Campus Visit Review

As you drive home from a campus visit take advantage of the drive time to review your experience! Write down your opinions while the experience is still fresh on your mind.

College: _____________________________ City/State:__________________________ Admissions Office Representative:______________________________________________ Tour Guide:__________________________ Email: _____________________________ Campus Visit Date: ___________________

Tour /  Rate each category (5 being best)

Grounds / Setting       Campus Housing       Student Center       Classroom Buildings        Class Size

Library Resources       Size       Energy       People        Athletics       Social Life       Cafeteria / Food

Fitness Center          Student Clubs / Organizations         Career Resources          Other




If you interview, Interviewer’s name Email:___________________________________________________________

What did I learn about the school:



Off Campus Life (i.e. music, movies, shopping, restaurants, cafes, art, theater, events)


Near campus:


City Highlights:


Outdoor Activities Nearby:


Transportation Options:



What I like least:


Level of academic challenge? Just right   Too difficult  Too easy  Would I feel comfortable here?

Does this school have what I am looking for?

Should I apply to this school? Why:


Preparing for the SAT or ACT Test

 Proctored, Practice Tests On-line

You can take an on-line, proctored, practice test from your home free, as well as receive a detail report on areas you should focus on. Some students can really benefit from the structure of this testing situation and the assessment. It is helpful to know what your score would be, and how you can improve. Sign-up for a mock test  by clicking on this link, httpss:// The test will be scored and analyzed by Applerouth free, giving you excellent feedback on your areas of weakness. They will then suggest one-on-one tutoring to help you to address these areas. You do not need to use them, please feel free to find the best method for you.

Determine the Best Method of Study

Once you have taken practice tests, please determine your best method of studying. Some of you may want to take a class to get a thorough review of all the areas, some will like the convenience of on-line help, others may want private tutoring. Look at the costs and evaluate your learning style.

Khan Academy is the official site  SAT test preparation. The new SAT now covers 80% of the same material that the ACT does, so you can use it to study for either test.  There are many, many companies which offer help, please find a method that works well for you.

Test Preparation Methods and Companies 

Applerouth Education Tutoring provides one-on-one tutoring for ACT, SAT and school subject tests.

Khan Academy is a nonprofit organization that provides free tutoring for the SAT and ACT as well as many other subjects.

Compass Education Group offers free testing and scoring, as well as tutoring.

C2 Educate Tutoring with a branch located in Severna Park, it is very good in-person tutoring. free online test prep courses.

Princeton Review has class and on-line options

ACT registration and resources for preparing to take the ACT.

Register for the SAT, get test dates find out what to expect when you take the test.

Check Colleges to See if  You Need to Do the Writing Section

Very few colleges are evaluating the writing section these days. Here is the list. Unless you are applying to elite schools, you probably will not need to do the optional writing section.

Practice Now for Good Results Later

Take practice tests and get comfortable with the material, it should make a difference in your scores. Do a little every week, maybe an hour or three. This is like a sport, practice improves your game and score.



5 Important Elements Colleges Look For

  1. High Grades. Grades are a sign of intellect and effort, and the best indication of how you will perform in college. College admissions wants you to take the hardest classes that you can that you will get at least a B in. Focus on your grades and work with your teachers.
  2. Taking the most rigorous curriculum that you can while still getting high grades. AP’s, Honors, College Classes, IB if available. Colleges consider your options and want you to  challenge yourself and be successful. Here is an article on choosing the right classes.
  3. Standardized Test Scores. Many colleges consider these, but some colleges are test optional. There are choices you should consider before you start this process. Is the ACT or the SAT right for you? When should you take the standardized tests? How should you prepare for each test to be successful in the college process? Testing information.
  4. Write an Essay in senior year that strikes a chord with the admissions representatives. What do we need to tell colleges to make you the kind of candidate that they want? College essays should be very personal, thoughtful and demonstrate your background, values, goals, or an achievement. Here is an article on writing a memorable college essay.
  5. Your Demonstrated Interest in the institution. You need to show that this is a college that you are very interested in, not just one on your list which is a back-up school. Many college admissions offices track every contact you have with them. How to demonstrate interest.

The National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) annually surveys member colleges and universities. Here are the latest survey results for what colleges say is important:

  • Grades in college prep courses: 79.2%
  • Grades in all courses: 60.3%
  • Strength of curriculum: 60.2%
  • Admission test scores: 55.7%
  • Essay or writing sample: 22.1%
  • Student’s demonstrated interest: 16.9%
  • Counselor recommendations: 17.3%
  • Class rank: 14.0%
  • Teacher recommendation: 15.2%
  • Subject test scores (AP/IB): 7.0%
  • Portfolio: 6.6%
  • Interview: 3.5%
  • SAT II scores: 5.3%
  • Extracurricular activities: 5.6%

Tips for Writing the Essay “Why This College”

Writing the Essay 

Many colleges ask a variation of the same question in their application, “Why are you considering our institution?” It is not a fluke that they ask this. Nor is it an opportunity to quickly jot down an answer, or worse, re-use an answer from another application! Colleges ask this question because your answer tells them a lot about how serious you are about their institution; this is why this question deserves some serious thought!

Colleges look for ‘likelihood to enroll’ when admitting students. They will not waste a spot on a student who is not likely to commit to attending. These essays can be a strong indicator of how much (or little) research you have done.  If you have strong, specific reasons for considering a college, they will notice.

These questions are also a two-way street. They give you the ability to signal why a college might be a good fit for you as well as why you might be a good fit for their college. Letting them know about your interests, ambitions and what you bring to campus shows them you have a serious connection and an understanding of the college deeper than its surface-level characteristics.

Tips for writing effective “why our institution?” responses.

Dissect the prompt. Take note of what they are actually asking. Are there key words or aspects of campus that they bring up themselves? If they ask what academic programs are prompting your application, or how their college fits your future goals, it is best to address these aspects of the question first rather than as an afterthought or not at all.

Specificity is key. It is not enough to say that you like their athletic facilities or that they have interesting classes. Look up the name of the complex or have an idea of the academic path you could take. This does not mean you need to know every single detail about a part of campus or program, but generic answers get generic evaluations in the admission process. Signal that you know what you are talking about.

If it is obvious to you, it is obvious to them. They already know where their campus is located, the programs they offer and what campus looks like. Tell them how you feel about their campus. Center your answer on how you connect to the campus. Err on the side of giving a personal answer, not something surface-level like the weather. On that note…

Bring it back to you. Think about the things or characteristics you want your future college to have. Again, this is deeper than just your major or their facilities. Do you want a college that emphasizes something in particular like research, leadership, or career development? Do you want personal interactions with faculty and staff or would you rather be in a larger setting? Think about the things that you want and only they can offer.

Connect the dots for them. This question is an opportunity to reinforce the connection you are trying to make with their institution. Provide an answer that shows them you are match for their needs and they are a match for yours. Remember, there is a difference between loving a college for its writing program and loving a college because “students in the program get to craft work in a hands-on environment with some of the top minds in the world of historical fiction.”

So, is your answer strong and specific? Here is a trick that admission counselors often use. They will take the name of a similar peer institution and drop it into your answer in place of their school’s name. If the answer still makes sense with the other school, they will know you did not put much effort into developing your answer.

Fall Checklist for Senior Year

Applying to college is a complex process so it is important that you stay on top of the different elements.

Congratulations you have made it this far, don’t slow down yet, and don’t allow anxiety or doubt to take a hold. We will all get through this process beautifully if you can stay focused. I am available to help you as long as you do your part, which I know that you can. Please read all these steps and take the time to implement them.

Input Your Activities Sheet into the Common Application – If you have not sent the finished version to me, please do it soon. This should be given to your teachers and guidance counselor so they can write stronger letters or recommendation. If not everything fits onto the Common Application pare down the wording, and reach out to me if you have questions.

Work on Your Essays – If we have not brainstormed themes, I would like to know what subject you are writing about before you put significant time into the essay. Pick an interesting topic that shows what you can contribute to a college. Here is an article which is helpful: . Essays take numerous revisions so please start them early. You cannot expect to leave it till the last minute and assume that I can review it that day. Some schools have supplemental essays, and some do not use the common application and have their own unique essay. Please stay on top of this.

Have Your List of Colleges Finalized Soon – If you still have questions about a few colleges, research them further. Here is an article on what to consider Peruse their website and call the admissions office to ask any questions that you cannot get answers to from the website. Visit the college if it is less than four hours away from where you live. Visiting is the best way to get a sense of the atmosphere and fit for you.

Demonstrate Interest in Your Top Colleges – If you missed this article, please read it

College Representatives Visiting Your School – A great way to show interest is to meet with the college representatives of the schools you are interested in, when they come to your school. That individual is going to be one of the people looking at your application to decide if you should be admitted. Dress well, look interested, ask an intelligent question, shake their hand at the end of the meeting, and ask for one of their business cards. Write them a thank you note and let them know why you are very interested in their institution.

Senior Surveys or Brag Sheets – Most high school guidance counselors ask you to fill these out. Do an excellent job on this. Many counselors use this document as a blueprint for what they write about you. Make it interesting, clear and positive. Also give your counselor a copy of your activities list to enhance your information.

Teacher Recommendations / Counselor Recommendations / Transcript Request Forms need to be requested two to three weeks before the college’s application deadline. I will be sending you a sheet to track your applications. You must make sure that you let everyone know when your deadlines are so that they will do their part. Find out what your school’s policy is on getting this done.

You Need to Send Test Scores to the Colleges – Test Scores can take up to three weeks to be sent to your colleges, so go on-line and fill out the form. Most schools allow you to choose which scores to send. If you have higher scores on different tests you might want to send all of them.

It seems like a lot, but doing it correctly should give you the outcome you desire!!!

Extracurricular Activities, Why Get Involved

What are you passionate about?

If you interview with an admissions counselor or attend an information session, this question will inevitably come up. But what do colleges really mean when they ask this question? How can you showcase your passions on your application?

The bottom line is that colleges care deeply about your involvement.  Dedication in the pursuit of your interests and your depth and consistency within them equates to “passion.”  If you are passionate about your involvement, colleges can reasonably assume that you will be passionate about your education as well. Ultimately, the desire you bring to your involvement translates directly to the excitement you bring to your (and others’) campus experience.

Let’s break involvement and passion down further…

Involvement Outside of Class

It may be difficult to categorize your commitments outside of class time. After all, you’re spending most of your time during the week attending class, tackling tough assignments, and dealing with the joys of homework. Commitments you can showcase outside of class could be anything from involvement in the arts, sports or volunteer work to significant family commitments or a part-time job. If you dedicate time to something outside of class, consider talking about it in your college application – especially if you are excited about it.

It’s About Balance

Colleges know that you will likely burn out if you try to get involved in everything. Instead, they look for the activities to which you are committed to and in which you demonstrate depth.  Admissions offices are not counting the number of things you do. It’s about depth in activities, not necessarily breadth. They are looking for overall commitment that shows consistency.

Colleges Will Notice

Colleges expect you to be committed to academics when you are on their campus, but they also know a large part of your campus experience will include potential involvement in clubs, Greek life, working on campus and other social opportunities. At the high school level, they will take note of…

  • Where do your interests lie outside of academics?
  • What are your time-management skills and do you use them appropriately?
  • How do you bring diversity (and more than just ethnic diversity) to campus?
  • Have you demonstrated you know how to commit to something long-term?
  • What meaningful contributions have you made within your activities?

Where to Invest Yourself…

Sometimes it’s hard to know all of the opportunities that are available to you. Your high school may offer a variety of clubs, but you may also find opportunities to commit to work experience or to community activism. I love helping students look for opportunities and start something new.  In many instances we are able to find a new passion they had not thought about.

Let’s explore…

School Clubs and Activities

It’s not enough to just be in a club. See how much you responsibility you can comfortably commit to. Take advantage of opportunities to step up and take on leadership opportunities. But, that doesn’t mean you need to be President or Captain of every activity. Put forth your best effort whether it’s in a “top” position or not. But remember, the same effort needs to continue to be applied to your school work.

Community Service

Not only can service work bring valuable contributions to your surrounding community, it can also lead to some great introspective moments and, potentially, academic credit. Are there ways for you to contribute to local hospitals or community based organizations? Can you be a mentor to younger students? Community service should not be a one-time commitment to fulfill a school requirement. It can be an important and integral part of your personal development.

Work Experience

Internships, summer jobs, part-time work or volunteering in a work environment can all lead to a better understanding of your career goals and aspirations. Not only that, these opportunities can help you identify potential majors in college and maybe even earn you some money for college along the way. Think about how you can invest yourself in the “real world.”

In Summary

So, what are you passionate about? You can see at this point that your answer isn’t just important to colleges, it should also be important to you. Having a strong idea of what you’re excited about allows you to know yourself better and gives you the ability to communicate the value you can add to a college’s freshman class.

Remember, you don’t need to commit to everything and you don’t need to be the best at what you do. Put forth your best effort and keep your academics a priority, and the colleges that are considering your application will take an interest in you and your passions.



What Your Guidance Counselor Won’t Tell You

Valedictorians are denied admission by elite institutions frequently.  According to 2009-2010 NCES data, there are more than 23,000 high schools in the U.S. and each one has a valedictorian. Further, according to the U.S. Dept. of Education, more than 35% of graduating seniors have an A average. There are a LOT of well-qualified applicants to Ivy League institutions and other elite colleges that don’t get in!  In-depth and unique extra-curricular involvement, excellent SAT/ACT scores, demonstrated leadership and awards for your talents may not be enough to secure a spot at a top-tier institution. These schools also look for passionate students who are already very accomplished in research, the arts, sports, academics, or philanthropic endeavors.

It’s almost always better to apply early. College admission offices want to put together their class as efficiently as possible. For some colleges, that means they’ll fill more than half of their freshman class with early action and early decision applicants.  Applying regular decision when there are fewer spots can mean your file is suddenly much less appealing, even if you are a competitive applicant to begin with. Colleges with rolling admission also tend to favor early applicants for the same reasons. While your high school guidance office may feel overwhelmed with requests to gather your information earlier in the school year, it’s almost always a good idea not to wait to apply.

You can still secure merit aid money even if you aren’t a perfect student. The trade-off is that it may be at a less-competitive institution. These colleges will want to raise their GPA and SAT/ACT profile with their entering class and your scores and GPA may help in that effort. You may also find it is easier to secure admission or scholarship at out-of-state institutions since they’ll be looking to increase geographic diversity a

You’re better off visiting a college when students are on campus. Though it’s convenient to visit a college during a holiday or summer break, those breaks may also coincide with the college’s not having students around. That may be fine for an initial visit, but if you want to attend the school, you should take time away from your high school classes to make visiting colleges while they’re in session a priority. There’s no substitute for seeing a college campus while students are there! It’s easier to get a feel for your “fit” on campus when you can see the surrounding neighborhood, the students walking around, and the overall energy of campus. You’ll also find it’s easier to visualize yourself on a college’s campus when other students are there.

The “right” amount of colleges that you should apply to can be anywhere from 4 – 10. Some students apply early decision and find out before any other applications are due, but they should have a list of other schools that interest them. As you move through your senior year, your preferences and the type of colleges that fit your needs may shift. Having an equally divided split of safety, stretch, and reasonable schools will give you plenty of options to consider as the acceptances and aid packages roll in.

Your GPA may be recalculated, and as a result, your 9th grade performance matters just as much as your performance in 11th grade.  It’s important to note that colleges often need a way to compare GPAs across different high schools. So, they create a level playing field by pulling out your core academic coursework from your transcript and recalculating your GPA. Take every year seriously; have a strong start and continue that trend throughout high school.


Your Senior Survey & Letter of Recommendation

Your high school counselor has a vested interest in assisting you during the college application process. One of the ways they support you is by writing a letter of recommendation about you to colleges. So how do they know what to write?

Apart from meeting with you, guidance counselors use your responses to the “ Senior Survey” to understand your goals and strengths, and will pass their insights on to the colleges that are considering your application. An Assistant Director of Admission at Chapman University says “High school counselors are our partners. They provide valuable information about our applicants and we trust them to be honest and forthright with us. Their letter is often the most important letter we read in a file.”

Just like your high school counselor provides accurate information to college admissions offices, you should be honest and thoughtful in your responses. Stay positive, even when asked about what you did not like, or what your weaknesses are. If you’ve faced challenges, talk about them! You can downplay issues to an extent, but not to the point that you’re glossing over something serious.

You should also know that your high school counselor is quite busy. It’s not uncommon for a counselor to use quotes from your answers to the survey verbatim when writing your recommendation letter. That is why it’s important to make this a priority and put forth the effort to provide excellent responses.

Your school may have different questions, but this gives you an outline for answers. Put effort and thought into answering them!

1. What are your plans for next year? Be specific! Name colleges you are interested in, potential majors, as well as possible graduate school and career ideas.

2. Which courses at our school have you enjoyed the most and why? 2 – 3 short strong sentences.

3. Which courses at this school have you enjoyed the least and why? 1 sentence and do not bash the teacher, nicely explain why.

4. Is your high school record an accurate measure of your ability and potential? If not, why not? This takes introspection and is worth thinking through and answering intelligently.

5. Have you participated in any summer programs, work or study opportunities that have been of significant importance to you? Please describe. 3 – 5 sentences.

6. What do you believe are your greatest strengths and your greatest weaknesses? Explain. Please list one small minor weakness and do not go into a lot detail. If you can show how you are addressing it, even better.

7. List 5 adjectives that describe you and explain. You can use the personality profile that we did to find these adjectives.

8. What do you plan to study in college and why? (If you haven’t decided on a particular major or concentration, what academic area(s) interest you?)

9. What is your favorite thing to do that you don’t think I know about?

10. What has been your most memorable positive experience at this school? Or what accomplishment are you most proud of and why? Please describe.

11. List all extracurricular activities, including sports, clubs and community organizations. Include years of participation. Please give them a copy of the activities sheet or resume if you have it done.

12. Is there anything else you think is important for us to know as we develop your letter of recommendation? Here you can thank them for their support, or tell them how you have matured this year.

Feel free to send me this document to me, or show it to your parents for a quality assurance before you submit it to your high school guidance counselor.

How to Fill out the Parent Brag Sheet

The parent’s brag sheet is one item guidance counselors use to write college recommendations for your student. The time and effort that you put into this document reaps important benefits in the college process. Nobody knows your student like you do, and now you have the opportunity to highlight their best qualities.

At many public high schools, the student to counselor ratio can be extremely high (in excess of 500:1). Though you may find some of the questions on the Brag Sheet to be elementary, counselors often don’t have the time, resources or opportunity to get to know your student at a more personal level. Further, college admission counselors know that sometimes the most valuable insights into a student’s life come straight from the student’s high school counselor. That’s why filling out this survey accurately and with detailed information is so important!

The Brag Sheet is a document your student’s counselor will use to provide details about their life inside and outside of the classroom. They need and want useful anecdotes about your student. They are trying to paint a picture for an admission counselor; provide them with a vibrant color palette!  Be truthful, but also stay on the positive side. Remember, your counselor is looking for direct quotes to insert into a recommendation letter. Give them some dynamic options!

What are some common Brag Sheet questions?

How has your student grown and matured over the last four years? Is your student on an “upward trend” in their grades while adding more rigor to their schedule? Are they doing an internship over the summer? Do they have a leadership position in a club which has taught them important life lessons? Can your student now advocate for themselves in the classroom when he/she had trouble with it before? Is he/she taking advantage of extra academic opportunities? These are all great ways to demonstrate commitment to academics and maturing throughout high school. Think outside the classroom as well. Is your student taking on more responsibility at home? Is he/she taking care of grandparents or younger siblings? Maturity can also be focused on personal growth. Is your student overcoming social or emotional challenges? Are they “breaking out of their shell?” A compelling “shift” in a student is definitely something to mention and explain.

What are your student’s greatest accomplishments over his/her years of high school?  Think about defining moments for your student. Was there any particular achievement inside or outside of the classroom you’d want to highlight? Provide some detail and background. It isn’t just that your student was “elected to a position in student government”, it’s that they “ran a positive and progressive campaign during a busy junior year.” Remember, don’t limit yourself to in-school activities. Maybe your student took care of sick family members or had to deal with a tough situation outside of school? Accomplishments don’t have to be academic or focus on awards, it can be overcoming “real life” challenges as well.

What words best describe your child? Time to break out your thesaurus, or look back at the personality profile that I did! Seriously, put some effort into this question. Your student is dynamic, so choose words that are as well. When counselors fill out Common App forms and other documentation for students, they are usually asked to describe your student in a few words to the admission committee. Give them great options! “Smart” can be “intelligent”, “funny” can be “witty” or “humorous”, and “outgoing” can be “courageous.” You may also be asked to demonstrate why you’re describing your student in this way. Make sure to have some specific examples ready!

Did you child face any challenges or are there circumstances that may have affected their educational journey? Life takes all kinds of twists and turns. If you have special circumstances that you wish your student’s counselor – and in turn colleges – to be aware of, this is the place to discuss them. Anything from serious family crisis (the loss of a loved one, job or home) to educational challenges (IEPs, disabilities, accommodations) would fall into this category. Even “smaller” experiences like the move to a new school or city can be addressed here. Contextualize these experiences for your student’s counselor and show how they have affected your student’s life. However, there is no need to overstate something for the sake of answering a question. If your student hasn’t faced any serious challenges, don’t answer this question.

Anything else you’d like to share?  Use this space as an opportunity to share the side of your child that others might glance past. How they might be an asset to a college through their volunteerism or team participation. Maybe there’s something special about your child that others don’t regularly see. Devotion to family, patience with others, being humble about accomplishments – these are all sub-surface aspects of your student that are definitely worth mentioning.

Ultimately, you have important insights into who your child really is and what makes them wonderful. Make sure that your student’s counselor, and potential admission counselors, have an intriguing picture.

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!!!