Learn the Lingo: College Admissions Terms

Have you ever noticed that the college admissions process full of acronyms and new terms?  Sometimes it feels like another language.  It is difficult to figure out what you are supposed to do if you can’t even determine what it all means.  Below is a list of common college admissions terms. This list will help you learn the college admissions lingo and start your college process with confidence!

Standardized Testing

Standardized testing is used in college admissions to create a common “standard” to compare applicants. It is one piece of the college application. Testing policies vary from school to school, and some colleges and universities are test-optional. It is essential for applicants to carefully review the standardized testing policies for each school to determine if they are meeting the requirements.

The ACT is a standardized test administered through ACT.org.  It has four sections: English, Math, Reading, and Science.  Each section is graded on a scale from 1 to 36.  Scores are averaged for a maximum composite score of 36. There is also an optional writing test portion of the ACT (which is required by some colleges).

PSAT/NMSQT is the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test.  It is often taken during the 10thand 11thgrades.  Students who achieve a high score in the 11thgrade could qualify for the National Merit Scholarship Program.  PSAT scoring is complex, but it does provide a “predicted” SAT score.  Students can also link their PSAT exam to their Kahn Academy account for additional SAT practice.

The SAT is a standardized test administered by College Board.  There are two sections: math and evidence-based reading and writing. Both sections have scores ranging from 200 to 800. There is also an optional essay section (some schools require the essay section).

SAT Score Choice is the term describing the College Board practice of allowing students to choose which SAT or SAT Subject test scores are sent to colleges.  Keep in mind that some colleges and scholarships require applicants to send in their entire testing history.

SAT Subject Test are shorter, subject-specific tests offered through College Board.  Students take the SAT Subject tests to highlight their strengths in specific academic areas. The tests are required or highly recommended for a small number of colleges and universities.

Superscoring is when a college or university considers the highest sections scores across all of the dates that a student took an exam.  Many colleges will superscore the SAT, but most will not superscore the ACT.

Test-Optional is when a college or university does not require a student to submit standardized testing scores to complete their application. Some schools do not require an SAT or ACT for admission, but they do require test scores for a student to be considered for scholarships.  Some colleges are also test-flexible, giving student options regarding which tests scores (or sections of tests) to submit for consideration. Colorado College is an example of a school that practices flexible testing.

Application Process

As a student puts together their college applications, it is important that they understand the terms being used.  This will help them determine the best strategy for them to complete their applications, including determining how and when to apply.

Common Application is an application platform used by more than 800 colleges. Students can complete one “common application” and submit it to several colleges or universities.  Many schools require students to complete a supplemental section.  This allows the college or university to ask school-specific questions, including additional writing prompts.

Coalition Application is an application platform created by the Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success. It has over 100 members.  In addition to being an application platform, MyCoalition also has tools that students can use to prepare for the college application process.

A Deferred decision is when a student has submitted an early application, but the college determines they are unable to give a definite decision during the early round. The application is then deferred and considered with the regular admission pool.

Demonstrated Interest is how an applicant shows that they are genuinely interested in attending the school. Students can demonstrate interest in a school by visiting the campus, communicating with an admissions officer or following a college on social media.  Some schools do not track demonstrated interest while others do consider it when making admissions decisions.

Early Action (EA) is similar to an early decision option. However, the student is not obligated to attend the university. Students usually submit early action applications in November or December. Decisions are typically released in December or January.  Applicants have until May 1st to notify colleges of their intent to enroll. 

Early Decision (ED) is an application option where a student applies to college or university and commits to attend that school if admitted. The ED option is binding, and a student can receive one of three possible outcomes: admit, deny or deferred. Students usually submit early decisions applications by November 1st or November 15th.  Some colleges do offer an early decision 2 option with deadlines in January.

High School Profile is a document that is often submitted to colleges by a high school counselor with transcripts.  It gives colleges an overview of the course offerings, grading scale and average standardized testing scores.  Colleges use this information to determine how competitive a high school is.

Regular Decision is an application option where students submit applications usually in January or later.  Decisions are often released in mid to late March.  Applicants have until May 1stto notify colleges of their intent to enroll.

Priority Deadline is offered by some public colleges or universities to encourage applicants to submit applications by a certain deadline. Colleges often do not guarantee that they will have admissions space or scholarship availability after a priority deadline.

Rolling Admission is when a college or university accepts applications and releases decisions on a rolling basis. Some colleges with rolling admissions do have priority deadlines.

Single-Choice Early Action or Restrictive Early Action is an application option where a student can only submit an early application (ED or EA) to one college or university. Applications submitted under this option are non-binding.

Spring Admission is when a college or university admits a student, but the student is not allowed to enroll until the spring semester. Spring admission is a common practice used to help schools control enrollment numbers. Cornell University is an example of a school using spring admission.

Waitlist is an application decision a student receives from a regular decision application.  Students will be reconsidered for admission if the college or university does not meet their enrollment numbers after the May 1stdeposit deadline.

Yield is the percentage of applicants offered admission to a college or university who ultimately enroll.

College Cost

Figuring out how to pay for college begins with understanding how financial aid works and what the total cost will be to attend.  While not every student will apply for financial aid, every student should still know what they are paying for.

Cost of Attendance (COA)is the estimated total cost for a student to attend a college or university for one year.  The COA includes tuition and fees, on-campus room and board and estimations of expenses (books, transportation, etc.).

CSS Profile is a financial aid form required by some colleges (mostly private institutions) to be considered for institutional aid.  The CSS Profile asks detailed questions about a family’s finances.  Students should file the profile by the college or university stated deadlines (usually the same as the admissions application deadline). The CSS Profile is administered by the College Board.

Expected Family Contribution (EFC)is an estimated amount a family is expected to contribute to college costs for one year.  EFC’s calculators can give a general idea of this number.

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)is the application that helps colleges decide the financial need and how much federal aid a student receives.  The online application can be found at www.fafsa.gov and it becomes available October 1stof senior year.

Need-Blind/Need Aware Admission is when a college or university takes into consideration a students financial status when making an admissions decision. Need-blind colleges do not consider a student’s financial situation, and need-aware colleges do.

Need more direction for your college process?  Check out the Ideal College Planning Timeline to get started!


Photo by Paul Schafer on Unsplash

Transition From High School to College: Adulting 101

College is here!

Whether you just moved into your residence hall or have been in college for over a month, this  “college adulting” thing is probably starting to feel pretty real!

It seems like just yesterday you were brainstorming ideas for your college essays and contemplating where you might end up.  And now you are there- at college.  You may be having the time of your life, or struggling a bit (probably somewhere in between).  Either way, here are some reminders as you continue your transition to college life.

Find a Peer Mentor

During my first week of college, my roommate and I decided we wanted to go to the beach.  We both had cars, but we didn’t exactly know how to get to the beach or which beaches to head to (remember, I am old, and this was in the days before the internet and Google Maps).  I picked up the phone and called an older student I met on a pre-orientation trip. This was out of my comfort zone, but I wanted to go to the beach, so it had to be done.

Growing up, you always had people around you to offer guidance: coaches, teachers, parents, etc.  Now that you are in college, it may be less obvious who you can go to for help.  Finding a peer mentor, who has “been there, done that,” can be an essential resource for your transition to college.  It can take some of the small stressors away (like how to get to the beach).

How to find a peer mentor:

  • Look at the mentors around you that you may already know: orientation leaders, resident assistants, teaching assistants, etc. If you are not connecting with those individuals, ask if they know other students who are interested in something you are interested in. Ask them to introduce you.

  • Talk to older students in your classes. What do they know about the professor? What other classes have they taken that they have found interesting?

  • Connect with students from your high school or state.

Revisit Your Expectations

It is ok to be lonely, overwhelmed and experience setbacks. College is an exciting time of your life, but no one tells how lonely it can be! You are going from a place (home) where you are close to several people (parents, friend, siblings, teachers, etc.). Now you are starting relationships from scratch, and they are not at the same level as your relationships back home.  Also, you may not make your closest friend right away.  Like high school, your relationships in college will change and evolve.  The hard part is that this takes time and it can be a lonely reality.  For more perspective on expectations vs. reality, check out this video, My College Transition.

Stress may also be an unexpected aspect of college life.  You may be overwhelmed by the amount of studying you need to do or you may have already received a less than satisfactory grade.  The trick is to determine what resources you need to use to help you deal with stress.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help!

What you can do:

  • Get involved. Everyone tells you to join clubs and organizations, but you can also join a study group, attend campus events or get a job to find other outlets.

  • Be careful with social media.  Don’t compare yourself to everyone else.

  • Use the resources available before you need them.  Visit the math tutoring center.  Take your next paper to the writing center.  Go work out!  Remember that most resources are widely available at this point in the semester.  As things the academic intensity increases (hello midterms), it will be more difficult to get appointments.  So start now.

  • Remember everyone around you is in the same boat.  As the video above says, “It is possible to be surrounded by people and still be lonely.”

Connect with a professor 

If you want to get into the nitty-gritty of why this is important, feel free to read Frank Bruni’s New York Times article, How to get the Most Out of College. He provides several examples of individuals who took full advantage of the opportunity to connect with a professor. This may seem intimidating, especially if you have large classes. However, research shows that connecting with a professor is one of the most significant predictors of college satisfaction.  It will help you feel more connected to the college community and academic life.

How to connect with a professor:

  • Identify a professor that seems approachable and brainstorm some conversation starters.  This may be questions you have about the class, a topic that interests you related to the course material or a question about academic life (i.e., thoughts on a particular major). You can also simply ask the professor what advice he or she has for first-year students.

  • Find out when the professor has office hours and show up!  You can also email the professor to schedule an appointment or approach him or her after class.

  • Send the professor a thank you email after your meeting.  Make sure to mention what you learned from the interaction.

Learning to be an adult is difficult and things are not going to change in one day.  Initiating just one of the tips of above can help you get the point where you are no longer transitioning to college, but finally feeling settled.

Hats Off To The Class of 2018

As the students in the College Mindset Class of 2018 prepare to head off to the next step in the college process (orientation, anyone?) I want to take a moment to celebrate everything they accomplished. As a college counselor, it is a privilege to work with young people as they navigate one of their first major life decisions. Through all the questions, anxiety, uncertainty and ultimately, excitement, I feel so lucky to have a glimpse of who they are and who they will become.

The College Mindset Class of 2018 received 88 Acceptances after submitting 116 applications. Collectively, they received approximately 34 merit scholarship offers, totaling over $2.3 million.

In addition to managing their academics and preparing for standardized testing, they did medical research, interviewed refugees settling in Israel, worked as an archeologist assistant at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum, and completed an internship at an engineering firm. They took computer programming classes and learned JavaScript. They earned a black belt in Judo and played basketball, baseball, tennis, rugby, football, and soccer- some recovering from injuries and surgeries along the way.  They taught science to elementary school children, created a company to provided tutoring services, and refereed for youth sports. They created service trips to bring athletic equipment to children in Costa Rica. They volunteered in animal shelters and soup kitchens. They provided meals for chronically ill and house-bound patients and worked with the developmentally disabled. They worked summer jobs babysitting, peeling potatoes at a burger joint, lifeguarding at the local pool and providing customer service at a soft-serve ice cream shop. They ran for student government positions, worked on the student newspaper and mentored fellow students through Linked Crew. They taught discipleship as a student chaplain and coordinated activities for religious organizations. They played musical instruments, sung in choirs and performed in plays. They worked on the student judicial court for their local government.

The College Mindset Class of 2018 was made up of an amazing group of students who are just beginning to leave their mark on the world. The colleges and universities below will be lucky to have them!

  • American University
  • Arizona State University
  • Bates College
  • Baylor University
  • Colorado State University
  • Denison University
  • Gettysburg College
  • Seattle University
  • Texas Christian University
  • Tulane University
  • University of Colorado, Boulder
  • University of Kansas
  • The University of Texas at Austin
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • Washington University, St. Louis
  • Wheaton College (IL)

Hats Off To The Class of 2016

DiemThis time of year is always bittersweet. It is a time to review the college process for the graduating class, evaluate the outcomes, and look ahead with new information.

Here is an overview of the College Mindset Class of 2016:

• They received 77 acceptance letters after submitting 128 applications.
• Collectively, they were granted over 2 million dollars in merit scholarship offers.
• They reside in 6 states: California, Colorado, Delaware, Maryland, Nebraska, and Wyoming. One Colorado resident worked with me while completing a gap year in Australia.
• They were deeply involved in their communities, through athletics, student government, non-profit organizations, and many, many clubs.

But these students were so much more to me than the statistics above. Overall, they taught me that hard work pays off, but sometimes not in the way you expect it to. They handled the rejection that often comes with this process with grace and celebrated every victory with humility. They confronted challenges with tenacity and persistence- and overall showed me that how incredibly satisfying it is to send a great set of young adults into the world.

The colleges and universities below are so lucky to have these students on their campuses.

Carnegie Mellon University
Case Western Reserve University
Colorado College
Colorado State University
Emory University
Kansas State University
Loyola Marymount University
Montana State University
Santa Clara University
University of California, Los Angeles
University of Puget Sound
University of Southern California
Vanderbilt University
Washington University in St. Louis

So, hats off to the College Mindset Class of 2016!  I am so proud of all of you!

Your Humbled College Counselor,



5 Steps to Making Your Final College Decision

Why Hire a College ConsultantAs with many other aspects of the college process, making your final decision is an excellent way to learn a significant life skill.  You will make decisions for the rest of your life, including deciding what to major in, which internship to apply for, and ultimately, what job offer to accept.

Making the final decision about which college to attend is the first in the long line of “life choices.” However, this particular decision is not the student’s alone. It is a family decision. The student is the one going to college, but the parents are the ones (generally) paying for it. So while it is important for students to follow the steps below, they also need to take into consideration the input of those around them. Student should also consider the 3 Questions to Ask When Making Your Final College Choice, which was covered earlier this week.

When it comes to making a decision, any decision, it is important to approach it in a step-by-step format.  Below are the steps that can be taken in order to make the final college choice, but these steps can apply to any decision you need to make in college and beyond.

Step 1: Review your priorities.

As with any major life decision, you need to go back to the core: your priorities. Why did you apply to college in the first place? What were your priorities when you began the process? How have your priorities changed? Examine all of the aspects you are looking for in your college experience: academics, location, support services, a particular club or organization, cost, etc. and rank them. Which ones are the most important to you? Which ones are the most important to your family? There can be a lot of emotion tied up into making your final college choice, so it is important to keep yourself grounded by establishing your priorities.

Step 2: Determine your questions.

When you began the process, your priorities were general: good financial aid, strong academics, an opportunity to play sports, social campus, etc. Now is the time to get specific and find evidence to determine how each campus supports your priorities. For some families, the cost of a college education is the most important factor. Being able to compare financial aid offers side-by-side and determine the out-of-pocket cost for your family is an important component of your final decision.

If one of your priorities is “strong academics,” figure what that means to you. Do you want a campus where students are well-supported by professors? Or are you looking for more concrete numbers such as the percentage of students admitted to medical school?

If you are looking for “opportunities to play sports,” determine what type of sport. Are you looking at club sports or intramurals? What teams are available? For club sports, figure out if you have to try out for the team. How competitive is the process?

The social aspects of college are often an important priority for some students. However, you need to determine what “social” means for you. Do you need to find more information about a particular club or organization? Are there activities happening on campus that interest you? Do students go home on weekends? Is Greek life popular on campus? Determining what you need to happy socially is an important step in making the final college decision.

Step 3: Collect information.

There are many ways you can collect the answers to the questions you brainstormed above. Ideally, you should plan on visiting the final colleges on your list. Staying in the residence hall, attending an admitted student event or sitting in on a class are all great ways to gain insights.

You may also want to consider requesting meetings with other individuals on campus. Interested in a music group? Email the director. Curious about a particular major? Contact a faculty member in that department. Reaching out to individuals on campus may seem like an intimidating idea, but professors and administrators are often very open to meeting with prospective students. Just make sure if you schedule a meeting, you prepare questions ahead of time.

You should visit a college before you attend, but if you are not able to make it out for a second visit before May 1st, there are plenty of other ways to college information.

  • Call the admissions office and ask to speak with a current student.

  •  Ask your guidance counselor to put you in touch with students from your high school who are attending the school.

  • Join Facebook groups associated with the school (specifically if there is a group for your graduating class).

  • Call specific departments and ask questions. Just like the statements about meeting with individuals if you are going to campus, you can accomplish the same goals by picking up the phone.

  • Review outside sights- but don’t base your final decision on what is posted there. Use the opinions posted to formulate your questions then use the resources above to look into any issues you find further.

The bottom line is that you need to explore EVERY aspect of the final colleges on your list. This not the time to feel like you are being a nuisance or think that you will figure it out later. ASK ALL OF YOUR QUESTIONS.

Step 4: Make a pros and cons list.

After you have reviewed your priorities and found answers to your questions, make a pros and cons list. Sometimes seeing all of the information laid out will make the answer clear.

Step 5: Make a decision, and stick to it.

After completing the steps above, you need to make a final decision. If the answer is not immediately clear, consider these techniques:

  • Give yourself a deadline. Stewing about the decision is not going to make it easier. By giving yourself a time limit, you force yourself to move forward.

  • Flip a coin. This may sound like a trivial way to make a decision, but sometimes it will reveal how you honestly feel based on the decision being made for you.

  • Say it out loud. Telling someone you trust your final decision (before you announce it to the rest of world) is a good way to ease into it. Saying it out loud makes it real.

  • Sit on it for a few days. Choose one college and then proceed for a few days as if you are a student of that college. How does it feel?

Once you have made your final decision, don’t look back. Be excited for what lies ahead and turn your focus away from what could’ve been.

Often if you are in the position of choosing between 2 or 3 colleges, there is no wrong choice. If you truly have taken the time to examine what you need to be successful in college, you will more than likely be able to make that happen at any of the colleges that were a part of your final decision process.


3 Questions to Ask When Making Your Final College Decision

The ProcessThe tables have turned. You have spent years trying to figure out how to impress colleges, and now colleges will spend the next month trying to convince you to enroll. They will send you gifts and fancy pamphlets. They will call you and invite you to special programs.

You have until May 1st to decide, so how do you sort through all of the information you are receiving? How do you know that you are making the best final college choice?

The truth is that making your final college decision is not an exact science, and it is going to be a different process for every student, however below are a few questions every student should ask as they are comparing final college options.

1. Which college is the best fit for you academically?

Academics are the center of your college experience. For some students, academic “fit” is a particular major. For others, it is having adequate support systems (i.e. tutoring or academic advising). It is important to know what type of student you are to determine if a college is a good fit for you academically. Here are some specific questions to ask about the academic aspects of college:

  • What is the core curriculum of each school? Will you be required to take specific courses that you may struggle with (i.e. math or foreign language)?

  • Do you know what you want to major? If so, research that academic department. Read the faculty bios and look at the required courses. Are there opportunities to explore your major outside of the classroom (i.e. conduct research, internships, etc.)

  • If you don’t know what you want to major, determine how each college will help you make that decision. How much access will you have to an academic advisor? Will the career center help you explore different career options? Does the general curriculum allow you to take courses in multiple disciplines so you can nail down what academic subjects interest you?

  • What is the academic environment of each college? Are students competitive with each other or supportive? Are the classes large or mainly discussion based? Do professors meet with students outside of class?

Knowing what type of academic environment you need to be academically successful is an important consideration for your final college choice.

2. How do the colleges compare financially?

It is essential to understand all of your financial aid awards when making your final college choice. So what should you consider when comparing awards?

  • Determine your budget. Every financial aid award should give you an example student budget. The budget should include an amount for tuition and fees, room and board, books and supplies, personal expenses, and travel/transportation. If this information is not in your financial aid award, contact the college and ask for it.

  • Once you determine your suggested budget, figure out if your needs will change aspects of the budget. For example, if are you looking at colleges out of state, your transportation budget might be higher (depending on how often you want to fly home). If you are looking at specific major that requires addition expenses, you need to take that into consideration. If you are thinking of living off-campus, your room and board and personal expenses may change.

  • Check on the details of each aspect of your financial aid award (grants, scholarships, loans, work-study, etc.). When do you have to pay back each loan? What is the interest rate? Is the scholarship just for the first year or for all four years? If the scholarship is renewable, what does the student need to do to keep it (usually it is maintaining a certain GPA)?

  • Make sure you understand the difference between taking out federal and private loans. If you need to take out private loans, do your research. Learn the true cost of student loans by using a loan calculator to determine how much your loan will be once you pay it off.

  • Determine the actual cost of each college. Create a spreadsheet or use an on-line tool to determine the final net price of each school.

Once you have the final cost in front of you, that may be the determining factor in your final decision. For other families, it is more complicated. More often than not, your “dream school” is going to cost more. It means student debt and financial strain for the parents. It is important to have an honest conversation about what debt will mean for the student and the entire family.

3. Which college is the best fit for your everyday life?

Remember you are not just visiting a college anymore, you are going to live there. You will eat, sleep and exist in an entirely new environment. Here are some important questions to ask you look to transition to this next phase of your life.

  • Consider location. How far away from home will you be? Will be it be a different environment than what you are used to (i.e. urban vs. rural)? Will it is important to step outside of your location comfort zone for the “right” college, you need to consider how location will change how you currently live.

  • Where will you feel at “home” at the college? Making sure a college feels comfortable is important. Can you continue habits you have already formed (i.e. exercising, hiking, etc.)? Are there clubs and organizations are offered that match your interest? Is there an opportunity (i.e. a church, non-profit organization, etc.) in the surrounding area that will help feel like a part of the community?

  • Are you too focused on the amenities? So many colleges are trying to emphasize extra services (i.e. room service and valet parking), but are these things going to help you be successful in college? Are they going to help you explore your intellectual interest or develop the skills you need to hold down a job?

  • Does the overall mission of the college a match to your personal goals? Is the school striving to teach “global citizens” or “critical thinkers”? If so, how have they integrated that mission into the curriculum and community? How does the mission of the college correspond with your goals for your future?

Making your final college choice can be stressful, but if you take the time to make sure all to find answers to all of your questions, you will be able to make a well-informed choice.

Thoughts on the New SAT From the People Who Matter- Students

On Saturday, March 5th, the new SAT was finally administered to over 300,000 lucky students. PBS NewsHour provided a comprehensive overview of the changes made to the test and the continued debate about the validity of standardized testing as an accurate predictor of student success. While educators (and the media) continue to deliberate about the validity of the tests, students seemed focused on one thing: getting through it.

Jed Applerouth, from Applerouth Tutoring Services, provided insights from the students who utilized the company’s services. In his article, he quotes students who took the old SAT and the new SAT.

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Bubble style test form
Bubble style test form

Overall, students stated that the “wordiness” of the math section was challenging, and the non-calculator math section proved to be difficult.

CNN.com also reported on a survey conducted by Kaplan Test Prep and an official survey administered by The College Board. Based on the numbers from the two surveys, students seem to be reporting that the new SAT is about what they expected. The College Board survey is reporting “by a 6 to 1” margin that students prefer the new SAT.

Additionally, USA Today reported that an astounding one million high school students have used free online test prep tools to prepare for the new SAT.   This new number shows that Khan Academy is reaching huge numbers of students- more than commercial test prep.   However, the Boston Globe reported on the huge jump in revenue for the commercial test prep industry, which is expected to reach $200 billion worldwide by 2020.

Overall, the new SAT seems to be living up to expectations- good or bad. It is more aligned with what students are learning in the classroom and all students have access to high-quality, free test prep through Khan Academy. Whether or not the new SAT is an accurate predictor of student success, well, we will just have wait and see.



5 Things to Know About the Coalition Application

Coalition Post-2
When the Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success was announced in the fall of 2015, questions soon followed. While the main premise of the new platform is to increase access for low-income and first-generation students by providing free tools for the college search and application process, some educators are concerned that the online tools will feed the college admissions frenzy by stipulating additional application requirements for students to obsess over. Meanwhile, the 91 colleges and universities that are backing the new platform claim the tools will “streamline” the college process and encourage disadvantaged students to consider schools they previously may have overlooked.

No matter which side you stand on, the Coalition is becoming a part of the admissions maze. The new “Locker” platform is set to launch in April, and the application is slated to be available in July.

Recently, Nancy Griesemer of the DC College Admissions Examiner posted several updates on the Coalition, based on her conversation with the new interim director, Colin Melinda Johnson. Griesemer provides information on the online tools offered by the platform and updates on the timeline and testing. While aspects of the Coalition tools are still developing, here are the top 5 things students need to know about the new platform and application:

1. Who are the members of the Coalition? The Coalition member list is up to over 90 schools. All of the members must offer an “affordable education.” Public schools must provide low-cost, in-state tuition and private schools must be able to meet 100% of demonstrated financial need (for admitted domestic students). Members must also have a 70% or above graduation rate over 6 years.

2. Who can use the Coalition tools? While the Coalition is geared towards disadvantaged students, any student can apply to a member institution through the Coalition Application. In fact, three Coalition members, University of Florida, University of Maryland College Park and University of Washington, have announced that they will exclusively use the Coalition platform, so all students applying to those schools will need to use the Coalition Application. The reality is that all students may find it helpful to use the Coalition’s virtual Locker to collect materials whether they plan on applying to a Coalition institution or not.

3. Will all member schools be accepting the Coalition Application for the class of 2017? No. While official announcements have not been made, some members will opt to defer using the Coalition Application for current juniors. These schools may be choosing not to participate in the first year of the Coalition Application in order to have more time to develop their individual application requirements (e.g., essay prompts, video submission questions, etc.).

4. What will the application look like? The application requirements and structure of the Coalition Application remains one of the unknowns about the Coalition. As Griesemer notes in her article, member institutions will have the opportunity to customize their application requirements – for example; some may require students to submit a graded assignment in instead of a college essay. Others may opt for additional supplemental essays to obtain more personal insights into who the applicant is and how he or she will contribute to the college community. Students may also be allowed to submit videos or a detailed resume of accomplishments. It is still unknown if there will be a shared personal statement element (like what is offered by the Common Application), but Griesemer noted that some application requirements will be “similar.” Will this create more work for students? Possibly. But it could also provide students with additional opportunities to present themselves to colleges in a more personalized way.

5. Should students use the Coalition Application or the Common Application? Students should first take a look at their list and determine their application options. While the Coalition site explicitly states that member institutions will not “prefer one application system over the other,” students may want to contact colleges offering multiple platforms to ask how materials from each option will be reviewed. Students also need to look at the requirements for both platforms and decide which one will give them the best opportunity to tell colleges what they want them to know. Students should not look at the platforms and decide which one will be “less work.” Instead, they need to examine how they want to present themselves to colleges and which application platform will give them the best method to meet their goals.

As educators, mentors, teachers, counselors, parents and guardians, it is important that we provide students with information (as we receive it) so they can determine the best way to move forward with their college process. There are still many unknowns regarding the Coalition, but students need guidance, not opinions, to determine which platform to use to apply to the colleges on their list. Teaching students how to make well-informed decisions and examine what is in their best interest is a life lesson that will serve them well in the college process and beyond.

#1 Tip For Students Beginning the College Process

SALE 1.46.04 PM (1)Whether a student has dreamed of attending a certain college since the age of 5 or has not even thought about what they want from their college experience, I always give students who are beginning the college process the same piece of advice: Do “practice” college visits.

It is difficult to expect students to articulate any thoughts about the college process if they have never been on a college campus. Doing “practice” college visits is a practical way for students to begin formulating an opinion on what they are looking for in their college experience.

To do “practice” college visits, you don’t need to spend a lot of money and travel across the country to see “best” university out there. You should begin with a college that is within driving distance of your home.  The purpose of a “practice” visit is to collect general information, rather than expressing interest in that particular college.  The student can be adamant that they won’t apply to the college or university  you visit (and that is perfectly fine).

When planning a “practice” visit, you need to register for the information session and campus tour through the admissions page of the college’s website. Many schools offer Saturday visit times, so look at your schedule and simply pick a day to attend.

Look for local colleges that can offer varying perspectives. Visit a small, medium and large university to gain perspective on size. Try to visit rural, urban and suburban schools to learn how locations vary.

As you visit campuses, pay attention to:

  1. The size. Whether it is a small liberal arts college or a large research institution, you can usually tell immediately if you are comfortable with the size of the school.
  2. The location. Is the college you are visiting in a city or near farmlands? What is the surrounding community like? Can you see yourself living there for four years?
  3. Academic programs offered. Since you are just beginning your college process, you may not have given a second thought to what you want to major in. During your “practice” visits, pay attention to the academic programs described. Are students doing research? Are they participating in hands-on projects? Are they working in the local community?  What catches your attention?  What majors do you want to learn more about?
  4. Note what you like- and what you don’t like. I always tell my students to document ALL of their impressions of a school. These insights can help you research additional options later on.

If you don’t have different types of colleges and universities near you, try to do a few visits while on a family vacation. Taking a road trip this summer? See what colleges are on the way to your final destination. Again, the point is not to spend a lot of money if you are just beginning to formulate ideas about your college process.

A “practice” visit should be relaxed- designed to ease the student into the idea of college. By doing a “practice” visit (or two) you will be able to shape your college criteria and then create a true list of schools you are interested in exploring.

Need more direction for your college process?  Check out the Ideal College Planning Timeline to get started!

Happy touring!

5 Ways to Handle Waiting for College Application Decisions

Seize the Day-2The applications, standardized test scores, recommendation letters, transcripts and perfect essays are submitted. Your applications are complete and all you can do now is wait.

Easy, right?

Noooo! Waiting for your admissions decisions can be the worst part of the admissions process. You check your email 20 times a day. You are stalking your mailbox and  your stomach drops every time someone asks, “Have you heard anything?”

If the stress of anticipating your college decisions is getting to you, here are 5 ways to keep your sanity:

1. Focus on what you have control over. Right now, application decisions are more than likely done (insert scream here). Admissions offices are just finalizing the details. At this point, you have little control over what your decision will be, so focus on what you do have control over.

  • Concentrate on your schoolwork (remember they will look at your final grades).

  • Thank everyone who wrote your letters of recommendation, edited your essays, or just offered advice (baked goods or chocolate are always appreciated).

  • Continue being involved in your extracurricular activities and start mentoring peers who will take over your leadership roles next year (they will be lost without you).

2. Process the stress- your way. Some people like to talk about how they are feeling and others don’t. If you want to discuss every possible outcome of your college decisions, find a trusted (and patient) individual to talk to. If you would prefer not to discuss the college process any further, tell everyone around you (so they will stop asking questions). If you don’t process out loud, write it down. Journaling is a great way to organize everything that is floating around in your head.

3. Don’t second-guess your list. You could lose a lot of sleep wondering, “What if?” Don’t think about the schools you didn’t apply to. Stop questioning if your “reach” school is too far out of reach. Have confidence in the list of schools you applied to. At this point it can be easy to forget all of the hours you spent researching, asking questions and even visiting colleges.

4. Remain positive. Part of remaining positive is knowing that you have a solid plan- not matter what happens. You may not be admitted to your “first choice” school, but knowing that you will have other options should be your main focus. If it helps, make a list of all the pros and cons of all of the schools you applied to. You may find that you have more positive options than you think.

5. Reflect. Look back on what you have accomplished. A year ago, you did not even know where you were going to apply. You have come a long way from staring at a blank Common Application.

Anticipating the future can be stressful, but in just a few short weeks, you will know. April 1st will be here before you know it and after that, you are back in control of your college process. You will make the final decision of where you will attend college- and all the anticipation will be worth it!