College Admissions –

TEST OPTIONAL? SAT vs ACT- What’s Required? Retest? Send Score?

Understanding TEST OPTIONAL Policies

Common App 2022-23


Greetings Students and Families

Today  I discuss “Character” == essential to becoming a successful student, impactful community member and also relevant to  your college applications. Did you know the Common App 202-23 added a new prompt about “kindness” last year and it continues into this season?   Authenticity is essential to your college applications- so working your kindness muscles throughout high school in meaningful and impactful spaces is always encouraged. Where can you make a difference in your community?
As regular readers of my newsletter know, I emphasize the importance of leveraging the high school experience for ongoing discovery and exploration of potential academic interests. These experiences help each young adult discover more about their academic and personal path and connections with others.
 Are you ready for 2022-23 ? In my newsletters, I’ve been discussing important changes to college admissions planning including course planning, testing (AP, SAT/ACT), financial aid and campus visits.
There’s been a ton of changes to higher education and many more anticipated on the horizon as universities adapted the past two academic years.
I cannot overemphasize the importance of engaging in discovery through extracurricular experiences, included self-directed reading and projects. There’s plenty to do outside of your high school – and I actually encourage this path. Some of these readings and projects may become the basis for submissions to Competitions in STEM, Politics, Business & the Visual & Performing Arts. Some suggestions for competitive venues across these fields were suggested in newsletter link above. I’d welcome the opportunity to help you assess what venues may be appropriate for you. Competition not only builds confidence but increases your chances of college admissions acceptance.  Need suggestions? Need guidance on preparing an essay or project for submission?


What do  college admissions offers want to know….

OK – I imagine parents of high school students – in particular Seniors and Juniors are wondering what College Admissions Officer will consider given that there’s been a limit to extracurricular activities and test optional policies have become the norm? You likely read my earlier pieces and watched my video interviews on YouTube. All of the variable I’ve spoken about continue to be relevant. A recent survey reinforces that now, more than ever – kindness and community connections will be even more relevant in distinguishing applicants across high schools throughout the country. So let’s talk about kindness.
Before jumping in – let’s highlight that the Common App core essay/personal statement essay prompts haven’t changed in years— this year however (as you read about in my newsletter noted above)– there’s a new prompt on this very topic.


Regular readers of my newsletters know that as part of my practice, I often write about trends in education and college admissions as well as highlighting issues impacting the emotional well-being of young adults. In fact, it’s actually one of the issues I dwell upon- students being joyful and curious about their learning should be a priority. No teen should see high school as overwhelming and overscheduled. Today I want to talk about a few recent research studies that echo my message of the importance of
In particular, several of my recent newsletters continue to highlight the importance of high school students engaging in discovery of their emerging interests directed and inspired by personal interests. In my informative pieces on college essays, I I specifically ask: “WHO ARE YOU?” !
“…. I encourage everyone to begin implementing a student-led path of exploration of both personal and academic pursuits throughout middle and high school.
Experiences both within and outside the classroom are transformative and help to shape a young adult’s unique academic and personal identity. Experiences involve connections with family and members of “communities” that help our young adults become more introspective to learn how they will leverage their strength to find their place in the world. These same experiences are also the basis for the essay(s) students will write at the end of their junior year providing readers of the college application with information that reveals who each student has become -and, in particular– the potential impact each young adult may have on a college campus and as a potential alum!
But most important, pre-college experiences build confidence, motivation and better prepare each student for a seamless transition to the undergraduate experience – academic and personal success throughout high school and beyond.”
In Gifted kids turn 50: Most successful followed heart, not just (their) head,  the data were revealing! In this three-decades long ongoing longitudinal study of the impact of tests scores and psychological assessments measuring participants’ personal values, there was a strikingly clear implication. The results, indicate that parents should not only be aware of each child’s academic strengths, but equally aware of their child’s unique values and passions. WHY??
The study confirmed a somewhat obvious point – – every individual has a different and unique combination of talents and passions. What was particularly important for guidance counselors, private college admissions counselors and parents to hear is that we know that children’s abilities and preferences can be measured by age 13, so it makes sense to guide young adults to develop in the fields they will likely have their greatest impact if they so choose to do so.
Please read the full study – fascinating!
About a year ago, I had written another Newsletter entitled: “Check This Box if You’re A Good Person” as the message resonated strongly and aligned with my educational philosophy. In particular, my partnership with each family aims to guide young adults to becoming self-directed and inspired to ultimately seize the opportunity to discover their strengths and passions in ways that will enable young adults to contribute to their communities. Will your student “check the box?!”
A quick refresher: In CHECK THIS BOX if YOU’RE A GOOD PERSON, Dartmouth Admissions Officer Rebecca Sabky spoke about the admissions process and her views reflect my own personal experiences as a Professor Emeritus and current Cornell Alumni Admissions representative where I’ve reviewed hundreds of undergraduate and graduate admissions files.
“The problem is that in a deluge of promising candidates, many remarkable students become indistinguishable from one another, at least on paper.”
“Yet in the chaos of SAT scores, extracurriculars and recommendations,
one quality is always irresistible in a candidate: kindness”
“Letters of recommendation are typically superfluous…. they generally fail to provide us with another angle on who the student is, or could be as a member of our community “
A recent study in the Chronicle of Higher Education again underscores that now more than ever, Admissions Officers surveyed indicate they will be focused on uncovering the “kindness quotient” of each applicant. This may sound subjective and “soft” and no it doesn’t supplant the transcript – but it’s part of holistic admissions- the PERSON BEHIND THE APPLICATION.
I encourage students completing their Common App 2022-23 – to think about the new prompt and to incorporate aspects of kindness and connections with others through the sharing of heartfelt and authentic experiences. By exploring how you’ve engaged- please demonstrate lessons learned about yourself through your interactions with others and your impact on your community.
With another high school class now beginning the college admissions cycle, I’m reminded again of just how important these points are.  This past year, as in years past, those students of mine who had “impactful” experiences throughout high school were once again more successful in their college admissions and scholarship applications than their equally and sometimes even less academically-qualified peers.
Please don’t misconstrue my message. All students work very hard, and in many cases they are over-programmed. Yet, students who received the most attractive offers of admissions and merit-based scholarships were those who had engaged within their communities in authentic ways. Re-read the quotes above and this point will be very clear.
Authenticity is NOT measured by the numbers of community service hours- but rather, it’s evident through sustained heartfelt endeavors throughout high school. How does your student spend time outside the classroom? Do parents share in these initiatives – leading by example to nurture our next generation?
When I look back at many of my high school graduates, I also recognize the value added by parents and siblings who shared involvement with these graduates in many of the students’ incredible endeavors including organizing fundraising initiatives for charitable causes, tutoring peers, planning and serving meals for the homeless and elderly. Our children learn by example.
In Want to Raise Well-Adjusted Kids?, John Write discusses the benefits of hosting an exchange student. A few of my clients have done so. What the article shares in common with the seemingly unrelated NY Times piece on Dartmouth admissions is that  both authors speak to the importance of young adults engaging in character-developing opportunities outside-of-the classroom ultimately raising their awareness of their connections with others within their communities.
So how does this all relate to college admissions and academic success at the high school and undergraduate levels?
While our goal as parents, educators and college counselors is to help each young adult reach their academic potential, perhaps even more important is that each emerging adult be inspired to find their place within their community.
Through example, we can help the next generation of global citizens recognize the important role each individual assumes in making connections with others to ultimately enrich the lives of many and make a lasting contribution.
You’ve heard me say it before- the high school experience should not be a forced march to the finish line in preparation for yet the next educational march on the horizon.  Our role is to assist each adult in being intrinsically motivated to take the next steps on their academic and social paths.
Start early, have the conversations and spend your time meaningfully.

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Bonnie R. Rabin, Ph.D.

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