Written by Lily McIntyre
Hey everyone! I hope you’ve all been staying well and are taking good care of yourselves. For the next couple of weeks, I’ll be starting a series of essay-writing tips that may help you as you navigate the college essay/application process. Keep reading for the first tip, and don’t forget to keep an eye out for the next edition of this series!
Your story should help, not hurt you: If you’re to get anything out of this post, I hope it’s this: Don’t let your story hold you back in your essay. You might have a really interesting story, but it might be too specific and limit you from talking about everything you want to in a coherent way. If this applies to you, maybe think of a general metaphor that you can weave mini-stories into instead. For my own college essay, I talked about my favorite word game, Bananagrams. I exhibited my personal growth by starting off with a scene from when I was a kid playing Bananagrams in which I traded in my hard letters like Q and X in for easier ones to make words with. I related this story to parts of my life in which I took the easy way out and shied away from challenges. Later in the essay, I gave examples from when I grew older that showed my rising up to challenges and facing my fears. Finally, I tied it all together by discussing a game of Bananagrams in the present day where I didn’t trade in my letters and made creative words with the more difficult letters I already had.
As someone who was going through this process a couple of years ago, I understand how difficult writing your essay can be. Remember to take care of yourselves and prioritize you throughout this process!
written by Lily McIntyre
With most (virtual) graduations in full swing, we start to look forward to the rising seniors who will be in a cap and gown a year from now, all of their hard work towards school and college/job applications having finally paid off. However, all graduates will tell you that it can be a long road to get to that point. The college application process can seem to be a daunting one, especially when coming up with your personal statement. Based on my own experience and my friends’ experiences, I can tell you firsthand that it takes a weight off of your shoulders if you write a rough draft of your college essay sooner rather than later. Even if you re-read your essay later and cringe, or decide to make lots of revisions, and it doesn’t matter. You’ll already be done with the hardest part: starting. Social distancing may be a pain in many ways, but you can actually use it to your advantage this time. It’s not very often that you’re left with little to do but think! Use this time as an opportunity to reflect on your past experiences and what you’ve learned from them.
Want some tips for your essay? Here are 3 ideas that might be useful for brainstorming:
Looking for a fresh set of eyes to look over your essay or someone to brainstorm with? Lucent Education offers essay revision services that tailor to each student’s individual needs. Whether you’re applying to an undergraduate, graduate, or MBA program, Lucent is committed to helping you showcase the best, most genuine you. For more details on our services, click this link: https://www.lucenteducation.com/store/c5/college-gradschool-services.
Info on how COVID-19 might affect your high school experience as it relates to college applications:
For seniors receiving decisions letters back from colleges:
AP and SAT/ACT Exams:
Blaine at Financial Aid Coach gets tons of questions about college loans this time of year. Here are his thoughts and expertise laid out as a primer.
This time of year, once families have decided where their high school seniors will attend college for the upcoming fall, a new set of questions come into play. Admissions applications and financial aid forms have been completed, but parents are often left with wondering how they will cover the balance remaining. Let’s take a look at something that’s commonly used to help bridge the gap of remaining cost; college loans.
Considering the rising cost of college, loans come into play more and more. These are made available through the Federal Government, private banks and credit unions and sometimes even schools themselves. It’s common for families to need to utilize college loans. Students are graduating from college with over $20,000 in loan debt, on average. That’s not accounting for loans that are in their parent’s name.
Here are some of the more common loans that are made available to families:
FEDERAL DIRECT LOANS
These loans, formerly referred to as the Stafford Loans, are loans in the student’s name provided through the Federal Government. There’s no application process. Students become eligible for this loan by filing a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
These loans are provided in specified amounts to college students. They come in subsidized (government pays the interest) and unsubsidized (families are responsible for the interest) forms based on need as determined by the FAFSA and other financial aid forms. While a family may not qualify for subsidized Federal Direct Loans, you can’t be turned away from the unsubsidized Federal Direct Loan because you make too much money or have too much in assets. This is a common misconception.
Here’s a bit more info on Federal Direct Loans. The interest rates for the 2016-17 Federal Direct Loans will be announced later in the summer.
PARENT PLUS LOANSBecause the Federal Direct Loans have a maximum amount that can be borrowed, which is commonly not enough to cover the full remaining balance, parents are left to look into other options. One of the more common loan options is the Parent PLUS Loan.
This is another loan through the Federal Government. The difference between this loan and the Federal Direct Loan is that the Parent PLUS Loan is a loan in the parent’s name, as the name of the loan would indicate. This loan is applied for on a pass/fail basis at a fixed interest rate provided by the government each new school year. Parents can apply for the maximum needed to cover any remaining balance.
Check out a previous article on common loan myths to avoid confusion when it comes to repayment of the Parent PLUS Loan.
To read the rest of the article: http://financialaidcoach.com/introduction-to-college-loans-2016/
Please double check with schools as decisions notifications can change!
There's not much of a difference between Early Decision 1 and Early Decision 2 - except for the timing. Students that know that they have a first choice school, and will go regardless of being accepted elsewhere, have the opportunity to apply a bit earlier. The timing for these 2 rounds are different with Early Decision 2 deadlines closer to the deadlines of Regular Decisions, but that the notification of Early Decision candidates is typically in February instead of late March/April.
Here's a list of schools with the option to submit and Early Decision 2 (ED2) application:
Here's a list - Stanford (our alma mater) comes out today!
Barnard College: Mid-December
Boston College: December 5th, 5:30pm EST (Early Decision I)
Boston University: December 15
Brandeis University: December 15
Brown University: Mid-December
Cal Tech: Mid-December
Carnegie Mellon University: December 15
Columbia University: December 12th, 7pm ET
Cornell University: December 12th, 7pm ET
Dartmouth College: Mid-December
Duke University: December 15th
Emory University: By December 15
Georgetown University: December 15th
Harvard University: Mid-December
Harvey Mudd: December 15th (decisions mailed)
Johns Hopkins University: December 13th
Middlebury College: Mid-December
MIT: December 14th, 12:14pm ET
New York University: December 15th (Early Decision I), February 15th (Early Decision II)
Northwestern University: Mid-December
Notre Dame University: Mid-December
Pomona College: By December 15
Princeton University: December 12th
Stanford University: December 6th, 4pm PST
Swarthmore College: By December 15
Tufts University: Mid-December
Tulane University: November 20th, 4pm CST (Early Decision), December 19th, 3:30pm CST (Early Action)
University of Chicago: Mid-December (Early Action and Early Decision)
University of Michigan, By December 24
University of Pennsylvania, December 16th, 7pm
University of Virginia, December 6th, evening (Early Decision), January 31st (Early Action)
Vanderbilt University: Mid-December (Early Decision I), Mid-February (Early Decision II)
Washington University in St. Louis: Mid-December
Wellesley College: Mid-December, ED Round I
William & Mary: December 6th, evening (Early Decision I)
Williams College: By December 15
Yale University: December 16th
We're so excited for our students who are making decisions on where to head to college with amazing choices such as: Cornell, USC, UChicago, Yale, Caltech, FIT, UCLA, UC San Diego, UC Santa Barbara, Boston College, Cal, Emory, CMU, JHU, and more! Below is a more lengthy list of our successes over the last 5 years.
We track our own performance through putting together an academic index for each of the students (test scores + grades + difficulty of coursework + etc.) and comparing it against the 25-75% range (of stats such as testing/GPA) for each school's accepted class. This is in an effort to articulate “outside of #s” performance on the application (and a more accurate picture of where Lucent can have an impact on the application process).
Our goal is to have a significant impact as compared to these numbers. We aim to have students gain admission to at least one school in which their academic index falls below the 50% mark at a given school. (Oversimplified example: a student with 1400 on SAT would gain acceptance to a school in which the 25-75% range is 1375-1500). From 2014-2019, all but one student received acceptance into at least one of these schools on their list.^
We stay away from statistics stating that x% of students get into their top 3; we believe that each student’s strategic approach to school selections needs to be tailored to their specific circumstances. For example, students interested in Ivy League admissions might apply to nearly all of the Ivies knowing that admissions is competitive. Or, on the other end of the spectrum, we have had several students each year that apply to just 3-4 schools outside of their backup (e.g. knowing that they did not want to leave a certain region).
A few notes:
^ Many high school counselors working with competitive high school populations benchmark student scores against the 75% of a school’s given a range as opposed to 50%. Nearly all students that work with us are from these types of schools; including major city magnet schools, competitive boarding schools, high schools in the SFBay, and technical high schools in NYC.
We get this question a lot - should we be preparing for the ACT or SAT exams earlier on in high school as opposed to waiting until Junior year to take a test prep class? Well, that depends. Some students decide to take their PSAT exam as their first indication of what to do in preparation for other standardized tests that will be a more important factor in their college applications. That means waiting until sophomore or junior year to get a baseline. And, for most students, this is the right path. Many students are busy with keeping their grades up, time management between activities and academics, and it makes sense to push this until later. If you know your student has generally tested well on standardized tests in the past, this may make the most sense.
However, if you are worried about the student as a test taker, we suggest taking a diagnostic practice test during or just after 9th grade to see whether the additional practice, earlier, would make sense. This might mean sitting down for the Khan Academy SAT test offered free or the many resources and practice exams that are likely found at your local library. The diagnostic practice test will help indicate if there's a need for additional tutoring/test prep studies that need to occur outside of the usual school work preparation.
For all students, consider the following:
You've been soul searching about transferring schools. One factor that's likely going to contribute to your decision making process is what challenges may lie ahead if you do decide to go for it.
Here's a list of possible challenges to think about:
However, there are lots of positives that come along with transferring, especially if it's the right decision for you:
While there are lots of challenges to consider, with the right self reflection and research, you may come to the conclusion that it is the best possible decision for you. In which case, you'll be glad you did it!
There is a lot of narrative out there on thoughts for and against transferring schools - so you're not alone if you're reading this (about 25% of students actually transfer!). We've compiled it here into several topics to consider as you go through the process of deciding if putting in applications is right for you:
There are lots of components of the Common Application and some look at it as simple and straightforward, others feel daunted by the amount of work ahead of them. Here are some basic things to keep in mind as you start to put together the application.
You can definitely utilize technology to help you through the standardized test prep process - it’ll literally be at your fingertips during any down time that you may have. The first question we usually get is whether a student should take the ACT or the SAT. The best way to check this is to go through several questions of each section of both exams so that the student can get a feel for which they prefer. Most people can easily come to a conclusion on which exam "speaks to them" more. Then, I'd go all in! After all, study for 2 exams?? In some cases we may suggest a swap to the other exam if the practice scores aren't quite matching the academic rigor achieved at school.
Generally, my first recommendation is go to to Khan Academy, they work directly with the college board on SAT test prep. However, there are tons of apps out there as well that are interactive and give you lots of opportunities to practice test questions. We've done a bit of sleuthing for you to weed out the apps that don't have much usage or are poorly put together. I'm an android, so these are all through the Google Play Store. Hopefully a few of these will work out for your needs.
Note of caution - apps are a great way to get breadth. However, once you spot a weakness, you'll need to drill down to really understand how to solve the problems that you're most commonly getting wrong. These apps sometimes do not allow for you to do that in the most productive way.
Utilizing the internet has made all parts of our lives easier - finding long lost friends, making reservations for date night, and finding x or y product with the best reviews. Similar to our daily lives, admissions officers have also started using the internet in higher numbers to aid their admissions process. From a Kaplan Test Prep research study, 35% are searching out applicants and 68% consider it fair game to do so, but not all of them actually put it into practice. From the same study, they found that admissions officers were finding positive supporting information for applicants as often as they were finding information that would negatively impact a student’s application.
Generally, admissions officers are hoping to find a more holistic version of some students through online searches and social media accounts - looking for additional, positive information about applicants. However, it’s possible to turn off an admissions officer with remarks, posts, and images that violate (or do not align with) the expectation of how students are in a school's student community. Here are some tips and cautionary words about social media for those applying to college/university.
Keep these tips in mind for before, during and after college acceptances. Poor form after the fact can mean that a college rescinds their offer of admissions (this includes poor grades as well, don’t let senioritis get to you!):
Things not to do...
Last thought: don’t get too wrapped up in tailoring your presence as the research statistics don’t necessarily merit a lot of effort on this front (for now!).
College, Graduate School, and Career Coaching.