College Campus Visits: Do’s and Don’ts

Georgetown University

  • Do schedule a campus tour and information session during the week.

We understand that weekends are likely the best times for you and your family to get away, but you should try to see a college campus when there are students milling about! You can learn a lot from the atmosphere of a campus in the full swing of things, so we advise you to go during the weekdays.

  • Do schedule your visit at least one month in advance.

Most schools offer multiple options daily for campus tours and information sessions during the Fall and Spring semesters; however, they do this out of necessity. Plan early, and secure your preferred tour date and time before it fills up!

  • Do e-mail the admissions representative for your area to let them know of your impending visit*, and try to schedule a brief meeting.

Touching base with your admissions representative will demonstrate your level of interest in the school, and it may give you the opportunity to interface with your rep in person. Remember that the Spring semester is a very busy time for admissions representatives, so even if you don’t receive a response, your introduction and/or inquiry will demonstrate your interest!

*Please note that you should send the e-mail, not your parents! This email should contain perfect, polished grammar and have a professional tone. WRE often proofreads and edits emails for our sophomore, junior, and senior clients, so please don’t hesitate to use us as a resource.

  • Do come prepared with a few questions to ask during the information session or tour.

Perhaps asking questions comes naturally to you, but even if it doesn’t, it is important to go into your campus visit prepared! Browse the school’s website, and think of a few questions you could ask. WRE also has a list of questions we can provide prior to your trip.

  • Do wear comfy shoes!

You should always put your best foot forward on campus visits, but wearing new shoes or dress shoes on the day of your campus visit is a bad idea. Depending on the school, you may walk up to four miles during the tour, and having to tend to sore, blistered feet will put a damper on your experience.

  • Do take notes!

Bring a notepad and pencil with you so that you can jot down notes. Perhaps more importantly, write down your impressions of the campus layout, student culture, classes, and buildings immediately after the conclusion of your tour. These notes will help should you decide to apply to the school and, thus, need to write supplemental essays during the application process.

  • Do send a brief follow-up e-mail to your regional admissions representative with one or two positive takeaways from your visit.

Sending a follow-up e-mail—especially if you met with the representative in person—will make a stronger case for your demonstrated interest. Again, reach out to WRE for help on how to draft an appropriate email!

  • Don’t play on your phone during the information session or walking tour.

Stay engaged, and convey a respectful attitude.

  • Don’t write off a school before you tour it based on what your friends say.

Everyone has an opinion, but until YOU visit a school, you won’t know if it is or isn’t the right fit for you.

  • Don’t be late!

Enough said.

  • Don’t limit your exploration to the official tour!

Eat lunch in the dining hall, walk into a local coffee shop, or observe students studying in the library! Most schools welcome prospective students and encourage independent exploration in addition to the guided tour. You might even be able to schedule a meeting with a specific department or sit in on a class!

Please inquire about the small, personalized college campus visits Within Reach Education offers to clients. To date, we have organized student trips to Boston, Washington, D.C., Alabama, and the Carolinas. We would love to help you and your friends become college visit experts!

How Important Are College Rankings?

In a June 17th Forbes article, author and Admittedly CEO Jessica Davidoff likens U.S News and World Report’s Best College rankings to an American Top 40 music chart: ever-changing and only temporarily relevant. So, then, why do college rankings, an antiquated piece of the puzzle that is American higher education, have the power to persuade students everywhere to covet admission to a select handful of colleges and universities, when there are so many more from which they can (and should) choose?

best-colleges-national-universities

Of course, college rankings and metrics can be useful – especially when they’re based on tangible factors like student retention rates, average starting salary after graduation, and strength of alumni network – but our societal tendency to place often insurmountable value in how a school is ranked on one list is a habit that needs to be redirected. And, according to Davidoff, it has been.

In 1995, Davidoff says, according to a survey by the Higher Education Research Institute, more than 40% of students reported that the U.S. News rankings were either “very important” or “somewhat important” in deciding where to go to college. Between 1995 and 2007, that percentage of students reporting rankings as “very important” increased by 50%. As educational consultants, we have witnessed the upward trend, and thus were both surprised and encouraged by Davidoff’s next finding: in a survey of more than 500 college-bound students representing all 50 U.S. states, students cared more about their future alma maters’ academic programs, career offices, and price tag than they did about how the schools stacked up on a list.

How did the shift away from U.S. News and World Report come about? Well, we strongly encourage you to read the full article, which can be found here, but Davidoff illuminates two factors we find relevant:

  1. Tuition prices are 80% higher than they were pre-recession, yet job placement is “unstable” (Davidoff’s opinion) at best. Students are inundated with articles and conversations about return on investment and student debt, forcing them to think about college affordability in a different, more practical way.
  2. As a generation, college-bound students place more trust in “technology-powered peer data” (think publicly available Uber driver ratings and student-authored blogs with thousands of young readers) than they do in institutional authority.

To quote the Johns Hopkins admissions rep who led one of our sessions at May’s IECA conference, “it’s not about getting in (to college), it’s about getting out and thriving.” And if that means that a student must disregard college rankings in an effort to find a school that will propel him or her to personal, academic, and professional greatness, we’re all in.

Happy 4th of July – stay safe!

Morgan and Stephanie

 

Within Reach College Acceptances!

High school seniors look forward to the month of April for one thing: college decisions (okay, prom and spring break are probably pretty high up on their list too, but that is for another blog)! Eight months ago, these students labored over college applications and essay revisions; they stressed about looming deadlines, test scores, and interviews with admission representatives. However, April 1 marked the end of the waiting game, as almost all colleges and universities have now released long-anticipated decisions.

decidere: “to cut”

The etymology of the word “decision” hails from the Latin word decidere, which means “to cut,” and April—for our senior students—represents a month of parsing down their college acceptances to the one school that is the right fit!

We are very proud to announce the 2017 list of colleges and universities that have extended offers of acceptance to Within Reach seniors:

American University
Auburn University
Boston University
Carnegie Mellon University
Case Western University*
Catholic University
Clemson University
College of Charleston
Cornell University
Dartmouth College*
Emory University
Florida State University
Furman University
Georgia Institute of Technology
George Washington University
Gonzaga University
Johns Hopkins University*
Massachusetts Institute of Technology*
Miami University-Oxford
New York University
Northeastern University
Pace University
Penn State University
Pepperdine University*
Purdue University
Rhodes College
Rice University*
Santa Clara University
Southern Methodist University
St. Andrews University
Texas A&M University
Texas Christian University
Tulane University
University of Alabama
University of California-Berkeley*
University of Chicago
University of Colorado-Boulder
University of Denver
University of Georgia
University of Maryland
University of Michigan
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
University of Oxford
University of Portland
University of Puget Sound
University of Richmond
University of Texas-Austin
University of Tennessee
University of Virginia
Villanova University
Wake Forest University
Washington and Lee University
Washington University in St. Louis

As you can see, our students will have a tough time deciding between so many renowned and diverse choices! Nonetheless, many of our students were accepted to their top-choice schools and have picked their colors for the next four years. We’ll post a complete list of where our students will be heading in May, but for now we just want to shout:

Congratulations, Class of 2017! We know you will do great things in college and beyond!

 



 

What Score Is Really Good Enough?

Ah, the golden mean! Just as parents today struggle to help their children balance test preparation, standardized tests, and college visits with regular school work and extracurricular activities, Aristotle was once busily tutoring a young Alexander the Great in theoretical subjects and stressing the merits of empirical evidence. Nowadays, it almost seems easier to conquer the Western world than it is to get into the University of Chicago, Yale, Georgetown, or UCLA!

So, how do we obtain this golden mean, the passport to the college that will lead us to our future?

Test Scores? Well, yes and no.

More and more colleges and universities are evaluating applications holistically. So, just as a perfect 1600 on the SAT will not be one’s ticket into Cal Tech, neither will a 1060. Stiff competition allows colleges and universities to admit only those who have great test scores and can present themselves as well-rounded individuals with lots of fill-in-the-blank experience—similar to what Alexander the Great exhibited as a renaissance man (pre-Renaissance era, of course). A man of many talents and interests, he was equally at home leading the charge on the battlefield as he was studying in the Lyceum or perfecting his equestrian skills.

Yes, test scores are important, and to know what score is really good enough will depend on the schools to which you plan to apply. This golden mean is not a secret: every school publishes this information. Keep in mind, however, that test scores are not the end all, be all: sometimes, one must demonstrate leadership, creativity, and resiliency, too, and sometimes, doing just this is good enough.

Nonetheless, one should always strive to give his or her best on a standardized test (even though these tests are often not demonstrative of one’s intelligence). We can’t tell you the exact score you will need to receive in order to get into the school of your dreams (and neither can the Office of Admissions at the school); however, we can tell you the national averages:


Average SAT Score: 1030

Top 25% Score: 1200

Top 10% Score: 1340


Average ACT Score: 20

Top 25% Score: 25

Top 10% Score:  28


To determine your golden mean, research the middle 50th percentile test scores for each school that interests you, then try to obtain a test score that would place you in the 75th percentile or higher.

Also, keep in mind that if your friend Kathy got into the University of Georgia with an ACT score of 25, this does not mean that your score of 30 will secure a spot for you. College admissions may feel like a game of crazy 8s, where everything is left to chance; however, behind the hubbub and bureaucracy and unfairness lies logic. There are still only four 8s in a deck of cards, and you have more power in the admissions process than you think.

At the end of the day, standardized tests are not for everyone. If, after committing to diligent test preparation in the months leading up to the test, you don’t get the score you were aiming for, give it another try; however, be mindful that you should not take this test more than three to four times, as doing so may raise a red flag in the eyes of college admissions committees! Planning for college takes patience, dedication, and courage!

  1. Keep challenging yourself.

(Breathe.)

  1. Keep your grades up.

(Breathe.)

  1. Begin practicing for the standardized test of your choice at least three months in advance.

(Breathe.)

  1. Retake the test, if necessary.

(Breathe.)

  1. Try new things, but still make time to strengthen the skills you already have.

(Breathe.)

  1. Apply early.

(Breathe.)

If you haven’t already scheduled some time to talk to us about your standardized test prep plan and educational goals, let us help! We offer in one-on-one test prep for the ACT, SAT, PSAT, and SSAT, small group workshops, Saturday group mock testing, and individualized diagnostic and mock testing throughout the school year. Call us at 678.701.4053, or send an email to team@withinreacheducation.com.

IECA 2015 Spring Conference: Baltimore

IECA 2015 Spring Conference: Baltimore

 

As members of the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA), we have the opportunity to attend two national conferences each year – both of which feature workshops, discussion groups, vendor displays, and esteemed keynote speakers. This May, after much reassurance from conference coordinators that our safety would not be compromised, IECs from across the country traveled to Baltimore, Maryland: the sports-loving, waterfront “City of Neighborhoods” whose national reputation was recently – and temporarily, we hope – tarnished by racial tension and local violence. Fortunately, the conference ran smoothly, no one felt unsafe, and our stay in Baltimore was quite enjoyable, thanks to moderate weather, plenty of crab cakes, and a few beautiful sunsets over the Inner Harbor.

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Oh, The Places We’ll Go-Within Reach Visits DC (Part Two)

Oh, The Places We’ll Go-Within Reach Visits DC (Part Two)

After walking and talking our way through the campus of The George Washington University, we were all more than ready for lunch! Our destination?

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The Tombs, a subterranean Georgetown University favorite that serves all of its delicious menu items with heaping sides of Hoya pride. Founded in 1962 by a Georgetown alumnus, The Tombs is situated on the edge of the university’s campus and is a perfect gathering spot for out-of-town visitors, prospective students and parents, and seasoned Hoya basketball faithful alike.

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Georgetown University

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Rainbow-colored Georgetown rowhouses

Our group enjoyed a hearty (but quick) meal and headed out to take a student-led, private walking tour of Georgetown University’s historically picturesque campus. Our guide, Mikey, a now-graduated senior and future Wall Street analyst, navigated us efficiently through GU’s self-contained campus, pointing out academic buildings, student-run fairs, residence halls, and athletic facilities along the way. At one point in the tour, we climbed several flights of stairs (pictured below) to the top of Village A, an on-campus apartment complex for upperclassmen, and enjoyed an eagle’s eye view of Rosslyn, VA, and several historic Washington, DC, landmarks. Unfortunately, our camera battery died at that point, so we were not able to capture the view – until next time, Georgetown!

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Climbing to the top of Georgetown University’s Village A

We were on a tight schedule, so we hopped in Ubers and made it to American University in time for a 2:00 information session. The first – and definitely most unique – thing we learned about AU wasn’t, in fact, a university accolade or impressive statistic about a noteworthy academic program. Instead, we heard – in quite animated terms – about the school’s strategic use of the word “wonk” – that is, a smart, focused, passionate, engaged person. In 2010, after two years of research and discussion about what makes AU different from other colleges and universities, a team of AU faculty, staff, and students publicly released the phrase “American Wonk” as central to the school’s new identity.

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In 2015, AU honored former First Lady Laura Bush as its third ever “Wonk of the Year”. Mrs. Bush, who joins former Wonks of the Year President Bill Clinton and CNN journalist Anderson Cooper, was recognized for inciting change in the world; she made history on April 8, 2015, when she became the first First Lady to speak at American University via its student-run Kennedy Political Union.

In addition to valuing passion and service, American University looks for prospective wonks who:

  • have solid high school transcripts with academically rigorous course loads
  • acquire strong teacher and counselor recommendations; and
  • can write about something other than how much they like Washington, DC, in their supplemental essays!

Of course, the admissions process is more involved than the three bullets listed above, so we encourage all students interested in American University – or any school, for that matter – to do their homework. Visit websites, call admissions offices, get in touch with regional reps, and travel to campus when possible. Of course, we’re always available to answer questions, and we’ll be planning more college tours in the near future, so stay tuned!

Morgan and Stephanie

 

 

Appealing Financial Aid Decisions

Appealing Financial Aid Decisions

As college-bound high school seniors begin to decide where they’ll call home for the next four (or more) years, we at Within Reach think it is prudent for parents to simultaneously assess all financial aid decisions of which they’ve been notified in order to better understand the impact said decisions – or award packages – will have on family finances. Are the schools to which your student has been accepted offering him or her a work-study program? If so, how much of your student’s expenses does the program subsidize? Does the award package consist of student loans, which translate to years of debt, or is the institution offering your student grant money? Or, worst of all, did your family simply receive a big, fat “NO” as a response to your request for the financial aid you truly need to send your son or daughter to his or her dream school? Navigating the college financial aid “game” can be tricky – and daunting – and we suspect that many parents across the country share the same questions when it comes to interpreting their individual financial aid packages. Continue reading

Is There Really Beauty in Rejection? (On Not Getting In)

Is There Really Beauty in Rejection?

(On Not Getting In)

It’s March, and the college acceptance “waiting game” is officially in full swing. Notifications of waitlists, deferrals, acceptances, and rejections are as plentiful as the pollen here in Atlanta, and students across the country are simultaneously celebrating and crying as they hear from their dream schools. After four years of studying, volunteering, achieving, interning, do-gooding, and striving to be the very best versions of themselves in order to impress college admissions officers, students will receive notifications that will – and understandably so – electrify or ruin a day, weekend, or even month. “Look on the bright side”, counselors and parents suggest, but as anyone who has been rejected by an employer, school, potential suitor, or otherwise well knows, finding the “silver lining” can be nearly impossible when one truly feels that he or she has done everything in his or her power to earn acceptance. Continue reading

Connecting the Dots: A Parent-Student Perspective on the Within Reach-Guided Application Process

Connecting the Dots: A Parent-Student Perspective on the Within Reach-Guided Application Process

We are back on the blog with the third entry of our ongoing series called “Connecting the Dots: a Parent-Student Perspective on the Within-Reach Guided Application Process”. To refresh your memory, we introduced you to Emily*, a high school freshman from a rural high school in the Washington, DC, area in October, when she shared a colorful recap of her Stanford University tour and info session. Today, we are thrilled to hear from Emily a second time, as she shares her wonderfully insightful perspective on navigating high school with intellectual curiosity, humor, and an incredible drive to succeed.

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