“Fair” thee well…

A lot of students and parents return from a college fair wondering what they really got out of it.  But you can make your experience at the fair much more productive with just a little preparation.  The National Association for College Admissions Counseling (NACAC) offers some good tips to get the most out of your visit to the fair, as well as a schedule of fairs near you.  We’ve also got some Collegewise tips of our own that have helped our students.  And finally, read Arun’s blog entry to hear a former admissions officer’s fair perspective. 

Give it the old college try…again.

This is the time of year when seniors get all their news–both good and bad–from colleges.  Some of those applicants across the country will, unfortunately, get all bad news and be left with no college choices.  This article reminds them (and the rest of us) that there is still plenty of room on lots of college campuses, like UC Riverside, UC Merced, Cal State Northridge, Cal State L.A., Loyola Marymount University, Whittier College and Mount St. Mary’s, to name a few.  It’s nice to be reminded that, no matter who you are, if you want to go to college, you (still) can go. 

A Fool’s Errand?

A Swarthmore professor of psychology offers his proposed fix for the college admissions craze in this article.

While I don’t necessarily agree that drawing students out of a hat is the right solution (though he certainly makes a good case), his premise is absolutey true–"Students trying to get into the best college, and colleges trying to admit the best students, are both on a fool’s errand. They are assuming a level of precision of assessment that is unattainable."

Fake Ranks?

We’re not fans of the US News rankings, and apparently, neither is the president of Sarah Lawrence College.  Her recent op-ed piece in the Washington Post argues that the problem with US News college rankings is that they "are far from reliable" and in fact, "some of their numbers are made up."

The letter is sparking even more discussion of the perils of college rankings.   Inside Higher Ed just did a great piece entitled "Would US News Make up Fake Data? "  A lot of people in the know seem to think the answer is "Yes."

St. John’s College

Annapolis, MD and Santa Fe, NM

The home page of the St. John’s College website reads: 

“The following teachers will return to St. John’s College next year: Plato,
Newton, Galileo, Cervantes, Dante, Melville…”

The list of recognizable names continues on and fades into the background.

No, St. John’s doesn’t literally reincarnate history’s greatest minds, but its unique
“Great Books” program means that students spend all four years reading,
studying and discussing the most important books in Western tradition.

[Read more…]

Honesty and Senioritis

Seniors have undoubtedly heard that an admissions decision from a college can
be revoked if a severe case of senioritis results in an academic decline.  But this month’s edition UC Notes Digest reminds students
that it is their responsibility to report such an academic decline
immediately. In fact, doing so might
even help your case.

Think of it like this. You wrecked the family car.  The
good news is that nobody was hurt.  The
bad news is that the car is totaled and there’s nothing you can do that will
make that fact go away.  Which smarter
move?  Immediately tell your parents
everything that happened, or keep it to yourself and wait for the inevitable
day when they notice that the family car hasn’t been seen in weeks?

Easy one.  Tell your parents.
Immediately.  At least you’ll get credit
for being honest. 

isn’t saying that just being honest makes the academic decline OK,
but it’s a lot better than sitting quietly and hoping that the admissions
offices don’t notice that your grade in AP calculus was totaled beyond

what 2do and not 2do

My wife interviews freshman applicants for one of those Ivy League schools everybody wants to go to.  Last week, she got her list of applicants to contact and promptly sent each of them a personal email inviting them to schedule their interviews. 

So far, only one student has responded to her email.

If you’re a senior who just applied to college, congratulations—you’ve done the hard part.  But you’re not really done yet.  Colleges routinely contact applicants by mail and email asking you for additional information (or to schedule interviews), and you need to make sure you respond promptly and appropriately.

Here at Collegewise, we remind our students:

1. On your college applications, list an email address that you check regularly (and by “regularly,” I mean at least once a day).  And if your email address is something like wildncrazypartygirl@yahoo, get a new email address. 

2. Once you submit your applications, open every piece of mail and read every email a college sends you. Just because it’s not yet time to expect a decision doesn’t mean that mail or email isn’t important. 

3.   If a college asks you to send anything, to respond to anything, or take any action, do it right away.  Don’t rush to the point you get careless, but remember, once you apply to a college, you’re pretty much on stage.  Lagging in your response time doesn’t show a burning desire to attend.

4.   And when communicating with a college rep over email, remember that this is a professional correspondence; you are not text messaging a friend.  Spell carefully and use punctuation.  Do not compose sentences like “i really hope 2b at Princeton next fall! see u soon!”

Colleges (and my wife) are reasonable.  They’re not going to ding a kid just because he took an extra day to respond to an email.  But they’re also human, after all.  I won’t speak for my wife, but I know I would already like the kid who responded right away.  And the kid who wrote me, "sorry i’m writing u back so late i have been soooo busy w/ school," wouldn’t make such a good impression.    

Unannounced Visitors

A lot of families tell us how hard it is for them to make time to travel and see colleges.  And we bet a lot of our blog readers read the entries about our own college visits and think to themselves, "Well, of course these Collegewise guys visits schools all the time.  It’s their job!”

And those readers would be right.

We make the time to visit schools because it’s our job—well, that and the fact that we are huge college nerds who desperately need more productive social lives.

But one thing you might not notice from our posts is that a lot of our visits weren’t planned for the sake of visiting the colleges.  Christina toured Vanderbilt after her brother’s graduation, checked out UOP during a visit to see her best friend in Stockton, and traversed the natural campus of UC Santa Cruz while visiting her cousin.  When we visit family or friends, we make at least one college visit part of the itinerary.  It’s not just part of our job—it’s part of our (nerdy) nature.

Where is your family planning to travel this year?  Where will you be going to visit friends or family?  And what colleges could you see while you’re there?

Make the most of the college opportunities when you visit friends or family.  Take a tour of a nearby college.  Buy a sweatshirt and a mug while you are there.  Take pictures and send them to us at info@getcollegewise.com. We might even post them on our blog! 

You’ll learn more about that college and what kind of environment will eventually be right (or wrong) for you.  And you’ll have done so without having to spend additional time or expense.

It’s not just a good idea to get out there and learn more about colleges; if you’re a high school junior who wants to eventually find the right college for you (or if you’re that junior’s parent), it’s your job, too.

5 New Year’s Resolutions for High School Kids

It’s that time of year when we make our New Year’s resolutions, and we’ve got a few recommendations for high school kids to help them enjoy the ride to college a little more.  So, here are our Collegewise “Top Five New Year’s Resolutions” that might not be so obvious, but will definitely help you get accepted to college. 

  1. Set a goal to actively participate in at least one class this semester. 

Colleges don’t just care about the grades you get; they especially appreciate students who actively participate in class.  So raise your hand.  Answer questions.  Show the teacher you’re interested and engaged.  Doing so will go along way towards showing the colleges you can succeed in their classrooms.

  1. Get more involved in a current activity.

Before you add more activities to your plate, ask yourself if you would enjoy being even more involved with something you already do.  Can you take a leadership position, take on a project, or make an impact in some way?  Remember, a long list of activities isn’t as impressive to colleges as is a significant commitment to the things you really enjoy. 


  1. Find a way to pursue a subject you like.

Colleges are always impressed by a sincere interest in learning.  So ask yourself what you really want to learn about, and then find a way to do it.  Do an extra project.  Take an extra class or attend a summer program.  The subject could be anything from calculus to civil war history to sports medicine.  What’s important is to show colleges that you do have intellectual interests and you don’t mind going the extra mile pursuing them.


  1. Be yourself.

It’s not necessary to mold yourself into something you’re not just to please the colleges.  For example, a lot of students worry that their lack of athletic talent will hurt them in college admissions.  It won’t.  If you don’t like sports, but you love math, embrace your love of numbers, join the math club and become its fearless leader.  Colleges appreciate individuality a lot more than they do efforts to conform into something you’re not.

  1. Spend more time looking for the right colleges.

A lot of students talk about wanting to get into the “best” schools.  But don’t forget to look for the right schools–the ones where you will be happy and successful for four years.  This year, resolve to do some college soul-searching to determine what you really hope or expect to gain from your college experience.  Investigate a variety of schools and try to find the right match.  Doing so will make your life easier, your high school years more productive, and your college applications more successful.

Holiday Party

We recently celebrated the completion of our senior season with our annual holiday party.  Collegewise social gatherings aren’t usually of interest to the outside world, but I was struck by two things.

Cwgang_2 1.  We really are a handsome company when the men clean ourselves up.

2.  Lots of colleges (not just the brand name schools) graduate smart, dedicated, passionate, interesting, likeable people who love their jobs.


Top left to right: UC Irvine, Cal State Long Beach, UC Irvine, Colgate, Columbia, UC Irvine and Northwestern.  Bottom left to right:  University of Chicago and Case Western.

Have a wonderful holiday…