Tap into your team’s potential

I recently shared an experiment we were launching at Collegewise, the Talent Tour of Duty, an 8-week program for our colleagues to help our Talent Department find new and better ways to find, recruit, hire, train, and engage the very best employees. We’d originally envisioned 8-10 people participating, a number we picked largely based on how many people might be interested (and even that was a guess). But we were astonished at both the quality and the quantity of the applications, so much so that we accepted 18 Collegewise employees into the program.

To be clear, none of these people actually work in our Talent Department. They hail from nearly every department in our company, from counseling to sales to finance to filmmaking. And they all have full-time jobs with full-time responsibilities. But they’ve all experienced what it’s like to be recruited and hired here. They’ve been through their own trainings. They’ve experienced their own joys and challenges as they’ve progressed through their jobs here. Who better to spot how we can improve the employee experience than the employees themselves?

Leaders often make the mistake of reserving the right to initiate change. But that puts enormous pressure on the leader and devalues the potential of the team. Great ideas are equal opportunity employers. Why limit the time spent observing, analyzing, and problem solving to a select few individuals? When you engage others to spot opportunities, to find solutions, and to innovate, you increase your collective potential for impact exponentially.

We’re so grateful to the Wisers who raised their hands for the Talent Department, and we can’t wait to see not only the ideas they present, but also the projects they ship. I’ll share our progress, and some of our projects, as we go. I hope our Talent Tour of Duty inspires others to tap into their own team’s potential.

Congratulations to our Talent Tour of Duty participants: Abby van Geldern, Frank Martinez, Jackie Muralla, Jen Turano, Jordan Kanarek, Katie Konrad Moore, Katie Sprague, Kellie Graham, Laura Dicas, Liz Pack, Lindsay O’Sullivan, Megan Carlier, Michael Banks, Nan Yuasa, Nicole Pilar, Nikayla Loy, Olivia Vail, and Tom Barry.

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 currently have openings for the following positions:

Director of College Counseling
Pasadena, California
Redondo Beach, California

College Counselor
Austin, Texas
Irvine, California
Millburn, New Jersey
Newton, Massachusetts
Online counselors (you can live and work anywhere)

Other
Inside Sales

A little more about Collegewise
Collegewise is a college counseling company that uses just the right mix of advice, encouragement, and occasional cheerleading to help students get accepted to the right colleges for them (we made this short video to explain what we do and another to explain what it’s like to work here). From our supportive hive of over 60 counselors who bring their hearts to work every day, to our best-in-class professional development like our College Counseling Master Class, to our mission-driven initiatives like our partnership with Reach Higher and our scholarship program for under-resourced students, we’ve created a company where we can learn, have our voices heard, and do great work that matters.

Interested in joining the team?
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, 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.

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

Preparing to blog off into the sunset…

Yesterday, I completed my ninth year of consecutive daily blog posts here. And I’ve decided that this 10th year will be my last. I’ve still got 364 days of daily blogging left to go, so I won’t do a long preemptive goodbye today. But I did want to give readers the heads up that one year from today, the daily streak will come to an end.

Next to starting Collegewise, this blog is the most valuable endeavor I’ve ever taken on at work. Daily blogging has delivered more personal and professional benefit than I ever could have predicted when I wrote that first post nine years ago. In fact, I expect that I’ll keep blogging in some capacity even when this streak ends one year from now. But I’m ready to let go of the pressure to post every day. And more than ever before, I’m ready to write about topics other than college admissions.

Since I founded Collegewise in 1999, we’ve grown into the largest college counseling company in the world, with offices and families all over the globe. I love what we’ve become and the role that I’m currently playing—finding and recruiting the right people to join us, preserving the culture we’ve worked so hard to build, and making our company an even better place to work for everyone here. But I don’t work directly with families today. I don’t write our counseling materials. I don’t even do the majority of training for our new counselors. There are plenty of people in the college advising universe who know more about helping kids get into college today than I do, many of whom I’m proud to call colleagues here. I’ve always said that I’d keep blogging as long as I still had something to say. And on these topics for this audience, it feels like the right time for me to start winding down, and for other bloggers to start stepping up.

I’ll enjoy my final year penning daily posts and promise to do my best to keep writing something worth sharing. Thank you for reading, especially to those of you who’ve been readers for years. It’s a privilege to do this, one I’m looking forward to saying I appreciated every consecutive day for a decade.

On lasting impressions

The last job I had before I started Collegewise in 1999 got off to a bad start. I’d moved across the country to take the position and arrived for my first day of work only to find my boss unavailable and my desk empty—no computer, no phone, and no access pass to get to the meeting rooms on the second floor. I spent the entire day interrupting people to ask for help and foraging for tools to get started. Worst of all, everyone important in my life reached out and asked eagerly, “How was your first day?” Day one deflated all the excitement I’d had about the position and the company. So it’s not surprising that we do first days a lot differently at Collegewise.

We have two goals when a new employee starts at Collegewise: (1) Send a clear message of “We are thrilled that you are here,” and (2) Give them a great story to tell when their friends and loved ones ask, “How was your first day?” We send out a personalized introduction of each of them to the entire company. They spend time learning from our trainers, our CEO, and their new colleagues, all of whom join them for lunch and dinner on day #1. We construct the entire experience to make them feel welcome and to give them a great story to tell. Done right, the first day sets a tone and reinforces that they’ve made a great decision to join us.

We can’t make every day as memorable as the first at Collegewise, but we’ve learned that we can create meaningful experiences that give employees the same lift. Whether it’s a promotion, a successful completion of an important project, or the anniversary of their start at Collegewise, whenever possible, we try to create a meaningful, story-worthy experience, one that shows each employee just how much they matter to us beyond a worker filling a position. Naysayers may claim that we’re a business and that employees should just do their jobs. But work is personal for the person doing the work. If we want employees who are delighted, proud, loyal, and engaged, we’ve got to give them experiences that make them feel that way.

Chip and Dan Heath, authors of The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences have Extraordinary Impact, argue that our memories don’t just take an average of our moment-by-moment experiences. We remember key events, the memorable highs (or lows). Think back to your last family vacation, your wedding day, or your child’s graduation from college. Chances are, you aren’t focusing on the details made insignificant by time. You remember the key moments that now shape the entire experience in your mind, like the family photo with Mickey Mouse, the first dance, or the moment your college graduate walked across the stage to accept his degree. Once we appreciate the value of these experiences, we can identify opportunities to embrace and create them both at work and at home.

If you’d like to create a culture of key moments in your business, start small. Identify or create an event with potential, like an employee’s first day, a salesperson’s millionth dollar in revenue, or a promotion to a new position. Then imagine it was your child, partner, or best friend. How would you like to see them treated? What story would you want them to tell you about how their workplace made them feel recognized and valued? Once you know the story, you can get to work creating one that’s personal, not programmatic.

We can’t engineer every day to be perfect at work. But if we create enough memorable experiences to enjoy and stories to tell, we can make a lasting impression as good as our first day’s.

How to use our free Common App guide

CA guide coverOur Collegewise Guide to the 2018-19 Common Application is here, free to anyone who wants it. I have vivid memories of one full day in July 2011 when Arun and I went line by line through the Common App and considered all the advice we could give for every section. The result was a 64-page Microsoft Word document crafted on a desktop computer. I don’t think either of us ever imagined that Collegewise would still be producing updated annual versions of the guide seven years later or that so many of our colleagues would help us make it even better. And we certainly never imagined that we’d publish it one day with Michelle Obama’s education initiative, Reach Higher. But we’re so happy that our guide has proven to have staying power. You can get your copy here.

Borrowed from a past post, here are a few suggestions for how you might use our guide:

Students

  • If you haven’t started your Common App, complete each section with our help. We think your app will be stronger, and you’ll actually spend less time on the application by just getting it right the first time.
  • If you’ve already finished your Common App, use our guide to do a line-by-line review before you submit.
  • Struggling with just a particular section or two? Our guide can probably help.

Parents

If you are the official college application reviewer in the house, use our guide to review your student’s Common Application (kids should always complete their own college applications even if a parent will review them).

High school counselors

  • Looking to brush up on your Common App knowledge? Spend an hour with our guide and you’ll be a virtual expert.
  • Do your students come to you with questions about the Common App? Keep a copy of our guide on your desk (or bookmark the link to save a tree) and use it whenever you need a second opinion.
  • Share it with colleagues, teachers, and students.
  • Post the link on your website or in your student newsletters.

Private counselors

  • Our guide will teach you exactly what to look for when reviewing your students’ Common Applications.
  • Share the link with your students for them to use at home while they complete their applications.
  • Do you have partners, employees, or interns who work with students? Our guide makes a great training tool.

What we ask of you

If you know a family, counselor, PTA president, community-based organization, etc. who could use this guide or who could put it in the hands of those it might help, please share our download link.

I hope you enjoy—and share—it.

P.S.: If you haven’t already signed up, don’t miss our upcoming free webinar, “How to Make your Common App a Lot Less Common” on Wednesday, September 12, from 5 p.m. – 6 p.m. PDT. All the details are here.

Two big announcements from Collegewise

It’s been an exciting week at Collegewise, and we’ve got two big announcements to share:

First, we’ve partnered with Reach Higher, former First Lady Michelle Obama’s initiative to inspire every student in the U.S. to complete their education past high school. Founded during her time at the White House, Reach Higher is particularly focused on helping underserved students navigate the college-going process. This partnership means that we’ll share many of our Collegewise resources, tools, and trainings so Reach Higher can get them to kids and counselors in their extensive network.

And as part of the announcement, we’re also releasing our updated version of our annual Collegewise Guide to the Common AP, this year appropriately co-branded with Reach Higher. You can get your own free copy here. And check out Collegewise counselor Arun’s piece in Forbes: “Five Things Collegewise And Reach Higher Want You to Know.”

It’s hard to overstate how excited we are about this partnership. Beyond the pride and, frankly, giddiness, that comes with telling our friends and family that we’re part of Michelle Obama’s initiative, we’ve long professed a commitment to doing our part to keep the college playing field level. History shows that those have never been just words for us, and I’m proud of how much we do. But many of us at Collegewise, myself included, often feel like we’re not doing enough. It’s been a struggle to reconcile our values around college access and our realities of running a business that needs to make money to keep doing what we do so well. Our commitment to Reach Higher doesn’t just put dollars, time, and effort behind the values we espouse. Far more importantly, it will help us help a lot more kids that we could never reach or impact before.

In a place where most of us feel proud to come to work every day, this week will be hard to top.

Please share the download link for our Common App guide with students, parents, counselors, community-based organizations, and anyone else who may have a hand in helping kids get where they want to go. That’s who it’s there for. And now more than ever, that’s what we’re here for.

We built a Master Class for our counselors

Earlier this summer, I posed this question to a few of my Collegewise colleagues: Could we help our newer Collegewise counselors get even better, faster?

Our counselors in their first or second year at Collegewise are not inexperienced rookies. Most arrived here after working as admissions officers or counselors. They’ve already completed more than 50 hours of training with us. They’ve successfully enrolled and delighted families. They’ve long since progressed far beyond the basics.

But we also have counselors who have been here five or seven or ten years who are pillars of college counseling knowledge. We wondered if there were any way to accelerate counseling learning and growth to turn newer counselors into veteran counselors. If you’re a sports fan, this wasn’t like trying to get an average basketball player to play like a college prospect. This was trying to get a player already on an NBA starting five roster to play like LeBron James.

The result: The Collegewise College Counseling Master Class.

Starting this week, interested first and second year Collegewise counselors will enroll and begin their Master Class-level learning. Ten lessons, each comprised of videos, readings, discussions, and exercises, will run through December until we close out for our holiday break.

I’ll occasionally share some of our Master Class teachings (and learnings) here as the course progresses. But if your’e curious, here’s the course syllabus. And the trailer, featuring me and Arun, along with our special guests Allison (Collegewise counselor extraordinaire) and Frank (our filmmaker), is below:

We’re excited about—and proud of—this and can’t wait to get started.

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.

Join me for a college essay webinar

I’ll be teaching a free college essay webinar on Tuesday, August 7.

How to Craft Compelling, Cliché-Free College Essays
Tuesday, August 7, 2018
5 p.m. – 6 p.m. PDT

All the details and registration information are here. 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.