Senior or Senior in High School. You have scheduled an interview with an Admissions Officer or Alumni. Even if they tell you that the Interview is not highly considered, a very weak or very strong impression can still have a major impact on your chances of being admitted. Some Colleges highly consider your interview. Interviews are your opportunity to share your narrative, explaining apparent weaknesses in your resume and highlight your strengths. It’s time to make an impression, which means it’s time to prepare!

If you want to know a College’s general policy regarding the importance of interviews, go to Go to Collegedata.com and type in <College name> 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, including Interview. These variables are categorized as either Very ImportantImportantConsidered or Not Considered.

College Interview Advice Resources:

My general advice:

  1. Check out the Admissions webpage, their marketing materials and and any interactions you have had with the College. What personality comes out in these materials? It’s a quality they are likely actively trying to exude and encourage. Quirky, offbeat? Probably don’t want to sit through the interview stone-faced and without demonstrating your personality (although even if their tone is not quirky and offbeat, please don’t sit through the interview stone-faced!). Aggressive, intense? Better demonstrate your confidence and high goals.
  2. Even if you have read and retained a lot of information about the College, your memory may let you down at a time of stress, such as during your interview. To help you retain what you learned about a College, and to have notes to refer to during the interview if your memory lets you down,
    Pixabay Spreadsheet

    College Summary Pages

    I suggest creating College Summary Pages. These pages include basic College information you should know for your Admissions Interview, as well as your notes on why you love this College and questions you would like to ask about the College. Whoever is interviewing you will be impressed by your organized, thoughtful approach to the interview when you ask relevant questions that can’t be easily answered on the College’s website.

How Important is Interview Prep?

Sometimes you feel too busy to do all this prep. Here’s my why you prep story:

My daughter had an interview with a Connector, set up with the aid of another Connector (see the bottom of my Word of Mouth post if you don’t know what a Connector is). The Connector had the ability to impact my daughter’s visibility at a College she loved. In fact, during the meeting with the Connector, he set up a meeting for her at that College (for the NEXT MORNING, because he was so well connected and respected). Here’s the deal about this Connector – he was INTENSE! High energy, kept company with high-profile CEO’s, non-stop varied interests and activities. This was a successful and powerful person, doing our friend who connected us a favor by sharing some of his time with us to give advice and assistance.


Review Sample Interview Questions and Rehearse Your Answers

On the way to the meeting, I suggested to my daughter that she go through some sample interview questions and advice, which she did half-heartedly. During the meeting, this Connector asked her several direct, probing questions – “What did you learn from your experience traveling abroad?” “If you love this school, why aren’t you considering that school?”, etc. etc. At first, my daughter did just an OK job of answering these questions, and this Connector immediately called her on it – “That’s not a good answer!”. I could tell my daughter was intimidated, but she started thinking better on her feet. BOOM! He quickly made her understand something I had been trying to teach her, but the impact was much greater with this high-profile Connector calling it like it is. After the interview, we got in the car and she immediately pulled up some sample interview questions and advice, and spent 2 hours reading and rehearsing answers in her mind, so she could be better prepared for next morning’s campus meeting that this Connector had set up for her.

This experience also led to a great discussion about a new concern for that College. “Are all the graduates that intense?”, she wondered. “Do I want to go to school with a lot of students with that personality?” “Will I be able to hold my own?” We agreed that not all graduates from this College were likely to be as intense as this Connector, but she was going to spend time while on campus scrutinizing the students’ personalities.

Remember that someone who is interviewing you is taking time out of their day to spend time with you – respect them for doing that, and make the interview worth their while! Last bit of advice: you may be running around on campus attending tours, information sessions, meeting with Admissions Officers and maybe a few other people. Track your appointments, so that you make sure you are where you are supposed to be at the right time, but also to help you remember what you did and with whom on each campus.

Pixabay Sharing Information

Share Your Experience

Do you have other advice for Admissions Interviews? Please leave a Comment.

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Word of Mouth

Word of Mouth breeds knowledge (and knowledge is POWER).

You Never Know When You Will Learn Something New, Sometimes From an Unexpected Source

You Never Know When You Will Learn Something New, Sometimes From an Unexpected Source

I know, I know, you get what you pay for. But word-of-mouth is invaluable in both preparing for College and The College Search, in the same way that this website is valuable to students and parents, because you are getting advice from a parent who has recently helped their child in The College Search and who understands the need for specific, organized, pertinent information about The Search. Effective word-of-mouth, by my definition, means that people are sharing information they think is valuable to each other. Word-of-mouth information can be inaccurate or incomplete, but it often provides a bigger picture, and a different perspective.

Do you need examples?

1. My kid wants to take a class not offered at her school (Advanced French, for example), and is debating whether to take that class at another High School, a Community College or on-line. She asks her counselor, who suggests she take the class on-line, because its hard to line up her class schedule at her High School with when that class is offered at another High School or Community College.  She is proactive, and asks a few friends who have taken off-campus courses for advice. One of them warns her that their school allows only 2 classes be taken on-line. My kid wanted to take Health and Creative Writing through on-line courses, and realizes that if she takes Advanced French on-line, that will preclude her plans for Health and Creative Writing. She can now make a more informed decision, some of that information coming from word-of-mouth, which is more complete information than she discovered merely by talking to her counselor.

2. A Senior in High School is debating whether to apply to a “reach” school, thinking it’s unlikely he will be accepted. He mentions this school to a friend, who happens to be friends with a College Junior (Sherry) attending that College. This friend tells him that Sherry struggled with her grades when she attended their same High School. He mentions this news to a teacher, who knows Sherry. The teacher offers to connect the students over Skype. During their discussion, Sherry admits that she did not have a great cumulative GPA due to some missteps early in her High School years, which makes the boy hopeful, as his GPA is also not stellar. She said that based on conversations with the school and her classmates after she attended the College, she understood more about what got her “in”: a) the College valued that she got consistently better grades starting her Junior year, b) she had spectacular test scores, and c) the school emphasizes sports, and she was a star varsity volleyball player. At this point, he feels less hopeful, as he has not been successful in raising his grades his Junior and Senior years, his test scores are average and he doesn’t play a sport. Can he find more information that might might make him think he can get in? Yes, but he knows a lot more after the conversation with Sherry than if he had only been told that there’s a kid from their high school who wasn’t a great student that got in. That doesn’t mean he can’t apply, but now he knows his chances of acceptance are not high. Maybe that conversation gets him thinking about how Sherry’s talents helped her gain acceptance, and that he should look for another desirable “reach” school that emphasizes music, because he was a finalist in the State Competition, playing the oboe. Knowledge is power!

The key to word-of-mouth is you have to be talking to someone who has experienced the same issue or know someone who has, and that this person became very knowledgeable about that issue. That is why a College Counselor can be invaluable, because they know the intimate details of many students’ experiences, and therefore will be more likely to provide relevant information. But even their experiences are limited, so you should still be trying to procure word-of-mouth information, censoring it for inaccuracies. Seek knowledge through many resources, but don’t discount the value of word-of-mouth.

Pixabay Playmobile Figures Talking

Great things can come from talking to others about your College Search

When I am with a group of parents with High-School aged children, it is invariable that a discussion about Colleges results. These can be GREAT discussions, because someone is sharing a story or insight, and if there are others in the group with similar experiences, they can elaborate or disagree, based on their knowledge. That story leads to more questions, and I am leaving that gathering with new things to think about.


Word-of-Mouth Breeds Success

Another reason to get in the habit of promoting these discussions? Most people agree that success in life often comes from who you know. But you need to FIGURE OUT who you know. Do you know where your friends went to College? Their current employer and position, as well as previous employer and positions? Where they used to live? Their sports and favorite past-times? Knowing who you know means you can take advantage of their experiences when the need arises.

If you are a connectoror know a connector, good things result.

Connecting Can Be Fulfilling

Connecting Can Be Fulfilling

connector knows about their friends, co-workers, etc. and connects people. If their cousin wants to be a Financial Advisor, they connect her with their son’s best friend’s father, who is a Financial Advisor. When their babysitter is moving to Oregon for a position at Nike, they connect him to their co-worker, who used to live in Oregon and has friends who work at Nike.

Word-of-Mouth can be awesome!

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Yield (or Admission Rate) is the percentage of students admitted into a College that choose to enroll in that College. Stanford, the most selective College in the country, has a much higher yield than your local State College. Why? Other than lacking funds to pay for it, not too many kids get into a school like Stanford and decide they’d rather go elsewhere. Part of this desire may be due to a deservedly earned reputation for excellence, for the prestige of graduating from a renowned University and part of this desire may be for the ego-boosting feeling of being accepted to a College that is difficult to get into. Does the College accept exceptional students that create an excellent atmosphere? Does the College’s excellent atmosphere create exceptional students? There is something to both, but this is a classic question of the chicken and the egg.

Why is Yield so important?

  1. Admissions is a big-money game for Colleges. Non-subjective factors such as yield, or admission rate, can have a big impact on how Colleges are viewed by prospective students and how they are rated by publications such as the US News & World Report Best Colleges. Colleges want a high yieldHigher admission rates (yield) is considered a reflection on the Colleges desirability/selectivity. In other words, a student is more likely to enroll into a College if they are accepted, if they believe other students are more likely to enroll into that College if they are accepted. They also are more likely to apply to that College if they consider it to be highly selective, which is reflected in both its acceptance and admission rates.
  2. Pixabay Calculator

    Admissions is a Numbers Game

    Colleges must make some educated guesses on how many students to admit into their schools to get the number of students they want enrolled in the schools.  If their historical yield is 35%, they may choose to admit 10,000 Freshman, in the hope of enrolling 3,500 Freshman. But if it happens that 4,000 of those 10,000 admitted students chooses to enroll, the College needs to figure out how to accommodate an unforecasted 500 students, both in terms of teachers/classrooms and housing. Next year, they may decide to lower the number of admitted students, both because the school already has 500 unforecasted students in their total student body and because they are wondering if last year’s 40% yield is their new norm.

Now you know why College Admissions becomes a real-life application of Statistics.

Colleges must determine how many students to admit

Colleges must determine how many students to admit in order to enroll the desired number of incoming Freshman

Furthermore, if a school chooses to change an Admission policy, they have to consider what impact that policy will have on their yield – if they determine their diversity is suffering as their selectivity increases, they may choose to admit more minorities. If they are generous with their financial and/or merit aid for those minorities, than the yield for that sub-group will likely be higher.

Colleges that choose to offer an Early Decision Application Plan are eliminating the guesswork on the yield for a portion of their admitted students, because ED plans are binding – the student must enroll if they are accepted via ED. 

Why do you need to understand yield? It helps you understand the Admission process, which helps you make wiser decisions about applying, and whether to apply early. See Early Decision, Early Action, Restrictive Early Action, Regular Decision and Rolling Admission for more detail to help you understand the potential impact on your admissions chances when you apply early to a College. Furthermore, Colleges with a high yield are less likely to offer merit money, because students clearly value admission into Colleges and may be willing to pay more to attend that College. If you are applying to Colleges with a high yield, you should pay close attention to the percentage of students that receive financial or merit aid, if that is important to you. Keep in mind that student athletes and children of alumni may apply early, and receive special consideration for acceptance. Those students may skew the numbers.

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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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