What is a Test-Optional College?

No Comments 09 January 2018

While there’s often a lot of pressure to do well on standardized tests, it’s not really everyone’s preferred beverage (notice that we did not specify tea). There’s so much pressure that comes with these large exams nowadays, whether it’s the PSAT, ACT, or SAT, that it’s easy to start seeing those fill-in-the-bubble-completely scantrons in your nightmares. It’s like that old adage about how you shouldn’t judge a fish by its ability (or, in this case, inability) to climb a tree. The point is: if you don’t test well, it adds a layer of difficulty to applying for college. Test-optional colleges are institutions that don’t require you to list your ACT or SAT scores on your application, and they’re great for students with less-than-ideal results.

If you’re immediately skeptical, good for you. It’s good to be wary, but test-optional colleges are as legitimate as schools that require your standardized test scores. Like the many teachers that are actually in high school classrooms, colleges are slowly realizing that these test scores aren’t an end-all be-all for determining what kind of student a teenager is. You’ll find big names on the test-optional colleges list, including Bryn Mawr, Wesleyan University, and Mount Holyoke College.

The benefits for you are straight forward: you’ll be judged on your academics throughout high school, letters of recommendation, and your essay, rather than getting caught up in some inaccurate test-score filter. But, believe it or not, there are advantages for colleges turning to a test-optional policy. Colleges value a well-rounded freshmen class, and that means accepting students that excel at standardized testing and those that don’t, as well as those from high-income and low-income families, and much more. It’s basically an all-around win!

Before applying to a test-optional college, talk to that institution about any circumstances that may surround that policy — basically, each school has its own rules. Your best bet to making sure that you follow them is to call the admissions office and speak directly to an admissions officer. They’ll tell you what’s what and help you totally rock your application! Like Einstein said, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” Let your strengths shine through — without standardized test scores shadowing them — by applying to a test-optional college!


Admissions, College Lists

What are Safety, Reach, and Match Schools?

No Comments 15 December 2017

As you start building your college list, you’ll need to start thinking about schools a little differently. Having a favorite school doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get in.

You may have heard your counselor talk about safety, reach, and match schools, but what do these terms actually mean? More importantly, does your list include enough of each?

Safety Schools

Out of all the college jargon out there, we’re willing to bet “safety school” is one term you’re familiar with. Safeties are colleges that accept the majority of applicants – they’re colleges you’re pretty much positive you’ll get into because your GPA and test scores exceed those of the average incoming freshman class.

A college is considered a safety school if your admissions test scores fall above the 75th percentile for students enrolled at the college.

Safeties get a bad rap. But don’t let the designation fool you – they’re often great schools! Put at least two safety schools on your list, just in case.

Reach Schools

Aiming for Harvard, the University of ChicagoYale, or MIT? You’re dreaming big! Reach schools admit very few students or have requirements you don’t quite meet. That’s not to say you won’t get in – plenty of students receive acceptance letters from their first-choice reach schools. But remember, it’s called a reach college because it’ll be a stretch.

Generally, a college should be considered a reach for you if your admissions test scores fall below the 25th percentile of students enrolled at the college.

Don’t let that stop you from being ambitious! Put two or three reach schools on your list. You never know what might happen. And in the meantime, take our quiz and see what your chances of getting into your dream school are.

Match Schools

Match schools are the Goldilocks of college admissions. They’re not too hard for you to get into, but you’re not guaranteed admission -they’re just right. Your GPA and test scores should match those of the incoming freshman class.

A college is considered a good fit if your admissions test scores fall between the 25th and 75th percentiles of students enrolled at the college. Keep three or four match colleges on your list. That way you have plenty of choices no matter if you’re accepted to every school or just a couple.

Now that you know how you should set up your college list, head over to your profile and start looking for your safety, reach, and match schools. Once you’re ready for the next step, start applying for those schools using the College Greenlight Application!


Admissions, Guest Post

Guest Post: Things You Don’t Think Are Important, But Actually Are

No Comments 13 December 2017

You’re a resourceful individual. It’s one of the reasons you’re using us, here at College Greenlight. As any intelligent individual knows, though, getting information from one source, and one source alone, feels unfinished. You want corroboration. So, to add some extra value to what we do here, we’ve reached out to Tufts University and asked Sean Ashburn, an Admissions Counselor, to give some advice — advice worth way more than two cents! If you’re interested in Tufts University, check out the website here, but don’t forget to to read Sean’s tips for applying to college!


Things You Don’t Think Are Important, But Actually Are

If you are a current high school senior, it’s likely that you’re familiar with the basic requirements of the college application process, including your transcript, standardized testing, essays, and letters of recommendation. It might seem like these components are all that matters, but there are other pieces of the application that play an important role in your success at navigating this long and complex process. Here are a handful of elements that you should try not to underestimate, both before and after you submit your applications.

Senior Year Grades

It is tempting to believe that the academic data that comes with your application is basically locked in before your final year of high school even begins, giving you the chance to relax a bit once 12th grade kicks off. However, despite what you’ve heard, college admissions officers pay very close attention to students’ academic performance in their senior year courses. Often senior year is when you are enrolled in the most challenging courses you have had the opportunity to take thus far (AP Calculus, anyone?) and your continued success in these rigorous courses helps provide evidence of your potential to thrive in a college-level curriculum.

In cases when hard-working, compelling applicants have a serious dip in performance once their first quarter/trimester/semester grades land in their application files, this can cast an unfortunate shadow over the admissions committee’s discussion. Furthermore, a noticeably impressive start to senior year can add some useful academic heat to your file, reassuring the admissions committee of your preparation for the rigor of college. This information should not add an extra layer of stress to what we know can be an overwhelming time for so many students, but should remind you that maintaining steady performance in the classroom is worth prioritizing, even when you have a dozen unwritten supplemental essays looming over your head.

Good College Research

Maybe this is obvious, but it is worth emphasizing how important it is for students to have strong reasons for applying to each of the schools on their list. Basically, this means you’ve done your homework well enough to be able to articulate in just 2-3 sentences why each college has caught your attention and is worthy of your application. Why? Because colleges are going to ask you to do this! The admissions or alumni interview and the common “Why X University?” essay question are two opportunities where your interest in and knowledge of a particular college should shine through…and you need to have done some good research to make this happen.

It’s certainly a cause for concern for an admissions officer when an essay or interview report reveals that an applicant is interested in an academic program or opportunity that is not actually offered on their campus, but it can be equally unsatisfying when a student gives the impression that they just doesn’t know much about the college’s community at all. Push yourself to dive deeper with your online research – beyond schools’ locations and majors – and practice (out loud, even) answering the question, “why are you applying to (blank) University/College?” At some point, someone is going to ask.

Your Application Status Page

Of all the emails or letters you will receive from an admissions office, the most important has to be the one with the login information to activate your application status page, also commonly referred to as your admissions portal. The majority of colleges provide their own online platform and, once you have logged in, you have access to a world of information available to make your life easier!

This page can often include your checklist of application materials to see what a school has and has not received in your file, a list of the standardized test scores you sent, the option to request an interview, and a spot where your admissions decision is eventually posted. Equally important is the checklist of financial aid materials, where new required documents (like copies of your family’s income tax returns) can be added on an ongoing basis as the financial aid office reviews your aid materials. Regularly checking the application status page saves you from needing to contact colleges to verify that they received your application materials and it keeps you from missing important deadlines.

Between class assignments, out-of-school commitments, family responsibilities, and college applications, college admissions offices know you’re balancing a lot. For that reason, it’s worth a reminder that there are likely so many pieces of this process that you think are important, but are not (a typo in a college essay, for example). Recognizing the importance of the three points mentioned above will save you anxiety and frustration in the long run and make you feel more in control of your own admissions process.  

Choosing A School, College Spotlight

Greenlight Student Scholarship Opportunity: Gettysburg College’s STEM Scholars Program

No Comments 12 December 2017

Located in the world-famous town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, students can find Gettysburg College, a small, private liberal arts and sciences institution for 2,600 students known for excellence in academics.  Gettysburg boasts a student-faculty ratio of 9:1, and students attend a variety of classes on one of the most beautiful campuses in the U.S.  Gettysburg is also home to an amazing opportunity for first-generation, low-income and underrepresented students interested in the STEM fields: the STEM Scholars Program.

The STEM Scholars Program, funded by the National Science Foundation, combines a monetary award (Gettysburg is guaranteeing to meet full demonstrated need with no loans) with multi-faceted support to accepted students entering the following STEM disciplines: Biology, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Math, and Physics. Scholars will participate in a STEM-focused pre-orientation as well as enroll in an exclusive First-Year Seminar taught by STEM professors.  As classes begin, students will have the chance to participate in a number of activities, including a bi-monthly STEM luncheon with faculty.  Throughout the program, students will continue to receive an array of STEM-based opportunities including peer mentoring, faculty-student research opportunities, internships, and preferential residence in Gettysburg’s Science House.

In selecting members of this cohort, the college is especially interested in applicants from underrepresented backgrounds and first generation-students with demonstrated financial need. Students should also plan to enroll as full-time students in one of the previously mentioned STEM fields, and demonstrate financial need through their FAFSA and CSS Profile.  Students also must be U.S citizens, nationals (as defined in section 101(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act), alien admitted as a refugee under section 207 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, or an alien lawfully admitted to the U.S. for permanent residence.

Gettysburg College and its STEM Scholars Program is a great fit for any first-generation, low-income, underrepresented student looking to major in the STEM fields.  Learn a little more about the scholarship and add Gettysburg to your list on College Greenlight! If you would like to learn about Gettysburg College firsthand, there will be a Senior Open House on Monday, January 29th, 2018. Included is a special session for you to learn about the STEM Scholars Program from the professors themselves! Please sign up here!


Choosing A School, College Greenlight Features

The Green Light on Cooper Union!

No Comments 11 December 2017

In theatre, it’s about the lime light. Over here at College Greenlight, we include a lot more than just lime in our color palette. Every week we try to shine our green light (get it?) onto deserving institutions that our students might be interested in. This week, we spoke with Makeda King-Smith, the Assistant Director of Admissions and Records at Cooper Union! Located in the Big Apple, this privately-funded college has a unique way of doing things!

What makes your institution stand out from others students may be considering?

The Cooper Union is a unique institution for many reasons. One thing that sets us apart from other schools is that our academic programs are very specialized and focused. We are a small school located in New York City and offer three programs for undergraduates: art, architecture, and engineering.  Cooper is a great match for students who have a clear sense of the field they wish to pursue.  We’re proud of our intimate environment driven by the relationship between passionate students and faculty.

What support services or diversity initiatives do you offer to first-gen, low-income, and/or underrepresented students?

Cooper is a small and inclusive community that is student-centered. We strive to create a space where students of all backgrounds and experiences feel welcomed, included, and empowered to create change on campus. We are always thinking of more ways to improve inclusion and student involvement on campus. One recent change was the removal of all gendered signs from our restrooms. This effort was  pioneered by a group of students and supported by Cooper’s administration. Another more recent example of improving inclusion on campus was the creation of our Diversity Task Force. This Diversity and Inclusion Task Force was tasked with examining diversity and inclusion at Cooper in order to develop an actionable plan that promotes inclusive practices across all facets of Cooper’s operations, pedagogy, and student support. We are also proud that Cooper Union students comprise many working committees on campus and even sit on our Board of Trustees! These are just a few examples of ways in which we support diversity and student inclusion at Cooper Union.

What should College Greenlight students know about financial aid at your institution?

At Cooper Union, our admissions process is completely need-blind, meaning we do not consider a student’s financial circumstances during the admissions review. When applying, students are evaluated on merit alone, not their ability to pay for school. We award all undergraduate students admitted to Cooper Union a half-tuition scholarship, currently valued at $21,625.  This scholarship renews every semester of a student’s program as long they complete their program on-time. Students will automatically be considered for additional merit-based scholarships when they apply; no additional application is required. Additionally significant, many of our students qualify for need-based financial aid after completing a FAFSA application. This aid helps to cover remaining tuition, books, supplies, housing, etc.

What does your institution’s campus and its surrounding area have to offer students? (Cultural opportunities, outdoor recreation, athletics)

Cooper Union is a small school in a big city. We capitalize on the fact we are located in the East Village with Manhattan as our campus. From galleries and museums to movie sets and theaters, there is never a shortage of things to do and see in our neighborhood. In addition to all of the offerings of Manhattan, we have lots going on at Cooper Union. With over 90 clubs, there are many ways for students to get involved on campus and outside of the classroom. Our historic Great Hall regularly hosts world-renowned politicians, activists and artists through programs that are free to students.

What else should students and counselors know that we should highlight in our post?

Cooper Union was founded in 1859 by industrialist Peter Cooper who at that time in our nation’s history, had the radical notion that education should be accessible to everyone, regardless of race, religion, gender, socioeconomic background, or immigration status. Cooper Union is still firmly rooted in its commitment to providing a high quality education that is accessible to all regardless of demographic.


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