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The College Board announces the SAT will drop Essay and Subject Tests

The main SAT, taken by generations of high school students applying to college, consists of two sections, one for math and the other for reading and writing. But since at least the 1960s, students have also had the option of taking subject tests to show their mastery of subjects like history, languages and chemistry. Colleges often use the tests to determine where to place students for freshman courses, especially in the sciences and languages.

But the College Board said the subject tests have been eclipsed by the rise of Advanced Placement exams. At one point, A.P. courses were seen as the province of elite schools, but the board said on Tuesday that “the expanded reach of A.P. and its widespread availability for low-income students and students of color means the subject tests are no longer necessary.”

More than 22,000 schools offered A.P. courses in the 2019-20 school year, up from more than 13,000 two decades earlier, according to the College Board. There are some 24,000 public high schools in America.

The College Board said it would discontinue the essay section on the main SAT test because “there are other ways for students to demonstrate their mastery of essay writing,” including, it said, the test’s reading and writing portion. The essay section was introduced in 2005, and was considered among the most drastic changes to the SAT in decades. It came amid a broader overhaul of the test, which included eliminating verbal analogies that were a mainstay of SAT-prep courses.

Admissions officers hoped the essay would give them a way to look at original samples of students’ writing, to better evaluate their skills. It came to be criticized, however, for promoting an overly formulaic approach to writing, and was made optional in 2016 as part of another redesign.

In recent years, the SAT has come under increasing fire from critics who say that standardized testing exacerbates inequities across class and racial lines. Some studies have shown that high school grades are an equal or better predictor of college success.

More than 1,000 four-year colleges did not require applicants to submit standardized test scores before the pandemic, and the number rose — at least temporarily — as the coronavirus forced testing centers to close and made it difficult for many students to safely take the test.

Perhaps the biggest hit came in May, when, following a lawsuit from a group of Black and Hispanic students who said the tests discriminated against them, the influential University of California system decided to phase out SAT and ACT requirements for its 10 schools, which include some of the nation’s most popular campuses.

The College Board acknowledged that the coronavirus had played a role in the changes announced on Tuesday, saying in a statement that the pandemic had “accelerated a process already underway at the College Board to simplify our work and reduce the demands on students.”

In addition to dropping the essay and subject tests, the College Board said it would continue to develop a version of the SAT test that could be administered digitally — something it tried and failed to do quickly with an at-home version last year after the pandemic shut down testing centers. The board gave no time frame for when a digital version of the SAT might be introduced, but said it would be given at testing centers by live proctors.

There were about 2.2 million registrations for weekend SAT tests in 2020 (some students take it more than once), but because of the pandemic, only 900,000 such tests were taken.

This post was taken from information published by The New York Times. See the complete article here: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/19/us/sat-essay-subject-tests.html

Helping Your Child Tune Out the Noise

As a college admissions consultant, I share my enthusiasm and genuine excitement about the college process with my students. Sometimes, I am greeted with an equal level of engagement and interest. Other times, I am met with disengaged students who are feeling stressed, frustrated or even angry. Why is this the case?

Senior year is filled with many emotional ups and downs. There is the excitement of prom, graduation, spirit weeks, home-coming and other happy times. On the flip side, students experience fear and anxiety about the future. They have mixed emotions about missing friends, leaving the comforts of home and having to commit to important decisions. It’s time to grow up and that is frightening.

Like your child, you too will experience the emotional ups and downs and mixed feelings of senior year. As soon as you have a child going through the college admissions process, it may feel like everywhere you go, you hear the word “college.” It seems as if everyone you run into has an opinion on what you, as the parent, should do and what colleges will be best for your child. College talk is inescapable.

Your child is also exposed to a constant buzz of college talk that adds to her stress. The school counselor wants to discuss her college list. Her physics teacher is recommending a STEM major. The chatter in the classroom is who’s applying where, who’s applying early decision and who’s being recruited for a sport. The ongoing noise is difficult to tune out and the pressure to have a well-defined path can be overwhelming. Students who know where they want to attend college and what they want to study have the luxury of tuning out the noise.

If your child has not decided on his direction, the pressure to make a decision coupled with the fear of making the “wrong” choice may result in disengagement from the college process. Kids are always comparing themselves to their peers. When they feel inadequate or insecure, they are likely to either freeze and avoid college planning or make rash decisions and draw the process to a conclusion before fully exploring their options. These defense mechanisms will lead to poor college admissions outcomes.

Help your child recognize that the college selection and application process is a very individual and personal journey. Focusing solely on her own thoughts and feelings and avoiding comparisons with peers will help your child choose a college that fits them academically, personally and socially.

How Can You Support Your Child?

Start College Planning Early

The earlier you start college planning, the more time you have to explore options, visit schools and consider important decisions. Make a list of small steps in the planning process. It helps to feel productive toward your goal.

Set Boundaries

Some high school students feel that their parents only want to talk about college. Instead, set time aside (perhaps Tuesday nights during dinner) for college conversations. If the topic is stressful, avoid engaging in college talk at family gatherings and in public settings.

Visit Colleges

Innocent questions like, “Do you want to attend a large or small college?” may become anxiety triggers. If your child has never toured a college, it may be difficult to answer that question. Visiting alleviates the mystery of colleges.

Identify Role Models

It is reassuring to know that curvy paths often lead to great success. Talk about (and to) successful friends and family members who took their time identifying their college major and careers.

Have an Accepting Mindset

Alleviate the fear of making a mistake by cultivating a culture in your household that there is no single, correct way to do most things. Students who believe that there is more than one right way will be able to easily discern when the opinions of others matter and when they do not.

Talk About ALL the Reasons to Go to College

Students go to college for many valid and worthy reasons, not merely to pursue a career. Learning something new, gaining independence, making new friends and to preparing for graduate school are all reasons to attend college. Help your child understand that the noise they hear may be coming from someone who has chosen a different reason to attend college.

Consider Experiential Learning

If career exploration would help your child plan for college, consider job shadow options, internships and part-time jobs. Online interest inventories and personality assessments are also convenient and easy ways to generate career/major ideas. By broadening your child’s experiences, he will feel in control of the process and confident he is making progress.

Model Tuning Out the Noise

You can model tuning out the noise by keeping information to yourself. If you learn college-related news regarding a friend or family member, don’t repeat it to your child. Keep the focus on your child and her needs and preferences to reinforce that no college decision is as important as her own.

For more information on college planning or how The College Spy can help you and your child figure out a plan, please visit our FAQ section and check out our other featured blogs.


The College Spy Logo: A black and white silhouette of a woman with a brimmed hat, sun glasses and a magnifying glass bearing the words “The College Spy.”

The College Spy is a full service independent educational consulting firm that assists students and families across the US and internationally with the college selection and application process. Follow The College Spy on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, LinkedIn and on The College Spy Podcast.

Counselors Can Actively Engage a Diverse Range of Girls in Computing Science Learning Opportunities

Computing occupations are fast-growing and earn high entry-level salaries. Computing professionals work on the cutting edge of science and technology, are influential, work independently and creatively, and enjoy freedom relative to other fields–yet only 26% of them are women. Middle and high school girls are less likely to take elective computing classes, a trend that extends into college. Pre-college boys and girls have similar grades, scores, and course taking, but pursue different career interests because of confidence, belonging, and identity.

Counselors can use active recruitment techniques to encourage girls to take computing classes. The four ingredients of active recruitment are Interest, Confidence, Belonging, and Identity: ICBI.

Build interest in computing! Interest in an activity is influenced by one’s beliefs that they can be successful and that the outcome will be worth their time and energy. It’s important to connect to things that girls already care about and to show them that they can be successful. Describe computing as socially relevant, as solving many problems in the world, and as expressing creativity. Show interesting projects students have done in the class, like designing apps or creating artistic wearables. Computing professionals are highly collaborative and work in any industry.

“Scratch lets me show others that coding is important. Coding is your superpower and you can accomplish anything you put your mind to.” – Abby, age 7.

Build girls’ confidence! Girls often tacitly believe social stereotypes that women aren’t technical and that men are, which chips away at their confidence. As a result, they need explicit assurance that they will do well in computing classes. Celebrate the knowledge they already have to get started.

“School counselors play a critical role in students’ career development by … addressing both intentional and unintentional biases related to college and career counseling” – ASCA The School Counselor & Career Development

Build a sense of belonging! Ask girls if there is a friend or group that might take a class with her–like the girls’ softball team–to support a sense of community in the classroom. Suggest that teachers broaden appeal by showcasing posters of women leaders in computing and pictures of former female students. Teachers are vigilant about classroom conversations, the assignments they use, and shutting down any boys who make girls feel they don’t belong.

“I was discussing career options with my school counselor. She saw that I had been taking a lot of classes that utilized problem-solving skills, so she suggested I look into computer science (CS) as a career option. When I learned how CS could be a great creative outlet for me, I decided to pursue it in college.” – Calvin University Student Nikita S.

Build Identity! Hang posters on your walls or hallways showing interesting and valued contributions of women and minority computer scientists. Encourage girls to watch videos of successful computer scientists (who happen to be women). If girls express concern about there being only a few girls in the class, share diverse examples of examples of women’s progress in STEM: If/Then Collection, CSEdWeek.


Resources

Bridging the Encouragement Gap in Computing

There is consensus among researchers that encouragement matters and plays a critical role in engaging more young women and girls in computing. Here are some key highlights from published research studies, and follow-up tips on practicing encouragement.

NCWIT Tips: 8 Ways to Give Students More Effective Feedback Using a Growth Mindset

Effective feedback gives students information they actually use to increase their learning and improve their performance. It should employ a “growth mindset” that focuses on developing intelligence through effort, practice, and “wise feedback” that spurs additional effort.

Top 10 Ways Families Can Encourage Girls’ Interest in Computing

Technology is a fast-growing, high-paying, creative field. Here are 10 ways that you, as a family member, can encourage the girls in your life to study, and have a career in, computer science and related technology fields.

Top 10 Ways to Engage Underrepresented Students in Computing

These tips will help you to engage students in your computing courses and retain them in the major. These ideas and examples are drawn from theory and research conducted by social scientists who study issues related to diversity and retention in computing. Methods range from encouraging words to inclusive classroom environments.

Top 10 Ways of Recruiting High School Women into Your Computing Classes

Recruiting diverse students to computing requires that you spark their interest, build their confidence they can succeed, create a community where they feel like they belong, and help them see themselves as a “computing person.” This Top 10 list offers practices that help you recruit high school girls to your computing courses.

Virtual Classroom Décor for Computer Science and Tech Educators

Inspired by teachers creating Bitmoji virtual classrooms, NCWIT has assembled a set of interactive elements to help teachers make all students feel welcome and to maintain and enhance their interest in computing. By adding the elements to their own virtual classrooms, teachers can maintain a positive classroom climate, show students “possible selves” in computing, maintain student interest, and show them career and other opportunities (including NCWIT opportunities, of course).

Learning About Intersectionality: Videos That Spark Discussion

Use this slide deck, with its short videos (~3 min) and discussion questions, to learn about the complexity of gender, the concept of intersectionality, and how to have productive discussions about race.

Computer Science Is for Everyone: A toolkit for middle and high schools to increase diversity in computer science education

Schools across the country and around the world are working to increase access to quality CS education. But while CS classes and opportunities are expanding, too many students — especially girls, Black, Latino and Native American youth — feel like it’s not for them. As a result, the whole world misses out on the diverse perspectives needed to fuel innovation and drive change. The insights and tools in this kit will help ensure all young people understand the value of a CS education and feel welcomed and empowered to succeed
Click here to view the accompanying PowerPoint deck.

You Can Actively Recruit a Diverse Range of Girls into High School Computing Classes: A Workbook for High School Teachers

This workbook will help educators and influencers understand the research-based reasons why a diverse range of girls are less likely to take computing courses in high school. High school teachers are provided with actionable recommendations for creating recruiting and outreach interventions that work.

By Lecia Barker, Ph.D. University of Colorado Boulder Associate Professor and Angela Cleveland, MS Ed, M. Ed, MA, NCWIT Counselors for Computing Program Director

This article was originally published in WSCAlink

  • Date January 15, 2021
  • Author Lecia Barker, Ph.D. University of Colorado Boulder Associate Professor and Angela Cleveland, MS Ed, M. Ed, MA, NCWIT Counselors for Computing Program Director

The Opportunity of Online Jobs for your Students

It’s been stereotyped that all Gen-Zers do is spend time on their phones. Scrolling through an infinite amount of content, texting wide networks of friends and well, just being social online for hours on end.

Now, it may seem like this intense digital immersion is completely untethered to society and responsibility. How can you hold a job, earn an income and provide financially if you’re typing away on a pixelated screen? Enter: online jobs.

This list of online jobs ranges in skill set, experience, and pay, but all can be done from the comfort of a dorm room couch. Whether it’s freelancing writing or dropshipping, opportunities online are evergreen.

For the romantic type, pursue a career in digital date concierge. Ever been on an awkward date? Well, if you could reverse time, you’d want a date concierge the night before that date. This person plans every detail for an ideal date including booking reservations, coming up with conversation topics and matching compatible people. Check out Tawkify to get started laying the framework for the next great love story!

For diligent note takers, sell your notes. For budding fashion icons, become a personal stylist. For class clowns, consider being strategic and becoming an influencer online. For gym buffs, train people virtually. Point being, the options are endless and there is something for everyone.

The beauty of the Internet is how it connects people. From a business perspective, this means you can market products, skills or services to a wide-range of people across different niches, if done strategically. So, college students can do what they do best– spend time online– and make a pretty penny in the process! 

Sources: Tawkify | Marketing Dive | Capital One Shopping

5 Careers that Command Salaries of $100,000 per year (and don’t require your students to go to Med School)

For all your students looking to live comfortably and pursue a career they love, here are five lucrative options. While they all require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field and several years of experience, none of them involve med school.

1. Product Marketing Manager

In this role, you’ll spearhead campaigns and lead marketing teams through product launches in the retail and consumer technology spaces, working closely with sales and technical product teams. According to LinkedIn, the median base salary for this position is $134,000

Companies currently hiring include Tarte Cosmetics, Microsoft, Adobe, and Nielsen.

2. Art Director

If you have a knack for visual storytelling, use your expertise as an art director to develop strategies for brand campaigns, fashion shoots, editorial packages and more. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean annual wage for this position is $103,510.

Companies currently hiring include Nickelodeon, Highsnobiety, The Dodo, and the Philadelphia Eagles.

3. Site Reliability Engineer

As a site reliability engineer, you’ll be developing software and automated tests to troubleshoot any website issues and enhance user experience. According to LinkedIn, the median base salary for this position is $200,000.

Companies currently hiring include Adobe, Poshmark, Oracle, and Spotify.

4. Human Resources Director

As a human resources director you will provide support, lead employee training programs, recruit new employees and maintain a respectful environment throughout the organization.

According to Glassdoor, the average base salary for this position is $106,842.

Companies currently hiring include Asian Americans for Equality, Old Navy, Cornell University, and Edelman.

5. Game Developer

As a game developer, you’ll hone your strong programming and coding skills to optimize game performance and quality, while continuously implementing new game-changing strategies to increase player engagement.

According to Glassdoor, the average base salary for this position is $101,932.

Companies currently hiring include LG Electronics, PlayStation,USC Institute for Creative Technologies, and Major League Baseball.

8 Possible Reasons for a Financial Aid Suspension

Many of your students depend on financial aid to attend college and earn their degrees. In 2017-18, the average full-time undergraduate student received $14,790 in financial aid, according to the College Board.

But earning financial aid when starting college doesn’t guarantee your students will get it all four years, and some students find themselves facing financial aid suspension. While there is an appeal process, the best scenario is to avoid losing aid in the first place.

There are a variety of reasons students can lose their federal financial aid. By learning what they are, your students can try their best to preserve their eligibility. Her are their things they need to watch out for:

  1. Your GPA is too low:

To maintain your eligibility for financial aid, you need to make satisfactory academic progress toward your degree. This includes maintaining a minimum grade point average (GPA), which is determined by your school.

Typically, you’ll need to keep up a GPA of 2.0 or higher on a 4.0 scale, or at least a C average. Your financial aid office can tell you exactly what GPA qualifies as satisfactory at your school. If your grades dip below this standard, you could lose your financial aid.

What to do: If your grades are slipping, take action to boost your GPA before it’s too late. Make the most of free on-campus resources for tutoring and academic support. Meet with your professors and find out if you can take on extra credit work to improve your grades. Your financial aid — and your degree — depend on it.

2. You dropped below half-time enrollment:

Making sufficient progress toward your degree is another part of maintaining satisfactory academic progress. You’ll need to earn a certain number of credits each semester, as well as maintaining at least half-time enrollment in your program.

If you’ve failed or withdrawn from classes, you might drop below the level required to receive financial aid.

What to do: Work with your advisor to design a reasonable course of study that fulfills the credit requirements for your major and graduation status. If you’re in danger of falling behind, be proactive about getting help from professors or tutors.

3. Your family is making more money:

A lot of federal and institutional financial aid is need-based, meaning the amount you get depends on your family’s financial situation and Expected Family Contribution (EFC). If your family starts making a higher income, you might get less financial aid than you did the previous year — or even none at all.

What to do: There’s not much you can do if your family’s financial situation changes dramatically from one year to the next. But if you feel your EFC doesn’t reflect your real situation, you could consider a financial aid suspension appeal letter that explains extenuating circumstances, such as medical bills or job loss.

4. Your parents didn’t file federal taxes:

f you’re a dependent student, you likely need your parents’ tax information from the previous year to file the FAFSA and get financial aid. But if your parents didn’t file federal taxes and were required to do so, you won’t be able to complete the FAFSA and, as a result, won’t have access to aid.

What to do: To avoid this scenario, your parents need to ensure their taxes are in order before it comes time to file the FAFSA (Oct. 1 or later).

5. You forgot to file the FAFSA every year:

In order to receive financial aid on an annual basis, you need to file the FAFSA every year. If you failed to complete the FAFSA, your financial aid won’t be renewed. Fortunately, the FAFSA stays open until June 30, and it’s better to file late than never.

But your state deadline might have already passed, and your college might not have as much money to distribute, since it’s already given out aid to other students. Note that some colleges additionally require a form called the CSS Profile, so it’s important to file that as well if it’s required.

What to do: Prepare to file the FAFSA even before it becomes available by collecting last year’s tax forms and financial information. File as soon as possible when it opens on Oct. 1, since some financial aid is doled out on a first-come, first-served basis.

6. Your aid was only available freshman year:

Financial aid is typically determined on an annual basis, and you’re not guaranteed to get the same amount in subsequent years as you did the first year. In fact, some colleges appear to “front-load” financial aid offers to attract incoming students, then offer less in later years. Likewise, some scholarships you received as a freshman might not be renewable for all four years.

What to do: Speak with your financial aid office to clarify the terms and conditions of your financial aid package. Reach out to any scholarship organizations as well to find out if your aid is renewable and if there are any steps you need to take to preserve your eligibility.

7. You’ve defaulted on previous student loans

When you file for financial aid, you need to state that you’re not in default on any previous student loans. Although this situation probably won’t apply to undergraduates, it could come into play for graduate students or adults returning to school. So make sure to keep up with any required payments on older student loans — falling behind could mean you’ll lose eligibility for future financial aid.

What to do: Make sure to keep up with any required payments on older student loans so you don’t lose eligibility for future financial aid. If you’ve already defaulted, try to get your loans back into good standing through loan consolidation or rehabilitation.

8. You were convicted of a drug-related offense:

If you’re convicted of a drug-related offense while receiving federal student aid, your eligibility could be suspended. You might also have to return any aid you’ve already received.

What to do: If you’ve been convicted of a drug-related offense, you might be able to get your financial aid back by completing an approved drug rehabilitation program and passing two drug tests. Once you’re eligible again, contact your financial aid office ASAP to regain your grants, loans and, if applicable, work-study.

You were denied financial aid — now what?

Losing financial aid is a nightmare scenario, especially if you can’t afford to stay in school without it. If you’ve been denied financial aid, your first step is to find out why. Reach out to your financial aid office and ask what made you ineligible.

Once you understand the reason, you can take specific steps to resolve the problem. You can also write a financial aid suspension appeal letter to your financial aid office, explaining any special circumstances that impacted your eligibility and providing any supporting documentation.

If your grades or enrollment slipped due to a medical issue, a death in the family or another emergency, for instance, you might be granted some extra time to bring your grades back up. Or if your family’s financial situation changed due to job loss, the office might be able to grant you some extra aid.

Although there’s no guarantee your financial aid suspension letter will work, it’s worth a shot. Stay in communication with your financial aid office so they can help you navigate this difficult time and hopefully get back the aid you need to pay for school. What to do if your financial aid suspension appeal letter doesn’t work

If your financial aid suspension appeal is denied, you might have to make some tough decisions about what to do next. A few possibilities include: Transfer to a cheaper school: If you can’t afford tuition and fees at your current school, you might consider transferring to a less expensive school, such as a community college, to earn credits. Make sure your existing credits transfer, though, or you could end up being in school for longer than four years and paying more money as a result. Borrow an emergency loan: Some schools offer emergency loans to students who encounter financial hardship. Speak with your financial aid office about whether this is possible, even if you haven’t regained eligibility for federal aid yet. Apply for private scholarships: It’s a good idea to apply for private scholarships all four years of college, especially since some freshman year scholarships aren’t renewable. Stay on top of scholarship applications to earn money for tuition and living expenses. Make money with a part-time job: If you have time to work during school and the summers, you could earn money that could help you pay for school. Consider private student loans: Although federal student loans tend to be your best bet for funding, a private student loan could help you fill the gap. But be careful not to borrow too much, so you don’t get stuck with high payments after graduation. Note that you might need to apply for a private student loan with a cosigner to meet income and credit requirements.

Hopefully, your loss of financial aid is just a bump in the road, and you’ll regain eligibility soon. But in the meantime, consider these alternatives strategies for lowering the cost of tuition and covering college expenses. And remember to stay in contact with your financial aid office, as its administrators can help you navigate the often-confusing world of financial aid and ensure you have the funding you need to earn your degree.

This information was published by Student Loan Hero.

Leading Women to STEM Careers

Once they hit middle school, girls often move away from STEM-related careers. School counselors can help middle and high school girls keep all their options open.

Careers in STEM exert significant influence and power, shaping nearly every aspect of our lives. Yet, women (diverse in race, ethnicity, class, age, gender identity, abilities, and other historically marginalized identities) are underrepresented in the field. And, even when present, they may find themselves in unwelcoming cultures that impede their participation as innovators, leaders, and researchers who are shaping the future.

Most college students majoring in STEM make that choice during high school. Unfortunately, despite the increasing demand for professionals in the field, some young women don’t automatically think of STEM careers when planning their future.

Students who lack a strong STEM role model in their life or who haven’t had access to adequate STEM learning may not automatically consider a career in STEM. Further, self-doubt can arise for students who don’t have confidence in themselves and their abilities. Questions — “Can I be competitive with peers in this major? Is there a place for me in this field?” — may loom in their minds. Such students’ paths can be influenced by the help of a school counselor.

A school counselor’s role

“As part of their commitment to equity, school counselors work to raise awareness and encourage students to explore all avenues for their future careers, not just those that are stereotypically gendered,” said Jill Cook, executive director of the American School Counselor Association.

School counselors actively advocate for equitable policies, procedures, practices, and attitudes, embracing equity in opportunities and access to resources for all students and colleagues. School counselors are vigilant in countering the harmful effects of stereotypical gender-role expectations. “Persistent, subconscious images of male mathematicians and scientists that start at the earliest ages may be one explanation why girls enter STEM fields at dramatically lower rates than boys,” according to Edutopia.

School counselors are essential allies for bridging this gap in information and experience, providing career-shaping information to students and their families. School counselors provide and advocate for individual students’ college and career awareness, exploration, and postsecondary planning and decision making, which support the students’ right to choose from the wide array of options when students complete high school. By focusing on a growth mindset, school counselors help students understand that, “their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work,” according to Carol Dweck, author of the book Mindset.  “Brains and talent are just the starting point.”

But school counselors can also influence school leaders on which courses to offer and evaluate how the courses match the existing experiences of students. “I set about identifying the changes I could influence. It became evident that the overarching themes were equity and access to classes that could have an impact on postsecondary plans. By looking at class enrollment data, we made intentional changes to the master schedule, dropped outdated prerequisites, and monitored for our implicit bias,” said Jennifer Correnti, a school counseling director in New Jersey.

Addressing comfort

School counselors can also help teachers address unconscious bias in the physical environment of classrooms. “The physical environment conveys messages to students about who belongs in computing and who doesn’t. Rooms decorated with images and objects associated with geeky stereotypes are typically less appealing and welcoming to women than are gender-neutral rooms. Knowing this, you can craft an environment that makes a broad range of people feel welcome,” according to The National Center for Women in Technology.

When school counselors have training and expertise in creating inclusive spaces where all students feel welcome, comfortable, and supported, they can help other educators improve their physical spaces.

By actively advocating for equitable policies, procedures, practices, and attitudes and embracing equity in opportunities and access to resources for all students and colleagues, school counselors can help young women interested in STEM careers reach their goals.

Author Terry Hogan, President and CTO, The National Center for Women in Technology; Angela Cleveland, Program Director, NCWIT Counselors for Computing, us.editorial@mediaplanet.com

Tips for Acing the Virtual College Interview

College interviews are making a comeback. While many schools never abandoned the one-on-one interview, others are beginning to see the value in meeting with a student to gather additional information for an application process now missing one key component—test scores. 

As over 1665 or more than 70% of four-year colleges and universities have implemented test-optional policies, institutions previously dependent on scores for evaluating students are looking for ways to evaluate students using other metrics—those more aligned with assessing character. And what better way to probe character issues than by actually meeting and interviewing a student? 

 In addition to supporting assessment, the interview can be another marketing opportunity for colleges anxious to replace campus visits as occasions to sell the institution and all it has to offer. And the feedback gathered from a student can be yet another tool for assessing interest or perceived “fit.” 

But just as COVID-19 has pushed colleges into adopting test-optional policies, the virus has also made it all but impossible for them to conduct in-person interviews. And for better or worse, the virtual interview has its own quirks and subtleties. While students are largely accustomed to interacting in a classroom environment over the internet, the interpersonal element in an interview requires the student to be more attentive to communication details. 

To start, the virtual interview may be conducted over any one of several popular video chat or conferencing platforms—each with its own advantages or disadvantages. The most popular are Zoom, Skype, FaceTime or Google Hangout. But be aware that the interviewer decides the format, and it’s up to you to familiarize yourself with the platform making sure you have any required software on your computer, tablet or phone. 

Once that’s established, it’s time to drill down into details. And here are some tips for acing your virtual college interview: 

DO: 

  • Find a quiet, appropriate space where you can have the call.
    Be aware of your background—plain and uncluttered is ideal. 
    Make sure your computer is charged-up if you’re using a laptop—better yet, plug it in! 
  • Check your lighting and try to position the camera so that you are facing a light source and not the other way around. 
  • Test the technology. Before the interview, schedule a test call with a friend, family member or anyone who has been working with you throughout the application process. 
  • Ensure your microphone and speakers are working on the day of the interview and that your internet connection is stable and supports high-quality live video. 
  • Secure your device if using a phone or tablet—shaky or wobbly video is annoying. 
  • Be sure to use a professional screen name (first and last) that will be easy for the interviewer to recognize. 
  • Eliminate background noise and distractions—barking dogs, while sometimes unavoidable, distract you as much as your interviewer. Keep Fido out of the interview, if possible. Close windows and turn off the TV. 
  • Silence personal devices. 
  • Choose a small, comfortable and upright chair. Slouching on a couch isn’t engaging and sprawled out on a bed is disrespectful. 
  • Dress appropriately—top and bottom (you never know). Logo gear is not advisable, especially when it’s from another college. Avoid clothing featuring small patterns or colors that might not come across well on the screen. 
  • Try to make eye contact by looking directly into the camera. Nodding will show the interviewer that you are involved and listening attentively. Feel free to use your hands if it comes naturally to you. 
  • Have a backup plan in case of glitches. Transitioning to a phone or rescheduling for an alternate time are both possible solutions for technical difficulties. Try not to panic if your software experiences an issue. If the problem is outside of your control, the interviewer will understand. 
  • Follow-up with a thank-you note.


DO NOT:

  • Schedule an appointment without noting it on your calendar. 
  • Assume the interview will be in your time zone. Verify with the interviewer the time zone of the interview and be ready to begin at the agreed-upon time. 
  • Have your parent(s) sit in on the meeting. There’s nothing worse than having someone lurking off camera prompting responses. And don’t let them hover anxiously outside the room. Hang a “Do Not Disturb” sign outside your door if necessary. 
  • Neglect to introduce yourself. 
  • Come to the interview unprepared. An interviewer can tell in a minute if you have absolutely no knowledge of the college for which you are interviewing.
  • Get too cute with virtual backgrounds or screen names. If you must use a virtual background, choose something professional—not a picture of a closet filled with toilet paper as one student recently used. 
  • Turn off or disable your webcam. Part of the purpose of the face-to-face interview is for the interviewer to see how you interact as well as how you respond to specific questions. 
  • Try to record the interview. 
  • Forget to smile. Speaking into a computer is a little unnatural, but it’s important to try not to act like a robot. 
  • Sit in a dark room—it’s a little creepy. 
  • Watch yourself instead of the interviewer. 
  • Talk over your interviewer. Zoom has a built-in lag and it’s sometimes easy to jump in too soon. Practice your timing and use the pause to your advantage as a moment to consider your answer. 
  • Check email/phone/web while on the call as others can easily tell when you are distracted. And it’s a clear signal that you’re disinterested. 
  • Eat or chew gum or wear a hat unless there is a religious reason to do so.
  • Fail to say thank you and follow-up with a note.

Nancy Griesemer is an independent college consultant practicing in Oakton, Virginia. She has two children who survived the college admissions process and a very large tabby cat who sits in on many of my counseling sessions. Her credentials include degrees from Penn and Harvard, professional membership in the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA) as well as the Higher Education Consultants Association (HECA), and a Certificate in College Counseling from UCLA. As a professional college consultant, she support students and families navigating their own personal college explorations. Check her blog out at http://collegeexplorations.blogspot.com/

What does my deferral really mean?

This is a question you might get asked by your students. Lee Bierer of College Admissions Strategies wrote a great blog piece below that can help your students answer that question:

Being deferred is NOT the same as being rejected. It may feel that way for students, but this year with a record number of early applications there has also been a record number of deferrals.

A student who applies through either early action or early decision is deferred when a college determines that the student has potential but they want to see first semester senior grades to confirm. So without sounding overly Pollyana-ish, being deferred gives a student a second chance to impress the admissions office.

So how should a student respond to a deferral?

  1. Visit the college – If possible, if you haven’t toured the campus, this is a great time to make the visit. Even if you have visited previously, a follow-up visit where you sit in on a class and/or meet with someone from admissions is an opportunity to set yourself apart from other deferred applicants. Also, a campus visit can really help you determine where this college ranks in your desirability scale. Plan to eat lunch in the cafeteria and have conversations with current students. These informal discussions can often provide insightful comments.
  2. Contact your admissions representative – Find out which person in the admissions office handles your geographic territory. Take the opportunity to introduce yourself via email and ask that person if they can share any thoughts on how you could improve your application. Listen to what they say, don’t argue or complain.  It is important to be upbeat and leave a positive impression.
  3. Write a letter – Send it to the Director of Admissions as well as your admissions representative. The letter should focus on your strongest attributes and how you will be able to contribute to the college community. Demonstrate your interest and your commitment. If you are 100% sure that if you are accepted you will attend, then say so. Talk about college fit; why the college is a good fit for you and why you are a good fit for the college. Use the letter to update the admissions office on any new information such as leadership roles in clubs, athletic accomplishments, awards, scholarships, etc.
  4. Send your mid-year transcript. Most colleges will specifically request that you send your seventh semester grades. Follow instructions to the letter and get it done as quickly as possible. Timing can be an important factor.

Here’s what not to do?

  • Don’t whine and complain to the Admissions Office that you really deserve to be accepted
  • Don’t send volumes of emails, snail mail or packages hoping to change their minds
  • Don’t accuse the admissions office of making a mistake in their decision
  • Don’t compare your SAT scores and GPA with someone else’s
  • Don’t over-boast about small accomplishments, tell it like it is. It is not really worth it to share that your SAT score went up 10 points.

Lee Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte. Send questions to: lee@collegeadmissionsstrategies.com; www.collegeadmissionsstrategies.com

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