Go to college and the Galapagos for free with Google

The second annual Google Science Fair is accepting entries until April 1. If you’re a teen, ages 13 to 18, and enjoy being creative with science and technology, this could be a great way to win a scholarship and travel to exotic places.

 . . . the international competition asks participants “to be curious, ask questions, and perform science experiments to answer those questions,” according to information on the contest’s Google+ page. To enter, students must

  1. register at the competition’s Web site,
  2. build a site for their project, and then
  3.  submit their site for judging.

Ninety regional finalists will be selected in May, each of whom will receive a Google Chromebook. The judges will then select 15 finalists to be flown to Mountain View, CA to compete for a chance to become the finalist winner in one of three age categories.  . . . the 15 finalists will also receive a Google prize bag with an Android phone, a Lego Mindstorms set, two Lego Technic sets, and a 1-year subscription to Scientific American.

The grand-prize winner will receive a National Geographic expedition to the Galapagos Islands, a $50,000 scholarship from Google, a learning experience of their choice at Lego, Google, or CERN, a personalized Lego prize, and one year of digital access to Scientific American’s archives for their school.

The runners up will receive a $25,000 scholarship from Google, one of the learning experiences not chosen by the winner, a personalized Lego prize, 30 Chromebooks, one charging cart, and a Cloud Print Printer for their classroom, and a 1-year subscription to Scientific American’s digital archives for their school.

Another contestant will be awarded the science in action prize, sponsored by Scientific American. This winner will receive $50,000 “to assist the winner to further their research and possibly to develop the project,” according to information released by Google. They will join the 15 finalists in Mountain View to present their project and receive their award.
via Google Seeks Entrants for Global Science Fair — THE Journal.

Wow, if the chance to win these great prizes aren’t enticing enough? (They had me at “Chromebook” . . . I wish I could enter.) Please share this announcement broadly with every 13-18 you know. It would be great to see a winner from our local community in southwest Ohio.

How physical activity and school performance work together

One of the suggestions I may to all my students on test day, whether they are taking the SAT, SSAT, ACT or even an achievement test at school, is to exercise the morning of the exam. During the weeks when my kids would have achievement tests at school, they would have oatmeal for breakfast then walk to school.

Earlier research  studies found that exercising prior to an exam enhanced performance. Now a recent study among students aged 6 to 18 showed the difference that exercise/physical activity during the school day has on academics. This study is quite timely as many schools have eliminated physical education or athletic offerings to emphasize other academic enrichment:

The researchers point out that when children participate in sports, they often have better behavior within the classroom and are better able to pay attention to academics. Past studies have suggested that as physical activity increases, school performance and performance on the job improve; but some studies have been inconclusive. . . . The studies were varied in size, duration, and population. The sizes of the study populations ranged from 53 to 12.000 participants, and the age ranged from six through 18 years. The children’s physical activity levels and academic achievements were followed for as little as eight weeks to over five years.

The researchers found evidence that physical activity improves academics. They noted, “Evidence from the studies included in the present systematic review•suggests that there is a significant positive relationship between physical activity and academic performance…”

via Kids: Physical Activity and School Performance – The Doctor.

Academic enrichment is still important. However, this meta-analyis shows that physical activity is still an important feature of the school day that can support academic achievement. Our school policies may be better modified by extending the school day to keep physical activities or adjusting other non-priority programs.

Does your school still offer physical education? If so, has there been other programs eliminated to still maintain the academic quality.

Tips for attending College Fairs in the Dayton/Cincinnati areas

High school sophomores, juniors, and, perhaps, seniors will want to take advantage of the upcoming college fairs happening in the Dayton and Cincinnati areas. There are several college fairs with a broad array of colleges and career representatives:

Monday, March 5 – Greene County College & Career Fair at Greene County Career Center

Tuesday, March 6 – Centerville High School College and Career Fair

Wednesday, March 7 – Princeton High School College Fair


Given the number of representatives and families, these fairs can feel a bit overwhelming. These tips, however, can make for a more pleasant and productive experience:

  1. Set a game plan of which college representatives you want to meet before attending the fair. Going without a plan can be a headache ready to happen!
  2. Prepare questions beforehand that you can ask college representatives at the fair. It’s OK, if a few of your questions are the same for every college you visit.
  3. Bring pre-printed labels with your contact information. This will save you time. If there’s a long line to talk to a representative, you can still provide your information and follow-up when you visit the campus in-person.
  4. Surprise yourself and visit with a college representative that’s not busy. Some of these representatives travel from far distances to meet new students. This can be a great, low-risk way to learn something new. You may be pleasantly surprised by what you learn. This new contact can inform your perspective on other campuses.

via Tips on getting the most of College Fairs.

Which fairs are you visiting this Spring?


Campus visits during Spring Break are a Must!

On a cool night like tonight, it’s nice to be reminded that Spring Break is only a few short weeks away. Whether you have one week or two weeks for your spring break, it is a great time for high school sophomores and juniors to do a few campus visits. The campus visit is one of the more critical aspects of the college admissions process.

Every year, my students visit campuses that inform their college selection in unpredictable ways. For example, last year, one of my students was so sure that he wanted to attend a certain type of campus, with x number of students. His family was already planning to visit DC, so I recommended colleges that were varied yet possible fits for him in a number of ways. Armed with a list of questions, he visited 4 campuses with his parents.

Sure enough, the campuses that he liked most from the website didn’t quite match with the in-person campus vibe. A couple of new insights came from his campus visits:

1. Size differences – A campus with 3,000 students felt different than one with 4,500. Although the numbers may seem fairly close, the campus size makes for a different feel. The web sites provide a lot of helpful information but don’t necessarily give you a sense of the size.

2. Student body – The tour guide played a pivotal role in the campus visit. A student’s feelings about the tour guide can cast a favorable or unfavorable impression.  (Have you ever wondered why all the tour guides and other admissions staff are so good-looking?!?) Keeping written notes may curtail it to some extent. It also helps to meet other students during your campus visit. Those “other students” could be any student eating in the dining hall or hanging out with friends.

These initial visits made a strong enough impression that his latter visits were more focused. His final list of colleges where he wanted to apply also changed. Another side benefit is that his essays this past Fall were much stronger. With first-hand knowledge of campus life,  he could articulate more convincingly why he should be admitted.

How have you found campus visits to be helpful?


UT Austin will graduate more students in 4 years

UT Austin

Applause! Applause to The University of Texas at Austin for taking bold moves to graduate more students in four years. Recent reports show that UT Austin graduates over half its students in 4 years and its six-year graduation rate is 77.8%. Graduating in four years saves money for families and enhances the university offerings for its underclassmen.

President Bill Powers has set a goal of graduating 70 percent of our students within four years and appointed the Task Force on Undergraduate Graduation Rates to develop strategies to achieve this goal.


The task force believes that by 2016 the university can reach this ambitious goal by enhancing the first-year and freshman orientation experience and by improving advising and student tracking. The task force has made more than 60 specific recommendations to get this accomplished.

via UT Grad Rates.

The UT Austin campus can be intimidating – the freshman dorm houses thousands of students and has the feel of a major urban mall. Imagine if students are attending UT Austin without a prior campus visit. . . . overwhelming! Enhancements in the freshman orientation program may improve the overall freshman year experience, as well as lead to an even stronger freshman-sophomore retention at UT Austin. (Freshman-sophomore retention: 92.4%)

UT Austin

What to do While Waiting to Hear Admissions Decisions…

It’s a bit quiet in my office these days as students are waiting to learn their admissions decisions for colleges and boarding schools. The notification date for boarding school applicants is March 10. Seniors applying to college through regular decision can expect to hear from colleges at the end of March.

Boarding school applicants generally notify the schools of their decision: April 10

High School seniors notify colleges of their enrollment decision: May 1

On these dates, please remember to notify all the schools/colleges, not only the campus where you will enroll in the Fall.

While Waiting

The waiting period to learn the outcome may seem unnecessarily long. Here’s a way that families can get the most of that waiting period:

  1. Complete all financial documents, which includes prior year tax statements and other filings
  2. Continue to perform well academically – It can be tough to stay motivated when you know you’re likely to start at a new campus the following year. Keep in mind that your new campus may request final transcripts. If your grades have dropped, their admission offer can be rescinded. Just a warning . . .
  3. Stay on alert for Admit event announcements – Some campuses may announce their admit event dates. However, don’t purchase your ticket until you know you’ve been admitted! Once you learn the exciting news, do plan to attend all Admit events. The Admit events will help you determine the best match school or college for you!

How are you using this loooong wait??

FAFSA questions? Get answers here!

When the Free Application for Financial Student Aid (FAFSA) was released on January 1, many families started scratching their heads about when and how to complete this all-important form for student aid. Families with a high school senior may be completing this form for their first time. Here are a few things you should know about FAFSA:

  • It’s FREE! – therefore, you have nothing to lose but an hour or two of your time.
  • The resulting calculations of FAFSA determine federal sources and institutional awards – Even if you think you will not qualify, there is no penalty for applying and you may be pleasantly surprised. (I’ve seen these surprises every year!)
  • FAFSA assumes no student contribution and calculation uses the federal standard of living guidelines

A state-wide initiative begun several years ago is the National College Goal Sunday event. In 2012, the event is being held on Sunday, February 12. Families of current high school seniors can visit this website to find out the locations near them. This event is an opportunity for students and families to get free, on-site professional assistance filling out the FAFSA. Again, many families do not complete the FAFSA because they believe they wouldn’t be approved for any assistance. Many colleges will determine institutional awards based on FAFSA. Therefore, if you do not qualify for the federal funds then the college may very well determine that they will offer an institutional award.

For more considerations on paying for college, please see our recent posting here on where to find the money for college!

Ohio students average “3” on AP tests

The score range for AP scores is 1 to 5. When students score either a 3, 4, or 5, they can sometimes receive college credits and/or course equivalents. I say “sometimes” because each college has a different policy around how credit is granted for AP scores. For example, at The Ohio State University, students who score a 3 or 4 on the AP Physics B exam can earn 5 credits for the undergraduate Physics 111 course. However, at Bowdoin College, students who score a 4 or 5 on the AP Physics B exam must earn a C- or better in an undergraduate physics course before earning one credit. Brown University has department-specific policies for whether a credit is granted or not. Now, I must mention that there are a number of colleges that do not grant AP credit regardless of your score.

Whether Ohio students are taking AP courses for the learning experience or future college credit, their 2011 scores were mostly 1, 2, or 3, with an overall average score of 3.05. Twenty-two percent of AP test-takers earned a 4, while 17% earned a 5. The chart below shows the number of test-takers and the score earned:

About 60% of Ohio students scored a 3 or lower on AP tests in 2011

Welcome to the Compass College Advisory Center Website

Hello and welcome to the new Compass College Advisory Center website! We just opened our new center in the Kettering, Ohio area to serve college-bound families through southwest Ohio. Although our center is new, college-bound families in this area have been clients of our affiliate firm, Compass Education Strategies.

Our mission is to be the go-to resource for college-bound families throughout the Dayton and Cincinnati region.

Why college-bound families “Go to” our center

College-bound families can benefit from our services both online and off-line.

  • On-line – Families can visit our website for trusted, relevant information on college readiness and admissions. Let’s face it, there is so much information on the internet, that it can be overwhelming to know where to start and what information to trust. This blog and our Facebook page will post trusted information to support the success of college-bound families all the way to college completion. Throughout the year, our firm is listening to college-bound families, researching best practices in college readiness, studying trends in college admission, and visiting college campuses. This is all we love doing and our college-bound families value that commitment.
  • On-line – Families can sign-up for our monthly newsletter. The newsletter features tips and insight on K-12 and college admissions. Plus, each issue features a boarding school, summer enrichment program, and college. Our newsletter community enjoys hearing news they don’t get anywhere else. You can sign up for your newsletter issue here!
  • Off-line – College-bound families can visit our center for one-on-one advisory sessions with our consultants. In the upcoming months, we will host parent talks (‘seminars’ sounds too formal) and our popular, College Apps and Essays Retreat, for rising high school seniors.
  • Off-line – College-bound families can browse our library of viewbooks from colleges and boarding schools around the country.

Please contact us today to learn about this great new resource in your community.