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Do Colleges Really Care About Your ACT or SAT Scores?

This question keeps popping up. Below I’ve copied answers from experts who regularly answer questions on Quora. Here’s what they have to say.

Douglas Duncan Pickard, I went to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Twice.

[Why?] Because the SAT (and ACT) loosely correlate to freshman year GPA, therefore providing some assurance that the students won’t fail out right away.

Ok, that’s not the real reason. The real reason is because it provides a standardized test that all the prospective students take, so you are comparing “apples to apples” across all the applications. That helps with admissions decisions because GPA alone does not tell you much since education standards vary so much school to school.

Ok, that’s not the real reason either. The REAL real reason is that college rankings consider the average SAT score of admitted students. The higher it is the more it helps the schools rankings. It’s yet another way to keep score.

Gabriel J Ferrer Professor of Computer Science, Hendrix College

In my work as the chair of our college’s Mathematics and Computer Science Department, we have long made use of ACT Math scores as guidance in the placement process for entering students.

Generally speaking, a 28 or higher strongly predicts success in the Calculus sequence. A 24-27 also predicts success, but to a lesser degree.

A score below 24 predicts trouble. Viewed both at an abstract level as well as anecdotally in terms of instructor experience, such a score suggests poor algebra skills.

These predictions are not absolute, of course, and there are a number of students who manage to succeed in spite of low scores. But by and large, we have found ACT scores to be an excellent tool.

The most useful advice I can suggest is for high school students to work hard on mastering their algebra skills, and to some

Depauw University Promises Job Within 6 Months of Graduation.

The Gold Commitment

Liberal Arts graduates in fact do get jobs.  Already, 95% of Depauw students have meaningful jobs or admission to graduate programs within 6 months of commencement.  The Gold Commitment promises that anyone not having a job will be offered one with the university or its affiliates or an additional 6 months of education free.

Here’s the link to the article in Inside Higher Education.

Forget GPAs And Test Scores: Performance Assessment Can Predict Who Gets Accepted and Who Gets Hired 30 #Under30

Can you imagine a world where your GPA and test scores don’t matter in admissions? There’s a seismic shift at leading universities that signals a move in this direction.

This shift is called performance assessments, a method of evaluation that emphasizes demonstrated learning and acquired skills.

Rubrics for evaluating performance are already in place at leading institutions like University of Michigan Ross School of Business and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). In addition, performance-based assessments are supported through policy initiatives in 17 states and in more than 100 countries.

These facts are according to a report published by the Learning Policy Institute (LPI) in January 2018. President of the LPI, Linda Darling-Hammond, says that the spread of performance assessments is due to the demand for “higher-order thinking and complex communication” skills and the need to prepare students “for the non-routine nature of work.”

Darling-Hammond, who is also a Stanford Professor Emeritus and former team lead campaign advisor to Barack Obama, says that enhancing the role of performance assessments has potential to enhance diversity on campus and beyond. Moving away from traditional measures of student learning, GPA and test scores, will allow a wider swath of applicants to stand out.

Darling-Hammond points out that over 900 higher education institutions now have test-optional admissions. The move away from numbers-focused evaluation shows that test scores neither predict success nor demonstrate knowledge.

This also means that with exceptional experience, such as starting a successful business or overcoming adversity, you may be able to stand out despite having lower scores. Blaire Moody Rideout, University of Michigan Ross’s Director of Admissions, who oversees evaluation and selection, says unequivocally that performance-based materials are far more helpful to evaluating students than other materials because they provide “a unique presentation of self that demonstrates learning.”

In addition to being more helpful in applicant evaluation, infusing performance-based activities into traditional curricula may better prepare industry hires. Darling-Hammond points to The National Academies Foundation (NAF) as one avenue for top companies to find new talent. The NAF uses university-industry partnerships to roll out “industry-specific curricula and work-based learning experience,” preparing the future workforce with requisite skills.

The move toward performance assessments also mirrors the hiring practices of leading companies like design thinking firm IDEO and Google. According to the official company blog, when applying to work at IDEO, “a standard-issue résumé and cover letter won’t turn heads.” Instead, candidates have put together video portraits, custom apps or “in one case, brought turntables connected to a dancing robot for an impromptu DJ set.” This clue on what IDEO appreciates in applicants shows their desire to hire those who can perform.

In a similar vein, Google has moved away from using brain-teaser questions in interviews and toward performance-based evaluation. In Google’s interviews with engineers, candidates complete specific coding tasks and activities like improving an algorithm and coding in their favorite programming language. Like IDEO, Google’s hiring process emphasizes tasks that can predict on-the- job performance.

In addition to supporting the pipeline for traditional hires, the advent of performance assessments across higher education and industry presents a market opportunity for tech entrepreneurs. Darling-Hammond notes that new startups are popping up in response to the demand for performance assessments, developing platforms to “capture the complexities” of applicant work.

Altogether, performance-based evaluation provides a new opportunity for applicants to stand out when applying for universities and to jobs. In addition, higher education institutions and companies that use performance assessments are likely to have a more accurate measure of a person’s capabilities. There is also a market opportunity for young entrepreneurs to capitalize on the proliferation of performance assessments by providing new media platforms that enable applicants to demonstrate their history of impact and learning.


Penn Admission Stats for Class of 2022

In case you missed the tweet, here’s the link to the article.  You will be as amazed as your counselors are!


Lets find other amazing choices for the class of 2021!, 610-212-6679

What Employers Value In Liberal Arts Grads

I frequently post about the qualities and skills that employers want in the individuals they hire.  Knowing what is sought doesn’t really give job-seekers the language to demonstrate what they can do in the terms the employer uses.

By definition, liberal arts is interdisciplinary.  Students are required to take courses in a broad range of subjects from math to anthropology to macroeconomics to a foreign language.  A student who is learning about  the history of the middle east will use math and macroeconomics to understand and explain the trade routes from N. Africa to China and anthropology and language to investigate the impact of cultural diffusion.  Learning a new discipline encourages students to look at the same bit of information from multiple perspectives.

Liberal arts students study abroad in high numbers.  Experiencing another culture is great training for working in a global economy and make these students valuable to future employers.  Here are excerpts from an article by Anna Peters in the College Recruiter, 3/20/17.  The link to the full article is at the end of this excerpt.

There is a public perception that liberal arts graduates are somehow less valuable. Dr. Ascan Koerner with the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Minnesota will tell you why the opposite is true. College Recruiter connected Dr. Koerner with Todd Raphael of ERE Media to learn what his team is doing to make sure employers understand the relevancy of liberal arts students and graduates.

According to Dr. Koerner, we have seen more public discussion in the last 5-10 years about the value of higher education, generally speaking. The arguments for what is valuable have primarily focused on STEM education. (That is, science, technology, engineering and math.) Some believe that in order to be competitive in an international job market, one really has to be focused on STEM. At one end of the spectrum, we see the Governor of Kentucky, who has questioned why universities even have liberal arts programs at all. This makes liberal arts students—and their parents—nervous. Dr. Koerner says that at the University of Minnesota, students are asking how liberal is helpful in their careers. He says their belief in the value of liberal arts has never wavered, “but the question hasn’t been posed to us in such stark terms.”

Employers already value liberal arts, but they don’t realize it

Overall, employers already know the value of liberal arts. The problem is, they don’t recognize it as liberal arts. When you ask employers, for example, what they value, they cite competencies that are quintessential typical liberal arts. At the top of their lists are analytical/critical thinking, communication, leadership, ethnical decision making, and engaging diversity.” Employers know what they value, but the job candidates—the liberal arts students—aren’t always good at explaining their own value. So while colleges and universities bear some of the burden of convincing employers, students bear most of that responsibility. A philosophy major may embody the exact skills needed but when you ask him how his education prepared him for a career in corporate America, he has a hard time. That is why it is so important to engage and prepare students for answering those questions. When the students eloquently explain their own competencies, that is more convincing to an employer than if the institution were to explain the overall value of liberal arts grads.

“We are trying to change how we engage students in their discussion about their education,” says Dr. Koerner. Until recently, they always assumed students knew why they studied liberal arts. But now that these programs are being put into question, colleges and universities must be able to explain their worth. At the University of Minnesota, they aren’t changing what they teach. Instead, they are changing how they engage students and their understanding of their own education. That includes an increased understanding of the competencies they must develop. Rather than just developing content knowledge, they must also understand how this knowledge relates to the larger global world.

Liberal arts students and grads are uniquely prepared for leadership positions, according to Dr. Koerner. He writes the following in “How a liberal arts degree prepares students for managerial success”:

“Liberal arts programs uniquely prepare graduates for leadership and managerial roles in organizations. Liberal arts students are used to using their skills in various contexts, preparing them to better deal with uncertainty. Given the long-term unpredictability of today’s business climate, this adaptability is critical. Furthermore, liberal arts college are also committed to diversity and uniquely prepare students to learn and interact with students from a wide variety of backgrounds. It is no surprise that liberal arts graduates are disproportionately represented in the c-suites of the nation’s largest and most innovative corporations.”

Job and career competencies go beyond a specific major

Dr. Koerner says, “In Minnesota, we really take a comprehensive approach. It doesn’t just throw a couple career classes at students like some colleges that require career management classes that teach resume writing, interviewing and those important skills. But they don’t necessarily integrate the whole liberal arts education. So to that extent, we really make an effort to involve everybody in the college, and to talk about the value of liberal arts education holistically.”

Students are getting the message that more education is better, so in the last ten years, more students have double majors. “But the liberal arts is really much broader than any one major,” says Dr. Koerner. There are very few majors in the liberal arts that associate with a specific job title. There are some, such as journalism, where many students often end up as journalists. But students who study sociology, psychology or communication, for example, aren’t given a direct link to a job or even a certain industry. Therefore, it’s important to understand the whole value of liberal arts instead of just a major.

The University of Minnesota understands that career preparedness includes readiness for graduate school as well. Dr. Koerner adds that by focusing on competencies, students can be prepared for any career. When you define the competencies broadly enough, he says, they prepare students for “a future that is uncertain and dynamic. We don’t try to teach skills that have an expiration date.” Instead of learning coding, for example, liberal arts students build “more enduring skills.” The University of Minnesota’s College of Liberal Arts has two mottos. First, they understand education as going beyond the major. Second, they prepare students for the fourth or fifth job, not just the first. Even if liberal arts graduates need more initial training for a position that requires specific technical skills, they have all the attributes that will make them successful in the long run. Liberal arts prepares students for lifelong learning and to meet challenges that they will face in the long term.

How does artificial intelligence relate to this?

Dr. Koerner cited a recent study by Carl Frey and Michael Osboren of Oxford University that “suggested that 47% of all employment in the U.S. is at risk of being replaced by automation, including many mid-level technical and engineering positions.” Even in some creative work is taken over by machines. For example in journalism, many press releases are written by robots. After automation, what can humans do that machines can’t? Much of our thinking skills won’t be outsourced. By studying liberal arts, humans maintain their edge over robots by possessing the thinking qualities that machines do not.

My concluding note:

The task for parents and educators is to help students identify the qualities, skills and experiences they acquire while studying liberal arts subjects that align with those an employers wants.  Once identified, the qualifications must sync with the language used by the hiring entity.

For help with this task, lets get together and practice. or 610-212-6679.

Find Your Way Out of the Waitlist Wilderness

There are still some students waiting for notification that they have moved from pending to admitted student at their favorite college.  If this describes you, here are a few things you can do to maximize your chances.

  1. Update your admissions officer on what you have been doing since you applied
  2. Send a letter or email stating why you want to attend this college
  3. Read the mission statement, president’s letter or history of the college that you will find on the website; include in your letter (2 above) how you exemplify the values and objectives of the college
  4. Visit or visit again
  5. If you have additional recommendations that were sent to this college, send them now

You may not be able to sway the admissions committee at Dream U but you can become a star at We’re Happy You’re Coming Here U.

You’ll do well where ever you go in August!


A CV? Isn’t That A Resume?

Perhaps you’ve see a job posting where the employer asked for a CV and are wondering what the document is.  Is it a resume or something else?

A resume lays out your achievements and experience as it relates to a specific job description and is tailored to the job’s requirements.  A resume is a targeted summary limited to one page or two at most.

In some parts of the world and in some industries a CV, Curriculum Vitae, is commonly required when applying of a job.  In the US applicants for academic jobs and fellowships are expected to provide a CV.

A CV is the record of your teaching positions, symposium addresses, research and publications.  Because it isn’t targeted toward a particular position, it is necessary to add all accomplishments as they occur.  There isn’t a predetermined or recommended length for a CV; take as many pages as are necessary to lay out the entire list.

Online you can find templates and formats for a resume.  To find one for a CV, google one of  your professors.  I’ve seen some that are 40-50 pages.

While you aren’t likely to need a CV anytime soon, it is a good idea to keep a list of training, skills you pick up, additional responsibilities you’ve taken on, and stats to quantify all of the above.

If you need to know what to record and how to keep the numbers, lets talk. or 610-212-6679 for an appointment.


Show You Want To Work For The Organization, Not Just Get A Job

Ideally, you already know that you want to work for Shiny Wax Company or Hi-tech IT Solutions before an opening is posted.  As soon as you’ve identified a potential employer begin to research the company and to connect with current employees.

Invite your contacts for a cup of coffee and spend 15 minutes talking about Shiny Wax. Learn as much as you can about the culture, products and employee functions without overstaying your welcome.

During these informal conversations you may pick up on buzz words used in the industry or are particularly useful with Hi-Tech Solutions.  One or two used in your cover letter or resume may show that you are primed for action.

When a job opening is posted you only have a few days, a week at most, to get your resume seen by the right people.  After that, hiring managers have already identified the A-list candidates.  If you haven’t met current employees, you must work quickly to set up brief meetings, or a series of coffee dates, sometimes called informational interviews.

In your cover letter, mention having met with Sue Smith or Jerry Jones  and that you are excited about the prospect of working for this company.   Showing your connections and initiative can propel you onto the list of candidates that is invited for an interview.

Making and maintaining contacts among current employees can also help get your name in front of the person doing the hiring before an opening is posted.   80% of all jobs are filled by people already known to the hiring manager or referred by a current employee; you increase your chances by showing interest in the whole organization, not in the one job on offer.

Lets talk about other strategies that will boost your resume to the top of the pile.  to make an appointment in the office or via cyber-conference call/text 610-212-6679 or email

How To Get The Very Best College Recommendations

Like the application essays, the best recommendations tell the reader things that she or he can’t glean from other parts of your application. Most teachers and guidance counselors write about a student’s academic performance, participation in class, or rehash the list of activities and awards.  These are all good but not really what the admissions office is looking for.

Reading your application and transcript shows how much you have challenged yourself by taking the most advanced classes available that you can do reasonably well in.  Your grades for each class are listed.You’ve filled in your activities and probably written a paragraph about one of them.

What else can recommenders say?  Recommendations should tell stories that illustrate who you are.  Here are a few examples:

Are you persistent?  Is there a story about coming in for help after school before tests?

Do you learn from failure?  Were you able to turn a D in Chem into a B by studying more efficiently or finding an NHS tutor?

Have you been kind? How about the times when you helped a classmate who was struggling or told someone to bug off when a classmate was being bullied?

What are your goals?  Have you told your German teacher that learning to speak German has inspired you to take a semester abroad in Germany?

You can get exceptional recommendations by spending time talking to teachers or coaches.  The more they get to know you, the better the stories they can tell.  Ask for a recommendation from the advisor to the drama club or a history teacher you’ve had more than once.

When you write the note asking teachers to write letters for you, put in reminders about the stories they can tell. “Miss Lewis, I’m asking you to write this letter of recommendation because you know how much I struggled to get a good grade in English last year.  You were kind enough to talk to me many afternoons after school when you helped me understand poetry and to come to like some poets.” ( Shows persistence and curiosity).

Getting excellent recommendations isn’t hard, it just take some thought and preparation.  NB:  Don’t forget the thank you note after you’ve checked to be sure the letter has been put in your file in the guidance office!

For students who are in 9th -11th grade, use these hints to begin developing relationships with potential recommenders.  Rising seniors, you need to plan who to ask and how to ask them.

If you need more help preparing notes to teachers or guidance counselors, lets spend a few minutes finding your best sources.  610-212-6679 or

Retention And Graduation Rates: What Do They Tell Us?

Bloggers and admissions counselors remind college bound students to consider the retention rate and the graduation rate when comparing colleges.  What do these statistics reveal about a school?

Retention Rate   Retention is typically calculated for the number of enrolled first year students who return for a second year.  A quick comparison of a handful of colleges offers this trend: the larger the university and the less expensive the cost of attendance, the lower the retention is.  Private colleges tend to retain their students at almost 100%.  Why?

Demographics explain the differences.  Public universities, large and small, cost less and attract students who have fewer resources.  Many will work 20-40 hours a week in addition to attending classes.  Other students try to get by on stipends, grants and loans and can’t afford to attend in 2 consecutive years.  Lower cost colleges attract students with dependents and responsibilities that stretch their ability to do well in classes.

Academics can trip up students who are not prepared for the difficulty of colege work or for reading, higher math, or persuasive writing.  Remedial courses cost the same as regular courses but don’t count toward graduation, leading to discouragement and an extra semester or more of college expenses.  Many drop out early, lowering the retention rate.

Graduation Rate  There are several factors that reduce the 4-year graduation rate.  This statistic is calculated as the per cent of enrolled freshmen who graduate after 8 semesters.   To use this figure as a differentiator, you need to adjust for the number of students who pursue a 5-year BA/MA program that many colleges offer in education, psychology, business and other majors.  The calculated graduation rate also doesn’t account for the students who transfer out of -or into-the college.  While not a huge number, these students may receive their diploma in 4 years but not from the institution where they started.

Public institutions have lower four- and 6-year graduation rates for the same reasons that they have lower retention.  An additional reduction in the number who graduate after 4 years is participation in certification programs that last 3 or 4 semesters and the adults already in the workforce who return to pick up additional courses needed to progress in their career.  Neither of these cohorts intend to reach graduation.

Statistics are an effective tool for comparing schools if you match large public institutions,  liberal arts colleges, or Ivies with each other.  You’ll likely find that the numbers are similar  among schools of the same type.  Comparison of apples to oranges produces a less valid result.

Trying to find a good-fit college within a college type?  I can help! or 610-212-6679.