Dear Northwood School Seniors and PGs:

Greetings from Lake Placid! The first day of classes for the 2015-16 school year begins in a little more than a month, and many early decision deadlines are less than ninety days away. Summer is fast coming to a close, and the school year will be upon us soon! Sure, it’s okay to spend plenty of time on the beach resting up for senior year, but everything we can accomplish this summer will make the application process so much easier during the busy school year. Here is the final summer update from the Northwood college counseling office. See you in Lake Placid on September 5th!

The Common Application for 2015-16 is Now Live

The Common Application is used for undergraduate admissions by over 450 colleges and universities. Only schools that evaluate applications holistically are allowed to use the common application; that is, the admissions staff must take into consideration things like letters of recommendation and the application essay. If a college bases admission solely on GPA and test scores, they can not be members of the Common Application. Nearly all top colleges and top universities use the Common Application.

Beginning August 1 college applicants can create a Common Application account and begin adding schools and working on their applications. It’s okay to create your account and to get started on the application, but do not submit any applications until you have had a chance to review them, line by line, with your Northwood college counselor.

The Application Essay

Most colleges require an application essay and just about every college ranks the essay as important or very important. A poorly written essay can cause an otherwise great application to be denied, while a particularly compelling and well-written essay can move a marginal applicant from “reject” to “accept.” Read some of my recommended resources [] on the application essay.

Making the Most of the College Visit

The most important tool in the college search process is the college visit. Every college visit should have at least two dimensions—formal and informal. To cover both dimensions, begin your planning with the following checklist. And to make sure you get to see everything you need to, don’t forget to call the college ahead of time and schedule your visit! Read more about visits [].

About Early Decision, Early Action, Regular Admission

If your child finds a college that he’s sure is right for him, he should consider applying early. Early decision and early action plans allow your child to apply early (usually in November) and get an admissions decision from the college well in advance of the usual spring notification date. Your child will know by December or January whether he’s been accepted at his first-choice college.

Sometimes, students who apply under these plans have a better chance of acceptance than they would through the regular admissions process. These plans are also good for colleges, because they get students who really want to go to the school to commit early in the process. Read More [].

Summer To Do List

  • Keep building your college list: research, add and delete.
  • Visit as many schools as you can: meet the coach (if applicable), have a tour and admissions interview.
  • Keep working on the SAT and ACT prep courses.
  • Read every day.
  • Draft two college essays.
  • Create a Common App account. Begin work on your applications on August 1.

Review Your Facebook Profile

College admissions officers search for applicants on Facebook and many use the social networking site to evaluate applicants. So when a college admissions official checks your Facebook page what does she see? In your photos? On your wall? On your list of pages/groups? On your favorite quotes? I have some tips [] to clean up your online image before you start applying to college. Read more [].

What are good SAT, ACT or TOEFL scores? 

Standardized test scores are only on criteria of many used by colleges to make admissions decisions, and it’s not the most important factor (your grades are most important). Still the importance of standardized test scores shouldn’t be underestimated, even though admissions officers say they take an open-minded approach to their decisions. Test scores can make or break an application.

But we are living in changing times. Some colleges and universities don’t require standardized tests and some have a variety of tests you can choose to create your standardized test profile. Here are a few links to resources on this important topic:

SAT/ACT Scores at Elite Colleges/Universities:

SAT scores at State University Systems:

Colleges that require the SAT Subject Test:

Low SAT Score Got You Down?

List of “SAT/ACT Optional” Colleges/Universities:

What is a Good TOEFL Score:

College Counseling Online

Visit my blog [] where you’ll find hundreds of resources, all organized by topic. When you visit, check out the list of more than 15 topics on the left. Topics include: application, financial aid, athletics, standardized tests, learning differences, international students. Choose a topic and explore resources that interest you.

Follow Me on Twitter

If you use the social networking site Twitter, please follow me (@JohnSpear). On Twitter I pass along college admissions advice and tips almost every day.

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