Meet the Class of 2019, Kati

Meet the Class is back for another school year! It’s an opportunity for parents, educators, and admissions professionals to get a look at individual seniors and what they go through to find their school. This year I’m following four students. Today we’ll meet Kati.

Meet the Class gets updated each month from September to May. Each installment features an interview about both the facts and the feelings of where the student is in the process.

Interviews may be edited lightly for clarity and grammar. Names may be changed to protect privacy. 

Kati attends a comprehensive public high school in Texas

Tell me about your school. Is it a "normal," comprehensive high school, or a magnet or charter? How many students does it have? Have you been there for all your high school years, or have you moved there?

My high school is a generally “normal” high school—it’s public, has an enrollment of about 1,500 students, and covers a wide range of on-level, dual enrollment, and AP classes. I have attended this school throughout all four years of my high school career.

What is your sense of how many of the graduates of your high school go on to college? I don't need the official numbers, just your estimate of the percentage. What kinds of colleges do they go to? When it comes to going off to college, what's "normal" for your high school?

My graduating class is roughly composed of 300 students, and based on the last few classes I’ve witnessed, anywhere from a third to a half of those students will pursue higher education by going to a college or university. From there, it’s about 50/50; half will attend local community colleges, and the other half attend bigger public universities. Almost always, students opt to stay in state.

Is college preparation a big deal in your high school? Do people talk about college a lot? Is it assumed that you will go to college?

“College” isn’t discussed as much as preparedness for life outside of high school is. We have a next level counselor, who helps all grades with questions about universities, admissions processes, scholarships, and the like, but the counselors do make it known that there are other options besides going straight to a four-year university. Our teachers are a big help when it comes to college decisions, though, and are often the ones who push us to apply to dream schools. In the higher-level classes, such as the AP and dual enrollment courses (especially senior level ones), it is assumed that every kid will go to further their education.

How much direct instruction about college applications or choosing a college have you got from your school, either from teachers or counselors? 

I haven’t gotten a lot of help when applying for college so far. I know my school will host an application night later in September to help students, so I plan to attend that. It’s been what feels like a shot in the dark trying to figure out some of the forms!

Can you think of any good advice you've received about college applications from anyone at your school?

I think the best advice is the most basic, and that is to start early. Start looking and filling out your applications as soon as they open, so you’re less stressed your first semester of senior year. I began late August and I feel as though I’m lightyears behind the rest of the country!

Are there any colleges that you're already sure you'll apply to? If so, what are they? Is one of them your "dream school"?

The schools at the top of my list are Carnegie Mellon University, Johns Hopkins University, and University of Texas at Austin. The former two are huge reach schools, but they are wonderful programs for my major! That being said, I have absolutely fallen in love with University of Texas at Austin. It’s more affordable, closer to home, with a beautiful campus inside of a gorgeous city. I think I’d consider it my “dream school”.

What other colleges are you thinking about applying to, even if you're not sure you'll actually apply?

There’s a few other big name universities I want to apply to, but I’m a little reluctant. Columbia and Duke, along with MIT and University of California-San Diego are all colleges I’d love to attend, but are extremely costly and I fear the rejection letters that would come out of applying to all of them.

What colleges, if any, have you visited or toured? Did any of these tours stand out as being especially good or especially bad?

Earlier in the year, I toured Baylor University and University of Texas at Austin. Baylor was a bad experience for me, so I crossed that one off my list. For UT, however, I had the time f my life the few short hours I was there. There were times I nearly cried because I loved it so much!

What are the main things you're looking for in a college? 

The main thing I’m looking for in a college is first, how good their program is for my major, and second, the affordability. Although I can say I want to go to an Ivy League all day, I’m nervous on finding means to pay for such universities.

Have you talked with your family about money? Do you know how much you can afford to pay per year? Do you know how college will be paid for?

Paying for college is a really sensitive spot for my family. They’re pushing me to apply to as many scholarships as possible. But if I don’t get enough scholarship money to cover my room/board and tuition, I’m not sure if my parents would cover the rest or if I’d take out a loan. I don’t qualify for financial aid, so I have no help there, either. Because of all this, UT is becoming my best option because of their relatively low costs.

How are you feeling about college applications? Anxious? Confident? Confused? Explain what you're thinking and feeling as you get ready for this endeavor.

I’m actually really nervous to apply to college. I wish I could just fast forward this whole year and have already applied and been accepted! These next two months are extremely busy for me, because on top of applying for schools and scholarships, I audition for schools for theatre-based scholarships at the end of this month and lead in our school musical at the beginning of next! Between school, rehearsals, and work, I feel like I’m never using my time wisely, and I constantly have a feeling of dread. All that being said, though, I am so excited for college life! Thinking about finally being able to research and learn about my major makes me so genuinely happy, and I can hardly wait.

What do you not know about this process that you wish you did? What would you change about the past few years to be more prepared for this?

I wish I would’ve taken the whole process a little more seriously. I’m a good student, and have maintained a very high GPA, but I blew people off when they said, “Junior year is the most important year!” or, “Start looking at colleges sophomore year!”. I wish I would have compiled my list a little sooner, so I could have possibly toured my reach schools over the summer. I think understand how important the whole process is  a really big thing that every student needs to do, and preferably before senior year!

Thanks for reading! If you have college admissions questions for Kati, leave a comment or email me. There are lots of ways to get regular updates from Apply with Sanity: like me on Facebook and Twitter, get the monthly newsletter, or connect on LinkedIn

Meet the Class of 2019, Grace and Faulkner

Meet the Class is back for another school year! It’s an opportunity for parents, educators, and admissions professionals to get a look at individual seniors and what they go through to find their school. This year I’m following four students. Today we’ll meet Grace and Faulkner.

Meet the Class gets updated each month from September to May. Each installment features an interview about both the facts and the feelings of where the student is in the process.

Interviews may be edited lightly for clarity and grammar. Names may be changed to protect privacy. 

Grace attends a comprehensive public high school in Massachusetts

Grace profile photo.jpg

Tell me about your school. Is it a "normal," comprehensive high school, or a magnet or charter? How many students does it have? Have you been there for all your high school years, or have you moved there?

My high school is a “normal” comprehensive high school with a little over 700 students.  I have been there for all 4 years

What is your sense of how many of the graduates of your high school go on to college? What kinds of colleges do they go to? When it comes to going off to college, what's "normal" for your high school?

98% of the graduating students go on to some form of college, with most going to a 4 year college. 

Is college preparation a big deal in your high school? Do people talk about college a lot? Is it assumed that you will go to college?

College Prep is a large part of my high school.  The Guidance Department offers seminars for both parents and students, both during the school day and during the evening.  These range from how to use Naviance and Common Application for College to scholarships that are available.  From Freshman year on, the teachers in my classes talk about college as if it is a normal part of your future.

How much direct instruction about college applications or choosing a college have you got from your school, either from teachers or counselors? 

Guidance holds assemblies and then holds individual meetings with each student to help with college applications.  In addition, they are always in their offices for any questions and hold meetings with the parents too.

Can you think of any good advice you've received about college applications from anyone at your school?

Yes!  Don’t apply to any school you do not want to go to.  It may be the only school you get into!

Are there any colleges that you're already sure you'll apply to? If so, what are they? Is one of them your "dream school"?

I think I am going to apply to 10 schools, both public and private.  Most are in New York State.  1 is in New Jersey and 2 are in Boston.   My top 2 schools are Fordham University and Hofstra University.  I guess you could say these 2 are my “dream” schools. 

What other colleges are you thinking about applying to, even if you're not sure you'll actually apply?

I am applying to 2 schools in Boston, even though I know that is not exactly where I want to be located. They are Boston University and Northeastern University.  I am doing this more because I live near Boston and know they are great schools.

What colleges, if any, have you visited or toured? Did any of these tours stand out as being especially good or especially bad?

I toured Fordham and Hofstra and loved them!  I also toured Brooklyn College and Pace University. However, I decided they were not for me.

What are the main things you're looking for in a college? 

I am looking for a sense of community in a school that is located near New York City.  I want a school with good academics, but also a good theater program, so that I can minor in theater arts. The financial aid package will also be a factor in my decision.

Have you talked with your family about money? Do you know how much you can afford to pay per year? Do you know how college will be paid for?

No.  When I bring it up, my parents say:  “don’t worry.”  But it is hard not to worry, because I know they have limited funds and in the end I will have large student loans. 

How are you feeling about college applications? Anxious? Confident? Confused? Explain what you're thinking and feeling as you get ready for this endeavor.

I am anxious and excited at the same time.  I am ready to leave high school and start my future.  I am looking forward to living in New York.  However, I am worried about getting all the information to them in time; I am worried about if my SAT scores are good enough; and I am worried about rejection.

What do you not know about this process that you wish you did? What would you change about the past few years to be more prepared for this?

One thing I would change is my grades during freshman year.  Your GPA starts right off freshman year and I feel I could have done better during that year.

Is there anything else you want to tell people that I didn't ask?

Yes.  The SAT’s make me crazy!  They make me think I am not as smart as I think I am.  They provoke a lot of self doubt.  One piece of advice I would give to students is that you are more than just a test score.

Faulkner attends a public magnet high school in Georgia.

Tell me about your school. Is it a "normal," comprehensive high school, or a magnet or charter? How many students does it have? Have you been there for all your high school years, or have you moved there?

My high school is a magnet school. It has about 100 students. I have been there for all my high school years.

What is your sense of how many of the graduates of your high school go on to college? What kinds of colleges do they go to? When it comes to going off to college, what's "normal" for your high school?

I think 90% of the graduates at my high school will go on to college. Most of them go to colleges in the state of Georgia. For my high school, going to Savannah State University once you become a junior is "normal."

Is college preparation a big deal in your high school? Do people talk about college a lot? Is it assumed that you will go to college?

College preparation is a big deal in my high school. People talk about college a lot. It is assumed that I will go to college.

How much direct instruction about college applications or choosing a college have you got from your school, either from teachers or counselors?

I have gotten a lot of direct instruction about college applications or choosing a college from teachers.

Are there any colleges that you're already sure you'll apply to? What other colleges are you thinking about applying to, even if you're not sure you'll actually apply?

I am definitely going to apply to George Washington University and the University of California, Davis.

I am also thinking about applying to Tulane University, North Carolina State University, Michigan State University, Kent State University, and Southern New Hampshire University.

What colleges, if any, have you visited or toured? Did any of these tours stand out as being especially good or especially bad?

I have toured George Washington University; I thought it was good.

What are the main things you're looking for in a college? 

The main things I am looking for in a college are a bachelor program in zoology, acceptance of dual enrollment credit, and accommodations for students with mental disabilities, particularly ADHD. 

Have you talked with your family about money? Do you know how much you can afford to pay per year? Do you know how college will be paid for?

I do not know how much I can afford to pay per year. I will pay for college with scholarships, students loans, and cash that's given to me by family.

How are you feeling about college applications? Anxious? Confident? Confused? Explain what you're thinking and feeling as you get ready for this endeavor.

I am feeling confident about college applications. Right now I'm still looking at schools, but I think I will do fine when I start working on my college essay.

What do you not know about this process that you wish you did? What would you change about the past few years to be more prepared for this?

If I could change anything about the past few years, I would have gotten started searching for universities sooner.

Thanks for reading! The next Meet the Class profiles will be next week. If you have college admissions questions for Grace or Faulkner, leave a comment or email me. There are lots of ways to get regular updates from Apply with Sanity: like me on Facebook and Twitter, get the monthly newsletter, or connect on LinkedIn

The Glossary: expected family contribution

Your Expected Family Contribution, or EFC, is the amount of money you and/or your family are expected to pay for your college education per year. The U.S. Department of Education, using the financial information submitted on your FAFSA, runs the numbers though a complicated formula and determines the "official" amount of money you can afford to pay for college. The formula they use is publicly available, and it is not negotiable. 

Each college will calculate your Cost of Attendance, or COA. That's tuition, fees, books, housing, transportation, and other costs of living. The COA can be slightly different for each student. So that's the basic math of paying for college: each school determines your COA, and they deduct your EFC. What's left over is your need--how much you need in financial aid to be able to afford to attend their school.

Here are some things to think about:

Every school's determination of your Need will be different. They all have different COA, and many will also tweak your EFC. While your EFC is the official number from the government financial aid office, schools can adjust it—or even ignore it and do their own calculations. This is why more and more universities are asking for the more-detailed CSS profile.

Just because a school acknowledges your need doesn't necessarily mean they will cover your need. You can look up the average percentage of need met for any college, and it’s rarely 100%

Student loans are almost always a part of financial aid. Schools can claim they met your full need by offering you loans. If you can't afford to pay the full cost up front in cash--and most people can't--then you should expect that loans will be part of your financial aid package

While admissions decisions are very personal—for students and colleges—financial aid is strictly business. They may care that you can't actually meet the EFC, but they may not have enough money to do anything about it. Likewise, your sad or frustrating story may not be as big a factor as you might hope. Every year you hear stories about a parent or step-parent who refuses to contribute to college, even though they can afford it. Unfortunately, universities don’t have a “jerk dad won’t pay” fund to cover the difference. You hear stories about a family that can somehow find the extra money to send their kid to a big-name Ivy League school, but somehow don’t think they can afford a lower-ranked school. Colleges don’t have a “sorry we’re not Harvard” fund to cover the cost the families don’t want to spend. I’ve heard of parents who tell their children “you can go to any college you want, but I’ll only pay for it if you go to _______.” The schools that aren't ______ feel no obligation to give you more financial aid. If you think you might fall into any of these situations, do everything you can to resolve it soon.

Most colleges are not “need blind” when making acceptance decisions.

The average net cost of college--how much money people actually pay after financial aid and scholarships--isn't rising nearly as fast as the published sticker price. Universities, especially private ones, keep raising their prices a lot. They do this for a number of reasons: they want everyone to know what the education costs, even if you're not paying the full amount; they want to squeeze more money out of the rich kids who can afford the sticker price; they think that a higher price tag will make the school look more desirable. But the cost that people actually pay isn't nearly as high, and it's not rising as fast. Be prepared to invest a lot of money, but don't freak out when you see the sticker prices.

Thanks for reading! The blog updates every Monday and Thursday. There are lots of ways to get regular updates from Apply with Sanity: like me on Facebook and Twitter, get the monthly newsletter, or connect on LinkedIn

What movies should you watch before going to college?

Talking to some people over dinner this weekend, I got into a conversation about what movies a student should see before going to college. A couple were debating whether Animal House does or doesn't count as a "must-see" movie.

It's hard to even know what we mean when we talk about "movies a high school student should see." Do we mean movies you should see so you'll get the references that have become part of normal educated conversation? Movies that are somehow instructive about the transition to college? Movies that are "iconic" and so good they should be seen by as many people as possible?

The server came around with our beef tenderloin, and the conversation moved on before we reached any conclusions.

I got curious, so I did a basic search for "movies to watch before going to college." There were a lot of lists, and they had different approaches. But a few movies showed up again and again:

Legally Blonde. It's full of completely unrealistic stereotypes, but it does take place at a famous university. It's funny, it's about living up to your full intellectual potential, and it has a strong message against harassment. So that makes sense.

Mean Girls. Because...nothing's a better motivator to go to college than being reminded of how much high school can suck?

The Breakfast Club. A John Hughes classic that begins with high school stereotypes only to tear them down. A coming-of-age story packed into a single day. A great soundtrack.

Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Also by John Hughes. Also a great soundtrack. This happens to be pretty much my favorite movie ever. It's the only movie I've seen more than Star Wars. It has my favorite line about high school--"it's a little childish and stupid. But then, so is high school"--and my favorite conversation about college: "I don't know what I'm gonna do." "College." "Yeah, but to do what?" "What are you interested in?" "Nothin'." "Me neither."

Pitch Perfect. Like a college sports movie, but without the sports. And it's about women singers, not men football players. And it's funny. What's not to like?

The Roommate. I have to admit I'd never heard of this movie. It looks incredibly like Single White Female. We make horror movies about what we're most anxious about, so a college roommate who turns out to be literally the worst seems like it could be the basis of a good movie.

Those are the six that seem to have consensus.  And I'd like to recommend 10 movies that I think you should see before going off to college. I'll give you some flexibility, though. 

1. Pick a Monty Python Movie. Sure Holy Grail, The Life of Brian, and The Meaning of Life are from the '70s and early '80s. They're still really funny, and they're still watched--and quoted--often. 

2. The Rocky Horror Picture Show. To be honest, I never made it through the first 20 minutes. It doesn't really appeal to me. But you're going to have a hard time making friends with theater majors or any other artsy/nerdy person at college without at least a passing knowledge of this movie. 

3. Pick a Stanley Kubrick movie. Kubrick, considered one of the best, most influential directors ever, made some of the world's best movies. Thoughtful, weird, and entertaining. Try 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Shining, Full Metal Jacket, or Barry Lyndon.

4. The Matrix. "The red pill" is a term that's definitely made it into common usage, in several contexts. You could, I suppose, just watch the scene where Neo is given the choice between the red and blue pills. If you watch the whole movie, though, you get a that and a nice illustration of The Allegory of the Cave, and a nice illustration of Baudrillard's "Simulacra and Simulation," and fight scenes from Yuen Woo-ping, one of the world's most saught-after martial arts choreographers. So just watch the whole thing.

5. Pick a Spike Lee Joint. Yes, they're called "joints," not "films." No filmmaker deals with race--even in the movies that aren't "about race"--as expertly as Lee. Watch Do the Right Thing. Watch Malcolm X. Watch BlacKkKlansman. Watch He Got Game. Watch Bamboozled. Watch them all. 

6. Pick a Shakespeare film. You have so many to choose from. So many. My favorites are Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet, Loncraine's Richard III, Whedon's Much Ado About Nothing, and Van Sant's My Own Private Idaho, which is loosely based on Henry IV. 

7. Pick a Jane Austen movie. Don't fall into the "chick flick" trap. I assigned Pride and Prejudice for nine years, and the biggest fan each year was always a guy. Austen is for anyone who has to deal with weird social expectations and flawed class structures--which includes everyone in college. If you don't want to watch a straight-up period costume, six-hour miniseries of Pride and Prejudice, fine. You're missing out, but fine. At least watch Ang Lee's Sense and Sensibility, Heckerling's Clueless (based on Emma), or Helen Fielding's Bridget Jones's Diary (heavily influenced by Pride and Prejudice). 

8. Pick a Sofia Coppola movie. The Virgin Suicides is on a number of those lists for movies you should watch before going to college. Lost in Translation is also really amazing, as is Marie Antoinette. Coppola is often mentioned in the same sentence as Wes Anderson. They're both very successful, quirky, independent filmmakers in their 40s. Coppola has a wider range, especially emotionally, than Anderson, though her movies aren't quite as fun.

9. Watch a great documentary. I like Jiro Dreams of Sushi, Hoop Dreams, and The Smartest Guys in the Room. Errol Morris is the master. Here's a list of documentaries that won the Oscar. Non-fiction films don't have to be associated with boring classes, though they often are. 

10. The Godfather. Everything you might want to know about power--how to get and keep it, how not to get it and keep it, the benefits and perks of power, the consequences and obligations of power, the costs of not having power--are in this movie. The first time I watched it all the way through was for an American Politics class my first semester in college. 

Get watching! And thanks for reading! There are lots of ways to get regular updates from Apply with Sanity: like me on Facebook and Twitter, get the monthly newsletter, or connect on LinkedIn

What should seniors and juniors be doing right now?

What should seniors and juniors be doing right now?

This is a tough line to walk, senior year. On one hand, you really ought to be shifting your focus to next year. You have a lot of big decisions to make, and you need to allocate time and resources to working on strong applications and making informed decisions. Your daily high school homework isn’t quite as compelling as it was a year ago. On the other hand, you also need to be preparing yourself to be a good college student, and the best way to prepare for college is to be a good high school student.

The end is near!

The end is near!

My children go back to school on August 27th. Depending on how your school calendar works, you probably have somewhere between one and three weeks of summer left. Or perhaps you've already begun. If your house is anything like mine, you're beginning to run out of planned activities and good ideas. So I thought I'd give some suggestions to smart and ambitious high school students for wrapping up the summer.

Set goals for the new school year

Set goals for the new school year

As the new school year looms closer--or has already begun--it's time to think about your goals for the upcoming year. One mistake many students make is waiting until later in the year, often when something is going wrong, to think about their goals and aspirations. Of course you think about your goals and aspirations, but I mean thinking in a deliberate and analytical way. To do this, you're going to need to write your goals down. Let's take three typical goals for smart, ambitious high school students: make good grades, get a leadership position, and have less stress.

Don't forget your summer reading!

Don't forget your summer reading!

I was an AP Lit teacher for nine years, so I have fond memories of summer reading. I always read everything I assigned to my students, every year. So I did the summer reading along with them (or at least a few of them. I'm not naive, most of them didn't do the summer reading). 

You've got, more or less, a month left of summer. If you haven't completed your assigned summer reading yet, now is the time. You must read your summer reading assignments. 

The Glossary: undermatched

The Glossary: undermatched

Undermatched is the term for students who go to a college that is less selective and elite than what they could get accepted to. If you could get into one of the 20 most selective colleges but don't apply to any of them, then you are undermatched. If you probably would not get accepted to any of those (and most of us can't), but could still be accepted to one of the 200 most selective colleges but don't apply, then you're still undermatched. It has to do with the difference between where you could be accepted to versus where you actually apply.

Some fun financial exercises

Some fun financial exercises

Everyone knows that college is expensive. There are plenty of universities whose full published price is higher than the median family income in America. The numbers can be so big that they're hard to imagine and even harder to make realistic decisions about. So here's an exercise I do with most of my consulting clients. You can do this at home with your family.

SAT scores should look a lot more like AP scores

SAT scores should look a lot more like AP scores

SAT scores are weird. You get a number, ending in a zero, on a scale of 200 to 800, twice: one for reading & writing, one for math. You get a total score between 400 and 1600...except, of course, for those years when the writing was separate and you got somewhere between 600 and 2400. You're allowed to take the test multiple times and combine your highest reading & writing score with your highest math score, giving you a "superscore" that's higher than the total scores you got any of the individual times you took the test.

And then what? What does that number even mean?

Thinking about morning routines

Thinking about morning routines

SAT scores are weird. You get a number, ending in a zero, on a scale of 200 to 800, twice: one for reading & writing, one for math. You get a total score between 400 and 1600...except, of course, for those years when the writing was separate and you got somewhere between 600 and 2400. You're allowed to take the test multiple times and combine your highest reading & writing score with your highest math score, giving you a "superscore" that's higher than the total scores you got any of the individual times you took the test.

And then what? What does that number even mean?

The July newsletter is out!

The latest Apply with Sanity newsletter went out yesterday.

Things slow down a bit in the summer, so this month's newsletter is a slightly faster read than the past few. But there's still plenty to read about! Get all of June's Apply with Sanity blog posts in one place, plus other news about getting into college.

The newsletter is your single, readable resource for everything interesting that has to do with your college applications. It's for high school students and the adults who care about them.

It only takes a few seconds to sign up. Click here to subscribe to the newsletter, and click here for an archive of all the past ones.

Enjoy!

Hey Google, where should I go to college?

About two weeks ago, Google announced they are severely enhancing their search tool to give you lots of information about colleges when you search for one. So if you do a Google search, for example, on SMU, then you’ll get several categories of data on SMU up at the top of the results page. They pull data from large government databses to get you all the relevant information—including average cost after finicial aid and where the school appears in a lot of different ranking systems. 

So what’s the big deal? Google gives you results search? Isn’t that what Google always does?

Partly, yes, it’s not a big deal that Google gives you information. But here’s what different: they give you a lot of easy-to-read information right at the top of your screen (it’s fully rolled out for your phone screen, and will eventually make it onto desktop as well). The information comes from reputable sources—it’s data, not advertising or opinion. And it’s all the same information for every four-year school in the U.S. 

So the first thing that comes to mind is that Google now competes with College Board’s Big Future and US News and World Reports. It’s a great, free resource for gathering information about schools. It’s professional and reliable. For this basic function, you might stop using Big Future. (If your school offers Naviance or College Greenlight, you may not use any of these. But my experience has taught me that those get ignored a lot by students.

There’s one major thing that Google’s enhanced search doesn’t seem to do that both Big Future and US News do, and that’s use a filter system where you can put in your test scores and preferences to get a list of possible matches. And if you sign up, both Big Future and US News will let you save your info and search results.

Also, at least so far, the “similar colleges” list doesn’t seem to be that great. I searched SMU, Southwestern University, and University of Texas at Dallas (because those are schools I’ve attended). For all, the listed similar colleges are just geographically close, not necessarily similar at all. I imagine as more people use Google it will track what they searach and imrpove the results on this. But it isn’t there yet. 

Another advantage that Google has over the other sites—which some people find creepy but others see as normal—is that Google is built on targeted advertising. So the more you search schools on Google and it figures out what you’re looking for, the more it can sell advertising to similar schools who will try to put their name up in front of you. It may take some time—even a few years—before it’s got enough data and establsihed advertisers to put all that together. But it could happen quick. If your internet is already good at seeimg to know what you want before you realize you want it, then soon this might be true of colleges, too. 

But please remember an important thing: if you’re interested in a colllege, you need to spend a lot of time on the school’s website. If they send you an email, click on the link! Google isn’t the only site that keeps track of their visitors. One of the primary ways that colleges guage demonstrated interest is to track how much time you spend on their site and which pages you visit. So do some searching on Google...or Big Future...or US News. But remember that you might have a lot to gain from also searching the colleges’ sites as well.

Thank you for reading! Please share this post with people you know. If you have questions, suggestions, or comments, I'd love to hear them. It's easy to follow Apply with Sanity on Facebook and Twitter. You can get Apply with Sanity sent to your inbox monthly by signing up here.

Full disclosre: I have several friends who work for Google. I haven’t discussed this with them, but I’m on vacation and will visit them this weekend. If they give me any additional info on the new college search, I’ll pass it along.

Help spread some sanity

Summer may be a break from school, but it's an incredibly busy time for working on college admissions--and not just for rising seniors.

If you know any college-bound high school students or their parents, let them know about Apply with Sanity!

They can follow along on the website, on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. They can also subscribe for a monthly newsletter with a recap of all the things. There's plenty of sanity for everyone, so share a little bit soon.

College admissions and jewel heists

Last weekend I went to see Ocean's 8 with my wife. We're fans of the story: I've seen the 1960 original with Frank Sinatra and the "Rat Pack," the 2001 re-make with George Clooney and Julia Roberts, the not-so-great sequels Ocean's 12 and Ocean's 13, and now this new one. Except Ocean's 8, I've seen them all multiple times. They're well-executed, elegant cinematography to look at, and they're clever. The movies are just smart enough that you don't feel like you're watching mind-numbing entertainment, but don't actually require a whole lot of thinking. 

And while I was watching Ocean's 8, I was thinking a lot about college admissions. Partly because thinking about college admissions is just what I do, even on the weekend, but also because I've used the "bank heist movie" analogy for college applications before.

The thing about the bank heist genre is that pretty much everyone has a specialized role. There's the mastermind, the investor, the safe-cracker, the getaway driver, the person on the inside, the pickpocket, the hacker, and so-on. The team works because it's made up of people with different skills, and they're all very good at their particular skill. Sure, they need some baseline qualities, like a willingness to engage in crime, but the team is built around a division of labor.

And if you want to join their team, you have to be really good at your specialty, not kinda good at someone else's specialty. Being a decent getaway driver isn't useful if they've already got a really good getaway driver. And none of the crew grew up hoping to be on Debbie (or Danny) Ocean's team, constantly asking "what can I do to get accepted to your team?" They just worked at being skilled at what they do, and then Ocean came to them.

Think of a college admissions dean like a Debbie or Danny Ocean. (Metaphorically. I searched for "most glamorous college admissions dean" and it looks like Google has never seen "admissions dean" and "glamorous" together.) Each year, they're putting together a team. Luckily, it's more than a team of eight or 11, it's hundreds or even thousands of people. But the basic principle is the same. They're never just ranking students in terms of how qualified they are and pulling from the top. They're always trying to make sure they have all the roles filled, each year. They need Humanities majors, Science majors, club leaders, fundraisers, athletes, artists, low-income students to help them achieve their goal of meritocracy, high-income students to help them achieve their goal of not going bankrupt, future professors, future business leaders, future board members. They need high school superstars to guarantee a certain level of success from the get-go, and they need "diamond in the rough" students to hope and cheer for. They need a team big enough to keep the school full, but not so many that the school is strained. There are a lot of bases to cover.

The admissions professionals at universities understand that this is what they're doing. The term they most often use for what they do is "building a class." They don't just accept individual students, they put together a group of students. Earlier this year I heard an admissions officer at a smaller liberal arts college refer to it as "crafting a community." I like that description. If you also understand this is what they're doing, you can increase the likelihood that you're part of the community.

Like the members of the bank heist team, there are some certain baseline qualifications everybody needs to have. You should take challenging classes in high school and do your best at them. You should write well. You should have someone--like a counselor or teacher--who can vouch for you in the form of a recommendation letter. 

The good thing is that there are plenty of colleges and universities who will accept you just for demonstrating those baseline qualities. But if you're hoping to go to a school that you would describe as a "dream school," if you're hoping to be invited to join a community that denies more people than it accepts, if you're hoping to go to a school known for its impressive students, then you have to do more than have the baseline qualities. You have to have qualities and skills that you've worked at and practiced. Simply copying what others have done because you know it worked in the past doesn't get you what you want, because it's missing the point. You'll end up being the decent getaway driver when they already have a great getaway driver.

So what do you do? Debbie Ocean has the answer. In the movie, when her (literal) partner in crime Lou asks her "Why do you need to do this?" Debbie answers "Because it's what I'm good at." This should be your motivation as well. Any time you wonder "what do colleges want?" you should instead ask "what am I good at?" There are some problems that you have a talent for solving. They may be mathematical or scientific problems. They may be analytical problems. They may be organizational, or emotional, or inter-personal, or physical. Figure out, if you haven't already, what kinds of problems you like to tackle. Then, find ways to practice tackling more of those problems.

When you do this, many of the extra-curricular programs at school will make a lot more sense. You don't join the robotics team because it looks good to colleges, you join it to practice solving complex physics and programming problems. You don't join the Model U.N. team because it looks good to colleges, you join it to practice solving negotiation problems. You don't join the volleyball team because colleges want you to be athletic, you join it to give you practice solving problems around teamwork and personal discipline. If you hone your skills, then it will be a lot easier to locate--and join--the best crew for you. 

 

Thanks for reading! My other favorite heist movies are Ronin, Bellman and True, Sexy Beast, and To Catch a Thief. What are yours? For the summer, I'll only be posting once a week. There are lots of ways to get regular updates from Apply with Sanity: like me on Facebook and Twitter, get the monthly newsletter, or connect on LinkedIn. Comments are welcomed.

 Photo from  Ocean's 8 official website . These are actors, in a fictional story. You should not steal diamond jewelry to pay for college.

Photo from Ocean's 8 official website. These are actors, in a fictional story. You should not steal diamond jewelry to pay for college.