AP or IB?

Students and parents often ask us which program is better, Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB).  It's one of those questions for which there is no right answer.  Neither program offers more inherent college admissions advantages than the other.

Jay Mathews, a constant source of reason and just plain good sense on the subject of college admissions, has an interesting article tackling this question.  Here's my favorite part:

"One of my heroes on this issue was Harlan “Harpo” Hanson, a big man
with a dry wit who was once both the director of AP for the College
Board and a force behind the first big grant for IB in the United
States. He had four children. He gave each teen the facts about the two
programs and let them decide. Two chose IB. Two chose AP. In each case,
Hanson said, they made the right decision
."

From our student of the month…

We recently started nominating a “Student of the Month” in our office.  But our nominations have nothing to do with grades, test scores or accomplishments; it’s all about the students’ attitude towards the college process.  Are they engaged in their college search?  Do they research colleges and try to find the right fit, even at schools they haven’t heard of?  Are they excited about the opportunity to go to college, even if the school isn’t a famous one?  Those are the students of the month we’re looking for.

Our most recent nominee has a good system for discussing her college choices with her parents.  Here’s what she told us:

I just have different conversations with each of my parents. My mom spent most of her college days in the UCLA library.  So when I am
considering a college, I tell her the first thing I look at is how vast their library is. With my dad, who claims to not even know where the library is at his alma mater, Oregon State (the “Harvard of the West”, as he constantly calls it), I tell him that the first thing I look at is how their football team ranked in the SCC or PAC-10.  Well it’s a good thing the University of Florida has both, or else they’d figure out my secret!

That’s a smart kid.

Still need a college to attend next fall?

According to the National Association of College Admissions Counseling (NACAC) "Space Availability Survey" released today, there are currently 226 four-year colleges who have room for freshmen and will still accept applications for fall 2010 admission (240 have room for transfers).  Almost all of them also still have housing and financial aid to give. 

If you still need a college to attend next fall, this is good news. 

The survey is here.  Thanks to Allison for finding it approximately two-and-a-half seconds after it was released. 

Parent involvement in college applications

From Less Stress, More Success: A New Approach to Guiding Your Teen Through College Admissions and Beyond

"What admissions officers look for most in an application is authenticity. An authentic voice is very clearly recognized by an experienced staff member who reads hundreds of applications each year.  The problem, however, is that we find far fewer authentic voices now, probably because so many applications have been coached to be something that others think the college desires, to be something other than who they really are.  Admissions officers everywhere tell students to be themselves in the application–and we really mean it because we have a tendency to eschew the overly packaged candidate.  Parents often do not realize that when they get overly involved in their child's application–when they help write the essays, for example, or dictate how their son or daughter should answer the questions–they can actually contaminate their child's authentic voice. Admissions officers may not see the match if the application reflects a mixture of the student and other adults pretending to be the student."

Marilee Jones

Former Dean of Admissions, MIT

A message for the senior class of 2010

If you’re a high
school senior, you've likely decided where you're going to college (and
you probably won't have much reason to read our blog for long).  So
before you go, let me just say–congratulations.  You did it.  I hope you've taken some time to celebrate the fact that you're going to college, wherever is is that you'll be going.

Believe me, you've got a lot to look forward to.

Whether
or not you
were admitted to your first choice school, you’re going to
take classes that you actually want to take.  You’re going to learn from
professors who have dedicated their professional lives to one
particular subject and are willing to share their knowledge with you.
You’re going to go to
parties.  Good ones.  You’re going to date. 
A lot.  You’re going to
meet more new people and make more new friends than you’ve ever had the
opportunity to meet in your life.  Some of those friends will be in your
life forever.  Some will stand at your wedding one day.  Some will play
with your kids and tell them how you both pulled an all-nighter in your
dorm studying for your chemistry final or took a road trip for spring
break.  It's going to be a great four years as long as you commit to
making them great.

Great college experiences are equal opportunity employers; they do
not discriminate on the basis
of where your school ranks of the US News "Best College" list.  So if you're not excited yet, it's time to get there.  Wherever you go, the opportunities will be there waiting for you to take them. 

But remember, you
don't get to do a first draft of college.  Wherever you're going,
don't waste the next four years.  Lean into them.  Get all the learning
and fun out of them that you can.  You deserve it.

Thanks for reading our blog,
congratulations, and have a great time in college.

A reminder for students who are waitlisted

Waitlisted students, even though you've elected to be placed on a waiting list for a college you really want to attend, you still have to officially commit to a school that accepted you, and today is the last day to do it.  Don't forget.

And when you officially do commit, allow yourself to be excited.  Don't just spend the next week or two weeks or two months crossing your fingers that you'll be taken off the waitlist.  I know it's not easy.  But you really should make today a celebratory day.  This school you've picked said, "Yes."  They didn't need to wait to see who else enrolled before they admitted you.  They deserve some excitement, and so do you.  Make an emotional commitment to this school.  The waitlist school is your back-up plan.    

College decision day

Tomorrow is May 1, college decision day for seniors.  If you haven't yet signed your name and committed to a school where you'll spend the next four years, tomorrow is the last day to do it.  So… 

1.  Remember to send your "Statement of Intent to Register" and your deposit to your chosen college.  And when you do, make sure you re-read your letter of admission.  

2.  Return the paperwork to your other colleges indicating that you will not be attending.  It's a nice thing to do.  It makes the colleges' jobs easier knowing who doesn't plan on enrolling, and there are a lot of anxious students on waiting lists right now who can be admitted when colleges are certain of their enrollment numbers. 

3.  If you're notifying a college in writing that you will not be attending, there's no reason to feel pressure to write a long explanation.  You're not breaking up with a boyfriend or girlfriend–you don't need to come up with reasons.  Just be brief, but nice.  Something like this would be fine…  

"I am writing to inform you that after discussing my college options with my family, I've decided to attend the University of Michigan.  Thank you so much for considering me, and have a great year with your new freshman class."

4.  This is a good time to review all of the material you've received from your chosen college.  Is there a housing application?  Do you need to submit final transcripts?  Is there an orientation you can attend this summer?  I know it can be daunting to sort through all the material you receive, but it's worth it if it means you won't miss something important.

5.  You should celebrate with your friends and/or family tomorrow.  Tomorrow will be one of those rare "Once in a lifetime" days.  There will never, ever be another day in your life when you officially decide where to spend four years of college.  Treat it like a big day, because it is.  Even if the school where you're heading wasn't at the top of your list, you still have every reason to be excited.  C'mon.  Live a little.  You know where you're going to college next fall.   

Why we’re not in your reader right now

OK, it looks like we're back; our new posts are now appearing in peoples' readers.  If you're a subscriber, you probably missed a few feeds in the last week, but we've got the posts here for your reading pleasure.  Thanks for your patience.  And thanks to Brian for fixing this for us.

I've heard from several subscribers that our blog feeds aren't showing up in your Google readers.  I've got someone looking into it right now, but in the interim, I'm just going to forge ahead and keep putting up my daily posts.  Apologies for the lack of feeding.  

PS:  If you're an expert in Typepad and Feedburner, and you understand how the rss.xml file from Typepad interacts with Feedburner for social media shortcuts, let me know if you'd like a freelance job fixing the bugs in our code.  Email me at kevinm (at) collegewise (dot) com. 

What to do if you were rejected by all your colleges

If you're a senior who was rejected by all your colleges, you can probably still go to college in the fall.  But if you want to do it, you'll have to jump on the project right now.  Here are a few steps to take to give yourself some options.

1.  Meet with your counselor.

This is a time when you want your counselor to know what's happening in your life.  She may be able to suggest schools that are still accepting applications, give you more advice about how to get off waitlists, appeal rejections, etc.  And ask her about public university options available to you, which brings me to…

2.  Look into public universities in your state.

Most states have public universities that are required to admit students who meet minimum eligibility requirements.  That doesn't mean they're required to admit an eligible student who didn't apply before the deadline, but it's an option worth investigating, especially if it's a school that didn't receive as many applications as they'd hoped.   

3.  Use the Common App to find schools still accepting applications.

Go to the college search section of the Common Application website, select "first year student," "Fall 2010" and enter today's date under "deadline on or after."  I just entered 4/19/2010 before writing this and there were 115 schools that came up.  And a lot of them are good schools. 

4.  Use the College Board's college search function.

If you use the search function on College Board website and select "More than 75% accepted" under the "Admissions" section, you'll find a lot of colleges will still be accepting applications. 

5.  After May 1, watch for NACAC's "Space Availability Survey"

After May 1, the National Association for College Admissions Counseling conducts a survey of colleges to find out one thing–who's still got room for freshmen?  Then they publish the results of the survey in early to mid May.  So after May 1, check the NACAC website every day.  Or just keep reading our blog and we'll let you know when it's up.

Where can the things you do today take you?

One of our Collegewise students from the class of 2005 wrote her essay about how certain she'd been that being a lifeguard on the beach would be the best summer job she could get…but that she couldn't have been more wrong.  Turns out that the beach she was assigned to had no waves or currents, so nobody ever needed to be rescued.  I remember her telling me how boring it was, that all she did for 8 hours a day was stare at the water and respond to the 30 people who'd come by her tower just ask where the bathrooms were.  But she did enjoy learning all the first aid during her training, and was even able to use it when her friend cut her leg badly at a school dance.  

I found out today that she was just accepted to medical school.  You never where the things you're doing today might take you in the future.