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College Admissions Process: Seminar Review

By WWFHA Staff Writer, 10/02/15, 10:00AM PDT


Presented by WWFHA Pro-Staff, Kiersten Murphy of Murphy College Consultants


Kiersten Murphy of Murphy College Consultants, LLC, presented on the collegiate admissions process on Sunday, September 27 from 10am - 11:30am. The session provided critical information for navigating admissions.

Kiersten says, "It was great to see so many of you at the session.  I hope I was able to shed some light on the college search and application process.  Certainly, if you have further questions, do not hesitate to ask.

As promised, I wanted to share a few highlights of our session, as I know it is difficult to capture all of the information from a PowerPoint."

Highlights for the College Admissions Process Seminar

Advice for 9th, 10th and 11th graders:

1. Do your very best in school. All of your grades from freshman through senior year will appear on your high school transcript. This means that when you apply to colleges your senior year, they will be looking at your grade trend from the very beginning of high school.  Colleges want to see that you have not only challenged yourself, but that you did well – in other words, have an upward grade trend.  Grades are important – but your attitude about learning is key.  Learn for learning’s sake – not for the grade alone.  If you are enrolled in any AP courses in 10th or 11th grades, I recommend that you not only take the AP exam in May, but also sign up to take the SAT Subject Test in June (first Saturday of the month).  Some colleges will require the Subject Tests (2 of your choice – if applying for engineering, typically you need a math and a science).  So if you are taking Chemistry this year, or English Language, you might want to take the associated subject tests.  You can register on the Collegeboard’s website.

2. Get involved – Depth over Breadth.  Now is the time to start exploring ways that you can either get involved in something new, or begin to add depth to an existing extracurricular. Don’t get spread out too thin and try to ‘do it all’, rather, hone in on one or two pursuits that are meaningful to you and seek out leadership positions, awards, honors, etc. Colleges value your depth of commitment and hope that you will continue and contribute in their college community.

Before selecting anything, think about how you could grow in the organization over time. Colleges prefer to see long term commitment in something that speaks to your personality and character, rather than a very short-term experience.  Through this, they have an idea of the type of student you will be at their college.  One hour a week, or regular hours on a monthly basis is always preferred over a one-time event. 

3. Read for fun.  Developing a love for reading is a great way to prepare for the rigors of college.  It is also an excellent way to prepare for the SAT or ACT.  So pick up any old book or magazine and read.

5.  Plan for Test Prep.  You truly have three options.  If you want to move forward, and plan to prep for the current SAT, you would need to start in now and plan to take the December/January test dates.  The SAT is changing in 2016, and it is reported to be harder, and that few juniors will even attempt to take it.  Think too, there will be a learning curve for admissions counselors to even interpret the new results.  So if you want the SAT with its current format, you will need to take it the junior year.  (I would not recommend the SAT in the spring of 2016.)

If you want to do the ACT, I think prepping in the fall/early winter is fine, with a goal to take the February 2016 and April 2016 test dates as a starting place.

So which one?  What I would recommend is that you take both a practice SAT and a practice ACT between now and mid-October.  That way, when you start calling tutors, you can have a discussion about which test might be better based on your given results.  

You do not need to prep for the practice tests.

Some local sources that offer full length practice tests:

PrepNorthwest in Kirkland offers practice tests every weekend - you would just need to get scheduled and pay the nominal fee.

Applerouth also does an occasional free test date.  Some are in Seattle locations and others are online (be sure that you try to simulate a testing environment if working from home.)

Kaplan does it too but I would not recommend them for test prep (just for the practice tests)

I recommend that all of my students work one-on-one with a private, professional SAT or ACT tutor.  Please, promise me that you won’t sign up for a large, impersonal class. 

To register for tests go to (SAT, SAT Subject Tests, AP) or (ACT).

5.  Build Relationships.   Continue to get to know your high school guidance counselor.  It is this person who will be writing one of your college recommendations and will be providing anecdotal information about how you contribute within your high school community.  This person will be writing on your behalf even if you are in Running Start through a community college. You will need at least two teachers that will be willing to write on your behalf for applications.  You will have to get to know them, and vice versa in order to have good letters.  You can not ask a teacher to write a letter from 9th or 10th grades.  The teacher should be from a core subject area – English, math, social studies (history), science or foreign language.  You can ask a third person to write an additional letter – perhaps a DECA, leadership, art or music teacher, especially if it helps to shed light on what you wish to study in college.  A coach is also a great person to ask as they know about your work ethic.

6.  Attend College Fairs.  It is never too early to start exploring possibilities.  The majority of college fairs and open houses happen during the fall and I do recommend attending the NACAC National College Fair on October 16 or 17.  You can visit to register in advance.  I would only encourage 11th and 12th graders to attend.

7.  Demonstrate Interest. Demonstrating interest to your college choices is quite important in the current admissions game.  There are many ways to demonstrate interest in a college including:

  • Sign up for the mailing list – make sure you sign up to be on each college’s mailing lists
  • Visit colleges – taking scheduled tours, attending info sessions and/or participating in open houses
  • Thank you notes – do send a thank you note after you have interviewed with a counselor
  • Meet your counselor – when an admissions counselor visits your high school, drop by to say hi
  • Regional events – attend national college fairs or receptions hosted by the college in your city (if you are on the mailing list, you should be getting invited to these, especially in the fall)
  • Online events – participate in online events where you can interact with admissions counselors
  • Communicate – email and phone counselors with genuine questions
  • Social Media – become a fan on their college Facebook page and follow them on Twitter or Instagram
  • Create a personal account on their website – often schools will track how many times you log in

While it might feel forced or uncomfortable, I guarantee you that the majority of college admission counselors will appreciate your effort and will make a note of it.  It is very hard to deny a student when you have made a personal connection with them over the course of several months.  If you make no effort to form a relationship with the college (i.e. never email the counselor, never meet them, never visit) then the odds are already stacked against you.  I realize that it is very hard to visit all your choices, so emailing is a way to show them that you do very much care about the college and do hope to be accepted. It is your job to initiate this though…and to be genuine about it.  Your effort to connect should begin soon.  There is no reason to wait – hop on the bandwagon!


The following are a few upcoming receptions that I know about – Google them to register in advance:

Tulane University
October 11
Renaissance Seattle

Purdue University
Tuesday, October 13
6:30 PM - 8:00 PM
(check-in begins 30 minutes before the event start time)
North Bellevue Community Center  4063 148th Ave NE  Bellevue, WA

Colleges conducting regional interviews (off the top of my head) in the coming weeks (look on their admission websites to find out when):

  • St. Olaf College
  • Chapman University
  • College of Wooster
  • Marquette University
  • Muhlenberg College
  • University of Rochester
  • Lawrence University

What are the Differences between the College Admissions Tests?

More Information

Thank you again for coming in on a Sunday to learn more about the college process. I think that says a lot about the type of student that you are.

Best wishes,

Kiersten Murphy
Murphy College Consultants