Questions from our counselor training final exam

Every counselor hired at Collegewise must complete our 40-hour training program, observe meetings with students and parents, and pass a final exam.  Whether you're joining us right out of college or leaving a job in admissions at a highly selective university, we think it's important to train everyone from a common starting point. An experienced admissions officer obviously knows how colleges make decisions, but we've intellectualized that information and made it teachable to high school kids and parents.  Our training doesn't just teach the information; it also teaches new counselors the best way to explain that information to families. 

As I write this blog entry, our newest counselor (who was an assistant director of admissions at USC before joining us) has finished her Collegewise training and is completing her final exam.  There are over 100 questions on the exam covering everything from how colleges admit students, to how we counsel kids, to how to deal with difficult counseling situations. 

Here is a sampling of some of the questions we ask:

1. Why is matchmaking an especially important admissions element for students who want to attend the most selective colleges?

2. List the four elements colleges consider when assigning a student an “Academic Ranking” during the admissions process.  It’s not necessary to describe or elaborate on each of the elements at this time.

3. What are the 5 “Core-Subjects” that most colleges use to calculate a student’s GPA?

4. When a Collegewise counselor helps a student select extracurricular activities, what is the single most important question a counselor should ask the student in regards to each activity?

5. List 5 clichéd essay topics that high school students often choose for college essays.

6. Letters of recommendation are an important part of college admissions.  What are three important questions we should encourage students to ask themselves when considering which teachers might be good choices to write letters.

7. Name two schools that focus almost exclusively on “pre-professional”
curriculums.

8. Define “single choice early action” and name one school who uses it.

9. Create a testing calendar and a preliminary college list for the student
listed below.  Assume he started with us in August going into his
junior year.  Use the Collegewise testing calendar and the Collegewise
preliminary college list.       

Michael’s GPA at the end of his sophomore year is a 3.6.  He is
scheduled to take the following in his junior year:  AP English,
Pre-calculus, US History, Honors Chemistry, Ceramics and AP French
IV.    Michael toured the UCSB and UCLA campuses 2 weeks ago.  He likes the
feeling of being on a big campus but being in a city like L.A. is too
scary for him. He’d prefer less of a city feel.  He also wants to stay
in California.

10. What are some signs that would indicate that a family might not be a
good match for the Collegewise program?

11. Based on your preliminary experience, describe the type of family who is
likely to appreciate and benefit from the Collegewise program.

12 Describe a circumstance under which a Collegewise counselor might endorse a high achieving student’s decision NOT to enroll in an available AP course (ex. AP Spanish) during her senior year of high school?  Assume the student wants to attend a highly selective college.

Frequently asked counseling questions
Imagine that a student/parent presented you with one of the following statements or questions.  Please provide the response that you would give.  Your responses will be evaluated for accuracy and completeness, not for tone.  For example, it’s not necessary to write, “That’s a really good question, and I’m glad you recognize that this is important.”  You can just provide the necessary factual information in the response.  If you would require more information from a student in order to answer the question, indicate so in your response. 

1. “Why should I take a fourth year of language?  The UC website says ‘Two years required, three recommended,’ and I’ve already done that.”

2. “How can my son pick colleges yet?  He doesn’t know what he wants to major in.” 

3. “Will colleges care about my grades from senior year?” 

4. “We’re planning a trip to visit colleges back east.  We’d like to see Harvard, MIT, Princeton, Cornell, Columbia, Brown, Yale and Penn.”

5. “Our daughter says she wants to go back East, but we don’t want her going that far away.”

6. “Our son has a 2.4 GPA.  Should he just go to community college?”

7. “We know USC is a reach school for him, but we think our son could really benefit from the personal interview.  He’s got great people skills.  Won’t a great interview help his chances?”