On The Common App: Introduction and Orientation

When first encountering the Common App dashboard, a lot of students feel overwhelmed and confused before they even start the application itself. However, the Common App is intuitive and easy to navigate with a bit of guidance and knowhow. In this series, we will provide tips and instruction on how to navigate the Common Application interface and how to fill out the Common App itself. To begin, the Common App web interface has five sections: the dashboard, “My Colleges,” the Common App itself, college search, and financial resources. When you first log-on, your dashboard and “My Colleges” tabs are empty. By switching over to your college search tab, you can find your desired schools and add them to your “My Colleges” list, which will populate your dashboard with individual schools’ supplemental requirements. Your dashboard will be an important space for keeping track of writing prompts and upcoming deadlines. Notification and submission of college-specific requirements and essays will be managed through the “My Colleges” section, separate from the Common Application section and your Common App essay.

Having set up our account and dashboard, the rest of the interface itself should be self-explanatory from that point forward. Having orientated ourselves with the platform, we’re ready to move on to navigating the Common Application itself. In the following blog, we will address the structure of the Common App and some common student and parent questions.

Here’s What to Expect on the 2017-18 Common Application

Reprinted from IvyWise College Admissions Blog:

The admissions cycle for the class of 2021 may be over, but the college preparation journey is just starting for current juniors who are planning to apply to college this fall. Students are getting started on their applications earlier than ever, and it’s important to stay informed on the latest Common Application changes before the summer and fall.

Every year the Common Application makes changes and improvements in order to enhance the application process for college bound students. These changes are even more critical as competitors like the Coalition application gain traction in the admissions process.

The announced changes for the 2017-18 Common Application include revised essay prompts, Google Drive integration, Spanish language resources, self-reported transcripts, and over three dozen new member schools. In the following blogs, we will shine a light on what each of these changes are, and what it means for our students.

Chasing the Clean Sweep: Brown University

Brown University is the Ivy for those who are open-minded and flexible. It’s known for its liberal academic curriculum and even more liberal student body. Brown embraces a far more open curriculum compared to other Ivy fellows, allowing each student the opportunity to “choose their own adventure.” With no distribution requirements aside from student-specific major requirements and two writing courses, students are free to pursue all of the liberal arts, or conversely, free to take courses in just two or three departments. Adding even more flexibility to its academics, Brown also offers the option for students to take courses “credit/non.” This provision means that students can elect to take a course on a pass/no pass scale instead of the traditional letter grade scale, making the class exempt from GPA calculation while still receiving credit. Because of the ability to deprioritize GPA, students at Brown are able to prioritize taking the classes they are interested in instead of being confined to courses in which they would earn high marks.

Beyond its academic freedom, Brown is known best for its on-campus student activism, often home to student leaders who manage social change and home to student protesters. For those who want the chance to create their own curriculum and those who are interested in hands-on activism, Brown offers a unique campus environment, fueled by student liberty, that is distinct from its peers.

Chasing the Clean Sweep: Why You Shouldn’t Apply to All 8 Ivies

Considering the mad frenzy of the modern college application process, there is no greater feat than getting into all eight Ivy League universities. If not for the sheer accomplishment, many students apply to all eight Ivies with a “you just need one yes” outlook. Parents and students alike hope that by applying to all the Ivies, they increase their chances of getting accepted into any single institution. This “just one yes” strategy is common in educational consulting, best exemplified in the “safety/reach” application method. However, when used by educational consultants, this strategy is implemented to help place a student at the most academically rigorous school that the student would thrive in. All Ivies are not created equal, and the vast differences among the campuses ensure that no single student is a good fit for all the schools. In this series, I hope to explain what separates each Ivy from the pack so that your student can save time and energy, applying to their right fit Ivy League school instead of feeling pressure to apply to multiple Ivies. In the case that you find that none of the Ivies seem like a good match for your student, I’ll do a follow-up post listing the top 10 Ivy League alternatives, distinguishing the schools by state and briefly explaining why the League fails to include all equivalent institutions.

The Science Behind College Rankings

College ranking lists are useful tools, providing a way to discover and compare schools on a nationwide scale. Often these lists present data provided by the school, such as ACT score and class size distribution, which can help parents and students determine if the school is a good fit for the prospective college student. However, there are dozens of college ranking sources, all promising that their list is the ultimate reference for prospective college applicants. Determining which rankings are the best reference for you and your student means delving into what makes ranking lists different: methodology. For this post we will focus on the two titans of the college ranking platform: US News and Forbes Magazine.

US News uses a formula dependent on quantitative measures that education experts have proposed as reliable indicators of academic quality. These indicators are divided into seven sectors: undergraduate academic reputation, retention, faculty resources, student selectivity, financial resources, graduation rate performance, and alumni giving rate. US News focuses more on admissions data, making US News rankings a face-value ranking for colleges.

Forbes uses a formula dependent on qualitative measures that economists have deemed indicators of an school’s worth as an investment. Forbes methodology focuses on the college experience at schools and includes various factors that measure return on investment, such as student satisfaction, student debt upon graduation, graduation rate, and post-graduation success. This methodology ensures that Forbes maintains a focus on student quality of life and “input vs. output,” or the worth of a college diploma from an institution in the long term in comparison to the overall cost of education.

Why Hire an Educational Consultant?

Last year, 26 percent of seniors reported using an educational consultant in the college admissions process. Every year this statistic increases as more and more parents decide to invest in college counseling to help guide them and their children through the college process. The average public high school counselor has responsibility over 250-500 students. That means one person is supposed to manage 250-500 students’ college application processes and college questions, and as you can imagine, that is not a personalized, smooth process. School counselors don’t have time to give students personal advice, assist in the college search, review application essays, and help families navigate financial aid. If you need assistance in the college process, an educational consultant can cover the holes left by overworked school counselors. At Collegiate Blueprint, I work with no more than twenty-five clients a year to ensure that each student receives personalized attention and assistance. As an independent educational consultant, I make your child’s academic future my sole priority, and with my knowledge of the college process I can help your child reach his or her maximum potential.

Resumes: Four Years, Double Spaced and Scrutinized

The best way to think of a resume is to think of it like a recommendation. Resumes show off a student’s best qualities through a showcase of achievements and activities, like how a teacher formats a recommendation to embellish a students best qualities and achievements. A resume can be a key indicator of leadership, community involvement, and academic/athletic ambition. Most importantly, a resume can give a whole picture of a student’s four years of high school, filling in the gaps that may be left in a transcript.

A resume should be started a student’s freshman year and maintained throughout high school. Many students fail to do this, and whenever they have to compose their resume, they are at risk of forgetting an accomplishment or activity in which they participated. The format of a resume is very important as well, as a well-presented resume is clean looking and perspicuous, meaning it shouldn’t contain words like perspicuous. Some common formatting standards include having a professional font, using bold words to title sections, separating sections with a line of empty space, and using 1.15 spacing. The resume should be kept to a page or two, unless there is something exceptional that causes the resume to extend beyond two pages, and should also be on a page with one-inch margins.

A resume is like the preview on the back of the book: a very brief overlook of the main story that tries to encourage readers to read more. In a world where one applicant competes with thousands, having a professional and impressive resume may encourage a counselor to look further into your application, or provide a good supplement for what the application form left out in terms of explaining your high school endeavors.

Early Applications: Making an Application Timeline

As we discussed before, there are four main types of college deadlines, and it is best for a student to apply to the earliest possible deadline that fits his or her application ambitions. A good first step is to determine if a student is going to go the route of early decision at any school. A student can only apply early decision to one school and if accepted into the given school must attend and withdraw all other applications. This type of application is a good route for people who are really set on attending one school but are not concerned with comparing financial aid offers, since a student has to accept the financial aid offered by the binding acceptance. The second step in making an application timeline is to go to the admissions webpage of all the applicant’s schools and find out what early deadlines there are and when. Make sure to read the fine print, like if regular decision is in January but all scholarship applications are due in November, or if honors colleges have separate deadlines. The third step is to make a word document or excel spreadsheet of all the schools on a student’s list and each school’s deadline that best fits a student’s needs. Try to organize them by date and by type of deadline, just in case a student has to mark the type of deadline on their application. By organizing deadlines by date, a student can easily see what they need to be working on and also easily mark off schools in a to-do list fashion as applications are finalized. An application timeline is essential to insuring that all deadlines are met for an applicant’s schools. An application, even a day late, is not considered for admission, and a timeline helps avoid making that grievous error.

Early Applications: The Earlier the Better

We know the stereotype: most high school students wait until the last minute to do things. This common assumption generally stands true for college applications. Most students think they can skip the early application rounds, applying at the last minute instead of before the priority deadline. Students argue that applying in the final round means they “have more time to work on it,” but many still begin the application only a week before the deadline. This procrastination not only can cost a competitive applicant acceptance but also can cost thousands of dollars in scholarships. Applications should be started early, usually during the summer after a student’s junior year. When an application is completed over the summer, a student won’t be forced to juggle academics, extracurriculars, and their college applications at the beginning of their senior year. Furthermore, if a student finalizes their application before the fall, they can apply before priority deadlines, which can be as early as October the 15th. Deadlines can be classified as early decision, early action, priority, or regular, and each student has to plan for these deadlines and decide when to submit their application based on how they wish to apply to a school. In the next post, we’ll discuss what these deadline types mean and how to make an application timeline.

College Trends 2014: Transfers and Waitlists – The New Norm

The envelope arrived, and it wasn’t a big one. You’ve been waitlisted or denied to your number one school. Now all your dreams of sitting on the quad and being part of that college’s legacy are dashed, right? Not in 2014, where this year waitlists and transferring are becoming realistic strategies to obtain an education at some schools. The belief that a spot on the waitlist is the same as being denied admission is only true at some institutions. Although not all schools utilize their waitlist and accept applicants, some schools do, such as The University of Pennsylvania, which admitted 100 students off of the waitlist in 2013. A waitlist decision on your application is a neutral stance from admissions officers, and a position on the waitlist is all about turning that maybe into a yes. In the a future blog post, we will discuss methods on how to change a waitlist position into an acceptance.

What if you aren’t one of the lucky ones on the waitlist? Being denied means that you will not be able to attend that college next fall, but it doesn’t have to mean you won’t attend that college next spring or the following fall. Students used to stay put, locked in one institution for four years, but 2014 has seen that this trend has given way to the age of transfers. Going to your second choice college for a year, doing well, and then applying to your first choice school has become a popular strategy for students who didn’t shine in high school but do exceptionally well in college. It’s a second chance to bring something to the table for that one reach school, a second chance to show how you will contribute to their community. By being active at your second-choice school and doing well academically, you show the admissions committee the positive impact you could have on their campus. The point is this: a thin envelope is not the end of the world. A thin envelope can be a final decision or a second chance according to how you choose to define it, and 2014 trends say there has never been a better time to make it your second chance.