Thursday, December 8, 2011

"It's Kinda Like American Idol Auditions"

Everyone is feeling it.




College counselors.

It's the bedlam of emotions raging within.

Excitement. Anxiety.

The letter could come any day!

The letter could come any day...gulp!

In the next couple weeks, high school seniors all across the globe will be getting admission decisions back from early admissions at selective colleges.

There will be rounds of champagne-for-everyone.

And there will be "hell to pay" for someone (college counselors usually).

But right now - we're all just waiting for the results.

I always tell parents, in particular, that it's kinda like American Idol auditions.

We're the folks that have to wait outside the doors while our kids go sing their hearts out to the college admissions judges.

For 12+ years these kids have been preparing for this moment.

This mother-of-all adolescent auditions.

And, of course, we all think that everyone of our kids is "American Idol" material.

Or in this case is UVA material. Or Duke material. Or Princeton material.

Do you remember Jordan Sparks?

For whatever reason she comes to mind.

Maybe it is because I'm not an American Idol junkie like my wife, but I do remember her audition a couple seasons ago.

Truth is, we all think our kids are Jordan Sparks.

I have 7 kids who applied Early Decision or Single Choice Early Action.

I think every one of those kids should come squealing out of the audition doors with a "yellow slip" (aka admission letter).

But I suffer from the same cockeyed myopia that everyone else does.

Because I live in a small little bubble world at Casady.

And I forget, like parents do, that at some colleges, there are 30,000, 40,000, 50,000 who are auditioning as well. And every one of those applicants has a family member standing outside the door thinking their kid is Jordan Sparks too.

In closing, I think that every parent of the 7 kids who applied early would agree with me that the hardest part right now is not the waiting.

That's penultimate.

What causes fits of insomnia is knowing that the decision is ultimately out of our hands.

All we can do during this wait period is take deep breaths.

Say longer prayers.

Keep the "big picture" in front of our faces (these decisions don't define our kids; they don't define our parenting skills, etc.; there is an excellent college fit out there; our kids are going to do great things regardless of where they matriculate...)

Tell our kids we love them.

And prepare ourselves to rejoice with those who will rejoice,

and weep with those who will weep.

And for those who get deferred (and the forecast seems to suggest a lot of deferred kids) - it means we get to do this whole audition-wait-outside-the-door thing again in April.

Nobody said this process was for sissies.:)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Freakonomics in an Age of Freakadmissions

I read Levitt and Dubner's book Freakonomics for a book club a few years ago.

Very interesting book.

One chapter that really got my head spinning was the chapter titled, "Perfect Parenting, Part II; or: Would Roshanda by Any Other Name Smell as Sweet?"

At the time, my wife and I were trying to sort through thousands of names to find "the One name" for our 1st child.

The chapter was fascinating because it essentially espoused the idea that the name you give your baby not only reveals things about your child, but can also reward or penalize your child.

Levvit and Dubner argued that names often have a correlation to socioeconomic status. Level of education. Names even play in, consciously sometimes, subconsciously other times, in job employment.

An audit study was done that Levvit and Dubner use as their argument's impetus, in which a researcher sent two identical (and fake) resumes, one with a traditionally white name and the other with an immigrant or minority-sounding name, to potential employers. The "white" resumes always gleaned more job interviews. A Molly or Amy advanced in a job interview. The same with a Jake or Connor. But an Imani or Shanice, a DeShawn or DeAndre, that carried economic penalty.

In a recent Huffington Post article entitled "Some Asians Don't Identify as Asians in College Admissions", the writer makes essentially the same argument for college admissions.

Being of Asian ethnicity, in particular, with a clearly "Asian sounding name" disadvantaged you in higher college admissions.

Why? Well because there are more Perfect SAT and perfect 4.0 GPA Asian students applying to the Ivies and other highly competitive institutions than non-Asian.

The article reveals that some Asians - who don't sound too Asian in name - are changing their ethnicity (checking the "Caucasian" box).

It makes me wonder if we're not going to hear stories in the near future of families changing their last names to something more "white sounding" to advantage their children in selective college admissions.

In what we might go ahead and dub the "Age of Freakadmissions" (patenting that phrase), perhaps the writers of Freakonomics have hit the nail on the head. Names and ethnicity can advantage or disadvantage. Asians are clearly getting creamed. Ironically, however, it could also be pointed out that the "blacker" your name is in highly selective admissions, the better chance you have at gaining admissions. While Asians/Indians are being held to a higher standard (200 points higher on the SAT, for example), African-Americans are being held to a different standard (sometimes 200 points lower on the SAT, for example).

I don't know. Last year, though, I did wonder if our top student, who had a non-white last name, might have received different news from Stanford if his last name had been more white. Who knows? And maybe the freakish nature of college admissions is at a point where almost everyone, minus athletes, are up against the Nile River to get in. No matter their name. Ethnicity. Test score. Pedigree. Socio-economic status.

Indeed these are freakishly crazy times in higher college admissions.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Early Decision or Not? Some Thoughts, Advice, and Stats

Should I apply Early Decision or not?

Early Decision, by definition, is where you apply to one school, and if you are admitted, you are in a binding agreement to matriculate the following fall.

Now schools like Stanford, Princeton, Harvard, Yale and Boston College are offering Single Choice Early Action (SCEA), which just means that you can only apply to one school, but it's non-binding, which means you can say No to that one school, even if they say Yes to you. It also means that you have a greater length of time to decide (May 1).

So ED or SCEA - it's a common question I receive from anxious seniors in the fall.

My answer is always the same. That depends.

It depends, for one, on the degree of interest in that school. If your heart meter registers a 10 (on a 1-10 scale; 1 = "Bartleby"-level interest; 10="Rome and Juliet"-level passion) every time you think or talk about that school - then Yes, applying ED might be the appropriate decision.

But if your heart meter registers an 8, 9, or 10 with other schools too. Then you might not.

But there are also hash realities about the state of college admissions right now. Not everywhere, certainly. But at the top. Yes. Unless you've been living in an igloo in remote Alaska for the past five years, you know that the volume of applications to selective/highly selective colleges have skyrocketed. More high school graduates than ever before. More international applicants than ever before. More pressure on colleges to "raise their ranking" in popular magazines. The "attract-to-reject" marketing strategic formula could look something like this:

Higher app volume + Lower acceptance % = Higher US News & World Report: College Edition ranking (which means higher bonds rating, which then means more money to build more climbing walls, which means higher tuition rates...)

This is just the way things are at schools on the first and second page of that magazine, along with a couple others. So therefore, if you just look at the raw data, it's easy for the pragmatist and strategist in you to deduce that to apply ED gives you your best chance at gaining admission. It may not get you the best financial aid package, but it gives you the best chance to get a golden ticket in.

But also remember that though the fish bowl may be smaller, the fish in that bowl are that much brighter.

Here are just a few statistics I pulled from The Princeton Review: The Best 376 Colleges (2011 Edition) concerning ED applications/admits last year:

School ED app. Accept %/#

Brown 2803 22%
Duke 1482 32%
Rice 1214 25%
Columbia 2921 40%
Vanderbilt 2150 32%
Stanford (SCEA) 4860 753
Dartmouth 1574 29%
Northwestern 1395 40%
Richmond 585 40%
Williams 538 40%
Amherst 440 34%
American 565 73%
Boston U 897 44%
Bowdoin 740 31%
NYU 2854 39%

The news for early admissions for the Class of 2016 from the NYT is what most of us predicted. Gloom and more gloom. To see the numbers for yourself (if you haven't already done so) click here.

A colleague of mine at a high powered independent school in the northeast texted me that after speaking with their Ivy reps, their college counseling office is bracing for all the "non-athlete" applicants (and there a bunch of them) to get the defer or deny letter. Translation: the athletes get to eat first at the Ivies. The rest will have to wait until the spring.

So that is either good news if you can throw a ball or dunk a basketball or run really fast. But for those students who have solid academic and resume credentials only, it may not be as encouraging.

Now we must all wait and see.

And take deep breaths.

And say long prayers.

And make sure that you have a Plan B.

And Plan C.

And maybe a Plan D.

Friday, November 18, 2011

US News and World Report Lists - Writing in the Disciplines

A final list. And one of my favorites as an English teacher.

Writing in the Disciplines.

These colleges typically make writing a priority at all levels of instruction and across the curriculum. Students are encouraged to produce and refine various forms of writing for a range of audiences in different disciplines.

Brown University
Carleton College
Clemson University
Colorado State University
Cornell University
Duke University
George Mason University
Hamilton College
Harvard University
Miami University - Oxford
Middlebury College
North Carolina State U - Raleigh
Princeton University
Purdue University
University of California - Davis
University of Iowa
Washington State University

Monday, November 14, 2011

Jerry Maguire's Advice for Seniors on the College Admission Bubble

Today I got an email from a colleague on the admission side of the desk.

It was in response to a conversation this admission rep had with one of our students.

This student, as little bit of background, is on the proverbial bubble in terms of admissibility, particularly when it comes to GPA and test scores.

So what can this student do to augment his or her chances at gaining admission?

To answer that question, the college rep quoted one of his favorite lines from one of his favorite movies, Jerry Maguire.

Here is the scene in case you haven't seen the movie.

So often we forget that college admission reps want to see their applicants from their territory get into the school.

They are like sports agents who want to see their clients get the multimillion contract.

They are looking for any additional information they can leverage to help bolster their client's chances.

So how then does a "bubble senior" applicant "help a college rep by helping themselves"?

A handful of specific things to keep in mind.

First. They need to have their best academic trimester/semester possible. The higher the grades the more ammo you give a college rep to show an upward/college readiness trend.

Second. They may need to re-take the SAT or ACT that best suites them. Tracking our student's performance on both the ACT and SAT, they tend to score highest on their 3rd test, which often occurs sometime in September-December.

Third. If a student gets deferred, it may behoove them to have a core teacher write an additional progress report to submit to their college rep, especially in classes where there is growth.

And fourth. Never underestimate the value of grit and persistence.

A recent NYT article recently argued that too often we forget that the best indicators for success in college and in life is character. So often we put so much emphasis on numerical data, and how we can raise our kid's scores or grades, that we end up forgetting what the impetus and thrust of education is truly for. We educate to develop flourishing human beings who can in turn become change agents in culture and society. We educate to see our students become the caliber of people who are full of zest, grit, self-control, social intelligence, gratitude, optimism and curiosity.

This is ultimately how someone helps themselves, and by so doing, helps everyone around them, well beyond just college admission reps and college counselors like me.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The St. Louis Cardinals and Green Bay Packers- What Seniors Applying to College Can Learn from "Wild Card Teams"

Not long ago a senior came in with a question.

"Mr. Bottomly, what have you heard about Centre College?"

We talked about what I knew about Centre.

She then asked if it was okay if she added Centre to her "My Colleges" on the Common Application.

This student already had a clear #1 and was applying ED 1. She even had a clear #2, with plans to apply ED 2 if she was deferred or denied from her ED 1 school. She also had a nice constellation of schools in her final list that we're well within her wheelhouse, schools like Rhodes, DePauw, Sewanee, SMU.

I told her, "Sometimes the wild card team wins."

She looked at me quizzically. I knew she was an athlete, so my analogy/metaphor would work.

Take the St. Louis Cardinals. Two months ago none of the MLB prognosticators would have given the Cards a chance to make the playoffs, let alone win the World Series.

Or take the Green Bay Packers. It was last January, I know, but remember that they too were a wild card team, and they too beat the odds and won the Super Bowl.

Sometimes the team, or in this case the college, that you least expect to make a "deep run" ends up emerging as the winner.

Many times that college that you hear is "good", maybe from a peer, or surfing College Confidential threads, or in a conversation at an alumni event, can emerge as an excellent college fit for you.

This student obviously might never visit Centre, especially if she gets into one of her ED schools.

But you never know what could happen between now and May 1.

None of us are immune to the vagaries of college admissions, especially the higher up the chain of selectivity you go.

So seniors: don't be afraid to add a "wild card college".

You just never know what might happen.

Just ask the Cards and Packers.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

US News and World Report Lists - Internships, Study Abroad, Service Learning

US News and World Report: College Edition have a section that includes lists for schools that get the nod for programs that help undergraduates thrive.

Here a few of those lists.

Internships (Schools nominated in this category require or encourage students to apply what they're learning in the classroom to work in the real world through closely supervised internships or practicums, or through cooperative education, in which one period of study typically alternates with one of work.)

Berea College
Drexel University
Georgia Tech
Kettering U
Northeastern U
Rochester Inst. of Tech.
U of Cincinnati
U of Maryland-College Park
Wagner College

Service Learning (Required volunteer work in the community is an instructional strategy in these programs. What's learned in the field bolsters what happens in class, and vice versa.)

Bates College
Berea College
Calvin College
College of the Ozarks
John Carroll
Michigan State
Ohio State
Portland State
U of Maryland-College Park
U of Michigan
UNC-Chapel Hill
Wagner College

Study Abroad (Programs at these schools involve substantial academic work abroad for credit - a year, a semester, or an intensive experience equal to a course - and considered interaction with the local culture.)

Beloit College
Boston U
Carleton College
College of St. Benedict
Dickinson College
Goucher College
Indiana U
Kalamazoo College
Macalester College
Michigan State
St. John's University
St. Olaf
U of Illinois
U of Minnesota
U of Texas - Austin
Webster U

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Princeton Review Top 20 List #1 - Most Accessible Professors

I just picked up my 2012 copy of The Best 376 Colleges. This is one of my favorite "go to" resources for students.

One of my favorite sections are the 62 "Top 20" ranking lists in eight categories:

Academics/Administration, Quality of Life, Politics, Demographics, Town Life, Extracurriculars, and Social Scene.

My next 8 blog posts will provide you with my favorite "Top 20" list from each category.

Most Accessible Professors

1. US Military Academy
2. US Coast Guard Academy
3. Pomona College
4. US Naval Academy
5. Air Force Academy
6. Reed College
7. Sweet Briar College
8. Skidmore College
9. SMU
10. Williams College
11. Sarah Lawrence College
12. Wabash College
13. Claremont McKenna College
14. Amherst College
15. Franklin & Marshall College
16. Webb Institute
17. Colgate University
18. Hampden-Sydney College
19. Ohio University - Athens
20. Muhlenberg College

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Money Saver: Free Online College Applications

In today's economy, who couldn't use an extra $250-$700 dollars?

Below you will find a list of colleges/universities that will allow you to apply online for FREE.

Most of these schools are a part of the Common Application.

This is not an exhaustive list, but a selective one, based on past Casady students who have applied to one of these institutions. This extra savings should make the schools below that much more attractive compared to universities online. To see the full list of schools click here.

Monday, October 3, 2011

10th Grade College Night Snapshot

A couple weeks ago we had 10th grade college night at Casady.

This year we did this event with both parents and students.

We brought in Peter Van Buskirk, former Dean of Admission and author.

Mr. Buskirk did his 2-hour College Admission Game workshop.

Our hope was that our 10th grade students would be energized by the event to keep going hard and avoid the "sophomore slump".

Mr. Buskirk focused on the "big picture" in the first hour. Both the big picture of the college admission landscape. And the big picture of aiming for the "best college fit".

The second hour was comprised of mock admission simulation. Mr. Buskirk took his committee of almost 100 students and parents through 4 student applications. They discussed the strengths and weaknesses, possible "hooks" and possible hurdles. In the end, the committee made a decision on who to admit to their selective liberal arts college.

Here is a video snapshot from the mock admission discussion.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Freshman Parent College Night Recap

Last night we had Freshman Parent College Night.

We had about 50 parents in attendance.

Our central message was this: don't forfeit your child's present for the future.

In addition, we oriented our parents to our program's purpose, process, and pieces.

We ended by giving parents a list of 10 things to do in regard to college planning.

Here they are.

1. Begin mapping out your curriculum plan for all four years in the Upper School.

2. Aim for Breath and Depth: four years in five core subjects, moving upward to the next level of rigor (English, math, science, history, and foreign language) [Selective colleges aren’t looking for passion on the transcript; they are looking for appropriate level of challenge + consistent performance)

3. Become involved in leadership roles in your activities; take advantage of leadership opportunities available to you. (“To whom much is given much is required”)

4. Work hard in all your courses. This will improve your ACT score. Read more. This will improve your PSAT and SAT scores.

5. Take the PSAT in October for experience with standardized testing and to evaluate your progress.

6. Make good use of your summer; get a summer job (responsibility), go to camp, travel, take a course, etc. (What do you do when you don’t have to do anything?)

7. Make use of family trips and vacations to take a first look at colleges. Aim for variety: small, liberal arts; mid-size private university; big, public university; specialty schools. (What did you learn about yourself while touring the school?)

8. Begin in the spring using Casady’s Naviance program to explore colleges, search for those that seem to match your interests and abilities. Do the Learning Style module. Begin building your resume. Keep “Journal” notes about your freshman experience.

9. Parents: begin financial planning for college now! Don’t wait! Investigate college costs, saving plans, etc. and begin saving now!

10. Parents: read from cover-to-cover the College Bound Field Guide located on our College Counseling web page

Friday, September 9, 2011

Junior College Night, Part 1

Wednesday night was Junior College Parent Night.

It was the first of two formal meetings with parents.

The next one is with students in January to kick off The College Seminar.

We had a full house on Wednesday and covered a number of topics related to the college process ahead for their student.

Perhaps you have a student starting their junior year, and you are a bit overwhelmed with where to start, what is ahead, what you should be doing, what your student should be doing.

Hopefully these next three posts will help allay mounting anxieties and provide some clearheaded direction.

So where did we start.

We started with first things.

If we keep first things first, second and third things will click into place.

So what comes first?


Your student.

It's one of our motto's: The student first; the school second.

When we think about your student, our overarching mission is to partner with families to discern the best college fit.

We like to think of "best fit" in terms of four broad categories.

The first category for fit involves learning style.

Here is a simple question you can ask your student to generate discussion about the style of instruction that best suits him or her:

If given a choice, would you

A) take a scantron test,

B) take an essay test,

or C) write a paper.

I didn't learn until my freshman year in Dr. Grady's American Literature II class that I was suited for the take home paper. I got a C in Macroeconomics. Every test was rife with bubbles to fill in. But in Dr. Grady's class there were no bubbles. Just two major papers. I got A's on both of them and loved the writing process. It only took one semester in college to switch from business to English as a major.

In addition, some students learn best in a lecture format. Other students thrive in a seminar format. Does your student retain ideas and information from listening and note taking? Or does your student retain through dialogue and conversation?

The answer to these questions can help identify the kind of learning style that best fits your student.

The second category for fit is passion.

Sometimes students develop a passion inside the classroom.

I think, for example, of Aly M who developed a passion for Manderine Chinese in Mr. Svaboda's class. After four years of Chinese and two trips to China, Aly's college search focused on unique programs in Chinese. She is now at the University of Rhode Island, a scholar in their Flagship Chinese Leadership program.

Other times students develop a passion for something outside the classroom. That's Ben M who back in the 7th grade starting studying films, watching Pulp Fiction every night, dissecting frame by frame. He's now at UT-Austin studying tv-film in the College of Communications.

And then there are students who develop a passion for something that overlaps both inside and outside the classroom. That's Nathan P. On Facebook last week, he posted that he had made the Duke Symphony Orchestra. Nathan's love for the bass violin was nurtured in the classroom at Casady, but now as a freshman, he's studying Biochemical Engineering. At Duke Nathan is able to pursue his passion for the bass violin, but not as a lover of music not as a pre-professional student.

So whether it is a subject in the classroom, or an extracurricular activity outside the classroom, students want to look for colleges where they can pursue their passions.

The third category for fit involves admissibility + competitiveness.

To be admissible means that you have the basics for what the school needs for their profile. Your grades and test scores fall in their median range.

To be competitive, though, means that you have something that the school wants to move their profile forward. Sometimes it involves high grades and test scores. But often it involves something else. This is where the "hook" comes into play. A hook, by definition, is a competitive credential that elevates you as an applicant. The ability to play a sport? The ability to pay full freight? The family's ability to build a new rec center on campus? The color of your skin? The bubble you fill in for gender? The part of the country you hale from? Whether or not your parent is an alumni of the school? The academic discipline you are interested in? These are the kinds of hooks that can move a student from admissible to competitive.

The goal is to find schools where you are both admissible and competitive.

The fourth and final category for fit involves affordability.

Simply put, you have to ask honestly if as a family you can afford the price tag. Now many schools, especially private institutions, will discount and remove most (but not all) of the sticker shock. Nevertheless, with rising tuition costs, and the depreciating value of certain college diplomas, you really have to look at whether or not paying X amount of dollars is worth it. That's where as a family you have to decide what you value.

It's important then as you move forward into the college process that you are constantly thinking about the kinds of schools that fit your student's learning style, their passions, their admissibility + competitiveness, and affordability.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Blog Post 100!!!!

This is my centennial blog post.

It's crazy that I'm now 100 posts in as a "blogger".

For this "milestone post" I want to wrap up my short series on the role of parents in the college process with their kids.

I want to a tell story to do this.

When I a senior, I felt immense self-inflicted pressure to become a third generation military man.

My Granddad graduated from West Point.

He went on to fly P-32's in WW II in the South Pacific.

Later in Vietnam, my Granddad flew F-105's and served as the youngest base commander (and colonel at age 26) in the Army.

My father followed in my Granddad's footsteps and matriculated to the Air Force Academy.

It wasn't though until I visited the Academy on my recruiting trip for basketball that I realized just how difficult this decision would be.

As I perused glass cases, filled with trophies, plaques, and recognitions from years past, I would stumble upon pictures like the one below.

There he was. My dad at age 21. Receiving award after award. As the top student-athlete of his class. And as the top engineering student.

The clincher for me came when I walked the long corridor to the Commander and Chief's office, and stopping at a life size portrait of the top graduate of the Class of 1969, I stood there and stared back at a picture of my dad shaking President Richard Nixon's hand.

Later that week, I went to lunch with dad at our favorite Chinese restaurant across from the Olympic Training facility in Colorado Springs.

It was there over our traditional cashew chicken dish that I told dad that I didn't want to go to the Academy. It was obviously a great college fit for him. It was not a great fit for me. I was a left handed and right brained kid who had a penchant for creativity and imagination. I was a metaphors and -isms kind of person. Not numbers and theories. I had struggled through calculus and physics, in particular, having to drop the latter after a semester because I was sinking so badly. I had had to take the ACT 5 times just to get the minimum score on the science and math sections to qualify for the academy. And the kicker was that the Academy could only offer me a spot at their prep school, which doesn't take someone who can cipher Morris Code to recognize I wasn't ready for the academic rigors of a cadet.

To put it another way: I was a "square-shaped" applicant trying desperately to squeeze into a "round-shaped" groove.

This was not a good fit for me.

Surprisingly, when I shared all this with my dad, he smiled warmly and responded in the most gracious and understanding way possible.

Dad said something like this.

"Josh, your Granddad was hard on me. You know this. But there were two things your Granddad never put pressure on me to do. One, he never pressured me to be rich. And two, he never pressured me to do what he did as a career. His only advice was this: Whatever you do, do it good."

Whatever you do, do it good.

A few months later I found myself at Trinity College outside of Chicago.

At Trinity I was able to study English, play basketball (in games not just practice), and eat the best deep-dish pizza in America!

It is some 20 years later now, and I am still eternally grateful for that moment with my dad.

It changed the course and trajectory of my life.

I tell parents that if it had not been for that conversation over Chinese food, I would not be teaching, coaching, and counseling your kids today.

Thanks, pop, for keeping first things first.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

A Parent's Role - Taking the Ride

This summer my wife and I took our son, Silas, to his first amusement park.

The Mall of America in Minneapolis.

Amy wanted to shop, so I got the task of going on all the rides with the S man.

And when I say all the rides, I mean I went on ALL the rides.

(What we won't do for our kids, right?)

You can see from Silas's facial expression, he's not so sure if he wants to go on this ride.

I remember telling him that when the chair lift launches us into the air, we both need to raise our arms up in the air and howl at the top of our lungs.

It took a few ups and downs. But it wasn't long before Silas's hand was semi-up in the air, and his mouth was filled with giddy laughter.

The college process with our kids many times involves a wild ride.

It has its ups and downs. Its emotional undulations.

Perhaps what our kids want from us more than anything during this process is simply to take the ride with them.

With them.

Not for them.


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Another First

We are starting a new tradition at Casady with our seniors.

Outside our offices is an empty board.

This year we're asking seniors to come sign and pin up their college acceptance letters.

Just like this one.

Our first acceptance.

And fittingly it is to OU. "Boomer"....."Sooner"!

Come April, we hope this board is bedecked and layered over with acceptance letters.

Last year we had a lot of colleges say to our seniors: "Yes, I see a potential fit!"

This year we hope to continue the upward trend of finding excellent college fits (plural) for each of our 73 seniors.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Moments of Influence

I always love the "firsts" of a new school year.

The first day of class.

The first major assignment.

The first home football game under the Friday night lights.

The first college application. And therefore the first college recommendation I get to write.

And the first blog post.

As we begin the new year, I want to remind you as parents of what we all deep down want to keep and preserve as first in our lives.

If life is moments, then these dots represent moments of influence.

Moments where you (the parent) have the opportunity to positively impact the life of your child.

Or negatively impact them.

One of the things I most appreciated about my parents is how they intentionally carved out time with each of the four of us kids to "make a moment".

Dad and I, for example, would do lunch together, just the two of us, once a month through the high school years.

We had a favorite Chinese restaurant just across the street from the Olympic training facility in Colorado Springs.

Over cashew chicken, we would talk honestly and openly about the present and future.

Somehow dad was able to keep first things first.

I challenge you as we start the new year to carve out moments of influence with your son or daughter..

Make time just to be with your child.

To nurture what will last long after high school and the college search are over.

I am sure glad both my parents did that with me.

Friday, May 13, 2011

College Seminar Cycle #4: College Application Hooks and Hotspots Part 2

Page #2: Family

On this page the hot spot involves information regarding the college or lack of a college a student's family has attended. If a student applies to a college where a parent or sibling has graduated from or is attending, then you become a legacy student, a legitimate hook.
In a recent interview, Maria Laskaris, Dean of Admission at Dartmouth College, was asked about legacy applicants. Here is her response:

We give all legacy applicants at least one additional review in this process. The dramatic increase in selectivity that we’ve experienced makes the admissions process more competitive for everyone, but our legacy applicants are admitted at a rate that’s roughly two-and-a-half times greater than the overall rate of admission. It’s never easy to turn away the children of Dartmouth alumni.

(To read the entire interview with Dean Laskaris click here).

In addition, if you are a 1st generation college student, this too can become a hook. Programs like Questbridge, for example, are actively seeking talented, low income, 1st generation students, who they can link to many highly selective schools.

Page #3: Education/Academics

The first arrows above are for information regarding Casady School. Make sure you know what type of school you come from and get the basic information about the college counseling office from your counselor (Casady is an independent school, by the way).

Now on to other hot spots and hooks.

Grades and test scores. We encourage our students not to record their GPA or test scores. We send official transcripts and students must submit official test scores (via ACT or College Board). If, however, the student's test score is big, then it is worth including, because a big test score (i.e. 34 ACT or 1540 SAT) is a possible hook. Colleges like big numbers. It ultimately helps their US News and World Report rankings.

Current Courses. A multiple choice question.

Among the following, the biggest reason that capable students might not get into selective schools is:

A. They don't have the right contacts.
B. The admission committee failed to recognize the strength of their credentials.
C. They made unwise choices regarding classroom performance.
D. Their scores were too low.

If you picked D, you are correct.

What a senior decides to take their senior year does in fact count. It's a myth to believe that a senior can "coast" or let up. Selective colleges want to see that seniors challenges themselves appropriately.

Rule of thumb: Seek to take the next level of rigor in each core academic subject.
(English 3 to English 4, AP US History to AP Government/AP European History, Chemistry to Physics, Spanish III to Spanish 4, etc.)

One caveat: If you apply Early Action or Early Decision, the chances are that the school you apply to will not see your first trimester (or semester) grades, but they will see the courses you took in the first trimester. Now if your application gets deferred, then these schools will see two trimesters of grades. Often the reason that a student gets deferred is because these colleges want to see more grades.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

College Seminar Cycle #4: College Application Hooks and Hot Spots, Part 1

Let's say that a college admission officer at a selective school gives your application 20 minutes.

Obviously there is not enough time to internalize every piece of information.

Reading then is not in the cards for the admission officer.

Scanning however is.

Specifically a college admission officer is taught to scan for what former dean Peter Van Buskirk calls "hooks and hotspots".

What is a hook?

Something that elevates the applicant out of the pack.

What is a hot spot?

The physical space on the application where information regarding a hook can be located.

In our last college seminar I took the juniors through the Common Application.

Page by page.

Section by section.

Hook by hook.

Hot spot by hot spot.

My hope was that my students would actively highlight, circle, draw arrows to, green flag, red flag, and jot marginal notes like an admission officer.

To know then what admission officers are looking for is to help our students know what information they need to provide on the application.

Forewarned is forearmed.

Or something like that.

Here is a quick page-by-page summary of our seminar's content.

I've broken it up into four blog posts.

Page #1: Applicant. Future Plans. Demographics.

First arrow: make sure if you provide the college your cell # to have an appropriate cell message. Your favorite lines from Hangover 2 is probably not a good idea.

Second arrow : make sure your email address is 1) the email address you check most frequently, and 2) appropriate (sexual innuendo email addresses are not advised).

Third arrow: your social security # is "optional". However, if you plan to apply for need-based aid through the FAFSA, then you will be required to provide the college your SS information.

Fourth arrow: Hook #1: Sometimes an applicant from Oklahoma can be a hook, especially if you are applying to a school a long ways away from Oklahoma.

Rule of thumb: Colleges close to the Red Dirt state = unhooked. Schools further away from Oklahoma = possible hook.

Fifth & Sixth arrows: Hook #2/#3: What you plan to study in school could be a hook. Colleges are looking for "underrepresented" academic fields. A female applying to an engineering program, for example, is a shimmering hook. A female applying to a liberal arts program is NOT. In addition, if you circle in the bubble that you "do not need need-based aid" that is a possible hook. To circle that bubble in won't necessarily hurt you in the process, but it won't necessarily help you either. To colleges, if you leave that bubble blank, you suddenly become a FREE STUDENT.

Seventh arrow: Hook #4: If you come from a racially/ethically underrepresented demographic, this could work in your favor as a hook. Remember: a college wants to look like an international airport with lots and lots of diversity.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Class of 2011 College Choices

Below is our new "College Bound Cyclone" US Map.

You can find it hanging between my office and Coach Warden's office.

You'll notice tiny strips of paper on the map.

These paper strips indicate where each student is matriculating to in the fall.

Our hope is to replace these strips of paper with stickers that have each college logo on them.

In the meantime, the paper strips will do.

Roughly 60% of our seniors will matriculate out-of-state.

40% will remain in-state.

Congrats to our seniors and the college adventure ahead of them at the following colleges and universities:

Auburn University
Belmont University
Boston University
Centre College
DePauw University
Denison University
Duke University
Georgetown University
Hendrix College
Louisiana State University
Northeastern University
Oklahoma City University
Oklahoma State University
Parsons New School of Design
Point Loma Nazarene University
Pomona College
Philander Smith College
Rhodes College
Rollins College
School of the Art Institute of Chicago
Sewanee: The University of the South
Southern Methodist University
St. Olaf College
Texas Christian University
Trinity University
University of Arkansas
University of California at Berkeley
University of Indiana
University of Liverpool
United States Military Academy (West Point)
University of Mississippi
University of Missouri at Columbia
University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill
University of Oklahoma
University of Texas - Austin
Vanderbilt University
Virginia Tech University
Washington University in St. Louis
William Jewell College
Wittenberg University

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

College Decal Stickers and the End of a Journey

These days I love walking around the senior parking lot with my iPhone in hand.

Ready to take pics of college decal stickers.

It's my way, I guess, of celebrating the end of a journey with my students.

A journey that involves a process of exploring, discovering, narrowing, selecting, applying, waiting, receiving, and deciding on the best college fit for them.

College decals have become a symbol of that shared experience.

That epic adventure.

And taking these pictures always seems to energize me for the journey ahead.

With a new set of juniors.

And working with them closely to find that excellent college fit.

(Excuse the unprofessional quality of my pics. I should have thought about shooting the pics at an angle to avoid my reflection.)


Thursday, April 28, 2011

The College Admission Game

Last night we had Peter Van Buskirk with us, former dean, inspirational speaker, and author of the Winning the College Admission Game.

Mr. Buskirk is also now a regular blogger for the US News and World Report.

Below you will find my video summary of what Buskirk shared with us.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Regular Admission Results

Regular admission results continue to trickle in for the Casady class of 2011.

In spite of a historically competitive year in college admissions, our seniors continue to experience great success.

Our 82 seniors have now been admitted to over 120 colleges and universities.

That's the largest number of schools a Casady graduating class has been admitted to in quite some time.

Perhaps a visual will help us all appreciate this accomplishment.

What diversity, huh?

With acceptances from small, liberal arts schools.

To old, tradition-rich historical black colleges.

From major, public research universities.

To everything in-between...even international universities in England.

Now our seniors face the curse of choice.

At Casady we value choices - plural.

We want each of our students to have at least two options.

With May 1 looming, many seniors are taking their final college visits,

weighing pros/cons,

talking finances with parents, sending in the deposit check,

then celebrating with hats, sweatshirts, and car decal stickers!

Here is an updated list of the spring college acceptances:

Allegheny College
Auburn University
Austin College
Baylor University
Belmont University
Boston University
Cameron University
Centre College
College of Wooster
Colorado College
Colorado School of Mines
DePauw University
Denison University
Drexel University
Duke University
Emory University
Eugene Lang College
Hampshire College
Hendrix College
Juniata College
Knox College
Laguna College of Art and Design
Langston University
Lewis and Clark College
Louisiana State University
Loyola Marymount University
Loyola University (Chicago)
Macalester College
Marymount Manhattan College
Maryland Institute of Art and Design
Northern Oklahoma College
Newman University
Northeastern University
Occidental College
Ohio State University
Oklahoma Baptist University
Oklahoma City University
Oklahoma State University
Oklahoma Wesleyan University
Philander Smith College
Prairie View A&M
Randolph College
Reed College
Rhodes College
Rice University
Rollins College
Saint Louis University
School of the Art Institute of Chicago
School of Visual Arts
Sewanee: The University of the South
Southern Methodist University
Southern University and A&M College
Southwestern College
Southwestern University
St. Olaf College
SUNY Purchase
Texas Christian University
Trinity University
University of Arkansas
University of California at Berkeley
University of California at Santa Barbara
University of California at Santa Cruz
University of Colorado at Boulder
University of Georgia
University of Illinois
University of Kansas
University of Liverpool
University of Manchester
University of Michigan
University of Mississippi
University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill
University of North Carolina - Greensboro
University of Oklahoma
University of Oregon
University of Puget Sound
University of San Diego
University of Sussex
University of Texas - Austin
University of Virginia
University of Wisconsin - Madison
Vanderbilt University
Vassar College
Washington University in St. Louis
Wittenberg University
William Jewell College

Congrats to all our seniors on finding their college thumbprint!