Tips for Deferred Applicants and Seniors

What To Do When You Have Been Deferred

A deferral is not a denial.  If you are one of the many students who applied Early Decision or Early Action and were deferred, you are not alone.  It is important to remember that it is not just about you and your qualifications.  It is much more about what is called “enrollment management” which relates to how an admissions office wants to create a holistic and varied freshman class. They are looking for a well-rounded student body, not just well-rounded students.  As a deferred candidate the enrollment managers in the admissions office may want to see your application in context with the entire regular admissions applicant pool. Your application will be read again.  So what can you do?  Here are some suggestions:

  1. Don’t be defeated and keep updating your other college applications
  2. Be sure and let the admissions office of the college where you were deferred of  your continued interest. Write them a letter.  Update your application with other relevant and new information about what has happened in the way of new memberships or awards, since your original application.  Ask your school counselor to send in your mid-year grades with a letter detailing some of your new accomplishments.
  3. Consider sending another letter of recommendation from a coach or teacher
  4. If you think you could improve your standardized test scores take an additional subject test or  the SAT or  ACT again.   If your scores improve significantly it could make a difference
  5. Work hard to keep your grades up and continue with your school and community activities.
  6. Reassess your goals. What are your interests and values and what other colleges on your list will allow you to grow and prosper in the ways you want to in the next four years? Remember, it is true there is a college for everyone and it is also true that there are many colleges and universities where you will thrive and be successful.

Seniors: What To Do Now that your Applications Are In:

  • Check with each college website where you have applied to make sure your application is complete.  Be sure your school counselor sends in your latest grade reports.
  • Write  thank you notes to the teachers and other individuals who have encouraged  you and written your recommendations
  • Along with your parents, fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for  Federal Student Aid) which is online at: If the colleges where you are applying also require completion of the CSS Profile complete it right away.
  • Check each college website for specific financial aid submission deadlines. They may be soon.
  • Look for local scholarships sponsored by organizations in your community to which you can apply. These should be posted in your school counseling office and on Naviance.
  • Keep working hard in your classes and enjoy all the special senior activities planned for the  rest of your senior year.

Sophomores & Juniors: Thinking About College?

Things to think about:
Career and Major Choices, College Selection, Scholarships, Financial Aid Strategies, SAT or ACT, Timelines, College Visits, Interviews, Auditions, Final Lists, Applications, Resumes, Essays, Work, Volunteer and Summer Activities, Sports and Extra-Curricular Interests
I encourage high school sophomores and  juniors who are beginning to think about the college selection process to contact me. It is never too soon to get started on your journey toward higher education.

Accepted Seniors

Congratulations to the Seniors with whom Heather worked who have been accepted through early action to the following institutions: 
  • College of William and Mary
  • College of Wooster
  • Duquesne University
  • Fairfield University
  • Harvard University
  • Indiana University, Bloomington
  • Manhattan College
  • Northeastern University-Honors
  • Penn State University
  • Providence College
  • University of Connecticut-Honors
  • University of New Hampshire
  • University of Pittsburgh
  • Washington and Jefferson College

3,500 Colleges! Which One Is For You?

Creating a college list can be a challenge. The first step is to understand the variety of college experiences available.

What Kind of College is Your Kind of College?

There are more than 3,500 accredited colleges and universities in the United States. Thus, there is incredible diversity and opportunity available to students seeking a college degree. However, there are distinct catagories that a prospective student should be aware of as he or she creates a college list. It is important to understand the mission, culture and characteristics of different types of institutions. As you create your list make sure you understand these catagories:


Penn State University, Cornell University, Michigan State, Virginia Tech, Purdue University, University of Connecticut, Florida State, Ohio State

Every state has a land- grant university founded in the mid-1800s to educate “the sons and daughters of the working classes in agriculture and the mechanical arts.” Today these doctoral-granting institutions, often called flagships, have well-established engineering and agriculture colleges, as well as strong liberal arts, business and science programs. Land-grants offer lots of school spirit with Division I sport teams, extensive libraries, large lecture sections, and a wide range of faculty who are experts in particular fields of research. In addition to their land-grant universities, most states support other state universities. For example, the University of Virginia, Indiana University and the University of Michigan are state-supported. Students looking at big state universities need to be self-motivated and assertive if they are going to navigate the bureaucracy of a large school.


University of Rochester, Harvard, Columbia,The University of Chicago, Johns Hopkins, Vanderbilt University, Notre Dame, Washington University of St Louis, University Of Pennsylvania, Yale, Emory University, Princeton, Carnegie Mellon

Along with state-supported universities, private research universities make up the approximately 260 doctoral-granting research institutions in the United States. Private research universities have well-known graduate and professional schools in addition to offering undergraduate majors. For example, Tufts University has dental, veterinary science, and medical schools, and George Washington University and the University of Pennsylvania have medical colleges.

Private research universities are highly selective and look for students who are intellectually curious and seek an academic challenge. Many of these universities are located in large cities where students can participate in many off-campus cultural and urban events.


Allegheny College, Amherst, Connecticut College, Kenyon College, Colorado College, Wellesley, Swarthmore, Union, Ursinus, Denison, Wesleyan, Pomona, Bucknell, The College of the Holy Cross, Lycoming College, Haverford, Goucher, Williams, Juniata

The majority of liberal arts colleges are private and range in size from 1,200 to 2,500 undergraduates. They focus on undergraduate education with majors in the humanities, social sciences, liberal arts and sciences. Traditionally they do not offer career-oriented majors although many now offer a business curriculum. Students who like small class discussions, who want to be involved in lots of activities and play Division III sports and who are looking for a strong sense of community will thrive at a liberal arts college.


Berklee School of Music, Juilliard, Babson College, Bentley College, Colorado School of Mines, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Savannah School of Art and Design, and the Rhode Island School of Design

For students who are focused and sure about their career goals, who want to be a classical violinist, a business entrepreneur or executive, an engineer, or a fine artist, there are highly specialized schools in music, business, engineering and art. Specialized schools train students for a profession and have fewer general education requirements.


Lock Haven University, Quinnipiac University, West Chester University, James Madison University, University of Hartford, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, San Francisco State University, Longwood University, Roger Williams, Keene State University and Eastern Connecticut State University

General baccalaureate colleges may be public or private. All of them offer traditional liberal arts courses, but they usually award more than half of their degrees in career-oriented or applied majors such as: speech pathology, graphic arts, education, nursing, computer technology and business. The focus of comprehensive universities is on undergraduate education but they offer master’s degrees in many areas. General baccalaureate colleges are regional, and offer a comprehensive education with lots of sports and extra-curricular activities.


Harrisburg Area Community College, Manchester Community College,Northern Virginia Community College, Delaware Valley Community College, and Montgomery County Community College

Forty-eight percent of all undergraduates in the United States attend a community college. These schools, founded during the 1960s, were designed to be non-residential with open admissions. Today, there are public supported community colleges throughout the United States offering associate degree programs in applied areas such as hotel and restaurant management, criminal justice, accounting, computer technology or dental hygiene. Community colleges are an economical way for many students to fulfill general education requirements before transferring to a four-year institution.

For Seniors Finishing Up Their Application Essays

Here is some final advice from admissions representatives from DUKE and POMONA who were recently interviewed on NBC-TV Today:

Your essay should have” Impact, Engagement and Authenticity.”

The essay is your chance to say what you haven’t said elsewhere in your application

Don’t make your reader interpret or have to look for what your attributes might be; bring them to their attention

Always edit by reading your essay aloud before you finalize what you submit

Make sure everything on your application is appropriate and would pass the “grandma approval” test.

In addition, Dickinson College suggests:” When writing your essay, focus on a blade of grass, not a whole field. Tell one good story, not a condensed mini-series.” And Middlebury College suggests: “Make your first paragraph compelling. Don’t let the first paragraph put your readers to sleep….”

And I suggest some words to avoid in your essays: incredible, cutting edge, world class, it goes without saying, fantastic, really, awesome,  lastly, or super!

Gift Ideas

  For your high school student or soon-to-be college student:

  • A cookbook such as:  27 Easy College Cookbook Recipes, by Diana Bricker; or 4 Ingredients: One Pot, One Bowl, by Kim McCosker; or This is A Cookbook: Recipes for Real Life, by Mac and Eli Sussman.
  • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teenagers, by Sean Covey
  • How To Be a Straight A  Student, by Cal Newport,
  • A gift certificate for Starbucks or Chipotle for a meal or snack away from the dining hall.
  • New UGGS, if your child will be heading off to a college in upper New York state, Wisconsin, New England or Canada
  • Tickets to a sporting  event or concert at your child’s favorite college.
  • For all those future writing assignments:The Sense of Syle: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century, by Steven Pinker; or On Writing Well, by William Zinsser.
  • A Gas Card
  • Personalized stationery for thanking the teachers who wrote college application recommendations and for future graduation gifts

Freshmen Reading

To get students engaged in discussions about relevant and diverse topics, many colleges are assigning a book as a common reading project “to start the conversation” during freshman orientation or in classes at the beginning of the semester.

Here is a sample of some of the books freshmen in the class of 2018 were asked to read over the summer by the colleges and universities where they are enrolling:

  • Texas State University: Coming of Age in Mississippi, by Anne Moody
  • Juniata College: It’s Complicated, by dana boyd
  • Bucknell University and Goucher College: The Reluctant Fundamentalist, by Mohsin Hamid
  • Georgetown University: All Our Names, by Dinaw Mengestu
  • Mansfield University of Pennsylvania: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
  • Johns Hopkins University: Happier,  by Tal Ben-Shahar
  • Princeton University: The Meaning of Life and Why It Matters, by Susan Wolf
  • Penn State University: Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • University of Pennsylvania: The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors and the Collision of Two Cultures, by Anne Fadiman
  • Villanova University and Longwood University: The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates, by Wes Moore
  • Stanford University:Physics for Future Presidents:The Science Behind the Headlines, by Richard Muller; Radioactive: Marie and Pierre Curie, A Tale of Love and Fallout, by Lauren Redniss; and My Year of Meats, by Ruth Ozeki
  • Colorado College: Hamlet, by William Shakespeare
  • Smith College: Whistling Vivaldi, by Claude Steele
  • University of Wisconsin: I am Malala, by Malala Yousafzai
  • Tulane University: Hope Against Hope, by Sarah Carr
  • Providence College: The Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell
  • Washington University in St Louis: Covering the Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights, by Kenji Yoskino

Current High School Students: Why You Should Be Reading:

1. Whether you read a paperback, or on your IPad and Kindle, a good book offers you a chance to imagine, to learn, and to escape into other cultures, times and settings.

2. Reading improves your comprehension and vocabulary and may contribute to an improved SAT/ACT score.

3. There is a correlation between leisure reading and academic achievement

4. Reading is good preparation for future college courses in which you may be required to read a new book each week.

Writing Successful Application Essays

College application essays matter. Here is some advice to keep in mind:

  • Your essay should tell your readers, who are admissions officers, something about you beyond the rest of your application materials such as your GPA and SAT scores. Your narrative essay should reveal both your unique perspective and your writing skills.
  • Don’t pick a topic or story that could easily be told by someone else. The most common college essay topics relate to sports or mission trips.
  • Think about what you want your readers to know. What story do you have to tell?  Your essay should not be an epic tale of your life, but provide insight into who you are, and how you make a difference. What are you passionate about? What are the pivotal points in your life thus far? Your essay should reveal one small story or a moment in time.
  • Be sure and capture your reader’s attention immediately with a startling statement, a funny example or an anecdote. Journalists call this a “hook” and speech writers call it an “attention getter.”  Your content should be focused and have a clear theme. Conclude by referring back to your introduction to give your essay a sense of balance. Above all, you want to keep your reader, reading!
  • Avoid writing an essay that will embarrass the reader and don’t try and sell yourself. Just show that admissions officer who you are.
  • Be succinct and make every sentence count. Write, read aloud and rewrite. Proofread and edit. Stay within the required word count. Abraham Lincoln once wrote: “I would have written a shorter letter, but I didn’t have the time.”

“College admissions is not a race to be run or a prize to be won, but a match to be made!”

Summer Readings

Why High School Students Should Read This Summer

  1. There is a correlation between leisure reading habits and academic         achievement
  2. A good book, whether on your  IPad, Kindle or a paperback, offers    you a chance to imagine, to learn, and to escape into other cultures,  times and settings.
  3. Reading improves your comprehension and vocabulary and may  contribute to an improved SAT scores
  4. Reading is good preparation for future college courses where you may  be required to read a new book each week for many of your classes.

What Some Colleges Are Asking Members of their 2013 Freshman Class to read:

  • American University – Notes from No Man’s Land:American Essays, 
  • by Eula Biss
  • Brown University and Penn State University- Beautiful Souls, by Eyal Press
  • Bucknell University- Hamlet’s Blackberry, by William Powers
  • Columbia University – The Iliad, by Homer
  • Dartmouth College – Strange As This Weather Had Been, by Ann Pancake
  • Duke University – Let The Great World Spin, by Colum McCann
  • Elon University – Little Princes: One Man’s Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal, by Conor Grennan
  • Miami University of Ohio – Reality is Broken:Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World, by Jane McGonigal
  • Purdue University – No Impact Man, by Colin Beavan
  • Smith College – My Beloved World, by Sonia Sotomayer
  • Tulane University – The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age  of Colorblindness, by Elizabeth Alexander
  • University of Wisconsin – A Tale for the Time Being, by Ruth Ozeki
  • Cornell University- When The Emperor Was Divine, by Julie Ostuka
  • Adelphi University – Behind The Beautiful Flowers, by Katherine Boo
  • University Of Pennsylvania – The Books of Rhymes:The Poetics of Hip Hop, by Adam Bradley

Some of the Favorite Books Suggested by CollegeGateways Students With Whom I Work:

  • Rebecca, by Daphne duMaurier- A story of suspense as the new mistress of Manderley is haunted by her predecessor
  • House of the Scorpion, by Nancy Farmer – A winner of the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, this book, set in Mexico, is about a strangely conceived boy and his turbulent life.
  • To Kill A Mockingbird, by  Harper Lee – Fifty years ago this book, set in the South during the Depression, is an  American classic about a lawyer and his family confronting a moral crisis in their segregated town.
  • The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas- A romantic adventure full of mystery and  intrigue set in France during the time of Napoleon.
  • The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak – A  World War II novel about the influence of books and a young girl in Germany who steals and shares them with others
  • Looking for Alaska by  John Green – The realistic and humorous story of rebellious teenagers attending boarding school in Alabama
  • Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut  -The story of a science fiction writer and his strange and varied encounters with characters he finds in New York City.
  • Speak, by Laurie Halse  Anderson – A traumatic event has a devastating effect on a young girl’s  first year of high school
  • Seabiscuit, by Laura Hillenbrand – The engaging take of thoroughbred horse racing and the unlikely champion horse that because a racing legend during the Depression.
  • Things Fall Apart,  by Chinua Achebe – The moving story about how change impacts the life of a chief’s son in Nigeria.
In addition to reading, summer is a good time for rising juniors and seniors to research potential colleges:  Here are some websites you may wish to explore:  candid, but balanced student reviews  lists main scholarships available at specific colleges information on honors programs  extensive data and good information, although not on all colleges an excellent site for athletes to get information on the recruiting process and post their athletic resume and videos for review   new virtual tour site featuring 400 colleges informative, student friendly site  find out more about possible majors


Recently,  I toured James Madison University, a public institution in Harrisonburg, Virginia. With 18,000 undergraduates, 30% of whom are from out-of state JMU has strong majors in speech pathology, the performing arts, education, and a highly ranked business college.   JMU offers  DI sports teams, and lots of opportunities for outdoor recreation in the Blue Ridge Mountains surrounding the University. There is a very friendly and cordial atmosphere at James Madison and tremendous school spirit.
Samantha Blake, a JMU student from Amston, Connecticut told me that she has had great interactions with James Madison faculty and loves her major, which is communications.
Dakota Gagliardi, from Tolland, Connecticut, an elementary education major and member of the Honors Program states:” I LOVE JMU!  It is an incredible school with so many opportunities.   Every professor I have had has opened my eyes to new ideas and has helped me grow as a student, and a person.  I am so fortunate to be attending one of the best universities in the country.”
The acceptance rate is approximately 55% and James Madison will hold Admissions Open Houses this fall on October 19 and November 9, 2013.
I welcome soon-to-be high school juniors who are beginning to think about the college assessment and selection process to contact me at:   It is not too soon to get started on your journey toward high education.
The new version of the Common Application will be online August 1. Let’s talk about essay ideas and how to make a winning case for college admissions. Call or text me.