Archives for bethmcgaw

Test-Optional – What to Do?

The pandemic made last year and like no other for college admissions. The most significant change is that many schools have decided to go test-optional. Test-optional means you do not have to submit your ACT or SAT scores if you don’t want to and you won’t be penalized for it during the admission review.  

During the admissions cycle for the class of 2021, regardless of the school’s elite status, more than 1,000 campuses have dropped SAT/ACT as an admission requirement and admission officers have reviewed a record number of applications due to the number of students taking advantage of this option.

… test scores are important but not nearly as significant as students and parents think.

– Jeff Selingo

What to Do

In his book, Who Gets in and Why, A Year Inside College Admissions, released just before the pandemic, Jeff Selingo says, “..test scores are important but not nearly as significant as students and parents think.” Admissions officers use scores mainly to check against the transcript, asking questions such as do the grades and transcripts line up?  

It has been discussed among many college advisors that if you have a score lower than 1300, it is advisable not to submit your score. Anything below that, you may want to choose to go test-optional. 

What Happens Then

So, what factors does an admission counselor look at when reviewing an application without test scores? Many put the most weight on GPA as well as the rigor of the curriculum. They will also look at essays, teacher and counselor recommendations, and extracurricular activities. 

Don’t despair if your GPA is lower! There are many schools out there that provide excellent education and accept students with lower GPAs. Your selection of a major may be a deciding factor. 

Try to find opportunities while in high school to show your interest in this field and list them in your extracurricular activities list. Showing an increase in grades, an internship, a volunteer opportunity, or a unique project may be just the advantage you need to overcome a lower GPA. 

Looking for some help with discovering your strengths or figuring out how to showcase your accomplishments for your college applications? We can help! Contact us today. 

Early Action? Early Decision? Regular Admission? Oh My!

There is a little vocabulary to go with filling out your college applications: Early Action, Early Decision, Regular Admissions, and Rolling Admissions. These are like “time zones” of when you should apply to certain colleges. Each “zone” means something a little different. Beth has broken it down a little for you! 

Early Action

Early Action (EA) means the college will review and decide to accept you early (before their Regular Admissions). 

The EA deadline for most colleges is typically before November 15. Check the official date for your specific college on the college website.If accepted, you will receive a letter of acceptance, denial or they may choose to put you in a pile for regular decision. This letter typically arrives in December. 

Applying through EA does not mean you are required to commit to that college when you receive the acceptance.  Being accepted EA does mean you can rest assured that you have at least one (or more) colleges to choose from for your final decision (which is usually May 1).. 

Early Decision

Early Decision (ED) means you want to make an early decision (before May) and does require you to make a decision and commit to that college. If you decide to accept a school ED, you should withdraw your applications from the other colleges on your list.  

The ED deadline for most colleges is also before November 15. Again, check the date for your specific college on the college website. 

You apply through ED to the school that is top on your list and that you want to go to if you are accepted. Again, the school can choose to accept your application as ED or move you to the regular admission pile. 

Jeffrey Selingo, in his book, “Who Gets In And Why, A Year Inside College Admissions,” states that the rising popularity of early decisions is the most significant contributing factor to the admissions calendar. It can be very appealing to some students to secure their spot by December of their senior year, knowing where they will be going in the Fall.  However, Selingo says, “although this might be appealing, it can speed up the decision-making for some students who are not ready to make that decision.”  So be sure about your decision if applying this way!

Regular Admission

If you didn’t apply for EA or ED, don’t despair! Regular Admission is just that – the regular time colleges review applications and make decisions. Colleges leave many of their spots open for Regular Admission, which is the largest candidate pool for admissions counselors.  

The Regular Admission deadline is typically before January 15. Again, check the date for your specific college on the college website. Acceptances from Regular Admission usually go out as early as March, but others may wait until the last minute in April.  

If you haven’t heard from a school you want to attend, you should reach out to your admission counselor to ask about the status. Just be sure not to go overboard in your communication!

Rolling Admissions

While many colleges have admissions deadlines, others have Rolling Admissions, which means you can apply any time during the school year. 

The admission counselors will review your application and get back to you with a decision. Many times they accept applications even into June or July before the Fall semester. 

Keep in mind – there are only a defined number of spaces at each college. So if it is a college you genuinely want to attend, you should apply as early as possible! 

Final Thoughts

As you make your decision between applying EA, ED, Regular Admissions, or choosing a college with Rolling Admissions, think about your goals and personality.  

Are you someone who makes quick decisions, are you someone who wants to see all your options?  

Or are you someone that wants to wait until you narrow your list down before you start applying? 

While these are personal decisions, there is some strategy involved when applying to select schools.  If you need help trying to decide which route to take in the application process, please reach out to Beth or your school counselor to discuss the options and the right strategy! 

3 Tips for Writing that College Essay

Summer is a great time to prepare and start writing your college essay!  Remember, this essay is different from a high school English paper.  Here are three tips to get you started if you haven’t already.

Tip #1: Colleges are expecting to read essays that reflect your unique personality and experiences. 

Your college essay should reflect your values and should be written in the first person. The best essays dive deep into one item of interest or a life event to answer a prompt provided by the college, common app, or your state application. Cramming this experience into no more than 750 words can be a challenge, but you can do it with some preparation and time for editing.

Tip #2: Colleges require an essay to help find those unique candidates that the information on the application cannot see.  

They also use the essay as a writing sample to ensure that you are ready for college work. Don’t kid yourself – there will be a lot of writing in college, but luckily with tools like Grammarly, spell check, and a visit to the campus Writing Center, you will be prepared. 

Tip #3: Don’t procrastinate! 

It isn’t too late to start your essay! Structure and personalization are key to a good college essay. If you haven’t started and need some help, please reach out to me, your school counselor, or another trusted source. 

Happy writing!