Highly selective college admissions: the inside scoop

Collegewise is hosting a webinar, The Inside Scoop on Highly Selective College Admissions, on Tuesday, November 15 from 6 p.m. – 7 p.m. PST. The four presenters are Collegewise counselors who have worked as admissions officers at University of Chicago, Cornell, Harvard, and Stanford. Tickets are $10. You can get more information, and register, here.

Registered attendees will have access to the recording for one week after the conclusion of the webinar.

Here’s what you can expect if you attend:

You can expect to learn from four presenters who are as knowledgeable about what it takes to get into these schools as just about anyone I’ve met after working in college admissions for over 20 years. They will tell you the unvarnished truth. You can also expect that this direct, honest approach will come from no hidden agenda other than to help you make the college planning decisions that are best for you. And best of all, you can expect plenty of clear advice, tips, and encouragement from four experts who worked on both sides of the desk—admissions and counseling—and who understand the admissions realities in play for students, parents, colleges, and counselors.

I don’t rail against highly selective colleges—I rail against the notion that they are inherently the best colleges. Many students, Collegewise and otherwise, find their collegiate fits at prestigious colleges. And if you think that a school that turns away far, far more applicants than it accepts is right for you, you deserve to have accurate information and helpful advice about what it really takes to get in. I can’t think of a better team to cover this topic than the four assembled to deliver this webinar, and I hope you can join us. Again, you can get more information, and purchase tickets for the online webinar, here.

We’re hiring college counselors in Orange County, California!

Our Irvine and Mission Viejo offices, both located in Southern California (Orange County), are each hiring a college counselor. I’ve included the entire job posting below to make it easier to forward and share with anyone that my readers believe might be a good fit. Thanks for your interest and for helping us spread the word.

*Do you think that finding, applying to, and getting accepted into college should be an exciting adventure for all students?
*Do you believe that great college educations can be found at plenty of schools that aren’t prestigious?
*Are you ready to change the way families approach the college admissions process?

If you’re nodding your head, you might enjoy being a college counselor at Collegewise. (Or you might just be someone who compulsively responds in the affirmative to any question.)

We’re looking for two people with just the right combination of passion, personality, and pluck to join our offices in Orange County, California (one counselor will work in Irvine, the other in Mission Viejo). Prior experience in college counseling or admissions is preferred but not required.

What is Collegewise?
Collegewise, a small but rapidly growing college counseling company, is trying to change college admissions. We do college counseling differently here. Our goal isn’t necessarily to get every kid who works with us into an Ivy League school. Instead, we show families just how many wonderful colleges there are while helping our students apply and get accepted to schools they’re excited to attend. We do it all with just the right mix of advice, encouragement, and occasional cheerleading to make the process exciting and enjoyable. We also speak in public, write, and constantly look for ways to spread good college planning information to anyone who needs it, whether or not they join our program.

What does a Collegewise college counselor do?
As a college counselor, you will work with a caseload of 30–60 students—most of whom are juniors and seniors—to help them find and apply to the right colleges for them. To build your caseload, you’ll also speak in public and develop honest relationships with high schools and counselors in your community. You’ll work hard, sometimes in the evenings and on Saturdays during the busy fall season. But you’ll be helping kids and parents, working with smart, passionate people, and doing it all in an entrepreneurial environment that has absolutely no connection to US News rankings.

Every college counselor who joins us completes an initial 40-hour training, followed by mentoring, support, and ongoing professional development. But we’ll also be looking for your ideas about how we can better accomplish all of the goals above.

You wouldn’t be crossing over to the for-profit version of the dark side here, either. We have an excellent reputation with both high school counselors and admissions officers. In our spare time, our counselors volunteer with several organizations committed to improving access to higher education for under-resourced students. We present at NACAC and local ACACs, we recycle, and we have at least three confirmed vegetarians here. Yes, we’re biased, but really, this is a pretty great place to come to work every day.

Orange County is home base for Collegewise. It’s where we were founded in 1999 (our Irvine and Mission Viejo offices are two of our largest and most successful), and it’s home to many of our most experienced counselors as well as our CEO and CFO. You’d be joining a thriving community of experienced Collegewisers and learning from some of the best minds in college counseling.

What’s the next step?
If your interest is piqued, get to know us a little better on 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 email a résumé and cover letter to jobs@collegewise.com, and use the subject line, “College Counselor: Orange County.”

Like a great college essay, an effective cover letter should help us get to know who you really are. Don’t be afraid to be yourself—smart, thoughtful, or maybe even funny. Just don’t be generic. You might also consider checking out our founder and president’s five tips for job seekers.

This position starts at $45-55K depending on experience, with room for future growth in both salary and responsibility. We’d like new hires to start in January – March of 2017, but we will adjust the start dates to accommodate the right people. If you have questions about the job, please email us at the above address rather than call us. We promise to respond to you quickly.

Thanks for reading our post. We’d love to hear from you, but if we don’t, we hope you find the perfect professional fit someplace else.

We’re hiring community organizers

Two years ago, in the communities where Collegewise operates offices, we began hiring community organizers—local parents to help more people learn about what Collegewise does and why we do it.  Responsible experimentation is good in business, but we still had some initial reluctance. We didn’t want to do anything that would ask people to put their personal or professional relationships at risk, or to create an arrangement that resembled the college counseling version of a pyramid scheme. But especially in areas where we were opening new offices, we felt a bit like the new kid in school. And we wanted to find the grown-up versions of the well-connected student who could introduce the newcomer around a little bit.

That experiment succeeded. We partnered with over a dozen parents, some who were readers of my blog, some who had seen us speak at their high schools, and several who had put their own kids through our programs. Their common thread was that they believed in the Collegewise approach of making college admissions less stressful and more enjoyable for families, so much so that they wanted to help spread the word. Now, we’re looking to expand that program and are officially taking applications.  All of the details are below. If your interest is piqued, I hope you’ll consider applying. And if you know someone who might be a good fit, I’d appreciate it if you would forward this post to them.

Wanted: Community Organizers

  • Are you a parent who believes there is too much anxiety surrounding the college admissions process?
  • Can you organize and lead people who care about the same things you care about?
  • Would you like to make a difference in your high school and community by helping families enjoy their journey to college rather than suffer through it?

If so, you might be interested in partnering with your local Collegewise office as a community organizer.

We’re currently hiring in:

California

  • Anaheim
  • Conejo Valley
  • East Bay/Oakland
  • Irvine
  • Los Angeles
  • Mill Valley
  • Napa
  • Palo Alto
  • Redondo Beach
  • San Francisco South Bay

Maryland

  • Rockville

Massachusetts

  • Newton

New Jersey

  • Closter
  • Millburn
  • Princeton

New York

  • New York

North Carolina

  • Chapel Hill
  • Raleigh

Texas

  • Austin
  • San Antonio

Washington

  • Bellevue

More about us
Collegewise is a rapidly growing college counseling company trying to change college admissions. We do college counseling a little differently here. Our goal isn’t necessarily to get every kid who works with us into an Ivy League school. Instead, our college counselors show families just how many wonderful colleges there are, helping our families apply and get accepted to schools they’re excited to attend. We do it all with just the right mix of advice, encouragement, and occasional cheerleading to make the process exciting and enjoyable. Not everyone agrees with the way we approach the college admissions process. So our offices need part-time community organizers who can connect us with families, schools, and local organizations who believe what we believe and might want to learn from us.

Here’s who we’re looking for
You’re the parent at school who makes things happen. Whether it’s a fundraiser for the hockey team or finding the chaperones for the junior prom, when something needs to get done, you don’t just volunteer—you jump in and bring others with you. You’re not afraid to speak up or to take charge. And when you find a service that does a great job for you, you speak up and tell your friends, “You need someone? I’ve got somebody!” Your kids may feign teenage embarrassment about Mom or Dad’s commitment to their school and their education, but deep down they know you’re the good example of a parent who cares and wants to be involved.

If you were working for us, here are some of the things you might have done in the last month:

  • Hosted a meeting at your home where our counselor takes college admissions questions from a dozen of your friends and their kids.
  • Spoken to your school’s PTA president to schedule Collegewise to speak at their next meeting.
  • Referred three of your friends to Collegewise, and coordinated with our counselor to schedule their introductory meetings.
  • Organized a special presentation for our counselor to present to your student’s water polo team, National Charity League, or AssisTeens group.
  • Contacted your local library, church, synagogue, mosque, etc. to inquire about potential free workshops we could organize for their members.
  • Announced our upcoming free seminars to your fellow parents (by email, Facebook, Twitter, text—whatever works for you!).

It’s about trust, not sales
This isn’t a sales position that’s all about the numbers. Yes, we need people to enroll in order for our offices to succeed, and we want you to help us do that. But short-term sales pressure doesn’t create long-term trust in our communities. Whether you connect us with families you know, organizations who want us to speak, or schools who will share our books and guidelines with their faculty, we need you to put us with people who would love and benefit from our approach.

Pay
Community organizers earn:

  • A 10% commission for families they personally refer who enroll with us
  • $150 for every speaking engagement they help us secure
  • A 5% commission on enrollments that come from those speaking engagements

Hours
Community organizers work remotely (no need to come to our office), set their own hours, and can dedicate as much or as little time as they’d like.

How to apply
First, get to know us a little by looking around our website. If you like what you read and think you may be able to find a part-time professional home here, send an email to jobs@collegewise.com with the subject [Community Organizer]. Tell us where you live (you need to be in the same community as one of our offices), why you want to work at Collegewise, and anything else you think will help you stand out. Share specific examples of how you’ve organized, led, or otherwise made an impact in your school and community (that’s much more compelling than, “I know everyone!”). We love personality here, so don’t be afraid to be yourself—smart, thoughtful, or maybe even funny. Just don’t be generic.

We’re looking for people to start as soon as possible. If you have questions about the job, please email us at the above address rather than call us. We promise to respond to you quickly.

Thanks for reading my post. We’d love to hear from you, but if we don’t, I hope you find the perfect professional fit someplace else.

Last call for our Common App webinar

There are plenty of potential reasons why a college applicant might consider attending our upcoming webinar, Making your Common App Less Common, featuring our Vice-President and Head of Counseling, Arun Ponnusamy. Maybe you have questions about which essay topic to choose. Maybe you’re struggling with the activity section. Or maybe you just want to learn from an expert to make sure you’re putting your best application foot forward.

But there are times when a presenter is so knowledgeable, so generous with their information and advice, and just so good at what they do that I will personally attend no matter what the topic. Arun is one of those speakers. I’ve watched or co-presented with him dozens of times over the last 12 years, and I always learn something when I do. That’s why I’m not just recommending the webinar; I’ll also be in the audience myself tonight.

It’s taking place tonight, September 13, from 6:00 p.m. to 7:15 p.m. PDT. The cost to attend is $10, and you can get all the information here.

I hope you’ll be able to join us.

Join us for a live Common App webinar

For seniors who are (or will soon be) filling out your Common Application, join us for a live webinar, Making Your Common App Less Common. It’s taking place September 13 from 6 p.m. – 7:15 p.m. PST and will feature Arun Ponnusamy, our Vice-President and Head of Counseling, who has read more than 7,500 applications and 20,000 essays at UCLA, Caltech, and the University of Chicago.

The cost is $10 per attendee, and we’re limiting attendance to 200. You can find all the details, and the link to register, here.

Our new Common App guide is on the way!

Last year, we released our Collegewise Guide to the 2015-16 Common Application. It took applicants through every section of the Common App, line by line, sharing all of our admissions expertise to make sure they were presenting themselves in a compelling way. And for the first time since we began producing an annual guide back in 2011, it was free to students, parents, and counselors.

Our counselors have recently been getting two questions about the guide: Will we be releasing a new version this year, and will it also be free?

I’m happy to report that the answer to both of those questions is…yes!

Arun and his team have been working away on this year’s update to reflect the most recent changes to the Common Application. We’ll be releasing it to the general public in early September, but my blog readers will get your access in mid-August.

If you’d like to be notified when the new guide is available, you can check back here regularly, or just subscribe for updates—the box to do so is on the left.

Join us—from anywhere—for a college admissions seminar!

Our Collegewise counselors are offering a series of our popular college admissions seminars, all of which are free for students and parents. And for the first time, we’ll also be delivering some of them as webinars for families who don’t live near a Collegewise office.

Here’s a sampling of our topics:

  • Secrets of College Admissions
  • There’s an App for That: Understanding the Common Application
  • Secrets of Admission to the Most Selective Colleges
  • Paying for College: Financial Aid and Scholarships
  • 2016’s Big Changes in Admissions: What Do They Mean for You?

Reserve your spaces
There is no charge, and you can attend as many as you’d like. We’ve got limited seating though, and reservations are required. To view our schedules and RSVP, just go here (you’ll be given the option to register for the in-person or webinar versions).

We work really hard to organize and deliver these, and families always tell us that they leave feeling much better about their college admissions process than they did when they arrived. I think you’ll enjoy them and hope you can join us.

Wanted: Director of College Counseling ($700 bounty)

We’re looking for the next Director of College Counseling for our Los Angeles, California office. If you send us someone we successfully hire, we’ll pay you $700 after the person completes three months of successful work.

Wanted: Our next Director of College Counseling (Los Angeles, California)

*Do you believe that finding, applying to, and getting into college should be enjoyable, not stressful?

*Have you thought about becoming an independent counselor, but you’re worried about getting started, working alone, or handling the pressure of entrepreneurship?

*Would you like to join a team of wildly ambitious, unwaveringly supportive, lovably weird admissions zealots who have very strong feelings about their favorite—and least favorite—college essay questions?

If you’re nodding your head, you might be interested in becoming the Director of College Counseling at our Los Angeles, California office.

What is Collegewise?
Collegewise is a small but rapidly growing college counseling company that does college counseling differently. Our goal isn’t necessarily to get every kid who works with us into an Ivy League school. Instead, we work with A students, C students, and everyone in between to help them find and apply to the colleges that are right for them, prestigious or not. We do it all with just the right mix of advice, encouragement, and occasional cheerleading to make the process exciting and enjoyable for the families in our program.

But running a Collegewise office takes more than just good counseling. Successful directors are those who are not only drawn to the college counseling side of this role, but also to the opportunities and challenges of running a business (more on all of that below).

What does a Collegewise Director of College Counseling do?
First, you will be a Collegewise counselor, working with your own caseload of 25–50 students—most of whom are juniors and seniors—to help them find and apply to the right colleges for them.

You’ll also be in charge of leading a Collegewise office. You’ll make sure that families who hire us have a fantastic experience in our program. You’ll manage at least two counselors to help them be as successful as possible. You’ll speak in public and build positive relationships with high schools and community-based organizations. You’ll have a lot of responsibility, with the training, support, and room you’ll need to be successful.

Southern California is the home base of Collegewise. So not only will you be joining an existing office and team, but you’ll also be regularly rubbing elbows with our leadership and many of our most experienced counselors.

Let’s hear it for the perks!
Competitive salary, 401k, medical and dental benefits, vacation, etc.—we have all of those, and are happy to tell you more about them if you apply. But here are a few extras we appreciate about where we work.

  • The learning—and training—never stops here.
    Every director who joins us completes an initial 40-hour training, followed by mentoring, support, and ongoing professional development like regular webinars and in-person trainings offered by our most experienced counselors. Nobody coasts on experience here—we walk our talk about always getting better.
  • We want your ideas.
    The only way for a company to be innovative is to let smart people occasionally try things that might not work. While there are specific Collegewise counseling practices where we enforce conformity (we don’t want our students to be the experiment that might not work), we’re generally not a place where you’ll have to fight just to try something you’ve thought about.
  • We don’t work with every family who wants to hire us.
    We prefer to work with families who are predisposed to be delighted by what we do and how we do it. And that starts with enrolling the right people. So you’ll have the ability to say “No” to a potential family you believe is not a good fit. It’s not something we do often, but in those cases, you get to pass on a family you would have struggled to make happy, and they get the opportunity to work with a different counselor who will be a better fit (we even refer them to the competitor we think could best help them).
  • We enjoy a real winter break.
    Our students submit all (yes, all) of their applications before the winter holidays. So we (and they!) take two weeks off in December to enjoy our holidays free of application-related worries.
  • We take actual ownership of our work.
    Employees are given the opportunity to earn an equity stake in our company. That’s not necessarily a good reason to take a new job. But it’s a nice benefit if that job becomes a place you’d like to call home for a long time.
  • We run a business we can be proud of. 
    You won’t be crossing over to the private counseling dark side here. We have an excellent reputation with both high school counselors and admissions officers. In our spare time, our counselors volunteer with several organizations committed to improving access to higher education for under-resourced students. We present at NACAC and local ACACs, we recycle, and we have at least three confirmed vegetarians here. Yes, we’re biased, but really, this is a pretty great place to come to work every day. We work hard, we love what we do, and best of all, we like—and are proud of—the team we get to do it with.

What are the downsides?
Every job has its less-than-perfect components, and we think applicants have the right to know what you’d be getting into before you apply.

  • It’s not 9-5.
    You will work hard, sometimes in the evenings and on Saturdays during the busy fall season.
  • The customer isn’t always right.
    We do this job because we really enjoy working with kids and parents. But we’re in the customer service business. Sometimes customers are unreasonable. Sometimes they don’t take your advice. Sometimes they blame you for things that really are not your fault. Thankfully, those cases are the exception rather than the norm here. But it still happens, and when it does, those are not our favorite days.
  • It’s a business.
    We’re running a business, and you’ll be responsible for your office’s financial performance. We’re not going to ask you to be (or train you to become) someone who says things like, “What’s it going to take for me to put you in this counseling program today?” In fact, we’ve learned that the best sales technique is simply to be so good that your customers can’t help but tell their friends. But the financial aspect would likely be a source of stress for someone who just wants to counsel kids, without other responsibilities.

Salary and start date
This position starts at $52-80K depending on experience, with annual bonuses, as well as room for future growth in both salary and responsibility. We’d like our new director to start as soon as possible, but we can adjust the start date to accommodate the right person.

What’s the next step?
If your interest is piqued, get to know us a little better on 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 résumé and cover letter to jobs@collegewise.com.

We really can’t emphasize enough that like a great college essay, an effective cover letter should help us get to know who you really are. Don’t be afraid to be yourself—smart, thoughtful, or maybe even funny. Just don’t be generic. You might also consider checking out our five tips for job-seekers.

If you have questions about the job, please email us at the above address rather than call us. We promise to respond to you quickly.

Thanks for reading our post. We’d love to hear from you, but if we don’t, we hope you find the perfect professional fit someplace else.

For private counselors: have you debriefed your senior season?

If you run a private counseling business, you’re likely prepared to celebrate the May 1 end of senior season. Once you know where each of your students is headed this fall, consider doing your own senior season debrief.

Since the early years of Collegewise, we’ve taken some time after senior season to look back and evaluate how things went for our students and for us. It’s tempting to turn your thoughts to things that have nothing to do with college essays and early decision deadlines, but the best time to evaluate senior season is as soon as possible after it’s complete. The work, the challenges, the results—it’s all fresh in your mind. That won’t be true when the next season starts. And by that time, you’ll likely be too busy to reflect.

Here are a few questions to consider to get you started:

1. What were your seniors’ results, and what numerical qualifications did they present (GPA and test scores)? We track all of this on a spreadsheet at Collegewise. And next year when one of our Collegewise students wants to know how she stacks up against applicants at Stanford or Colorado College or UNC or DePaul, we’ll first look at the data from last year. Yes, for many colleges, predicting admissions results involves a lot more than just grades and test scores. But numbers have their place. In fact, the exercise of recording those numbers and results can actually help reveal some of the answers to the questions below.

2. What were your surprises this year? This might be an individual student’s admissions results or a particular school whose admissions or denials were not as predictable last year. Will you change your work next year in response?

3. What types of families did you most enjoy working with? What type did you least enjoy? Could you somehow attract more of the former, and better manage—or even turn away—more of the latter?

5. And most importantly, looking back at this season, what would you have done differently in retrospect? What would have made you a better counselor, or taken stress away from your job, or created a better experience for your customers?

Write it all down, almost like a reminder or a to-do list for yourself. Then file it away and get on with your post-senior season enjoyment. When you start to gear up to help the Class of 2017 apply to college, the lessons learned from the Class of ’16 will be right there waiting for you.

We’re hiring in Los Angeles, California

We’re looking for our next Director of College Counseling to join our merry band here at Collegewise, with a position open in Los Angeles, California.

Southern California is home to our largest offices, many of our most experienced counselors, and even most of our leadership team (I’m the lone holdout who resides in Washington). If you’d like to join the nation’s largest college counseling company, become part of our thriving community of experienced Collegewisers, and work alongside some of the best minds in college counseling, we’d love to hear from you. All the details are here.