January 20, 2018


Thank you to all who attended--physically or virtually--our presentation for juniors and their parents on Thursday. We enjoyed this opportunity to share our process for guiding students through college admissions and look forward to partnering with you as the year continues. If you were unable to attend the presentation, you can still view it with this link. Please feel free to reach out to us with any questions we may not have answered.

1000 + Colleges Now Test-Optional

FairTest is pleased to announce that the number of ACT/SAT-optional colleges and universities has topped 1,000 (with more to come). For details, see their news release and their freshly-revised database of all schools that are currently test-optional, along with their list of such schools by U.S. News and World Report ranking.

Summer Program Scholarship: University of St. Andrews

Scotland's University of St. Andrews has announced a new, fully-funded scholarship for their International Summer Programme. Their goal is to help a student who might otherwise not have been aware of St. Andrews to have the opportunity to study in the UK and seriously consider St. Andrews for their full undergraduate studies. The deadline to apply is February 2, 2018. For more information, click the "Scholarships" tab on their International Summer Programme page.

Chemistry Absent in Three out of Five Secondary Schools

For a fresh reminder of how well-positioned students at independent schools are for college admission, see this recent report in Education Week. It appears that fewer than half of the nation's secondary schools offer a chemistry course. Particularly at a time when the push for STEM education shows no sign of losing momentum, this should concern us all, while at the same time making us grateful for the opportunities our own school community is able to provide.

Five Ways the New Tax Law Affects Paying for College

As U.S. News reports, "The final version of the GOP tax bill that passed last month rewrites the tax code in many ways, eliminating deductions and adding new benefits. Some of these new provisions affect those paying for college." While many tax credits related to higher education remained untouched, a few key changes will affect families and students who are financing higher education. For a succinct rundown of those you may need to be aware of, see here.

Parents: Avoiding Five College Planning Mistakes

People talk a lot about how hard college admissions is on kids these days, but it's no picnic for parents, either. You want to be supportive and do whatever you can to make sure your kids are happy with their college choices. Unfortunately, these good intentions can sometimes lead parents to unwittingly hurt their kids' chances of admission. You may find it helpful to remember these tips for avoiding common mistakes:

1. Don't get involved with college essays.
When a parent helps too much with a college essay, it is almost always glaringly apparent to an admissions officer. Parents think and write differently than kids do. And colleges want to hear your kids' thoughts and perspectives, not yours. In fact, our experience has been that parental involvement in college essays almost never leads to better essays (or better family relations). So, let your student take the lead and write what she wants to write, and while you stay hands-off, encourage your kids to seek feedback from their English teacher, advisor, or college counselor. 


2. Don't contact colleges on your student's behalf.
When a parent repeatedly calls or emails an admissions office to ask questions, it's natural for admissions officers to wonder why the student isn't mature enough to call on his own. That's why we recommend that any communication with an admissions office come from the student, not the parent. This is the time for these young adults to begin developing the ability to show initiative and take care of themselves. The one exception to this rule is when it's time to discuss financial aid, as the admissions offices don't expect kids to carry on discussions about family finances.

3. Don't secure activities for your student.
It's easy for colleges to spot the applicant who volunteered at the hospital after her mother made all the calls, filled out the paperwork, and physically wrestled her into the car to get her there. That mother has shown a great deal of initiative (and a surprising amount of strength), but the student hasn't really shown much of anything. It's perfectly fine to help guide your student and offer advice, but let her decide what she'd like to do and how she's going to start.

4. Don't always listen to what your friends say about admissions.
We're consistently surprised by the amount of inaccurate college information that parents get from other parents. The truth is that, while many people claim to know a lot about colleges admissions, very few actually do. So unless the person giving you advice is a counselor or an admissions officer, check with your high school counselor before following any advice from your friends.


5. Don't lose perspective.
Don't forget that your daughter's future success and happiness are not dependent on admission to one particular college. We're not psychologists, but we've watched innumerable families go through the college admissions process, and we've noticed that the parents who seem to enjoy the best relationship with their kids during this stressful time are those who make it clear that they will proudly wear the sweatshirt of any college their daughter chooses to attend. Kids today are feeling an enormous amount of pressure around college admissions. They need you to be the voice of reason who knows that good kids who work hard and have supportive parents will always turn out just fine.

So, be a supportive partner, but let your kids take the lead!

A Caveat About Summer Enrichment Programs

You are likely receiving invitations from colleges and universities to attend summer enrichment programs, and we alert you to them ourselves in this newsletter from time to time (e.g., the note about St. Andrews above), but as you think about how best to use your summer vacation time, we feel obliged to offer a caveat. Most of these programs are entirely legitimate and do offer genuine opportunities for exploration and growth, but regardless of what their promotional materials may suggest, they do not give students an automatic advantage in the college application process, even when an applicant has attended a college's own summer program. Moreover, because they tend to be fairly pricey, college admissions officers are apt to view these "vanity programs" (their nickname for them) as primarily a reflection of family finances, not preparedness for college. If you feel that a summer enrichment program will develop an existing talent, reveal a new aptitude, spark new interests, or just give you a valuable chance to sample another part of the world, then by all means go for it, but please remember that a number of alternatives could serve you equally well. The main thing is to spend your vacation meaningfully, and--ideally--to wind up with a story to tell about it that reveals your best qualities.

Congregation Beth Israel Merit Scholarship

Congregation Beth Israel in Carmel invites applications for their merit scholarship program, due by Wednesday, April 18, at 4:00 pm. Applicants must be Jewish and be members of Congregation Beth Israel or the Congregation Beth Israel Youth Group. For more information and the application form, see here.

Monterey Audubon Society Scholarships

The Monterey Audubon Society is sponsoring scholarships in several denominations for graduating seniors in schools in Monterey County. The scholarships are intended not just for budding ornithologists, but for any whose focus of study will be in the field of natural sciences. For details, see here.


Santa Catalina School

1500 Mark Thomas Drive, Monterey, CA 93940