Reflections on our Class of 2024

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Each year, we have the privilege of getting to know high school students from across the state and country as they complete their college journey. And every May, we reflect on their stories and accomplishments inspired and filled with gratitude. We are so proud of you, Class of 2024!

This has been the most competitive year for admissions since we started College Expert 20+ years ago. Many colleges remained test-optional, one of many factors that led to a record number of applications. As a result, admission to selective colleges became an even greater reach. Many students beat these odds, and we are cheering their success. In other instances, denials allowed students to better examine and appreciate all of their options. We truly believe there is no one “perfect college,” and twists and turns in the process often can lead to an even better fit. In fact, families tell us this every year.

This year’s matriculation list fills us with tremendous satisfaction. We are confident our graduates are destined for colleges where they will be challenged, find supportive communities and boldly move forward with their personal goals.

We are excited to report:

  • 95% of our students applied to some colleges by the early action deadline and heard back from colleges before winter break.
  • 92% of our students will attend their first choice or a high-interest college.
  • 35% of our students applied to highly selective ED/Restricted Early Action colleges and 62% were accepted. 
  • 88% of our students will attend out-of-state colleges in 33 different states (whereas nationally approximately only 11% venture further than 500 miles from their hometown).
  • New colleges that our students will be attending include the University of Georgia, Kings College in London , University of Utah, University of Mississippi and Pratt Institute in Brooklyn.
  • Most of our students were offered significant merit aid and some full-tuition scholarships.
  • 20 of our students are National Merit Scholars.

Drawing on our knowledge, our experience, and hundreds of college visits, we recommended an eclectic mix of colleges, many of which were unfamiliar to our clients. In fact, it’s possible some students never would have considered the colleges they chose without comprehensive and thoughtful discussions about finding the right fit, which is our guiding philosophy. As a result, they made decisions confident their choice was right for them.

Our Class of 2024 students will matriculate to colleges across the country. As you can see by the following list, we have students attending some of the most selective colleges in the country. Our graduates are headed to ivy league schools, art schools, national and international universities, Big Ten schools, music conservatories, ROTC, engineering schools, small liberal arts colleges and colleges with in-state tuition.

We have aspiring musicians, artists, ROTC cadets, recruited athletes, activists, actors, nurses, engineers, business majors, researchers, doctors, writers and much more. We strive to help families find ways to afford college tuition, and we were overjoyed with the merit scholarships, grants, and aid awarded to our students.

We were honored to help prepare the Class of 2024 for the next chapter and wish our seniors all the best with the adventure they have ahead of them. Please keep in touch!

Please feel free to forward this to family members and friends looking for help with the college planning process. Here is our College Matriculation List for our Class of 2024:

Amherst College
Arizona State University
Barnard College
Bates College
Baylor University
Bethel University
Boston College
Boston University
Brown University
Butler University
Carnegie Mellon University
Case Western Reserve University
Century College
Claremont McKenna College
Clemson University
Colgate University
Colorado College
Colorado School of Mines
Colorado State University
Cornell College
Cornell University
Creighton University
Dartmouth College
Denison University
Duke University
Elon University
Emory University
Fordham University
Gustavus Adolphus College
Harvey Mudd College
High Point University
Indiana University-Bloomington
Iowa State University
Johns Hopkins University
King’s College London
Loyola University Chicago
Lynn University
Macalester College
New York University
Northeastern University

Northwestern University
Oberlin Conservatory of Music (Oberlin College)
Occidental College
Pepperdine University
Pratt Institute-Main
Princeton University
Purdue University-Main Campus
Santa Clara University
Savannah College of Art and Design
St. Olaf College
Stanford University
Texas A & M University-College Station
Texas Christian University
University of Arizona
University of California-Los Angeles
University of Chicago
University of Colorado-Boulder
University of Denver
University of Georgia
University of Iowa
University of Massachusetts Amherst
University of Miami
University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
University of Minnesota-Twin Cities
University of Mississippi
University of Missouri-Columbia
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
University of Notre Dame
University of Pennsylvania
University of Redlands
University of San Diego
University of Southern California
University of Utah
University of Virginia-Main Campus
University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Vanderbilt University
Wake Forest University
Washington University in St Louis
Wesleyan University

May College Expert Newsletter

College ExpertCareers, College Expert Blogs, Financial Aid, Newsletter, Preparing for College, What Colleges Look For

Honors, AP or dual enrollment? Higher-level classes give you an edge in admissions, but being challenged without feeling overwhelmed is also a consideration. In this issue, we provide insight to help you decide. Other articles include:

Focus on Majors: Art & Design – Graphic design or painting; a business setting or studio. This creative field is filled with versatile opportunities.
Financial Matters – Explore your payment options before fall tuition comes due.  
Fostering Teen Success – Eight key components of social maturity are considered predictors of college success.

Read the May issue.

Smiling students in Fairfield sweatshirts talking while sitting on concrete wall on sunny fall day

A Visit to Fairfield University

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Red and white Fairfield University logo

Fairfield University, a Jesuit Catholic university located in Fairfield, Connecticut, is a great campus for students who want to be close to both the beach and New York City, which is an hour’s train ride away. It is a values-based, student-centered school focused on outcomes and has a 98% job placement rate. Downtown Fairfield bustles with restaurants, shops, businesses and attractions; it is a great college town.

Academics
Fairfield has a core curriculum, direct-entry honors program and small intimate classes (no lecture halls). Students must apply to a specific school, but they can apply undecided and declare a major by the end of sophomore year. They do have the flexibility to switch from liberal arts to business, which is the school’s largest college. About half of Fairfield’s business students major in finance, which is more selective than the other business programs. There also is a master’s in finance program. The city of Fairfield, and Connecticut in general, has a lot of hedge fund jobs.

Smiling students in Fairfield sweatshirts talking while sitting on concrete wall on sunny fall day

Fairfield University has a selective, direct-entry nursing program that students cannot transfer into. It accepts about 50% of applicants and seeks students with demonstrated strength in science and math. Students have the option to apply to the university’s engineering program undeclared, with the exception of biomedical engineering. The university’s large computer science program, also part of the School of Engineering and Computing, has about a 50% acceptance rate. About 86-92% of Fairfield graduates who go on to apply to medical school are accepted.

Bellarmine Hall, an elegant brick mansion and courtyard
Elegant Bellamine Hall

Fast Facts about Fairfield University:
4300 undergraduates; grown 1000+ students in 5 years
65% of students Catholic
Geographically diverse; 76% students out-of-state
92% retention rate
Division 1 (non-football)
School spirit for basketball, hockey
No Greek life
Study abroad and internships
Arts & Sciences students get paid ($2,500) internship
Good (non-audition) theater
Modern campus, new facilities and sports arena
A Minnesota connection – the University of Minnesota’s new president graduated from Fairfield

Admissions:
44% acceptance rate
27-31 ACT range
3.79 GPA
Accepts Common App
Test optional
Interview encouraged
Tracks demonstrated interest
EA, ED 1 and 2
High ED acceptance rate
Merit aid up to $2800; most students get some merit

Sailing student in black Fairfield jacket on white boat in calm water
Fairfield Sailing Club on a Fall afternoon.

Student Life
All freshmen live on campus and housing is available all four years, including beach houses, and many students live on the beach senior year. The college is working on becoming more diverse, but all students will feel welcome, and LQBTQ students will feel supported. There is an active Jewish student center.

Who Would Be Happy Here?
Students who want good employment opportunities and want to be involved in college and do volunteer work. Also students who are active, work hard, love the beach, and like the idea of having access to New York City. According to the Princeton Review, Fairfield is one of the top 2 colleges in the county for happy kids!

March 2024 College Expert Newsletter

March College Expert Newsletter

College ExpertCareers, College Expert Blogs, Financial Matters, Majors, Newsletter, Tours

Say goodbye to bubble answer sheets and No. 2 pencils – the SAT has gone digital. What does this mean in terms of format, navigation and scoring? We cover it all in our March issue! Other articles include:

Focus on Majors: Business – A popular major with many career paths and options.
Financial Matters – Greek life, study abroad, it all adds up – and adds to the true cost of college.
Planning College Visits – They can be exhilarating and exhausting. What to do now if you’re planning spring break tours.

Read the March issue.

Author and two others pictured on steps in front of massive pillars of Widener Library

A visit to Harvard College

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Harvard logo

I have both good news and bad news for Harvard hopefuls. There is no formula for getting into Harvard. The university states this more than once on its website, and our experience with Harvard applicants confirms the sentiment. However, at a minimum, successful applicants are among the top 10 percent of their graduating class, get mostly As in the most rigorous courses offered, and can demonstrate qualities like leadership, intellectual curiosity, character and initiative. Even then, an acceptance rate of slightly more than 3% makes this prestigious university a reach even for those who can confidently check these boxes. 

No one can tell you exactly what it takes to get in, and university priorities contribute to Harvard’s elusiveness, as they do with every Ivy League school. But almost every year, we see students beat these odds, and we’re happy to share our insight into who is a potential fit as well as what makes a strong Harvard application. And while they may not be Harvard, we can also recommend alternative colleges that sometimes turn out to be an even better fit for students looking for a prestigious, rigorous university.

But first, Harvard. 

Author and two others pictured on steps in front of massive pillars of Widener Library
Me (center) with my husband and niece in front of Widener Library.

I most recently visited campus last May. My niece, an assistant professor there, served as my tour guide, and she was able to give me a thorough, personal tour so I could bring back what I learned to my students. As a college consultant, touring Harvard and visiting iconic landmarks, such as Harvard Yard as well as the Widener Library, is always thrilling. After my recent tour, as well as years of advising and celebrating the acceptances of Harvard hopefuls, here is what I’ve learned about applying to and attending the country’s oldest college.

Academics
At the core of Harvard’s mission is a focus on liberal arts and sciences. “Before students can change the world, they need to understand it,” proclaims Harvard’s website. This commitment is the foundation of a Harvard education, and its breadth and depth of experiences is unmatched. 

Harvard offers 50 majors, which it refers to as “concentrations,” and you do not need to know your concentration when you apply; you will declare it during your sophomore year. Many concentrations offer different tracks so you can specialize within a field, and if you have interdisciplinary interests, you can pursue a second concentration or even design your own course of study.

To help students “understand the world,” Harvard offers about 3,700 courses, a mix of classes that teach useful, marketable skills as well as explore more obscure topics. For example, in their pursuit of knowledge, students can study things like Greek mythology, the philosophy of comedy or human osteology (the study of skeletal remains). Two more great perks for students is they can take courses at MIT and transfer the credits, and Harvard offers dual degree options for music students at the Berklee College of Music and the New England Conservatory. 

Students are encouraged to engage in hands-on research as early as their freshman year; in fact, it’s said there are more labs looking for undergrads than undergrads looking for labs. Students can seek opportunities through the Office of Undergraduate Research and Fellowships (URAF) and affiliate programs as well as through individual inquiries with departments and professors.

A lot of learning takes place outside the classroom, too, and there is never a dearth of activities at Harvard. Want to explore archeology in Peru? No problem. Serve as case manager for a homeless shelter? Students do that, too. Participate in an aikido or table tennis team or mentor youth? Through enrichment opportunities like study abroad, as well as more than 500 student-run organizations, you have the opportunity to expand your learning in the community as well as globally.

Admissions Overview 
Each year, Harvard seeks a diverse, intellectual class of students who want to use their education to have an impact on the world. There are no GPA “requirements” to get in, but ranking at the top of your class is expected. However, academics alone will not set your application apart. Admissions also looks at factors like character, ability to overcome adversity, special talents and unique perspectives. To convey your unique, personal story, essays, letters of recommendation and activity descriptions are important parts of your application. 

Here are some admission highlights (stats are for the class of 2027).  

  • 56,937 applicants 
  • 1,966 admitted (3.4%)
  • 16% international students
  • 55% received need-based scholarships
  • Tops fields: Humanities, Social Sciences, Physical Sciences, Engineering
  • Test optional admission
  • Need-blind admission
  • Supplemental materials are accepted (music recordings, art, academic samples) 
  • Nov. 1 Restricted Early Action (non-binding) deadline – mid-December notification
  • Jan. 1 Regular Decision deadline  – end of March notification
Students and visitors passing by steps of Widener Library on a sunny day

Campus Life/Housing
Housing is unique at Harvard and an important part of social life on campus. Freshmen live in dormitories in or adjacent to Harvard Yard and dine in Annenberg Hall, fondly referred to as “Berg,” a beautiful Gothic-style building resembling the Great Hall in Harry Potter.  

For the remaining three years, students are assigned to 12 houses. About 350 to 500 students live in each house, which includes its own dining hall, library, advising staff – even mascots and traditions, so it becomes a big part of a student’s campus life. Assignments aren’t completely random; in an application freshman year you name seven people you want to live with. House assignments are announced with a lot of fanfare on Housing Day, an exciting tradition in spring and one of many ways students are immersed in the rich history of Harvard.

Student sitting in yellow chair with feet and legs on second chair in grassy Harvard Yard on sunny day
Harvard Yard’s iconic colorful chairs encourage students to socialize and relax.

Cost/Financial Aid
Applying for financial aid and applying with financial need does not have a bearing on your application at Harvard. Harvard offers need-based aid but does not offer merit-based, and the university meets 100% of demonstrated need (the difference between the price of attendance and a family’s ability to pay). Read more about how aid works at Harvard. For the 2023-24 academic year, Harvard College’s tuition was $54,269. With fees including housing and food, the total cost of attendance was $79,450. 

Who Would be Happy Here
Serious students who are at the top of their class, truly love learning and who seek a diverse student body that will challenge their ideas and perspectives would feel at home at Harvard. The academic atmosphere is intense, and the course load is ambitious. Add to that extracurriculars and activities, and it is a busy, competitive environment that a student needs to be up to – both mentally and academically. Students who are successful at Harvard also tend to be confident, focused and passionate, with very specific interests and goals.

February 2024 College Expert Newsletter-4x6

February College Expert Newsletter

College ExpertCollege Expert Blogs, Financial Aid, Financial Matters, Majors, Newsletter, Summer Activities, What Colleges Look For Leave a Comment

According to a survey of 30,000 college graduates, your experiences in college have a bigger impact on your job and life satisfaction than the college you attended. Which experiences matter most? Find out in our February issue. Other articles include:

Focus on Majors, Minors and Concentrations – Choosing and customizing your academic path.
Financial Matters – Comparing college financial aid offers.
Planning for Summer in Winter  –  A productive summer = an interesting college application.

Read the February issue.

Image of students doing chemistry and painting

Making the Most of Your Summer

College ExpertCollege Expert Blogs, Summer Activities, Volunteer, What Colleges Look For Leave a Comment

Are you longing for summer as much as we are? While you’re dreaming of warmer days, you should also start looking ahead for summer opportunities either close to home or on a college campus. While summer programs are completely optional, they are a great way to dive deeply into one of your interests, and colleges like to see how you’ve engaged with something you love outside of class. 

If you do plan to participate in an on-campus program, you should start researching them now. Many have February application deadlines and limited space. However, programs offered by a college or on a college campus are only one option. Jobs, volunteering and camps are also great ways to make the most of the summer months. 

Searching for a Summer Program
Not sure where to start? Look for a summer program that connects with your aptitudes and interests. Here are links to information that will give you a sense of what’s available. You’ll find information on various courses, programs, research opportunities and service activities.

Minnesota Summer Enrichment Programs
Selective & Top Ranked Summer Programs
Online Courses & Programs for High School Students
College MatchPoint Summer Programs for High School Student
Summer Research Programs   
Summer Travel & Service Programs  

(College Expert students, you can also find these documents and links in your Custom College Plan folder, Summer Programs-Activities-Ideas.) 

Keep in mind there are hundreds of programs, and the above list is just a sample. 

Formal programs are just one path to learning, growing and gaining new experiences over the summer months. Here are some additional ideas for planning a fun and meaningful summer:

Take time out: No matter what else you do this summer, allow yourself some time for fun and to recharge while also thinking and planning for your future. What are your hopes and dreams? What activities or academic subjects excite you? What talents do you want to make the most of in the coming months? What colleges really interest you?

Participate in activities that build on your interests: Some examples are sports clubs and summer competitions, community theater, speech and debate camps, writing classes, robotics, coding classes, and music programs. Check with your high school or a local university for research opportunities. Take a free class for fun through Coursera or Edx in your areas of interest. 

Consider an internship: Seek out opportunities early to secure something for the summer. Ask family friends, relatives, teachers, advisors, etc., about internship opportunities they’re aware of. Also, think about your interests. Do you love history? Check with local museums, the historical society, or a library. Medicine and service? Hospitals, clinics, and nursing homes are a great place to start. Art? Check with museums, local artists, etc.   

Get a job: Summer can be a great time to make a little spending money and get experience in the working world. Choosing a summer job carefully can give you more than just money.

Visit colleges: Summer can be a good time to visit colleges. The admissions offices are open Monday-Friday and you can take tours and attend information sessions. You may learn enough from a summer visit to know if you still want to keep a particular college on your list or whether you’d like to return when students are there. If you can’t visit in person, take a virtual tour and attend information sessions online.

Volunteer: Are you passionate about improving the environment, helping children, or building affordable housing for low-income families? Summer break gives you the time to volunteer for an organization or a cause that’s important to you. Find ways to make your community better. Ask your family, guidance office or clergyperson to recommend local community service organizations. You might be surprised at how many different ways you can help people in your community (and even around the world). Check out Hands On Twin Cities  or Volunteer Match

Read: Don’t let your brain get lazy just because school’s out. Visit the library or bookstore and find books that interest you. Some high schools and colleges have reading lists. Also check with your English teacher or school librarian. You don’t have to read Shakespeare (unless you want to!) to get the benefits of an enriched vocabulary and broadened imagination. Just read what interests you. Colleges ask and are interested in what you read for fun.

Get creative: Don’t limit yourself. Think about something you’ve always wanted to do. Write a book? Build a robot? Start your own business? Learn rock climbing? Now is the time to plan. Talk to your parents and others about what you’d like to do over the summer. Start lining up possible clients for your own summer lawn mowing business or apply to that creative writing workshop.

Start a UTA (Unique Teen Activity): Colleges are looking for students who take their hobbies and interests to the next level. Students should always focus on what they love to do, not what they think colleges are looking for. Starting your own UTA will help you stand out.

How do you distinguish yourself from all the other teenagers applying to college? Keep shining in your school activities, classes and testing, and expand on what interests you by starting a Unique Teen Activity!  

Here are some examples of UTA’s from previous College Expert students:

Bird watching
Beekeeping
Running a cupcake business
Creating a virtual reality app for kids having an MRI
Candy of the Month Club
Fishing Club
Club of Charitable Acts
Mountain Bike Club
Climate Change Advocacy Club
High School Audubon Club
Feminism Book Club
Inventing a cell phone pocket protector for wakeboarding
Blogging – movies, celiac, politics, baking
Hosting summer tennis and theater camps for neighborhood kids
Creating art – competing at the state fair and having an art exhibit
Being involved in politics – organizing a political action club at school
Founding and editing a literary arts magazine at school
Hosting an after-school STEM program for Somali 4th graders
Training therapy dogs
Participating in virtual tutoring programs
Creating extempers.org website
Making a movie and entering it in a film festival
Making an app for teens to improve their mental health 

With a plan in place and some activities lined up that you’re excited about, you’ll have even more to look forward to!

Jan 2024 College Expert Newsletter

January College Expert Newsletter

College ExpertAdmissions, Advice for Parents, College Expert Blogs, Financial Aid, Financial Matters, High School, Majors, Newsletter, Preparing for College Leave a Comment

Preparing for college involves more than academics. Giving your student some freedom in high school will ease their transition after they graduate. Read five tips for how to get started. Other articles include:

Focus on Majors/Social Work – Passionate about helping others? Explore this alternative to psychology.
Financial Matters – Considerations when applying for scholarships.
Admission Office Blogs – Links that provide an insider’s view to Georgia Tech, Tulane, MIT and others.

Read the January issue.

December 2023 College Expert Newsletter

December College Expert Newsletter

College ExpertCareers, FAFSA, Financial Aid, Financial Matters, Majors, Newsletter, Preparing for College Leave a Comment

As you plan for college, it isn’t a bad idea to have a few career interests in mind. Not sure what you want to do? This month, we offer five ideas for connecting the dots between your interests, your major and potential careers. Other articles include:

Focus on Majors/Human Centered Design – Creating products for diverse users.
Financial Matters – It’s time to complete the FAFSA and CSS Profile.
Responding to Deferrals – What to do when a college decision leaves you in limbo.

Read the December issue.

MIT Great Dome

A Visit to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

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MIT logo

By Sue Luse

MIT has serious name recognition. Everyone has heard of MIT and immediately associates it with some of the brightest minds in science, math and technology. It isn’t for applicants who have a passing interest in a subject but deep passion and engagement beyond high school courses that they can demonstrate on their applications. MIT students are described as inventive, obsessed and talented, if not a little quirky. In other words, MIT is for the nerdiest of nerds – and its students proudly own this distinction.

I visited MIT on a beautiful day last spring as part of a tour of many Boston colleges and universities. My guide reinforced the idea that an MIT education is all about collaboration and hands-on projects meant to advance knowledge and serve society. In fact, MIT’s motto – Mens et Manus, or Mind and Hand – embodies this emphasis on intellect as well as craftsmanship, and a “learning by doing” philosophy is at the heart of all its programs.

True to this mission, upon graduation, MIT grads typically have completed three projects, some of them paid, through experiential learning opportunities. Understandably, research is also a big part of the MIT experience, and undergrad research starts the semester you arrive. According to MIT’s website, “through MIT’s Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP), more than 85% of undergraduates enrich their education through engaging in frontline, faculty-led research.” 

For all of its emphasis on science and technology, MIT also takes the arts, humanities, and social sciences seriously, and its curriculum demonstrates deep regard for the intersection of these disciplines and STEM. Its General Institute Requirements include a six-course science core; eight courses in the humanities, arts and social sciences; and 8 credits in physical education. First-year grading is designed to ease the transition from high school to college. Students start with Pass or No Record grading during the fall and  transition to A, B, C or No Record grades for spring. Standard A-F grading begins sophomore year. There is an IAP term in January, which means students get the month off for flexible, independent learning..

Fast Facts about MIT:

  • Students take 4 classes each semester
  • Calc, physics, chemistry and biology are required
  • 8 humanities courses are required
  • 70% of students come from public schools 
  • There are 500 student clubs on campus
  • 20% of students are varsity athletes
  • The average starting salary for an MIT grad is $104,617 

The MIT application

MIT is not on the Common App. Instead, it uses its own system called MyMIT. Its admissions process is holistic, which means it takes into account factors besides academic merit. One of the most important factors is character, which you can demonstrate throughout your application. For example, MIT’s short essays prompt you to write about community, diversity and challenges. What you do for fun is also important, and there is only space to highlight four activities, so quality trumps quantity. Consider what you put your heart into, and write authentically – not with the goal to impress admissions. They truly want to know! You should submit one letter of recommendation from a STEM teacher and one from a humanities, social science or language teacher. Test scores are self-reported and required, and admissions likes to see perfect scores in math. MIT does superscore. 

After you submit an application, you will be contacted for “more of a conversation than an interview”, according to my tour guide. It can be virtual. MIT is 100% need blind and it does not offer scholarships. You will receive your college decision on, appropriately, March 14, or pi day.

White neoclassical Great Dome from a distance

Campus Life

At MIT, housing works differently than on most campuses. There are 11 dorms, but no traditional “freshman dorms”, and students select where they want to live. Most have cooking and dining areas, and cats are allowed in two of the halls. First-year students must live on campus, and 90 percent of students stay on campus all four years. The Greek system is popular at MIT, and there are 26 fraternities, 10 sororities and five independent living groups, which are co-ed fraternities and coop houses, each with their own unique culture.

MIT’s website sums up the vibe of its campus well: “We are fun and quirky, elite but not elitist, inventive and artistic, obsessed with numbers, and welcoming to talented people regardless of where they come from.”

Interested in adding MIT to your college list? Contact your College Expert counselor to learn more.

November 2023 College Expert Newsletter

November College Expert Newsletter

College ExpertApplications, College Expert Blogs, Financial Aid, Financial Matters, Majors Leave a Comment

Building your college list? It’s important to understand an institution’s strengths. Some excel in engineering, while others may be tops in education or journalism. In this issue, we tell you what to look for in an academic department. Other articles include:

Focus on Majors/Viticulture and Enology – The study of winemaking and marketing.
Financial Matters – Understanding financial aid terminology.
After Submitting Your Applications – Next steps, because you aren’t quite finished yet!

Read the November issue.

October 2023 College Expert Newsletter

October College Expert Newsletter

College ExpertAdmissions, Applications, College Expert Blogs, FAFSA, Financial Aid, SAT/ACT Leave a Comment

Colleges will be on the lookout for ChatGPT generated essays, and while there are legitimate and helpful ways to use the technology, relying on it for writing is risky and ineffective. In this month’s issue, read about the implications of ChatGPT. Other articles include:

Focus on Majors/English – Career opportunities beyond writing and teaching.
Financial Matters – Important changes that will simplify the FAFSA.
Digital PSAT – What will change and what will stay the same with this new PSAT format.

Read the October issue.

September 2023 College Expert Newsletter

September College Expert Newsletter

College ExpertAdmissions, Applications, College Expert Blogs, Financial Aid, Financial Matters, Majors, Newsletter Leave a Comment

You have your college list, now it’s time to decide on an application plan. Your decision can impact deadlines, when you’re notified and whether you’re making a binding commitment. In our September issue, we decode six options, including Early Decision and Early Action, and the pros, cons and requirements of each. Other articles include:

Focus on Majors/Animal Science – Careers in animal management, medicine, or research and policy.
Financial Matters – Applicant characteristics and improving your chances of receiving merit aid.
Doing High School Well – Can you really make high school “the best years” that many people say they are?  

Read the September issue.

Star Tribune headline and image of dollars flowing out of graduation cap

What is the True Cost of College? Read Sue’s Interview in the Star Tribune

College ExpertAdvice for Parents, College Expert Blogs, Financial Matters, Sue in the News Leave a Comment

College costs far exceed tuition, books and room and board. What’s the true cost of college? Sue was interviewed for a recent Star Tribune article addressing hidden costs that can add up to thousands of dollars. Read the article for budgeting and spending advice and learn why “who pays for what” should be addressed in advance.

Four Trends Shaping College Admissions

College ExpertAdmissions, Applications, College Expert Blogs, What Colleges Look For Leave a Comment

College admissions is a changing landscape. Each year trends emerge as a result of new technology, new practices and shifting priorities. For example, years ago the introduction of the Common App streamlined the process and drove up applications. And after Covid, test optional became the norm rather than the exception. It’s important to consider trends like these as part of the college planning process. 

The 2023 admissions cycle was one of the most challenging ever for selective schools. Reflecting on the past year, we believe four trends will continue to shape this process. Understanding these trends will help you build a college list that will provide you with options when it’s time to make a decision. It will help you to manage expectations while also maximizing your chance of acceptance. Let’s take a look at them! 

Trend 1: Admission to selective schools is getting more competitive.
This is due to test optional admissions as well as other factors such as institutional priorities. Students who may not have considered applying to schools like Stanford or Northwestern because of their test scores are now thinking, “why not?” As a result, these schools are being flooded with highly-qualified candidates, but the size of their freshman class is remaining steady. It’s simple math, and even for exceptional students, selective schools – especially those with single-digit admission rates – are becoming an even bigger reach.   

Trend 2: Colleges are looking at character as well as strong academic performance.
Character counts in college admissions. Colleges will almost always prioritize grades and the rigor of your high school courses when evaluating applications. But as the number of qualified applicants increases, admissions has had to turn to other factors that set a candidate apart, such as evidence of initiative, compassion, and grit. These qualities often are revealed in essays, activities and letters of recommendation. 

What can you do to demonstrate character? Initiate projects, pursue unique hobbies or interests that you are truly passionate about, do research or independent study, and participate in class and get to know your teachers. Then find a way to highlight those things in your application.

Trend 3: Although test scores are mostly optional, they are not irrelevant.
While submitting test scores is optional at most colleges, you should still take the SAT or ACT and study or do test prep to maximize your score. Based on your results, we will advise you on where submitting your SAT or ACT score could give you an advantage based on information available to us, such as acceptance rate and test scores for admitted students. Test scores can still work for you, so while they may be optional, they are still relevant and can be important.   

Trend 4: Demonstrating interest does make a difference.
Every year there are instances where a highly-qualified candidate is denied at a school where a candidate with lower grades and test scores is accepted. When this happens, one of the first things we may ask a student is if they engaged with the college, or if they “demonstrated interest”. Colleges want to accept students who want to go there, and even the highest achiever can be denied if they don’t show genuine enthusiasm. 

How can you demonstrate interest? Visit a college’s website, visit in person, do online events and tours, follow colleges or departments on social media, connect with a rep at a college fair, and email admissions with questions you have (if you can’t find an answer on their website). They track all of this. If required, you also want to write a well-researched “why this college” essay that cites very specific reasons why a college is a great fit for you. Colleges want to protect their yield (the number of admitted students who enroll), and they accept students who seem most likely to attend if given a spot in their incoming class.

If there is one word we would use to describe the landscape for selective colleges right now, it’s “competitive.” Understanding trends is important. To increase your chance of acceptance, pursue authentic interests, demonstrate character as well as academic success, and look for opportunities to show a college some love. 

Contact your College Expert counselor with questions. As always, we’re here to help!

June 2023 College Expert Newsletter

June College Expert Newsletter

College ExpertCareers, College Expert Blogs, Financial Aid, Financial Matters, Majors, Preparing for College Leave a Comment

Would you rather graduate from a prestigious school or debt-free? Do you love an intimate campus or the energy of a big city? Establishing priorities will help you build your college list. Learn more about finding your fit in our June issue. Other articles include:

Focus on Majors/Nutritional Sciences – Paths, opportunities and requirements for dietetics majors.
Financial Matters – The A to Z of college finances.
Leaving for College – A pep talk for those feeling all the emotions.

Read the June issue.

Silhouette of a group of graduates tossing caps

Reflections on our Class of 2023

College ExpertAdmissions, Applications, College Expert Blogs, Graduating Class Leave a Comment

Each year, we are privileged to get to know our high school students across the state and country as they complete their college journey. And every May, we reflect on their stories and accomplishments with gratitude and awe. We are so proud of you, Class of 2023!

This has been the most competitive year for admissions since we started College Expert 20+ years ago. Most colleges remained test optional, which among other factors led to a record number of applications. As a result, admission to selective colleges became an even greater reach. Many students beat these odds, and we are cheering their success. In other instances, denials allowed students to better examine and appreciate all of their options. We truly believe there is no one “perfect college,” and twists and turns in the process often can lead to an even better fit. Families tell us this every year.

This year’s matriculation list fills us with tremendous pride and satisfaction. We are confident our graduates are destined for colleges where they will be challenged, find supportive communities and boldly move forward with their personal goals.

We are excited to report:

  • 95% of our students applied to some colleges by the early action deadline and heard back from colleges before winter break.
  • 38% of our students applied ED/Restricted Early Action and 63% were accepted.
  • 88% of our students will attend out-of-state colleges in 34 different states.  (whereas nationally approximately only 11% venture further than 500 miles from their hometown)
  • New colleges that our students will be attending include Long Island University, Rugters, Texas Tech, State College of Florida and Olin College of Engineering.
  • 95% of our students will attend their first choice or a high-interest college. 

Drawing on our knowledge, our experience, and hundreds of college visits, we recommended an eclectic mix of colleges, many of which were unfamiliar to our clients. In fact, it’s possible some students never would have considered the colleges they chose without comprehensive and thoughtful discussions about finding the right fit, which is our guiding philosophy. As a result, they made decisions confident their choice was right for them.

Our Class of 2023 students will matriculate to colleges across the country. As you can see in our matriculation list, we have many students going to some of the most selective colleges in the country. We also have students going to national universities, engineering schools, small liberal arts colleges, research universities, Big Ten Universities, and colleges with in-state tuition. We have aspiring musicians, artists, recruited athletes, activists, actors, nurses, engineers, business majors, researchers, doctors, writers and much more. We strive to help families find ways to afford college tuition, and we were overjoyed with the merit scholarships, grants, and aid awarded to our students.

We were honored to help prepare the Class of 2023 for the next chapter and wish our seniors all the best with the adventure they have ahead of them. Please keep in touch!

Please feel free to forward this to family members and friends looking for help with the college planning process. 

Here is our College Matriculation list for our Class of 2023:

American University
Arizona State University
Auburn University
Augsburg University
Baylor University
Boston College
Boston University
Bowdoin College
Brown University
Carleton College
Carnegie Mellon
Case Western Reserve
Colgate University
Colorado State University
Creighton University
Davidson College
DePaul University
Drake University
Duke University
Elon University
Fordham University
Olin College of Engineering
Georgetown University
Georgia Institute of Technology
Grinnell College
Gustavus Adolphus College
High Point University
Hope College
Illinois State
Indiana University
Iowa State University
Lehigh University
Long Island University
Loyola University Chicago
Luther College
Macalester College
Marquette University
MIT
Miami University-Oxford
Montana State University
Northeastern University
Northwestern University
Occidental College
Purdue University

Rice University
Rose-Hulman Institute
Rutgers University
San Diego State University
Santa Clara University
St Olaf College
Stanford University
State College of Florida
Swarthmore College
Texas Christian University
Texas Tech University
Tufts University
Tulane University
UC-Berkeley
University of Chicago
University of Colorado
University of Denver
University of Illinois
University of Iowa
University of Kansas
University of Miami
University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota Duluth
University of Notre Dame
University of Oregon
University of Redlands
University of San Diego
University of South Carolina
University of Southern California
University of St Thomas
University of Tampa
University of Tennessee
University of Vermont
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Vanderbilt University
Vassar College
Villanova University
Wake Forest University
Warren Wilson College
Washington University
Wesleyan University
Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Yale University

Bubble test and red No. 2 pencil

The PSAT/NMSQT and SAT Going Digital

Margaret DudenCollege Expert Blogs, SAT/ACT Leave a Comment

Bubble answer sheets and No. 2 pencil reminders will soon become a thing of the past with the launch of the new digital PSAT/NMSQT and SAT. In March 2023, the first digital SAT was administered internationally. The class of 2025 will take the new digital PSAT/NMSQT in 2023, and digital SATs will replace paper-based SATs in the US starting in March 2024. Advantages of the new digital format include greater accessibility and access to test scores in days instead of weeks.

According to the College Board, the digital SAT tests the same content as the paper-based SAT. The scoring scales will remain the same, too, with PSAT scores still ranging from 320 to 1520 and SAT scores ranging from 400 to 1600. However, there are some important differences in the format:

  • The digital SAT is significantly shorter (a 2+ hour test instead of a 3+ hour test).
  • The digital SAT allows a calculator on all math sections and includes an on-screen Desmos calculator.
  • The Reading section and the Writing and Language section are no longer separate; the verbal module combines reading comprehension questions with questions about writing and grammar.
  • The digital SAT jettisons long Reading passages and long Writing and Language passages; instead, the verbal section is composed of many short passages testing reading and writing, each with only one single question about them.
  • The digital SAT gives students more time per question. Students have 1.19 minutes per question on the verbal section and 1.59 minutes per question on the math section.
  • The digital SAT has made word problems on the math section less wordy. In addition, student-produced responses to the math section can now be negative, and they are interspersed through the module instead of clustered at the end. 
  • The digital SAT is adaptive, meaning that if a student does well on the first module of the verbal (or math) section, their second verbal (or math) module will be harder—but worth more points. Students who do not perform well on the first module will receive an easier second module, but these easier questions will be worth fewer points, capping their overall score at a certain mid-level range even if they answer all questions in the second module correctly. 

The digital PSAT/NMSQT, which will be administered for the first time in October 2023, will be the same length and format as the digital SAT. The math content on the PSAT/NMSQT will be slightly different than the math content on the SAT, though, containing more problems in problem-solving and data analysis and fewer problems on topics in advanced math, geometry, and trigonometry. 

To prepare for the PSAT/NMSQT and SAT, students should download the Bluebook app from the College Board. Currently, there are four practice digital SATs in Bluebook; later this spring, practice digital PSAT/NMSQTs will be added to Bluebook. 

It is important for students to familiarize themselves with Bluebook, since this is the app that students will be using on test day to take the actual digital PSAT/NMSQT and digital SAT. Students can link their PSAT and SAT practice test results to their Khan Academy accounts to get additional practice exercises based on the questions they got wrong.

One big advantage of the College Board’s switch to digital testing is that scores will be made available to students much sooner. Students will be able to get updates on score availability and within days view their PSAT and SAT scores via a new mobile app called BigFuture School.

May College Expert Newsletter

College ExpertCareers, College Expert Blogs, Financial Aid, Financial Matters, Majors, Newsletter, Study Abroad, Summer Activities, What Colleges Look For Leave a Comment

Studying abroad is not only fun, some colleges require it – whether it’s a short stay, internship or extended immersion program. Wondering about your options for an international experience? Read our May issue! Other articles include:

Focus on Majors/Molecular Biology – A path that leads to careers in research, medicine and bioengineering.
Financial Matters – AP classes, employment and other ways to cut the cost of college.
Maximizing your summer break – Want to get noticed as an applicant? Make the most of your summer!
Colleges that change lives – 40 liberal arts colleges that are accessible, affordable and having a big impact.

Read the May issue.

View of fountain on Lake Osceola with white campus buildings in background

A Visit to the University of Miami

ryanluseCollege Expert Blogs, College Spotlight, Colleges Visited, Ryan's Blog, Tours 1 Comment

Orange and green University of Miami logo

By Ryan Luse

I have been to almost 20 colleges and universities in the Sunshine State, but logistics and timing never put me close to the University of Miami – until recently. 

Speaking of location, this is an important point. Despite its name, the main campus is not located right in Miami. It is not located downtown. It is not located by South Beach either (which is probably for the best!). The campus is located in a suburb called Coral Gables, which has kind of an Edina vibe but with palm trees. Being located a little bit away from the city is a bit of a blessing – Miami traffic is some of the worst I have experienced in this country. Fortunately for students, there happens to be a Metrorail right on campus so you won’t be stuck in traffic like I was.

Selfie of Ryan Luse in blue College Expert baseball cap and sunglasses on sunny campus
Me touring the balmy U of Miami campus.

My day started with an information session at 9 am packed with so much info there was no time for questions before we were sorted into our tour groups. Since I am too old to be a student and may not immediately seem like a parent, I’m a bit of an enigma when touring solo. My two tour guides, who happened to be girlfriend and boyfriend (which was kind of cute and kind of weird), were energetic and it was obvious they loved their college. It was also obvious how all of us were enamored by the sheer beauty of this campus.

Males and female Miami student tour guides dressed in orange U of Miami polos.
My tour guides loved their school!

This is one of the biggest selling points for the U of Miami. This campus has made my list of the Top Ten of the most beautiful campuses I have toured so far, which perhaps needs to be a future blog. It’s like learning at a tropical resort with the stunning Lake Osceola as the focal point. This is no ordinary pond or pool to jump into like those you find at other colleges; this natural lake has real wildlife and even used to be a home to alligators! While gators are no longer allowed in the lake (I wonder why?) there are manatees, turtles, ducks, exotic birds and even snakes. Read more about it here

View of fountain on Lake Osceola with white campus buildings in background
Stunning Lake Osceola.

Some of my favorite highlights of campus besides the lake were: The Fountains of UM, The Courtyard at the prestigious Herbert Business School, the Statue of the Rock (not named after Dwayne Johnson!), and Fate Bridge, which goes over the lake connecting to the student center. I kept thinking how majestic this would all look at sunset. 

I also learned about The Rosenstiel School of Marine, Atmospheric, and Earth Science, which is located on an 18-acre waterfront campus on Virginia Key in Biscayne Bay. I had no idea! This would be ideal for students interested in marine biology. 

I ended my day at the popular on-campus and student-run restaurant The Rathskeller, which everyone on campus calls the Rat. I also got to talk to a former student who is a Sophomore and super happy here. He also gave me his Pros and Cons for you to take into consideration.

Pro’s: the classes, the students, the campus, and internship opportunities. 
Cons: Housing was a problem for the most recent incoming class, Miami traffic, merit scholarships are not easy to get.

It was a great experience finally spending time at the University of Miami. Here are some final takeaways.

Admissions:  

Good news and bad news. The good is that this is a really good school! A top research university and the most selective college in Florida, which keeps getting more selective… Over 50,000 thousand applications, 19 percent admission rate (with a huge number going to Early Decision 1 & 2), average unweighted GPA – 3.8, 31-34 ACT, will stay test optional through 2026.

Some of U Miami’s most popular majors are Marine Science, Music, Business, Architecture, Latin American Studies, Finance, Economics, and Biology

The Fit: who would be happy here?  

– Students looking for fun, sun and school spirit.
– Students looking for a diverse private school in a diverse city, especially Hispanic/Latina/Latino
– Students looking for a bougie campus, preppy, fashion-oriented, Influencers and entrepreneurs. 

U Miami reminds me of these non-Florida colleges:

University of San Diego
Tulane University
Wake Forest

Other fun, random facts about U Miami

1. Tough guys Dwayne Johnson and Sylvester Stallone both went to the University of Miami.

2. UM’s colors are green, white and orange, representing Florida’s orange tree! Green for the leaves, white for the blossoms and orange for, well, the orange.

4. The mascot was originally named “Icky” but was renamed after San Sebastian hall which became a university dormitory in 1939.  Read more here! 

5. One of my tour guides had rescued a parrot and was allowed to keep it as a pet. I also saw more dogs than usual, which are allowed if they are service pups. 

6. The Richter Library has the largest collection of Cuban resources outside of Cuba. 

7. As a football tradition, Miami players and fans hold up four fingers at the beginning of the 4th quarter.  

8. The Miami Hurricanes Men’s Basketball Team was in the 2023 Final Four.

Bright orange YOU 3-D sculpture on campus
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April College Expert Newsletter

College ExpertAdmissions, College Expert Blogs, Financial Matters, Majors, Newsletter Leave a Comment

April College Expert newsletter banner

Colleges are looking beyond math and science skills to identify the most-qualified applicants for competitive STEM programs. Wondering if you have what it takes? Read our April issue! Other articles include:

Focus on Majors/Communications Studies – A path that combines liberal arts with practical training.
Financial Matters – Appealing financial aid awards.
Dealing with Denial – How to stay positive while facing disappointment.

Read the April issue.

A Visit to Seattle University

CECollege Expert Blogs, College Spotlight, Colleges Visited, Tours Leave a Comment

Red and black Seattle U logo

By Isaac Eng

Seattle University, founded in 1891, is a Jesuit Catholic University located smack dab in the heart of Seattle’s bustling Capitol Hill neighborhood. Nestled between cutting-edge hospitals up the street on First Hill and the lively night life scene on Broadway Ave and 12th Street in Cap Hill proper, Seattle U is correctly described by its admissions officers to be an “oasis” in the city. Seattle attracts all sorts—skiers, rock climbers, mountain bikers, techies, grunge rockers, and lovers of all things mountains and rain. Everyone seems to have a place on the dynamic Seattle U campus.

Isaac smiling in from of red brick freshman dorm on Seattle U campus
Me in front of one of the freshman dorms!

Academics

The university proudly owns its Jesuit heritage at every turn. Their mission is twofold: they aim to educate the whole student by aiding in their professional development and empowering them to be leaders pushing for a more just and humane world. The way the university tries to accomplish these lofty goals is through an emphasis on building community—between students, faculty, and business partners across Seattle.

Boasting an average class size of 18 students and an 11:1 student-faculty ratio, Seattle U gives undergrads the opportunity to connect with their professors in a meaningful way. Pair this with a project-based, hands-on educational model, and direct access to internships at numerous Seattle-based non-profits, hospitals, and corporations like Boeing, Microsoft, Adobe, and Google, it’s easy to see that Seattle U offers an education that prepares students for successful careers in competitive fields.

But Seattle U isn’t just about collaborative education and career readiness, it also wants students to give back. The Jesuit tradition of community service is alive and well at Seattle U. One of the most popular campus events is the 24-hour dance-a-thon that happens once a year at the Space Needle to benefit Seattle Children’s Hospital. Outside of this event, Seattle U students regularly participate in some way in the greater Seattle community. My tour guide Seth, a 3rd year nursing student from Hawaii, said that “pretty much everyone he knows” does some sort of community outreach like this.

Campus Life

In their free time outside of class, internships, and community service, Seattle U students take part in a bustling social scene. There is no Greek life on campus, but since most students stay on campus all four years, there are always opportunities for students to connect with classmates in the dorms or on several of the beautiful quads across the tight-knit campus. Students also avidly follow (division 1) Seattle U sports, especially the soccer and basketball teams, participate in over 150 student clubs, and enjoy a campus-wide concert in the spring called “Quad Stock.” If you’re in the market for a party school, you’re barking up the wrong tree, but many other kinds of community are readily available for Seattle U students, and everyone can find their niche.

Students walking by abstract fountain in sunny quad with two academic buildings in background.
The fountain in the academic quad. The College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Nursing in the background.

Fast Facts

  • There are 4,764 undergraduate students, and 7,291 total students
  • Seattle U is ranked #139 among all U.S. universities according to U.S. News and World
  • Seattle U has a law school on campus
  • The most popular programs on campus are nursing, business, computer science, and environmental science
  • In 2021, Microsoft, Amazon, and a number of private investors gave funding to build the Sinegal Center for Science and Innovation, a cutting edge STEM facility featuring computer, chemistry, and biology labs, “maker” rooms, cafes, and study spaces in abundance
  • The majority of students choose to study abroad during their four years at Seattle U

Admissions

  • Acceptance rate is 82%
  • Sullivan Leadership Award (full ride) available to applicants who demonstrate significant leadership experience and who complete an additional application
  • 92% of students receive financial aid
  • $8,000-$25,000 merit scholarships are available for students in addition to financial aid
  • Test optional
  • Students may apply direct entry into their major program and start fulfilling requirements on the first day – OR – students can apply for the per-major studies program and declare their major by the end of their sophomore year
  • Robust core curriculum must be completed by all students prior to graduation

Final Impressions

The students that would be most happy here are those who are independently motivated and enjoy working in community. Seth, my tour guide, said “Seattle U students are always skeptical, but for good reason. They enjoy asking questions and actively seeking answers. And above all, the enjoy being involved in the Seattle community and take initiative on issues they care about.”

Nandini facing camera smiling with laptop turned toward viewer showing SafeSphere app she developed

Rochester Student Develops App to Support Peers Who are Struggling

Barb BuchholzCareers, College Expert Blogs, Summer Activities, What Colleges Look For Leave a Comment

During her freshman year, Nandini noticed how isolation during the pandemic was affecting her own mental health as well as that of her peers. To elevate her mood, she turned to journaling, running and working out with her brother. She also began to think about how many people didn’t only struggle with mental health during the pandemic, but throughout their lives, and considered ways she could help. 

Nandini facing camera smiling with laptop turned toward viewer showing SafeSphere app she developed
Mayo High School junior Nandini Iyer created the mental wellness app SafeSphere.
(Photo courtesy of the Post Bulletin.)

In 7th grade, she had participated in a Technovation coding camp for girls, and Nandini and her friends received valuable feedback and advanced to semi-finals for a prototype mental health app they developed. The app began to feel even more relevant to Nandini during Covid. 

“Stressed students behind screens weren’t able to receive the resources they needed and extracurriculars became virtual, which confined students to Zoom,” Nandini says. “I saw that my community was struggling.”

Picking up where they had left off, Nandini continued to develop the app, SafeSphere, during her freshman year of high school with the goal of offering it on the Google Play Store and App Store and on the web. While some original team members weren’t available to help rebuild SafeSphere, Nandini continued to enlist a team of partners, including an IT expert and a child psychiatrist from Mayo Clinic, business lawyers from the University of Minnesota Law Clinic and her brother, Varun, University of Minnesota psychology major, who is helping to market SafeSphere to other college students.

The goal of SafeSphere is to assess how you are doing and then provide easy access to tools, whether you need a distraction from the daily grind or need to connect with a professional. It includes activities such as journaling; videos and podcasts on topics ranging from mindfulness to the positive impact of music to destigmatizing depression; workout videos inspired by Nandini’s own experience with the benefits of exercise; and links to mental health resources. It even includes a survey where you can “check in” regarding how you are feeling – and ask for help if you need to. 

“The key is to accept that sometimes it’s ok to be “not ok”, Nandini says. “It’s important to be honest with oneself and get the support that can make all the difference.”

Now a junior, Nandini plans to build on her experience. She is exploring colleges where she can pursue a degree in Cognitive Science with the goal of a career in the mental health field.

Interested in exploring SafeSphere yourself? Visit www.safespheremind.org for a link to the web app. It also will soon be published on the Google Play Store and App Store for iOS devices.

We often encourage students to look for ways to pursue their genuine interests, whether that means taking an online class, developing a hobby or volunteering in their community. It can help them identify an academic path that excites them. It can also demonstrate the kind of initiative that colleges love.

Nandini’s journey demonstrates how diving into an interest – whether it’s coding, social activism or beekeeping – is not only rewarding, it can help you stand out during college admissions. Looking for ideas to get involved? See our suggestions for potential Unique Teen Activities or talk to your College Expert counselor!

March College Expert Newsletter

College ExpertAdvice for Parents, College Expert Blogs, Financial Aid, Majors, Newsletter, Tours, Waitlist Leave a Comment

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Want to really get to know a campus? Here are some tips for your next college visit. Other articles include:

Focus on Majors/International Business – Cultural competence is in demand.
Financial Matters – How to compare your financial aid packages.
Navigating the Waitlist – Increasing your chance of acceptance while waiting.    
College Visit Tips for Parents – Your to-dos, and why it’s best to let your child take the lead.

Read the March issue.

The backs of a group of students walking across campus past historic gray brick building on sunny day

A Visit to Swarthmore College

sueluseCollege Expert Blogs, College Spotlight, Colleges Visited, Tours Leave a Comment

Swarthmore logo in red

By Sue Luse

I visited several colleges in the Philadelphia area in early October, and months after my visit Swarthmore College still stands out. It is located in a beautiful suburban area, only 10 miles from Philly and with close, easy access to the airport. There is a train on campus to take students into Philly and all over the east coast, which gives students the flexibility to explore Washington D.C. and New York. Swarthmore is part of a Tri college consortium with Bryn Mawr and Haverford, which expands a student’s academic opportunities and social life, and students can take some classes at UPenn. Swarthmore is known for its Quaker roots and mission. Besides its great academic opportunities, the college’s beautiful 425-acre campus is a nationally registered arboretum with rolling wooded hills. 

Large historic gray-brink building on green lawn with white Adirondack chairs
Iconic Parrish Hall is the heart of the Swarthmore campus.

Academics 
Swarthmore is very challenging academically, and students don’t just focus on grades there, they love to learn. They also appreciate Swarthmore’s flexible academic requirements, professors and resources. Swarthmore’s strong engineering and computer science programs are unique and hard to find at other small liberal arts universities. Students are required to take some core classes and also demonstrate foreign language proficiency and pass a swimming test. Freshman at Swarthmore are graded on a pass-fail system their first semester to reduce stress, and there is no class rank or dean’s lists. Courses are very challenging, but Swatties are known to be more collaborative than competitive. Class sizes are intimate, with 73% having less than 20 students, and they are taught by professors. Swarthmore does have an honors program that features independent study with written and oral exams like a PhD program. It is among the top 5 colleges in the nation of graduates that earn PhDs.   

Campus Life 
The Swarthmore community is a family of students who not only engage in learning, but are politically active and demonstrate civil responsibility. There is no typical Swattie, but everyone is brilliant with unique talents and interests. They are proud to be called nerds, and they are very diverse and liberal. Many are involved in the arts, 86 percent are from out of state and 15 percent are international. There are no Greeks, which students love. Sports are Division III and more low-key. 

Students from all class years live together in housing, and the campus is cash free, which is a part of the Quaker philosophy. Ninety-five percent of students live on campus all four years, and housing is guaranteed all four years. Swatties love their dorms, each with their own personalities and traditions. Thirty-five percent of students study abroad, and 75 percent do independent research with professors. Annual traditions include the Primal Scream at midnight before finals and decorating the library with toilet paper.

Two female tour guides at Swarthmore walking down sidewalk
Two enthusiastic Swatties served as our tour guides. Swarthmore students are active, talented and proud to be called “nerds.”

Fast Facts
Enrollment is about 1700 students, a size the college plans to keep because it is the perfect for student involvement and professor interaction.
Great food
Free laundry 
Events are all free
A diverse campus
67% students of color
Students have intellectual curiosity, love to learn 
Students are not allowed to declare majors (even engineering) until the end of sophomore year
20 of 32 credits are outside of your major
Engineering students can double major 

Admissions 
Regular decision acceptance rate is approximately 6%
Early decision (ED) acceptance rate is approximately 23%
Half of the class is filled by ED applicants
ED applicants have increased 26 percent in recent years
Only about 50 students are deferred 
Your academic profile is more important than test scores 
Admissions has been test optional for 5 years
In 2021-22, 48 percent of students applied test optional; 39 of those students were admitted
The yield rate is 43%
Admissions is need blind
Swarthmore uses the Common App and has only one required supplement about taking intellectual risks and being intellectually challenged. 

Who would be happy here
Students looking for challenging academics and an intense intellectual atmosphere. If you love talking about philosophy at 4 am, you would love Swarthmore. If you are looking for a liberal, multicultural, close-knit, politically active campus, this might be the right place for you. Learn more here: https://www.swarthmore.edu.

The backs of a group of students walking across campus past historic gray brick building on sunny day
Strolling across campus on a sunny day.