College of the Week: Colgate University


Graduation rate: 87.9%

Located in the charming town of Hamilton, NY, Colgate is recognized as one of the most beautiful college campuses. The community is rich in diversity with 25% of students from multi-cultural backgrounds and 7% international students (representing 40 countries). Two-thirds of Colgate students study abroad through 26 semester-long programs, which include an Economics program in Geneva, Switzerland.  If a student can not study for a full semester, then there are 3-week, faculty-led extended study programs, and numerous summer programs.


Enrollment: 2,969 undergrads

Academics: Colgate students have a liberal arts core and 52 majors to choose from. The most popular majors are English, economics, and art history. At Colgate, 99% of faculty hold a Ph.D. or highest degree in their field.

Social: There are over 170 organizations and clubs for students to participate. 25 Division 1 athletic teams and fitness facilities offer opportunities for Colgate students to stay active year-round. Campus life at Colgate is vibrant and active. However, shuttle buses travel to NYC twice a day if students want to getaway.

Financial: Tuition and fees are $55,000, with students receiving an average award of $40K.

Check out these campus photos of our visit to Colgate:


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Why Taking Both SAT and ACT Wastes Time and Money

The SAT and ACT are taken by millions of college-bound students each year. (See SAT and ACT test-taking results for Dayton area.) While it used to be the case that students in the Midwest may have preferred the ACT and students in the New England area favored the SAT, I’ve noticed that those dichotomies don’t really exist today. It also used to be the case that colleges in certain regions of the country accepted only the ACT, while other colleges were partial to the SAT. That is no longer the case, either. Nearly all colleges today will accept either the SAT or ACT.

The SAT/ACT Choice

What this means for students is that they can submit the test that they choose rather than taking a test only because X college accepts it. Unfortunately, too many students are unaware of this. They, instead, are wasting their time and money to take both the SAT and ACT. Why?

Students can save time, money, and college changes by focusing on the test that is right for them. After all, the SAT is very different from the ACT. Here are several key differences:

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Most students will spend about 6-8 weeks prepping for either test. Whether they prep one-on-one with a tutor, on their own, or in a class, it takes time to review the question types and learn the applicable test-taking strategies.

To Take Both Tests

Both the SAT and ACT tests are offered at different times during the academic year. So we’re talking about prepping for a high stakes test, in addition to staying on top of a high school course load.

Let’s say that you take the December SAT, then test prep should have begun in October. The SAT scores would be returned in January. To prepare for the next ACT test in February means that you would need to start prepping for the ACT soon after the SAT and study through the holiday. The ACT scores would be returned in March. Now you have both results and start comparing the two. How do you determine which is a better score? You can do some comparison by checking your scores against recently admitted students at the colleges on your list. (My students can check in their Student Portal.) That leaves you only a Spring date to retake either test. This again will take a lot more time than you likely have while keeping up with classes. Not to mention that you must do some prep before the next Spring retake.

If the ACT is your better score, then you’ve wasted SAT prep time and money, in addition to the SAT fees. Vice versa if the SAT is your better test.

The solution to taking both SAT and ACT

The solution: Find out whether the SAT or ACT test is right for you upfront. Then focus on getting teh best score on that test. At the end of the day, it will save your time, money, and stress over which one. This can also help you with determining a reasonable college list. When you submit your scores to colleges, you can do so with confidence.

We are now offering the SAT/ACT Comparison Test for students in the Dayton and Cincinnati area. If you’d like to find out if the SAT or ACT is right for you, please register here.


When is the “optional” college application essay not required?

High school seniors in the midst of college application seasons are probably wondering . . . “Do I really need to write this “optional” essay? It does say “optional” after all. . . Hmmm

Emory University, for example, includes an “optional” question:

Please write exactly five sentences that best describe you.

Emory is ranked among the top colleges in the country. Its admission rate in 2011-2012 was under 30%.  So . . . do you want to skip this question?

Yes. If you skip this optional question then it will save you that extra hour that you may have spent doing something else that you enjoy. Senior year is already busy enough without responding to extra essay prompts. Besides that, the Emory application also states: “(if you choose not to submit this essay, it will not affect your admission decision).”

Aside: The fact that it states that it “will not affect your admission decision” makes me wonder why is this stated, if it’s understood . . . hmmm. . .

No. When you see the word “optional” think “opportunity” instead. A rule of thumb here may be to consider if responding to this essay prompt will provide an opportunity for you to share new information to complement your application. It really should be new information that doesn’t appear anywhere else in your application portfolio. If your response to this “optional” essay does indeed provide new, insightful, non-redundant information about you, then consider this optional question as an opportunity to confirm why you should be admitted! Happy writing!


SAT and ACT Testing Dates for 2012-13

Students who will be in the 10th or 11th grades during the 2012-13 school year may be planning to take the SAT or ACT. If so, here are the dates to put on your calendar:

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Please plan accordingly. It can often take 6-8 weeks of prep time; approximately 3-4 weeks to get results; and the majority of colleges will accept either test. Choose the one that works best for you!




College of the Week: Dartmouth, #1 in teaching


Graduation rate: 95%

Dartmouth is the smallest of the Ivy League colleges, yet offers a broad curriculum, extensive resources, and a diverse student population that rivals its cohorts. There are about 50 majors that students can choose. The most popular majors are economics, biology, and the government. Interestingly, many Dartmouth alums have legal careers, and the Baker Library has an amazing legal collection (although there’s no law school). Given its remoteness, you wouldn’t know that the student population is as diverse as it is – 35% of students of color, Founded in 1769, Dartmouth became coed in 1972. The Dartmouth campus is tucked away in the middle of New Hampshire on the Vermont border.  The town of Hanover is a quintessential New England town surrounding the Dartmouth campus.

Quick facts about Dartmouth:

Enrollment: 4,200 undergrads; 1,900 grads

Academics: The “Dartmouth Plan” is a flexible, year-round schedule whereby students can choose when they study on campus, off-campus, or take leave. It’s another way of saying that you don’t have to only take summers off (perhaps you’re a Californian who prefers to take a winter quarter leave!). With the Dartmouth Plan, the only required summer living on-campus is after sophomore year.

Social: Numerous opportunities to get involved in cultural, athletic, and service opportunities on campus through the 350+ student groups on campus. Very active Greek life. If you are considering Dartmouth, please read this article on Greek life at Dartmouth (click here for Atlantic article).  It’s a rude awakening to the cruelties of Greek Life, however, do not totally dismiss the campus because of one article.

Financial: Tuition and fees are $55,000 with about 60% of students receiving scholarships.

Check out these campus photos of our visit to Dartmouth:

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How to get off the college wait list

There are 3 decisions you can hear in this admissions season:

  1. Admitted
  2. Denied
  3. Waitlisted

The first two responses let you know where you stand right away. “Waitlisted” is a bit fuzzier because the applicant is left in limbo. Especially when it’s your spring of the senior year and your classmates are talking about where they are going next year, the waitlisted applicant can feel caught in an awkward place. The applicant can decide to be removed from the waitlist. However, if they decide to stay on the waitlist, then there will be the urge to “do something.”

As students are wringing their hands to figure out the ins-and-outs of the waitlist, these suggestions featured in the Washington Post may be helpful:

1. Tell your parents to butt out. If they get involved in communicating with the college you desire, you are sunk. Once you tell them what you plan to do in steps two, three and four, they will probably calm down and go do the dishes or some other useful chore. That’s what I did when I became too excited during my own children’s college journeys.

2. Get out a plain sheet of paper and write a letter. It is best to do this in longhand, but if that freaks you out, typing on the computer and printing it out is fine. Just make sure you send it to the college snail mail. E-mail is too informal for this appeal. (Click this article on the importance of handwriting in the college admissions process.)

3. In the letter, make two points, each with three parts. Tell the college of three very specific opportunities it offers that fit with your interests and dreams and plans for the future. Then tell the college of three very specific qualities that you possess that fit with the college’s traditions and values, and why you will be a good asset if they let you in.

4. Somewhere in this letter, say something that is gently self-deprecating. If you are telling them how much you could help their championship debating team, and how much their skills would add to your own in your favorite activity, you could say something like: “I admit I have a tendency to go over the time limit, leading my teammates to call me ‘Just One More Second Jones,’ but that’s better than running out of ideas too soon, right?”

via How to get off that college wait list – Class Struggle – The Washington Post.

What are you doing to get off the waiting list?

Are there any college-bound students in Ohio?

Case Western

Recently, I was speaking with someone about the college-bound market in Ohio. He seemed surprised that there were even any students in Ohio who were college-bound. I didn’t take his comment personally but quickly disabused him of that notion. The state of Ohio had about 45K students who went to college in 2010. Of those students, 80% attended college in-state and the remainder attend college in other states, such as Massachusetts, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

On the flip side of this coin, students from all over the US attended college in Ohio. There are some real college gems here in the state of Ohio. What I have found interesting is that students who want to remain in-state for college only consider 2-3 colleges. Students tend to know about colleges closest to their home or the public brand-names of Ohio State or Miami of Ohio. An accomplished musician that worked with our Center had not heard of Oberlin and had no idea that it was located in Ohio. In fact, the majority of applicants to Oberlin come from California and New York, where many of their alums live.

There are over 2,000 four-year colleges and universities in the US. Any number of them could be a great fit for you. Each week on this blog, we will feature a new college that may be of interest to you. The College of the week will feature academic, social, and financial information plus insight from campus visits. Throughout the week, we will post application tips and other fun facts about the college of the week on our Facebook page. Please like us to get more tips.

Our purpose at the Compass College Advisory Center is to support each family’s success by applying to those colleges that are a great fit academically, socially, and financially wherever they are located.

Top 5 myths about College Admissions

Top 5 myths about College Admissions

A lot has changed over the years in college admissions. Given the rapid pace of change and the increase in the complexity of the process, there are some lingering myths I want to dispel. I speak with parents and students every day (except on Sundays usually) and these top 5 myths are taken from the most common misconceptions:

5. Brand name – The brand name of a college says nothing about your chances of admissions. So what if everyone’s heard of XXXX college? It doesn’t mean that you should apply or not. On the flip side, if no one in your school has heard of such a college, it doesn’t mean that it’s NOT a great college for you!

4. Location – Choosing a college is not about location, location, location, as it is in buying property on the Monopoly board. 🙂 Some students will only apply to colleges within 2 miles of their home; while others only want to apply to colleges in warm places. Whatever the criteria, whether you are happy in college will depend on more than where the college is located.  (Unless, of course, you’re on a remote campus of 5 people stationed in the middle of nowhere…all of you will be miserable.)

3. Numbers game – Contrary to popular belief, you are more than your SAT score or GPA. Students with high scores are surprised when they don’t get accepted. Students with average test scores are even more surprised when they DO get accepted. There are recommendations, essays, school reports, and other supplements that play a role in college admissions these days. The colleges that surprise many students are the ones who accept students for their potential, not just their numbers.

2. Same ol’, same ol’– Sorry parents, but if you applied to college 20 years ago, it’s not the same application process anymore.  It’s not even the same college anymore. Not to scare you, but the process is a bit more complex and time-consuming than it was back then. It’s even changed in the past 5-7 years.

#1 – There’s only one college for me – I love this one . . . there are over 3,500 colleges in the US. Really? There’s only one college that fits you? Rest assured . . . there are numerous colleges that are a great fit for you. Whether you want a small college or big, spirited campus; Kosher meals or sausage 4 times a day; rural or urban; pre-career track or philosophy major . . . . the list goes on. Each of these offerings has a range of selectivity as well, i.e. some college may accept over 70% of applicants. So let’s have some fun, please write in the one college that interests you and we’ll take a crack at posting comparable campuses.

I can’t wait to hear from you!

Wittenberg offers much to students from near and far

A visit to Wittenberg University caught me by surprise. It’s located in Springfield Ohio and I’ve seen their campus signs along Interstate 70 countless times over the years without knowing all that this campus has to offer. Wittenberg is a small, liberal arts campus with 1,900 students and Lutheran-affiliated.

Special features of Wittenberg include:

Service Dog Program – Wittenberg students can participate in a community service project through 4 Paws for Ability. Through this program, volunteer students train a service dog for a semester.

Community Service requirement – The city of Springfield donated a building to Wittenberg. In exchange for that building, all students must volunteer 30 hours during their undergraduate years. What a great opportunity for students to support the surrounding community and for the Springfield community to have continued student involvement.

3-2 Nursing program – Nursing students can participate in a cooperative program, whereby three years are spent on the Wittenberg campus, then 2 years are spent on the campus of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. Nursing students, therefore, finish with a Bachelors and Master’s Degree from two excellent institutions in less time!

Students from all over the US – Maybe I have “California” written on my forehead or something, but I always meet Californians wherever I go. However, I didn’t expect to meet a Californian in Springfield, Ohio. The first Wittenberg student I met hailed from Sacramento! We instantly connected and reminisced about the weather (of course, on a rainy afternoon).  Check out this quick video on why she chose Wittenberg University:

New president – Recent news from Wittenberg is that they just named their 14th and first female President, Dr. Laurie Joyner. Her tenure will be effective July 2012. A new president brings a new energy to campus. It will be exciting to see what those changes will be when I visit again. Perhaps the Sacramento student can share some tips with the new President Joyner, who’s moving from Rollins College in Florida!

Ohio University: A tale of Parties and Poverty

Last year, Ohio University was ranked as the number one Party school by Princeton. There was little evidence of the party atmosphere during my visit:

The town of Athens was quite charming, filled with restaurants and shops. Even though I visited during the summer, there were many students on campus, current undergraduates as well as high schoolers. The campus and curriculum seemed to have a lot to offer.

via Top 3 Concerns when applying to a Party School.

Interestingly, the latest news from Athens is that the town is the poorest city in Ohio with a 16.6% unemployment rate, as reported in the Dayton Business Journal.

Ohio University is located in Athens, Ohio
Ohio University is located in Athens, Ohio

This announcement may cause some discomfort for families planning to enroll, which is understandable. As students consider their decision to enroll, there is still a lot that the university has to offer given its size and facilities. Perhaps this awareness of the town’s employment context may open more opportunities for students to serve in the community and for the university to seek ways that they can collaborate and bolster the community.