Figuring Out What You Want In A College?

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There’s no magic formula for choosing a college, because every student has a different set of preferences and priorities. But one thing all prospective students and their families should do is identify the factors of the college experience that they value most, whether it be campus location or affordability or student-to-faculty ratio. Figuring out what you want out of college is half the battle, and narrowing down the list of options is less daunting once you know what you’re looking for.

According to this video from the University of Dayton, a top-tier Catholic research university in Ohio, prospective students and their families should consider the following key factors when making their college choice:

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Finding and selecting a right-fit school can be an arduous and frustrating task. It’s about more than the name on the diploma. Where a student attends college touches numerous aspects of his or her life, from academic studies to social activities and beyond. Considering the importance of this decision…prospective students should think carefully about where they decide to enroll when looking over their options.

The most important aspect of this over-all process…is starting it as early as possible. Particularly, if your hoping to attend a top tier university. This provides for a much more efficient and relaxed process for the entire family.

Here are 10 tips to consider in the college planning and selection process:

    1. Develop your short list
    2. Rank your priorities
    3. Don’t procrastinate
    4. Go back to schools
    5. Focus on your endgame
    6. Delve into departments
    7. Investigate job connections
    8. Compare financial aid awards
    9. Compromise
    10. Move on from rejection

Over the next few weeks we’ll go into much more detail about each of the above tips. So be sure to follow us at DOTS Educational Consulting, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.


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Kids Aren’t Committing For Four Years Anymore!

National Signing Day

Yesterday was phase II of National Signing Day, or just Signing Day as it is more commonly known. It is such a big deal in high school athletics that many schools have co-opted the tradition, letting all of their student-athletes who are embarking on a college career to have their moment in front of the cameras with pen in hand, whether it’s a Division I powerhouse or not.

There are plenty of good colleges out there, and lots of good sports being played at the Division II and Division III schools. Kids who make it to any level of college athletics should be congratulated.

But what’s changed the feel of Signing Day across the country isn’t the two-tiered process (most of the top rated kids sign early), but the Transfer Portal.

What’s changed is that kids aren’t committing for four years, they might only be committing for one, and then it’s into the transfer portal they go looking for a better opportunity, more playing time, or some other dumbfounding reason. That’s not to say some concerns aren’t totally valid.

But lost in every photo and every pen stroke on Signing Day is the fact that college is going to be an adjustment. Parents want to protect their children. I get it, I have a son who went to boarding school for five years, and who is now in college, but at some point we start doing more harm than good.

I tell parents, that they and their student-athlete have to fully commit to the school, because God forbid your athlete gets injured or they decide they don’t want to play anymore, you’re still committed to the university. So the school needs to be a good-fit both athletically and academically. A place where you will thrive. A place your proud to be attending.

To some degree, I wonder if transferring is fair. An athlete with talent, who has put in the work, should have some say in where they play and who they play for. But the transfer portal gives everyone an easy way out, maybe too easy.

DOTS Educational Consulting offers families and students 1:1 guidance and mentoring in the college, private and boarding school admission and application process.

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Applying Early Action/Early Decision To Your Dream School

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Happy New Year and CONGRATULATIONS to those high school seniors who applied early action/early decision and have successfully matched with their dream school. For those of you who may not have been as fortunate, or have been deferred for reconsideration in the spring…keep the faith! It’s not the end of the world! Hopefully, you’ve received strong guidance from your high school counselors and parents in the application process…and applied to a number of great schools that would be an even better fit for you. Consider that there are many reasons for not being admitted. One reason could simply be having submitted an incomplete application.

Yale College admitted 796 students out of a total of 5,777 early action applicants to the class of 2024 this past December. The number marks a 13.8 percent admission rate for early action. Harvard University, Brown University and Cornell University accepted 13.9, 17.5 and 23.8 percent of early action applicants respectively.

These early admissions offers are non-binding, and admitted students usually have until May 1 to reply, but double check with your particular school if you’re unsure.

For those of you who have been deferred for spring consideration…there are things you can and should do until then to strengthen your cause. One of those things is to keep the admissions office apprised of any pertinent activities and successes which will help strengthen your position. Certainly, there are other things you can do as well.

DOTS Educational Consulting is prepared to work with you 1-on-1 to provide you with the attention you deserve. We’ll advise and help you in every aspect of the college admission and application process, but don’t wait until the eleventh hour to ask for help as there’s significant strategizing and time required in developing a highly successful college application.

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Is Early Decision Really the Best College Application Option? Inside The Admissions Office!

As scores of high school seniors are beginning to receive decisions on their Early Action and Early Decision applications from many top tier colleges and universities across the country, I wanted to focus on something I have previously discussed in past blogs, as well as re-post this very timely article I received as a former Tabor Academy parent by Anna Barlow-Boesch of the Tabor Academy College Counseling Office, in Marion, MA, which sheds a bit more light on the pros and cons of the controversial Early Action and Early Decision admissions process:

It was day two of the 2019 NACAC conference in Louisville, Kentucky and I knew the session “Early Decision: Who Really Benefits” was going to be packed. I, along with my colleagues from high schools across the country, grabbed a few last chairs, eager to hear what Kirk Brennan, Director of Admission at the University of Southern California and Jeff Schiffman, Director of Admission at Tulane University were going to say about the role of Early Decision in college admission. Given that this is one of the most controversial topics in the sphere of college counseling and admission, I knew there would be some thought-provoking information to gather. I was not disappointed.

Long before the days of Early Action and Early Decision, there was only one application deadline that most colleges offered: one not-so-creatively named “Regular Decision” (RD). RD deadlines typically fall in January or February, with admission decisions being released no later than the first of April every year. But, as the college admission landscape has changed, so too have the deadlines. For a variety of reasons, there is an undeniable push to move this process earlier. In response to this, there have been an increasing number of colleges that offer both Early Action and/or Early Decision options.

Early Action (EA) indicates an earlier application deadline which can occur anywhere from mid-October through December. Students who apply EA typically learn their admission decision sometime between mid-December and the end of January in their senior year, but they have until the end of April to decide where they ultimately want to enroll. Early Decision (ED), on the other hand, refers to a binding early application plan, one that may follow a similar timeline in terms of application deadlines, but results in a student learning of their admission decision 4-6 weeks after submitting their application. If a student is admitted in ED, they are bound to attend the college, must withdraw all other applications, and must promptly withdraw the applications submitted to other colleges and universities and make no additional applications to any other university in any country.

It is precisely the binding nature of ED that makes this admission plan so controversial. Kirk Brennan touched on some of the reasons he believes colleges should not offer Early Decision both in his NACAC presentation and in a blog post he wrote several years ago. Offering an explanation for why the University of Southern California does not provide students with the option of applying EA or ED, he wrote “We don’t think Early Decision/Action programs promote a healthy search for a college. We think a good search for a college should be careful and deliberate, not rushed, and that early programs generally cause students to make this big decision too soon. So our policy is based on the principle of keeping the student’s best interest in mind.” Other criticisms of Early Decision programs stem from the fact that historically, these types of admission plans favor those who are most able to afford college, as applying ED leaves a student without the ability to compare financial aid packages.

Offering a different side to the debate, Jeff Schiffman presented compelling reasons for why colleges rely on Early Decision applications. Citing the growing challenges many institutions face with enrollment and successfully meeting financial budgets, he very bluntly told everyone listening that as much as we may not like to think of colleges in this way, they are businesses. He went on to remind us that admission directors answer directly to their Boards of Trustees and Presidents, many of whom respond well to favorable numbers. Early Decision helps colleges, not just from guaranteeing a certain percentage of their incoming class and protecting their admission yield rates, but in improving student retention and graduation rates as well. According to Mr. Schiffman, at Tulane, students admitted through Early Decision are happier and more likely to retain (not transfer elsewhere). Student retention and graduation rates are two key pieces of data on which institutions are evaluated by outside rankings, like US News and World Report. While this annual publication is one not held in high regard by most admission professionals and college counselors, it is a resource many families rely upon when searching for colleges. Clearly, it’s not just Boards and Presidents who place a value on numbers and that, too, is a pressure admission offices face.

As the conference session wrapped, it was clear that there is no easy answer to the debate swirling around Early Decision. What was also apparent is that this is an application option that will not go away anytime soon. According to a 2018 NACAC study, 52 percent of the most selective colleges in the country offer an Early Decision deadline. And, just this year, another school joined those ranks. Citing a desire to give students the greatest flexibility in choosing an application plan that works for their needs, the University of Virginia reintroduced Early Decision this fall, an option they had not offered for over a decade.

While it is important to understand the broader landscape, for students at Tabor, the decision over whether to apply ED should only be entertained in situations when a first-choice college is clearly identified after close consultation with their parents and college counselors. Every student’s college search and application process is unique and we stand at the ready to help.


*If you’d like further information on Tabor Academy (grades 9-12) or similar independent day, boarding & college prep schools, or the pros and cons of the Early Action and Early Decision application processes at particular colleges and universities around the country feel free to reach out to us at the following link:



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