Transfer Students: New Scholarship Opportunity

Transfer students interested in the following academic majors are now eligible to apply for the U.S. Department of Education’s National SMART Grant: physical or life sciences, computer science, engineering, mathematics, technology, and certain critical foreign languages.

The National SMART Grant offers up to $4000 a year for a student’s third and fourth year of study. For additional details and requirements, check out:


New insider scoop on admissions

I’m currently attending the Potomac and Chesapeake Association for College Admissions Counseling regional conference. The event brings together high school guidance professionals and college admissions officers from DC, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia, and I’ve attended the event most of the past eighteen years. It’s a great place to hear what’s being discussed, and as I hear about it I’ll share with the blog.

Yesterday at the kickoff discussion the colleges all agonized over what the heck the students are doing. After we made you all sweat waiting to see if we admitted you, this is the week you get to pay us all back as we wait to see who selects our schools. Almost everyone I talked to is up in students committing, which leads many to believe that students are committing to multiple schools and waiting to get more information (maybe to find out about waitlists, or to keep checking out their options). This drives the colleges CRAZY and they’re always looking for ways to turn this into an ethical issue (who DARE they commit to more than one school!). As much as it tortures us, I think it’s really up to the student and parents, although I worry that those who can’t afford to lose their deposit don’t have the luxury of waiting to decide.

A counselor piped up about how many of her students are heading to second choice colleges with a plan to transfer, and that steamed up some of the schools she listed as second choices. As I’ve mentioned before, the data from the department of education indicates that, including students moving from community college, 60% of undergraduates will transfer before receiving a baccalaureate degree, so I don’t see the big deal. I do, however, think it’s worth thinking about your attitude going into your starting institution. Remember that lots of data on student performance indicates that your enthusiasm for your school is as predictive as grades about how well you’ll do there – so it might be worth getting more excited about your second choice rather than still focusing on getting in somewhere else in the future. What could it hurt? It’s not like you can’t still change your mind.

I’m headed out to present about score optional admissions, and later about immigration in the admissions process, so more to come! Be seeing you.

Financial Aid not in jeopardy

I shared an article a few posts back stating that, even though there’s a bunch of media hype about problems with student loans, the reality is that most students at most colleges aren’t being impacted at all. I found more conformation in this article with excerpts from a recent roundtable of financial aid experts.
So remember – just because the media tells you to panic about the college admission or aid process, doesn’t mean YOU have to listen! Be seeing you.

International Students: SAT and ACT tests

Most schools in the U.S. require applicants to submit SAT or ACT scores. Now, to my knowledge there aren’t any American students that enjoy taking these tests, so there’s no reason that you as an international student should be excited about it either. It is however, a requirement for almost any school that you will apply to, so you should prepare yourself appropriately for the tests.

There are more than 1,000 sites around the world that administer the SAT. You can find the testing site closest to you online at

The College Board also provides special information to help international students prepare for the SAT. It can be found at

You can find the information for the ACTs online at

So, here is my last bit of advice: Sign up early for the test, prepare as best as you can, and try not to stress yourself out.

Stress, admissions, and numbers

This morning I had one of my favorite meetings. Once a semester I meet with guidance directors from around the area, drawing on their collective experience and wisdom. Of course, we spend a good chunk of time discussing the joys, so to speak, of dealing with parents. Most of the stress, of course, is all our fault – and by our, I mean the colleges and universities. We create the stress by failing to answer the simple question parents ask over and over – will we (and parents do say, “we”) get admitted?

Generally most of the parents I meet accept that we won’t know anything for sure until we look at our current applications, and realize that the decision is complex. That being said, and for perfectly understandable reasons, parents still want some indication, usually in the form of SAT scores for students who we admitted last year. Unfortunately, that’s exactly the kind of information colleges don’t want to give.

There’s the obvious reason, that SAT scores are a tiny portion of the admission process and get way overblown in the media and rankings.

Then there’s the OTHER reason. Any number a college gives hurts enrollment potential. Let’s say that instead of an average, I give a range, the middle 50%. Any student with a score below that thinks, “whoa, I’ll probably never get in there,” which stinks for that school since the school depends on students below that range for about a fourth of their students. Worse, everyone above that range thinks, “I’m WAY too good for that school.” Now the school has fewer applications, so the admit rate looks worse AND fewer competitive students apply, so just by answering the question their numbers go down the next year. (On the other hand, shameless plug, Mason’s numbers have been going up so fast that quoting numbers from the year before is pretty misleading, but that’s my “problem” not yours). So colleges dodge the question whenever they can.

This gets magnified with GPA. And, of course, it doesn’t take into account how confusing straight numbers can be. Some high schools have started posting the lowest GPA and SAT scores for their graduates admitted to each college. Of course, this doesn’t take into account why these low scores/grades might have been seen as admissible, such as legacy admits, athletes, or students with learning disabilities. It also doesn’t account for schools that recalculate GPA, or that might have score optional admission (Mason!) or use an ACT score instead of an SAT score – so the lowest number these high school are posting could be TOTALLY irrelevant to what the committee was using to determine admissibility, and as a result totally misleading to future applicants.

So what the heck are we supposed to do about all the stress? Bear in mind that the range is just a range, that averages are just numbers, and that lots of other issues factor in to decisions. Any other ideas? Send them in…I’m sure everyone would love to see them.

Legacy admissions

I almost missed this article from ABC News that wonders how the most competitive universities can benefit legacy admits. What amazes me is that they find this so surprising, or think that there’s some big secret. Yes, most of the time the majority of the decision is about academics, but of course colleges advantage students that advantage the university. This includes athletes, artists, debaters, etc. I’m not saying that a school will take unqualified students, but the reality is that families where multiple generations attend tend to donate at a much higher rate, and for a lot more money. That money is used to offer scholarships, and of course the donation rate shows up in the college and university rankings. I’m not saying it’s fair, or right, and no doubt it leads to some schools lacking anything resembling diversity, but the fact that it suprises anyone…well that just surprises me.

Transfer Students: Useful website

As a university that receives thousands of transfer inquiries every semester, we know how confusing it can be for transfer students to figure out how their credits will transfer to different schools. If you are considering transferring, check out It’s a quick and easy resource for comparing catalog course descriptions.