College Update HeaderVol. 6                                                 December 2016                                                             No. 4                            


This month is another busy month for our office. Peter Van Buskirk gave an informative presentation to our sophomores and juniors as well as parents about how colleges evaluate applicants. We are holding our second College Counseling class with the juniors, where we give an overview of what we will cover as we move through our College Counseling curriculum. We are holding small group meetings with sophomores to debrief the Peter Van Buskirk talk as well as to review PSAT scores. We also continue to meet with seniors as we finalize their college lists and discuss any decisions that have been received to date.

We have had many seniors sending out applications. Hitting the submit button can bring relief, excitement and anxiety all at the same time. The seniors should check in with their counselor before they leave for winter vacation (which they have been told multiple times!). The College Counseling Office will be closed over break, but we will be checking our email during that time. Students should know the best way to contact their counselor during the vacation. If there is an emergency, I will be on campus and I am happy to assist you.

We will hold our annual Junior Class College Day on Saturday, February 4. The day begins with registration and then a question and answer session with four representatives from college admissions offices. Parents will be introduced to Naviance, the online software system we use to organize and track the college application process. We will finish the day with a question and answer session with Kimberly, Chris, Courtney and me. If you are a parent of a junior, please mark the date on your calendar.

We hope everyone has a restful and enjoyable holiday season.

This month's articles:

  • For Senior Parents: Final List Reminder; Reminder about FAFSA and CSS Profile; When the letters come in...
  • For Junior Parents: Overview of December College Counseling Class; SAT and ACT Reminder; What about the PSAT
  • For Sophomore Parents: What about the PSAT
  • For All Parents: Review of Peter Van Buskirk's Visit; College Funding Kit; Summer Opportunities Fair; Dates To Remember

Sean Sheehan

Director of College Counseling

Senior Parents: Final List Reminder

We will be mailing home a final college list for seniors around December 16. A letter containing important information about the list and the applications will be included. The time between now and winter break should be used to help finalize your students college list. Students should speak with their counselor before they leave for winter break to ensure that their list is complete and that they are fully aware of deadlines.

It is worth repeating again that students are responsible for sending all applications and supplements as well as their test scores directly from the testing agency to the colleges.

Parents of Seniors: Reminder about FAFSA and CSS Profile

If you are a parent of a senior and you are applying for financial aid, remember that the FAFSA has been available since October 1. You can find the FAFSA application at In addition, some schools also require the CSS profile, which may be completed at any time. You can find the CSS Profile application at It is the student and family's responsibility to understand all financial aid application requirements as well as to submit the needed materials.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us. We would remind you, too, that Chapter 8: Paying for College in the College Counseling Handbook has some excellent information about financial aid.

Information for Senior Parents: When the letters come in...

Soon colleges will start sending out their admission decisions, first the Early Decision or Early Action ones, then, gradually, the regular decisions, from schools with fixed deadlines and those on rolling admissions. (Schools that use a “rolling” system have no fixed deadline; they keep accepting applications until they are full.) Here is a rundown of the decisions your child can expect, what they mean and what options are available.

Since the ED and EA letters (or e-mails) are the earliest to arrive, we’ll discuss those first. Early Decision, you’ll remember, is a binding program: if you are accepted, you go. Early Action, on the other hand, simply gives the applicant an early result, with no obligation to attend or to decide before the universally accepted Candidate’s Reply Date of May 1. Possible decisions for both plans:

  • Accepted: Just that. If accepted ED, the student has agreed to attend and must send a deposit within a short period of time. An EA acceptance, as we’ve said, just means that the student has one in the pocket early in the year.
  • Deferred: A deferral puts the student back in the regular applicant pool, where he or she is re-considered later in the year on an equal basis with regular-decision applicants. Some are accepted, some are denied, a few might be put on a waiting list—which means waiting even longer for a decision. We usually suggest to people in the latter position that they not remain on the wait list unless they want the college more than anything in the world.
  • Denied: Most colleges today will deny an early applicant whom they know they will never accept. While an early denial can hurt, it’s usually less painful than dragging the process out for months when there is clearly little, if any, hope of later admission.

“Regular” decisions, from schools with fixed deadlines and those on rolling admissions, begin to arrive in mid- to late January, with the bulk coming in between mid-February and mid-April. Some fixed-deadline colleges send decisions on a “rolling” basis, often in a seemingly arbitrary order. So don’t panic if your neighbor’s son hears from Amos and William U. in January, and your daughter, who applied earlier than the neighbor, doesn’t hear until later. It happens all the time. Others, including many of the most selective institutions, send all their decisions on one date. Here’s what can happen:

  • Acceptance: The student has until May 1 to accept or decline an offer of admission. (See below)
  • Denial: Denials are final, and although we may very occasionally ask a college to explain the reasons if a decision surprises us or the family, reconsiderations, in our experience, don’t happen. Admission people make decisions carefully, and we—counselors and families—must understand that a kid who is absolutely fantastic in our eyes may be average in a particular college’s applicant pool. And it’s their opinion that counts, in the end.
  • Waiting List: The limbo of college admissions. The waiting list is a form of “insurance policy” used by many colleges as a hedge against the possibility of unfilled places in an entering class. There is no way to predict a student’s chances of admission from the waiting list, as circumstances and conditions vary each year. In almost all cases, waiting lists are not ranked; rather, all waiting-list students are reevaluated shortly after May 1. The number of waiting-list candidates offered acceptance depends upon the number of places still to be filled. Students should choose to remain on a college’s waiting list only if they are seriously interested in attending that institution. They will have to send a deposit to another college to hold a place; doing so in this situation is not considered “double depositing.” (see below) If interest is not strong, students should remove their names from waiting lists to give their place to someone else. We counsel waiting-listed seniors carefully, suggesting specific strategies that may help their chances of admission.

Important notes on May 1 and depositing: All accepted candidates must commit to one college by May 1 by sending in the required deposit. Under no circumstances should you ever send deposits to more than one college! “Double-depositing” is wrong and unethical, and we are obliged to report it when it happens, which may well result in denial of admission by both colleges. As we have mentioned, however, depositing at one college and then choosing to attend another at which the student has been accepted from the waiting list is perfectly fine.

Occasionally, a college that accepts a student early on, say in late January, may request a deposit before May 1. According to the Principles of Good Practice of the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), of which we are a member, no institution may require a deposit before May 1. If it happens to your child, he or she should simply call or e-mail the admission office and request an extension to May 1. The college should grant it with no problem; if they won’t, speak to us and we will call.

The only possible exception in this situation might be made, typically, for a large state institution that requires a housing deposit as soon as the student is accepted. If this happens, find out if it is refundable and whether the student will still be guaranteed housing if the deposit isn’t sent until May 1. In cases like this it is often prudent to send the deposit, especially if the college has limited on-campus housing.

For more information on deadlines and decisions, please visit our online College Counseling Handbook: Chapter 7: After the Decision

For All Parents

Review of Peter Van Buskirk's Visit

On Tuesday, December 6, Lawrence Academy hosted The Admissions Game, an interactive presentation from Peter Van Buskirk, which gave insight to how colleges make admissions decisions. Peter is the former Dean of Admission at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, PA where he worked for 25 years. Throughout his tenure Peter developed a holistic perspective on college admissions which he shared with all members of the sophomore and junior classes as well as many LA parents who were in attendance.

Following an engaging introduction to the world of college admissions, Peter had the audience take on the role of a mock admissions committee. He highlighted several important ideas for our students and families to think about as they embark on their journey through the college process. Please see the attached PDF for some of the main points that we took away from this presentation.

The Admissions Game PDF

Information for All Parents: College Funding Kit

As we have mentioned in previous Updates, we have partnered for the second year in a row with the Smart Track College Funding Kit to help parents as they consider how best to pay for college. During Parents' Weekend, Ron Foisy from the College Funding Kit met individually with families to discuss the financial aid process. The parents of juniors and seniors have been registered with the Smart Track College Funding Kit at no charge. The junior and senior parents should have received an email from the Smart Track College Funding Kit explaining how to access the many useful tools they have to offer. If you did not receive the email or are having trouble registering, you can email them at or call them at 1-800-863-9440 and ask for Emily. You can also use the link below to get started.

Smart Track College Funding Kit

Information for Junior Parents

Overview of December College Counseling Class

In December we are holding our second small group meeting with juniors in the college office. Here is what we cover with students during this meeting time:

  • Review of PSAT Scores
  • Debrief of Peter Van Buskirk event
  • The importance of taking the SAT and ACT during junior year.
  • Overview of the College Process: 'Learning', 'Defining', 'Creating', and 'Exploring' - these are the key aspects of our College Counseling Curriculum. In December we take a closer look at what we mean by 'Learning' and delve into learning about yourself, learning about colleges and universities, as well as learing about the resources available during this journey.
Information for Junior Parents

SAT and ACT Reminder

Please register your student for the February 11 ACT. Lawrence Academy has already filled all seats. Your student will need to sign up for an alternate testing location for either the February 11, April 8, or June 10 ACT. Unfortunately, we are not able to guarantee that we can drive boarding students to an alternate test site.

Please register your LA student for the Lawrence Academy testing site if they wish to test at LA for the January 21, May 6 or June 3 SAT. Our site is very desirable and seats fill up fast.

Summit Educational Group will run an additional SAT prep course on the LA campus to prepare students for the May 6, 2017 SAT. 6 class meetings will run between February 12, 2017 - April 30, 2017 (no classes will meet during Winterim or March break). Please contact Jenn Prince ( at Summit Educational Group if you have questions or would like to sign up for the course. TEST PREP CLASS FLYER



Please note: Standby ticket holders are NOT guaranteed a seat.


Students are able to take AP exams on campus this spring. The dates offered by CollegeBoard are May 1, 2017 – May 5, 2017 and May 8, 2017 – May 12, 2017. Students should talk to Rachel Culley in the Studies Office if they would like more information about taking these exams. Materials are located in the Studies Office if you would like to understand more or you can visit

Information for Sophomore and Junior Parents

What about the PSAT?

All sophomores and juniors took the Preliminary Scholastic Assessment Test/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT) on October 19. This test is designed to measure the student’s developed skills in critical reading and writing and math problem-solving. PSAT scores are not reported to colleges, but students may receive mail from colleges as a result of having taken the test, especially if they signed up for the Student Search Service.

For tenth graders, the PSAT is essentially a practice test. For eleventh graders, the PSAT serves not only as a second opportunity to practice for the SAT, but is also the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (NMSQT). Through this program, some very high-scoring juniors will be identified and may go on to be honored by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation. The PSAT has the same format, directions, and question types as the SAT, so the PSAT score report can help your son or daughter understand how to prepare for the SAT.  (Please remember that it is the family’s responsibility to register the student for the SAT!)

The students received their PSAT score reports and an explanation of these reports in small group meetings this month. As part of their score report, students are directed to a collegeboard website ( where they can enter a unique access code (access code can be found on the front page of their PSAT score report). This will link the student to their full score report, give them access to the actual PSAT test they took on October 19, and give detailed information about their areas of strength and weakness. Score reports will also be sent home to parents, and the students are encouraged to discuss them with you. PSAT section scores are in the range of 160 to 760 (please note: the SAT section score range is 200 to 800). The PSAT is slightly easier than the SAT (they leave off some questions that would be considered "most difficult"), so as a result the score you see on the PSAT is likely the score your student would receive on the SAT if he/she were to take the SAT with no further preparation.

In reviewing a student’s report, what is important to consider is not the actual score but the question guide provided as part of the report. One of the best ways that students can use their PSAT score reports is to analyze their performance on particular parts of the test, since this guide gives the correct answer to each question and can help students understand their strengths and weaknesses. The test reports also include benchmark scales that show the subject matter for the questions on which students did well and where they need more practice. If the test report is used in this way, the PSAT can serve as a good method to prepare students and to bolster their confidence as they move on to the SAT.

Finally, Khan Academy provides free, online SAT practice for students who feel they can prepare on their own:


For All Parents

Summer Opportunities Fair

On Sunday, January 22, 2017, Phillips Academy Andover is hosting a Summer Opportunities Fair which will also include information about Gap Year Programs. The Fair will draw representatives from over 100 local, national and international summer and gap year programs. The event is open to the public and is an excellent opportunity to learn about various summer enrichment programs. Please see the website below for more information:

Summer Opportunities Fair

Dates To Remember


  • Dec 21 regular registration deadline for Jan 21 SAT
  • Jan 6 regular registration deadline for Feb 11 ACT
  • Jan 10 late registration for Jan 21 SAT
  • Jan 20 late registration for Feb ACT
  • Jan 21 SAT & Subject Tests @LA
  • Jan 22 Summer Opportunities Fair @Phillips Academy Andover
  • Feb 10 regular registration deadline for March 11 SAT (not offered at LA)
  • Feb 11 ACT @LA
  • Feb 28 late registration deadline for March 11 SAT (not offered at LA)
  • March 11 SAT & Subject Tests (not offered at LA)
  • March 17 late registration for April 8 ACT (not offered at LA)
  • April 7 regular registration for May 6 SAT @LA
  • April 8 ACT (not offered at LA)
  • April 25 late registration for May 6 SAT @LA
  • May 1-12: AP Exams on campus
  • May 5 regular registration for June 10 ACT (not offered at LA)
  • May 6 SAT & Subject Tests @LA
  • May 9 regular registration for June 3 SAT @LA
  • May 19 late registration for June 10 ACT (not offered at LA)
  • May 24 late registration for June 3 SAT @LA
  • June 3 SAT & Subject Test @LA
  • June 10 ACT (not offered at LA)


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