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

Does studying for the ACT or SAT pay?

Does studying for the ACT or SAT pay? It does at least when merit money is being considered. Colleges use many factors in determining whether a student will be accepted – geography, gender, strength of curriculum, GPA, race, community service, leadership opportunities.

High SAT or ACT can mean more free money.

Colleges use these same factors to then determine merit money for accepted students. Scores are probably the simplest — and most visual — measure to understand what colleges value. The chart to the left shows the breakdown at one ‘very selective’ southern college of ACT scores and what appears to be a sliding scale of merit money awarded to 6 different students. Students submitted ACT scores and received a range of merit amounts. The range of money attached to specific scores (SAT or ACT) for each college will vary. For this particular college, the cut-off seems to be a score of 31. For another less selective college, the cut-off would be lower, maybe a 28. For more selective colleges, the cut-off might be a 34. Bringing the score up a point or two might make the difference between a college being affordable for a family or not affordable.

The College That Fits Your Child: Pasadena Seminar 10/2/18

Looking to find the college that best fits your child or to obtain free money?  We will show you how to find schools that are the right fit as we walk you through the admissions process.  Learn about merit money opportunities and what you can do to better your child’s chances of receiving this free money, regardless of whether your child is a top student or an average student.

Understand why starting the college early can offer significant advantages. This seminar class is particularly important if your student is at the top of the class, has learning differences, is an athlete, or is average. See what it takes to get into an Ivy and why your child may be rejected from the school you considered to be a “safety” school.

2018 was a year of significant change, Standardized testing has changed, admissions have become more competitive than ever, and a new “Coalition” application is being used by some colleges. In addition, the financial aid application process has undergone recent changes that require planning in the freshman year of high school.

Parents who are separated, divorced, or never married will learn what they should know about financial aid. Dr. Lee Ann Cornell has spent years working in this field and has a wide breadth of knowledge on this subject and a staff of recognized experts to help your child achieve their dreams.

Immigrant parents or parents whose children will be the first in their family to attend college will find this class very helpful.  You will learn the subtleties of the college process and develop an understanding of how your child may be at a disadvantage at some schools and have advantages at others.

Dr. Lee Ann Cornell manages the California practice of College Solutions. She brings ten years of admission experience from several colleges. Dr. Cornell understands exactly how to position a student in the admission process. She specializes in essay brainstorming and editing, as well as application mapping.

Five things that can keep you out of college

What are five things that could keep you out of college? Here from Jordan Goldman founder of Unigo moderates The Wall Street Journal’s special event “Inside The College Admissions Office.” Panelists include the Deans of Admissions from Princeton University, the University of Pennsylvania, Williams College, Wesleyan University, Bryn Mawr College, Grinnell College, Marquette

Do People Rat Out Applicants to Admissions?

In mid-April 2017, 10 high school seniors received some unwelcome news: Their acceptances to Harvard, perhaps the most coveted prize in the nationwide college admissions tourney, had been suddenly revoked over content they’d shared online.

The offending material — a series of jokes and memes that mocked suicide, child abuse, and the Holocaust — was posted in an invitation-only chat that had spun off from Harvard’s Facebook group for incoming freshmen. But the forum proved to be less private than its participants assumed, and when word got back to university administrators, they quickly rescinded admission.

It’s a cautionary tale that reflects prevailing trends in education and technology, as top-flight colleges have become increasingly selective and social media platforms have found enthusiastic constituencies among teenagers with spotty judgment. Experts say internet infractions like bullying, sexting, and off-color humor can become major obstacles to entry at the most prestigious schools. And admissions officers aren’t always the first to notice these transgressions — sometimes, it’s sharp-elbowed fellow applicants who tip them off.

“Social media is public, to a large extent, and you’re dealing with individuals who are 16 or 17 years old when they start an application process,” says Yariv Alpher, executive director for market research at Kaplan Test Prep. “What I think is important for kids and parents to be aware of is that what you put out there, is out there. It might be perceived as a very negative thing to someone who might hold a lot of weight over your life.”

Each year, Alpher surveys more than 350 admissions officers on their approach to students’ social media output. In this year’s poll, 35 percent said they checked personal accounts; one-quarter of those said they did so “often” in order to make admissions decisions. Those numbers have climbed persistently over the 10 years the poll has been conducted.

While 47 percent of the cyber snoops said they’d discovered information that had helped applicants’ chances — accomplishments they’d left off their records, for instance, or online art portfolios — 42 percent said the opposite, citing unbecoming statements and evidence of misbehavior. One anonymous administrator complained of some “really questionable language” on a high schooler’s Twitter account: “It wasn’t quite racist, but it showed a cluelessness that you’d expect of a privileged student who hadn’t seen much of the world.”

This spring’s withdrawn acceptances aren’t the first electronic chat fiasco to ensnare admitted students at Harvard. Last year, a group from the newly accepted class of 2020 traded racist jokes and poked at feminism on Microsoft’s GroupMe mobile app. Though the school did not discipline the students involved, Dean of Admissions William Fitzsimmons posted an official response describing himself as “troubled and disappointed” by the incident.

Cutthroat classmates

Peter Osgood, director of admissions at California’s highly selective Harvey Mudd College, says these types of revelations are precisely why he doesn’t venture online. “I don’t chase that stuff down, and very rarely does our staff do that,” he says. While cautioning that he doesn’t speak for his employer, he worries that digging too deep for additional information could intrude on the private lives of adolescents still coming into their own.

“Some of these young people — they’re young, all right? They haven’t gone to college yet, they don’t have the maturity, they’re still evolving. Some of them are trying to be cool or funny,” he says.

Occasionally, though, colleges don’t have the option of averting their gaze. In the blood sport of application season, when highly ranked institutions rarely admit more than one student from the same high school, some students try to even the odds by anonymously maligning their classmates. An intercepted photo of underage drinking, or a crass Gchat transcript, could be enough to sink a competitor’s chances.

“There’s an aspect of one student informing on another,” says Alpher. “We’ve heard from admissions officers that they’ve received a negative tip from one applicant about another applicant. You could almost think of it as admissions sabotage: ‘Hey, you might want to check out so-and-so.’ ”

The most famous such example occurred in 2013, when poison pen letters were sent to several colleges alleging misconduct against a senior from New York City’s ultra-posh Horace Mann School. But the phenomenon had already attracted the concern of admissions officers nationwide.

A 2008 Chicago Tribune article on admissions sabotage featured representatives from elite schools such as Ohio State University, Notre Dame, and the University of Chicago debating whether to put stock in accusatory letters that sometimes looked more like blackmail notes than official correspondence. “If it is more competitive than before, then perhaps more of it is going on,” said one. “People are willing to lie in order to do better in what they consider to be a difficult competition.”

That administrator was William Fitzsimmons, Harvard’s dean of admissions.

The best defense

The natural response to a treacherous online landscape might be for parents to impose a social media blackout. But that’s no solution, says John David, a Florida-based public relations consultant and columnist. One of the main recommendations from his recently published book, How to Protect (or Destroy) Your Reputation Online, is to maintain a consistent — and carefully controlled — internet brand. Otherwise, a student is at risk of becoming a blank slate to outside observers, quickly defined by one negative story.

“If that happens, the only thing that’s up is negative,” he says. “There’s no social media page that shows that this is a nice, normal kid. It could be bullying, it could be revenge porn, it could be a hate blog. You may have this desire to circle the wagons and cover your kid — but at some point, they’re going to be out on their own, operating in the world.”

The strategy of pre-emptive branding has led to the creation of specialty reputation-scrubbing software named … BrandYourself. There are also reports of some college applicants maintaining multiple Facebook accounts for the benefit of admissions office voyeurs. David, a 25-year PR veteran, laments that manicuring a personal image is vastly more difficult now that most of the country carries cellphones in their pockets.

“We all make mistakes. We all do things we’re not proud of. We all lose our temper,” he says. “I went to a major university, was in a fraternity, and I did plenty of stuff that I’m not wholly proud of. Nothing terrible, nothing illegal, but I’m glad it’s not coming up when I’m being checked out by a prospective client.”

Though Harvard drew a firm line on internet offenses, some university authorities take a longer view. Harvey Mudd’s Osgood, who compares social media lapses to an unsightly tattoo that can’t be removed, recalls an incident in which his college’s admissions office considered revoking the acceptance of a student who’d made indelicate remarks that were easy to trace.

“He was trying to show off, and he was a little immature about it. And we had a conversation with him, and he said, ‘That’s not really the way I am, I was just trying to make friends and said things that were a little outrageous,’ ” he says. “He took it to heart, and being called out by the college really got him to wake up a little bit. He grew from that and became a really great citizen here.”

Whether he ever sent a ribald meme is another story.

By KEVIN MAHNKEN for July 11, 2017

Do I Take the Writing Section on the SAT or ACT?

Should I take the writing section on the SAT or ACT? The answer to this question is always YES! There is no downside to taking the added section, excluding the added time and cost.  While few schools require the section and slightly more recommend it.  A student must have the writing section of the SAT or ACT to apply to those colleges. Some of the colleges that super-score tests will not super-score tests unless all of the tests have the writing section. Colleges change their admission requirements every year, sometimes in the middle of the admission cycle. Students are never sure of where they are applying until they submit the application. Taking the SAT or ACT writing section every time a student takes the test assures that they meet the minimum requirements for applying.

The list below is from . You should always check with the school to know their specific requirements.

What Does A Veteran College Counselor Do With Her Child?

‘What about my alma mater?’ I ask.

He doesn’t even have to think about it. ‘No. She’d have to be a completely different student.’

I thought I knew how it worked – and I do. But I also thought my knowledge would help me guide my own two daughters through the college process like I do with the students I work with as an independent college counselor.

After six years working as a college essay editor and independent college counselor, surprise, surprise. It turns out it’s difficult to watch the process unfold without emotions and biases, basically personal reactions to each step in the process.

I try to look at my daughters in the same way as I do our clients/students – with objectivity, but with a true interest in a great outcome. The process we go through with our students can’t be completely objective. Each student is different, applying to colleges with a unique combination of circumstances, academics, grades and extracurriculars. But we do have to base many of our decisions on tangibles – aptitudes and stats – and what we know about our students through months or years of meeting with them and their parents.

It is different though with my own girls. I know them really well. They are extremely three dimensional – they have thoughts, feelings, frustrations. I cringe when I think what probably every parent going through the college process has thought: ‘they are more than test scores and GPA.’ But it’s true. It’s also why I even thought about asking the owner here at College Solutions about the viability of one of my daughters applying to my alma mater.

When one of my daughters was a toddler and wasn’t speaking quite yet, she wanted to talk so badly as she watched her twin sister easily conversing with the adults. She banged her head on the wall in frustration. That kid now meets her frustrations with a calm system of steps to problem-solving. She prides herself on being unflappable and is the calm one among her friend group. I know this about her. When we left her at a sleep-away camp at age 10 sitting on her bunkbed, she hadn’t made any friends yet, but drop-off was over. We had to go. We panicked for a week before her first letter arrived. She was fine – and loved camp. That was the first of many situations we have offered her to help her grow and to find her own way.

We know these things about her. Surely the colleges will too.

And her sister. Fearless. She tells her guy friends that rape jokes are never funny. ‘Even if we’re totally joking?’ Never, she says, and they seem to understand that she’s right. At least they haven’t told any in her presence since that conversation. As a soccer goalie for years, what made her good was her great reflexes – but more than that, her fearlessness. At her first co-ed indoor soccer game in high school, a really skilled guy player came speeding at her, and I don’t quite know what happened, but a few seconds later, he was on the ground, and she had the ball. I picture her now with her fist in the air with one cleat on his chest, but I think my mind has added that last part.

We know these things about her. Surely the colleges will, too.

The common application distilled is not even five full pages of information, mostly facts – what classes are you taking, what are your test scores, did mom and dad go to college? There is an essay, but the essay is so packed with ‘what should I say’ and ‘what makes me stand out’ that these other ‘real’ stories have a tough time surfacing.

So, when the owner of College Solutions interviews my daughters, one and then the other, so he can get to know them and put together a preliminary college list for them, I want to interrupt: “But, wait, there’s this other thing about her…” and “you have to also know…’

But I know the drill; I’ve heard him reference it a hundred times. ‘Parents, quiet! I want to hear from the student. There’s duct tape on the shelf behind you if you’re having trouble.’

My two are mature girls, ready to start thinking about what they want for themselves, starting with a college that will make them happy. So I respect that the process for finding the right college will work. It works for so many.

I just hope that their strength, perseverance and sense of what’s right are strong enough in both girls that those qualities can’t help but bubble up from the totality of their applications.

The 12 Most Prestigious Competitions for High School Students

See the student that won the Intel Science Competition

High school students here are the 12 most prestigious and well-respected competitions. These offer significant financial prizes and will make you more desirable to the most selective and prestigious universities.  More importantly by competing you will develop the skills in research, learning, diverse thought, critical thinking and communication that all colleges and employers desire.

NANCY GRIESEMER is the sole author of the content and Admissions.Blog as the sole publisher of the original content.

What Does Your PSAT Score Say?


PSAT scores are being released, and often families have questions about the information provided in the report. To help you better understand your scores, we’ve put together a helpful guide. A full interpretive guide can be downloaded here. Below is some detailed information about the PSAT score report.

Your Total Score and Section Scores

The top half of the PSAT Score Report’s first page shows the student’s Total Score and Section Scores, as well as percentile ranks. The Total Score and Section Scores are typically the most important SAT scores when applying to college. Remember, the PSAT is not used for college admissions, but PSAT scores are good indicators of a student’s potential on the SAT. PSAT Section Scores are on a 160-760 scale, whereas the SAT’s Section Scores are on a 200-800 scale. The tests’ scale ranges differ because some SAT content is more advanced than what is seen on the PSAT. Put simply, the PSAT does not have 800-level content, so it does not offer an 800 score. Scaled scores are on the same “continuous” scale as the SAT. If a student achieves a Math score of 500 on the PSAT, he or she would have likely achieved the same score on an SAT taken on that same day.

Your Nationally Representative Percentile

Percentiles give a sense of relative standing among students. The “Nationally Representative” percentile is based on data for all U.S. students in a particular grade, including students who did not take the PSAT. Students can view their PSAT results and see their percentile ranking relative to only students who took the PSAT. Note that this percentile ranking is often lower than the “Nationally Representative” ranking.

The College and Career Readiness Benchmark

The Benchmark shows whether a student will, with average levels of improvement, achieve a “College Readiness” score on the SAT. As stated by the College Board, an Evidence-Based Reading & Writing Score of 480 and a Math Score of 530 are benchmarks of college and career readiness. This rough predictor should not be used as a definitive measure of student potential.

PSAT Scores and Subscores

The bottom half of the PSAT Score Report’s first page shows the student’s Test Scores and Subscores. As the PSAT is primarily used as practice for the SAT, the Subscores are important indicators of students’ skills. Subscores show strengths and weaknesses, which should guide how students prioritize their SAT preparation.

Test Scores are used to calculate Section Scores. Multiplying the sum of the Reading and Writing and Language Test Scores by 10 gives the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing Section Score. Multiplying the Math Test Score by 20 gives the Math Section Score.

Subscores provide more focused information for how students can focus their test preparation. For the SAT, these scores are generally not used in college admissions decisions.

Cross-Test Scores are based on 19 history-related questions and 19 science-related questions throughout the PSAT. There is no dedicated history or science section on the test. Cross-Test Scores are used primarily as assessment tools for schools. For the SAT, these scores are generally not used in college admissions decisions.

National Merit Scholarship Corporation

The National Merit Scholarship Corporation uses PSAT/NMSQT scores to select candidates for Merit Scholarship awards. Candidacy is based on students’ NMSC Selection Index scores, which are calculated from PSAT Reading, Writing and Language, and Math Test scores. Selection Index scores range from 48-228. The scores required to qualify for the National Merit Scholarship Program vary from state to state. The Selection Index for the Class of 2017 was 222 in Massachusetts, 220 in Connecticut, and 219 in New York. In September 2018, the NMSC will notify the top-scoring students (about 1% of the total PSAT-taking students) that are eligible to apply for the Merit Scholarships.

Your Scores: Next Steps

The score report includes tips for how the student can most effectively improve scores. This feedback is useful, but broad. More helpful advice requires personal consideration that the College Board cannot provide, such as careful analysis of individual test questions, feedback on the student’s testing experience, and consideration of the student’s personality and learning style.

Your Question-Level Feedback

The last page of the PSAT score report shows how the student performed on each question. Students should review their test to identify areas for improvement. Missed questions indicate areas where students need more study or practice. For example, incorrect answers to low-difficulty questions are signs of carelessness or gaps in foundational skills.

Question and Answer Explanations Online

Students can log into their College Board online account for more information on their PSAT results, including their PSAT percentile rank and detailed analysis of each question on the test.

Select the “Test Questions” tab to view individual questions from the PSAT. Students can review test material, see their answers, and get explanations for every question on their PSAT. The online report shows a range of scores the student would likely get if he or she took the PSAT or SAT again (without learning anything new that would improve the score). This range accounts for the standard error of measurement in the test’s assessment.

Below the student’s test scores is a prediction of how well the student will score if he or she takes the SAT a year later. Students can click on the link (“Projected Range for next year”) to view a message with the student’s predicted score range.

National Representative Sample Percentile

The Nationally Representative Sample Percentile is the same ranking seen in the printed report. The PSAT/NMSQT User Percentile is based on data for all students who took the PSAT/NMSQT or PSAT 10. Note that the PSAT/NMSQT User Percentile is usually lower than the Nationally Representative Sample Percentile. Students who typically take the PSAT are more academically competitive than the general student population.

Comparing Your PSAT score to an ACT score

Because your PSAT score is the score that you would have received had you taken an SAT on that day, you can think of your PSAT score as a baseline SAT score.  To compare your PSAT score to an ACT score, you can use the SAT/ACT concordance table that the College Board has created.  If you would like to compare your PSAT to ACT, you can do so here.

The Standardized Testing Road Ahead

PSAT scores provide a valuable glimpse at the road ahead. Whether you’re interested in improving your chances on the upcoming SAT or you’re considering the ACT, Summit can give you the tools you need to maximize your scores. We are here to help and we are happy to answer any questions you might have.

By Drew Heilpern

Drew Heilpern, PhD, began tutoring for Summit in 2010 and his passion as an educator quickly made him one of Summit Educational Group’s most requested tutors. His proclivity for tutoring students and helping families navigate the standardized testing landscape led him to a full time position with Summit. As the Chief Brand Ambassador, Drew works closely with schools, independent educational consultants, and families to help guide them through the college admissions standardized testing process.

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