College Admissions Panel: Everything You Need To Know If You Missed It!

College Admissions Panel: Everything You Need To Know If You Missed It!

This past week, our CEO, Sasha DeWind, was thrilled to join a panel on college admissions and we wanted to share a recap of the discussion for those who weren’t able to attend.

Hosted by Christine Martin of Stribling Luxury Real Estate, the panel included our superb colleagues, Bari Norman, a private counselor and founder of Expert Admissions, and Melanie White, the Director of College Counseling at the Grace Church School. Here were the main takeaways about testing, the college list, summers, the application, and private counseling.

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College Admissions: Testing

  • Scores are important to most top colleges and universities, but they don’t help you stand out. Count on admission officers to use grades and scores in order to better understand how seriously an application should be reviewed.

  • The SAT or the ACT will be the central component of your child’s testing portfolio, so choosing the right test between the two and planning the right program around your child’s needs is important.

  • Think your child might be eligible for accommodations? Talk to us and your child’s school so that we can help you navigate the ins and outs of applying for accommodations. Getting extra time (or multi-day testing, bubbling in the test booklet, etc.) can shift the course of a test prep program, but you’ll need the right person to administer the neuropsych evaluation, an appropriate diagnosis and similar accommodations at school. 

  • “Super Scoring”? What does that mean? Super scoring refers to the practice by some colleges (mostly on the SAT but occasionally on the ACT too) of mixing and matching verbal and math scores across multiple test days for the best super score. Note that college admissions officers will see all the scores from both test dates, though it’s in everyone’s interest to mix and match for the best super score.

  • What about “Score Choice”? Score choice describes the College Board’s policy of letting students decide which scores to send to colleges (the ACT allows students full control over their scores too!), and we always recommend sending a concise testing portfolio.

    *Let’s chat over the phone about what schools see/don’t see and how best to make decisions around sending scores since some schools request that students send all of their test scores.

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College Admissions: Making the College List

  • Melanie has her (lucky) students write and write and write before having individual meetings to compile a big list (maybe 24 schools). The writing + information about grades/course load/scores helps Melanie begin to understand each student, though she encourages each student to throw out names and ideas. 

    • Melanie also emphasized “pushing at the edges” a bit to widen the student’s initial list. Many students do not initially consider women’s colleges or colleges outside the northeast, and Melanie is committed to making sure each student gets to at least visit an array of options.

    • After students have the big list, they go off and do research, visiting schools and learning more about each, after which the list shifts and becomes more focused.

  • Bari’s approach is a bit different. After getting to know the student through conversations, a credentials review, and a few fun exercises that get at the college characteristics most important to them, Bari recommends a group of six schools for the student to research as a starting point.

    • The group includes colleges the student has identified an interest in (if there are any) and also schools that Bari thinks the student might like or should consider, based on her understanding of their goals, personality, and priorities. Depending on the student, a school's location, size, prestige, or a particular course of study might lead the way.

    • The student then completes a short research survey for each school; the specially-designed survey guides the student toward helpful elements to consider and is aimed at helping them differentiate between schools that may seem, on the surface, to be similar (this especially comes in handy later, when writing the supplemental essays).

    • Bari then uses the student’s feedback to continue building the list from there; this helps determine where to visit and it helps create an ambitious but realistic list you can feel good about.

  • There’s no one way to get to a strong list, just as there is no one perfect school for your child!

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College Admissions: Summers

  • As Melanie pointed out, summers are a time for students to do what they don’t have time to do during the year, and their passions should lead discussions about how to best spend their time. 

  • Melanie emphasized the value in getting summer jobs (delivering groceries, babysitting, etc.) and in spending time with family and resting. 

  • Bari & Melanie also discussed the importance of picking the right programs, pointing out that not all programs are the same in terms of the value to your children and the value to admissions officers.

  • Bari also emphasized that it really comes down to how you engage in whatever you do, and what you’re able to learn from it (and your ability to communicate that in your essays!). 

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College Admissions: The Application

  • Get familiar with The Common Application

    • Students should plan their activities with the understanding that they will have ten slots to give details about them. The catch is that while the colleges want a lot of details, they give you very limited space to provide them!

  • Rising seniors should work with an expert (their school counselor, their private counselor, not their uncles and family friends who are great writers but not experts) to make sure their personal statements are thoughtful, clearly-written (and written by them!), and representative of who they are and what they want the admissions committee to know.

  • Oh, and don’t forget that most schools ask for supplementary essays. Many ask about summers or about why the student wants to attend the school or about their academic interests. Specificity is key, and demonstrated interest can be the deciding factor in admission for some schools.

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College Admissions: Why Private Counseling?

  • Students who hire private counselors like Bari receive individual attention earlier in the process (9th/10th grade), which means students have access to one-on-one planning around courses, summers and focal points.

  • Boarding school students can be tough to reach (at least when you’re mom!) and often need someone to manage the process. 

  • Students at bigger schools may want more individual attention than their counselor can provide. 

  • Parents and students may want a knowledgeable advisor outside of the school network to speak with and to use as a sounding board.

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We know what we've included above seems like a lot, but we are only a phone call away for more in-depth conversations around your high schooler’s educational needs. Send us an email to schedule a call.

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