Give me just 60 minutes, and you’ll give colleges better essays

It’s last call for my college essay webinar happening on Tuesday, August 7, from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. PST. All the information and the form to register are here.

I advise students to be both proud of and clear about their strengths and achievements when applying to college, so let me take some of my own advice here. I’ve been running Collegewise for 19 years. College essays are one of the components of college admissions I enjoy speaking and teaching about the most. So here’s my promise. Students, whatever your level of academic achievement or your comfort around writing, give me just 60 minutes. Embrace the four tips (and I really do only need four) that I share around finding and writing your best stories. I promise you will write better essays that will help admissions officers see you for the person you are behind your grades and test scores.

I hope you’ll join me.

Learn about college from our former Collegewise students

Collegewise is hosting a free Facebook live session featuring a panel of our former students who now attend a variety of different colleges.

What’s College Really Like?: A Former Collegewise Student Panel
Thursday, July 12, 2018
6 p.m. – 7 p.m. PDT

They will discuss their experiences on a variety of college campuses, share what they wish they’d known before they started college, and reveal all they’ve learned about how to thrive in college. You can register and get all the details here. I hope you’ll join us.

 

Announcing the Collegewise Scholarship Program

At Collegewise, we make our living working with families who can afford to hire us. But we’ve always felt a responsibility to be generous with our time, our resources, and our counseling to help get information and assistance to kids who won’t have a Collegewise counselor to guide them. One of the ways we’ve done that is to work with students pro-bono. What we haven’t done is formalize this work. We’ve never established how many pro-bono kids we can help through the process while doing a good job for both them and for our customers. We’ve never publicized any program like this or offered an organized way for students to raise their hand for consideration, or for counselors on the high school side to identify kids they believe would benefit. That’s about to change.

The Collegewise Scholarship Program
This week we’re proud to announce the Collegewise Scholarship Program. Championed and brought to fruition by our own Casey Near, this program will assist U.S. students of limited means who would benefit from working one-on-one with a Collegewise counselor. We’ll help them build their college lists. We’ll help them craft their applications and essays. We’ll act as the project managers, answer their questions, and cheerlead them through a successful college application process.

How to apply
This year, we’re accepting applications from rising seniors in the class of 2019 residing in the United States (including DACA students). For students interested in applying—and for high school counselors who’d like to share this opportunity with particular students—the application is available here. The deadline to apply is June 22nd. If spaces are still available after that date, we’ll consider applications on a rolling basis. If you have any questions, please email scholarship@collegewise.com. We’re excited to have the opportunity to help more kids find their way to the right colleges, and to do even more to help level the college access playing field.

Collegewise’s employee handbook is now public

Last month, I released a brand new version of “Life at Collegewise,” our employee handbook. Joining a new company can be a difficult adjustment when you don’t know how things work, you don’t completely understand the culture, and you’re constantly having to ask questions. With nearly 70 fellow Wisers spread out all over the country (and increasingly all over the world), it’s even more important for us to make sure that those joining our family feel at home as quickly as possible. “Life at Collegewise” is here to help.

This document has always been private, shared only with current or soon-to-be Collegewise employees. Until today. Here is “Life at Collegewise” in its (almost) entirety. I’ve removed only two portions from this public version: (1) the steps to file an expense report (because really, who wants to read that if you aren’t filing one?), and (2) our company glossary, because it’s full of esoteric insider terms that just won’t make sense if you don’t work here.

So why share it?

First, we’re proud of what we’re building here, and even more importantly, that we’re all in this together. The words in “Life at Collegewise” are mine, but the work, the ideas, the initiative, and the investment—everything that makes us who we are—are the result of the collective contributions of everyone here today, and yesterday. It feels good to celebrate and to share it.

Second, we’re always preaching to students, colleagues, and colleges to be themselves. Contrived attempts to appeal to the masses are not good recipes for producing great work. “Life at Collegewise” is our way of saying, “This is who we are, this is what we care about, and this is why those things matter to us.” It won’t resonate with everyone, and we’re OK with that. The people with whom those beliefs and actions strike a chord are most likely to appreciate why, what, and how we do things.

Finally, I hope that “Life at Collegewise” inspires some change-makers at other companies to rethink their own life at work. Collegewise is not perfect—far from it. Nineteen years in, we’re still a work in progress, and we’re always trying to get better. But making things better starts with believing that things can get better. I hope “Life at Collegewise” makes you a believer, too.

And if you decide after reading “Life at Collegewise” that you might like to experience life here as a fellow Wiser, check out our open positions here. You might also enjoy this short video courtesy of our full-time filmmaker.

Join us for a free event in White Plains, NY

Collegewise is hosting a free event in White Plains, New York, open to students, parents, and counselors.

Highly Selective Admissions: Debunking the Myths 
Wednesday, May 23, 2018
7 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. EDT
White Plains Performing Arts Center
11 City Pl. 
White Plains, NY 10601

About the speakers:

Arun Ponnusamy is Collegewise’s Chief Academic Officer and is widely regarded as one of the most knowledgeable college counselors and admissions experts in the United States. In his previous admissions roles, he evaluated the files of over 7,500 seniors applying for admission to the University of Chicago (his alma mater), Caltech and UCLA.

Nandita Gupta is an online counselor at Collegewise who previously worked as an admissions officer at Stanford University where she evaluated thousands of domestic and international applicants. A graduate of Princeton, Nandita also completed stints in investment banking at JP Morgan in New York City and executive search with globally renowned Russell Reynolds Associates in San Francisco.

All the information and the form to register are here. I hope you’ll join us.

Webinar on highly selective admissions

I have no problem with prestigious colleges. My beef is with the obsession around them. This notion that you will find inherently better educations, experiences, or outcomes simply because a school turns almost all of its applicants away just doesn’t hold up. But plenty of students—including a good portion of our own Collegewise students and counselors—found their perfect match at one of those highly selective colleges. And if you think that’s where your fit might be, too, I hope you’ll join us for a free webinar on Tuesday, May 8, 2018 from 5 p.m. – 6 p.m. PDT.  Led by Collegewise counselors Monica Brown, Nandita Gupta, and Kavin Buck, who worked as admissions officers at Harvard, Stanford, and UCLA respectively, they’ll help you separate admissions fact from fiction and share insights about how you can improve your chances of admission. Best of all, they’re straight shooters, great teachers, and liberal administrators of the calm and sanity so desperately needed in the chase for a highly selective college acceptance.

You can find all the webinar information and the form to register here.

 

Join us at our standardized testing webinar

It’s not just the perceived importance of scores, or even the associated preparation, that makes standardized tests such a source of stress in the college admissions process. It’s making decisions that should be simple, but aren’t. What tests should you take? When should you take them? Is there an advantage to taking the SAT over the ACT, or vice versa? If you’re looking for straight answers from people who aren’t trying to sell you a test prep program, I’d like to invite you to our free Collegewise webinar:

Testing 1, 2, 3: Standardized Test Planning Made Easy
Tuesday, February 27, 2018
5:00 PM – 6:00 PM PST

Our presenters are a father/son team, Paul and Jordan Kanarek. Over 30 years ago, Paul founded The Princeton Review of Southern California. 25 years later, Jordan followed his dad’s testing footprints and ran The Princeton Review’s private tutoring program in Washington, DC. Today, they both work at Collegewise, and they are the first people our trainers and counselors go to when they need to learn, teach, and share the best, most up-to-date advice around standardized testing. They are also gifted speakers and teachers who frequently receive testimonials from schools and organizations who invite them to speak to their families.

If you’re getting the sense I’m selling them hard here, it’s true. The stress, confusion, and resulting insanity surrounding standardized testing has reached epidemic proportions in high school. Give Paul and Jordan an hour of your time, and I promise you will come away feeling more informed, less stressed, and fully capable of making sound standardized testing decisions. All the details are here.

Should you invite anonymous feedback?

I had a great conversation with a Collegewise employee yesterday about the potential value of anonymous feedback at work. If we provided a forum to invite our employees to share feedback without requiring them to attach a name to their thoughts, would that give a voice to people who might otherwise be reluctant to share their opinions? There are a lot of legitimate reasons why there might be benefits to gain, but here are five reasons I came away believing that anonymous feedback is a bad idea for us, for most organizations, and even for high school students.

1. It sends a message that it’s not safe to speak up.

Sure, you can pitch anonymous feedback as the opportunity to speak up without fear of consequences. But it also reinforces the notion that this is a place that might take punitive measures with someone who dared to share an opinion. Once you instill that fear, it’s hard to remove it. And while there may be some places where fear brings out the best in some people, work is rarely if ever one of them.

2. It absolves the submitter of all responsibility.

When you sign your name to your opinions, you assume responsibility for what you say and how you say it. Is your feedback clear? Is it thoughtful? Does it come from a good place of wanting to help or otherwise make things better? Anonymous feedback makes that responsibility optional, but not required. And that can bring out the worst in people. Look no further than the anonymous comments on YouTube and you’ll see what I mean. If you want someone to treat your feedback with respect and to take responsibility for acting on it in some way, show them respect—and assume your own responsibility—at the onset by including your name with your thoughts.

3. It chips away at trust.

When feedback comes in the form of criticism, no matter how constructive, the receiver can’t help think, “I wonder who said that?” Then people start making unfounded guesses about the source. They start looking at their colleagues with suspicion instead of trust. The gossip starts to spin about who might have said what about whom. That feels an awful lot like the parts of junior high that we all hated so much. And nobody wants their work environment to feel that way.

4. Anonymity makes the feedback difficult if not impossible to act on.

One of the most important things any organization can do is respond to feedback from its constituents. Sometimes that response is to do exactly what was suggested. Sometimes it’s to reach out to the submitter and learn more. Other times it’s to make the person feel heard, but explain why you can’t or have decided not to act at this time. We don’t always get that action right at Collegewise, but we’re always trying to get better at it. When the feedback is anonymous, it’s much harder to take any productive action at all. And no action eventually leads to no more useful feedback.

5. It robs the submitter of a great opportunity.

People who share thoughtful, respectful feedback are demonstrating engagement. They’re showing that they care enough about the person, the cause, or the organization to raise their hand, share an opinion, and stand by those thoughts. They can then participate in the ensuing discussion or even lead the charge to make change. Over time, that person can establish a reputation as a high impact player, someone who makes things happen for the organization. Even a high school student can do this if they share useful feedback with their organizations, their teachers, or their school, then follow that feedback with a pledge to be a part of whatever happens on the other side. I can’t imagine a college that wouldn’t appreciate a student who engaged in this way, always coming from a place of wanting to make things better not just for themselves, but for everyone involved.

Collegewise is hiring nationwide

Collegewise is looking for the next batch of smart, passionate, interesting people to join our team.

Do you want your work to feel like a calling where you make a difference every day?

Would you like to help more families benefit from a service that helps students achieve their educational goals?

Are you looking for the training, resources, and support necessary to do the best work of your career?

We have open positions for:

  • College counselors
  • Director of College Counseling
  • Director of Finance
  • Inside salespeople
  • National Head of Sales
  • Online college counselor

A little more about Collegewise
Collegewise believes that the college admissions process has spun out of control for high school students and their parents. Too much anxiety and confusion. Too little appreciation for the wonderful educations and experiences waiting at so many schools beyond just the famous ones. And we’re out to change all of that. Together, we’ve built the nation’s largest college counseling organization with over 60 highly trained counselors injecting guidance, perspective, and occasional cheerleading into the admissions process for the families who join our programs. Since 1999, we’ve helped over 10,000 A-students, C-students, and everyone in between find, apply to, and attend the right colleges for them.

Open positions nationwide
We’re currently hiring in seven locations nationwide, and we have one online counseling position for a person who could live virtually anywhere on the East Coast. If you’re looking for an opportunity to learn and grow as a professional, to make a difference for kids and parents, and to do it all with smart, passionate, supportive co-workers who bring their hearts to work every day, we hope you’ll consider joining us. Let’s make a dent in the college admissions universe together. You can find all the information about us and our open positions here, and you can view our short video about life at Collegewise here.

Know someone who might be great?
If you know someone who might enjoy working at Collegewise, please send them the link to our Careers page. If we end up hiring them, we’ll pay you $700 after the person completes three months of successful work.