Search News & Views
Dr. Jane S. Gabin
Dr. Jane S. Gabin is an independent college counselor in New York City. She has worked at several private schools in the metro area, including the Frisch School, Little Red School House and Elisabeth Irwin High School, and the United Nations International School. She was an admissions officer for 10 years at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and an English teacher at Chapel Hill High School and at her alma mater, Queens College of the City University of New York. She is a member of the National Association for College Admissions Counseling and its New York and New Jersey chapters.
I transferred from a public high school to a rigorous college prep school in my sophomore year. At my new school, I took Advanced Placement Calculus AB, AP World History, and Honors English. But I did poorly, getting a 3.2 GPA. Now, as a junior, I have a 4.2 GPA and am taking 3 more AP courses. Will colleges consider that I had an adjustment period when I transferred, and will this affect my chances of getting into a highly selective college?
A: I think you are actually asking three questions:
1. Is it advantageous to transfer to a private school from a public school?
2. Will colleges realize I had an adjustment period when I switched schools?
3. Despite the temporary dip in grades, will I be able to get into a highly selective college?
Q: My niece is a US citizen by birth, but grew up and attended school outside the country. Now she is graduating from high school and wants to go to college in the U.S. I need to know how to fill out the financial aid forms, using whose income and tax returns – or does she apply on her own? Please, we need some help!
A: As a U.S. citizen, your niece is entitled to apply for government student aid, and she can also be considered for other scholarships that are for U.S. citizens or green cardholders only. The process may seem daunting to you, but there is lots of assistance available.
Your first step is to complete the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) online. This document must be filed before most aid offers can be processed. Each state has a different deadline; in New York it is June 30. However, it is advisable to submit the completed application as soon as possible. Please remember that the first word in the FAFSA title is "Free"; that means there is no processing fee. You should not pay anyone to help you complete this form, nor should you pay anyone who "guarantees" that he or she can obtains scholarships for your niece.
Q: I applied to seven colleges, regular decision. There are three that I really hope I get into. The others are fine, but I’m not that excited about them. My counselor thinks I have a pretty good chance at most of them – but not the top three. And those are the ones where I most want to get accepted. I’m not going to hear anything for two months – and I worry that my applications will just get overlooked in the piles of folders. Now that everything is turned in, what else can I do to make the admissions people notice me? I’m an excellent baker – what if I sent boxes of my brownies to the admissions offices at my top choice schools? Or should I write an additional personal letter telling them how much I want to attend? Would handwritten letters make a better impression than e-mail notes? How many times do you think I ought to contact them?
A: Simply waiting is very difficult. I understand your desire to be active rather than passive at this point. You want to do something. But please resist the urge to communicate unless completely necessary. The main thing admissions readers want to receive, after an application is originally submitted, is an updated transcript. Right about now, high schools ought to be sending these to the colleges where students have applied. This is the major piece of information that will help determine the admissions decision.
Q: My daughter is a sophomore in high school. We've just begun the process of researching the college admission and selection process. Aside from providing very basic information, her school college counselors don't meet with parents or students until junior year. My daughter is a good, but not spectacular, student with no idea of what she wants to do or where she wants to go to school. To optimize her choices, I thought we might start working with a paid college consultant now. Does this make sense for us? If so, what should we be looking for in a quality counselor and where do we look?
Q: I have pretty much finished doing my Common Application and my essay. But I have left a lot of the supplements for the last minute, and the final deadline is January 1. Are these supplements really important? A lot of the questions are short. So, can I just rush through these – aren't they extra "busy work"? And what about sending Christmas cards to the admissions people – will that give me some extra points?
A: At some colleges, the supplements are even MORE important than the personal statement on the Common App. Unfortunately, many students see short questions as unimportant questions. Big mistake. When they ask, "What makes you think you are a good match for our college?" or "How did you learn about our school?" or "Why are you applying to _______ University?" they are looking to see if you actually know anything about their school! A vague answer will be a giveaway that the applicant doesn't know or does not really care.
Q: I'm applying to high school. How much does a student's high school affect college admissions? Do colleges look only at the big name NYC high schools? What chance does a senior have at one of the small high schools or a neighborhood school that colleges have never heard of?
A: We have heard the same question being asked about public vs. private schools. If I go to a private school, won't I have a better chance of getting into the University of X? And the answer is no. Depending upon which high school you choose, your experience will be different. You may be exposed to a greater variety of extra-curricular activities, or not. You may be in smaller or larger classes. It may take you 20 minutes or and hour and a half to get to school. But students at all high schools have a chance to get into their choice of colleges! Simply attending a school with a well-known name is not – by itself – an automatic guarantee of admission. This applies to all schools, public or private.
Q: What advice can you give with regard to summer courses in terms of looking best on a college application? My son is a high-achieving student and would like to take some courses next summer that would enhance his applications.
A: If your son is hoping to find a summer course which will reinforce his academic interests, and his college application, he has a number of options.
Q: My daughter just received a summons to jury duty this fall. She is supposed to report to a court in lower Manhattan. But she goes to college at Binghamton! How is she supposed to serve on a jury while enrolled in a college many miles and hours away? She can't miss all those classes!
A: Jury duty is a responsibility that must be taken seriously -- but the court system will not expect your daughter to miss classes in order to serve.
Q: Since my school has very few AP classes, are "College Now" courses good substitutes?
A: When colleges review students' applications -- and this is especially true with selective colleges -- the transcript is the most important document they examine. They look not only for outstanding grades, but for a strong curriculum. In general, they look for the number of challenging courses rather than for the number of As.
How many of these challenging courses are required? There is no set number. In all cases, students will be evaluated according to the classes available to them. In some high schools, Advanced Placement (AP) courses are the hardest ones available, while in others it might be honors courses. "College Now" courses are another option.
Q: Will college admissions personnel take my daughter's learning disability into account when reading her application? Or will revealing it hurt her chances of getting in?
A: It takes all kinds of learners to make a school community, and if your daughter has the attributes, skills, and experiences that will make her a positive addition to a college, that's what will count. A learning disability, in itself, will not make her ineligible for college.
A learning disability is like any other disability -- and it is illegal to discriminate against applicants with disabilities. But she will need to show that she is able to do the work. Students with various disabilities are admitted to an array of colleges all the time; but they not are admitted because of the disability. They are admitted as a result of demonstrating that they have been able to master academic skills.