Tag Archives: applying to college

Take advantage of college fairs

21 Sep


The Campanile is a familiar landmark at UC Berkeley–where my husband Craig, our daughter Bethany, and I all got our undergrad degrees.

You can get a lot of bang for your zero-cost buck by attending a college fair. These events, held typically in the fall and spring around the country bring college recruiters to cities to talk with prospective students and their parents.

Typically, as many as 200 or more colleges attend these events — and many of my former students found their dream college at one of those fairs. If you do not have the time or money to travel all over the country or even just your own state, you can get some pertinent information in a short couple of hours.

You can find one in your area by talking to your high school counselor. Some of the major ones are sponsored by the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), and I have listed a link to its scheduled fairs at the end of this blog. An organization on the West Coast that sponsors college fairs is the Western Association for College Admission Counseling (WACAC), and I’ve listed the link to the two in the West that it sponsors below as well. You should register in advance to save time at the door for these FREE events, so you can save time when you arrive. You will get a bar code that colleges can quickly scan to send you material in the mail after the conference.

(As you search for these college fairs in your area, make sure that as you register online, that you are registering as a STUDENT and not a college rep. These are most always FREE events, so if the online form asks for payment . . . oops, you’ve got the wrong form!)

Look sharp when you go. Often the college reps at these fairs are from the prospective students or outreach office at their university. However, sometimes you might find that admissions officers and perhaps even the head admissions counselor is standing right in front of you.

To make the most of these events, engage with the college representatives. As I’ve taken students to college fairs over many years, I give them a pep talk before we enter the event, saying something silly like this: “You’re happy! You’re smart! You’re friendly!” That gets a smile on their faces and helps them understand that they should be the one most proactive about getting the most from the experience.

Do the following:

1. Smile, extend your hand, and introduce yourself. “Hi, I’m Sally Smart, and I’m a student from Littletown.”

2. Explain what kind of college program you’re interested in. “I’m interested in mechanical engineering. Can you tell me something about your program?”

3. Engage in conversation about those subjects important to you. Here are some other great questions to ask:

  • “How would you characterize the students at your university?”
  • “What do students like most about the college?” “What do they like the least?”
  • “Is the faculty accessible to students other than the traditional office hours?”
  • “Are any departments being cut back or discontinued? If so, why?”
  • “What percentage of students receive merit-based financial aid? And what percentage of students receive need-based financial aid?”

You and your parents might want to make a list of important questions before you attend the college fair — ones that are most important to you.

I coach my students to ask each college rep at least a couple questions. One that can often catch a rep off-guard is “Do you like your job?” You can find out the true answer to that in their face — and that can say volumes about a school, too! If the rep was a student at that college, ask that person to relate some of their best and worst experiences.

Pick up any and all of the freebies: brochures, flyers, pens, and other trinkets. If you can’t use them, your friends and even your high school counselor probably can.

Any exciting news about college acceptances yet?

Here are those links to find college fairs near you:



Waitlist: Woes or wows?

11 Jan

My daughter and son-in-law both graduated from Biola University in LaMirada, California.

My daughter and son-in-law both graduated from Biola University in LaMirada, California.

Students may now start to get admissions acceptances or rejections from their more exclusive schools on their college list. Kudos to you if the first word is “Congratulations!” Sympathies to you if the letter starts out, “There were an exceptional number of qualified applicants this year….”

However, some of you may find that you are waitlisted for a college. That may seem like a rejection, but it’s not. The college has determined that you are qualified, but there were more qualified applicants than it could accept. As students do their Intent to Register by May 1, you could find a slot opens for you.

What you should do in the meantime:

  • Decide your Plan B: Choose another school and do your Intent to Register for that school by May 1. Yes, you can get out of this; you might even get back your deposit. Housing at the waitlisted school could prove to be a challenge if housing is limited–but this usually works out, too.
  • Submit additional support that could sway a decision in your favor:
    • A letter indicating why that waitlisted school is your No. 1 choice–what leadership qualities you will bring.
    • Submit others’ letters of recommendation in your behalf (always make sure these are STRONG–full-length letters with detailed support)
    • Submit additional essays if you are given the opportunity.
  • Study diligently and stay involved in your activities.
  • Request a personal interview. Be respectful and friendly as you make personal contacts–admissions personnel are very busy.

Do not have your parents call the admissions office. Be proactive in your own behalf.

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 collegeboard.org and/or do the practice tests prepared by Kahn Academy–accessed through the collegeboard.org website.

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