Welcome to the College Ahead blog!

I'm Julia, a certified college counselor specializing in college planning, preparation, search and admissions. Welcome to my blog. For more than 12 years, I wrote a newspaper column titled College Corner. This blog continues that tradition. I’ve been an independent college counselor for more than 20 years. That means I’ve worked with dozens of students and I’ve seen the successful resolution of dozens of different challenges. Read more about my background here.

 

First and foremost, this blog is about you! If you want to see a topic addressed here, or if you have a question about college selection or application, feel free to email me. I’ll do my best to answer it, or if necessary, find someone who can.

 

My professional motto is “Navigating the college search and admissions process with confidence and optimism.” I want you to approach this transition enthusiastically and I’m here to help you do that.

Externally Published Articles

  • Destination Maturation
    Julia Surtshin, The Journal of College Admission, Summer 2015
  • Where to Start Your Summer Search for Colleges and Financial Aid
    Brent Huntsburger, The Oregonian, June 2013
  • Reassuring Words About Financial Aid
    Higher Education Consultants Association Newsletter, January 2009.
  • College Consultant Tries to Allay Jitters
    (Interview) The Oregonian, November 2007.
  • Liberal Arts & Professional Education
    Under 25, Spring 2002.
  • How to Write That College Essay
    Under 25, Winter 1991.

Recent Posts

Take a Look in the Mirror Before Planning That Spring Break College Tour

March is here, there’s finally some sunshine, and college searches are getting ramped up. Juniors are taking standardized tests and families are planning Spring Break college tours.

This is a time when, unless you’re working with a dedicated professional, it’s easy to get carried away.

Putting the Cart Before the Horse

If you’re regularly checking College Confidential, diligently scouring college guidebooks, scheduling campus tours, or booking travel, but haven’t done a thorough and thoughtful student assessment to identify the important aspects of your own personal “college fit”, you’re putting the cart before the horse.

The lure of college websites and the prospect of campus visits is undeniable. Don’t get me wrong, spring break is a great time to visit colleges, especially if your destination schools are in session at the time. BUT,

Looking at colleges without a “shopping list” leaves you at risk.

Colleges spend significant resources marketing themselves. Websites, guidebooks and the like are designed to pique your interest. While they genuinely want you to discover colleges where you’ll succeed, college admission officers are expert painting rosy pictures of their institutions. Developing a college list, or worse, scheduling spring break visits before you’ve clarified what you actually want and need in the college you attend can be a colossal waste of time and money, and you don’t have enough of either to waste.

It’s like shopping for a car when you don’t know if you need a cheap ride to get you to and from school and your job, or an AWD to get you, your friends, and your gear to the slopes and back safely. You may get a car alright, but it might not be the best choice.

Get Ahead: Identify What You Want & Need

Put in the time at the beginning of your college search journey to identify what you want and need in college to accomplish your goals. Doing so will help you:

1) Save time by directing your attention to suitable college options,
2) Avoid being unduly influenced by slick admissions brochures,
3) Focus your college research and visits,
4) Evaluate colleges on the factors that are most meaningful to you.

And, these are only the short-term benefits.

In the long run, your “shopping list” will also help you:

1) Develop significant questions and talking points for interaction with admissions officers,
2) Write meaningful personal statements, and
3) Effectively evaluate your final college choices.

Expectations, Goals, Needs & Preferences

What goes into a thoughtful student self-assessment?

Taking a written inventory of expectations (both you and your parents have them, though they might be unspoken) and goals, as well as your hopes, fears, and your academic, personal strengths and challenges is key. It’s critical to consider financial parameters as well.

Some important questions to ask yourself to develop your own personal “shopping list” include:

  1. Why are you going to college?
  2. What do you expect from yourself during college?.
  3. What do your parents expect from you during college?
  4. When you think about college, what comes to mind?
  5. What do you like/dislike about your high school experience?
  6. You aren’t the same person as you were when you were 12. How would you like to be
    different at college graduation than you are now?
  7. What is your learning style?
  8. What is your social style?
  9. What experiences would you have liked to have before you graduate from college?
  10. What financial parameters/considerations do you have?

Your answers to these questions will point you in the right direction. Clearly identifying your needs and preferences is key to getting your college search started on a firm foundation.

Effective Approaches Share Common Elements

Although there is no one best way to do a student inventory, thoughtful self-assessments are:

  • Holistic in scope. Include a wide range of factors. financial.
    Being a student is only one aspect of who you are. Think about what you want the next four
    years of your life to look like academically, personally, and socially.
  • Open ended. Ask yourself complex questions requiring you to develop a nuanced responses. Questions that ask for only yes or no answers don’t yield much information.
  • Reflective. Allow plenty of time to contemplate your responses. This is not an exercise for rapid-fire, spontaneous answers.

You don’t have to work with a professional to “take a look in the mirror”, but if you’re unsure about where to begin, what to focus on, or what your answers mean, consulting a professional will likely save you time and money.

College Counselors Can Help

College counselors are experienced in guiding students and families though the college search and application process. They know both the questions to ask and how to make best use of the results. Individual college counselors use different approaches. To get your college search on solid footing, check in with a college counselor, either at your school, or one who works independently.

National College Fair Comes to Portland

On Sunday, October 28 (1 pm-5 pm) and Monday, October 29 (9 am-Noon), the National Association for College Admission Counseling  National College Fair will be at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland. This presents a fantastic opportunity for students and their families to learn more about the college application process, connect with representatives from individual colleges and universities, and ask questions of counseling, testing, and financial aid professionals.

The Heart of the Matter                                                                       

More than 250 colleges from across the country as well as some international institutions will have admissions personnel staffing booths in Exhibit Hall D. Students and families can speak directly with professionals to learn about the wide variety of college opportunities that are available. From community colleges, to small, residential liberal-arts colleges,  conservatories, and major research universities, each type of institution boasts a different kind of collegiate experience.

Attending a college fair should be helpful, and leave you feeling energized, optimistic and confident about your future. However, with so many people and so much going on, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and exhausted before you accomplish much. Whether you’re a sophomore or junior just beginning your college search, or a senior who is putting the final touches on your college list, pre-fair preparation is key.

Before the Fair

1. Pre-register at www.gotomyncf.com. Print the barcoded ID and bring it to the event.
2. Decide what you want to accomplish by attending the fair.

Seniors – can use the fair to express continued interest in the colleges on their “short list”,  get answers to questions they developed during their research, and expand their college horizons in necessary.  

Juniors & Sophomores –  can ask themselves questions to help them identify 5-10 colleges that they’ll want to visit at the fair.

1. What do you want to get from your college experience.
2. What factors describe the best learning environment for you?
3. How much academic pressure helps you achieve you best?
4. What academic programs & extracurricular activities would you like at college?

Answering these questions prior to the college will enable counselors on-site to recommend suitable college booths to visit.

At the Fair

1. Use the college locator handout to determine which college booths you’ll visit.
2. Determine which information sessions you’ll attend and what times they’re offered.
3. Take notes–waiting until you get home is a mistake.
4. Get the names and contact information of people you meet.
5. Consider how representatives interact with you. Are they friendly? What do they communicate about their colleges?

Questions to Ask College Fair Representatives as You Start Your College Search

Ask open-ended questions which require more than a yes or no response.

 Tell me about ____ College.
 I’m interested in ___. What can you tell me about this program at            your school?
 What makes your college unique?
 What is your college best-known for?
 What are some of the challenges students at your college face?
 What do you like best about your college?

 If you could change anything at your college, what would it be?              Why?

Time at the fair is limited, so decide on a few questions that are pertinent to you.

Parents

1. If at all possible, let your teens take the lead about how to spend your time.
2. Refrain from speaking for your teens.
3. If you have questions for college representatives, go ahead and ask them.
4. Consider splitting off from your teens for at least part of the time. This will allow you to        attend a financial aid presentation and your high schoolers to explore on their own.

The Icing On The Cake: Two additional features

Information Sessions will be presented multiple times each day. Topics include the college application process, college financial aid, writing college essays, and understanding the transfer process.

Finally, counselors, financial aid advisors, and testing professionals will be on hand to provide information and answer questions. Attendees who have questions or are unsure about how to make the best use of their time, can visit the counseling center located at the entrance to the exhibit hall.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who Wants Money for College?

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the gateway for obtaining student financial aid. On October 1 the 2019-2020 FAFSA went live online. Therefore, students who will be attending college in 2019-2020 should file their FAFSAs as soon as possible.

Keep in Mind

1. As the name says, it is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. There is no cost
to use this form when you complete and file it at www.fafsa.gov. Do not confuse this with www.fafsa.com which is a commercial site that charges money for filing the FAFSA for you.

2. Students are required to have a FSA ID in order to sign their FAFSA electronically. The FSA ID is a username and password. To obtain a FSA ID, visit https://fsaid.ed.gov/npas/index.htm. Do this before you complete the FAFSA. It can take up to three days to receive your PIN, so apply for it immediately.

3. Dependent students (almost everyone under the age of 24) must submit financial information
for one parent. That parent needs a FSA ID as well.

4. Read the instructions carefully. Specific instructions are built into the online FAFSA form. Be meticulous about understanding what must be reported and what doesn’t.

5. It is very helpful to gather all the necessary information before beginning the FAFSA. Visit  https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/fafsa/filling-out#documents for a list of documents to have on hand.

6.  Think carefully about using the Data Retrieval Tool (http://www.irsdataretrievaltool.com) that is available. The feature transfers information from the IRS to the FAFSA. This likely cuts (or eliminates) errors, but the downside is that for security reasons, the populated figures aren’t visible, so filers can’t see or verify the transferred information.

7. The FAFSA can be completed and submitted in more than one sitting. The application has provisions for saving information and returning to it later.

8.  The early bird gets the worm. Some sources of aid are limited and may award money on a first-come, first-served basis. The date a FAFSA is filed is the applicant’s “place in line”, so it is important that filers submit their FAFSAs as soon after October 1 as possible. Because the financial information required is based on prior-prior year tax returns (the 2019-2020 FAFSA asks for information from 2017 tax returns), so there is no reason to wait.

Common Mistakes

1. Not filing a FAFSA.

Many families don’t file the FAFSA because they assume that they won’t qualify for aid.
Never assume when money is on the line. Estimate your Expected Family Contribution at
www.finaid.org or www.fafsa4caster.gov.

Even if you don’t qualify for need-based aid, some schools are reluctant to award merit aid to
students who don’t complete a FAFSA (and CSS PROFILE if required). Further, if you want
to take advantage of students loans, or get work-study, you’ll need to file a FAFSA.

2. Filing the FAFSA in the name of the parent.

Although parents will in fact complete many FAFSAs, applications are actually students’ and must have students’ names and identification information.  Failure to keep this in mind can cause errors, delaying the processing of the application.

3. Including the name and financial information for the wrong parent.

Applicants are required to identify only one parent. For some students this is a straightforward matter. However, other students, particularly students whose parents are no longer married to one another, may find this to be a complicated issue. FAFSA instructions include detailed information about who is considered a parent and which parent to list.

4. Including assets or other financial information that isn’t required.

The FAFSA requires applicants to submit a income and asset information. However, some assets are not taken into account. For example, applicants should not include information about their parents’ equity in their primary residence or the balance in their retirement accounts. Read all instructions carefully and submit what’s required. Don’t include assets or other figures that can be excluded.

Continuing Students

Students who filed FAFSAs last year may be eligible to file Renewal FAFSAs, which prepopulate much of the information. Updated financial information must be provided and students may edit prior information as well. Visit https://fafsa.ed.gov/help/fftoc01e.htm for additional information about renewing.

For additional information about completing the FAFSA visit https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/fafsa/filling-out or contact a local college financial aid office.

College First Years Offer Reassurance & Advice for Rising Juniors & Seniors

The new school year is right around the corner. Last year’s seniors are headed off to college full of hopes and dreams. At the same time, if you’re a new junior and senior, you’re probably stepping up your own college search.

With a plethora of websites and guidebooks competing for your attention, decisions needing to be made, and parents, counselors, teachers and friends all asking well-meaning but sometimes intrusive questions, how do you navigate?

I asked a few students who recently completed their own college searches to share their thoughts.

Authenticity is Key

Leo S., who is heading to Harvard, suggests, “Figure out what you enjoy and go all in on that one thing. It doesn’t need to be something that would be ‘good’ for college, just something that you genuinely enjoy. That enjoyment will show.” Marissa L., who’s off to Northwestern, echoes that saying, “Be your genuine self in the application process. I expected to have to ‘make myself seem better’ in my applications but, instead I chose to focus on the meaning of my achievements and activities.”

Peter Van Buskirk, former Dean of Admission at Franklin & Marshall College and one of the most well-respected voices in the field once said, “The goal of the college admission process is to gain admission to colleges that ‘prize you for who you are’”.

Focusing on your own needs, preferences and wishes will help you throughout the process. First of all it gives you a known place to start. Starting with what you know lessens anxiety and provides momentum. Whether you’re a junior who doesn’t know a lot about colleges, or a senior who’s unsure about how to approach your essays, you do know about yourself…or you will if you take some time to reflect. Heeding the Leo and Marissa’s advice will help you use your time and energy in the right direction instead of spinning your wheels.

Take Some Risks

Molly K., who’s about to start her sophomore year at Barnard College, encourages some reasonable risk-taking. She says, “Push yourself, trust your gut and put yourself out there. I’m not saying that your entire college list should be reach schools, but if you feel strongly about a college, don’t let others dissuade you.”

Establish Boundaries

Marissa, a member of Northwestern University Class of 2022 and the youngest of several children says, “Parents are especially difficult during this time. Establish boundaries with them.” One way to set boundaries is to arrange a mutually convenient time each week that you’ll update your parents on how you’re progressing with your college search and applications. This will keep them in the loop while giving you the freedom from having to deal with “all college all the time”. You could also get them to agree that college talk is banished from family mealtimes.

Parents mean well, and it’s helpful to understand that this going away to college stuff is hard for them as well. They want the best for you and have their own dreams, expectations and fears.

Keep An Open Mind

Hanna B. began her college search feeling already burned out from high school. She approached the process with dread, yet recounts that going through the process helped her see that she had options. Hanna, who will be taking a gap year to travel and trek, thinks that keeping an open mind is crucial. Not only did she open her mind to the idea of a gap year, but she also was open to exploring colleges whose names she didn’t recognize or which are frequently mentioned in the news.

Writing Essays

College application essays can be the bane of students’ existence. Even students who enjoy writing likely have never tackled this type of assignment. Neither academic paper or creative writing assignment, college essays are in a category of their own.

Much of the work on essays comes before the writing even begins. Selecting topics that genuinely interest you, that highlight important items, and that allow you to share your “voice” is essential. Leo suggests that students “be willing to completely scrap ideas rather than trying to salvage bad ones into mediocre essays”. Further, students who typically write one or two drafts of a paper and earn “A’s” soon find that it’s not unusual to write four or five drafts before an essay is ready for prime time. While essays can’t get you into colleges for which you’re really not qualified, they can make a huge difference in borderline situations. With so much riding on your them, your essays deserve all the time and effort you can devote.

Last Words

From Leo: Compile a list of accomplishments/awards/etc. so it is easy to transfer them to applications. Having a list of things that I did and wanted to incorporate into my applications was really useful. It enabled me to make sure that everything got included. I ended up putting in there multiple things that I might not have even thought of had I not spent a good amount of time talking with parents and making the list.

From Marissa: Only apply to colleges that are truly essential to your list. In other words, don’t apply to as many schools as possible in hopes of getting into any random one.

From Hanna: Trust the process. “This process helped me clarify my goals, feel secure in my decisions, and provided a solid launching pad for my new life.”

 

 

Portland Welcomes Student Centered Higher Education

“With my grades and test scores, where can I get in?” Oftentimes this is the first question students ask when they come for an initial appointment. Typically I respond that I don’t know them well enough to answer that question, and respectfully add that they have, in my opinion, asked the wrong question.

It is NOT about where you can get in.

Rather than determining which institutions will accept them, students should be asking which colleges have the mission and resources to provide them with the experiences they want and need to accomplish their goals.

This turns the college search and admission process on its head in some very important ways.

Colleges That Change Lives: A Pretty Audacious Name, an Even More Audacious Mission

The folks at the non-profit, Colleges That Change Lives understand this distinction and are dedicated to helping students connect with higher education opportunities that build knowledge, character, and values.

Forty-one colleges nationwide have been awarded the CTCL distinction. Although they have varying missions, different admissions requirements, and wide-ranging academic programs, all are dedicated to fostering the growth of undergraduate students. CTCL colleges include such diverse institutions as Agnes Scott College, an all-women’s college in Atlanta; St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota that is best known for its outstanding vocal performance programs; Hillsdale College, a conservative Christian college in Hillsdale, Michigan; and St. John’s College, known for its Great Books program.

 

The West is well represented among CTCL schools. Reed College, Saint Mary’s College of California, The Evergreen State College, University of Puget Sound, Whitman College, Willamette University are all members of the group.

If this sort of student-centered education seems appealing to you, you’re in luck. The CTCL folks are coming to town!

College Fair

Colleges That Change Lives College Fair
Wednesday, August 1, 2017 at 7 pm,
Oregon Convention Center Ballrooms 203 and 204
777 NE Martin Luther King Blvd, Portland, OR 97232

This is an unusual opportunity to hear some very wise folks talk about college admission in an entirely new way. You won’t hear a lot of hype about testing, but you will hear talk about “holistic review”. With the frenzy ratcheted down, the focus is on student reflection and the importance of “match”, between student needs and campus means.

The college fair begins with a 30 minute information session, followed by approximately 1.5 hours of free time. According to the CTCL website, “During the college fair, students and families are invited to collect information from and speak directly with admission representatives from the colleges and universities that inspired the book Colleges That Change Lives.”

All CTCL events are free of charge and open to the public. For your convenience, you may register online.

Welcome to the College Ahead blog!

Julia Surtshin

I'm Julia, a certified college counselor specializing in college planning, preparation, search and admissions. Welcome to my blog. For more than 12 years, I wrote a newspaper column titled College Corner. This blog continues that tradition. I’ve been an independent college counselor for more than 20 years. That means I’ve worked with dozens of students and I’ve seen the successful resolution of dozens of different challenges. Read more about my background here.

 

First and foremost, this blog is about you! If you want to see a topic addressed here, or if you have a question about college selection or application, feel free to email me. I’ll do my best to answer it, or if necessary, find someone who can.

 

My professional motto is “Navigating the college search and admissions process with confidence and optimism.” I want you to approach this transition enthusiastically and I’m here to help you do that.

Articles

Recent Posts

“Visit” Multiple Colleges in a Single Afternoon!!

No, I’m not talking about supersonic travel, but rather fall college fairs sponsored by the National Association for College Admission Counseling (www.nacacnet.org) where you can speak directly with admission professionals from dozens of colleges nationwide.       

Attending a college fair should be helpful, and leave you feeling energized, optimistic and confident about your future. However, with so many people and so much going on, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and exhausted before you accomplish much. Whether you’re a sophomore or junior just beginning your college search, or a senior who is putting the final touches on your college list, pre-fair preparation is key.

Before the Fair

1. Pre-register at www.gotomyncf.com. Print your barcoded ID and bring it to the event.
2. Decide what you want to accomplish by attending the fair.

Seniors

1. Use the fair to connect with colleges to which you’re planning to apply.
2. Determine a few things you don’t know about those schools and come to the fair prepared    with thoughtful questions.

Junior & Sophomores

Ask yourself some questions to help you identify 5-10 colleges that you’ll want to visit at the fair.

1. What do you want to get from your college experience.
2. What factors describe the best learning environment for you?
3. How much academic pressure helps you achieve you best?
4. What academic programs & extracurricular activities would you like to participate in at college?

Time at the fair is limited, so decide on a few questions that are pertinent to you.

At the Fair

1. Use the college locator handout to determine which college booths you’ll visit.
2. Determine which information sessions you’ll attend and what times they’re offered.
3. Take notes–waiting until you get home is a mistake.
4. Get the names and contact information of people you meet.
5. Consider how representatives interact with you. Are they friendly? What do they communicate about their colleges?

Parents

1. If at all possible, let your teens take the lead about how to spend your time.
2. Refrain from speaking for your teens.
3. If you have questions for college representatives, go ahead and ask them.
4. Consider splitting off from your teens for at least part of the time. This will allow you to attend a financial aid presentation and your high schoolers to explore on their own.

Questions to Ask College Fair Representatives as You Start Your College Search

Ask open-ended questions which require more than a yes or no response.

 Tell me about ____ College.
 I’m interested in ___. What can you tell me about this program at your school?
 What makes your college unique?
 What is your college best-known for?
 What do you like best about your college?
 If you could change anything at your college, what would it be? Why?

 

Many college fairs have counselors as well as financial aid and testing professionals whose sole reason for being there is to support you. If you have questions or are unsure about how to make the best use of your time, be sure to meet with them.

 

 

 

The Major Myth

The Myth

If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times, “I don’t know what I want to study in college and so how can I figure out where to go to college?

The belief that you need to know what you’re going to major in during college in order to thoughtfully select schools to apply to is perhaps one of the most prevalent and damaging myths surrounding the college application process. Although it’s true that some students need to decide on a major prior to applying to college, particularly those interested in specialized subjects such as architecture, engineering, or nursing, the vast majority of college applicants don’t need to have chosen a major in order to engage in a thoughtful college search.

So, What’s the Reality?

When college applicants are asked to identify their desired major or course of study, they list “Undeclared” or “Undecided” more commonly than anything else. And even when students do enter college with a major in mind, an estimated 75 percent change their major at least once before graduation. Finally, while students may agonize over their choice of major, many sources including The Washington Post, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and the Census Bureau report that the vast majority of college graduates work in jobs unrelated to their major.

What to Do?

So, if choice of major isn’t the best way to go or only way to select colleges to apply to, what academic factors should guide your choices? Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Are you a visual, aural or tactile learner? Is your favorite class lecture style, discussion based or hands on? Each of these have implications for the types of schools and classes that would best meet your needs.
  • Do you prefer to work independently or in groups of students?
  • How much does your relationship with your teachers impact your performance? Many students report that they do much better in classes where they like the teacher and the teacher knows them. If this is you, keep it in mind. If your introductory biology class has 600 students, it will be next to impossible to develop a relationship with the instructor.
  • How assertive are you? How comfortable are you with seeking support? Academic advising and support systems vary widely by institution. Know your own style and seek colleges that will foster your success.
  • How well do you manage time? Are you a “quick” study? How you answer these questions might suggest whether you’d be happier at colleges with quarter system calendars versus those with semester systems. Keep in mind that a few colleges offer alternative calendars such as a block calendar.
  • How do you prefer to demonstrate what you know? Objective tests and term papers are very different ways of demonstrating knowledge. Class size impacts how you will be evaluated.

This isn’t an exhaustive list, but one to help you begin thinking about yourself and what kind of student you are. Understanding yourself, your strengths and your challenges are key to choosing colleges that will help you not only succeed, but also thrive.

Calling All Seniors: How You Can Boost Your Chances of Admission!

With just a few short weeks before college applications are due, using your time wisely to make the biggest impact on your applications is critical. By fall of your senior year, much of what goes into an application portfolio is largely “in the bag.” Your GPA is, for the most part, set, as is your record of extracurricular activities. Your teachers know you and you can’t, at this point, significantly influence what they might write in their letters of recommendation. But you do still have opportunities to boost the likelihood of being admitted to the colleges that interest you.

Everyone likes to be liked, right? Yep, it’s a no-brainer. But, what’s that go to do with applying to college?

Well, colleges want to be liked, just as you do. Yes, it makes them “feel” good (okay, I know colleges can’t actually feel), but this is not just about vanity. The more a student engages with a college, the more confident admissions officers can be about that student’s likelihood of enrolling. If you follow college rankings or are a statistics geek, you’ve heard the term “yield”. Yield is the percentage of students accepted by a college who in turn, “accept” the college by enrolling. Yield is one factor that goes into college rankings. Yield information is used to inform a wide range of decisions including how many students to admit, how many to wait list, how to use the wait list, and how to allocate and use resources. Consequently, yield is critical to college admissions officers. So, it should go as no surprise that students who “show the love” may increase their chance of acceptance.

It’s important to stress that, more than anything else, you must be genuine. This is NOT about “kissing up” to colleges, but rather, authentically engaging with them. Admissions officers are experts at sniffing out insincerity.

And this is not just about the colleges either. From your perspective, the more you sincerely engage a college, the more you’ll know about how closely it matches what you’re seeking in the college you attend.

Demonstrated Interest

My colleagues and I call this engagement “Demonstrated Interest”. Approximately 50% of the colleges responding to the National Association for College Admission Counseling’s Admission Trends Survey www.nacacnet.org/news–publications/publications/state-of-college-admission/ report that Demonstrated Interested is of Considerable or Moderate importance in making their decisions.

So, how do you demonstrate interest?

Ways to Demonstrate Interest

1. Request additional information after looking at the website.
2. Engage your admissions counselor in a meaningful “conversation”. Identify the admissions officer      who handles your geographic area or high school and ask him/her a couple of significant                    questions. Genuinely endeavor to learn more about the institution than is available through online      resources.

3. Open emails from the college and, if appropriate, forward to your parents.
4. Attend a regional information session.
6. Visit the booth at a college fair.
5. Visit the campus.
7. Request an interview.
8. Write a genuine “Why College X” statement.
9. Ask to be put in touch with a current student to get more of his/her perspective.
10. Supply all requested and recommended information and materials.
11. Write thank you note.
12. Apply early.

Some Words of Caution

DO NOT…

1. Keep up a constant dialogue with an admissions officer. He/she is extremely busy and you don’t        want to become thought of as a nuisance.
2. Ask questions whose answers are available online or in print.
3. Ignore directions, most typically by sending materials that are not requested or recommended.
4. Behave inappropriately. Be friendly and put your best foot forward. Applying to college is                    important business.

You’re in the home stretch. Keep positive, focused, and submit your applications before the last minute.

 

TIP: The PSAT is coming up. Doing a little prep beforehand will help you do as well as possible.

 

Gathering The Team: Students, Parents, School-Based Counselors & Independent College Consultants Working Together


As the new academic year gets underway, now is the time to refocus on how best to meet our goals and aspirations. College-bound high school students, their parents, school- based counselors, and independent college consultants all have at least one goal in common: to have students gain admission to several colleges that meet their academic, personal, and financial needs and preferences. Most of us would agree that having all parties on the same page and cooperating is likely to be the most successful approach.

So, how do we accomplish this?

Here are some thoughts about “Best Practices”.

Students With Both School Counselors and Independent College Counselors

If you’re a student who has both a school counselor and an independent guiding you through the college search and admission process, please…

* Understand that one does not replace the other. These two professionals have different perspectives, different pressures, and different roles. There is a great deal of variation as to how each will assist you. Be sure that you understand how each can support you, respect their different roles, and interact with each accordingly.

School Based Counselors

Are experts on school curriculum.
Understand you in context of your peers.
May/may not suggest colleges they believe will be good fits.
Write recommendations.
Likely will not have time to support individual applications.

Independent College Counselors

Will suggest colleges with probability of good fit.
May facilitate college research.
Won’t recommend you to colleges.
Guide applications.
Assist with final decision making.


* Be both tactful and respectful when letting your school counselor know that you’re working with an independent counselor.

* Assume responsibility for your own college search and pay close attention to the information, expectations, resources, and deadlines that each counselor has made available.

 

Parents

If you’ve hired an independent college consultant to help you and your teen navigate the college search process, please…

* Like your teen, understand and respect the different roles, perspectives, and responsibilities of each counselor and interact with each accordingly.

* When relaying information or suggestions from one counselor to the other, be mindful that counselors want to collaborate, not be adversarial.

* Support your teen in taking charge of his/her own college search.

 

School-based Counselors

Whether you’re in a large public or small private school, if you know (or think) that one of your students is (may be) using an independent college counselor, please:

* Clarify any uncertainty.

* Understand that independents recognize the pressures you face and know that you’re working hard to meet the needs of students.

* Know that reputable independent consultants respect your perspective and want to collaborate with you, not replace you.

* Recognize that what a student has relayed from an independent likely has been “filtered” either intentionally or unintentionally and may not be what the independent actually said.

* When in question about an independent, reach out and contact him/her. We welcome partnering with you and, as long as we have permission from our students and their parents, we’re happy to discuss them with you.

* Get to know the independent college counselors in your area, either by participating with them in local professional development activities, or by inviting them to meet with your department.

 

Independent College Consultants

Most of our students have school-based counselors and it is their best interests that we work constructively together. Please:

* Understand that school-based counselors frequently have a wide range of responsibilities and depending on their school size, hundreds of students in their caseload. College counseling may be only one small part of their job.

* Explain to your client families the different roles of school counselors and independents and emphasize that one does not replace the other.

* Ask your client families to sign information release consents and reach out to their school-based counselors in a respectful and meaningful way.

* If given permission to do so, contact school counselors. Ask how you can work with them most effectively and what, if anything, they would like from you.

* Support the policies and procedures that school counseling departments have in place to regarding curricula, recommendations, and transcript requests.

 

For further thoughts about counselors as team players, see https://www.nacacnet.org/news–publications/publications/journal-of-college-admission/how-iecs-fit-into-the-counseling-puzzle/

 

Here’s to a new school year! Cheers everyone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From Home Education to Higher Education

From Home Education to Higher Education by Lori Dunlap
Book Review

 

Education continues to evolve and the number of students who are homeschooled continues to grow. Here are my thoughts on one “just off the press” resource that recently caught my attention.

 

From Home Education to Higher Education is a short, very accessible and substantially researched book. Dunlap has two goals: 1) to introduce and explain homeschooling to admissions personnel and counselors and 2) to provide homeschooling parents with guidance about how to demonstrate their children’s academic achievements.

 

Dunlap, a homeschooling mother and former Director of MBA Career Development at the University of Arizona, devotes most of her book to her first goal, and herein lies the strength of this slim volume. Dunlap has made considerable effort to debunking common myths about homeschoolers, documenting home schooled students’ preparation for college and their college successes. For educators and others wanting to understand the wide range of homeschooling experiences, examine the myths surrounding homeschooling, and become familiar with some of the research regarding homeschoolers’ academic outcomes, this book is a great place to begin.

 

Chapter Six addresses how post-secondary institutions view homeschoolers and how they’ve adapted their application review processes to accommodate homeschooled applicants. The book’s last chapter provides recommendations about what colleges and universities can do to increase their homeschooled populations.

 

Dunlap has done a marvelous job of shedding light on the world of homeschooling and how post-secondary institutions might adapt to this growing population. She devotes less attention to detailing and supporting the legitimate needs of colleges and universities to homeschooling families, and as such, does not accomplish her second goal quite as thoroughly as she has her first.

 

From Home Education to Higher Education opened my eyes. It taught me a lot about the world of homeschooling and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to better understand the homeschooling experience.

 

For more information about Lori Dunlap and her views on homeschooling visit https://teachyourown.org.