Tag Archives: college counseling

Meeting the New Challenges of College Admissions

The college admissions process is constantly evolving. It is much different than it was 10 years ago, even a few years ago. Because of this, it is more important than ever to understand college admission trends, what influences them, and how best to prepare to apply to college.

Tanuja Rathi - Morgan Park AcademyThis year at MPA, we have improved our college counseling curriculum to keep pace with the ongoing demands of the college admission process and keep our students competitive in the applicant pool.

We already have begun to implement some exciting new changes. In eighth grade, we are beginning early college awareness through the use of NextTier College Counseling software. Students will receive assignments that parents and the college counselor can monitor as they progress.

College 102 is now a year-long college counseling class for juniors, while we have added College 103 as a fall semester class to help seniors complete the college application process. We plan to add College 100 and College 101 classes for freshmen and sophomores next year.

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Meet Our Staff: Tanuja Rathi

Tanuja Rathi - Morgan Park Academy

Please help us welcome our new Director of College Counseling, Tanuja Rathi!

Mrs. Rathi combines the business skills developed in her previous career as a management consultant with her experience as a college counselor for Chicago Scholars, where she helped underserved students with the college application process.

A member of the Illinois Association of College Counselors, the American College Counseling Association, and the National Association of College Counselors, she holds an MBA from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and earned her college counseling certificate, with distinction, from UCLA.


Why did you choose to work at Morgan Park Academy?

I strongly believe in the MPA education and how it helps prepare students for the future. My husband and my two oldest daughters are MPA alumni and I have one more daughter who will graduate in 2018. I have seen the value of the MPA education and how it has prepared them for college and beyond. I am excited to be a part of this wonderful faculty.
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Upcoming College Fair at MPA

This year we will be holding our second annual Spring College Fair (open to the public) on Wednesday, April 19th from 2:15 to 4:15 pm. Last year, over forty colleges/universities participated and provided families with information about their schools and the college application process. While this was an evening event last year, to encourage attendance, we decided to hold part of the fair during the school day this year so our freshman, sophomores, and juniors could attend this event during last period. We invite parents and families to the fair once the school day is complete, starting at 3:00 pm.  

2017-spring-college-fairLike last year, we have over forty colleges/universities who have signed up to attend. Some out-of-state schools participating are: Claremont McKenna College, Drexel University, Emory University, Macalester College, Marquette University, Saint Louis University, Saint Mary’s College, Saint Olaf College, and University of Wisconsin. Some in-state schools are: DePaul University, Dominican University, Illinois Wesleyan, Loyola University, NIU, School of the Art Institute, SIUC/SIUE, and University of Chicago. We encourage all of our students and families to take full advantage of this event on campus.  

Many of our current and previous senior students have noted the importance of developing relationships with the college representatives who visit MPA or whom they meet on their college visits. Admissions representatives that visit are often a part of the admissions process, so developing connections with these individuals can be beneficial. Many students are able to reach out directly to the admissions representatives they meet with any questions they may have during the college application process. This guidance can be very helpful.

College fairs can additionally serve as a “one stop shop” to compare and contrast schools that a student may be interested in, prior to deciding which schools to visit. At a fair, don’t forget to prioritize the questions you would like to ask. Ask about the academic program you are interested in to assess your level of interest in the programs offered and the school. It is important to learn if the academic environment is what you are looking for as well. The school environment includes the size of the school, the type of school (a small liberal arts school, a large university, or an arts school, to name just a few), the average class size, teaching style, and the academic rigor of the school as well. Inquire about the admissions process; are there any tips the representative can offer that would improve your application? Find out about student life on campus. Always include discussions of financial aid and scholarships, internships, and support services following graduation.    

At this point, I am confident I have convinced you to attend the fair! I look forward to seeing you there.


By Karen Horvath

Mrs. Horvath is Morgan Park Academy’s College Counselor.

“Turning the Tide” – A Shift in College Admissions

Making Caring Common, a project of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, published a report called “Turning the Tide” in January, 2016 in an effort to ignite the process of what has been viewed as much-needed change in the college application review process. This report, which was developed from the feedback of admissions deans and leaders from top colleges, school counselors and principals, character education experts, and other educational organizations, identified three distinct goals. These goals included: increased ethical involvement and community service amongst student applicants, a decrease in elevated and excessive achievement pressure, and creating equality within the application process for economically disadvantaged students.

karenblogSimilar to the values of Morgan Park Academy, the report cited the need for significant and continued commitment to individual and group-based community service. Service-related endeavors should strengthen a student’s appreciation of diversity and enhance a student’s sense of civic responsibility. In this way, college admissions should acknowledge the necessity to place more emphasis on a student’s character. Personal investment and consistent commitment to service through which a student can demonstrate learning on an emotional and ethical level is important when a student is defining who they are to college admission committees.

Family contributions are a strongly suggested inquiry on college applications, as many students partake in family commitments and responsibilities that current applications do not have an area in which to properly note. Family obligations often consume the time of many adolescents, so the need to acknowledge students for their commitment to their families is important in terms of personal character. Social awareness, consideration, and contribution on a student’s behalf is highlighted as an added factor that is imperative to solicit. Rather than demonstrating bouts of service endeavors, a student should demonstrate regular commitment to social good.

In response to the need to decrease the stress and pressure associated with college applications, redefine achievement, and create equality in the process, the report elaborated on the importance of several factors. First, there should be a shift toward quality of extracurricular activities over quantity.  Similarly, a new emphasis on consistent commitment and success in academically challenging courses, such as AP/IB courses, in established subject areas. Therefore, individualizing a student’s course selection to cater to academic strengths and interests (but also to find a balance so as not to overload a student) should take precedence over the number of advanced courses a student takes. Honesty and authenticity on college applications should override “overcoaching.” Additionally, college admission offices should work to reduce the pressure associated with standardized tests scores. Finally, there is the need for not just college admissions officers, but college counselors and parents as well, to emphasize that there is an abundance of excellent colleges throughout the country that lead to student happiness and success, not just a select few.

As a college counselor, I feel that the recommendations listed by Making Caring Common are headed in the right direction. Although it will be a gradual process, the shift is necessary. Creating equality, encouraging elevated commitment to service and common good, and a pull from excessive academic achievement could decrease the anxiety associated with this process and allow students to further demonstrate their true selves. With the support of influential people within the college arena and collaborative efforts, some changes are currently being made on college applications in response to the cited recommendations.



By Karen Horvath

Mrs. Horvath is Morgan Park Academy’s College Counselor.

Finding the Right College Fit

With an abundance of post-secondary options available to students, finding a college that fits each student’s needs can seem like a daunting task. It is important to determine what factors are most significant in order to begin the process of narrowing down one’s final college list. Every institution will offer a varied experience, so finding the college that each student will thrive in, both academically and personally, is individual to the student. This process includes self-reflection and proper research and knowledge of each school.

Karen HorvathAcademically-based factors to consider include: admission requirements, majors offered, student-faculty ratio, typical class size, accreditation of the institution, and internship opportunities. What type of learning environment are you seeking out? What type of teaching styles are employed? Even if you are undecided about your college major, you want to make sure that the college you choose offers a wide variety of majors, and gives you the opportunity to explore possible majors through course offerings.

Environmental factors can play a vital role in the college selection process. These factors include:  location, distance from home, size of student body, physical size of campus, school setting (i.e. urban or rural), religious affiliation, diversity, and type of school (public vs. private, co-ed vs. same-sex). Do you want to go to a school that is similar to MPA or are you seeking a different experience? Would you like to explore your independence further by going to a school that is far away, or would you like to have familial resources nearby? While public institutions can often be less expensive than private institutions, private institutions may offer each student more financial aid opportunities.

With college expenses continually on the rise, financial inquiries are necessary to consider, such as: tuition, room and board, application fees, deposits, percent of student population receiving aid, scholarships offered, and part-time employment opportunities. Is 100 percent of the financial need of each student met? Are scholarships merit-based, need-based, or both? Financial aid deadlines and appropriate forms to complete can vary by institution, so knowledge of each institution’s requirements is imperative.

Some additional factors to consider are: campus housing, food plans, clubs/organizations, Greek life, study abroad programs, athletics/intramurals, and alumni career services. Aside from academics, you will be engaging socially on campus as well. You want to make sure that each school provides the social and learning opportunities that you are looking for. These opportunities are a part of the educational experience.

Once all of these factors are prioritized, each student should research each school to determine college fit. Students can research online, visit with college representatives at MPA, attend college fairs and open houses, and arrange a campus visit. Since this is a lot of information to digest, my role as the College Counselor is to be a helpful resource to all students through what could be a daunting process. The MPA college counseling program provides students with the necessary tools to transition successfully to the next level by guiding each student through the appropriate steps of the college search, application, and selection process. A thorough evaluation process will lead to the most happiness with one’s decisions down the line.

By Karen Horvath

Mrs. Horvath is our College Counselor.

What Colleges Are Looking For: MPA College Counselor, Karen Horvath, Explains

A commonly asked question by students and parents alike is, “What are colleges looking for in an applicant?”  While most often there is no set formula or specific list that each college provides, there are common themes that are important to consider. Through the college application and supplemental materials, students are provided the opportunity to demonstrate their uniqueness, and to exhibit what they can contribute to that particular college campus. Karen Horvath

Colleges will view a student’s transcript (semester grades for each year within high school) and a student’s standardized test scores (ACT and/or SAT). Students should be able to demonstrate academic success in challenging courses. Students should challenge themselves as much as they can without causing their overall GPA to suffer. College admissions staff will look at grade trends and academic consistency. They may look for evidence of improvement if a student has exhibited academic deficiency early on.

A college application may require the submission of one or multiple essays, or a personal statement. Essay questions and topics can vary from college to college, but overall college admissions representatives want a student to exhibit his/her personality within the essay. Thus, students should write about a topic that is meaningful to them. If students have faced obstacles within their high school career, the essay may be an appropriate time to address those obstacles and reflect on the steps taken to overcome them.

Colleges also request letters of recommendation. Typically, this will include two teacher letters of recommendation and a letter of recommendation from the College Counselor. Letters of recommendation offer perspective on what a student is like from an external point of view.  Recommendations can touch on academic strengths, leadership, involvement, and personal qualities. It is important that students develop relationships with high school faculty during their high school career to insure the faculty member has adequate opportunity to get to know the student and provide a comprehensive letter.

Finally, and what is increasingly noted, colleges are looking for perspective on a student’s character. College admissions staff gain this perspective by asking for a description of extracurricular involvement, summer jobs/activities, and volunteer work/community service.  Within these areas, colleges will look for leadership, a sense of social responsibility, commitment, and special talents/abilities. It is important for students to be able to articulate what they have learned from each experience and why they chose to be a part of that particular activity.

Most often, colleges are assuming a holistic approach to admissions. They are looking for a well-rounded student who exhibits both academic success and involvement in school and community.  Students should demonstrate genuineness and honesty on college applications. They should try their best to let their true selves show.

By Karen Horvath

Mrs. Horvath is our College Counselor.

Don’t Give Up Now! Why Senior Year Grades Still Matter


“Senioritis” is a well-established concept for students looking ahead to high school graduation next spring, but as I’ve seen in my years on both the college and high school sides of the college admission process, students can’t afford to simply coast to the finish, even once they start receiving admission offers.

Senior year grades can be a critical piece of the admission process. For students applying under early decision or early action, quarter grades may be requested as college admission offices look to confirm an upward grade trend or to assess your performance in an increasingly demanding curriculum. And while some schools ask for quarter grades, they’re also looking at the full semester, realizing that quarter grades might only include two or three major assignments or tests and that semester grades will be most reflective of your abilities.

College and university admission offices nearly always request a student’s mid-year transcript. For those applying under regular decision or those deferred from early to regular, performance through fall semester senior year is of utmost importance. Grade-point averages through this seventh semester might also be used to determine merit-based scholarships, so do not back down!

Finally, receiving an admission letter is no reason to slack off, either. Schools might still request updated transcripts, and they can rescind offers of admission if a student’s academic performance declines significantly. Remember, a final high school transcript is a required document to enroll in college.

Keep pushing, Morgan Park Academy students, and good luck on semester exams!

By Theresa Wright

Mrs. Wright is our College Counselor. An award-winning member of the Illinois Association for College Admission Counseling, she has 14 years of experience on both the college and high school sides of the college admission process. Her Q&A profile is available here.