Author Archives: Sheriff Guirguis

US University Admissions – Spring 2013 Issue

This time of year is always fraught with excitement, nervousness, and ultimately relief as we receive phone calls and e-mails from grads about where they have been admitted. We share in your joys, disappointments, and your confusion as you come to grips with the responses and make your final decisions.

Fortunately for most, there was more joy than disappointment this year. However, there was also frustration with increased wait-lists and heated competition across the board, particularly for the Ivies.

We are pleased to say that overall, there was excellent news and everyone has a college or university that is a great fit, one where they can succeed.

The Dreaded Wait-List: Moving the Dial

For those of you who were wait-listed, you are in good company. Colleges are using the wait-list more heavily this year because they are trying to manage their yields and have no way of predicting how many of the admitted students will take them up on their offer of admission. Additionally, applications were up in record numbers at many colleges/universities. As a result, schools are using the wait-list for students that are qualified and that they would love to admit if they had the space. Therefore, as they see who matriculates and who doesn’t, they can easily go to their wait-list and call or e-mail the applicant who best matches the type of person they need to create a well-rounded class. Each student will have to matriculate at one university by May 1 and then colleges will move to their wait-lists. If you are wait-listed and are later admitted to another university you wish to attend, you must send in a second deposit to this university and notify the original university that you will not be attending. You will, of course, forfeit the first deposit.


1) Because they don’t have enough slots for all the students they want to accept. 2) To determine if a student is truly interested in coming to their school. 3) To manage their yields and only accept students as others do not matriculate. 4) To manage enrolment by not having to offer financial or merit aid to wait-listed students.


1) Write a letter to let the college know that it is your first choice school and that you will enrol if admitted (if this is true) 2) Imagine what you would do as a student at this college/university. Try to communicate this effectively to admissions. Be very specific! 3) Send the letter out quickly to show that you are truly interested in the school and it is not an afterthought.

I have seen students successfully get off the wait-list each year, so being wait-listed is not without hope. However, I recommend moving forward with your other options with a positive mindset. For those students who were deferred in the early round and then wait-listed in the regular round, the chances of coming off the wait-list is more slim.

Finally, if you know that you are NOT going to one or more colleges to which you have been admitted, let them know as soon as possible so that they can inform another student who is on their wait-list. This is often done online but might vary by university.

Make sure you send in the required deposit to one school to which you have been admitted by the May 1 deadline- even if you’re still waiting to hear from a school where you’ve been waitlisted. If admitted to a wait-listed school that you prefer to attend, you must send in a second deposit to reserve your spot and let the first school know that you will now be attending a school where you managed to get off the wait-list.

US University Admissions – Winter 2013 Issue

Happy New Year! First off, congratulations to most of you on completing all of your applications and to those of you who were accepted Early to any of your universities. If you were accepted Early Decision you can relax (somewhat, but not too much!) for the rest of the year. Also remember to contact the remaining universities to which you have applied to let them know that you have been accepted ED somewhere else.

We are looking forward to working with you in 2013. Below are some tips on how to make the process a success and hopefully reduce stress along the way.


For students planning their schedules, the goal is to create a schedule that will challenge but not overwhelm you. Challenge yourself in your areas of strength and yes, take the honors or AP level if you can get an 80 or better without throwing the rest of your schedule off kilter. So how do you do this? Below are some tips to help manage the process:

      1. Identify your goals for college. If you know that you would like to be competitive for a highly selective college (those accepting fewer than 35% of their applicants), then your schedule should be the most challenging for you. If you do not care about attending a highly selective college, then you have more leeway in selecting your classes.
      2. Push yourself beyond your comfort zone in areas of strength. Go through your current classes and identify which subjects come most easily to you. For those subject areas that come easily for you, it is important to push yourself further. If you are very strong in English and foreign languages, then you should be taking the highest level in those subjects. If you spend all of your time studying an Honors Math class and are still barely getting a B, then you should drop down to a lower level. If, however, you are taking Honors Math, Spanish, and English and working hard, but not killing yourself, and getting a B or better, then that is the correct level.
      3. Go for your interests. Once you have fulfilled all of your graduation requirements, it is time to take classes that interest you. So if you have a passion for science and no interest in foreign languages, it may be okay to double up on science senior year and not take another year of foreign language. The key is to substitute equally rigorous classes in your area of interest.
      4. Know your limitations. Some students overshoot what they can handle and that can end up just as problematic. Most college students take between four to five classes per semester. So if you have four AP classes along with all your other classes and activities, that may be too much. Determine if you do better under pressure with a lot going on or if you get overwhelmed. The most successful students understand their strengths and weaknesses and work with them.


Students are advised to begin test preparation in grade 10 and aim at completing all required standardized testing by the end of grade 11. For details regarding our SAT and ACT classes, offered in collaboration with Can-Am Learning Academy, please refer to the Workshops & Classes page on my website: To register, email:


Testing is a necessary evil for getting into college. So the key is to find the test that works best for you. Colleges accept both the ACT with writing and the SAT. So what’s the difference? The ACT tends to be more straightforward and also has a science section. The SAT tends to ask trickier questions and students with a good vocabulary can shine in the SAT.

For the math sections, if you are a really good math student in class, work fast, can memorize four pages of formulas, and hate being tricked – go for the ACT. If, on the other hand, you are great at logic problems, like figuring out puzzles and hate the idea of studying and memorizing formulas, the SAT is probably better for you.

Here are the key differences between the two tests:

What is being tested – The SAT is more of a logical reasoning test using numbers than a math test. The ACT is a traditional test of high school math skills.

Level of content – SAT covers arithmetic, algebra plus some geometry and algebra 2 concepts (lower level math). The ACT covers content through pre-calculus (higher level math).

Use of Formulas – The SAT provides you with all the formulas. For the ACT, you will need to memorize approximately four pages of formulas. However, it is legal to pre-program your calculator with most of these formulas, which we highly recommend.

Trickery – The SAT is full of tricks (remember, it is more of a reasoning test than a math test). The ACT is a more straightforward test.

Timing – The SAT allows for more time per question than the ACT: 1 minute & 20 seconds for each question on the SAT compared to 1 minute per question for the ACT.

Penalty for Wrong Answers – The SAT takes off 1/4 point for each wrong answer, whereas there is no penalty for wrong answers on ACT. However, it is still to your advantage to make an educated guess on the SAT if you can eliminate two or more wrong answers.

There are specific techniques to prepare for each of these tests and preparing for one test will not necessarily help you prep for the other. Pick the test that plays to your strengths and do the best that you can!


1) Know which test you are going to take. Both tests are equally accepted so if you can focus your energy and time on the test that suits you best, you are ahead of the game.

2) Decide if you do better learning in a group class or with one-on-one tutoring. Both are effective, however, self-studying is a must as well!

3) Allow enough time to prepare. Most people do better when they have ample time to prepare. Allow at least three to four months of preparation before the test. As grade 10’s, you can also spread it out over time and do things like “SAT Question of the Day” or use other sites to help you break it down over a longer period. However, some people only do well with a deadline hanging over their head. So get into our prep course and do the homework each week. This will give you a deadline each week and keep you on track.

4) Figure out if you need and are eligible for extended time. I’ve had clients with learning disabilities who have improved their scores by upwards of 300 points just by getting the proper documentation to prove they need extended time. See me for details.


Twenty minutes of consistent SAT/ACT practice in the days and weeks following your test prep class, while the strategies are fresh in your mind, is equal to one hour of practice per day later. Between now and May/June, spend 20-30 minutes per day on SAT or ACT practice. Remember, the difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little extra!


Your grade 11 year is a great time for visiting universities to get a sense of what you like and dislike about schools. In the coming months, some good times to schedule visits campus are during spring break in March, Easter long weekend in April, or the Victoria Day long weekend in May.

For trip planning tips and a list of universities to visit, please come in for a consultation.

Here are some tips for university visits:

      • Check the Admissions website for each university and look up times when campus tours and information sessions are offered.
      • Most campus tours & information sessions do not require appointments but make sure you make an appointment if one is required.
      • Plan your visit when classes are in session to get a better feel for each university. Check the university calendar for dates when students are away for spring break or a holiday.
      • It is feasible to visit 2 campuses on one day if the distance to travel between them is short. However, it is best to schedule one campus visit per day.
      • Allow for time to walk around on your own, visit the student center, eat a meal in the cafeteria, meet and talk with students, sit in on a class (must be pre-arranged), or meet with a coach if you’re an athlete.


If you’re applying for aid, now is the time to complete the CSS Profile forms available through the College Board website. Each private university will have its own deadline. You will need to send reports to colleges at your expense. The CSS Profile has a non-custodial version and allows room for explanations. See:


Remind your school counselors that mid-year school reports are due early to mid-February. These are sent through the site. Any new accomplishments you have may be included in this report, along with updated transcripts, and sent to all the universities to which you have applied.


UBC applications are due January 31. There are short 100 and 200-word essays so leave plenty of time for completing your application.


In the next few weeks, you will very likely be contacted by alumni of the universities you’ve applied to for interviews. Here are some interview tips:

      • Make eye contact with the interviewer.
      • Have a firm handshake.
      • Take 2 copies of your brag sheet/personal accomplishments profile/résumé.
      • Be prepared to explain to the interviewer why you’re applying to this university.
      • Relax and think of it more as a conversation than an interview.

Grade 12 Students

      • If you haven’t come in for a mock interview, make an appointment asap.
      • If you were deferred, we need to discuss an action plan and draft a letter to any universities to which you were deferred.
      • Remind your school counsellors that mid-year reports must be sent out to universities by the university’s February deadline.
      • Take up the top two universities you’ve been accepted to, on their offer for a campus visit. You’ll have a good idea whether the university is a good “fit” after your overnight stay with current students, and you will already have a small circle of friends when you enrol in the fall.

Grade 11 Students:

      • If you haven’t made plans for a productive summer, it is imperative that you come in right away to discuss your summer options.
      • This spring is the time to do a needs assessment in order to begin working on your preliminary college list.
      • Let’s meet to discuss your course selection prior to finalizing your course schedule for next year.
      • Send us copies of new score reports for the SAT and ACT as soon as you have them.
      • Send us feedback on any college visits so we can continue to refine your college list.

Grade 10 Students:

      • If you haven’t made plans for a productive summer, it is imperative that you come in right away to discuss your summer options.
      • Discuss your course selection with us prior to finalizing your list of courses for next year.
      • A review of your extracurricular activities and leadership roles should be done at the same time.
      • Now is the time to begin preparation for your standardized tests.
      • If you want to start testing the waters and visiting some universities to get a sense of what you like and dislike, let us know and we’ll map out a plan.

Grade 9 Students:

    • It’s a good time to meet to get an overview of what to expect and plan out next year’s classes and activities.

Please call us in the New Year to schedule a meeting if you want to go over college visits, revisit your plan for the academic year, or draw up your college list, etc.

Happy Holidays to all. Here’s to a great New Year!

US University Admission – FALL 2012 Issue

Welcome back to school. I hope that everyone enjoyed their summer break and is powered up for a good academic year.

Below is a time-line for grads in order to have their applications ready to submit for early deadlines of Nov. 1 or Nov. 15. Even if you are not going to apply early decision or early action, it is a good idea to work towards that deadline, especially since many of the larger state schools have priority deadlines which you do not want to miss! For the University of California system schools (UCLA, UC Berkeley, etc.) the deadline is Nov. 30.


The time is now…get organized and finalize your plans.


  • Last call for standardized testing. The fall is the last testing date that will get in for early applications, so whether you want to improve your scores one more time or you need some additional Subject Tests, it is a good idea to register asap. If the testing centers are full, you have the option of going across the border.
  • Do not schedule any holiday trips in December, unless you are 110% sure that you will be done with applications and will be able to relax and go on holiday before the January 1 application deadline.
  • Register for the Common Application. Set up an account and download the list of schools to which you will be applying. See me for help, particularly in organizing the list of extracurricular activities, academic awards, and for the writing portion.



  • Write, rewrite, and finalize your main 500-word essay.
  • Visit schools. The Canadian Thanksgiving is a opportunity to visit college. If possible, schedule an interview.
  • Finish your College List. Identify your final list of universities and decide if you want to apply somewhere early decision, which is binding or early action, which is non-binding, if available. Prioritize your applications by interest and difficulty of the application.
  • If you are not applying early decision, your goal is to have two to three “reach” schools, which may be challenging to gain admission to, three or four ”target” schools you think you might possibly be accepted in, three or four universities you are “likely” to get in, which will be your “safety” schools.
  • Register for National Portfolio Day if you are submitting an art portfolio. This offers you an opportunity to have your portfolio reviewed by numerous art schools at the same time and get feedback to improve your portfolio before a final submission. National Portfolio Day Link
  • Ask your teachers to write you a letter of recommendation at the beginning of the school year, before they get too busy. Enter their email information into the commonapp so they have access to the required forms.
  • Schedule an interview, if appropriate, for your schools. Other schools will contact you as soon as they begin processing your submitted application.
  • Schedule an audition, if applicable. The deadline for this varies by school.
  • Fill out your CSS Profile, if you’re applying for financial aid. You may submit the CSS profile as early as September with an estimated income tax form.



  • Register for State School Applications. Many state schools, including the University of California system schools, do not participate in the common application, so you will need to set up a separate account for each school. Do not despair, though, because you can often reuse the same personal statement that you write for the common application schools.
  • Download Supplements to the Common Application. In addition to the main essay and short answer questions, many colleges require supplemental essays or forms. Colleges make their supplement to the common application available at different times, so keep checking over the next few weeks.
  • Take Last-Minute SAT Subject Tests or SAT/ACT Tests. Yes, if you take the October SAT or ACT, it will count toward an early decision application. The ACT also offers a test in September.
  • Finish Applications for Early Decision or Early Action. This is the time to get all your supplements complete, including not only essays, but also DVDs of performing arts talent or an art portfolio.
  • Visit Colleges. It is not too late to visit colleges if you are still undecided. A AAA Travel Planner may be handy here – locations and colleges can be searched for.
  • Attend College Rep. Visits. Meet admission reps from universities that interest you during their visits to your school or at college nights set up locally at one central location. The Ivy Plus event will take place at St. George’s School in mid-September.
  • Request Transcripts. Allow at least four weeks before your application is due. Check with your high school for the specific requirements.
  • Send official SAT and ACT Scores: Request that your scores be sent off to colleges at least four weeks before your application is due to avoid a late fee for rushed scores.
  • Mark your calendar with important dates and deadlines including SAT/ACT testing, application submission deadlines, interview request dates and any other important dates.



  • Complete any University of California Applications. The UC applications open on October 1 and the deadline to submit them is November 30. Reuse essays you have written for the commonapp and supplements, where possible.
  • Retake standardized tests if your feel you can improve your test scores for the regular round.
  • Meet admission reps from universities that interest you during their visits to your school or at college nights set up locally at one central location.
  • Your school counselor and your parents must sign off on all online ED forms if you are applying Early Decision or Early Decision II to any college or university, Don’t leave this for the Christmas holidays when school is out and the counselor is on holiday!
  • Finish Applications for Regular Decision along with all supplements.
  • Submit all applications by their Dec. 31 or January 1 deadline. Please note that the Stanford midnight deadline is 3am E.S.T. and the Princeton midnight deadline will be 9 p.m. P.S.T.
  • Don’t leave your applications to submit at the last minute. Make your payment in advance, choose your recommenders for each school early on and submit the application at least a day or two ahead of time to avoid last minute glitches in the system.
  • If deferred or rejected in the early round, move on to Plan B! Don’t allow one small set-back to deter you from 4 wonderful at your second choice college or university. Get on with the task at hand and come in to discuss your deferral with us in January.


Application Follow-up : Common Application schools

You should see a chart like this when you click on your universities, showing you that you have completed all the required pieces. If everything is not green or marked as complete, you have not completed your application. Non-commonapp colleges will have their own unique, but similar, systems.

Application Downloaded: 1/14/2013
Supplements Complete: 11/19/2012
Payments Complete: 11/19/2012
School Forms Assigned: 10/03/2012



 Keep up your marks & excel in your academics

 Participate in activities and take on leadership roles

 Keep track of your activities and awards

 Explore careers whenever you have the opportunity

 Work on your writing and study skills

 Work on expanding your vocabulary; read, read, read!

 Take SAT/ACT classes and plan for subject tests

 Practice standardized test strategies on your own

 Plan ahead for next summer

 Meet admission reps from universities that interest you when they’re in town



Wednesday Oct. 17 or Saturday October 20 – PSAT test. If you’re in grade 10 or 11, arrange to take the test. Find out on which of the two dates the test is offered at your school.

October 15 – UK Medical & Dental application deadline

October 15 – University of Cambridge & Oxford application deadline, UK

November 1 or November 15 – Early Decision or Early Action deadlines for most universities

October 1 – November 30 – University of California System applications are open for submission (includes UCLA, UC Berkeley and others)

US University Admissions – Summer 2012 Issue

Congratulations on the end of another school year to all our students. Grads, congratulations on your upcoming commencement! We wish you continued success moving forward. It’s been a great pleasure working with you. Keep in touch and let us know about your university experience.


Summer is a fantastic time to jumpstart the test preparation process. If you are interested in learning more about our test prep offerings and our summer SAT, ACT, & Subject Test workshops, please refer to our website by clicking here! You might also wish to consider our SAT/ACT Diagnostic, a 3-hour test which will help determine which test you are better suited for.


If you have a busy schedule during the academic year, then summer is a good time for visiting universities to get a sense of what type of university setting and size you like or dislike, and what academic offerings and student characteristics best fit your needs. Contact me if you need help putting together a list of colleges to visit and tips for what to do during those campus visits.


The commonapp goes live on August 1 and application supplements for various universities are made available some time from August 1 to mid-September. Log onto the commonapp and get a head start on your college apps as soon as possible. Check the Select College Admissions website for summer essay-writing workshops and application bootcamps by clicking here!


As finals become a distant memory, summer is a great time to relax and read books, both fiction and non-fiction. So pick up a book, Kindle, or i-Pad, and enjoy some reading. This is a good way to improve your vocabulary for the SAT and ACT. A number of the US applications will ask you about your favourite books and authors.


Once you choose the university where you intend to matriculate and send them your admissions deposit, you will be issued an I-20 form. Upon receipt of the I-20, you must make an appointment at the US embassy or consulate in your area (1095 W. Pender Street, Vancouver) for an F-1 visa to allow you to study in the US. You must have a valid passport. Check your visa immediately after it is issued to make sure it is an F-1 and the dates are correct. Mistakes can cause problems. For more details on visa requirements, see:


Wishing you a wonderful and productive summer holiday!


At Select College Admissions, we are very proud of all of our grads and we are looking forward to working with the grad class of 2013. Current students, please let us know about your college visits (or revisits) and come in for an appointment to review your course selection.