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Selecting high school classes with college admissions in mind

Once your student understands how a college admissions officer reviews their transcript, her or she can make educated decisions about course selection during high school. Officers look for both challenge and continuity. Admissions officers see how a student is challenging him/herself by reading the student's school profile to determine what levels of courses are offered. Then they look at each semester to see how many courses the student took that were the most difficult level offered at the school. Admissions officers at the University of Virginia will actually count, and keep a running score of how many core classes a student took at the highest level. Therefore, students should select cha

Surprising reasons why safety schools are good for parents

Just about everyone applying to college has been told to apply to a few "reach" schools, a few "target" schools, and a few "safety" schools. Why safety schools? The most obvious reason is if the student gets denied (aka rejected) from every reach and target school, they will still have a college to attend in the Fall. However, safety schools are good for parents for two other big reasons: your student's stress level and self esteem, and for financial reasons. Your student can have a lower-stress experience, and have higher self esteem if they attend a safety school where they are in the top 25% academically of all students. This is the big fish in a small pond scenario, and as long as your s

Rising seniors summer to do list (sorry!)

Sorry, rising seniors, but you have a lot to do this summer! What, you ask (groan)? 1. Trim your college list. Think hard about which schools on your list you would actually apply to. If your list is more than 12 schools, make the tough decisions and pare the list down to the top 10 or 12. 2. Finish up your college essay. You probably started the essay in 11th grade English class. Take the time to finish the essay and get people you trust to review it for grammar and spelling. 3. Start your common application. Create an account at commonapp.org and start filling in the blanks. In the Fall, you will be able to add school-specific essays and info so you can get your applications in early. 4. R

The “legacy” advantage: Fact or Fiction?

A student is considered a "legacy" to a college or university when one or both of their parents also graduated from that same school. There is a lot of debate about how much being a legacy helps your admissions chances, but most agree that they do help your chances. If a student's parents graduated from that university as a graduate student, it usually does not hold as much weight as if the school is their undergraduate "alma mater". Legacy advantages are not well detailed by schools, but reports are that it can double your chances of getting into Penn, Brown, Princeton, and the like. The University of Virginia, my alma mater, is rather up front about their legacy advantage. A legacy applyin