Book: U.S. News & World Report America’s Best Colleges (2010 Edition)

Only 2.9% of students applied to 12 or more schools.

For fall 2010, Department of Education projects the ratio of collegegoers to be 57% girls to 43% boys.

  • Programs to Look For (page 34-35):
    • Internships
    • Senior Capstone (ask students nearing the end of their college years to create a project of some sort that integrates and synthesizes what they’ve learned)
    • First-Year Experience (first-year seminars or other academic programs that bring small groups of students together with faculty or staff on a regular basis)
    • Undergraduate Research Creative Projects
    • Learning Communities
    • Study Abroad
    • Service Learning
    • Writing in the Disciplines
  • Turning Two Years Into Four (Community Colleges) (page 42-43) –
    • More than 100 2-year colleges have more than 3,000 students and offer campus housing.
  • Chapter 3: How to Get In (page 44-59)
    • 5 Keys to an Awesome Application
      • Grades do matter. Don’t succumb to senioritis.
      • Don’t do well on certain tests? Consider the ACT instead of SAT.
      • Polish your essay until sings. Make sure your authentic voice comes through.
      • Pick your teacher recommendations carefully.
      • Rejected by the schools you applied to? May is not too late to start over.
    • Stop Selling Yourself Short (page 46-48)
      • Making the grade.
        • academic risk takers
        • challenged themselves
        • rigorous curriculum
        • has it prepared them?
        • What we want for students is the feeling that they’re looking for the next great thing they need to know. We like to see a sense of joy and curiosity.
      • Express yourself.
        • doesn’t  have to be a week in Africa. It can you were a clerk at Safeway for the summer and that changed the way you view race relations or the environment.
        • one in which “a student travels in a few swift paragraphs from one perspective to another and has seen the deeper meaning, learned the lesson, or found the humor.”
        • We are looking for a thoughtful, earnest presentation that shows complicated interests and thinking.
        • Always, always, always be honest.
      • Show a little love.
        • demonstrated interest – showing genuine enthusiasm for each school on your list is a must.
        • No college wants to play second or fifth or 15th fiddle.
        • We want kids who want us.
        • Tailor each application individually, with concrete examples of why you can see yourself there.
      • Find your fans.
        • The best choice isn’t always the teacher whose class you aced.
        • Better to pick the one who can describe what you’re like as a person.
        • Ask if they can write you a strong recommendation and if the teacher hesitates, back off.
      • Depth beats breadth.
        • It’s important to be well lopsided rather than well rounded.
        • Focus on what you’re good at.
        • Doing less but doing it well.
        • Avoid being one dimensional.
        • Anything you’re passionate about has merit, including an after-school job.
      • The interview.
        • Some are informational and some are evaluative.
        • One-on-ones are a way to underscore your desire to attend.
        • Rehearse your questions and talking points with an adult.
        • Communication not just your strengths but also your enthusiasm.
        • Say clearly and politely, “This is what I’ve achieved, and I am proud of it.”
      • Full Disclosure.
        • from whatever tipped you up, accepted the consequences, and done what you could do to make amends.
        • You’ve got to show that you learned something.
        • Don’t whine.
      • Acing the Essay.
        • Brainstorm – Ask family and friends what to write about. Focus on what matters to you and why. How you spend your free time is a good place to start.
        • Show; don’t tell – use examples and anecdotes.
        • Be polite but not too humble.
        • Seek feedback – ask someone to read your essay and ask, “Does this sound like me?”
        • Take your time and don’t do it at the last minute.
      • Killer Extracurrics.
        • Choose wisely.
        • Lessons – what drew you in, and what did you learn?
        • Details, details – president of the poetry society? Say how many members the club has and what you do.
        • Commitment – show how much work you put into the water polo team.
    • Taking Charge of Your Test Scores (page 49)
      • SAT Score-Use Practices guide – which breaks down many schools’ specific policies.
      • Make a chart that refers to each college’s rules so you completely understand each school’s requirements.
      • College Board’s SAT-Skills Insight which identifies skills that are needed for the test and poses sample questions.
      • Science section of ACT tests your scientific reasoning skills (40 questions).
      • 1.4 million fro ACT versus 1.5 million for SAT Even though the SAT or ACT is preferred in dif...
    • Rocketing Past the Blunders (page 50-51)
      • Sanitize your e-mail address.
      • keep nicknames private.
      • Follow directions.
      • Recruit enthusiastic recommenders.
      • Extracurrics: Don’t overdo it.
      • Shun jargon.
      • Explain changes.
      • Know thy college. – say something specific about the school.
      • Keep schools straight.
      • Think twice before tugging at heartstrings. – unless you can use a sorrowful story to reveal something about yourself, it is a tale best not told.
      • Keep it clean.
      • Don’t use those “texting” words.
      • Explain easy courses. – Took honors English through 11th grade then slid down to a standard class. “Burned out” is not a good answer. “Decided to focus on my real love – science” is much better.
      • Own up to bad behavior. – Don’t lie. Take on the experience, show contrition or lessons learned.
      • Optional essays aren’t optional.
      • Be electronically savvy.
      • Handwriting counts.
      • Don’t assume your counselor will handle it.
      • Don’t be cocky.

If you do opt to stay on a wait list, write or call with any new info you think will help: a stellar final transcript, a special award or achievement. And let your college know you’re not just toying with it.

  • In early May, NACAC’s survey of space availability lists schools that report spots remaining for qualified applications. It stays online until mid-August.
  • Chapter 4: How to Pay for College (page 60-71)
    • 5 Keys to Finding the Money
      • Look at education as an investment.
      • Spread your net wider. Seek out new sources of cash. Apply to good, cheap colleges.
      • More students are getting federal grants. and federal student loans are now bargains.
      • Parents should shop around, especially for bank loans.
      • Best value schools (page 67) – % receiving grants based on need; average cost after receiving grants based on need; average discount from total cost.
    • Target colleges’ admission statistics –
    • Web sites: BabyMint, LittleGrad, Futuretrust, Upromise, SAGE Scholars

Students who request extra help (and can document their need for it) are far more likely to get aid these days.

    • Compare loans:
    • It’s What You Didn’t Think Of (page 66)
      • Storage containers.
      • Gym membership.
      • Parking and car registration fees.
      • The latest iPod incarnation.
      • School pride gear.
      • Formal wear.
      • Flu-fighting vitamins.
      • Paper costs.
      • Food storage – rent a small fridge each semester.
    • Out of State at In-State Rates (page 71)
      • Know no boundaries.
        • 4 geographically based programs: The Midwest program; Academic Common Market (South); Western Undergraduate Exchange (West); New England Board of Higher Education Regional Student Program
      • Escapes – vacations.

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