College Admissions: Debunking the Myth of Prestige and Maximum Financial Success

Education

By Cyrus Pinto and Ishan Puri

College acceptances have plummeted in the last 15 years. The explosion of online applications and the Common App, have been a boon to access, reducing the barriers to applying. However, the increase in applications has resulted in eye popping acceptance numbers. Stanford’s 5.05% acceptance rate for the Class of 2019 leads the pack.

Many parents encourage (or force) their children to apply to colleges where they deem the most prestigious. The goal of this exercise? To secure a financially sound future. The supposed correlation between prestige of the university and financial return of it’s graduates is fallacious. And it’s hurting us. Instead, this has driven a hysterical mania to apply to many of the top schools, causing undue stress and carnage on a generation of student’s psych, driving some to suicide.

Our goal at Synocate is to build a culture and framework for a student to find themselves before the college admissions process. In conjunction, we use data such as ROI to determine schools that fit the needs of parents and students, together. Here was a fascinating trend we noticed.

According to PayScale’s ROI calculator, the top 5 schools with “20 Year Net ROI” (defined as “The difference between 20 Year Median Pay for a bachelor’s grad and 24 Year Median Pay for a high school grad minus Total 4 Year Cost”) are the following:

1.) Harvey Mudd College $985,300
2.) California Institute of Technology $901,400
3.) Stevens Institute of Technology $841,000
4.) Colorado School of Mines $831,000
5.) Babson College $812,800

With such high ROI, one would expect rock bottom acceptance rates. However, nearly the opposite is true:

Acceptance Rates for top 5 ROI schools:

1.) Harvey Mudd College (19.1% in 2015)
2.) California Institute of Technology (9% in 2014)
3.) Stevens Institute of Technology (44% in 2014)
4.) Colorado School of Mines (36.4% in 2015)
5.) Babson College (28.2% in 2015)

Why is this the case? One explanation is that engineering focused institutions have a higher ROI. If parents are concerned about their students financial future, the focus should be placed on the course of study, not the school itself. President Obama has been a major proponent of increasing the number of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) majors, and parents should follow suit.

Although putting pressure on a student is never encouraged, emphasis on STEM is the lesser of two evils. The current scenario of brand name obsession creates a situation where the outcome is mostly out of the students individual control. Debunking the application process is almost impossible given today’s fog of war created by most application committees of top schools. The pressure of brand name obsession also begins when the student is very young, at the age of 16 or 17 when they begin the application process.

STEM pressure would be different in both the control of the outcome and age of the student. Picking a major and performance in a class is within the students realm, not a committees. The decisions during college are made when the student is a legal adult over the age of 18, unlike the college brand name obsession which begins when the student has barely entered high school.

However, there is an exception to the rule. Brand name technical schools, like Caltech, have both an elite acceptance rate and strong ROI. Stanford and Princeton trail close behind, both with a healthy ROI as well as competitive acceptance rates.

Here are the top 5 2015 Acceptance Rates, mapped with their respective ROI:

1.) Stanford (5.05%) $809,700
2.) Harvard (5.3%) $646,100
3.) Columbia (6.1%) $591,400
4.) Yale (6.49%) $578,500
5.) Princeton (6.99%) $795,700

This analysis leaves us with the conclusion that brand names do not necessarily maximize student’s financial success. If financial success is not driving the mania behind college admissions competitiveness, then what is?

Maybe it’s the celebrity alumni. The number of self made millionaires and billionaires alumni of brand name schools has distorted reality. A bevy of successful technology company CEOs from Stanford and the traditional cadre of investment managers and politicians from Ivy Leagues create a perception of guaranteed success. Fueled by media hysteria and the reduction of application barriers via technology, the worldwide public will continue to voraciously claw at the pearly admissions gates of brand name schools. And there is no end in sight.

Surviving the College Admissions Hype

Education

Over the next several weeks, thousands of high school students will hear back from colleges with one of three results: accepted, waitlisted or rejected. High school seniors and their parents are anxious for the fated emails from universities.

For seniors, it feels like the culmination of hours of self-reflection and rigorous essay writing. For parents, it feels like judgment day on the quality of their parenting. In reality, it is a sometimes haphazard selection process where thousands of over-qualified applicants submit their profiles to more and more schools each year. The first step in overcoming the increasing hype is realizing the truth in this statement.

Admissions offices around the world have been busy with bi-weekly meetings where readers discuss the qualifications of students: measuring them with free form notes, quantitative scales on academic strength and extracurricular strength and personality. If the two or three admissions readers agree on the strength of a student, they are admitted. At top schools, this often means applicants score in the top 20 percent by both readers.

Although undergraduate education offers students a chance to grow intellectually, socially and culturally, it is our choices that really define who we are. On top of that, graduate or professional education offers another opportunity to attend Ivy League colleges or equivalent. Having this perspective, and speaking with college graduates themselves, will help ease the “end all” attitude around undergraduate college admissions.

Third, most students have diversified their mix of schools among reach, target and safety schools. Spreading the risk across more schools is always better than concentrating on a single set (i.e. Ivy League) of schools. At this point, high school seniors can only focus on the present — grades, school clubs, sports and extracurricular activities. In fact, ask many college students about 2nd semester senior year, and they will reflect fondly on the friendships and memories. High school students should try to cherish these remaining moments and realize all of the effort they have put in academically and socially into so many AP and IB courses.

High school, like college, is a time of intellectual and social growth. Senior year is particularly busy and stressful because of college applications. Applications are the next step to college, but it is not the final destination. In fact, college applications are more of a forced reflection — a time where admissions officers are asking students to think critically about their past and their choices.

Although it may be tough, understanding this perspective, speaking to college students, and enjoying the end of senior year is the healthiest way to approach these next few weeks. Good luck, and remember that each moment is a gift.

Do You Need a College Admissions Counselor?

Education

Every year we hear dizzying statistics about the college admissions process. Thousands of students apply to colleges with single digit acceptance rates, and often it feels like a lottery ticket to get accepted. Amidst this madness, many parents find resources to help their child: academic tutors and college admissions counselors. The value proposition for tutoring is fairly straightforward: if the tutor has historically produced higher SAT or ACT scores, then they should be able to do the same for your son or daughter. The proposition for a college admissions counselor, however, is not so simple. As the founder of a college admissions consultancy, I will provide you with a framework for identifying the need (if any) for a college counselor.

The Process

The college admissions process is tailored to each individual and is intended to be highly personal. In fact, in my opinion, it is a discovery process for each applicant: why did they participate in those school clubs, and why exactly are they trying to apply to each college on their list? Moreover, the writing we are taught in Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses is unlike the style needed for college admissions essays.

The College Admissions Essay

Great college admissions essays are clear, evidence-based, and yet emotional in nature. These essays find the core of a student’s thoughts and feelings, and often their beliefs. The best college admissions essays inherently show a student’s perspective to the admissions committee. Admissions readers are professionals at discerning intent and extent of an activity, but clear writing makes it easier for everyone involved.

A significant amount of time we spend with students is focused on this essay writing process.

• How do you actually find what you like to do outside of the classroom?
• How do you articulate your passion in an essay, and show it rather than tell?
• How do you keep it simple, tell a story, and be different than other candidates at the same time?

These are the types of questions we tackle on a student-by-student basis, and it often takes time.

Diving into college admissions essays right away leads to flowery essays with little substance and an often desperate tone. Countless times, we have seen perfect SAT scorers write essays about why they want to go into medicine to help the world without actually thinking about how they will do this, or why medicine is the right path for that goal. Being specific is important, but being specific takes deliberate and mature thought.

How College Counselors Help Students

College applicants often benefit from a direct mentor who has recently gone through the college application process because these mentors can offer a third-person perspective on college admissions essays. In addition, college counselors can back up these insights with data from universities and years of experience.

At Synocate, we also help students in two other areas:

• Understanding college profiles – who are the acclaimed professors, what is the personality of the college, what are the chances at admission
• Keeping track of deadlines – identifying teachers for letters of recommendation, explaining early action vs. early decision vs. regular decision, and keeping track of all the Common Application supplemental essays

Ultimately, college counselors are good for an additional introspective push, a mentor, and a time tracker. Our goal is to help students find themselves rather than force them into some mold, which seems to be a trend in college admissions today. This approach has worked wonders for us, with admits to all the Top 40 colleges and Ivy Leagues each year. It is a patient and simple approach. College counselors are coaches for students applying to college, much like tennis coaches or speech coaches.

Determining the Quality of an Admissions Counselor

There is also a variety of college admissions counselors. Most are single-person companies or even sole proprietorships that are founded by older individuals who graduated from college several years ago. These often fit the needs of those looking for any help on the applications, and who want someone local, with a bit more knowledge, and experienced.

But for those looking for robust support from multiple perspectives, choosing a team of college counselors is a better approach. We did not find this in the market, so we developed the Nexus Approach. Two counselors are assigned to each student, and report on each student’s progress at a weekly meeting. Similarly, when searching for a college admissions counselor, listen carefully to the depth of the counseling and assistance you will receive.

On the other hand, large tutoring companies have started to move into college admissions counseling as a natural ancillary service. These tutors are not specially trained in many of the skills needed for college counseling, and the organizational focus on tutoring often makes these services an amalgamation of knowledge that can be easily found on the Internet.

The approach we take is a hybrid, offering a primary counselor that tailors content to each student, and a secondary counselor who listens in and reports back to the broader team. This gives the primary counselor indirect feedback and allows each applicant to have multiple perspectives, heard from a single source, the primary counselor.

Sometimes testing a prospective admissions counselor on sample subjects can also be a litmus test.

Conclusion

A college admissions counselor is a useful resource. Beyond grammar edits, we hope to give students a toolkit for determining what they actually enjoy. Writing is an instrument of critical self-examination, and the college admissions essays are designed to make applicants think. Instead of sighing at these essays, we try to help students embrace the process.

Thinking through deadlines and specific essays can be overwhelming, and college counselors are great at handling this as well. Be sure to vet a prospective counselor closely, however, as there is a lot of variance in the quality and seriousness of college admissions counselors in the market.

Good luck, and feel free to visit us at www.synocate.com for more articles on college admissions.

How to Prepare for the New SAT

Education

The new Standardized Aptitude Test (SAT) has high school students, tutoring centers, universities, and the undergraduate education system waiting. In college admissions, students have always used the SAT as a barometer of where to apply — whether that is right is another question. As a college admissions company, we have seen the stress that the SAT can create, but also the benefits of knowing which schools are realistic. In all, we believe the SAT is part of the college admissions equation that should be kept, but viewed holistically.

In this article, we will go over the major changes to the SAT first and how to prepare for them.

The New SAT

According to the College Board, there are eight fundamental changes to the SAT occurring in Spring 2016. Each of these changes affects not only the pacing but also the material tested, study strategies, and mental tricks used on the exam.

The rationale behind the changes, according to College Board, is to align students with coursework and what they term “Career Readiness.” Candidly, College Board also mentions that the SAT is a work in progress — which is indeed true. Thousands of hours must have been invested in this redesign, and still more will come with the first test takers in Spring 2016.

2015-05-06-1430874139-2829227-SATComparison.JPG

For more information on these changes and the College Board’s rationale, see this comprehensive report: https://www.collegeboard.org/delivering-opportunity/sat/redesign

How to Prepare

Although the test is changing in structure, scoring, and timing, its overall content will probably be similar to what we have seen. The continued focus on critical reading, writing, and math is a good sign along with the idea of reverting back to an older format that SAT has already used. Students thinking of preparing for the new SAT should do a mix of the old SAT and new SAT practice exams, but also be wary of new types of questions. We suspect there will be new questions around the evidenced-based focus of the reading section now.

Math will likely also be adjusted to new high school standards, and may include concepts like limits. It would not be surprising for free response math questions or other more time-consuming problems to be eliminated in an effort to streamline the exam and make it shorter.

Timing will be important. In our experience, truly mastering the content is the key to unlocking good timing in any situation. This means preparing across the major vendors (Princeton Review, Kaplan, Barron’s) as well as individual preparation (knowing what you personally need help on, and working on that, either individually, or with a tutor).

In the end, the new SAT will affect the entire college admissions ecosystem. We believe there will be many systemic changes to timing, content, and strategy, but the underlying components will largely be unchanged. Preparing from previous versions of the SAT is the best way to start thinking in the SAT mind frame. We also recommend waiting a few cycles after the new SAT is released, if possible. This allows the SAT to recalibrate with new data and for students to react.

P.S. For more articles on college admissions, visit Synocate at www.synocate.com

College Admissions: Debunking the Myth of Prestige and Maximum Financial Success

Uncategorized

By Cyrus Pinto and Ishan Puri

College acceptances have plummeted in the last 15 years. The explosion of online applications and the Common App, have been a boon to access, reducing the barriers to applying. However, the increase in applications has resulted in eye popping acceptance numbers. Stanford’s 5.05% acceptance rate for the Class of 2019 leads the pack.

Many parents encourage (or force) their children to apply to colleges where they deem the most prestigious. The goal of this exercise? To secure a financially sound future. The supposed correlation between prestige of the university and financial return of it’s graduates is fallacious. And it’s hurting us. Instead, this has driven a hysterical mania to apply to many of the top schools, causing undue stress and carnage on a generation of student’s psych, driving some to suicide.

Our goal at Synocate is to build a culture and framework for a student to find themselves before the college admissions process. In conjunction, we use data such as ROI to determine schools that fit the needs of parents and students, together. Here was a fascinating trend we noticed.

According to PayScale’s ROI calculator, the top 5 schools with “20 Year Net ROI” (defined as “The difference between 20 Year Median Pay for a bachelor’s grad and 24 Year Median Pay for a high school grad minus Total 4 Year Cost”) are the following:

1.) Harvey Mudd College $985,300
2.) California Institute of Technology $901,400
3.) Stevens Institute of Technology $841,000
4.) Colorado School of Mines $831,000
5.) Babson College $812,800

With such high ROI, one would expect rock bottom acceptance rates. However, nearly the opposite is true:

Acceptance Rates for top 5 ROI schools:

1.) Harvey Mudd College (19.1% in 2015)
2.) California Institute of Technology (9% in 2014)
3.) Stevens Institute of Technology (44% in 2014)
4.) Colorado School of Mines (36.4% in 2015)
5.) Babson College (28.2% in 2015)

Why is this the case? One explanation is that engineering focused institutions have a higher ROI. If parents are concerned about their students financial future, the focus should be placed on the course of study, not the school itself. President Obama has been a major proponent of increasing the number of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) majors, and parents should follow suit.

Although putting pressure on a student is never encouraged, emphasis on STEM is the lesser of two evils. The current scenario of brand name obsession creates a situation where the outcome is mostly out of the students individual control. Debunking the application process is almost impossible given today’s fog of war created by most application committees of top schools. The pressure of brand name obsession also begins when the student is very young, at the age of 16 or 17 when they begin the application process.

STEM pressure would be different in both the control of the outcome and age of the student. Picking a major and performance in a class is within the students realm, not a committees. The decisions during college are made when the student is a legal adult over the age of 18, unlike the college brand name obsession which begins when the student has barely entered high school.

However, there is an exception to the rule. Brand name technical schools, like Caltech, have both an elite acceptance rate and strong ROI. Stanford and Princeton trail close behind, both with a healthy ROI as well as competitive acceptance rates.

Here are the top 5 2015 Acceptance Rates, mapped with their respective ROI:

1.) Stanford (5.05%) $809,700
2.) Harvard (5.3%) $646,100
3.) Columbia (6.1%) $591,400
4.) Yale (6.49%) $578,500
5.) Princeton (6.99%) $795,700

This analysis leaves us with the conclusion that brand names do not necessarily maximize student’s financial success. If financial success is not driving the mania behind college admissions competitiveness, then what is?

Maybe it’s the celebrity alumni. The number of self made millionaires and billionaires alumni of brand name schools has distorted reality. A bevy of successful technology company CEOs from Stanford and the traditional cadre of investment managers and politicians from Ivy Leagues create a perception of guaranteed success. Fueled by media hysteria and the reduction of application barriers via technology, the worldwide public will continue to voraciously claw at the pearly admissions gates of brand name schools. And there is no end in sight.

Do You Need a College Admissions Counselor?

Education

Every year we hear dizzying statistics about the college admissions process. Thousands of students apply to colleges with single digit acceptance rates, and often it feels like a lottery ticket to get accepted. Amidst this madness, many parents find resources to help their child: academic tutors and college admissions counselors. The value proposition for tutoring is fairly straightforward: if the tutor has historically produced higher SAT or ACT scores, then they should be able to do the same for your son or daughter. The proposition for a college admissions counselor, however, is not so simple. As the founder of a college admissions consultancy, I will provide you with a framework for identifying the need (if any) for a college counselor.

The Process

The college admissions process is tailored to each individual and is intended to be highly personal. In fact, in my opinion, it is a discovery process for each applicant: why did they participate in those school clubs, and why exactly are they trying to apply to each college on their list? Moreover, the writing we are taught in Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses is unlike the style needed for college admissions essays.

The College Admissions Essay

Great college admissions essays are clear, evidence-based, and yet emotional in nature. These essays find the core of a student’s thoughts and feelings, and often their beliefs. The best college admissions essays inherently show a student’s perspective to the admissions committee. Admissions readers are professionals at discerning intent and extent of an activity, but clear writing makes it easier for everyone involved.

A significant amount of time we spend with students is focused on this essay writing process.

• How do you actually find what you like to do outside of the classroom?
• How do you articulate your passion in an essay, and show it rather than tell?
• How do you keep it simple, tell a story, and be different than other candidates at the same time?

These are the types of questions we tackle on a student-by-student basis, and it often takes time.

Diving into college admissions essays right away leads to flowery essays with little substance and an often desperate tone. Countless times, we have seen perfect SAT scorers write essays about why they want to go into medicine to help the world without actually thinking about how they will do this, or why medicine is the right path for that goal. Being specific is important, but being specific takes deliberate and mature thought.

How College Counselors Help Students

College applicants often benefit from a direct mentor who has recently gone through the college application process because these mentors can offer a third-person perspective on college admissions essays. In addition, college counselors can back up these insights with data from universities and years of experience.

At Synocate, we also help students in two other areas:

• Understanding college profiles – who are the acclaimed professors, what is the personality of the college, what are the chances at admission
• Keeping track of deadlines – identifying teachers for letters of recommendation, explaining early action vs. early decision vs. regular decision, and keeping track of all the Common Application supplemental essays

Ultimately, college counselors are good for an additional introspective push, a mentor, and a time tracker. Our goal is to help students find themselves rather than force them into some mold, which seems to be a trend in college admissions today. This approach has worked wonders for us, with admits to all the Top 40 colleges and Ivy Leagues each year. It is a patient and simple approach. College counselors are coaches for students applying to college, much like tennis coaches or speech coaches.

Determining the Quality of an Admissions Counselor

There is also a variety of college admissions counselors. Most are single-person companies or even sole proprietorships that are founded by older individuals who graduated from college several years ago. These often fit the needs of those looking for any help on the applications, and who want someone local, with a bit more knowledge, and experienced.

But for those looking for robust support from multiple perspectives, choosing a team of college counselors is a better approach. We did not find this in the market, so we developed the Nexus Approach. Two counselors are assigned to each student, and report on each student’s progress at a weekly meeting. Similarly, when searching for a college admissions counselor, listen carefully to the depth of the counseling and assistance you will receive.

On the other hand, large tutoring companies have started to move into college admissions counseling as a natural ancillary service. These tutors are not specially trained in many of the skills needed for college counseling, and the organizational focus on tutoring often makes these services an amalgamation of knowledge that can be easily found on the Internet.

The approach we take is a hybrid, offering a primary counselor that tailors content to each student, and a secondary counselor who listens in and reports back to the broader team. This gives the primary counselor indirect feedback and allows each applicant to have multiple perspectives, heard from a single source, the primary counselor.

Sometimes testing a prospective admissions counselor on sample subjects can also be a litmus test.

Conclusion

A college admissions counselor is a useful resource. Beyond grammar edits, we hope to give students a toolkit for determining what they actually enjoy. Writing is an instrument of critical self-examination, and the college admissions essays are designed to make applicants think. Instead of sighing at these essays, we try to help students embrace the process.

Thinking through deadlines and specific essays can be overwhelming, and college counselors are great at handling this as well. Be sure to vet a prospective counselor closely, however, as there is a lot of variance in the quality and seriousness of college admissions counselors in the market.

Good luck, and feel free to visit us at www.synocate.com for more articles on college admissions.

Surviving the College Admissions Hype

Education

Over the next several weeks, thousands of high school students will hear back from colleges with one of three results: accepted, waitlisted, or rejected. High school seniors and their parents are anxious for the fated emails from universities.

For seniors, it feels like the culmination of hours of self-reflection and rigorous essay writing. For parents, it feels like judgment day on the quality of their parenting. In reality, it is a sometimes haphazard selection process where thousands of over-qualified applicants submit their profiles to more and more schools each year. The first step in overcoming the increasing hype is realizing the truth in this statement.

Admissions offices around the world have been busy with bi-weekly meetings where readers discuss the qualifications of students: measuring them with free form notes, quantitative scales on academic strength and extracurricular strength, and personality. If the two or three admissions readers agree on the strength of a student, they are admitted. At top schools, this often means applicants score in the top 20% by both readers.

Although undergraduate education offers students a chance to grow intellectually, socially, and culturally, it is our choices that really define who we are. On top of that, graduate or professional education offers another opportunity to attend Ivy League colleges or equivalent. Having this perspective, and speaking with college graduates themselves, will help ease the “end all” attitude around undergraduate college admissions.

Third, most students have diversified their mix of schools among reach, target, and safety schools. Spreading the risk across more schools is always better than concentrating on a single set (i.e. Ivy League) of schools. At this point, high school seniors can only focus on the present –grades, school clubs, sports, and extracurricular activities. In fact, ask many college students about 2nd semester senior year, and they will reflect fondly on the friendships and memories. High school students should try to cherish these remaining moments and realize all of the effort they have put in academically and socially into so many AP and IB courses.

High school, like college, is a time of intellectual and social growth. Senior year is particularly busy and stressful because of college applications. Applications are the next step to college, but it is not the final destination. In fact, college applications are more of a forced reflection – a time where admissions officers are asking students to think critically about their past and their choices.

Although it may be tough, understanding this perspective, speaking to college students, and enjoying the end of senior year is the healthiest way to approach these next few weeks. Good luck, and remember that each moment is a gift.

Extracurricular Activities: Finding Your Focus in College Admissions

Education

Harvard University accepted 5.9% of applicants last year, and Stanford admitted 5.1% of applicants – the lowest in college history. High school students increasingly turn to extracurricular activities to differentiate themselves, and even with that, they must apply to more and more schools to diversify their risk.

In this cycle of ever-increasing competitiveness, what should students actually focus on? It is easy to say focus on what you love to do or do something you are good at. Those concepts, however, are often tied together. On top of that, helicopter parents, over-competitive peers, and over-stretched high school counselors do not offer unified advice for a busy high school student.

The Shotgun Approach

At Synocate, our answer is the shotgun method: trying 3 different activities in various fields and reflecting on them after 3 months. In this way, we create a “rotational” program for our students and help them realize their own interests, strengths, and weaknesses.

In this article, we will lay out the steps of the shotgun approach: engaging, reflecting, and iterating. This time-tested approach is featured in our book The Applicant and has been used with over 250 students individually.

Step 1: Engaging

The first step is to frame the activities, your mindset, and game plan

In the shotgun approach, students take ownership in finding and participating in activities. Students themselves reach out to professors for internships, local clubs for officer positions, and competitions. In this way, students can take ownership for their plan and learn time management and long-term planning. They also will be more engaged.

These activities should span across different “buckets”, or types of activities. There are four buckets in the framework: out-of-school, in-school, social work, and competitions. The actual number in each bucket is flexible and dependent on the student and available activities.

After an initial reflection, students devise a 3-month plan of activity management and tangible metrics they will use to measure each activity. Keeping a weekly log of reflections is helpful.

Step 2: Reflecting

The second step is to think deeply about each activity

After 3 months, the student should have a good sense of the people, the work, and the scope of each activity. Reflecting is just as important as doing the activity: it can take the form of a journal, a brainstorm, or even conversations with parents or peers. In fact, discussing thoughts with a school counselor or teacher can be a way to get to know them, which eventually reflects well in letters of recommendation.

Students should think critically about what they enjoyed most about each activity and how that connects to their personality or their previous experiences. Often, merit and happiness are correlated.

Step 3: Iterating

The third step is to use these experiences to inform future actions

Thinking is not enough – it is important to make those thoughts into a reality. After reflecting, develop next steps that can be measured either by time span or achievement. These goals can vary from making your own “dream” activities to starting again from scratch with three very different activities. The shotgun approach can be iterated upon many times, and often with great results.

The Dangers of a Narrow Mind

In order for the shotgun approach to work, two things must exist: an open attitude and a willingness to persevere. An attitude to try new things is essential to the shotgun method and to expanding one’s horizons. Often times, we speak with parents or students who are focused on just one school or a set of schools (usually Ivy League schools). Although it is good to have a focus, sometimes being so narrow-minded can remove students from what they actually would enjoy or where they would excel.

We have used the shotgun approach with 7th-12th grade students and it has worked wonderfully. Some students realize they actually enjoy robotics and pursue that, winning VEX competitions and other related competitions. Others realize that medicine was just a dream their parents had for them, and they pursue dance, turning that into a series of performances and focusing on specific styles.

Conclusion

The beauty of the process is that life is a rotational program. We view the shotgun approach as just the start to a series of experiences that young adults take themselves. Students take responsibility for finding these activities, following through, and ultimately reflecting. Using these tools, students will be equipped to find their focus, which often changes, in college itself. About 80% of college students end up changing their major at least once.

This long-term view of admissions is what really has made us successful and what can make you successful. Empower your child to explore, and give them the energy and perspective to do so. That is often easier said than done, which is why many parents approach us as a third party with experience and a passion for helping others.

Although SAT scores are important, understanding and evaluating a student’s core strengths and areas of interest are equally valuable and often underestimated. Using our shotgun approach and carefully selecting different activities across a spectrum of buckets is one way to create your own rotational program and explore interests. Some of those may even turn into professions. We have followed students over the years and found exactly that: when a student uses this approach and finds their passion early on, that budding interest sometimes turns into a fully-fledged profession.

Good luck and comment with your story below!

The Most Overhyped Component of College Admissions

Education

What major should I chose? One of the most common questions we get about the college admissions process is the major selection. From our experience helping 5,000 students through workshops and individually through the process, we conclude that the major selection is the most overrated entry on the Common Application. Of course, there are exceptions where major significantly affects admissions chances, but in general, the choice requires 1/10 of the effort most applicants devote to the drop-down menu selection.

The Rationale

Anecdotal stories and confused seniors on College Confidential can create confusion about how much major selection actually matters. Because some students get in with a more esoteric or “easier” major does not correlate to the quality of the application, the luck with that particular reader, or the rest of their story

The major should generally tie to the story you are telling in your application, although it does not need to correlate completely. For example, if want to study engineering but love to write, a main Common Application essay about your work in writing and supplemental essays talking about your interest in communicating complex scientific topics simply works well.

The Perspective Approach works well in these cases because we help students fundamentally find what they love to do first. Focusing on writing Shakespearean essays without truly believing or loving what you are doing is mute. Instead, think deeply about what you and follow through with those activities.

The Solution

So now you activities that you care about and a story that revolves around a few different activities. Try to find commonalities between these activities and think about the types of majors that emphasize those skills. If you love to think critically about complex systems, maybe an engineering major is right for you. Alternatively, if you love to write, consider journalism

Many of the Top 25 schools allow you to switch between schools and majors, even if it is not easy. These switches can be made as late as the end of sophomore year of college.

This flexibility in the American system results in students changing majors three times on average in their undergraduate career (Ramos).

Colleges know this and that is why the major selection is not critical to their selection of students. Instead, they are looking for intellectual vitality, commitment and excellence in your activities, and ability to search and conquer pursuits independently as a thinker and student.

The bottom line here is to think about your story and where your primary strengths lie and choose a major that generally aligns academically and career-wise. You will probably change the major, but putting some thought into it at application time can help you figure out career options down the road, which is why it is there in the first place.

Exceptions

Seven and eight-year medical programs, Wharton at the University of Pennslyvania, and the EECS program at UC Berkeley are some of the exceptions to this rule. These programs are notably more competitive because of the number of applicants they receive and the focus of these students. As you can see, they often have a focus on a trade (medicine and business above, respectively) or are accelerated in some fashion.

Generally, students encourage students to apply to these programs and other more general programs within their whole college portfolio.

Conclusion

In the end, major selection gets a lot of attention because it is another lever that students have to decide to present. But actually most students change majors many times in college, and so statistically, it is almost irrelevant. Thinking about the major is important to figure out personal strengths and interests, and that is the reason it is listed on the application at all. In some cases, it is meaningfully impactful to admissions, but in 90% of cases, it is another question to prod students to the ultimate goal: introspection.

19 Year-Old Australian Stuns Nadal

Sports

19 year-old Nick Kyrgios stunned No. 1 Rafael Nadal in the fourth round of Wimbeldon earlier this week, shining the spotlight on a rising star in tennis. Kyrgios, an Australian teenager, beat Nadal to the tune of 7-6,5-7,7-6,6-3.

Although Kyrgious was recently pushed out by Raonic with a respectable 6-7, 6-2, 6-4, 7-6 in the quarterfinals on July 2nd, his second Wimbeldon showing proves that he is a young force to be reckoned with. Look out for him in the near future.

Here is why:

Power

Kyrgios consistently served in the 110+ miles per hour range and rang up 37 aces against hard-hitting Nadal. With that match, he brought his total aces in this Wimbeldon to more than 100 (Chase).

On top of that, in his match against Nadal Kyrgios averaged 118 miles per hour in service (O’Shannessy).

Considering that Kyrgios is fresh feet to big-time professional tennis and the adjustment period to the speed of the game, especially on Wimbeldon’s fast grass, this pace is impressive. Kyrgios seemed like a natural, and we can expect him to excel on the surface in his future tournaments.

Touch

It was not just with shots like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=edtv4IIZmJM, but also efficiency combined with powerful shots. In his match against Nadal, this is how he matched up on winners and errors:

Kygrios: 70 winners against 31 unforced errors

Nadal: 44 winners to 18 unforced errors

(ESPN)

With 60% more winners and 60% less unforced errors, Kygrios proved to be more consistent and drive points beyond his serve. Going forward, this may be a key to his game, especially if he wants to make a route in doubles play.

Momentum

“We’re watching a young boy turn into a man,” observed John McEnroe (Mitchell).

Just a year ago, Kygrios was hoping to break 300 in USTA rankings, and after Wimbeldon, his ranking of 144 will most likely drop to single digits (McDonald). If he is able to keep his humility, Kygrios can go a long way from that number.

Finally, in telling fashion, the last teenager to defeat a USTA ranked #1 player in a major tournament was Rafa himself.

If Kygrios is able to channel the public eye into productive partnerships, coaches, and training, his momentous win could spark a series of improvements to his game and eventual wins.

Awareness

On top of that, Kyrgios is self-aware of his strength as a power player. In singles, he used that natural inclination to approach the net 126 during his Wimbeldon route, winning 64% of those points. Still, in professional tennis, there stands place to improve. That improvement can come from developing an equally-compelling backhand to match his powerful forehand or mix the variation of spin in his shots overall (ESPN).

What’s to come

For Kyrgios to break through the Top 20 eventually, he will need to round out his game beyond a strong serve and finesse. Maybe he can start taking notes from Federer. But it also may just be more experience at the professional level. Given his success as an amateur and now his big win over Nadal, Kyrgios should have the confidence to overcome the jitters even his mom picked up.

Kyrgios narrowly escaped a second-round loss from Richard Gasquet earlier this week, and mentioned he needed to play “loose” to beat Nadal, which he surely did (Chase).

From this perspective, it is maturing his game through more match time and learning how to handle the pressure of professional tennis.

With an aging Federer and oft-crippled Nadal, maybe it is time for another Big Four in professional men’s tennis. That shift may come from Kyrgios in five years, or from players hovering in the top 10. Either way, Wimbeldon is always a time of reflection and a stage for rising tennis stars.

As Boris Becker said after watching Federer win his first Grand Slam at Wimbeldon 2003: “The future has come”(Hayward).

Is Kygrios the future of men’s tennis, Australian tennis, or neither? Discuss below.