Believe it or not, the seniors have only two more weeks until they’re finished with their exams and are off on C.I.E. (Career Intern Experience). Once they’re outta here, the juniors will start sitting in the front rows in Anschutz, parking in the senior lot, and giving seniordom a test drive. You know what that means – you’re practically juniors!
Admission Game Program Follow-Up
I was happy to see so many of you at the Admission Game program with Peter Van Buskirk (whom I'll refer to as PVB from now on). Just in case you were shell shocked by his high-energy/information-dense presentation, here are a few concerns that I hear from traumatized students (whom I'll refer to as TS) and the messages that PVB actually intends for you to take away from the program. The PVB messages will be in my words, but I promise you that I'm channeling him!
TS: If I'm not a star athlete, I won't get into any good colleges….
PVB: Pish posh! While being an elite athlete who can significantly impact a college athletics program could certainly help with admission, there are lots of ways to distinguish yourself outside of the classroom. For example, Josh's skill as a musician and potential for contributing to the orchestra at Easton could have been a factor in his admission. Though the athletics-aided admissions decisions tend to be the most public (newspapers, for instance, cover the official college "signing days" for Division I-bound athletes), many talents are valued by colleges. A striking art portfolio or a dynamic theater audition could open a door to a college, too. Did you win an award in Speech and Debate? Tape your performance and post it on You Tube; then you can provide a link to your video as part of your application.
TS: If I don't have tons of AP courses, I won't get into college…
PVB: What matters is that you challenge yourself appropriately within the context of what your school offers. Remember that Hobie had a super-challenging course schedule but not-so-hot grades. Maybe it was because she was spending so much time playing tennis, or maybe she didn't do well enough in Pre-Calculus to be able to succeed in AP Calculus, but clearly, she wasn't challenging herself appropriately.
TS: Yeah, yeah, yeah, but (I hear you say), if I don't have lots of APs, I won't get into good colleges.
PVB: There are terrific colleges all over the "pyramid of selectivity," not just at the top. And one of the tippy-top colleges might not be the best for you. You might be looking for a specialized program, or a location that enables you to access desired internships, recreational opportunities, or a unique study abroad program. Here's the best (and most common sense) single piece of advice about the college process: Challenge yourself appropriately, do your best, and look for colleges that will value you for who you are. Bam! (Okay, PVB might not say "bam," or "pish posh," for that matter.)
TS: If I'm not a team captain, class president, newspaper editor (etc.), I'm done for!
PVB: Showing leadership ability and potential can be very helpful in college admissions, but there are few positions available at that level. The good news is that you can establish yourself as a leader in plenty of other ways. Start by working on your class participation. (You didn't see that coming, did you?) Take some risks, get your hand up, help your classmates, seek out your teacher for extra help -- give your teachers a reason to think of you as a leader in your math class, or English class, or whatever class. These are habits of the most successful students, and they provide your teachers and your future college counselor with terrific material for strong recommendations.
Also, you can demonstrate leadership ability and potential in a club. For example, you could help organize a fundraiser or an awareness campaign. Take a leadership role in an out-of-school youth group. Form a dog-sitting collective in your neighborhood. Think about it -- leadership opportunities are everywhere once you start thinking outside the box!
Still traumatized? Feel free to come and talk to me about what’s on your mind. Your dean, Mr. Ehrenfried, also knows a thing or two about college admissions. (Did you know that he once worked in the admissions office at Duke?!)
The school year is winding down quickly, but there are a couple of opportunities for you in May:
Free Practice ACT and Follow-up “Strategy Session”
Sunday, May 6, 2:00-6:00pm, and May 20, 4:00-5:00pm in Grant Hall
Princeton Review will administer a full-length ACT test under authentic testing conditions. If you did well on the PLAN test in October, why not give the ACT a practice try? And if you took the practice SAT recently, taking the upcoming ACT will give you a very good indication of which test may be better for you. Though the SAT is most commonly taken by our juniors, there are a growing number of students who have decided to be ACT-only testers. Parents are welcome to attend the May 20th follow-up session, and there is no charge for the program. To register, call The Princeton Review at 866-408--8867 and punch in ext. 1249 to be connected directly to our local Princeton Review office.
Duke, Georgetown, Harvard, Penn, Stanford ("Exploring College Options")
Sunday, May 20, 7:30pm, Denver Marriott Tech Center, 4900 South Syracuse Street
• "Representatives from the five universities will conduct brief slide presentations about their institution and answer your questions about the sometimes-mystifying world of college admissions. You will learn what distinguishes one fine university from another, what competitive colleges look for in the selection process, and what you can do to enhance your college application."
University of Richmond, "Spotlight on Richmond"
Tuesday, May 22, 7:00-8:30pm, in our very own El Pomar Hall
• "Spotlight programs provide high school juniors and parents with an opportunity to learn more about Richmond's academic programs, campus life, and the admission and financial aid process. The presentation will feature admission staff, a campus representative, and alumni."
• Admissions Rep: Tom Nicholas
Standardized Test Prep Breaking News
As I mentioned in the February newsletter, every year we offer an SAT prep class in the fall, preparing students for the January SAT, and an ACT class in the winter, preparing students for the April ACT. There is a fee for each course, but it's about half what the test prep companies charge for their mega-courses, and the time commitment is more forgiving for busy Kent Denver students. I try to arrange the classes to be the least disruptive, taking care to avoid vacations and scheduled activities such as guitar concerts.
What's new for this coming school year is that I'm currently in negotiations with a local test prep company, MindFish, to take over from Princeton Review as our on-campus test prep provider. I'm excited because I've heard nothing but rave reviews about Bill Huston and MindFish. I'll have full details about the fall SAT class in the first College Newsletter for Juniors in August.
Interested in some one-on-one test tutoring? I've given you a link (again) to my test tutor recommendations in the blue side bar. (You'll see that MindFish is my first recommendation!) Look back at the February newsletter for more on test prep, including the answer to the question: Do I really need it?! If you don't still have the link to the February newsletter in your email (meaning you have a tidier inbox than mine!), you can access all of the newsletters for the 2011-12 school year via links on the College Counseling page of the KDS website: www.kentdenver.org/collegecounseling
(Scroll down to the "College Counseling Newsletters" box. Shazam!)
What else could you do this summer? How about a sports camp or a museum art class? How about helping to teach an art class for children or looking into coaching kids in Special Olympics? How about reading some good books, acting in a community theater production, or, dare I suggest, getting a job? (I hear parents cheering!) Summer vacation is the perfect time to pursue an interest or try something new. The break from the school year grind provides a great opportunity to get involved in a rewarding and even fun community service project. Working on a Habitat for Humanity House, for example, can be a blast once you get past that awkward stage of learning how to make the hammer hit the nail and not your thumb. (Okay, that was a bit of personal experience!) And working at a paying job can not only put gas in your car – it can give you a shot of “real world” experience, including valuable lessons in responsibility and interacting with all kinds of people.
Anything you do that feeds a passion or stretches you in some way will help you to become a more accomplished, interesting, adventurous person and to start getting an idea of what direction you might like your life to take. Oh, and yeah, down the road these kinds of experiences will help you figure out what type of college will be the best match for you and will make you a more compelling college applicant. But don’t just take my word for it. Our friends in the University of Southern California office of admission have this to say about your summer plans: “Don’t worry about what we think, but consider this a precious time to find out more about what you think, what you care about and what challenges you.” There you go!
Summer study opportunities that arrive in the KDS mailbox, including programs designed to give you a taste of college life on campuses across the country, are listed in Naviance "Family Connection" under "enrichment programs" (http://connection.naviance.com/kentdenver
). Keep in mind, though, that while participating in a pre-college summer program can be a great experience, it won't necessarily give you an advantage when it comes to applying to any particular college. There's also a lot to be said for walking barefoot on the grass, going swimming, and napping under a shade tree. You need relaxation and refreshment, too!
Speaking of college (duh!), if you’re the sort that likes to plan things out ahead of time (such as your life!), you were probably interested in the results of your PLAN questionnaire from last October that appeared on the career wheel on your PLAN results report. Don’t remember? The ACT is happy to let you explore careers on their interactive World-of-Work Map at act.org/wwm
. (Okay, it’s kinda hokey!) Also, at MyMajors.com
, you can take a quiz and the magic database will suggest college majors that might be a good fit for you. (If you really want to be nerdy, they also have an app for your smart phone: www.mymajors.com/app
.) Do you really need to be worrying about a college major already? No way! These suggestions are for those of you who enjoy this type of daydreaming.
This summer I'll be working on the updated KDS College Counseling Handbook for the Class of 2014. You'll get it hot off the press in September. In the meantime, feel free to browse through the Class of 2013 handbook currently available online via the College Counseling page of the KDS website: www.kentdenver.org/collegecounseling
. (Look for the link in the blue box labeled "College Counseling Resources.") You also might want to check out a terrific book co-authored by Kent Denver college counselor Eric Dawson, called How to Be Irresistible to Colleges: The Essential Guide to Getting In
. It includes clever cartoons from Sam Ayers (KDS '05) and provides tons of the excellent advice that Kent Denver college counselors dispense every day. (It's a fun read, too!) Click here
to order your own copy. (I bet Mr. Dawson will autograph it for you!)
Happy Summer & Best Wishes,
Director of College Counseling