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New: 12 College Application Tips

12 College Application Tips Webinar

We're scant days away from the "final" college acceptances, denials and waitlists for this year's crop of college applicants in The Most Confusing College Application Season ever.

Which means that I now have enough intel to share the following tips with Class of 2025 families, in a brand new webinar, Thursday night:

  • How to get into a decent college, today
  • How to construct a strategic and balanced college list
  • How to avoid "Admissions Armageddon"
  • How to answer one of the new supplemental essays about diversity even if you don't feel or look particularly diverse
  • How to earn a 30K per year merit scholarship even if you didn't cure a pandemic or single-handedly build a village in a third world country
  • Test-Optional:  To Opt or Not to Opt (yeah I know that one doesn't quite make sense but you know what I'm trying to say)
  • The New Digital SAT:  right for your kiddo?
  • Merit Scholarships:  how to get 'em without spending six months on stupid...
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Digital SAT Math Meltdown

act college admissions sat Mar 24, 2024

Good morning!

We're hitting the airwaves this morning -- 10:00am EST --  for College Coffee Talk, our live show about college admissions and financial aid news that you can use!  

Here's what's on tap for today:

The Digital SAT Math Meltdown

Two Obscure FAFSA Hacks Discovered by Pearl




Grab a cup of joe and we'll see you at 10am EST (recorded if you can't make it)

- Andy Lockwood

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How Hard Is the Digital SAT?

Tutoring and Small Group Classes

Most of the comments I've heard and read about the new digital SAT given March 9 are critical of how difficult it was. 

But I'm not sure it matters.  The College Board is pretty good at assessing the difficulty of its SAT questions ahead of time.  They engage in "score equating," which is similar to a curve, but done in advance.

My hunch is that the actual scores, when released later today (!) will not be super-low, generally speaking.  I believe that they'll be pretty similar to historical scores.

- - -

Sidebar from Cynical Andy:  the College Board (and the ACT) have been under the gun in the past two-three years, as opponents to standardized testing -- namely, -- have pressured colleges to not require the tests because of their inherent bias, lack of correlation with a student's future performance in college and a likely reduction in underrepresented minorities on college campuses as a result.

On the other...

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Extracurriculars that "sell," not bore

Nary a week goes by without a question about a summer program, service trip opportunity or other similar queries.  Here are my thoughts:

The world of extracurricular activities is divided into two parts:  Typical and Atypical.  Nothing against typical activities, but they won't move the proverbial college application needle.  Examples:

Playing a sport is great for many reasons, but unless you're a recruited athlete, it will not help your kid get in anywhere.  He doesn't have to step up his private tennis or fencing lessons to six times per week for college application purposes.

Being a member of National Honor Society is nice, but if your child qualifies, she will be joining the rarefied air of the top 70% of her peers.  Not a game changer for the college apps.  It's a participation trophy.

Enrolling in a service trip to Hawaii, the Dominican Republic or some other tropical paradise requiring travel by air -- instead of offering your...

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Local College Planning Workshop Tonight

Manhasset Library Workshop

Announcement for local parents of college bound teens:

I'm doing a free college planning "secrets" workshop  tonight at the Manhasset Public Library, 7pm, and I just learned that they have 20 empty seats with your name on them!

That's sorta kinda what we found out, last minute.  Point is, if you have any of the following questions, and you're free at 7pm tonight, we would love you to stop by:

  • Admissions "Secrets": The truth about what it takes to get into a competitive college today (including non politically correct, but true, factors)
  • The FAFSApocalypse: What the bejeezus is happening the the FAFSA (financial aid app) and how is it impacting college-bound families today
  • Financial Aid Loopholes: How can Long Island families cut colleges costs -- by 56% or more -- even if they believe that there's no way on God's green Earth that they can qualify for that they can comfortably afford tuition for all of their kids...
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Applying for Financial Aid: Hurt Odds of Acceptance?

Tutoring | Bootcamp

Hello my College Planning Amigo,

During College Application Season, it’s unusual for a month to go by without a parent asking me whether they should check the “yes” box on the Common App, to indicate that they want to be considered for financial aid.

What do you think?  Will it hurt your odds of getting in?  Or…

Is that the right question?  Here are my thoughts.

Most colleges are “need aware.”  Meaning, they consider whether you need financial aid as ONE of the 25 ish factors that go into a college application.

So whether you need aid or not isn’t a make or break question across the board.  However, it definitely is one of the considerations that could get you in or keep you out when it comes down to the wire, when admissions committees are making their final cuts.

On the other hand, a relatively small number of colleges, typically Ivy and other elite private colleges, purport to be...

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College Essay Announcement

A week ago, the folks at the Common Application announced that their essay prompts will be the same as last year's.

On a related note, Class of 2025 students will write the same crappy essays as last year's college applicants.   

One big error revolves around choice of prompt.   I'll share which one is the worst in a moment, but first let me give you a little overview if you're new to the wonderful world of college essays and applications.

The Common Application comes out August 1.  The overwhelming majority  of the colleges your son or daughter will apply to accept the Common App (Georgetown University is one notable exception that has its own application).

The Common App really isn't that big a deal.  A lot of it is rote - name, address, parent info, list of honors, etc. 

However, the areas that require thought and attention are 1. essay writing (the personal statement and supplemental essays) and 2. the Activities Section.

In my...

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Reader Rants at Lockwood

In response to my email predicting the slow demise of test-optional policies, I received a mini rant from a subscriber to my email list.   Her point, summarized:

* She was a great student herself back in the day

* She was not a great test taker though

* She was admitted to an elite school

* Ergo, standardized testing is ineffective at predicting academic success in college

My response:

"Back in the day" there wasn't as much grade inflation as there is in modern times.  Today, admissions officers can't rely on GPA they way they once could to predict how well a student will do in college, academically.

*I'm happy that she was admitted to the college where she apparently wanted to go.  But I'm curious why she has a chip on her shoulder big enough to spend her time emailing me.

*My email reported the news that Yale (joining Dartmouth, Georgetown, MIT, Georgia Tech, Purdue and others) announced they were tearing up their test-optional policies.  Not my...

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How Did Northeastern Get So Hard to Get Into?

Tutoring | Webinar

Even though I've been a college advisor for 21+ years, I admit that I still have a hard time understanding how things got so topsy turvy.  

It's rare for a week to go by without a parent commenting to me, "When did things get so complicated?"

College costs are out of hand.  And college admissions are kah-ray-zee! 

There's no rhyme or reason. Yesterday's "Safety Schools" are today's Impossible Dreams.

Case in point:  Northeastern University.

When I was a wee lad growing up in the 1980's in the Boston suburbs, Northeastern admitted 90% of its applicants.  I hate to say it but here I go: 

That's where you went if you couldn't get into any other college!

Last year:  6.7% acceptance rate.

You read that right, it wasn't a typo.  How did this happen?

In a word, "marketing."  Northeastern gamed the system, specifically US News and World Report, to rush the charts and become...

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Less Than 5 Hours Left

In less than five hours -- midnight tonight -- we're pulling the plug on our last-minute, 11th hour college applications and essays "express" program, The November Sprint.

That means that, if you want help putting together a (nearly) perfect college application and a set of essays so compelling that admissions officers would (practically) crawl naked over broken glass to BEG your child to attend their college...

...In what looks like to be the most competitive, ridiculous college acceptance cycle ever (did you see last year's acceptance rates?  Brace yourself!)...

It's time to make your choice.

Either sign up with us, so that our years of specialized college essay and college advising expertise is in your corner -- expertise that has helped our clients get into every top college you can think of...

...or, let this chance slip through your fingers and "wing it." 

You've got an important decision to make.    If you chose us, we're ready to go to work for you...

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