A blog about college, admissions practices, financial aid procedures, and more!

Pro Bono help for low income, first generation, and underrepresented capable students

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Many of my friends and clients don't know that I offer my services to 10 or 20 percent of my client load each year at no cost. I have worked with local students as well as some referred to me by Promise Keepers in NYC. This year I am also taking a client or two from two other national organizations.

Beyond that I would like another student from Central PA. Here is where you could help. Do you know a student from a low income family? (Think free and reduced lunch eligible) They need to be academically solid and preforming well. Unfortunately, there is little I can do for a week or struggling student. If someone comes to mind consider seeing how they could connect with me. Thanks.

Does "Demonstrated Interest" matter? Sometimes a lot

Monday, June 12, 2017

This year I had a family contact me in April because their highly talented student who had great grades, test scores, and activities was wait listed at all six highly selective schools he had applied to - all schools where he was a viable candidate. What could have gone wrong and could I help get him off a wait list?

I called an admissions director who I have known for 25 years and asked him where this student had gone wrong. "Good numbers," he said. But no demonstrated interest. The young man had not visited, interviewed, or met with the admissions rep who had visited his school. Many colleges who track demonstrated interest read this as disinterest. Why offer a place to a total stranger who doesn't act as if he wants to be here? They call such applicants "ghosts" and assume, often correctly, that such applicants would rather be somewhere else.

When I shared what I had learned, the student promptly, visited, interviewed, and shortly after, was taken off the wait list. I share this true cautionary tale not to suggest for a moment that I had worked any magic as a result of my connection, but rather that my knowledge as to how this worked may have been helpful. Any IEC who claims he can get a student into a college is an unethical fraud. Students gain admissions because of their credentials. My clients understand when and where demonstrated interest comes into play. And it often does.

How well do you know your child's school counselor?

Monday, June 05, 2017

I have no doubt that your student's school counselor is a fine person. She has a degree in counseling, cares deeply for the three or four hundred students she is responsible for and performs a multitude of tasks admirably. She understands scheduling, dealing with drug and alcohol issues and emergencies, foster care, and normal teen aged social and school related problems. In many states, unfortunately, she earned her degree without a single course in college admissions or issues surrounding the transition between high school and college.

You might well wonder how many colleges she has been able to visit. A few enlightened high schools and most private schools encourage counselors visits. Does the school your son or daughter attends do this? Does she attend state or national conferences on college admissions related issues?

If the answers to these questions are less than satisfactory to you, you now understand why IEC's (experienced Independent educational consultants) are able to supplement the work of a school based counselor.

I have visited and evaluated nearly 400 colleges across the country. I attend three to five state and national conferences yearly, and am constantly engaged in professional development to better serve my limited number- think tens not hundreds - of students yearly. I have been active in this profession for 29 years and helped many students in Central PA and across the country many now successful adult graduates.

And I would be happy to discuss how I might be able to assist your family and student in the search for an appropriate college - a college that fits your child's academic, social, and financial needs.

Call me 718-258-5906 or schedule a complimentary no obligation consultation on my website: www.jonwtarrant.com

Local students are winning scholarships

Thursday, March 16, 2017

As admissions decisions continue to be released, many students at Carlisle, Hershey, Cumberland Valley, Boiling Springs, Big Spring and other local high schools are now able to compare their financial aid awards. These awards, or the lack thereof, reflect the care the students took in crafting their college lists.

Several things are worth knowing, and I educate the students and families who I serve to be aware of them:

Need Based Aid is not uniformly awarded or even met.

Some families believe they can only apply to community colleges or state schools and that private colleges with price tags approaching $70,000 are inaccessible to them. When a low(er) income family is doing a college search, the key terms are NEED BLIND Admissions and what percentage of need is met. Is is difficult to grasp that Dickinson College might actually cost a family less than Shippensburg University or Penn State, but it may. Needy students who "cast a wide net" may find colleges that are fully able to meet their need and to meet it favorably with more grants than loans.

Other students, when they know where to look, may experience MERIT AID scholarships from colleges that regard them as desirable applicants. In fact, some colleges discount tuition for most students sometimes in significant amounts. Students who I have helped recently have received discounts ranging from $10,000, $15,000, $20,000, $25,000 up to full tuition room board and books for four years. Yes, the last one is uncommon, but I am pleased to have guided local students in that direction.

Knowing how both need and merit based scholarships work and who awards them, to who, and why is a significant part of the service my 27 years of experience has enabled me to provide to my clients. I would be happy to begin a conversation with you.

Rep Visits to school Blog

Friday, November 20, 2015

You and the College Reps who Visit Your School

Each fall, as you recall from last year, a number of college representatives will visit your school. For juniors, these meetings – not an interview, but an informal small group presentation about a school and its programs – offer an interesting way to do some initial “shopping”. For many students this is an attractive “class cut”; for you it’s another opportunity to be a smart consumer, and to distinguish yourself from the crowd as an attractive potential candidate. How can you best take advantage of this opportunity?

First, realize that this “college rep” is a voting member of an admissions committee, and that he or she is probably responsible for your region of your state and your school among the people on that college staff. They’ll be among the first to read and evaluate your application. They may also have a long term professional relationship with your high school counselor. Even if they are a rookie to their job, they will engage your counselor in a private conversation about which students in the group are serious about and academically qualified for their school. If they don’t, your counselor may offer this information on his or her own. Consequently, don’t be shy. When a college that you are truly interested visits your school, remind your counselor that it is on your list, or that it is your first choice – if that is indeed the case.

Then, when possible, and without being too “pushy”, make your self known to this rep. An incisive question, a specific concern reflecting your knowledge of their school (do some homework the night before) may make it possible for you to make a favorable impression.

If you need to contact the college later on, you could correspond directly with this person. Be certain to make note of their name. Save the business card they gave you!

Frank C Lenna, an independent educational consultant in New York, advises, “If you do not take these high school visits seriously, you deny a chance to advance your candidacy. Colleges send personal representatives at great expense and some inconvenience because they think personal contact is important. So should you.” (Lenna, Getting Into College p.68.)

Two final cautions: don’t visit everyone who comes down the pike. You already have a focused list. And don’t ask to be excused from an important class or test if you know that would be a mistake. Have your counselor explain your interest and your absence or duck in between classes to register your interest.

One Reminder: Keep track of SAT or ACT registration deadlines.

Keeping up with aid, admissions, and colleges

Thursday, October 29, 2015

If there is one thing we can count on, it's that what we learned even a few years ago about financial aid practices, college admissions procedures, and even what individual colleges are looking for will have changed by now.

That's why I constantly monitor the practices and procedures that will impact my clients, and why I visit numerous college campuses, and have many meetings with the admissions staffs of colleges everywhere.

When I visit college campuses, meet with these admissions offices, and learn new policies and practices that will affect my clients, I will post my findings here, in my blog, and also send them in my newsletter, so be sure to sign up!

Visiting a College Fair Blog

Thursday, October 22, 2015

College Fairs are an ideal opportunity to talk with a large number of college reps. The biggest of them in the central PA area is at Cumberland Valley. Other schools also have them: Big Spring, Carlisle, Chambersburg, and Trinity, but CV’s is the biggest. There is also one in Hershey in October and another excellent on at Harrisburg Academy in the spring.

Visiting such a fair intelligently, using it to your advantage, is another topic that should concern you. As a freshman, sophomore, or even a junior it’s a perfect chance to do some “shopping mall” type browsing, picking up view books and signing interest cards along the way. Some seniors, now beginning to feel the panic, and rightly so, will tear around like trick or treaters trying to fill a bag with goodies and hoping someone or something will catch their eye. College reps, who study you every bit as much as you study them will spot the various breeds as they charge, stumble or amble by.

You, on the other hand, are now in command of the process, and may use this opportunity to your advantage. Plan your time wisely, and visit with the few reps you want to see. Make contact with the ones you already know, whose schools you’ve already visited and perhaps have interviewed you, to remind them of your continued interest. If you would like to stand out from the crowd look at the business card they gave you when you visited their college before you journey to CV, and greet them by name if that’s in your bag of social graces. Or, if they’re not there you might say, “I believe Ms. Smith interviewed me on your campus last summer, Mr. Jones. Would you please tell her I said “Hi”? You get the idea. But seriously, if these reps talk to hundreds of people that night, and they will, their job is to remember the tens of students who are serious about their school, and they will.

So let your buddies romp around and frolic filling their bag with treats. Meet them later. While you’re there you’re doing enjoyable but serious work and you intend to do it better than the pack. Good luck. And remember if your list is all but finished it’s still not too late to add a gem to your list. I’ll am usually at this fair. Feel free to call me and ask if a school is worthy of your consideration.

College and Financial Aid Nights at Your High School

These too are important even if you went last year and feel you know most of it. Take a parent along with you please. It’s important that you both hear the same things. You need to know and follow your high school’s policies. I have had the pleasure of speaking at such nights at Big Spring and Carlisle and only regret that everyone who should have been there wasn’t.

Several last things: If you have started the Common Application and run into difficulties email their Help Desk. You probably know I am not the computer wiz.

Don’t even think of creating multiple accounts with the Common Application. It will cause you, and the colleges you are applying to multiple serious problems. Just don’t!

Please do waive your FERPA right to see your recommenders’ letters. This is important, and if you don’t you will be unable to change this.


Start of School Blog

Thursday, September 24, 2015

As I mentioned when we talked last, I’m going to be sending you a short newsletter every few weeks for the rest of this year. By then, New Year’s Eve, you probably will have long ago completed your part of the application process. Some weeks this newsletter will be centered on a single theme, others will be on a variety of topics. This week is an eclectic one:

The Right Foot…or you never get a second chance to make a first impression

Just a reminder that the impression you make in school during the first few days is a vital one. The relationships you choose to form with your teachers and counselors will be reflected in the communications they have with the colleges on your list. Get to know some of these people well and allow them to know you in turn. They will be asked to make some pretty specific observations about you in just a month or two from now. It would be enlightening to look over the sort of questions colleges ask, the specific information they seek, in the Common Application Teacher and Counselor Recommendation Forms and Supplemental Forms for the colleges you are considering. Nothing impresses these evaluators like strong grades in demanding courses, but the sort of person you are isn’t overlooked either. You’ll see forms from selective colleges that ask about your sense of humor, your reaction to setbacks, and how much respect your peers tend to offer you. The most selective schools may ask how you got those good grades. Are you a hard worker or a “grade grubber”? If you are a hard worker, why are you? Are you motivated from within, or by the sports car Grandma promised you as a graduation gift?

In addition to the subjective areas—the grades you earn this first semester are as important as they get. Most admissions officers admit they give the greatest consideration to senior year course selection (those tough courses you picked) and then how well you do in them. Resolve to do well! And then work hard toward that end! These grades count even more than that tempting part-time job or your favorite activity. Yes, you may be able to do them all well; but don’t let the grades slide. ‘Nuff said.

Our Weekly Chats

Recall you promised to call me every Sunday evening once school starts. Please make that a firm date on your appointment schedule. Weeks you can’t call Sunday night, just call after school early the next week.

Beyond this weekly appointment, you may call me any day after school until into the evening—say 4:00 until 10:30. If I am not available please leave a message with a time when it will be good for me to return your call. By now you know I respond to calls and emails promptly

Senior September Timeline Blog

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Here is a rough schedule of things to do in September. Some you have already done; others will carry over into October. As you do each, check them off if it helps.

___ Resolve any scheduling disaster immediately. Call me. See your school counselor. Often I can help you with cracking the system or the sudden choices you may have to make.

___ Sign up for the October or November SAT’s or October ACT. Ask me if you’re not sure which or why, or if you should. Check Your Guided Path account for registration deadlines. Listen for information from your school’s guidance department about registration. (There will be more on this topic in the next newsletter.) Determine if any school you are applying to require SAT II’s and schedule those after we talk about this.

___ Meet with your school counselor, but only after the first two weeks of school. They are probably fixing schedules and putting out other “fires” until then. Show them your list and let them know all the work you have already done. You may share with them that I’m helping you too. Or not, your call. Let me know of the reactions or suggestions they may have to your list. Your school may have established relationships with some of the schools on your list.

___ Consider reviewing your transcript with your counselor to insure that it is accurate and complete. If you have not yet sent me an unofficial transcript, please do so.

___ Make sure you have examined applications from all the schools on your list. Simply look on line to see any you still need. Most may be entirely electronic and most will use the Common Application so you just need on line access. Your Guided Path account will take you there. .Be aware of supplemental essays required for some schools. Read the questions and be familiar with each school’s individual requirements: deadlines, testing, interviewing, and visiting. Your Guided Path system can track everything! Continue working on essays you have started and share rough drafts with me. Please send drafts a day before we meet.

___ Plan your fall college visits. Plan early, call early, and visit early whenever possible. Your school may only permit a few absences for visitation, and you don’t want to miss school any way. So look at days when school is off for teacher in-service or Saturdays, but be aware that every other high school seniors will be also planning. So be proactive.

___ Refine and narrow your list as you visit. Call me while your reactions are fresh, even when you’re on the road (but not while you are driving.)

All my best wishes for a wonderful fall! You can do it!

WRITING EFFECTIVE ESSAYS AND HELP WITH YOURS: HOW MUCH HELP IS TOO MUCH? Blog

Thursday, August 20, 2015

At the national college admissions counselors’ conference at few years ago a workshop titled “Who Wrote This Thing?” explored questions surrounding the authorship of college application essays. On one hand, everyone knows and accepts that any serious student at the least runs their essay by a parent, English teacher, or counselor. No one questions the importance of getting a second opinion on their writing. As I write this I write in some dread of my proofreader, writing critic, and spouse whose critical eye this will have to pass before another human sees it. I insist on it, just as I strongly suggest you let me coach you with your application essay(s) as most of you already have. What’s appropriate and what’s not?

Among the war stories shared at the conference was one of two students who sent the same essay to the same university. (Both were denied admission) Another admissions director told of a girl who left her application for her father to mail, and papa rewrote her essay and boasted to a golfing buddy of his cleverness. The friend, a graduate of the college being applied to, blew the whistle, and pop was scolded while his daughter was given a fair chance to submit the essay she thought she already had. (See, I told you this was a humane process.)

How much does the essay really matter? How much assistance is appropriate, and how much is too much?

First be assured that if a college requests an essay the admissions committee really does read it. The essay probably won’t be the single cause of your acceptance or rejection at a college of your choice, and yet you are correct in assuming that it does matter and therefore should be the best sort of answer you are capable of writing—one you can mail with pride thinking, “This is the very picture of me I wish to give, and this is one of my finest pieces of writing.”

The essays’ purpose from the colleges point of view-and this is the point of view you should consider-is two-fold: to see if you can indeed write, and to provide an opportunity to showcase you as a distinct individual beyond the data of your application, transcript, and test scores. This essay is your only opportunity, except for the interview to present yourself as a unique person and this chance is even more advantageous to you since you control the shots. You can show them the “you” you want to, in the way you have chosen to. In effect, this is where you may tell your story.

While this essay won’t take you off the top of the accept pile, nor will it move you from the bottom of the deny one, it will help if you fall in the “great gray area” the “muddy middle” where many applications lie. Then your essay becomes a factor for people to argue for or against your case. “Look at this essay,” they’ll say. “I like this kid. We could use a modern art fan, conservative republican Latin scholar, or assistant ice cream store manager and I think they can not only fit in but also make a contribution here.” Only this essay and your letters of recommendation (teacher evaluations and school summary statement) can give them a picture capable of enabling them to relate to you as a person rather than a statistic and believe me as much as they are sometimes driven by statistics most admissions people are in the field because they are people persons.

If you grant that the essay may be important, and you do see fit to make it the best one you have in you at this moment, what remains is to consider how I may help you. Let me help you as many of you already have.

Most seniors have met with me several times with an essay or two. A few are entirely finished by now. If you aren’t there yet, let’s get in gear now! We can talk any time or meet after school or on weekends. Call when you would like to schedule an hour or two. We may work on any phase from pre writing to rough drafting to final proofreading and polishing. I won’t lay a pen on your essay, but as a Fellow of the National Writing Project I may be able to help you discover the best essay you have. No, I won’t write it for you, but we can see how to develop clarity, to make appropriate word choices, to say what you want to in your best voice.

I’ll see you:________________________________________.

Random Reminders:

If you are applying to schools that require the CSS have your parents complete this form now.

Keep your Guided Path account current. Add recent test scores, track application progress and acceptances.

I will be available the Sunday and Monday after Thanksgiving if you need to reserve time with me then.


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