Question: What would you think is the chance of getting off the waiting list and into Washington and Lee University for a girl as of today?
Waitlist admission can vary dramatically from year to year. A college that takes 100 students off of a waitlist one spring may take none in the following. Colleges use the waitlist to balance the entering class. So sometimes more males enroll than expected and other times it’s more females. So, of course, the odds go up for a girl being accepted from the waitlist in those years when the entering class seems top-heavy with boys.
If you want to know if W&L is currently using the waitlist and, if so, how many more spaces are left to fill, don’t hesitate to call the college (or, better yet, have your daughter do it). You may get something of a “party line” answer (i.e., vague and not entirely satisfying, such as “We expect to have a better idea of our needs in the next two weeks”) but if the college is not using the waitlist at all or if there’s very little waitlist activity remaining, you’ll probably be told this. Whether or not your daughter gives her name when she calls, it won’t help—or hurt—her admission chances. But it should give her a little peace of mind to make this call, if she can get a bit of information on where she stands.
Meanwhile, I assume that she has already written a letter to her regional rep (the W&L staff member who oversees applicants from her high school). If not, she should do that pronto. The letter should express her ongoing interest in the school along with a list of any good news in her life since she sent her application (e.g., improved grades, recent awards, budding interests). If there are any very specific reasons why W&L is a good fit for her (reasons that she hasn’t already shared with the admission committee) then her letter should include these, too.
Most colleges close out their waitlist by the end of June, meaning that they notify those still waiting not to hold out hope. However, many colleges will keep a few waitlisted students hanging on, just in case the “summer melt” (enrolled students who change their minds in July or August) is greater than usual. So if your daughter is very keen on W&L and wants to stick around until the bitter end, she should say that in her letter, too. And this “letter” should be email … time is of the essence!
Posted in College Admissions
Question: My daughter has applied to six different colleges and she has received five rejection letters. She scored very low on her SAT scores, and this maybe the reason why she has not gotten a letter of admission. My daughter is a bright student with good grades. What should we do next? It’s so disappointing, and costly.
I’m sorry to hear about your daughter’s disappointing college results. This can be a very trying time for teenagers and their parents, but please take comfort in the fact that your daughter will still have options. The pain and frustration she’s feeling right now won’t last forever.
Many colleges will welcome a bright student with good grades, despite low test scores, so it sounds like your daughter didn’t get good counseling (sadly, very common these days) or perhaps she ignored the advice she did get. Some guidance counselors underestimate the role that SAT scores can play. At the more selective colleges, applicants often have similar course choices and grades, so test results may end up serving as a “tiebreaker.” Moreover, depending on what you mean by “very low,” it could be that your daughter’s test scores made admission committees worry that she might not be able to handle a demanding college workload.
In any case, if your daughter was admitted to one of her six colleges, then it does sound as if she has an option. This may not be her first-choice school, but since she did apply, it seems as if she should be willing to enroll. There are many posts on the College Confidential discussion forum from students who were forced to attend their “Safety School” but then who went on to thrive there.
It’s not clear to me, however, if she was actually admitted anywhere … or expects that she might yet be. You did say that she received five rejection letters out of six applications but has not gotten a letter of admission. So perhaps she is still waiting and could get good news soon.
If not, here are some next steps to consider:
1. You and your daughter should check out this very valuable list: http://www.nacacnet.org/research/research-data/SpaceSurvey/Pages/SpaceSurveyResults.aspx
It’s the National Association for College Admission Counseling’s 2013 “Space Availability Survey. The colleges on this roster are still accepting applications, even if their deadlines have long passed. Be sure to read the headings at the top of the page carefully so that you don’t confuse colleges that have room for freshmen with those that are only accepting transfers. If you need financial aid, be sure to check that column too in order to confirm that aid, as well as space, is also offered.
As you go through the list, you might want to cross-reference it with this one: http://www.fairtest.org/university/optional It’s FairTest’s list of Test-optional colleges. For instance, you’ll find Juniata College in Pennsylvanaia—one of the Colleges that Change Lives—on BOTH lists. I urge you to check out this school right away.
2. Many of the less-selective colleges or “open admission colleges” (including two-year community colleges) have very late deadlines or no deadlines at all, so your daughter still has time to apply. Even if she’s not happy about taking this route, if she enrolls and does well she can transfer to a more selective school after a year or two … maybe even to one of those places that said “no” already. (Although colleges often ask for SAT scores from prospective transfers, they pay far more attention to the college grades than to the high school SAT’s.)
3. Your daughter might want to consider a gap year. Her time off can include working on improving her test scores and/or reapplying to different colleges, perhaps emphasizing those on the FairTest list. (If you want information on private counseling to help guide you through a new college search, let me know.) Even students who have been admitted to their top-choice colleges often find that a gap year can be a good way to take a break from academics, to explore varied interests, to travel or to earn money before returning to the classroom.
Again, while I’m sure that this is a difficult time for your family, you may find that it ends up in a meant-to-be kind of way. Your daughter could land at a college she loves, even if it wasn’t one where she initially applied.
Posted in College Admissions
Question: Will an ACT composite score of 20 with 8 on the essay secure me admission into a college?
Your ACT composite of 20 is slightly below the national average of about 21.1, but it’s right around the average–or even above it–in many individual states. (See http://www.act.org/newsroom/data/2012/states.html ) Your essay score of 8 is roughly a median score as well.
So, yes, you can certainly be admitted to college with this score.. However, I don’t know where you’re aiming. If the answer is Harvard or Yale, then probably not. But there are many good institutions that will welcome you with this score, assuming that your GPA is also within the acceptable range as well. If you’re not sure which ones might interest you, try College Confidential’s “Supermatch” at http://www.collegeconfidential.com/college_search/ .
You can enter all your preferences for size, location, major, etc. Under the heading near the top that says, “My scores,” select 20 and also “Must Have.” When you check your results list, you should find colleges that accept students with ACT scores like yours and that also meet all or many of your other preferences.
Although you will certainly have options with a 20 on the ACT, you might want to try the test one more time in the fall. The practice you’ve had by taking it once may mean that you do better the second time around. This could mean more college choices for you and possibly more scholarship offers, too.
Posted in College Admissions
Question: My daughter, a high school junior, is planning to apply to some highly selective universities for engineering. She was planning to ask her physics and economics teachers for recommendations. However, her school counselor has told her that, other than Harvey Mudd and MIT, for all other schools she must send recommendations from a math and science teacher. Her math teacher does not know her well enough to write a strong recommendation. What should she do? Please advise
For starters, your guidance counselor is wrong. (Not the first time “The Dean” has said THOSE words!) Most engineering colleges require a recommendation from one math OR science teacher, although your daughter may encounter some programs that require one from a math teacher specifically. However, before she proceeds, she should read the application instructions for all of her target colleges (which can be something of a treasure hunt) to see exactly what is expected. She may find that a math teacher’s rec is not necessary at any of her target schools.
If she does find that a math recommendation is required, she can send it in as a supplementary one and still use the physics and econ teachers as her primary supporters. (In other words, she can send three recs instead of two.) In the “Additional Information” section of her application (or in a letter) she can explain that her math teacher barely knows her which is why she’s sent the extra. Keep in mind, however, that if your daughter will continue to take math next year as a senior, she may have a new teacher who will get to know her by the time that her applications are due. She may even have a teacher for a second time who taught her previously (e.g., freshman year) and who could get to know her better by the college deadlines
But, on another note, even for engineering majors, some of the elite colleges like to see references from junior or senior teachers in “core” subjects that include both the math/science and humanities fields. So, instead of the econ teacher, is there a junior or senior English or history teacher who might be able to tout your daughter’s strengths? If so, I’d suggest using this teacher (plus the physics teacher) rather than econ. But if your daughter feels that her econ teacher is really the top choice, and she can’t think of an English or history teacher who would be up to the task, that should be fine. Going with econ won’t be a deal-breaker. In any case, the lack of a math teacher with the inside scoop on your daughter may end up being a non-issue entirely.
Posted in College Admissions
Question: My child got these SAT scores: Reading 800, Math 800, and Writing 720, with an Essay score of 8. He is a very strong writer, a top student in AP Lit. Somehow he didn’t do well on the essay. Does he need to retake the SAT? Thanks.
“The Dean” recommends that your child NOT re-take the SAT. Given those very strong scores, he would run the risk of having admission officials think that he is an obsessive perfectionist if he were to try the tests again. You shouldn’t worry about the essay score. Many of the most selective colleges don’t use it at all, and it will take a back seat to his 800′s, regardless of where he applies. It’s not as if an 8 is a disaster. Your son may indeed be able to do better, but he definitely doesn’t have to.
Posted in College Admissions
Question: Which one is more important … SAT or class rank? I need to make a decision to go to a high school. One is very good with 4600 students. For sure, it is difficult to be on top. Another school is good too but smaller with 2700 students. The SAT score of the second school is 60 points lower. Which one should I go? Please advise.
If you have good grades in demanding courses but attend a highly competitive high school, college admission officials will be aware of this competition. So you should not shy away from a strong high school for fear that you will not stand out academically.
However, if the average SAT score at the second school is 60 points lower that at the first, that’s no reason to pass up this school. It doesn’t mean that YOUR scores will be 60 points lower. If this school isn’t as competitive as the other one, there may be more weak students there bringing that average down.
It’s a bad idea to choose a high school based on these factors. Instead, consider which school offers an environment that suits you best or which provides other attractions for you (e.g., better sports or better orchestra, more convenient hours or location; a variety of special programs). Ask students at BOTH schools what they like—and don’t—about their school.
Then ask yourself this: If you had already been guaranteed admission at your top-choice college, which one of these high schools would you want to attend? That’s the school you should choose!
Posted in College Admissions
Question: I am trying to decide where to attend college this upcoming Fall. My first option is my dream. a prestigious university in my favorite city. My second option is a much smaller and lesser known school in a smaller city. If the financial situation at both were the same, I would pick the first in a heartbeat.
Unfortunately, I would have to take out 15-20k in loans per year at my dream school. At my second option, I would graduate debt free. I am at the point where I will regret any university I pick; at one, I will regret the debt, the other, the dream lost. I know I could be happy at my second option, but I can’t stop comparing it to my dream.
Where is the line drawn between being optimistic and being foolish? Do I follow my heart or reason? Thank you so much for your advice!
Oy! A damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t decision. Those can be nasty, and –if you’re lucky–you won’t face too many in life. I’m sure this is very difficult for you, but you do seem to be approaching it in a mature and very reasonable way.
Yet, as much as I empathize with your dilemma, I also feel that it’s not appropriate for me–an Internet “Dean”–to weigh in on such a major choice without knowing you or at least a lot more about you.
However, I will share with you the story of “Caitlin,” a terrific and talented young woman in my orbit, who was facing a similar dilemma five years ago. She opted to pass up her dream school (which was Georgetown) to attend Lafayette College because Lafayette had offered her a big merit scholarship and she could graduate debt-free. I reminded her at the time that her four years at Lafayette would go fast and that it wouldn’t be long before she could apply to Georgetown for graduate school.
I also pointed out that she had the potential to be a star at Lafayette. So, although there was no guarantee that she’d be admitted to grad school at Georgetown, she ought to be able to position herself to do so while minimizing the costs of her undergrad education.
By the time Caitlin graduated from Lafayette last year, she had had the opportunity to work closely with faculty members and had earned the college’s highest honor. She had also accrued a long list of graduate school acceptances,including one from Georgetown. But, yet again, she decided to pass on Georgetown to make another choice.
One thing that you may discover in four years is that your “dream school” at age 18 may not be your dream school at age 22. But the debt will dog you regardless. Of course, no matter which college you choose, the other will be your “Road Not Taken,” and you may always wonder if you made the wisest choice.
But, before making ANY choice, here’s one thought: If you attend the pricier college, could you be in the running to be a Resident Advisor, which might cut out your room and board costs? (Some colleges offer deep discounts and even stipends for R.A’s; others are less generous. Also, at some schools, only seniors can have these jobs; sometimes, elsewhere, even sophomores can apply.) Although an R.A. job wouldn’t eliminate all of your annual debt, it might make a reasonable dent in it.
And how about A.P. or I.B. credits? If you enroll at your dream college, might you have enough to skip a semester or even a full year to cut costs?
Another consideration is your prospective major and career path. If you are looking down the road to med school or law school, you’ll probably also have more debt ahead. (That was the aforementioned Caitlin’s situation.) If you’re not thinking grad school, you may not be facing
additional debt, but this could mean you’ll have a harder time repaying your undergrad loans. Certain majors, however (e.g., engineering, computer science) MAY put you in a better spot to start paying off undergrad debt
right away than other majors will. So this has to be factored into the equation as you make the hard decision ahead.
If you want, let me know the names of the two schools in contention and perhaps I’ll have more to add once you do.
Finally, what advice is coming from your parents? Are they encouraging you to take the cheaper school or the more prestigious one? Although this may ultimately be YOUR decision, the peace that comes from it may be at least
partially affected by the level of support you get at home.
Good luck to you as you count down to May 1.
Posted in College Admissions, Financial Aid
Question: I am an international student from Bangladesh and looking to apply for fall 2014. I have been doing a bit of research on U.S schools for higher studies and thus I came to know about Early Decision. I am not looking for top notch schools like MIT, HARVARD or CORNELL because I might have the most possibility of getting rejected as only the best students from our country make it into those schools. Nevertheless, I did find a lot of schools that could meet up with me in every aspect. University of Rochester, by far fits me really well.
But now, when I came to know about ED, I got a bit confused. If I am admitted to the college but do not get the aid I need to attend, am I obligated to go anyway (and how could I)? Can I negotiate for more money? Thank you.
When a student applies to a binding Early Decision program and is also a candidate for financial aid, then the student may withdraw from the ED commitment if the aid award is insufficient. But this must be done almost immediately, usually within about three weeks of receiving the verdict. An applicant cannot wait until spring to compare the ED aid offer with other offers.
This can make Early Decision tricky for international students because some colleges have no need-based aid for international students, only “merit aid.” And, commonly, merit aid awards aren’t determined until the spring, well after Early Decision students must commit—or not—to their ED school.
With U. of Rochester, however, there’s good news and bad news. The good news is that, although Rochester gives only merit-aid (not need-based) to international applicants, it IS possible to apply Early Decision because ED candidates will receive a merit-aid determination shortly after receiving an admissions verdict. So, as an international applicant requiring financial assistance, you CAN apply to U. of Rochester, as long as you understand that you will have to back out of the “binding” commitment promptly if you are accepted but without sufficient funds. There may be a little room for negotiation if the college comes close to meeting your need, but probably not a lot.
The bad news is that the top merit award at U. of Rochester provides full tuition, but students must pay room, board, and other expenses themselves. So if you family does not have the means to cover at least part of your college costs, then Rochester is not a wise choice for you. (And, at the time that you apply, you will have to supply documentation of the funds that your family has available to cover your college costs.)
Early Decision can actually be a smart choice for international students who need money, if the college in question provides a financial decision at the time of the admissions decision, as Rochester will. Colleges have limited budgets for international aid and often want to spend that money on students who really want to be there. Moreover, if you wait until the Regular Decision round to apply to a college you like, you may find out that another student (or several)from your country got admitted and received financial aid, which decreases the odds that you will be admitted and aided, too.
Note also that the bar is always set very high for international applicants needing financial aid. This means that, even if your grades and test scores mesh with the norms at U. of Rochester (or at any other college you’re considering), you may not be accepted because you need money. I can’t emphasize enough how competitive college admissions can be for international students seeking financial aid, especially those who need a lot. So do be wary as you make your college list. If you’re seeking financial assistance, make sure that you focus on colleges where you are likely to be one of the top students on campus.
In addition, you may learn about certain American colleges because other students from Bangladesh have gone there or are applying there. And that’s definitely a good way to add options to your list. But … your chances of getting aid will improve if you apply to places where your country is not highly represented in the applicant pool. Colleges on the East and West coasts tend to be popular for international students, so don’t overlook the middle of the U.S. where there are some very fine schools that are eager to attract more candidates from your home country. If you’re willing to study on a campus where Bangladesh isn’t well represented, this could give you a bit of an edge at decision and financial aid time.
Hope that helps. Good luck
Posted in College Admissions, Financial Aid
Question: My daughter will be entering high school this fall, and her father is considering applying for a Fulbright to Sweden, which would fall either during her sophomore or junior year. After going through the admissions process with her brother, who she considers brilliant, and seeing the difficulty he had, she is very concerned that it will hurt her admissions chances at a selective school. And, I think her concerns are legitimate. There are the obvious advantages that living abroad for a year can give a young person. But, there is also the concern that her grades will tumble because she’ll be working in a different language and a different system. My daughter’s intangibles are very strong, but she will have to work hard for every A. She’s white, middle class and has no “hook”. So, bottom line, how would an admissions staff view this kind of applicant? Also, assuming the Fulbright is a go, what advice would you have for my daughter? Thanks so much.
The year in Sweden sounds like a marvelous experience for your daughter, and it could even have a positive impact on her college outcomes, despite the pitfalls.
If she attends a Swedish school (and not an American or international school where the primary language of instruction is in English), admission officials will give her wiggle-room for lower grades … not only while she’s in Sweden but also, to some degree, when she returns. However, if you feel that she won’t be learning key concepts in major subjects like science and math while she’s away, you might consider enrolling her in online classes, either concurrent to her Swedish classes or in the summer. This should ease her transition back to a U.S. high school.
You also might want to help your daughter develop “extracurricular activities” that she can begin now and continue in Sweden. Her year away may take her off of the track to leadership positions in school organizations, but the most selective colleges see more Key Club presidents and National Honor Society secretaries than they know what to do with anyway. So perhaps your daughter can hone in on outside interests that she can do independently, both here and abroad, such as poetry-writing, photography, jewelry-making, bird-watching, etc. In fact, colleges could be especially interested if these endeavors were to take a Scandinavian twist … i.e., if the poems, photos, jewelry, etc. reflect what your daughter has learned or observed in Sweden.
When it comes time for your daughter to apply to colleges, she will probably be white, middle-class and hookless, regardless of what you decide to do about the overseas option. But having that year abroad will help your daughter to stand out in a crowd, at least a tiny bit. It will also be a horizon-expanding and possibly character-building experience that she wouldn’t otherwise get and which should trump any possible concerns you might have about the bumps it could create on the road to college.
Posted in College Admissions
Question: I’m going to be applying to some very selective schools next fall, but I’m not sure what I want to major in. I have had national-level achievements in both the sciences and humanities. I know that with some schools (such as Princeton or Columbia), I’ll have to apply either to the engineering school or the arts/humanities school. I am a girl and I have a perfect sat score on Critical Reading but a 690 on math. I will take the bio, literature, and Math 2 SAT II’s (I’ve already received an 800 on World History). Although I’m not yet sure what I really want to major in, would it improve my chances to apply to the engineering school of Princeton or Columbia? Or could it hurt them since my math scores, while good, are not excellent?
A higher percentage of female applicants will be admitted to the engineering schools at Princeton and Columbia than to the colleges of arts & sciences.
BUT .. applying to engineering might be a bad choice for you for a couple reasons.
The first is the one you’ve cited … a math score that is below par for the top engineering colleges. However, if you retake the SAT and do somewhat better, or if you have a good score on the Math 2 Subject Test, then you can revisit this issue.
I would also recommend taking Subject Tests (or AP Tests) in physics and/or chemistry, if you are aiming for a highly selective engineering college. Princeton actually requires one subject test in physics or chem for its engineering candidates. Columbia says candidates can choose from among bio, physics, and chemistry. Although you would meet that requirement with just the bio Subject Test, I think you might disadvantage yourself if you haven’t taken chemistry and/or physics, too, because many of your “competitor” applicants will have earned high scores in those areas.
The other reason why you shouldn’t apply to engineering schools is that you aren’t committed to engineering. Although you would have some space in the engineering curriculum for liberal arts electives, engineering programs don’t allow a lot wiggle room to explore new fields.
But what if you think you might want engineering but can’t tell until you try it? Here’s some good advice from the FAQ section of the Princeton engineering Web pages:
I’m an A.B. student but I might be interested in engineering. How do I keep my options open?
Take Physics 103-104 or 105-106 (unless you have AP credit based on scores of 5 on both parts of the Physics C exam) and Math 103 or higher (depending on your preparation) in freshman year. The other two courses can advance you toward the A.B. degree, so maybe a language course and a humanities or writing course. If you really want to take the full B.S.E. program, you could also take chemistry, but we can usually work that in later unless you want to do CBE. If you’re interested in Computer Science, take CS 126 sometime in freshman year. Come see Dean Bogucki as soon as possible.
While I know that it is daunting to see how many outstanding high school seniors are turned away from Ivy and other “elite” colleges each year, and I realize that it is tempting to do whatever you believe will help you to beat the odds, I don’t think that engineering sounds like the right route for you … at least not at present. If your math score goes up, if you do well on physics and/or chem tests, and if you have a chance (maybe over the summer?) to explore engineering and to decide that it’s really the path you want, then maybe my advice will change. But for now, I recommend steering clear of engineering schools but considering some of those prerequisite courses as a freshman so that you can leave the option open.
Posted in College Admissions