Should You Apply Early Decision?

Posted by Neal Schwartz on September 04, 2018


What is early decision?  what is Early action?


why do schools offer ED?


should you apply early decision?


what is the downside of applying ED?


What is ED 2?


Any further ED advice


I was recently interviewed by what to do online about the topic of Early decision.  The questions are above. 


To view the article, click here.



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


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Topics: College Applications, college admissions, early decision, admission advice, college advice, early action, early decision 2

How to excel in a holistic college admissions process

Posted by Neal Schwartz on July 26, 2018


How to differentiate two students when they look so much alike

HOlistic college admissions and its relationship to "personality"

 You have heard the story about the valedictorian that didn’t get into some,  or even all, of their schools.  If "the best of the best" can’t make it, what about your daughter (or son) who is not the valedictorian?  “What do they want from these kids?, I wouldn’t get into my school if I applied today! This whole college admissions process stinks!” These are just a few rants that you might offer to whoever is within earshot. 

With top schools rejecting 80-95% of qualified applicants (as determined by GPA and SAT/ACT scores), there is certainly enough credible basis to be uncomfortable with the process.   The irony is that there are more than enough colleges in the U.S. that will fit well for your son and daughter, but the upwardly mobile effort to get into the “best” schools is driving the continuance of disappointment for today’s applicants.


What is meant by Holistic Admissions?

Simply stated, holistic admissions is the usage of more than just metrics to determine admissions.  GPA and test scores alone do not take into account other subjective factors like:  diversity (geographic, racial, economic, sexual), application essays, recommendations, high school curriculum, legacy, extra-curriculars, college needs (maybe they want to boost computer science this year), etc.

The downside of a holistic review: It can promote bias, secretiveness, and distrust.  It is easy to hide the real reason for rejections behind the word “holistic”.   What is often heard is that, “we have so many qualified candidates, and we would like to accept them all.  The parent is left wondering, why not my kid?  If it was just the metrics alone, rejections would be easier to understand.   It becomes complicated when top schools receive applications with perfect GPA’s and near perfect test scores. This raises questions about fairness.  When you take the metrics out of the equation, there is less of an argument since no one really knows how a particular college makes their acceptance decisions.

The upside of a holistic review:  A student who may not come from the top 1% or a major metropolitan area or the best high school can be judged on their individual and distinctive merits.  Students who will contribute to the overall health and vitality of a campus can be recognized and rewarded, rather than the high scorers who may contribute only by scoring well on tests.  A campus filled with vibrant, active and engaging students, not just those who are good test takers, will attract other such students onto campus. 

Distinguishing students by "personality” is the answer to giving them the best possible chance of being admitted to even the best schools.   Does the student have a “story”?  She is the one (Fill in the blank: helped with the senatorial campaign, created a fund me page for a new technology product, pulled that kid out of a burning car, won the national robotics competition, was the bat girl for the Red Sox, was on American Idol, etc.) The best stories, or "tags" are those that are genuine and unique.

How to get tagged and stand out from the Pile of applicants--it's not just about community service any more. 

Since extracurriculars and/or specific diversity characteristics may not be enough to distinguish a student during the application process, how does one get “tagged”?  My view is that a student can earn their tag by doing something outside of the mainstream; even something outside of school.  Just a decade ago the “building homes in Nicaragua” approach was a distinctive community service tag.  Community service programs have evolved into structured programs that you can sign up for, like a teen tour and over time have lost much of  their “tag” value.  With so many students planning their community service, it is hard to distinguish those that are genuine.  It is not that community service is a bad thing; some students benefit greatly from their experience, but sometimes it is a bit forced. More important, when it is not as genuine, the college admissions community notices.


How many tags do you need?


Decades ago, students were advised to be "well rounded".  To be an All-American was to do so many things - the more the better.  To be captain of the football team and class president and a volunteer in the local nursing home was the ultimate.  Then, about 15-20 years ago, it was all about being passionate about one thing and be great with that one thing.  Sure in today's world you can be "tagged" or "passionate" about many things, but sometimes the variety dilutes the strength of the impression and the secondary tags get lost. It is just unrealistic to think that someone can be active and excel in an abundance of activities.


What about being a legacy? 

Certainly, there are still some cases of legacy that may influence the admissions decision, but these are often only cemented with true personality as well as impressive tags.  In today’s iphone driven world, those who can communicate well with others, (not always follow the path of others, and not be hampered by their age), can generate a distinct advantage.  Those who already offer some notoriety provide promise for the college as well.  

the power of the essay:

If your son or daughter wasn't the best in the state for fencing and didn't cure cancer over the summer, what can they do?  Other than moving to Idaho to claim a geographic advantage, the greatest platform to showcase one’s personality is through the essays.  Describing what was learned from a year- round job at a local business, as well as the learning and insight that occurred, can be valuable enough to distinguish a student.  


Tags are as important as essays are.  But, tags should not necessarily be repeated again in the essays. The key is that tags and essays must be genuine to help the best students with their admission efforts. 

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


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Topics: College Essays, College Applications, college admissions, admission advice, college acceptance rates, college advice, tags, holistic review, personality

A senioritis and post-graduationitis primer

Posted by Neal Schwartz on May 17, 2018


Senioritis and Post-Graduation-itis and their Impact on College

Senioritis-(definition from Urban Dictionary):

A deadly disease that strikes high school seniors. This disease makes seniors wear really smelly clothes, over-style their hair, and boys not care about shaving anymore. It also allows seniors to make excuses for not coming to school repeatedly, and it also allows them to party and get drunk as hell like college kids until they get in trouble with the police. Only cures are to put them in college or graduate.

After many high school seniors gain acceptance to their intended colleges, a pervasive and dangerous fog often becomes part of their daily life.   Years of working hard and doing all the “right” things have finally paid off, and they have reached the pinnacle.  They have achieved their objective of getting into a great school, and their friends have done the same.  Many students find themselves wanting to take their foot off of the accelerator and just relax.  Don’t they deserve it? The answer is that they should enjoy their success and relax a bit, BUT they should also remember what got them to that pinnacle can also become unraveled in a short period of time.  Ask any athlete, business professional, etc., whether they can just stop after succeeding. This conversation can be a tough one for students to hear, especially when the accolades are still ringing in their ears.

Not every student gets senioritis, but when enough seniors do, it can become contagious, infecting others nearby.  

When does senioritis occur?

This “disease” typically coincides with the college acceptance letter matching the student’s selected school.   Thanks to Early Decision/Early Action, senioritis can occur as early as December 15th of their senior year and can extend to regular decision notification in March/April.  The range of time for senioritis can be up to five months long. 

What are the risks of senioritis?

  1. Student’s offer from their selected college can be rescinded
  2. Student can develop bad habits related to school
  3. Students can develop bad personal habits

What dumb things do some students with senioritis do?

  1. Drink and post their “red cup” activity online
  2. Fail classes that risk High School graduation
  3. Cheat on tests because they didn’t study






OK, so they finally graduated high school and are nine short weeks away from college orientation. What can go wrong now?  The answer from a parent of three is that this is the most difficult time of all.  


Risk:  Out of school and secure with the next step—college—parents become the only remaining influencing authority.   For the first time, a parent may discover that their angelic son/daughter will flex their wings to remind mom/dad that they are now a college student.   Basically, they will tell their parents to get off their back.  The student is fearless and independent. The parent will say something akin to, “While you are still under this roof, you need to do what we say.”  What occurs during the summer is something far different from senioritis, although it may look the same.  Students are now in an official transitional phase; they are NOT in HS and they are NOT in college.  This is purely an emotional state, with serious highs and lows. Students may embrace or distance themselves from HS friends and then either embrace or distance themselves from new college Facebook buddies.   Imagine a 13-year friendship that abruptly ends when one of them decides to move on. Emotions run high. 


Students can be wrapped up with a lot of feelings with the allure of college looming.  And yet, there is still the parent factor.  For some students, getting away from home is the best thing that could ever happen; others will be heartbroken to leave their home and supportive parents.  What makes post-graduation-itis so tough is that there is such a wide range of emotions.   Students are morphing, and it can be upsetting to them and those close to them.


Although post-graduation-itis has an enhanced emotional element of leaving something behind while moving towards something else, it still has the same set of common risks described above:

  1. Student’s offer from their dream college can be rescinded
  2. Student can develop bad habits related to school
  3. Students can develop bad personal habits


Things you can you do to parent through this situation:

  • Use facts to back up your fears
    • Use the Harvard example of rescinded offers (
  • Ask them if there is anything on their Facebook or Instagram feeds that might look offensive
  • For Senioritis:
    • Watch them “roam” and test their independence, but don’t be afraid to ask where they are going
    • Try to engage an older sibling to stay in touch with them
    • Find time to celebrate their wins and keep the parent-child bond strong and active
    • When they think about sleeping late or skipping school “because everyone else is doing it,” be thoughtful with your answer
    • When all else fails, re-state: “Not as long as you are under this roof”
    • Encourage their friends to come over your house so you can monitor what’s going on
  • For Post Graduationitis:
    • Same as above, but remind them that during this time, they need to start being that great college student BEFORE stepping onto that campus
    • Find time to talk to them about the tug from HS friends and the desire to make new friends. Discuss their fear of leaving what is safe and known, to venture into the new and unknown
    • Encourage them to embrace their long-term HS friends, and share what it was like for you; talk about your feelings and experiences
    • Give them time to feel uncomfortable and uncertain, yet excited all at the same time
    • Take that last family vacation before college starts
    • Use the summer to buy items needed for college


I can attest to the fact that senioritis exists, as does post-graduation-itis and that I never could have imagined my kids getting this disease.   Just be forewarned that the environment for seniors is ripe for them to do the uncharacteristic, to be different.   Stay in touch and help them manage this transitional period in their lives because they are likely to be uncomfortable and unsteady with the unknowns of sailing off into uncharted territory.


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


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Topics: college admissions, admission advice, college advice, senioritis

Are Wait Lists Worth the Wait?

Posted by Neal Schwartz on April 10, 2018


Are Wait lists worth the Wait?

Now that most of the regular college decisions are out, there are an increasing number of students who are waitlisted and not sure what to do.  Recently, it seems, many colleges have drastically increased their wait list numbers, leaving students on hold and on edge.  I was disturbed by this increasing trend and started on a mission to analyze the data to get to the bottom of it.   This post will give some insight and perspective into the conversation.


History of Waitlists

Colleges have a certain number of classroom seats and dorm rooms, leaving a finite number of physical spaces to accommodate students.  Compare the college waitlist to the airline industry; there are a calculated number of passengers who intend to fly but then have their plans change.  Balancing things to keep customers happy, while taking care of the elite frequent flyer,  is a real challenge from a business and customer satisfaction perspective.  Watch the boarding gate area’s overhead monitors, listen to the announcements and notice the anxious standby passengers on a crowded flight.  Just like colleges, airlines use tools to predict what may happen, considering so many factors. And just like the airlines, the colleges are trying their best to fill every seat.  

Compare that scenario to college admissions, where qualified students are applying to an average of 8-12 schools.  Not too long ago, when students were applying to 6-8 schools on average, wait lists were not so massive.  College applications are now growing at a rapid rate.  Michigan grew their applications by about 60% in 5 years.  Villanova grew theirs by 38% in 4 years.  Cornell’s list grew nearly 25% in 5 years, and Lehigh’s grew 20% in that same time period.

Today, it is not uncommon for a college to waitlist almost the same number of students they accept for admission.  

You can probably blame the common app for three things: 1) Increased cost of the application process. If a student adds three schools, multiply the cost per application, and add SAT/ACT score submissions and additional college visits. 2) Reduced admission rates based on more applications per college. 3) longer waiting lists based on #2 above.   While some trends progress reasonably, some appear  to grow exponentially.  How else can you explain the statistics in the chart above?  What if the airlines accepted as many passengers on the planes as they put on the waitlists?  Can you imagine the spectacle at the gates, in the news, on social media? 

To be safe, colleges have been over subscribing their classes through waiting lists.

What other factors could be affecting their decision to load up on waitlists? 

  1. The tools they have are working perfectly:

Historically, they know that to fill the gap between accepted students and those who choose to enroll, their ratios are needed to get the correct yield.

  1. They have lousy predictive tools:

They have been burned badly in prior years, and their prospective student population is extremely volatile and truly unpredictable.

  1. They provide the waitlist as a “soft” reject. How do you tell a legacy parent that their student won’t be accepted?  A waitlist is a softer blow; it’s not a denial.
  2. Some combination of the above factors:

Increasing applications are appealing to colleges, with the accompanying prestige of the perceived increased selectivity.

Recent data points to an increase in waitlists over the past 5 years

My first thought was to examine the correlation between the acceptance rate and the absolute number of possible admissions. I wondered if schools with the lowest acceptance rates would have the highest wait lists.  But the data showed that waitlists were all over the place.  Schools that were accepting a higher percentage of applicants still had very large waiting lists. 


I wanted to take a closer look.  What you will notice from the following chart is that some schools put almost as many students on a waitlist as they accepted, and then only accepted around 2-7% off of the waitlist. 


What I found disturbing was that a few schools, such as Tulane, put a huge number students on their waitlist and accepted no one off of it.  Other schools with higher admit rates put an even greater number of applicants on their waitlist and accepted a good number of them, but still nowhere near the number on the list. Why put students through that torture? Sure, a waitlist, by its definition, should be an opportunity to help a college fill a class late in the cycle, but why put so many on it?


My kid is on the waitlist, what should they do?

What looks like a simple question has become very difficult, as colleges are dealing with their application growth.  Think of it like the shy adolescent who felt somewhat awkward and never thought they would fit in, but now everyone wants their friendship.  Sometimes, in that transitional space, mistakes are made.  But, should you:

  • Write to the school?
  • Visit the school?
  • Call the school?

The answer depends on the school.  Some schools give explicit instructions NOT to contact them.    Many parents will question that, thinking that by contacting the school they can determine if they should still stay on the list and continue waiting.  It is generally accepted that a simple note, addressed to the local admissions rep and telling of the student’s continued interest in the school, is most appropriate. If there is additional, new information or a meaningful award that could enhance their waitlist application, that should also be sent.

Getting the call

If efforts during the “wait” work, you will receive a call saying that you are accepted but must agree with payment and signature, often in a 24-72 hour period.   This is not always an easy decision to act on so quickly, since the student may have already, happily settled on another college. Acceptance to what once seemed to be the school of their dreams, may no longer hold the allure it once did. 

Related recent articles on Waitlist: 

National Public Radio (  College Waitlists often waste would-be students' time. 

Princeton Review:  Wait, Wait, Don't Admit Me, or Will I Ever Get off the Waiting List?


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


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Topics: college admissions, admission advice, college advice, college wait lists

Why you still need a college advisor in a D.I.Y. world

Posted by Neal Schwartz on March 08, 2018


Thanks to shows like "Sweat Equity" and others on the DIY and HGTV networks, we have become accustomed to "Do it yourself."   This DIY movement encompasses financial stock picking, selling homes, fixing things at home, etc.  So, why pay for something when you can get it done for less?   

The more specialized and significant the area, the greater the risk of trying to do it yourself.   When factoring in quality, time, and cost, some DIY attempts may not be too smart.  

While saving money by fixing your own grill, shopping online for a wedding gift, or any other long list of quick and convenient solutions is noteworthy, getting help for some porton of the college process can be the difference between simply "getting in" and getting in with the right "fit."  


Here are 4 reasons why having College advisors is a good investment: 



Reason#1 - The significant cost of college and impact on the student's future is substantial.  

College costs range between $100,000  and $300,000 per student.  Multiply this by the number of children that you have and the cost is clearly substantial.  For many families it may even exceed their home cost. Getting the best return on this investment for your kids' academic and career future is paramount.  If your son or daughter transfers schools, takes longer than four years to graduate or is not employable when they graduate, then the cost can have a huge fiscal and emotional impact.



Reason #2 - parent's are blinded by the greatness of their children

Parents are too emotionally connected to their children and are often blinded by their love. They are too biased and may have an unrealistic view of how their child is perceived by someone else.  Maybe they really will be the next American Idol, or maybe they just like to sing and are completely average. A college advisor will see a student for who they are and what they are truly worth in the marketplace of college admissions. A great college advisor will have an objective opinion and will be able to truly assess a student's strengths.


Reason #3 - there is just too much information to keep track of


The amount of information that colleges provide is available online through many sources.  How will you know what information really matters for your child?  How will you analyze all of the data to make it worthwhile for their college process?  What information matters in the admissions decision overall, and what matters to specific schools?  Is the information that you hear from other parents accurate?  Is it something that was once true, but is no longer true? Is it just hearsay?  Who will guide you with a professional opinion?


reason #4 - you need to assimilate all of the information and make a thoughtful decision

While certain information can be helpful in addressing a single question, it is possible that being too microfocused on one important fact may lead to overlooking an equally important fact.  For example,  a student who may not have a chance at a school using regular decision may have a much better chance at the same school applying early decision. Conversely, a student who over-reaches their early decison choice may be wasting their ED choice.


REASON #5 - your daughter's guidance counselor may not have the time 

Let's assume that your child's guidance counselor has the experience, but may not have the necessary time to spend with your child.  Based on their workload beyond college counseling and the number of students they work with, guidance counselors usually will have a tough time meeting your family requests as you navigate the process.


Fact #6 - A college advisor is objective and can see beyond the "Numbers" and "branding" to get the best fit for the student.


Will a parent feel comfortable letting a student go with their gut, or will they try to inflict their own wants and desires on the student's college selection and decision?  Additionally, many parents and students are strongly influenced by "branding" of colleges and certain college majors.  Although test scores and AP classes are important factors, students can increase their chances of admission by focusing on their college application essays and in communicating their potential contribution to the campus. A student who has been tested with successfully juggling a number of activities outside of school has deomonstrated their ability to succeed in a challenging academic college environment. An advisor should have the student's best interest at heart and will know what colleges are looking for. 


FACT #7 - when a student works with an advisor, the student can begin to take ownership of their future as an adult 

Watching a student mature through the college process is enlightening.   There is a much greater chance that a student will grow with an outside coach than by just working within their home environment and support system.  The expertise that an college advisor can provide to a student is appreciated and can work wonders. 



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


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Topics: college admissions, admission advice, college advice