As it’s now mid-August, many parents of rising seniors think it’s too late to help their children navigate the highly selective college admissions process. Well, we’ve got some good news. It’s not too late. Now, are there some mistakes that we won’t be able to correct when students come to us at Ivy Coach during the summer before their senior years? Yes. If there were AP tests they should have taken, the window to take AP tests — the results of which colleges will be able to see — has passed. If they took AP U.S. History back in 10th grade and never took the SAT Subject Test in U.S. History, it’s likely they’ve forgotten the material to ace the exam. And so on. But it may surprise our readers to know that many mistakes — in fact, the vast majority of mistakes — can still be corrected prior to senior year. Today, we figured we’d address four common misconceptions of high school seniors and their parents.
Misconception #1: It’s Too Late to Fix Course Mistakes
When seniors and their parents write in, we recommend Ivy Coach’s one-hour evaluation in which we map out corrections to courses, testing, extracurriculars, the Early Decision / Early Action strategy, and more. Yet a number of these seniors think to themselves (or sometimes say out loud), “I don’t need help with course corrections. I took all the right courses. My courses for next year are set. I need help with my essays.” Wrong. Helping with essays — and how students tell their stories — is a big part of what we do at Ivy Coach. But if students aren’t in the right coursework, it doesn’t matter how great their essays are because those course mistakes, often unbeknownst to them, are going to preclude their admission to highly selective colleges. It could be a course they should have taken last year or, more likely, it’s a course they should be taking over senior year.
Remember, most high school counselors don’t know what kinds of courses admissions officers at highly selective colleges want to see. So, as an example, even though a school counselor may have recommended AP Statistics as a student’s senior year math class, well, AP Statistics doesn’t count as math to our nation’s elite colleges. It’s a major mistake that demonstrates a lack of intellectual curiosity to colleges — and it’s a correctable mistake. Yes, even though students may think their senior year courses are set in stone, they can absolutely be changed. And just because a school doesn’t offer certain courses doesn’t mean a student can’t take courses outside of their school not only to stand out from other applicants applying to highly selective colleges — but to stand out from other applicants applying from their very high school.
Misconception #2: Colleges Are Test-Optional This Year So Test Scores Aren’t Important
Do remember that these colleges that vow they really are test-optional this year are the same schools that vow they’re need-blind, that they don’t take into account a family’s ability to pay full tuition. If that were true, then why do the vast majority of our nation’s elite colleges ask on their supplements — which admissions officers are privy to — if students need financial aid. Yes, colleges don’t always tell it like it is. Shocking, we know. In fact, colleges often outright lie. This includes when it comes to the submission of test scores for applicants to the Class of 2025.
Submit no test scores at your peril. Our nation’s elite colleges still want to see a great SAT or ACT score. They still want to see great SAT Subject Tests. They still want to see top AP scores. So if you haven’t yet taken an SAT or ACT or those SAT Subject Tests, make sure you’re signed up for each upcoming administration. And if there’s no upcoming administration in your neck of the woods, get in the car and drive if you can to the nearest open test center. Make it an adventure with your parents.
Misconception #3: My Child Already Knows Where They’re Applying Early
That’s great. But if your child is applying to a school at which they have absolutely no chance on God’s green earth of earning admission, wouldn’t you want to know before your child wastes his or her all-important Early card, the most valuable card a student has in highly selective college admissions? If your argument is that you never want to wonder throughout the rest of your life if your daughter could get into Harvard — and that’s why your daughter will be applying Single Choice Early Action to Harvard this fall — then allow us to give you some medicine. If your child has no shot of getting into Harvard EA, then not only will she not get in but she is jeopardizing her admission to a school that she just might get into if she applied Early — but may very well not get into if she applies Regular Decision. Maybe UPenn, Brown, Dartmouth, Columbia, or Duke would be feasible if she applied ED but will be out of reach in RD.
There is a great opportunity cost in applying to an impossible reach in the Early round. In fact, pursuing impossible dreams is the single biggest mistake that many students make in highly selective college admissions. During Ivy Coach’s one-hour evaluation, we’ll let you know what your child’s Early strategy should be with the help of our extremely accurate crystal ball — even if it means bursting a bubble. You see, we don’t sugarcoat. If a student has a shot at Harvard EA, they’ll find that out during the course of our evaluation. And if they don’t have a shot, they’ll find that out too — along with a recommended strategy of where they should be applying to in the Early round.
Misconception #4: My Child Needs Help with Essays, Not with Corrections to Courses, Testing, Extracurriculars, Early Strategy
Nonsense. A big reason why our students at Ivy Coach so often earn admission to their dream schools — as 100% of them did this past Early Decision / Early Action cycle — is they dare admissions officers not to admit future change-makers, young people who are going to change the world in super specific, often small ways. And our students showcase that dare through their powerful essays. But for those parents and students who think to themselves (or say aloud), “My child doesn’t need help with course and test corrections. He knows where he’s applying Early. So the one-hour evaluation isn’t right for us. We just want help with essays,” well, they just don’t get it. You see, before we work on essays, we need to come up with a hook for our students. Sometimes, students have a hook and they just don’t realize it — and certainly had no intention of writing about it in their essays. A big part of Ivy Coach’s one-hour evaluation is identifying that very hook. It’s a key ingredient to the secret sauce of Ivy Coach’s students’ essays. And our secret sauce, well, it’s delicious.
But there is no sense working with a student on their essays if they’re in the wrong courses, if they’re not signed up for the right tests, if they’re not applying to the right school(s) in the Early round. And while many college counseling firms will offer to help rising seniors with their essays right out of the gate, these firms are doing a great disservice to students because no matter how great their essays are, if — as but one example — they’re in AP Statistics in lieu of math as a senior, they’re going to have a tough time earning admission to their dream school.
Why the One-Hour Evaluation is the Only Pathway to Working with Ivy Coach
If you’re a rising senior or the parent of a rising senior and you understand why Ivy Coach’s one-hour evaluation is necessary — and why we won’t help students with essays right out of the gate — then fill out our free consultation form and we’ll be in touch with more details on our one-hour evaluation. It’s also important to keep in mind that whether you work with Ivy Coach beyond that one-hour session or not, you’ll come away with a roadmap for what needs to be done to optimize your case for admission. So if you choose to go it alone or if you choose another college counselor, at least you’ll always have Ivy Coach’s roadmap in the back of your mind.
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