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Advice for Rising Seniors (2025 families)

I'm going to go a bit negative this morning, if you'll indulge me.

This time of year, it's rare for a day to go by without having to break bad news.  We get several calls and emails per week from Class of 2024, high school senior families, looking for help with appealing wait lists or rejections from colleges.  And more requests for help negotiating financial aid and merit aid offers.

We have to turn down 9 out of 10 of these requests.

The worst part is that an alarmingly high percentage of inquiries come from moms or dads who have followed us -- reading these emails, attending our webinars and in-person workshops, even speaking to us 1:1 -- since last year, or longer.  Had they retained us a year or two earlier, we could have helped them avoid the pickles they're currently in.

It all could have been avoided.

Tonight, I'm doing one of my last presentations of the year for Rising Seniors -- yes, that means current 11th graders, but not for long -- to help you...

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College Decisions Amidst College Chaos

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:

*How college protests affect families' decisions

F*AFSA mistakes continue

Tune In!


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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Some Unethical Advice I Just Gave

Tutoring | Appeal Your Award

I never do this, but I wanted you to look over my shoulder for this client conversation about the anti-Israel protests.  Actually, this is a mash up of three-four similar conversations I've had in the past few days with Class of 2024 families.

The gist of the conversations:  I'm reluctant to put down a housing deposit at [college] because of the out-of-control, anti-Israel, antisemitic protests.  What do you think?

Obviously this is guesswork, but I'll share my thoughts.

First, I hope and suspect that, as the academic year winds down and ends and college kids return home, the protests at most colleges will organically peter out.   I would guess that the summer reprieve will give college administrations time to discuss and implement actions to ensure order on campus in the fall, unlike what's happening at Columbia.

This may be a bit of a leap, but I don't think we'll see as much strife on campus next year. But of course...

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The 100K per year college?

12 College Application Tips Webinar 

Today I read how Vanderbilt University is apparently a few bucks shy of being the first college to cost $100,000 per year, all in (tuition, room and board, fees).  Officially.

Unofficially, this happened a few years ago, if you count unofficial expenses, such as Ubers, reasonable travel expenses, beer money, Door Dash etc. that kids spend Ma and Pa's money on (note to my three college kids:  there's nothing wrong with peanut butter sandwiches once in a while).

Like the college admissions process, there's no apparent rhyme or reason to a lot of this process.  Why should a non-Ivy college in Tennessee run you more out of pocket than an Ivy League school located in insanely high cost of living Manhattan?

I'm sure someone from Vanderbilt could explain that, but they'd be twisting themselves into knots to do so as far as I'm concerned.

Incidentally, it's not just Vandy that's pushing the 100K envelope:  it's virtually all...

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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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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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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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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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Only 16 Hours Left [Simplify Your College Apps]

College essays and applications don't have to be complicated.

I'd argue that the simpler, the better.  That's how you avoid stress, frustration and confusion.

That's exactly why we designed the November Sprint, an "express" college advising program for high school seniors who are still treading water with their college list, applications and essays.

It's time to dive in and rescue them.

If you (really, your kiddo) are ready to roll up your sleeves and put together a winning application that positions yourself as an "Incomparable Applicant"... that you give yourself the best shot at getting into your Dream School -- and winning tens of thousands of fat, juicy scholarships...

Then it's critically important that you take action right now, before we pull the rug out from under this offer.  

It's go time.



- Andy Lockwood

P.S.  If you're like most parents we know, you've done a LOT for your kid:  spent thousands of dollars and...

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