Archive | December, 2015

Common app for private colleges

7 Dec

Stanford University utilizes The Common Application.

Stanford University utilizes The Common Application.

Now that you have probably finished your state school college applications, you most likely are now focused on getting applications done for the private colleges on your list.

You may have already discovered that most private colleges use The Common Application; in fact, more than 600 colleges utilize this form of application. Go to

You will find that you are able to complete just this one application for several different colleges, with the possibility, though, that one college’s essay requirement may be different than another’s.

The prompts are structured to be no more than 650 words, on the following topics:

  • A background, identity, interest or talent that is meaningful to you.
  • Lesson from a failure.
  • A time you challenged a belief or idea.
  • A problem you’ve solved.
  • An accomplished that signified your transition from childhood to adulthood.

Your high school will be notified to send a counselor’s report and grades — but you will want to stay tuned in to make sure they are submitted on a timely basis. Additionally, letters of recommendation may be required by your colleges. Request those early in the process, as it takes up to an hour to prepare a good one.

If you have questions, Common App technical support personnel are available 24/7.


New SAT vs. Old SAT

4 Dec

The redesigned SAT will first be administered in March 2016. Will you be ready?

The redesigned SAT will first be administered in March 2016. Will you be ready?

After the Jan. 23 administration of the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), students will take a redesigned test. Here are the basic changes:

  1. Sections: The old SAT has three sections: Critical Reading, Mathematics and Writing (including an essay). The new SAT has two mandatory sections: Evidence-Based Reading and Writing and Mathematics; there is also an optional Essay with a separate score.
  2. Scoring: The minimum score on the old test was 200 points with a maximum of 800 points for each test, for a total of 2400 possible on the three sections. Because the new SAT has just two sections, with scores between 200 and 800 each, the total possible score will be 1600. There will be subscores and cross-test scores available, as well as a score for the optional Essay portion. On the old SAT there was a 1/4 point penalty for guessing (wrong answers); there is no penalty for wrong answers on the new test.
  3. Time: The old SAT was 3 hours, 45 minutes. The new test will be 3 hours with an additional 50 minutes for students who choose to take the now-optional writing test. Yes, you SHOULD take the Writing portion, too.

New features:

The Evidence-Based Reading and Writing portion will have a 65-minute Reading section and a 35-minute Writing and Language section–a total of 96 questions during the 100 minutes. Reading portions will be drawn from literature, informational, historical and scientific texts, to include graphics.

The Math portion will have a 25-minute no-calculator section and a 55-minute calculator section–a total of 58 questions during the total 70 minutes.

The optional Essay is different on the new SAT. For the old SAT the student built an argument on an issue. For the new SAT essay the test-taker will analyze how a writer builds an argument in a reading selection.

If you have prepped for the old SAT and will be taking the new test starting in March 2016, you will want to take a study course, purchase an SAT prep book through and/or do the practice tests prepared by Kahn Academy–accessed through the website.

The new test is still challenging–so you’ll want to be prepared.



Not too late: private colleges

3 Dec

Dominican University in the San Francisco Bay Area has a beautiful campus.

Dominican University in the San Francisco Bay Area has a beautiful campus.

While the window of application opportunity may be closing for some public universities (California UC/CSU deadline was Nov. 30), most private universities are still accepting applications. There are many advantages to attending a private college:

  • Smaller class size
  • Opportunity to get to know your professors better
  • Better chance of getting the classes you need
  • Greater likelihood of being able to design a major of your own
  • Higher chance of graduating in four years — in fact, some four-year private universities guarantee this
  • And even though the tuition costs are significantly higher than those of public universities, often the private colleges have huge endowments from their alumni, so that you can get large scholarships and university grants. Because you can most likely graduate in four years (if you don’t mess around!), the overall cost may be the same as that for a four-year college.The oldest of our four children attended Biola University in southern California. There she got a leadership scholarship, was able to live in the form for as many years as she wanted, made wonderful friends, got a great job as an assistant to the English department’s dean, and received an excellent recommendation that got her a job teaching immediately after graduation. Our out-of-pocket was no higher than that for our other three children who attended public universities.

    Give private colleges a chance! Apply and see how the financial aid might play out.

    Any good news out there? Where have you been accepted to college thus far?