University drop off is fast approaching. It really is a weirdly, bittersweet time in the life of parents and students alike. When we dropped of our son on the other side of North America it was exciting, nerve wracking, happy, sad and oh so many emotions all tied up into one nervous Mama bundle.
To help you navigate this time, here are a few tips that we learned from this process.
1. Let them go on the Facebook Year Groups and start talking to different people as soon as they know where they will be heading. It can make a difference when they get there, and often helps them in finding their people sooner. This is where my son found his friends.
2. They may seem calm but they are nervous too. Try and focus on the positive and roll with the flow even if the room looks like a closet.
3. All the parents are nervous, and they really want to talk to you too. Try and make a connection, you never know what type of support that could be for you and your child.
4. Help your child to decide on room decor and a plan. Give them some boundaries and budget of course, but they really still want a little guidance. P.S - Matching slim hangers (not plastic) make a big difference.
5. Start thinking about items for a sacred space for your child: things that make them smile, bring them peace and make them happy. It's a long year and homesickness is real. It was our son’s favourite spot in his room.
6. Even though it says twin bed or twin XL, buy a full/double duvet or comforter. It will hang over nicely and hide some things packed under the bed! And who knows what size bed they will have next year!
7. Buy snacks, cup noodles, drinks — things they can eat if they get hungry and have no one to go to the cafeteria with! It's a hard few days of adjusting.
8. You can never have enough plastic container boxes to organize and store items. These also becoming useful for packing up at the end of the year.
9. Expect to spend at least 4 hours packing out and organizing. Plan accordingly.
10. Don’t over pack clothing from home and let them take their time shopping for appropriate clothing. Depending on where they are going, it can be hot for a short while and then it gets really cold. We may be afraid of the weather, but allow them to see what the trends are and what others are wearing. We may want to get them that goose down parka, but perhaps layering with lighter options that can move through the seasons is a better call. They will eventually figure it out and make a decision. A medium weight coat, hoodies and sweaters are good places to start. Also depending on their program, they may need to do presentations, so one “business attire” outfit should be packed.
Admissions is an ever-changing game. As a young, 23 year-old admissions consultant or "college match-maker" as I like to coyly refer to as my title, my four year stint thus far in the admissions game is one contextualized by rapidly changing information, and reevaluating the nuanced and perhaps overly complex nature of admissions. I like to joke with my students and parents about the complicated nature of the process by saying something along the lines of "Well, it sucks that admissions is so complicated...but then again, if it was easy then my job would not exist!" (insert chuckle here). Parents often express their frustration by comparing the process to how it was for them "back in the day". It was simple: universities had clear minimum thresholds, and once you applied and met the requirements, you got in. There were no overly complex essay rules, and no unintelligible terminology being flung around constantly: "hook" , "demonstrated interest", "legacy", and the most notorious of them all, the "earlies": Early Action (EA), Single Choice Early Action (SCEA), Restricted Early Action (REA), and the big, bad, bold Early Decision (ED).
Each week, I dedicate time to staying abreast admissions news and updates. I train myself to remain open to new ways of conceptualizing and understanding information about admissions. The strategy that I would have recommended for a student two years ago is not, and cannot, be the same as I would recommend today. One strategy that has particularly caught my attention this year is Early Decision (ED); the mostly analyzed and theorized of all the early admissions policies. Previously, I would not have recommended ED for a student who needed to compare financial aid offers. Now, I am.
If you're unsure what ED is, click HERE. In short, ED is an admissions policy that allows students to submit a binding application to ONE college of their choice. Because the application is binding, if the student is accepted, they must attend (given that financial aid is generous enough).
There are a few reasons a student may choose to submit an ED application, the primary one being that it boosts their probability of acceptance quite significantly at the vast majority of schools. Let's focus on three top universities that offer ED: Columbia, Dartmouth, and the University of Pennsylvania.
REGULAR ACCEPTANCE RATES FOR THE CLASS OF 2025
Columbia University - 3.7 %
Dartmouth College - 4.6%
UPenn - 4%
EARLY DECISION ACCEPTANCE RATES FOR THE CLASS OF 2025
Columbia University - 15%
Dartmouth College - 21%
UPenn - 15%
I have to point out that these numbers don't tell the full story. Many will argue that the higher acceptance rates are a) due to athletics (recruited athletes tend to apply early decision to confirm their spot on a university's team. For athletes, applying early is a required part of the process. But the college will almost always admit a student that a coach wants) or b) due to the strength of the ED applicant pool (some will argue that the ED round is made up of stronger applicants who tend to have the level of preparedness required to apply early). This may be true, to an extent. But personally, I don't fully buy it. ED is an advantage (and quite a significant one) because of one word that is perhaps more important to colleges than you could ever imagine: YIELD.
When the US News started ranking colleges in 1983, it quickly gained traction and colleges started to apply strategy to increase their rankings. Universities quickly recognized that a higher ranking would increase their level of desirability, prestige, and even, perhaps inadvertently, their endowment. Elite institutions would attract more donors from wealthy parents seeking to give their child a one-up in the process, or from alumni who would now be prouder than ever before to attend their alma mater. Colleges started to manipulate the rankings (Northeastern is a prime example of this, and was one of the few universities where the then-President admitted to purposefully shifting strategy with the primary focus being to climb the rankings). In the past 10 or so years, Northeastern has climbed significantly in the rankings, resulting in increased desirability, more applications and thus, a lower acceptance rate.
One factor used to calculate a college's ranking is their yield rate (i.e. the percentage of accepted students who choose to enroll). Some colleges, such as Emory University, struggled to increase their yield rate against peer institutions. Many ivy-league bound students applied to Emory as a match school, while hoping to gain admission to a more selective and prestigious institution: HYPS, MIT, Dartmouth etc. For a university like Emory, that is still considered highly selective but remains just below the "top tier" of universities, they were faring below their peers in capturing admitted students (the vast majority of admitted students turned down their offer for another highly ranked school). Say, for arguments sake, that Emory's yield rate is 20% whereas Princeton's is 40%. This means that if both Emory and Princeton had 1000 seats in their freshman class, Emory would have to accept twice as many students as Princeton to fill all their seats. Emory would have to accept 5000 students, in the hopes that 20% would matriculate to fill 1000 seats. Princeton would accept only 2500 students to fill their seats. This means that if 20,000 students applied to each school, Emory would have an acceptance rate of 25%, and Princeton 12.5%. Thus, Princeton would have a higher degree of selectivity, and thus prestige, and likely a higher ranking (though acceptance rates only tell a part of the story).
The binding policy of Early Decision does one major thing for colleges: it increases their yield rate significantly. This matters. And it matters a lot, especially now. Going back to the Columbia, Dartmouth, UPenn example, all three schools filled almost 50% of their seats using Early Decision for the class of 2025. Yes, if Columbia has 3000 seats available for incoming freshmen, about half of them were filled using binding Early Decision applicants, despite the smallness of this application pool compared to the Regular Decision round. This means that the Regular Decision round is not only more competitive because of the sheer number of students who apply, but also because they're all fighting over half the seats.
During COVID, where yield became a lot more unpredictable than it was in previous years (of course, everything comes back to COVID), colleges turned more to their ED pools as well as their waitlists. Admissions, year after year, is shifting to favor ED students more and more.
This is why I want my students to consider ED more than ever before. It can be scary to "commit" to one school. I get it; you want to have lots of offers to compare, including financial aid. It not only increases your chances of getting in, but IF you get in to your top choice ED, you can breathe for the rest of your senior year. I would recommend applying ED to the college that stands out above the rest (your top choice), and one where their net price calculator (every college has one...look it up!) meets your estimated budget for college.
For students who are applying for financial aid, it is important to note that you can get out of your ED contract if the college does not give enough aid. It's easier said than done, but what you should do if they don't meet your financial aid expectations is negotiate (with proper documentation to back up your reason for needing more money), and if they won't budge then you can ask to be released from the ED agreement. READ ON THIS HERE.
In the book that I'm current reading (the most anticipated book on college admissions of the season...admissions nerds like me were waiting patiently for this one), Who Gets In And Why, author Jeffrey Selingo states: “There's a widespread perception that applying ED puts students at a disadvantage for financial aid. That may be the case at schools with limited resources, because they know accepted students are committed to coming, so the college could short them on financial aid. But like everything else in the admissions game, there is no hard and fast rule. At least one study on ED found just the opposite — that financial aid is more generous for Early Decision students because schools sometimes run out of money for regular decision admits”.
My advice would be to fill out the Net Price Calculator (NPC) and save the breakdown to your files. Use information that is as accurate as possible. The NPC is a good, albeit not perfect, predictor of your anticipated financial aid. Also, don't be afraid to contact the admissions office or financial aid department with any questions. If you are a College Quo student/parent, we'll help you to do this.
Some universities including Harvard, Yale, Stanford, and MIT do no not offer ED. Instead, they offer either SCEA or REA. If your dream school is one that does not offer ED, then plan to apply under their other Early Action policies. These policies do increase your chances slightly of getting in, though not as much as ED does (because they're non-binding and thus, do not guarantee yield).
1) Colleges are turning more and more to Early Decision to fill their class
2) The policy is nothing to be feared, but one to be used strategically to increase your chances of gaining admission to your dream school
3) Financial aid is a concern, but universities will allow students to be released from the agreement if their financial needs are not met. We understand anxiety around this BUT a university will not force you to attend if you genuinely cannot afford it. However, the first step is aid is not sufficient is to negotiate (in this past admissions season, one of our College Quo families received an additional $15,000 per year because we negotiated!)
4) If your dream school offers ED, your first step is to fill out the NPC with ACCURATE financial information. Read more about ED policies, and consider it as an option. Talk to your counselor and your parents about it.
Early Decision can seem like a huge commitment, and it is. But it could also be a strategic decision, worth using, or, at the very least...worth considering.
HOW i got INTO a top college with "regular" grades with usd $50k per year as an international student
I felt compelled to write this article for one main reason: Students are not putting in the work from early on to actualize their college goals.
I come into contact with so many students who are smart, with great grades, who have the potential to get into a top school...but who, for whatever reason, have not exerted themselves ENOUGH outside of the classroom to have that "wow factor" for admissions officers. They probably have a couple clubs and a sport to their name, and maybe a leadership position or two. But if you're a "regular" student like me (i.e not a prodigy or "genius"), then you have to understand how to play the game.
In this article, I will share MY story (long before starting College Quo). Before getting into it, I have to say that my story is not, and cannot, be anyone else's story.
I started my high school journey at Campion College. From third form onwards (where I'll start my journey — since those are the relevant years for college), I was a pretty regular student. I didn't know a thing about going to university abroad, and as far as I was concerned, I would be heading off to UWI to study Law when I left 6th form. In either fourth or fifth form, I brought up the idea of going to college abroad to my mother. Knowing that for me as a non-US citizen, the fees would likely be too high for us as a family, she told me that the ONLY way that I would be able to go was to get scholarships — and a lot of money, in scholarships. But the caveat of that situation was that also as a non-Citizen, scholarships & financial aid would be MUCH harder to get.
In order to get lots of $$$ from American colleges as a non-citizen, you have to be spectacular. At a school like Campion, where I felt "regular" amongst some of the most brilliant minds of my generation, I wanted to know how I could compete with these 'top' students. In all honesty, I really was not a spectacular student. My grades were good (3.8 GPA), but not amazing. You know the spectacular ones: the ones who are selected as sub prefects in fourth form, the ones who had perfect GPAs, and who the teachers loved, and who stood out in school with tons of leadership positions, awards, and accolades. I was NOT that person.
I had a few clubs and awards to my name, but nothing spectacular. Outside of Key Club, Debate Club, a few volunteer-stuff, and maybe a sport or two, I had no "wow" factor on my application.
I knew that I would need that "wow" factor.
So, in fourth form, I co-founded Campion's Leo Club Chapter (the youth organization to Lion's Club International) with a friend. That was the start of learning how to strategize for college apps, while pursuing things that I was interested in.
I also got involved in initiatives outside of school (Sailing & Astronomy...that my family was a part of) to boost my college profile. I started a business buying and selling swimsuits, and even tried (and failed) to make them myself.
I studied hard for CSEC, and got 8 ones (I only did 8 subjects). Again, in the world of elite college admissions, 8 ones is nothing spectacular. I don't mean to dismiss getting 8 ones as a "regular" achievement, because it's a fantastic achievement that I was proud of. But the students who get into top colleges? They have 10, 12 and 14 ones. I was not at the top of my game, but I needed to compensate for my lack of 'out of this world' grades with amazing extra curriculars, and later on, a GREAT college essay.
I graduated from Campion with honors. I got no awards and accolades at graduation; I wasn't close to being valedictorian or salutatorian (as I said, I wasn't even a sub-prefect). I was a "regular" smart student.
The students who went to top schools with big scholarships...you know, the the schools with low acceptance rates and large endowments — they were at the top of the game. I was in the middle of it.
I left Campion and went to Hillel for 6th form to do the IB Program. This switch made the biggest difference for me personally. At Hillel I really put myself out there, because I knew exactly what I wanted (to get into a top college, of course). I started 2 clubs and a charity organization, I was Student Council Rep, and got nominated to interview for Head Girl (which I didn't get, but I was automatically a Senior Prefect, so that was nice). Keep in mind that at Campion, I didn't even get chosen to be a sub-prefect. At Hillel, my grades were even better than they were at Campion, and I eventually graduated with a perfect 4.0 GPA.
But before I get to graduation, at Hillel things were getting serious (College Prep wise). I was really confused about the process. I had no idea where to start, or what schools I would be a good fit for, or what schools I could get money from. I turned to online forums like College Confidential, where I took advice from strangers online about my college search LOL. I figured that I would start with schools like Duke, Berkeley, Northwestern and UCLA. This is a screenshot of a post that I made in one of these online forums, during Grade 12 (Lower 6th form) of IB.
After learning that schools like UCLA and Berkeley did not offer financial aid to international students, I immediately took them off of my list. Thanks to the advice of internet strangers!
Then I got some of the best advice that I got through this really confusing process: I needed a balanced college list, and to focus on schools that offer financial aid to international students. OK DONE.
I also have to point out that my goal was not to get into a top college for the brand name. I wanted to go where the money was, quite frankly. Elite colleges have large endowments that translate into more financial aid. Nowadays, I see TONS of students who focus on the brand name. If I ask "Ok but why do you WANT to go to Harvard or MIT?", they have no clue. This is the WRONG approach.
After lots and lots of research, along with the guidance of my college counselors, I chose to focus on top liberal arts colleges, rather than large institutions like the Dukes & UCLAs of the world. I realized that I was more likely to thrive in a smaller environment where I could be a big fish in a small pond; where I could really get to know my professors and they would get to know me; and where I could really make an impact. I applied to schools like Swarthmore, Williams, Middlebury, Pomona, Wesleyan, Bowdoin, Colby, Hamilton, Grinnell, Macalester...and a few others. Getting into these schools were still a long shot (in fact the acceptance rates for all except Grinnell, Macalester and Colby are lower than the acceptance rates for Duke & Northwestern). But I knew that these schools were a better fit for me personally. **If you want to read more about liberal arts colleges, check out this post**
I knew that to get into at least ONE of these schools, I needed to go ALLLL out. I really really wanted it. I literally obsessed over it. Everything for me became about getting into one of these schools (with enough $$$ to be able to go). I took the SAT three times. At that time, the SAT was out of 2400 (instead of 1600 like it is now). The first time I did it, I got 1900 (which would equate to 1260 on the new SAT). WAY too low to even get in to one of these top schools. I studied really hard and got a 2010 (1330 on the new SAT). Still too low. I knew how badly I wanted this, and put serious WORK in. At school I constantly had my SAT book in hand. My "most likely to..." in the Hillel yearbook was "most likely to pass the SATs" (I really wish I was known for something cooler, but alas...). I took the SATs one last time and got a 2100 (about 1400 on the new SAT). It was still a bit low for most of the schools I was applying to, but I sent it my scores in anyway, whether the school was test optional or not.
I got waitlisted at the vast majority of schools that I applied to, except for my safety schools which were Howard University, University of South Florida, and Florida International University. I got significant scholarships from these, but I didn't feel the personal connection to them that I did to the others. These are all amazing schools...but I really wanted a smaller environment. I was waitlisted at Wesleyan, Pomona, Colby, Bates, Grinnell, Skidmore, Macalester, the University of Chicago, Middlebury, Williams, and others. I told myself it came down to financial aid (but wondered if I was good enough). As an international student who needed financial aid, I was in the most competitive category to be in. US citizens who applied for financial aid were prioritized, of course. I was dismayed. I put in so much time, effort, and money to getting into one of these top schools and the best I heard was "maybe".
Then one day as I sat cross legged on my bed at home, I anxiously waited for my Bowdoin decision letter. I was expecting another rejection or waitlist. After all, at the time Bowdoin's acceptance rate was only 12% and I had already been waitlisted at schools that had higher acceptance rates. My chances were low.
Then, confetti appeared on my screen as I opened my decision letter. I screamed and my dad rushed in to ask what was wrong. Everything else that happened is a blur. I'm even smiling so hard right now as I'm writing this and reliving that moment.
At the time, Bowdoin's average SAT score was 2200+, so I was still below-average (my score was a 2100). How did I, as a "below average" international student who needed financial aid get in?
Honestly, I don't know why exactly Bowdoin accepted me...which is why I strongly believe in personal fit. I also got off the waitlist at Grinnell and Macalester, with AMAZING scholarship offers (even better than Bowdoin's offer). After toying with the idea of going to Grinnell, since it would've been more affordable than Bowdoin, I decided against it. Bowdoin flew me up for admitted students weekend, and I fell in love with the school. I haven't regretted my decision to go to Bowdoin one bit.
One thing I always ask my students who want to apply to top schools AND get financial aid (and even more so, if they don't hold a US passport) is "How badly do you actually want this?". If you're not sure, don't do it. You need to be dedicated to the process. You need to make sacrifices. You need to work on 40 drafts of your college essay, along with supplemental essays, getting recommendations, getting top SAT scores, going all out extra-curricular wise, working on financial aid applications, and really....doing the MOST to get that letter of acceptance.
SO ASK YOURSELF - How much do you want this?
Oh, and I hopped back on College Confidential 2 years after my first post, shortly after I began my tenure at Bowdoin.
Someone quickly pointed out that "my logic was off", because the schools that I ended up applying to were "more competitive" than Berkeley and UCLA.
I wrote this article to show you that it IS absolutely possible. Now, getting into these same schools is more competitive than it was when I applied five years ago. Bowdoin's acceptance rate is now 9% (It was 12% when I applied). I wish the system didn't have to be this competitive, but if you REALLY WANT IT then you need to bring your A-game.
Oh, and join College Quo.
As a college consultant, year after year I see students with the grades and potential to get into the top-tier of selective colleges, but without the right strategy and mindset.
Students have big dreams of getting into Harvard, Yale, Stanford, and MIT. They push themselves to do it all. Straight A's, learning an instrument, playing a sport (or maybe multiple sports), picking up another language, starting clubs and non-profits, and having lots of leadership positions under their belt. It's all great. But amidst that high-pressure, student-burnout, 'I-must-do-it-all' mentality -- one fundamental concept is amiss: Elite colleges are not *really* looking for well-rounded students.
Most students aiming for top schools make the huge mistake of trying to be "well rounded." In high school, many students hear this refrain over and over and over again, from older students and teachers to counselors and supposed "college admissions experts." It's well-intentioned advice. Being well-rounded CAN get you into top schools; but it will be harder for you than it will be for those students who have found their "niche" or a clear direction. What you need to do is explore your passions, and structure your life around it.
Well-rounded students, if you're reading this, all hope is NOT lost. You, however have to be really strategic with choosing the right activities to include in your application, and knowing what to leave off. You should find 2-3 "niches" that your current activities will fit into, and exclude anything that does not fit those niches. You will also have to be very intentional with the phrasing of your activity descriptions on the application.
These niches could be:
-makeup and fashion
...and so many other things! It's also fine if you have more than one niches...just be sure to explore them deeply, and try to find the intersection of your niches. For example: If you're a chess player who also loves to write, maybe write a children's book of a story of a chess player. If you're a ballerina who can code, create an app that teaches basic ballet moves to young children.
Disclaimer: Please remember that to get into Harvard or MIT (and peer schools) there are no easy hidden tricks or shortcuts. Really and truly, it takes a lot of hard work, passion, and some luck. Also, while this post will focus on the top-tier of selective colleges, please remember that there are MANY MANY amazing schools. You absolutely do not need to go to Yale or Harvard or Princeton to be successful. However, we think that this post is useful for those students whose dream it is to get into one of these schools.
What Top Schools Hope To Accomplish
To understand WHY top schools aren't really looking for well-rounded students, we must first delve into what they hope to accomplish.
All top schools like Yale, UPenn, and Dartmouth are nonprofits; they don't exist to make money for stakeholders.
Instead, they aim to create as much value as they can in the world. Value can come in a lot of forms - through research, collecting and disseminating information, and lastly (but possibly most importantly), by nurturing and education students who then go on to do great things in the world.
This creates a feedback mechanism - the better a school's students do, the better its reputation. The better its reputation, the larger its endowment grows. The larger its endowment, the more resources it has to contribute to students' lives. The more resources it has to contribute, the more students want to attend. The more students want to attend, the higher its selectivity. The higher its selectivity, the higher the incoming students' academic achievement. The higher the incoming students' academic achievement, the higher the school's academic achievement.
This feedback mechanism continuously perpetuates itself.
What Students They Hope To Admit
Top schools can admit three times the number of students they choose to admit without sacrificing academic quality. It takes MUCH more than grades to get accepted to UPenn or Columbia.
These schools are looking for two main qualities in applicants:
1) Students who might change, or positively influence the world (the big thinkers, the innovators, the doers, the relentless).
2) Students who will contribute positively to their communities/ the college campus, and help other students to accomplish great things as well (the community leaders, philanthropists, and extroverts)
The Harvard Dean of Admissions, William Fitzsimmons, summed it up well:
"Each year we admit about 2,100 applicants. We like to think that all of them have strong personal qualities and character, that they will educate and inspire their classmates over the four years of college, and that they will make a significant difference in the world after they leave Harvard."
How to Convince Top Schools that You are THAT Student?
Essentially, colleges are trying to estimate your potential future impact. THAT assessment will determine whether you are accepted, or not. I know you might be thinking "but I'm only 17, I don't even know what I want to do with my life". That's fine! You absolutely do not need to. However, you do need to have an idea of things or areas that you're passionate about, and delve deeply into them.
Colleges, in trying to predict students' future achievement, use past achievement as the best predictor.
The point of your application is to convince the school that, based on your achievements so far, you are going to continue succeeding and achieving great things in the future.
BUT the problem is, that most students try to show a school that they can achieve great things by doing as much as they possibly can.
That is the WRONG strategy.
The typical student who wants to be well rounded will try to demonstrate some competency in a variety of skills. They will have leadership positions in clubs, play an instrument, maybe a sport or two, and "do it all". High schools praise those who 'do it all' with leadership and involvement awards. In these students' minds, they're telling their schools, "I can do everything! Whatever I set my mind to, I can learn to do a pretty good job. This means I'll be successful in the future!".
This is wrong. The world doesn't see it this way and, colleges like Yale and Harvard generally don't see it this way, and far too many students waste thousands of hours in their lives pursuing this.
The most highly selective colleges don't want 'Jacks of all trades and masters of none' type students. They want to admit students who excel at one, maybe two, and maybe three things that they're passionate about. You can be a piano-playing-lifestyle-blogger-who-also-paints and get admitted. You just have to DIG DEEPLY into those passions. You also don't need national or regional rankings to demonstrate excellence. You just really need passion and commitment...and a little 'out-of-the-box' thinking. This is ESPECIALLY true in today's society, where the world has gotten a lot more specialized.
This does not mean you can't have multiple interests. Most people do! But you should NOT feel the need to "do it all".
DEVELOP A "HOOK"
The word "hook" is tossed around often in the college admissions world. A hook is something extremely unique that sets you a part from other applicants. Maybe you're a nationally ranked gymnast or swimmer, maybe you've produced and sold 10,000 copies of a graphic novel, maybe you started a non-profit with 5 employees, maybe you created an app with 1000+ downloads. These are all incredibly ambitious things, but that's what a "hook is". A hook is something seriously impressive, and difficult to do -- but still within the realm of possibility for high school students.
No one is asking you to become the poet laureate. You don't have to be a genius, or particularly 'gifted'. Everyone has that exceptional component within them, but it's up to you to unlock it and put it to good use.
Ultimately, to get into the world's most prestigious universities...you have to SHOW how you are exceptional.
Do not strive to be well-rounded. Strive to be exceptional. Strive to be passionate.
However, you cannot *just* be passionate. You must find ways to turn those passions into achievement.
With exceptional achievement, and delving deeply, you will increase your chances of acceptance tenfold.
Sources: Article 1, Article 2
For those students applying to schools in the USA, there are some application policies that you need to be aware of: Early Action (EA) and Early Decision (ED).
Note however that there are a few policies like Single Choice Early Action (SCEA) and Restrictive Early Action (REA) that we won't provide details on in this post, since they're not as ubiquitous as EA & ED.
Let's dive in!
1) EARLY ACTION VS. EARLY DECISION- WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE?
Both early decision and early action require that students apply by early or mid November. This is one of the many reasons why we stress the importance of doing the SATs early. While both plans will allow students to receive an acceptance/waitlist/rejection letter from their school earlier on (they will hear in
December, rather than waiting until March), there are some key differences that we must note:
2) PROS AND CONS OF EARLY ACTION AND EARLY DECISION
RECOMMENDED FOR STUDENTS WHO
1) Have a clear #1 choice school (this criteria must be met).
2) Are a US citizen whose family can afford USD $20,000 per year or more (either #2 or#3 must be met)
3) Are an international student whose family can afford USD$45,000 per year or more.
The answer is simple- EVERYONE!
Both citizens and non-citizens are advised to apply early action. You have nothing to lose and so much to gain! If you are satisfied with your early action offer, you won't need to apply to other schools and international students especially can start prepping for college overseas and organizing visa requirements.
4) WHO SHOULD APPLY EARLY DECISION?
Although early decision increases your chances of admission, we typically recommend this plan for US citizens or international students who will not need SIGNIFICANT financial aid offers to attend university. Why?
5) THE PROBLEM OF EA/ED
According to a study by the Cooke Foundation, only 16 percent of high achieving students from families with an income of less than $50,000 applied for early admissions for the 2013-2014 academic year. Conversely, 29 per cent of high-achieving students from families with an income of over $50,000 applied on an early decision basis. This gap is not because wealthier students are smarter or more informed, but because they can afford to apply early decision and risk not being able to compare financial aid offers.
For this reason, schools like Harvard completely abandoned the early admissions process to level the playing field for all students.
NOTE: REMEMBER IF YOU WANT TO APPLY EARLY ACTION OR EARLY DECISION TO A COLLEGE THE DEADLINE IS MID-NOVEMBER! ENSURE THAT YOU GET ALL REQUIRED DOCUMENTS READY AND YOUR APPLICATION IS READY FOR SUBMISSION!
Article 1 Article 2 Article 3 Article 4
**This post was put together by College Quo Intern - Renee Meeks**
Note: This post was written by a College Quo parent. Her son is a member of the Class of 2025. He is an international student (non US citizen) seeking significant financial aid to attend university in the USA. The parent has asked to remain anonymous.
‘Journey into the unknown’ - that is how I feel as I try to support my son in preparing for and applying to colleges as an international student. He didn’t actively start to consider this option until the beginning of fifth form and this resulted in a rush to gather information about the requirements including the SAT, extracurriculars, subject choices, and GPA. With limited financial resources he will need close to a full scholarship to achieve his goal. We agreed that we would do all we can to pursue this dream; it is better to try and fail than not to try at all.
We knew very little of the process and weren't sure where exactly to start. Here began the numerous web searches and watching of YouTube videos. Fortunately, his subject choices in high school were within the range of what we found to be recommended (Mathematics, English Language, Science and Social Sciences) and he was performing satisfactorily. But how does he structure his varying and not very consistent extracurricular activities into a winning profile? That definitely needed work.
As a parent the first consideration was cost; how we would afford SAT classes and college counseling. After much deliberations, we invested in SAT classes and he took the SATs and earned a good score. Next came considerations for the actual college planning process. I know a college counsellor is not a requirement, however I knew we needed help if this endeavor was going to work.
One blessed day, during one of my internet searches I came across an article of a Jamaican student studying at Bowdoin College who offered college counseling as a service, College Quo, at a significantly competitive rate and in a comprehensive way that met exactly what we needed. I was intrigued and contacted her immediately. The rest is history. We continue to be amazed at the excellent quality of service that is offered. Amanda has managed to take what is an intense and daunting process and is skillfully taking him through the college application process. I have seen my son’s confidence in his writing skills improve tremendously over the last few months as he worked through his essays. He is comfortable and relaxed relating with her, even when he had to re-write or change his essay ideas.
And yes, the results are already being seen with college admission decisions already coming in with significant scholarship awards.
What have I learnt through this process? If your child wants to study abroad it is critical to start planning early. It wasn’t wise for us to wait until fifth form. Encourage your child to craft that winning profile not only academically but through extracurricular involvement and demonstrated leadership within their communities early in high school. Early planning also allows for better affordability as the preparation costs can be spread over a longer period and reduces stress during the application process.
Secondly, research, research, research. Find out as much as you can about the process especially as it applies to international students, there is a vast amount of related information on the internet. Also, participate with your child in the virtual sessions and tours offered by most colleges. Do not leave your child to struggle through this process by themselves. Some can but some cannot figure it out alone.
Lastly, if you need help, I highly recommend College Quo for all your college counseling services. Do not hesitate to engage Amanda and her team, you will not be disappointed.
I don’t know where the journey will end for us but I know it will be worth it.
HOW TO NAIL THE COLLEGE INTERVIEW
In the summer of my senior year, I interviewed over 60 applicants to one of the top liberal arts colleges in the US. At selective schools, the interview can really mean the difference between an acceptance, waitlist or rejection. I enjoyed meeting with candidates and getting to know them in 20 or 30 minute conversations, but what separates an outstanding interview from a mediocre one? In this article, I will explain the DOs and DON'Ts of the college interview from my perspective as an interviewer. Still, keep in mind that there is NO perfect formula or step-by-step plan of what you should do or not do during an interview.
When I'm interviewing, my questions aim to hit 3 main areas: What you're interested in or passionate about, your background/family/community, and what you want from your college experience. If you read articles online about how to master the interview, chances are it will say things like "dress for success" or "master the handshake" and I PROMISE YOU, I can't remember, nor do I care about, what anyone is wearing or how you shook my hand. Unless you show up wearing something completely absurd or inappropriate, I won't even notice. I've had students wear suits or blazers, and others who wear jeans and a t-shirt and I have never once wrote in my interview report "this person was really well dressed" or "not the best outfit". Don't overthink what you wear!
1. Don't over-prepare
I get it, interviews can be stressful and intimidating, and everyone tells you to think of questions that they will ask you and think of answers. While it's great to have a general idea of what you might want to touch on during the interview (think of examples and anecdotes that you can pull on), it's really easy to tell when a candidate has over-prepared. When preparing, don't try to memorize exactly what you want to say. Instead, think of some general stories, points, and topics that you can pull on that fall into the categories outlined above: 1) Passions/ interests, 2) Background/ community/ family, and 3) What you want from your college experience. There were some students who I interviewed who were great candidates, but who I felt were not the right fit for the school. I was interviewing for a small liberal arts college, so if a student seemed to not have an interest in intellectual and interdisciplinary exploration, or gave me an inkling that they would prefer a larger school, I would state in my interview report that the fit wasn't the best.
2. Do Your Research
Before the interview, you should become a semi-expert on the college you're interviewing for. Don't mention that you want to major in Business, if there is no Business major. Name a professor whose research you're interested in, specific resources that intrigue you, and what makes this school stand out for you. Lots of colleges start to look similar over the course of applying, but during the interview, your focus should be on the school you're applying to and what makes it unique. Be genuine in your responses, and connect the college to your current passions/ interests.
3. Make it A Conversation
As an Admissions Interviewer, the best interviews were those that I left thinking "wow that was a great conversation". Yes, the focus should be on you as the interviewee, but if your interviewer begins to talk about his/her experiences, show that you're genuinely interested. Be interesting, funny, witty and ask follow up questions. If your interviewer does not seem interested in having a two-way conversation, and prefers keeping it as a Q&A style interview, then run with it. Follow your interviewer's lead.
4. Don't Brag!
I know this is hard, you're trying to sell yourself, right? But remember, the interview is an opportunity to discuss aspects that won't come up in other aspects of your application. Do not discuss grades, GPA, test scores, etc unless asked (and chances are, you won't be asked). Your interviewer might be able to see these already, and if not then the admissions committee surely will. It's fine to discuss activities, interests and passions, but be humble with it. Don't say "I'm an amazing pianist", and instead say "I really have a passion for playing the piano, and I have been since I was six years old". You can definitely find ways to be impressive without bragging.
5. ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS Ask Questions
Specifically, you should ask questions that you can't easily find the answers to online. Do not ask about acceptance rates, or whether the college offers X major, of if you can double major etc...because the information can easily be found online. Instead ask things like "What do you love the most about X university?", or "If you could change one thing about X university, what would it be?. Use this opportunity to learn more about their experience, about campus culture, the location the college is in, etc! If a student had no questions for me at the end of the interview, I noted that in the interview report. It could be a way of measuring interest. So always ask questions. If a question that you wanted to ask came up in the interview already, then think of something else.
6. Add Another Dimension to your Application
You don't want the interview to simply repeat the exact same topics that are discussed in other parts of your application. If you are writing your essay on your fascination with astronomy, mention your passion, but don't let it be the focus of the entire conversation. Discuss parts of who you are that aren't already highlighted extensively on your application - your family, friends, life experience, quirks, hobbies etc.
7. Be a High School Student!
You might be thinking "ok captain obvious, that one I can't help", but hear me out. Don't try to be super impressive and make it seem like you've never failed at anything. Colleges want to admit REAL students. Don't talk about skipping class all the time, or coming to school late everyday. But you can mention how you struggled with a class or a test (and also what you did to overcome it), or how you forgot your lines in the school play. Don't be afraid to get a little vulnerable.
I hope these tips will help you all with your upcoming interviews. Be yourself, be genuine, and let your personality shine. Happy interviewing!
College Quo Founder
The HBCU Experience
I love my H in front of my B, my B in front of my C, I love my HBCU!
Historically Black Colleges and Universities are the most underrated contributors in American history and society. Rising out of the ashes of Jim Crow's segregation, former slaves and Negroes born free were finally able to intellectually advance themselves in America. I graduated from the illustrious Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee; a small, private, liberal arts and science HBCU, built by missionaries who wanted people of colour to be given a chance for success in the south. We boast famous civil rights alumni such as Diane Nash and Niki Giovanni, to academic intellectuals such as W.E.B. Dubois, who brought the words kindergarten and gymnasium to the English vocabulary. He was also the first black graduate from Harvard University and had to redo his entire undergraduate degree there, for a place in their graduate level, because they deemed his HBCU education inferior. It was on our grounds that Dr. Martin Luther King addressed the community for peaceful protests and where the police protected us from the Ku Klux Klan, the day King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. We are also the home of the world renowned Jubilee Singers, who placed Nashville on the map as the "Music City" of America. This rich historical background is merely one reason why I love my HBCU and why you should know more about them too.
Rich Personal Identity The HBCU experience is like no other. Many Jamaicans have never heard about them, as we've grown to know the Ivy Leagues or the big Predominantly White Institutions, (PWI), such as Stanford University or UC Berkeley. As an afro Caribbean, HBCUs provide us with a different ethnic, racial and cultural insight that PWIs fail to provide. Instead of fighting to defend your identity, you are the majority and your common issues are known and catered to, so that you can be the best in a country that generally makes it harder for you. A Caribbean background is also advantageous in this environment as we not only enter with a strong sense of self, but can safely learn, understand and embrace ourselves and others in the American perspective of racial differences, within and without. It is certainly an eye-opening experience that leaves you stronger and prouder to be who you are while being a graduate of fine standings.
Scholarships We all know that the US school system is extremely expensive, especially for international students. The provision of scholarships is where every mikkle, really mek a mukkle. HBCUs are very generous for incoming students and this may be a major deciding factor for enrollment. Upon my last minute arrival to Fisk University, I was accepted as a conditional student, which impacted my scholarship availability. However, I was still offered scholarships and grants which covered 50% of my *private school* tuition, while my fellow Caribbean friends who were more prepared for college, entered with full ride scholarships and spare change.
Hidden Academic Opportunities As America finally comes around to respecting minorities, there has been an influx of targeted opportunities that will put you at an advantage. Major companies are recognizing the importance of outreach in our communities, and making a difference by specifically providing certain opportunities at HBCUs. Google for the past 6 years, has deployed software engineers to teach particular Computer Science classes at various HBCUs and has been directly preparing students for internship interviews. They have also funded and organized Hackathons for HBCUs to compete in, and as a “low-key tech nerd”, I thoroughly enjoyed competing in my Hackathons and witnessed many of my friends transition from interns to employees at these major tech companies. Other opportunities that my school in particular provide, includes joint programs and degrees with other universities in the city of Nashville. Fisk University has a Bridge Program where qualified STEM students have the chance to study for their masters at Vanderbilt University while in their Senior year of college, thus graduating with an undergraduate degree and a masters, one year later. We also have joint programs for Art students to study at Watkins College of Art and Design; direct feed-in programs for Pre-Med and Dentistry students at Meharry Medical College, another professional HBCU; as well as joint programs for Music/Business students with Belmont University.
Greek Life Black Greek Lettered organizations, like HBCUs, came about because of racial exclusivity. Needless to say, black greek life is the backbone of HBCUs. These organizations are about scholastic achievements, comradery and volunteerism. They also provide entertainment on campus with personas that cater to different individuals who can see themself in it. Membership is lifelong and people can become members of these organizations after undergrad. This opens up a massive network system, shared with members who entered beforehand. I personally did not join a sorority, but my connection with the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. motivated me to participate in activities that many organizations offer to non members. This included pageants, where I became the female face of that organization, bonded with current and alumni members, and carried out activities as an extension of the fraternity. This was one of the best experiences I had at my HBCU. Your campus life will never be short of social or academic engagements that Greek organizations contribute.
Homecoming Beyonce was not lying at Coachella. She almost accurately depicted what an HBCU homecoming is like. This time of the year is a highlight for all HBCUs. Alumni return to the campus; Greek step shows and major sporting events are going on; bands/drum lines and majorette dancers (a form of dance troupe distinct to HBCUs) are performing and the atmosphere is filled with merry feet and music. I have experienced 3 HBCU homecomings in my lifetime, Howard University, Tennessee State University(TSU) and Fisk University. They all vary by different degrees, especially since we are three different sizes; but I hands down give it to TSU for some of the hypest all round experience of homecoming. The entire week is built for fun, networking, cultural engagements and again, non stop excitement!
(Fun fact, Beyonce's dad is an alumni of Fisk University and Solange was about to be enrolled before she decided to do her music tours. Also, Oprah Winfrey went to TSU).
Family oriented No matter the size of the institution, an HBCU will always feel like a family because of our cultural connections and understanding. However there is a beauty in the small sizes of liberal arts schools. Fisk University is probably about the size of 5 american football fields together or less. The small student body allows for optimal academic development, as it is much easier to be engaged with your professors and there is less unnecessary competition, or sense of loneliness that's prominent in larger schools. The environment is more conducive to the cultivation of cultural, academic and socially rounded individuals, just because of its size. Additionally, the familial atmosphere would make any homesick person feel comfortable and accepted because no one is judging or mocking you and everyone knows every face or name, even if they are not friends. As for a security perk, smaller campuses enable students to be more aware of the environment, so we ALWAYS know if a stranger is around.
There are so many more features that come with the HBCU experience, but these are a few highlights from my small, liberal arts background. Whether it be a large school, or a smaller liberal arts setting, at the end of the day, HBCUs provide minorities the opportunity to safely embrace their heritage, advance themselves and find loopholes in the American way of life to succeed beyond our boundaries and beyond what the mass media depicts or expects of our people, in society.
Applying Early Decision (ED) to Bowdoin College was one of the best decisions that I have ever made. Getting to that decision, however, was not as easy. Here is the story of how I applied ED to Bowdoin:
Since 8thgrade, I had been involved with a program in Baltimore called Bowdoin Bound, a program run by Bowdoin Alum, Dan Spears. Through this program, I was able, each summer, to go up to Bowdoin for a week and get 75% of the college experience. I was able to live in a dorm, meet with a professor, eat college food and things like that. The other 25% was comprised of college prep work, such as college visits, an interview at Bowdoin, a financial aid meeting, a class with a professor, and college counseling with Dan himself. When it came time to apply for college, with the help of Bowdoin Bound, college visits with my rowing team, and college visits with my high school, I was able to comprise what I called my little black book of colleges with information about each one that I visited, and from there, a list of 15 or so that I wanted to apply to.
I had marked on a calendar when the common app was available to the public and when it was finally time, I raced to it and started filling in blanks, boxes, and submissions, as early as the day after it opened. I wanted to be on top of it and, most importantly, done early! And, for a hot second, I was on it and on top of it. By mid-October, I was completely done the common app and was in the process of writing the little personal statements. However, I still was faced with a quiet dilemma: Bowdoin College. I knew that I had been wanting to go to Bowdoin since 9thCgrade, when I sat on their quad for the first time. But, I was terrified to make the commitment.
Fast forward, and it is maybe 7 days before the ED application was due and I received a text from Dan asking if I was going to make the leap. It was not until two days later that I decided that ED at Bowdoin was the right decision. I knew it in my gut for months that Bowdoin was where I was meant to be, but I was scared. So, I learned that day that there is an entire financial aid application that needed to be completed and submitted the same day as the common app. Houston, we had a problem, because I had no clue what I was doing. So, I spend the next three or four days collecting information, scanning and rescanning documents (which is really hard to do in highschool), contacting the financial aid office, completing the written submissions to Bowdoin, learning and maneuvering IDOC, and completing the FAFSA while still going to rowing practices and completing my school work. On top of all that, I was hounding my recommenders for their recommendations and checking with my college office to see if they’d submitted my transcripts and other important information (they were notoriously forgetful). It was a journey and I may have submitted everything in totality the day it was due, something I swore not to do during the college admissions process.
Looking back, it’s a really funny story that is still a little anxiety inducing. But, it worked out in the best way because not a month later, I received my acceptance to my dream school. Here is what you should take away from my experience:
I know that you are confused, and likely have many questions. We're here with you!
As with every sector and industry, higher education/ college admissions will be greatly affected by the current pandemic. This does NOT mean that you should give-up your dreams of studying abroad, or that you will be forced to take GAP year. It simply means that the current state of admissions is changing, and will continue to do so in the foreseeable future.
We will be providing updates as necessary, but here are some of these major chances you need to be aware of.
1. MORE COLLEGES ARE GOING TEST-OPTIONAL
If you are unsure what test-optional means, you can find an explanation HERE.
According to Bloomberg,"colleges for years have been moving to drop testing, dating back to Bowdoin College’s decision in 1969. Almost 1,100 colleges have already eliminated such scores, including about 50 in 2019. Advocates and researchers maintain that grades are a better predictor of college success. Standardized test scores favor wealthy students who have tutors and can retake tests, which means that eliminating the scores helps level the playing field."
So far, Harvard, Yale and the other high-profile universities of the Ivy League still require them, as do Stanford and highly selective colleges on the West Coast. But many of the schools that compete with those big names are moving ahead to make the tests optional.
Colleges that have now gone test-optional (some only for 2020-2021 admissions cycle) are listed below. We expect many more to follow suit in the next few weeks and will update as necessary.
Case Western Reserve University
University of California System
University of Washington
The University of Oregon
Oregon State University
Texas Christian University
The University of the Cumberlands
2. POSSIBLE CANCELLATIONS FOR FALL 2020
If you were planning to matriculate in September, there is a possibility that you may not be able to be physically present on campus. I know how disappointed you are as you were looking forward to the wonderful adventure of a traditional campus experience. Take comfort (even what little you can) in the fact that this will not be your permanent situation, and that you are going through the same thing as millions of students around the world.
Colleges WANT to open in September, but you need to prepare for the likely possibility that they will remain closed, and have the incoming Freshman class begin classes online.
You can also consider deferring admission for a year, if obtaining the typical four-year campus experience is extremely important to you.
3. FINANCIAL AID & SCHOLARSHIPS MORE COMPETITIVE THAN EVER
College endowments have already taken significant hit from the current crisis. Until borders re-open and economies recover, financial aid will be significantly more difficult to get, particularly for international students. Colleges will likely be looking at foreign students as a source of revenue (i.e. accepting full-paying international students).
With this, international students who need financial aid should focus on creating the most compelling application possible (which we specialize in!) while also applying to budget-friendly schools (and YES, they do exist) in the US and Canada. This is not to scare you, as universities will forever continue to want your diverse perspectives and experiences within their classrooms. However, you have to ensure that (especially if you need significant aid) you provide an application that they simply cannot refuse.