College Planning Books

I just finished preparing a list of books for independent educational consultants and the families they serve for the Higher Education Consultants Association website.

These books would be great reference material for you, if you are a high school student or a parent of a high school student:

Dispelling College Myths

  • Where You Go Is Not Who’ll You Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania by Frank Bruni

How College Admissions Works

  • Who Gets In and Why: A Year Inside College Admissions by Jeffrey Selingo

College Selection

  • College Match: A Blueprint for Choosing the Right College by Steven R. Antonoff

College Financial Concerns

  • The College Solution: A Guide for Everyone Looking for the Right School at the Right Price by Lynn O’Shaughnessy
  • The Price You Pay For College: An Entirely New Road Map for the Biggest Financial Decision Your Family Will Ever Make by Ron Lieber

College Majors

  • Book of Majors by the College Board

General College Guides

  • Fiske Guide to Colleges by Edward B. Fiske
  • The Princeton Review The Best 3xx Colleges by Robert Franek (xx is a 2-digit number that changes with different editions of the book)
  • America’s Best Colleges for B Students, A College Guide for Students Without Straight A’s by Tamra B. Orr
  • Colleges That Change Lives by Loren Pope, Revised by Hilary Masell Oswald

Specialty College Guides

  • The K&W Guide to Colleges for Students with Learning Differences by Marybeth Kravets and Imy Wax
  • Creative Colleges: A Guide for Student Actors, Artists, Dancers, Musicians and Writers by Elaina Loveland
  • BS/MD Programs – The Complete Guide by Todd A. Johnson

College Application Essays

  • College Essay: Conquering the College Admissions Essay in 10 Steps by Alan Gelb
  • College Essay Essentials by Ethan Sawyer

Going to College Advice

  • The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into in College by Harlan Cohen

College To Career – For High School and College Students

Most high school and college students fall into one of three categories with regard to career:

  1. They are all set to dive into a specific career path.
  2. Their career is unknown, but they have a specific subject they really enjoy.
  3. They have no idea of a career or a subject of special interest.

If you fall into the first category, you may want to investigate the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook to learn what level of education is needed for the career you have chosen, what the job forecast is for that career, and what the job typically pays.

If you are in the second category, you may want to find out what career options you might have if you major in that subject in college by checking out a site like this.

If you have no idea of a career or subject of interest, it might be best to determine your personality type using a Myers Briggs personality test and then see how the careers for that personality type appeal to you.

Whichever group you are in, it is good to get first hand career exposure for careers you are considering by doing as many of the following as soon as possible:

  • Talk with someone in that career
  • Shadow someone in that career for a few hours or a few days
  • Volunteer or work part time in that career or a related one to see if and how you like it
  • Do research or a capstone project related to your career
  • Take advantage of service learning related to your career (i.e., a class with a community service component) to gain some real world experience
  • Join a student organization related to your career.
Hands-on activities and projects by engineering students at Olin College

Be sure to take advantage of the career guidance available in high school and college. For example, your college advisor or a professor in your major can help you by:

  • Talking about the career with you and answering questions you may have
  • Providing guidance regarding what classes to take
  • Providing you research opportunities
  • Introducing you to potential employers
  • Providing references and letters of recommendation for graduate school or jobs.

Don’t forget to take advantage of your colleges Career Services offices which provides services like:

  • Career assessments
  • Help with resumes, cover letters, and interviews
  • Listings of internships, co-op opportunities and jobs
  • Career fairs
  • Graduate school application assistance including preparation for exams (e.g., GRE, LSAT, MCAT).

You can help yourself in your career search and growth by:

  • Strengthening you writing, speaking, and critical thinking skills
  • Joining professional organizations for your profession
  • Networking (e.g., with alumni, with local business people, with local chamber of commerce members)
  • Using social media like LinkedIn to aid in your job search.

While you are in college, don’t forget to keep your grades up and make use of these services so you can do your best academically:

  • Study groups
  • Professor’s office hours
  • Tutoring
  • Writing Center
  • Math Center
  • Learning Differences Resources (if appropriate).

Computer Science Woes

At many colleges and universities, the Computer Science major is impacted, that is the major continually gets more eligible applicants than it can accommodate. This is a problem that has existed for several years and appears only to be getting worse. At the Cal State University campuses “impacted” is also a designation that allows the Computer Science department to require a higher GPA or specific major preparation as a way to reduce the pool of applicants to those who are best prepared to enter the major.

If you or your student wants to major in Computer Science, you will want to read these three articles to better understand the situation:

  • Here’s what happened with Computer Science majors at Haverford, Princeton, Bryn Mawr, Stanford, Pomona, and San Francisco State in 2018.
  • Here’s an analysis of the Computer Science teaching shortage from 2019 that appeared in the Communications of the ACM, the monthly journal of the Association for Computing Machinery. It also explains how different colleges including RIT, UT Austin, Pitt, UIUC and RPI have tried to address the teaching shortage.
  • Maybe you think I am just talking about the past. Here is a piece from June 2022 on the demand for the Computer Science major at the University of Washington and the reasons for their inability to meet that demand.
University of Washington

Can I Get In There?

If you are wondering what your chances are at getting accepted to a particular college or university here are four things to consider:

  1. What percent of students do they accept?
  2. What criteria are important to that college?
  3. How well do you meet the criteria?
  4. Will the major you have selected have an impact on whether you will be accepted?

What percent of students do they accept?  

The higher the percent of students the college accepts, the better your chance for admission. If the percent acceptance is very small, your chance of admission is very small.

Percent acceptance ranges between 2 or 3 % and 100%. Schools that accept 100% include many 2-year community colleges and some 4-year colleges.

Some schools accept a much different percent of applicants depending on whether the student applies as an early decision, early action or regular decision applicant. Percent acceptance may also vary by gender or ethnicity. In-state and out-of-state acceptance rates vary significantly and many public colleges and universities.

What criteria is important?

Important criteria may be reflected in the school’s mission statement. It also may be reflected in published data (see collegedata.com) which indicates how important (i.e., very important, important, considered, or not considered) each of the following is to the particular college:

  • Rigor of secondary school record – Rigor considers the number of years of a particular subject that you have taken.  Colleges often specify the number of years required or recommended for a particular subject like English, Math, Science, Social Studies, and Foreign Language. Rigor also looks at the level of the course you took (e.g., college prep, honors, AP, IB) as compared to what your high school offered.
  • Academic GPA
  • Standardized Tests
  • Class rank (if available)
  • Recommendations
  • Application essay
  • Application interview
  • Level of applicant’s interest
  • Extracurricular activities
  • Volunteer work
  • Particular talent/ability
  • Character/personal qualities
  • First generation to attend college
  • State residency
  • Geographic residence
  • Relation with alumnus
  • Religious affiliation/commitment
  • Ethnicity
  • Work Experience.

How well do you meet the criteria?

For every criteria that is very important, important or considered by a particular college, consider how you will measure up.

For example, consider how your grades and course rigor and how your SAT/ACT test scores compare to the students the college accepts. If your high school has Naviance or SCOIR, you can use scattergrams to get an idea about how your grades and test scores stack up to others from your high school that applied to a particular college or university.

Will the major you have selected have an impact on whether you will be accepted?

The acceptance rate at some universities may also be dependent to the college which you are applying. For example, the College of Engineering may be more competitive than the College of Arts and Science.

Some majors which are in high demand and/or which there are few professors may be “impacted” majors. They may be more difficult to gain acceptance into than other majors. You may get accepted to the college or university, but not for your first choice major. At some schools, no one is accepted directly for a particular major. Students can only declare that major after meeting certain criteria as a college student (e.g., completing certain college courses with a particular grade).

Conclusion

Be realistic about your chances of admission. Be sure to include colleges with a high and medium probability of acceptance, not just colleges with low probability of acceptance.

If you need or want assistance with the college selection and application process, work with an experienced independent educational consultant like me. I help students select colleges which meet their academic, social and financial needs and I work with them throughout the application process to make sure they put their best foot forward in their applications.

Colleges Still Accepting Students

It’s May 2. Yesterday was National College Decision Day, the deadline to select the college you will attend this fall and to make a deposit. 

However, if you are still looking for an undergraduate college for the Fall, go to nacacnet.org and review “College Opening Update.” Currently, the site lists 337 colleges with openings, and the list is updated daily. You can search the site by state (or country) or several other criteria.

When I searched by state for colleges in Pennsylvania with openings, I found a mix of 33 public and private colleges listed alphabetically by college name. For each of these colleges the following information was provided: college name, whether they are public or private school, the size category, whether they are accepting freshmen or transfers, whether housing or financial aid are available, a contact person, email address, phone number and website.

For example, the first entry looked like this:

Albright College
( PA )

Enrollment: Private,non-profit
1,000 – 4,999

Freshman: Yes
Transfer: Yes
Housing:
 Yes
Financial Aid: Yes

Contact: Jennifer Williamson admission@albright.edu

Phone:  (610) 921-7700
Website:  https://www.albright.edu/home/

Albright College

25 Things to Do After Getting Accepted Early Decision

Congratulations on your early decision acceptance. Here are 25 things to do:

Follow college’s instructions that came with your acceptance.
Stop work on any other college applications.
Withdraw any other applications you have submitted to by emailing the admissions office. Include your name, high school, and a brief note that you were accepted early decision to a binding program and you will be attending that school. 
Follow your high school’s procedure for recording your acceptance.
Thank your high school guidance counselor and those who wrote letters of recommendation for you.
Look for outside scholarships.
Get a meningococcal conjugate vaccine if you will be living in a residence hall. If you received it before their 16th birthday, you will need a booster shot for maximum protection before going to college.
Request that an official final high school transcript be sent to your early decision college. This can’t be sent until the current school year is over.
Send ACT/Sat score officially through the testing agency if it was previously only self-reported. 
Take any pre-tests required before registering for fall classes.
Determine if you can receive credit for college level work you took while in high school and submit any paperwork needed (e.g., send official AP scores or official transcript from dual enrollment courses)
Review course catalog and register for fall classes in accordance with college’s directions.
Complete financial aid verification process, if necessary. 
Accept or decline the loans you have been offered. 
Complete loan counseling online for any loans you are accepting. 
Sign master promissory note for any loans you are accepting. 
Consider finding a summer job.
Submit housing deposit and enrollment deposit.
Sign up for summer orientation.
Confirm freshmen move-in date and make your travel plans. 
Purchase items needed for college living. 
Check student portal and email daily.
If you don’t already have one, open a bank account.
Look into getting a state ID card if you don’t have one and don’t have a driver’s license. 
Consider reading a book like “The Naked Roommate” and/or “How to Survive Your Freshman Year” before college starts.

The Challenge of Transitioning to College: Professors

Guest Post by Alexander Merrill, Owner of Alliance Tutoring, Greenwich, CT

That face is still burnt into my memory, a photograph that will never fade: Professor Judy Smith, her granite features nestled into the corner of memory cluttered with lessons learned. I had signed up for her Native American Literature class in the fall of my sophomore year at Kenyon, or rather I had attended the class the first day and got her to sign a slip of paper that allowed me entry.

I was not nearly responsible enough to know when the deadline for course sign-ups was, much less grasp its importance or impact. “Native American Literature” sounded interesting to me. I liked Geronimo, the Battle of Little Bighorn and Pocahontas, so this class would do well enough, I figured. I still had no idea what to major in, but English classes were decent for me, so why not? Smith seemed all right to me at first glance, not uninteresting and a reasonable enough person on the surface. Besides, it fit into my schedule during an afternoon Monday/Wednesday/Friday slot, allowing me to retain my sleep-in schedule, by far the biggest consideration in course selection.

Freshman year had been a breeze. I had been crushed at Exeter with 5 hours of homework crippling every night (there was a class of student at Exeter that never left their rooms, only to go to CVS to get crates of water and bags of mini-pretzels, just to get Bs). The days of class had been equally arduous, heckled as much by classmates as teachers, who tended to hang back and watch the carnage with wry smiles behind their folded hands. So I was academic concrete. Besides, I had taken the equivalent of all AP classes my senior year: Bio, English, History, Calc AB. So at Kenyon, to ease the transition, I “cleverly” signed up for all the same classes: Intro Bio, Intro English, Intro History, and Intro Calc AB. I essentially repeated my senior year of highschool, doing about 20 hours of classroom work all year to get a B+ average (Dad, if you’re reading this, which you probably are, I’m so sorry….). So I delayed my reckoning one year, which I suppose actually saved me, ironically, given I had a chance to figure out social dynamics, extra-curriculars, fraternities, and… well, things like where the bathrooms were (underrated!).

Unfortunately, in my late-teenage arrogance, I figured that the same lackadaisical approach would work just fine sophomore year, given I had skirted the system successfully the first year. And so it was that one afternoon in October, I walked into two classes on a Wednesday afternoon that had blue book exams for which I hadn’t studied. Not only had I not studied for them, I hadn’t read a single word of any of the books that the tests covered (or any of the sparknotes!). The first was a Shakespeare class, the second was Smith’s Native American literature class, the hot stove that would leave its singing mark.

Though I BSed my way through, I received a D on both exams, probably generous given that I said basically nothing for several hours but brain vomit. It was a call from the metaphorical front desk. The only grade below a C+ I had gotten before that was the Chem class I took at Exeter (a nightmare for another tale). My current approach was not going to work anymore. The party was officially over…except on Saturdays, nothing could have stopped that.

Following the episode, I turned the volume on my studies. By large decibels. I read every single word of every book from that day forward for both classes, studied the reading guides, attended every class, took notes, dressed snappily. The second test rolled around and I was exceptionally well-prepared. I destroyed the blue book exams, proudly I walked out with the satisfaction of effort winning over adversity. But then I got the grades. Shakespeare: A, excellent work. Native American Literature: D. Not a D+ or D-, a flat D. She didn’t like me. Perhaps she didn’t like how smug I had been. Perhaps she didn’t like the number of classes I had missed early on, my orientation, my gender, how I looked at the clock too much, how I dressed in clothing a little too large, that my eyes were slightly askew. I don’t know. It didn’t matter, not even a little. She was bearing a grudge and that was all.

I went in to meet with her during office hours, my bluster high. I pointed out the argument I had made, the accuracy of my analysis, my knowledge of the details; I also committed Satan’s worst sin: I argued that her red marks, blood on the page, were inaccurate and just downright wrong. This is not the right thing to do…. She was intransigent, unmoved, her iron jaw locked, the steely look of utter distaste for my entire existence dripping from her inert features; her gray locks cut as neatly as a freshly cut lawn, indifferent to the world of such stray grasshoppers.

The next exam, D. The final exam, D. The class, D (though I continued in all due diligence). Injustice roiled my stomach all semester, detestation that still lingers in my memories 20 years later– blame and regret. At one point I even petitioned the department over the grade, though I later withdrew the petition when I realized the truth: PROFESSORS HAVE COMPLETE IMMUNITY. Like complete. They’re tenured and untouchable. Not only was brown-nosing appreciated and revered by peers and professors in college. It was necessary. It was survival.

This is not to vilify, most of them were very nice, very understanding, motivating, even empowering and life altering (Professor Klein, looking at you, big guy. You’re a freaking god!). But watch out for the Professor Smith’s of the world. Your relationships with your professors take on a more peer-like feel, and similar to your peer relationships in high school, if you don’t manage them well… it’s down the existential sinkhole.

About the Author:

Alexander has taught English, coached, and dorm-parented for nearly 20 years at Dartmouth College, The King School, Kingswood-Oxford, Philips Andover and The Taft School. He is an expert at the college application process, including college essay writing, standardized test preparation, and the recommendation process. He has tutored hundreds of adolescent teens and young adults from middle school through college level on all spectrums, behaviorally and academically. He attended Philips Exeter Academy and received an undergrad degree from Kenyon College and a Masters Degree from Dartmouth College.  He lives in Middlebury, CT with his three rug rats and wife, Alexa.

Four High School Graduation Gift Ideas

Are you wondering what to get a high school graduate as a graduation gift? Here are 4 practical gift ideas for a high school graduate who will be attending a residential college in the fall:

  1. College apparel (e.g., a hoodie) from the college they plan to attend in the Fall
  2. The book “The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into in College” by Harlan Cohen for advice about dealing with the day to day “surprises” they are likely to encounter at college.
  3. A gift certificate for a store like Bed, Bath and Beyond to purchase college dorm necessities like XL sheets, a shower tote, and shower shoes.
  4. A photography session to capture important events and people (e.g., high school graduation, graduation party, close relatives and friends). If you are looking for a central Jersey photographer, contact April Ludwig Photography at info@aprilludwig.com.

Gratitude for U.S. College Education

With Thanksgiving approaching, here are three things I am grateful for regarding college education in the United States:

  1. There are colleges available in the United States for any high school graduate who would like to attend.
  2. There are so many different colleges that allow all kinds of students to find a college that meets their academic, social and financial needs.
  3. Students can be undecided about their major or change their mind about their major while in college.
These three things make the American college system unique.
What are you grateful for this Thanksgiving?