I am not a tuba player. And I’m OK with that.

When we go to college admissions conferences, we’ll always attend any session in which Bruce Poch, Dean of Admissions from Pomona College, is participating.  He’s outspoken, honest, and refreshingly forthright.  With so much mystery surrounding the admissions process, it’s nice to hear from a decision maker who’s comfortable discussing what admissions officers look for–and what drives them crazy–when reading applications. 

His article in Newsweek this week makes the process seem so complex, and with good reason–it is.  A lot of parents and students make themselves crazy trying to decipher exactly what combination of grades and test scores and activities will guarantee admission.  But that magic combination doesn’t exist.  Poch reminds students that while there are no guarantees, you’re always better off just being yourself.

News for Friends and Family…

New faces in the Collegewise crowd

There was a time not that long ago when we used to imagine what it would be like to have admissions officers leave their posts and come to work with us.  Then Arun joined us in 2004 from Caltech and Christina from the SUNY system in 2005.  And this week, we were lucky enough to add the most recent additions to our Southern California offices–college counselors Allison Cummings from the University of Redlands and Jessica Schattgen from Whittier College.

Allison will join Collegewise – Irvine while Jessica will work with Arun in our Los Angeles office.   

And Collegewise – NY’s Alex Weiner has added a few more desks to his offices to accommodate his most recent additions–college counselors Carly Amodio and Breda Malfesi.

They’re all smart, funny, and frankly, quite pleasant to be around.  We’re really excited to have them with us.

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Summer To-Do List for Soon-To-Be Seniors

It’s summer.  And you rising seniors deserve a little rest and relaxation.  But while you’re soaking up your summer, here a few college-related things you can do to make your upcoming application season much easier. 

1. Aim to finalize your list of colleges by the end of the summer.
A lot of students wait until the fall to even decide where they want to apply.  Why wait?  Deciding where you’re going to apply is much easier than deciding where you’re actually going to go (which doesn’t happen for most students until late in your senior year).  So do your research, talk to your parents, and visit any colleges you can get to this summer.  Remember, you can always alter your list this fall if a visit to a college (or the advice of your high school counselor) prompts you to rearrange the list just a bit.    

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Easing the Stress

Stress_2 Boy, do we like Jay Mathews, Education Columnist for the Washington Post and author of one of our favorite admissions books, Harvard Schmarvard.   And his most recent column, "Ten Ways to Reduce College Application Stress" reminds us why.

Some of the tips actually suggest ways the colleges could do more to ease the stress on kids, like tip #3,  "Make the super selective colleges tell all potential applicants that their admissions processes are often irrational and that getting accepted is akin to winning a lottery."

I like tip #9 the best–"Repeat this phrase every day: In America, people succeed because of the quality of their character, not the notoriety of their college." 

And as usual, he's got great data to back it up.

Thanks Jay!

August News for Friends and Family…

Img_0210 Happy Graduation
Collegewise counselors Jessica Schattgen (Los Angeles) and Allison Cummings (Irvine) recently completed our five-week college counselor training that culminates in a two-day final exam, an exam on which they both earned the highest scores ever recorded since we began our training program in nearly five years ago.   

To celebrate, the Irvine crew traveled north to Los Angeles for a congratulatory dinner. We’re looking forward to seeing them put their admissions experience (and their curve setting final performance) to work helping kids get into college.

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Extra! Extra! “Regular Kids” Still Get In!

Nytimes Whenever we preach that kids can be regular teenagers and get into college, we always like to say that they can play guitar and work at the grocery store rather than paddle down the Amazon and cure athletes’ foot.  Those latter hyperboles tend to change depending upon our mood, but the guitar and grocery store are old standbys for us to show how regular kids with real passion are very appealing to colleges.

Imagine our delight at reading about Kevin Robinson in today’s New York Times, and 18 year-old senior in Pennsylvania who did exactly those things and is going to The George Washington University.  He even wrote his essay about how much he likes Parliament Funkadelic.

And this blogger will openly admit that he’s accused the New York Times of only printing the bad news about college admissions.  Thanks for showing us the good side!

Standing Room(s) Only

Img_0189_2We’re in day #2 of our visit to the annual WACAC (Western Association for College Admissions Counseling) conference being held at the University of San Diego this year.  As of the penning of this blog, Arun and Kevin have finished their presentations ("College Admissions 101 for New High School Counselors" and "Solutions for the College Counseling Workplace") and did so to standing room only crowds.  Whether or not those standing room only crowds enjoyed the sessions remains to be seen for sure until the conference evaluations are submitted, but Kevin and Arun are telling themselves that they were funny, charming, and even informative.  Arun actually had an admissions officer from USC tell him after his session that his information was "right on point," so that was a nice piece of feedback.   

This picture at the left is Arun commanding the room during his session.  Kevin will be asking the rest of the Collegewisers why nobody bothered to photograph him and will reveal their answer in a blog entry to come.   

June News for Friends and Family…

Elisabeth_awardOur new little “Collegewise News for Friends and Family” section of
our blog is for those readers who really want to know what we’ve been up to around our offices. Yes, the section could probably be more aptly named, “For our Mothers” as they’re likely the only ones who will read it regularly. But as we all want to make our mothers proud, we thank the rest of our readers in advance for allowing us to update our moms here.

150 kids and counting

Collegewise essay specialist Elisabeth Abbott is beginning her fourth senior season with us this year. And we figured that anyone who’s helped over 150 kids with college essays, and done it so amazing well, deserves a little extra appreciation.  So we declared May 19, 2007 “Elisabeth Appreciation Night” and enjoyed a great meal together in Los Angeles.

The plaque Elisabeth is holding in the photo has the names of the more than 150 kids with whom she’s worked, kids who are now enrolled in over 70 different colleges across the country.

New Essay Specialists

Speaking of appreciating essay specialists, we’re very appreciative of the three new ones who will be joining us in the Orange County Office this summer. We thought we’d let them introduce themselves by sharing snippets from their (brilliant) cover letters they submitted to us. Needless to say, as a company of writers and grammar snobs, we know they’re going to fit right in and help a lot of kids get into college this fall.

Amy Lovin

While I read many “great” books as an undergrad (in terms of philosophy as well as sheer volume), my most beloved remains the small, short, almost pamphlet-like Elements of Style by Strunk & White. Their easy-to-follow, yet quick-witted, guide to all things grammatical should be required reading, especially for all of those truck drivers carting around “flammable” cargo. Editor’s note: Go here for Strunk and & White’s explanation of flammable vs. inflammable.College_essay_specialists

Drew Wood
I will change the face of the college essay. I will play the
game. I will adapt. I will laugh. I will cry. I will show those
admissions people. I will be selfless. I will remain selfish. I will be available when you need me. I will be nice. I will be ruthless. I will not steal paper clips. I will not waste Wite-Out. I will be the thorn in your side. I will be the light of your life. I will make my mom proud. I will shame my family. I will be the best essay-man that Collegewise has ever seen. I will be modest. I will be humble. I will be better than this. I will be waiting. 

Mamie Cosentino
I’m the girl who shields young children’s eyes as they pass the shop around the corner, not because the items displayed in the window case are overpriced or inappropriate, but because the sign above the door reads “Jean’s Gift’s.” (Yes, it really does.) 

Off to San Diego

And finally, we’re headed to the annual WACAC (Western Association for College Admissions Counseling) conference in San Diego this week and we have to admit that we’re pretty excited about it. We always enjoy chatting with admissions officers and learning as much as we can. And for the third consecutive year, Kevin and Arun are each presenting workshops at the conference.  For our Collegewise cohorts, attendance at their sessions is mandatory and heckling is prohibited (at least until after the sessions are finished).

Until next month…

Simple Things You Can Do to Help You Get into College

Even colleges often appreciate the simple things in life.
Here are five simple things you can do that will make admissions officers take

1. Get a job
No, we don’t necessarily mean a high-profile internship or a fancy sounding job
at your dad’s law firm. We mean a regular job, like washing cars, waiting
tables, or stocking inventory. Finding, getting, and keeping a job takes
initiative, responsibility and hard work, and a kid who earns an honest dollar
flipping burgers is always appealing to colleges.

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Five College Planning Mistakes Parents Must Avoid

It’s normal for parents to want to help. And kids need your
support during what can be a stressful process. But make sure you don’t make
these common mistakes (all of which are made with the best of intentions).

1. Don’t get involved with the college essays
Parents think and write differently than kids do.  That’s why when a
parent helps too much with a college essay, it is almost always glaringly
apparent to an admissions officer.  Let your student take the lead and
write what she wants to write.  And while you stay hands-off, encourage
your kids to seek feedback from an English teacher or counselor who knows them

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