The Big Decision

The time for the “big decision” for high school seniors is quickly approaching. For those who have been accepted to more than one college, it will soon be time to make the final choice.

Now is a good time to visit or re-visit the campuses and surrounding areas of the colleges you are considering. It is time to ask and get answers to any final questions. Here are some things to consider:

  •  Academics – Review the core curriculum courses and the required and available courses in likely majors and minors. Consider class size; opportunities for internships, research, a senior project, and travel abroad; accessibility to professors, and support in finding a job and/or graduate school when you finish your undergraduate studies.
  • Social – Consider school environment (e.g., location, size, weather, distance from home), as well as your social, political, extra-curricular and religious needs.
  • Financial – Know how much tuition, room and board, books, travel, and miscellaneous expenses will cost. Make sure you understand your financial aid package, including how much you will need to pay back each month on loans and how long it will take you to pay back those loans.

What other tips would you give high school seniors faced with the big decision?

Five Things for High School Seniors To Do Now

For high school seniors, college application deadlines are just around the corner. Here are five things to do now, to be ready for fall application deadlines.

1. Finalize the college list and know the due dates. Generally, I recommend that students apply to no more than nine colleges, including stretch, match and safe schools. College application deadlines vary, and some schools have application due dates as early as October. For each school on your final college list, decide whether to apply early decision, early action or regular decision. Record the application and financial aid due dates.

2. Schedule Fall tests. If you haven’t taken the SAT or ACT, or want to take them again, check that the scores will be available by the college due dates, and then register. October is often the last test date that will be scored in time.

3. Schedule college visits. Many colleges use “enthusiasm to attend” as one of their admissions criteria. Visiting is an excellent way to demonstrate your enthusiasm and to learn more about the college. If possible, schedule an interview when you visit.  You may be able visit some colleges that are in session, before high school resumes. 

4. Get teacher recommendations. If you did not ask teachers for recommendations in the Spring, do it as soon as school starts. Notify your guidance counselor if you will be applying to schools early admission, since they also need to prepare a recommendation and get other materials ready for your applications.

5. Finish applications, including essays early. Your applications are critical and should be treated as such. Your essays will take time to write and revise.  Plan enough time to revise each essay three or four times.  Make sure to proofread your applications, including essays carefully.

University Of Georgia (Athens, Georgia)

 On Friday, I had lunch with the NJ representative for the University of Georgia (UGA), along with about ten other college admissions consultants. I thought I’d share some of what I heard about University of Georgia:

  • If you are thinking of applying, make sure to take at least 4 years of science in high school. This is a requirement.
  •  If you are planning to apply Early Action (EA), don’t get caught snoozing. The EA application is due on October 15th.
  • Thirty per cent of students are from outside of Georgia. It isn’t easier or harder to get in if you are from outside of Georgia.
  • The Foundation Fellowship provides about 20 students a year with a significant scholarship, opportunities for study abroad, research, conference participation and enrichment (e.g., Honors program, seminars, mentoring). For out-of-state students this translates to a $15,700 stipend (in addition to a Regents Out-of-State Tuition Waiver). If you are interested in this opportunity you must apply for it by November 1.
  • Out of state students who study abroad, pay in-state tuition that semester.
  • Athens, where the college is located, is a college town of a 100,000 with a big music scene, about 60 miles from Atlanta
  • The college is big: about 26,000 undergraduate students, 605 acres, 170 majors, 600 student organizations. In the Fall of 2013, electrical and mechanical engineering majors are being added.
  • Students are required to live on campus their freshman year. While housing is guaranteed all four years, most students move off-campus after the first year.
  • The info on accepted students is: Mid-50% range for GPA of admitted students : 3.74-4.04 (the GPA that UGA calculates based on the core courses taken in HS, and looking at the actual grades on the transcript).  Mid-50% range for the SAT CR and M: 1190-1360.  Mid-50% range for the SAT Writing: 580-690.  Mid-50% range for the ACT: 27-31.  Average number of AP/IB courses: Approximately 6
  • The honors program enrolled 531 students for the fall of 2011 with: Mid-50% range for GPA of admitted students : 4.0 – 4.2 (the GPA that UGA calculates based on the core courses taken in HS, and looking at the actual grades on the transcript). Mid-50% range for the SAT CR and M: 1430-1490. Average SAT Writing: 712.  Mid-50% range for the ACT: 32-33
  • For more information on the college, check out their blog on




Barnard College (New York, NY)

If you are looking for a small women’s liberal arts college in New York City, Barnard College may be right for you. My two nieces attended Barnard and loved it.

The school is located in Morningside Heights neighborhood of Manhattan and can be reached by subway (the 1 train to the 116th Street – Columbia University stop). The campus has a variety of building styles, is one block wide and goes from West 116th Street to West 120th Street. The Barnard campus is on one side of Broadway and the Columbia University campus is on the other side.

Barnard is the home to about 2400 undergraduate women, with 95% of them living in the dorms on campus. The freshman dorms are arranged around a quad. Housing is guaranteed all four years, as long as you don’t leave the dorms and decide you want to come back.

All students must take two first year foundation courses (English and a seminar) and nine area requirements. Barnard offers 50 majors and their students can pursue special degree programs with a number of other schools in the area including Columbia University, Julliard, the Jewish Theological Seminary and the Manhattan School of Music. Barnard students can cross-register for courses at Columbia, and Columbia students (male or female) can cross-register for courses at Barnard. The Barnard classes are small and are never taught by graduate teaching assistants.

Barnard students take advantage of all New York City offers in terms of culture, education, nightlife, and internships. Study abroad, internships, research, and volunteering are popular. There are as more internship opportunities at Barnard than students. Barnard students also can participate in clubs and sports on their own campus or at Columbia. Barnard students participate in Division I, Ivy League Varsity sports in the Columbia/Barnard Consortium.

Some memorable annual campus events include:

  • Midnight Breakfast – Deans and administrators serve the students breakfast the night before the beginning of finals
  • The Big Sub – Students eat a 700 foot sub sandwich
  • President Obama speaking at the 2012 Barnard graduation.

About 21 per cent of Barnard applicants are accepted. All financial aid is need-based and for US students, it is need-blind. The college meets 100% of need and tries to keep loans to a minimum. There is no merit aid.

If you are a female high school student, does Barnard sound appealing to you?

College visits in late August or early September

It’s best to visit colleges when class is in session. You get more of a feel for the school and its students.

If you have a colleges that you would like to visit now, find out when the Fall semester college classes resume. You can do this by calling each college or by going to their Website and searching for the “academic calendar”. If the college classes resume before your high school opens, you may have an ideal opportunity to visit a few colleges which are in session in late August or early September.

A few colleges in the Northeast which begin classes before Labor Day are Clark University, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Quinnipiac University, and the University of Connecticut.