Breaking News SAT Subject Tests Top Tips

SAT Subject Tests Discontinued, Effective Immediately

The College Board announced today (January 19, 2021) that effective immediately, the SAT subject tests will be discontinued for students in the U.S. and they will be phased out for international students this summer after the May, June test dates.

This decision is the culmination of the slow and steady erosion of the subject tests, exacerbated by the pandemic and test center closures over the course of the last year. Even prior to the pandemic top universities including MIT, CalTech, and Yale had made decisions to no longer even consider these scores in their admissions processes.

The reaction from students, as you might expect, has been highly enthusiastic. Within minutes of the College Board’s announcement, Top Tier students were sending us links to the national news story.


In light of this dramatic announcement, we encourage our students to recommit to your study plan for your upcoming AP exams, (along with your SAT and ACT work and grades). This change will lead admissions officers to put even more emphasis on results of AP exams in upcoming admissions cycles. We also believe that post-pandemic, you’ll see top colleges and universities reinstating the required SAT or ACT for the next admissions season. So, sophomores shouldn’t throw out their subject test books quite yet.

Did you miss the sign up for AP exams? The late registration for exams is March 12th, so get on that now. Remember that you don’t have to take an AP course to sign up for the exam and you can self-study for these exams. We know that some high schools discourage their students from signing up for AP exams but this change in the SAT subject test policy may lead them to reconsider their position. Lobby for yourself!


We also know that many of you were counting on high subject test scores to help you stand out in the crowded college admissions landscape. Without subject tests available, another way you can boost your candidacy includes taking college courses for credit. Earning strong grades in these courses illustrates your readiness for college work and is yet another data point in your evaluation. Especially if you will be applying to colleges without a robust slate of AP tests, college courses are crucial to help you stand out.


Beyond just your grades and scores, colleges are increasingly inspired by students who engage with important issues and who advocate for others. Carve out a space for yourself as a leader and find creative ways to take a stand on issues that are important to you.  Civic engagement is key!

So, recycle those subject test prep books if you are a junior and then get to work! We are here to help you make sense of it all.

college gifts COVID-19

COVID (Self) Care Package: 15 Holiday Gift Ideas

2020 has been a tough year for everyone. Students, especially, are struggling with the isolation and new restrictions that have fundamentally changed their high school and college experience. To bridge the social distance and help them get through the dark days of winter, here are our Top Tier staff favorites to inspire a thoughtful care package, holiday pick-me-up, or gift to keep for yourself.


pilates stability ball

Pilates Stability Ball

Strengthen your core during remote learning. Simple changes like switching out your desk chair for a stability ball can make a big impact on your health and strength. Don’t let your posture suffer as you hunch over your laptop or work from bed.

Aromatherapy Essential Oil Blend

Aromatherapy Essential Oil Blend

Take a deep breath and re-center with this essential oil blend. This is the perfect size for on-the-go relaxation. Keep it in your purse, or have your student keep it on their desk during exam week.

Barefoot Dreams CozyChic Heathered Adult Robe

Barefoot Dreams CozyChic Heathered Adult Robe

As the temperature starts to drop, you may as well watch that recorded lecture in a cozy robe. This one is a fan favorite, for good reason. Even after a few washes, it keeps its extra fluffy texture.

Kindle Paperwhite

Kindle Paperwhite

The Kindle has revolutionized our reading habits, and the newest model does not disappoint (it’s waterproof!) This is a great gift for students who need fictional escapism or a way to read their AP English Lit texts on the go. Need inspiration? Check out these 10 Books to Make You Smarter During Quarantine.

First Principles: What America's Founders Learned from the Greeks and Romans and How That Shaped Our Country

First Principles: What America’s Founders Learned from the Greeks and Romans and How That Shaped Our Country

by Thomas E. Rick

This one’s for you, history buffs. Cozy up by the fire and read this new book about the founding fathers by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and bestselling author, Thomas E. Rick. This book focuses on the influence of ancient culture on American ideals.

The Vanishing Half: A Novel

The Vanishing Half: A Novel 

by Brit Bennett

Is fiction more your speed? Use your winter break to catch up on the latest New York Times bestsellers. We recommend The Vanishing Half, a new novel by Brit Bennett about twin sisters from a small, southern black community. Longlisted for the National Book Award, this novel follows the sisters as they navigate their families, communities, and racial identities.

Vifa Helsinki Hi-Resolution Bluetooth 4.0 Wireless Portable Speaker

Vifa Helsinki Hi-Resolution Bluetooth 4.0 Wireless Portable Speaker

These are easily the most aesthetically pleasing wireless speakers on the market. With Scandinavian design and powerful audio, these would be the perfect addition to a dorm room or bedroom.

Snack Box Club

Snack Box Club

Students are feeling all kinds of stress right now and, if they’re learning from home, you might be tired of insatiable teens raiding your pantry. Treat your kids to these healthy snacks so they can fuel up during late-night study sessions.

Moleskine 18 Month 2020-2021 Weekly Planner

Moleskine 18 Month 2020-2021 Weekly Planner

Help your student stay organized in 2021 with a classic weekly planner. While they’re color coding their upcoming assignments, they might also want to read our Top Tips for Organization and Time Management.

MZOO Sleep Eye Mask

MZOO Sleep Eye Mask

Whether it’s exam stress, the news cycle, or the pandemic map keeping you up at night, the MZOO Sleep Eye Mask could be the key to more rest. But don’t lose sleep over your college essay! Read about our College Application Essay Guidance program and reserve a spot with one of our senior counselors today.

Indoor Herb Garden Starter Kit

Indoor Herb Garden Starter Kit

If COVID has taught us anything, it’s the power of getting back to basics. Channel your inner gardener and test out your green thumb with this indoor gardening kit. You’ll be surprised how gratifying it feels when your first seeds begin to sprout.

Yogi Tea: Get Well Variety Pack Sampler

Yogi Tea: Get Well Variety Pack Sampler

Even during a global pandemic, the regular old cold and flu season strikes again. Build up your immunity and fight off lingering symptoms with these warming, comforting herbal teas.

Natural Rose Hibiscus Hydrating Face Mist

Natural Rose Hibiscus Hydrating Face Mist

As we turn on the heat and confront harsh winds, your skin needs an extra layer of defense. This refreshing rose hibiscus face mist uses a base of organic coconut water infused with hibiscus flower petals and Bulgarian rose. It’s perfect for your purse, desk, or cup holder, but we’ll warn you now: one spritz is never enough.

Snake Sansevieria Floor Plant

Snake Sansevieria Floor Plant

Add some new life to your study space with this live indoor snake plant (about 2-feet tall). Place it near a sunny window and set a reminder to water it every so often when the soil feels dry. We promise it’s low maintenance.

Bean Box: Gourmet Coffee Sampler

Bean Box: Gourmet Coffee Sampler

Do you have any coffee snobs in your life? This selection of four gourmet coffees allows you to sample Seattle’s top small-batch roasters. In addition to the beans themselves, this sampler includes tasting notes, roaster profiles, and brewing tips.

Private College Counseling

Private College Counseling

Last but not least, give the gift that will transform your student’s academic career and place him/her on a scholarly path in our Private Counseling program! If you don’t require unlimited time guidance, consider our world-renowned Application Boot Camp, and watch the magic unfold.

Early Decision Insider Tips

Class of 2025: Early Decision and Early Action Notification Dates

Even with the many changes COVID-19 has brought to the college admissions landscape, there is one constant that remains for our seniors. ‘The early bird catches the worm.’ The odds go up in the early round and hopefully you have strategically utilized early action and early decision this year.   

Amid the chaos, let us be your one-stop shop for important notification information. We’ve compiled the most up-to-date listing of early decision and early action notification dates for you. Sit back, relax and let the admissions letters (acceptances we hope) roll in!

Notice a school of interest not listed? Simply let us know in the comments and we’ll gather the information for you and post.


Amherst CollegeDecember 15th
Babson CollegeEDI/EA: Mid-December; EDII: Mid-February
Barnard CollegeDecember 14th
Bates CollegeEDI: by December 20th; EDII: by February 15th
Boston CollegeEDI: December 15th; EDII: February 15th
Bowdoin CollegeEDI: December 11th; EDII: Mid-February
Boston UniversityEDI: December 15th; EDII: February 15th
Brown UniversityMid-December
California Institute of Technology (Caltech)EA: Mid-December
Carnegie Mellon UniversityED: December 15th
Claremont McKenna CollegeEDI: December 15th; EDII: February 15th
Colby CollegeEDI: on or before Dec. 15th; EDII: on or before Feb. 15th
Colgate UniversityEDI: Mid-December; EDII: Mid-February to Mid-March
Columbia UniversityDecember 16th
Connecticut CollegeEDI: Mid-December; EDII: Mid-February
Cornell UniversityDecember 17th, 7pm ET
Dartmouth CollegeDecember 16th
Duke UniversityMid-December
Emerson CollegeEDI/EA: Mid-December; EDII/EAII: by February 1st
Emory UniversityEDI: December 9th, 6pm ET; EDII: by February 15th
Georgetown UniversityDecember 15th
Harvard UniversityDecember 17th
Harvey Mudd CollegeEDI: mailed December 15th; EDII: mailed February 15th
Haverford CollegeEDI: December 15th; EDII: February 15th
Johns Hopkins UniversityEDI: December 11th; EDII: February 15th
Massachusetts Institute of TechnologyMid-December
Middlebury CollegeEDI: Mid-December; EDII: Mid-February
New York University
EDI: December 15th; EDII: February 15th
Northwestern UniversityMid-December
Pomona CollegeEDI: by December 15th; EDII: by February 15th
Rice Universityby mid-December
Stanford UniversityDecember 15th
Swarthmore CollegeOnline Mid-December 
Tufts UniversityEDI: December 15th, 7pm EST; EDII: mid-February
Tulane UniversityED: by December 15th; EA: January 15th
University of ChicagoEA/EDI: Mid-December; EDII: Mid-February
University of MichiganEA: late January
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hillby end of January
University of PennsylvaniaED: December 16th
University of South CarolinaEA: Mid-December
University of VirginiaED: Mid-December; EA: aim to release by Mid-February
Vanderbilt UniversityEDI: Mid-December; EDII: Mid-February
Villanova UniversityEA: evening of January 29th; EDI: by December 15th; EDII: by March 1st
Wake Forest UniversityEDI: Rolling; EDII: approximately February 15th
Washington University in St. LouisEDI: December 15th; EDII: February 14th
Wellesley CollegeEDI: Mid-December; EDII: Mid-February 
Wesleyan UniversityEDI: Mid-December; EDII: Mid-February
Williams Collegeevening of December 11th ET
Worcester Polytechnic InstituteEAI: January 15th; EAII: March 1st; EDI: December 15th; EDII: February 15th
Yale UniversitySCEA: December 16th
College Board Common Application Top Tips

Common App Eliminates Disciplinary Question

Post by: Dr. Michele Hernandez

Every year, we have a few students who agonize over the disciplinary question on the Common App and how to respond to that question. As parents ourselves and private admissions counselors for two decades, we have seen all sorts of crazy incidents from a student who was charged with a felony (“graffiti” on federal land when it was actually just a funny drawing in a park) to plagiarism, cheating, fighting, drug/alcohol and minor disciplinary charges like missing a few days of schools. One complicating factor is that every high school has different rules for suspensions, expulsions and what to report. Should a student who receives a dress code suspension receive the same treatment as one accused of academic dishonesty?


When I worked in Ivy League admissions, I can testify that we were VERY concerned about any report of academic dishonesty from plagiarism to cheating and did reject kids who were known cheaters. After all, academic honesty and integrity is the currency of a university experience. Any violation of academic integrity typically resulted in rejection though often we would verify with the student’s school counselor first.

We also gave the student a chance to explain what happened and the Common App itself provided a space to do so. For years as private counselors we have helped students show their side of the story which often mitigated the judgment if it turned out to be more of a misunderstanding than a flagrant violation such as the student who wrote on social media that she could “Kill Mrs. Smith for that horrible test” which her school took as a threat.

When the Common App actually analyzed the data of who actually submitted application materials, they found that students of color (Black students particularly) were more than twice as likely to report a disciplinary record than white students. This is a significant issue since Black and Latinx students (27 percent of students who submit applications through the Common App) comprise 52 percent of the roughly 7,000 students who first, declare an infraction and second, as a result, do not submit their application.


Based on that data, the Common App decided to eliminate that question beginning in the 2021-2022 admissions cycle. Does that mean students should not worry at all? Of course not. Keep in mind that serious incidents of bad behavior or academic dishonesty still have paths to reach the admissions office. The most common way is the actual guidance/college letter. I would hope that a counselor would include in their official letter any serious incidents as they put their reputation on the line each time they write a letter of recommendation. If admissions officers learned of a serious omission, it would threaten the credibility of the high school and the counselor. My worry is that counselors are often afraid of legal repercussions and undue pressure from wealthy/powerful parents who could influence them to leave out important information. The other avenue for requesting the same information would be for colleges who wanted more information and who cared deeply about academic dishonestly to include that question on their supplemental essay questions so that the student would have a chance to elaborate.

Though of course we don’t support a question that penalizes one segment of the population, we do think the Common App could have perhaps tweaked the question rather than abandoning it altogether. We surmise that suspensions result more often from bad behavior than from academic dishonesty. If that were the case, why not ask a more targeted question: has this student had any major infractions of academic dishonestly including cheating or plagiarism. That would eliminate the minor suspensions from shoving a classmate in the hallway or not tucking in a shirt for instance, but preserve the essence of the question.


Our advice to students and parents is to keep in mind that top colleges DO value honesty and integrity and your teachers and school counselor are still writing letters to colleges that elaborate on what kind of student you are. Just because the Common App is eliminating the disciplinary history question (along with the cover letter School Form that asks for similar information) does not give you license to cheat or behave badly. That information is likely to come across via other channels (even from jealous classmates – really!).

Honesty is usually the best policy and we have helped students explain unjust suspensions or unfounded accusations. Admissions officers are human beings who do try to understand the context and the nature of any disciplinary action. That being said, your best option is to take pride in your own academic achievements and to avoid risking rejection for falsifying any of your work, period.

college admissions College Essays Common Application supplemental essays

Colleges Without Supplemental Essays: 2020

Back in 1975 when the Common App was first launched, it was truly a common application. Students filled out a form, wrote a short piece on a favorite extracurricular activity, and then their 650-word essay.

Over time, colleges started asking for supplemental essays as a way to get to know more about their applicants, make distinctions amongst a high-achieving applicant pool, and to better assess who was seriously interested in the school. Today, most colleges have two to four supplemental questions (long essays, short responses, lists) in addition to what’s being asked on the Common Application. So, applying to colleges is far from streamlined. We are almost back to where we were before the Common Application – different essays for different schools. But……

MOST but not ALL.


There are still nearly 400 schools that accept the Common Application who don’t have additional supplements. That’s many good schools that don’t require supplemental essays and rely solely on the Common Application. So why don’t they ask any supplemental questions? Most likely, the decision falls into one of the following:

  • A desire to increase accessibility and attract more applicants. An application with lots of additional essays will deter students who lack the time to work on them. Essentially – get more kids to apply!
  • A much-more straightforward admissions process that is based primarily on scores, class rank, and GPA. Data drives these schools vs getting to know the candidates.

Whatever your reason for seeking a school that doesn’t require additional supplemental essays, we’ve got you covered.




Whether your list of schools requires supplemental essays or not, or if you’re still working on your Common Application essay – we’re here to help you share your voice, your vision and your true scholarly selves to college admissions officers and can help you craft compelling essays.

“T was accepted early decision to Boston College! Thank you so, so much for all of the help and guidance that you provided us over the past 6 months. I can’t imagine there are many (if any!) people out there who are better than you at what you do! Thank you for your patience, prompt replies, and for keeping T on track! We are very grateful to have found you and worked with you!”

– D.M., Essay Guidance Program parent