I recently returned from a trip to visit 9 colleges in 5 days. While it was a whirlwind trip, it reinforced my belief that students should do their best to visit campuses when they can to get a better understanding of what college is like. I have been a college counselor for a number of years and I am still surprised by the things I uncover during a campus visit, even when I have been there before. Colleges are always adding new programs, building new facilities, and cultures can change over time. While attending regional information sessions, reading guidebooks and looking at websites can help, there is nothing like setting foot on campus to truly understand what each campus provides. I know it can be difficult to travel across the country, but a lot can be learned about college in general by looking at local options. Learn about a Liberal Arts college by heading over to Occidental; see how you can puruse your artistic passions through a tour of Cal Arts; or simply get a feel for school spirit by heading to a local college football game. Each one of these experiences will surely be worth the investment of time.
I was fortunate to participate on a great panel entitled Online Activities that Impress College Admissions a few weeks ago. This event was part of a Digital Citizenship Conference put on by Safe, Smart & Social, an organization that provides conferences, parent support and school assemblies regarding student safety online. You can find excerpts of the event here.
As Seniors begin their college applications and Juniors build their college lists, parents should be identifying how they are going to pay for their child's education. The Motley Fool has released a quick and informative interview with finance expert Dan Caplinger that will help walk you through some of the basics. You can view the film here.
The ACT will be revamping their score reports beginning in the 2016-2017 school year. As you can see in the image below, students will be provided with more detailed information about specific subsets within the larger fields of Math, English, Science and Reading. Each subset will include a breakdown of how students scored (percentages) and their "readiness" score which has to do with their predicted college success.
The UC system recently unveiled that they are moving away from the 2 questions of old, to a system which allows students to answer their choice of 4 questions out of 8 options. The 8 essay options surround the age-old college essay standbys of leadership, challenge, creativity and individuality, but in a way that is more straightforward than in years past. You are limited to 350 words for the essays, so you have to be brief, but the total word count should be roughly the same as the two old essays combined. You can find the list of new UC Essay prompts here.
With all the pressure placed on getting into "elite" colleges, New York Times' columnist Frank Bruni provides some interesting points during an interview with WBUR Boston that might let you relax a bit.
The UC System has issued their dates for admissions notifications for those who have applied as Freshman and Transfers for the 2016-2017 school year.
Berkeley: Mid-Feb. & Late March
Irvine: Early March (rolling thereafter)
Los Angeles: Late March
Merced: March 2 (rolling thereafter)
Riverside: Early March (rolling thereafter)
San Diego: Mid-March
Santa Barbara: Week of March 20
Santa Cruz: March 15
Berkeley: Late April
Davis: Late April
Irvine: Mid-April (rolling thereafter)
Los Angeles: Late April
Merced: March 4 (rolling thereafter)
Riverside: Early March (rolling thereafter)
San Diego: Late April
Santa Barbara: Week of March 20 (rolling thereafter)
Santa Cruz: March 17 (rolling thereafter)
If you carefully read your acceptance letter, you might notice some language along the lines of "....conditionally admitted". Many students skip right over this part and jump online to post the good news. While you should take some time to celebrate, keep in mind that schools can rescind an offer of admission. Should you worry if your A in AP English Comp. switched to a B? Not really, but if any of your classes drop to a failing grade, or there is a significant overall decline, this is something that can lead to some raised eyebrows and the potential removal of an offer. Other issues may include changing your schedule of classes or behavioral infractions. While there is pressure to have the discipline questions removed from the Common Application, they still remain and mid-year or optional reports can include revisions to the counselors initial recommendation. Don't let "senioritis" take hold and keep up the good work!
Starting next Fall, the process for the FAFSA will be changing. The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) will transition from using your most recent tax information and estimates to using PPY information. PPY stands for prior-prior year, and references the tax information that will be used to fill out the FAFSA. The FAFSA currently requires tax information from the previous year and is open as of January 1st. As of October 1st of 2016, students will complete the FAFSA using information from two years prior, or their "Prior-Prior Year". In other words, seniors graduating in Spring 2017 would file the FAFSA using tax data from 2015, which would be available to them as of October of 2016. This should hopefully ease the process for filing the FAFSA, but we are not sure what the impacts to financial aid deadlines may be. Hopefully, the impact to actual application deadlines should not necessarily be impacted.