Sunday, December 13, 2009

Applying Early Decision?

Many students and families believe that it is advantageous to apply early decision or early action to their first college choice. When you do this, in most cases you are required to attend that school if you are admitted. With early action, your decision is delivered early, but you do not have an obligation to go to that school. There can indeed be some real pros (and cons) to this approach. Let's take each then talk about what to do if your early decision opportunity does not work out.

Advantages of Early Decision/Action:

1. You are done. If you get in you know as early as December where you are going to school whereas all your classmates have to sweat it out until April.

2. You have a better shot. You almost always have a meaningfully better chance of getting into any school early decision. This is because if a school admits you in the regular admission pool they cannot be sure you will in fact choose their school among others you may be admitted to. With early decision the school knows for sure that you will attend. They care a lot about this "yield" factor - the percent of accepted students that actually end up going to that school.

3. It eases the burden. You only have to complete one application (if you get in that is!).

Disadvantages of Early Decision/Action:

1. Fewer financial aid choices. If you want to maximize your opportunities for financial aid, many families think it it better to have options at multiple schools to see who offers the best deal. However, most colleges tell you that if you are admitted early decision and a financial aid package cannot be worked out to your satisfaction, they will let you out of your commitment. But watch your timing as other applications would be due shortly thereafter.

2. Deciding very early. Applying early decision requires you to decide by late October of your senior year what college you definitely want to attend. Teens are growing and maturing every month, and some feel differently about this choice in mid April of senior year than right at the beginning. So it effectively "locks you in" to a choice that may end up moving down the list 6 months later.

3. Rushing regular decision applications. If you are deferred or rejected from your early decision choice, you must then hurriedly prepare applications for regular decision, which could be to as many as 12-15 schools. Some schools do not tell you their early decision until December 15. This gives you maybe two weeks until most schools' January 1 deadline for regular decision. Solution: You may not like it, but start preparing those applications before you hear from the early decision school.

What if I am Deferred or Rejected from my Early Decision School?

1. Do not panic if deferred! If you are deferred, you still might get in. The key is contacting the school directly to see if they felt there is something you might be able to do to improve your chances in the regular pool. Maybe a retake of the ACT, etc.

2. If rejected, simply move on. You may have had your heart set on a particular school, but that opportunity is now not avaiable. Start finding ways to get excited about the other choices that you have. And remember, if you are really determined with regard to the school that rejected you, you can always consider trying to transfer after awhile.

3. Get moving on those other apps. Unfortunately you are going to have a lousy winter vacation completing the applications for other schools. Don't lose momentum, find the energy to make sure the individual essays for each school are well thought out - this is still your future you're talking about! Of course, working on them before December 15 is also a good idea.

In sum, for many people early decision or early action is a great way to improve your odds and simplify your work (hopefully). But choose very very carefully to make sure this is really the school for you!

Want to learn more? Call Barbra Feldman at 516-721-1858 or email her at

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Do College Rankings Matter?

In helping select a college, many students and parents wonder about how much weight to put on published rankings of the schools. The most well-known ranking is published each year by US News & World Report. But others are around as well, from Forbes, the Princeton Review and others.

I believe the answer is that the rankings matter, somewhat. The best, of course, would be if one could predict what the rankings will be 10-20 years after graduation! That is when the graduate enters key phases of his or her career, and perception of their alma mater will be much more important. My husband is a 1982 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, and he and his classmates often joke that they would never get into the school today!

What is important is to look at recent trends in a school's ranking over a period of years. If a school is steadily moving up the charts, of course that is a good sign. If it remains in one spot or declines, it could help to learn why. And don't select school #22 over school #23 just because it is one spot higher. The rankings are very subjective and often criticized as non-scientific.

A montage of factors will and should play into your college choice. The school's ranking should be one item in the mix. If you're literally at that point of flipping a coin between two good choices, and one happens to be 15 rungs higher on the ladder, maybe that tips the scales. But otherwise, don't obsess much on rankings (your friends will, do your best to ignore them).

Want to learn more? Give a call at 516-721-1858 or email us at Not local to NY? We can work by email and phone. The first meeting is free and there is no obligation.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Tips for a Great College Interview

Our college advising process includes a mock interview with an experienced former Ivy League alumni interviewer. Here are some of the tips he suggests when getting ready for an on-campus or alumni interview.

1. Dress nicely! Guys, there is no need to wear a suit or even jacket, but a button down shirt and nice slacks or khakis is the minimum. For girls, nice pants and top are fine or appropriate dress or skirt. No sneakers! No jeans! No t-shirts!

2. Listen patiently! The interviewer is trying to get certain information from you. Carefully think about what you believe he or she is trying to elicit. Do not interrupt him or her or give answers that last more than 3-4 minutes. Don't hesitate to pause for 10-20 seconds after a question before jumping into an answer.

3. Relax! There's an old commercial with the tag line, "Never let 'em see you sweat." Even if you're nervous, do your best not to show it. If you have a leg that is restless, put your mind to stopping it. Make eye contact throughout the meeting with your interviewer.

4. Get there early! As with any important appointment, leave lots of extra time to assure you arrive early (at least 15 minutes) for the interview. Yes, it is ok if your parent drives you to the interview, but your parent will not participate in the meeting.

5. Prepare! Think in advance about the things you believe "sell" you the best to a school. Of course you should be ready to talk about both the strengths and weaknesses in your record, and of course always be upright and honest. But you certainly have the right to show pride in your accomplishments, especially those you believe will matter to a potential school. In a perfect world find someone who has done interviewing to give you a "mock" interview first.

6. Bring stuff! You should bring with you whatever materials might be helpful in assessing your success. Remember this is about showcasing your accomplishments but also your personality, as this is likely the only part of the process where that will be assessed.

Want to learn more? Give a call at 516-721-1858 or email us at Not local to NY? We can work by email and phone. The first meeting is free and there is no obligation.

Good luck!!!!!!

When Do We Start? Right Now!

So many parents ask me when is the right time to start focusing on college planning. The answer is right now! Well, not if you are in kindergarten of course! I mean that as early as 8th grade decisions that begin to shape your college "resume" start to get made. That includes high school course choices, extracurriculars, summer activities and the like.

But, and let me say this in bold and italics: do not make it an obsession. It should just be in the back of your mind as you make decisions about what courses you are taking and what you are doing outside of the classroom. For example, you may love being on school athletic teams, but in the end it will end up as one line on your list of activities. Unless you are at the level to be recruited for a college team, think carefully when those types of commitments are made. But not everything in high school should be about college. You want to pursue those things you really enjoy regardless of whether it will help in the admissions process.

The next question is, what if you are in 11th grade and you haven't yet done anything to prepare for college? Again, relax. There is time to do a great deal even when starting in 11th grade. And there is much to learn in deciding what schools to visit (and how to stand out in that visit), when to visit and how the admissions and application process work.

So start now, and stay calm!!!!!

Want to learn more? Give a call at 516-721-1858 or email us at Not local to NY? We can work by email and phone. The first meeting is free and there is no obligation.


Thanks for stopping by! I have just set up this blog to post information for college-bound students and their families. Our business, Your College Choice, offers individualized and affordable guidance for students with all success levels.

You can start with us as early as 8th grade to help you with high school planning all the way to the college admission and application process. The service also includes mock interviews with a former Ivy League alumni interviewer. Our discussions are totally confidential.

Why work with Your College Choice? It was started by a mom, Barbra Feldman, who not only survived this process after years of research for her daughter, but has informally advised many friends as well for quite a number of years. She is a prominent community leader on Long Island, New York, having led three PTAs and served on local boards. She is an attorney and graduate of Brandeis University.

Want to learn more? Give a call at 516-721-1858 or email us at Not local to NY? We can work by email and phone. The first meeting is free and there is no obligation.