On May 7, the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents approved a new “test optional” policy for 12 of the 13 UW System campuses. We did a FB Live video regarding this announcement on May 8. You can view it here. The University of Wisconsin-Madison, the state’s flagship university, will still require ACT or SAT scores as part of college applications. For all other UW System schools, the class of 2021 and 2022 will not be required to submit an ACT or SAT score as part of the freshman application. Here are answers to common questions you may have about this announcement.
Do I still have to take the ACT with all other juniors next March?
Yes. As of now, the state-mandated ACT exam will be administered to all Wisconsin public high school juniors on March 9th, 2021 and is required.
Should I still prepare to do my best on the ACT or SAT? What importance does it have?
Yes. Standardized test scores (ACT or SAT) remain one of the top three criteria for the majority of colleges in the United States. For the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the majority of colleges beyond the UW System, a strong score is an essential piece of your application. Most sophomores and juniors do not yet know the complete list of colleges to which they’ll apply. Ensure you’re fully prepared and have the greatest number of options available to you when it’s time to complete college applications by earning your strongest possible ACT or SAT scores. Proven ACT Test Prep programs can help, or you can prep on your own.
What does “test optional” really mean?
Test optional simply means that you have the option of submitting an ACT/SAT score. You CAN submit ACT or SAT scores. It is not required, and by not submitting a score, you won’t decrease your chances of admission.
What if I have a good ACT score? Will they just ignore it?
Not at all. You’ll still be rewarded for a strong ACT/SAT score if you submit it as part of your application. Test optional does not mean “test blind”.
Should I still submit my ACT or SAT score to a test optional school?
The answer is sometimes. It depends. For insight specific to your situation, schedule a free consult anytime. In general, for “test optional” schools, you should submit your score if it will improve your chances for admission and/or merit aid. Think of your college application as a portfolio that tells the story of you. If your GPA is on the low end of the school’s average GPA for admitted students, an ACT or SAT score that falls within the school’s “middle 50% range” for admitted students could help. You can find the “middle 50% ACT range” on a college’s website or use a site such as collegedata.com to find this. Your score should fall within this range, and ideally toward the higher end of that range. Other factors such as cumulative GPA and extracurriculars can impact the score you may need for your best chance of acceptance.
What about the impact of an ACT or SAT score on scholarships and merit aid?
Many colleges and universities reward strong academic performance with merit aid scholarships. Of the factors used to determine awards, the two most common are your cumulative GPA and ACT/SAT score. In many cases, a score beyond what you “need to get in” can dramatically increase your scholarship, and that extra effort and even expense to prep can make a big difference in which schools are affordable. Since merit aid policies vary greatly, you may wish to contact the admissions or financial aid office of any test optional schools on your list to know if ACT/SAT will or will not be used for awarding merit scholarships.
I still have questions about ACT scores, SAT scores and college admissions. How can I get answers?
We’re always here to help. Email Tom Kleese with questions, call Tom directly at 608-553-3445 or schedule a free consult. Freshman, sophomore or junior year is a great time to come in, get your key college questions answered and develop a plan for achieving your college goals.
On April 1, 2020, the NCAA announced it will extend the current recruiting dead period through May 31, a move that was also taken in Division I. Institutional staff members are permitted to communicate with prospective student-athletes by phone or email during this time but cannot engage in in-person recruiting on or off campus. You can read the media release here.
This has significant implications for prospective student athletes still in high school during a time when spring athletic seasons would usually be in full swing, and colleges would be conducting in-person recruiting. It’s frustrating. It’s terribly disappointing, and it may leave prospective student athletes feeling helpless and pretty panicked right now. So what CAN you do? What actions CAN prospective student athletes take to move your college recruiting process forward while you’re standing still?
As high schools and colleges pursue online learning for the balance of this spring semester due to COVID-19, the recruiting landscape is also evolving. Remember, coaches who would usually be out on the road right now are also stuck in their offices or at home, which means they have more time to spend online. They won’t stop recruiting. They’ll just be doing it differently. Here’s how you can make progress in light of our current situation.
Prospective Student Athletes Can Take a Proactive versus Reactive Approach
There are many opportunities for current high-school prospective student athletes to be proactive. Cancelled tournaments, showcases and the dead period now extended through May 31 have changed the landscape of what the recruiting process looks like this spring.
College coaches usually use this time to travel to evaluate players at tournaments and showcases around the country and host student athletes and their families on their campuses. Athletes want to get noticed at these tournaments to set themselves up for the best recruiting opportunities. Students and their families also want to get out to college campuses to explore their options. The pandemic is making recruiting and coaching more challenging, but there are many opportunities for you as a student athlete.
Make These Actions Part of Your College Recruiting Game Plan
Update all of the social media sites you are on. Since college coaches cannot see you in person, they will likely be spending more time online. Update all of the recruiting sites you are on and be sure they are complete.
Update all of your video footage from past games and matches.
Reach out to college coaches per NCAA, NAIA, and junior college rules. This could include emails and phone calls and add links to fresh game film and highlight videos.
Target specific schools you are interested in and reach out. Think about what you want out of your college athletics experience both athletically and academically. What is a good fit for you? Do you want to start right away or are you ok being a reserve player for a few years? Does a smaller school appeal to you or a larger school. Get online and research colleges and universities and take a virtual tour. Most schools have enhanced their virtual tour and video capabilities in light of what’s happening right now.
Look into the classes you should be taking the next several years in order to be eligible to compete in college athletics. If you are a sophomore or junior, think about studying and taking the ACT sooner rather than later and look into the requirements the NCAA has around high school grades and ACT scores. Begin to research academic scholarship opportunities at your target schools.
Email and Phone Outreach to College Coaches
Student athletes stuck at home can still reach out to college coaches using email or phone calls. Here are three great questions to ask college coaches when you call. Email Stephanie Barth for other suggestions on outreach to college coaches.
What are you looking for in a player for my position?
Can you describe your practice environment?
How would you describe your team and school culture on and off the court/field etc.?
We are here at OnCampus College Planning to help you through this changing landscape.
Our College-Bound Confidence Community is an online monthly coaching group to help college-bound students and parents get to college with less stress, less mess and way more confidence. College-Bound Confidence includes training and tools specific to prospective student athletes.
We also offer a one-on-one coaching package for prospective student athletes. Email Stephanie Barth for more information or just to ask questions and get expert answers.
Email Stephanie for a free overview of how the college recruiting process works. We can help you come up with a comprehensive plan for recruiting, applications, and ACT testing to help you prepare for the college recruiting process.
Looking for at-home activities with quaranteens? Here are 10 movies to watch now that we’re all spending more time at home together.
Hilary here. My husband Tom predicted it, and here it is. I am sharing a quote from the movie we watched last night. “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” This quote is from Darkest Hour, a movie about Winston Churchill when he served as Prime Minister during WWII. History helps me “right-size” myself and remember that people in situations more dire than those we face right now have faced those situations with courage, grace, selflessness and integrity.
At times like this, when the moments of today feel daunting and desperate, I find history inspiring and helpful for shifting my perspective and strengthening my resolve.
In case you are, as we are, looking for ways to spend time together while finding hope and inspiration, here are 10 movies (in no particular order) which you might want to put in your family’s Netflix queue these days. I’d love to hear your recommendations for other movies that are good for the soul and our strength right now. We’ll add them to the Kleese watchlist!
Darkest Hour as described above, featuring Gary Oldman and Kristen Scott Thomas.
Lincoln (2012) is an historical drama film directed and produced by Steven Spielberg, starring Daniel Day-Lewis as United States President Abraham Lincoln.
Rudy (1993) may not make the cut as legitimate “historical fiction,” but Rudy is always a good answer, no matter what the question is. This biographical sports film recounts the life of Daniel Ruettiger who dreamed of playing football at the University of Notre Dame, despite significant obstacles.
Glory (1989) is an American war film directed by Edward Zwick about the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, the Union Army’s second African-American regiment in the American Civil War. It stars Matthew Broderick as Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, the regiment’s commanding officer, and Denzel Washington, Cary Elwes, and Morgan Freeman as fictional members of the 54th.
The Help (2011) is a period drama based on the book by the same name by author Kathryn Stockett. I both read the book and watched the movie, and I learned a lot from this story of young white woman and aspiring journalist Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan and her relationship with two black maids during the Civil Rights Movement in 1963 Jackson, Mississippi.
Invictus(2009) Nelson Mandela (played by Morgan Freeman), in his first term as President of South Africa, initiates a unique venture to unite the Apartheid-torn land: enlist the national rugby team on a mission to win the 1995 Rugby World Cup. Bonus, Matt Damon’s in this one.
Patch Adams (1998) is worth the sadness you’ll feel while watching a movie featuring the late, great Robin Williams. This movie is about living for something greater than yourself. It’s actually based on the true story of Hunter Doherty “Patch” Adams (born May 28, 1945), an American physician, comedian, social activist, clown, and author. He founded the Gesundheit! Institute in 1971. Each year, Adams organizes volunteers from around the world to travel to various countries where they dress as clowns to bring humor to orphans, patients and others.
Schindler’s List (1993) directed by Steven Spielberg is based on the real life story of Oskar Schindler. A businessman during the Nazi regime of Adolf Hitler, he sold off his last possessions to buy the freedom of 600-odd Jew prisoners.
My Left Foot: The Story of Christy Brown (1989) is not the feel-good movie you might be looking for right now, but it is incredibly inspiring. It stars Daniel Day-Lewis as Christy Brown, an Irishman born with cerebral palsy, who could control only his left foot. Brown grew up in a poor working-class family and became a writer and artist.
The Pursuit of Happyness (2006) because of course this movie needs to be on this list. Will Smith plays Chris Gardner, a homeless salesman. This movie is based on the memoir of the same name written by Gardner with Quincy Troupe about Gardner’s nearly one-year struggle being homeless.
May you enjoy happy, healthy and inspiring quarantine viewing. Share your recommendations. We’d love to hear them.
What do dogs in their pajamas have to do with college search? Not much probably. But we could all use a little levity, and we’re pretty sure you’d rather see dogs in their pajamas as opposed to seeing US in pajamas. So enjoy these cute pictures, and check out these tips for continuing your college search virtually with the free time you have on your hands right now.
In light of what’s going on in our world, we wanted to share ways to maintain and even ramp up your college search. While college campuses around the country are closed, college-bound high school students and parents have more available time right now. Just because campuses are closed doesn’t mean your college search has to be put on hold.
Freshmen, Sophomores, Juniors! We have ideas and resources to help you maintain momentum and make great use of your time at home right now. Stay tuned for more online resources coming daily in the coming days and weeks!
Ways to Connect with Colleges and Universities From Home
Check out their virtual tour often found on the Office of Admissions page of the school’s website.
Reach out and subscribe to receive more information about each of the colleges and universities you are interested in online.
Research your major to learn more about the opportunities at each school on each schools official websites.
Contact an admissions counselor with questions about enrolling. Many of these folks are working remotely right now, and would love to take your call or respond to your email!
Get first-hand accounts from local college students that are now home. Ask them questions about their experiences at their college and universities.
Connect With College Campus Personnel
This may not be possible for all college campuses, but MANY college campuses are still staffed remotely. Colleges are working to find remote ways to keep operating and being available for prospective students. They want to keep hearing from you! This means that you CAN STILL REACH OUT to your admissions rep via email or phone to ask questions. To find and connect with your admissions rep, look for the Office of Admissions page of your prospective school’s website and zero in on “find an admissions rep in my area” or “find my area admissions rep”. Colleges and universities have designated admissions reps based on where you’re located.
Preparing for a Conversation with Your Admissions Rep
BEFORE you get on the phone or write an email to your admissions rep, check out the school’s website thoroughly. Avoid asking questions you could easily find yourself on the website. If you’re calling them on the phone, jot some notes to work from during your call and be ready with a pen and paper to take notes about helpful tips they provide. If you’re writing an email, be sure to check your spelling and grammar. Email language should be more polished and crafted than texting.
Start by introducing yourself. This sounds like this: “Hello, my name’s Justin Jones. I’m a sophomore at Northwest High School in Coolsville, Wisconsin. I’m interested in pursuing a major in business beginning fall of 2022. I’m interested in what State University has to offer for business majors interested in pursuing a career in entrepreneurship.
Let them know you’ve done some homework. This sounds like this: “I’ve spent some time on your website, and I’ve talked to a couple of my friends who are currently students there. I noticed that you offer a wide range of majors and programs in my field of study. I’m specifically interested in your focus in international entrepreneurship.”
Here are good questions to ask your admissions rep via email or phone:
What I should expect as a first-year student studying business with a focus on entrepreneurship at State University?
What makes State University’s program unique? When students choose State University over other options, what are their top reasons for doing so?
Could you share your most common overlap schools for students pursuing a major like the one I’m interested in? (Overlap schools are other schools that students commonly consider in addition to the one you’re in contact with. Think of “overlaps schools” as
What I can be doing now as a high-school student to fully prepare me for succeeding as a State University student in my chosen major?
Do you offer career camps or other programs for high school students during the summer or school year that would be helpful for a student with my interests and goals?
Virtual College Tours Online
Several schools including University of Iowa, Vanderbilt University, and Minnesota State Mankato are offering online information sessions and virtual tours at set times and dates that you sign up for remotely. No doubt this will become standard practice over the next several days and weeks.
The following schools have online virtual tours. This is just a starting point, as most schools have video campus tours available on YouTube, as well.
University of Iowa online information sessions including a virtual tour
University Chicago Loyola
University of Notre Dame
Bemidgi State University
Vanderbilt (and online information sessions)
University of Illinois
University of Minnesota
University of St Thomas
Minnesota State University Mankato (and sign up for virtual tour on a specific date)
University of Wisconsin Whitewater
St Norbert’s College
University of Kentucky
We hope you’ve enjoyed this pajama-wearing-dog-guided tour of how to visit colleges in your bathrobe.
Get Guidance on Maintaining Momentum in the Midst of Madness
Stay tuned for more free college planning resources coming soon to help you maintain momentum and get guidance on your college planning process while in the midst of our current situation. For answers to your specific questions, schedule a Free Consult (which can take place via Zoom video conference from wherever you are). Or email Tom or email Hilary. Prospective student athletes seeking guidance on keeping the fire lit under your recruiting process, email Stephanie for answers and guidance.
Finding the best college for you requires asking really good questions. That’s why we offer free consultations for families to get your key questions answered. Schedule your free consultation here.
When I hear a high school student ask, “How do I find the best college for me?” I smile. The student is starting from the right perspective: What works for ME, as opposed to what’s the “top-ranking college” and how can I fit into their mold? I believe strongly that your college search should be focused on the University of YOU, not the university of THEM.
We’ve helped thousands of college-bound students find the best college for them, as well as find merit aid to make college more affordable. If you’re wondering if you might benefit from guidance on your college search, check out this blog post. The college search process can and should be informative, fun and fulfilling, as well as productive when done well. Embarking on your college search is an experience that will impact the trajectory of your life. Don’t rush it. Enjoy it. Savor it!
When I sit down with a college-bound student and their parents to begin the college search process during freshman, sophomore or junior year, the first critical question we ask is: Who are you now, and who do you hope to become? It’s a tough question, no matter what your age. Many 40-year-olds couldn’t clearly answer this question! There’s no right or wrong answer, just what’s right for you as an individual. And it’s okay if your answer changes over time. The purpose is to get you to think about you and what you want from your college degree.
Often, students and parents spend too much time looking outward at colleges (What does this one have to offer? How highly is this one ranked?), and spend far too little time looking inward. That needs to change. In my college search counseling with families, I encourage students to build The University of You. Questions like the one above can help get you started.
When it comes to “how do I find the best college for me”, it’s all about fit.
What you’re after is a “great fit” between what they have to offer and what you want and need. You’re exactly one-half of the fit equation. Good old State University is State University, and you are you. Even if you get in, it might be a lousy fit. Get clear on who you are first, and the job of knowing which colleges fit you best will be much easier.
The first critical question is, “Who am I now and who do I want to become?” This gets at the type of student and type of individual you are, what you hope to gain from your college experience and, ultimately, your degree. Once you’ve spent some time journaling or somehow capturing your answer to the question, “Who am I now and who do I want to become?” there are a few essential follow-up questions.
Here they are, plus a description of why they’re helpful. Once you spend some time with these, you’ll be ready to narrow your scope to a manageable idea of the type of colleges that could be the best fit for you.
Who do I want to be around at college?
Think about the type of learning environment that lights your fire. Do you like feeling like the smartest kid in the room, or are you inspired when you’re surrounded by people who constantly push you and challenge you because they’re wicked smart, and you’re scrambling to keep up? Do you want to be around people who think like you, or people who represent very different perspectives than yours? Do you want to spend most of your time around people interested in the same field or career, or a diverse range of interests? Do you like crowds, or small intimate groups? Your answers to this question can help determine the TYPE of college that might fit you best, whether that’s a large research-oriented institution or a small private liberal arts university or something in between.
How often do I want to go home?
This question’s geared toward narrowing your geographical focus. Students are often wary to consider schools more than an hour or two from home, until they consider the fact that three-five hours away is super manageable for visits home twice per semester. If you prematurely limit your focus to schools within an hour or two of you, then you automatically exclude MOST schools, some of which might be great fits for you.
Who do you want to teach you at college?
This question gets at type and size of the college you should consider. There’s a big difference between large state universities and small private schools in terms of who’ll be leading your classroom. Especially your first two years, the likelihood that you’ll have focused face time with a full, tenured professor varies greatly from school to school. If this is important to you, it’s worth considering early on, because it will streamline your college search.
These are just a few critical questions to ask when starting your college search. A college search done well is complex and involves a lot of discussion, research, campus visits and time.If you’d like to chat more, reach out to us anytime.
College Planning Steps for Prospective Student Athletes as Freshmen and Sophomores
For students considering collegiate athletics, the college planning process is about finding the right academic and athletic fit.
Coach Stephanie Barth
According to OnCampus College Planning Coach Stephanie Barth, “Because of the need to find the ideal combination of right team, right school, it’s critical for prospective student athletes to begin their college planning early, much earlier than non-athlete students typically begin to think about college.”
Tom and Stephanie recently chatted about this topic. You can click here to watch that video, or scroll down to the end of this post, and we’ve included it there for you. For some key action steps for prospective student athletes, keep reading.
Who is considered a “prospective student athlete”?
Stephanie outlines three criteria for someone who would be considered a “prospective student athlete”:
I have decided or have a desire to play college athletics.
I have had a conversation with my parents about my goal to play college athletics.
I have realistic expectations-NCAA I, II III, and Junior College
Key Action Steps Freshman Year for Prospective Student Athletes
The following action steps are important for prospective student athletes during their freshman year of high school, and in some cases even earlier.
Commit to being a good student as well as a good athlete. As college planner Tom Kleese says often, “The high-school GPA you submit for college applications will be based on not four, but actually three years of high-school, and it starts day one of freshman year.” Tom frequently reminds students we work with that you submit your college applications before senior year grades are available, so your freshman year is a full third of the GPA colleges will be looking at. This isn’t meant to induce pressure. It’s meant to remind students to “control what you can control”. That means turn in every assignment on time, every time.
Create a recruiting profile for college coaches to see and evaluate you based upon the sport you are interested in. The platform for the appropriate recruiting profile will differ by sport. For instance, Stephanie works with volleyball players who use University Athlete. For swimmers, a common platform is College Swimming. Other sports have their own recruiting engines. It’s important to research and understand which platform is most commonly used and relied upon by college coaching staff for your sport.
Research schools that may be a good fit. OnCampus College Planning College Search services helps you zero in on the best fit for you, across academic, social, financial, geographic and of course athletic considerations. College Board is a helpful tool for getting started on your own.. As you get started with your college research, a free consultation with us during your freshman or sophomore year is a smart step.
College Campus Visits Are Important Early On for Prospective Student Athletes
College planning coaches Tom Kleese and Stephanie Barth recommend college campus visits early and often. Tom suggests making sure you take your first college campus tour during your freshman year, even if it’s not necessarily a school you think you’ll seriously consider. “Just getting a feel for what College is like in general is important for students. It’s a lot different from high school. Once students have an opportunity to get on campus, walk around, check out dorms, check out the student center, they begin to have a better sense of what the college environment is like. They also tend to get very excited about doing additional visits and research.”
Stephanie adds, “Especially for athletes who are frequently out of town and near or on college campuses for athletic tournaments, camps and events, college campus visits aren’t difficult to work into your schedule when you plan ahead.” With three student athletes of her own, Stephanie has personal experience with this. “Our family visited college campuses, both informal ‘drive-by’ visits and official tours arranged through admissions offices, while we were at tournaments and on vacation. It was actually a lot of fun, and we all learned a lot.”
Key Action Steps Sophomore Year for Prospective Student Athletes
Once prospective student athletes are sophomores in high school, they should continue to be a good student who earns good grades and delivers their best performance in the classroom. After all, you are a “student athlete”, emphasis on the word student. College coaches will be interested in solid academic, as well as athletic performance.
In addition, prospective student athletes should take the following steps their sophomore year of high school:
Contact schools in which you have interest. Permissible contact varies by Division and sport-but could include camps, clinics and one-way emails to coaches.
Visit schools in which there is mutual interest.
Determine when you will take your official ACT exam (Sophomore/Junior year). Based on academic and athletic considerations, as well as your personal schedule, OnCampus College Planning can help you consider when taking the ACT may be most beneficial for you and discuss options for ACT Test Prep.
College Planning Tasks for Juniors and Seniors
As you near the end of your high school career, your activity and action steps toward college planning will heat up and become more unique student-by-student based on your sport, your ability and your college prospects.
This is also when the academic side of the college planning process will become critical.
Register with the NCAA Eligibility Center (Junior/ Senior year). The NCAA Eligibility Center verifies the academic and amateur status of all student-athletes who wish to compete in Division I or II athletics. College-bound student-athletes who want to practice, compete and receive athletically related financial aid during their first year at a Division I or II school need to meet certain academic requirements. For more detail about academic requirements visit the NCAA Eligibility Center.
Getting the College Planning Help You Need as a Prospective Student Athlete
As many parents see clearly, planning for college is more involved and complex than it used to be, especially for prospective student athletes. Thankfully, there are resources available to provide the help families need.
OnCampus College Planning is one such resource that guides high-school students and their families toward a confident college choice that’s the best possible fit for each unique student.