June & July 2020

Access Success 3rd Annual Scholarship
This scholarship will be awarded to one graduating high school senior (class of 2020) who has worked with Access Success independently at least once during his/her high school career. It is a one-time, non-renewable scholarship that will be paid by August 31st on the recipient's behalf directly to the college or university to which the recipient is enrolled. Scholarship applicants should submit the following materials to Access Success during the months of June & July. The final day of application submissions is July 31st. 

Here's what we're looking for in an applicant: honesty, passion, someone who is well-rounded and unafraid to take risks; someone willing to step outside his/her comfort zone. 

To be considered for this award you must send all of the following materials together (applicants who submit in dribs and drabs or are missing a required element will not be considered): 

  • cover letter naming the school you've chosen to attend and why; your intended major or field of interest
  • how Access Success did or didn't help you in the college process - we're looking for honesty, here, not praise (please keep to 1 paragraph) 
  • copy of FINAL high school transcript - unofficial is fine but must include grades for all 4 years
  • resume (do not simply submit a list of extracurricular activities)
  • copy of your common app essay (or equivalent)

These materials may be emailed, dropped off or mailed to:
Francesca Morrissey
Access Success LLC
6 East St., Unit B
New Milford, CT 06776
francesca@accessuccess.comThe award recipient will be notified by mid-August and announced publicly in our September newsletter.

May 2020 
And they're off! 
This application cycle we worked with 68 seniors representing 17 different high schools who applied to 125+ colleges and universities. These are the schools to which this year's Access Success students were admitted. Those in bold are where they've chosen to enroll - so far. Many are still taking advantage of the moved Decision Day and will not make their decisions until June 1. 

Bard (3), Baylor, Bentley, Boston College (2), Bridgewater State, Bryant (3), Central CT State, Clarkson (3), Clemson, College of the Holy Cross, Cornell, Curry (2), Drexel (5), Duquesne (4), Eastern CT State (3), Emmanuel, Emerson (3), Fairfield, Florida Gulf Coast, Hampshire (2), High Point (4), Iona (3), Johnson and Wales (2), Keene State, Kent State, Lehigh, Marist (2), Marquette, Michigan State (2), Middlebury, Mount Saint Mary, Oklahoma State, The New School, Northeastern, NYU, Pace, Penn State (3), Purdue (5), Quinnipiac (4), RIT (5), RPI (2), Roger Williams (5), Rutgers, Sage College of Albany, Sacred Heart, St. Johns (Queens) (4), Seton Hall (4), Skidmore, Southern CT State (3), Springfield, Suffolk,  SUNY New Paltz, Temple, Tufts, University of Albany, UCLA, University of Colorado-Boulder (2), UCONN - Storrs (8), UCONN - Stamford (2), UCONN - Waterbury (3), UCLA, University of Maryland, University of Delaware (3), University of Hartford, University of Maine (2), UMASS Amherst (2), University of Miami (2), University of Michigan - Ann Arbor, University of New HampshireUniversity of New Haven (4), University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill, University of Notre Dame, University of Oregon, University of Pennsylvania, University of Pittsburgh (2), University of Richmond, University of Rhode Island (7), University of South Carolina (3), Valparaiso, University of Vermont (2), University of Virginia (2), Vassar, Villanova, Wentworth Institute of Technology, Western CT State (2), Western New England, Wheaton, and Xavier (2). 

April 2020 

Wait listed? What next?
Because colleges are operating in a time of stress and unknowns, we are anticipating that wait-lists will be used more so this year than in past years, simply because college yields are bound to be impacted by COVID-19. It's anticipated that fewer students will be comfortable moving as far from home as they may have been a month ago. It is also anticipated that the economic downturn caused by the virus will cause families to be more circumspect about how and where they spend their tuition dollars. 

After Decision Day on May 1 - or in some cases on June 1 as several schools have extended this date - colleges will determine how many slots remain in their incoming freshman class. Wait-lists are typically not ranked, and students are admitted off the list based on a college's needs. For example, if fewer international relations majors enrolled than expected, the university might go to the wait-list and admit students who indicated they want to study international relations or global studies. The more popular the major, the less likely your chances of coming off the wait-list. 

Here are 3 suggestions for what to do if you've been wait-listed:
1. Be sure to notify the school that you want to remain on their wait-list. If they don't receive a response from you, they will remove your name from the list. It is a common courtesy to also inform them in the event that you DON'T wish to remain on the list.
2. Enroll and deposit at another school. Because the percentages of coming of a wait-list are historically low, it is always recommended to secure your place at one of the schools to which you were accepted. Be aware that deposits or portions of deposits are typically non-refundable. If you do gain admission from a school to which you were wait-listed, and you choose to attend there, you will need to inform the school where you deposited of your change of plans.
3. Continue to show demonstrated interest in your wait-listed school. The easiest way to do this is to reach out to your regional Admissions Rep in an email. Be sure to state your continued interest in the school, why it remains your number one choice, and how you would be an asset to their community. Also communicate any updates regarding your activities, academics, and the like. Given that most things have been canceled or indefinitely postponed, this last item might be difficult to include, but you should feel free to mention your disappointment at not being able to participate in the school's spring musical or your spring sport. You could also mention how you're overcoming the challenges of distance learning.


February/March 2020

What are the benefits of attending a Community College?
In a world where the cost of college is steadily increasing, community college can be a great way to save money and lower the amount of student debt one would have accumulated upon graduation. Community colleges generally charge less for classes and can save students anywhere from $500-$1500 PER CLASS. That’s a huge savings! Additionally, students who attend community colleges can still qualify for financial aid and scholarships, lowering the cost of school even more.

Attending community college can improve the transcripts of students who may have struggled academically in high school. In turn, this can also increase their opportunities for earning more scholarships and generating greater options for completing a four year degree program. Community college can also be good for students who are unsure of a major and want to explore a variety of subjects before narrowing their focus. 

Finally, attending community college doesn’t restrict a student to earning a two year associates degree. Many students choose to enroll at a four year institution after 2 years of community college. In this way, families avoid four years of cost prohibitive tuition, and students are still able to attain a four year degree. At the end of the day, all a potential employer looks for is where you earned your most recent degree, not how many years you spent at a particular institution.

In summary, exploring community college can: 

  • help students save on the overall cost of college 
  • improve student transcripts allowing them better scholarship opportunities
  • allow students to explore many areas of study that might interest them
  • aid students in transfering into a four year institution with transferable credits

​​January 2020

Now's the time to begin exploring precollege summer programs

Precollege programs are a great way to help prepare your student for college life. They are offered at schools across the country and range from 1-2 weeks to over 6 weeks. Precollege programs are also a great opportunity for students to explore specific schools of interest. It can also give them a leg up in the application process if they build a good rapport with a college’s faculty and staff. In addition to the academics that precollege programs offer, they also often include participation in social events - everything from sporting events to field trips and cultural events.

We have compiled a list of some precollege programs offered across the country. Various programs focus on different subject areas. For example, RISD (Rhode Island school of Design) offers a 6 week art intensive precollege program for students serious about pursuing a degree in the arts. Barnard offers programs geared specifically for girls, and offers a range of opportunities to explore New York City. Other schools such as Cornell and Emory offer intensive sessions where students can earn college credit.

Finally, Summer Discovery offers a range of programs focusing on business, sports management, architecture, leadership, engineering, writing, and more. These Summer Discovery programs are offered on a number of different college campuses including University of Michigan, Georgetown, Pace NYC, and Wharton.

For more information about finding the right summer precollege program, feel free to
contact us to schedule an appointment. 

November 2019

New Trends in College Admissions

New Admissions Rules

Under pressure from the U.S. Department of Justice, the National Association of College Admissions Counselors (NACAC) has removed a number of provisions to their Code of Ethics that are sure to impact future admissions practices - specifically having to do with offering student incentives, student recruitment and poaching, and soliciting transfer applicants, among other things. Having spoken with admissions reps during their visits over the past month, I can confidently say that these changes will impact the admissions landscape moving forward. For more info about these changes, visit Inside Higher Ed. For a better understanding of college admissions trends in general, you can sign up to receive a pdf of the "2019 Survey of College and University Admissions Officers" here. It provides statistics related to many topics, such as: recruitment, out-of-state admissions, student debt, affirmative action, admissions at public universities, waiting lists, and much more.
Changes Coming to the ACT
Beginning in Sept. 2020, the ACT will be making significant changes to keep in close competition with the College Board and the SAT. Here's a summary of their proposed changes:
1) Students will be able to take the multiple choice section of the ACT online and will be able to access their scores within 2 business days.
2) Single-section re-testing will be permitted. This means that a student with solid science and math scores, only interested in improving his/her English and Reading scores, will no longer need to retake the entire exam, but rather just targeted sections.
3) The ACTs will now allow for superscoring whereby students can submit their highest score in each individual section - English, Math, Reading, Science - from multiple tests.

September 2019

How to Prepare for College Admissions Interviews

​Fewer and fewer colleges and universities are offering prospective students the opportunity to interview. Since this is so rare, high school juniors and seniors really should avail themselves of the opportunity when it's made available to them. While visiting with a College Admissions Rep at a College Fair or for a few minutes in a small group while s/he visits your high school may not provide you with the best circumstances to shine a light on all your achievements and accomplishments, it is better than not making an effort at all. Still, better yet, is a one-on-one Admissions Rep interview appointment. These are sometimes accessible when you visit a college campus for an info session and/or tour, provided you email or call the Admissions Office to request an interview in advance. Individual interviews may also be available to students when they reach out to Admissions Reps prior to a Rep's visit to the student's local area. Admissions Reps are often willing to meet at a local Starbucks or Barnes & Nobles for a 20-30 minute interview. At Access Success, we work with Admissions Reps, who make themselves available to meet with Access Success students in one of our offices for 2 or more hours (or 4-6 student interviews).

Students who are interested in interviewing should arrive for their appointments on time, have a hard-copy resume on hand to share with the Admissions Rep, be familiar with the college's programs of study and other non-academic offerings, and have a handful of specific questions ready to ask. The goal of any admissions interview should be to learn more about a specific school and to highlight all the reasons why you would be an asset to a specific campus community, both in- and outside of the classroom. For more info on how best to prepare for an interview, visit the College Board's website. They provide some good tips.

August 2019
NACAC 2018 State of College Admissions 
Not much has changed since last year's 2017 Report. Here are some highlights: The number of applications received is at an all time high; yields are still down; more schools are going to their wait lists. Legacies don't provide much of a leg up anymore, whereas being a first generation college student does. Colleges continue to increase their international student numbers. Use this link to view the 40-page report in its entirety.
Here's what caught our eye:
College Counseling in Secondary Schools:
Access to college information and counseling in school is a significant benefit to students in the college application process. For many students, particularly those in public schools, college counseling is limited at best. Counselors are few in number, often have large student caseloads, and have additional constraints on the amount of time they can dedicate to college counseling.
• Student-to-Counselor Ratio:
According to US Department of Education data, in 2015-16 each public school counselor (including elementary and secondary) was responsible for 470 students, on average.
• College Counseling Staff:
For the 2017–18 academic year, 33 percent of public schools reported employing at least one counselor (full- or part-time) whose exclusive responsibility was to provide college counseling, compared to 68 percent of private schools.
• Time Available for College Counseling:
Some differences exist between the duties and activities of counselors employed at public schools versus those who work at private schools. On average, public school counselors spent 21 percent of their time on postsecondary counseling in 2017–18 , while their private school counterparts spent 47 percent of their time on college counseling.

To quote the "Changing Landscape of College Admissions" published June 10, 2019 by NORC at The University of Chicago in follow-up to NACAC's annual report:
"Regardless of the cause of the increased volume of annual college applications, the result has been a decrease in acceptance rates at the majority of four-year institutions. Couple the changes in application and admission rate behaviors with the rising cost of college, and families are increasingly seeking assistance navigating college admissions and financial aid processes. Meanwhile, the availability of high school guidance counselors offering this type of assistance is dwindling and varies widely between private and public high schools.... With roughly 91% of high school students in the US attending a public high school, the overwhelming majority have limited access to college counseling assistance. It is not surprising, then, that more families are turning to private counseling. These consultants ... help to demystify the application and admissions process. A recent independent study estimates that 26% of high achieving seniors employed a private college counselor."

May 2019

How You Spend Your Summers Matters
One of the best ways to make your college application stand out is to keep busy during the summer months. There are several ways in which to do this successfully. Here they are (in no particular order):

  • significant internships - these sorts of experiences can be extremely helpful in gaining admissions to selective colleges or into programs of study that are seriously competitive. For example, working in a doctor's office, a hospital, or a research lab when interested in a health sciences major, such as a nursing, can be hugely helpful in gaining admission to nursing schools that only accept 30-35 freshman students. 
  • volunteer - involvement with not-for-profit organizations that hold a special place in your heart or whose mission you believe in passionately will help you to stand out, especially if you volunteer for them in multiple capacities and over an extended period of time. For example, consider volunteering as a camp counselor for a favorite organization if your interested in majoring in education or child psychology.
  • academic enrichment - online classes, summer classes, pre-college summer programs offered by private organizations that specialize in a particular discipline such as criminal justice, medicine, journalism, global studies, visual arts, theater, dance, etc. can be an excellent way to explore areas of interest and show prospective colleges how eager you are to begin your academic journey in a specific field.
  • summer camp  - if you think attending the same summer camp year-after-year is lame, you couldn't be more wrong! Colleges love to see that students start out as campers and work themselves up to positions of leadership within the same organization. This demonstrates passion, dedication, and a sense of loyalty.*
  • work experience - all jobs are worthy of inclusion on an applicant's resume, so if your thing is babysitting the neighbors' kids all summer, that's awesome! So is working as a busboy, a handyman, a lifeguard, a cashier, or a groundskeeper. Paid employment shows that you're responsible, diligent, conscientious, reliable, and timely - qualities colleges like to see in an applicant.
  • travel - sometimes you physically cannot participate in any of the previously mentioned summer opportunities because the summer is a time for your family to spend together in other places. Travel experiences are often overlooked by students as they write their resumes, but they shouldn't be! Colleges love applicants who are worldly and have an understanding of other cultures and peoples. So if family travel is on the agenda this summer, don't sweat it; make the most of it. Visit museums, try new foods, do plenty of sightseeing, get to know the locals, and document the things you see and do.

April 2019

Choosing the Right High School Classes

The number one mistake I see students make when it comes to preparing for college admissions, happens in the early high school years. If you want to ensure that you will have every opportunity to gain admission into the university of your choice come senior year, you have to make certain choices about high school courses beginning with freshman year. Enrolling in the most rigorous course of study offered at your high school, provided it is appropriate for you, is the number one hard factor reviewed and considered by Admissions Reps. Often, high school guidance counselors are more concerned with class scheduling than they are with ensuring that individual students are taking the most appropriate classes needed to achieve their college goals. While your choice of electives shouldn't make or break your college admissions chances, they can impact your opportunity to be admitted to elite programs at selective schools. Similarly, not all academic classes carry the same weight; the quality of AP and college courses is not necessarily equal. For example, if you're hoping to study engineering in college, taking AP Stats and AP Psych in lieu of AP Comp Sci, AP Calc and AP Physics is a mistake. Year over year, you should be moving into more challenging classes and excelling at them. Colleges frown upon straight A students who play it safe and never move into more challenging classes. The best way to ensure you're making the best course choices is to have an independent counselor review them each year. High school guidance and college counselors, while well meaning, often have their own agendas, which may not necessarily include what's in the best interest of the individual student.

February 2019

Summer Pre-College Programs

If your son/daughter has his/her heart set on attending a very specific college, attending a summer pre-college program at that particular university's campus and offered by that university can absolutely provide a leg up on gaining admissions to that specific school. However, enrolling in a summer pre-college program is no guarantee of admission. This is certainly the case if you're child is attending a program held at a college campus but offered by a third party organization simply renting campus facilities. When investigating summer programs, be sure to pay close attention to who is hosting/sponsoring the program and not simply where it's located. 

Of course, pre-college programs carry value outside of whether or not they're hosted by a specific university. Summer programs held on college campuses can provide students with a taste of what they can expect living on their home, away from family, in an environment where academics take priority and they must advocate for themselves. Finding a summer pre-college program in a subject of interest can also be helpful to students trying to narrow their focus in the years leading up to senior year of high school. There are pre-college summer programs available to students of all ages and interested in all disciplines. For example, here's a list of 50 STEM related summer pre-college programs being offered in 2019. Many of these programs are selective and require applications in order to be admitted. And while many such programs can cost thousands of dollars, they do often consider applicants for scholarships and/or provide financial aid to students with families who qualify for need. Some programs are 100% free such as Girls Who Code, a 7 week program with hosting sites in Stamford, NYC & Philadelphia, among other cities throughout the US, for girls entering grades 11 & 12. Summer Discovery offers programs in a range of subjects including business, leadership, acting, social justice, engineering and writing, to name a few for students entering grades 9-12. Programs are located at universities throughout the US, including Pace NYC and Georgetown. The Young Writers Workshop at the University of Virginia offers 2-3 week-long workshops in which professional, published writers provide instruction. Costs associated with this program run between $2,000-$3,000. Peerlift.org is a great resource for exploring these sorts of summer pre-college programs. Overall, colleges and universities like to see high school students make good use of their summer "down" time; summer pre-college programs are an excellent way to do this!


January 2019

Good Reads​

Now that the holidays are over, maybe you find yourself with a little more downtime and an opportunity to catch up on some reading. If you're the parent of a 9th-12th grader, we've got a few suggestions for you:

Parents of 9th-10th graders:

Admissions Matters: What Students and Parents Need to Know About Getting In by Springer, Reider & Morgan

Getting IN by Standing OUT: The New Rules for Admission to America's Best Colleges​ by Bedor

Looking Beyond the Ivy League: Finding the College That's Right for You by Pope

Where You Go Is Not Who You'll Be, by Bruni

Parents of 11th-12th graders:

Colleges that Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About Colleges by Pope

​The Best 384 Colleges, 2019 Edition: In-Depth Profiles & Ranking Lists to Help Find the Right College For You by Franek

Fiske Guide to Colleges 2019 by Fiske

December 2018

Setting Yourself Apart

Whether you're a high school senior approaching second semester or a freshman trying to find something special with which to fill your free time, setting yourself apart is an important factor in boosting your college admissions chances. While not everyone can break the high school 100m record, perform at Carnegie Hall, or win a national award, there are other ways to gain significant recognition. Do you have a hobby or interest that you could expand into a business, maybe start an Etsy store, work some trade shows, do some weekend freelancing? What about starting and maintaining a blog or a youtube channel? If you're interested in a specific field, search for a unique summer internship, selective summer college program, or study abroad opportunity. And if you do stumble onto something unique, new, or exciting after having submitted your college applications, drop an update in an email and send it off to the admissions reps for your state at each of the schools to which you've applied.

November 2018

Application Errors to Avoid

While mistakes happen to the best of us, having mistakes in your application can work against you. Here are some tips to help you avoid shooting yourself in the foot:

  • Every section of the application should be filled out completely, including optional sections that enhance your chances of admissions - e.g., the Additional Info section, a resume, optional supplements.
  • Make sure that your supplements, short answer questions, and essays answer the prompts. Be specific and tailor your responses to each individual school.
  • Make sure all the info you provide is accurate to the best of your knowledge as of the day you submit.
  • While you're not accountable for the time frames in which others submit materials, you are ultimately responsible for ensuring that all your application materials are received by their deadlines. This includes your transcript, letters of recommendations, official test scores and financial aid forms. Follow up with people as needed and early.
  • If you're given the opportunity to provide links to websites you've created or maintained, a blog you write, a podcast or youtube channel you run, your online store, etc., do so.
  • Always, always, ALWAYS have someone proofread your entire application, not just your essays and supplements.
  • Lastly, after submitting, be sure to create a student account at each college's website so as to be able to check on your application status regularly.

October 2018

FAFSA and CSS Profile Filings

As the FAFSA and Profile become available on October 1st, here are 5 general things to be mindful of:

1) The FAFSA must be submitted, regardless of the schools to which you apply, in order to qualify for $5500 worth of federal student loans for freshmen, $6500 for sophomores, and $7500 for juniors and seniors and for other government aid such as the Pell and FSEO grants. The CSS Profile is required by 450+ colleges and universities in order to determine aid and scholarships.Check here for a list of Profile schools.

2) Aid is said to be determined on a first come, first serve basis; therefore, it is in your best interest to file these forms sooner, rather than later. Having your forms filed no later than Dec. 30th is wise, though forms can be submitted through June 30, 2019.

3) These forms must be filed every year, for every college-bound or college-enrolled student.

4) While the FAFSA only requires financial information as reported in tax year 2017, the CSS Profile requires both 2017 tax information as well as estimates for 2018.

5) The number one reason students don't receive the aid they rightly qualify for is because their forms were not filled out correctly. Pay close attention to detail when working on your forms and be sure to read the instructions in full for each section and question.

Septem​ber 2018

The Value of a Resume

Often students I work with give me grief when I instruct them to get a college application-ready resume together. Why, they ask, is this necessary when they've already had to input all of their extracurricular activities into Naviance's resume builder, as well as into the Common Apps activities list.

First, Naviance's resume builder formats resumes horribly and requires information, as does the CA activities list, that colleges really aren't interested in, such as how many hours per week on average you spend on a particular activity. 

Secondly, a well-crafted resume should highlight activities, awards, honors, sports, clubs, organizations, experiences, hobbies, etc. that make you unique and that showcase your special talents and abilities. If you haven't been able to dedicate much time to extracurriculars because you work 20 hours/week to help your family make ends meet, a resume can showcase and explain that in a way that listing work experience on the CA activities list can't.

Finally, a personal resume says something about your style and personality simply in how it's crafted. How did you use color, a particular font, complete sentences or bullet points? In what order did you list particular activities? Did you highlight those things that were most important to you or that you were most successful in achieving?

A few things to keep in mind when developing your resume:

1) This is not a job resume! It should not include sections titled "Education" or "References." Admissions Readers will already know your educational history as it's included in several other places in your application. And none of them will be contacting former employers, friends, and/or anyone else listed in a References section. Leave these off.

2) If any of the schools to which you're applying do NOT prompt you to attach or upload your resume prior to submitting your application, you should send an email to the regional rep at those schools letting him/her know that you're excited about having just submitted your application and that you're attaching your resume for their perusal as you were not prompted to do so in the CA.

3) Always, always, ALWAYS have someone proofread your resume before sending it out!

August 2018

Understanding Demonstrated and Informed Interest

The National Association for College Admission Counseling recently released their annual State of College Admission report. One of its major findings relates specifically to the roles that  demonstrated interest and informed interest play in the admissions process. To better understand what these things are and how they work, here's a true tale based on the experience of one of the students I worked with last year.

This particular student was accepted to almost every college to which she applied, including several selective universities such as Boston University, NYU, and Marist College. So we found it somewhat odd that she wasn't accepted or even waitlisted at Fordham University. At the time, she asked me, "How is it that I got into NYU and not Fordham?" and I had no response, because I honestly had no idea how that could have happened.... And then the 2017 State of College Admission report was released and explained two things: many schools pay close attention to the other schools to which an applicant is applying, and then the schools pay even closer attention to how much contact the applicant has actually had with their school. So, in the case of my student, Fordham would have noted the applicant's interest in several other top-notch, highly competitive, selective universities and would have considered this, while researching to see if the applicant had toured the Fordham campus (and if so, how many times), attended an info session, made herself known at college fairs, emailed or otherwise reached out to her Fordham Admissions Rep, coach, or some other  representative. They might have even looked to see how many times she opened an email sent by the university. All of these things translate to high interest on the part of the applicant. And since she didn't do any of these things, Fordham assumed it was because they were her safety school and as such, determined that if she were to receive acceptances at any of the other schools on her list, they'd take precedence, and so Fordham chose not to "waste" an admission on a candidate they were pretty sure wasn't going to attend their school.

Similarly, colleges may assume the same of students whose essay supplements are vague and non-specific. This is what's meant by informed interest. If a supplement asks you to reflect on why you want to be at a specific school, you had better know something about a particular program, professor, or area of study that makes the college unique and fascinates you. And you better be able to write convincingly, passionately, and effectively about it, because if your response is generic or one that's clearly been copied and pasted a dozen times, you'll score few points for informed interest and will likely be denied admission.

In the end, every school should be made to feel as if they're your number one choice. If they sense that they're not, then you won't be their choice ... at all!

April 2018

Are all financial aid awards REALLY negotiable?

Well, the short answer to this question is: you won't know until you try! There's literally no reason NOT to attempt a financial aid negotiation ... and not just for your first year. Aid is something that should be negotiated year-after-year. The most important thing when attempting an aid negotiation is figuring out what it is you may qualify for and who to contact. If your FAFSA calculated a very low EFC, its worth bringing to the attention of the school's financial aid office and asking them to explain their award in relation to your EFC, especially if they only offered you loans without offering you federal grant money. The financial aid office should also be your point of contact if your prior-prior year taxes (used when filling out the FAFSA) do not accurately reflect your current financial situation. Additionally, if you have a legitimate change of circumstances - e.g., unexpected medical expenses, recent divorce, death of a parent, newly unemployed, recent care of an elderly relative, etc. - you should bring such to the attention of the financial aid office. In these situations, you should expect to have to fill out a specific school form or write a letter to the financial aid office and be able to document whatever changes you're claiming. This typically requires providing the school with copies of your most recent tax returns including all schedules, W-2s, 1099s, medical bills, EOBs, termination letters, etc. Appeals for additional federal dollars are best made by a parent, not by the student.

If your EFC is on the high side and you do not have legitimate circumstance changes as outlined above, making an appeal to the financial aid office for additional federal aid is not recommended. Instead, I suggest appealing any scholarship offers. These appeals should be made in writing and addressed to the Admissions Office, preferably to the regional rep you would have become familiar with during the application process. When requesting to be reconsidered for scholarships or for an increase to an already proffered scholarship, it helps if you can provide reasons for why you deserve more scholarship dollars. For example, if you've won an award, helped a sports team to a championship, broken a school record, been involved in a significant community service project, etc. since submitting your initial admissions application, include those details in your scholarship appeal letter. These sorts of appeals meet with greater success when initiated by the student, not by the parent.

Regardless of which approach you take, appeals should always be typed and snail mailed. Be sure not just to include your name, but more importantly, your assigned school student ID number. Take note of the date on which you mail your appeal - the earlier the better and certainly no later than early April for incoming freshman, and as soon as possible for upperclassmen. If you don't receive a reply within 7-10 days, follow up with a phone call.

Most importantly, if your making any sort of appeal, do so before making any sort of deposit - tuition, housing or otherwise. Once you make a deposit, the school has no incentive to negotiate as you've already indicated your intent to enroll. And remember: you have nothing to lose. Schools don't retract initial offers of aid simply because you've asked to have your need reconsidered. The worst that can happen is that you ask for more money and your told you can't have it.

March 2018

How should a college-hopeful spend his/her summer?
Not binging Netflix, gaming, or sitting by the pool ... unless you're the lifeguard. Summers are a great time of year to work on building your resume. Colleges like to see that high school students spent their summers doing something engaging that they're passionate about. Whether that means attending a summer camp for your 6th consecutive year, volunteering for a favorite not-for-profit to which you've been involved for years, working for an employer to whom you have some allegiance, participating in a college summer program, taking part in an international service learning or study abroad program, or enrolling in an online or community college class to help advance your academic record, doing something productive is far more desirable than taking the summer "off." Just be aware of a few guiding factors: 

1) Hopping from one volunteer job to another, just to be able to list a whole bunch of service roles on your resume, will look suspicious. There's a word for this. It's called "padding." Don't do it!

2) Any job that you're truly committed to is worthwhile - interning at a hospital doesn't look any better or worse than a steady gig as a busboy ... unless you're looking to apply to a highly selective pre-med program.

3) Spending a couple of weeks backpacking through Europe or driving across the US with your buddies isn't the same as an educational or service-related study abroad experience.

4) Doing something you love and are serious about is always a safe bet.

February 2018

What to do when you're deferred
So all your applications have been submitted and you've come to find out that instead of being accepted, you've been deferred. What exactly does that mean and what should you be doing to increase your chances of being accepted in the next round of application reviews? Where as being accepted or denied is straight forward - you're either "in" or "out" - being deferred means that your application will be reconsidered and a decision will be rendered at a later date. While this can be disconcerting, it's still hopeful. Often schools will defer student applications because they'd like to learn more about the applicant prior to making a final decision. In some cases, this means that they want to see first semester senior year grades or are interested in hearing more about your involvement in extracurriculars. For this reason, when you've been deferred it's in your best interest to keep in touch with the College Admissions Rep for your area ... but only when you have something new, impressive or exciting to share and only if the instructions in your deferral letter allow for such. So while joining a new club isn't worthy of an update, placing in a scholastic competition or a prominent sporting event or winning an art award is something to write your Rep about. Just make sure you don't overdue it. Reps aren't going to want to hear from you repeatedly, just once or twice when you have something important to tell them that enhances your admission candidacy. The best thing to do is to meet with a guidance or college counselor to have him/her help you craft a letter or email update and ALWAYS be sure it comes from the student, NOT the parent.

January 2018

To Test or Not to Test ... That is the Question

January is often the time when parents of sophomores and juniors begin inquiring as to when and how often their children should sit for standardized tests and exactly which ones. While there are currently 990 test optional colleges/universities to choose from and "test flexible" schools appear to be gaining in popularity, there are still a majority of schools that require tests. And homeschooled students will always be required to demonstrate proficiency via standardized tests.

Prior to the redesign of the SATs in March of 2016, I would have advised students to have taken both the SAT and the ACT at least once, and then, having seen which test yielded better results, to repeat that particular one at least once, if not twice. Since the redesign of the SAT made it almost identical to the ACT, there really is no longer a reason to take both tests. For that reason, I recommend choosing one test and sticking with it. This means taking the test a minimum of two times, possibly repeating it a third time. My recommendation is that students take either the ACT or SAT for the first time in March or April of junior year and then for a second time the August before entering senior year. Some feel that it's necessary to take the exam three times, in which case, I'd suggest sitting for a final exam in fall of senior year, but be wary of application deadlines. If applying Early Decision or Early Admission, you may need to take that third exam in October as the November and December dates may be too late.

Aside from the ACT and/or SAT, students should be mindful of taking SAT Subject Tests. Some of these tests are required for specific majors at certain colleges/universities. For example, many engineering schools require applicants to have taken a number of SAT Subject Tests in math and/or the sciences. For this reason, it behooves students to sit for specific tests at the time they've completed the corresponding course work. Typically, students should schedule a Subject Test in May or June of the school year in which they've completed an equivalent class. So should a student take AP Chemistry in his/her sophomore year, s/he should sit for the SAT Chemistry exam in May or June of his/her sophomore year. The following is a list of SAT Subject Tests: Literature, U.S. History, World History, Mathematics I, Mathematics II, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Spanish, French, Italian, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Latin and Hebrew.

December 2017

When Should Your College Search Begin

If you are the parent of a 9th, 10th or 11th grader, NOW is the time to begin planning for college. Students do not need to know what it is they want to study in college in order to start searching for schools of interest. There are plenty of online search engines to assist you in the first stages of your search; all of which will filter results based on the selection criteria you enter. The College Board, Fastweb! and Scholarships.com, among many other sites, offer such search engines. I strongly recommend using the search engine available in Naviance. Naviance is a 3rd party college planning software solution used by a majority of US high schools to provide students with college planning assessment tools. Check with your student's guidance department or college counseling office to gain access to Naviance's many features, including its college search engine. Keep in mind that each school's counselors determine what functionality will be available to both students and parents. If you're interested in using Naviance for something specific and that functionality does not appear to be available, request it of your child's guidance department.

This is just one way to begin the college process. Other things you will need to take into consideration are your student's eligibility to gain admission to his/her schools of interest. The best way to determine that is to meet with someone who knows the college admissions process inside and out, and who can provide you with details on how best to position yourself as an ideal admissions candidate. Whether a private college counselor like myself or a school counselor, this person should have only your best interest at heart and will need to make him/herself available to get to know you as both a student and a person. College counselors, if approached early enough in the process, should be able to advise you as to the best classes to take over your 4 years of high school, which clubs and activities to engage in, when and what standardized tests to take, what schools to consider, and more. The right counselor can set up any student for college success ... provided the counselor is asked to do so early in the process, ideally in a student's 9th or 10th grade year.

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