Advice From A 2019 College Graduate To High School Students

The College Search: The Ups, The Downs, and Everything in Between

By: Melissa Bendell

I remember my first college visit. It was exciting and I walked around with my eyes wide open trying to take everything in. But that excitement later turned to fear and some anxiety when I realized that I needed to make what, at the time, was the biggest decision of my life. Before my junior year of high school, the hardest decision I ever had to make was if I should cut my hair by two inches or three! Making difficult and life-changing decisions when you’re seventeen years old is extremely intimidating, so I’m here to offer some advice that I wish I knew during the college search process.

  1. The university you attend does not determine the rest of your life’s trajectory.

Yes, we all know that the Ivy League schools are associated with prestige and status, but there is more to a college experience than having the name of a university on your diploma. The most important part of higher education is actually receiving an education. It doesn’t matter if that is done at your local community college, at a 60,000-person university, or at a school in between. As long as you work hard toward your goals, you can and will succeed.

  1. Everyone is different – don’t compare yourself to others.

When I was applying to colleges, my friends and I would talk about where we were applying, what our SAT/ACT scores were, what the school’s acceptance rate was, and hundreds of other aspects of the college application process. I mentally compared myself to my peers: Did they have higher SAT scores than me? Were they applying to more “prestigious” schools than I was? But I soon realized that comparing myself to them wasn’t helpful. Everyone is different and is looking for different things in a school, whether it’s close to home or far away, a large or small student body, a city school or a school with a campus. What is perfect for your best friend might not be right for you and it’s important to keep in mind what will help you succeed, not what will make you look better to your peers.

  1. College is what you make of it.

One of the most exciting things about college is the ability to choose what you want to study and for the first time, really make your own decisions. You can be in 10 clubs, join Greek life, study abroad — what your college experience looks like is up to you. Take advantage of all of the amazing opportunities your school offers because you’ll regret it if you wait until your senior year to get involved.

  1. With more independence comes more responsibility.

For me, college was the first time that I was able to branch out and become a more independent person. However, the more independence I gained, the less I had someone to help keep me accountable. Something I wish I learned before I started college was good time management skills. The work piles up pretty quick and it can be difficult to catch up if you fall behind. I kept a very detailed planner with due dates highlighted and made sure to start papers at least two weeks before they were due so I would have time to review them before I needed to submit them. College grants you more freedom, but it’s important to find the right balance between fun and your priorities at school.

  1. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Living in a new city, meeting new people, and not having the support system that I relied on for my whole life was scary when I first went off to college. The amount of work and pressure college students face can be overwhelming, but it’s important to remember that you’re not the only one feeling intimidated or anxious. The great thing about college is that it has resources available to you, including on-campus counseling, tutoring, and office hours where you can speak with your professors after class. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help. Your professors want you to succeed, and if you take the initiative, they will understand how you are feeling and will be more willing to give you an extension or extra help.


Melissa Bendell graduated magna cum laude from American University with a B.A. in Public Relations, Marketing, and Spanish. While in college, she was secretary of her sorority, Phi Mu, and studied abroad in Madrid for a semester. She now works as a Digital Communications Producer at the Religious Action Center of the Union for Reform Judaism in Washington, D.C.

Georgetown Attracts Strong Diverse Students For 2019

This year’s Early Action applicant pool fell slightly (-7%) from last year; we see this as a larger reflection on the pressure many applicants are feeling to commit to an Early Decision school, as opposed to a reflection on interest in Georgetown. On the other hand, the maintained strength that we saw in our Early Action pool serves as testament to the strength of the Georgetown brand. Looking ahead, our Regular Decision pool appears to be tracking higher than previous cycles, so we anticipate an increase in total applications come January.

The Early Action pool continued to reflect Georgetown’s commitment to enrolling a diverse class. This year’s pool was 11% Black/African-American, 13% Hispanic/Latino, 16% Asian-American, 8% International, and 1% Native American.

The academic quality of the pool was as strong as ever, making admissions committee decisions immensely difficult. We admitted 12% (919) of the 7,802 applicants. Students were admitted from 49 of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and 41 foreign countries. Admitted students were, on average, in the top 5% of their class. The SAT Verbal middle-50% range for admitted students was 720-760, and the SAT Math middle-50% range was 740-790. The ACT continues to be popular, with almost half of our applicant pool taking the ACT. The ACT middle-50% range for admitted students was 33-35.

In the charts below, you will find additional statistics for this year’s Early Action pool, as well as Early Action application numbers by undergraduate program.

 2018 Early Action Results

  Georgetown College Walsh School of Foreign Service McDonough School of Business School of Nursing and Health Studies   Total  
Applied 4,478 1,576 1,112 636 7,802
Admitted 491 187 165 76 919
Admission Rate 11% 12% 15% 12% 12%
Percentile Class Rank* 95.9 96.1 95.3 94.6 95.7
SAT Verbal (mid-50%)* 720-770 730-770 710-760 710-760 720-760
SAT Math (mid-50%)* 730-790 730-790 740-790 730-790 740-790
33-35 33-35 33-35 33-34 33-35
Top Ten States/Regions
in Applicant Pool
Most Popular
Extracurricular Activities
California (746)
New York (656)
Foreign (645)
Maryland (586)
New Jersey (545)
Florida (403)
Massachusetts (393)
Virginia (392)
Texas (386)
Pennsylvania (369)
Community Service
National Honor Society
Speech & Debate
Model United Nations
Youth Religious Group
Student Government
Math/Science Club

Tomorrow is Another Opportunity

Harvard Admits a Freshman Class and Whites are the Minority

For the first time in its nearly 400-year history, Harvard has admitted a majority nonwhite class, The Boston Globe reported.

Official figures released by the college show that the entering class of 2021 is:

• 22.2% Asian American 

• 14.6% African American

• 11.6% Hispanic or Latino 

• 2.5% Native American or Pacific Islander 

Of the entering freshman class, 50.8% are from minority groups, an increase from the 47.3% figure last year, The Globe reported.

The news comes just as the Department of Justice indicated it planned to review a complaint of discrimination at Harvard University related to its admissions process.

An anti-affirmative action group called Students for Fair Admissions filed a lawsuit against Harvard in 2015, alleging that the college and other Ivy League institutions use racial quotas to admit students to the detriment of more qualified Asian-American applicants. The group includes a coalition of more than 60 Asian-American groups.

Can Senioritis or Senior Slump be Fatal?

Can senioritis or senior slump be fatal? The answer is YES, at least with regard to college admission decisions.

Every year students are unaccepted or put on probation for a significant drop in grades  or for behavior deemed inappropriate. Below is a link to an article about 10 Harvard students who were recently notified they had been unaccepted for offensive online postings:

This phenomenon is not unique to Harvard. Colleges reserve the right to withdraw offers of admission for a significant dip in grades or a lapse in decent behavior. A student’s college acceptance isn’t a ticket to check out of the last few weeks of high school. Students need to consider whether their actions after an acceptance are worth the price they may pay for them.

Some warnings of behavior to stay away from in general, but especially late in senior year:

Note: Performing well on AP exams may mean that a student can graduate college early, saving thousands of after-tax dollars and enter the workforce earlier. This will increase lifetime earnings significantly. Not doing well on AP exams takes away this opportunity.

Failure to live up to the expectations that you will finish your senior year blemish-free can have some grave and costly consequences:

March Madness is Choosing a College

March is a month for nail-biters – fans on edge with basketball madness and high school seniors anxiously waiting to hear from colleges. Choosing a college is a big decision, one that impacts the next four years of a student’s life and a lot of money, typically $120,000 for an in-state public college or close to $260,000 for an out-of-state or private college.

When researching colleges, families may not ask some of the most important questions – What percentage of students graduate in four years? If it takes longer than four years to graduate, that’s more than four years of tuition. UNC has a four-year graduation rate of 76% vs. Oregon with a 44% rate. Some of the other colleges that lost earlier in the tournament had even better four-year graduation rates. Bucknell’s four-year graduation rate is 86%.

Another important question is What percentage of students return for the second year? This statistic is called retention rate, and there’s a 10-point difference this year in retention rates of the colleges in the final four! Nationwide 27% of students do not return for year two. When students transfer, not all their credits are likely to transfer, thus adding to the cost of that college diploma. No one wants to pay for an extra semester or year of college at these prices.

So, remember choosing a college to attend is not the same as choosing your favorite March Madness pick.

Nosy Questions: How to Avoid Them.

The college search and application process begs unavoidable questions – questions from nosy friends, gloating frenemies, adults, even from annoying relatives. What did you get on the PSAT test? What did you get on the SAT/ACT/AP/Subject test? Where are you going to college?

OMG, you want to know what?

You don’t have to answer; you don’t have to discuss it with anyone but your parents. It’s your business. There’s no up side to answering. It draws stress, anxiety and unhelpful comparisons. There’s more to a college choice than grades and test scores. The answers to these questions are incomplete glimpses and do not reflect the whole picture. Most rankings are little or no value in understanding how a college will meet your needs. The right fit is what you seek, and the important thing is selecting colleges that will give you the opportunity to succeed.

As for the nosy questions, sidestep them with a statement that politely shuts down or re-directs the conversation, a skill you will be able to use again and again:

‘What did you get on the SAT/ACT?

Why should I answer?

If you do engage in a conversation, don’t always believe what others tell you; not everyone will tell the truth. Ultimately, once you get to college, no one cares about SAT, ACT, or high school GPA anymore.

‘Where are you applying or Where are you going to college?’

These are just the first in many nosy life questions – What are you majoring in? What are doing after you graduate? When are you getting married?

Being prepared with answers that redirect the conversation helps relieve the stress of the uncertainty these questions bring up.

Donations in the College Admission Process or Can I Buy My Way In?

Many parents love their alma mater and choose to show their appreciation through gifts to a college or university.  In doing so, many donors hope, perhaps even expect, some sort of advantage when their child applies for admission to this college.

Money does play a roll in admissions. College is a business.

Money does play a roll in admissions. College is a business.

Caution:  this should not be the expectation.  Colleges are not required to offer reciprocity for donations or in-kind gifts.  Many families fall into the pit of expecting colleges to admit their child simply because a parent attended this college or donated to the annual fund.   In hopes of dispelling this rumor and better educating families on the admission process, please consider these points in regard to donations in the college admission process:

  1. Legacy status rarely trumps all in the admission process. Yes, if a student has an alumni parent, this may help an application, but rarely does the legacy status outweigh strength of curricula and grades.  In sum, the applicant must still present a competitive record for the college in question.  Moreover, “legacy” is defined differently by each college (parent, step-parent, grandparent, sibling, etc).
  2. If parents are in a position to donate to a college or university, they should do so with direction and purpose. In other words, donate to a certain academic department, athletics team, scholarship fund, etc.  This will show a college that the family is committed to the success of one of its beloved programs or teams.  It also creates a measure of impact the family has made on the college.
  3. Develop a relationship with a development officer. Work closely with this development officer as you plan and execute gifts to the college.  This relationship can be helpful as parents help their child prepare an application to the college.
  4. Never expect a “trade.” Parents cannot simply write a check and expect admission to a college.  It does not work this way.
  5. Development in the admission process is about relationship building, nothing more and nothing less. Parents should use this opportunity to get to know the college better so that they can counsel their child on whether or not this college is the right fit.
  6. What one college may see as a significant donation, may not be at another. Donation can take place in terms of money, art, time or access to the right firm/organization/people. There are significant tax and legal issues when donating, a family needs a team of qualified individuals before moving forward.

College Acceptance Notification via Snapchat

The University of Wisconsin at Green Bay has begun notifying applicants that they have been accepted through the messaging app Snapchat, WBAY reported. The university still sends traditional acceptance packets to students by mail, but admissions officers said using Snapchat means reaching students faster — and also lets them know when students have viewed the message.

By Carl Straumsheim

See College Solutions founder, Larry Dannenberg, on Fox 25 News.