The National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) has a list of almost 400 colleges that have stated they are test optional for the Fall of 2021, affirming that students will not be penalized for the absence of a standardized test score for admission. Click here for more information.
In light of the recent scandal in college admissions, we want to emphasize the importance of ethical behavior on everyone's part in the college admissions process. Below is a statement from one of our professional organizations, Independent Educational Consultants Association, that reflects our values and practices when working with students and their families.
By Dr. Deborah Barany
Barany Educational Consulting
The college application process has many moving parts and can seem daunting to many students and their families. We at College Docs strongly suggest starting the process early, either in the sophomore or junior year of high school to have enough time to think about what you are looking for in a college and put together your best possible application. One needs time to thoroughly research and develop a strong college list and to write thoughtful and effective essays. Waiting to the last minute and cramming is not the best strategy either for schoolwork or for the application process.
We would like to share an article from our colleague, Dr. Deborah Barany, on the limitations of cramming and the underlying concepts of working memory.
CRAMMING AS A PRIMARY STRATEGY:
Most high schools set up the need for cramming in order to keep up with the demands of assessment and grading. College bound students often find themselves with 5 or more core classes, all on top of athletics, music, political activism or other pursuits. Compound this with teachers who do not coordinate exams or projects between departments- piling up homework, papers, projects, presentations. Students are overwhelmed with high expectations and little time to work. They work all day at school only to come home to 3+ hours of work at home.
No wonder students cram. But cramming interferes with processing and building understanding. Students need more time and exposure to new ideas before building enduring conceptual understanding. While they are building deep lasting knowledge, they also experience longer retrieval time to access new ideas. But our schools are designed for quick processing and memorization. Cramming becomes a survival strategy not a learning strategy.
WHY IS CRAMMING PROBLEMATIC?
We all have done this in our lives. We put off studying for a test or avoid writing a paper. What is happening when we cram? Cramming heavily relies on memorization and multitasking. We do not have the time to process information deeply which impacts the ability to connect new information with established knowledge. Cramming creates information that is shallow and temporary - just enough to recall on the test or just enough to write a passable essay. For most students this is compounded by two other sources of interference in learning, sleep deprivation and multitasking, which interrupt the deep learning and concept building necessary for producing quality work. Many students are expert crammers because this strategy serves them well and rewards them with grades. But cramming as a primary strategy can backfire when tasks are complicated (e.g. college applications) or the material they are studying is complex and expectations are high (e.g. college level work).
But new strategies and habits can help overcome cramming. First a bit of background: Cognitive Load Theory provides a helpful framework to understand how to overcome the bad habit of cramming. Cognitive Load Theory, first introduced by the cognitive psychologist John Sewell, describes the capacity and limitations of our memory system when presented with difficult problems and complex tasks. New information is first processed through working memory. Working memory is like a train station moving information in and out in order to store new information and retrieve existing information from our long term storage. If you want to keep the information you have to actively process it in order to store it in long term memory. Working memory capacity is very limited, holding between 3 to 5 meaningful pieces of information. It gets crowded in there and if a new input is introduced something has to fall out to make room. This is why multitasking is problematic if you are trying to hold onto and process information. When the information surpasses the capacity of the working memory, our system slows down, stops or jams up. No new information can be stored or recalled.
Cognitive load theory not only provides a way of helping students understand cognitive limitations, it also provides strategies for overcoming limitations. In any task there are both intrinsic loads, tasks that are essential to the demands, and extrinsic loads, tasks that are a distraction or unnecessary to the demands. Many students have a hard time differentiating between them.
Here is an example of the college application process from one of my students:
HOW TO REDUCE LOAD
A powerful way to optimize our working memory requires consolidating information into meaningful bites. This is called chunking which requires that we break down information into meaningful and important categories allowing us to coordinate, organize and sort intrinsic tasks and acknowledge the extrinsic distractions. By bundling ideas together we can get through the bottleneck limitation of working memory. Chunking is a way to organize and prioritize the various requirements needed to complete the college application. I help my students create meaningful chunks as they define and write out each task on a separate note card or sticky note. I then ask them to collect tasks that “go together.” For example, asking for letters of recommendations or communications with colleges or collecting demographic and family information are examples of chunking task demands. The student is learning to create categories by breaking down the overall process into organized and doable tasks. Rather then piling on additional items on a lengthy to-do list, my students now have a meaningful way to sort out additional actions that require their attention. Co-creating application chunks with my students enables them to take ownership of their process and organize the tasks in a way that makes sense to them.
Working with a college consultant offers the opportunity for students to develop new learning habits and approaches as they continue their educational exploration. Helping students to develop new strategies, perspectives and skills will build a toolkit for future learning. Guiding, coaching and practicing together enables our students to feel successful navigating complex tasks with high stake outcomes, like their upcoming college coursework.Keeping the long game in mind, students can fully engage and unleash the power of their brains.
If you want to learn more about Working Memory:
By Dr. Deborah Barany
Barany Educational Consulting
For those of you who are considering applying to colleges on the west coast, we invited our colleague, Dr. Deborah Barany, an independent educational consultant in Oregon, to share some of the interesting schools, programs and culture of the Pacific Northwest. Joan and Vicki, College Docs
Pacific Northwest culture is, well, quirky, coffee loving, and deeply connected to community and the land. Walking to class with a view of 10,000 foot high peaks around you is, in a word, inspiring. One thing all the schools have in common- a commitment to sustainable living- in the dorms, the dining rooms, and in every building. Living in the Pacific Northwest is a lesson on how to live day to day with sustainable practices. Don’t be surprised when you have to sort your meal tray into compost and recycling (hopefully no trash.) Most cities ban styrofoam, take away cups, and plastic bags- so think re-use ables, reminders about saving water or electrical usage are all around you. Live off campus? Garbage pick up is every other week and fines are levied for mixing trash with recycling and compost.
With this comes incredible opportunities to explore the outdoors (accessible from any campus within an hour), study environmental science in the forest, stream, ocean and rivers, and expand your view away from the West Coast of the US further across the Pacific.
Key reasons to consider school in the Pacific Northwest:
1. Wilderness and Outdoor Activities are Unparalleled:
Whitman College- Walla Walla, Washington
Any given weekend at Whitman you can be kayaking, climbing, skiing, white water rafting, snow camping, or backpacking through some of the most beautiful wilderness in the US. During the week, keep in shape with the campus climbing wall. Full time staff work with students teaching wilderness skills, first responder, and wilderness leadership as well as organizing and leading trips. Whitman is the national leader in wilderness education and programming. A Whitman tradition is the First Year Scramble- week long trips before the start of the year to explore wilderness opportunities across the region. One of the most unique academic offerings includes Semester in the West. Faculty and students travel the western interior studying public land and rural life integrating field work in environmental science, history, politics and policy. A college that changes lives, takes their academics very seriously but the community also understands that learning happens when students create connections between themselves, their community and their environment.
2. Looking Further West Along the Pacific Rim
University of Puget Sound - Tacoma, Washington
Where is Tacoma?! South of Seattle, surrounded by well, Puget Sound. Look east and you can see Mount Rainier, look North you can see the islands dotting the sound. But this campus looks West….across the Pacific. Students and faculty across the disciplines travel, learn and explore the Asian side of the Pacific Rim for an entire academic year. Freshman orientation includes a two day wilderness trip focused on survival, orienteering, kayaking and service. Puget Sound’s strongest departments are in Asian studies, Latin American Studies and Environmental Policy and Decision Making.
3. Environmental Studies and Tourism Degrees
Oregon State University Cascades Campus - Bend, Oregon
The newest campus in the Oregon State system, OSU Cascades Campus is notable not just because it is located in the high Cascades. OSU Cascades offers unique programs that are hard to find in Tourism, Recreation and Outdoor Leadership, combining business, outdoor leadership, education and environmental studies into an interdisciplinary major. The laboratory is right outside the classroom door. This is big business around this part of the country which means internships and jobs for students to further develop their skills. Living in Bend, the center of Oregon, gives access to explore the Eastern high desert and and the Western coastal regions. OSU Cascades campus is small and growing with 1000 full time students. OSU is leader in combining online courses with classroom courses which gives students flexibility to travel, intern or work while making progress towards their degrees.
4. Pickle Making is Part of the Curriculum
Oregon State University - Corvallis, Oregon
OSU is where pickle making is a legit minor, along with cheese making, craft brewing or perhaps your taste is more refined and you are interested in studying enology (the study of wines). Oregon State University is the only school in the country with land, sea and space grants. OSU is a premier science school with majors from forestry and fire management to biochemistry and engineering. If the ocean is your home OSU also operates the Hatfield Marine Science Center on the Oregon Coast. Undergraduates can spend a term studying and working at the labs in Newport, Oregon. The School of Science is committed to helping students succeed in rigorous university classes. Recently the School of Science established a Science Success Center using peer advisors. Undergraduates work with upper classmen to plan classes, find tutors, or glean general wisdom about navigating their major. The Student Success Center also sponsors researcher “speed dating” sessions. Professors looking for undergraduate research assistants meet with students looking for labs for research; the meet-up helps make matches.
5. Create Your Own Connections
Evergreen State University - Olympia, Washington
The only public undergraduate university in the Colleges That Change Lives organization is nestled between the State Capitol and Puget Sound. There are no majors at this school- rather fields of study. Each trimester, students work with their advisor to curate a list of classes that are related to their interests. Here, a student can study microbiology through the lens of an artist or investigate food insecurity with environmental science and economics. When you look up a field of study, not only will you see the courses and faculty listing, but on the right hand side appears a list of related fields and courses across the university. Evergreen University defines learning as part of a bigger picture in an interconnected web.
6. Work for a State Senator or Even the Governor!
Willamette University - Salem, Oregon
Across the street, literally, from the state capitol is Willamette University. Senators, aides, lobbyists and yes, even the governor eat at the Willamette University cafeteria and grab coffee from the student-run cafe. (YES the food at the capitol building is really that bad, and yes the food at the university is really that good.) That means students interested in politics and government have access to jobs and internships while networking with established lawmakers and upcoming policy wonks. The campus sits in the middle of all the action. Another bonus, the train station is adjacent to campus allowing a quick and easy commute (about 45 min) to Portland. While government and law are strong at Willamette, other programs are also well-known. Regionally known for an excellent music program- voice in particular is strong with a beloved conductor. Willamette owns Zena, 350 acres of working farmland, forest and wetlands which is used for research, education and most importantly protection of the land. There is even student housing for upperclassmen who become caretakers of the property.
These are a few of the notable schools with opportunities that can only be found out here in our corner of the US.
Check out this article from The New York Times about some of the variables that college admissions departments are looking at in student college applications.
What are colleges looking for?
College Docs was happy to be part of Fairfield Market on the Green on Sunday June 11, 2017.
It was wonderful getting a chance to meet with people from Fairfield and the surrounding communities to talk about college concerns. Some of the questions raised were:
We will also have a booth on the Sherman Green at the Fairfield Sidewalk Sale & Street Fair on Saturday, July 22. Stop by to say “hello” and receive a small gift. Anyone who signs our mailing list will get $50.00 off an initial College Docs consultation.
Call us at 203 330-1852 or email us at email@example.com
The event is free, open to the public with a first come, first serve format. Since there can be thousands of students and parents attending the event, expect long lines at the more popular schools such as Rhode Island School of Design(RISD), Pratt Institute, Cooper Union School of Art and Fashion Institute of Technology(FIT). Expect to spend 10 to 15 minutes with each school's art faculty getting feedback on your work. As the event is only four hours long, it is beneficial to get there early and do research ahead of time to maximize your visit, as you may only get to talk to 5-6 schools. The event is for all high school students, families, art teachers and counselors and is advantageous for sophomores and juniors who can benefit from the art faculty feedback to improve their portfolios. Seniors can use the event as part of their admission portfolio review at individual schools as a part of their application process.
For further information about attending an event at various cities around the country, go to: www.portfolioday.net.
If you, or someone you know are planning to major in the visual arts at college and are interested in receiving custom, one-on-one guidance through every step of the college application process, contact College Docs. We specialize in the visual arts and offer personalized college action plans .
By Dr. Deborah Barany
Barany Educational Consulting
After years of music recitals, high school performances, choir concerts, rehearsals, tech weeks and maybe even more than a few musical theater productions, you are ready to apply to college music programs. The music application process takes planning, time management and attention to additional requirements.
The music application has more steps and requirements compared to a typical college application. Start researching early and learn about the following:
Almost every college or university offers a music major. The most important takeaway from this entire blog post is:
THE MUSIC STUDIO AND TEACHER ARE MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE NAME OF THE SCHOOL.
All music programs are organized around the studio system. Students select or are assigned a faculty member in their instrument. They typically stay with this teacher throughout their degree program. Private, group and master classes are taught through the studio. Students in the studio become colleagues, collaborators and friends. One of the benefits of the studio system include meeting students at all levels, -freshmen- senior and even graduate students. The studio becomes a home away from home as well as the center of music training. Now you might understand why music students are choosing a studio as well an institution.
There are all kinds of structures for earning a degree in music.
Conservatory - Only offer music degrees. Some liberal arts courses are required for graduation but do not form the majority of the course load. Examples include Eastman, Manhattan School of Music, San Francisco Conservatory.
Conservatory/Liberal Arts College- -There are a handful of schools in the US that have conservatories and liberal art colleges. Students can enroll in either the conservatory or the Liberal Arts College, OR they can enroll in both, earning two degrees. Campuses offering both are are referred to as double degree programs. Any two degrees can be combined, for example, Bassoon performance Major (Bach. of Music) and Biochemistry (Bach. of Sci). Examples include Lawrence University, Gettysburg College, Oberlin College and Conservatory.
School of Music - Usually found at the university level. Most schools of music operate like conservatories but have the resources of the larger university. Examples include Boston University, University of Puget Sound, Indiana University.
Music department - Usually found at colleges and operate like any other department, eg. biology department. Examples are St. Olaf College, Pacific Lutheran University, and Amherst College.gg
Music program - Programs are not full departments but in some colleges a student can still major in music. Best to check out the offering carefully.
Art school- - There are a number of Art colleges that offer music programs. Good examples are The University of the Arts, Cal Arts , and Cornish College of the Arts . This type of school offers both visual and performing arts majors.
The Music Application
In addition to the regular application process (transcripts, essay, letters of recommendation, application, test scores) the music application is likely to require:
3) Head Shot
4) Additional Application
5) Additional Letters of Recommendation from Music Teachers
6) Pre-Screen Submission
Audition- Make sure you know the requirements for your instrument. Requirements are listed on each school’s website. PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE...this is not the time to wing it or come in underprepared. The audition will make or break your application. You might have the perfect GPA and test scores but that will not overcome a bad audition! There are several options for auditioning. The best option is audition live, on campus and in front of faculty. If that is not feasible many schools hold regional auditions around the country. If you really can’t get to campus or a regional audition you can submit a video to the school.
You must submit a complete application to the school before you can schedule an audition!!!!!
Even though you will most likely only be able to apply regular decision, submit your completed application by the ED1 or EA1 deadline.
Audition season is generally in January and February. - Unfortunately for the musical theater students it usually means no high school show for you in senior year.
Resume- This is a music resume which should include your instruments, all the ensembles, performances, current repertoire, and music teachers/lessons.
Additional Application- It is common for music programs to include a separate application in addition to the general application for the college/university. Check each school to find out what they require.
Music Letter of Recommendation- These letters must come from your private music teacher in your primary instrument (and secondary if you have one). You must also include your high school music teacher and community ensemble (if you participate in one).
Pre-Screen Submission- Many schools have so many applicants they can’t listen to everyone. Make sure you know if a school requires a pre-screen video submission. From this pre-screen video they invite candidates to a live audition. If you don’t pass the pre-screen stage then you are denied an audition and will not be admitted to the music program.
Check with each school’s application to see which portal, such as SlideRoom, they require for the pre-screen video. Some colleges have their own arts submission portal.
Application- Apply RD but think ED!!!
In order to schedule an audition you have to submit your application to the college/university first. A couple of schools offer early action/decision for music students if they hold fall auditions. In most cases music students can only apply regular decision. Nonetheless, in order to secure an audition date your application must be submitted in the fall. You do not have to worry about high school transcripts or test scores. Your common app and all your music materials must be complete and turned in early.
What about admission rates?
Unlike non-music majors, schools rarely report admit rates. The admit rates for music are very low- sometime even more competitive than the Ivies. This changes year to year and is different within the music program itself. For example, a large group of Baritone singers graduate making room for new Baritones. At the same school, Alto Sax is full so no new students will be admitted in the Alto Sax studio. This is because of the studio system. Schools admit new students based on openings in the various studios. I have seen schools take 0% in a particular instrument because they had no room for new students that year. Sometimes schools will let you know but most of the time they will still hear all instruments in case there is an opening. Because of the level of competition, be sure to allow yourselves a variety of program options.
TIPS FOR A SUCCESSFUL APPLICATION PROCESS:
Personalized College Action PlanMany thanks to our colleague, Dr. Deborah Barany, IEC, for sharing her expertise with our readers.
For further information or help with college admissions for the arts, feel free to contact College Docs and check out the Performing Arts page on our website. College Docs offers personalized college action plans to help with every step of the college admissions process.
THIS IS A SECOND IN A 2-PART SERIES BY
Bonni Alpert, Ed.D.
Assistant Dean, Office of Student Disability Services
Western New England University
As students eagerly anticipate the ‘independence’ that awaits them, as they embark on this new life phase in a post-secondary world, parents are often left wondering, “how do I let go, give my child space, and also help my child learn how to navigate this new, and sometimes daunting, experience?” This can be compounded for parents of students with disabilities. One reason for this is that, while many of these parents may have attended college themselves, they have never attended college as a student with a disability. And, because of this, it is much more difficult to know first-hand what their child is experiencing, and then to help them navigate, from what may seem to be a very foreign vantage point. Another reason for this is the fact that many of these parents have spent the last 18 years advocating on behalf of their child to make sure that he/she is supported and able to successfully transition through the K-12 educational system, in hopes that they will do what most students do – go on to college. It is difficult to let go of a job you’ve been doing for so long – especially when there is so much love invested and the stakes are so high.
In my 25+ years of supporting/ensuring access to students with disabilities in higher education, I have witnessed, hundreds of times over, how well-meaning parents have unintentionally sabotaged their child’s success in their college and vocational pursuits, just because they weren’t aware of the following key points:
These days with the prevalence of computers, tablets and smart phones, both students and parents, as well as businesses and institutions, have gotten used to relying on emails, texts and other online forms of messaging. While this can be very convenient for many communications, there are times when speaking directly to a person on the phone or face-to-face is essential.
Researching the college list and visiting
There are many parts to the college application process. To start, you need to find out accurate information on different colleges, what majors and special programs they offer and what standardized tests may be required for admission. Then, you need to explore what else each college has to offer in terms of clubs, sports, and academic rigor to see if the college would be a good fit for the student. Despite all the great information that can be obtained online, it is important to try and visit any school that the student is interested in as it helps to get the 'feel' of a campus that cannot completely be conveyed through a website. It can motivate a student to work harder once they see some real life colleges that they desire to attend. It can help to refine the college list and eliminate schools that are not liked.
Visiting can also show the college 'demonstrated interest' that can improve a student's chances of acceptance. In addition, once the student has hopefully been accepted to several colleges it can be difficult to try and rush to see all the schools in the spring. A campus visit affords the opportunity to speak directly to admissions staff, as well as current students, where asking questions is very important. Students and parents should feel empowered to ask anything of concern to them: from roommate selection, the political leanings of the student population, the school's policies on safety, to how easy or difficult it is to change one's major.
Another step in the college admissions process is developing the student's resume. This includes the transcript, extracurricular activities, jobs, special talents and one or more essays. A problematic personal essay has been known to sink an otherwise promising college application. It is very important for students to get adult feedback on their essay as well as how to best present themselves to the colleges, especially if there have been one or more academic bumps along the road. Parents can play a role but often have a harder time being objective and are unlikely to know what the admissions officers are looking for. Further complicating matters, it is often hardest for students to hear feedback from their parents rather than other adults.
Once a well thought-out list of colleges to apply to has been compiled, most families will apply for financial aid. There are many details to this process which can be confusing. Here again, it is most important for students and parents to follow through with questions on anything that is not clear or where information is missing and to be aware of deadlines. Read carefully through all paperwork sent from the college as soon as you receive it. When filing the FAFSA, be aware of common errors, such as how to make sure all the colleges receive your financial information if the student is applying to more than ten schools. In that instance, after you've verified that the first ten schools have been sent and received your information, you can then go back and replace additional schools in those slots. Increasingly over the last few years it is not enough to simply submit the FAFSA. Some schools want the CSS Profile, a more thorough questionnaire about a family's financial information. Many schools now want an IRS transcript sent to them as proof that the family did, in fact, file their tax returns and that the numbers are consistent with what they reported on the FAFSA.
One needs to clearly understand the different types of financial aid that may be offered to the student. Failure to do so can cost a family thousands of dollars. There are scholarships and grants offered from the college (both one-time and renewable) which don't have to be paid back and are the best type of aid. There are various types of federal grants or loans if you qualify. While grants are preferable, federal loans are the most desirable of the loans because they have the lowest interest rates and have several deferment options following one's undergraduate education. There are also private student loans, which can be used to pay the gap between what monies are offered and each college's cost of attendance. Ideally you want to minimize the proportion of private loans in the financial aid package as these are the most costly upfront and during repayment.
One of the reasons it can be valuable to apply to several schools is that you then have a wider selection of financial offers. While money isn't everything, no one wants to leave school saddled with hundreds of thousands of dollars of loans. It is important that the student and the parents have ongoing open and honest discussions about each school's desirability and affordability. Even with a family's demonstrated financial need, colleges are not required to offer scholarships or grants to fill the gap. They may expect the family to take out extensive loans to pay for college. Often private colleges have greater endowments than state colleges, and are thus able to offer more scholarships, despite having a higher stated cost of admission, the 'sticker price'. In addition, state college are mandated to provide for their in-state residents, and many offer little money to out-of-state residents to offset costs to their in-state students. Ironically, therefore, students can often pay significantly less for a private college than for a seeming less expensive state school out of their state.
Be proactive and follow through
With all the hours and effort put into the college application process, it is crucial that important details are not overlooked. If a student or parent has a question or concern, it is not sufficient to simply send an email and then wait for weeks to get a reply. Emails can get overlooked, people can get sick, go on vacation, leave their job or simply make mistakes. Do not assume that the college staff are always thorough. Teenagers have to realize that adults are not necessarily competent. Other adults, such as parents, realize this. This is a truism of life in general. Communications from colleges sometimes are not clear. Do not doubt yourself or not follow up because you don't want to seem foolish or be a nag. Do not rely on a 'reminder' from the college for missing documents. It is the student's and parents' responsibility to respond or to call and get clarification if something is not clear or does not seem right or goes beyond the time expected to get an answer. It's always good to be proactive when dealing with the importance of the next four years of a student's life and their future job prospects.
Do not hesitate to call a college's admissions office, specific department office or financial aid or bursar's office, or FAFSA itself with questions. That is part of their job. If you do not get a thorough answer, politely ask to speak to someone higher up who might know the information. Often students are manning the desks at the colleges and the initial person on the phone does not have the experience or authority to correctly answer a question. Be courteous but do not allow yourselves to be put off. Students should utilize their parents if they feel that they are not getting clear or thorough information. Make sure all information received by the student is shared with the parents. Do not assume parents received a duplicate of the information and that they will 'take care of it'. Many parents want to be helpful but do not understand a lot of today's requirements because things have changed in the last 20 to 30 years.
Learning to be strong self-advocates will enable students to navigate college more successfully, as well as serve them for the rest of their lives. Getting expert college advice is an investment in a student's education that can increase their chances for acceptance and the offers of scholarships. College Docs works with students and their families to help them obtain the best opportunities for successful college admission. Feel free to call us for questions on how we can help.
Contact College Docs at 203-520-6338 or 203 218-5619 firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact College Docs at
203 520-6338 or 203 218-5619 email@example.com