Vol. 6 April 2017 No. 8
It has been a busy start to the term as we continue to meet with juniors and discuss with seniors the admissions decisions they have received.
Seniors must make a deposit at one college by May 1. It is important to note, as we have reminded you before, that seniors may only deposit at one college. If students are waitlisted at a school and they want to stay on the waitlist, they must notify the college in writing. Also they should earn the best grades possible, as a strong report at midterm could enhance their candidacy if a school goes to the waitlist. Feel free to contact any of the college counselors if you have any questions about any aspect of making a final college decision. Please remind your seniors to inform their college counselor of ALL admissions decisions in order for our office to keep accurate records.
We continue to meet with juniors individually and in small groups. We have started to create college lists and discuss plans for the remainder of the school year and the summer. In our small group meetings in April we have started to work on the college application essay. You will find more information below about what we covered in these meetings.
This is an additional reminder for all junior parents that we encourage you to complete the Parent Questionnaire. You received a copy in your parent packet during our Junior Class College Day in February. In addition, it can be found when you sign in to Naviance's Family Connection in the 'About Me' section. You can also access a copy of the Parent Questionnaire in the PDF form. Your answers help us get a sense of your thoughts and concerns about the college admission process, but most importantly it provides you with the opportunity to share your thoughts about your child with us. Your candor is important and valued.
We are sure you are all aware that the cost of college is a hot topic in education. Be sure to check out the article below detailing a phone app which debued last year that can link students to hundreds of scholarship opportunities.
This month's articles:
- For Senior Parents: The Wait List; Senior Class Meetings & Grades Still Matter!
- For Junior Parents: Upcoming College Fairs; Parent College Questionnaire; A Recap of Standardized Testing...and what about Subject Tests; Juniors Participate in College Essay Workshops; Summer Application Bootcamp; SAT and ACT Reminder
- For Sophomore and Freshmen Parents: Laying the Groundwork
- For All Parents: Scholarship 'App'ortunities at the Touch of a Phone; College Counseling Handbook; Dates to Remember
We hope you enjoy this month’s College Counseling Update!
Director of College Counseling
The following letter was emailed to all seniors on April 4 regarding the wait list:
The wait list can often be a confusing “limbo” as it is neither a deny nor an admit. As college application pools continue to grow in size, the admissions environment becomes even more selective, and with a limited number of freshman spaces, schools are not able to admit all the students who presented strong academic credentials. The wait 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 wait list, as circumstances and conditions vary each year. In almost all cases, wait lists are not ranked and all wait-list students are reevaluated shortly after May 1 (the national reply deadline). The number of wait list candidates offered acceptance depends upon the number of places still to be filled. You should choose to remain on a college’s wait list only if you are seriously interested in attending that institution. If interest is not strong, you should remove your name from the waiting list to give a place to someone else.
We can suggest some specific strategies that may help your chances of admission. Below are a few steps that you should take if you want to improve your chances of getting off the wait list. Demonstrated interest on your part becomes very important if a college decides to use their wait list.
- Write to the college and let them know that you would like to remain on the wait list. If the wait list college is your first choice, make sure the college knows that you are ready and willing to accept an offer of admission.
- Be sure that you have provided evidence of any connections or hooks.
- Continue to earn the best grades possible, as a strong report at mid-term could enhance your candidacy if a school goes to the waitlist.
- Provide new grades, a letter of recommendation from a senior year teacher or evidence of recent accomplishments that might not have appeared on your initial application. Check in with your college counselor as we can work with you to send in new materials.
- Be persistent in showing your interest in the college, but do not be a pest. An e-mail or update every two to three weeks to the wait list college is appropriate.
- Meet with your college counselor to discuss your communication with your wait list college. We are happy to help review follow-up letters, e-mails or any other forms of outreach.
In the meantime, you must commit to one college by May 1 by sending in the required deposit. If you are admitted from a wait list and choose to attend, you will forfeit the other school’s enrollment fee. This is the only case where a “double deposit” is acceptable. Realistically, most students are not offered fall admission from a wait list and if they are, financial aid is typically limited or not available. For that reason, we encourage you to focus on moving forward and to get excited about your current acceptances. Christophe Guttentag, Duke University’s dean of undergraduate admissions, placed nice perspective on the matter when he recently stated, “I think we forget sometimes that there are hundreds and hundreds and thousands of good colleges, and the students who approach the school with the right attitude and energy and a desire to learn and an interest in growing will have an outstanding experience.”
Over the course of the next several weeks the College Office and Student Life will hold three classes for all seniors to discuss the transition to college. Tuesday, April 11 was the first class where we discussed the idea of transitioning to college and brainstormed some of the differences that students would encounter. In addition, we reminded them that college admissions officers are still keeping their eyes on them, even though the students may be completely finished with the application process. This is true of both the colleges they plan to attend and any college where they hope to be accepted from a waiting list. Both academic performance and disciplinary records continue to matter. Please back us up in reminding students that their third trimester is important! The second class on Tuesday, April 18 will focus on academic differences and the final class on Tuesday, May 2nd will focus on social situations.
Final grades are sent to the colleges at which seniors will have enrolled, and all acceptances are based upon “successful completion of the senior year.” This means grades must be maintained where they have been all year and spring-term course selection must remain as it was described on the transcript initially sent to colleges. A spring-term drop in grades or a perceived weakening of a senior’s course load can have unpleasant consequences, ranging from a sharply-worded letter, to requiring the student to enter college on academic probation, or even to the withdrawal of an acceptance, an action which we have actually seen once or twice.
Seniors must make the decision about where they will attend and send the required enrollment deposit to ONE COLLEGE ONLY by MAY 1. With the exception of a very few financial aid cases, colleges will not extend that deadline. Students should not send a deposit to more than one college. We are obligated to tell both colleges if a student double-deposits, and the student could end up with no options.The only exception to the double deposit is if a student is removed from a wait list after May 1 and would like to enroll.
On a lighter note, we have truly enjoyed our work with the Class of 2017. This group has been particularly conscientious, thoughtful and mature throughout the entire process. We will hold our first annual senior "college celebration" in May to honor their work and achievements as well as to gain feedback directly from the seniors about their experiences during the process. As always, we strive to make the college process a meaningful learning experience for everyone and always welcome student and parent input to help shape our program.
Because more and more colleges are urging students to apply Early Decision or Early Action, juniors and seniors are under ever-increasing pressure to “get the paperwork done” by early fall of the senior year. Few of us on the counseling side particularly like this trend, but it’s here to stay, at least for a while, and we need to help our students cope with it.
In an effort to help students keep up with this fast-track college application process, our April and May small-group college meetings for juniors have been devoted to writing the application essay, with particular attention to the topics on the Common Application. In addition, juniors will create a Common Application account in May and begin to fill in several of the academic sections.
Over the past several years, Common Application has made some notable changes to the essay prompts and guidelines. This year is no different as several essay prompts have been revised and brand new prompts have been added. Please see the guidelines and essay prompts for the Class of 2018 below:
... [W]rite an essay of no more than 650 words, using the prompt to inspire and structure your response. Remember: 650 words is your limit, not your goal. Use the full range if you need it, but don't feel obligated to do so. (The application won't accept a response shorter than 250 words [and will also cut off any responses longer than 650 words]).
- Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story. [No change]
- The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience? [Revised]
- Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome? [Revised]
- Describe a problem you've solved or a problem you'd like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma - anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution. [No change]
- Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others. [Revised]
- Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more? [New]
- Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you've already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design. [New]
The counselor works with each student in the group to make sure that everyone has started on the right path; the juniors work for the remainder of the period and continue on their own afterwards, with the expectation that they will all have finished an essay draft by the next small-group college meeting class in mid-May. Getting a “leg up” on this important part of the application process makes the work of next fall much more manageable.
Workshops like these are part of our ongoing efforts to improve Lawrence’s college counseling program. We will seek feedback from the students later in the term.
BISCCA School Fair for Juniors
On Sunday, April 23, 2017 the annual Boston Independent School College Counselors’ Association (BISCCA) Fair will be held at Merrimack College in North Andover, MA, from 5:00-6:30pm.
- Sunday, April 23, 2017 from 5:00-6:30pm
- Merrimack College, North Andover, MA
In our April college counseling classes we spoke to all juniors about the fair and strongly encouraged them to take advantage of this opportunity. Designed for independent school students, the fair will host over 100 colleges from outside New England, to which many of our students commonly apply. Lawrence Academy will provide transportation for students on that afternoon and there is a sign-up sheet in the college counseling office. Students should reserve a spot on the bus (leaving from LA at 4:30pm) if they plan to travel with us.
Boston National College Fair
The Boston National College Fair hosts over 375 diverse colleges and universities offering a wide variety of educational options. In addition, there are financial aid presentation for students and parents.
- Sunday, May 7, 2017 2:00-5:00pm.
- Boston Convention & Exhibition Center, Hall C
Colleges That Change Lives (CTCL) Boston Area Event
CTCL offers a national series of information sessions and college fairs for students, parents, and college counselors. These sessions begin with an enlightening 30-minute presentation on today’s college search process and are followed immediately by a college fair that lasts for approximately 1.5 hours. Students and families are able to collect information from and speak directly with admission representatives from the colleges and universities that inspired the book Colleges That Change Lives.
- Saturday, May 20, 2017 10:00am
- Boston Marriot Copley Place
The program begins promptly at 10 a.m. with a 30-minute information session, and a college fair begins immediately afterwards, lasting approximately 1.5 hours. This program is offered to the public free of charge. No pre-registration is required. View CTCL to see a complete list of colleges that will be attending.
For the second summer in a row we are offering a program for our rising seniors (Class of 2018) to help them complete their college applications. Our Summer Application Boot Camp will take place on July 31 – August 3 from 8:30 AM – 12:30 PM at Lawrence Academy. The enrollment will be limited to the first sixteen students that sign up. As of April 14, more than half of the class has filled.
The four-day course is being taught by Sean Sheehan, Director of College Counseling, and Kimberly Bohlin Healy, Associate Director of College Counseling. The hands-on student centered program will cover topics including: how colleges make admissions decisions, crafting the college essay, writing supplementary essays, the common application, creating a resume, and participating in mock interviews. On the final day we will have a representative from a local college admissions office review the students’ essays and conduct practice interviews with them.
There is no charge for the program and each participant will be given a workbook that will include materials used throughout the course. If your student is interested in signing up for the Summer Application Boot Camp, please email Kimberly Bohlin Healy by April 28 to reserve a spot. If you have any questions, please feel to contact Kimberly Bohlin Healy or Sean Sheehan.
A Recap of Standardized Testing...and what about Subject Tests?
Although we have explored standardized testing in previous newsletters, it seems a good time to put forward a summary of our suggestions, since these tests will be a part of most students’ college application process.
To recap, we strongly recommend students take both the ACT (American College Test) and the SAT (Scholastic Assessment Test).
Students for whom English is a second language also need to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). It is given at LA on various Saturdays during the spring; students should contact Ms. Jennifer O’Connor, director of the international program, to register. They can also take the TOEFL for a second time in their home countries during the summer. Students should plan on taking it several times until their scores reach a level that will be appropriate for colleges to which they will be applying. Further information about the TOEFL is available at www.ets.org.
SAT Subject Tests are not required by very many colleges, but juniors should consider taking two this June so that they will have them in case they decide to apply to an institution where they are a requirement. We suggest that our juniors register for Math Level 1 and Literature. Students in Math 4 or higher should ask their teachers whether Math Level 2 is appropriate for them. All should go to www.collegeboard.org and check out the sample subject tests so that they can familiarize themselves with the format and material covered. Students can ultimately choose whether or not to submit each of their subject test scores to colleges, depending on an individual college’s test requirements.
SAT and ACT Reminder
Please register your LA student as soon as possible for the Lawrence Academy testing site if they wish to test at LA for the May or June SAT or Subject Tests. Our site is very desirable and seats fill up fast. The ACT in April and June are not offered at Lawrence Academy, but students may take them at an alternate testing site. Refer to collegeboard.org and actstudent.org for registration information.
Additional reminder for students who seek accommodations or extended-time testing for the SAT or ACT: You will need to begin this process by contacting Cindy Blood, Interim Director of Academic Support, at least seven weeks prior to the given test date. You can read more about this process in Chapter 3: Testing for College Admission in our College Counseling Handbook.
Please note: Standby ticket holders are NOT guaranteed a seat.
Laying the Groundwork
While we in the college counseling office won’t work “officially” with your children until about November of the junior year, we would like to offer you some thoughts on what constitutes good college preparation. Lawrence is, after all, a college preparatory school, and this preparation begins the moment a new student steps onto our campus.
We don’t want ninth- and tenth-graders worrying about where they are going to college, but they do need to be aware that they will most likely go some day. Colleges look at all four years of an applicant’s high school career, so how your child spends his or her time at Lawrence will have a direct bearing on which college he or she will attend. Some of our guidelines may seem obvious, but you would be surprised how often they are ignored, with unhappy consequences! Here they are. We have addressed these thoughts to the student, since we hope you will discuss them with your sons and daughters.
- Always take the most rigorous course load you can reasonably handle! If you are recommended for an Honors class, take it, even if you might get a slightly lower grade in the Honors section than in the regular one. Colleges look more favorably upon a student who has challenged him- or herself with hard courses than they do upon the one who has taken easier classes to raise the grade average.
- On the other hand, you usually should not push to get into an Honors class if you were not recommended for it. These recommendations, based on your past performance and a careful estimate of your potential, are made each spring with a great deal of care; trying to get moved up so it will “look good” on your transcript is almost never in your best interest.
- As you move through Lawrence Academy, plan to study beyond our diploma requirements in all, or almost all, the academic disciplines. Taking French 3 as a junior more than satisfies our requirement, but the most selective colleges will expect you to continue with French 4 in your senior year, assuming you’ve done fairly well in language. If you do drop one discipline, make up for it in other areas with challenging classes.
- Get involved in school life, but do so in an honest and committed way. Find an activity or two that you think you could get to love, and put your energy into it. Quality is more important than quantity here: colleges are more impressed by a student who is deeply committed to one or two activities than by one who amasses a long “brag sheet” of memberships and involvements without a lot of substance behind them.
Scholarship 'App'ortunities at the Touch of a Phone
As college tuitions continue to rise, paying for college remains a concern for many families. Colleges offer financial aid and merit scholarships, but often those generous grants are not enough to help families pay for college without securing loans. Last year, Brad Hobbs, Class of 1982 and a member of our Board of Trustees, sent in an article and a link to a phone application called Scholly which helps to find scholarships for students. The attached article which appeared on Smithsonian.com explains the app and its benefits well. Please take the time to read the article and look at the app.
The College Counseling Handbook
Please remember, if you want more detailed information about the college application process, that The College Counseling Handbook, is always available on our web page on the Lawrence Academy website. The book describes in detail our approach to applying to college. The information in the handbook is organized to take you through all of the steps of the college application process. You can select specific chapters or download a PDF of the entire book.
- April 23 BISCCA College Fair
- 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)
- July 31-Aug 3 College Application Bootcamp (Class of 2018)