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:


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


  • Rockville


  • Newton

New Jersey

  • Closter
  • Millburn
  • Princeton

New York

  • New York

North Carolina

  • Chapel Hill
  • Raleigh


  • Austin
  • San Antonio


  • 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.

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

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.

Be one of the greats

Today, after an incredible three-year run as a Collegewise counselor in Northern California, we’re saying goodbye to Casey Near, who will soon be off on a self-described adventure traveling and working internationally. When she shared the news and poured out her reasons to me and the rest of Collegewise months ago, it was very hard to hear. It’s never easy for us when a coworker decides it’s time to move on, especially one that we all love and admire as much as we do Casey. But when that coworker is as excited about her next step as Casey is, we can’t help but support her and cheer her on.

When I reflect on Casey’s time at Collegewise, it’s easy to see—but almost impossible to sum up—how much she’s meant to us. But her example is one that I think just about anyone, from a high school student, to a college counselor, to a parent, can learn from.

Honor the work
Whether they plan on staying here for a few years or being Collegewise lifers, the best Collegewise counselors behave as if they are doing their life’s work. They’re always looking for ways to be better, more knowledgeable, more efficient counselors. For three years, Casey made it her mission to be great at this job. Whether she was finding office space, offering a free seminar in her community, or sitting down with a student to brainstorm a college essay, Casey honored the work by doing it the best way she knew how. No task was insignificant. Every role was important and worth doing well. And she never stopped trying to get even better.

Be a giver
I don’t think I’ve ever worked with someone who was more generous with her time, energy, skills, and ideas than Casey. If she attended a workshop she found helpful, she wrote up her notes and shared them with all of us. If a counselor needed help or had a question, Casey was always among the first to respond. If we needed help creating new programs, or writing new materials, or building a relationship with a school, Casey was right there, and she always did a great job. I can’t even count the number of times she sent me an article or podcast link—college-related or not—with a note about why she thought I might enjoy it. Givers like that are greatness multipliers. They make everyone else around them better.

Make an impact
I write often here about the concept of impact, of bringing so much to a role that you fundamentally change the experience for those around you. There are some kids in college today who would not be there were it not for Casey’s help. There are dozens (and dozens) of Casey’s Collegewise families who can look back and fondly recall how she guided them to a less stressful, more successful journey to college. There are co-workers who are better counselors and happier employees because of Casey’s mentorship. There are high school counselors and community leaders who can better guide their kids today because of the time Casey spent helping them learn what she knows. Impact like that can’t always be succinctly listed on a resume (or a college application). But it’s felt, appreciated, and remembered by everyone who was touched by it.

Leave a legacy
Tomorrow, Casey will no longer be working at Collegewise. But her legacy will live on for years because of the work she’s leaving behind. From authoring some of our most popular resources, to mentoring counselors, to finding ways to improve our programs, we’ll never be able to turn around without bumping into something that Casey created herself or touched in some way. Greatness like that lives on even after someone moves on.

Learning from one of the greats
We’ve all got limited time—in high school, in college, at our jobs, with our families and friends, etc. We’re never going to play all of those roles perfectly all the time. But Casey is a great reminder that we can all try to be one of the greats. We can honor what we’re doing by bringing our best selves to these roles. We can be givers who think more about what other people need than what other people can offer us. We can make an impact, one that improves the experience for ourselves and the people we share it with. And if we do those things, we’ll almost certainly leave a legacy that makes us—and those we shared that time with—proud.

Casey, enjoy your well-deserved adventure. I’m sure that it, and you, will be great together.

Join us in Hong Kong

This month, we’re delivering two live, free seminars in Hong Kong.  Each date includes both seminars.

Seminar #1

Navigating Admissions to Science, Technology, Engineering, & Mathematics (STEM) Programs at America’s Best Universities

College graduates with degrees in science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) are highly sought after in our economy. But how do you decide which field makes the most sense for you? In this seminar, you’ll learn everything from whether a STEM path is right for you to the cool (yes, cool!) things that scientists and engineers do. And what’s the difference between science and engineering anyway? You’ll also learn about the essential skills STEM students need to succeed in college, and how to make sure those same skills get noticed by an admissions officer. Hear from a top college counselor (and former admissions officer of Cornell University) who will give specific examples on how to enhance your chances of admission to top programs.

  • About the speaker
    Meredith Graham spent nearly 15 years working in admissions and advising at four different universities, including Cornell University and Purdue University, prior to joining Collegewise. She served as academic advisor and primary advising contact for incoming international freshmen to Purdue University’s Freshman Engineering Program for two years, then advised Mathematics and Statistics majors while also recruiting for Purdue’s College of Science for three years. She then spent seven years as Associate Director of Admissions at Cornell University’s College of Engineering where she reviewed more than 10,000 applications from both freshman and transfer applicants. As a member of Collegewise’s elite international team, Meredith enjoys helping students of all academic interests and backgrounds find and tell their best stories in their personal essays so they can ultimately be admitted to and attend their best-fit universities. Her Collegewise students have been admitted to a variety of highly selective colleges including Harvard, Stanford, Columbia, NYU, and Emory. When not thinking about all things college, Meredith can most often be found reading detective fiction, dancing, or making a mess in her kitchen.

Seminar #2

Hong Kong Students and Applying to US Universities

Concerned about applying to American universities as an international student? Worried that an admissions officer won’t understand your transcript and background? Do Hong Kong students compete against students from mainland China or Korean students? The Managing Director of Collegewise International will reveal exactly what goes into the review of international applications and what a student can do to strengthen their profile and stand out in the process. From SAT vs. ACT to the essay and everything in between, this session will help answer your questions and help you understand what it takes to become the best candidate you can be.

  • About the speaker
    Tim Townley has spent 15 years serving as both an admissions officer and a college counselor. After five years at The George Washington University as an Assistant Director of Admission, he was a college counselor at The American School in Switzerland. He then moved to Boston University and served in the role of Assistant Director of International Admissions. During his six years at BU, he annually traveled to East and Southeast Asia, visiting Hong Kong each time and overseeing the review of all applications from this area. During his time at BU and GW, he personally reviewed approximately 15,000 applications. Upon joining Collegewise, he formed the international counseling division and serves as managing director. When not working with students and their families to find the best-fit university for them as well as guiding them carefully through the process, he enjoys spending time with his two young children and extolling the virtues of Batman and Star Wars. Tim has successfully had students admitted to a wide range of schools including Harvard, MIT, and Boston University.


Each date includes both seminars.

Thursday, February 25
6 p.m. – 8 p.m.
20/F Infinitus Plaza, 199 Des Voeux
Road Central, Sheung Wan, HK

Saturday, February 27
10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
CoCoon: 3/F Citicorp Centre, 18
Whitfield Rd, Causeway Bay, HK


Reserve your spaces here.