2020 was a tumultuous year that not even the most clairvoyant of planners could’ve expected. And even though this goes without saying (and you’re probably tired of hearing the phrase ‘in these unprecedented times’), the pandemic had wide-reaching and unpredictable effects, and the college admissions process was not immune to these effects. Even the best and brightest of students had to navigate a confusing mess of ACT cancellations, rapidly-changing university policies and uncertainty about what the future of post-secondary education would look like. Despite this uncertainty, our students refused to give up or be beaten down by a global pandemic.
One such student is Kyle Bascom, a soon-to-be Purdue Boilermaker who kicked the pandemic’s proverbial butt and fought hard to regain control over his college destiny. Kyle is living proof that perseverance is key in dealing with what is always a difficult college admissions process, and we were lucky enough to sit down with Kyle on Tuesday to learn more about his resilience through an already difficult endeavor made even more difficult by an unexpected crisis. Here are our key takeaways from that conversation. The full video interview is available for free here!
It was really, really stressful for EVERYBODY.
Every single one of us has been tasked with blindly navigating an unplanned crisis since early last year, and although some of us have felt the effects of the pandemic more than others, the truth of the matter is that everybody had to pivot. Many of us feel like the rug has been pulled out from under us and we’re stressed, exhausted and confused. It’s okay! You’re not alone in this, so just take a step back and a deep breath and just do the next right thing. Yes, Kyle came out on top when the dust had settled, but in his own words the process was ‘very, very stressful.’ ‘Nuff said…
“Have fun and enjoy it while you can!”
Kyle dealt with a tremendous amount of uncertainty and upheaval throughout this process, but he kept his cool throughout and just kept getting up whenever he was knocked down. His advice to current high school students: “You just gotta keep livin’ man…L-I-V-I-N.” Okay, maybe that’s a Matthew McConaughey quote, but it’s essentially what he was saying. Never forget that this is about outlining the next season of your child’s life, and if you follow Mr. McConaughey’s advice, it can actually be FUN. Although this past year was particularly capricious and stressful, lots of people still managed to find the silver lining, and it’s all about seeing this process for what it is. You don’t have to torture yourself to be successful in this process, and if possible it should be looked at as an exciting time full of endless possibilities and opportunities. The world is your oyster!
Hindsight is 20/20…especially in 2020.
Here at OnCampus, we’re in the business of ‘removing unknowns’. This process is made significantly easier when you’ve already sat down as a family to discuss your child’s college trajectory and figure out what steps need to be taken to find, be accepted to and afford the University of You. Nothing puts a bigger smile on our faces than seeing students and families that have decided to seize the day and take on an active role in the college search process. Kyle and his family are living proof that staying ‘active’ throughout this process does pay off, and they actually drove as far as Sioux City, Iowa, just so Kyle could take the ACT! In our experience, it’s hard to get beaten down by the system when you keep getting up every time. Although we’ve all lost a considerable amount of control in our respective spheres of influence, one of the ways to regain some control and plan ahead is to schedule a free consult! The best way to stay active is to actually be proactive, and the best problem-solving is always done before the problem arises. It’s always better to put in the blood and sweat now to avoid tears later on down the line! Schedule your free consult with Tom here, we’d be more than happy to address any questions or concerns you may have.
Hilary is an all-star!
While she is the mother to our children and I’m contractually obligated to praise her, Hilary really does serve an invaluable role within our system. Throughout our conversation, Kyle couldn’t seem to help himself from bringing the focus back to her and how helpful the essay work they did together was. It was clear that she’d really made a positive impact on his college process. Here’s Kyle on what it was like to work on essays with Hilary: “I worked with Hilary
on my essays and that was so helpful. I was so stressed about my essays. My big thing is once I get a couple sentences on paper I’m fine. I just can’t get that first sentence down and the fact that she was able to help me do it so quickly was extremely helpful and then giving me the layout for the UW essay as well was also very helpful. Once I had that layout I wrote it very easily and I feel like I did pretty well on my essays.” This from a hardlined logical-mathematical type who excels in STEM but just needed a little guidance when it came to more abstract, nebulous fields like writing…and obviously, he crushed it.
Structure is key.
Finding, gaining admission to and affording the right college for you can be a very overwhelming and hectic process, but establishing structure (a timeline, goals, action plans for achieving those goals, etc.) is paramount. When Kyle was asked what he believed the primary benefit to partnering with OnCampus was he explained that, “For me, it’s kind of about taking a load of stress off because I know that I have a date where I’m going to get it done. I don’t have to do it on some Saturday where I wake up and watch YouTube for three hours and then I don’t want to do it. I have a date where I know I’m going to get it done so it just takes that stress off because I’m not waking up every weekend wondering whether or not I have to write an essay.” Most children, and frankly plenty of adults, aren’t great at getting ahead of big projects and breaking them into smaller, more manageable/understandable chunks. Structure is one of the most effective ways to avoid the pitfalls of procrastination and one of the benefits we’re most proud to be able to provide our students.
Hey Kyle, it was a privilege and honor to work with you and Purdue is lucky to have you!
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.
Your social media account may say something about your character when you apply to college
You are responsible for and in control of your character.
You can work your tail off throughout high school, earn stellar grades and boost your ACT test scores. You can create the ideal balance of Reach, Target and Safety schools and craft a slam-dunk college essay and whiz-bang college application that captures attention of your top-choice colleges. But at the end of the day, there will still be elements of the college applications process that are beyond your control.
But Character is one thing that is always, ALWAYS within your control both in college planning, and in life. You are 100% responsible for your Character. One source defines character as the way an individual uniquely thinks, feels and behaves. Another suggests that character is, “the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual”.
Legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden said, “The true test of a person’s character is what they do when no one’s looking.”
Colleges may pay attention to social media accounts when reviewing student applications
What do you do when no one’s looking, or when you think no one’s looking? What do you say when you think you know who you’re talking to, but you realize later there were others listening in? Or people who caught wind secondhand later on? Social media and the whole digital world makes this whole scene mighty murky, because of powerful buttons that all too easily Share, Forward, Invite, and Screen Shot.
In June, Harvard rescinded offers to 10 incoming freshmen over extremely poor social media decisions which suggested questionable moral character. In a nutshell, the students formed a subgroup online out of Harvard’s Facebook group for incoming freshmen and proceeded to make racially- and sexually explicit comments. The news made national headlines including CNN and Forbes.
So while (sadly) flawless character won’t necessarily guarantee you a spot at the college of your choice, it’s evident that actions which demonstrate questionable character can boot you out.
And this is the part of the story where people shake their fists in the air, demanding protection of free speech, as they did in response to this news story. Well, perhaps another definition of Character is knowing when having the Freedom to do or say something should be tempered with having the Wisdom not to.
social media matters when applying for colleges
Think it’s just the Ivies who may monitor social media accounts when considering “the whole college candidate”? Think again. A US News & World Reports article earlier this year indicated that “In a Kaplan Test Prep survey of more than 350 college admissions officers in the U.S., 35 percent of officers polled reported having looked at applicants’ social media accounts to learn more about them.” The article indicates that often visits to social media are a boost to the candidate’s appeal, since it reveals involvement in activities they may not have mentioned in their essay, or beliefs and values that are consistent with the college’s ideals and indicate a good fit. The important point is that more and more colleges are considering social media accounts fair game for considering a candidate’s overall fit with the college. And the same is true for potential employers, so young adults may as well get used to thinking twice about what they post on social media.
It’s wise to exercise extreme caution in conversations both on and offline. Be intentional about what you make public via social media. When in doubt, use the Grandmother Rule. (If you wouldn’t say it to your grandmother, don’t say it in social media.)
Think I’m being extreme? Well there are 10 really flippin’ smart kids who made a dumb move that called their character into question. And now they’re scratching their heads, wondering what they’ll be doing this fall, when they’d figured they’d be headed to Harvard. I’ll bet they don’t think the Grandmother Rule is such a bad idea about now.
So as we wrap up this caution on memes, let me put one to use. Stay classy. Whether you’re in San Diego, Wisconsin or North Dakota. You just never know who’s paying attention.