Periodically, I use this space to respond to questions I have received via email or during programs. My intent in sharing both questions and answers is to provide insight into the college-going process and stimulate conversation that leads to informed decision-making with regard to educational futures. As always, your comments are very much valued. To submit a question, contact me directly at Peter@BestCollegeFit.com.
I just learned that I was deferred (Early Action) at my first choice school. What kind of email should I write to the university’s rep to show that I am still extremely interested?
Sorry to hear about the deferral. At least you are still in the running. It is important that you communicate your continued interest—brief and to the point—to the institution’s regional recruiter for your region. Don’t try to contest the decision or ask for an explanation. Just plan to let your performance over the next two months do the talking.
My son just found out he was denied Early Decision at his first choice school. This is very disappointing because he was lead to believe, by the recruiting coach (NCAA Division III), that everything was looking good. He’s a very good student. Do we have any recourse in this matter?
Your son has just experienced the worst of what can happen in the athletic recruitment process. Coaches are not universally good about communicating their intentions with the young people they are recruiting. It sounds like this particular coach probably found somebody he liked better—and didn’t bother to let your son in on his change of heart. Unfortunately, your son probably has no recourse. If the institution had felt your son might be competitive otherwise, it would have at least deferred his application to the Regular Admission process. Hard as it might seem, he will be best served by moving on to plan B options.
My son wants to go to medical school. Would the BA or BS be a better choice for med school?
Generally speaking, the choice of BA or BS with regard to post-graduate directions matters less than nature of the student’s experience as an undergrad. The basic considerations of medical school admission committees tend to be 1) GPA in “pre-med” curriculum (a non-major sequence that typically includes two semesters of each of Biology, Calculus—or higher math, Physics, Inorganic Chemistry and Organic Chemistry), 2) overall GPA, and 3) MEDCAT results. Additional factors are the breadth of the overall academic experience as well as evidence that the candidate has taken advantage of opportunities to engage in relevant areas of science as an undergrad. This last consideration can carry significant weight as a tie-breaker.
I encourage prospective pre-med students to target undergrad programs that will give them opportunities for experiential learning (independent study, publishable research with faculty, etc.). For further perspective, you might make similar inquiries of medical school admission officers.
My daughter is a dual citizen (US and Canadian) attending school in Canada. She is looking at universities in both countries. We have recently moved to the US and have considered moving her, for her senior year, to a highly regarded school here. Would moving her for senior year look unfavorable on her applications? Which part of the application is best to explain the move?
I would not move your daughter unless she wants to do it, especially if she is benefiting from her current educational experience. Moreover, her international experience will be attractive to many US institutions. The move could actually prove to be disorienting to her at a critical time of her life. IF she does transfer, she should consider using a short-answer essay on her college applications to tell this part of her story.
Do you recommend any particular timing for taking the SAT’s in the junior year? My son is considering taking them in January, then again in the spring or next fall. What about the ACT?
I suggest that Juniors plan to take the SAT/ACT once in the early months of the year and once in the fall. If a third testing is desired, it might fit best in the late spring. If your son wants to sample the ACT, I suggest he do it as soon as possible. That way, if he chooses to pursue an ACT sequence instead of one with the SAT, he’ll have time to prepare accordingly.
My son is a sophomore who currently plays club soccer for a top-ranked team in the country. He is a good student and, as you can imagine, college coaches are starting to show interest. My question brings up the current dilemma facing college athletes. They are recruited to play sports and given athletic scholarships, but with that comes a commitment to train, travel and play to the point that there are only two calendar days per week for academics. If they don’t go pro or get injured, they can find themselves without useful degrees. What are your thoughts about college athletic scholarships versus the potential for immediate professional opportunities?
You are correct that the commitment to train/travel/play is considerable and strains the ability of even the most capable student athlete. As a result, many scholarship programs provide study halls and tutors for their athletes. Much of the eventual success depends, however, on the student’s initiative and self-discipline. Students like your son, for example, can have a satisfying athletic experience while pursuing a meaningful academic program.
As he engages in the recruitment process, your son should be particularly sensitive to the culture of the programs he is considering. How do they value and provide academic support? Ask to see the degree completion data for athletes over a five-year period. Identify the academic advisors to whom he will have access—and talk with them about their roles as well as the outcomes achieved by their advisees. This consideration can be just as important in finding a good institutional fit as is the potential to contribute on the field.
It probably won’t surprise you to know that his options with regard to scholarships and professional opportunities will be pretty well defined by the start of his Junior Year as coaches will be pushing top athletes for early commitments (the “squeeze”).
In the final analysis, taking advantage of an opportunity to play professionally, if it should be presented, would be very exciting and, potentially, lucrative. He certainly would have the opportunity to complete his education upon “retirement.” I would be cautious, though, about pushing that option as “life” often gets in the way of such planning. It’s an interesting conundrum, however. Good luck to your son with whichever direction he chooses!