Sunday, June 23, 2013

Jodi and Emily's Memphis to Nashville College Road Trip

In advance of the annual Higher Education Consultants Association conference, we took a college tour along the music highway.

In three days we saw:

Rhodes College
Memphis, TN

Vanderbilt University
Nashville, TN

Belmont University
Nashville, TN

Middle Tennessee State University
Murfreesboro, TN

Christian Brothers University
Memphis, TN

University of Memphis

University of Mississippi
"Ole Miss"
Oxford, MS
Y'all should check out these schools!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Goodbye to School Counselors

Philadelphia public schools took the Draconian measure of cutting all staff at each school other than a principal and teachers. What does this mean for rising seniors who attend a Philadelphia public school? No college advising, no school profile or counselor recommendations, no one to send transcripts or coordinate visits from admission officers.

How should we expect college admissions offices to deal with this reality? There has already been the controversial change that allowed school counselors to opt out of writing recommendation letters if they were too busy. I don't think there is enough data yet to determine whether that hurt the acceptance rates of students whose counselors opted out. I can't imagine how a college could or would consider a student if no transcript is available. Will schools try to fill the gap with volunteer parents taking on many of the tasks? Will colleges accept self-reported grades and class lists?

As I head to the annual Higher Education Consultants Association conference, I think about the realities that have contributed to the increase in independent college counselors nationwide. These are sad and scary times for school counselors. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Being Supportive During the College Admissions Process

When my husband is sick, he likes to be fussed over. He feels loved if I offer to bring him chicken soup, cups of herbal tea, check out books or videos from the library and tell him I understand how rotten it is to feel rotten.

When I get sick I want to be left alone. Period. Fussing makes me immensely grumpier.

If you are a parent of a high school student, I am sure you have very good intentions about being helpful during the college search and application process. But what feels helpful to your student? That is wildly different for each kid. What is perceived as loving support by one, is nagging interference to another. So instead of guessing--ask--and be respectful of the answer you get.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Communication Verification

Last week I texted my tenant about some repair people who would be coming by this week. Today when I went to the house to check on the repairs, my tenant was happy they were being done, but upset that he hadn't been notified in advance. I pulled out me cell phone and went to my sent message folder to show him I had indeed communicated. Unfortunately, I sent the message his work phone number which doesn't accept texts!

How does this apply to college applications? You will be sending lots of required documentation--transcripts, recommendation letters, standardized test scores, etc. and colleges cannot read your file until they have a completed application packet. Most colleges give user a user login so you can check your application status online. If you do not check on a regular basis, you will miss out on the chance to follow through if there are any problems.

What should you do if some documentation is listed as missing? First and foremost, don't blame anyone! For example, if the colleges claims that your ACT scores were not received, you would check your account on the ACT website. If the site shows that they were indeed sent, you would call the admissions office and say something like this:

"Hi, this is (insert your full name here) and my applicant ID number is X. On Y date I checked my application status and it showed that you have not yet received my ACT scores. I checked with the ACT folks, and they do show the scores as sent to you electronically on Z date. Could you please check my file again to see if they have arrived?"

If you are told that your scores are not there, then politely ask how you should rectify the problem. Do you need to send them again? Do they want you to check back in a few more days?

Even if you feel frustrated, stay polite and express your appreciation. Demonstrate empathy for what it must be like to be the admissions assistant at a college who is sorting through thousands of pieces of mail and electronic paperwork to match up the right documents and applicant.

I feel disappointed that my tenant may think I'm a poor communicator, so I'll be diligent to confirm that he has heard/seen any future messages I send. When I am the person trying to communicate, it is my responsibility to make sure the information is received.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Before College: Eliminate Your Life Skills Deficits

Before students can graduate from our local high school they have to prove they can cook a meal and change a car tire. Back in the "olden days" (as my kids call the 1970s) a required class for my high school graduation was Life Skills.

Nowadays, many students head off to college with some life skill deficits. Here is a great article by Marjorie Hansen Shaevitz entitled 30 Practical Things Students Need to Know How to Do Before Heading Off to College.

My addition to her list is that all college freshman should also know basic self-defense. Many local police departments offer free workshops, which are worth taking over the summer.

Per Marjorie, "Now is the time to start working on the above list. If you are a student, go through and circle the items about which you want to know more and talk with your parents or friends who are already in college about the issues. If you are a parent, set aside a time to sit down and go through the list with your teen. Dinnertime is good for these discussions. Use the list as a checklist and one by one, help your student identify an issue, gather information, talk about what's involved and then act on, learn about or practice what is needed (or set up another time to do that)."

Thursday, June 6, 2013

College Search Support from the TSA?

Not many people I know love to go through airport security, but a Transportation Security Administration employee is my latest role model. When I got home from my  tour of Pennsylvania colleges, I opened my suitcase to find the below note, left for me by the TSA. "1924-Good luck choosing a college!"

As a 50+ adult, it certainly made me smile when I realized that the TSA worker must have seen my large stack of viewbooks and thought I was a high school student checking out college options. I puzzled a bit about the "1924". My guess is that it's a TSA employee ID number, but I haven't been able to confirm that or figure out how to send back a thank you to this well-wisher.

Mostly, I appreciate the thoughtfulness of this worker. I pinned the note above my desk because it reminds me that even when I feel swamped, taking the time to be extra kind to a student or colleague is always worthwhile.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Kevin McMullin's Advice: Design a List for Success

I am a regular reader of Kevin McMullin's WiseLikeUs blog. You should be too! His post from May 29, 2013 is copied here because it echoes the advice I have been giving to juniors and their parents for the past few months.

Design a list for success

If I could give one piece of advice to juniors who are about to begin the college search process, here it is—build a college list designed for success.

A high school counselor emailed me this morning seeking advice for one of her seniors who wasn’t accepted to any colleges.  I asked where the student applied, and the list sounded like a who’s who of US News rankings—15 of the most selective schools in the country.  Not a single school on the list accepted more than 20% of its applicants.  That's a list designed for failure, not success.  Six months ago, there were hundreds (and hundreds) of good colleges she could have applied to that would have admitted her with open arms.  But this student chose to play the admissions lottery, and she didn’t win.

If you have a dream school or two that are out of your reach, by all means, take your best shot so you’ll never have to wonder if you could have gotten in.  But fill the rest of the list with schools that are likely to accept you.  If you say you don’t like any of those schools where you can surely get in, you’re showing symptoms of a severe case of namebranditis.   Get over it.  You’ve worked too hard, and there are just too many great colleges out there for you to hang your admissions hopes on a list of schools with prestigious names who reject most of their applicants.

Building a list for success does not mean lowering your college standards.  It does mean you can expect more offers of admission, more financial aid and scholarships, more choices, and more control of your college future.

Do your research, find schools that fit you, and ask your high school counselor to gauge your chances of admission before you settle on the final list of schools to apply to.  Then you’ll get to enjoy the fruits of building a list designed for success.