Posts Tagged ‘college admissions’

College Admissions Advisors Answer Questions on “Rigor” for High School Students

Monday, October 29th, 2012

College admissions advisors often recommend that students take the most ‘rigorous’ course load possible. But what do terms like “rigorous course load” mean and how rigorous should a student’s schedule be?  The expert college advisors at International College Counselors answered some answers to these elusive questions.

1. How Do Admission Officials Weigh High School Rigor?

Comparisons are made when evaluating students.  Admissions officers weigh everything from backgrounds around the world to the context of each high school.  In other words, there is no one deciding, defining scale for “rigor”.

What admissions officers will agree upon is that students should take the most challenging course load that they can do well in, while still having enough time to show the deep and passionate involvement in activities that the colleges seek.

“As greater numbers of students are challenging themselves by engaging in rigorous, college-level AP and IB course work in high school, colleges raise their standards.  Students need to stay on top of recruiting trends in order to be competitive,” said Mandee Heller Adler, founder of International College Counselors.

2.  How many Advanced Placement courses should a student take in high school?

It depends on the student, the high school being attended and the desired college.

Students can take zero to two AP courses and get admitted into a good college. Others can take five or six AP courses a year and get rejected from Harvard.

How to decide?

For the most selective colleges, students need to take the most rigorous curriculum available within their own high school.

If a student is home schooled or the high school does not offer AP courses or enough AP courses, know that colleges are aware of different situations that may restrict what courses can be taken. What they really expect that students excel in the opportunities to which they do have access.

However, students should be aware that they can take AP classes online.  Colleges know this too.

Another option is to enroll in classes at a nearby college or take online learning courses to supplement your regular high school work.  You can even earn college credit at the same time.

3. Which are better IB classes or AP classes?

IB stands for International Baccalaureate which is an advanced high school diploma program. AP stands for Advanced Placement.  In the IB program, students who pass six exams can sometimes enter college as a sophomore.  (Note: check with each school because policies differ).  Both curriculums have merit. One is not better than the other. But once again, the student needs to take the most rigorous curriculum offered at his/her school.

4.  Which is better: an A in the regular course or a B in the honors course?

The most accurate answers is: An A in the honors course.

This is how the joke goes, but it’s the truth.

Colleges like to see students challenging themselves.  So the direct answer is: A ‘B’ in an honors course is better that an ‘A’ in regular.  A ‘B’ in an AP course is better than the ‘A’ in honors.

Colleges are looking for students who push themselves, are intellectually curious and are interested in learning. More demanding courses are a reflection of this.

However, what a student should take depends on the student.  What a student must be careful to do is not overreach. Every student should take the most challenging courses he or she can perform well in. It does not help to take AP courses and get a “C.”  Students who take AP must also look towards passing the AP exam.

The worst thing a student can do is take honors courses and then switch to easier courses later in their high school career in order to boost GPA.  A warning to students:  Do not catch “senioritis!”

5.  What courses do colleges want to see?

There are very few situations in which the appearance or absence of any one particular class would determine a student’s college future. But, please be careful:  Students do need to meet all the prerequisite of the colleges they are applying to.  Some require a certain number or years of math, English and foreign language.  And, some schools require certain math levels (such as pre-calculus) for consideration.

Overall, colleges want to see courses that tell a story.  They want to see that a student has pursued his or her interests and have taken a balanced set of challenging classes.

As Yale puts it “We encourage you to pursue your intellectual interests, so long as it is not at the expense of your program’s overall rigor or your preparedness for college.”

A few good questions from Yale for weighing your course selection for the upcoming year:

• Am I taking a well-balanced academic program that will provide me with a good foundation for college?
• Am I prepared to take college-level math, writing, and science courses?
• Do I feel challenged by the courses that I am taking?
• Am I seeking challenge or avoiding it?


The fact is, admissions professionals are well-trained to identify “rigor” in the entire transcript and not just courses.

If you are a client of International College Counselors, contact one of our college advisors on what courses are most appropriate for your high school student.  Other students should talk to their high school counselor.

This year, college advisors at International College Counselors helped more than 200 students find, apply to and gain acceptance into the college of their dreams.  The expert college counselors at International College Counselors are dedicated to helping students and their families successfully navigate the college application process.

For more information on International College Counselors or to contact an expert college counselor, please visit


International College Counselors provides expert college counseling on undergraduate and graduate college admissions, financial aid, tuition, essays, and college applications to domestic and international students.

The college counseling and college coaching services are tailored to address the goals, needs, and dreams of each student. Mandee Heller Adler, founder of International College Counselors, is a graduate of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and also received an MBA from Harvard Business School. International College Counselors’ achievements include being recognized as one of South Florida’s Top 100 Small Businesses in 2012.

International College Counselors has offices in New York, New York; White Plains, New York; Boston, Massachusetts; Miami Beach, Florida; Miami, Florida; Coral Gables, Florida; Palm Beach, Florida; Boca Raton, Florida; Medellin, Colombia and Caracas, Venezuela.

Florida Virtual School (FLVS) Clubs

Sunday, July 31st, 2011

Online education isn’t just a solitary pursuit anymore. Now students enrolled full-time or part-time in Florida Virtual School (FLVS) have many opportunities to explore interests outside their classes, meet other students, and experience “school” life.

FLVS offers virtual “clubs”
Hundreds of Florida Virtual School students have the opportunity to “virtually” participate in clubs and other extracurricular activities. Florida’s range of activities outside the online classroom includes Future Business Leaders of America, Science Club, Spanish Honor Society, Model UN Club, Newspaper Club and more.

As a member of the FLVS Science Club, for example, students have participated in Earth Day activities, attended local science fairs, written articles about environmental issues, and participated in field trips and competitions like the Florida State Science Olympiad.

Online clubs and groups are only open to FLVS middle school and high school students who are active in at least one course. Students in grades 6-12 are eligible for part-time virtual school enrollment.

This means if a club is very important to your student and it is not offered at his or her school, your student can enroll in a virtual class and join.

For those unfamiliar with virtual schools, in short, virtual schools are distance education schools run by the public school system. They offer instruction through web-based applications that students complete at home. They are responsible for any state testing requirements and the virtual school keeps regular records of academic achievement.

Florida Virtual School offers education for students in grades K-12. This school is funded by the state, and does not charge tuition.

Virtual schools are held to the same high standard as regular public schools. Instructors are certified teachers who work only for the virtual school, or work for the virtual school as part of their contract with the school district.

To allay any confusion, virtual schools are not homeschools. Virtual schools consider students to be public school students and get state money for their enrollment.

For more information on FLVS clubs, click here.

For more information on Florida Virtual School, click here.

International College Counselors

International College Counselors provides expert college counseling on undergraduate and graduate college admissions, financial aid, tuition, essays, and college applications. Mandee Heller Adler, college admissions consultant and Founder of International College Counselors tailors her college counseling and college coaching services to address the goals, needs, and dreams of each student. Our college advising company works with domestic and international students. Let us help you make the best decisions in choosing, getting into, and paying for college

How Early is Too Early to Study for the SAT?

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

Freshmen and Sophomores:
When should you start studying for the SAT and ACT?
a. Now
b. Immediately
c. Forthwith
d. All of the above. 

Answer: d.   For duh.
It’s never too early to start studying for the SAT or ACT.  Do not plan on cramming for these critical tests.  These tests are scored on a curve and students are taking the tests world-wide.
What students don’t realize is that there are many types of study materials available.  Some are even fun and most students don’t know all these options exist. 
Online you can find crosswords and other games.  If your student likes to read, there are mystery books, vampire novels, classic literature paperbacks, vocabulary cartoons, manga comics and a few potboilers designed to strengthen vocabulary.   There are also the flash cards.  If your student is an audio learner, or so busy that bath time is his or her only free time to add another activity, there are rap songs and rock songs that have been written as SAT and ACT prep as well.  There are also many phone apps available.  Even on Twitter they can find SAT tutors offering a word a day. 
There are a number of different books written to help students tackle the math sections of the SAT and ACT, too.  Head to your local bookstore or hop online with your child to find the books that most appeal to you.  While the test is always the same, different authors take different approaches.
Tutoring or test prep works for many students. Contact one of our expert college counselors and we will give you names and numbers of recommended SAT and ACT experts to call.

Decision making after the thick envelopes

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

The envelopes are in.

If you have more than one thick envelope in your hand you’re now in the driver’s seat. The colleges have taken their sweeeeet time choosing you, and now it’s your turn to choose them. They’ve given you the month of April to make your choice. Far beyond the glossy paper of the brochures, here are some things you should consider:

Economics. It’s hard to deny that this may be a factor for many students. If you’ve been offered a generous financial aid package or a scholarship, it’s going to be hard to ignore this “bonus”. However, the price tag may not be so much a factor in some cases. The Ivies and a small number of other schools across the country have policies that allow students to meet the full need of students and allow them to attend irrespective of their ability to pay.

Fit. Where do you feel like you will fit in best? Some students thrive at universities where the city itself plays an important role in one’s overall education. Cities included on this list include New York and Boston and, as you can imagine, the cultural and internship opportunities are enormous. However, city schools tend to be more impersonal and cities aren’t as conducive to a school community atmosphere. Residential campus schools like The University of Florida in Gainesville or Williams College pride themselves on providing everything you need right there on campus, from cultural activities to social life. They have more of a community atmosphere.

Academics. Do you have an idea of what you want to do in the future? Then you need a school that offers a major or program that will allow you to explore that option to fullest. Also be aware that there can be real differences in the course of study at various places. Some schools like Columbia University and the University of Chicago require students to take a core curriculum. The mandatory courses can take up to two years to complete. Open curriculum schools, like Amherst, Brown and New College, have no required courses. Instead they require that students take one of a list of first-year seminars. Guidelines and advisors at these schools help students with their course choices.

Culture. Michael Roth, president of Wesleyan College presents this consideration excellently:

“The evolution of student culture over many years that comes to define the way a place feels to the young men and women who spend these transitional years on campus. Students – not teachers and officials – make that culture. At Duke, for example, there are extraordinary programs and deep research going on. But over several weeks of the spring semester (especially this year), it’s Blue Devil basketball frenzy that takes over campus culture. At Middlebury, there is currently an energetic student debate about the meal plan, which many students see as a defining element in their campus experience. At USC, the entertainment industry seeps into the fabric of the place, even when the subject areas are quite distant from Hollywood. At Wesleyan, the students have created vibrant music and film contexts that seem to fuel independent rock and hip-hop on the one hand, and popular film and TV on the other. Although most students here study neither music nor film, the energy of these areas percolates around campus.”

Only you will know what is truly important to you. What this college counselor suggests is that you create a list of all the questions you want answered and then you go visit the school. If you’ve already visited the schools, then visit your top two choices again. Take a good hard look at the school. Can you see yourself fitting into the culture? Do you feel comfortable? This is going to be your home away from home for the next 4 years.

Specific questions you may want to ask if you haven’t already: How hard is it to get into the classes you want? How small or big are the classes? Are there internships, and how does the school help students prepare for life after college whether that means career placement or help with graduate and professional programs? Does the school offer the athletic opportunities you want to participate in or cheer on? What will it mean to be an alumnus of George Washington University rather than the University of Miami? College counselors can help guide you to the right decision but ultimately, you should be looking for the campus energy that matches your own.

No doubt about it. Choosing your college is a big decision. Congratulations from International College Counselors to all the students offered this decision to make.

Reach deep down inside and make the best decision for you!

Mandee Heller Adler

International College Counselors

College Admissions: FACTS every high schools student should know part 2

Wednesday, May 20th, 2009

Fact: Early Decision is still the “easiest” way to get into a top school
Rationale: If a student wants to go, he/ she will apply early
What you should do: Don’t wait until December to choose a school- you’ll miss the Nov 1 deadlines!
Fact: Money talks
Rationale: Schools are struggling financially and many (note- not all) are considering ability to pay when making admissions decisions
What you should do: If you don’t think you will get aid, do not apply for financial aid.  Parents can call financial aid offices to see if they are eligible in advance of sending in applications.
Fact: Science budgets are booming, and applicants (in particular FEMALES) are still not expressing interest in their applications. (I had two top admissions officers say to me- “if you have a female interested in science, we want them to consider our school!)
Rationale: As finance goes down, attention to engineering and the sciences is going up

What you should do: If science is a strength or interest, be sure to include it on your application

Mandee Heller Adler, Founder and Principal of International College Counselors           


Wednesday, May 20th, 2009

“Congratulations on being nominated to attend the National Young Leaders Conference in Washington, D.C.”, reads the fancy script on the expensive feeling card complete with gold seal.   The card promises  “lifetime advantage” and valuable resume padding.  It’s hard to miss the words “elite”, “distinguished,” and “select.”
The letter is a marketing scam. These particular leadership conferences won’t enhance your college applications any more or less than that art club you joined but never attended.
Your child will meet other kids who are interested in government, attend workshops, hear speakers, and sightsee, but getting invited isn’t an “honor”. College admissions officers and college advisors are aware that attendance for most students depends on their ability to pay.
Solicitations for programs like these begin filling mailboxes, virtual and real, as soon as students reach middle school, and continue coming through college. Dozens of messages may be sent from one program, reminding you of enrollment deadlines and offering testimonials from participants and fundraising tips.  
According to the New York Times, The company that organized the conference, a direct-mail powerhouse called the Congressional Youth Leadership Council, runs an alphabet soup of such conferences that it says are attended by 50,000 students a year. It solicits recommendations from teachers and alumni of previous conferences, and it culls names from mailing lists, for which the council paid $263,000 in 2006 alone.
Other companies in this business include: the National Student Leadership Conference, People to People Ambassador Programs, Leadership Classroom, Envision, and the Congressional Youth Leadership Council.

Personally, it seems my name has ended up on someone’s list as well, and in the last week alone, I’ve fielded Congratulatory calls from America’s Who’s Who, the Cambridge Who’s Who, the princeton Who’s Who, and a couple of others.  And, for a mere $200-$900 dollars, I can have a plaque on my wall, a trophy, or a leather bound book in my office.  🙂
Mandee Heller Adler, Founder and Principal of International College Counselors 


International College Counselors
3107 Stirling Road, Suite 208
Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33312 USA
(954) 414-9986

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