Before the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964, many colleges and universities prevented African American students from applying or instituted strict acceptance quotas. Because of this obstacle to higher education, many colleges were founded, mostly in the American South, to serve members of the African American community. These schools, traditionally termed Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), still thrive today. Here are the top 5, according to U.S. News, and some of their most influential graduates!

 

Spelman College: Stacey Abrams- Abrams has moved on to become an influential politician. She was a member of the Georgia House of Representatives, and she now spearheads the movement “Fair Fight,” which campaigns against discriminatory voting laws.

 

Howard University: Chadwick Boseman- Boseman is renowned for writing, acting, and directing. He is most known for playing Black Panther in the Marvel Cinematic Universe from 2016 to 2019.

 

Xavier University of Louisiana: Regina Benjamin- Benjamin worked as the 18th Surgeon General of the United States.


Tuskegee University: Ralph Ellison- Ellison was a novelist who wrote many works. His most notable, Invisible Man, won the National Book Award in 1953. 

 

Hampton University: Booker T. Washington- Washington was a prominent leader in the African American community in the post-Civil War era. He advocated for upward mobility through education and entrepreneurship, rather than directly challenging Jim Crow segregation.

 

 

The Ivy League colleges have a long history of being ultra-selective, and many exceptionally-qualified candidates get turned from their doors. Why is that? Let’s take a look into Harvard’s admissions process and find out.

 

First, it is important to note that certain groups get preferential treatment in the admissions process. At Harvard, family members and friends of donors get flagged by the Office of Development for special consideration. While this flag doesn’t automatically mean that the student will be admitted, it does substantially tip the scale in the student’s favor.

 

Similarly, relatives of alumni, called legacies, have an advantage over non-legacies too. In fact, legacies are admitted at a 33% acceptance rate, a gigantic leap from the 5% acceptance rate experienced by non-legacies. Ultimately, about one in every seven Harvard students is a legacy.

 

The last group that has a significant edge over other applicants are athletes, particularly ones who play sports generally favored by the more affluent American population, like sailing, squash, fencing, and crew. Recruited athletes are accepted at an astonishingly high rate of 75%, but about 70% of these admitted athletes would not be considered qualified when compared to other applicants in the pool.

 

So what can you do to boost your chances of getting into an Ivy if you do not meet any of the above criteria? 

 

Fortunately, there is some light at the end of the tunnel. Harvard does not look only at academic scores, but instead assigns each application a personal and extra-curricular rating, as well as an academic one. Among this criteria, the academic rating has the least weight, because in reality, most applicants vying for spots at the top schools are academically qualified.

 

To stand out then, it is necessary to come across strong in the other two categories, the personal and extra-curricular areas. When writing your application, consider all of the aspects of what makes you YOU, and weave them together to create an effective narrative. Use the supplements to focus on an aspect of yourself that you didn’t reveal in the common app essay, and spin the whole picture. By the end of reading your application, admissions officers should be able to feel like they know the entire you!

 

To read more, check out this article, written by Jerome Karabel in The American Prospect.

 

We recently heard a heart-breaking story. The father of a graduating senior came to us seeking guidance and insight after his child graduated and applied, mostly unsuccessfully, to universities. This family was NOT our client. They didn’t understand why, with a 3.9 GPA and 1560 SAT, the student was rejected from over 15 US schools. We explained about how some schools want to see demonstrated interest. Other schools are looking for non-academic activities to round out their incoming class. But it seemed to fall on deaf ears. The parent repeatedly, in a mixture of disbelief and denial, came back to the scattergram which plotted his child’s theoretical admittance to most every school. We want to emphasize that each student is more than a combined GPA and test score, and that those scattergrams show data that is at least one year old.

Equally important, and usually understated, is having passion and showing passion. It is demonstrated in various ways. It’s not enough to focus on summer and holiday classes and competitions. Yes, that math olympiad competition is a passion, but it is only as a participant that a student contributes. And it’s yet another academic endeavor. Not every student is cut out to be the president or captain of various teams and clubs. Therefore, it’s important to find the passion and show potential colleges (and employers) how that passion has been realized. It’s something you do for the sheer joy of it, and the love of what you are doing outweighs any other considerations.

If a student’s  passion is math, then show us the passion. If the student can’t be THE leader of the math olympiad team, then it’s important to find individual ways to show a passion for math. How about tutoring and mentoring younger students either in the community or inner city, or even internationally via zoom? Or organizing math related games for neighboring children over the summer?

Identifying one’s passion is an exercise in emotional growth and maturity. It takes fortitude and a real evaluation of beliefs and perceptions, something generally new to teenagers,  to find out what makes a student truly light up, excitedly coming up with tons of ideas.

Essentially, a passion project is a first-hand experience with the innovation process, of bringing a service or product to life. It should have benefits for and also  impact upon other people. Showing us your passion will help the chances of being admitted to the dream school. And this process is also transformative and transferable to life.

And about the father’s child…the good news is that the student was accepted to one prestigious school – an international school that only looks at the hard numbers rather than the person.

Amy Garbis

Partner-Consultant

Engaging customer experience so that as an end result, we be CMSable. Leverage below the fold and finally gain traction. Generating bleeding edge and creating actionable insights.

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Lucinda Johnson

Support Staff | Gerwyn Financial

 

It’s national ice cream month, but before you go chill with some frozen treats, we have an analogy for you. College admissions requires a strategy, and fortunately for you, we have it—just think of college applications like building an ice cream sundae.

First, you have to have your solid base—your cup. Just like how you can’t build a sundae without a cup, you can’t start your applications without knowing where you want to apply. This summer is the time for college tours for rising high school juniors and seniors. Curate a list of colleges that you want to tour based off of your priorities and qualifications. See our “Time to Tour” blog for tips on how to tour colleges, and make sure you take notes on features that stand out to incorporate in your “Why *Insert School Name” essays later!

Second, it’s time to start building your actual sundae (your application) with your base flavor. Vanilla? Chocolate? Cookies and cream? You choose! This is the essay portion of your applications, and it’s all about making your essay showcase what makes you special and different from other applicants. So what’s your flavor?

Third, you have your second scoop of ice cream—the supplemental essays. This scoop is your second favorite flavor, or the part of yourself that you want to show that is second most important to demonstrating the entire you! Be careful to choose topics that are complimentary to the rest of your essay, meaning that together, the written parts of your essay should weave a narrative about who you truly are.

Fourth, your toppings, the strategic resume portion! So far, your application has the main components, the common app and supplemental essays, but what about the parts of you that aren’t included in just those essays? Everyone is more than just two flavors, so this is your place to show your oreos, M&Ms, and marshmallows. 

Finally, the whipped cream and cherry on top are your letters of recommendation. The key to this step is to ask 2-3 sophomore or junior teachers if they would feel comfortable writing you a STRONG letter of recommendation. Make sure you give them a date that is earlier than you actually need them, and ask early so that they don’t need to rush yours or make it seem generic.

Touring colleges can be tricky, but the summer is the perfect time to hit the road and start touring. We asked a college student her advice for how to best tour colleges, and here are her top three tips!

1) Add college tours onto family vacations to make them more fun. For example, if you are visiting Boston, check out Tufts and Boston University at the beginning of vacation, and Harvard and Boston College at the end. This will spread out the tours, and make them seem like less of a chore.
2) Don’t tour more than 2 colleges in a day. They all start to blend together, and it can get stressful!
3) Ask questions that you can’t find the answers to online. For example, try “What is the typical student like here?” and “What do students like to do on weekends?” These kinds of questions will help you determine what school may be the best fit.

Juneteenth celebrates the end of slavery in the United States. With the growing movement for Juneteenth to become a federal holiday, many colleges across the country are beginning to recognize its importance and celebrate it accordingly. For example, Johns Hopkins has promised to celebrate the holiday annually, and they are cancelling classes and other events on campus on June 18th (June 19th is a Saturday). The 18th will be a paid day for faculty and staff to allow all students and employees to observe the holiday.

In some places, states have made Juneteenth an official state holiday, like in Virginia. UVA has followed suit, and the university will be closed on June 18th as well. UVA’s Division for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion is also sharing resources and encouraging students and faculty to take advantage of the holiday to educate themselves with articles, podcasts, videos, etc.

These are just two examples of how colleges in America are increasingly adapting to the times and recognizing the importance of Juneteenth. If you are interested in learning more about other colleges and their initiatives, their websites and student-run newspapers are a great place to start!

Avoid the summer slump With a tutoring package!


What is summer slump? It’s that time of year when there’s no school and students forget much of what they’ve learned in the prior nine months.

Did you know that we offer tutoring packages from A Starting Line to help your student avoid the summer slump? We have a…

New Customer Special: Buy a package of 5 hours and get one extra hour for free.

Loyal Customer Special: Buy a package of 10 hours and get credit for an extra 90 minutes of tutoring for free!

Check out our fabulous tutors here.

Our tutors are experienced (in addition to being carefully vetted) in research/essay writing as well as in creative writing, math, science and foreign languages (French and Spanish). 

 

 

 

Research shows that completion of the first year of college makes you much more likely to graduate college three years later. Here are some tips to starting strong:

 

  1. Go to college for a reason! College is expensive, so if you don’t have a clear end goal, there is no point in accumulating debt without a degree in sight. Talk to your high school counselor and make sure that college is the right decision for you.
  2. Take the time to register for classes that interest you and fulfill your requirements. When building your schedule, make sure that you choose an appropriate combination of classes that are challenging, but not impossible. For example, if you sign up for a hard calculus class, also sign up for a dance class to ease your way into college.
  3. Study hard the first semester. This semester will dictate your baseline GPA, and the better you do the first semester, the better you will do the rest of your time in college.
  4. Talk with professors and connect. Whether through office hours, or just a friendly email, these connections are crucial, and may lead to internships, research opportunities, and jobs. Just as importantly, professors may turn into lifelong mentors.
  5. Don’t go home too often. If you want to make strong friendships, it is important to be on campus over the weekends to cultivate those relationships. Going home only makes coming back to campus harder, but the longer you stay on campus before going home, the better you will adjust and the less homesick you will be.

  • Start researching colleges and universities. Go to college fairs and open houses. Learn as much as you can about colleges online.
  • Begin planning college visits. Try to visit colleges near you over spring break. Include a large, medium size, and small campus.
  • Request recommendation letters from the counsleor and teachers.

Spring to-do’s

Juniors, here are tips on what to do as you embark on your college admissions journey.


  • Develop a preliminary list of colleges that interest you. Go online to request additional information.
  • Take a look at some college applications. Make note of all the pieces of information you will need to compile. Make a list of teachers, counselors, employers, and other adults who could write letters of recommendation.
  • Consider lining up a summer job or internship.

 

 

This Earth Day, we bring you an overview of environmentally-related college offerings. 

 

If you are interested in the environment, many schools have environmental science or environmental studies majors/minors. What is the difference between these two fields? Environmental science is often focused on preserving nature and Earth’s resources, whereas environmental studies looks at the interactions between environment, policy, economics, etc. The courses you can take to fulfill the environmental studies requirements are often interdisciplinary, which helps to build your critical thinking skills. For example, Hobart and William Smith College offers many cool courses in environmental studies, like Intro to Environmental Law and Environmental Change in the Indigenous World.

 

In addition, many colleges have Eco Reps, who promote sustainability through projects and community programs. Tufts University’s Eco Reps sponsor programs like a widespread Zero Waste Week Challenge, during which students are encouraged to carry around all of the garbage they produce in a bag, in order to dissuade waste production. The Tufts Eco Reps also put out an Eat Local Sustainability Guide, to promote nearby restaurants that buy their produce locally.

 

Furthermore, some schools have green living spaces in which students can choose to live. Dickinson College has “The Treehouse,” in which sustainability-minded students may choose to live. The Treehouse takes food from the dining hall that would otherwise be thrown away, and all of their extra foodstuffs go into the compost. In addition, while the house has a washer, they hang-dry all of their clothing to save energy. 

 

If you are interested in the environment, check out your prospective schools’ websites, and see if you are interested in their related majors, clubs, housing, etc. 

 

 

In honor of Alcohol Awareness Month and 4/20, we are dedicating this blog to campus party culture. Whether you would like a school with a vibrant partying culture, or one with no big parties at all, there is definitely a school out there for you. No matter what list you consult, some of the biggest partying schools include the University of Wisconsin, Tulane University, University of Alabama, Syracuse University, and University of West Virginia. On the flip side, Fordham College, Pepperdine University, West Point, and Brigham Young University are generally recognized as some of the colleges with minimal to no partying. 

 

In addition, each school has its own policy on drugs and alcohol. For example, some campuses are “dry” campuses, meaning that even after students turn 21, they are not permitted to drink on campus. Other campuses are “wet,” meaning that once students turn 21, they may consume alcoholic beverages on campus. Depending on your comfort level, these are some factors you can look into to help narrow down your college decision. 

 

Tips

  • Find your passion.
  • Secondly, get involved.
  • Thirdly, leadership doesn’t mean ‘president’.
  • Fourth, show initiative.

Admissions: forget the scatter grams


Times have changed

The pandemic has upended college admissions. The top 20-30 schools have seen their applications increase by anywhere from 20 to 50 percent as a result of going test optional or blind. Nearly 168,000 freshmen and transfer students applied to UCLA for fall 2021 admission, a 24.6% increase compared to last year, according to data released by the University of California Office of the President. Of those, 139,463 applied for first-year admissions, while 28,440 applied for transfer admissions. Applications at Tufts were up 35 percent from the previous year.

What college admissions offices noticed with the test optional/blind policy is that many underrepresented students were now applying. These students sometimes had quite stellar resumes filled with community and school leadership roles and landed some sweet acceptances at top schools.

This leads us to data and scatter grams. By the time data points show up in Naviance, the data is at least one year old. But without community and school leadership roles, those data points on scatter grams are meaningless. The top schools want a diverse student body; they want students who show initiative, leadership, involvement, empathy, business acumen, creativity etc. 

So, a near perfect test score coupled with a stellar GPA alone isn’t going to get a student into a top school – those days are gone. It’s all about strategy.

 

 

Happy National Stress Awareness Month! We know that the college admissions process can be stressful, but we are here to demystify the system and give you the information you need to make the right decision for you. They say a little stress is healthy, but if you aren’t someone who thrives under stressful conditions, then we recommend avoiding these schools with the most stressed students:

 

1- University of Pennsylvania

2- Massachusetts Institute of Technology

3- Cornell University

4- Northwestern University

5- Columbia University

6- Harvard University

7- Vanderbilt University

8- Washington University in St. Louis

9- Stanford University

10- California University of Technology

 

Note: This list was compiled from multiple sources that looked at the schools with the most stressed students. We combined the lists, based on how frequently different schools appeared, to form the list you see here.

 

Why volunteer? 

Most schools have a minimum requirement for volunteering in order to graduate. But that should not be the sole reason for volunteering. It’s a way to give back, to help others whether people, land or animals – volunteer for a better world. Volunteering is a great way to help you better understand yourself and what you value. Some people like to work with animals and spend part of a Saturday at an animal shelter; others enjoy serving food or loading trucks with food being distributed to families in need. Each school has its own rules regarding what can be counted for volunteering hours, so be sure to check with your school. And if your school doesn’t have a list of pre-approved volunteer organizations/opportunities, try Youth Service America for some excellent ideas.

Don’t forget, you can also design your own volunteer project, and YSA has advice on how to get started. Ultimately, volunteering should make the volunteer feel good about themselves.

What are your volunteering plans for this summer? How will you help make the world better?

irl girl power…

Happy Women’s History Month! Since the 1970s, Women’s Studies programs have been emerging on many college campuses across the nation. In the most basic of definitions, these programs allow students to study women’s lives and experiences with a cultural and social lens, considering how race, power structures, ideologies, institutions, etc., interact with gender.
When these Women’s Studies programs first began to appear with the advent of the Women’s Liberation movement, many were skeptical. Critics asked, “What can you DO with a Women’s Studies major?”
The answer is–pretty much anything! Interdisciplinary majors like Women’s Studies develop students’ analytical thinking, oral communication, and writing skills, all of which can be flaunted on resumes.

Women’s History Month

(by Emma Sonnenblick)


Top Women’s studies programs:

Where are the best Women’s Studies programs, you may ask? Here are the top 10, as of 2020:
1. Harvard University (Cambridge, MA)
2. Yale University (New Haven, CT)
3. Pomona College (Claremont, CA)
4. Amherst College (Amherst, MA)
5. Williams College (Williamstown, MA)
6. Swarthmore College (Swarthmore, PA)
7. Middlebury College (Middlebury, VT)
8. Bowdoin College (Brunswick, ME)
9. Wellesley College (Wellesley, MA)
10. Vanderbilt University (Nashville, TN)
These are only 10 out of the more than 800 programs across the country, so if you are interested, you have plenty of options!
University of Michigan women graduates, 1909

(published by Emma Sonnenblick)

Smith, Barnard, Bryn Mawr, Wellesley–what do all of these schools have in common? All of these schools are Women’s Colleges! When these schools were founded in the 1800s, many higher education institutions existed on the East Coast for men, and most of those colleges excluded women from admission. These four schools in particular were originally part of the “Seven Sisters,” which acted as counterparts to the male-only Ivy League schools, providing an educational equivalent to women from upper class families. 

 

Some historically all-female schools, like Vassar, went coed in the late 1900s. Others, like Radcliffe, got absorbed into traditionally male schools, with Radcliffe becoming a part of Harvard. Although many schools are now coeducational, some women still choose to attend all-female schools because of the unique environment they offer. 

 

Atessa F. (Smith College, 2020) shared some of the benefits of the all-female college experience, saying, “I loved going to a historically women’s college because it gave me the confidence to not only pursue a major in a traditionally male-dominated discipline [math], but to participate confidently in all aspects of my community.”

 

The all-female schools named above (and others!) continue to offer this special opportunity for women to excel in the academic sphere without intimidation from, or competition with, men.  

 

    • 70% of Georgetonians marry other Georgetonians.
    • Yale students get assigned to one of fourteen houses, which they will remain in for the entirety of their time at Yale. Each year, the residential colleges compete in an intramural competition for the Tyng Cup.
    • At Swarthmore, all grades are pass/fail for the first semester.
    • At Franklin and Marshall, you can find charging outlets in the trees.
    • The campus of American University is an accredited arboretum.
    • Tufts students can apply to Tufts School of Medicine in their sophomore year of college without taking the MCAT and gain admission through the early assurance program, guaranteeing them a spot in the med school after they graduate.
    • Columbia’s student center sells Broadway tickets for only $2.
    • More of Google’s employees come from Stanford than any other school.
    • Oberlin’s art museum rents out paintings by famous artists like Renoir and Picasso for only $5 a semester. What a way to decorate your room!
    • Students at Villanova have the opportunity to apply for the Vatican Internship Program, in which they manage the Pope’s social media accounts.
    • University of California-Los Angeles has the best food of any college campus.
    • Harvard has the highest percentage of students living on campus, with 99% of the undergrad population in the residential system.
    • In New England,  KeeneState_ is the only state college or university with a bachelor’s program specializing in #Holocaust and #Genocide Studies.

 

 

How do I compare colleges if I can’t visit?

Before comparing colleges, look inward to assess your likes and motivations. Critical thinking is more important now than in the past.  What is important for you to have in your college? Do you want football games on the weekends and crowds that have huge school spirit? Do you want small classes where you can ask more questions and have discussions with your professors?

 

Being able to ask the ‘why’ questions is crucial. Why did you make certain academic choices? Why did you choose specific clubs/activities? Why do you want to go to college? What is most important to you in your ideal college?

 

Begin to search for colleges that match your interests, goals, and what’s important to you. You can use average GPA and test scores, potential majors, and other factors to help you narrow it down.

 

Sign up for email from schools to receive information from them. 

Virtual College Tours

Many colleges have canceled their on-campus information sessions and tours, so what can a student do to find deeper info on a college? Go to colleges’ websites and register for their virtual tours to show your interest. 

Also, demonstrate interest by getting on the schools’ mailing lists. Read the emails from the colleges and click on some links in the correspondences to learn more.

Virtual college fairs are a thing. You might check out the following for more info:

NACAC National College Fairs

 

 

Do you have a high school junior? Winter and Spring are very busy times for Juniors wanting to go to college. Let’s focus on the NOW. Here’s a list of some things you should be doing in your prep for college admissions.

Winter is the perfect time to look at free, personalized, SAT test prep at Khan Academy. Students can take eight full-length, real practice tests and content is created in partnership with College Board (the creators of AP). We recommend getting started here before paying for a test prep tutor. 

There is also the ACT test. On their site, they also offer some free prep materials.

Winter is the time to identify challenging classes for the senior year. For some students, this means honors while for others it means AP. And some students will end up taking a class or two that are mid-level courses. This is fine as long as the student also takes a good number of more challenging classes.

If your 11th-grader takes AP or other advanced classes, have him or her talk with teachers now about taking these tests in May.

Also, from the comfort of home, your student can begin attending virtual college fairs to learn more about schools.