Oprah’s Commencement Address

As we all know, this is an unusual graduation season. Students and their families are trying to find ways to celebrate this milestone.  Many notable speakers celebrated this year’s graduates in virtual online addresses  We’d like to share Oprah Winfrey’s words from Friday, May 15th with you here.

“Hello everyone. I know you may not feel like it, but you are indeed the chosen class for such a time as this, the class of 2020. You’re also a united class, the pandemic class, that has the entire world striving to graduate with you. Of course this is not the graduation ceremony you envisioned. You’ve been dreaming about that walk across the stage, your family and friends cheering you on: ‘Whoop, whoop!’ The caps flung joyously in the air.

But even though there might not be pomp because of our circumstances, never has a graduating class been called to step into the future with more purpose and vision, passion and energy and hope. Your graduation ceremony is taking place with so many luminaries celebrating you on the world’s Facebook stage, and I’m just honored to join them and salute you.

You know, the word ‘graduate’ comes from the Latin ‘gradus,’ which means, ‘a step toward something.’ And in the early fifteenth century, ‘graduation’ was a term used in alchemy to mean ‘a tempering or refining.’ Every one of us is now being called to graduate, to step toward something even though we don’t know what. Every one of us is likewise now being called to temper the parts of ourselves that must fall away, to refine who we are, how we define success, and what is genuinely meaningful. And you, the real graduates on this day, you will lead us.

I wish I could tell you I know the path forward. I don’t. There is so much uncertainty. In truth, there always has been. What I do know is that the same guts and imagination that got you to this moment, all those things are the very things that are going to sustain you through whatever is coming. It’s vital that you learn and we all learn to be at peace with the discomfort of stepping into the unknown. It’s really OK to not have all the answers. The answers will come for sure if you can accept not knowing long enough to get still, and stay still long enough for new thoughts to take root in your more quiet, deeper, truer self. The noise of the world drowns out the sound of you. You have to get still to listen.

So can you use this disorder that COVID-19 has wrought? Can you treat it as an uninvited guest that’s come into our midst to reorder our way of being? Can you, the class of 2020, show us not how to put the pieces back together again, but how to create a new and more evolved normal? A world more just, kind, beautiful, tender, luminous, creative, whole? We need you to do this, because the pandemic has illuminated the vast systemic inequities that have defined life for too many for too long. For poor communities without adequate access to healthcare, inequality is a preexisting condition. For immigrant communities forced to hide in the shadows, inequality is a preexisting condition. For incarcerated people with no ability to social distance, inequality is a preexisting condition. For every person burdened by bias and bigotry, for every black man and woman living in their American skin, fearful to even go for a jog, inequality is a preexisting condition.

You have the power to stand for, to fight for and vote for healthier conditions that will create a healthier society. This moment is your invitation to use your education to begin to heal our afflictions by applying the best of what you’ve learned in your head and felt in your heart. This moment has shown us what Dr. King tried to tell us decades ago. He understood that we ‘are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.’ That’s what he said. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. If humanity is a global body, every soul is a cell in that body. And we are being challenged as never before to keep the global body healthy by keeping ourselves healthy in mind, in body, and spirit.

As all the traditions affirm, the deepest self-care is at once caring for the human family and we see this so clearly with essential workers. Look who turns out to be essential: teachers, your teachers, healthcare workers, of course. The people stocking grocery shelves, the cashiers, the truck drivers, food providers, those who are caring for your grandparents, those who clean the places where we work and shop and carry out our daily lives. We are all here because they, at great and profound risk, are still providing their essential service. What will your essential service be? What really matters to you?

The fact that you’re alive means you’ve been given a reprieve to think deeply about that question. How will you use what matters in service to yourself, your community and the world? For me, it’s always been talking and sharing stories. For you? Well that’s for you to discover. And my hope is that you will harness your education, your creativity, and your valor, your voice, your vote, reflecting on all that you’ve witnessed and hungered for, all that you know to be true and use it to create more equity, more justice and more joy in the world. To be the class that commenced a new way forward, the class of 2020: Bravo, bravo, bravo, bravo.”

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AP Exam Schedule

AP test takers, be sure to check College Board’s revised AP exam schedule to confirm your test times and instructions. As all students worldwide will be taking tests at the same time, look for your time zone in the table to double check your exam start time.

There have been reports of students having difficulties submitting their exams before time ran out. Makeup test dates have also been posted and should be consulted for those who want to retake their exam.

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Class of 2021: Your Application Process

Colleges and universities are making ongoing changes to their admissions requirements in response to the corona virus pandemic. Juniors, your college process is going to look significantly different than you had anticipated.

Testing requirements and schedules have and continue to change. Dozens of schools have announced they will be test optional for the Class of 2021. In addition, College Board and ACT have cancelled test dates and added new ones. For now, College Board has added a September 26 test in addition to the previously scheduled tests on August 29, October 3, November 7, and December 5. Students can get early access to register for August, September, and October if they’re already registered for June and/or are in the high school class of 2021 and don’t have SAT scores.

ACT has announced that it will offer June 13 and July 18 as scheduled, and will provide make-up tests on June 20 and July 25. Fall test dates will be offered as scheduled on September 12, October 24 and December 12.

In addition, both services may offer remote digital testing. Be sure to check both testing websites frequently for changes to their schedules.

AP exams will be offered online on your computer, tablet or smartphone. If you prefer to hand write your responses, you will be allowed do so if submitted with a photo. Exam dates and portfolio due dates have changed— be sure you have the most up to date schedules.

Your school may have announced changes in their grading system for this semester. Pass/fail evaluations should not impact your GPA. If you were hoping this semester was going to raise your GPA, this is a good talking point for your applications. If your school is opting to issue A’s to all students, colleges and universities will be made aware, so, in the end any impact this might have on your GPA may be discounted.

Given the changes to these objective components of your future applications, schools will be looking even harder at your overall profile. How will you demonstrate who you are? Open the Common App to sign up, if you haven’t already done so, and review the essay prompts. Start thinking about what you’d like to write about. The Activities Section is where you can highlight your interests and extracurricular involvement. Is there anything else  you’ll want to add to this part of your application?

As this crisis evolves, both high schools and colleges will continue to respond. Stay in touch with your guidance counselor to understand the impact these changes will have on your college application process. Feel confident that you will still have the opportunity to present your best self when it comes to apply.

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How To Make Your Decision In These Uncertain Times

Seniors, we understand you’re facing a big decision.The world of college admissions is undergoing lots of changes which will impact how you evaluate your options. There could be many changes in your world including financial, family or personal, causing you to revisit your options at this time.

A vast number of schools have extended their decision deadline, so check with the schools you are considering to confirm. As the current situation continues to unfold, schools will  make additional changes to their policies. Be sure to check your email regularly for correspondence from the schools to which you’ve been accepted, review school websites regularly and reach out to your admissions reps. Although campuses are closed, admissions and financial aid reps are still available to answer your questions.  You can contact them by email or arrange to have a video chat.

Have a conversation with your parents to re-evaluate what your family is comfortable spending for your college education.  If your current financial aid package is insufficient or you had not originally applied for financial aid, but now are in need of some financial assistance, speak with the financial aid rep at each of the schools you are considering to discuss your situation. On April 25, 2020, in his Your Money column in the The New York Times, Ron Lieber talks about new developments in the world of financial aid and identifies new services available to help families shop for aid (both merit and need based) and also appeal for more money from schools that have already offered funds.

As we write this, there is much discussion about how and when campuses will reopen.  Colleges are monitoring the situation very closely in order to make the best decisions possible to keep their students and campus community safe. On April 21, 2020, in the Wall Street Journal, Doulas Belkin and Melissa Korn discuss how colleges are going to make decisions regarding the timing and process of reopening. Administrators are working out a variety of scenarios and it seems they will most likely hold off on making a decision as long as possible to more accurately evaluate the status of the pandemic as we get closer to fall.

We know this is a very difficult time.  Stay in touch with your schools and keep a close watch on new developments, so you can make the best choice possible.






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Decision Time

In the midst of this unusual time, your college decisions process is going to be very different than you had expected. Instead of college visits, you’ll be relying on virtual tours, notes your may have taken previously and conversations with current students and/or recent graduates. Although campuses are closed for tours and classes are being held online, admissions and financial aid reps are available to answer your questions. While you’re reviewing your choices, it’s important to understand what is expected of you as you complete this process.

If you’ve been admitted, congratulations— you’re in! If you’ve received more than one acceptance, look back on any notes you may have taken during your college search and reach out to any current students you know. If you visited a school, try to remember how you felt while you were on campus. Take a virtual tour of all the schools you’re considering.

Meet your prospective classmates online. Think about what’s important to you, including price, financial aid, distance, programs, size and spirit, and compare one school to another. Make a pro/con list to help organize your thoughts and ask your parents for their feedback. Consult your guidance counselor as well.

An offer of admission requires your response and deposit by a specific deadline, usually May 1st. Review your acceptance package carefully. If you’ve received an offer for financial aid, make sure you understand the details. If you have any questions, reach out to the financial aid office for answers. Finally, submit all the required documents and information by the  due date.

If you’ve been waitlisted, there’s still a chance you may be admitted. Neither acceptance or rejection, this outcome requires your immediate attention. There are four things you should take care of as soon as possible:

  1. You will not be placed on the list automatically, so send in the required response card required to put yourself on the waitlist by the deadline, but preferably as soon as possible. .
  2. If you require financial aid, contact the school to ask whether aid will be available if you’re admitted from the waitlist.
  3. Contact your admission rep, by phone, email or handwritten note to express your continued interest to be admitted and to offer to provide any additional information in support of your candidacy. Update them about any new achievements not included in your file. If this is truly your top choice, let your admission rep know that if you’re admitted you’ll definitely attend.
  4. Talk to your guidance counselor and ask him or her to reach out to the school rep on your behalf if they feel it’s appropriate.

While the Admission Office may provide you with information about prior years’ waitlists,  the number of students admitted varies from year to year. Waitlist decisions may arrive after deposits are due, so in the meantime, evaluate any other choices you may have and send in your deposit by the May 1 due date. Deposits are non-refundable, so if you’re admitted from a waitlist and choose to attend that school, you’ll forfeit the deposit you sent to the other school.

Some colleges offer delayed admission but not until the second semester or even the following fall.  If you are considering this option, what will you do during that time?

Options vary from school to school and may include participating in a special program, spending a semester abroad, attending another college or university, volunteering or traveling. If the school you’re considering will not accept transfer credits from another college or university, you will need to talk to a counselor about whether it would be possible to catch up so that you may graduate with your class.  If not, make sure you’re comfortable delaying your graduation.

Take the time to evaluate your options so that you make the choice that’s best for you.

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Change in Test Dates

In response to the situation surrounding the coronavirus, College Board and ACT have announced test cancellations and plans for future test dates.

The May 2nd SAT has been cancelled. Check College Board’s website for updates on future test dates.

ACT has rescheduled its April 4th test date to June 13th across the US. Students registered for the April 4th test will receive an email from ACT with more details.

While these test date changes are disappointing and disruptive to your plans, use this extra time to your advantage. Make full use of free online resources, such as Khan Academy and ACT Academy to help you be even more prepared.

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Helpful Tips On How To Choose A College Now

Although college campuses are currently closed due to the coronavirus crisis, you have many resources available to help you make your decision. Take virtual campus tours that are available on college websites. Schedule calls with your guidance counselor and admissions reps to answer your questions. Also, reach out to current students to hear what they have to say. The New York Times recently published an article worth reading on this subject.

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News Is On The Way

The moment you’ve been waiting for is almost here. Over the next few weeks, college acceptance letters will be released and you’ll be bringing to a close your many months of hard work. If you put together a balanced list of safety, target and reach schools, it’s likely that you’ll receive an acceptance.

As you evaluate your choices, select a school where you feel you comfortable and belong. You want to choose a school where you’ll be challenged academically. Evaluate the academic programs offered and review prerequisites and specific course offerings. Also think about you’d feel as a member of the school community— you want to excited to be an active, engaged member.

Keep in mind, it’s what you do once you’re at college, not where you attend college that will make the difference post-graduation. Stay focused on the positive news and the college life you have to look forward to.




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Get Ready for Tomorrow’s SAT


A few thoughts if you’re scheduled to take tomorrow’s SAT.

Confirm that your test center will be open, as some test centers may be closed and the March 14th SAT cancelled due to the coronavirus.

If you’re still scheduled to take the test, minimize your stress tomorrow morning by getting organized ahead of time. The last thing you need on test morning is a desperate scramble. These are some of the things you can do tonight to get your big day off to a great start:

First, check with your parents to make sure they know when and where you’re scheduled to take the test, and arrange how you’ll get to the test center. Next, gather and pack all the things you’ll need to take with you. Some of the things on this check list are “must-have” items, while others are optional.

REQUIRED: Don’t forget any of the following items or it will be a long ride home!

  • An approved calculator
  • Sharpened #2 pencils
  • An acceptable form of photo ID
  • Your admission or standby ticket

SUGGESTED: These are things you may want to bring along.

  • Water
  • Snack
  • Sweater
  • Back-up calculator
  • Extra batteries for your calculator
  • Watch (to keep track of time)

alarm clockSet your alarm, get a good night’s sleep and have a healthy, satisfying breakfast.

Good luck!

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SAT Center Closings

Due to the coronavirus, test centers may be closed and the March 14th SAT cancelled at those sites. Students affected by test center closings will be notified by email and can also check online for closings.

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