Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Six College-Related Tasks Juniors Should Complete Now

This article first appeared on on May 27, 2015.

Juniors, in a very short time you will be seniors! Before this school year ends there are a few tasks you should do so that make it easier for you to work on your college applications over the summer should you opt to do so.
1. Request an end-of-year transcript. You will need this over the summer to fill out your applications. Most schools send a report card rather than a transcript. Do whatever the steps are at your school to ensure you get a transcript. Most commonly they are available a week or two after school ends and you can get them from the school admin if your counselor will be off for the summer. You may need to fill out a request form. Please get a printed copy and then scan it and save it in case you misplace the printed version.
2. If you might play an NCAA sport in college (I’m not referring to intramurals) be sure to register with theNCAA Eligibility Center. In order for coaches to speak with you this summer (after July 1), you have to be registered and they must receive your end-of-junior-year transcript. Once you register, your school will get the transcript request and upload the transcript for you. This is not a step you have to do, but it is polite to ask your counselor or school admin to be on the lookout for the NCAA Eligibility request.
3. Be sure to fill out any paperwork your high school requests. Every high school is different. Some require you to complete forms for teacher recommendations now, and other schools do that process in the fall. Some schools want you to provide a resume of your activities, or want a rec letter from your parent or best friend. These personal letters will not be sent to colleges but your school counselor might use them to make the letter he/she writes more personal. Even if you are working with an independent counselor, you still must follow all the steps requested by your high school counselor.
4. If your school uses Naviance, it is really important for you to know how to login to your Naviance account. Be sure to find out and write it in a safe place (or email it to your parents) so that you have the info if you want to work on your applications this summer.
5. If you took the ACT or SAT through your school and the school registered you for the test (rather than registering yourself online) be sure to get your ACT or SAT login information. You will need it to check and send your scores. Once again, write it down and also send it to someone (like a parent) who won’t lose it, so that you can access the account if you need to this summer.
6. If your school does not have a formalized process for requesting teacher recommendation letters, decide which two junior teachers you want to ask, and make a verbal request before school gets out. Teachers tend to be swamped at the beginning of the school year. Some teachers much prefer to write recommendation letters over the summer when they have more free time and don’t have the day-to-day teaching and grading duties. Other teachers like to take a total break over the summer and are willing to spend evenings and weekend in the fall writing rec letters. By asking now, you give the teacher the option to do what he or she prefers. (Remember that a teacher may say “no “ to your request, and asking early gives you time to decide whom else you would like to ask instead.) For detailed info about teacher rec letter requests, see my prior column.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Sample College Update Communication

This article first appeared on on May 20, 2015.

In last week’s column I talked about sending thank you notes to the people who helped you throughout high school. I also suggested that college-bound seniors send an update to people at the end of each semester of college.  Melissa M., a student who is completing her freshman year at Pacific Lutheran University, graciously gave me permission to share the update I received from her this spring.
Where do I start?
How about with the New Year? Happy 2015 everyone (we're 25% through the year already...whoa)! Spending time at home for Christmas and New Year’s was absolutely amazing. I got to see all of my best friends and celebrate with family. I spent one day at home/with family and then one day with friends. Then I came back to school.
PLU has something called J-Term, which is between Fall and Spring Semester, and is just the month of January. During J-Term students take 1 four credit course. I took “Business Financial Accounting” and it was really interesting. I learned a lot from my professor who is from Italy, and earned both his C.P.A and his J.D. Finding mentors this year has been one of favorite things. Not only have I connected with a lot of my professors, but I have also found advisors, staff, and older students who have helped make my first year of college eye opening.
Spring Semester started at the beginning of February. First I'll talk about my classes and then all of the awesome things I'm involved in!
I'm taking 17 credits this semester:
Microeconomics (4): I enjoy economics a lot and am trying to see if I can minor in it. My teacher is trying to convince me to be an econ major (I don't think that will happen), and nominated me for a 1st year economics scholarship that I was pleasantly surprised to receive! My professor also connected me to one of her former students who is now in law school and I have learned a lot by talking to her. 
Statistics (4): I have the same professor for stats as I do for econ and I love her. She has a very dry sense of humor and she makes me laugh almost every class. Also enjoying stats. It's a lot of equations and information but fun to manipulate data and figure out what it all means!
Intro to Business (4): As an intro level course we're just skimming the surface of many topics ranging from marketing to finance. I have really connected to my business professor. We both have curly hair and she’s given me hair tips and tricks (professors are good for more than solely academic questions)! And she has a super cute micro labradoodle that I sometimes take out and play with.
International Honors (4): Straight from my professor’s site: "This course examines innovative ideas and institutions from the Enlightenment to today that have shaped the contemporary world. Themes include scientific, political, artistic, and commercial revolutions; emerging concepts of justice and natural rights; capitalism and imperialism; the experience of war; narratives of progress and their critics; and globalization, sustainability, and the environment". We've read a variety of pieces ranging from Pride and Prejudice to passages from the Communist Manifesto. We talk a lot about modernity and how the idea of the individual has changed.
Personalized fitness and health (1): This was just the first half of the semester and was a required class. Had information about health and physical fitness. We mainly just worked out.
Now to what I've been involved in outside of class:
Lute Ambassadors: I am currently working for the Office of Admissions as a Lute Ambassador. I went through a rigorous selection process, but I think they saw my passion and excitement for the opportunity. After completing 30+ hours of training and passing 2 evaluations and a final presentation I finally got my second gold name badge and my t-shirts. I get to give tours, host students and have lunches with prospective students and their families. It's a wonderful job that plays right into my skill set.
ASPLU: I am still a senator for our student government. I am currently working on getting a program going to give students the opportunity to get coffee with their professors for free to give them a more social atmosphere to talk to their professors rather than having to go to their office hours. The idea is to increase communication (which is already pretty good) and allow more opportunities for students to get to know their professors. ASPLU is going through a lot of changes right now and I am putting in a lot of hours to help the organization reach its full potential.
Habitat for Humanity: I am on the council for Habitat for Humanity. I asked about potentially doing a little bit more with our campus chapter and the next thing I knew I was in the council meeting. We talk a lot about advocacy, fundraising, and expanding our chapter and of course still have build days. 
ELL: English Language Learners! Every Monday and Thursday night from 6:45-9:15 I teach English to adult Spanish speakers (and we recently acquired a Russian woman.--it's hard communicating with her sometimes). I really enjoy this, even though it is a big commitment. Our class is wonderful and I can't wait to do it again next year!
With it written down it doesn't look like much, but I can assure you I'm putting a lot of time into all of these wonderful programs and classes, and still having fun along the way! You might be able to tell how busy I am as I write this email at 3am...
I got to go home this past weekend and Pa visited! It was really fun being home and seeing Lilly flower, the cats and my mom and dad. I also got to see some of my best friends and have a Passover Seder dinner with my best friend Margot and her family. Then my roommate (and one of my closest friends, Shannon) came up on Easter and my dad made a wonderful breakfast and Pa, Uncle Bill and the two of us ventured up to PLU and they went on to visit Seattle.
Ok, finally, plans for the future:
Right now I'm pretty set on majoring in business and minoring in non-profit leadership (with the hopes of doubling minoring in econ as well). Here at PLU we talk a lot about vocation,--where your greatest passion meets the greatest needs of the world. This year I dove right in o volunteer work and I kept asking myself how that work would play into my future - in my career or just in my life in general. I started to think about how a passion in my life has always been to help as many people as possible. Combine that with my passion for law, connecting and working with other people, and my major and minor and you have a non-profit consultant/lawyer on your hands.
Now I'm looking for an internship for the summer. Just interviewed with a non-profit organization today (that would pay me). But I'm still looking into some law firms.
Hope to hear all of your news and what you've been up to!
I often tell students, that it is not where you go to college, but what you do when you get there, that will matter most in life. Melissa turned down several more “prestigious” colleges because she felt that PLU would be the best place for her. She has certainly taken advantage of opportunities to explore academics, build relationships and invest herself in the school and local community. I am confident that all of the people with whom she is communicating are thrilled to be “in the know”, feel invested in her success and will go out of their way to help her in the future!
Follow her example and make a commitment to communicate throughout your college years.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Thanks and Stay in Touch

This article first appeared on on May 13, 2015.

Hooray graduating seniors! In just a few more weeks you will be tossing that graduation cap in the air and moving on to the next phase of life. If you are headed to college in the fall, you didn’t get there on your own. A lot of people helped, and now is the time to say thanks.
Who should you thank? Here are some suggestions:
  • All your high school teachers, with a special recognition to the ones that wrote you college recommendation letters 
  • Your high school counselor
  • Your athletic coach, choir director, robotics mentor—anyone who supported you in discovering your talents and interests throughout your high school years
  • Your school administrators, including the secretaries who sent out your transcripts
  • Your school support staff including the cafeteria workers and custodians
  • Your boss at work or supervisor at a place where you did volunteer work
  • Any tutors or test prep folks who helped you be academically successful
  • Any organization that gave you a scholarship
  • Your independent college counselor (if you used one)
  • The friends who supported you throughout this crazy year and through all of your high school ups and downs
  • Any adult mentor who has not been mentioned
  • Your parents

Emails and verbal thanks are normally okay, but for this big moment I actually want you buy a pack of printed thank-you cards and hand write notes to people. In case you don’t have much practice at this, here is some advice, andhere are some phrases that are nice for teachers.
All of these people care about you. They were invested in your success and your heartfelt expression of gratitude will be deeply appreciated. Don’t be surprised if you visit years later and still see your card pinned on a teacher’s bulletin board.
Thank you notes are a short term assignment, and I am also going to suggest a long-term task. Make the effort to stay in touch with some of these people throughout your time in college (and perhaps beyond that.) For this purpose email is an excellent tool. Here’s the easiest way to update multiple people about your journey through college. Create a group contact list. Name it something easy to remember like “College Update List”.  At the end of each semester write a message that lets folks know what you have been up to. (Come back for next week’s column if you want to see a sample update from a student.)
In addition to being polite, staying in touch can have tangible benefits. One of my students included the local chapter of the Elks Club (which had given her a small scholarship) in her updates. Because the members were older and many did not have computers, she printed her update each semester and mailed it to the lodge, where it was promptly posted on the bulletin board by the entry. Last I heard, all eight of her updates were still posted (four years’ worth!) and donations to their scholarship fund increased during the years she was communicating. Another example is that when my daughter decided to apply for prestigious international fellowships for the years after her college graduation, she got a recommendation letter from a Spanish literature professor who had been her instructor while she was in high school and taking an enrichment class at Lewis & Clark College. He was able to write with confidence and provide specific examples of her achievement, because she had been regularly in touch with him during the intervening six years.
If you get in the habit of thanking people and being a good communicator, you will feel comfortable using this skill set in your career and throughout life.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Yield Rate and Demonstrated Interest

This article first appeared on on May 6, 2015.

When I worked in the advertising industry I hired many college graduates for their first full-time job. I always had multiple qualified applicants for each open job. What I discovered through experience was that the best workers were ultimately the people who wanted the job the most—they had a passion for advertising and were willing to do entry-level tasks to learn a lot and work their way up. I judged who wanted the job most based on the follow-up I received after the interview phase.
As a contracted application reader for a small, selective college I find myself in a similar situation. There are way more fantastically qualified applicants than spots in our freshman class. I want to offer admission to all of them, but I can’t, and therefore spend a lot of time trying to determine which applicants want to be there the most. Who really understands our mission, our hands-on curriculum and would prefer what we offer over any other college option? Many students profess that the school is their first choice, but they could be saying that on every application. 
The percentage of accepted students who actually enroll at a given college is known as the “yield rate”. May 1 was the date by which current seniors needed to notify the colleges that accepted them whether or not they will attend. Since an individual student can only attend one school, if that student was offered admission at six places, he or she will help increase one school’s yield rate, but be bad for the yield rate of the other five schools. This week every school is scrambling to deal with the numbers. Schools that did not hit their enrollment targets are contacting students on the wait list to offer a spot. Schools that over-enrolled are scrambling to figure out how they will accommodate the extra students in the dorms and classrooms.
Colleges used to be able to predict their yield rate with a narrow margin of error. Since the rise of online applications and vehicles like the Common Application which make it simpler for a student to apply to more schools, yield rates have become far less predictable. April is the highest stress month for admissions teams as they wait to see how the deposits come in.
Why do colleges care so much about their yield rate? A big part of the answer is financial. The cost of maintaining the facilities and paying salaries does not fluctuate much based on enrollment. Colleges need a targeted number of students in order to be financially viable. We are in a moderate downturn in terms of the number of high school graduates, so those demographics mean fewer college students overall. Over the past few years many excellent colleges have not met their enrollment goals, which puts strain on the budget. In addition, yield rate is one factor that is counted in the US News &World Report rankings. Schools can move up in the rankings by having a higher yield rate and a lower acceptance rate. Since rankings have a correlation with both the number of future applicants and with alumni donations, colleges care a lot about them.
One way that colleges try to predict a student’s likelihood to attend is by tracking “demonstrated interest”. Although not all colleges do this, it is a growing trend in admissions. According to the NACAC 2011 “Factors in the Admissions Decision” report and the Chronicle of Higher Education report on “The Dynamics of Demonstrated Interest” a total of 50.2% of all colleges consider demonstrated interest to be of “Considerable Importance” or “Moderate Importance” when making admissions decisions.
Demonstrated interest refers to the interactions initiated by college applicants with colleges they apply to. These might interactions include:
  • Requesting information 
  • Responding to recruitment materials
  • Interacting with the school on social media (follow or friend)
  • Contacting the admissions office or local admissions representative
  • Contacting a professor or athletic coach at the school
  • Attending college fairs and visiting that school’s booth (scan your bar code)
  • Registering and attending informational presentations when school reps travel to your city or visit your high school
  • Visiting the school and taking a campus tour and attending an info session
  • Requesting an overnight visit 
  • Participating in an on-campus, virtual or alumni interview 
  • Writing thoughtful and well-researched  supplemental essays (especially the “Why this college?” essay) 
  • Applying before any deadline dates
  • Applying early action, restrictive early action or early decision
  • Applying for anything like Honors College or special scholarships that require extra effort
  • Sending (handwritten) thank you notes

Here’s one way to look up whether or not a college considers demonstrated interest. Go to Type the name of the school in the search bar. Click on the school name in the results. Click on the “Admission” tab. Scroll down to the heading “Selection of Students”. Look at the line “Level of Applicant’s Interest” in order to understand whether or not demonstrated interest is a factor at that school.