The Secrets of Picking a College (and Getting In!)
September 2015, Jossey-Bass
Two award-winning professors, a former admissions officer at a major university (now a counselor at a prestigious high school), and a gifted high school senior (now in the throes of the college admissions process himself) team up to offer you over 600 tips, techniques, and strategies to help you get in to the college of your choice.
Comprehensive, yet easy-to-read, this book will teach you:
- How to size up the colleges you're consideringand come up with a coherent list.
- What are college nights, college fairs, and college rep visitsand how you can use each to your advantage.
- What are "holistic", "contextualized", and "legacy" admissionsand how each can work for you.
- How some schools count "demonstrated interest"and how you can take advantage of this little-known fact.
- What are Early Decision, Early Action, and Single-Choice Early Actionand whether any is right for you.
- How to figure out the true costs of college, and what is the difference between "need-" and "merit-based" aid.
- What it means when colleges say they meet "100% of demonstrated financial aid" and what "loan-free" means.
- When and how to make campus visitsand what to do on each.
- How to prepare for each section of the ACT or SATand how to increase your scores.
- What admissions officers are looking for in your applicationand how to give it to them.
- How to write the all-important Common App essayand present your extra-curricular activities.
- How to prepare for an alumni interviewand present yourself in the best light.
- Whom to ask for letters-of-recommendationand how to help them write the best possible letter.
- How to compare your final offersand, in some cases, substantially improve them.
- When it's good to wait out the "wait list"and when not.
- -and much, much more.
When you understand the college admissions process, you can maximize your chance of success. Why not put yourself ahead of the pack?
To YouThe Future College Student xv
Top 10 Reasons to Read This Book xix
The Professors’ Guide™ Icons xxi
1 STARTING YOUR SEARCH 1
10 Questions to Ask Yourself as You Begin Your College Search 2
Learning the Landscape: The 6 Major Kinds of College 7
8 Things That Make Better Schools Better 13
2 BUILDING THE LIST 19
10 Tips for Making Your Initial List 21
Top 12 Websites to Help You Construct Your Initial List 27
Top 10 Websites for Finding Scholarships 32
Surfing the College Website: Tips and Techniques 34
11 Tips for Going to See Your College Counselor 39
Top 10 Ways to Make the Most of the College Night (or College Rep Visit) 45
Do’s and Don’ts for Attending College Fairs 51
The 10 Biggest Financial Aid Mistakesand How to Avoid Them 57
Applying Early? 10 Questions to Ask If You’re Considering Early Decision or Early Action 67
3 GOING ON TOUR 75
FAQs for Planning Your College Visits: A Beginner’s Guide 76
Top 10 Things to See and Do on a College Visit 83
21 Must-Ask Questions on the Campus Tour (and Why You Should Ask Them) 91
10 Things to Look for When Visiting a Class (or Two) 97
Top 12 Tips for Nailing an On- (or Off-) Campus Interview 102
4 TAKING THE TESTS 111
FAQs about Standardized Tests 113
Your Step-by-Step Plan for Preparing for the SAT and ACT 121
Top 10 SAT/ACT Test-Taking Tips 127
Top 10 Tips for the English Section 132
Top 10 Tips to Make Yourself a Mathmagician (or at least Kill the Math Section) 138
7 Things You Need to Know about Your Calculator (but Might Not) 144
Top 10 Strategies for the Reading Section 149
The Science of Taking the Science Section on the ACT 155
10 Best Tips for Writing the SAT/ACT Essay 160
Flash! Big 7 Changes to the 2016 SATand What to Do about Them 166
5 CONSTRUCTING THE APPLICATIONS 173
Top 10 Strategies for Making Your Final List 175
9 Things Admission Officers Look for in an Application 182
Top 10 Tips for Writing the Common App Essay 187
10 Best Ideas for Filling Out the Activities Section of the Common App 196
Top 10 Tips for Getting Awesome Letters of Recommendation 202
8 Secrets for Answering the Supplemental Questions 208
6 MAKING THE CHOICE 215
Top 10 Strategies for Making Your Final Choice 216
Top 10 Tips for Assessing the Financial Aid Offer 223
APPENDIX HOW ADMISSIONS DECISIONS ARE MADE (from a Presentation given at the 2014 Harvard Summer Institute on College Admissions) 233
Web Resources 247
Lynn F. Jacobs is a professor of Art History at the University of Arkansas, having previously taught at Vanderbilt University, California State University Northridge, the University of Redlands, and NYU. Jeremy S. Hyman is founder and chief architect of Professors' Guide content products, (www.professorsguide.com) and lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Arkansas. He has also taught at UCLA, MIT, and Princeton University. Together, they are authors of The Secrets of College Success: Over 800 Tips, Techniques, and Strategies Revealed. Jeffrey Durso-Finley has been director of college counseling at the Lawrenceville School, in Lawrenceville, NJ, for the last ten years. Before that, he served for eight years as assistant director of admissions at Brown University. Jonah T. Hyman is a senior at Haas Hall Academy in Fayetteville, Arkansas and is currently in the throes of the college pickingand, hopefully, getting inprocess.
“Authoritative and wise. . . accessible and lively. . . . A good first book for any student embarking on the college search.”Theodore A. O’Neill, former Dean of Admissions, University of Chicago
“… easy to read, clearly organized, and very specific in its advice. I plan to use it with my own students.”Jon Reider, Director of College Counseling, San Francisco University High School; former Senior Admission Officer, Stanford University; and co-author of Admission Matters: What Students and Parents Need to Know about Getting Into College
The college application process can seem daunting, but this book breaks the process down into logical, manageable steps. There are over 600 tips in this book. Here's one more: Read the book. It should be your first step on the path to college.”Marjorie Savage, Parent Program Director, University of Minnesota and author, You're on Your Own (But I'm Here If You Need Me): Mentoring Your Child During the College Year
“If you read one book on the college process–this is the one you want. Straightforward, spot-on advice to streamline the college exploration and admission process, improve outcomes, and reduce stress for students and families.”Barbara T. Conner, Director of College Counseling, Foxcroft School, Middleburg, VA, and Creator of #FiveFirstChoiceColleges
“… will become the ‘go to’ resource for parents and students alike… delivers the most up-to-date, practical compendium available today of the ever-evolving landscape of college admissions.”Franca Rawitz, Independent College Counselor & Founder, ReadySetCollegeNYC
“… informative, current and logical, full of important information on a wide variety of topics, yet concise and easy to understand. I wish every family I work with would get a copy.”Alyssa O'Brien, Director of College Guidance, Lawrence Woodmere Academy, Woodmere, NY and former Admissions Reader, Northeastern University
“…captures the essence of the process and provides excellent tips and suggestions to students (and parents!) who are just beginning this journey. Having two sons who went through this process a few years ago, I can say that it would have been helpful to them to have a similar “Guide” handy.”Diane Freytag, Director of Counseling and Advising, The Overlake School, Redmond, WA
“… packed with practical pointers and compiled specifically for students, it’s like having a college coach by your side. Filled with advice from college professionals -- including admissions officers -- this book is easily accessible and is a must-read.”Alicia J. Linsey, Counselor, Lexington High School Lexington, MA and founder and independent counselor, The Academic Advancement Group
“… does a fantastic job of capturing the ‘moving target’ of college admissions. Its easy-to-follow format, complete with web links for digging deeper and finding the latest updates, make it a must-have for high school students. It not only answers standard college related questions, but also answers important questions that students may not otherwise know that they should ask.”Sandy Aprahamian, Independent Educational Consultant, EDNavigators LLC
“… really drills down to the nuanced questions students should ask themselves. Sharing with students and families an actual reader rating card that admissions officers use to evaluate each component of the application is worth its weight in gold! A valuable resource for students, parents and counselors!”Beth Ann Burkmar, Associate Director of College Counseling, The Hun School of Princeton, Princeton, NJ; former Regional Director of Admissions, University of Pennsylvania; and former Admissions Counselor, Drexel University
“It would take hours, even weeks, to gain the knowledge on one’s own that is so accessibly offered in this guide. The authors of this book did their audience a huge favor by doing a lot of the hardcore research and web searching that has taken me over a decade to acquire as a full-time college counselor.”Kelly B. Richards, Director of College Counseling, St. George's School, Providence, RI
“Hundreds of tips with catchy headings (“Best-Kept Secret,” “Reality Check,” “Epic Fail!”) jump off the pages, making it simple for even the busiest (or laziest!) teenagers to find them. Parents, too, will appreciate the ease of honing in on concise explanations, suggestions ... and warnings.”Sally Rubenstone, Senior Advisor, College Confidential
Picking a college can be a daunting, anxiety-filled task, for students and parents alike. College can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $70,000—a year. Each person pays a different price—but the price isn’t revealed until one is ready to buy. There are over 4,000 choices, but most people have no idea of how they differ. There are rankings—but they’re mostly done by people who’ve never even sampled the product. And some buyers wonder whether the product, college, has any value at all.
Wiley Publishing and Professors’ Guide™ Content Products have assembled a team of world class experts--each with different expertise and a different perspective—to help the almost four million prospective college students each year master the college application maze. Lynn F. Jacobs and Jeremy S. Hyman are college professors with over 50 years of combined teaching experience; Jeffrey Durso-Finley is a former admissions officer at a major university, now a college counselor at a prestigious high school; Jonah T. Hyman is a high school senior currently in the throes of the college picking process. Together, they provide over 600 tips, techniques, and strategies designed to demystify the college application process, reduce the stress of those going through it, and, most important, maximize each student’s chances of being accepted to the college of his or her choice.
Practical and easy-to-read, The Secrets of Picking a College (and Getting In!), offers high-value, insider tips for the top ten “moments” of the college application process:
- Making a coherent initial list of colleges
- Getting good information from the college fairs, college night, and college rep visits
- Facing the finances: family need, financial aid, and outside fellowships
- Visiting the colleges: what to do, when to go, how many to visit
- Preparing for and taking the SATs/ACTs—including the new 2016 SAT
- Constructing your application: the 2015-2016 Common App essay, extra-curriculars, letters of recommendation, and supplemental essays and attachments
- Figuring out what admission officers are looking for in an application
- Deciding whether to apply early decision, early action or regular decision
- Putting your best self forward in the on-campus or alumni interview
- Making your final choice—and improving the offer
“We’re out to change college admissions in America—to rationalize the college application process and show each and every student how to maximize his or her chances for admissions. But it’s more than that,” said Hyman. “We’re also out to level the playing field: to give each and every student—not just the ones who go to élite high schools or who can afford $5,000 private counselors—an equal chance of getting in to the college of their choice. Isn’t that what America’s all about?”