We’re hiring our next college counselor

We're looking for our next college counselor to join us in our Irvine (Orange County), California office.

About Us
We do college private college counseling a little differently here.  Our goal isn’t to get every kid who works with us into a name-brand school.  Instead, we want to show families just how many great colleges are out there, help relieve their anxieties, and try to inject some much needed perspective into the college admissions process.  Since 1999, we’ve helped over 3000 students attend 700 different colleges. We encourage kids to be themselves, to do what they love, and to strongly reconsider writing a college essay about how volunteering on one blood drive taught them the importance of serving humanity.

What do our college counselors do?
Each counselor here works with a caseload of 40-70 students (most of whom are juniors and seniors) to help them find and apply to college.  We prepare students with good advice, organization and a little cheerleading to make sure everything happens smoothly and thoughtfully.

Who are we looking for?
We’d love to find someone with admissions experience at a selective college; several of our counselors were admissions officers before they arrived here and we certainly appreciate the perspective they bring to the job.  But fit is more important than experience.  We tour colleges while we’re on vacation.  We like to work hard and do a good job.  We look forward to our annual holiday party.  We say “good morning” to our colleagues at work and occasionally like to get a beer together at the end (but never during the middle) of the work day.  If that resonates with you, you might really enjoy working with us. 

What’s the next step?
If your interest is piqued, we invite you get to know us a little better by looking around our website.  Find out more about what we do, who you’d be working with and what we believe.  If you like what you read and think you could find a professional home here, please send a resume and cover letter to Allison Cummings, Director, at ocjobs@collegewise.com.  Like a great college essay, we think a great cover letter should help us get to know who you really are.  Don’t be afraid to be yourself—smart, thoughtful, maybe even funny.  Just don’t be generic.  We've also got five (totally unsolicited) tips for job seekers here if you'd like them.

We’re looking for someone to start in June 2011 but we'll select the exact start date to accommodate the right person. This position pays $38K-55K depending on experience.  If you have questions about the job, we'd prefer that you email us at the above address, rather than call us, but we promise to respond to you quickly. 

We hope to hear from you, but if we don’t, we hope you find a great professional fit someplace else.

Five tips for job seekers

Whenever we post an available job at Collegewise, it’s humbling how many smart, likeable people take the time to apply.  We never take it for granted how lucky we are in that way. But we also see a surprising number of applicants who make the same mistakes. Looking for a job is never easy or fun. You deserve to give yourself the best chance of getting hired.  So here are a few tips I hope will help, whether you’re looking for a job here at Collegewise or someplace else.

1. Get the details right. 

It doesn’t matter how qualified you are—if your resume has typos, or you misspell the name of the company, or you forget to switch out the company name from the last cover letter you sent, you just look careless. Details matter, especially when people are sizing you up. Kevin Costner explains this well to his pitcher played by Tim Robbins in Bull Durham:

Your shower shoes have fungus on them. You’ll never make it to the bigs with fungus on your shower shoes. Think classy, you’ll be classy. If you win 20 in the show, you can let the fungus grow back and the press will think you’re colorful. Until you win 20 in the show, however, it means you are a slob.”

It’s OK to be funny, to be irreverent, and maybe even to take some liberties with your language (at least for us). But you’ve got to get the basics right. Proofread everything. Make sure you spell the company name right. Grammar and punctuation are important even if you personally couldn’t care less whether someone uses “your” or “you’re.”  And read aloud what you’ve written to make sure it makes sense.

2. Follow instructions. 

Good companies want people who show initiative. But that doesn’t mean you should ignore instructions, especially when looking for a job. This is one of the basic attention-to-detail things you’ve got to get right. Read the instructions before you fire off your resume, call, or just show up unannounced to inquire. What are they asking you to do? What materials are they requesting? Don’t decide that you’ve got a better or more impressive way to take the first step. Show them first that you can follow instructions. There are other places you can dazzle them with initiative.  Which brings me to #3…

3.  Don’t play the numbers—play matchmaker.

I understand why applying for jobs can feel like a numbers game where the more resumes you send out, the better your chances of getting hired. But that’s like going on match.com and sending an identical email to 100 different people hoping to find your soul mate. Sure, you might get a great match that way if you’re lucky. But your odds improve if you narrow the field and become more personal.

Instead of sending the same generic cover letter and resume to 50 companies, why not be a matchmaker? Pick the 5 or 10 jobs or organizations that you’re most interested in and focus your efforts there. Take the initiative to learn everything you can about the organization and the position. Learn about their mission, products and what they do.  Learn about the people who work there. Make your cover letter personal, one that the company knows you wrote just for them. Spend your time communicating the match, not just playing the numbers. Sure, it might take more time. But applying generically will get you a generic job. You deserve better than that.

4. Get rid of “resume-speak.”

Too many resumes are loaded with resume-speak like “Initiated and cultivated relationships with various product teams.” Resume-speak tries to make something sound impressive.  But it doesn’t say anything. It takes what might have been interesting and hides it behind jargon and buzzwords. So don’t use it.  Instead, be clear and direct. Tell them what you did, how you did it and what impact you made by doing it (here’s some advice on how to do just that). I don’t care if the job doesn’t sound classically impressive. There are no insignificant roles. If you worked hard and did a good job, be proud of what you did and don’t hide behind resume-speak.

5. Don’t ignore the cover letter.

This is an extension of the matchmaking tip, but it’s important enough to mention here. Cover letters are important.  Don’t relegate yours to a bland introduction you re-use over and over. Nobody in the history of job-searching stood out by writing, “I seek a challenging position such as this one where I can utilize my various talents” in their cover letter. A great cover has a voice. It’s got some oomph. So put some personality behind your writing. Don’t write the same bland lines everybody else is writing. Make yours stand out.  I’m not saying you should necessarily write a haiku or anything.  But there’s no reason an interesting person should submit a boring cover letter.

Don’t try to learn about admissions this month

This month, the majority of seniors will hear their admissions news. For freshmen, sophomores and juniors, this is when you'll hear people making bold declarations about how and why students did or didn't get in.  It will sound like this:

"He got in because he wrote a great essay."

"He got rejected because he didn't take AP Calculus."

"She got in because of her SAT Verbal score."

"She got rejected because she got a 'C' freshman year."

"He got in because he picked 'forestry' as his major."

"He got rejected because he didn't do full IB."

"She got in because her dad is an alum."

"She got rejected because too many kids from our school applied." 

When you hear those statements, remember that most of the people making them have absolutely no idea what they're talking about. 

The only people who really know why a student did or did not get in are the admissions officers who read the file and ultimately made the decision.  A high school counselor is sometimes privy to that information, too.  But most other people didn't see the file.  They didn't read the essays.  They didn't see the letters of rec, or sit in on the interview, or hear the conversation between the admissions officers who decided.  

So don't try to learn about admissions this month.  Or, at least don't try to learn about it from the wrong people.  Even admissions officers themselves can't always point to one factor that got a student in or kept him out.  This is a complicated process, one that sometimes defies explanation to outside observers. 

If you learn anything this month, notice that just about all of those kids got in somewhere.  And while you're at it, learn from all the college freshmen who come home for spring break just how much they love college, even those who didn't get into their first choice.

A physics professor’s take on his place of work

A lot of colleges sound the same.  Small classes.  Dedicated professors.  A library with 2 million volumes you can check out.  Not many of them can–or are willing to–come out and tell prospective students what makes their school unique and how that benefits their graduates.  

But Scott Calvin, a physics professor at Sarah Lawrence College (SLC), gives one of the best answers I've ever seen to those questions in his open letter to SLC students,  Why Haven't Sarah Lawrence College Students Taken Over The World?  Sarah Lawrence students interview professors before selecting classes.  Calvin explains exactly how that changes a student over four years, and how it helps their students become successful when they leave.  It's not the same marketing-speak you see on so many colleges' websites.  It's direct, honest, and frankly, totally refreshing.

Even if you have absolutely no interest in Sarah Lawrence, I'd still read the piece for two reasons:

1.  It will give you some idea of the kind of impact a college can have on you if you choose the right one.

2. If you like what he says, you should know that you can interview professors before you select classes at virtually all colleges.  Sarah Lawrence just happens to require it.

The attitude of good SAT and ACT test-takers

Good test-taking on the SAT or ACT is part skill, part attitude. 

Here's an example.  Aggressively eliminating wrong answers is a skill.  When good test-takers don't know which answer is right (it happens all the time, even to them), they look for wrong answers, eliminate those, guess and move on.  You can learn that skill, practice it and get better at it.

But the mark of good test-takers is their attitude when moving on.  

When a good test taker eliminates even one wrong answer, guesses and moves on, she doesn't feel bad.  She doesn't lament that she didn't know which answer is right.  She doesn't start to worry that the test is getting the better of her.  There is no pity party.  No "Woe is me."  Her attitude is,

"OK.  Got rid of one and guessed.  Next question."

Good test-takers have the same attitude towards tests that successful college applicants have towards the entire process.  They try their best and they're happy with their effort, even if the result isn't perfect.  And they know that as long as they keep applying that effort to other areas of their life, everything is going to work out just fine.

You can learn that attitude, too.

For senior parents: Just six more months…

Parents of seniors, just six months from now, you'll be moving your new college freshman into a dorm room, saying goodbye, and leaving him or her to start their college lives.  It will be sad, but it will also be one of the most exciting and rewarding days you'll ever have as a family.

How do you want to spend the next six months leading up to that day?

Do you want it to be a good memory?  Do you want your senior's last six months at home to be a time when you celebrated every college acceptance, even from the safety schools?  Do you want it to be a time when you reminded your student that you love them anyway even if a dream school said "No"?  Do you want to be the parent who excitedly planned a school visit, bought the "_____ University Mom" sweatshirt and proudly slapped the sticker on the back of the car window, even if the school wasn't your kid's first choice (or yours)?  And do you want to spend the next six months showing your student just how proud Mom and Dad are, and how excited you are for them in their upcoming journey to college?

Or will you allow colleges and their admissions decisions to dictate how you'll spend the next six months? 

Will you be attached to the belief that a "Yes" from a dream school is the only acceptable outcome?  If the dream schools' decisions aren't what you'd hoped, do you want to spend the time cursing the schools that said, "No," appealing for reconsideration, and mourning the loss?  Will you spend the time comparing your student's credentials to those of other students, worrying and wondering what else could have been done?  Do you want the next six months to be stressful and disappointing?

Don't let colleges make the decision for you.  All they can say is "Yes" or "No."  How your family spends your senior's last six months at home is entirely up to you.

What college rankings really tell us

From Malcolm Gladwell's (author of "Blink" and "The Tipping Point") most recent New Yorker piece, "What College Rankings Really Tell Us…"


There’s no direct way to measure the quality of an institution—how well a college manages to inform, inspire, and challenge its students.  So the U.S. News algorithm relies instead on proxies for quality—and the proxies for educational quality turn out to be flimsy at best."


Find out how they got there

Here's a good way to learn more about colleges, majors, and the many paths that can lead to being successful. 

Pick five people who are doing something you find interesting–writing, video game design, sports management, whatever.  If you don't know or can't think of specific people, pick a company that does something interesting to you, visit their website, and find the names of five people who seem to be doing important jobs there. 

Then find out how they got there.

Read their bios.  Google them and find out where they went to college, what they majored in, and what jobs they had before they got here. Connect the dots from where they started and where they are now.

I think you'll find two things:

1.  The line is very rarely straight. 

Most successful people didn't create a scripted 10-year plan to get there.  They got there by working hard and making the most of opportunities that presented themselves along the way.  If you're struggling to name your intended major or career, you might find it encouraging to see successful people who could never have predicted at age 18 what they would eventually do with their lives. 

2.  There isn't a lot of correlation between how successful they are and the relative prestige of their colleges.  

For private counselors: If you email without permission to email, you’re a spammer

A close friend asked me if I'd meet with a friend of hers who was starting a business and wanted some advice.  I was happy to do it.  The friend was totally pleasant and we had a nice chat. 

At the end of the meeting, she asked me for my business card.  I gave it to her but politely asked that she please not add me to any mass emails about the business.  It didn't work. 

Since that day, I've received four unsolicited emails promoting their "Grand opening," and all of them begin with "Dear Ladies."  I'm either on a mass email list or I'm a lot more gender ambiguous than I thought I was.  When the fourth email arrived today, I finally replied and asked to be removed from the list.  

Was it worth it for her?

What did she get out of sending those unsolicited emails?  What was her return on the risk given what transpired?  And how will the friend who referred her feel if she finds out?  Will she be inclined to help her again?  Doesn't seem to me like it was worth it.

If you email somebody without permission, especially if you're doing so when you want something from the receiver, you run the risk of looking like a spammer.  If you email the person more than once without permission, especially as part of a mass email, guess what–you are a spammer.  And if you're good at your job, you deserve a better reputation than that.

PS:  Here's a good post on the value of permission in marketing.  And mine about how to write a good email message.

PPS:  In the "You can't make this stuff up" department, when I sent the email asking to be removed from her list, this is the screen that popped up: