You’ve come to our presentations, and we’ve met privately at your home. You’ve heard us say it multiple times: that Harvard rejects 80% of the valedictorians who apply each year; that Stanford rejects 70% of the applicants with perfect SAT and ACT scores. That Yale could fill its class three times over with 1500+/4.0 students, they just don’t have the room in their freshman class. That admission to what most people refer to as “top-tier” schools – meaning in the top 50 nationally-ranked universities and liberal arts colleges – is basically a lottery.
PARENT PITFALLS || MAGELLAN COLLEGE COUNSELING - YouTube
That all nine UCs combined have about 70,000 seats in their freshman class – and 25% of those go to out-of-state residents – for the half a million California high school seniors who graduate each year.
You’ve heard us say that a 4% acceptance rate means that 96% of the applicants get rejection letters. That “holistic” means students with lower grades and test scores could actually be admitted over your child.
But when you hear us say these things, we know the voice inside your head says, “Yeah, but they’re not talking about my kid. My kid will be one of the ones who gets in.”
At least, that’s what the voice has been saying, until your best friend’s kid, the one with the perfect ACT score and 4.0, and some pretty awesome volunteer experience, was rejected from 8 colleges, all in the same week, four on the same day. And your best friend had to watch her daughter cry. Over and over again.
So the best approach to building your college list, if you’re a sophomore or a junior right now, is to come at it with an open mind. If you are willing to put in some time and research colleges outside of the names you know, you are more likely to get better decisions than students who do not do this. And you MUST include colleges on your list that have acceptance rates higher than 30 or 40%, or you are most likely in for some serious disappointment.
Here’s where we come in: we’re here to help you (and your teenager) love colleges other than the ones you know off the top of your head. We’re here to help you (and your teenager) believe and unders tand that your child can have an incredible experience, get a fabulous education, build relationships with academics and peers, and land a great job after college – EVEN at a school whose name is not splashed on every bumper sticker in town.
We’ve been saying this for awhile – balance your list, manage your expectations. Here are a few blog posts from the past year:
This short video is about how you can be assured that the person you choose to work with your child through his/her college search and application process is ethical, and qualified to give you the help you seek.
CHOOSING AN ETHICAL COLLEGE COUNSELOR || MAGELLAN COLLEGE COUNSELING - YouTube
First, we recommend asking these two questions:
To which professional organizations do you belong?
I mention several professional organizations for those of us who assist students in their college admission process in the video to the right. Being involved in these organizations gives us the opportunity to share information with others who do what we do, to stay on top of fast-moving trends in college admissions, and to interact with college admission officers – the people who actually make admission decisions.
How many colleges have you visited in the past 2-3 years?
This is an important question, because it’s impossible to guide students and families if you don’t spend a lot of time learning about the options. There are 2,200 four-year colleges in the U.S.! Most families come to us knowing the names of “reach” schools. Part of our job is to help them become comfortable with the plethora of choices they really have. A good college counselor is a champion college tourer – that’s why we have literally hundreds of college writeups on this website. California colleges are here; out-of-state colleges are here.
Everyone on the Magellan team is a member of multiple professional organizations, and we all spend lots of time visiting dozens of colleges every year. We confidently guide our students through the process with integrity. You can learn more about our services here, and if you think your child needs some guidance through his/her college search and application process, please feel free to get in touch.
Magellan founder Evelyn Alexander has been quoted in several media stories related to the recent college admission scandal, which uncovered wrongdoing by someone who claimed to be a college advisor, but who was not a member of any of the many professional organizations available to those who do advise students on their college journey.
Los Angeles public television station KCET quoted Alexander from the half hour livestream she hosted the day the story broke, in which she discussed the several facets of the scam. One of the facets included bribing college coaches at highly selective universities to designate specific students as recruited athletes, which is “insulting to real athletes who are actually working their butts off and going to practice.”
The Hollywood Reporter has published numerous stories about the scandal, as some of the more visible perpetrators are in the entertainment industry. THR spoke to Alexander on multiple occasions, and relied on her for reaction to the facet of the scam in which parents sought unnecessary extra time on the SAT or ACT for their children. Alexander was quoted noting the unfairness to students who have legitimate learning challenges, and who honestly need accommodations on these exams. Here are the 2 stories in which she is quoted:
We’ve had just 24 hours to absorb the major scandal that involved lying, cheating and bribery in the college admission world. It’s bad on so many levels, but underneath the rubble, the immorality, the illegality, is the sad fact that the scandal rests upon people’s desperate and completely unfounded fear that if their kids don’t go to a well-known college, one that shows up high on some ranking list somewhere, their life will be forever doomed.
This reliance on rankings to determine which are the “good” colleges is so misplaced I don’t even know where to start. Rankings are basically gossip. They tell you nothing about how well your child will do on a particular college campus, what they’ll get from the experience, how well their education will prepare them for their future job.
Or how well they will feel like they “fit in” to the campus community.
Additionally, you may have heard about the crisis-level problem with anxiety on college campuses today. Part of that is due to the unhealthy obsession with name-brand, highly ranked colleges – students simply feel they’ve failed if they don’t hit the college lottery (more on that in this great piece). If families took more time to really explore their college options, instead of being stuck on those rankings, they might just land at a place where they fit in, love their classmates, love what they’re learning and feel at home. THIS is what a real college counselor facilitates. Here’s one of the better articles I saw today in response to this college admission scandal – the important part comes about halfway down, where it says “College is a feast.”
Over the course of nine years in this business, I’m proud to have built a team of highly ethical and dedicated counselors who have worked with hundreds of students and families, always focusing on finding the best college for each student. We’re very clear with our clients: our job isn’t to “get you in,” it’s to “get you through” the process that many people find to be confusing and stressful.
We approach it in two steps. PHASE 1is “College Search.” We spend time getting to know each student, helping them start to think about what they want in their college experience and what they have to offer a college community. Then, based on our travels and knowledge of the 2,200 four-year colleges in the United States, we create a nice long list for them to research. We teach them how to research a college, going beyond the names they already know. PHASE 2 is “College Applications.” We sit next to them, literally and figuratively, as they fill out applications and write essays. We make sure, above all else, that their lists are balanced, so that we KNOW good news is coming. We make sure they love their “safe” and “target” schools. We make sure that their moms and dads don’t have to nag them to get things done. And we make sure things aren’t done at the very last moment.
I’ve been saying for years that there are 2 important questions to ask a college counselor before you hire one:
To which professional organizations do you belong?
And how many conferences and colleges have you been to in the past two years?
Here’s the 30-ish minute live stream I did yesterday on our Facebook page (which of course, we invite you to like). We also invite you to join our free, year-specific text messaging service by texting 2020parent, or 2021parent, or 2022parent (depending on when your child graduates from high school) to 877-562-4443.
While I can’t say I was happy when this college admission scandal broke on yesterday’s news, we hope the result will be that we spend more time focusing on helping students find the right match college, instead of being obsessed with the big names.
The photo in the header of this article is a compilation of e-mails I’ve received that make my stomach turn. Anyone who promises you they know the “secret” to getting into a highly selective school is flat-out lying to you. Don’t believe it. Don’t let it stress you out. And don’t let it make your child feel “less than.” I hope more than anything else that this scandal helps all of us realize there are no secrets to learn, no magic 6-step process and no “side doors.” The only thing a college advisor or counselor should promise, and the only thing we promise, is that we will stand by you and your child every step of the way.
ENGINEERING || MAGELLAN COLLEGE COUNSELING - YouTube
One of the resources we like to investigate with students who think they are interested in studying engineering is the Grand Challenges website. David Bowker, Director of the Office of Future Engineers at Purdue University, says that this website “gets students thinking about what impact to they want to make, what problems can they help solve…health care, hunger, the environment, space exploration, energy etc. You could study multiple engineering majors for each of the Grand Challenges.”
Here are a few more resources to help you explore some engineering options:
Purdue’s Bowker recommends that students who may be interested in studying engineering attend an engineering summer camp, or some program that will help them get a hands-on idea of what four years of studying engineering in college would look and feel like. High school students can also take advantage of local community college courses to get a taste of the exciting challenges that may await them as engineering students.
As adults, every now and then, we find ourselves presented with situations that require us to consider the ethical implications of our actions. Teenagers, looking to us to help them define right and wrong, take cues from the choices we make.
The college admission process is fraught with examples of ethical issues, as well as things some people might consider “gray areas.” Some people are troubled by the fact that some highly selective colleges consider students’ legacy status, or that recruited athletes sometimes get special consideration. Others are frustrated that “holistic” admissions sometimes results in students with lower grades and test scores being admitted over students with higher grades and test scores. How can this be right?
COLLEGE ADMISSIONS ETHICAL ISSUES || MAGELLAN COLLEGE COUNSELING - YouTube
These issues, and others, may lead you to wonder if there are any ethical guidelines in the college admission process. In fact, there are! Nearly all 2,200 of the four-year colleges in the US are members of the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), which requires its members to uphold a code of ethics. High schools, school counselors and independent counselors can also be NACAC members. All of Magellan’s counselors are NACAC members, and we also uphold these standards.
In the video to the right, I respond to two very important ethical issues that may pop up during this journey:
Do I HAVE to withdraw my applications from other colleges if I’ve been admitted somewhere Early Decision (can’t I just want “just to see” where else I get in?)
Can I deposit at more than one college on May 1? What if I’m not quite ready to decide by then?
Here are a few examples of some of other ethical issues clients ask us:
When I report how many hours per week I do/did this activity, will anyone check to see if that number is accurate? [Answer: NO, but you should be honest about how much time you realistically spent on each activity.]
If I know I won’t be on the (insert spring sport here) team my senior year, can I still say I have done the sport for four years? [Answer: NO, if you know you won’t participate in a sport your senior year, you should report how many years you actually did participate.]
As a parent, I want to ensure that my child’s essays are as good as they can possibly be, so I rewrote parts of his/her essay to ensure that the grammar was correct and the vocabulary sounded impressive. [We know this is a statement, not a question, but it’s definitely an ethical issue, and it’s something you should not do. More rules about essays here.]
This is the final submission page for every application you submit through the Common App. Note the fine print: submitting two deposits could result in your admission being rescinded!
After watching the video above, we hope you understand how important it is to withdraw all other college applications if you’ve been admitted somewhere Early Decision. This is a binding contract, and you agreed to withdraw your applications if admitted. With most schools, it’s as easy as logging into your portal and telling them you want to withdraw. You may have to send an e-mail to the admissions office. If you need to withdraw applications from UC campuses, the instructions are here. [p.s. CONGRATULATIONS! You’ve been admitted to your top choice college!]
The answer to the ‘how many colleges can I deposit at’ ethical issue is simple: you checked a box and said you would only submit ONE enrollment deposit. That’s it! In most instances, you have at least the entire month of April to visit and make your decision. May 1 is everyone’s deadline, and everyone gets to choose one, just one, college.
Map of the campuses of the California State University system
There are nine undergraduate campuses in the University of California system: Berkeley, Davis, Irvine, Los Angeles, Merced, Riverside, San Diego, Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara. There are 23 campuses in the California State University system (map to the right).
California public schools graduate about half a million high school seniors every year – that’s just from PUBLIC high schools. The CSU system as a whole, all 23 campuses, has 484,000 undergraduate students; the UC system has about 223,000 undergraduate students. If you add these numbers, and divide by four (to get what COULD be the capacity for a freshman class), you will find that California public universities have the capacity to enroll fewer than 200,000 first-year students each year.
The good news is that California high school seniors have many, many public university options. The bad news is that there are clearly more desirable and less desirable locations, and this is reflected in the number of applications each receives.
Every year we have students (and parents) surprised when they are not admitted to a particular UC or CSU campus. The reality is that times have changed since most parents applied to college. This progression shows California’s growth. My dad, who entered UCLA in 1961, gleefully reminds me that he “just signed up” for UCLA – and he was an engineer. When I applied to college in 1988, San Diego State was a “party school.” It wasn’t hard to get in with a 3.0! Just last week, San Diego State reported that their application pool was up again this year – more than 69,000 students applied for freshman admission to a campus that enrolls a total of 34,000 – which means the max they will want in their freshman class is about 8,500. Of course, San Diego State admits more students than they have room to enroll – this is because they know their admitted students will have other choices, and some will enroll elsewhere. They factor this into their admission process – it’s called yield.
Layer on top of this another problem: public high school counselors in California are responsible for an average of over 700 students. Even in private schools, counselors sometimes have a caseload of 40-50 students. Many California families aren’t aware of the growing competition for our public university systems, and don’t have the one-on-one time with their counselor to learn about today’s reality. This is where Magellan comes in. It’s not that school counselors don’t have the right information, it’s that they don’t have enough time with each student to help them see not only their in-state options, and determine how competitive they are for UCs and Cal States, but to see the vast supply of other options. Here’s the actual good news: there are 2,200 four year colleges in the United States! Even if you limit yourself to a small geographic area, or want to stay closer to home, or want/need to keep costs down – there are great choices out there. Some large, some small, some in cities, many not. Many with school spirit, and a Greek system, and many without. What’s your FIT?
Here’s the actual good news: there are 2,200 four year colleges in the United States!
And this is where Magellan comes in. Our counselors are all trained to help students see beyond the names you know, and think more deeply about the right college fit for YOU. Our job is to make the process more organized and less stressful, for both students and parents, and to ensure that students have real choices at the end of their senior year. Our job is to help you child find the place where s/he is happy and successful.
If you think you want some one-on-one help with THAT, please feel free to get in touch. We have just a few spots left for our Class of 2020, and we are just starting to work with families in the Class of 2021.
LA/Westside students – here are a few options for practice SAT and ACT exams, and some bootcamps to help you prepare for the upcoming exams! All practice tests and boot camps are at Palisades High.
SAT Practice Exam
Saturday February, 9th 9am-1pm Location: J109
Enrollment fee (All proceeds go to the Pali High PTSA!): $20 Enrollment: SAT Practice Test Enrollment
SAT Boot Camp: Intensive prep course focuses on skill-building for the most heavily tested concepts on the SAT®. Learn the testing strategies you need to know to boost your score!
Saturday 3/23/2019 and Sunday 3/24/2019 from 9 am-12 pm on both days. Location: J109
Enrollment fee (A portion of the proceeds go to the Pali High PTSA!): $175 Enroll here: SAT Boot Camp Enrollment
ACT Practice Exam
March 16th, 9am-1pm. Location: J109
Enrollment fee (All proceeds go to the Pali High PTSA!): $20 Enroll here: ACTPractice Test Enrollment
ACT Boot Camp: Intensive prep course focuses on skill-building for the most heavily tested concepts on the ACT. Learn the testing strategies you need to know to boost your score!
Boot camp on Saturday 3/23/2019 and Sunday 3/24/2019 from 9 am-12 pm on both days. Location: J109
Enrollment fee (A portion of the proceeds go to the Pali High PTSA!): $175 Enroll here: ACT Boot camp Enrollment
High school grade inflation has caused some colleges to look beyond grades and test scores to make admission decisions.
Did you know that almost half of all graduating high school seniors in 2016 had an “A” average GPA?
We posted this article on grade inflation last year, but it’s worth returning to this topic as it’s important for you, as a parent, to know what college admissions officers are talking about.
Last week, Purdue University President and former Indiana governor Mitch Daniels laid out with clarity the problem, in an article in the Washington Post: it’s hard for colleges to know the meaning of high school students’ transcript grades, because they are so subjective, and because it’s well-known that parents now argue with teachers (and sometimes principals) about raising their kids’ grades. You may recall a time when parents argued with their kids to work harder or study more, but the impression among college admission offices is that time has passed. Even if you AREN’T one of those parents who has tried to get your child’s school to raise a grade, it’s easy for them to assume that your child’s grades may have been influenced by this kind of intervention. Daniels paraphrases from the new book, The Coddling of the American Mind, the phenomenon that grade intervention has given kids an excuse to be less than resilient. “Many young people, having too rarely handled problems or adversity on their own,” Daniels says, “now instinctively run looking for an adult at the first whiff of difficulty.”
Daniels argues that this grade inflation situation, a lack of the clarity of what “straight As” really mean, is the reason his institution is not test-optional, a growing trend among colleges today, as well as to highlight that colleges must now look far beyond students’ transcripts to find other aspects of students’ lives to decide if they will admit them.
Character counts in life, and it has begun to count in college admissions in a larger way than ever before. Colleges see this come into play in activities, leadership, outside of school experiences, teacher and counselor recommendations, and probably most importantly, essays. Magellan starts working with students in the middle of 10th grade, helping families work through both the academic and non-academic issues before delving into what we call Phase 1: College Search, where we help students introspect, consider what they’re looking for in a college environment and what they have to offer, and create a balanced college list. We then guide them through Phase 2: College Applications, helping them navigate the process and submit all applications long before deadlines. In a nutshell, we help make the college application process more organized and less stressful. If you think you need this type of service, we’d be glad to speak to you!
I. Thou shalt not allow your parents (or anyone else!) to write your essays, in whole or in part, for you. College admission counselors know the difference between a 17-year old’s writing, and an adult’s. It is not in your best interest to have anyone else write your essays for you – only YOU can share your voice with colleges.
II. Thou shalt share your essays via Google Docs with no more than 5 people, including your parents.
III. Thou shalt INSIST that EVERYONE who has access to your essays make comments or edits in suggesting mode, and shalt not allow anyone, parent or otherwise, to accept or reject anyone’s suggestions or edits. YOU are the only one who can make these decisions about YOUR college essays.
V. Thou shalt revise essays while preserving previous versions, just in case what you wrote the first time is as awesome as you thought it was when you wrote it.
VI. Thou shalt not assume that what you wrote the first time is actually awesome, nor will be the final draft of your college essays.
VII. Thou shalt let your essay(s) sit for at least 24 hours – but a week is better – after you think they are final. Time and distance can help you and anyone else who reviews them see your essays with fresh eyes.
VIII. The passive voice shall not be used. (Dost thou see how much less powerful and effective that sounds?)
IX. Thou shalt concern thouself (?!) only with being authentic, memorable and likeable and not with figuring out “what they want to hear.”
X. Thou shalt respond to the prompt, and within the word limit given. We know this sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised.