Sent on the last Thursday of each month, the Counseling Newsletter provides extra guidance and information to assist you during the university application process. Please read each issue carefully. The newsletter is also shared with your parents and teachers, and it can be used to help create more dialogue about your future.
This issue includes essential information that will guide you through the three final weeks of school. Please read it carefully. Remember that the deadline for UK/North-American applications (and all other applications with January deadlines) is on Monday 2 December, and you should be ready to send these soon. Please reach out to your counselor if you predict that you won't be able to send your applications with January deadline by Monday.
We have included the article on Admissions Anxiety from Tulane University as well as an article from Stanford Medicine discussing a very important topic - sleep deprivation among teens. Please have a look at the related video clip by Dr Daniel Siegel. Please also consider the insights shared by Mr Peter Choi, SFS Parent andAlumni Interviewer for Cornell, on the Importance of Authenticity in the University Application Process. Kind regards, The High School Counselors
Message from your Counselors:
Most Amazing Seniors,
As we are just three weeks from the winter vacation and most of you have had some very important university deadlines to meet in the last month. Some of you might still have some work to do, and we want to take a few minutes to remind you about what needs to be done and when. (If you are in denial or procrastination mode, you can consider this a helpful push from your counselors!)
We assume that you have now…
1. Completed or almost completed all online applications for the UK and North American universities. These applications include UCAS, Common Application and individual universities. – CONGRATULATIONS to those students who have sent all their applications! 2. On all applications, looked for an "Application Checklist"- make sure you have completed all items! It is your responsibility to know what needs to be sent and by when. 3. Added all of the universities to which you are applying into Maia – regardless of WHERE they are or when the applications are due to your short-list (Colleges Applying) 4. Ticked the box that says “Request Transcript” on your “Colleges Applying” list for all applications that you have completed. (remember to do this whenever you have completed an application to any of your universities). 5. Ordered your official TOEFL/IELTS/SAT/ACT score reports to be sent directly to your universities by TOEFL/IELTS/College Board/ACT. This is your responsibility – the counselors cannot report SAT/ACT or TOEFL/IELTS scores. 6. Some universities in the US want an International Student Certification of Finances at the time of application or the CSS Profile if you are asking for financial assistance. Please see the Application Checklist for each university (on the university's own website) if you need this now or later.
Frequently asked questions:
Which applications have to be sent by the December 2 Internal Application Deadline? UK, USA and most Canadian applications, and any university with a January due dateand any application that you would like to send early.
Can my counselor send the supporting documents before I submit my application online? Unfortunately not. Your application must be received by universities first.
What do I do if I want to change some universities on my short-list on Maia? Please check these choices with your counselor so that we can ensure that you continue to have a good balance of Reach/Fit/Star schools. Then ask your counselor to add the university on Maia and to cancel the one that you will not be applying to. You can send this request to your counselor by email, but make sure you parents are included. We want to make sure they are aware of the changes you make to your short-list as they have signed the SFS University Application Agreement Form stating that they are aware of your short-list of universities. It is important that everyone is on the same page.
Can I really only apply to 10 universities? The SFS maximum is 10 – with the UCAS, UC and Ontario applications counting as one each. The exception to this rule is if you and your parents have already spoken with your counselor and given a compelling reason for applying to more than 10 universities. You really need substantial reasons. Please note that 6-9 well chosen universities is a good universal guideline.
Our counselors are such nice people… I’m sure that they won’t mind sending the supporting documents off during their vacation. Right? We really are such nice people… which is why we provided you with a set of university application deadlines back in the spring. Nowhere on the planet has there been less ambiguity about when various components of the university applications are due. We will actually be on vacation during our vacation, and won’t be able to send any documents for you. You should be on vacation too, and relax and recharge your batteries before you come back for the last stretch in January. University representatives are also on vacation and their offices will reopen at about the same time that we come back to school at SFS.
I got an email saying that my university is missing a Mid-Year Transcript/Report. What is this about? Don't worry about this. Universities often send students a reminder that they are missing their mid-year transcript or report. The mid-year report including your Grade 12 first semester grades will be sent to all US universities the first week of February. Is this the same as the Mid-Semester or First Quarter Grades? No, it's not. If you got a message requesting your mid-semester or first quarter grades then contact your counselor as soon as possible so that we can send them in.
When I checked my online status at one of my universities, I noticed that they are missing my teacher letters of recommendation and my transcript but my counselor e-mailed to say that (s)he sent it. What's going on? Although Maia's online submissions are instantaneous, please understand that it takes university admissions office staff some time (anywhere between a few days and a few weeks) to file all parts of the application. Please have patience with the universities as they are receiving thousands of applications. Please forgive them if they don’t respond to your email request immediately, or if they mistakenly claim that your supporting documents haven’t been sent yet. If you get a message indicating that something is missing, your first step is to forward the email or take a screenshot of the online message and send it to your counselor. You can also follow up with the university yourself by phone or e-mail. They may tell you to wait a week while things are filed or they may ask you or the school to take some action… which we will! If the documents are still not listed as having been received in one to two weeks, please contact your counselor who will be in touch with an admissions offer. Universities are terrific about permitting SFS to email a document that they have not been able to find after the application-dust has settled. Please be aware that at many North American universities, your RD application will not be read until February/March. There is ample time to provide the universities with anything they are missing. The photo below is of Mr. Russ, the manager of the Admission Processing Center at University of Southern California (USC). What you see on the shelves are application packages from senior students around the world This year, Mr Russ’s team will scan nearly 2.000.000 pages of application papers and download hundreds of thousands of application documents, test score records, and requests for information. They are probably more than a bit stressed out right now.
To further understand what is going on in the admissions offices, please watch this music video made by the admission staff at University of Delaware. It's very funny. As you can see, the Admissions Officers are not machines, but very human, just like us on this side of the application process.
The Importance of Authenticity in the University Application Process
We often talk about the need to be authentic throughout the university application process. Students are looking for a good-match university, and the admissions officers are looking for a student that would be a good fit for their university. If the universities were dishonest in their dealings with you or if the information they provide on their website was false then you would probably be very upset and disappointed. The same is true on the other side of the application. The matching process is very important and it only works if both parties are honest and authentic.
Mr Peter Choi, SFS parent and Alumni Interviewer for Cornell has shared some of his insights to the application process with us. Even though his recounts are specific to Cornell, the ideas and principles can definitely be applied to many US universities. Thank you Mr Choi. We appreciate your input.
Insights from the other side of the desk by Mr Peter Choi Being an Interviewer for Cornell Architecture, I wanted to offer some thoughts on what I have gleaned sitting on the other side of the application process. As a note, Cornell Architecture requires an interview either on campus in Ithaca or with an alumni interviewer like myself as part of the application process. As the program is small and most selective, one of the goals of the interview is to get a feel on how committed you are not only to studying architecture but also the program.
Admissions Committee and the Interview At large, the architecture schools you are applying to want to see your creativity and individuality. By this, I mean the admissions committee wants to see how you think and create by way of your essay and the various works in a broad media as presented in your portfolio. A large part of architecture is about problem-solving and so the perfect candidate has a balance of creative and rational abilities.
Based on my personal experience, successful candidates (accepted) possessed a distinct personality markedly distinguishing themselves from the applicant pool. They were thoughtful in their motivation for choosing architecture as a profession. Additionally, they had personal reasons for choosing not just Cornell but also Cornell Architecture. Knowing the school you are applying to is important. The more specific you are the more reassured the committee is while reviewing your application. And of course, the portfolios were of a level of maturity and complexity that manifested the applicants’ high level of skills and talents. In an interview scenario, I look at the candidate’s maturity. Committing to a rigorous five year program like Cornell’s requires a lot of it. I have had interviews when after having looked over the student’s interests, performances and achievements, there was a disconnect with the student’s selection of colleges and major. As an interviewer, when I do not see things adding up, I ask more questions and try to look deeper. I look for sincerity and honesty in our conversation. Is the student committed to said area of study? Does the student have passion that is backed up by the student’s achievements and reinforced by cited future plans? I had one applicant who impressed me with his maturity and independence. He declared to his parents going into 9th grade that he wanted to forego hagwons and to study on his own. His submitted grades and test scores were all at 99% so clearly he was not hurt by not attending afterschool lessons. His portfolio was principally from AP Art and individual work. The work was of a breadth and complexity that manifested his curiosity and problem-solving abilities. Besides his schoolwork, he was very interested in two hobbies: magic and coding. He wanted to find his own rhythm as he had a strong idea of who he was as a person. He loved the art of magic for its crafting of reality and perception. He loved coding because he loved the challenges it presented. Coding was an immensely creative activity for him. In the end, he knew his strengths and crafted his high school life around it. In April, he had the task of choosing between MIT and Cornell. He is a Cornell student today.
Portfolio and the Hagwon Anecdotally, I was once told that when the admissions committee encounters the first one or two portfolios from Korea they are impressed with the quality of the students’ portfolios. However, as more Korean portfolios are reviewed, they become suspect and eventually disappointed as the portfolios all seem to have a “look” that is consistent and even formulaic. The reviewing committee’s realization that the portfolios are heavily influenced by hagwons ultimately result in unfavorable portfolio evaluations. And yes, the folks over in Ithaca are fully aware of the hagwons in Korea. My strong recommendation is to not rely on hagwons for your portfolio. Too often, the instructors intervene in the work and follow a systematic typology of media exploration and exercises. The result is that the portfolio is a reflection not of the applicant but the hagwon and/or instructor. Remember, the people reviewing your portfolios on the other side do this year in and year out. They can see the “hand of the artist”. They cannot be fooled. As an important aside, it must be stressed here that the same can be said of your essays. They cannot be fooled. If you did not write it, it comes across plain as day in the admission office. The point of seeing your portfolios is not only to see your technical ability but perhaps more importantly, your creativity and how you think. The description of your work should be concise and explain your project in these terms.
Individuality One of the most convincing portfolios I have seen was by a student who attended the Intro to Architecture Summer program at Cornell. The student’s studio work from the program was both complex and mature. The work showed that even as a high school student she was ready for the program at Cornell. Perhaps more impressive was what happened after the program. Upon returning from Ithaca, the student spent the rest of the summer in Seoul creating her own series of architectural “problems/ exercise” based on what she had learned over the summer program. By continuing her own explorations into architecture, the candidate showed initiative and passion for studying architecture.
Wrap Up The final words I can offer you is to be real and sincere. I cannot stress enough just how transparent things are to the people in the college admissions office. At Cornell, the school looks for students with achievement who will not merely get by in the Cornell Architecture program but thrive. So stay focused with your interests and look for ways to show your passion in a way that can only help you.
Good luck. Mr Peter Choi, Cornell University, B.Arch.; Harvard University, M.Arch II
Sleep Deprivation is an Epidemic among Teens - article by Ruthann Richter for Stanford Medicine
Sleep deprivation increases the likelihood teens will suffer myriad negative consequences, including an inability to concentrate, poor grades, drowsy-driving incidents, anxiety, depression, thoughts of suicide and even suicide attempts. According to a 2006 National Sleep Foundation poll, the organization’s most recent survey of teen sleep, more than 87 percent of high school students in the United States get far less than the recommended eight to 10 hours, and the amount of time they sleep is decreasing — a serious threat to their health, safety and academic success. Sleep deprivation increases the likelihood teens will suffer myriad negative consequences, including an inability to concentrate, poor grades, drowsy-driving incidents, anxiety, depression, thoughts of suicide and even suicide attempts. It’s a problem that knows no economic boundaries.
Carolyn Walworth, 17, often reaches a breaking point around 11 p.m., when she collapses in tears. For 10 minutes or so, she just sits at her desk and cries, overwhelmed by unrelenting school demands. She is desperately tired and longs for sleep. But she knows she must move through it, because more assignments in physics, calculus or French await her. She finally crawls into bed around midnight or 12:30 a.m. The next morning, she fights to stay awake in her first-period U.S. history class, which begins at 8:15. She is unable to focus on what’s being taught, and her mind drifts. “You feel tired and exhausted, but you think you just need to get through the day so you can go home and sleep,” said the Palo Alto, California, teen. But that night, she will have to try to catch up on what she missed in class. And the cycle begins again. “It’s an insane system. … The whole essence of learning is lost,” she said. Continue readinghere. More on the importance of sleep below.
An Under-appreciated Key to College Success: Sleep - article by Jane E. Brody in New York Times
Many college-bound students start out with dreadful sleep habits that are likely to get worse once the rigorous demands of courses and competing social and athletic activities kick in. Continue reading here.
1) Meditate. All I'm saying is to try it. Give it a shot. You have nothing to lose. Even just ten minutes a day. Remember, they call meditation a “practice” for a reason: you’re not going to master it the first time you try it. Or even the first ten times. But keep at it for a few weeks. I promise you, you’ll see remarkable results, just like going to the gym. I use Calm when I meditate and I can't recommend it enough- it's one of the highest rated apps of all time. Try the 7 Days of Calm, it's a free trial. I know others love Headspace. Marines, pro athletes, CEOs, and millions of Americans have introduced meditation into their daily life. This stuff is the real deal.
2) Don’t post your college application decisions on social media. If you get into a school, that is great! No need to blast it all over social media, even though I know you are super pumped. Because as you get in, many of your classmates will not. Keep your results off social media and you'll be inadvertently helping those around you. Once you select a school to enroll at, by all means post about it. But in the crazy ED/EA season, it goes a long way to show some humility.
3) Treat your brain like it’s your roommate. Here is something I learned from the concept of mindfulness and specifically from this great book I read called The Untethered Soul. Basically, your brain is like your roommate. It’s always going to be nagging you, talking to you, reminding you of things, giving you its opinion in an endless narrative. The most important thing to remember is this: you can choose what you listen to. Just because your brain is always talking to you, doesn’t mean you have to listen to it. Imagine if all the negative or anxious thoughts that you have came from an actual person saying those things to you; they'd kinda be a real annoying jerk who you'd never listen to in real life. After all, if you could control your brain’s thoughts, you’d only think positive things, right? As soon as you starting thinking “I’ll never get into this school," "I am going to bomb the ACT," just remember — you don’t have to listen to negativity. Just like that annoying roommate, you don't have to listen to it.
4) Take note of how much time you're spending on your phone. Moment tracks the amount of time you spend on your phone and WOW is this an eye opener. The data from studies linking phone addiction to anxiety and depression is eye-popping. When I downloaded the Moment app I nearly threw up when I saw how many hours I spent on my phone in one day. In the new iOS update, you can limit your screen time and put your phone in downtime mode at a specific time in the evening and limit your social media use. Do all these things.
5) Don’t look at your phone before you go to sleep or right when wake up. This is a continuation of the previous tip. When you are on your phone right before you go to bed, the stimulation from the phone keeps you awake and also keeps your mind racing. Instead, read a book. Meditate. Do something besides sit in bed and stare at your phone. If you have to look at your phone before bed, adjustthe Night Shift on your phone before you do so. This takes out the colors that make it hard on your eyes in the evening. Right as you wake up, don't grab your phone and check Snapchat or Instagram. Just let yourself wake up. What good will it do to read aggravating political news before bed? Or wake up to look at someone else's filtered vacation photos? I made a big change recently and started charging my phone in the kitchen rather than the bedside table at night. I boldly suggest you try this.
6) Take it a step further and take a little break from social media altogether. This one is tough, I know, especially in the world we live in. It's remarkable how much anxiety it can give you when you are consistently comparing your life to your classmates and experiencing FOMO. One small step I recommend is getting rid of the Facebook app on your phone and just checking it when you happen to be on your computer. Or pick one to commit to: Insta Story OR Snapchat, not both. As it turns out, you're not missing as much as you think you are. Case in point — the people who don't use social media at all are always cooler than me and never seem to have any anxiety about not being on it. I've blogged about this before. Social media is you comparing your worst moments to everyone else's best moments.
7) Learn to respond, not react. This is one that is going to take some time and won't happen overnight. But by practicing some mindfulness and maybe a little meditation, you'll get there. Simply put, reacting is the knee-jerk reaction to a situation. Responding is taking a breath, collecting your thoughts, mulling it over, and then replying. Next time someone emails you something obnoxious, instead of immediately reacting with an equally obnoxious email, sit on it, even sleep on it, and write a well-thought-out response. You'll be glad you did. Great example: if you get deferred or denied from a school, don't react. Respond. You'd be shocked how many students and parents send me expletive-laden emails when they are not admitted to Tulane. That is called a reaction.
8) Be patient with others. I was on the airplane last week with a mom and her baby. The baby would NOT stop crying. Everyone was glaring at the mom with a "shut that kid up" look on their face. Now, think of it this way — who is the only person on that plane who wants that baby to stop crying more than you? Right. The mom. So be patient. I bet that baby will stop crying a whole lot sooner if the other people on the flight gave the mom a few compassionate looks of patience. Patience with others (your school counselor for example) can lead to a remarkable amount of anxiety reduction of your own.
9) Let Thanksgiving be a college-free zone. Everyone is going to ask where you applied, where you got in, where you want to go. Set some ground rules with the fam. Mom and Dad, you might have to lead this charge. Let this be a time with your family to decompress, truly enjoy each other's company, and leave all that college-talk for some other time. There's not much that can be changed now, so getting into stressful conversations over the turkey won't help anyone. Go play some football instead. Speaking of which...
10) Exercise. But like, REALLY, exercise. One of the absolute best ways to reduce your anxiety is to get a really good workout in. Not just a casual jog, but something where you really push yourself. Take a boot-camp class, maybe even a spin class, but do something that pushes you harder than usual.
If you had told me last year I'd be writing a blog encouraging you to meditate, I'd think you had lost your mind! But here I am doing exactly that. Like I've said before, everything will be alright in the end. If it’s not alright, it’s not the end. You'll get in somewhere, you'll go somewhere. You'll do fine in school and the drama with your friends will come and go. This goes back to deciding what you listen to in your brain. It's not always going to be perfect, but you can be assured, eventually things have a way of working themselves out. I am not saying all will be completely stress-free all the time, but over the course of the next few months, if you try a few of the tips above, you might just experience reduced anxiety in life, even at a time when you'd expect it to be higher than ever. See full article here.
Do you remember what steps to take every time you have sent an application? If not, please revisit the steps given in last month's issue.
The next issue of the newsletter will be posted on Thursday 30 January. Kind regards, The High School Counselors