BCF Readers’ Forum XVI

Dear Peter,
My son was just admitted to a selective university in their Early Decision Round II. While we received some financial aid from them, I’m wondering if we should send out emails to the other, even more selective colleges to which he applied asking if they can speed up the decision process. If he gets into one of them with better financial aid, then I could ask the ED school for more. If they don’t give us more grants, then that would give us an excuse to get out of the ED.

Dear Mike,
When your son applied ED, he gave up the right/opportunity to compare financial aid awards. While he might appeal his financial aid award at the ED school, at the end of the appeal process he will need to withdraw all other active applications and commit to the ED school. The time to reconcile the financial aid situation was before the ED application was submitted. By applying ED, he (and you) agreed that any contingent matters that could stand in the way of his enrollment had been fully resolved. By trying to play one school against another while committed ED, he risks losing all potential offers of admission. Many of these schools compare ED acceptance lists and he doesn’t want to be seen as failing to honor his ED commitment.

Dear Peter,
We were recently bombarded with college letters for our sophomore daughter. The letters all appear to have been robo-generated and arrived within a day of each other. Each is particular to that college but largely the same. In your presentation, you mentioned a student who didn’t get into his desired college because he neglected to respond to a simple survey sent to him. Would this count for these robo-generated mailings? Are these legitimate?

Dear Annie,
The barrage of letters your sophomore received is not unusual. Colleges invest heavily in “lead generation.” They buy names of students (often in excess of 100,000 names) whose credentials would put them on the institution’s “competitive playing fields.” A common indicator of this is performance on tests (SAT, ACT, AP) combined with other self-reported information (GPA, academic interest, etc.). Selected students then receive introductory materials that are designed to pique their curiosity, if not impress them.

While the deluge can, at first, generate excitement, the “ego” mail soon begins to feel like “junk” mail and much of it is understandably discarded. On the other hand, if your daughter receives information from colleges that have programs and educational environments that might be of interest to her, she should respond. It is likely that most of these schools will continue to reach out to her, so she will no doubt have future opportunities to engage them when she is ready. Responding will put her on the institution’s radar screen and set up the potential for more substantive exchanges (including surveys) in the future.

Dear Peter,
My son has been notified that he is either a semi-finalist or finalist in merit scholarships at a number of excellent schools. These were all regular decision applications and therefore he has not received formal acceptances from them. Would you say it is safe to assume that if he named as a scholarship candidate and is being asked to send additional information for the scholarship that he will be receiving an acceptance to the school?

Dear Ali,
It would be logical to assume that your son is someone of real interest to these schools—they’re not going to be waving scholarship opportunities in front of weak candidates! That said, he needs to stay engaged (respond to requests for information about the scholarships, participate in interviews when offered, visit the campus and meet with professors in his academic area of interest).

Short of receiving actual letters of acceptance, however, nothing is guaranteed. IF admission officers sense any disinterest on his part or that he is leaning toward another school, they might decide not to admit him. Bottom line: it is much better to be part of these conversations than not!

Dear Peter,
My daughter is a high-achieving student presently doing a gap year in the Czech Republic. She will be entering 10th grade in the Fall. She is interested in enrolling at an IB secondary school in Prague that is run in close alignment to the British educational system. However, she is pretty certain that she will want to go to an American university.

What issues will she confront when applying to American colleges, having come from a non-USA IB institution of British pedigree? And importantly, want can she do in her three years to showcase and/or mitigate that peculiarity to the satisfaction of American colleges?

Dear Mark,
It sounds like your daughter is enjoying a remarkable cross-cultural learning experience! Continuing her education in Prague would be incredibly broadening and enlightening—a rare opportunity!

The good news is that the IB is universal in its curriculum and assessment. While it might take on the nuance of the local milieu, it is nonetheless recognized as a premier, if not the premier, academic program in the world. As you probably know, the IB was created to give students studying outside of the USA an opportunity to prepare to compete for admission and succeed in the classroom at the most selective institutions in this country. I do not foresee any circumstance in which this experience would compromise her future college applications.

My advice to your daughter would be to soak it all in. If she continues to work hard and squeeze everything she can from the experience, she’ll have a compelling story to tell when applying to colleges in the USA.

Dear Peter,
What do colleges mean when they say they want to see four years of study in a particular discipline? Does French I–IV (in 8th–11th grade) cover it or do they mean they’d like someone to study French all the years they’re in high school?

Dear Jill,
When colleges talk about four years of study, they are referencing grades 9-12. Work done in 8th grade generally doesn’t qualify.

Dear Peter,
My daughter has received acceptances to a great public Ivy school and to a highly regarded pharmacy program within a large out-of-state, state university. She has just received preliminary award letters from each school and they are very different. The public Ivy school has left a gap of $18,000 whereas the state school has left a gap of $35,000 per year. Is it appropriate to approach the state school to ask for a better offer and if so what is the best way to go about this? Is it realistic to think that this difference in award can be bridged or do some schools simply have more money? I would like her to be able to weigh up her options from a level playing field. As it stands right now the state school is out of her reach financially.

Dear Leanne,
You can always ask for reconsideration from the out-of-state university. If you do, you might present the other financial aid award as evidence of what the competition has to offer. I wouldn’t expect much from the appeal, though, as state university award processes are likely to be more formula driven and any discretionary funds are likely to go to the in-state kids first.

BTW, your daughter’s interest in pharmacy is likely to require graduate school at which time she might choose the program at the state university for the pharmacy degree. If that is the case, she can have the best of both worlds with these two schools.

Dear Peter,
My daughter has been admitted Early Decision to her number-one choice. We are proud of her acceptance and have sent in our confirmation and our early deposit money.

Here’s the problem—she made some bad decisions and let her academic work slip in the second marking period. She got a 76 and 77 in two classes. All of her classes are AP and honors, but still, she dropped 12-15 points in those two classes AND they happen to be classes related to her intended major.

Her ED school requires mid-year grades to be sent. What should she do? Do we wait for them to say something? Or, should my daughter reach out to the regional admission rep and explain herself.

Dear Mary,
“Stuff” happens and right now it is best that your daughter get out in front of it. Better to own the situation than have to defend it in the face of questions.

The same thing happened to my grandson a couple of years ago with a slightly different twist. The difference: he hadn’t been admitted yet. The same day he received an email request from his ED school for his mid-year grades, the grades were revealed to him. He had gotten a D in Physics and was understandably mortified. We talked and he came to understand the need to own the situation.

He wrote a brief email to the regional recruiter in which he acknowledged that she would be seeing a significant drop in one of his grades. He explained that he had allowed himself to become distracted by his involvement with his travel soccer team (a week in Florida in early December for a tournament) and, as a result, found himself in a bind with Physics. Nonetheless, he offered no excuses and asserted that he was embarrassed by the outcome: “this isn’t who I am and promise you I don’t want to ever let it happen again.”

The admission officer wrote back somewhat incredulously: “Thank you…we never hear this kind of explanation from students…I’ll share this with my colleagues and get back to you. ”He was subsequently admitted.

I suggest your daughter follow a similar approach. There is no need to get into all the details. In her own words, she simply needs to take responsibility. She had allowed herself to be distracted by her non-academic involvements at the expense of her attention to classroom assignments.

I would add it is highly unlikely the college will revoke her offer of admission. They will, however, continue to watch her performance through the end of the year (yes, June!) and, if these grades prove to be a troublesome trend, she could then lose her place in the class.

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