The Economic Crisis and College Admissions

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Tough Times Strain Colleges

Preparing for and applying to college is
never without at least a little anxiety.  But this year, our nation’s
economic crisis is adding a new layer of college-related worry for
parents, kids and counselors.  In addition to any possible personal financial fallout, many of
you may have seen the steady stream of recent articles in the press describing
colleges’ belt-tightening plans in the form of budget cuts, hiring freezes, and
suspended capital campaigns.  Naturally, people are wondering how, if at
all, this will affect kids and their college choices. I’m writing you this post to answer some of these questions.

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Stay on Their Good Sides

Apps
All the admissions officers we've met are good people who
would much rather admit than deny kids. But during the pressures of admissions
season, some applicants' actions can drive the admissions folks crazy. Here are
five tips to make sure you don't inadvertently hurt your case.

1. Follow directions.

You can avoid most common mistakes in college applications by reading and following
the directions.  For example, if a college asks you to list your
activities in the space provided, and you send them a resume instead, you just
showed them that you couldn’t follow a pretty simple direction.  So read
the directions and do exactly as they instruct you to do. No matter how much
you think you might be helping your case by doing things your own way, you’re
always better served following directions.

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Find us a great counselor, and we’ll pay you $1,000

Collegewise is looking for the next college counselor to join our team in Irvine, CA.  Here is the job description

We wanted to give our blog readers and those in the Collegewise family a chance to chime in and refer people they think just might be the right fit for us.  So we’re offering a $1,000 reward if you find us the right person, payable after the hire completes three months of successful work here. We’d also be happy to donate the fee to whomever you choose.  And if there is no referrer, we’ll donate the money to College Summit.   

The job description link above has all the information.  Forward this, blog it, whatever you’d like.  Please send only the best people you know as we’re fairly picky.  Thanks in advance for helping us with our search.   

Rank Them Yourself

"In the Pac-10 schools, where does USC stand, academically?"

That’s the question my neighbor asked me today.  And he was surprised when I told him there was almost no way to answer it. 

He told me he thought that Stanford had to be "on top," followed by Berkeley and then UCLA.   But he wasn’t naming those schools based on the quality of the education or the success of their graduates.  He did what lots of parents and students do; he deduced that the harder it is to get admitted, the better the school must be. 

I disagree.

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The “Weakness” Question

Yahoo posted an article for job-seekers today about how to handle the "What is your biggest weakness?" question.  College-seekers need to know how to handle that question, too.

College interviewers may ask you the same question.  College applications might have sections in which you are asked to tell them if you've ever been subject to a disciplinary action at school, or to tell them about a time you failed, or to share an experience in which you learned a hard lesson.

How should you handle these questions?

First, if anyone tells you to mention a weakness that is actually a strength, like, "Sometimes, I try to hard to help people in need", tell that person to beat it.  They're giving you just plain stupid advice.  No interviewer, college or otherwise, will be impressed by your supposed strong weakness.

A better approach is to just be honest.

You've got weaknesses; we all have them.  You've made mistakes; we've all made them.  Smart, mature students know this.  They don't hide behind their mistakes.  They own up to and learn from them.  They aren't ashamed of their weaknesses.  They try their best and then stand proud of their efforts. 

Colleges need kids who are aware of their weaknesses, who can bounce back when they fail.  Why?  Because at some point in college, you're going to fail.  You'll run for a club office and you won't win.  You'll get a 'D' on a test even though you studied hard.  You'll apply for a research grant and be rejected.  I promise you it's going to happen. 

Nobody who's enjoyed a fulfilling and successful college career did so by being afraid to fail.  Colleges want those kids who are willing to put themselves out there.

So when you're applying to college and you're asked about your weaknesses, talk openly about them.  When you're asked about your mistakes, own them and talk about what you're doing to avoid making them again.

Want examples?

It's, "I got a 'D' in chemistry because my teacher didn't like me," vs. "No matter how hard I tried, I just could not get a handle on chemistry."

It's, "I was suspended from school last year because my counselor over-reacted," vs. "I was suspended from school last year because I did something stupid that I will never do again."

It's, "I didn't make varsity soccer because there were so many politics involved," vs. "I'm not the best soccer player, but I love playing soccer anyway."

Learn the lesson now, and you'll not only get a little closer to college, but you'll also have no problem handling the "weakness" question when you apply for jobs after you graduate.

Why Parents and College Essays Don’t Mix

I received an email yesterday from
the mother of a Collegewise kid.  She'd read her daughter's college
essay and made "some changes," changes she said were "not drastic."  Her
daughter, however, was not happy about Mom's involvement.  Now they
were both upset and Mom wanted my advice about how to handle the
situation.

I told her she was a great parent and that she should be applauded for her good intentions, but that she
should run as fast as she possibly could in the opposite direction away
from her kid's college essays.  Right away. 

Parents and college essays don't mix.  If you'd like to know why, I've shared a piece I wrote for our Collegewise parents here.  If you're a parent, I hope you'll give it a read (and if you're a student, pass it along to your folks).

Not-so-complicated college admissions advice

Rocket

So, what if you haven’t won prestigious awards, earned a
perfect score on the SAT, or invented plutonium during your high school
years?  Don’t worry.  Impressing colleges isn’t as hard as you might
think it is.  Here are five college admissions tips, none of which require
that you invent a radioactive chemical element.

1.  Raise your hand.

Colleges don’t just want students who plow through courses
and get good grades; they want students who are engaged in class, who like to learn,
and who make contributions by participating.  In fact, that’s why colleges
ask for letters of recommendation from your teachers–to learn if you’ve
demonstrated these qualities.  So put your hand up, ask questions and
contribute to class discussions. 

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August News for Friends and Family

Panel_3 "Don’t get your heart set on one school when you’re applying.  You might think there’s only one school for you, but wherever you end up, that’s probably where you should be."

"(Californian students) Stop worrying so much about the cold weather back east.  It’s just snow. People deal with it.  Geez!"

"When you tour colleges, ask the students on campus questions.  You might feel lame doing it but, trust me, it makes us feel important when you ask."

These were just a few of the nuggets of wisdom our former Collegewise–now happy college–students shared at our first student panel which we held last week.

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Unsolicited Life Advice for Teens

Lucy_doctor
We're not in the life-coaching business here at Collegewise.  But every now and then, we find ourselves passing along some life lessons to the teenagers whose college applications we're reviewing.  And like so many adults, we're life-qualified only because we've had the luxury of just being on the planet a little longer with more time to learn from those in-the-know.  So here are five totally unsolicited pieces of life advice for today's teens. 

1.  Learn how to shake hands well.

It's surprising how many people offer a handshake that resembles a lifeless salmon.  Those who do so might as well just go ahead and announce, "Hi. I have the personality of a lifeless salmon." 

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July News for Friends and Family

Brochure_photo_2
Never to be sold on Ebay

I always wonder if the celebrities actually visited the stores where I see their signed photos; I mean, did Jerry Seinfeld really bring his clothes to my dry cleaner in Irvine, CA? 

But you don’t have to wonder if the signature on the front of this Collegewise brochure is legit.  Kim Burnell is something of a legend at Collegewise.  As a high school student, she single-handedly referred about a dozen of her friends to us.  After high school, she worked for us during the summers as our Collegewise Intern Extraordinaire.  Now a junior at UCLA, Kim is training our new interns how to do the job Kim-style.  She still appears in a few places on our website, and she just landed on the cover of our brand new brochure. 

Download Newbrochure.pdf

So to anyone who wonders if this UCLA-clad student on our brochure actually came through the Collegewise program (or if she actually goes to UCLA), she did…and she does!

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