Visiting Boston University

Located in Boston Massachusetts, just a few subway stops from the historic North End, and across the river from MIT, Boston University is well positioned for an involved urban experience. Boston University is a large, private, teaching and research university. Admission to BU is highly sought after by students from all over the nation, and application is simple with the common app, so their admission rate hovers around 20%.


Academics:

Boston University does its best to have a flexible approach to academics. Students who apply undecided into one of BU’s ten schools will have two years to declare a major. BU focuses on hands on learning, with 40% of their student body studying abroad at some point and many more students taking part in internships and completing research during their time at BU. BU has a program which they describe as “our take on the liberal arts” in which students can pick from over 1000 classes to build what the university sees as six life skills. Outside of those classes and classes for their major, students are free to fill their electives however they choose.

BU does a decent job of getting students to graduation with 80-85% of students completing their degree in four years. BU has a 10:1 student to faculty ration and their average class size is about 27 students.

Campus Life:

Like most city colleges, BU lacks the charm of the traditional green quad and wide open spaces. It is a fairly compact campus that often appears to be just part of the neighborhood around it. This would appeal to students who want to live in a major city and still be on a college campus. The campus has a mix of historic and modern buildings which makes for an interesting campus feel. Students are required to live on campus for only their freshman year and many take the opportunity to move into the surrounding neighborhoods with friends once their first year is over.  There is a decent amount of Greek Life on campus with 20% of students taking part in Fraternities and Sororities, but students say there are plenty of social opportunities outside of the Greek system.

Admission:

Applying to BU is fairly simple because BU uses the common app. While there are later deadlines for regular admission, admissions counselors at BU stress that students should have their applications done by December 1st for merit scholarship consideration. BU is test optional for at least one more year, so if you feel that your test scores do not reflect you, you can apply without them. In addition, BU will superscore any tests that you do submit. The best piece of advice given by the admissions officers is this “be specific when answering the essay question ‘why BU’”. Take your time on that supplemental essay. Don’t give a generic answer, don’t apply just for the relative prestige BU can offer. Have a good and specific reason why you want to be at BU in the fall.

Let us know if we can help you with that essay or with any part of your college application process- good luck!

Michal Strawn

I Got into Multiple Colleges: Now What?

It is that time of year again. College admission decisions are flying in and students are trying to figure out where they’ll be moving in the fall. Many students find themselves with several acceptances and struggle to make that final, crucial, decision. Even students who got into their dream college should sit down and think through their options prior to saying “yes”. We’ve compiled a list of some things for students to consider as they ponder their choices.

  1. Wait for financial aid packets:
    When students find out they’ve been accepted to the top school on their application list, the temptation is often to confirm attendance as quickly as possible. This is generally a poor decision. Students have until May 1st to respond and they should be patient and wait until they’ve heard from all their applicant schools and received financial aid info before committing to any one institution. It’s always a bad idea to buy something without looking at the price tag. Comparing the final out-of-pocket price and the amount of debt that students will incur for each college is a vital part of the decision process. Students should also remember that loans are real money. Just because you don’t have to pay right this minute, doesn’t mean that that particular school is a good deal! Financial aid awards can be drastically different at different institutions, so crunch the numbers.
  2. Consider plans after college:
    Students often see college as the end goal. They’ve been working toward college for so long that they tend to forget that college is just a stepping stone to a career. Many of those careers require additional schooling in the form of graduate programs. When selecting a college students should consider how the colleges may set them up for success in grad school or in a career. Financials are especially important for a student who is looking at an additional few years of schooling after college. If a student hopes to attend law school or med school, they should be careful not to deplete any cash resources they have just to get through undergrad. In addition, students might look for the school that has the best track record for helping its graduates gain admission into the grad program they are hoping to complete.
  3. Weigh program strengths and weaknesses:
    Students often choose their campus based on gut feeling or on a ranking list. The higher rank on the national list must be the best choice, right? Not always. The same college might be great for one student and terrible for another. Students need to consider which school will give them the best education. After all, that’s the reason they’re paying for college. While a school might be high up on a national ranking list, that doesn’t mean all of their majors are high ranking in and of themselves. Every school has programs that are stronger and others that are weaker. Consider program strength, not just overall college ranking. A school might be highly nationally ranked because they have world-class humanities programs which dominates the school, but if a student is studying chemistry, the humanities department is rather irrelevant.
  4. Imagine life on campus:
    This is number four for a reason. It’s the last thing that students should consider, but it should be considered nonetheless. Occasionally a college just isn’t right for a student. Students should be careful not to make the decision based on any minor issues: every college will have one or two minor issues. However, large issues that would lead a student to being uncomfortable or miserable for four years should eliminate that college from contention. Maybe they applied to the local large university as a backup, when really they would feel lost on the giant campus. Maybe they applied to a foreign school for fun when they can’t see themselves moving overseas. These are important considerations beyond just “the campus isn’t as pretty as I want” and should be taken seriously.

While there are other factors to consider, these big four will set you up to make the best decision you can. If you’re still struggling, ask for help from parents, or a college counselor. If you’d like to chat with one of our counselors about your options, we’d be happy to help!

Happy College Decision Season!

Michal Strawn

Why Do Unreasonable Expectations Seem Reasonable?

Grades in school are often not indicative of how a student will do on the ACT or SAT.

This is unfortunate but true. A lot of tutoring starts with something along the lines of “I just don’t understand! Her grades in school are so good. She has a 4.2 and is multiple advanced courses; we just don’t understand why her ACT isn’t at least a 28.” There are a few issues with this mindset. The biggest issue is that the ACT isn’t a test over what the student has learned in school: it’s a test of critical thinking.

School grades, for the most part, are a reflection of how well a student can memorize things and understand concepts. The ACT tests how students can apply those concepts in new situations. This is something that is rarely practiced in school. In addition, there are almost unlimited opportunities for grade improvement at school. Teachers offer test corrections, extra credit, and close to unlimited time to finish work. Teachers want students who show up and work hard to succeed and to have good grades. The pressure on teachers not to fail students is immense. This leads to grade inflation. For all these reasons, a good GPA often does not translate to good ACT scores even though it seems like, reasonably, it would.

Getting tutoring or working hard does not guarantee large improvements.

Because of the school system just described, students and parents alike are conditioned to believe that if a student simply works hard and seeks the appropriate help their scores will reach the level they would like. This is, unfortunately, not the case. Tutoring and hard work will help a student learn how to think through the questions on the test; critical thinking can indeed be improved. However, most students will eventually hit their natural limit. It would be cruel to put the expectation on any high school runner that they could turn into a 21st century Jesse Owens through just hard work in high school.

 In the same way that physical limitations will always exist for athletes, mental limitations exist for students. The ACT and SAT are both designed to find these natural limitations, whether they be high, low, or, like most, in the middle. The good news is that this will generally not prevent a student from continuing their education after high school. On the contrary, the United States has a very wide range of colleges, universities, and trade schools that cater to students at all levels, and using standardized tests to discover a student’s abilities and limitations allows students to attend a school where they can be successful!

Set reasonable expectations.

Because of points 1 and 2 students and parents alike need to set reasonable expectations. It is wonderful when expectations are surpassed, but there is nothing quite so heartbreaking as when a student improves through hard work and the result is disappointment on the side of the student and/or parent. To set reasonable expectations, let’s talk about percentiles on the ACT.

The ACT is designed on a curve. The 50th percentile is a score that tends to hovers between 19 and 20 nationally. This will not change. No matter how much students across the nation study, the test will be adjusted so that 50% of students fall below the 20 mark and 50% rise above it. When a student gets a 20 they are often disappointed, they think that is a terrible score. Parents, peers, and teachers often agree. None of them realize that this is actually just about the national average!

Now, let’s talk about goal scores. Those who start at 20 often set their hearts on 25, 28, or 30. In this situation, a 25 on the ACT would be in the 78th percentile or a 28 percentile point increase over a 20. A 28 would be in the 88th percentile or a 38 percentile point increase. A 30 would be in the 93rd percentile and a 43 percentile point increase. What this means is that a student would have to, between one test and the next, leap frog over 43% of his or her peers (most of whom are also studying) in order to move from a 20 to a 30. This would be not a leap of knowledge but of critical thinking. This is not a reasonable goal. Such goals put undue pressure on the student and in ninety-nine percent of cases lead to dashed hopes no matter how much hard work is done. A reasonable goal will depend on what score the student starts at and what their natural abilities are, and no matter what the score is, there will be colleges that are open to them. A good tutor will be able to help you set those reasonable goals, work toward achieving them, and reach your potential.

If you have questions or comments about the ACT or SAT, how to prepare for the tests, or what reasonable goals might look like please get in touch! Helping students reach their potential is our number one goal.


Statistics source: https://www.act.org/content/dam/act/unsecured/documents/MultipleChoiceStemComposite.pdf

Ohio Wesleyan University

Ohio Wesleyan University 12-14-2021 Next on our college tour of Ohio is Ohio Wesleyan University. Located in the heart of Delaware, OWU has small town charm and, with Columbus right down the road, big city accessibility. Ohio has a lot of small, seemingly generic liberal arts universities, but, if you pay attention, each one has a slightly different flavor that can make it stand out from the crowd and be a good fit for some students.

Academics
Ohio Wesleyan University has a few things that give it its unique flavor. Academically, the standout feature is the OWU Connection which encourages students to think big, go global, and get real. Through this program, which is available to all students, students can get research funded, study abroad, and locate internships in their desired areas of study. The OWU connection works to take learning out of the classroom and actively engage students, which leads to success. OWU is also known for their business/management major as well as their biology program.

Campus Life
Beyond academics, OWUs campus life has a strong Greek life presence and Greek or interest specific housing. Many smaller universities are not able to offer Greek houses or interest specific housing to students, making OWU stand out from the crowd. OWU also has a strong showing of student athletes.

Applying
Students who want to make OWU their home for four years do need to put in some work. While the acceptance rate is 68 percent, students are expected to submit letters of recommendation along with their transcript and essay. Students with at least a B average in high school have the best chance at admission. OWU offers early admission. OWU is test optional, but of those who submit test scores, fifty percent are between 23 and 29.

Kenyon College

Historic Campus

The oldest private college in Ohio, Kenyon looks the part. The main campus breaths history and the buildings feel like they would be at home in any of the historic campuses of New England. The dining hall at Kenyon is awe inspiring and reminiscent of the Great Hall of Harry Potter fame. Students who appreciate a small town, historic, classic college experience will fall in love with Kenyon and will enjoy living on campus for all four years of their time there. At most colleges the newer dorms are in high demand, but upperclassmen at Kenyon hope for a good enough housing lottery number to score a room in the historic dormitories right at the heart of campus.

Modern Appeal

The college has modern conveniences in addition to historic buildings. Thanks to a generous donation, an entire new quad is being erected. The first building, a new library, is already completed and, while the exterior fits the historic aesthetic of the college, the interior offers every amenity for the modern student. New class buildings will be completed in the next few years and Kenyon looks forward to a bright academic future.

Great Education

Kenyon is best known for its English department. In fact, Kenyon has long been known as the writer’s college. Their graduating classes for years have been filled with illustrious names that you see on bookshelves and on bestseller lists. While Kenyon maintains its excellence in the written word, they are also strengthening their STEM offerings. Students who attend Kenyon for STEM degrees have wonderful research opportunities as there are no graduate students with whom to compete for grant funding. The modern science and tech buildings bring Kenyon into the future.

Strong Candidates

Students wanting to attend Kenyon need to be strong candidates. While the school is currently test optional and has hinted that it may stay that way, the average candidate who submits test scores tends to hover in the 29-33 range on the ACT. Kenyon has only a 34 percent acceptance rate and cannot easily increase class size since all students must live on campus. The admissions office stresses the importance of good quality letters of recommendation to improve admission chances.

If you’re looking for a good writing degree, earned on a charming campus and would like to experience the closeness of a small community, the drive to Kenyon is more than worth it.

Denison University: Close Community, Great Education

I had the pleasure of visiting Denison University during their finals week in December of 2021. My tour guide was a wonderful young lady named Daisy who showed me around campus and answered my endless questions about the University and the students there. Based on my conversations with Daisy and the information session prior to my tour, I feel that students who are high achieving go-getters looking for a tight community would be very comfortable at Denison.

Academics:

Denison splits its academic requirements into thirds. One third of a student’s classes will be in liberal arts instruction. One third will be in their major. The final third are electives. This allows Denison’s students to create highly personalized curriculum. Each student takes a different path to graduation and can focus on what interests them the most. This is part of Denison’s commitment to focus on the individual student, not the aggregate. Students are encouraged to take control of their education and focus as much on experiential learning as on book work.

Campus and Community:

The campus has a strong community. All of the students live on campus for four years, making Denison quite close knit. The campus is nestled in the small town of Granville, Ohio, so students who want to escape the hustle and bustle of cities and suburbs will find it to be a pleasant retreat. Granville is only 30 minutes from downtown Columbus, and students are allowed to have cars on campus all four years, so should a student want to leave campus for food, shopping, or entertainment, they absolutely can. Mostly, though, the campus and Granville are self-contained, which strengthens the community feeling.  

In addition, Granville encourages students to find mentorship and promotes diversity. Most students on campus find a mentor in their time at Denison and participate in international experiences. These both bolster the in-class education received at Denison and contribute to the community feel.

The campus itself is very beautiful. Located on “the hill” the University owns far more land than it could ever use: somewhere in the area of 850 acres. A small portion of the campus holds the buildings and sports fields that I toured and that around 3,000 students call home. The rest is a nature preserve with walking paths and scientific research stations. Given that the campus is on a hill, students will get lots of exercise walking up and down the copious hilly sidewalks and abundant staircases that connect all the buildings.

Applying:

Those students interested in Denison will want to make sure their application is in tip top shape. Denison only accepts around thirty percent of students who apply. The school is test optional and only about half of the students who are accepted submit test scores. The average ACT score of those students is around 30. Once accepted, the university does meet 100% of demonstrated financial need for their students, meaning Denison can be an affordable option. Applying students should get in touch with the financial aid office to discuss the particulars of their situation.

-Michal Strawn

College Consultant

Coming soon:

Ohio has over 60 colleges and universities which can make choosing where to apply an overwhelming decision. In an effort to provide the most up to date and reliable information to our students, members of the BWS team will soon be touring many Ohio colleges. We will be asking questions like, “what kind of student would succeed here?” and “what makes this institution stand out from those around it?” Those questions and more will be answered in our upcoming blog posts. Check back regularly as you create your college list to read about colleges and institutions that you might not have otherwise thought of. As always, if you need help with any part of the process, get in touch: we’re happy to help.

Mini Blog FAQ: Why Do I Have to Take the ACT?

The ACT is a test that is currently used by colleges and universities across the United States to judge students’ college readiness. It is one of many criteria used by admissions officers to decide who will be admitted. It is also a graduation requirement in some states and school districts. The SAT is a similar test that is used in a similar way. Colleges and universities that require an admissions test will accept either the ACT or the SAT so students can choose which one is the better fit for their skills.

Read more on figuring out which test is a better fit for you.

Early Action? Early Decision? Early Confusion?


Early decision and early action deadlines are creeping up on students right about now at the beginning of November. While some students may have decided to apply early some time ago, many of their friends may be left in a panic as they watch the deadlines go by thinking “what does this mean?”. “Should I apply early?” Many students experience FOMO (fear of missing out) as they realize a bit belatedly that many of their peers are wrapping up applications just as others are only getting started. What is early action? What is early decision? Who are they right for? Below are the basics that students need to know in order to make informed decisions about early applications.

Early Action:

Early action is a pretty good bet for most students. Applying early action means that students apply sooner (generally early fall of senior year) and then they get their decision early. Students can apply early action at as many of their colleges as have an early action program. Early action applications come with no commitment and are a good way to get the applications out of the way sooner so that students can focus on and enjoy senior year. Early action also allows for students to have more time to make their decision once they get acceptances and it takes the burden off students’ shoulders much sooner.

Early Decision:

Early decision applications are a much bigger deal than early action. Not many schools offer early decision; those that do tend to be highly selective institutions. Many students, therefore, may not even have the option of applying early decision. The key thing to remember is that early decision applications are legally binding. Students are required to attend the school and withdraw applications from all other schools if accepted into their early decision school. This means that students who apply early decision are committing to attending before they see what financial aid the school will offer them. Students should not apply early decision unless they are sure that the school is the right fit and they are committed to paying the full price for the school. At most schools, applying early decision does increase your chances of being admitted and, similar to early action, gets the work and the decision out of the way much sooner which is attractive to most students.

In Conclusion:

If you’re in your senior year and you haven’t yet submitted any applications, it’s okay! You still have time for those regular decision applications, so don’t rush to apply early if it means submitting subpar work. Generally, schools accept regular decision applications until the beginning of January, but make sure you check with your schools to find out their specific deadlines. Try to have your applications in as soon as you can; don’t wait until the last moment. The sooner you get accepted the sooner your school can put together your financial aid package. Most schools have a limited amount of aid to give out, so you don’t want to be last in line. If you need any help with your applications or essays reach out to us and let us assist!

How to Make the Most of Online College Tours



In 2020 many colleges started to seriously develop virtual campus tours to try to fill in the gaps left by restrictions on face to face meetings. While some colleges had previously had brief video tours, they did not do a good job at helping students really get a good feel for the campus. With almost all perspective students touring virtually, though, colleges felt the need to improve their offerings. Students who don’t wish to travel far to campus, or who don’t feel it is safe to meet in person, can now get close to the full tour experience through their computer screens. These virtual experiences can be made almost as beneficial as in-person tours with a few simple tips. 

  • Sign up for official tour and make sure you have the necessary software

Don’t just hop on the college website one day and watch a five minute video tour shot with a drone over the campus! Get in touch with the admissions office and ask about a guided tour where you can video chat with a guide as you work your way through a comprehensive tour. A complete campus tour should take at least an hour for even the smallest campuses. Having a live guide to talk to and ask questions of is the best way to mimic an on campus tour. In order to make the tour go smoothly, make sure you have the program you need in advance! Maybe you’ll be meeting with the guide through Zoom, but maybe it’s on some other platform you have never used before. Get it up and running in the days before your appointment to avoid missing your tour.

  • Do research before the tour

Make sure you know something about the college you’re touring. Do they offer the programs you want? Are they in an area you would enjoy living? Are you reasonably close to their admissions criteria? Don’t waste your time doing 100 tours of colleges that won’t be a good fit. Just because you can tour from your couch doesn’t mean you should!

  • Have questions ready

You’ll get the most out of a college tour that is tailored to you, but unfortunately, the tour guide won’t really know you. You have to help them tailor the information that they present. Do this by asking questions. Have some questions ready prior to your scheduled start time and ask others that you think of as the tour progresses.

  • Take notes!

After a handful of tours all colleges kind of look the same, especially on a screen. Which one was the one with the great professor I talked to? Which one had that horrible library with no tables? Write down your thoughts during the tour. Since you’ll be sitting in your home instead of out walking around it should be easy to keep organized notes!

  • Follow up with the admissions counselor afterword

Make sure to send a thank you email with any follow up questions after the tour. This is especially important if there were many people on your tour. You want your counselor to remember you!

  • Visit in person after admission

Once you’re admitted, make sure you do a real visit prior to committing. Some things can only be experienced in person and you shouldn’t commit to going to a school for four years without having ever set foot on campus!