Saturday, October 19, 2019

Colleges Care How You Fit in Your High School Profile


True or False: Your complete college application
 is all about you.


There is an 800-pound gorilla in the room many aspiring students and their parents never notice: the High School Profile. Read your school’s profile and learn how to use that tool to make your college application stand out.

High school profiles contain a wealth of information that admissions’ officers rely upon when comparing disparate schools.

Profiles can include information about the community, education level of parents, participation percentages of low-income programs such as Title I or AVID, accreditations, institutional memberships and special recognitions. Each profile outlines the curriculum, available academic programs, special diplomas and any independent/nontraditional study choices. Admissions’ officers closely look at your school’s open-or-selective enrollment policies for honors/AP courses and a description of participation.

There are many clues within the school’s grading, weighting and ranking procedures. Also importantly, there is a history of SAT and ACT distribution and ranges. Admissions officers often look at a 31 ACT score in one school district quite differently than a 31 from a district on the other end of a state. Profiles also share ranges of AP and National Merit scores and winners--numbers that matter to universities when inviting out-of-state students. Some high schools evolve as a regular funnel to specific out-of-state colleges so check out the listing of colleges attended by your recent graduates to see how it might help your chances.

Never forget that you are unique in your college journey. But also know that recruiters and admissions officers slot where you, as an applicant, fall within your student body. Use your high school curriculum, grades, sports, clubs, and volunteer experiences to stand out within the context of a school that may have a history of predictability.

There can be some preference in college admissions so that fact that an admissions officer knows your school can work for--or against--you. Regional officers understand the subtle differences between high schools within their jurisdiction. 

Make sure you recognize how your high school resume is shaping up relative to your peers. Use the profile your school shares to enhance your resume and stand out from your classmates with good grades and extracurricular activities.

--MIKE RYAN

Sunday, September 22, 2019

College Search Incomplete Without Common Data Sets


The 2020 U.S. News & World Report rankings are just out. Thousands of parents and aspiring college high school seniors are pouring over the numbers. Should you care?

Well, maybe, maybe not so much.

The 1,400-plus universities know how to game the rankings system. Let that sink in. Did you realize the measures weighted in the rankings have serious flaws?

Consider this: The weighting for faculty salary may include professors who never teach undergraduates? Or the “academic reputation” category includes college presidents who downgrade peer institutions? The list goes on and on across most every segment given a weight.

The sad part is that many parents and students take the rankings as gospel while it is far more prudent to examine Common Data Sets when winnowing the list of universities to contact, to visit and to decide on as a “reach,” “target,” or ”safety” finalist.

Parents need to become adept at scouring important sections of the CDS at those potential colleges. The data are not aggregated across the country, but individual universities almost always post their numbers.

Remember the Man Behind the Curtain in “The Wizard of Oz?” The CDS gives the savvy parent a much clearer insight into the magic behind what colleges tend to favor or offer prospects. Statistics on majors and degree mixes, scholarships and especially freshman admissions ought to help the aspiring entrant make sense of how s/he might fit.

--Does your future collegian have a testing issue but is still poised and confident? CDS data show which schools give weighted credit to a good interview.
--Want to know what it means to be wait-listed by the University of Michigan—and how many in that category actually get an invitation? Check the Michigan CDS.
--Are you considering a teaching career and curious why Edgewood College in Madison, Wis., fails to stand out in the U.S. News’ rankings? You can drill down to find why the Education Department produces outstanding, culturally responsive high school teachers and just this year landed the school on the new U.S. News Social Mobility chart.
--Finally, and perhaps most importantly given stratospheric costs these days, the CDS offers a genuine peek behind that curtain about true costs vs. rack rate price tags. The CDS for a college is a treasure trove of information about its trends in need-based aid and non-need/grant aid, endowed scholarships, student loans, work/study programs, tuition waivers, and for the sports star, athletic awards.

So, remember that the College Board, Peterson's, U.S. News & World Report and other college experts collate their data and might rank one of your candidate schools at No. 200 instead of No. 20. But we urge you to dig a bit deeper, build an Excel spreadsheet and get to know your best data buddy, the college Common Data Set. And don’t forget, navigation help is always available from Valle Educational Consultants.

--MIKE RYAN

Friday, August 16, 2019

How the Tutor Connection Pays Off


Parents wonder not “if,” but “when” to hire an SAT tutor for their future collegian. Seventh grade may be too soon and rising August senior very likely too late.

But when’s the sweet spot? While SAT prep books such as those produced by College Board deserve a look-see early, comfort level dictates the best time. A knowledgeable SAT tutor should be chosen about the same time as a knowledgeable doctor, before a minor setback turns into a real problem.

It's important to vet test prep tutors. Keep an eye on the strategic Big Picture. Make certain you see evidence of their flexibility ... how their methods can focus and re-focus to help your student improve in areas over an extended testing period.

Many tutors offer practice tests, but does yours consistently monitor testing progress, help uncover the best test fit by analyzing practice tests and session results -- changing course if necessary?

Acing the SAT can require memorizing hundreds of math and grammar rules, learning dozens of test-taking strategies, and acquiring a thorough understanding of the test format.  After all of this preparation and pressure, your teenager is supposed to, somehow, sleep soundly enough to arrive bright-eyed and well-rested on the big day. 

Fortunately, your student doesn't have to travel this road alone.  Professional help makes a world of difference.  All students can benefit from the help of an SAT tutor, from test-taking veterans looking to perfect their score, to overwhelmed students looking to manage test-related anxiety, to anybody looking to raise their score a few points to get into that dream school. 

Tutors are the personal trainers of academia. They provide a structure within which students may address areas of weakness and build upon preexisting strengths.  Tutors challenge students to examine not only what questions were missed but why.  They explain the test structure and provide useful strategies, helping students to work and study smarter, not just harder.  Tutors are the guides, arming students with clarity as they wind through the confusing labyrinth of standardized testing. 

Most importantly, personalized 1:1 work will identify areas of improvement and through regular workbook sessions and homework almost always raise the SAT score in a highly competitive arena where 40 points means the cutoff between reach and safe school. Rising juniors should be building out a timeline based on their chosen test date. Rising seniors should consider a final test this fall if they seek to improve components for superscores at top-tier universities. Then, they should facilitate a workable date deadline for admission pools they are considering.

But there is no student in this year's graduating class who cannot benefit from a dedicated mentor offering strategic assistance, powerful motivation, confidence building, and a way to address subject area weaknesses. When it’s time to research your greatest ally--the experienced, knowledgeable tutor--Valle Educational Consultants is ready to help.

--MIKE RYAN