8 Programs which are Linked to Student Success

First-Year Experience

First-year experience programs has been shown to improve Freshman retention rates. These classes bring together smaller groups of students with caring faculty to  improve student success while studying an interesting subject. It allows students to bond closely with a faculty member as well as their peers and to integrate more successfully into college. This aids students in understanding the new environment and gives opportunties to ask about issues, which reduces a student’s anxieties in this new, more rigorous environment.

Undergraduate Research and Creative Projects

Students do intensive and self-directed projects in an area of their interest, while being mentored by a faculty member. These students are able to produce scholarly papers or projects that help them grow academically and mature. Many times these works are displayed on campus or the student is given the chance to present them in a professional setting off campus.

Small Interactive Classes

Lectures can be very beneficial, but having the chance to speak in class, present findings, and have an opinion is even more important. We want students to think for themselves rather than just repeat what they learn. College is a fabulous place to better understand yourself and flourish because your opinion is listened to and respected by peers and professors.


It is incredibly important for students to have the opportunity to try a career that they think might interest them before they spend years pursuing it academically. Internships not only give students a chance to learn about an industry or academic area, but also give them the ability to make their resume much stronger when they are ready to get a job or continue to  graduate school. Applying your learning to the real world allows it to have more depth and meaning. Sometimes internships are conducted with close supervision of the school or through summer jobs. Schools should have strong career departments that can set students up with numerous internship opportunities.

Study Abroad

Our world is fascinating, take advantage of this opportunity. College is a great time to experinece the nuances of different cultures and immerse students in new and foreign environments. Studying abroad allows students the chance to mature and view the world differently. 

Strong Writing Programs

We still communicate extensively through writing, so one’s ability to do so coherently can make the difference between a successful or mediocre career. Writing is important not just in business, but in personal interactions outside of the business world. Curricula that emphasize writing through mandatory classes and insist on competence are high on my list.

Senior Capstone Project

In these projects, students’ education culminates in the creation of a project that integrates what they have learned over four years in an area of interest that they want to pursue. The choice of the project and how it is presented is up to the student and their mentor. It can be a performance, a scholarly paper, a thesis, art work etc. These allow students the chance to shine and be fully responsible for the project’s outcome.

Service Learning

Helping others not only improves your self-worth but creates a connection that strengthens who you are. Getting involved in service learning can improve your experiences and give you new people to connect with. What you learn can also add value in the classroom and in work settings: a new way to do something, unmet needs you were unaware of, opportunities for new businesses ventures – the list goes on and on.



More Questions to Ask on Your College Visit

The more you know about each college, the better your ultimate decision will be. Ask questions and weigh your options.

General Academics

—How much time do students typically spend on homework?

—How much writing and reading are expected?

—What is the average class size of introductory classes?

—How widely used are teaching assistants on your campus?

—What is the average class size of upper-division courses?


Academic Perks (These are programs that you want available)

—What opportunities are there for undergraduate research?

—How many students participate in undergraduate research?

—Is there a culminating senior year experience?

—Do you have an honors college?

—Do you have a learning community or other freshman experience?


Graduation Rates

—What is your four-year graduation rate?

—What is your five-year graduation rate?

—What does it take to graduate in four years?

—What percentage of freshmen return for sophomore year?


Academic Support

—What type of tutoring program do you have? Is it free?

—How do you provide academic advice to students?

—Do you have a writing center and how do I access it?

—What kind of learning disability resources do you have?


Other Opportunities

—How many students at the college get internships? When do they start?

—What percentage of students study abroad? Where can they go?

—What type of career services do you offer? Can one start in Freshman year?


Student Life

—What kind of dorm choices are there for Freshman, Sophomores, etc.?

—What percentage of student live on campus?

—How long are housing accommodations guaranteed for students?

—Do most students go home on the weekend?

—What percentage of the study body belongs to a sorority or fraternity?

—What activities are offered to students which differentiate your college?

—What clubs are popular on campus?


Questions for the Financial Aid Department

—What is your average financial aid package?

—What is the typical breakdown of loans versus grants?

—What percentage of financial need does the school typically meet?

—What is the average merit award?

—What percentage of students receive college grants?

—What is the average college debt that students leave with?

—What work-study opportunities are there?

Why Prep Early for The SAT or ACT?

Studies have shown that preparing early for these tests improves your ultimate scores.

Why? Well, preparing early allows for more distributed learning sessions, more contact time, exposure to the material, and more time to take official tests. To understand a concept you need to be able to apply it to other problems that you will be tested on in  the future. If you are cramming for an exam you are using memorization. After the test the information may leave your brain. To truly learn you must study at a deeper level. Here are some techniques:

  • Pick a Prep Method and Make a Study Plan. Follow through.
  • Stay on Schedule. As I outlined, waiting until the last minute means that you are no longer studying – you are memorizing.
  • Actively Learn. Studies have shown this to be the most effective way to study. As you read your notes and your text, create exercises for yourself to ensure you are learning the material. Apply it, or discuss it, or try to teach a friend the information.

Testing companies suggest that you prepare for 6 – 8 weeks before taking your first sanctioned test. This makes you more confident, relaxed and capable. Here is information on preparing effectively.

Experts agree that students should take the test three times between junior year and the beginning of senior year. Multiple testing periods may allow for some colleges to Superscore your test. Through repeated testing, there is also a gain in mastery and exposure. You get a different effect from a live sitting vs. a practice test. When you’re in a live test, each time you take it work for a higher score. This reinforces a feeling of accomplishment.

All testing should be finished by October of senior year so that you can take advantage of Early Action and Early Decision application deadlines, which in the admissions process can give you an enormous advantage.

For these reasons I want all my juniors to take a timed and scored practice test for both the SAT & ACT in late fall or early winter. From those we will determine which is the better test for you. Here is the conversion table.  If you are better at one test, stick with that exam. If you are the same or close, it is the student’s preference.

If you are taking Algebra 2 in junior year, you should not take your standardized tests until May or June since this material is part of either test. Otherwise, depending on your test scores, we will put together a plan of when to take the tests. We will do this at our January meeting, when we will also review what classes to take senior year, summer plans, and grades.

Both the ACT & SAT have added new summer testing dates (see all dates) except the August one which is not yet scheduled. There are not enough seats for these tests due to a limited number of schools offering them, so we want to sign-up early.

May and June are the best time to take SAT subject tests so that they correlate with your AP classes. Only top-tier colleges are using these scores, however.

In summary, testing is a journey which is best to start early so your results will be positive.

Receiving Merit Aid from Colleges

Many colleges offer “free” merit aid money to students they want to attract to their college. This money is not based on your family’s financial wherewithal. It is a scholarship meant to entice you to accept their offer of admission, which works because everyone likes to feel as though they are getting a special deal. Most offers are four-year scholarships, and almost all are dependent on the student keeping up a high GPA throughout those four years.

What makes a student attractive to a college?

Colleges want students that enhance their school’s profile by having high grades, test scores, strong athletic, musical, or other talents, unique and meaningful extra-curricular activities, and strong interview skills where required. Students that are engaged in meaningful extra-curricular activities usually have higher graduation rates and make the school more vibrant and exciting. Students who actually start an organization, a fund raiser, or have a leadership qualities are very attractive because this shows strong initiative, while students who do not get involved in college activities tend to have a higher attrition rate. I work with students to find unique projects to spearhead within their area of interest and to help implement them. Some examples are a student who started a peer mentoring group at her high school, another who made posters about going to college which were hung in every public high school in his county and translated into Spanish, and a student that started and ran a dance camp for children.

What do you need to do to receive this merit aid?

The beauty of this scholarship money is that at most colleges you do not need to do anything more than have an excellent application, activities list, teacher recommendations, and essay. Your competently completed application will automatically determine whether or not the school considers you a candidate worthy of merit aid. No extra essays or forms are usually requested.

Which schools offer merit aid to a significant number of students?

Colleges and Universities Offering Generous Merit Aid 

*Source for data is College Kickstart.

School % Undergrads w/ Merit Aid Avg. Merit Amount
Furman University 44 $ 20,472
Oberlin College 41 $ 14,434
Creighton University – Business 39 $ 15,136
Creighton University – Arts and Sciences 39 $ 15,136
Creighton University – Nursing 39 $ 15,136
Millsaps College 38 $ 20,354
Tulane University 36 $ 25,779
University of Dayton – Business 36 $ 15,516
University of Dayton – Arts and Sciences 36 $ 15,516
University of Dayton – Education and Health Sciences 36 $ 15,516
University of Dayton – Engineering 36 $ 15,516
Butler University 33 $ 13,570
Goucher College 30 $ 17,200
Berry College 29 $ 12,728
Whitman College 29 $ 10,314
Fairfield University – Nursing 28 $ 14,445
Fairfield University – Engineering 28 $ 14,445
Fairfield University – Business 28 $ 14,445
Fairfield University – Arts & Sciences 28 $ 14,445
Santa Clara University – Engineering 26 $ 14,378
Santa Clara University – Business 26 $ 14,378
Santa Clara University – Arts and Sciences 26 $ 14,378
Clemson University – Education 26 $ 5,216
Clemson University – Engineering, Computing and Applied Science 26 $ 5,216
Clemson University – Science 26 $ 5,216
Clemson University – Business 26 $ 5,216
Clemson University – Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences 26 $ 5,216
Clemson University – Architecture, Arts and Humanities 26 $ 5,216
Clemson University – Behavioral, Social and Health Science 26 $ 5,216
Quinnipiac University 25 $ 15,389
University of Arizona (Resident) 21 $ 8,164
University of Arizona (Non-Resident) 21 $ 8,164
Arizona State University (Resident) 21 $ 7,968
Arizona State University (Non-Resident) 21 $ 7,968

Here is another list from a US News & World Report:

School Percent of students receiving non-need based aid

Memphis, TN


Needham, MA


Boston, MA


Siloam Springs, AR


Tacoma, WA


Bismarck, ND


Birmingham, AL


San Antonio, TX


New York, NY


Granville, OH


Hillsdale, MI


Greenville, SC


Spokane, WA


Birmingham, AL


Tulsa, OK


Odessa, TX


Danville, KY


Oberlin, OH


San Francisco, CA


Savannah, GA


Please be aware that only a percentage of students are given this offer. Just applying without making a strong case for what you can bring to a college will make you far less likely to receive merit aid. Also this table shows the average amount of money, which means many students will receive more or less than these amounts. To be a candidate to receive this money every part of your application should be done well.

Get To Know Your College Representative

College reps are typically assigned “territories” to manage. They are your direct contact with their college and admissions office. Here are four ways to elevate your standing in their eyes:

Meet the Representatives When They Come to your School for an Informational Visit and attend their session. You will see these visit through your school’s Naviance account. Afterwards shake their hand, get their business card, ask a pre-rehearsed question, and send them a follow-up e-mail. If you can’t attend the meeting, send them an e-mail and see if they are available to meet at another time. Many reps meet interested students at coffee shops to talk. Even when you can’t make that meeting, you are letting them know that you are interested in the college.

Tip: Find the name and contact info of your local admissions rep in the admission section of the school’s website or by getting in touch with the Office of Admission there.

Attend A College Fair – When college fairs are held in your region or at your high school, you should attend them. Your rep will likely be manning the college’s table, or, if they’re an alumni they may be able to connect you with their office’s rep.

Here is how to make a strong impression at the fair:

  • Make an effort to dress professionally, or at the very least, not excessively casual. Think “business casual”, not “I just got done at the gym” in terms of dress.
  • Arrive early and avoid the rush! If there is a line, you may want to return later in the fair. The counselor may usher the line closer to the table so they’re not repeating themselves. Be patient.
  • Don’t be shy. Introduce yourself to the counselor. Make eye contact and offer a handshake. Tell the counselor your name and that you’re excited to find out more information about their institution.
  • Develop a few strong, specific questions. Do they offer the program you’re interested in? Are there any marquee majors or programs?  What about the student experience?  What’s the range of athletic opportunities? Housing? Career services?
  • General questions often lead to general answers. Be specific. “How is your business program?” could be better phrased as “Tell me about your business program and your emphasis in entrepreneurship. What career resources are there?”
  • Ask for the rep’s contact info or business card. Better yet, make sure they have YOUR contact info. Counselors aren’t just there to say hello, they want to make sure they are able to get in touch with you about important deadline and application info.
  • Every interaction doesn’t warrant a thank you note, but if you have a great conversation, go home and write one. You will be noticed and remembered.

If offered, schedule an interview. There may be several different kinds of on- and off-campus interviews:

  • Required: Self-explanatory, but know the format. In-person? Over Skype? Alumni?
  • Evaluative: If interviews aren’t required, but recommended, you may be able to interview and the impressions of the interviewer may be included as part of the application review process.
  • Non-evaluative or informational: These are not part of the application process. They give the school an opportunity to start a dialogue with you. These interviews may be conducted by current students and alumni.

Tip: You may not be able to speak with your counselor during your interview if they aren’t available or are busy interviewing other students. Don’t worry! Your interviewer will share his or her notes with your local rep and those notes will end up in your file.

Reach Out to Your Rep. If you have specific, hard-to-answer questions throughout the application process, he or she may be able to help, or at the very least point you in the right direction. No questions? Send your rep a brief email saying hello and that you’re excited about the possibility of attending. Don’t send them questions to which you can easily find the answer. If you can google it, you probably don’t need to ask. College reps aren’t mean – their job is to advise and provide assistance through all parts of the application process – but don’t be surprised or offended if their response is brief. They got LOTS of emails. 



ZeeMee is relatively new on the college admission scene, and is worth evaluating to enhance your applications. ZeeMee has more than 250 college partners, and anticipates it will have around 300 in the 2017-2018 admissions cycle. It is a video-story platform paid for by these colleges and free for you.

Students make short videos to enhance their applications. You choose a question from their list and answer it using your cell phone to video yourself. This gets uploaded to your application, or if the college does not use ZeeMee, it can be sent to them via a link. At this point, it is optional for most colleges that are using it. But, it does differentiate you and gives you a chance to make a good impression.

ZeeMee says that colleges report higher acceptance rates for students who are using this. Is that because it differentiates the student, or is it because the students who used it had good advisors? We don’t know, but it can be very helpful for students who are not as strong on paper.

While I do want you to have a plan of what you are going to say during these videos, they should not look scripted. It will allow colleges to actually see you and it allows you to make a good impression in this short video. Make sure to send me what you plan to say beforehand for my approval.

Students receive questions and prompts via the app. You are only given 26 seconds for your answer. Colleges can ask school-specific questions, and can contact you directly if you allow it. If students have put their videos on ZeeMee it will stay there until the video is deleted. Privacy settings can be public vs. private. Your URL is your ZeeMee link. If you make it private you have a key which you can share with whomever you want.

You can re-record as often as you like, so make sure that the version you use is authentic and good. Colleges like to see self-reflection and have insight into your character. Be real, articulate, smile, but not over-produced. If the college that you are applying to does not use ZeeMee, you can put the URL in your common app or put the link on your resume.

They also have a photo album section with a character limit of 1000 characters. If you use it, be careful not to make it long.

Here is the link https://www.zeemee.com/sign-up, and here are the institutions that are officially partnered with them https://www.zeemee.com/partners.

Impacting the World Around You

New research shows that 47 percent of high school seniors graduated last year with an “A” average — up from about 39 percent in 1998. But average SAT scores fell 24 points in that same period.

The authors of the study — Michael Hurwitz of The College Board and Jason Lee of the University of Georgia — said the trend signals grade inflation over the past two decades. With signs of grade inflation, students are more often earning the same exact GPA, making the job of college admissions officers more complicated. “The variation in GPAs have actually decreased by 10 percent”. So, what can you do?

College admissions officers are talking more and more about how applicants impact their communities.  According to Sara Harberson, in her article about the Five Biggest Trends in College Admissions we see Impact Over Leadership. She writes,When I first started out in college admissions, “getting in” was all about leadership titles. Students had to gather the highest level of leadership in each club activity to feel like they could stand out in a highly competitive applicant pool. Nowadays, making an “impact” on a cause, movement, hobby, or commitment is much more respected.

This new paradigm allows a student to pursue something meaningful to them which may or may not fit into a traditional activity like student government, athletics, or community service. The student who creates something on their own, moves a cause forward, or independently pursues a transformative project shows initiative, influence, and ingenuity. This has effectively reset the way colleges view and evaluate extracurricular activities.”

When reviewing applications, colleges are ultimately putting together a class. They want to fill that class with individuals who can contribute positively to the campus’s community and have a meaningful impact. When new students are living and learning together, they’re constantly interacting and are having an impact on one another’s learning environment. That’s why colleges spend so much time thinking about the impact you’ll have on campus culture and community. They want every impact you make on campus – whether it’s in the classroom, dorms, or even in the cafeteria – to be a positive one!

Here is what the University of California Admissions and other colleges are looking for. “Special talents, achievements and awards in a particular field, such as visual and performing arts, communication or athletic endeavors; special skills, such as demonstrated written and oral proficiency in other languages; special interests, such as intensive study and exploration of other cultures; experiences that demonstrate unusual promise for leadership, such as significant community service or significant participation in student government; or other significant experiences or achievements that demonstrate the student’s promise for contributing to the intellectual vitality of a campus.”

So, with the new school year, start thinking about how you can make a positive impact in your community. You can start small. Look for others who need help in the classroom. Can you offer assistance? Soon you’ll see that you can easily identify whether or not others need help, and before it’s asked of you.

How can you make a positive impact in an extracurricular setting? Is there a way you can invest yourself in student government, athletics or clubs? You can also think about your immediate community – your family? Are there ways to help out by doing volunteer work in your community? Try finding an afterschool program or community organization to help. Colleges want to see this so highlighting meaningful examples in your activities list and essays enhance your application. There are plenty of ways you can have an impact so strive to make a difference!

Your Checklist for Senior Year

Staying on top of the college process is key to your success. Here is a month by month listing of what you need to do. Please stay current and communicate with me.


❑ Start to fill out your Common App, Coalition App, or Specific College Apps. Make sure that I see your essays before they are added.

❑ Continue working on your activties list and essays.

❑ Can you include an arts/athletic supplement or resume with your application? Work on this.

❑ Finish summer assignments.

❑ If you haven’t done so already, choose which teachers you will ask to write recommendations.

❑ Look at the fall calendar — plan final campus visits/interviews.

❑ Prepare to retake the SAT or ACT if needed.

❑ Take a look at your social media and clean it up!


❑ Check Naviance and sign up for college visits at your school.

❑ Decide if you will apply Early Decision or Early Action to your top choice school;

❑ Tell your counselor and recommenders when you need letters written by. They need at least three weeks’ notice.

❑ Request interviews at colleges that you are interested in, where available.


❑ Attend local college fairs and college visits at your high school. Connect with the people who will be reading your application.

❑ Check Naviance to follow up with recommenders to make sure that they have written their letters.

❑ Fill out the FAFSA and CSS Profile if you qualify to receive financial aid. The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is now available as is the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE (required by many private schools and a few flagship state universities).

❑ ED and EA candidates prepare to submit applications by the deadline, Nov. 1st or 15th!

❑ Take advantage of priority deadlines — get your application considered sooner and increase eligibility for merit aid.

❑ Use my tracking form to stay on top of what’s due when. Plan to submit applications before the due dates, preferably before winter vacation!

❑ Confirm that counselor and teacher recommendation letters have been uploaded into the Common Application and request transcripts be sent to the schools you’re applying to (there may be a small fee for each transcript).

❑ Decide which test scores (SAT, ACT) to send and order score reports.

❑ Follow up with colleges to make sure all application materials were received.


❑ Continue to “demonstrate interest” in schools — open emails from colleges, call the admission office to request an alumni interview, etc.

❑ Make sure all essays are approved by me before they are sent to colleges.

❑ Finalize your college list and finish all essays.

❑ Follow up with colleges to make sure all application materials were received.


❑ Note financial aid application deadlines, which may differ from admission application deadlines.

❑ Proof any remaining applications one final time and “submit”!

❑ Let me know about any acceptance you receive.


❑ Make sure mid-year grade reports are sent to all schools you’ve applied to.


❑ Beware of Senioritis…stay on track academically!

❑ Begin planning for summer (work, travel, volunteering, etc.).


❑ Decisions arrive in the mail and/or online by the end of the month, so get ready to handle and share “the news.”

❑ Celebrate!


❑ Attend “admitted student” events on campus and compare/contrast other aspects of the schools where you were accepted (including financial aid awards).

❑ If you were wait listed, express interest to the school.

❑ Send a deposit by May 1st to accept a spot at the college of your choice!

❑ Continue to do your work in class so grades don’t “droop” too much.

❑ Start planning the graduation party!


❑ Thank teachers, counselors, and coaches who helped you apply to college.

❑ Open and respond promptly to communications from the college — information about housing, orientation, course registration, etc.

❑ Study for finals and AP exams — end the year strong.

❑ Solidify summer plans (work? travel? study? volunteer?).

❑ Connect with future classmates (and perhaps find a roommate) through the college’s official social media sites.

❑ Enjoy time with your friends and family and bask in the glow of your accomplishments at graduation!

ACT & SAT Test Dates and Registration

College consultants are seeing the more popular colleges’ test scores rising each year. This means that the test score that would have gotten you in the previous year may not be enough next year. Also the new SAT test scores are higher than the old SAT scores (inflation).

Please take whichever test you are better at twice during this school year. This will give us a good indication of which colleges sould be on your list. If you are not satisfied with the scores you will be able to retake the test in the fall before early decision and early action dates.

Below are the dates and links to register early so that you can go to the testing center of your choice.

ACT DATES 2017 – 2018

 Register at www.ACT.org 

$58.50/$42.50 without Writing* Late registration is an added $27.50**

2017-2018 Test Dates (National)
Test Date Registration Deadline (Late Fee Required)
December 9, 2017 November 3, 2017 November 4-17, 2017
February 10, 2018* January 12, 2018 January 13-19, 2018
April 14, 2018 March 9, 2018 March 10-23, 2018
June 9, 2018 May 4, 2018 May 5-18, 2018
July 14, 2018* June 15, 2018 June 16-22, 2018


Register at this link CollegeBoard

SAT $45.00—with essay $57.00*

Subject Tests $26.00 basic fee + $26 each Listening test + $20 each other test**

Late registration is an added $28***

SAT Test Dates 2017-18 (U.S.)

Test Date Normal Deadline Late Registration* Online Score Release
December 2, 2017 November 3, 2017 November 17, 2017 December 21, 2017
March 10, 2018** February 9, 2018 February 23, 2018 March 29, 2018
May 5, 2018 April 6, 2018 April 20, 2018 May 24, 2018
June 2, 2018 May 4, 2018 May 18, 2018 June 21, 2018

*The late registration deadline is one week earlier if you are registering by mail.

            Not all Subject Tests are offered on a given date!  For example, Languages with Listening are offered only in November.  Please be sure to check with the College Board as to what Subject Tests are offered on which dates.

Senior Checklist of Important Tasks

Start now and teach your teen how to schedule their own appointments and take responsibility for their health. Adulthood is about learning to manage one’s own life, starting now is a great step towards the independence of college.

❏ Set up a dentist appointment before you leave
❏ Get a sports physical, they need to be scheduled now
❏ Update any shots/immunizations. Check with your physican, most want students to have:

  • Meningococcal conjugate vaccine. Young adults in dormitory-like living conditions are at higher risk for meningococcal disease, including meningitis.
  • Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and acellular pertussis) vaccine.
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine. HPV vaccine protects against the viruses that cause cervical cancer, anal cancers, and genital warts. It is licensed for use in both males and females. A complete series consists of 3 doses: The second dose is administered 1-2 months after the first dose, and the third dose is given 6 months after the first dose.

❏ Update eyeglass or contact prescriptions
❏ Find a pharmacy near the college and transfer any prescriptions
❏ Discuss fitness and healthy eating
❑ Check in about health insurance

  • Should your student remain on your insurance, or is the university plan better?
  • What information/proof of insurance does your student need to opt out of the university plan? When is the deadline?
  • If you choose the university insurance, will that cover her during the summer or when she’s home for breaks?
  • Are the services at the university health center covered by a student fee or your insurance, when will your student have to pay out of pocket?
  • Make sure that your student takes their insurance cardto college.

Adapted from an Article by University Parent