Monday, January 25, 2016

Will your social media accounts hurt your college admissions chances?

Grades, SAT/ACT scores, essays, extracurriculars, letters of recommendation ... we already know that college admissions officers look at many factors when making acceptance decisions.

But how common is it for admissions officers to look at applicants' Facebook and Twitter accounts?

Click here to test your knowledge and find out if this practice is becoming more widespread.

What can you do to make sure your social media accounts won't hurt your chances of admission? For starters, think before you share. Keep in mind that college admissions officers and future employers may see what you've posted.

The admissions officers who were polled said that discovery of photos of drug/alcohol use, criminal offenses, racial prejudice, and inappropriate behavior would negatively affect applicants' chances of admission.

Some students have asked us if they need to set up "college-oriented" social media accounts highlighting their academic accomplishments.

While certain students with special talents, such as musicians, may have social media pages showcasing their skills, it's not necessary to set up new social media profiles across the board. (Studying for the SAT/ACT and working on your essays are better uses of your time!) Simply be thoughtful about what you post publicly. When in doubt, don't post ... or make your accounts private!

After taking our quiz above, remember to download a copy of our College Planning Timeline to make sure you're on track to maximize your chances of admission and your financial aid opportunities.

Speaking of social media accounts, don't forget to like us on Facebook!

Erin, Director of Student Services

College Visits: 4 Steps You Can't Miss!

It’s that time of year again to start planning college visits. As you know, choosing the right college is one of the most important decisions a student and their family make for their future.

How do you know if it’s the right “fit”? Do you ever purchase anything without trying it on or seeing a preview? Odds are probably not, because we have that luxury and we want to know what we are committing ourselves to. So why should your college choice be any different?

All too often students end up unhappy with their choice because they made rash decisions or limited their visits. The stakes are too high to treat your campus visit as a joke.

Follow the 4 tips below, then download our full College Visit Checklist to ensure you are getting the most out of your college visit!

Start planning early: spring of your junior year. Get first-hand exposure to the schools on your list. Keep your options open and make sure to choose a variety of campus environments. Do your best to schedule while school is in session so you can see the campus at its liveliest.

Ask yourself these questions:
  • Where is my ideal location? Urban or rural based campus?
  • What size school is best for me? 50,000 undergraduates or 1,800?
  • How much does this cost? Scholarship opportunities?
  • Does the school serve my academic and professional interests?
  • Public or private?

First class … yes please! To maximize your tour, supplement it with some additional appointments and capitalize on all of the resources you have available to you. If you have an idea about what you might major in, seek out the chairperson or a professor in the department. If you have questions about funding and scholarships, meet with a financial aid officer. Or explore the social scene and find student organizations that interest you.
Attend a class.
Meet with a professor.
Meet with an admission officer.
Meet with a financial aid officer.
Attend a club meeting or a sports practice session.
Spend the night in a residence hall.

A traditional campus tour is always recommended. We want you to look at the student union, gym, library and residence halls ... after all, you will be spending quite a bit of time there. Under no circumstances should you visit a campus and only take the traditional tour. After the admissions office spiel, do a behind-the-scenes look for yourself. 

Find the spots on campus where students gather; hang out there and make new friends who can tell you what it’s really like to be a college student at NYU or Penn State that isn’t part of the admissions script. Interacting with current students will often provide you a better feel for the character of the student body and the culture of the school. Walk the extra mile and get the complete picture of the campus.

You will thank yourself if you take 10 minutes after each visit to write down your thoughts. Trust us … after about three college visits, your experiences will start to become a blur, leaving you with a blend of tour group buzzwords (Safety! Study abroad! Scholarships!) rather than a grasp of what each school is really like behind the glossy pamphlets. A quick list of pros and cons and a few photos, or notes about something you enjoyed that created a feeling of “home," can make a huge difference.

Take in the atmosphere and ask yourself if you could see yourself eating in the union with your roommate or studying at the library before a big exam. Not feelin’ it? Don’t brush aside that gut reaction—add it to your list of pros and cons.

Have fun! It’s your college experience, time, and education. Allow yourself to get excited about what lies ahead, and make the most of it!

Remember, before scheduling your first campus tour, make sure to download our full College Visit Checklist for everything you need to know to make the most of your college visits!

Have questions or need help with your college list? Contact us by email or by calling the office at (724) 745-0305. We're always happy to help!

Brandy Orlando, College Planning Specialist

Monday, December 14, 2015

QUIZ: How many students apply to 7 or more colleges?

We always say it's a great idea to apply to 8-10 colleges. But how many students actually do?

We thought we'd try something different this week and see what you think is the national percentage of high school students who apply to a minimum of 7 colleges.

Click here to test your knowledge, and find out the national percentage vs. the percentage of our students here at Ensphere (there's a pretty big difference)!

After making your best guess, don't forget to download a copy of our College List Checklist so that you can make sure you're on track to maximize your chances of admission and your financial aid opportunities.

Remember, putting together a well-balanced list of colleges is one of the most nuanced and strategic parts of the college process, and we are here to help!

If you have any questions or want to sign up for our upcoming Ensphere Family Events, simply email or call the office at (724) 745-0305.

Have a great week,

Erin, Director of Student Services

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Ensphere Family Events: January-July 2016

Our 2015 family events were a big success, and we are very pleased to announce our upcoming season of events!
The 2016 season will include, among others:
  • "How to Succeed as a Student Athlete!"
  • "Do I Have the Right Colleges On My List?"
  • "The College Essay & Application Workshop!"
  • "Which Offer Should I Accept?"
Join us at these events and more to make sure you have everything you need for a successful college journey. We believe successful college planning involves identifying a career path, picking the right college, graduating on time, and having a written plan for funding college. Our family events are designed to support you in each step along the way.

As a bonus, if you missed some of our events from this year, we are providing brief video versions of our more popular topics. Click here to view them (more coming soon)!

Check out our calendar for more details on our full schedule of upcoming events for freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors!

To save your spot at an event, please email or call (724) 745-0305.
We hope to see you in the coming months!

Erin, Director of Student Services

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The $250 Referral Contest!

They say the best things in life are free. What about free money? How does $250 sound?

As you know, we are always looking to assist more families in their college planning journeys.
You can win $250 by replying to this message with the names & email addresses of 5 friends, neighbors, or family members whom you think would benefit from our workshops/webinars. We will introduce ourselves and invite them to an upcoming event.
The first two people to send us 5 qualified* names will win $250!

Plus, as usual, we will give you another $100 for every referral who becomes a client of Ensphere.

That money can be used for college books, tuition, or anything in between.
More importantly, you will be helping a family start the journey towards successful college planning.

On that note, check out the schools our hard-working seniors have been accepted at so far:
  • Albright College
  • California University of Pennsylvania
  • Duquesne University
  • Indiana University of Pennsylvania
  • Kent State University
  • King's College
  • Liberty University
  • Michigan State University
  • Ohio Northern University
  • Purdue University
  • Robert Morris University
  • Saint Vincent College
  • Seton Hill University
  • Thiel College
  • Truman State University
  • University of Akron
  • University of Pittsburgh
  • Virginia Wesleyan College
  • Washington & Jefferson College
  • Waynesburg University
  • West Virginia University
... with many more to come!
So, what are you waiting for?

Rob, College Planning Specialist

* Qualified families: families with students in 10th, 11th, or 12th grades who are headed to college 

Thursday, October 22, 2015

College Planning Tricks & Treats!

Before we get to our awesome new Halloween video, let's review a few announcements and reminders for families:

Congratulations, Seniors!

Early acceptances have started to roll in, and we are pleased to share that our seniors have been accepted at the following schools so far:
  • King's College
  • Michigan State University
  • Robert Morris University
  • Saint Vincent College
  • Seton Hill University
  • Thiel College
  • University of Pittsburgh
  • Virginia Wesleyan College
  • Waynesburg University
... with many more to come!

Seniors, keep up the good work. Remember, our goal is to have all applications submitted by the end of next week. Email if you need any help!

SAT & ACT Scores

If you took the SAT earlier this month, scores were released this morning! Log on to your College Board profile to see how you did.

Remember to email your fall SAT & ACT scores to so that we can update our records.

Note: Virginia Tech recently announced that next year they will accept scores from the ACT or new SAT, but not the current version of the SAT. We do not expect many colleges to follow suit but will keep you posted as we hear any updates. Juniors, let us know if you are interested in applying to Virginia Tech, and we can set up a time to discuss how this may affect your testing timeline.

Family Events

Click here to help us plan our 2016 calendar of family events! Let us know which topics you'd like to see covered. We appreciate your ideas and feedback.

When you're finished, make sure to click here to enjoy our new video!

As always, please reach out to us at 724-745-0305 if there is anything we can help you with!  

Erin, Director of Student Services

Friday, October 9, 2015

The New PSAT: What's Changing?

Next week, many students will take the new PSAT, modeled after the redesigned SAT, for the first time. For most of you, this will be a new testing experience and your first real look at the changes ahead. So, what can you expect?


The new PSAT will be 35 minutes longer than the previous version of the test. Testing time will now total 2 hours and 45 minutes.


According to the practice materials released by the College Board, students will complete 4 sections in total: Reading, Writing & Language, Math - No Calculator, and Math - Calculator Permitted.

Here's the breakdown of timing vs. the number of questions for each section:
  • Reading: 60 min., 47 questions
  • Writing & Language: 35 min., 44 questions
  • Math - No Calculator: 25 min., 17 questions
  • Math - Calculator: 45 min., 31 questions

Changes to the Reading Questions

One notable change has many students excited ... the removal of the sentence completion (obscure vocabulary) questions! The only vocabulary questions you will see are "vocabulary-in-context" questions, in which you must determine how a certain word is being used within the context of a full reading passage. Most students find these questions to be much easier.

Obscure vocabulary questions are gone, but the new test has added some questions that require students to read charts and graphs. These may look intimidating at first, but the questions are actually very straightforward. Just make sure to pay attention to how the graphs are labeled!

The new test will also include pairs of evidence-based reading comprehension questions. From time to time, you may be asked to complete a follow-up question where you identify the line numbers that serve as evidence for your answer to the previous question. When you see these paired questions, it may be helpful to work backwards using the line numbers offered in the answer choices of the second question.

Changes to the Writing Questions

The writing section of the new PSAT looks exactly like the ACT's writing section. Instead of revising isolated sentences, students will now make improvements to sentences that are embedded within long passages. Many students like having that additional context to better understand the sentences they are revising.

If you've been studying grammar concepts for the current version of the SAT, you'll be happy to see that the grammar concepts being tested are pretty much the same.

Changes to the Math Questions

Math is getting harder! Luckily, timing is fairly generous for these sections.

The "no calculator" questions will resemble the types of questions featured on the current version of the SAT. (As many students have recognized, you don't really need a calculator to solve the math questions on the current SAT.) But it may feel tedious to add, subtract, multiply, and divide fractions and quadruple-digit numbers by hand, so brush up on your arithmetic skills!

The "calculator permitted" questions will cover more advanced concepts than what you've seen on previous tests, particularly in dealing with quadratic functions. However, you may have covered these topics more recently in your high school math classes, leaving them fresher in your mind. Definitely bring your graphing calculator on the day of the test, and make sure you're comfortable with using it!


Goodbye, point penalties! The new PSAT and SAT will no longer deduct 0.25 points for each incorrect answer. This means you absolutely should put an answer for every question, even if it's a random guess. If you run out of time at the end of a section, pick your favorite letter and bubble it in for the remaining questions.

One change that's a bit confusing is the new scaled scoring system. Reading and Writing will now be combined as a single subject score, while Math will continue to be calculated as its own subject score. On the new SAT, this means you can score up to 800 in Reading & Writing and 800 in Math, for a total of 1600.

The PSAT, in an attempt to more accurately predict your SAT performance (taking into account the PSAT's shorter length), will lower the maximum scores that you can receive. Your final score will range from 320-1520 in total, meaning you can score up to 760 per section.

How to Prepare

The College Board has released one full-length practice PSAT with full answer explanations, which you can download by clicking here.

It's also a good idea to check out the first few lessons on Method Test Prep, under the "New SAT" course. The topics and practice questions covered there will look very similar to the new PSAT questions.

Note: if you are a junior who has been studying for the current version of the SAT this fall, don't get too distracted or discouraged if the new PSAT feels very different to you. Instead, think of it as a sneak peek at the new SAT and just another opportunity to practice your test-taking skills. Right now, it's more important to focus on getting ready to perform your best on the current SAT before the test changes in the spring.

Happy studying!

Erin, Director of Student Services