A Guide for Parents: Questions to Ask About College Admissions

Table of Contents

Share This Post

Share on facebook
Share on linkedin
Share on twitter
Share on email

When should my child start preparing to apply for colleges?

Most students begin preparing for college admissions the summer before their senior year and do the majority of their application work the following fall. That being said, there is nothing wrong with becoming familiar with prospective colleges and their requirements before then. One way to get students motivated to be on top of the preparation process is to take them on college tours early in their high school careers. Seeing the bustle of student life on campus along with hearing all the requirements first hand from tour guides can help the seemingly distant process become a priority in their minds.

How should my child begin this process?

It is helpful to first create a list of potential colleges. From this list, create a checklist for each school’s application requirements. The student can use this checklist when applying to ensure that he or she does not miss any steps. If you and your child are having trouble creating or narrowing this list, it can be extremely helpful to make pros and cons lists for each college. Breaking things down in this way helps to simplify a difficult and overwhelming process into straightforward, comparative exercise. Another helpful resource is college rankings. Looking through the general rankings as well as department specific ones (if your child has a general idea of what he or she wants to study) can give insight into the quality of the education that your child will receive at a given institution.

Does my child need to take both the SAT and ACT?

Most colleges accept both the SAT and the ACT and only require that applicants take one or the other. To determine which test is the right fit for your student, Ivy Scholars provides diagnostic tests. In general, anxious test takers do better on the ACT due to its predictable structure and content. Slower test takers on the other hand usually do better on the SAT. Furthermore, although it is not required, it doesn’t hurt to take both exams.

How do we determine which are reach, target, and safety schools?

Look at the GPA, SAT/ACT, and class ranking averages for college admitted students. If your child’s numbers are above 75% of these numbers for a certain school, it is a safety school. If they are above 25% of these numbers, the school is in the target range. If your child’s numbers are below the presented ranges, the school is a reach school. Let’s consider an example: say that Mary has a 1400 on the SAT and a 4.0 GPA. Taking other factors in her application out of the picture, she has a very low chance of getting into Harvard whose average SAT score range is 1480-1600, making it a reach school. (When reporting standardized test score ranges, the 25th percentile is the lower number – in this case, 1480 – and the 75th percentile is the higher number – for Harvard, 1600.) The University of Michigan, whose 25th percentile is 1370 and 75thpercentile is 1530 on the other hand, is a target school for Mary as she is above the 25th percentile score. An example of a safety school for Mary would be Florida State University whose range is 1210-1360. Through Ivy Scholar’s high-quality test preparation services, your child’s dream school can evolve from reach to target and from target to safety.

What are the Coalition, Common, and Universal College Applications?

The Coalition Application is accepted by more than 90 institutions and includes “The Locker,” a private space for students to organize materials throughout high school that might be relevant in the college application process. Launched in 2016, The Coalition only accepts colleges who prove that they provide substantial support to low-income or otherwise underrepresented students. If your family falls into one of these categories, The Coilition App might be the best option for your child. The Common Application is a standardized application used by almost 700 schools. It is the most widely filled out college application and allows students to apply to up to 20 colleges. It is good for the student who feels that completing one application is enough work as it is and yearns for the simplicity of only undergoing the process once. The Universal College Application is accepted by more than 30 colleges. A few perks include a fast interface with an auto-save feature, great technical support, and the ability to edit your essay after you’ve submitted.

Is it acceptable to use the same material on different applications?

It is okay to reuse material, but it is also important to be very careful when doing so. If there is anything college-specific in the student’s writing, make sure it has been thoroughly edited so that there are no traces of other colleges in that rendition of the essay. It is more common than you might think for one Ivy League school, Princeton for example, to receive a personal statement from an applicant that says something like, “And this is why Cornell is my dream school.” Beyond that, in supplemental essays in particular, it is vital for applicants to show through their writing that they have done research on the school they are applying to. The student must illustrate to admissions officers why it is so important for them to be accepted to the university in question, and how they would contribute to the scholastic community there.

How many colleges should my child apply to?

Five to eight colleges is the general recommended range. Of this number, one or two should be safety schools, a few should be good matches, and a couple should be a bit of a stretch given the student’s GPA and test scores. That being said, these numbers vary from person to person depending on the goals at hand. If your child is applying to a lot of schools with low acceptance rates for example, then he or she should apply to more schools so that there are more chances of success. If a student applies for eight schools and those eight schools just so happen to be all the Ivies, then eight is not enough schools because there is still a low chance of acceptance overall. This shows why it is important to apply to schools in all three of the aforementioned ranges.

Should my child apply to a college if their admission-test scores or grades are below published ranges?

Absolutely; admissions scores and grades are shown on college’s websites are not cutoffs, but merely ranges. Admissions officers consider numerous factors when reviewing applications, and test scores and grades are only two parts of the larger picture. If you and your child begin the college application far enough in advance, it is possible to work with test preparation tutors, one of the services offered by Ivy Scholars, to raise standardized test scores in a relatively short period of dedicated time. Furthermore, with the help of Ivy Scholars professionals, your student has direct guidance on other application materials like the personal statement and supplemental essays, ensuring that he or she has the best possible chance of admission, even at reach schools.

Should my child even bother applying to colleges we likely can’t afford?

Yes; there are many financial aid packages available to help students afford schools outside of their family’s price range. To see what packages might be available to your family, fill out the FAFSA as early as possible after January 1.

Should my child apply early?

If your child is certain about which college he or she would like to attend, then it is usually a good idea to apply early. This is because there are less applications coming in at that time, which gives early applicants a somewhat higher acceptance rate. If your child is not certain however, then he or she should be careful because many early applications are binding upon acceptance (although this varies from school to school).

Who should my child ask for a letter of recommendation?

Most applications require a letter of recommendation and some require multiple. The two most important things to consider when selecting your letter writer(s) is to choose someone who knows you well and who is a good writer. It is also important to give the letter writer(s) ample time to write a letter that will stand out to admissions officers. With the expertise of Ivy Scholars professionals, your child will be guided through this process and advised about the best kinds of people to ask and how to ask them appropriately.

Should my child send additional materials?

Additional materials should only be sent if absolutely necessary because colleges spend a considerable amount of time creating applications that they feel are completely comprehensive. Many arts programs, however, do require supplemental portfolios. Further, if your child really does have any extenuating circumstances that would provide genuine insight into his or her case, do not hesitate to submit such materials.

When will my child receive a school’s decision?

Most schools send out decisions in late March or early April. If your child applies early decision, he or she should expect to hear back sometime between mid-December and early January. While waiting can be a stressful experience, if your child has truly put in his or her maximal effort with college preparation and applications, this is a time to sit back, relax, and enjoy the rest of senior year (while keeping grades and extracurricular activities going strong of course!).

Read More At:

US Department of State

College Board

My College Options

Fast Web

Prep Scholar

Veritas Prep

Need help with college admissions?

Download our "Guide to Everything," a 90-page PDF that covers everything you need to know about the college admission process.

More To Explore

College Applications

Women Only Liberal Arts Colleges

There was a time when all colleges were gender segregated, usually to the detriment of women. Today, all the nation’s top research universities are coeducational,

Wendy Y.
Below is my son's review. He was accepted to his dream Ivy League school!

From an admitted student's perspective, I am incredibly grateful to have met Sasha - he has been instrumental in helping me achieve my educational dreams (Ivy League), all while being an absolute joy (he's a walking encyclopedia, only funnier!) to work with.

Many people are dissuaded from seeking a college counselor because they think they can get into their desired college(s) either way. Honestly, going that route is a bit short-sighted and can jeopardize your odds of acceptances after years of hard work. The sad truth is, the American education system (even if you attend a fancy private school and ESPECIALLY if you go to a public school) doesn't really tell students how to write a compelling and authentic application. Going into the admissions process alone, without speaking with an advisor, is like going to court without a lawyer - you put yourself at a significant disadvantage because you don't have all the facts in front of you, or the help you need to negotiate the system.

That said, you need a good lawyer just like you need a good college counselor. And that's where Sasha distinguishes himself from the crowd of people claiming they'll get you into Harvard. I came to Sasha worried about and frankly dumbfounded by the college admissions process. I was unsure what to write about and how to go about drafting the essay that perfectly captured my passion, interests, and self. And I was highly skeptical that anyone could really help me. But, damn, did Sasha prove me wrong. From the beginning, Sasha amazed me with his understanding of the process, and ability to lend clarity and direction to me when I desperate needed it. After interviewing me about my background, experiences, activities, outlook, and vision, he helped me see qualities about myself I had not previously considered 'unique' or 'stand-out.' This process of understanding myself was so incredibly important in laying the groundwork for the essays I eventually wrote, and I'm certain I would've drafted boring, inauthentic essays without it.

Looking back, Sasha's talent is that he can see where your strengths lie, even when you don't see them. The truth is, although we don't always realize it, everyone has a unique story to tell. Sasha helped me see mine, and with his big-picture insight I was able to write the application that truly encapsulated my life and vision. He inspired me to dig deeper and write better, challenging me to revise and revise until my essays were the most passionate and authentic work I had ever written. As clichéd as that sounds, that's really what universities are looking for. In retrospect, it makes sense - in the real world passionate (not simply intelligent) individuals are the ones who make a difference in the world, and those are the individuals colleges would like to have associated with their brand.

In the end, I was accepted to the college of my dreams, a feat I could not have achieved without the direction Sasha lent to me. Essays (and the personal narrative you develop through your application) matter so much, and can literally make or break your application. I have seen so many of my 'qualified' friends receive rejections because they wrote contrived essays that didn't truly represent who they were; conversely, I have also seen so many friends with shorter resumes accepted because they were able to articulate their story in a genuinely passionate and authentic way - I fall into the latter category.

As a former admissions officer at Johns Hopkins, Sasha knows what types of essays jibe well with universities, an invaluable asset to have in the admissions process. He is responsive, flexible, creative, positive, and witty. For anyone who is serious about going into the college admissions process informed and prepared, I highly recommend Sasha.
Arda E.
I used Ivy Scholars to mainly help me with college applications. Within weeks of using this service, Sasha was able to simplify the already complex process. When it came to writing the Common App essay, Sasha didn’t just help with grammar and syntax, he brought my essays to life. Sasha also worked tirelessly to help solidify my extracurricular activities, including research and internship opportunities. Without his help, I would have never had an impressive resume.

Sasha is not only an extremely knowledgeable tutor, but also a genuine brother figure. His guidance, throughout my last two years of high school, was everything I needed to get me an acceptance letter from my dream schools (UC Berkeley, Tufts, Emory).

When it came to testing, Ivy Scholars worked like a charm. Sasha offered a very comprehensive plan when it came to completely acing my standardized tests. Without his test taking strategies I would have never gotten straight 5s on my AP tests and a 35 on the ACT.

Working with Sasha, I didn’t just become a good student, I became a genuine scholar.
Samson S.
We worked with Ivy Scholars during my son's senior year. I was concerned that we may be too late to take advantage of college advising but the Ivy Scholars team quickly and confidently directed us through the steps to ensure no deadlines were missed. Sasha's knowledge about schools, what they looked for in candidates, and how to maneuver the application process was invaluable. Mateo and Ryan worked with my son to help him create an essay that would get noticed and I am so appreciative he had their guidance.

Prior to securing Ivy Scholars, we tried using a less-expensive online service which was a terrible experience. As a parent, Ivy Scholars brought peace of mind to an area that was frankly overwhelming. This service was invaluable in the knowledge that we gained throughout the process. He has also met with my freshman daughter to provide guidance for her high school courses, career paths, extracurricular activities, and more.

Prior to signing with Ivy Scholars, I tried a less expensive online service and was very disappointed.

As a result of our work with Ivy Scholars, I am pleased to say that my son will be attending Stern Business School at New York University this fall! I highly recommend Ivy Scholars. Highly recommend!