16 Dec

College Counseling Office (CCO) Notes and News

While the CCO is a busy place all year, the fall is definitely our busiest time! Every year, it seems that the autumn moves faster and faster, and this year is no exception. We actually begin our year in August, two weeks before school begins, meeting with students and families to finalize applications plans and review essays. In addition, we spend much time crafting powerful and persuasive recommendation letters for each senior, and attend national conferences where we meet with College Admission Deans and stay abreast of current issues in admissions and the application process. Once September arrives, we are also hosting over 100 college admissions representatives and running programs for parents of ninth through 12th graders (as well as for students) on important topics, such as the following:

  • Our first-ever “Amp UP!” Program in August was a huge success, helping seniors put the finishing touches on their Common Application before the school year had started
  • Senior Parents Orientation
  • Workshop on completing the FAFSA and Profile Financial Aid forms for senior parents
  • “Meet and Greet” for parents of 9th and 10th Graders, to get a preview of the college process
  • Free practice ACT and SAT administrations for 11th graders only (in the spring, we hold practice tests for 10th graders)
  • On-campus interviews for seniors with visiting college representatives
  • “Fact vs. Fiction: Staying Sane in a Time of Change in College Admission Testing,” open to parents of 9th through 12th grade

For this last session, we welcomed Adam Ingersoll of Compass Education Group. He spoke to a packed room of interested parents and taught us much about practical ways to plan for testing. Five important “takeaways” that we felt came from his talk are:

  • Don’t start test prep too early: in most cases, the fall/winter of junior year is the right time, in order to plan for tests to be taken toward the end of junior year (when most college admission testing is done).
  • Make a plan, and be efficient with time spent on test prep: you want your student to spend the time on test prep that is needed to do his/her best, but not a second more than that.
  • There are close to 900 colleges — including selective and highly selective schools — that have either test-flexible or test-optional policies, giving students the chance to apply to colleges without submitting standardized test scores.
  • Beware of test burn-out, which typically happens when a child begins prep and/or official testing too early in the process. The goal is for the student to “peak” (i.e. be able to earn their best-possible scores) either by the end of junior year or beginning of senior year.  It is rare for a student to be able to peak early in the junior year (or before), so it is counterproductive to start the testing calendar for the student too soon, and can even lead to declining scores later on.
  • The most important part of a college application will always be the transcript, not the test scores. While scores play a role, a student’s record over their years of high school matter most in college admissions decisions.

This year, President Obama named November National College Application Month; and it certainly felt that way! Most of our seniors applied to at least one college in November, either through a non-binding Early Action or Rolling plan, or through an Early Decision (binding) plan. Every year we do have students who do not apply early in any way, and that can be a very well-thought-out plan for those students, but the majority are sending in applications early.

Seniors are now hearing results from those early applications, and by the end of this week most early decision and early action schools will have reported results. That makes for an emotional few days, where seniors are faced with a complex moment of balancing their reactions to news about themselves with their reactions to the news of close friends and other members of the class. At this point in the year some seniors are finished with the process and know where they are headed in the fall and the rest are applying to schools with January deadlines, and the process will continue into the spring, with a final May 1 deadline for seniors to decide on their next step.

As the CCO continues to work with seniors, we also look forward to beginning our work with the Class of 2018! Much more information about that will be forthcoming in the next few weeks. In the meantime, we wish all of our Seniors good luck.