College Applications

Ten Valuable Take-Aways from The HECA Conference in Philadelphia June 2016

I met many knowledgeable and caring professionals including other IECs (Independent Educational Consultants), college presidents, college admissions representatives, vendors and authors at the HECA conference in Philadelphia last week.  I toured eight college campuses, attended nine workshops and listened to leaders in the field speak about college admissions, Liberal Arts Colleges, the current and future state of higher education and the Coalition for Access and Admission in Higher Education. The conference was extremely valuable and information rich. These ten valuable take-aways offer only a glimpse of what was offered.

Ten Valuable Take-Aways from the HECA conference in Philadelphia June 2016

(- not all new information, but information that I feel is valuable for my students and families to know)

  1. Checking the box indicating that you are applying for financial aid in the college application can cause your application to be considered incomplete to the college until all financial firms are submitted.
  2. It is important that after registering for any future SAT test, students check the email associated with their College Board account. The College Board implemented a new plan in June 2016. Selected students who register for the test will receive an email stating that they are required to submit a Verification Form by a given deadline. If the form is not submitted by this deadline, College Board will cancel the student’s registration and credit the registration fee back to the credit card. Avoid the surprise of showing up for the SAT only to find that you are not actually registered.  Students MUST check their email often.
  3. There are three different routes to the military: Service Academies, ROTC (Reserve Officers Training Corps) and OCS (Officer Candidate School)  Each path has different requirements
  4. There is a company called New Frontiers in Learning that is full of trained professionals to help students with learning difficulties navigate the transition to college and learn to self advocate.
  5. HECA members as a whole are dedicated, collaborative, extremely caring and knowledgeable professionals in the field of college consulting.
  6. Liberal arts students are in demand: CIC Website For higher ed professionals - LiberalArtsPower For students and parents-  LiberalArtsLife Can you see yourself in this environment- @smartcolleges twitterfeed
  7. Purpose fuels GRIT and experiencing failure is essential to building resiliency
  8. Colleges want to admit students who will succeed there. If there is a concern about that, some colleges give the student a chance to try it out before committing. (Passport Program- St Joseph's University)
  9. Colleges and Universities have priorities in building their class each year. Their goal is to build a community of students who will help the university continue on its mission.
  10. Each college/university has special qualities just as each student does. The staff and faculty at those colleges really want their students to take advantage of all the school has to offer.
  • A pre-med student really can actively pursue the arts in college as well. Muhlenberg College, Swarthmore College
  • A women's college can be made as coed as the student desires it to be.
  • Traditions are strong on most campuses (Bryn Mawr /Haverford/ Lehigh/Lafayette)
  • Engineering and business can be combined. (Lehigh IBE, Villanova SBI)
  • Pass fail evaluations require exceptional knowledge of a given subject and/or field. (Swarthmore College Honors Program)
  • Intellectual curiosity is very important - Haverford College
  • Jesuit colleges have the mission of developing students of giving character with a strong appreciation of differences. (Villanova University, Saint Josephs University)
  • Not every arts focused student needs to present a portfolio for admission. For schools that do require it, specific types of art are required and the admissions staff is there to help students through the process. (Muhlenberg College, Tyler School of Art at Temple University, University of the Arts in Philadelphia)
  • There are colleges who aim to provide both admission decisions and financial aid awards to early admission applicants by December 20. (Drew University)
  • Sandy Aprahamian, EDNavigators LLC


    The 2015-2016 Common Application is Live - 3 Key Things to Do Before You Log In

    The Common ApplicationThe 2015-2016 Common Application, an online application system that allows students to input their undergraduate application information once and have it sent to all student selected member schools, went live today. This one-time input is a great time saver!  However, most schools require additional input which is unique to their institution (supplemental essays, portfolios, etc.)  With so many components to the college application process, things can still get quite confusing. Students should take their time setting up their Common Application accounts.  Errors made early on can make the process much more challenging than it needs to be. 3 Key Things Seniors Should Do Before Setting Up The Common App Account

    1. Gather the following items before you sit down at the computer to set up your account:  a copy of your transcript and your senior year courses, a list of your activities, dates and scores from standardized tests and parent information (address, employment information, education)
    2.  Set up a system for keeping track of login information.  ( EDNavigators students should record their usernames and passwords in their Guided Path account.) There will be many passwords to keep track of as you apply to college. Keep your Common App username and password recorded in a place where you will remember it (Your username will be your email. You'll need to use this exact email to link your family connection/naviance account to the common app so your transcript and recommendations can be sent from you high school. )  
    3. Bookmark these two sites for easy access over the next few months: The Common App Login Page  The Common App Training Resources Library (The resource library has a lot of valuable set up information and answers to many troubleshooting questions.)

    In addition to getting started with the basics of the Common App, seniors may want to get started on their Common Application essay.   The 2015-2016 Common Application Essay prompts can be found here.

    Sandy Aprahamian, EDNavigators LLC

    Some October 2014 SAT Scores are Delayed

    Screen Shot 2014-07-11 at 9.03.23 PMSome high school students recently learned that the reporting of their October SAT scores is being delayed.  This Washington Post article provides an overview of the situation.  With many Early Action and Early Decision deadlines only three days away, seniors who were counting on these scores to complete their application may not make the application deadlines.  The score delays affect students who took the SAT in China, South Korea and, possibly Singapore.  Students who find themselves in this situation should call or email each school directly to ask how the delay will be handled.  Some colleges will give a grace period due to the circumstances - some will not.  This is frustrating all-around.  At EDNaviagotors  we encourage students to complete their testing by the end of their junior year of high school.  For high school seniors, this removes the testing burden, the uncertainty of where test scores will fall and whether or not scores will arrive in time.  High school seniors are busy enough focusing on grades, essays and applications in the fall.

    Sandy Aprahamian, EDNavigators

    It's Essay Season - The Three Types of Essays Required of College Applicants

    overwhelmedHigh school students are asked to write three types of essaysthroughout the college application process.  Each essay type is unique and requires a unique approach.

    Know the essay purpose.  Know the reader/audience.  Know the format.  Have a plan.

    SAT/ACT Essays (1-3 handwritten pages written under time constraints)

    The Standardized test essays are persuasive essays.  They measure:

    • how clearly a student can express and defend an opinion
    • a student’s ability to write a traditional 5-6 paragraph essay
    • grammar, usage and mechanics
    • the ability to write under time constraints

    Scores are not base upon accuracy of facts. Students are not judged on their opinion, but their ability to express and defend it.

    The Personal Statement Essay ("your story" usually 650 words or less)college essay rescue

    • This is, essentially, a personal story or autobiography. It is the student’s way to set himself apart from the other students who present similar transcripts and test scores.
    • It is a way for the college to get to know the student.
    • It requires the student to dig deeply inside himself and reflect upon his life, who he is, and what he values.

    The Supplemental Essays ("why us?"  "tell us more" usually 250 words or less)

    • These short essays tend to be either fact based or creative.
    • The fact based prompts require the student to research and explain or defend something.  They should contain accurate information.
    • The creative prompts are ways for the admissions readers to dig deeper into who the student is.

    The three essay types above are very different and need to be approached differently.

     EDNavigators offers assistance with all of these essay types.

    Sandy Aprahamian, EDNavigators LLC

    Related Articles:

    Essential information about the SAT Writing Score and the Essay

    The New SAT vs the Current SAT vs the ACT - A Preliminary Look

    EDNavigators Introduces Guided Path for Comprehensive Management of the College Process

    Common Application Essay Prompts for 2014-15

    EDNavigators Introduces Custom College Plan for Comprehensive Management of the College Process

    Another College Application Question With Varying Answers

    Screen Shot 2014-06-19 at 11.24.14 AMRising Seniors are encouraged to begin their college applications over the summer between Junior and Senior Year.  This sounds like a simple task, but considering that colleges work with different applications and on different timelines, it gets complicated quickly.  The first question students must find the answer to is:

    When Do College Applications Go Live?

    For schools that accept the Common Application and the Universal Application, these dates apply:

    • The Universal Application opens on July 1, 2014
    • The Common Application opens on August 1, 2014

    At some schools, like The University of Chicago, you can start and submit your supplement before you complete the Universal or Common App.

    Some schools with rolling admission, like Delaware Valley College, accept applications anytime after the student completes his/her junior year of high school. Others with rolling admission, like Pennsylvania State University make the application available September 1.

    Bottom Line:

    Check the website or call each school to which you plan to apply to get its specific application timeline.

    Use a system to keep track of what is due when.

    If you are planning to apply to colleges that accept the Universal Application or Common Application, start the main essay as soon as you can and supplemental essays (common app prompts are here) as soon as they are released by the school.  Early Decision/Early Action Dates of Nov. 1 and Nov 15 come quickly.

    Sandy Aprahamian, EDNavigators LLC



    Rising Seniors - Summer Timeline for College Applications

    College Application Checklist for Rising SeniorsFirst semester senior year is busy.  Class rigor and grades for senior year count toward college admissions. EDNavigators encourages students to remove some of the senior year stress by beginning applications over the summer. What can a rising senior do over the summer in preparation for college applications?

    June and July: 1. Plan and adjust college by researching and visiting colleges. 2. Prepare for the SAT or ACT if taking it in the fall. 3. Go to the website of or call the college of interest to find out: • If it accepts The Common Application - If yes, are supplements required? Are they available yet? Supplements to the Common Application become available on a school-by-school basis. Princeton University’s Supplement to the Common Application for the Class of 2015 is available now as well as Purdue, Amherst and Penn. • If it accepts The Universal College Application - If yes, are supplements required and are they available yet? • If it has its own application - If yes, is it available? For schools with rolling admission, the sooner you complete and submit the application, the better your chances of getting in. Penn State's application becomes available September 1. There are different application requirements and different timelines for each school. The only way to get the information you need specific to each school is to go to the school’s website or call the school’s admissions office. 4. Write the common Application Essay. The Common Application Essay prompts will remain the same as they were last year. They are available now. 5. Take time to do things you enjoy

    August: 1. On August 1, The Common Application and The Universal College Application go live for the next school year. Complete the core sections during the month of August. The Common Application and The Universal College Application for Fall 2015 will be available August 1, 2014 2. Continue to adjust and revise the college list 3. Continue with test-prep 4. Take time to do things you enjoy.

     Specifics for the Classes of 2016 and 2017

    Making Sense of the Testing Options and Requirements for College Applications

    HELP-Standardized TestsGone are the days of simply taking the SAT to meet college application requirements. Today, students are presented with a variety of exams, some required, some optional.  These exams include:

    1. SAT (New SAT for class of 2017 and beyond)
    2. ACT
    3. SAT Subject Tests (also known as SAT II Tests)
    4. AP Exams:

    (In effort to make this article a manageable length, the above list does not include IB testing or major-specific exams.)

    The Basics

    • The majority of four year colleges require applicants to submit scores from the SAT OR the ACT.
    • Some highly selective schools require or strongly recommend that applicants submit scores from two or three SAT Subject Tests.
    • Some schools accept the ACT with Writing in lieu of the SAT and SAT Subject Tests.  For more information on this complicated decision, please read these articles written by Nancy Griesemer who has done extensive research on this topic.

    With all of these testing requirements, it is important to create a testing plan in high school.  Freshman year is not too early to plot out the test plan since some tests may be taken then.

    Possible Testing Timeline beginning Junior Year

    • SAT OR ACT :  Take one of these tests Two times between January and June (This leaves September/October of Senior Year available as additional test dates if needed.  Ideally, however, all testing is complete by the end of Junior Year - Senior year is very busy with applications and essays.)
    • SAT Subject Tests:  These should be taken May or June of the year the subject is studied
    • AP Exams:  These are given in May of the Year the subject is studied
    • Class of 2017 suggested SAT/ACT prep timeline

    EdNavigators recommends the following:

    • Take a full length practice ACT and a full length practice SAT to see which test you prefer.  Prepare for the test you prefer and plan to take the test "for real" at least twice.  *Many students select to take both this case, two additional test-prep sessions would be required to discuss content and strategy for the test the student did not prep for.  The content covered on the SAT and ACT is very similar (EDNavigators Test Prep Packages are described on this page - Package 2 is to prep for the SAT OR the ACT, Package 2B is to prep for the SAT AND the ACT)
    • Take the SAT Subject Tests and AP tests around the same time because they can test similar information.   It also makes sense to take them right after completing the course.  (If a student takes Honors Biology as a Freshman, he/she should take the test(s) Spring of freshman year.)

    If you feel your standardized test scores don't represent your abilities, don't panic. There are also FairTest Schools.  A recent study revealed that students who chose not to submit standardized test scores for entry into college still performed well in college.

    For now, however, many colleges do still require standardized test scores.  It is worth the time and effort to make a plan and prepare.

    Sandy Aprahamian, Owner, Consultant, EdNavigators

    AP Exams - Quick Facts

    AP Exams are the cumulative final exam for students who take AP classes in high school.AP Exams 101 Test takers do not have to have completed an AP course to sit for the exam.

    For some colleges, AP exams can earn the student college credit.  For other colleges, AP courses and successful exam scores are expected for admission - no college credit is earned.

    AP exams are scored from 1-5  a minimum of three is required to earn college credit but many schools require a 4 or 5 on the AP exam to award college credit.  This varies by school, by subject sometimes by department within a school.

    AP exams are offered in high schools over a two week period in May.

    For a full description of AP exams and the dates they are offered, visit The College Board's AP Website.

    Sandy Aprahamian, Owner, Consultant, EdNavigators

    The SAT is tomorrow and I have the flu! What should I do?

    fluWinter is a popular time for high school juniors to take the SAT.  It is also, unfortunately, flu season. If you have the flu and are scheduled to take the SAT tomorrow, don’t panic.  Your health is most important.  There is still time.

    In an ideal world, you planned your testing timeline in advance and gave yourself some room “just in case” this were to happen.  If you didn’t plan out your testing timeline, do it now.

    Screen Shot 2013-12-02 at 10.23.14 AMAssuming you plan to take SAT Subject Tests and AP exams, your new testing timeline can be as follows:

    • SAT March 8
    • SAT Subject Tests May 3 and June 7

    Since not all subjects are offered on both dates, it is important to

    1.  Check when the tests you want to take are offered and

    2.  Leave May and June test dates open for SAT Subject Tests.

    ***You may take up to three subject tests in one day

    Retesting option is  October 11 and maybe November 8 and December 6 depending upon the college deadlines and whether or not you are applying Early Decision or Early Action.  All colleges have different application deadlines.

    **SAT and the SAT Subject Tests can't be taken on the same day

    Note:  AP Exams are May 5-16.  These are given during school hours so they will not conflict with the SAT or SAT Subject Tests in scheduling.  It’s just important to be aware that they will be given during this timeframe.

    If you do have the flu and need to reschedule your SAT:

    • Log in to your College Board account and request a new test date.  The College Board directions are here.
    • There is a $27 change fee.
    • Colleges do NOT see that this change was made.
    • They will simply see the date you actually take the test and the scores you receive.
    • Don’t worry about the change- just work on feeling better.

    I do not recommend taking a standardized test when you are ill because you will not be presenting yourself at your optimal strength.  If, however, you are only slightly under the weather or just want to skip the test because you want more time to prepare or you don’t want to get up early, I recommend you get up and take tomorrow’s test.  If you don’t like your score, don’t report it and take the test again on a later date.  At least you got one test under your belt.

    Before rescheduling, create a calendar and make sure you have time to make-up the test.

    2014 Testing Dates:

    2014 SAT Tests are  January 25, March 8, May 3, June 7, October 11, November 8, December 6,

    2014 SAT Subject Tests are offered  every SAT testing date except March

    2014 AP Exams are May 5th-16th

    Sandy Aprahamian, Owner, Educational Consultant, EdNavigators


    Two Terms You NEED to Know Before You Apply to College

    Yield and Demonstrated Interest What is yield in college admissions? Yield is an important term for college applicants and their parents to understand. A college's yield is the percentage of students who decide to attend a college in relation to the number of students to whom that college offers admission. This number is important because colleges are ranked and judged by their yield.

    It is not in a college's best business interest to accept a student who will eventually deny its offer. Overqualified students and students who have not demonstrated interest fit this category.  Yes, overqualified students do get rejection letters.  Students who do not demonstrate interest in the college also get rejection letters.

    What is demonstrated interest?  Demonstrated interest is the interest a student shows in a school through visits, calls, emails, social media etc.  If a college sends an email and you are interested in that school, open the email and click a link in it.  Colleges can and do track this.  If the college has a Facebook and/or Twitter account, follow it.  This article tells the true story of how colleges can track your online activity.  Visit and initiate contact with schools that interest you.  They are tracking your interest.

    College is a business. Stay strong and confident. Demonstrate interest.    A deferral or rejection does NOT always mean you are not a strong or qualified applicant.

    Related Articles:

    Colleges intensify recruitment through use of "Big Data" , Nancy Griesemer - DC College Admissions Examiner, January 2014

    Is it better to get a B in a difficult class or an A in an easier class?, EdNavigators

    The Rejection Letter:  Keep Perspective, EdNavigators

    SAT or ACT? Where do I begin? Which test is best for me?


    The SAT, originally called the Scholastic Aptitude Test, was created in the 1920's.  It evolved from the test that the Army used to assign recruits in WWI.  The test was designed to be a test of a person's innate ability to think and reason critically.   After WWII, because there were so many college applicants,  the test began to be used for college evaluations. The Scholastic Aptitude Test eventually morphed into the SAT Reasoning Test.  The College Board owns, develops and publishes the SAT Reasoning Tests which are designed to assess the test-taker's ability to analyze and solve problems.

    In 2005, the SAT underwent some big changes.  The changes included:

    • Scoring:  changed from a possible perfect score of 1600 to a possible perfect score of 2400.

    • Writing:  this section, which includes and essay, was added

    • Math:  Geometry and Algebra II were added

    • Reading:  short reading passages were added, taking the place of the analogies.

    Today's SAT  is very different from the original SAT.


    The ACT is considered more of an achievement test.  It was introduced in 1959 as an alternative to the SAT.   The ACT was first popular among colleges in the Midwest and the South while the SAT was the popular test along the US coasts.  The intent of the ACT is to measure a student’s ability to handle college level work as well as his/her general educational development.  Colorado and Illinois require all students take the ACT as part of their mandatory testing requirements.

    The ACT has also undergone changes since its inception:

    • Addition of the Writing Section:  Originally, the ACT had four sections, English, Math, Reading and Science Reasoning.  In 2005 the optional Writing section was added.

    • A computer based version:  ACT recently announced that beginning in 2015, they will offer a computer based version of the test.

    The ACT and the SAT are equally accepted by all colleges in the United States.  Colleges do not state a preference as to which test is taken.  It is student choice.

    Comparison Chart of the SAT and the ACT




    Official Website

    When is the test given?

    January, March or April, May, June, October, November, December (7 times a year)

    February, April, June, September, October, December (6 times a year)

    How many sections are in the test?


    3 math, 3 reading, 3 writing, one experimental

    5: (including optional writing) -

    Engilsh, Math, Reading, Science

    How early is the registration deadline?

    usually 4 weeks before

    usually 5-6 weeks before

    When are the scores released?

    2 weeks after test online

    3 weeks after test by mail

    2-8 weeks after test (writing reported 2 weeks after multiple choice scores are reported)

    How long is each section and how many questions in each section?

    Writing: 3 sections total

    25 min essay

    25 min

    10 min

    Reading: 3 sections total

    2- 25 min

    1-20 min

    Math: 3 sections total

    2-25 min (one with 10 grid-in questions)

    1-20 min

    Experimental Section: 1- 25 min section of Reading, Writing or Math

    English: 45 min - 75 questions

    Math:  60 min - 60 questions

    Reading: 35 min - 4 ten question passages

    Science: 35 min - 40 questions

    Is there a writing section?

    yes - always given first

    optional - always given last

    How many points for a perfect score?

    2400 (800 points per section)

    36 points (a composite of the 4 required sections)

    What topic/ subjects are tested?

    Critical Reading







    Optional Essy

    How long does the test take?

    3 hours 45 minutes

    3 hours 25 minutes

    Is there an experimental section?

    yes (25 minutes)


    Is there a science section?


    Yes - heavy on how well a student can read and interpret graphs -requires general science knowledge  - measures analysis of, evaluation of and problem solving needed in natural science

    How high does the math go in terms of courses taken?

    Includes geometry and algebra II

    Includes geometry, algebra II and trigonometry

    Is there a penalty for guessing?

    yes  (lose 1/4 point on multiple choice questions that are incorrect - no loss for skipped questions)


    Is the focus more on content or critical thinking and problem solving?

    critical thinking and problem solving


    Are calculators allowed?

    yes - with restrictions

    yes - with restrictions

    So which test is better?  Which one is easier?  Neither.  They are just different.  Some students may do better on one than the other, but very often, the scores fall in the same range.  After giving practice tests and preparing students for both tests, I have found that most students fall in the same range regardless of which test they chose.  The decision of which test to take is just a matter of preference. When time allows, I recommend that my students try out both tests and, based upon their scores and feelings about each test, pick one on which to focus test prep.


    SAT ACT Concordence Study: examines the relationship between SAT and ACT scores

    Admission Matters: What Students and Parents Need to Know About Getting Into College by Sally P. Springer, Jon Reider, Marion R. Franck

    ACT vs SAT, New York Times, by Michelle Statalla November 4, 2007

    Official SAT site:

    Official ACT site:

    The Real ACT Book by ACT

    Official SAT Book by CollegeBoard


    Is it better to get a B in a difficult class or an A in an easier class?

    This list from the Independent Educational Consultant Association answers this and other questions about what strengths and experiences colleges are looking for in high school students. Screen Shot 2013-10-11 at 9.53.42 AM

    Screen Shot 2013-10-11 at 9.53.31 AM

    Advice from Seth Godin - Applies to Test Prep and College Applications too

    I subscribe to Seth Godin's daily blog post which I really enjoy.  Yesterday's post was, The self-defeating quest for simple and easy.  In creating college lists, standardized test prep, the college essay, the college application process, high school classes and college classes, this applies.  Take the time to do it right.  There are no short cuts and it is a waste of your precious time to look for them. As it relates to test prep, take practice exams, take the time to analyze what you missed and work on weak areas.  Take the time to READ and review.

    In high school, take the time to learn the material.  Short cuts may work short-term, but, in the long run, they usually hurt.

    In college, seize the opportunity to absorb as much as you can.  You are given the gift of TIME in college. Use it wisely.  You never know what it will benefit you to know in the future when you do NOT have the time to re-learn it.

    Time spent productively pays off.  Enjoy the process.