Universitas Blog

How to Search for US Colleges

Friday, November 22, 2013

How to Search for US Colleges

I saw this link today on my Facebook feed.  Wonderful stuff and I don't have to write a word of it.  Great web page chock full of great advice and the book it's from College Admissions:  From Application to Acceptance:Step by Step is one I highly recommend.

Quick Tips Regarding US College Admissions

Thursday, November 21, 2013

I haven't posted on my blog for almost three weeks!  I've been so busy with being at the hospital and finishing the final requirements for my online college counseling certificate that the blog has taken a back seat.  So I thought I'd fire a brief one off then take the time to write a longer entry after November 25 when my classes have finished.

Here are some quick tips to keep in mind about applying to US colleges.  I've talked about some of these things in other posts but it would be nice to have some of these tips in one place.

1.  Start the process early.  Sophomore year isn't too early especially if you have to decide whether or not to go abroad for college to begin with.  Ideally, this should be student driven, i.e. if the student is interested in colleges this early, then by all means, start thinking this early in the process.  Nothing concrete has to be done quite yet but get the ball rolling.  Junior year (third year) isn't too late but senior year may be a bit (but not too) late.

2.  Try to get most, if not all,  your standardized testing done by end of junior year (third year).  With all that needs to be done for senior year, it would be great if SATs were something you didn't have to worry about .  If you need to take SAT Subject Tests, you can take those your senior year but ideally,  you should take them as you finish the class.  For example, if you take and pass biology end of sophomore year, it's probably a good idea to take the Subject Test right after when the material is still fresh in your mind.  Note that this works only if you had the foresight to start the whole college application process early.

3.  Visit the colleges you are applying to.  This is the single most important thing you can do.  I know that cost and distance (as well as time) make this prohibitive but if you start the process early you can visit colleges during the summer between your junior and senior year.  Another reason to start early!

4.  Try to get your application papers in as soon as you can.  Don't wait for the deadline.  Don't procrastinate.  Beginning to see a pattern here?  Yes, I'm a big advocate of getting things in early.  But there's also a practical side to this:  a lot of public universities and some private colleges have rolling admissions, which means they will read...and decide on....your application as soon as it's complete.  The earlier in the year they consider your application, the more seats in the freshman class they will have available and the admissions committee will be less (at least subconsciously) strict.  Also, you'll be able to get your decision sooner.  The daughter of a cousin in Texas applied to her first choice school, Baylor University in Waco, TX in September or October.  Since Baylor has rolling admissions, they were able to review her application immediately upon receipt.  By the middle of November, she found out that she was admitted to Baylor even BEFORE most kids who applied Early Decision elsewhere had even informed of their decisions.  Now her college search is over.  She can relax and enjoy her senior year of high school knowing she was admitted to her first choice college.  Such a great deal!

5. If admitted to a US school that you will attend in September, do NOT accept an offer to attend a local school from June till then.  You're taking a slot away from a student who really wants to attend the local school.  You can also potentially jeopardize your admission status with the US school if they find out you are enrolled in a Philippine college as a degree student.  Note that there is nothing wrong with spending the time between June and September as an auditor or non-degree student taking interesting classes at UP or Ateneo.  

I'll write a more comprehensive blog post later next week but until then, please comment and let me know what you think.

Why Applying to 22 Colleges Is Not a Good Idea

Sunday, November 03, 2013
I was browsing through my Facebook page today and I ran into this while on the Overseas Association of College Admission Counseling (OACAC) page that I happen to belong to: I intend on (sic) applying to 22 colleges.  I know the work that is required for this but I am prepared. It was a quote from a student and the counselors on the board just went to town on this.  I thought about it a bit and realized that there was a message here that I want to share with all you Filipino students who are applying to colleges in the US right now.    In some schools (Xavier School and ISM come to mind) there is a strict upper limit of 10 colleges where a student can apply to but in others, especially those high schools without any kind of guidance to applying abroad, there really is no limit.  But there are many reasons why applying to more than 10 or 12 colleges is a terrible idea.  By the way, there is nothing magical about the number 22... it was just the number given by the student.

  1. If I only apply to a few colleges (say 10 or so) then what if I don't get into any?  This is probably the most common reason why.    It's actually an understandable sentiment.  If you read magazine articles about college admissions in the US, you'll be convinced that there is a crisis...that US colleges are getting more and more difficult to get into.  This is only true for the most elite name brand colleges, say about 100 or so of them.  The truth of the matter is getting in is actually easier now, many top notch (not necessarily name brand) institutions take as many as 50% to 80% of their applicants.  Some will say that schools that are less selective are not worth attending so why bother with them?  I'll address this issue in more detail in a future post but I'll just say right now that selectivity is not equal to quality.  Selectivity is only because a lot of kids apply relative to the number of places in the freshman class. If you take the time to sit and reflect and apply to colleges with a wide range of selectivity or what is known in the business as "reaches", "probables", and "safeties", your admission to a school that you like is guaranteed.

homer 

 2.  If I apply to a lot of elite name brand colleges, maybe I'll get lucky and get into one.     You look at the current admission statistics:  Harvard has a 5% admission rate and so does Stanford.   Penn and  Cornell have rates above 10% (I heard a friend call Penn the "easiest" Ivy to get into.  I almost spit out my food when I heard that) and you figure I have good grades and good board scores, I should get into at LEAST one.    The problem with this attitude is that college admissions is not a lottery although it may seem that way to the uninitiated.  When Stanford quotes a 5% admission rate, it doesn't mean YOU have a 5% chance of getting into Stanford.  Given your records, you may have a 0% chance of getting in! Or a 100% chance of getting in if you are the child of a rich alumnus who contributes generously on a regular basis or Barack Obama's eldest teenage daughter.   A sobering fact:  if you take the high school academic record of the 2000 entering freshmen at Harvard and compare that to the academic record of the next 2000 they rejected, you will not find a significant difference.  Lesson:  apply to the Ivy League or the name brands if you must but volume doesn't guarantee anything.

3.  It shows you didn't do your research.  A good college search requires research and most students just don't do this.  Their preferred method of applying to college is what I like to call the shotgun method.  They take a bunch of schools (usually the top ranked schools in US News) and blast their applications and hope that one sticks.  And maybe add one or two schools that aren't ranked so highly.  If you're lucky, one of those applications will stick and you end up going to that school, probably without much enthusiasm because you didn't get into your "dream" school:  Princeton or Stanford.  If you do your research carefully and visit colleges, you'll find a number of colleges which are not only good but you are absolutely thrilled about.  You'll apply to these five or six schools absolutely positive that you would be deliriously happy at any one of these choices.  As long as these schools are within your academic range  or at least fall into a range of selectivity, then you can be assured of a deliriously happy ending in April.

  4.  You can't possibly make a good application to all 22 colleges.  Oh sure, you only have to write one personal statement for the Common App anyway, right?  But what about the rest of it?  Don't forget the supplements and the short answer essays too.  If you did your research and are enthused about the school, you will prepare a great application and your answers to those short essay questions (which are just as important as the longer personal statement) will really shine.  What do you think of the quality of your application will be when you're working on your 22nd college?  The admissions people will know their school is just another potential conquest for you.

  5.  You're just being a jerk.  Sorry, but you are.  When you apply to a college you have little or no intention of attending, then you're just making work for the already overworked admissions people.  You are also competing...or worse...taking away a spot from someone who really wants to go to that college.   If you have no intention of attending, why are you applying?  Just to see if you can get in?    Collecting acceptance letters for its own sake is called trophy hunting and is a real low rent move.

So do yourself...and others...a favor.  Take the time to narrow down your college choices.  Spamming your applications just makes the college application process more competitive...and thus more stressful for everyone.   With people applying to so many places, colleges are finding it more and more difficult  to predict the exact number of people to admit for their freshman class thus making their waiting lists longer.    I can understand if this doesn't concern you and you don't care enough to be part of the solution.  But for God's sake, don't be a part of the problem too.

John Sy, President and Senior Counselor
Universitas College Counseling
203A CM Recto Street
San Juan, Metro Manila, Philippines

johnsy@universitasph.com
+63 (917) 833-3825


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John Sy, President and Senior Counselor
Universitas College Counseling
203A CM Recto Street
San Juan, Metro Manila, Philippines

johnsy@universitasph.com

+63 (917) 833-3825

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