Sunday, September 17, 2017

Boston NACAC - Day 3


I'm eager to return to ElRo simultaneously exhausted and professionally reinvigorated. It is never easy to be out of the office, particularly in September, but the opportunity to participate in this conference and connect with so many other passionate professions is truly a gift. Thank you to the PTA for their support!

Yesterday was the closing day of the conference and I attended three educational sessions.

My first session was called "College Applications-- The Importance of Managing the Helping Parent." The task of trying to encourage a healthy balance of parent involvement in the college application process is never easy. This session went over the profile of six common 'helping' parents and suggested ways to try and redirect toward healthier and more productive behavior patterns. Many of these scenes are all too common at our school and I hope we can continually strive to keep the focus on helping support our students and give them the chance to navigate this potentially stressful process with unconditional support.

The next session was "How America Pays for College" which is an annual look at trends in financial aid and family decisions around college funding. The presenters shared that while 85% of Americans view college as one of the most serious and important investments they can make, only about 20% have a conscious plan for how to pay for it. This disconnect results in the potential for a lot of family discord and challenge. To borrow from the world of financial investing, the panel encouraged us to suggest that the family take a portfolio approach to college applications -- making a list from all ends of the selectivity spectrum in order to diversity options. This not only will result in more acceptances, it also increases the odds that those acceptances will be affordable. One of the most useful facts I learned in this session is that the typical financial aid package provides about 35% of the cost of the school to be covered by grants and scholarships. This leaves the family with needing to come up with the rest of the cost 'pie' via parent contribution, student, contribution, and/or loans. So much of the financial piece has to do with application strategy. I strongly encourage all parents/guardians to have frank conversations with their children about the amount they can/cannot comfortably contribute toward college. Keeping this conversation behind the scenes is a huge mistake and rarely results in a happy home come spring.

My conference ended with a panel called "Holistic Admissions: Friend or Foe." Here they broke down the rather nefarious origins of holistic admissions and also debunked some myths around its current use.  The concept of holistic admission gives the illusion of it being personal and something that is in control of the applicant, but that is not really the case in reality. Admissions offices are skilled at sussing out the elements presented in the application, but they are doing so in the context of the rest of the incoming class. Thus the control is with them, in deciding on the balance of things like institutional priorities, regional balance, gender balance, the balance of leaders vs followers, etc. All the applicant can do is embrace the lack of control and have faith that their personal qualities, the very most holistic parts of their application, will be what leads them on a path to success. Panelist Andrew Flagel from Brandeis put it best when he said "when we reject you, it is rarely about you. It is likely about us."

On to Salt Lake City for 2018!

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Saturday, September 16, 2017

Boston NACAC- Day 2


I realize I'm posting this on Saturday. Yesterday was really long.

The first session I went to yesterday was about how to most effectively write recommendations in an organized narrative format. In that spirit, I'm going to be entering this blog post as a series of shorter highlights instead of regular paragraphs. 
  • 'Recommendations That Changed Lives' is going to be a NACAC session that people talk about for years going forward. I'm not saying that as a possibility, I'm saying it as a fact. Multiple people who were there with me used phrases like "The price of my registration was worth it for that session alone. If I left now, I would have gotten my moneys worth."
    • This session was about a growing trend of high school counselors replacing traditional letters of recommendation with 'organized narratives' using bullet points and headers to give brief nuggets about the student instead of carefully crafted paragraphs. 
    • The presenters did their due diligence in contacting colleges to make sure these new 'letters' would not negatively impact students and the overwhelming response from colleges was not just that it wouldn't hurt, but that the colleges preferred this model.
    • The most important elements of the letter are explaining the quality of the student's character and any special circumstances in their life. This can be done efficiently and effectively with bullet points. 
    • They also brought up the idea of using peer comments in letters - something I'm strongly considering piloting this year. 
  • The Common App session was next for me. I always try to attend to be sure I'm aware of new changes within the application. 
    • We've had confusion at ElRo about the new self reported transcript function. 
      • ONLY the six schools that are requiring it will be able to see it.  
      • Because we are an annualized school, if students do this they will need to be very careful and accurate in their reporting. 
      • When in doubt, select the 'other' option and type in the text field the specifics about non-traditional courses/credits. 
    • New integration with Google Docs to import text into the application 
    • Fun fact - these schools founded the Common App in 1975:  Trinity, Lafayette, Amherst, Harvard, Emory, Goucher, Princeton, Oberlin, Colgate, Bowdoin, Colorado College, Vassar, SMU, Mills and Carleton. Nice to see a wide range of places, locations, and selectivity levels. 
  • My final session was called - Uncharted Territory: Getting First Generation Students to Consider Broader Options. 
    • Fewer action items within this session, but it is always a nice reminder to spend time with like minded colleagues in our mission to expose students to all of their college options.
  • The rest of my day was spent in the exhibition hall, visiting vendors, and in the counselors college fair.  
Today, Saturday, is the final day. I'm eager to attend the rest of the sessions and return to the office re-energized!

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Thursday, September 14, 2017

Boston NACAC - Day 1


I started the day at a lecture hosted by SMU where we got the opportunity hear from Dr. Eric Bing, an SMU professor in the area of public health. This has become one of my favorite NACAC events, because I really value the opportunity to hear from college faculty, not just admissions staff talking about statistics. I love getting to listen to a lecture again, it brings back the days of being a student! He spoke to us about his work looking to make large scale public health impact using small scale interventions. Things like diagnosing cervical cancer with a cell phone camera and teaching surgeons how to practice performing hysterectomies using virtual reality tools you can buy at Best Buy. He was a dynamic speaker and SMU showcased once again what their campus has to offer. We also got a quick update from last year's speaker about the progress on SMU's cultural intelligence initiatives. They are doing great work across many disciplines. It shows.

The conference opened with keynote speaker Dr. Shaun Harper from USC. He spoke on the opportunities we have, as college counselors and admissions professionals, to break the cycles of racism that might not be as overt as what we saw in Charlottesville. This year more than ever, our work in this arena holds a tremendous amount of weight and we must all strive each day to push back against all forms of inequality and oppression.

I decided to start off my educational sessions with my favorite type of session: the ones designed for colleges. I opted to attend "Let’s Talk – Selective College admission Offices and Committee Based Evaluation" a session about CBE, a new reaching format pioneered at the University of Pennsylvania in 2013. In this model, admissions officers work in the office to read files as a team. The file is usually broken up into two sections and each member of the team reads one half -- either the academic side of the application or the personal side. They shared that this new model fosters unparalleled levels of office mentorship between veterans and new staff. It makes reading faster and prevents reader bias since every file has at least two sets of eyes on it for the initial read. They espoused the higher levels of efficiency and stronger professional development. Schools using this model of reading are increasing rapidly, and I wouldn't be surprised to see it become widespread in coming reading cycles. It is already being used at about 15-20 schools in some form (either just in the Early Decision pool, or for the entire class) -- places like NYU, Swarthmore, Bryn Mawr, and Oberlin. Some of my fellow counselors have concerns about the impact of this reading model on applicants, but I'm willing to give it the benefit of the doubt for now. It seems to foster happier readers and happier readers does not have a downside to me. 

Tomorrow is the hardest day - the longest and most intense - but I'm ready! 

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Pre-NACAC College Tours - MIT/Harvard/Wellesley


 Thanks to the generous support of the PTA, I'm lucky to be attending my ninth NACAC National Conference, located this year in Boston, Massachusetts. The conference starts Thursday, but I spent today on a pre-NACAC tour of MIT and Harvard (co-presented with Wellesley, even though we didn't get a chance to see the campus in person). Though I'd had peripheral exposure to these campuses before (I went to college only a few T stops away) it was nice to get to see the schools through the admissions lens and hear directly from staff about their missions and unique identities.

The morning portion of the program was held at MIT. I'll start by saying, the table centerpieces at breakfast were Rubik's cubes set inside glass containers -- a pretty great way to embody the spirit of MIT: quirky problem solvers that fancy themselves to be the kind of people who live on being just a little bit tongue in cheek. The campus buildings are often interconnected - a series of hallways that vastly improve quality of life in the winter but that also represent the intellectual intersection of departments across the transcripts of the students that walk through these spaces. All students are admitted undeclared, so all students are expected to be able to handle core requirement classes that include the likes of calculus, chemistry, physics, biology, AND the social sciences and humanities. This is to say that even the Literature majors are finding derivatives and the Computer Scientists read Shakespeare. This is a place for innovators that are both book smart and who thrive in hands on learning experiences. It is best for students with creative minds -- we were told they are the kinds of students who like to build things and break things. Loners are the ones who struggle - collaboration is valued. In fact, one of the slides we were shown said something to the effect of "we are looking to choose a 1,100 person team to climb a fairly interesting and rugged mountain--together." MIT isn't the kind of place one applies to on a whim. They use their own application platform and don't follow the same tune as many other highly selective schools. Do a ton of activities? That's nice, but MIT will only let you list four and they should be from grades 10-12. Have a super polished longform personal statement? That works other places, but here you'll need to complete 5 short answers instead. The students we heard from on the panel were clearly very intellectual, but they also had palpable passion and clearly viewed their time at MIT as a journey (complete with some high highs and low lows). MIT seeks those who are brilliant enough to tackle the world's problems and who can be bold enough to find solutions for the 'greater good.' It was an impressive morning and a great way to kick off the conference week.


Next we headed to Harvard, for a co-presentation about both Harvard and Wellesley. As a women's college, Wellesley's mission remains the same now as it has always been: to educate dynamic female leaders. Core tenets of a Wellesley experience include confidence, leadership, and sisterhood. The majority of the faculty is female and students are involved in running all aspects of the school -- from the Trustees meetings, to residential life running the dorms, to sitting on the admission committee (yes, you read that last one right). There is an honor code, so students are expected to uphold high levels of ethical decision making. One of the most exciting initiatives to emerge in the past two years is the new career advising system that gives every student a personal career advisor for all four years - an individualized program giving unparalleled attention to outcomes and employment opportunities. I hope that I get the chance, sooner rather than later, to see this place in person!

As for Harvard, the description of the students is that they are organized and disciplined leaders. We were told that admission decisions are driven by the gut as much as the head and heart. This makes sense in a way because in an almost universally strong pool like theirs, relying on the gut can be a much more reasonable endeavor. The risk is low and the payoff can be huge. Their committee is, of course, looking for phenomenal academics but also outstanding character and for the student to have a full and meaningful life beyond the classroom. Unfortunately, the Harvard 'tour' is not much of a tour at all in that we didn't go inside a single building. I think this is an effort to not have tour groups gawk at Harvard students as they try to go about their studies? But, it makes it harder to get a tight grasp on the community (not to mention that it also doesn't move the needle much when trying to fight the ivory tower stereotype). What is clear is that Harvard does an outstanding job of identifying young people with strong potential for success. Whatever their methodology is, it's working. Their historic campus and reputation make them both highly sought after and rightly proud of their legacy and achievements.

Tomorrow is the official opening day of the conference, and I look forward to seeing my colleagues from around the nation (and world!). Thank you to MIT, Harvard, and Wellesley for their time and attention to today's program.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Upstate Visits - Day 3

Hartwick College
On my final day of the trip, we went to visit Hartwick College and SUNY Oneonta. These two are located just minutes away from each other so they make a good pair when it comes to visiting campuses.

The one thing I think bears repeating about Hartwick is: this campus is on a massive hill. The pro here is that the views from various parts of campus are really lovely. The con is you need to be prepared to walk up and down a lot of inclines (though our tourguide informed us that many students hack the system by learning what buildings have elevators that can help things be a bit easier to navigate.). During our stay it was clear that Hartwick is investing some major dollars in the campus look and feel because there were construction projects going on all around. One main change is going to be a new pedestrian walkway on a road that was formerly bustling with cars. As a school that offers merit aid, this campus might be the right fit for students looking to attend a private school on a public college budget. Check out the net price calculator to estimate the cost for your individual financial situation.


Our final campus for this trip was SUNY Oneonta. The most noticeable contrast to Hartwick was the physical layout of the campus being much flatter. Of course, topography should not necessarily be number one on your list of campus factors, but since these two are so close to one another I think the contrast bears highlighting. Much like Oswego, I was pleasantly surprised by the renovation efforts on the campus. The spaces are bright, clean, and modern. Oneonta is also an example of how not all four year SUNY schools charge the same price for Room and Board. Oneonta's non-tuition fees are approximately $14,000 (compared with a school like Binghamton with Room & Board plus fees closer to $17,500). It isn't a massive difference but when you consider that many ElRo students would also get merit money to attend Oneonta, the savings really does compound over the course of four years. Still not convinced? SUNY Oneonta's campus is the proud home of the only Starbucks in a 50 mile radius.

Summer sometimes gets a bad rap when it comes to being a time to visit campuses, but I encourage you to not overlook this free time as a chance to really dig into seeing schools in person!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Upstate Visits - Day 2


The View from the Admissions Office, HWS.
The middle day brought us to Hobart and William Smith Colleges and SUNY Oswego.

Hobart and William Smith are actually two colleges (one for men and one for women) that operate on the coordinate system - meaning they have one campus and one office of admission but issue separate diplomas and have different mascots and school colors. For them, they see it as an advantage of being able to keep traditions from both schools and allow for double the number of leadership positions for students (each has their own student government, etc).

Hobart and William Smith Colleges are located at the edge of Lake Seneca, one of the Finger Lakes, and let me start by saying the view of the lake from their Admissions Office is absolutely stunning. The Wegman's chocolate chip cookies they give away there aren't too shabby either. An HWS education is rooted in the liberal arts. Instead of a core curriculum or firm distribution requirements, students are asked to complete 8 goals by the time they graduate. These goals can be reached by way of classes but they can also be reached through experiences and extracurriculars. This allows for students to shape their education with the freedom to take classes they want, but without going 100% to an open curriculum. Approximately 60% of students study abroad, just one of the ways they prepare students to lead lives of consequence (that's their tagline).

On our HWS tour we passed by a bulletin board with little tabs on a map for every place students had internships right now. This is a close up of the Northeast. They seem to have it covered :)
That afternoon, we headed farther north to visit SUNY Oswego.

Oswego
Another lakeside campus, this time along Lake Ontario, was our next stop: SUNY Oswego. Something felt different about this SUNY campus. A large part of this 'feel' is the facilities. Almost all of the campus has been renovated or rebuilt in recent years. That means you are walking through many crisp hallways, creative architecture, and technologically up to date spaces.

Is this what you pictured when you think of SUNY?
Well, that's Oswego.

Hockey is a big focal point here (no surprise there) and yes, you need to be ready for cold winters if you enroll. But, they also make a concerted effort to connect buildings and allow for travel between spaces without going outdoors for too long (same strategy as University of Rochester, though not via underground tunnels). I'm so glad I had the chance to see this campus. I was really impressed and thing it just goes to show the diversity that New York State has to offer.

PS - Our namesake also had the chance to visit this place


Upstate Visits - Day 1


The next three blog posts are going to cover a three day trip upstate where I had the opportunity to visit six colleges. This entry will cover Broome Community College and Onondaga Community College, two SUNY schools.

Broome Community College is located right near SUNY Binghamton and is probably the most relevant 2-Year SUNY for ElRo students because of its Binghamton Advantage Program, an offer of admission that some students receive after applying to Binghamton. In this program, students live on Binghamton's campus but take courses at Broome prior to transferring to Binghamton after one or two years. You can learn more about the BAP here. The advantage with attending a school like Broome is you save money on tuition, have a chance to earn credits, and then apply to transfer to a more selective 4 year school. They also offer a unique program called AA1 that allows bright students to earn an Associate's degree in only one year (again resulting in financial savings). For students that need a small setting in order to thrive (or a starting point before taking classes at Binghamton), Broome might be the right fit for you.


Our next stop was Onondaga Community College, which might end up to be the sleeper hit of this trip. I was blown away by the campus and could really see ElRo students being able to thrive here. Located right near Syracuse, Onondaga CC is slightly more developed than some other 2 year schools that I've seen. This is mainly due to the size. Onondaga has almost 12,000 students enrolled - that is double that of Broome. This allows them to have more integrated housing (see photo above) and provide a true campus feel that is not far from a large city (there are shuttles to take students all around if they need to get off campus).

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

NYSACAC 2017 SUNY Geneseo


The end of the year has been wild! Sorry this post is so tardy!

Earlier this month, because of an NYCDOE Office of Post Secondary Readiness grant, I had the good fortune of being able to attend the 2017 NYSACAC Conference at SUNY Geneseo. This was my first time at SUNY Geneseo, first time at the Coming Together conference and second time at the NYSACAC conference.

The conference experience was truly great but I won't try and bog down the blog with lots of information about the obscure sessions I attended (or the one I co-presented!). Instead I want to focus on the most relevant part of the conference to you readers which is: the campus!

SUNY Geneseo was so great! I loved everything from the architecture, to the main street adjacent to the campus, to the gazebo at the heard of campus with a killer view. The student ambassadors were phenomenal - the sort of representatives that make you feel like I want to tell the entire senior class to apply. They were energetic, courteous, and working day and night as VOLUNTEERS. I've said for years that SUNY Geneseo is the SUNY system's answer to the 'small private liberal arts college.' The emphasis is on being a well rounded learner and the vibe reminded me of many other small colleges in the Northeast. We got to hear a keynote address from a faculty member and that only bolstered my already positive opinion of the place.

Particularly with so much chatter out there about getting a liberal arts degree, I'm thrilled to have places like Geneseo where students CAN pursue their passions and NOT go into debt.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Admission Accomplished 2017

Congratulations to the Class of 2017 on their exciting admission results and enrollment decisions!

Earlier this month, we created our annual bulletin board to visually represent where the senior class will be headed next fall.

Below you will find the list of colleges where our seniors were admitted. If the school is listed in bold that indicates at least one student plans to enroll for the Fall. Please note, this list is based on self-reported results in Naviance. There remain students who have not updated their accounts, so there may be additional schools that are not shown here.

Adelphi University
Allegheny College
American University
Amherst College
Arizona State University
Babson College
Bard College
Barnard College
Barry University
Baruch College of the CUNY
Bates College
Baylor University
Bennington College
Binghamton University
Borough of Manhattan Community College of the CUNY
Boston College
Boston University
Bowdoin College
Brandeis University
Brooklyn College of the CUNY
Bryn Mawr College
California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo
Case Western Reserve University
Champlain College
City College of New York CUNY
City University of New York
Claremont McKenna College
Clark University
Clarkson University
Colgate University
College of New Rochelle
College of Staten Island - CUNY
Connecticut College
Cornell University
CUNY-Macaulay Honors College
Davidson College
Drew University
Drexel University
Elon University
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University - Daytona Beach
Emerson College
Emory University
Fairfield University
Fordham University
Franklin & Marshall College
George Mason University
Georgetown University
Gettysburg College
Goucher College
Grinnell College
Hamilton College - NY
Hampshire College
Hawaii Pacific University
Hobart and William Smith Colleges
Hofstra University
Hunter College of the CUNY
Indiana University at Bloomington
Iona College
Ithaca College
John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the CUNY
Lafayette College
Lawrence University
Lehigh University
Lehman College of the CUNY
Lewis & Clark College
Long Island University, Post
Loyola Marymount University
Loyola University Maryland
Macalester College
Manhattan College
Marquette University
McDaniel College
McGill University
Michigan State University
Mount Holyoke College
New York City College of Technology
New York University
Northeastern University
NYU Shanghai
Oberlin College of Arts and Sciences
Occidental College
Oxford College of Emory University
Pace University, New York City
Pennsylvania State University
Pratt Institute
Purchase College State University of New York
Purdue University
Queens College of the CUNY
Quinnipiac University
Reed College
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Rice University
Rochester Institute of Technology
Roger Williams University
Rutgers University-New Brunswick
Saint Louis University
San Diego State University
San Francisco State University
Sarah Lawrence College
Scripps College
Siena College
Skidmore College
Smith College
Southern Connecticut State University
St. John's University - Queens Campus
St. Lawrence University
State University of New York at Albany
State University of New York at New Paltz
Stevens Institute of Technology
Stony Brook University
SUNY Buffalo State College
SUNY College at Cortland
SUNY College at Geneseo
SUNY College at Oneonta
SUNY Oswego
SUNY Polytechnic Institute
Syracuse University
Temple University
The College of New Jersey
The George Washington University
The Ohio State University
The University of Arizona
The University of Edinburgh
The University of Scranton
The University of Texas, Austin
Tufts University
Tulane University
Union College (New York)
University at Buffalo The State University of New York
University College Dublin
University of British Columbia
University of California, Berkeley
University of California, Davis
University of California, Irvine
University of California, Los Angeles
University of California, San Diego
University of California, Santa Barbara
University of Colorado at Boulder
University of Connecticut
University of Delaware
University of Florida
University of Hartford
University of Maine
University of Maryland, Baltimore County
University of Maryland, College Park
University of Massachusetts, Amherst
University of Massachusetts, Boston
University of Massachusetts, Lowell
University of Miami
University of Michigan
University of New Hampshire at Durham
University of Notre Dame
University of Pennsylvania
University of Pittsburgh
University of Puget Sound
University of Richmond
University of Rochester
University of South Carolina
University of Southern California
University of St Andrews
University of Toronto Undergraduate Only
University of Vermont
University of Virginia
University of Washington
University of Wisconsin, Madison
Ursinus College
Vassar College
Villanova University
Washington University in St. Louis
Wellesley College
Wesleyan University
Wheaton College MA
Williams College