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College Admissions Scandal Ramifications

Posted by Neal Schwartz on April 10, 2019

The college admissions scandal and its consequences are still developing. this huge story will have ripple effects throughout the U.s. and the college admissions landscape.

What has happened so far:

  1. Parents have been arrested, brought into court, and some have already plead guilty.
  2. Some parents have been put on leave or terminated from their jobs or professional organizations.
  3. Some students have had their acceptances reversed, and some are being removed from college.
  4. Colleges have tightened up their due diligence in qualifying candidates for admission.
  5. Public opinion has mostly frowned upon this uncovered criminal behavior.

The long-term effects are: 

  1. Compliance reviews at every college will be fast-tracked, and procedures will likely be revised.
  2. The overall college process will be re-examined.
  3. There will be Increased distrust for the college admission process 
  4. Even more pressure from” snowplow” parents to find ways to get their children into the top colleges, “legitimately."
  5. The College Board and ACT will tighten up their procedures for test day monitoring, especially in the smaller test room settings for accommodation (extra time) testing.

 

Probable Effects on the Admission Process:       

There was already a notable decline in admission rates for the top tier colleges.  This decline is primarily due to the fact that more students are applying for the same number of seats: College ready population exceeds available college spots at top tier schools.

  1. Quicker Access to college applications: The evolution of the common app and the coalition app has made it easier to view individual college application requirements.
  2. Easier Access to college information: College sites are more robust and can engage families and students more easily than in the past
  3. College graduates are sometimes underemployed: A greater emphasis will be placed on having a robust college plan and major.

But after the scandal the following is likely to occur:


  1. Some families will go into a panic mode, adopting the logic of, “If high profile celebrities and high-income earners felt compelled to cheat, this must mean it is REALLY impossible to get into the top colleges” therefore:
    1. We must apply to more schools than we thought.
    2. We need to work even harder on the SAT and ACT test prep effort.
    3. We need to be uber involved in the complete college process. 
  2. Advantages for the privileged (i.e. children of legacies) may disappear.

Opinion:

I have already heard of parents adding more colleges into their child’s college list.  The irony here is that this will only continue to reduce the already low admission rates and put even greater stress into the process.

 

The theory of adding more colleges to the list  is a volume game—knock on more doors and one will surely open. I believe it should be a quality game.  Students/Parents/Advisors should encourage:

  1. More realistic choices that fit the student.
  2. Assuming #1 is accurate, work harder to understand those colleges.
  3. Adopt a methodology for Early Decision and Early Action choices.

In summary, students should research the best fit schools more diligently rather than just adding more schools to an already extensive and unmanageable college list.

 


 

 

As the College Scandal Broke, College Planning of Westchester was asked to comment:  AS SEEN ON NEWS 12 Westchester

 


To Do: Suggestions for the Spring/Summer:

HS Juniors –
Develop College Activities Plan, Review Colleges, Put together a project plan for College Application 


HS Sophs –
College Activities Plan, Schedule SAT-ACT Prep for the summer


looking for the best college "Fit" ? :

Whether it is your first time or the 3rd time through the college process, avoiding some key mistakes can help increase the chances that you stay sane and that your son/daughter get their best college fit. 



If you have a high school student and want to get started on the right path, contact us at 914-273-2353, nschwartz@collegeplanningofwestchester.com or visit us at: www.collegeplanningofwestchester.com 

 

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Topics: college admissions, admission advice, college prep, college advice, college process, college selection, college scandal, college cheating scandal, college bribery scandal

SAT/ACT Prep and College Counseling: Which Comes First?

Posted by Neal Schwartz on March 11, 2019

Should students wait to start the college counseling process only after they lock-in their best SAT or ACT scores?

I get this question practically every day. What I find curious is that before I get a chance to answer the question, some parents answer it for me. Like many questions, the answer is, “It depends.”

 

 The Case for the Sequential Approach

Most high school juniors are overloaded with their academics, extracurricular activity, and test prep. If they are playing a demanding physical sport or have a lead part in a play, they can be fully absorbed with these activities. They are already overwhelmed/overloaded, and they need to focus on their test prep first. Introducing college discussions before they are ready is just going to bring down their success in these other important areas. So, this approach supports the premise that they should handle the college stuff AFTER they settle on their SAT/ACT scores.

 

 The Case for the Parallel Approach

If students wait until they have all of their test prep scores, they could be pressed into making some key decisions like college visits and college selection in a very tight timeframe. Also, getting them involved in seeing what colleges are looking for has the potential to motivate them to do even better on their SAT/ACT tests.

 

 The Case for the Random Approach

When there is no plan, the results will likely be random. The non-plan results in lots of starts and stops and mis-directions.


Key Considerations: 

Timing:

In addition to deciding on the approach, is planning the timing for each of these:

If they wait too long using the sequential approach, they will wind up in a parallel mode.

If they start too early with the parallel approach, the student may spend more time focusing on schools that are not good or reasonable fits. Also, too much time spent too early could cause them to lose interest in both test prep and college process work.


Maturity:

Depending on when a student starts the process, there is a good chance that the following areas might change:

  • Area of study
  • Type of college
  • College Location


 

 


College Selection/College Visits:


There is tight link between college selection and college visits:

1st- Visit Category Schools – typically HS Freshman and Sophomore years

2nd – Visit Schools from an agreed upon list – typically Junior year

Although I recommend that early in the student’s college process, usually sophomore year, a family should visit “category schools,” (city/country; big/small; liberal arts/technical), the junior year college visits are more deliberate. It becomes clear when you start going through the process, that if you don’t know what colleges are on your list, it is impossible to visit schools. One wasteful trend that I see lately is families who just randomly pick a list of schools and just treat the visits like a family vacation. So, utilizing at least a practice SAT or ACT score is helpful in seeing if a school is reasonable. There are so many tools for college selection that this effort can be overwhelming. Lots of research can point to a school that seems to be a perfect fit, but when the student actually visits, they may scratch the school off the list.

 

Summary:

The answer to when to introduce the college process to your son or daughter really is a judgment call based on their individual schedules, maturity level, and other factors. Basically, it is a personal decision and it is probably best to not follow the path of neighbor, family or school friends, as they are also putting together plans based on their child’s unique factors.


To Do: Suggestions for the Spring:

HS Juniors –
SAT-ACT Prep, Actual SAT-ACT Testing and College Activities Plan


HS Sophs –
College Activities Plan, schedule SAT-ACT Prep for the summer


looking for the best college "Fit" ? :

Whether it is your first time or the 3rd time through the college process, avoiding some key mistakes can help increase the chances that you stay sane and that your son/daughter get their best college fit. 



If you have a high school student and want to get started on the right path, contact us at 914-273-2353, nschwartz@collegeplanningofwestchester.com or visit us at: www.collegeplanningofwestchester.com 

 

Read More

Topics: college admissions, admission advice, college prep, college advice, college process, college visits, college selection

Three Things to Contemplate about the College Process

Posted by Neal Schwartz on January 25, 2019

3 Things to contemplate about the college process as you hibernate this winter:

 

1. The Shift from Pre-Professional Paths to Computer Science

2. Popularity of Early Decision Continues to Grow

3. The Changing Landscape of Colleges Below the Top Tier Schools 
 

 

The shift from pre-professional paths to computer science has erupted over the last five years.  I meet with many parents in the medical profession who are questioning that path for their own kids due to malpractice insurance, managed care, reduced earnings, and greater overhead, among other issues.  Similarly, there has been a glut of lawyers, with less earning potential than in years past.  So, these same bright students, who would previously have gone into these professions or finance, are now exploring other high-salary, high-status jobs. The computer science area has grown tremendously, and there is a great demand for these skills.  I worked for a computer company for over a quarter century, so I am very familiar with the vision and promise for the future in this field.  The future is clearly here. Artificial intelligence and cloud computing are two key growth areas as the computer science landscape morphs into most every business sector and way of life.  This article from The New York Times talks about the shift to computer science and the current deficit of supply for those willing to take the brass ring. 

 


Popularity of Early Decision Continues to Grow 

For the most part, Early Decision (and Early Action) is growing by 10 to 25 percent at many schools.  The more colleges that accept a higher percentage of their classes from Early Decision, the lower their acceptance rate and the higher their yield.  These last two metrics are huge for colleges and continue to demonstrate their selectivity and brand names. View article from Inside Higher Ed


 

The Changing Landscape of Colleges Below the Top Tier Schools
Although this recent article from The New York Times makes a distinction to rural schools, the trend is clearly that the heyday of many colleges in boom mode is no longer universal.  Basically, some colleges are struggling financially, some have closed, and others have been seeking partners.  The most recent Northeast school to seek a new partner is Hampshire College.  Of course, the top schools are having the opposite problem. Over the last decade, top schools seem to be trying to convince students to not apply because of their lower acceptance rates.  So, depending on what tier school you are viewing, what financial controls they have placed operationally and the size of their endowment, you can find completely different views of the health of their school from a fiscal perspective. 

 

To Do: Suggestions for the Winter:

HS Juniors –
SAT-ACT Prep, Actual SAT-ACT Testing and College Activities Plan


HS Sophs –
College Activities Plan, schedule SAT-ACT Prep for the summer


Summary:

Whether it is your first time or the 3rd time through the college process, avoiding some key mistakes can help increase the chances that you stay sane and that your son/daughter get their best college fit. 



If you have a high school student and want to get started on the right path, contact us at 914-273-2353, nschwartz@collegeplanningofwestchester.com or visit us at: www.collegeplanningofwestchester.com 

 

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Topics: college admissions, early decision, admission advice, college acceptance rates, college prep, college advice, college process, computer science major, Hampshire college, computer science

The College Prep Bucket List

Posted by Neal Schwartz on December 11, 2018

What has changed about competitive college admissions over the last decade?

 


With college acceptance rates at an all-time low, qualified students need to find a way to show why they are unique and deserving of admission. 
What I have noticed is that parents often separate college prep into two separate buckets:



Add this to your college prep bucket list



Once it’s time to write the application essays it’s too late to start thinking about extracurriculars and out-of-school experiences. Students should start early in high school devising a college activities plan, incorporating things about which they are genuinely passionate. This will make the writing of the main and supplemental essays natural, logical and real. Students will be rewarded for taking action beyond just the usual community service.  The key is to try things that not everyone else is doing.


What does a College Activities plan look like?


It could be something like:
⦁ Talk to Uncle John about his profession and shadow him
⦁ Explore leadership roles in clubs where you are merely a member
⦁ Take a summer course in an area consistent with interests or long-range goals. NYC offers an abundance of such classes
⦁ Get involved in a political campaign
⦁ Come up with a product idea and pitch it
⦁ Get paid for coaching sports to local kids 
⦁ Work in a local retail store
⦁ Work at a sports arena

 

Students are already expected to do volunteer work, and many colleges have made volunteerism part of their supplemental essays.  Merely being a volunteer because you have to doesn't make it special. If you do volunteer, take it to the next level: help raise awareness; contribute a new, workable idea; create a new revenue stream.


The challenge happens when you, as a parent, suggest one of these ideas. Students often resist, claiming you don’t know what you’re talking about.  They sense you are just lecturing them, and you feel you aren't being listened to. First, help them to understand why the activities bucket is important, and then, together, discuss their interests, and brainstorm various ways to meet their goals.


What should students do now to best position them for college acceptance?
The answer to this question depends on many individual factors:
⦁ Student objectives;
⦁ Do they want a top school or something less competitive?
⦁ Burden of extra-curricular activities
⦁ Are they “overloaded” or “underloaded”?
⦁ Maturity about their future
⦁ Are they really passionate about the activity or doing it because you want them to?

The key is to come up with a college activity plan that fits the student. The high school and college years are about learning and trying new things. It is not uncommon for the best and brightest students to be resistant to something new and different, even if it was something that they chose. It’s natural to feel uncomfortable when trying something new. Taking the road less traveled is great from an experiential perspective but can also be marked by missteps and lessons learned. As a parent, continue to prod your adventurous student forward, but at the same time be sensitive to their hesitation. If their likes and desires are met at the same time as they are aiming for their goal, they are more likely to stick it out and succeed.



To Do: Suggestions for the Winter:

HS Juniors –
SAT-ACT Prep, Actual SAT-ACT Testing and College Activities Plan


HS Sophs –
College Activities Plan, schedule SAT-ACT Prep for the summer


 



Summary:

Whether it is your first time or the 3rd time through the college process, avoiding some key mistakes can help increase the chances that you stay sane and that your son/daughter get their best college fit. 



If you have a high school student and want to get started on the right path, contact us at 914-273-2353, nschwartz@collegeplanningofwestchester.com or visit us at: www.collegeplanningofwestchester.com 

 

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Topics: College Applications, High school Activities, Community Service, college admissions, admission advice, college prep, college advice, college process, college activities plan, SAT/ACT

Avoid these 9 college process mistakes

Posted by Neal Schwartz on November 01, 2018

 

Avoid these College Process Mistakes:

 

  1. Over emphasis on the “Main” Essay, leaving the rest of the application unbalanced
  2. Generalizing about all schools, judging from your knowledge of one school
  3. Exploring colleges too early or too late or just "rambling" across the country
  4. “Wasting” your ED choice
  5. Waiting until the last minute to finish before deadlines
  6. Expecting too much from college fairs
  7. Ignoring college visits at local high schools
  8. Visiting a college on one of their open house days
  9. Not realizing that student’s choices may pivot

1) OVER EMPHASIS ON THE “MAIN” ESSAY, LEAVING THE REST OF THE APPLICATION UNBALANCED

Sure, the main essay is probably the most visible way for a student to stand out. Does it flow?  Make sense? Have a point to it? Is it genuine?  Is it too perfect? Does it look like an adult wrote it, with “adult words and views?” After you feel comfortable with your answers to these questions, ask yourself a few more:  Did the same amount of care and quality go into the supplements?  Is there a sensible hierarchy to the activity list; i.e., does the 1 hour per week club in 9th grade start the list? 

The application should be balanced, with all elements and sections showing the same level of quality and attention to detail.


 2) Generalizing about all schools, judging from your knowledge of one school

This is my pet peeve.  The answers to a lot of critical college admission questions for your sons and daughters cannot be generalized. Stop taking advice from parents who went through the process with one kid, at a different time period, and with a different set of schools.  The best answer is that “It depends on the kid.”

There are also two key perspectives with this topic:

  1. Yes, the college site and admission office are the ONLY sources of accurate information. It is not uncommon today to have the schools change what they want at the last minute and not totally synchronize instantaneously with what is shown on common app, coalition app or Naviance.   Things change dynamically through the process.
  2. Colleges are marketing their schools; sometimes what they say on websites and in information sessions maybe more about selling the school than what they can actually deliver.

At the end of the day, seeking college information is akin to shopping for the best computer.  They all may look similar, but they have a wide range of capabilities and features, and what they offer isn’t always what you may expect.


3) exploring colleges too early or too late, or just "rambling" across the country


Visiting schools prior to Junior year should (in my opinion) be done for what I call “Category Schools.” Small, Medium Large; City, Country, Suburban; Technical, Liberal Arts; etc. You can start to narrow down choices by getting a general idea of what type of school you’d prefer.

Rambling visits.  It is not uncommon to find parents who decide to visit a bunch of schools without a thoughtful plan.  Some parents are so excited about this journey with their children that they often turn these trips into a series of short vacations.  But by not following a plan, these trips can get old before their time, and many can be costly. So, the advice here is to definitely visit, but put some real thought into the scheduling.

Late visits often result from busy school and life activities. The irony here is that the point of all the extracurriculars is to impress the colleges, but if there isn’t time to visit schools, calmly, then that may impact the college process and admission results.


4) "Wasting" your ED choice 

 

ED was intended for those students who are completely sure about their college choice and want to lock it in.  Unfortunately, ED has transitioned for many into the vehicle to win the lottery and shoot for the moon to gain acceptance into the most difficult schools.  I highlighted in an earlier blog the dangers and downsides of overshooting the target by over-reaching.  ED should be used for the selection of a reasonable school choice and not as a wildcard.

 

 


5) waiting until the last minute to finish before deadlines

Working with my own kids, I have experienced that 1:30am crunch on the day of the deadline.  There may be a surprise or last minute change in thinking late in the college process.  The problem is that the late night/early morning brain does not function well.  That is not the time to try to answer that difficult supplement essay question.  It may be the time to re-think whether you have to apply “early” rather than submitting something that is sub-par.

 


6) expecting too much from college fairs 

College fairs are held to help brand the college.  Sure, there may be a little time for a brief conversation, but the physical environment and stand-up conversation around the table of literature lends itself to brevity. Usually, college fairs are in the evening for a few hours.  Just getting around to the schools that you are interested in becomes an adventure.  Waiting your turn behind a chatty family just takes time away  from finding out about another college. When it is your turn, introduce yourself, get a name (it could end up being the admission counselor for your area) and after getting your literature and asking your brief questions, give the courtesy of a quick exit to the next family.


7) ignoring college visits at local high schools

 

This is one to really think about; it’s easy.  In conjunction with a college fair or a tour of their “territory,” a college admissions rep will visit high schools.  They could be the one responsible for your county or state.  Don’t underestimate how important it is to meet this rep and introduce yourself. They will take note of who attends those sessions.  The decision-maker doesn’t necessarily just reside in the admissions office on campus. If a student really cares about a particular college, they should show up, especially since all they have to do is walk down the hall. Yet, when I ask our brightest students about whether they went to their in-school college session, I often get a, “Oh no, I guess I should have gone.”   Sometimes you have to “touch all of the bases” to get that homerun.

 


8) visiting a college on one of their open house days

 

Wedged into the few official days off from school, family schedules, winter, spring and summer vacations, students must find the time to visit.  Although I am a big fan of open house days to see more than just an information session, expect to be underwhelmed by some of the basics—especially the tours—during the open house days.  There are just too many people, and the attention you get will be lacking.  See that same school on a less busy day, and you will likely have a totally different experience


 

9) not realizing that student's choices may pivot

 There is so much student development happening during the college process.  Schools that were definitely on the top of the list may fade, while earlier suggestions by parents and counselors that were completely dismissed may become favorites.  Expect as a parent that you will be surprised, shocked, disappointed and thrilled all the way through the journey. For some students, suggestions will only be considered from anyone but their parents. What do their parents know about college anyway?  So, as you scratch your head in total wonder, just buckle up and enjoy the ride.  I thoroughly enjoyed the ride with my kids and was sad when the “bonding” through college tours ended. Finding the right fit is important for sure, but the journey and together time as they grow, change and mature can be some of your best memories.


Summary:

Whether it is your first time or the 3rd time through the college process, avoiding some key mistakes can help increase the chances that you stay sane and that your son/daughter get their best college fit. 



If you have a high school student and want to get started on the right path, contact us at 914-273-2353, nschwartz@collegeplanningofwestchester.com or visit us at: www.collegeplanningofwestchester.com 

 

Read More

Topics: College Essays, College Applications, college admissions, early decision, admission advice, college advice, college open house, college process, college visits, college fairs