Jack is feeling a little calmer

Jack is in a much better mood this month than when I last talked with him. I guess finishing your Common Application, submitting an app to Yale, and having a successful fly-in visit will do that. jack goes to a pretty diverse high school in one of the most diverse cities in the nation, so coming across less-diverse campuses is making him reconsider some things--and schools. Read the entire interview below. 

Meet the Class is an opportunity for parents, educators, and admissions professionals to get a look at individual seniors and what they go through to find their college.

It’s updated each month from September to May. Each month will feature 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. 

This is the third interview with Jack,  a senior in the Houston area. He attends a public magnet high school. 


The past two months I’ve begun with the facts and then moved on to the feelings. Let’s do it the other way around this time. How are you doing? When we last talked, you were feeling stressed. Is that any better? Worse? What’s going on in your emotions right now as they relate to school and college applications?

The stress was mounting as my first deadline for Yale was looming closer, but it was still manageable. I made the mistake of chugging through my supplements & essay up to the last minute (I’ve never been very good at setting personal deadlines) so I have some residual stress and some regret because of that poor pacing. But I still feel greatly relieved that it’s submitted and done with, and I was overall really happy with all my responses. I think I’m gonna have considerably less stress with the remainder of the college process because I think the bulk of the stress was coming from finishing the Common App essay, which I got done in time for the Yale app. The Yale app was also one of the meatier apps to complete with a heck-ton of supplements, so getting that done was a huge load off my plate.

You go to a college prep magnet school, so virtually all the seniors at your school are in the same situation you are. What’s the mood of the 12th grade like? How do you think you compare to your peers when it comes to coping with applications?


I’m not exactly sure what the mood is because I feel like the college-bound mindset isn’t as exhibited so outwardly as a high school culture. I think we’re all just in our own worlds going about college stuff like it’s just homework from a class (though maybe I’m just out of touch with how everyone else is feeling). I do get the sense that everyone’s still a little confused about the whole process though, just because the “college process” has so many parts to it that you have to stay on top of--different deadlines, different requirements, scholarships, financial aid, things of that nature. I think I feel a bit more comfortable with the process and have a clearer direction of what I’m supposed to be doing because of the support I get from EMERGE and my awesome EMERGE counselor. 

What kind of support or help are you getting with your applications, either at school or elsewhere?


I’ve had a lot of awesome & dedicated support from my EMERGE counselor, and I’ve also been to our campus college counselor a few times to review my essay. I also go to a couple of my teachers whenever I need a professional second opinion. 

Did you apply to Brown ED-1 or Yale restrictive ED? Does that mean that you won’t be applying to any more schools until you hear back from them?


Ultimately, I decided to apply REA for Yale because I felt like there was more of a guarantee that I would like going to that school if I get accepted since I’ve visited before. Since it’s restrictive, meaning I can’t apply EA to any other schools, I won’t have any applications due until December, but I’m definitely going to keep working on them regardless, especially because Yale is such a massive reach.

How’s your progress on FAFSA?


Done! Now I’m trying to get CSS done within this week!

How did your Oxy interview go? What about your Tufts fly-in? Have you had any other interviews? If so, how did they go? If not, do you have any more scheduled?


My Oxy interview went really well! It was my first interview, so I don’t have anything to compare it to, but the conversation flowed really naturally and I enjoyed talking about stuff I get excited about. All the other interviews I can do can only be scheduled until after I submit applications to that school.  My Tufts fly-in also went really well! That was also my first fly-in so I don’t have anything to compare that to either. It was an awesome school, but the campus was really white, especially coming from Houston. It was the first time in a while where I’ve been in a really white-dominated space, so it was a bit disorienting and an eye-opener. There are still a lot of aspects of Tufts that I appreciate that are still going to lead me to apply though, but diversity has always been important to me, so this experience helps give me a perspective to ground myself in when considering colleges.

Your application list as it stood a month ago was:
Occidental (top choice)
Brown
Pitzer
Tufts
Oberlin
U of Houston
UT-Austin
Rice
Wesleyan
USC
Reed
Yale
Wash. U in St. Louis
Trinity
Skidmore
UT San Antonio

Do you have any changes to that?


I’m still on the fence about Reed because, while I absolutely love everything else about it, and while Reed seems to be one of the more relatively diverse institutions, Portland is a really white community, and one of the things I love about Houston is its diversity. (The same situation goes with Skidmore at Saratoga Springs, but their application is so simple that I can just knock it off real quick and postpone thinking about it until later in the process.) I’m also on the fence about adding USC and Pomona College--both schools that have been on my list at one point--because, while there are a lot of aspects about these schools that I really like, there are also aspects that I dislike that I’m not sure how to articulate. They’re also slight reaches, and I feel like I have enough reaches on my list.

At around 16 schools, your list is slightly on the long side. What’s behind that strategy? Do you have a plan for how to decide between all your acceptances? 


I didn’t really have any plans to limit myself. It just so happens that I can see myself being happy at any of these 16 schools; if I could see myself attending only six of these schools then I would only apply to six schools. My plan is to just go through the list one by one in order of the deadline and relative desire for me to go to one school over another while also making sure to vary the order with reaches, matches, and safeties. So I’ll probably knock off Skidmore, Wesleyan, WashU, and Trinity U, since these are all schools that don’t have any supplements, then I’d only have to worry about the other 12 schools. If I end up reconsidering some schools, I can just add and remove schools from my list whenever that happens. 

Have you done anything else college related this month? Is there anything I didn’t ask you want to talk about?


I just got through my CSS Profile and followed up on a fly-in for Oberlin!
 

Photo by Angela Elisabeth Portraits

Photo by Angela Elisabeth Portraits

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Photo by David Leggett Photography

Photo by David Leggett Photography

Grace and the really important questions

Checking in with Grace this month I was reminded of some important truths that colleges and parents should not neglect: a good overall program is more important than a particular major; geography is important; access to good Asian food is really important. Read the entire November interview with Grace below, and catch up with her past interviews here

Meet the Class is an opportunity for parents, educators, and admissions professionals to get a look at individual seniors and what they go through to find their college.

It’s updated each month from September to May. Each month will feature 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. 

This is the third interview with Grace. Grace is a senior in the Houston area. She attends a public magnet high school. 

Grace Profile.jpg

The past two months I’ve begun with the facts and then moved on to the feelings. Let’s do it the other away around this time. How are you doing? When we last talked, you were feeling stressed. Is that any better? Worse? What’s going on in your emotions right now as they relate to school and college applications?
 
I don’t feel as stressed as I did earlier. Of course the whole ordeal is still a whirlwind but it is going along slowly but surely. School has stayed the same in terms of stress. Honestly, most of my stress is because of the time limitations I have with these colleges. ("Although the deadline is November 1st, submit it early so you can get your college ID," for example)
 
You go to a college prep magnet school, so virtually all the seniors at your school are in the same situation you are. What’s the mood of the 12th grade like? How do you think you compare to your peers when it comes to coping with applications?
 
Everyone has really prioritized doing their college apps, and we have been trying to weave it in our school work. For example, we had a school wide field trip on the 30th, and most of the class missed that day to work on applications. I personally went to the field trip because I had already submitted my applications to Baylor and UH for Nov. 1st.
 
What kind of support or help are you getting with your applications, either at school or elsewhere?
 
My counselors have been helping me get together what I need. They would email me on things I need to do by a certain time, as well as any other kinks that need to be smoothed out. Also, I have been asking people to read over my essays to gain their perspectives on what they get from the essay. I think it’s very helpful, especially when to you something may make sense, but to others it is complete gibberish. 
 
Did you get the UT-Austin and Texas A&M applications sent out for by the 15th like you were planning? Have you submitted any other applications?
 
I was originally planning to turn them in on the 1st, but I feel as if my essays aren’t ready to be submitted.  My deadline has been pushed to December 1st for both schools, but I have made November 15th my deadline so I would not have to worry about dealing with server overload issues as well as portal problems.
 
 
How’s your progress on FAFSA?


I finished FAFSA a while back, and it was honestly a much easier process for me because I got my mother prepared during the summer as to what information we needed, when and what to do. It was very nice to have gotten it out of the way, but I still plan on doing the CSS Profile soon as I complete my Nov. 15 applications.
 
 
Have you had any interviews? If so, how did they go? If not, do you have any scheduled? 


I haven’t had any interviews but I am trying to plan one for Lafayette College. 
 
Your application list as it stood a month ago was:
UT-Austin (top choice)
Baylor
Trinity
U of Houston
Lafayette
Swarthmore
Texas Tech
Texas A&M
 
Do you have any changes to that?

 
I actually have changed it quite a bit. After attending a program at Lafayette in Easton, Pennsylvania, I have decided to make it my top choice school. It may not have my preferred major, but it does have a concentration minor which I can have. I do have some reservations about the makeup of the school, and whether I would be able to adjust to the lack of diversity, but it isn’t holding me back from applying as my top choice. 
 
I have also taken Texas Tech and Swarthmore off my list, and have added Bryn Mawr. Both Tech and Swarthmore ultimately didn’t seem like a place I would like to be at, and I didn’t have the same fondness of the schools as I did to UT Austin or Lafayette. I have decided to revisit the idea of an all female school, and have decided that Bryn Mawr was a good choice. 
 
Your list is almost completely full of Texas schools. That’s pretty common for Texans, and most people end up going to school relatively close to home. Tell me about your Texas focus. Why stay in Texas?


I think my reasoning for applying to so many is so I can have a variety of backups in case out-of-state doesn’t work. Of course there are perks like being close to home, being familiar with customs, but I have started to shift my mind to want to leave Texas. I am afraid of leaving (what if I can’t find good Asian food? Will I die from the cold?) but of course it is always a great experience to leave for college. 
 
Have you done anything else college related this month? Is there anything I didn’t ask you want to talk about?

I am honestly starting to feel kind of rushed in turning in my applications, especially because people have started to get their acceptance letters to their colleges of their choice. I always see when someone posts that they have gotten accepted into a college, and I honestly can’t wait will I get that excitement as well. 

How would I change admissions?

I spend my time reading and thinking about college admissions from a certain viewpoint--high school students. I rarely think about parents' perspectives or colleges' perspectives. I help out with the demand part of the equation. But what about the supply side? If I could advise colleges to make their search for top-notch students more efficient and effective, what would I tell them? How would I design the college admissions game?

If I could magically change the whole system, I would basically make it a two-cycle year.

Virtually all schools would have Early Action applications due on October 1, and every student who applied would have to commit to only applying EA at no more than three schools. I would eliminate binding, one-school-only Early Decision. Colleges would get their acceptance letters and financial aid offers out by January 1, and students would have until February 1 to make their decision.

Then, after February 1, any colleges that still have openings and any students that haven't found their place (or didn't make the October 1 deadline) can have another spring round between February 1 and May 1. 

This would be challenging to colleges. They would need to move fast to process all those early applications and get financial aid offers out. They would also have a lot less time for marketing to the students they accept to get those students to commit. However, admissions personnel would have a lot fewer applications to read. They wouldn't be spending nearly as much time working through applications for students who have no real expectation of attending but only applied out of a "why not?" attitude. Because students would only apply to three or fewer, all October applicants would show "demonstrated interest," and if October 1 becomes the norm then all the top students will be part of that first round. A lot of universities would have almost all--if not all--of their seats filled by the end of the year.

Sure, students could get another acceptance in the spring round and pull out of their spot, but not a whole lot of seniors are going to say "I have an acceptance and financial aid offer from one of my top three schools, but I'm going to put myself through another round of admissions just in case." Senioritis would work in the school's favor for once.

This would also be challenging to students. Most of them would have to start their application process much earlier than is the norm, being close to done by the beginning of their senior year. They would also have to be much more critical in their choices. It's common to apply to more than ten schools, so narrowing it down to three at the outset would be a hard process for most seniors. 

The advantage is that most students would be completely finished by February 1, instead of May 1. The spring of 12th grade is way more stressful for a lot of students than the fall. There's more work in the fall getting the applications filled out and submitted, but too many seniors delay the really hard decisions until spring. They just apply to a bunch of schools and see what happens. That's why, as a 12th grade AP Literature teacher, I always had a lot more student absences in the spring than the fall. Students were going on more college visits and working furiously to get scholarships once they finally saw their financial aid offers.

And for students not finished by February 1, there would still be the spring round. Universities would have clear ideas about how many and what kind of students they still need, and students could apply to as many of these openings as they want--not just three from the early round. 

Both students and universities would need to get started sooner, with a heavy focus on 11th grade instead of thinking of university admissions as mostly a 12th grade thing. But I think that would be a good change. Parents and families would also need to be able to complete the FAFSA sooner. Now that FAFSA allows "prior-prior year" data, and allows you to upload data directly from the IRS, this wouldn't necessarily be difficult. 

One of the best effects of my two-cycle plan is that it would drastically alter college rankings and reputation. Right now universities get more publicity and prestige for rejecting applicants than for accepting them. "Elite" and "Selective" are practically synonymous, so schools get rewarded for attracting lots of applications so they can turn them down. This isn't efficient for anyone. If most students only applied to three schools, there could be a great leveling-out of acceptance rates. Students could more easily choose schools for qualities other than selectivity, and schools could be ranked highly for serving their students rather than rejecting their applicants.

My system isn't going to get implemented any time soon, but--assuming you're not a current senior--you can still take advantage of the basic ideas. 

Start your college search earlier; don't wait until your senior year. Do your research ahead of time and apply to 8-10 schools instead of 15-20. Apply before the earliest non-binding deadline for all the schools. Talk to your family about money as soon as possible and have your FAFSA ready to go. You can't make the system good and efficient for everyone, but you can decide to make it better and more efficient for you. And that's probably good enough.

Related blog posts: Thinking about supply and demand; Learn from economists and apply early; Stop paying attention to acceptance rates!

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Are you a high school sophomore or junior who would like help making your application process more efficient and effective? Check out my one-on-one coaching services.

Be kind to your counselor

Be kind to your counselor

Most high school students--and their parents--think their own counselor at school is less than great. But most high school counselors are severely overworked. The American School Counselor Association recommends one counselor per 250 students, but in the U.S. the average is almost double that. Even the best counselors have trouble keeping up with twice as much work as is reasonable. There's not much you can do about the quality of your own assigned counselor nor the workload they have, but there are some things you can do to make it easier for your counselor to do a great job for you.

What are scholarships good for?

What are scholarships good for?

Early this October, as I was sitting in on a meeting of College Possible coaches, the program coordinator specializing in scholarships brought up this amazing stat: When their students got some sort of scholarship, 93% graduated college within six years. When there was no scholarship, only 45% graduated in six years. This is based on College Possible Minnesota's 2008 cohort, meaning their participating students who graduated high school in 2008 and have been tracked since then. So even with all the coaching and support that all College Possible students receive, getting a scholarship more than doubles their odds of graduating. This doesn't just mean "full ride" scholarships that pay for all of college, but any type of scholarship that helps make college cheaper. 

Statistics rarely have stories or explanations, so it's up to us to brainstorm some reasons why getting even a small scholarship can increase your success so dramatically.

Study in the quiet places

Study in the quiet places

You're not a software company, but you still want to improve your productivity, which means getting more useful things done in less time. As a student, one of the best things you can do for both the quality of your study time and how much study time you need is follow the company's lead and find quiet places for concentration. This may sound obvious, but I know from years of teaching that lots of students try to do their studying in loud and distracting places. (Extreme example: I once saw a student doing AP Calculus homework at her senior prom.)

Getting the support you need in college

Getting the support you need in college

More and more high school programs are focused on getting students through college, not just to college. About 10 years ago, some of the major charter school networks made college graduation a goal.  Posse has been around since the late 1980s. College Possible has been doing their thing since 2000. What wisdom can you gain from these success-through-college programs even if you're not a part of them?

What's wrong with Legacy admissions?

What's wrong with Legacy admissions?

Last month I wrote about affirmative action, and now I want to talk about Legacy. Legacy is the practice of a university giving an admissions advantage to children of alumni.

I've seen increased calls to end Legacy lately, and one of the clearest and strongest just appeared. In "Higher Education's Biggest Scam Is Legacy Admissions Policies," Richard D. Kahlenberg looks at three reasons that many colleges cite for their legacy policies and refutes them. Kahlenberg edited a book about Legacy, so he knows what he's talking about. 

My talk with seniors

My talk with seniors

Last week I had a chance to go over to my neighborhood high school and talk with juniors and seniors in their International Baccalaureate program. The students sent three questions ahead of the visit, and I had a chance to respond. I'm repeating the questions and answers here, because I think these are pretty common questions for college-bound students.

If you have other questions, leave them in the comments or email me. I'd love to talk about them!

Checking in on Jack

Checking in on Jack

Stressed! I really need to get going on my Yale application (one of the heavier applications with a load of supplements) because my deadline for the school is coming real soon; my essay still needs to be cut from a thousand words and then revised and revised again; and I haven’t been prioritizing scholarships as well as I should have. Still, I think I'm optimistic enough and I trust myself enough to get everything done and be at an OK spot in time for my first deadline.

Checking in on Grace

Checking in on Grace

Meet the Class is an opportunity for parents, educators, and admissions professionals to get a look at individual seniors and what they go through to find their college.

It’s updated each month from September to May. Each month will feature 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. 

This is the second interview with Grace, who is having a very busy October. Grace is a senior in the Houston area. She attends a public magnet high school. 

Thinking about your special circumstances

Thinking about your special circumstances

Let's be clear here: the point isn't to write a "sob story" that makes people feel sorry for you and want to give you special treatment for your special circumstances. This isn't about victimhood, quite the opposite. The point is to acknowledge to yourself and be able to explain to others the challenges and frictions that make you who you are. It's about celebrating how far you've come and the skills you've acquired. When colleges ask about your special circumstances, and not all of them ask, it's not about feeling sorry. It's about understanding what kind of resilience you have and how you got it. Nobody makes it out of high school and into college without friction and resilience, so it's okay to think about your own. There are plenty of ways to think about your special challenges.

In case you missed it, August and September

Late summer was busy this year! If you missed any of my blog updates because you were on vacation, too busy getting ready for school, or--like me--enduring a major hurricane, then here's your place to quickly and easily catch up. New blog posts arrive every Monday and Thursday. Thanks for being a part of Apply with Sanity!

I covered the opening of the 2017 Common Application, dove in to the UC-Irvine take-back debacle, and nitpicked a mostly great New York Times piece.

I gave some last-minute advice for ending the summer strong.

I discussed not only getting accepted to college, but making sure you graduate.

I looked at a poll showing a lot of people have regrets over some of their college choices.

I reminded Houstonians--and now Floridians and Puerto Ricans--that the disasters in their area might affect their financial aid packages.

I updated the What Should I Be Doing Now? section for 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th grades.

I introduced you to Grace and Jack, two seniors I'll be following all year on the college admissions trek.

I explained why you might want to join an honor society...but probably won't.

I asked you a weird hypothetical question to get you thinking about risk and debt.

I gave you my take on Affirmative Action

The two-minute time machine

The two-minute time machine

What most of us would really love to have instead is a time machine that takes us back just a few minutes. When we say or do something really embarrassing, when we take a wrong turn or get into a car wreck, when we speak in anger and hurt someone's feelings, we'd really love to go back two minutes and have a do-over. Most of the time when it came up in class, it was when somebody (usually me, the teacher) said something silly, and the students would tease "don't you wish you had the two-minute time machine!"

Alas, the two-minute time machine is not real. When I say something embarrassing I can't just jump back in time and make it go away. But what is so cool, so magical even, is that if I write something embarrassing I often can go back and make it go away.

You know where this is going. This is about admission essays and revision.

Meet Jack

Meet Jack

Meet the Class is an opportunity for students, parents, educators, and admissions professionals to get a look at individual seniors and what they go through to find their college.

It’s updated monthly from September to May. Each month will feature 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. 

In the first post in the series, we met Grace. Now it's time to meet Jack. Jack actually goes to the same high school as Grace. I had people from all over the country express interest in taking part in Meet the Class, but the only two who were able to commit to it were these two from the same school. 

Another money question for you

Another money question for you

Imagine that I have three pieces of paper, and you can steal one of them from me without me knowing.

The first is a hundred dollar bill. You take it from me, you have an extra hundred bucks, game over.

The second is a lottery ticket with 50 numbers for the next Powerball drawing (they cost $2 each, so it costs $100 total). The jackpot is $100 million. If you take this, you'll probably get nothing. Or you may get a little bit of money. But you just might (a roughly 1 in 292 million chance) win a hundred million dollars. If you win the big jackpot, there's a risk that I will accuse you of stealing the ticket from me, but that would be very difficult to prove. And that would only be likely if you win the big one. You'd probably get away with it.

The third is a bank statement that includes my account number and password. If you steal this, you'll have access to (probably) more than $100 but (almost certainly) less than $100 million. But getting the money from me will take more work, and it also has an increased risk of me or my bank catching you. If you know the right...or in this case wrong...people, you could probably sell the data to someone else and let them deal with it.

Which would you choose? Why?