Marci Schoenbach, Summit Prep’s college admissions expert, discusses how she helps students succeed and achieve their college admission goals.
Why use private college counseling from Summit Prep?
At most schools, college counselors want to help students as much as possible, but they don’t have enough time to do so. In contrast, our private college counselor will meet with you as much as you need.
Because most school college counselors do not have as much time with students, they typically do not develop a deep understanding of every student. But our private college counselor does. Doing so allows us to give personal and tailored recommendations for extracurricular programs to enhance a student’s resume, colleges that will fit a student well, and essay topics that will highlight the student’s strengths.
The college decision is too important not to invest in. For most of our families, college will cost over $200,000, so we want to help students and parents make a wise choice and help them gain admittance to a college that will give them a good personal and academic return on that investment.
Our students get phenomenal results and most gain admittance to at least one of the reach schools on their lists. Part of that success stems from the team we assemble to support each student’s success: we have experts to teach them the SAT and ACT, instructors to help them with academic subjects, a personal growth coach to help them perform at their personal potential, and, of course, an expert at college admissions to help them through every part of the college admissions process.
As always, our mission is to empower students to succeed in life. Private college counseling with Summit Prep is one more advantage that students can gain to help them succeed.
“My son worked with Marci Schoenbach (college counselor). His experience was awesome from start to finish. Marci got to know my son and helped him with deciding what schools would best align with his personal interests and academic goals. With Marci’s guidance, the amazing tutor at Summit Prep (Jonece) and a lot of hard work, my son was accepted to his top choice school ED. Summit prep is a great investment!” -Reviewed by Erin S.
Frequently Asked Questions
Historically, grades have been the most important (with SAT and ACT scores a close second). Grades show longitudinal achievement — they are not just a snapshot of achievement like SAT and ACT scores. But, since the beginning of the pandemic, grades might for the first time ever not hold the top spot. With students studying online and in-person, having all open note tests, etc, grades have become less reliable and more inflated (already 47% of high school students had an A- average or better). Hopefully as life returns to normal, so too will the primary emphasis return back to grades for college admissions as well. For now, although most colleges have gone test-optional, most of the admitted students submit test scores, colleges will be looking more skeptically at grades, and students can gain a larger advantage by standing out with high test scores that validate their high grades.
- Grades: Historically the best single metric for predicting success in college.
- SAT and ACT scores: The second best metric for predicting college success.
- Donations: Colleges do not advertise this, but the children their large donors are on a list for preferential treatment in their college application process.
- Dean’s List: list of students with preferential college admission treatment (again, not advertised, but board members can submit students for preferential admissions).
- Athletic recruitment: The better the athlete (and/or the more a college coach needs a player for a certain position), the lower a student’s grades and scores can be to get recruited and gain admittance. A team’s average SAT and ACT score typically needs to be within one standard deviation of the school’s average, so the team still needs recruited athletes with top scores to bring the team’s average up.
- Ability to pay: Parents paying the full tuition price helps because most colleges, contrary to popular belief, are not “need-blind.” But, even those that are still consider how much they value a given applicant when determining how much financial aid (and whether it will be grants or loans) to extend to an applicant.
- Course Rigor: It’s not just high school GPA; it’s also the difficulty of the courses.
- Early decision: Colleges can increase their yield rate (number of students who accept an admission offer divided by the number of offers made) and therefore increase their ranking by admitting students through early decision (since students are contractually obligated to then accept if given an offer letter). Some colleges fill over 50% of their freshman class from early decision.
- Legacy status: Not all schools provide the same preferential treatment for legacy students, but some do (1/3 of students at Harvard are legacies).
- Children of faculty: Typically the children of a college’s faculty members also have an advantage in admission to that college.
- Disadvantaged demographics: Colleges value what is rare, so they extend preferential treatment to top students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
- Demonstrated interest: Yield rate affects rankings, so colleges only want to give you an offer letter if they think you will accept that offer letter. How can they help their yield rate and rankings? By trying to figure out from your demonstrated interest how much you want to attend their school.
- Gender: It surprises most people to learn this, but men are typically given preferential treatment in college admissions because more women apply to college, so college admission officers applies a higher standard to women who apply.
- Letters of recommendation: These can confirm the narrative that an applicant has told about themselves.
- Essays: These give applicants the opportunity to make admission officers fall in love with them and their story.
- Extracurricular activities: Will you contribute to the school’s community? Your activities help gauge whether you will, if you will be a leader, what you care about, and if you care about others.
- AP exam scores: Historically, these have not been used much. But, without the additional standardized scores from SAT subject tests, top colleges are likely going to start looking at these more.
It varies. A lot. Some sports start giving offers early (typically near the end of sophomore year); others give offers later (at the end of junior year). Women’s sports tend to recruit earlier than men’s. Division 1 colleges can give athletes more support through the admissions process, so their top recruits can have lower SAT and ACT scores (for example, every year we have at least a few recruited athletes who only need a 27 on their ACTs to get into Princeton). Division 3 schools can give athletes support, but typically the student needs to still be a viable applicant without recruitment (so having recruitment still helps because it generally guarantees admittance, but a student still needs to score about at the college’s average SAT or ACT score).
Additionally, college athletes who are hoping to get recruited should typically reach out to college coaches (or ask their own coach to reach out to college coaches on their behalf) so that college coaches can gain more awareness of an athlete even before the official recruitment period begins (before that time college coaches are not allowed to initiate communication with potential recruits, but they can respond if the athlete or their coach initiates communication). If a coach is interested, then the athlete should keep up consistent (but not annoying) communication with the coach: congratulating the coach when his or her team has a big win, updating the coach on the athlete’s own accomplishments, etc.
If you have questions about your athlete’s specific circumstances, we’re always happy to help.
- A target schools is one in which the student’s grades and test scores are in the middle fifty percent of admitted students at that school. Offer letters from these schools is considered to be “likely.” But, the likelihood still depends on “how” a student applies: if a school offers two early decision rounds and a student instead applies either early action or regular decision to that school, the student still risks a “deferral” or even a rejection from the school because the school will (probably correctly) assume that it is not a student’s first choice. The more willing a student is to committing to a school with early decision, the more willing the school is to commit to the student.
- A reach school is one in which the student is still typically in the bottom 25% of the school’s average grade and test scores for admitted students. But, either for that reason or simply because of the large number of talented applicants, admission is possible but far from a guarantee. When reaching for “reach” schools, a student’s extracurriculars, character, story, and how well these fit the institutional needs of the school can swing the odds in the student’s favor.
Most colleges require three letters: one from your guidance counselor and two from academic subject teachers. We suggest to ask the teachers who know you best: even if you received a B in the class, perhaps you worked extremely hard, showed interest, sought out extra help, and made an impression. Some schools will also allow up to two extra letters of recommendation that speak to your extracurricular experiences. Perhaps you’ve had a job, attended camp for many years, sing in a chorus, play an instrument, etc. Those letters carry weight.
Students can start anytime after the first semester of freshman year. The earlier we can get to know a student, the more opportunity we have to craft their narrative, highlight their gifts, and make the process deliberate, stress-free, and successful.
The changing college admissions landscape
Applying to college has never been more confusing, with record numbers of U.S. and international students seeking admission to the same increasingly competitive colleges and universities. At Summit Prep, we understand the changing landscape of college admissions and know how to help parents and students successfully navigate this increasingly complex process. Whether you are looking to design a four-year academic plan, identify service and internship opportunities, create a balanced college list, or explore financial aid opportunities the expert counselors at Summit Prep can assist you. Contact us today to schedule a one-on-one meeting with a counselor and take control of this process and your future.
A stellar college essay is critical
Whether you are looking through a window and describing an environment that is significant to you (as Williams College asked its applicants to do) or trying to find Waldo when applying to The University of Chicago, writing a compelling essay is critical in the college admission process. But while many students know what matters to them, most struggle to put those thoughts down on paper. The experienced teachers and essay readers at Summit Prep can help you generate essay ideas and express yourself in a way that will enhance your application and provide a captivating window into your world. What you say and how you say it matters — learn how to share your story at Summit Prep.