Category Archives: Educational Services

Dynamic Post-Secondary Planning: engaging students in the university planning process

Each student’s Personalized Action Plan will include:

  • What we have learned about the student by looking at results of student or parent surveys and assessments, standardized test scores (SAT/ACT), grades, and extracurricular activities in order to prepare a preliminary list of target universities
  • Research we have student complete in order to learn more about each university and compare the suggested institutions; this often includes making campus visits
  • The student’s needs, preferences, and career objectives as well as academic, social, emotional and financial aspects are paramount
  • Creating a plan which will include application TYPE, organizing dates/deadlines, identifying key milestones
  • Overseeing the execution of the Plan by setting assignments and meeting regularly to review student’s progress and to edit all work that has been completed

For students, this journey is part of their growing process and just as important as the outcome.

Course Acceleration: Why it Matters

For those students who are academically inclined, it is a good idea to accelerate one or more subject areas, if your school allows it. Often, acceleration is not allowed within some schools which offer the IB Diploma Program. There is more flexibility in school systems offering the AP Program. Acceleration can be done by taking summer courses locally through the board of education or through your school’s summer program, if one is available. For example:

  • Taking Science 10 during the summer between grades 9 and 10, will mean you can take biology, chemistry or physics in grade 10. This, in turn, will allow you to take AP courses in grade 11 and be more ready to challenge the SAT Subject Test in the science in which you are accelerated, by the end of grade 11.
  • Students may also want to take chemistry 11, physics 11 or biology 11 during the summer between grades 10 and 11 to open up their schedule for a more advanced science in grade 11.
  • In the same way, students can take the next level math/pre-calculus course in the summer between 9/10 or 10/11 or even both, in order to open up their schedule to take AP Calculus in grade 12. Many business or engineering programs require or prefer calculus (not pre-calculus) to have been taken in grade 12 for university admission.
  • Some students take Planning 10 or Social Studies 11 as a summer course in the summer before or after grade 10 in order to open up their schedule for more electives in the following year.
  • Occasionally students complete the highest level math or science course their school offers by the end of grade 11 and then choose to take one math or science course at a local university or college while they are in grade 12.

Regardless of why you choose to be accelerated, it is certainly one way to ensure you do well in your targeted SAT Subject Test/s, shows that you have passion in a particular subject area, and it certainly helps to set you apart from the majority of other applicants to university.

It’s Not All about the GPA

Yes, your grade point average (GPA) will have great bearing on what university you are eventually admitted to. However, it is not all about the GPA. May other factors are taken into consideration when universities review your application and make that final decision which will determine where you will spend the next four years. Here are some factors worth considering:

  1. Has the student taken a rigorous course load (honors, AP, IB, even a course at university) or did s/he protect his/her GPA by taking only standard courses where it was easy to get a straight A?
  2. Is the student a good writer? Some of the students we have worked with, who have been admitted to top schools, have had superb writing skills and lots of good material in their backgrounds to include in their essays.
  3. Does the student have diverse experiences to draw upon for writing good essays about teamwork, leadership, being the founder of an organization or club, and other experiences which have enabled him/her to be a leader, to grow, to mature, to learn to persevere and to demonstrate initiative?
  4. Does the student have solid scores on his/her standardized tests (SAT/ACT/Subject Tests)?
  5. Does the student demonstrate the ‘kindness factor’? In other words, is there considerable and sustained volunteering, showing compassion and impact?
  6. Has the student done enough research on the university to know why s/he is a good ‘fit’ for this particular university and is s/he able to articulate this in their essays?
  7.      Is the student a good role model for his/her peers and have the respect of teachers and the school administration?
  8. Has the student stepped outside of his/her comfort zone to try out new experiences whether this be research with a university professor, outdoor expeditions, summer programs, conferences, or exchanges with schools abroad, etc.?
  9. Does the student have any special talents that will contribute to the university’s student life program? Some of our students have demonstrated their ‘Wow Factor’ through being on Canada’s National Debating Team, a National Sports Team, or playing a musical instrument at a professional level within a youth symphony orchestra. Others have made it to the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.
  10. Can the student solicit superb letters of recommendation from teachers and counselors saying s/he is in the top 1% or top 5% of students they have encountered in their career?
  11. Has the student demonstrated intellectual vitality or curiosity by being accelerated in one or more subject areas, for example demonstrating a passion for physics, philosophy, photography, coding, robotics, the environment, innovation or some other subject through unusual experiences such as summer programs, internships, fellowships, science fairs, research, or obtaining patents or even registering their own business in BC? In other words, is there a ‘Wow Factor’ to speak of, here?
  12. Does the student have personal characteristics which will contribute to a diverse and interesting campus community? Examples of this would be being the first generation in your family to attend university or representing an underrepresented minority group such as being Mexican or from a First Nation’s tribe or being a Zoroastrian and highlighting this in the application.
  13. Has the student demonstrated passion, initiative and leadership in sustained extracurricular activities? Can the student articulate this in university essays which provide insight into the student’s unique personality, values and goals?
  14. Will the student be showcasing their accomplishments through videos, websites, artistic supplements or other methods along with their application?

Admissions is like a jigsaw puzzle. So many factors have to combine to allow a student to be competitive for the top universities. Many of our students who are admitted to the likes of Stanford and Harvard are head boy or head girl at school, member of the choir or band (and sometimes both), are active in theatre or the arts, are captain of a school sports team, and have substantial volunteering experience and so much more. To get into Ivy League level universities, you need ivy level grades and experiences. If you’re setting the bar really high, then begin the work today and persevere even when it gets stressful. If you enjoy the activities you join, it will be more effortless than you had imagined!

Boston & the New COALITION Application

I’m off to the IECA Conference in my former home of Boston.  I will be seeing a number of universities and these include Smith, Wellesley, Olin School of Engineering, Boston University, Tufts, Brandeis, Bentley and later on Dartmouth. No doubt, I will have lots of news and photos to share with all my students. I also expect to gain some insights into the new COALITION Application which is a brand new platform for working on applications which is being unveiled this month.  The good news is that students as young as in grade 9 can begin working within the Coalition Portfolio section, keeping track of their activities, awards, artwork, projects and best pieces of writing for use at time of application. More on this when I get back!

Grade 11 Students May Begin Work on the Common Application for 2016-17

Grade 11 Students May Begin Work on the Common Application for 2016-17

At Select College Admissions we follow trends and watch the Common Application closely for our students. We’re pleased that this year the Common Application has made two decisions that will help students. 1: This spring, current Common App accounts will roll over to the 2016-2017 Common App, so grade 11 students can start their Common App now; and 2: The main essay prompts will remain the same from last year.

Key Things to Know:

  • Juniors can create an account now at Accounts created this spring will roll over.
  • The student’s user name and Common App ID will all be preserved. This means you’ll be able to sign in to next year’s application system using the same email address you used this year. All Common App data will be preserved.
  • The 2016-2017 main essay prompts on the Common App are out and they are the same as last year:
  • 2016-2017 Essay Prompts
  1. Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
  2. The lessons we take from failure can be fundamental to later success. Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
  3. Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?
  4. Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma – anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.
  5. Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, which marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.

2013 University Applications Are Behind Us

It is a relief to have the application deadline behind us. Congratulations to my students for completing all of your applications on time and for working so hard on all those essays over the winter break.  A special applause goes to those of you who were accepted Early to any of your universities of choice.

If you were accepted Early Decision, you can relax a bit but just not too much! Also remember to contact any other universities where you have pending applications to let them know that you have been accepted ED somewhere else. A simple e-mail will do.

For those of you deferred or denied to an ED or EA school, I certainly feel for you. It is hard to get a rejection.  Identifying which steps to take will depend on your situation but it’s time to regroup and figure out your strategy going forward.

Keep up with your academics with the knowledge that universities will see your mid-year marks as well as your final year marks.  A few more months and you will all be university students!


I’m just returning from Toronto where NACAC (National Association of College Admission Counseling), a U.S. association, held its first-ever conference internationally from September 19-21.  I had the opportunity to tour 8 university campuses (see photos on my Face Book), attend a huge college fair representing U.S., Canadian and U.K. universities, met with admissions representatives from universities, chatted with high school counselors from across the U.S., Canada or international schools overseas, as well as exchanged ideas with other independent educational consultants.

I attended a number of interesting educational sessions.  The open forum on the Redesigned Common Application was by far the most popular.  There was so much demand from conference attendees that the NACAC organizers decided to repeat the session twice in one day. Members of the Common Application Board and staff were there to respond to questions, comments, and complaints.  There are still a number of glitches in the system that are in the process of being taken care of.  I certainly hope that my students will be able to print their applications while still in progress, review them multiple times and do a final preview prior to submission.

One piece of advice to all my students is to make every attempt to submit your first application, very likely your EA or ED application, early.  One or two weeks before the deadline would be ideal.  Remember, the Common Application Version 4 is new and there might be glitches that have not been corrected prior to the November 1 deadline.  It’s better to be safe and have peace of mind that you have successfully submitted your early application than be in a panic minutes before the deadline when your attempts at submission fail.  Remember, it’s generally the early bird that gets the worm!

US University Admissions

US University AdmissionsWhen It Comes to US Admissions, Good Fit Counts – Our students this year (2013) have gained acceptances from institutions like Harvard to the smallest of liberal arts colleges, where they will get lots of individualized attention and thrive in small classes. We have helped our students gain admission to colleges and universities spread all over the US and Canada and are proud of each and every one.  Most importantly, we’ve always been open about how we do it—by picking appropriate schools that match you well, resisting the urge to focus on only the famous schools, using the application and essays to help colleges get to know you, and most importantly, encouraging you to be yourself. As we say goodbye to our grads, we wish them all the best in the next four years and ultimately success in the career they choose to pursue.