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Summer = Downtime + Productivity

Thursday, July 06, 2017

It’s a scientific fact (well, not really — but yet I think you’ll still agree): Summer is the most fleeting season of the year.  That’s because even though summer has the same number of calendar days as its three fellow sun-cycles, we define this time of the year by its long-awaited respite and big dose of freedom from the everyday demands of school life.  For rising juniors and seniors, these months are well-earned and precious. 

When students comment, “I’m so busy this summer — I have no time to…” I take that as code for:  I need my downtime.  Absolutely.  You need downtime to refresh and recreate so you can get back in the saddle when school starts up again in the fall.   But remember that no matter how full summer days are with a job or team practice, they will not be as busy or structured as when senior or junior year start up in full form.

Depending where you are in the college process, whether a rising college explorer or soon-to-be-applicant, there are several things you need to be doing —and accomplishing — during summer break:

+  Work on college essays. Steadily.

+  Prep for SAT or ACT  — or at least take some diagnostic sample tests.

+  If expecting to test or re-test for subject tests in August, begin studying right away.

see prior blog post --  It’s Here:  The August SAT 

+  Accomplish AP summer prep work, as is necessary.

+  Begin to prepare your Common App — (and/or Coalition App; U of CA; or Apply Texas apps).

+  Get a good start on organizing a portfolio if applying to arts programs.

+  Be in touch with athletics coaches or admissions reps.

And there is one more to-do on the list:  Get out into the sunshine and fresh air  — or into the studio, lab, or workplace; plane; train or car.  Play, work, socialize, day dream and enjoy summer in whatever ways you crave to refresh and rejuvenate before the calendar flips to September!


Marla Platt, M.B.A. is an independent college consultant based in Sudbury, MA through AchieveCoach College Consulting, providing personalized guidance to students and families throughout the college planning, search and admissions process. Marla is a professional member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association and can be reached via

It’s Finally Here: The August SAT

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Coming to A Testing Center (Hopefully) Near You…

August 26, 2017 marks the (re)introduction of a summer SAT testing date, much to the applause of over-committed, rising high school seniors looking for an opportunity to prepare and sit for the SAT or SAT Subject Tests without the added pressure of a full plate of classes; extracurricular demands; and the time required in the fall to complete college applications.

This debut of the August test date is expected to draw a large number of test takers. Note that while the regular deadline to register is July 28, certain metropolitan areas, including Boston and New York City, are expected to experience high demand for the available number of seats.  Early registration is essential for preferred testing locations.

The availability of a summer testing date offers a number of potential benefits to students:

1.  The growth in the number of schools with Early Action/Early Decision/Priority application deadlines necessitates that students complete testing equally promptly.

2.  If a student has waited for the middle or end of junior year to test and would like the benefit of an additional testing opportunity, she can now do so without the demands of the senior fall staring her in the face.

3.  If a student was caught short in studying for Subject Tests, say amid the requirements of preparing for May APs toward the end of junior year, or perhaps missed the June test date due to other exigencies, there is still the summer to refresh recently-completed subject material.  This is valuable before the introduction of new coursework in senior year, particularly in courses that do not build in tandem ex. chemistry with little to no overlap with physics or biology.

4.  Initiating or refreshing test prep without the distraction of other academic pressures may enable the student to focus more on his preparation contributing, at least in theory, to a higher test score. Even though some school districts start up again in late August, the school year will not yet be in full swing.

5. At the very least sitting for a summer SAT, with the advantage of some breathing room in the calendar, can potentially make a huge difference for students disposed to anxiety in anticipation of high-stakes testing.

6.  For students who had put their eggs into the ACT basket but now want to try their hand at the SAT can now do so without having to wait for October of senior year to come around.  And…

7.  …those students who decide to — or need to — take the SAT in fall of senior year, can now potentially avoid the pressures of back-to-back October and November testing.  Testing as such, with precious little time in between to assess prior scores and shore up weak areas, is unlikely to be productive in significantly boosting scores.

For more information about the SAT, SAT Subject Tests or to register, visit the CollegeBoard website. 

Marla Platt, M.B.A. is an independent college consultant based in Sudbury, MA through AchieveCoach College Consulting, providing personalized guidance to students and families throughout the college planning, search and admissions process. Marla is a professional member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association and can be reached via

Protecting Your College Acceptance

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Amidst the excitement and milestones that mark the life of a high school senior and their family, admission into college and selecting a desired destination for the next four years runs foremost.  This culmination of months —  if not years — of planning, researching and actively applying have finally come to fruition.

After the admission letters have been mailed out; a final choice has been decided; and the deposit for a student's spot in the fall class has been paid, what could get in the way?


It may surprise students and parents  to know that even after the acceptance agreement has been signed, in most cases colleges will still require submission of a final high school transcript.  That means that admission in the winter or spring of senior year is, in some ways, a preliminary acceptance.  Dartmouth College actually has a name for this:  the Post-acceptance Review.

Ultimately, an offer of admission is contingent on successful completion of senior year, generally consistent with the student’s past performance.   Colleges that do review final  transcripts have the option to question performance that has slipped significantly.  So what does significantly actually mean? 


If a student has been accepted on the basis of a transcript that shows As and Bs but has shifted downward, say, into the territory of Cs and Ds, the admitting college will want to know why.  The same may be true if a student decides to drop academic classes or move down levels in the second semester or final quarter.  Admitted Early Decision or Early Action applicants should be particularly cognizant of fluctuating transcripts since these students apply to college so early in the senior year calendar.

Why do colleges care?  Because, at a very basic level, institutions of learning aim to enroll students who are likely to be successful at their institution.  A student graduating high school with lower grades than those posted at the time of application is likely to raise red flags about their academic focus and potential for success in the freshman year. 

That said, if there is an extenuating circumstance that gives context to dropping grades (ex. illness; job loss; divorce; etc.) then the student, hopefully supported in kind by the school counselor, should be prepared to rapidly address the situation through a clear and cogent explanation.  

There could be financial implications as well since merit or grant monies may also be on the line, especially if a student was awarded funds based on GPA, academic performance, or some similar benchmark.


After months of immersion in the college process,  it's not surprising to find seniors exhaling and seeking the opportunity to lighten up on the accelerator.  Truly, the few remaining months of high school signify a time to celebrate a job well done and enjoy friendships and senior celebrations on the way to that long-anticipated graduation day.  A slight drop in grades is not the same as a full blown case of senioritis, so the key is to stay on the path to the finish line!    

In reality, colleges want to welcome the freshman class they have accepted!  

That said, Cornell University's College of Engineering doesn't mince words on the topic of dropping grades:

Can an offer of admission be rescinded if my senior-year grades go down? 

Cornell's offer of admission includes the following statement: "Our offer of admission is also contingent upon your satisfactorily completing any school work now in progress, and on your continuing to uphold high standards of character in activities outside the classroom." All enrolling students are required to submit a final high school transcript once they complete their senior year. Each transcript is reviewed to ensure that our enrolling students continued to succeed academically once they received their offers of admission. Students whose performance declined are asked to respond, in writing, with an explanation for the decline in academic performance. Responses are evaluated and a determination is made whether a student will be allowed to enroll, or if his/her offer of admission will be rescinded. The decisions we make in these cases are done thoughtfully, thoroughly, and bearing in mind their impact. This process usually occurs in June and we try to reach decisions as quickly as the process will allow so that students are definitively aware of their status and can plan accordingly.   


Marla Platt, M.B.A. is an independent college consultant based in Sudbury, MA through AchieveCoach College Consulting, providing personalized guidance to students and families throughout the college planning, search and admissions process. Marla is a professional member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association and can be reached via

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