One Final Push? 5 Questions To Decide Whether to Test One Last Time as a Senior

Megan Phillips of Endeavor Academics shares 5 questions that can help decide whether seniors should take the SAT or ACT one last time this Fall:

Registration deadlines for the first fall tests are fast approaching, and many seniors are wondering whether they should test one final time. If this sounds like you, these 5 questions will help guide you toward the right decision!

1. Will a score increase have a significant impact on your chances of admission?

Some students get caught up in continuing to test without considering whether an increase will make a meaningful difference in the admissions process. Reach out to your college counselor to discuss whether your goals require one final testing push or whether your energy is better directed toward your applications.

2. How much did you prepare for previous tests?

If higher scores are likely to make a significant difference in where you are admitted, be honest about how much you prepared for previous tests.  If you put in very little effort, you are likely to have more room to improve.  If you’ve done months of tutoring or completed a rigorous self-study and taken a lot of timed practice exams, you may have reached your maximum score.  

3. Do you have a new plan of attack for this final round?

Whether you prepared a lot or a little for your previous tests, you should only register to test again if you have a new plan of attack. If you haven’t prepared in the past, make a self-study plan, register for a class or sign up for tutoring. If you prepared for previous tests but have taken the past several months off, you need to review previous material and schedule out practice tests in the weeks leading up to the exam. If you have portions of the test that are still giving you trouble despite significant preparation, you might want to schedule sessions with a tutor. A great tutor can often zero in on strategy and pacing adjustments that can make a big difference in a relatively short period of time.

4. Do you have the energy to follow through on that plan?

Junior year can be exhausting. A lot of students are burnt out. Be honest with yourself about whether you are ready to put in the time and energy it will take to earn a significant score increase.  

5. Do you have the bandwidth to prepare while also completing essays and applications?

When you reach out to your counselor about whether a score increase will make a meaningful difference in your chances of admission, have a frank discussion about the time you will need to invest in completing your applications.  Will you have the energy and time to devote to both applications and test preparation?  You don’t want to put yourself in the position of not being able to do either well.  

Fall Test Dates

ACT date: September 9th, 2017 - to register, click here.  

  • Regular registration deadline: August 4th, 2017
  • Late registration deadline: August 5-18, 2017

SAT date: August 26th, 2017 - to register, click here.

  • Regular registration deadline: July 28th, 2017
  • Late registration deadline: August 15th, 2017

University of Texas Austin Undergraduate Application Requirements: Single Essay, Short Answer Questions, Nov. 1 Priority Deadline

The undergraduate admissions office at the University of Texas-Austin has announced changes to their application process for freshman applicants this fall. The changes, which apply only to the Austin campus in the University of Texas system, will be in place when students begin applying to fall 2018 on August 1.

These changes are:

Single Essay Requirement

All freshman applicants will be required to submit one essay -- in response to Topic A -- in ApplyTexas. The prompt for that essay is:

What was the environment you were raised in?  Describe your family, home, neighborhood, or community, and explain how it has shaped you as a person.

Other long-form essays in ApplyTexas (B, C, D, S, etc.) will no longer be needed for freshman applicants to UT-Austin

Short Answer Questions

All freshman applicants will also respond to three short-answer questions, focussed on the applicant’s (1) major/career interests, (2) academics and (3)leadership. The prompts for these short answers are:

Short Answer 1: Career Plans  
If you could have any career, what would it be? Why? Describe any activities you are involved in, life experiences you’ve had, or even classes you’ve taken that have helped you identify this professional path. 

Short Answer 2: Academics
Do you believe your academic record (transcript information and test scores) provide an accurate representation of you as a student? Why or why not?

Short Answer 3: Leadership
How do you show leadership in your life? How do you see yourself being a leader at UT Austin?

Responses are required items in UT Austin's ApplyTexas freshman admissions application.

Nursing applicants will submit an additional long-form essay (Essay N) outside the ApplyTexas process. Applicants to Social Work and Art/Art History will also submit an additional short answer response in ApplyTexas.

New Freshman Priority Deadline

The Office of Admissions and UT Austin’s freshman honors programs have adopted two application deadlines:

  • November 1 – Priority Application Deadline (notification no later than February 1)
  • December 1 – Regular Application Deadline (notification no later than March 1)

Priority notifications will include offers of admission to majors and acceptance to honors programs as well as deferrals. A deferral is a notification saying that a little more time is needed for the student’s final decision. Students who are deferred will receive final decisions no later than March 1.

ZeeMee - A Platform That Helps Students Bring College Applications to Life

We’ll fess up: For a long time, we were ZeeMee skeptics. ZeeMee is a free online platform that gives high school students the ability to document their story through images and video to help showcase themselves for college admissions. Here's an example:


There is a spot on the Common Application asking if you want to share your ZeeMee with partner colleges. We struggled with the fact that students may need to add one more significant component to their college application To Do lists—there is already so much being asked of students. However, we’ve been converted.

At a recent college consulting conference, we had the chance to hear a presentation from ZeeMee and local admissions reps. It was interesting to hear how the colleges are using the ZeeMee accounts. Many said that they view a student’s ZeeMee account if the student is on the line for admission. It was made clear that colleges do not look at it for every student. In addition, we heard from consultants who have used ZeeMee or some level of media (such as Slide Room) in their applications. Many of them felt that this addition greatly enhanced the applications of some of their students.

ZeeMee is a perfect place for students to store their independent projects, videos of that perfect strikeout pitch or recital, or the paper that stood out to your teacher in AP World History. More and more, we are noticing that schools are trying to dig deeper when it comes to assessing students—wanting to see examples of your skills and talents and of your intellectual curiosity. And showing them who you are is easy with ZeeMee. Another reason to use ZeeMee is simply to catalog and document all of the work you complete in high school. One of the biggest issues we have when trying to put together key items in your application is trying to remember where a paper or video is located. While you ultimately won’t use every single item you place in your ZeeMee account, being able to access all of these rich details in one place will only make the application process easier while also enhancing student profiles.

Before you rush out to hire a professional video person or photographer (or groan about what this will add to the already time-consuming process), we want to reiterate that ZeeMee is simply a type of locker to help students tell their stories. Colleges want to see the students’ authentic work, not fancy, over-the-top productions. In fact, a number of admissions reps pointedly mentioned that this would be a negative to them.

So, what does this mean for you? For our current class (as we have over last two years), we will let you know if we think a ZeeMee account would enhance your student’s application. This will be based on the colleges you are applying to. Currently, just over 200 colleges are partnering with ZeeMee. A few examples are TCU, Tulane, SMU, Carnegie Mellon, OU, Baylor, Texas Tech……….. We will also continue to be creative in our use of the Additional Information section of the application, which is where we tend to highlight the sort of information ZeeMee catalogs.

Is Early Decision Right for You? A Simplified Approach to a Complicated Question

Students and parents frequently ask us whether or not they should apply Early Decision to a college. It’s not an easy question to answer; not only because there are generally quite a number of options when it comes to when to apply, but also because a number of factors need to be considered. For a refresher on the main types of applications deadlines, check out our overview, Applications 101.

Now, let’s talk strategy. For better or worse, we live in an Early Decision world. Many highly selective colleges, including Vanderbilt, Pomona, Emory, Johns Hopkins, and Northwestern, fill nearly half of their classes via the Early Decision pool. And the acceptance rates are often significantly higher during the early decision round of admissions. Our good friends, Jeff Levy and Jennie Kent, created an annual spreadsheet showing the admissions rates for Early Decision as well as the percentage of the class filled with these early applicants.

The increase in the percentage of students being accepted in the early pool changes the dynamic in the regular decision pool as well. By the time the college considers regular decision applicants, they are often left with the need to round out their classes geographically, ethnically, and by interests/talents. When you look at the overall acceptance rate for a college, keep in mind that this is the average of the early acceptance rate and the regular acceptance rate. A high percentage of students accepted early decision drives down the acceptance rate at regular decision.

Knowing the stats, however, is just one piece of the puzzle. Before you commit yourself to a college via Early Decision, we recommend asking yourself a few questions:

  1. Is this college my clear favorite? I often suggest that students spend the night at the college to confirm that it is the right fit.
  2. Can my family afford this college? You should not apply early if you can’t afford it. You can use the college’s EFC calculator to determine possible aid. Another option is to call and speak with the financial aid office at the college.
  3. Will applying early significantly help my application? It really doesn’t make sense to apply early if you aren’t going to get an admissions bump out of it.
  4. How likely am I to change my mind? You know yourself. Do you often change your mind on big decisions or do you tend to make up your mind and stick with your decision? Early decision is binding and therefore not for the faint of heart.

Is your head swimming a bit? Selective college admissions involves complicated decisions that can have a huge impact. All that said, early decision is NEVER a good plan if the student does not have a clear favorite college. So, go back over that college list and see if there is one college that jumps out. If so, Early Decision might just be the right decision for you.

June Update: Possible UT Changes, Activities & Applications, Student Social Media, and More

UT Changes on the Horizon?

Always on the hunt for the latest scoop, we recently learned that UT is considering changes to the essays -for the 2017-2018 cycle. We have been in touch with admissions officers at UT and will know immediately once any changes have been confirmed. In the meantime, we have already tweaked our essay process to adjust for this, so any completed work has not been for naught--fear not! We will let you know as changes are announced (or scrapped) as well as any effect these changes may have on your student's application plan.

5 Myths About Activities and College Applications

When it comes to completing college applications, things have changed a lot over the years (and we don't just mean in terms of no longer having to use a typewriter to complete them!). Today, completing an application is a holistic process; in an ideal world, a student's essays, application, and academic record will all paint a picture of a student that gives a clear idea of what type of person he or she is, and what she plans to do in college and beyond.

To help you navigate this piece of the admissions process, we've debunked a few application myths and misconceptions. Read more....

What Admissions Officers Look For In An Essay

Nothing strikes fear in the hearts of rising seniors quite like the college essay. Students tend to think they must be something specific (insert your choice of adjective--funny, introspective, remarkable) when, in fact, college admissions officers really just want them to be, well, them. From demonstrating passion to revealing quirks, this US News piece reveals the types of college essays that stand out to college admissions officers at some of the nation's top schools.

Lisa & Bob on the Road: Trends to Watch

From our third national conference in recent months, we wanted to bring you the latest trends we are seeing in the college admissions process: 

  1. Increasing use of media/technology in applications: From asking for links to websites on resumes to allowing video uploads, colleges are incorporating digital media in applications. This is a great opportunity for students to showcase work and experiences where a traditional pen-and-paper explanation doesn't do them justice. One way students can start cataloging these types of materials is with a ZeeMee account (a free online resource that helps students build a digital story to share with colleges).
  2. More application options on the horizon: The biggest new player in this field is the Coalition Application, which rolled out to much fanfare (and more than a few stumbling blocks) last year. Far from going away, the tweaked Coalition application appears to be only growing in popularity with colleges, who are looking for new opportunities to learn about applicants. 
  3. Personalization is the future: From adding more (shorter, supplemental) essays to asking for ZeeMee links, colleges are seeking out any chance to really get to know a student. 

What Adults Regret Most About Their College Choice

Another college? Another major? When it comes to regret, adults are split on which aspects of their college education they regret the most. According to a recent study, there is a clear correlation between the level of degree attained, and the satisfaction with one's choices. Least happy with their decisions are those with some college experience, but no degree. In addition to providing useful ammo to parents with students who want to drop out of school, the stats from this study also point to important factors such as choosing the right school or course of study. Worth a look!

Student's Social Media Mistakes Can Have An Impact

You've heard the tales of the students who've had their acceptances revoked based on inappropriate social media posts. You've talked to your student about being careful what they Tweet or what pictures they upload to Instagram. But the savviest kids today are doing a lot more than just watching their tone online. From creating secret accounts (with fake names) to hiring companies to scrub their digital footprints, maintaining a clean online record has become a serious piece of the admissions puzzle.  

Preparing Students for Future Careers

Planning for careers after college ranks as the #1 concern for parents of high school juniors & seniors. And for good reason--studies indicate that students who explore possible career interests in high school (through job shadows, internships, summer programs, etc.) tend to be happier and more focused in their careers in their late 20s than students who waited until later to start "trying on jobs." But talking to students about future careers can be a delicate balance for parents, and 55% of high school students say that their parents are putting pressure on them to gain professional experience. So, how should you broach the subject? Read more...

14 Reasons to Ignore the US News Rankings

Parents and students alike pore over the annual US News College Rankings each year, adding or nixing colleges to their lists based on the rankings. We have learned much over the years about how these rankings are calculated--and have come to loathe the hold they have over the admissions process. From basing rankings largely on popularity to not factoring in essential elements such as student experience and debt load, we can think of more than 14 Reasons the US New College Rankings are Meaningless, but this article is a great start!

College MatchPoint Team Spotlight: Julie Richie, M.F.A

Born in Boston and raised in Connecticut and New Jersey, Julie attended Brown University where she studied political science, played soccer and lacrosse, and wrote for the Brown Daily Herald and the College Hill Independent. At Brown she met her husband, a native Texan, who wooed her to the Lone Star state. She has held a variety of writing and editing positions in public relations and journalism and received her M.F.A. in creative writing from Lesley University in 2011. She has been published in numerous regional and national publications and especially enjoys writing and editing creative nonfiction and has a particular interest in helping students uncover and write about their most interesting stories. For the past nine years she has successfully coached numerous students through the boarding school and college admission essay process. She loves the refreshing energy of students and is constantly inspired by their diverse interests and accomplishments. For many years, Julie also served as an alumni interviewer for Brown. She recently moved from Dallas to Austin, where she lives with her husband and two sons. When she is not working on her own writing projects or reading, you can find her cooking adventurous new recipes, hiking, or mountain biking.  

Overparenting and the Rise of Helplessness

Not all the kids are all right. That's because many parents have done so much for their kids--and for so long--that many young adults can't handle simple responsibilities like managing their own calendars or doing a load of laundry from start to finish. Often, the cycle starts early (ever "help" with a first-grade science diorama?) and ends up with a parent micromanaging a teens grades and college application process. We've all been there. You can break free from the overparenting trap--check out these tips from a former Stanford Dean (and author of How to Raise an Adult). 

Even those of us who don't fall into the helicopter parent category can still learn a thing or two about fostering agency and resilience in our kids. Fr om academic and emotional readiness to daily "adulting" tasks, this fantastic piece from the NY Times highlights a number of skills that young adults will need to master for success in college and beyond.

Soft Skills for Future Success

Yes, that degree in macroeconomics may pay the bills, but to truly succeed in the workplaces of the future, experts are pointing to a number of required skills that have less to do with a specific knowledge set and a whole lot more to do with the so-called soft skills (working well with others, being flexible, etc.). Discover the 5 future skills you need for success, as determined by more than 350 HR professionals from the world's largest companies.