Start your Applications this Summer

Journey Ahead students begin their college applications in the summer before their senior year, because this takes the pressure off of busy students in the fall.

Students can start the Common Application, UC Application, and CSU Applications during the summer, filling in demographic information, reviewing essay/personal insight question prompts, consider essay topics, and generally get a start on this time-consuming process.

Students’ Common Application accounts roll-over on August 1. The UC Application is available on August 1. The CSU Application opens Oct. 1, and requires much less work than the UC Application and the Common Application, as there are no essays or activities to report.

Recent College Admission Scam

As a college admissions consultant who helps families find best fit colleges for their student, and helps students present their best self in their application, I join nearly everyone who is appalled by the recent scandal in which wealthy parents cheated all kids (theirs included) out of fair college admissions.

All of the college admissions consultants I know do this job to help kids find colleges that will fit their educational and career goals, social needs, and the financial ramifications of an escalating college education. Working with students individually is a time consuming labor of love. It is not a high paying field. My peers and I typically add low-income and first-generation families to our rosters every year for free, in an effort to level the playing field for these students.

We do this job because we love our students and want to help them have a great experience in college — get the education they need to prepare for their chosen career, have a social experience they want, and do it affordably.

I got into this business because I noticed that too many families look upon their student’s transition from high school to college as all stress and no joy. In fact, this time in a family’s life cycle should be joyous, as they launch their student out of the nest and into their next step in life. I want to help create this experience for families, rather than the anxiety-filled one most families are expecting.

The vast majority of college admissions consultants are good people who have obtained certification, belong to one or more of three trade associations, and abide by the associations’ ethics and standards. Needless to say, the persons involved in the recent college admissions fraud are bad actors. They are not reflective of your typical college admissions advisor.

If you plan to hire someone to guide this process for your family, please make sure they have the credentials, experience, and ethics, as noted above. And know that we are here to support your family by extending to your child our love, hopes and dreams for their future.


Easy answer: Both, or neither!

Students often ask if they should take the SAT or the ACT. The answer is, they should take both tests one time, then take the test they are most comfortable with a second time.

The tests are slightly different, and one test will stand out for every student. I counsel students to take each test one time. Then prep for the test they prefer — either private one-on-one tutoring, private group tutoring, or free online prep. Free SAT tutoring online is hands down better than free ACT tutoring. SAT’s free online Kahn Academy is excellent for students who are self-starters, and learn well on their own.

Students who have conducted effective prep should expect a 5 - 10% increase in their score on their second attempt. Generally, students who test a third time do no better than the second time, and so I do not recommend a third sitting.

All colleges accept both SAT and ACT, and an increasing number of colleges do not require standardized test scores at all. If a strong student tests poorly, a “test optional” college can be a good option.

Early Decision Applications Continue to Increase

The number of students applying to college Early Decision continues to grow sharply. Last year, 29 percent of high-achieveing, high-income students applied to college Early Decision, while 16 percent of high-achieving low-income students did so.

Early Decision applications have increased over the last several years because most highly selective private colleges and universities accept a higher percentage of ED applicants than regular decision applicants. For example, many of the most competitive institutions admit more than half of their freshman class ED. 
Early Decision applicants are required to attend if accepted Early Admission.

The downside is that ED is binding, meaning that those accepted ED are required to attend.

Early Decision is a smart choice for students who are certain of their first-choice college, and are able to attend no matter the amount of financial aid offered by the college. On the other hand, ED is not a good choice for students who are not sure where they want to attend college, and want or need to compare financial aid offers from colleges that accept them.