2016 Summary: Parry College Counseling

It’s been an exciting year for Parry College Counseling and my awesome group of seniors! This year I worked with a total of 23 long-term seniors as part of my package programs. This group of students mostly attend Seattle Public Schools (Garfield, Ballard, Roosevelt in particular), with a few Bellevue and other suburban students in the mix as well. And I’ve expanded beyond just the Seattle area, working with students remotely from Alaska to eastern Washington.

This year I’ve had the pleasure of working with students from a range of socioeconomic backgrounds and family situations, including pro-bono students needing full financial support to attend college, first-generation students, underrepresented minority students, seniors from single parent households, and everything in between.

I also worked with 40 additional students on an hourly basis, assisting them with tasks such as essay brainstorming and editing, interview coaching, college list development, and transfer admission preparation.

Below are the acceptances my seniors have received so far through either early action, early decision, or rolling admission. The majority of admission decisions will come back in March. I’m also excited to share that my seniors have received a total of over $2.2 million dollars in scholarships so far!

Harvey Mudd College, Muhlenberg College, Tulane University, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Santa Clara University, University of Portland, Boise State University, Beloit College, Trinity University (Texas), Sierra Nevada College, Marquette University, Loyola Marymount University, University of San Francisco, University of Denver, Regis University, Carroll College, Montana State University, Pacific Lutheran University, Willamette University, University of Arizona, Colorado State University, University of Colorado-Boulder, Butler University, Kent State University, Whitworth University, Washington State University, Goucher College, Arizona State University, Alaska Southeast University, Western Washington University, College of Wooster, Linfield College, Oregon State University, College of Idaho, Coe College, Gonzaga University, Misericordia University, Seattle University, University of Redlands, Lewis & Clark College, Fordham University, Chapman University

Thanks for following along on this journey. Wishing you and yours a happy and healthy 2017!


Campus Visit Notes: Pacific Lutheran University

College: Pacific Lutheran University – www.PLU.edu

Location: Tacoma, WA

Type of Institution: Private university (some Master’s programs)

Size: 3,300 students, with about ~300 in graduate programs

Admissions Advice:  Pacific Lutheran is a moderately selective university, typically hovering around a 75% admission rate. The school’s average GPA for enrolled students is high (3.66), but they do take into account the weighted GPA and course rigor. Students attending high schools in the 253 area code have the amazing opportunity to attend tuition-free if they meet the scholarship guidelines listed here.

Most popular majors: Nursing, Business, Biology, Psychology

Words to describe students I met: Friendly, down-to-earth, practical, open-minded

Unique academic aspects: Pacific Lutheran offers a January term (J-term), essentially a mini-semester where students can take one to two classes in depth for a short period of time. This is a good opportunity to dive more into a research topic or interest area, though many students also use this as a time to get some general education requirements out of the way. Students can also go abroad for their J-terms, something especially appealing to Nursing and other science majors. My guide commented on how refreshing this time can be as it allows students to learn in a more hands-on way and over a shorter period of time. Students then come back to the second semester ready to tackle their more traditional work loads.

A quick review of the offerings for this coming January shows a huge variety of opportunities. More local options include a Makah Culture class on the Olympic Peninsula or interning with a Tacoma-area non-profit, while more adventurous options include a religion course in Greece or studying baby penguins en route to Antarctica (sign me up!)

Unique social/cultural aspects: The university has Lutheran roots and does require students to take one Christianity-based religion class, plus one world religion class to graduate. PLU has one of the best overviews of their religion requirements and why a foundation in religious studies is crucial to navigating the conflicts in our world today. Check it out!

Colleges that seem similar:  University of Puget Sound, Seattle University, University of Portland, California Lutheran University, Willamette University

Concerns about this college: The Parkland neighborhood of Tacoma is, well, not the nicest place I’ve been. There is a large military base located very close to campus, so the businesses in the area cater to both military families and college students. There are some cheap restaurants, laundromats, coffee shops, and other basics,  but generally the area is run-down. Students who want to explore the outdoors or even Tacoma proper will likely need a car to get around.

Overall impressions: I really enjoyed my visit to PLU and was pleasantly surprised at the beauty of the campus, particularly the music and arts facilities. My tour guide was super friendly and enthusiastic about the school, as were the handful of other students I met who were on-campus doing summer research. The admissions office is also very welcoming and the university does an amazing job awarding merit scholarships to a large percentage of admitted students. These scholarships, coupled with a lower overall cost of attendance, makes PLU an excellent option, particularly for middle class and wealthier families who may not qualify for lots of financial aid elsewhere.

Campus Visit Notes: Washington State University

College:  Washington State University – http://www.wsu.edu/

Location: Pullman, WA

Type of Institution: Public research university

Size: 20,000+ undergraduates, about 30,000 total including all campuses and graduate programs

Admissions Advice: Washington State has a fairly straightforward admissions process using an index of GPA and test scores (this also carries over the scholarship awards).  There are ways for students to be admitted that fall below the criteria, however. They use a rolling admission model with a Jan 31st deadline, so I advise students to apply early and find out within a few weeks. Added bonus: No essays are required for general admission!

Most popular majors: Animal science / agricultural studies majors, business, kinesiology & sport science, hospitality, engineering, journalism. (They have 150+ majors/minors so there is literally something for everyone).

Words to describe students I met: outgoing, full of school spirit, laid-back, welcoming, collaborative

Unique academic aspects: As a land-grant institution, WSU has really excellent programs in agriculture, food science and zoology. They have the only vet school in the state and will soon open a new medical school in Spokane. This is a great launching point for students interested in hands-on research with animals in preparation for graduate programs and fellowships.

My tour guide, a senior in the animal science program, already had one publication under her belt and had been doing research since her freshman year. For the motivated student that isn’t afraid to seek out opportunities, WSU could be a great fit. Students have access to research with less competition from their peers.

Unique social/cultural aspects: School spirit is alive and well at WSU. The football field is beautiful and located in the mix of other campus buildings, bringing the community together to cheer on the Cougs. Just on the other side of the football field are tons of off-campus apartments full of students. It is common for students to live in dorms for freshman year only and then move off-campus, but still close enough to walk.

Colleges that seem similar: University of Oregon, University of Montana,  Boise State, Oregon State University, University of Idaho (just 15 minutes down the street)

Concerns about this college:  Pullman isn’t a metropolis. It is a college town which swells to 35,000 people during the academic year, the majority of whom are students. There is a great little airport nearby but access to bigger city experiences and amenities are quite far away. Additionally, WSU does have a party-school reputation though Greek life represents only 1/4 of students. I’d argue this isn’t anything to be concerned about as it is a large enough university that students of all social scene preferences will find their niche, whether it involves late night video gaming sessions, theater groups or the party scene.

Overall impressions: I really enjoyed my WSU visit! After years of working in admissions at UW, WSU’s sworn enemy, I have a special place in my heart for this “rival” college. My tour guide was among the best I’ve ever had and I was really impressed with the visit program as a whole. I really felt a strong sense of community on campus and around Pullman. And how can you not love a campus tour that ends with some ice cream from the campus creamery? (Seriously. You should try it.)

Campus Visit Notes: Gonzaga University

College:  Gonzaga University – www.gonzaga.edu

Location: Spokane, Washington

Type of Institution: Private Jesuit

Size: 5,500 undergraduates (8,000 with graduate students)

 Admissions Advice:  Admission to Gonzaga is fairly selective, with high averages across GPA, SAT and ACT scores (3.7, 1200, and 27, respectively). Because the college recruits heavily in Seattle, admission representatives are very familiar with Seattle-area high schools and will incorporate course rigor into the holistic review process. The college is also fairly generous with merit scholarships, making it a good option for students who may not qualify for need-based financial aid.

Most popular majors: Business, Psychology, Nursing, Biology

Words to describe students I met: Enthusiastic, full of school spirit, athletic/fit, friendly, outdoorsy, jocks

Unique academic aspects: Gonzaga has a very strong alumni network which yields lots of career opportunities for current Bulldogs. They have a vibrant mentoring program available to students starting freshman year. During my visit, I noticed that the campus was covered in posters for job fairs, resume writing workshops, and even week-long networking trips to Silicon Valley, Seattle and New York City, among other off-site locations. All majors are required to offer internships through their program (including the humanities), either on-campus or in conjunction with local or Seattle businesses.

The college is particularly proud of its popular Business program, and the Accounting major ranks #14 in the country. Gonzaga also offers a range of engineering majors. Students have a senior project requirement where groups of 4-5 students will work together on an issue brought to them by actual businesses, such as Boeing, Microsoft, or smaller Spokane-area companies. This is a great introduction to the team-oriented nature of engineering careers (and can also help students build up their resumes).

Unique social/cultural aspects: I’d always assumed Gonzaga was a larger university based on the men’s basketball program. The Bulldogs consistently make it far in the NCAA tournament, including a run to the Elite Eight this past year. School spirit is huge on campus and really makes it feel like a college with 15,000+ students. However, the school maintains a smaller university feel in the classroom, with small, discussion-based classes as the norm in many majors. In fact, the largest classroom space on campus only holds 49 students!

Colleges that seem similar: Santa Clara University, University of San Diego, Loyola Marymount University, Boston College

Concerns about this college: Tour guides and other students commented that the university still feels like high school in many ways, particularly for students from Jesuit and Catholic high schools in Seattle (O’Dea, Eastside Catholic, Bishop Blanchet, Holy Names, Seattle Prep, etc.). Additionally, there didn’t seem to be as many options and opportunities in the arts for students interested in dance, drama, fine arts, and music. There are minors available in some areas and extracurricular opportunities, but it is definitely more limited than at a liberal arts college or larger university.

Overall impressions: I enjoyed my visit to Gonzaga and was really impressed with the friendliness of students and admissions staff. Though it is a Jesuit university, I wouldn’t hesitate to suggest Gonzaga to non-religious students. There isn’t a church or service requirement, but there are many student-led initiatives that are popular. Students struck me as open-minded and social justice-oriented, but also practical and pragmatic. And the location in the middle of Spokane, a smaller city that serves as a hub of economic activity for the region, means lots of opportunities for students. The area will be further transformed with the addition of Washington State University’s new medical school and that will continue to grow the already strong healthcare industry in the area.

University of Washington application is open: Apply early!

uw building

About two weeks ago, the University of Washington finally opened up its freshman application. Hundreds of overachieving, Type A aspiring Huskies have already submitted the application well ahead of the December 1st deadline. An expected 30,000+ high school seniors will wait until the deadline week to complete the application.

I spent several years in the admissions office at University of Washington and, I can tell you, the weeks leading up to December 1st can be brutal. Not only are counselors returning from months of visiting high schools and meeting students and families at college events, but they are also dealing with a high volume of panicked phone calls and emails about the application. Further complicating the situation is the fact that December 1st is right after the Thanksgiving holiday which, as you may suspect, is a state holiday weekend as well. That wonderful UW counselor you connected with at your high school this fall will probably not be sitting at her desk waiting to answer your call on Black Friday. Likewise, your high school counselor will be enjoying the weekend with their own families instead of a providing you with a copy of your transcript to fill in your course grid.

My #1 piece of advice is this: Submit the UW application before November 15th! Open it up now, take note of your user name and password, and begin filling in the basic information. If you have trouble answering a question, send an email to admissions and they will happily respond within a few days. While there is no statistical advantage to submitting your application early, you do have more time to ask questions and get answers in a timely manner. Plus then you will be able to sit back, relax and enjoy your Thanksgiving break.

Second tip: Be sure to complete the self-reported sections of the application completely and to the best of your ability. Here’s a quote from my amazing former colleague who will be working with prospective students and reviewing applications in the coming months.

“The UW application tries to accommodate applicants who come from a variety of different academic backgrounds.  It’s important to complete the application by the December 1 deadline to the best of your abilities.  You can trust that the UW Admissions staff can usually figure out what the applicant entered, but they will always contact an applicant if anything is unclear or missing.  As long as you submit your application by the December 1st deadline, your application will be reviewed and considered.”   — Sabrina Moss, Lead Counselor for International Student Admission

Sabrina is referring to UW’s self-reported course and grade section of the application in particular. Instead of requesting official transcripts from your current high school, UW requires students to self-report this information to the best of their ability in a course grid. Be sure to obtain a transcript from your high school counselor so you can fill this section in accurately and, as Sabrina mentions, if there are any questions UW admissions will contact you by email for clarification.

And my last tip for success is that aspiring business, computer science or engineering majors should talk about their interest and background in these disciplines in the essay and/or additional comments section of the application. Don’t re-hash your resume entirely, but be sure your passion comes through. UW admits a small number of students directly into these competitive majors by simply checking the box that you are interested in that major on the application. Take this further by detailing your accomplishments and goals in a short 1-2 paragraph essay in the additional comments section. It’s not a perfect system by any means and is still incredibly competitive, especially for computer science, but it is worth a little extra effort for that consideration.

Changes in tuition at Washington’s public universities

UW campus

In case you missed it, Washington state’s public universities are about to do something practically unfathomable in the age of skyrocketing college costs: They are decreasing tuition. Tuition rates for the state’s public four-year universities will decrease by 15-20%, which equates to $1,700 – 2,100 per year, depending on the university. This is welcome news for the thousands of students and families who rely on loans and/or student jobs to pay the tuition bill each year.

Below are two articles with more information on these changes and how this will be rolled out over the coming years.

Seattle Times article

Huffington Post

However, for parents who have invested in the state’s GET program over the last few years, these changes are not necessarily welcome. In response to the tuition decreases, the GET program has been suspended for two years as the state figures out exactly what to do. The state also announced it will be refunding units purchased over the past four years for interested families. Here is a statement from the committee’s most recent meeting with an overview of the refund terms and timeline.

Campus Visit Notes: University of Puget Sound

College: University of Puget Sound – http://www.pugetsound.edu/

Location: Tacoma, Washington

Type of Institution: Private liberal arts college

Admissions Advice: UPS is on the Common Application and does require additional writing samples from students. This year UPS is going test-optional. In lieu of sending the SAT or ACT, students can opt to complete two additional short essays to gauge their college readiness.Like other small liberal arts colleges, cultural fit is important as demonstrated through writing and the optional evaluative interview.

Size: 2,600 students, including about 150 graduate students

Most popular majors: Biology, Psychology, Business, International Politics and Economics, Music

Words to describe students I met: Articulate, confident, athletic, laid-back, friendly

Unique academic aspects: UPS fully embraces the Pacific Rim influence in the Pacific Northwest region and has created both a strong Asian Studies program and unique study abroad opportunity called The Pacific Rim/Asia Study-Travel Program (PRAST). Through this program, a small number of students spend 9 months traveling around 8-9 different countries in Asia along with a professor. The program is offered every three years.

Additionally, the UPS Honors Program is very unique and may not be for every student. The program is designed as more of a Great Books curriculum as opposed to simply a chance to take more advanced courses in smaller groups. Students will tackle some difficult texts and will explore deep questions throughout the program. For more information on what to expect, please visit the Honors Program site here.

Unique social/cultural aspects: Music is big on this campus. UPS is known for a strong formal music program, which translates into lots of informal opportunities for students who want to dabble in lessons and performance groups. This site provides a good overview of the opportunities for UPS students and the surrounding community, while more information on a cappella, theater and other music clubs can be found here.

Colleges that seem similar: Whitman College, Claremont McKenna College, Williams College

Concerns about this college: I didn’t notice a ton of diversity during my short couple of hours wandering around campus. I stopped a few students to ask about this (both ethnic and socioeconomic diversity) and got many comments validating my concern, particularly regarding socioeconomic diversity. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the college is not feasible for a low to middle-income student, but that students should expect less diversity in thought when it comes to socioeconomic class. Further research confirms that this is something the college is actively working on through a diversity council.

Overall impressions: This campus is beautiful! I loved the red brick buildings covered in Ivy, mixed in with some modern construction and open green spaces. Students all seemed to be very happy and friendly wandering around campus; my tour guide was stopped by a friend every two minutes on the tour, suggesting a great sense of community here. Seattle students who want a change of pace but don’t want to go too far from home should definitely consider this gem just a short hour drive from the city. It truly feels like its own little world in the middle of a smaller and more manageable town.