Thursday, April 30, 2009

6 Reasons to Attend College Fair

College Fair alert!

This Sunday from 1-3 pm at Heritage Hall.

50 colleges and universities.

OU, OSU, Tulsa, DePauw, Hendrix, Washington and Lee, Vassar, Arkansas, TCU, SMU and the list goes on.

So if you are a 10th grade and 11th grade student and parent then I hope you take the time to attend on Sunday afternoon.

Just recently The Denver Post published an article entitled,"It's Prep Time: 6 Reasons to Attend a College Fair."

Here is an excerpt from the article.

1. PERSONAL CONTACT. Fairs enable direct contact with representatives from hundreds of colleges and universities in one place. They're an opportunity to talk to people instead of surfing the Internet for information.

2. FORCED FOCUS. College fairs force students to sharpen their focus on college options and start making some decisions.

3. AID INFORMATION. Many fairs have separate presentations on financial aid options and how to obtain the most financial assistance. Colleges also cater to this issue, with many handing out separate pamphlets on their own options.

To read the full article click here.

See you there.


Emily Orthwein, a junior, came to see me yesterday. She wondered where to start her college search. Geography? Academic interests? Reputation?

My advice.

Start with your prospective list. Mr. Cernick and I put a lot of time and thought into playing match maker. Consider us like a dating service. Not for a guy or girl, of course. But a college or university.

Remember: our philosophy is best fit for you. Not best school out there.

Beyond that I'd recommend the Princeton Review Counselor-O-Matic. It's a lot of fun. Kind of like a dating service. You provide the program lots of personal information. They spit out a prospective list of their own. Compare and contrast our list with Princeton's. And it is free.

To play around with Princeton Review's Counselor-O-Matic click here.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

OU or Bust!

So far 6 of our seniors have accepted scholarship monies from OU for next fall-ranging from National Merit monies that will cover $43,000 in expenses to Presidential Leadership scholarships that rewards $750.

M.K. Blakley and Erik Lee will both be sporting crimson and cream next fall.

* M.K. will participate in the Presidential Leadership Club. This honor includes a Fall Retreat, weekly meetings, and opportunities to help host dignitaries with Mr. Boren at formal functions. M.K. couldn't be a better ambassador for Casady and OU. Boren will be lucky to have her!

Scott Bennett, a National Merit scholar, will have the opportunity to spar openly with President Boren in his political science course at the Honors College - a Deep Red versus a Moderate Shade of Blue. Sparks should fly!

Congrats to all our future crimson and creamer's.





To learn more about the OU's National Scholars Program that Scott will participate in next year click here.

To also learn more about OU's outstanding Honors College click here.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Article on SAT- Hmmm?

Richard Clements sent me a thought-provoking article on SAT's.

Here are a couple excerpts from the article.

And who can blame them? Critics of the SAT are eager to remind you that its intellectual genealogy traces back to the intelligence tests that eugenicists, racial theorists, and other creepy types promoted in the early 20th century as a way of purifying the gene pool.

This spring three more selective and well-known schools--Fairfield University, Connecticut College, and Sewanee: The University of the South--took NACAC's advice, announcing that they would adopt a "test optional" admissions policy, telling applicants they no longer were required to submit SAT scores but were free to submit them if they wished. The schools join dozens of well-regarded peers--Bates, Bowdoin, Hamilton, Holy Cross, and Wake Forest among them--in striking a blow against the SAT, and in being very proud of themselves for doing so.

Wake Forest's president, Nathan O. Hatch, announced his school's SAT policy in a much-discussed op-ed in the Washington Post. "By opening doors even wider to qualified students from all backgrounds and circumstances," he wrote, "we believe we are sending a powerful message of inclusion and advocating for democracy of access to higher education."

To read the full article click here.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

A Parable of Persistence

Patrick Wert reaally wanted Boston U. His reasons. Big. Cosmopolitan. Brimming with diversity. Boston. The Sox. The Celtics. 100 colleges and universities within 100 miles. 1 in 4 Bostonians college students. An urban ethos humming with eclectic energy.

But Patrick was deferred in December. So Patrick mounted a campaign. He made a concerted effort to get to know his representative - Roberto Trevino. He emailed. Called. Had me write and call. In response, Roberto confided to me: "Patrick is right on the fence. Good news is that he has a real upward trend in his grades."

After the second trimester, Patrick wrote a formal letter to Roberto. He sent the letter to me. I put it on Casady letterhead. And we sent it. In the letter, Patrick highlighted his academic grades for the winter, along with his new leadership endeavors as class president.

Two months later Patrick got THE text. THE good one.

Last week Patrick attended a meet-and-greet event in Dallas for accepted BU students. As Patrick walked through the doors, he was greeted by a smiling fellow. "So there is the man," the fellow exclaimed, shaking Patrick's hand, "that won us over with his persistence. Welcome to BU, brother."

It was Roberto, Patrick's rep.

Patrick Wert. A parable of persistence.

To learn more about why Patrick chose Boston University click here.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Dear Mr. Bottomly, My Son/Daughter Got this National Scholars Program Letter...

Recently I've had a sophomore parent and student ask me about a creamy vanilla envelop with a "congratulations letter" in it. It's from the National Scholars Program.

Is this letter legit?

Is it a scam?

Will this really shimmer on a resume and impress an admission committee?


First. National Scholar Programs do go after promising future scholars. There is nothing "scammy" about who they recruit. Nor should you feel like a sucker if you do pay the entry fee. A National certificate of this caliber is something that you can put on your resume to underscore that you have been nationally recognized for your academic achievements.

Will it shimmer though?


Here is what I've learned. If you have to pay for it, a college admissions committee will often chalk it up to privilege. If, however, you have to work for it then it speaks of responsibility.

Colleges are far more interested in honors/awards/certificates that a student earns within his/her own school. And local community.

So in the future, when in doubt, apply the "x=PoR" litmus test: Does [x] = Privilege? Or does [x] = Responsibility? This will help you weigh pros and cons of any program.

Dear Mr. Bottomly - ACT/SAT Question

Got this e-mail this morning from a sophomore parent about ACT/SAT.

I have a question for you regarding the SAT/ACT for my son. We were thinking that our son should go ahead and take both tests on the June 2009 test date since school is out and he would’t have many other distractions.

Do you have any advice or comments regarding my son and the June testing dates? Should we go ahead and have our son take the tests in June?

No harm in your son taking both tests in June. I agree that this will be the most “distraction” free period all year. Plus it will be the time of year that your son is chalk-full of knowledge. All that cramming for the final exams... His "mental jar" will be as full as it can get!

As far as the test itself, I’d encourage your son not to send scores to any colleges. "Student choice" means your son can wait and see first his scores before colleges see them. The only drawback of this option is that students will not be able to take advantage of the 5 colleges that ACT/SAT will send scores to for free. 

As far as test prep – he might want to do a few practice sessions either online or in a book. But not much. Don’t want to overwhelm. Just enough for your son to gain a sense of how the test and questions are structured. Then a good night sleep. A healthy breakfast. And go for it!

Once we see where your son scores strong and not so strong, we can address how we might shore those sections up. There are ample options there. As an English teacher, I must insert one caveat: reading for reading sake is a good thing, but reading can also help you augment your test scores. So read this summer. One suggested reading - From Ashes to Africa. Heard the co-authors are being considered for a Pulitzer. JK. Read, though. Read the Twilight series (or not). Read magazines. Newspapers. Online articles. Read. Read. Read. One thing we did on the Junior newsletter is provide a list of recommended books from English and History faculty. There are some awesome suggestions from our esteemed colleagues. Encourage your son to peruse that list.

Speaking of Junior Newsletter – have you perused the Spring edition?

The Junior edition newsletter is linked on the right side. Upper corner. See it? Good.

Monday, April 20, 2009

College Counselor or Sports Agent?

Seen Jerry Maguire? Remember that famous scene and phrase? Click below if you need a refresher. Funny scene. Seen it many times. Still funny.

Okay. Senior parents. Our kids are Rod Tidwell's, aren't they? Talented. Gifted. Full of passion. Brimming with potential. Stars on the rise. If only they could get more $$$$...

What you want is a sports agent. A Jerry. Someone to get the FA folk to show your kids the money.

I hear you.

But I'm not Jerry. I'm not a sports agent. I don't do financial aid. Those are a different set of people. And from what I've learned: admission people. Love. Financial aid people. No love. Especially now.

You need more money. What can you do.

First. You can ask for an appeal on your student's financial aid packet. Are there any "extraneous expenses" that you couldn't report on the FAFSA that you did on the Profile? If so, see if you can submit the Profile. If not, then at least make a list of those expenses to submit for review by FA folk. And follow up with a phone call. Phones are slammed these days. And some FA folk may be on lock down. Stay persistent. If you are in driving range, you may want to schedule a face-to-face. The overaching goal here: tell the whole story. Some things just can't be conveyed on financial forms or even in a letter.

Second. If you have multiple offers, then use that as negotiating leverage. Be polite, of course. But let colleges know what you have received from school A and ask that they please try to match it.

Third. Consider the "L" word. Or in this case, the "PLUS" acronym. That stands for the "Parents Loans for Undergraduate Study." These variable rate loans are available, regardless of need, in amounts equal to the cost of their student's annual education. PLUS can become a parent's best friend in meeting the EFC [Expected Family Contribution. Or as I like to put it: the part of the bucket you are asked to fill] and working through the cash flow crunch of the college years - and particularly, within this economy.

And finally. Multiple 1st choice schools. This is why we preach 6 first choice schools. So that if you have to go to School 2 or School 3 on the list because of fiances, you know your student will fit and thrive at that school!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Dear Mr. Bottomly Part B

This is a continuation of a e-mail conversation I had with a 9th grade parent.

Parent's e-mail:

Would the classes he takes in the 12th grade be counted for college admission since the decisions will be made before he can have the final grades of the courses?

He has been getting good grades (A and above). What else should he do to make himself stand out? He has been playing the Cello since 6 years old and is quite good at it, but he is not very good at sports. He does not know which direction he wants to develop into at the moment, i.e., science or humanity. He likes both. Is it good for him to have an emphasis at this stage?

My response:

The "senior myth" tends like a siren to seduce many senior students. The myth is this: senior courses and grades don't really count. That's the year every student "lets of the petal a bit" and puts it on cruise control.


Senior course selection and grades do count - especially the more selective the school. Sometimes though students will apply what is called EA, which stands for Early Action, or ED, which stands for Early Decision. In this case, a student will apply before November 1 and hear back sometime before or right after Christmas. Typically, then, a college will make decision about this student before Casady senior grades are sent out. However, just because colleges won't see the senior's fall grades, the colleges will see on the Casady transcript the course selection - this of course which the colleges will intensely scrutinize. So yes, it is important to combine judicious course selection with exigent course performance.

In response to your other questions.

As far as what else – if your son loves the Cello then encourage him to keep pursing that passion. Colleges are not looking for breath as much as depth. Quality over quantity. “Demonstrated Passion” is what I like to call it – whether it is playing the Cello or riding a horse of playing athletics. In addition, I’d at least consider looking at summer learning programs [not necessarily “leadership” programs] either in the US at a Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Stanford, Duke or outside of the US at an Oxford. There are always summer program opportunities that we put up on our college counseling board. Encourage your son to come by and look for opportunities.

I’d also encourage you to help your son find a job. Sometimes expensive programs
smack of privilege; a job, in contrast, speaks of responsibility. The Dean of Harvard, Bill Fitzsimmons, told me last summer: “A job at McDonald’s is more impressive to our committee than any leadership program a kid attends. “

I’d also encourage you to purchase the book Winning the College Admission Game by Peter Van Buskirk. You can click here to purchase the book. Peter WILL BE COMING TO CASADY IN SEPTEMBER to speak to students and parents 9th-11th grade. Mark that date when we post it. You won’t want to miss him!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Dear Mr. Bottomly

Received this e-mail from conscientious parent not long ago with great questions.

Here is Part A of the parent's e-mail.

My son is in the 9th grade. He is hoping to get into one of the highly selective schools. We wonder what he has to do to prepare himself. It seems to me that many of the AP courses are only offered to 11 or 12th graders.

Here was my response.

"I had a chance to look at your son’s transcript – quite impressive! My suggestion for AP’s – look into receiving permission from Mr. Wiley for your son to take his AP US Government course. Your son might also look into taking Latin 3 AP course – if offered. The other option might be for your son to try and get into the AP Art History course. This course would not only fulfill your son's fine arts requirements, but it would also give him another rigorous course. What this would mean possibly is that your son will take six courses next year."

Look for Part B tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Junior Student's Tulsa U Experience

Emily Hood came to see me yesterday. Somewhat rare unless it's American Literature related. Not this time. Emily's new Tulsa hoodie though gave her away.

Come to find out - Emily took advantage of "Junior Preview Day" at Tulsa University. She interacted with students and professors. Walked the gorgeous quad aligned with its Gothic, Oxford-like architecture. Ate in the cafeteria. Saw dorm rooms. Drank deep of one of the hidden secrets in the American college landscape.

At one point in our conversation, I asked Emily my favorite question: "What did you learn about yourself visiting Tulsa?" Emily wrinkled her nose a bit and then smiling exclaimed, "I discovered that I want a college where you are a person; not a number. Relationships matter to me."

Emily provided concrete examples of the personal feel of Tulsa's ethos. One of Emily's highlights was visiting student living quarters - dorms, suites, apartments. Emily noted how much she liked "the six-girl-to-one-bathroom living set up. "Another thing I learned about myself," Emily added, "was that I really value community. The idea of communal living really appeals to me."

Thanks, Emily, for sharing. Come back anytime.

I'm also curious if there are others out there like Emily who have visited colleges.

I'm anxious to hear what you have learned about yourself.

Many times a college visit can work like a mirror: it reveals who you are and aren't. It reflects what you value.

So juniors, pop in my office anytime, like Emily.

We'll chat. I'll take your picture. Convert our conversation into a blog post. Put your purty face out there for everyone in the Casady community to see. Make you least for a day!

Oh and one more thing: The feature article for our Junior newsletter involves a forum discussion with juniors who visited colleges over spring break. Look for this newsletter on the web soon.

Oh and just a final factoid about Tulsa University: This year they received almost 5 times the volume of out-of-state applications to in-state. It's ironic how 49 states in America are discovering and raving about TU..and yet, there is still 1 state unaware how good Tulsa is - that state, of course, being the one the university is in!

Hendrix Professor Sound Bite

I wanted to quickly mention one Hendrix sound bites that resonated with me on my fly in.

Dr. Simmons (picture above). He teaches philosophy. Before Hendrix, Dr. Simmons taught at Vanderbilt. He could have stayed at Vandy and taught for 3 years in their ethics program, but he chose Hendrix. Someone asked why. His response: "Hendrix students are about investment - as opposed to entitlement...students at Hendrix don't have to be told to study, read, and prepare. They are motivated from within and by each other to push, stretch, challenge, question, liberate, examine, apply. Students at Hendrix are unique in that they want to develop a 'we-centered,' 'others-minded,' 'globally-consciousness' paradigm for thinking and living."

Investment students versus Entitlement students. Dr. Simmons' observations gives me pause to ask some questions about myself and Casady: Are I/we passionate about infecting our students with a passion for learning? Do I/we endorse and embody a pedagogy of information? Or a pedagogy of transformation - personally, communally, and globally? Are I/we really a community that are producing students who want to "invest" in their learning experience - in other words, truly take ownership of their education? Are we really about a process of becoming global thinkers and doers?

Dr. Simmons gave me and us much to chew on.

The way, interestingly, that Hendrix is most investing in their "students of investment" is through their Odyssey Program. Odyssey, of course, implies journey, experience, adventure, discovery, challenge.

All students who are accepted into Hendrix participate in the Odyssey Program. Students are then required to complete three experiences selected from six categories: Artistic Creativity, Global Awareness, Professional Leadership Development, Service to the World, Undergraduate Research, and Special Projects.

Since the program's inception in 2005, more than one million dollars have been awarded to students and faculty to pursue their research. Rachel Achor, for example, will use her grant money to volunteer in an orphanage in Granada, Nicaragua. Lauren Bresler, another example, will fulfill her Professional and Leadership Development requirement by interning with Schwartz & Schwart in St. Louis, a small criminal law firm. And Rachel Kincannon and Staci Sutton will spend the summer in the Bahamian Islands - no, not laying out and drinking margaritas - but fulfilling their Special Project requirement by volunteering in Tarpum Bay, one of the poorest areas on the islands of Eleuthra. They will be conducting research comparing Eleuthra with Nassau, which is known to cater to tourist.

To learn more about the Odyssey Program click here.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Hendrix Tour

I echo Lauren Pope who wrote in Colleges That Change Lives: "I was unexpectantedly blown away by Hendrix...There should be at least one college as good as Hendrix in every state."

After drinking in the "Shangri-la-like" ethos at Hendrix I had a strong sense that there are many Casady students who would thrive at this hidden gem of a liberal arts school.

Here are some pictorials of Conway and Hendrix with additional Pope commentary about Hendrix.

This is where I stayed. Parents - this is one great hotel option to visit.

Mcalisters - my favorite lunch spot with Amy. Big check + for me!

"Hendrix knows that they must prepare students to live in a global rather than an American world."

"It truly is a too-secret treasure that is both a financial bargain...and a great opportunity for a better educational experience than you'd find in the name-brand places."

"I was blown away by the collegiality, a feeling that there was something special happening, that everybody was in this together, that they really were changing student lives, and that that was something important - the most important thing you could with your life."

"Hendrix has an incredible ability to provide for its students whatever it is they need to expand and grow."

Friday, April 3, 2009

Hendrix or Bust!

I'll be attending a Hendrix College fly-in over the weekend. I look forward to drinking in the Hendrix ethos. I hear the campus is simply gorgeous.

If you haven't read about Hendrix College in Lauren Pope's book Colleges That Change Lives, I would encourage you to not only purchase the book, but dive right in by starting with Hendrix College. You can do so by clicking here.

Neil Groat is our representative at Hendrix College. He's arguably the most congenial, helpful, and accessible person I've met working in this business. What I like about Neil is how transparent he is throughout the whole process. Simply put: he will always let you know where you stand not only the admissions process but also the affordability process as well.

While visiting, I hope to hang out a bit with a trio of our Casady kids. Grace Dubiskas, Luke Cornelson, and Jane Derrick are there. I'm eager to hear about their impressions of Hendrix.

Anyway, when I return, I hope to provide a small gallery of pictures, along with impressions, interview sound bites, and anecdotes.

Have a great weekend. And for those down in Houston at ISAS - be safe and knock em' dead!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Washington Post Article, "Recession Has Silver Lining for Class '09"

The Washington Post published a somewhat encouraging article this morning about college admissions. The article's thesis: private colleges are reeaaallllyyy nervous about yield; thus they are accepting slightly more applicants. I think you will agree that this is quite a 180 degree turnabout in lieu of the apocalyptic forecasting we were getting in the fall about college admissions.

To read the full article click here.

Oh by the way...Happy April Fool's Day!