Blog: Resources and information for college applicants.

Understanding YOUR GPA

Posted by on Sep 19, 2017 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Understanding YOUR GPA

Understanding YOUR GPA

Most students will have a GPA summary box similar to this on their transcript. Each GPA is interpreted by colleges and universities in different way. While some universities and colleges take your GPA on your transcript into consideration when reviewing your application, such as the UC’s and CSU’s, other schools will recalculate your GPA based on their needs. This may mean the college omits PE, Dance, Religion or Art classes from the GPA to focus in on the core academic classes. Many colleges and universities will not re-calculate your GPA, but will also  look carefully at the strength of your coursework and number of courses of college prep, honors, AP, and IB courses taken while evaluating your application. Your School Counselor submits a school profile with your application so that the admissions officer fully understands the grading scale of your school, as well as the rigor of coursework your high school offers. Cumulative GPA (Weighted)– This GPA includes grades from all of the courses listed on the transcript.  Weighted means that any course that is IB, AP, or Honors level is awarded an extra point.  For example, AP Biology would be weighted out of A=5pts, B=4pts, C=3pts. Regular College Preparatory classes are unweighted and are valued at A=4pts, B=3pts, C=2pts, D=1pt, F=0pt. Cumulative (Unweighted)-This GPA includes grades from all of the courses listed on the transcript grade 9-12.  Unweighted means that all courses are considered equal in weight regardless of AP, IB, or Honors level. CA Cal Grant GPA: The Cal Grant GPA uses all academic course work for the sophomore year, the summer following the sophomore year, the junior year, and the summer following the junior year. This high school GPA excludes physical education (PE). Failing grades must be included in the GPA calculation unless the course has been retaken. Only include the most recent grade for any course repeated by the student. It does not take AP, IB, or Honors into account. Weighted 10-12 A-G GPA: This is the GPA that will be used by the UC/CSU system.  This GPA includes a student’s grades from 10th and 11th  grade in A-G approved courses. To determine if your course is an A-G approved course, you can login to UC Doorways to determine UC eligibility. If you would like to understand how to calculate your UC/CSU GPA, please use this tool How to report your GPA on the Common Application? When you report your GPA on the Common Application, you should report the weighted GPA if your school includes the weighted GPA on your transcript....

read more

How to Start Thinking about Financial Aid

Posted by on Jul 8, 2017 in Application Process, Juniors, Parents | Comments Off on How to Start Thinking about Financial Aid

How to Start Thinking about Financial Aid

College Calm’s class of 2017 received aid offers of over 1 MILLION dollars in merit aid per year- over 4 million dollars over 4 years. We want to give you important information regarding college financial aid. Too often families wait to talk about college costs and finances until the end of the process. We at College Calm think it is important to begin to talk about college finances in conjunction with building a college list that reflects your family values. Clear communication is important so when a student is looking at colleges so everyone has  an idea of what is feasible for your family. Below we talk about the changes in the FASFA, need based aid, merit aid and ways to cut college costs. At the bottom you will find a student checklist for July. We hope you are having a wonderful summer. First Steps Now is the time to start thinking about how you and your family will deal with financial aid. Start by reading Lynn O’ Shaughnessy’s article,” Your Crucial 1st Step.”  She recommends that you start by determining your family’s expected contribution. You can go to the financial aid website for any of the schools on your list and use the net price calculator. It is now mandatory for every college to have a calculator for families to estimate financial contributions. The information requested usually mirrors questions asked on the FASFA and CSS Profile. Sometimes the net price calculator can be hard to find on a school website so the easiest way to locate it is to google the school name and “net price calculator.” Here are a few examples: Santa Clara, CAL, Tulane and USC. Lynn’s website, the College Solution is a great resource for college financial information. In addition, most high schools sponsor a school or district financial aid night right after winter break (or earlier). It is a good idea to attend. Changes in the FASFA There is a new acronym in financial aid that is dominating the conversations- PRIOR, PRIOR YEAR or PPY. Beginning in the fall of 2016, the FAFSA now opens for families to complete in October, rather than  the following January. This means that the FASFA will be asking for data regarding your 2016 tax return, rather than estimates of your 2017 return. Students and families will be able to fill out the forms earlier which will result in colleges being able to send financial aid packages out earlier. We recommend that students research each school on their list and add to their spreadsheet the deadlines for the forms required. If a student plans to apply early, many schools will need the CSS Profile or FASFA or both by early action/decision date in October and November. Merit Aid This year there were some colleges that awarded significant scholarships to College Calm students. Some of the most generous were: Tulane, U of Arizona, Chapman, Gonzaga, U of Puget Sound, Fordham, Connecticut College, TCU, UC Boulder, U of San Diego and U of Denver. College Calm’s class of 2017 received aid offers of over 1 MILLION dollars in grants, scholarship and merit aid per year- over 4 million over 4 years. For more schools that offer Merit aid, visit The New York Times useful and  interactive list of colleges that offer merit...

read more

Completing your UC Application

Posted by on Oct 6, 2016 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Completing your UC Application

Completing your UC Application

Steps to Completing your UC Application: Materials You Need: You will need a copy of your transcript, test scores, social security number (optional), CA statewide Student ID (for public HS students) and a credit card. In addition, we recommend going to the UCOP Doorways website  to see the course listings for your school. This will help you determine which classes should be entered for each A-G requirement and if the class is considered honors. You can also look at at the 2017/18 Freshman Application Tips and Tools for information, links and advice. Understanding Comprehensive Review: Every UC school participates in Comprehensive Review, which means the admissions offices evaluate students on multiple factors. If you are interested in how each campus reviews applications and the factors they are considering, look on the Comprehensive Review Page for campus wide information and then click on each campus on the right-hand-side to see the specific information for each school. Transcripts, Test Scores and SAT 2 Subject Exams: You do not need to send a transcript to any UC schools. When sending your test score to the UC schools, you only need to send your scores to one UC campus. The campuses share SAT/ACT information between campuses. While SAT Subject Tests are not required, students vying for slots in competitive majors take the tests to demonstrate subject proficiency. Click here for the majors at each school site that strongly recommends subject exams. Please make sure we talk about the issue of SAT subject exams when you come to your session and DO NOT SEND any SAT2s until we talk about your options. Designating a Major: Every year students stress over designating a major or choosing “undecided” on the UC application. The good news is students can choose different majors at each campus to which they apply. The bad news is that each school in the UC system deals with major selection slightly differently.  We highly recommend reading the UC Campus Policies and Procedures for Reviewing Freshman Applicants to gather information about designating undeclared, SAT subject exams and notification dates. The best thing students can do is go to the website of each individual campus to determine what role major plays in admissions. The school names below are hyperlinked to individual school websites for information. Below we have copied the wording regarding selecting a major from each individual campus for students and families to review. BERKELEY 
UC Berkeley is among the more selective universities in the country, becoming more competitive each year. Due to student demand, selectivity varies among Colleges, and—in the College of Engineering—among majors; for example, it is more difficult to gain admission to the Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences major than to the Mechanical Engineering major. For applications to the College of Letters and Science and Natural Resources no consideration is given to the indicated major in the review process. However, for the professional colleges of Chemistry, Environmental Design, and Engineering demonstrated interest in the major is also taken into consideration. Furthermore, in the colleges of Chemistry and Engineering, Berkeley faculty in these disciplines have asked that readers place added emphasis on sustained achievement in mathematics and science, and have indicated a preference that these applicants take the Math Level 2 SAT Subject Test and a science test (Biology, Chemistry or Physics)...

read more

Building your Team

Posted by on Sep 4, 2015 in Application Process, Parents, Seniors | Comments Off on Building your Team

Building your Team

BUILDING YOUR TEAM Getting into college is a team effort. You are the captain of your college application team, but you will need to surround yourself with individuals who can help make your college application shine. Your team should include your family, counselor, teacher(s) and College Calm! Below are some ideas regarding the roles that each group can play in helping your application be the best it can be. COUNSELOR: Counselors are great sources of information on the application process and scholarships. Take your college list to your counselor. He/she can look at your list with in the context of your school and your peers. This is an important step in determining that you have enough schools in your safety, target and reach categories. Ask your counselor the process for requesting transcripts and letters of recommendations. The process varies at each school and can change year to year, so make sure you understand the procedure and deadlines. Your counselor needs to fill out a recommendation for the Common Application- so meet with them, have them read your essay and your resume. Be pro-active and try to meet with them early so they are not overwhelmed with other students. For public school students, you need to let your counselor know if you are applying to private schools ASAP, so they can prepare their recommendations and the paperwork. Many students will not be going through the private school process, so you really need to alert your counselor that you will be. The counseling office is a great place to get information on financial aid and scholarships. Many local scholarships will send information only to the counseling office, so make sure you are checking for new information often. The best place to start is to ask for a list of the scholarships the class of 2015 received last year. Scholarship deadlines vary from November to March, so be on the lookout. PARENTS/FAMILY: Your family should bring support and guidance. The best things your parents can do to help you complete your applications are making sure you hit your deadlines and offering encouragement to you during this stressful time. Have a family member read your essay asking the following questions- Does this sound like me? Am I missing anything? Is the story well told? Is there anything that you would take out or add? Have your family help you enter and/or check the biographical data. There is a lot of biographical data that needs to be entered in to the CSU, UC, Common Application and out-of-state public schools. Things that will help you with this task are having a transcript and test scores ready and a paper version of the common application filled out. Consider designating a college night, once a week in the fall, to talk with your family about college. This is a good way for everyone to be able to check in and update one another on the process. Share your electronic calendar with all of the deadlines. Always have a family member proof read your entire application(s) before you send them in. Every application looks different in print than they do on the computer screen, so MAKE SURE TO PRINT ALL APPLICATIONS and have another person read through them before you press the submit button. You should proof it and...

read more

Find Some Time to Play

Posted by on Jun 4, 2015 in Juniors, Parents, Sophomores, Uncategorized | Comments Off on Find Some Time to Play

Find Some Time to Play

It is now officially SUMMER!!! I know here at College Calm we talk about how much we can “get done” over the summer for the college process, but the article below serves as a reminder that summer is also a time to play — for everyone — young, old, adolescent or middle aged.  We encourage everyone to leave some space this summer to PLAY. This article was originally written for Patch.com by one of our wonderful students (before we even starting working together). It is a great synopsis of how we know many of our high school students are feeling, but cannot always articulate. Read this with your child/parent/friends and talk about your experiences and observations. Then you should read the article, “Who Fares Best in the College Process,” by Alice Kleeman, who references Laurel’s article and advocates for doing things you enjoy. ” I had a really hard time figuring out what to write about this week. I went back and forth between two other article ideas, wrote them out, but they didn’t sound like me. They were too critical and condemning for my taste. I took breaks in between these episodes of writers block to watch some TV, do some math homework, and just have time to be a teenager. I realized then that I don’t really get that much time to just have moments to myself and to just rock out to music in my room. It seems that I always have another essay to write, another history chapter to read, or another chemistry test that needs to be studied for. When I was in middle school, the elephant in the room was always what high school would be like. How would it be different? Would my teachers like me? We were all anxious to take that next step in our lives. Now that I’m there, however, high school is so much work. My brain actually seems to throb sometimes at the end of the day. I got up in front of my Spanish class on Thursday to recite a simple dialogue that my partner and I had been working on to show our understanding of the new vocabulary and grammar that we had been learning. In front of the class, for the first time ever, I spaced out. I forgot all of my lines and couldn’t remember anything. I looked at my partner with blank eyes. I was completely flustered. This might have been my most embarrassing moment ever, and my fumbling to try and make the class think I was funny in the aftermath, didn’t help much either. I was talking to my friend about it later in the day and one of her theories was that it was because I was overworking myself. It seems like everything I do, sign up for, and participate in is because it somehow will look good on my college application. I volunteer for just about as much as I can muster. I am trying to find my “angle” because my counselors tell me that that is what colleges like. They told me to start community service hours early, so every Wednesday and Friday for the past six months I have given about four hours on each of the days for the district radio station. I cram in solving for...

read more

Building a Balanced College List

Posted by on May 8, 2015 in Application Process, Juniors, Parents, Seniors, Uncategorized | Comments Off on Building a Balanced College List

Building a Balanced College List

Foundation, Target, Reach and Lottery Schools As juniors are beginning to investigate colleges and make an initial college list, we want to define the different categories potentially included in a balanced college list. A balanced college list should have at least 2 foundation, 2 target and 2 reach schools. Many students will also have a few lottery schools. The typical student applies to between 8-12 schools, depending on the number of UC/CSU schools on his/her list. All of our students begin with a list of at least 20 schools to investigate in an effort to determine personal priorities. By mid summer, students should have a balanced list of 8-12 schools. . FOUNDATION SCHOOL The college possesses most of the significant features you desire and are important to you. You meet all the requirements for the recommended coursework. Your SAT or ACT score is significantly above the average that was accepted last year. Your un-weighted GPA is significantly above the average accepted last year. Your objective academic credentials fall at the top of the college’s admitted class. TARGET SCHOOL The college possesses most of the significant features you desire and are important to you. You meet all the requirements for the recommended coursework. Your SAT I or ACT composite score is at or above the average that was accepted last year. Your un-weighted GPA is above the average accepted last year. You have taken the average number of honors/AP courses. Your objective academic credentials fall in the middle half of the college’s admitted class. Your chances of being accepted are higher than being rejected, but not a guarantee. A college where you should have been accepted last year. REACH SCHOOL A college that possesses all of the significant features you desire and are important to you. Your SAT I or ACT composite score is at or slightly below the average accepted last year. Your un-weighted GPA is at or slightly below the average accepted last year. You have taken close to the average number of honors/AP courses. Your chances of being rejected are higher than being accepted. LOTTERY SCHOOL The college possess all of the qualities of a REACH school and The acceptance rate for the college is less than 12%. You may have all of the qualifications for admission, but the extremely competitive nature of the process means that your chances for acceptance are unknown. Here are places students and parents can begin to gather statistical data to put potential colleges in different categories College Planner Pro student portal (if you do not currently have access, please contact us) College Data  (my favorite) Naviance if you have an account through your school you can look at the scattergrams and data specific to your school to determine your categories) Big Future on Collegeboard-sign in, look at the “am I on track” and fill in information for “how do I stack up?” College...

read more

College Calm now offers YOUSCIENCE Aptitude Test to Students

Posted by on Apr 13, 2015 in Sophomores | Comments Off on College Calm now offers YOUSCIENCE Aptitude Test to Students

College Calm now offers YOUSCIENCE Aptitude Test to Students

At College Calm, we are dedicated to helping all of our students reach their highest potential and watching them succeed through the college years and beyond. The challenge lies in discovering each student’s unique set of talents, and understanding how those talents will drive college major, career and even life choices. That’s why we’re excited to share with you that College Calm has recently partnered with YouScience, creator of the innovative new program called the YouScience Profile. YouScience is an exciting new tool for us, and is being offered directly to our families for the first time. With this program, students will discover their unique set of talents through the revolutionary intersection of aptitudes, interests and personality. It’s a completely new way to understand where your children will succeed and allows College Calm to deliver even more effective and accurate guidance. The online, scientific program takes students through a series of assessments and interest questions, designed to determine their results in the 14 key aptitudes utilized in the working world. The test consists of a series of exercises that are 5-12 minutes each to show how you work, think and understand different types of information. The test is about 2 hours total, but can be broken down into much smaller segments. Students take the test at home and must be 16 years old to participate. The results include a review of the student’s strengths, suggested environments where they will succeed, detailed information on possible careers that match those skills and interests, majors that map to those careers, and much more. We will then help students review and interpret the comprehensive results. It also gives students language they can use to talk about their strengths in interviews and on their college applications. This is a great process to complete over the summer. The cost for College Calm students will be $150 for the test and then the cost of one session to go over the results. This includes an individualized 50-page report that breaks down student results and gives information on potential careers and majors. Students will also have access to their report and the databases for 10 years. I have to say that both Charlotte and I have taken the test and found the results incredibly insightful. It is a very powerful tool that opens up a great conversation. Please let us know if you or your student is interested in taking the test and then schedule a session to get them all set up.  ...

read more

October is “CRUNCH TIME”

Posted by on Sep 30, 2014 in Application Process, Seniors, Uncategorized | Comments Off on October is “CRUNCH TIME”

October is “CRUNCH TIME”

I just wanted to take a moment to remind everyone that we are heading into,  “college crunch time.”  (See below for a checklist of things to be doing) I know that students are starting to feel the pressure regarding school, activities and the college process. I completely understand what they are feeling and recognize that they are feeling pressures from all sides. This, coincidentally, is also when I see students start to fall behind in the college process. Now really is the time that students need to be setting aside at least 2 days a week to be working on finalizing applications and essays. It is also time for all hands on deck to support them in completing the process. Many students have deadlines as early as 10/15 and most early action and rolling applications need to be complete by 11/1 or 11/15 with the UC deadline by 11/23. If you or your student is feeling particularly stressed, please talk to me. We can absolutely alter deadline and change schools to regular decision, but we need to talk through any potential ramifications. We have plotted their application plan on their student portal calendar- I will admit the timelines might seems a bit aggressive, but they are simply target dates and there is always some wiggle room. I promise we will all get through this together. When everyone in your house is feeling overwhelmed, over-worked, stressed and/or sleep deprived, take a moment to eat something you love and view this lovely video called, “Where the Hell is Matt?” as a reminder to stop, breathe and take some time to do something that brings you joy- even if it is just for a moment. Oh yes, October is busy Finalize your college list and complete your applications for EARLY DECISION AND EARLY ACTION schools. If you are applying early, make sure your Naviance is updated and tell your counselor and recommenders of your plan.  Look at the TESTING AND REPORTING REQUIREMENTS for each school on your list and determine what test scores you need to send and if they participate in score choice. Determine if you need to send any SAT 2 scores. Make a plan to send the appropriate test scores to the schools on your list. This will take longer than you think!!! IF YOU ARE APPLYING EARLY ACTION OR DECISION & TAKING THE OCTOBER SAT- YOU MUST SEND YOUR PAST SCORES AT LEAST 2 WEEKS BEFORE THE DEADLINE AND PRE- SEND YOUR OCTOBER SCORES. If you are applying to private schools, you and your family need to fill out the CSS PROFILE. Please check the financial aid websites for all of the schools you are applying to early (action or decision) to see when you need to file the CSS profile and the FASFA. THE DATES CAN BE EARLY!  See which schools on your list have ROLLING ADMISSIONS. Make a plan to send these applications in early and make sure you request transcripts and test scores to be sent so your application is complete.  Make sure you have established an APPLICATION ACCOUNT online for each college on your list. Request OFFICIAL TRANSCRIPTS be sent to each college on your list, except UC, CSU and UW campuses. For schools on the Common Application, your counselor should send a transcript...

read more

ACT vs. SAT

Posted by on Sep 27, 2014 in SAT & ACT | Comments Off on ACT vs. SAT

ACT vs. SAT

ACT vs. SAT Welcome to the new school year everyone! I’ve always found the start of a school year to be exciting and full of potential and promise: new classes, new teachers (or old favorites on new subjects), new combinations of friends and activities. So many possibilities, and so much to do. And if you are a junior or senior, this time of year most likely has you thinking about standardized tests. Juniors are about to take their PSAT of record and are thinking about their upcoming SAT’s or ACT’s in the early spring; Seniors are taking their final versions of these tests and dreaming of the moment when all their college application hoops are jumped through and they can sit back and see how the acceptances come in. I’ve been tutoring standardized tests for more than two decades now, and a question I get a lot is: what are the differences between the SAT and ACT and which test should I take? And while the tests have many points of similarity, there are also many significant differences that can help you decide which test to throw your preparation energies behind. Just The Facts, Ma’am The ACT is a 2 hour and 55 minute test consisting of 5 sections: Writing, Math, Reading, Science and an optional Essay, but to be competitive with your fellow applicants, it really isn’t optional: take the Essay. The sections range in length from 60 minutes to 30 minutes. The SAT, on the other hand, clocks in at nearly 4 hours, but is broken down into ten bite-sized sections (25 min or less) of Critical Reading, Writing, Math and a 30 minute Essay. If you are a student with a timing accommodation, the SAT can become monstrously long and unless you can take it over two or more days, the ACT may be the way to go. If concentration over long periods of time is troubling, the ACT is the shorter test, but has longer individual sections. If you tend to have trouble finishing within a time limit, the SAT has shorter sections and fewer questions per section, which is more forgiving for slower test takers. Number Crunchers vs. Bookworms The ACT tends to be a better test for math achievers and the SAT plays to the strengths of readers and those with a great vocabulary. The Science section of the ACT requires little to no outside science knowledge and essentially tests your ability to read charts and graphs and extrapolate data from them. If you enjoy math, you will enjoy and excel on the math and science sections of the ACT. The SAT has no science section, but has a heavy emphasis on vocabulary, which the ACT leaves out entirely. If you know your vocabulary is not all it should be at this point, the ACT is the better test for you. However you should also start a weekly self-study program of vocabulary enrichment; you will thank me when you hit your first college reading list and again when you have your first job interview! Straight Shooters vs. Puzzle Lovers Both tests cover reading comprehension and grammar, both have math sections and an essay. The ACT in general is more intuitive and the SAT is more “trick” based. If you are person who enjoys riddles...

read more

APRIL- COLLEGE VISITS

Posted by on Apr 3, 2014 in Application Process, Colleges & Visits, Juniors, Sophomores | Comments Off on APRIL- COLLEGE VISITS

APRIL- COLLEGE VISITS

As spring break approaches, we want you to take some time to focus on your college visits. In our sessions this month we will be going over, “Top Ten Ways to Test Drive a College,” originally published by IECA and a list of questions we put together that goes beyond asking things you can find on any college website. Sample Questions for Tour Guides: – Why did you decide to come to this school? – What have you been most surprised about in your time here? – How do students interact with faculty- inside and outside the classroom? – Do students tend to stay on campus or get involved in activities in the surrounding area? Sample questions for Admissions Officers: – What impresses you the most in a student’s application? – Is demonstrated interest a factor in your admissions decisions? – What changes do you see taking place on campus in the next five years? – Are the admission standards higher for certain majors?   CHECKLIST FOR COLLEGE VISITS PICK A FEW QUESTIONS YOU WANT ANSWERED: You only need to pick a few (maybe 3-5) that are important to you (go through the print out) and ask multiple people on campus the SAME questions. This will help you gain different perspectives. HINT: Print out the list of questions and staple it in your notebook. TALK TO THE TOUR GUIDE: Feeling embarrassed to ask your tour guide your questions in front of the whole group? Just work your way to the front of the group as you are walking and ask the tour guide your questions while you are walking. At USD this past week I had to take a shuttle from the parking lot to the admission’s office and I talked to the student next to me. I learned all about her experiences as an international business major. Students love to talk about their school! TAKE NOTES: Make sure to bring a small notebook so you can take notes regarding the questions that are the most important to you. Don’t just jot notes from the official presentation; include those little details that catch your eye. Don’t stop at just the tour. While you’re visiting the college, give yourself a little time to just be on the campus and get a feel for the overall vibe of the place. If you can’t take notes while you are walking on the tour, make sure to write down your impressions right after the tour- maybe head to one of the eateries on campus. Then you can write your notes and also talk to more students. HINT: Avoid taking notes on your phone- it looks like you are not engaged and just texting. TAKE PICTURES: I am a visual person, so on my visit to University of San Diego last week, I made sure to take pictures of the different events displayed on kiosks around campus. I took pictures of buildings and even different places to eat to remind me of the feel of campus. Go to my facebook page to see my pictures from USD. HINT: Make your first picture something that has the name of the college in it so if you are visiting multiple campuses you can distinguish between your photos. PICK UP A NEWSPAPER: If you really want to know what is going on around campus, pick up a newspaper and read...

read more