Archive | August, 2017

What admissions officers want

30 Aug

My youngest is currently getting a master’s degree from the University of Hawaii in Honolulu.

While some four-year universities may simply use GPA and scores to determine acceptance, others may consider many criteria in the admissions application, including a combination of the following:



  • School achievement (GPA)
  • Test scores (SAT or ACT)
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Personal essay(s)
  • Personal (or telephone) interview
  • Activities, including leadership, athletics, and community service.

It is important to carefully review a college’s admissions considerations, so you can make decisions about where to apply. It is NOT a good idea to apply only to one or two colleges, because that doesn’t leave much wiggle room if the response is negative. Here’s a traditional guideline:

  • Apply to a couple “safe” schools — those to which you (or your student) will certainly be accepted.
  • Apply to a couple “challenge” schools — ones with good reputations that probably will accept you.
  • Apply to one or more “reach” schools — ones that are more selective.
  • Think about a mix of both public and private universities. Public universities usually are more affordable, while private universities can usually offer more free financial assistance, as well as graduation within four years.

The College Board began tracking admissions considerations in the early 1980s and has consistently found that the most important considerations for acceptance are the student’s grade point average and the rigor of courses taken (College Counseling Sourcebook, 4th edition, 2007). Colleges have found that students who challenge themselves in high school and achieve in difficult classes will also succeed at the college level. So, if you have not performed all that well in high school and are counting on the fact that you are student body president this year . . . you may be disappointed.

What I have learned is that I cannot always predict whether or not a student will get into a certain college. My oldest got into all five colleges to which she applied. The next two kids got into most of the schools to which they applied. The last one got into three of the six even though she had the strongest profile of our four kids — and the school she attended (UC Berkeley) was the most selective of those six. So, who knows?

What I do know is that for selective schools a student must have stellar grades and scores . . . and a unique leadership quality that has been demonstrated consistently over the entire high school career. Leadership is demonstrated in a couple ways: holding a presidency or vice presidency in a school, class, club, or other organization or organizing (as a committee chairman or event chairman). Generally, only serving as a member or other kind of officer doesn’t demonstrate “leadership.” So, an ASB president title slapped on during the senior year when no other leadership was demonstrated in earlier years may not be enough for some admissions folks looking for something to tip the scale in the student’s favor.

Community service is fantastic on a student’s profile, but the volunteer work should be focused and cumulative over many years, rather than spotty endeavors in this cancer walk or that food drive for the shelter. Additionally, the college applicant should be able to show that she ORGANIZED the various events, not merely attended or participated. Again, colleges want leaders, not followers.

So, this week’s assignment:

  • Make a list of what schools to apply to.
  • Write the deadlines in your planner.

And understand this: The early bird generally gets the acceptance AND the best financial aid offer. So, make your weekend “job” college applications this fall .  .  . and get them done!

To what schools do you plan to apply?

Sign up for last-minute tests

23 Aug

If you’re not happy with your ACT or SAT scores, you can still take them this fall. Typically, though, four-year colleges want seniors to have their tests completed by December.

To sign up for the Sept. 9 or Oct. 28 ACT, go here:

To sign up for the Oct. 2, Nov. 4 or Dec. 2 SAT, go here (you still may be able to get into the Aug. 26 test as a standby–but act now!):

Those links can also direct you to free practice tests, which you should take seriously NOW. Work on them daily so you’re prepared.

Remember: Good scores equal not only better admission chances but also opportunities to earn scholarship money. Colleges typically base their scholarships heavily on test scores.

Coming April 2018 to an online or mortar bookstore near you, 50 Life Lessons for Graduates–a perfect gift gift for high school and college graduates. Save time, money, and heartache from 50 millenial college grads who share their best life lessons.


Double-check your transcript

15 Aug




Seniors, all set to cruise through your last year of high school with an easy schedule?

Hmm, that might not be a good approach. Actually, it is critical that you have your counselor review your transcript to make sure you have completed all the courses you need for college admission. Do not assume your current schedule is okay.

Make an appointment with your school counselor as soon as possible. If you are getting “put off,” have one of your parents make the appointment. Make sure you have an updated copy of your transcript at that appointment, too.

In advance of that meeting, go to the websites of those colleges to which you are interested in applying. Print off the admission requirements. Compare them with your transcript. If you’re seeing something missing, be proactive and get a schedule change.

Stay on top of things this year!

P.S. While I will be posting weekly blogs through your senior year, you can also read through the blogs from earlier years, starting with the fall months, which are chock-full of help.