Two Important Tips For Seniors

September 27, 2011

  1. Essay Length

    There’s been a lot of talk about essay length this year, thanks to a change in the recommended length specified on the Common Application.  Previously, it was generally accepted that 750 words was the top. This year, however, the app specifically calls for between 250 and 500 words for the personal statement.Few of my colleagues across the country believe that the Common App will actually chop off essays that go beyond 500.  But, given that this request for brevity is coming from the colleges themselves, it makes sense for students to stay close to the guideline.

    As one former admissions officer observed:  “I can tell you, honestly, if it wasn’t well written and went on too long … I would just stop reading.”

    So encourage your student to edit and edit again, staying closer to 500 words.

  2. Paying for CollegeNew this year – Net Price Calculators

    As of October 29th, every school will be required to have a “Net Price Calculator” (NPC) on its web site (many already do).  The intention of this is to make it easier to estimate the projected cost of attendance as well as to make comparisons between various schools.In providing a projected cost, the NPC estimates both merit and need-based aid, based on your particular circumstances and the school in question.

    Keep in mind, however, that in order for this to work, you will first need to know your Estimated Family Contribution (EFC) – the amount the government determines should be your yearly family contribution to college. You can determine your EFC by completing the FAFSA estimate form at:  This information can be saved until you fill out the FAFSA officially, after January 1st.

    Relative college costs are important to consider now, to ensure that your child is considering schools that fit within your budget.  For many, it is just as important to have financial “safety” schools as it is to have academic ones.

We’ve Got Mail!

Carol from Hopkinton writes:

“Is there a disadvantage in scheduling an interview with an alumni member close to home instead of having it on campus? We are having trouble fitting it all in.

Good question, Carol. The most important point is that if the school offers interviews, take advantage of them, however you can. This is one more opportunity to let the school find out what makes your child a good fit for its campus.

Also, it’s very important to have visited the school prior to applying (if it’s within a reasonable driving distance); you want them to know your student is serious about attending. If there is not time for an on campus interview and it needs to happen off campus with an alumnus, by skype or with a college representative visiting your school/area, that should not be a problem.

Bottom line: Your child’s application should never be the first time the school has heard of your student!

(See my July newsletter here for college interviewing tips.)

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