Category Archives: College

Make the High School Years Meaningful!

Get your student started on the road to high school and college success!

Discover what students need to know to shine in high school and get accepted to their desired colleges in this one-time free seminar with Charlotte Klaar, Ph D, of Klaar College Consulting and Amy Haskell, MA, M.Ed. of Total Writing Enrichment.

students

      • Learn how great writing skills give students an advantage in high school, which can lead to success in college essays and admissions.
      • Find out what courses, activities, and skills are important to college admissions counselors.
      • Learn about the importance of finding a college that’s a good fit for you.
      • Get insights into teenage brains and tips on teaching your to be student independent.

    August 19, 2021  6:30 PM
    The Studios at Loom, 118 Academy St., Ft. Mill, SC  29715
    Seats are limited.  Register Now!

    For more questions, contact [email protected] or [email protected]

    Co-sponsored by The Studios at Loom

Insightful podcasts about getting into and choosing the right college

I’ve started podcasting! This article contains important information on college admissions planning in high school from interviews with the Podcast Business News Network’s Jill Nicolini. Read on or skip to the podcasts at the bottom.

I suggest that parents of ninth-graders get together with their students at the beginning of their freshman year to put together a four-year plan leading up to applying for and getting admission to a college that’s a good fit and match (see below). For example, the student could start out with a few honors classes and then take AP courses.  Colleges want students who have challenged themselves with a rigorous curriculum.

There’s nothing worse than graduating with a 4.0 but no challenging classes.  Colleges ask “Where was the rigor, the intellectual curiosity?” Colleges also want students who have tried different things and are well-rounded.  Let your kids explore, that’s how they learn.

At the same time, admissions officers are looking for in-depth experiences.  Showing commitment to a cause or organization is important. They’re also looking for volunteer service.  If a student only does the minimum required number of hours, the college will assume you just wanted to graduate!

Another topic I talk about in my interviews are  the importance of Fit and Match:

  • Will the student like other students there?
  • Will he like the campus and surroundings? Is your student more comfortable in a containedSummer college prep campus with lots of open spaces, or one that’s large and crowded in a city? Close to the beach or the mountains?
  •  How about activities outside the classroom?  This includes more than sports – there’s drama, debate, Model U.N., Beta Club Community service, and more.
  • Also consider the weather.  A northern campus that’s pleasant in summer may be freezing cold in winter!

Also, have a frank discussion about what your family can afford.  There’s nothing worse than discovering after the first year that you really can’t afford your student’s dream college!

Another important consideration – if your student has exceptional talent, private schools who really want him or her have the dollars to provide financial aid. Public schools, while less expensive on the surface, do not have the same amount of financial aid! 

Here’s my May 27 interview.

Here’s my June 3 interview.

 

Yes, You Get What You Pay For

With independent educational consultants, as with most things in life, you get what you pay for!

If you were searching for an eye surgeon, would you go with the cheapest one you could find? Probably not. After all, these are your EYES!

You would likely ask for recommendations, research the professional background of the surgeon, find out how many surgeries he or she had performed, etc.

The same holds true for selecting an independent educational consultant or college planner.

Some private colleges can cost a family more than $250,000 over four years. In-state public colleges may be less expensive, but they may also not have the level of scholarships available and may not end up costing less than a private college who really wants your student.  For example, Loyola University Maryland offered one of my 2021 students a $30,000 scholarship, whereas the University of South Carolina-Columbia (a public school) only offered a third as much.

When you’re making a substantial investment in your student, you want to make sure you weigh all options and find the absolute best fit.

As a member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association, I have an extensive knowledge of colleges, can broaden your student’s potential choices, and provide vital help in weighing factors such as your student’s passions, costs, location, and curriculum.

Here’s an example:

One student I worked with was Gabe, an intelligent young man with learning differences.

He had been attending a music preparatory program at a respected college in his home town.  The college wanted him as an undergraduate student, and he wanted to go there to be close to home.  He was concerned about moving out of his comfort zone. However, his parents wanted him to think bigger and grow musically.  I showed him other music programs and explained that they didn’t need to be too far away.

 “He didn’t want a large school or to be too far from home, she helped direct him to the right program. He ended up at Catholic University of America.  It wasn’t his first choice, but when he did the first piano audition, they called him, and got him scholarships,” said his Mom.

How did that work out for him?

college decisions

“Gabe graduated last year and is doing his Masters in Piano Performance, also at CUA, so she (Dr. Klaar) really helped him make the best choice for him (perfect school size, location, great piano teachers…). He felt comfortable enough to not apply for any support and found his own way of studying and made it through college successfully (Cum Laude and Dean’s list seven semesters out of eight!)” Gabe’s Mom later reported.

Hearing that brought tears to my eyes.  That’s why I’m passionate about what I do. I understand the importance of taking the time to get to know students and their families well enough to create a college career path for each student’s unique goals and strengths.

I use a friendly but no-nonsense, no-excuses style to work with students to help make the college search, application and essay process a delightful adventure of self-discovery and growth. Along the way, I help students learn to make more informed decisions and to own the process.

That’s why students trust me, respect my knowledge and experience, and work hard to meet their assignments and deadlines.

That knowledge and experience is hard-earned; I belong to all the top College Consultant professional organizations, and was the third college consultant to be honored with the Prestigious Steven R. Antonoff Award for Professional Achievement by the Independent Educational Consultants Association.

Before you make the important decision to select an independent college consultant for your family, ask these questions:

  1. Do you guarantee admission to a school, one of my top choices, or a certain minimum dollar value in scholarships? (Do NOT trust any offer of guarantees.)
  2. How do you keep up with new trends, academic changes, and evolving campus cultures? How often do you get out and visit college, school, and program campuses and meet with admissions representatives? (The ONLY way to know about the best matches for you is to be out visiting schools regularly – post pandemic, of course.)
  3. Do you belong to any professional associations?  (The National Association for College Admission Counseling and the Higher Education Consultants Association along with the IECA are the primary associations for independent educational consultants with established and rigorous standards for membership.)
  4. Do you attend professional conferences or training workshops on a regular basis to keep up with regional and national trends and changes in the law? (This is a must!)
  5. Do you ever accept any form of compensation from a school, program, or company in exchange for placement or a referral? (They absolutely should not!)
  6. Are all fees involved stated in writing, up front, indicating exactly what services I will receive for those fees? (Absolutely mandatory.)
  7. Will you complete the application for admission, re-write my essays, or fill out the financial aid forms on my behalf? (No, they should NOT; it is essential that the student be in charge of the process and all materials should be a product of the student’s own, best work.)
  8. How long have you been in business as an independent educational consultant (IEC)?  (A long tenure with documented professional accomplishments buys you expertise.)

Four more important questions…

While anyone can hang out a shingle and claim to be an independent educational consultant or college counselor, it pays to go beyond price and ask the important questions.

If you’d like to learn more, contact me at [email protected] or call 1-803-487-9777.

Get a jump-start on your college essay and application in 3 days!

Worried that virtual learning has put your student behind during Important high schoolstudent preparing for college years?  Are you concerned about your student getting  behind on his or her essay, common application and resume? Our Summer Camps will give your student a jumpstart on key aspects of college admissions  in just 3 days!

You’ll also get the latest update of how the coronavirus is impacting college admissions.

DATES:  June 15 – June 17, 2021, 1 – 4 p.m. each day.

Co-sponsored by LOOM Coworking, Gallery and Event Space

Day 1:  Students, we’ll tackle the dreaded college essay, including how to find the right topic and how to structure it so that it reflects who you are and why you would be a great addition to the campus community.

Day 2:  Work on your resume and activities for your common application and continue refining your primary essay.

Day 3:  Complete your common application and do further work on your essay and resume.  Dr. Klaar will edit and send her comments post-seminar.

All 3 sessions (9 hours total are just $350! (You must sign up for all 3 sessions)

If groups of three sign up together, each student saves $50!

Sign up today – only 10 students will be accepted into the summer camp!

Payment is due upon registration.

[email protected],  803-487-9777

Cliffs Notes to the Top Performing Arts Colleges

Some college majors have been affected more than others by the measures taken to combat Covid-19. A good example is Performing Arts, which necessitates student-to-student  collaboration within confined spaces. The three performing arts — acting, dance, and music — are simply not amenable to online learning. But with herd immunity now foreseeable in the 2021-22 academic year, applications to the top performing arts programs are expected to rise, making admission to the best programs highly competitive once again.

Anyone who has been on stage and experienced the thrill of performance can understand why students aspire to careers as performing artists. Success in the performing arts entails intensive training focused on the development of essential skills. Colleges that offer an education in the arts usually integrate it within a liberal arts degree program. Although beneficial to a student’s education, this makes a degree in the performing arts more challenging than most other liberal arts majors.

There are institutions that offer programs in only one or two of the three principal performing arts and others that offer all three. Typically, arts curricula require several foundational courses before a student is permitted to concentrate on a specialty. Four-year undergraduate programs lead to a Bachelor of Arts (BA), Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA), or a Bachelor of Performing Arts (BPA) degree.

In this post, we’ll review a number of college programs for acting (drama) and related specialties. Students in these programs take courses in theater literature and history, methods of acting, costume design, playwriting, screenwriting, lighting, stage movement, voice, directing, theater/film technology, set design and related fields to learn different aspects of their art. They’re assigned diverse tasks, not just acting roles. They study all of the disciplines behind the mounting of a production.

After core requirements are met, students are offered a choice to focus primarily on acting or to concentrate on one of the related fields mentioned above. Dance and music majors undergo academic experiences similar to acting majors in order to achieve balance between the theory and practice of their art.

Among the many colleges with undergraduate programs in the performing arts, there are those that have earned exceptional reputations, which are described below. These colleges focus more on acting and dance than music, which has its own list of best colleges.

Brown University, Providence, RI

Brown’s School of Theatre Arts and Performance Studies is noted within the Ivy League for the excellence of its undergraduate BFA program. Brown places a high value on its students achieving a well-rounded understanding of drama as a discipline. Along with acting classes, students study theory and history. They then choose one of the program’s tracks, which include Theatre Arts, Performance Studies, or Writing for Performance. The program offers opportunities for crewing mainstage plays, participating in production workshops, taking part in Shakespeare on the Green performances, and viewing world premieres at the Trinity Repertory Company.

Among the more well-known graduates are John Krasinski, Emma Watson, Laura Linney, JoBeth Williams, Ira Glass, Joseph Bologna, and Bess Armstrong.

California Institute of the Arts, Santa Clarita, CA

CalArts is considered by many to be the best dance school on the West Coast as well as one of the top drama schools. The School of Dance offers a distinguished faculty and renowned guest artists. It provides numerous dance performance opportunities in its American College Dance Festival. The School of Drama is often chosen by students who wish to pursue a screen-acting career. All seniors must enroll in the Acting Studio for the Camera course, which trains them for auditioning and performing  for cinema and TV. In their final semester, students perform in industry showcases in Los Angeles and New York.

The School of Drama’s successful alumni include Don Cheadle, Ed Harris, Dustin Hoffman, Kathy Baker, Laraine Newman, Michael Richards, Alison Brie, and director Tim Burton.

Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA

The oldest acting conservatory in the country, the School of Drama strives to impart to students the ability to embody their characters thorough analysis of the roles in which they’re cast. The School’s faculty consists primarily of established actors. There are 20 shows per year that provide many performance opportunities to students.  The School enables students to perform their original works during a designated week when all classes are cancelled. Seniors have opportunities to perform before audiences of industry professionals in New York, Los Angeles, and Pittsburgh.

Well-known alumni include Holly Hunter, Ted Danson, Albert Brooks, Ethan Hawke, Jack Klugman, George Peppard, Jeff Goldblum, Cherry Jones, Judith Light, Blair Underwood, James Cromwell, Sada Thompson, Joe Manganiello, Leslie Odom Jr., Howard DeSilva, and Rene Auberjonois.

Catholic University of America, Washington DC

CUA’s Department of Drama, offering a BFA in Acting and a BA in Drama, is one of the oldest and most well-established in the country. The curriculum for the BFA in Acting is comprehensive in that it develops actors for all three major media: theatre, film, and television. It’s oriented to conditions in the 2020’s in which actors, in order to succeed, must be prepared for all three media. Actors are trained to be comfortable in all environments so that they’ll have the skills to start working immediately upon graduation. Washington provides plenty of opportunities for CUA students, who have many opportunities to intern at area theatres, experience the dynamic local theatre milieu, and engage in mentorship programs with area professionals.

Notable actors include Susan Sarandon, John Slattery, Helen Hayes, Laurence Luckinbill, Jon Voight, Jason Miller, Chris Sarandon, John Lescault, Ed McMahon, Siobhan Hogan, and Phil Bosco.

Coastal Carolina University, Conway, SC

The CCA Theatre Department offers four BFA concentrations: Acting, Musical Theatre, Physical Theatre, and Design & Production. It also offers a BA in Music with three  concentrations: Commercial & Jazz Music, Music General Studies, and Music Performance. BFA acting students study eight levels of acting centered on the foundational work of Stanislavski. They take courses in on-camera technique, vocal technique, movement studies, script analysis, history, and criticism. The program focuses on self-exploration, characterization, and insight into each student’s best personal working methods. Students develop not only technical and artistic competence but also a broad knowledge of the theatre.

Well-known alumni include Michael Kelly, Bailey Hanks, Elise Testone, and Madelyn Cline.

College of Charleston, Charleston, SC

Student-centered learning is the focus of the College of Charleston’s Department of Theatre + Dance. Students are partners in an artistic community formed in the classroom, in the studio, and in productions. They study with faculty in classroom settings as small as five students. All students engage in the creation and development of each production. Abundant opportunities to perform enable students to gain experience in all aspects of theatre and dance.

Well-known actors include Robert Downey Jr., Erick Avari, Thomas Gibson, Matt Czuchry, Lea Michele, Jennifer Ferrin, and Alison Munn.

Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL

Founded in 1973, the FSU School of Theatre enjoys a national reputation due largely to its faculty of nationally recognized artists and educators. The School has been providing outstanding programs in Florida and around the world for nearly half a century. Its London Theatre Studies program offers a chance to work side by side with guest artists and eminent scholars and to participate in showcase opportunities in major cities.

FSU’s actors, directors, and writers include Alan Ball, Montego Glover, Paul Gleason, Davis Gaines, Leslie Flesner, Cheryl Hines, John Papsidera, Darren Bagert, Richard Simmons, Burt Reynolds, Heather Provost, and Amanda Watkins.

Julliard School, New York, NY

 Often considered the best school in the country for drama and dance, the Juilliard School has a long list of notable alumni who have earned 105 Grammy Awards, 62 Tony Awards, 47 Emmy Awards, 24 Academy Awards, 16 Pulitzer Prizes, and 12 National Medals for the Arts. It’s an exclusive school that selects applicants with proven talent. It selects only a few outstanding students each year, none of whom are recent high school graduates. There are usually 20 students each in the BFA Acting Program, the MFA Acting Program, and the BFA Dance ProgramThe Dance Program conducts 15 public performances each year and the Drama Program produces several plays annually. There are annual showcases in both New York and Los Angeles.

Alumni include Jessica Chastain, Oscar Isaac, William Hurt, Adam Driver, Kevin Kline, Laura Linney, Robin Williams, Viola Davis, Andre Braugher, Val Kilmer, Kevin Spacey, Wendell Pierce, Patti LuPone, Christine Baranski, Marcia Cross, Sid Caesar, and William Hurt.

New York University, New York, NY

On acceptance into NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, students are placed in one of eight primary studios where they receive intensive training leading to a strong foundation in their art. Students remain in their studio for two years. The eight studios are the Stella Adler Studio of Acting, Atlantic Acting School, Experimental Theatre Wing, Meisner Studio, New Studio on Broadway, Playwrights Horizons School, Production & Design Studio, and Lee Strasberg Institute. Once studio training is complete, students choose a specialty for advanced training.

Notable NYU actors include Philip Seymour Hoffman, Alec Baldwin, Kristen Bell, Adam Sandler, Oliver Stone, Andy Samberg, Billy Crystal, Stefani Germanotta (Lady Gaga), James Franco, Bryce Dallas Howard, and its directors include Spike Lee, M. Night Shyamalan, and Martin Scorcese.

Northwestern University, Evanston, IL

Northwestern is one of the few schools of drama in the country that don’t require an audition for admission. Nevertheless, admission is still highly competitive with an admit rate of 15%. Students have many opportunities to perform in school-sponsored, student-run shows that select from among all undergraduates in casting roles. Seniors are invited to participate in showcases in New York and Chicago before audiences of industry professionals.

The School has educated many notable actors including Warren Beatty, Zach Braff, Stephen Colbert, Charlton Heston, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jerry Orbach, Ann-Magret, Claude Akins, Patricia Neal, Richard Benjamin, Robert Conrad, David Schwimmer, William Daniels, Anna Gunn, Jennifer Jones, Cloris Leachman, Mamie Gummer, Zooey Deschanel, Kathryn Hahn, Shelley Long, and Tony Randall.

Smith College, Northampton, MA

Smith is one of the best small colleges in the country for theater majors. Students attending Smith aren’t limited to the resources of their college alone because it’s part of the Five Colleges Consortium. Theater and dance majors at Smith benefit from the combined resources of four other nearby colleges: Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke, and the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. This collaborative program affords students at Smith all the advantages of an institution many times its size while maintaining the intimate atmosphere of a small liberal arts college.

Graduates of the Five Colleges Consortium who have earned a reputation in acting, screenwriting, or directing include Donna Kane, Bill Pullman, Richard Gere, Wendy Wasserstein, Ken Burns, Liev Schreiber, Naomi Wallace, Lupita Nyong’o, Ken Howard, Shelley Hack, and Barry Sonnenfeld.

University of Florida, Gainesville, FL

The home of the UF School of Theatre and Dance is the new state-of-the-art Nadine McGuire Pavilion. The School’s full-time faculty is complemented by a rotating guest faculty of accomplished professionals. It offers BFA programs in Acting, Musical Theatre, Set/Scene design, Lighting Design, and Costume Design as well as a BA in General Theatre. The School also offers BA and BFA programs in dance that have been designed to develop the talents and creativity of each individual dance artist.

Among well-known alumni are Faye Dunaway, Buddy Ebsen, Darrell Hammond, Bob Vila, Lyndon Smith, and Nick Green.

University of Georgia, Athens, GA

The UGA Department of Theatre & Film and the Department of Dance offer BA and BFA degrees within the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. The Theater Department began in 1893 when UGA students formed what is now the Thalian-Blackfriars Dramatic Club, one of the oldest in the country. It’s now the official theatrical club of the University of Georgia with its own playhouse — the Seney-Stovall Memorial Theatre. A Film Studies major was added to the Department in 2006.

Notable actors include Kyle Chandler, Kim Basinger, Ryan Seacrest, Tituss Burgess, Josh Holloway, Wayne Knight, Jessica Stroup, and Sonny Shroyer.

University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI

Michigan’s School of Music, Theatre, and Dance has an outstanding reputation in the performing arts. While pursuing a BFA in acting, students are trained for the physical and mental demands of theater by a faculty of working professionals that includes actors, directors, designers, and technicians. The School’s core curriculum consists of courses in acting, voice, dialect, movement, and stage combat. Students have many opportunities to perform for local, national and international audiences.

Well-known actors from UM include Selma Blair, Christine Lahti, Lucy Liu, James Earl Jones, Madonna, Darren Criss, David Alan Grier, Ann Davis, Margo Martindale, Gilda Radnor, and the playwright Arthur Miller.

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC

The high quality of UNC’s School of the Arts dance program is affirmed its alumni who have  gone on to perform with the American Ballet Theatre, New York City Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Joffrey Ballet, Paul Taylor Dance Company, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and Martha Graham Ensemble.  Drama and dance students have many performance opportunities including senior showcases for industry professionals in New York and Los Angeles.

Notable actors include Mary-Louise Parker, Andy Griffith, John Forsythe, Louise Fletcher, George Grizzard, Jack Palance, Billy Crudup, and Sharon Lawrence.

 Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT

 Wesleyan’s undergraduate theater program is one of the most widely known and highly regarded in the country. The School has an impressive faculty and accomplished visiting artists. Wesleyan’s program also provides an honors track for top performing students as well as two esteemed awards for individuals, the Rachel Henderson Theater Prize and the Outreach and Community Service Prize.

Among its notable alumni are Lin-Manuel Miranda, Michael Bay, Kim Weyans, Beanie Feldstein, Patricia Wettig, Elisabeth Harnois, Dana Delany, Mike White, Bradley Whitford, and Joss Whedon.

Winthrop University, Rock Hill, SC

Winthrop has the only comprehensive collegiate arts program in South Carolina that is nationally accredited in all of the visual and performance arts. The Department of Theatre and Dance fosters aesthetic, intellectual, and creative development in the performing arts within the context of a liberal arts education. Through course work, coaching, mentoring, and performing, students explore the social, historical, and technological aspects of theatre or dance. The Department mounts four stage productions (three in theatre, one in dance), two choreography showcases, and six studio productions each year. The Department also regularly hosts arts festivals, and students join faculty in travel to professional conferences.

Notable actors from Winthrop include Andie McDowell, Shanola Hampton, and Leigh Chapman.

College Board’s Changes Reflect Admissions Trends

Covid-19 has accelerated changes to the SAT exam that have been percolating for years. College Board, the organization that produces the SAT and conducts testing, announced that Subject Tests will no longer be offered, and that the exam would not have an optional essay section in the future. The Board also stated that they’re developing a new “streamlined” version of the SAT that can be administered online to students at home. The ACT exam, the only competitor of the SAT on a national scale, has already announced that they are changing their programs in similar ways.

College Board’s Stated Motivation

The College Board says that their motive is to reduce the burden of redundant exams and unnecessary anxiety on students, stating, “As students and colleges adapt to new realities and changes to the college admissions process, College Board is making sure our programs adapt with them. We’re making some changes to reduce demands on students.”

Some admissions experts have observed that doing away with Subject Tests is a step in the right direction: eliminating standardized testing in college admissions. But most colleges still require or accept SAT scores and consider them an accurate predictor of future academic performance. Skeptical admissions experts maintain that the GPA and the rigor of a high school curriculum should be the only academic criteria in admissions. Focusing exclusively on them is what will reduce pressure on students.

College Board’s Actual Motivation

The College Board is a not-for-profit organization that was formed in 1899 allegedly to expand access to higher education. It has more than 6,000 institutional members that use its services and govern it. The Board’s revenue, derived from member and student fees, exceeds $1 billion annually. There are 1,600 employees at its headquarters in New York and in its field offices.

Although devoted to serving the needs of its members rather than making a profit, the College Board has a bias toward self-preservation. The leadership is aware that standardized tests have increasingly been viewed as discriminating against racial minorities and the economically disadvantaged. The Board’s leaders have been tracking the adoption of test-optional policies that has resulted from this perception of bias.

Subject Tests vs. Advanced Placement

The motivating factor behind the decision to cease offering the Subject Tests is that the College Board stands to gain from the movement away from the tests as credentials or requirements for admission. Another factor is that Subject Tests will be replaced by GPA and the strength of curriculum as the only two academic criteria for admissions. The Board plans to shift to their Advanced Placement (AP) program as the most common way for an applicant to prove the rigor of their coursework.

Since 1955, the College Board’s AP program has been available for high school students who want to demonstrate their capabilities in the 40 AP subjects.  More than 22,000 high schools offered at least some of the AP courses last year. The Board establishes the syllabi for the courses, develops the exams, and audits each AP program to assure compliance.

About 85 percent of colleges weigh AP courses and exams substantially heavier than regular courses.  The AP courses are optional and, if a student is sufficiently confident that he or she can take a course’s final exam in May and pass it with a score of 3, 4, or 5, it counts as an AP credit even if they didn’t take the course. On the other hand, if a student takes an AP course but doesn’t score a 3, 4, or 5, it’s purpose as proof-of-rigor to colleges is foregone.

There’s at least one valid objection to the substitution of the AP program for Subject Tests. Subject Tests were offered five times per year and students were advised to take them after completing a high school course in the relevant subject. Last year, only a handful of colleges required applicants to submit Subject Test scores in specific subjects. Ten highly selective colleges “recommended” them, which essentially means that they required them. The other students that took the tests did so as a voluntary way to burnish their admissions credentials, especially in their intended field of study.

AP courses polish credentials because they’re more demanding than regular high school courses; it’s estimated that they require about 30 percent more work. AP students are expected to delve more deeply into topics through research, practical applications, and critical thinking. Colleges look favorably on AP courses and exam results as proof that an applicant is capable of doing college work.

There’s no set number of AP courses that a student should take, but many Independent Educational Consultants advise those aspiring to attend highly selective colleges to take three or four of them. For those aspiring to attend the most elite colleges, six or more are recommended.

AP exams must be passed prior to senior year in order to be reflected on a student’s college applications. This requires elite college aspirants to pass an average of two AP exams annually in their freshman, sophomore, and juniors years. That’s a tall order… one that isn’t consistent with the College Board’s stated purpose of reducing the pressure on students.

 

Early College Planning 101

When should you start planning for college? Earlier than you think!

On Tuesday, October 20 from 6 – 7 p.m., Bonnie Kleffman of the Fort Mill School District will interview Charlotte Klaar, PhD about the steps families should take to set students up for college success. This process begins in freshman year of high school and continues through graduation.

Register here

Things Can Go Very Wrong no Matter Where You Live!

There are students who, in normal times, see benefits to living on campus for all four undergraduate years. On campus, they feel like they’re at the center of all things important to them. On the other hand, there are many students, especially upperclassmen, who prefer the independence from administrative influence that comes with living off-campus.

This dichotomy has long existed on campuses across the country. At any college, the ratio of students in the two camps is determined by factors such as a college’s policies, the cost of room and board, the local cost of living, the availability of rentals, and the ease of finding part time jobs in the area.

We have seen recently that things can go very wrong no matter where you live at college. Consider the unpleasantness that both on-campus and off-campus residents experienced earlier this year due to the coronavirus — an unforeseen crisis. Colleges closed dormitories abruptly, with all residents, including international students unable to return home, ordered to leave ASAP. Many on-campus residents never received refunds for the fees they paid for the semester. Most off-campus students were locked into contracts for rentals even though their purpose for living in them ended when classes did.

Like so many other things, the pandemic has affected college housing choices. If you’re a high school senior planning to attend a residential college in the fall of 2021, you should keep apprised of what’s happening on campuses this fall.

To Open or Not To Open

There are two main factors working at cross-purposes in a college’s decision to open their residence and dining halls. The first is money. Both public and private institutions have invested heavily to upgrade on-campus residential life in order to remain competitive. To earn a return on these investments, colleges have increased their residential fees by 9% annually over the last ten years, which is much more than the rate of inflation and also exceeds the rate that tuition has risen.

In a recent year, colleges collectively realized $15.5 billion in revenue for room and board and spent $14.9 billion to provide it, generating a surplus of $600 million. But if they’re empty, residence facilities chew up overhead while generating no revenue, causing substantial losses. This scenario incentivizes college administrators to open dormitories and dining halls.

The second factor, health, pulls in the opposite direction. Colleges long ago shed the burden of acting in loco parentis for their students, but they’re still ethically obligated to protect their student’s health. This is their duty regardless of how severe the financial impact may be on the college.

The tension between these two forces is being played out in real time as administrators waffle between alternatives. The choices are clear. They may open their campuses to business as usual, keep their campuses closed and conduct virtual classes, or offer a hybrid approach.

Thus far, the plans of administrators have proven ephemeral and subject to sudden change. Examples include UNC – Chapel Hill and Notre Dame, where students returned in August for one week before the rate of infection caused the campuses to close again. Imagine how many lives were disrupted by just these two quick policy reversals.

Certain administrators feel compelled to fill their dormitories to capacity this fall. Some are under contract with private corporations that operate the college’s residential facilities. Any policy that limits revenue makes the college subject to a lawsuit. The University System of Georgia is one of the largest institutions in this predicament. Other colleges are opening but with long lists of safety precautions that they’re undertaking to curtail the spread of the virus. Unfortunately, the efficacy of these measures will only be knowable in retrospect. It’s a roll of the dice.

What’s shocking is that decisions of such major consequence are being left to you — the student. Administrators seem reluctant to make tough decisions and stick with them. That’s why the current operations of so many colleges are subject to the day-to-day vicissitudes of a viral disease. The quality of administrative leadership of America’s colleges has been spotty, to say the least. Perhaps we can take comfort that from this experience, improvements in preparedness for future crises are bound to evolve.

 

Is your target college in danger of going bust?

If you’re a rising senior, you’re probably looking forward to your upcoming college years with great anticipation. You’ve worked hard for the credentials that will qualify you for admission to College just aheadthe schools that fit you best. College is the prize!

But what happens to your aspirations if you enroll at a college that closes its doors when you’re a freshman? You’d be forced to transfer to another college –  one that might not suit you as well. It’s possible that the new one might fail too, forcing a second transfer in pursuit of your Bachelor’s degree. You’d end up spending most of your precious college years gaining and then losing friends, mentors, coaches, jobs, and some credits too. Not to mention the loss to your peace of mind.

Colleges fail

This is not a far-fetched scenario. Colleges fail. In fact, a surprisingly large number of them have failed or been struggling in recent years, even before Covid-19 struck. Experts predict that about 20% of colleges will close in the next few years due to a combination of the pandemic, changing demographics, state disinvestment, and unaffordable tuition. If you’re going to college in 2021, you should find out if your targeted colleges are likely to be among the 80% that will survive.

Top-tier private colleges with multi-billion dollar endowments were given millions in Federal pandemic relief (with many, but not all, returning the money). However, the most at-risk colleges were excluded from the relief legislation. This neglect, added to the problems noted above, will take a heavy toll on the ones most likely to fold, which are small, private colleges with small endowments. Some of them have been operating at break-even or a small deficit for years. Even a slight decline in enrollment can be ruinous because they don’t have large endowments to cushion the blow. The pandemic will be their death knell.

A number of small private colleges have already closed or have announced a closing date in the near future. Here are a few examples:

• MacMurray College, IL
• Urbana University, OH
• Holy Family College, WI
• Pine Manor College, MA
• Nebraska Christian College, NE
• Robert Morris University, IL
• Concordia University, OR
• School of Architecture at Taliesin, WI
• Watkins College, TN
• Marlboro College, MA

Colleges tightening their belts

Many small colleges are adopting severe austerity measures in an effort to avoid closing. Even if they succeed in surviving, you’ll want to assess the likely impact of these measures on you as a student.

Public institutions, even some large ones like Rutgers and Michigan, are also feeling the pinch. States are compelled to cut their education budgets due to the statewide expenses and loss of tax revenue wrought by the pandemic. Public colleges have never fully recovered from heavy cuts to their budgets in the wake of the Great Recession. Add the current budget crisis on top of that and it’s inevitable that some state campuses will be closed.

Even large public and private universities that are expected to survive the pandemic will need to tighten their belts. You should stay informed because your target universities may discontinue the degree programs, majors, and courses in which you’re most interested. There’ll be reductions in faculty that will change the faculty-to-student ratio and impair mentorship programs that may be important to you.

How to research a college’s financial health

You’ll encounter two problems when you search for financial information upon which to base your decisions. First, a private non-profit college is not obligated to make financial statements available to the public. Second, the financial condition of all individual public colleges will be aggregated within the entire state university system, so you won’t be able to discern the financial outlook for a particular campus. Obviously, you won’t find even a hint of the possibility of a college closing on its website. Websites are marketing tools that try to recruit you, not discourage you.

The best way to obtain the information you need to assess a college is to enter the college’s name in a web search engine. If a college is experiencing difficulties, this will be reported in the local press because colleges are important to a community’s well-being.

The Common Data Set (CDS) is another a valuable resource. CDS is an intermediary used by colleges to provide institutional data to interested parties. It’s a collaborative effort between colleges and publishers who report on them, including Peterson’s, the Thomson Corporation, U.S. News & World Report, and the College Board. The purpose of CDS is to improve the accuracy of the information that’s released to interested parties, including you. To find the CDS data set for a particular college, enter “Common Data Set “Name-of-College” into a web search engine.

COVID-19 has come and it will go, but the uncertainty plaguing students at certain colleges across the country will remain. Try not to share their predicament. Use available resources to assess the financial stability of colleges before you apply.

COVID-19 Induced Options for the Classes of 2020 and 2021

This is a very difficult time for our country and the world. Among the most significantly affected are those students about to graduate from high school or those beginning their college search while being unable to visit colleges or speak to other students. Hang in there with me as a wade into why a gap yer may be a great idea for some high school students.

I am concerned about these students for a number of reasons. These are the kids whose stress level has always been very high. They are bombarded by the perceived need to take the most difficult courses, to get almost perfect test scores, and to simultaneously be intricately involved in a series of activities within which they are all expected to achieve leadership roles. Now in their junior or senior year of high school, the uncontrollable monster arrives, and no one has the answer to how to make the world safe.

Can you see how this added stress and inability to control their lives would affect a population that is already stretched to the max? There is no way to convince these young adults that the world will ever be safe for them again, because we don’t believe that ourselves.

Those of us who lived through prior national and international crises see this one differently. Unlike after the 1960s riots, an election will not change the history of race relations. Unlike after 9/11, there is not a visible enemy to fight against. This virus came out of the blue and is taking down the world. Governments do not have the answer. Religious leaders don’t have the answer. Scientists are working diligently to unravel the mystery themselves.

A Class Missing Out

The graduating class of 2020, will not have graduation ceremonies, proms and the normal celebratory trappings of their senior year.   Plus, they must decide which admission offers to take without another visit to confirm their choices. They don’t know if they will be taking classes in lecture halls or on their computers. They don’t know if they will be safe on the campus they choose.

The conditions they used to decide which colleges to apply to may have changed significant. In some cases, the family’s finances may have become shaky. In others, going far away from home is no longer as attractive as it may once have been. For others, the family may have endured illness or even death at the hand of Covid-19.

The Class of 2021 is in its Own Quandary

How to they make decisions when the world is upside down? What records will colleges look at more stringently next year than they would have in past years? Will their academic record be valued now that its delivery method has changed? How do activities continue to be meaningful in the era of social distancing? With standardized tests being repeatedly cancelled, will they play any part in the process? For kids who do better with in-person rather than virtual tutoring, how do they get that when they can’t leave their homes?

For both classes, what happens to the students who were hanging on to their mental stability by a thread and now have something to be really anxious about?  How do we help them maintain their mental health when they cannot socialize as normal teenagers do?

I suggest that we remove the stress from these kids and offer some alternatives to what they view as life-or-death decisions. Consider a gap year! I am not talking about putting off college forever or backpacking through Europe.

But how about letting these kids take a year where they can get a job and attend college at night or online? Perhaps a different kind of learning in which they intern or volunteer in the type of setting they have chosen as a possible career, to see if that’s the right road for them when they finally do begin college.

In addition to the mental health benefits of a gap year, there’s the added benefit having  another year to mature and to make some money to help fund their college educations or to help the family. If they volunteer in the gap year, they are helping others who are less fortunate than they are. There is always someone who is worse off than you are. Make the offer to your kids and let them think about it for a bit before making a decision. You may be surprised at the relief you and they will feel when leaving home is put off for a bit.

If you need help putting together a meaningful plan, call me!