The Edge Our college admission blog

Every Heart Beats True…

by Katie Z, Ph.D July 3, 2015


…for the red, white, and blue!  Yes, the 4th of July weekend will soon be upon us.  To your mind may come images of barbecues, flags waving in the wind, fireworks, parades, and…scholarships for college?!  OK, that last item may not be a natural “go-to” reflection when thinking about Independence Day, but you wouldn’t be completely off the mark either.  In fact, I recently came across an article from Fastweb that highlights what it calls Patriotic Scholarships!  These scholarships boast names such as “Free Speech Scholarship”, “Patriot Heritage Scholarship”, “Freedom Scholarship”, and “Liberty Scholarship” – very appropriate, don’t you think?  You should also make note of the fact that one, the “Donna Foss Independence Day Essay Scholarship Contest”, worth $5,000, has a deadline of July 5th.  That’s very soon!  For more information on this particular scholarship, click here.

To browse Fastweb’s full list of Patriotic Scholarships, give this page a click.

Happy 4th of July weekend from all of us at Admitster!

independence day

Many Good Reasons

by Katie Z, Ph.D July 1, 2015


Today’s post brings us to the topic of Advanced Placement courses.  There are many good reasons why you should consider enrolling in AP courses during your high school years.  Of course, there’s love of learning and personal development – take AP courses because you’re genuinely interested in the material!  The College Board’s AP program offers over 30 different subjects, so there are bound to be some that strike your fancy.  Your humble blogger, years ago, took a handful of APs, and even now I look back on them as among my favorite high school courses.

Furthermore, having a few APs under your belt can really help you in the college admissions process! For example, if I’m considering applying to a number of schools in Massachusetts, but I haven’t taken any APs in high school, my Admitster projections for these schools looks like this:



Now, with all else remaining constant, when I take three AP courses, on which my average score is a 4, my projections improve to:


Finally, when I take 6 AP courses, on which my average score is a 4.5, my projections are:


As you can see, taking more AP courses didn’t affect my chances of admission at my reach (Harvard) and safety (UMass Boston) schools, but it did significantly improve my chances of getting into schools in the middle of my portfolio (Northeastern and Amherst).  As the AP Students website points out, taking AP courses can also:

  • Show prospective colleges and universities that you’re a serious student
  • Allow you to earn college credit
  • Help you to save money on college tuition

Click here for a list of AP courses!  Do you see some that look interesting but aren’t offered at your high school?  Not to worry!  If you’re motivated, you can take AP courses online.  See, for instance, Apex Learning Virtual SchoolThe Virtual High SchoolThe Keystone School, and/or National University Virtual High School.  Some colleges and universities also offer online AP courses.  See, for instance, here and here.

On a related note, did you know that you can take an AP test without actually enrolling in the corresponding AP class?  This isn’t recommended if you know very little about the material, of course, and the point of the class is, after all, to prepare you for the test.  Still, if you’re, for instance, fluent in French, then you can sign up to take the AP French Language and Culture test, and you’ll likely do well.  In terms of preparing, the College Board website is a great resource for information on the tests themselves (in terms of what to expect) and also includes a trove of practice questions.

Finally, if you feel that you just can’t afford to take AP exams (the fee for each test is $91), know that fee reductions and subsidies are available.  Taking AP courses really is a worthwhile use of your time – not only will you learn a great deal, but you’ll also give yourself a great boost in the college admissions process!


Berea College

by Katie Z, Ph.D June 30, 2015


Wouldn’t it be really great if you could attend a college that doesn’t charge its students tuition?  Well, as a follow-up to my earlier post, in which I vowed to introduce you to some of the 3,026 four-year colleges in the United States that you’ve perhaps never heard of but that have some very cool features, I’d like to introduce you to Kentucky’s Berea College. There are a number of noteworthy aspects of this college, but perhaps the one that makes it most unique is this (from its Office of Admissions): “We award our Tuition Promise Scholarship (which is valued at almost $100,000 over four years) to every admitted student. This scholarship works in conjunction with any other grants or scholarships students receive to completely cover the cost of tuition.  Additional costs, such as housing, meals, and fees, may also be covered by the College, depending upon your financial need. Nearly all of our students receive additional aid for these costs.” Wow!

As if all of that wasn’t enough, here’s some more to chew on (from a 2014 New York Times article):

“There is a house where prospective students and their parents can stay while visiting the campus, as many in the target demographic can’t easily afford a hotel. The college provides laptops to students that they can keep after graduation, and it has a clothing fund to help them afford something to wear for job interviews as they enter the work force. And to encourage better fitness in a region with some of the highest obesity rates in the country, the college president, Lyle Roelofs, has a standing offer to buy a pair of running shoes for students who will join him for his regular jog if they cannot afford their own.”

BooksOnCampus“What’s the catch?”, you may be asking yourself.  There’s no catch, except that you must, of course, be admitted – 34% of prospective students applying to begin in the 2015-2016 academic year were accepted, and Berea seeks to fill its classrooms with “academically promising students who have limited academic resources”, so the college may not be for everyone.  Furthermore, as is stated on the college’s Labor Program Office site, students are expected to work between 10-15 hours per week in approved jobs, either on campus or in the surrounding community. I think this is a great initiative – work experience is definitely a wonderful thing to have on your resume when the time comes to walk that graduation floor – but it may not be ideal for everyone. Finally, you should know that the college, whose motto is “God has made of one blood all peoples of the Earth”, has an “inclusive Christian character.”  For more facts and figures about Berea College, be sure to check out College Navigator‘s run-down of the school.  Also, and as ever, have the good-fit matrix in-mind when thinking about potential schools to which you may consider applying.

Who knows? Berea College may Berea lly great for you!

Khan’s Partners

by Katie Z, Ph.D June 28, 2015



What do NASA, Dartmouth College, the Aspen Institute, and LeBron James have in common?


They have all partnered with Khan Academy, supplying content for their website!

To refresh your memory, Khan Academy is a non-profit organization whose mission is to “provide a free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere.”  They are an empowering enterprise, and one that you should be aware of.  If nothing else, Khan Academy will inspire you with slogans like:

Khan Academy

But let that inspiration be only the beginning!  As was highlighted in an earlier blog post, Khan Academy recently formed a partnership with the College Board through which the two provide you, the soon-to-be test taker, with free access to information about the redesigned SAT, full-length practice tests, short quizzes, test-taking tips, video lessons, and personalized recommendations on what to further improve.  As they write on their website, the idea behind the initiative is that you have the resources at your disposal “to take ownership of your learning and your future.”  Cool.

Furthermore, while you’re on the Khan Academy site, take some time to visit LeBron Asks!  You can find answers to some thought-provoking questions there.  I mean, how does shooting a basketball illustrate Newton’s 3rd Law?  Why does sweating cool you down?  And if Earth’s history were a basketball game, when did humans appear?  Likewise, measure the universe with NASA!  Learn more about algorithms with Dartmouth College!  Consider pressing issues with The Aspen Institute!  These may not be specific questions or topics on your upcoming SAT test, but they’re certainly interesting food for thought, and anything that gets the wheels in your head turning, that trip to the gym for your active mind, is good preparation for all that is to come.


First Impressions

by Katie Z, Ph.D June 26, 2015


An earlier post on this blog discussed the possible admissions pitfalls associated with a less than pristine social media presence – think posting photos on your facebook page that you wouldn’t be comfortable sharing with your grandparents and/or making lewd or inappropriate comments in your twitter feed. There is, however, one more aspect of your online profile to consider – your e-mail address. Much of the correspondence between you and various admissions offices across the country will be carried out over e-mail, and the last thing that you want to do is to create a negative impression with your choice of personal e-mail address. For instance, steer clear of the following:



Having worked in admissions, I’ve come across applicants with e-mail addresses similar to those listed above and, believe me, it makes a very bad impression, no matter how stellar the rest of their application. Now, I understand if you don’t want to abandon your beloved “kegstandsrule” address – there’s no need for that. What you should do, however, is to take a few minutes to open a new e-mail account for use in college admissions and every other aspect of your professional life, for instance, for inclusion on your resume.  As Live Science reported, “With the increasing use of online screening, an applicant’s e-mail address could influence whether a resume gets tossed into the cyber-trash or makes it to human resources.” The same holds true for college admissions.

You don’t want something as simple to fix as your e-mail address to hold you back in the college admissions process. In thinking about the characteristics of an ideal e-mail address, know that it should make no references to sex, drugs and/or drinking or smoking, it should avoid anything potentially offensive or embarrassing, and the address should not make an attempt at humor (you may be the only one to understand the joke). What you should do is try to include some combination of your first and last name in the address, for instance, or Remember, you have only one chance to make a good first impression with admissions officers – make it count!

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