College Update HeaderVol. 8                                                 December 2018                                                             No. 4                            


This month is another busy month for our office. We are holding our second College Counseling class with the juniors, where we review PSAT scores and 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 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, January 26, 2019. 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, Mia, 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; Financial Aid & Scholarship Information; 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: 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 14. A letter containing important information about the list and the applications will be included. If there are any changes that need to be made over the vacation please have your student reach out to their college counselor. In addition, Sean Sheehan, Director of College Counseling, will be available: We did ask all students to speak with their counselor before they left for winter break to ensure that their list is complete and that they are fully aware of deadlines - we saw most of them!

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: Financial Aid & Scholarship Information

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.

There are also several good resources for outside merit scholarships. Many have application deadlines (some in December). The winter break would be a good time to research and apply if your student is interested in outside scholarship opportunities.

 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.
    • How to Deal with a Deferral or Denial: Attached is an article written recently which we have found very helpful in speaking with students who have been deferred or denied. It is definitely worth a read.

“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

Information for All Parents: Taming the Admissions Anxiety
Harvard University Graduate School of Education recently published an article speaking to the levels of stress and anxiety that the college process can cause in adolescents. The article touches on the following topics:
  • The Weight of College Pressure
  • Doing the Admissions Process Right
  • Confronting Status Concerns
  • Turning the Pressure Down
  • Getting Real about the Source of the Pressure
We found excellent advice throughout the article and believe all parents can benefit from reading Taming the Admissions Anxiety.
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
  • 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 9 ACT. Lawrence Academy will likely fill all seats within the next week. Your student will need to sign up for an alternate testing location for either the February 9, April 13, June 8 or July 13 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 May 4 or June 1 SAT or Subject Tests. Our site is very desirable and seats fill up fast.



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


Students are able to take AP exams on campus this spring. 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 10. 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 10, 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 leaves off some questions that would be considered "most difficult" which students will see on the SAT. 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 & Gap-Year Opportunities Fair

The 29th annual Summer Opportunities Fair will take place on Sunday, January 27, 2019, from noon to 3 p.m. in the Smith Center, on the Phillips Academy campus located off Route 28 near the intersection of Dwight Street on the Phillips Academy campus in Andover, Massachusetts.

Representatives from approximately 100 local, national and international summer opportunities programs will be available to talk with interested students and their families. This unique fair offers a wide range of programs that focus on academic enrichment, language study, community service, camps, sports, arts, research, internships, outdoor adventure, international travel & gap year opportunities, and more for middle school and high school students.

The Fair will be open to the public, and you do not need to register to attend. Admission is free and the facility is wheelchair-accessible. This event is sponsored by the Parents of Students of Phillips Academy (PSPA).

Dates To Remember


  • Dec 1 SAT @LA
  • Dec 8 ACT
  • Jan 4 regular registration deadline for Feb 9 ACT
  • Jan 18 late registration for Feb 9 ACT
  • Jan 26 Junior Class College Day
  • Jan 27 Summer Opportunities Fair & Gap Year Fair
  • Feb 8 regular registration for March 9 SAT*
  • Feb 9 ACT @LA
  • Feb 22 late registration deadline for March 9 SAT*
  • March 9 SAT* not offered @LA
  • April 13 ACT not offered @LA
  • May 4 SAT & Subject Tests @LA
  • June 1 SAT & Subject Tests @LA
  • June 8 ACT not offered @LA
  • July 13 ACT not offered @LA

* March 9 SAT is not offered at LA

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