Ten Tips for a Successful College Search (Part 1, Tips 1-5)


Ten Tips for a Successful College Search (Part 1, Tips 1-5)

Advice for high school students

Scott Herrmann-Keeling
College Counselor
Mary Institute & St. Louis Country Day School


Your successful college search is built piece by piece over your entire time in high school. The classes you take, the grades you earn, and what you do with your hours outside the classroom will all be considered by admission officers looking to build communities that fit their own campus cultures. Use the following tips, starting right from grade 9, to help your college search go smoothly:

Read More

Big Data

Big Data 

Aaron Fulk
Associate Director of College Counseling
Collegiate School
Big data. We hear about this new phenomenon constantly and how it will change a variety of industries. Personally, I find this phenomenon frustrating on our side of the desk. Despite more information available to us and our students, data does not make this process any less anxiety-inducing or more predictable. No admission dean has shared with me the predictive yield of segmented populations despite my tempting offer of free hugs. Weird. 

With that said, this frustration around data is also one of the few reasons college counselors won't be replaced by robots in the next decade. So we've got that going for us . . . which is nice. With all that in mind, here are a few trends and highlights I've noticed from the most recent admissions cycle.

I feel obligated to point out the obvious about ACCIS: we all work at private institutions with predominantly affluent students. As a result, I am focusing on some of the most selective colleges in the nation, but these colleges and trends are not indicative of higher education at large. Also despite wearing glasses, I am neither an economist nor a mathematician. These are simply personal theories and interpretations of data available to the public. 

In other words, the colleges that are, as the kids say these days, on fleek:

George Washington (22.5% increase in applications, admit rate decrease of 6.5%)
Georgia Tech (12% increase in applications, admit rate decrease of 7%)
Wesleyan (22% increase in applications, admit rate decrease of 5%)

Read More

I Am Your Counselor


Sam Bigelow
Associate Director of College Counseling
Middlesex School

Last Thursday, I closed up my computer for the day at 5:15pm, headed home, and, upon arrival, refreshed my email on my phone, despite the fact that I had checked email just minutes prior. Then, I went outside to enjoy the beautiful spring weather, and when I returned home about 20 minutes later, I refreshed my email again. A lot of college news was hitting the streets Thursday afternoon but, no, I am not an applicant; I am your college counselor.

I try to take advantage of every moment I have with you, starting in junior year, to help empower you with good, accurate information on the qualitative elements of a college and the quantitative (and oftentimes confounding) elements of a college’s admissions standards. What I don’t want is for you to be surprised by the ultimate outcomes. I know that sometimes, despite my best efforts, while you might intellectually understand what I’m saying, your heart might tell you something different and, without sounding condescending, I totally understand.

I feel the frustration of confusing college news and the exhilaration of exciting news alongside you. Oftentimes, my years of experience give me a perspective that allows me to understand a college decision that makes no sense to you. That does not mean I don’t feel your disappointment. That is why I spent time last year and this year helping you and your classmates (and your parents) reframe your expectations when necessary, redefine what success will mean for you, and determine what you truly want (versus simply trying to get into the most selective school).

Read More

A Coalition of One's Own

A Coalition of One's Own

Bryan Rutledge
Director of College Counseling
Woodward Academy

The values and beliefs of the Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success are commendable and appealing.  How, then, do those most able to meet the needs of students team up to serve the students who need the most? 

We in education are engaged in spirited debate to answer this question.  It’s good to shake things up every now and then.  Unless, of course, the parties rush to barricades where we question one another’s motives and are paralyzed by disagreement, cobbling a wobbly Tower of Babel.  The most under-resourced students deserve our best efforts.

Sports analogies are cliché but instructive.  When I taught tennis, I reminded students of basics such as keeping your eyes on the ball.  Likewise, let’s review the basics of assisting under-resourced students, some of their most pressing educational needs and what will answer them.  While there is nothing really new in the following list, please see it as a timely, even urgent invitation to reflection, collaboration, and action.

  1. Research shows that primary and secondary students lose academic ground during summers when prior learning is not reinforced.  Many academic communities are fortunate to have the facilities, professors, teachers, and time to conduct a month-long summer course for under-resourced populations that reinforces the basics: pure math, laboratory science, and analytical writing.  Imagine what could be accomplished if these short courses were co-taught by master professors and schoolteachers.  Imagine complementing the academic lessons with classes co-taught by admission and college counselors: classes on financial aid, scholarship, application essays, resumes, standardized tests, and interviews. 
  2. As with all major institutions, education has an essential political front to reach those who hold the levers and purses of power.  There are success stories.  For example, from California to Alabama leaders in state governments have been implementing strategies to reduce or even eliminate tuition for community college.  Colleges and universities profit by making room for transfer students who take this path. The White House, too, has weighed in with initiatives to reduce college costs and crippling loan debt.  Whether individually or collectively, we all can make our voices heard in these efforts.
  3. Colleges and universities have the option of exercising flexibility in their use of standardized tests in admission; just ask the over 800 schools that have gone test optional.  Considering the barrier to admission that standardized tests can present to under-resourced groups, as well as the questionable validity of over-reliance on such tests, a thoughtful review of how they are used could increase access and success.
  4. Part-time and online studies are vital to under-resourced students.  Such flexible learning enables those with families, time and transportation constraints, and jobs to advance themselves.
  5. Promotional emails, brochures, and the like are essential to the enrollment strategies of all kinds of schools.  But promotional messages can be accompanied by service messages, showing not only how fabulous the school is, but how to meet the requirements for admission as well as find the means to afford education.
  6. Business people are always concerned with “value-added takeaways,” and with good reason.  In harmony with their liberal arts missions, colleges and universities can integrate internships, individualized advice that keeps graduation on time, and vigorous career and professional school counseling.
  7. For primary and secondary schools that lack computer and Internet resources, funds are required to answer these needs and put tools in the hands of those who can then get the job done, as Britain implored the U.S. during World War II.

Tireless souls are already devoting themselves to these seven topics.  My point is that even though each person’s list of priorities will vary, we know reasonably well what needs to be done for under-resourced students, and more could be accomplished using the tools already in our hands, namely our professional organizations encompassing academic, college, personal, career, and admission counseling.  These organizations have the means to corral the topics and take on the thornier details of implementation.  Or, we can disperse our efforts and wonder why change is so slow.

Read More

Reflections on the new SAT

Reflections on the new SAT

Annie Reznik
Associate Director of College Counseling
Moses Brown School

The last time College Board announced a new SAT, I was wrapping up my first year as an admissions counselor at the University of Maryland. When my supervisor asked for a volunteer to become a “resident expert” on standardized test changes, I said yes (just like I did to everything in my early years) and became our office’s “New SAT Expert.” On the dawn of the second new SAT of my career and on the “other side of the desk,” I am in flashback mode; thinking about the new SAT like a college admission officer rather than a college counselor. Below are some of the throwback thoughts that have bubbled up as the SAT change is upon us.

Does the new SAT serve as a stronger predictor of academic success? Is the new SAT a measure that will be useful for college admission?

Read More

What is your Motto? College Admission and Identity

What is your Motto? College Admission and Identity

Brennan E. Barnard
Director of College Counseling
The Derryfield School



PEARLS BEFORE SWINE © Stephan Pastis. Reprinted by permission of UNIVERSAL UCLICK for UFS. All rights reserved.

Read More

And Then, You Wait

And Then, You Wait

Kate Boyle Ramsdell
Director of College Counseling, Noble and Greenough School
“First you have brown, all around you have brown… then there are seeds… and a wish for rain.” –Julie Fogliano, And Then It’s Spring 

When my older son was born, it wasn’t long before I was hooked on finding children’s books that I actually enjoyed reading aloud. I could only take so much of Hop on Pop and Moo, Ba, La La La. (Forgive me if those are family favorites!)

I stumbled across And Then It’s Spring during a mid-winter 2015 trip to a local bookstore. There were over 100 inches of snow on the ground in Boston. The book offered the promise of green. My seniors, the ones who hadn’t applied early or who hadn’t gotten in early, were waiting… and waiting… for their college news to drop. For most of them – for us – winter felt interminable. March and April weren’t yet tiny lights at the end of the long, blustery, college tunnel. 

I have thought and written about the college process for a long time now – almost half of my life, which is a bit hard to swallow. And a topic I always come back to is this: why is waiting so darn hard? I know adults tend blame adolescents and their seeming inability to wait on social media and the instant gratification of posting, snapping, and tweeting. But waiting for college news was hard in 1992, when I didn’t have Facebook, or Snapchat, or Twitter. It just was. My life – my future – was hanging out there somewhere, not in cyberspace, but in a file in the back room of an admission office. We didn’t even have the distraction of our phones to help us pass the time! 

One of the things I have to admit I love about being a college counselor is that there is often a task – a tangible “to do” – attached to a process that can often feel stressful and emotionally draining. So, even when I am in the midst of a really hard conversation about a deferral, or a deny, or even a complicated financial aid gapping scenario, there is often a way to take a break from talking and processing, a way to actually do something that might make a difference. I find that kids appreciate this part of the process, too. 
If you are still waiting for your news, and if you’ve been deferred, there are a few things you can do. Here is what we tell our students:
1) Make sure you have a balanced list of regular decision schools. If your list still seems top-heavy, it is not too late to submit one or two applications to colleges that will provide you with a great option come spring! This doesn’t need to be a hasty decision. Maybe you saw a college over the summer that could make it back onto your list because it fits most of your key criteria. Perhaps there is a college that you’ve researched and is a great fit, but where demonstrated interest is not a significant factor in their decision-making process. You’re not at the point of no return with your list, and there are great colleges whose deadlines have not passed! 
2) Gather some information. If you’ve been deferred at a college or university that you really like, work with your college counselor to figure out if you have a reasonable shot at being accepted in April. Many colleges admit fewer than 10% of the students they defer. It’s a good time to come to terms with that notion. It’s also a good time to recognize that you often have to make a decision about EDII without a definitive answer regarding the deferral. Perhaps you should consider an EDII application (if you have not already) to another school that is high on your list and an appropriate EDII target. If you have missed an EDII deadline, but your application is already filed regular decision at a college, some colleges will convert regular decision applications to EDII up to a certain point in the winter. Sometimes, it’s worth a call just to find out. Know your options and build a wise and thoughtful strategy from there.  
3) Write a love letter. Send an update to the college(s) where you have been deferred! I often jokingly refer to it as a “love letter” when I’m describing it to my counselees. It does not need to be long (a typed page is plenty!), but it should be honest, upbeat, and helpful to admission readers. You probably sent your application in early November, and I’m betting that you’ve been busy since then. Give an update on your first semester – share news of a class or project that went particularly well; offer new information about your co-curricular life (maybe you were cast in the winter play, or perhaps you worked on a special project with one of the community organizations that you mentioned in your resume). Reiterate to the admission team why the college remains your first choice! You should not regurgitate your application or your “Why College X” essay, but you can certainly demonstrate that you’ve thought carefully about the fit. Use your own voice and let your excitement shine through. 
4) Don’t be a noodge. I love the word noodge – it’s onomatopoeic. Anyway, it’s great to let colleges know: “I’m still here!” However, they don’t need or expect to hear from you regularly at this stage. You have applied. You have checked your portal to be sure everything is there. You have done your due diligence (and your counselor has, too). 
Then, there really is waiting that has to happen. Julie Fogliano’s optimism about spring holds for me in the college process. The anticipation can feel long, and often it is anxiety provoking. But, while you wait, you should still be doing the things that you love, engaging in your high school community in meaningful ways – learning, even! 
“And then you wait….
And it is still brown, but a hopeful, very possible sort of brown….
And then it is one more week 
and a sunny day, that sunny day that happened right after that rainy day 
and you walk outside to check on all that brown…
and now you have green, 
all around 
you have 
And senior spring. Which is pretty nice, too.

Patience in a Snapchat World


Carol Wasden, Director of College Counseling, The Hockaday School

Picture this: It’s 10:30 p.m. when a high school senior, pooled in desk lamp light and nerves, presses submit on his college application. Deep breath, exhale. Pause. Now what?

In one version of this story, a college admission dean sees an alert go off at 10:30:30, jumps up, cheers to see the application arrive, and immediately sits down to read it. The reality, however, is much different. In a world where an image of a check can be converted into actual money in a matter of minutes, it’s important to understand the technology behind the scenes in the college application process.

Read More

Launch Blog


ACCIS is excited to officially launch AdmitAll, our new blog, featuring the writing of our very own ACCIS college counselors. In a time when admissions strategies, policies, and numbers are ever-changing, we seek to offer a blog with real time advice, including information and perspectives from ACCIS counselors in the trenches.

Throughout each year, we will offer timely, relevant information for students, parents, and counselors regarding the admissions process, current happenings in the field, and opinions on all things related to college admissions.

One of the primary goals of ACCIS is to share our collective experience and wisdom with high school students and their families beyond the scope of our own schools. This blog will serve as an online branch of that goal.

While there is a great deal of college admissions information and advice available online, it can be difficult to sift through and find the most accurate, dependable, and current information. Our goal with AdmitAll is to offer a cornerstone of trusted information regarding the college process.

Stay tuned, we will update AdmitAll with new blog pieces each month to help you stay in tune, and on top of your own process.

Read More