College Goals is Traveling to Paris and London in March!

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What do families need to know for success in the university search and application process? Why are American standardized tests so important in the application process and where do you find professional support? How do you make all your preparations come together in a strong US university application? Given the unique demands of the American university application process, students are well advised to begin preparing earlier in their high school career than most international students do. College Goals’ counselors will address the complexities of the American university application system, with special attention to the process and mechanics. They will also take questions about applications to the US, UK, and Canada.

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All events are free of charge.  Seating is limited.

Given how late international students frequently approach the American application process, we particularly urge families with students in Years 10 or 11, Troisième or Seconde, or Grades 9 or 10 to attend one of these sessions and to begin thoughtful and informed consideration of their higher education options now, prior to when their student starts A-Levels, Pre-Us, French BAC or IB coursework.

About our Experts

Andrea van Niekerk was born in South Africa, and was educated there and in the US. She served as Associate Director of Admission and freshman academic adviser at Brown University for over a decade. In the six years since moving to the West Coast where she now lives on the Stanford campus, Andrea has continued to work with American and international families.

Jilly Warner was born in the UK and educated there, in France and in Austria. She has almost two decades of combined experience in university admission, as Coordinator of International Admission at the University of Vermont and as an independent counsellor. She now counsels domestic and international students from many parts of the world.

College Goals is a highly qualified university admission consulting practice specializing in counseling families interested in higher education opportunities in the US and the UK. The team of four counselors collectively offers many decades of professional experience in higher education as university administrators, admission officers, educators and academic advisors.

www.collegegoals.com

Is Early Decision Right For You?

Early applications were initially intended to help students signal their commitment to their top choice school. Over time though, the early application system began to reproduce all the stresses and strains of regular decision, only earlier and for an extended application period.  Now there are a variety of early application choices: Early Action (open choice and single choice), Early Decision, and second round Early Decision applications. Early Decision and Early Action application deadlines are usually in November, and students are typically notified of the admission decision in December.  Each early application option offers pros and cons.

This blog focuses on Early Decision (ED) applications.  An ED application is a binding commitment to one school. If accepted, you will be expected to attend, and thus you must withdraw any other applications.

Applying early can be an effective admissions strategy for many students. It is most appropriate for a student who:

  • Has researched colleges extensively
  • Is absolutely sure that the college is their first choice
  • Has found a college that is a strong match academically, socially and geographically
  • Meets or exceeds the admission profile for the college with respect to standardized test scores, GPA and class rank
  • Has an academic record that has been solid over time

Early Decision may be less appropriate for students who will absolutely need financial aid to attend college and will benefit from comparing financial aid offers from other colleges, unless your first choice college is one of the colleges that pledges to meet 100% of a student’s demonstrated financial need.  (See: http://www.thecollegesolution.com/schools-that-meet-100-of-financial-need-2/.)

More and more, colleges are accepting an increasing proportion of their incoming freshman class through Early Decision (ED) applications.  Click here (https://ogontz.files.wordpress.com/2016/08/2016-early-decision-vs-regular-decision-acceptance-rates-chart-8-21-16.pdf) for a document that compares ED acceptance rates to Regular Decision (RD) acceptance rates for over 200 American colleges and universities. The document also gives the percentage of each institution’s freshman class filled through ED.  You will note that many prominent colleges fill 1/3 to 1/2 or even more with ED applicants, which significantly reduces the number of spaces available for the much larger pool of students who apply Regular Decision.

It’s important to reiterate that you should apply early only if you are as ready to present your credentials to the college in October or November as you would be later in the fall. If you want to re-take the SAT or ACT you didn’t do so well on, or get your History grade up, you might want to forgo applying early in order to buy yourself some more time for improvement until the regular admissions deadline.

If you plan on applying early, you need to start all facets of your admissions process early. Make sure you have lined up your recommendations and completed all required testing before the deadlines. Be ready to present yourself as a solid candidate. Above all, make sure you indeed want to attend the school to which you are applying early.

For more information about Early Decision, see:

http://blog.prepscholar.com/what-is-early-decision-should-you-do-it

http://www.thecollegesolution.com/applying-to-college-early-decision/

By Carolyn Stewart

Start Your College Financial Aid Process NOW

As you are excitedly exploring college websites and imagining yourselves as incoming freshmen next year on the campuses of your choice, many of you (and your parents!) are probably also concerned about the rising cost of college attendance.

There are two options that can help families in facing the cost of college – merit scholarship aid and need-based financial aid. Students/families should consider applying for both. Merit scholarships are awarded to students based on their talents and not on financial need. These talents may include athletics, academics, musical skills or commitment to service. Merit-based money is a measure of how much a college would like a student to attend and is unaffected by the wealth or the need of the student’s family. Many of the most selective private colleges, however, do not award any merit-based aid. Need-based aid is based on a calculation of a family’s demonstrated need. In other words, the cost of attending a college minus the estimated contribution a family can make to cover that cost (EFC) = demonstrated need.

If you think you will need financial assistance in order to attend the college of your choice, there are things you and your parents should do now to prepare for the process of applying for financial aid.

  1. Start gathering and organizing your financial documents and tax information now. Beginning in 2016 for aid applications for the 2017-2018 award year, families will use the prior prior year (PPY) income and tax return information. This is great news, since most families should have their 2015 tax returns already submitted. Use this 2015 income and tax return information on the Net Price Calculators described below and to complete the FAFSA and CSS Profile in a timely manner.
  1. All colleges and universities are required to put a Net Price Calculator on their websites to help families calculate their estimated family contribution (EFC), given the specific costs of that institution. You can also find a general net price calculator on the College Board’s website at http://netpricecalculator.collegeboard.org/.
  1. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the online application used by U.S. citizens and permanent residents to apply for financial aid from the U.S. federal and state governments. It is used by colleges and universities to distribute need-based financial aid. It is also used by many institutions to award scholarships and merit-based aid. It is important to complete the FAFSA even if you don’t think you will qualify for financial aid! 

    International students are not eligible for the U.S. government aid programs. However, many schools will ask international students to submit a FAFSA so that they may use the data for assessing financial need. See eduPASS (http://www.edupass.org/finaid/fafsa.phtml) for more information.Beginning in 2016, the FAFSA will be available starting October 1. Complete the FAFSA as soon as possible after October 1. You can download instructions, worksheets and other information about completing the FAFSA at https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/resources#complete. The switch to PPY data will allow most American families to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool within the FAFSA, thereby simplifying the application process. Information from the parents’ PPY tax return (normally already submitted to the IRS – 2015 return in this case) would be downloaded and automatically populate the FAFSA. If your student is applying Early Decision (ED), you will likely need to submit the FAFSA at the same time or shortly after the ED application has been submitted. Check each college’s website for deadlines.

  1. Check to see if the institutions on your list require the CSS Profile, in addition to the FAFSA. There are about 200 colleges (mostly highly-selective private colleges) that use this form, which is longer and more complex than the FAFSA. Both U.S. and international students may complete the CSS Profile. We recommend printing out the CSS Profile worksheet (accessible once you establish a CSS Profile account) and filling it in by hand, before transferring the data to the online application. The CSS Profile is also available starting October 1 and will use PPY income and tax information like the FAFSA. If your student is applying Early Decision (ED) to one of the institutions requiring the CSS Profile, you will likely need to submit the CSS Profile at the same time or shortly after the ED application has been submitted. Check each college’s website for deadlines.
  1. If you think you will need assistance with FAFSA or CSS Profile preparation, contact a financial aid expert EARLY, preferably in the Fall and definitely not last minute!
  1. Start exploring scholarship opportunities, both locally and nationally. These are sources of funding that are not administered by colleges but rather by other private organizations, each with its own application process and eligibility criteria. Families should not pay for any of these, nor pay anyone to search them out! Check out this website: http://www.college-scholarships.com/free-scholarship-searches/. Before you spend lots of time applying for scholarships, check with the colleges on your list. Many schools will deduct your scholarships from your awarded financial aid package.

This process can feel overwhelming….. I know, because I have completed the process for both my children! But by starting the process now, getting organized, and having a frank discussion with your family about expectations and financial realities, you will be ready to complete all the relevant forms when the time comes. And, when you have completed the paperwork, reward yourself for your accomplishment!

Written by Carolyn Stewart, Director of Communications

College Goals is Traveling to the UK and Europe!

Joyce Reed, founder of College Goals, and Andrea van Niekerk, College Goals’ university admission counselor, will be traveling to the UK and Europe in March. They will offer overview presentations regarding university admission processes for students and parents who are considering US as well as UK university enrollment.

Both counselors spent over a decade in high-ranking positions at a selective American university: Joyce Reed as Associate Dean of The College at Brown University and Andrea van Niekerk as Associate Director of Admission and freshman academic advisor also at Brown University. Now, through College Goals, they help students identify appropriate institutions and create successful applications to institutions in the US, UK and Canada.

Our colleague, Jilly Warner, will be returning to the UK and Europe in the autumn to give presentations and meet with clients and prospective families. Jilly was born, raised and educated in the UK, France and Austria, and has over a decade of university-based experience directing international admissions at the University of Vermont, before becoming an independent college counselor with College Goals. She now works with domestic and international students from many parts of the world.

Given how late international students frequently approach the American application process, we particularly urge families with students in Years 10 or 11, Troisième or Seconde, or Grades 9 or 10 to attend one of these sessions and to begin thoughtful and informed consideration of their higher education options now, prior to when their student starts A-Levels, Pre-Us, French BAC or IB coursework.

The presentations in March will answer the following questions: what do families need to know for success in the university search and application process? How can students prepare for their required standardized tests and do their best on the applications? How do you make all your preparations come together in a strong US university application?

London 2016        Paris 2016

There will also be opportunities to meet privately with Joyce or Andrea in London or in Paris. Joyce will also be travelling to Zurich to meet with families.

All events are free of charge.

Why Should I Apply to College Early?

With October upon us, it’s time to start thinking about when to apply to college! Besides regular admission, you have the options of Early Action (EA), which can be Single Choice/Restricted, and Early Decision (ED). Usually the deadline for these options is November 1 or 15, but some schools have a deadline as early as October 15. Wait, what?! That’s coming up quickly!

Make sure you check the specific requirements for all colleges to which you are applying! An Early Decision application is a binding commitment to one school. If accepted, you must attend and withdraw any other applications, and thus you won’t get to review other Financial Aid packages. It is usually possible to apply to multiple schools EA, but you can apply to only one ED.

Early Action is more flexible, as it is non-binding. This means you’re not required to enroll if accepted. You can apply to more than one college that has an Early Action application process. However, the Single Choice, or Restricted option, while non-binding, does mean that you are not allowed to apply Early Action or Early Decision to any other schools.

Applying early can be the most effective admissions strategy out there for many students. Since there’s a smaller pool of applicants, generally there are better admissions rates for early appliers, because colleges know you are seriously interested in attending that institution. It can sometimes double or triple your odds of acceptance!

It also may be the best way to “demonstrate interest” in a particular school. It’s like saying, “Marry me! I love only you!” You offer them the sparkly diamond ring, your early application, and you “promise to be true” to your commitment to that school if they accept your proposal. You certainly benefit by knowing if you have been accepted (or not!) sooner because you can plan accordingly.

It’s important to keep in mind that you should apply early only if you are as ready to present your credentials to the college in November (or, yikes, in October!) as you would be later in the fall. If you want to re-take the SAT or ACT you didn’t do so well on, or get your History grade up, you might want to forgo applying early and buy yourself some more time for improvement until the regular admissions deadline.

If you plan on applying early, you need to start all facets of your admissions process early — indeed, NOW — make sure you have lined up your recommendations and completed all required testing before the deadlines. Be ready to present yourself as a solid candidate. Above all, make sure you indeed want to attend the school to which you are applying early. Now take a deep breath, get down on one knee, break out that diamond ring, and propose!

Written by Jilly Warner

Dreams deferred, Part II: some comments on being deferred in the early application season

By Andrea van Niekerk

PART II: What are student to do when deferred?

I spoke previously about the reasons why selective schools may choose to defer a large percentage – in many cases even a majority – of their early applicants.  But the question remained as to what this meant for deferred students who find themselves ecstatic to have the door still slightly ajar at their dream school, but also suspect that they may have to move on to Plan B after all?

Students are right to feel both emotions, because being deferred indeed means that you can still be accepted.  If you are denied early, it is the end of the road at that college.  If you are deferred, however, it means that someone will still have a second look at you in regular decision.  That means that at the very least, the committee thought it best to wait and re-read your application within the larger regular pool.

Schools vary quite a bit in the percentage of deferred students they will accept – for some schools the acceptance rate may be more or less the same as it would be for other students who applied regular decision, and for others, the acceptance rate may be markedly lower.  You should certainly ask schools about this, but don’t be too surprised if the answers are vague!  And don’t be too hard on the admission officers seemingly doing the spin – they are bombarded with hopeful parents and students who want to parse statistics in order to fix their own chances of admission, when such clarity is virtually impossible.

Meanwhile, you should respond to your deferment with both of these possible outcomes in mind.  If you are still wildly keen for the school in spite of their slightly lukewarm response, then tell the admission officer just that.  Some schools may offer you a form on which to state this, but even if the school does not, write the admission officer a letter telling him or her that in spite of your disappointment, all the reasons why you applied early to that institution – the good fit, the great programs – remain valid.  At the very least, you will momentarily reappear on that reader’s radar screen as he or she reads your letter.

You do not, however, want to sit on the radar screen like an annoying mosquito on a wall.  Irking the reader is the last thing you need, and since they just worked through the Christmas break while New Year saw them hunched over files, that is easy to do!  Don’t assume that they made the decision to defer you because they missed some piece of information, and therefore blast them with a repetition of stuff that is already in your file.  They read all of that the first time round! Do not run out to bother your senator, a local alumnus you met in a coffeehouse once, or a professor with whom you had a single email exchange, to write you letters of support.  Unless they can add useful new information that will be meaningful (and none of those examples will fall in this category!), you are wasting your energy.  The only thing the admission officer will be interested in will be new, relevant information (you just won some important academic prize or are newly elected to a significant position, for example) and a short and concise statement of your continued interest.  If you have raved for several pages about your burning desire to attend, the reader will have filed the note long ago and moved on.

Having sent off the note or the email, redirect your energy towards Plan B.  You may, at the end of the day, not get into your dream school, so make sure the rest of your applications are strong.  Be sure to apply only to schools that you would be very happy to attend – after all, you may even end up at your safety school, so make sure it is one where you will thrive.  By doing so, you will ensure that a few months after arriving at the school that did return your affections and accepted you, you will hardly remember having felt such a passion for that other place.  That post-deferment rejection will remain at most a slight rankle in the back of your mind.

Dreams deferred: some comments on being deferred in the early application season

by Andrea van Niekerk

PART 1: Why do schools defer students?

Most American colleges and universities these days offer students the opportunity to apply early.  Some schools may demand an early commitment, others may merely wish to gauge interest, but all early programs give students the chance to tell a school how much they would love to attend that institution.  But come December and April, students will find that while their dream school may accept their love, it may also turn them down unceremoniously or at best offer an ambivalently mixed message.

So why do schools defer students, and what can an applicant do about it?  As with so many good intentions gone awry, early programs began as a way for students to express their desire to attend one particular school, even as dwindling acceptance rates forced them to apply to a growing number of institutions.  To admission officers, it showed which students really, really wanted to attend that school and were therefore likely to commit if they were accepted. (When I worked at Brown, we would sometimes use the shorthand B4B to describe such a student: Burning for Brown).

But over time, this is of course not how things developed.  Now applying early is, for many students, unfortunately just part of the gamesmanship with which they feel forced to approach college admission.  For schools, faced with applicants who now routinely apply to ten or more schools, it has become a way of exerting some control over their matriculation rates.  After all, admission officers spend hours of work to identify the kids they want on their campuses, only to have those kids say ‘no thanks’ if a more prestigious institution comes calling.  Some schools have responded by taking a large number of students from their early application pool, or by forcing students to make an early commitment.  Schools with merit-based financial aid may even use scholarship dollars to sweeten the early pot for the students they really want.  Other schools (highly desirable schools that may, nevertheless, in the strange world of college admission, fall in a tier below the single digit acceptors) may offer students a two-step early program: they can apply early with all the same trimmings, but at a slightly later date, a period often squeezed in between the early notification date and the regular application deadline typical of very selective schools.

Regardless of how schools manage their early application process, they all want to do two things.  They want to accept enough reasonably committed students to ensure a high matriculation rate.  But they still want to leave space in their freshman class for wonderful students who may not have applied early anywhere (always a sizable number even in these crazy times) or who did not get into that fabulously selective school they dreamed about but are still perfect candidates for their school.

As a result, at the end of the early application period, some very happy students will receive a letter offering them admission to their dream school.  On the other side of the happiness spectrum, a relatively small percentage of students will be flatly denied – those students the school deem to have no chance of admission whatsoever during regular decision.  As an aside, many school counselors and admission officers believe that the percentage of students who are denied early should realistically be far higher than it often is at more selective schools.  (As a colleague of mine used to put it, “You got to rip the band-aid off!”)  It is difficult for schools to do that though, because even if they are unlikely to accept a student, they may still want to acknowledge his or her hard work or leadership role in school.  Sometimes admission officers may just want to avoid dealing with the unrealistic expectations and demanding ignorance of disappointed parents. I have always tended to favor letting early applicants down lightly by deferring them rather than denying them.  I believed, and I still do, that after the stress and sheer hassle of applying to a dream school, there is often little to gain by hitting the kid hard with a deny letter in December.  We encourage students to dream, and we should be careful about penalizing them for it.  Of course, I say that knowing some students do need help in redirecting their energy in a more productive direction, and being denied may sometimes do just that.

The vast majority of students to more selective institutions, however, will find themselves in a strange gray zone: neither denied nor admitted, hope kept alive but with a hard dose of reality thrown in.  In a next blog I will discuss what these students are to make of their fate, and whether they can improve their chances of escaping from no-man’s land, through the doors of their chosen paradise.

Seize Your Advantage: Study at a US University

by Jilly Warner, College Goals’ Counselor

If you take a deep breath when someone asks you where you are from; if you report the temperature in Celsius and the distance in kilometers; if you have friends from over 20 different countries, then chances are, you are a Third Culture Kid!

Being a TCK is cool, especially in the world of US higher education.  With a more than 40% increase in international students in the US now as compared with 10 years ago, and admissions officers who understand educational systems from schools all over the globe, US universities have truly embraced an international outlook.  How does this benefit a TCK?  Considering that almost every US college has experienced a significant uptick in the number of international students on their campuses, and given that most TCKs may have lived in many foreign countries, the result is a rich, diverse, interesting and more familiar environment for their college years.

Third Culture Kids are likely to have one or two American parents who experienced a US college education at a time when the application process was very different.  Now, there are more details to manage, more requirements and regulations to understand, more important documents to gather and all is now handled online.  US parents living overseas may find their child’s school doesn’t offer university admission counseling to students applying outside that country and students may feel lost in the process.

Because of these challenges, more US students living overseas and wishing to return ‘home’ to the US for college are seeking the guidance of an independent college counselor for the college search and application process, which takes a year or more.  These professionals offer a broad array of knowledge, resources and experiences upon which to draw, all perfectly designed to support both family and student eager to enter the exciting world of higher education in the US.

Gaining admission to a top US university is now far more competitive.  Overseas students with a US passport bring a wealth of global knowledge and international insights that resonate with colleges today.  These dynamic young people may be considering colleges in the UK, Europe or the US.  What’s the big distinction?

Choice is the difference!  Most young people enter college unclear about their academic paths and career destinations.  As a college student in America, they have the joy of being exposed to multiple options and students with diverse interests.  They benefit from the guidance of faculty and professional advisors who want them to succeed and help them find their own academic passion, even if that means they change their minds a few times.  Whether emerging from a liberal arts college or a pre-professional program, graduates of US colleges are very successful in both job placement and graduate school admissions.

So consider coming ‘home’ to the US for college, and consider the services of a professional counselor to smooth the pathway.  Carefully check credentials and experience before making that important selection but get started as soon as possible.  College Goals provides a full range of services from highly experienced professionals.  To understand our goals, values and skills, check us out online and on Facebook.

Early Decision Results for College Goals’ Students

With the exception of just of few colleges, most students have heard back from the colleges to which they applied early action or early decision.  Here are the results from our College Goals’ students!!  Congratulations on a job well done!  And, students, good luck on your regular decision applications!

Early Decision Results 2014

 

Number of CG Students

College or University

Early Acceptance

Early Deferral

Early Denied

Amherst College

1

Babson College

1

Bowdoin College

1

Brown University

1

3

CalTech

1

Carleton College

1

Case Western Reserve

1

Claremont-McKenna College

1

1

Cornell University

2

1

Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM)

1

Fordham University

1

Georgetown University

2

Harvard University

1

2

Imperial College London

1

Lehigh University

1

Loyola Marymount University

1

MIT

1

Northeastern University

3

Northwestern University

1

Princeton University

1

5

Purdue University

1

Sacred Heart

1

St. Michael’s College

1

Skidmore College

1

Soka University

1

Stanford University

1

1

Tulane Honors Program

2

University of Denver

2

University of Illinois

3

1

University of Pennsylvania

1

1

University of Vermont

1

Vassar College

1

Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI)

1

Yale University

1

1

College Goals is Traveling – Fall 2013

College Goals’ Gail Lewis and Jilly Warner will be traveling and available to meet with current and prospective students and families in several locations around the world!  Standardized test preparation tutor Karen Berlin Ishii will be joining Jilly in London and Paris.

London, UK                                                      September 25-28
Jilly and Karen will give the following presentation at The London School of Economics:

Wednesday, September 25, 6:30-8:30 p.m.  Preparing for an American University Education
(£20/family, advanced reservations required  www.Collegegoals2013.eventbrite.com)

Jilly Warner will be available to meet privately with interested families September 25-28 and Gail Lewis will be available September 25-30.  Karen Berlin Ishii will also be available to meet with students and families during that time.

Paris, France                                                   September 30-October 2
Jilly and Karen will give the following presentations at The American Church in Paris:

Monday, September 30, 7-9 p.m.  Preparing for an American University Education
($20/€15 family, advanced reservations required  www.Collegegoals2013.eventbrite.com)

Wednesday, October 2, 6-9:15 p.m.  Intensive Small Group Workshops for Students
6 – 7:30 p.m. SAT Test Preparation Workshop

7:45 – 9:15 p.m. College Application Essay Workshop

Limited space available.  $40/€30 per workshop, advanced registration.  $65/€50 for both workshops.  Register at www.Collegegoals2013paris.eventbrite.com or contact Carolyn Comfort at collegegoalsparis@noos.fr or tel 01.45.00.11.75 (eves).

Jilly will be available to meet privately with interested families September 30-October 2.  Karen Berlin Ishii will also be available to meet with students and families during that time.

Johannesburg and Pretoria, South Africa                  October 2-15
Gail Lewis will be available to meet with interested families.

Karlsruhe, Germany                                           October 4
Jilly will give the following presentation at the American Library:

Friday, October 4, 7-9 p.m.  Preparing for an American University Education
       There is a €2 entry fee.  No pre-registration required.

Jilly will also be available to meet with interested families.

Geneva, Switzerland                                          October 6
Jilly will give the following presentation at a private home.  Please email Jilly for directions at jilly_warner@collegegoals.com.

Sunday, October 6, 4-6 p.m.  Preparing for an American University Education

Jilly will also be available to meet with interested families.

London, UK                                                      October 17-21
Gail Lewis will be available to meet with interested families.

 

To schedule a private meeting with Jilly in London, Paris, Karlsruhe, or Geneva, email  jilly_warner@collegegoals.com.  To schedule a meeting with Gail Lewis in London or South Africa, email gail_lewis@collegegoals.com.  To schedule a meeting with Karen Berlin Ishii in London or Paris, please email karen@karenberlinishii.com.