Action Items By May 1

Congratulations on all of your success!!

Make sure you take the next steps on or before May 1:

  1. Put down a deposit at the college or university that you will be attending, and if they need a second deposit for housing, send that in as soon as possible.
  2. Sign up for, and go to the college’s orientation. It is a wonderful opportunity to make new friends, get comfortable with the campus, and learn how to navigate your new environment.
  3. Some colleges offer special trips or on-campus activities, in addition to orientation, as bonding experiences. Take advantage of those if you can.
  4. Fill out your roommate forms honestly. If you do not, people won’t know your preferences, and the school cannot effectively pair you. It is okay to like to go to bed early, or dislike rap music. Advocate for yourself so you are happy with your roommate, it will make a big difference in your freshman year.
  5. Let your guidance office know which college you have chosen, and make sure they send your ending transcript to them.
  6. Notify the schools that you will not attend right away, so that they can offer places to students on their waiting list.
  7. Do not let senioritis affect your acceptances. If your grades drop significantly colleges can rescind their offers. Enjoy the last month, but stay focused. Summer is almost here.
  8. Check your e-mail regularly as college may continue to send you information. Submit information before the deadlines.

Best Wishes!!!

6 Important Facts about the College Process

What do Colleges Want to See?

The rigor of your schedule and your grades are the most important factors during the review. Colleges take into account what was available to you, how much you challenged yourself by taking challenging courses like AP, honors and IB coursework, and your performance in your curriculum. Colleges want to see the best grades in the hardest classes you can manage. For the other factors please see http://annapoliscollegeconsulting.com/5-important-elements-colleges-look-for/.

Is an A Grade in a regular class better than a B in an Honors/AP/IB class?

Colleges want confirmation that you’ve challenged yourself. They don’t reward unmotivated or lazy students. Take the harder class and do your best, even if your best is a B. But make use of the resources around you. Stay after school for extra help, find a tutor, use free online study guides, form study groups, talk with your college counseling office – whatever you can do to go for the A! See http://annapoliscollegeconsulting.com/how-many-aps-to-take-next-year/ .

Do Colleges want Well-Rounded Students?

Most colleges (especially highly selective ones) are not looking for well-rounded students anymore, they’re looking for well-angled ones. Colleges are looking for a well-rounded class, full of unique, especially talented people. Show admissions counselors what you enjoy, have tried, and the impact you have made. Prove that you have depth and consistency in your activities. Don’t join a new group senior year just to pad your resume and “look good” for college. http://annapoliscollegeconsulting.com/summer-activities-that-give-you-an-edge/ and http://annapoliscollegeconsulting.com/summer-activities-that-give-you-an-edge-2/

Which Standardized Test do Colleges Prefer, the SAT or the ACT?

Colleges don’t care whether you take the SAT or the ACT. Even Ivy League schools don’t have a preference. As of 2012, the ACT was more popular than the SAT for the first time in history. I will help you find the standardized test that suits you best, then take practice tests and study for it. Don’t waste precious time wavering between the SAT and ACT tests. If you take a standardized test multiple times over multiple sittings, be aware that many schools will super-score the SAT, fewer super-score the ACT. See http://annapoliscollegeconsulting.com/preparation-for-standardized-tests/ and  http://annapoliscollegeconsulting.com/overcoming-test-anxiety/.

How Many Colleges Should I Apply To?

During our educational consulting sessions we will build a solid college list. Research and visit as many campuses as you can. Every school on your list should be one that you want to attend: fitting your academic, financial, professional and social needs. Most of my students apply to an average of six to eight schools. Your list should include a range of selectivity: 2 – 3 solid schools to which you will most likely be offered admission, 2 – 3 schools that are target schools, and 2 – 3 schools that are a reach for you. Do yourself and your family a favor; don’t get hung up on prestige or a name. Focus on fit and finding the place that will allow for college success. See http://annapoliscollegeconsulting.com/finding-a-college-that-you-love/.

Will colleges check my social media accounts?

More and more colleges are looking for you online and checking Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Clean up your social media accounts – especially pictures! No profanity, evidence of drugs or alcohol, cyber-bullying, or unsavory links. Make sure that there isn’t anything on your social networks that is embarrassing. Check all of your accounts! See http://annapoliscollegeconsulting.com/colleges-watch-your-social-media/ .

girl blogging on computer

Colleges Check Your Social Media

What does that mean to you?

Carolynn Crabtree, President of Cornerstone Reputation shares these statistics:

  • 67% of admissions officers surveyed searched for applicants on Facebook during the 2014­ – 2015 admissions season
  • 40% found content about the applicant that left a negative impression
  • 53% found content about the applicant left a positive impression
  • 81% of schools surveyed have no formal policy on searching for applicants on social media
  • 22% of admissions officers believe that an applicant could gain an advantage in the admissions process by building a positive online presence

Be careful what you post and check if your social media accounts are open to the public.

Are you tagged on friends’ posts?

Are you drinking? You are underage.

What are you posting and reposting on Twitter?

Are you “following” a college’s social media accounts? If so, your account is open and easy for colleges to access.

Aggressive language and unpleasant comments reflect badly on you. Avoid posting with this tone.

Use social media to your advantage during the college application process.

Admission officers are impressed when they see your talents on social media. You could showcase an article, performance, or award, or show your involvement through community service or as part of a team.  Some colleges allow you to send links with your work directly to them. Whether you blog, are a photographer, play an instrument or sing, make sure the content is high quality. See the article on Music and Art Supplements for more information.

These days many colleges assess your interest in them before deciding whether to admit you. See my article Demonstrate Interest for details.

Athletes are checked most often to discern their character and lifestyle.

Most coaches are already online looking at profiles and accounts that you’ve sent to them.

Coaches want to know about your personality and if you will be a good addition to their team socially, as well as athletically.

You can make your social media accounts work to your advantage. Think before you post or tweet! Promote yourself. Show your best characteristics. Connect with colleges that you like on social media to show your interest.

 

 

How to Make the Best Decision about Which College to Attend

Plan a visit, if you can’t decide which college to go to after being accepted. Tour your student’s top options before May 1, when acceptance deposits are due. Have them sit in on a class, see if they can stay with students in a dorm, sample the dining hall cuisine, and schedule a meeting with the office of admissions and financial aid. Your student will hopefully be spending the next four years of his or her life at that school. Take the time to really assess which is the best fit for them.

Tell your kids the truth about your finances. Decide how much money you can afford to spend for college. Be honest if it will be difficult to allow your kid to attend the most expensive college, because your long term financial stability is important. Weigh the schools, how much you’ll contribute, how much in loans your kid should take out (though I am against loans), what the schools’ graduation rates are, if they are offering work-study money, etc. Once you have all the offers, evaluate your family’s circumstances, do you have another child that will be in college soon? Are there any major expenses that you have not factored in? Does your student want to go to graduate school, and therefore a cheaper undergraduate degree would be fine?

Do the colleges accept your students’ AP and IB courses for college credit? Save tuition by choosing a school that accepts your kid’s college credits. Many of my students get a year’s worth of college credit at the outset. This can obviously save you a year of college tuition and get them out into the working world earlier.

Look at your awards carefully. When you have received your scholarship and financial award letters from your colleges, take the time to look at the school’s net price to you. That is Cost of Attendance: tuition, room, board, fees, books, etc. — minus grants, loans, work-study, and scholarships. Separate any loans that the family would have to pay back and add that into your total cost.

Some colleges say: “renewable.” Some financial and merit aid is meant as a one-time enticement for entering freshman, while other aid is for all four years — but it might be contingent upon your kid’s GPA. Make sure you read the letter very carefully and know the conditions to properly evaluate your choices. If you have any questions call the school’s financial aid office to get the answers. Is it based on your student’s GPA? If your kid earns those grades, is it certain the money will be there each year? If your student is on an athletic scholarship what are the rules for keeping it?

If you accept student loans use the Federal Loans firstFederal loans generally have lower interest rates than private loans, no hidden fees, and better repayment terms. Stafford Loans — direct loans from the government — have the best current interest rate. They are limited to $5,500 for freshmen, $6,500 for sophomores and $7,500 for juniors and seniors.

Never use your retirement savings. If you do, you will be taxed on that money and it will reduce your child’s financial aid eligibility the next year. You need to keep your money in your retirement accounts and even add to them yearly to help reduce your total income.

You can negotiate your offer. As long as you have a good reason, you can ask the college’s financial aid department to give you more money. Sometimes you can mention a better offer from a competing college, or a family circumstance which changes your ability to pay. Definitely call if there is a divorce or a lost job. Have all your financial information ready when you make the call. Be polite and clear, not whiny or pushy. Some financial aid officer make $40,000 a year, so be careful in how you describe your circumstances.

Honors Programs Have Real Benefits

Many colleges and universities throughout the U.S have Honors Colleges or Honors Programs that are worth investigating. Such programs offer advantages to students that are in the top tier of the college’s applicants. Honors programs may have the best professors, smaller classes, early registration, better housing, more school events, and unique classes, and a cohort of like-minded students, all at the same cost of the school’s normal tuition. Actually numerous colleges give significant merit aid to attract these accomplished students to the school and program.

Being one of the top students at a college can be very beneficial not only financially, but also academically and personally, as more opportunities are available to them for field trips, internships, study abroad, research with professors, and mentorships. In many cases it is worth investigating what is offered, and what the criteria is for admission into these selective programs.

In order to be eligible for these advantages, one needs strong grades and test scores. Some schools require a separate and early application to qualify, but many do not. Since these programs are limited in size it is advantageous to apply early.

For instance University of Maryland has an honors college and offers multiple honors programs such as Honors Humanities, Entrepreneurship & Innovation, Living-Learning Programs, University Honors, Gemstone, ACES – Cybersecurity, Design Cultures & Creativity, Integrated Life Sciences, and Departmental & College Honors Programs.   (Learn more from the below links). Beyond the academic perks, being a part of a more specialized program makes this very large university feel a bit smaller. Be aware that it does require an early application for consideration.

George Washington University has an Honors Program, but has other alternatives also. They offered one of my students $80,000 in merit scholarship aid as well as the opportunity to participate in a Women’s Leadership Program in which students attend symposiums, special classes, and participate in events during which they meet prominent women in different careers.

As you tour, ask colleges if these programs are available, and about the benefits and criteria for their students. Some schools also schedule Honors College information sessions that students can attend during a campus visit.

You can find valuable information about Public Honors Colleges at public university honors, but also look at private college programs through Google.

 

Maryland 

Salisbury University

Towson University

University of Maryland Baltimore College

University of Maryland

 

Washington, D.C.

American University

Catholic University

Georgetown University

George Washington University

 

Virginia

Christopher Newport University

College of William and Mary

George Mason University

James Madison University

University of Virginia

Virginia Commonwealth University

Virginia Tech

 

 

Tune in for My Webinar on Merit Aid

You can now listen to the webinar in the video section of this website.

How to Maximize Your Chances for Merit Aid

Presented by Applerouth Tutoring Services and Annapolis College Consulting

Merit aid can often create game-changing outcomes for students applying to college; yet many families are unsure of how to build merit scholarships into their overall college planning process. Applerouth Tutoring Services invites you to join Cori Dykman, of Annapolis College Consulting, for a free expert webinar that will help families understand the often overlooked and sometimes overwhelming process of applying for merit scholarships. Based on Cori’s first-hand experience helping students afford the colleges of their dreams, this presentation will cover:

  • The basics: what is merit aid, where is it offered and in what amounts?
  • The strategy: a discussion of steps students can take to stand out in the               admissions process and enhance their merit aid potential.
  • The big picture: an understanding of the process and how to approach it.

The optimal merit aid search starts early. High school families in all grades are welcome, especially 9th through 11th grade families.

Wednesday, November 11th at 7:00pm

About the Speaker: Cori Dykman

Cori Dykman is an educational consultant who relates exceptionally well to teens and understands adolescent and parental issues. Her warm, tailored approach seems to consistently make the difference for the students that she partners with. During last year’s admissions cycle, her students received one million dollars in merit aid. Cori is a professional member of IECA (Independent Educational Consultants Association) where she stays updated on the constantly changing and nuanced college process.

www.annapoliscollegeconsulting.com  annapoliscollegeconsulting@gmail.com                                                                                          www.applerouth.com

info@applerouth.com

How Many AP’s to Take Next Year?

In today’s competitive college atmosphere many families struggle with how many AP classes are right for their students. Everyone is different, and it is worth assessing who the student is before you decide. Below is an article by a colleague which discusses the issues well.

Consider balance and interests when selecting APs in high school

Published by the Los Altos Town Crier

Written by Hollis Bischoff

…When planning which AP classes to take during the high school years, take the following into consideration.

  • Where do your interests lie? Taking AP classes in relevant areas is one way of showing college readiness and demonstrated interest in your potential major. For example, if interests lie in nursing or engineering, taking AP classes in Physics and Calculus are table stakes for admission. If the intended major is in history or politics, then AP classes in European World History, U.S. History or Government are germane. If business and finance are in the mix, then AP Economics and Calculus make sense.
  • What is offered at the high school? Colleges want to know students have taken advantage of everything a high school offers both academically and socially, hence the focus on APs and extracurriculars. So if a high school offers only three AP classes, then taking one or two is full advantage. However, in our local high schools, where the AP offerings number more than 20, students taking only one or two would not be considered as competitive.
  • What is the college looking for? Each college or university can determine what it is looking for in engaged, academically challenged students. Even less competitive colleges would like to see one to three AP courses as a way of demonstrating college readiness. The more competitive universities are looking for significant engagement in AP classes. UCLA, for example, cites that nearly 60 percent of its admitted students have 10-plus AP and Honors courses, with five or more being AP.

Elite schools like Pomona, Northwestern and Boston College, among others, have been very specific in their AP requirements. (These are not documented anywhere, but they were discovered during meetings with college admissions directors.) They are looking for, at minimum, AP Calculus and 1 AP lab science (either Chemistry, Physics and/or Biology). For these colleges, AP Environmental Science and AP Statistics are not considered academically challenging enough. So the more elite the school, the more challenging and the higher number of AP classes.

  • What about student academic/life balance? Northwestern orientation for admitted students often opens with the administration apologizing for ruining its students’ high school experience with the high expectations for AP classes and extraordinary extracurriculars, leaving little time to enjoy high school.

But high school is not one long college admissions application. It is also a time to discover about oneself academically, socially, physically and spiritually. Not all students can handle three or four AP classes at one time, while others thrive at being challenged. It is not just about the number of AP classes taken, it is also about the quality of the learning and grade-point average earned.

There is the age-old question – Is it better to take the AP and get a B or take the prep class and get an A? Stanford University admissions reps will tell you the AP with the A, and that is at least partially true. For the elite schools, A’s in AP classes are de rigueur; for the selective schools, B’s in APs are better than no AP classes. Everyone agrees, however, that C’s in AP classes are not in the best interest of the student. So each student must determine his or her own work/life balance…

College Search and Graduation Websites

College Search

College Scorecard designed by our government to provide better insight on how well colleges are serving their students when it comes to access, affordability and outcomes post graduation.  The cost of college however is based on students receiving financial aid and is therefore misleading. With nearly 2,000 data points for 7,000+ schools in the underlying database, there’s a lot of information covered

College Navigator is a free consumer information tool designed to help students, parents, high school counselors, and others get information about over 7,000 postsecondary institutions in the United States – such as programs offered, retention and graduation rates, prices, aid available, degrees awarded, campus safety, and accreditation.

The University & College Accountability Network is designed to offer prospective students and their families concise, Web-based consumer-friendly information about the nation’s private, nonprofit colleges and universities in a common format.

You University – Video of colleges that you can view to get a feel for each college to see what it offers and if it interests you. Very helpful before you plan a trip to a college far away.

Rate My Professors: Having a great teacher makes a big difference to many students, not just during the class, but afterwards as well. This is a way to view what students are saying about their professors. As with any site which offers only personal opinions realize that there will be some students looking to vent about an issue or person.

College Niche is totally student written and provides their opinions to the questions many prospective students want to know, such as the quality of the dining hall food, whether a school has a good night life, and many other non-academic interests. Don’t believe everything you read, but it is another data point to consider.

Unigo provides reviews, videos, and photos that have been created by students at colleges across the country.

CollegeData allows you to search for colleges that match your personal preferences or by college name, then provides profiles for each of your search results.

Go See Campus provides a free college trip planner, college reviews, student advice, and more.

Colleges that Change Lives is a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to educating prospective college students and their families about making college choices that are a good fit for the individual needs of the student.

 

Successful College Outcomes with Grants

The escalating costs of colleges and the complex application process continue to frustrate and intimidate many high school students and their families.  College costs continue to rise much faster than inflation and many families are concerned about the cost of having their child attend college.

I am often surprised by how much merit or grant money I am able to help my students qualify for. The key to getting a significant price break lies in understanding that schools are looking for students who will enhance their campus in some meaningful way.  For many colleges it is moving up in their US News & World Report rankings. For others it is having truly engaged students on campus.

Throw as wide a net as possible when looking for merit, grant or financial aid money. This is too important a decision to not spend the necessary resources and time on.  Don’t narrow down your options too quickly.  There are many schools out there that offer intimate learning environments, were they focus on teaching students not obtaining more research grants.  Find schools that are a good fit for your student. In general, I recommend my students apply to 2 reach schools, 3 likely schools, and 2 safety schools.

Currently 33% of students nationally transfer out of the college they started at within the first year.  This is due to families not taking the time and resources to find a good fit as well as not preparing students to know what they need to do to be successful.

So, what is your actual price going to be?  You can start by using the Net Price Calculator which is free and required to be on every college’s website.  You will need your latest tax return numbers before you start.  This is a helpful tool but not always accurate.  My success lies in knowing how to market each individual student so they receive merit or grants, and  financial aid where applicable.

There is no agreed-upon magic number that will universally qualify your family for financial or merit aid.  Each school takes many different factors into account and there is no universal standard of evaluation when they decide who to give grants to.  The College Board offers a general guideline for financial aid but they do not take into account various factors such as retirement assets and home equity amounts.  For families with a high need for financial aid guidance the College Board calculator is extremely helpful.  Having more than one child in school at once makes an impact on how much aid you will qualify for.  It is helpful to know your family’s EFC (Estimated Financial Contribution).  This gives a guideline as to what you should reasonably expect to pay out-of-pocket.  This will help you determine if the college fairly awarded aid to your family.

Never be afraid to ask for more merit or financial aid money, but it is important to know whom to ask, when to ask, and the financial range you should request.  There are many students and families I have coached who have received $20,000 or more than they were originally offered.

Standardized testing is one of the criteria many colleges consider when they offer money.  Not all students do well in this testing situation and more and more colleges are offering a test-optional application.  Forty percent of the top 100 liberal arts colleges allow this variance.  Fairtest.org provides a list of all colleges that do not require testing or offer the test-optional application. 

Save, save, save!  And don’t worry-your financial aid reward will hardly be affected.  For instance $10,000 saved will only reduce your aid by $564, at most.  Federal direct loans are your best choice if they are available to you.  The interest rate is currently 4.29% and they offer a safety net if you graduate and are not employed.  The “elite” colleges tend to offer the greatest financial aid packages for those who have a significant need.

There are few decisions as important and life-impacting as choosing the right college for your son and daughter.  I have years of experience of applying my knowledge and strategy to get the best outcome academically, financially, and socially for your son or daughter.

Overcoming Test Anxiety

Test anxiety can be a debilitating and stressful experience. As a student, you may be feeling frustrated by your inability to calm yourself down and put your test preparation to good use. As a parent, you might be feeling at a loss in your abilities to provide helpful advice. Never fear! Test anxiety is something that you can learn to control.

There are two main goals in overcoming test anxiety: Understanding it, and overcoming it.

What is text anxiety?

Anxiety itself is an abnormal sense of fear, nervousness, or apprehension about performing poorly. The difference is that test anxiety occurs only in a testing situation. It may result in difficulty tapping into skills like concentration, attention, and memory.

Anxiety is not grounded in reality; it’s in the head of the test-taker. At its core, anxiety is all about neuroscience. When you experience fear, cortisol knocks out your working memory, making all of that test preparation difficult to access. Your body is ready to spring into action, not to think. This isn’t really helpful if you aren’t trying to fight crime during the SATs or ACTs.

Author Carol Dweck notes an important step in overcoming anxiety as “learning to fulfill your potential.” If you realize that you can learn from the test, you will actually get smarter from taking it. So not only can you beat the test, you can take that information with you!

You have the power to overcome test anxiety!

There are many methods so choose one or multiple methods. Here are some of the most successful techniques:

  • Write It Out: The University of Chicago found that a 10-minute exercise before the exam helped to reduce internal anxieties, and thus, helped students perform better. The students would write about their personal worries, allowing them to “unload” before the actual test.
  • Visualization: Visualize positive and relaxing images and experiences. Envision yourself doing well on the test. Tell yourself daily over the next week that you will be relaxed during the test and that you will get the highest score that you have ever gotten. Practice in your mind, keep calm, and believe in yourself.
  • Get in the Zone: Take some time before your exam to pump yourself up. Maybe you have a song that puts you in a focused mindset. Listen to that song a couple of times before your exam; it will help you gain control of your adrenaline.
  • Treat it like a Game: Test or math anxiety is often immediate and strong. So strong in fact, that some students reported feeling physical pain. The thought of being evaluated and assessed in that way can be challenging to work past, but try treating it more like a game than a test! Pretend you’re trying to solve a puzzle better than a sibling or peer (that’s some good incentive to get it right).
  • Practice Self-Regulation: Spend some time learning how to soothe yourself and keep yourself calm. Begin practicing weeks before the test so you’ll have plenty of time to try out methods of anxiety reduction. Deep breathing can be very effective. Does it help to think of a happy place? To take a sip of water and a breath every time you begin to feel anxious?
  • Simulate the Testing Environment: Some students dislike being surrounded by others in the real test room, so they found it helpful to practice around others. Try taking practice tests in a public space like a library. 
  • Meditation Techniques: Take a few long deep breaths and borrow serenity. Slow breathing actually helps limbic release, so take a few slow breaths, paying attention to your heart rate and filling your lungs entirely with air before an exhale. Take an object such as a rock, a touchstone, which is not powerful until you yourself make it so. Though you might feel silly, using your breath and using your body’s feedback is a helpful way to gain control over your mind.

How parents can help

As a parent, you can be a positive guiding force in your child’s challenges with test anxiety. In addition to the above suggestions, parents can take steps to be coaches in the process. Students can pull others into their anxiety, which can be harmful to everyone. Coach your student to focus on him or herself rather than engaging with others that are anxious.

If all else fails, there are still options to help you or your child succeed. Consider another option of applying to some test optional schools. This helps reduce the anxiety that your score is all important.

You aren’t alone!

We are living in the age of anxiety, in which everyone is worrying about things like the future, with 31% of Americans suffering from some form of anxiety. In fact, test anxiety is actually fairly common. 61% of high school students reported test anxiety, as it tends to surface in high school years. Test anxiety is increasing in both the US and internationally. Interestingly, girls tend to have more anxiety than boys, leading to the discovery of a significant relation to the gender score gap. This form of anxiety is most prevalent in high-stakes tests and gifted students.

The best and final advice: you have more control over your mind and body than you might think, and you have the power to make positive, helpful choices. Let me know if you try any of these methods, and if they work for you.