How to Handle the College Wait List

How to handle the college wait listIf you were wait-listed at your first-choice college, you’re not alone. Every year tens of thousands of hopeful high school seniors hear they’ve been wait-listed. It can be a rough experience. But it doesn’t have to feel that bad, if you have a strategy for dealing with it.

Wait-listing has become common, but many students and their families still don’t know how to handle the situation. That’s why I’m revisiting the topic this year.

Colleges use wait lists to manage what they call their yield. That’s the number of students who actually end up enrolling. The yield is always lower than the number of students offered admission. That’s because some students get accepted at more than one school and end up turning down several offers. Each year, as more students apply to longer lists of schools, the number of students who accept offers drops at even the most prestigious colleges. This phenomenon can wreck havoc with a school’s yield. To protect their yields, more colleges are turning to longer waiting lists.

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Get Ready for the New SAT Test

Pencil on testAre you ready for the new SAT test? Since March 5, 2016, it has been ready for you. High school juniors planning to take the SAT in June should register now. Also take time to familiarize yourself with the new format.

The new SAT will be heavy on reading—even in the math sections. If there’s one skill most important to brush up on, it’s focused reading. Here’s an overview of the test, according to the College Board and other sources.

1. Evidence-Based Reading and Writing

Reading Test – You’ll be asked to read passages from texts about many subjects, including literature, politics, history, science and the social sciences. Some of these passages will include informational graphics.

After reading the passages and looking at the graphics, you’ll be asked to answer questions that test your ability to understand what you have read and to make deductions based on the information. This tests your ability to use evidence to reach conclusions, as well to understand how authors use evidence to support their assertions. It also tests your ability to see the connections between informational graphics and the passages they illustrate.

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Enrichment Tutoring Will Put You Ahead of the Crowd

College tutor with studentImagine what it’s like to have customized, personal instruction in a single subject. With enrichment tutoring, one teacher focuses solely on your individual needs and interests. The result is a deep, intellectual experience.

With the right tutor, the instruction goes well beyond what you get in even the most advanced high school classroom. It’s an experience that will make you a stronger candidate when you apply to college and a stronger student once you get there. Its benefits will last a lifetime.

With a specialist tutor, you’ll have the opportunity to study and converse one-on-one with an expert in a particular area. If you’re an able math student who wants more challenge, a talented writer who needs feedback or an avid reader who wants more time to discuss poetry, novels or plays, you’ll benefit from private tutoring.

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When to Start Planning Your College Strategy

Portrait of beautiful teenage girl smilingSome high school students start planning their college application strategy in the fall of their senior year. Others hear that the spring of junior year is when they should visit colleges—so they begin planning then. But informed students and their parents know strategic college planning should start long before that—as early as 9th and 10th grade.

I’m not talking about saving money for college or trying to boost your GPA or your standardized test scores. Of course, those issues need attention early on. I’m talking about a part of college planning that’s generally less understood and too often overlooked.

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It’s Time to Write Your College Essay

YoungGirlWorkingOnLaptopMediumDollarphotoclub_63022127.jpg_flippedIf you’re a rising senior, this summer is the best time to write your college essay. Come September, you’ll be so busy with other parts of the college application process—not to mention schoolwork—that it will be tough to write an essay that’s really great. And make no mistake about it: if you’re hoping to get into one of America’s top colleges, you’ll need more than a passable essay. You’ll need one that makes the admissions officers sit up and take notice, brings a smile to their lips and makes them remember you.

Now is the time to block out your summer writing schedule for this project. Students who tell themselves they can squeeze the writing in between their other activities and don’t reserve the necessary hours usually find they get to September with nothing on paper.

Even students who do schedule the necessary time often run into problems once they sit down to write. Usually that’s because they don’t understand what makes a successful college application essay, or they don’t know how to adapt those perceptions to the narratives of their own lives.

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How to Plan Your Summer

handful of soil and flower budsLooking for a way to spend the summer that’s fun, interesting, maybe even challenging and also—you hope—impressive to colleges? If so, you’re on the right track, no matter whether you’re a freshman, sophomore or junior. You should be making plans right now, and I’ll offer a few suggestions. But, first, let me dispel some myths.

Despite what you may have heard, to impress colleges you do not need to do a fund-raising climb up Mt. Everest. Nor do you need to spend your summer in a small African village building huts for starving children. I’d go so far as advising you against these activities—unless you happen to live year-round in that small African village, in which case helping your neighbors might be an excellent plan.

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College Fairs: What You Need to Know

CollegeFairsBatesphotoSpring is the season for college fairs. High school sophomores and juniors, I’m talking to you. But freshmen should listen up too—because the timing for the whole college search process has speeded up, so the sooner you begin, the smoother things will go.

Attending a college fair—or two, or even three—might make your life easier. Or it might not. Let’s look at your options.

Fairs can be a great way to get information about colleges you’re interested in and to make connections with them directly. But they can also be a waste of time. It all depends on the fair and your objectives.

If you want to make contact with a college that’s very far from your home, or you want to test out the waters at a school before scheduling an actual visit, attending a college fair may be the way to go. And there can be other benefits. Here’s what you need to know to decide whether college fairs might work for you.

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What To Do If You’re Wait-listed for College

What do do if you're wait-listed for collegeWere you wait-listed at one of your top-choice colleges? Depending on your perspective, you can interpret that as either good or bad news. On the one hand, it’s more encouraging than getting rejected. On the other, being wait-listed prolongs the stress. It also makes it hard to take your other options seriously. Here’s what to do if you’re wait-listed for college.

How you handle the situation should be based on several factors: how appealing you find your alternatives, how badly you really want to attend that top-choice school, and what role financial aid will play in your decision. It’s also important to know yourself and to gauge how much uncertainty you can stand this late in the game.

A student’s chance of getting accepted off a wait list is about one in five, according to research by the National Association for College Admissions Counseling. But that’s a national average that includes many different kinds of colleges. If you’re on the wait list at one of the most selective schools, your chances may be slimmer.

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How to cope with early admission trends

Handsome high school studentToday, as many colleges fill about half their freshman class through early admissions, high school students are scrambling to keep up with a changed timetable. Your chances of getting into the school of your choice may dwindle if you wait for the regular admissions deadline.

And there’s money at stake, too, because financial aid options may be different for early admissions. I wrote a detailed article about early admission trends last year.

Now I’d like to explain how you can make sure early admissions doesn’t place you at a disadvantage. The key is to recalibrate the whole timeline of your college search and application process. Once a student starts high school, you can take steps to lower everyone’s stress levels and increase the odds of success. But, no matter what year of school a student is in, it may be necessary to pick up the pace.

Not long ago, high school students and their families who began touring colleges during the spring and summer of junior year could be confident that they were on top of things. Now the summer after junior year is late to begin college visits. I advise students who are thinking about early admission to start their college research—and do at least some visits—during sophomore year.

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Choosing extracurricular activities

DancingEver since you can remember, people have been telling you how necessary, how crucial, extracurricular activities are for your college resume. In addition to top grades and stellar test scores, a schedule packed with impressive extracurriculars is an absolute must. At least, that’s what everyone says. But is it true?

The answer depends on how you define “extracurricular” and what you make of it.

The most selective colleges are indeed interested in how you spend your time outside of class. Very interested. They want to know you’re not just another academic grind—that you’re a fully developed person with a range of abilities and interests. If you happen to have a serious talent, or an area of special expertise, they’ll be especially impressed.

But, if you think you need to be the captain of both your high school lacrosse and debating teams, to edit your school newspaper, be chief fundraiser for three afterschool clubs, head of the prom committee, and spend your summers building housing for the poor in Sumatra, you don’t get it. And if your mom or dad is pushing you to spread yourself this thin… ask them to stop.

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