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.

Dates

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

RSVP

Reserve your spaces here.

$700 bounty if you find our next college counselor

We’re hiring full-time college counselors in the locations listed below. If we hire someone that you send us, we’ll pay you $700. It’s one bounty per hire, paid after three months of successful employment.

Openings for full-time college counselors:

Austin, Texas
Irvine, California
Newton, Massachusetts
Pasadena, California

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. Thanks in advance for thinking about who you might know, and feel free to share this post with any interested parties.

Next for Collegewise: training America’s college counselors

At our recent company meet-up, I announced our most ambitious, exciting initiative in 17 years, one that I’ll be leading at Collegewise in 2016.

We want to help train America’s college counselors.

The background
After 17 years at Collegewise, we’re lucky to count dozens (and dozens) of high school counselors as our close friends and respected colleagues. We revere them for their extraordinary work in a job far more difficult than ours. They’re not just expected to counsel the student who’s failing geometry or who wants to switch English teachers. They’re also on the front lines supporting students who are struggling with emotional or psychological problems, abuse, family upheaval, conflict with students or faculty—the list goes on (and on). Just about every counselor we’ve met is an unrelenting advocate and voice for their student populations. They do more, and they do it better, than most people will ever know.

But where’s the college admissions training?
As high school counselor extraordinaire, Patrick O’Connor, explained in his article, Why You Should Celebrate National School Counseling Week (this is not an implied Collegewise training endorsement by Patrick):

When someone’s life slips or they don’t know where to turn, school counselors give them the space for grace and dignity to rebuild and strengthen their lives, all without fanfare. Sometimes, if you don’t know we’re doing our job, we’re doing our job pretty well. Of course, we aren’t perfect. Most of us work with 450 students at once, and some have twice that number. Since many principals think we should change schedules instead of lives, we don’t have as much time to help students as we’d like, and most of us were never — never — trained how to help students apply to college.

Learning on their own
Somehow, with all of those other responsibilities, high school counselors are also expected to guide students through the college admissions process. Yet most were never trained to do that part of the job. They had to learn it on their own, from colleagues, by studying and reading, and by attending conferences. It takes too much time and attention that they don’t have. Not every counselor needs training from Collegewise (plenty of veteran counselors like Patrick now do that part of the job as well or better than we do). But many more are still struggling to learn the complexities of college admissions on their own. We want to train those counselors.

Why Collegewise?
Admissions and counseling training is at the core of our business. Every counselor who joins us completes an intensive 5-day training program. And that training never stops while they’re at Collegewise. From weekly Google Hangouts with each other to discuss their caseloads and timely webinars from our veterans on topics ranging from highly selective admissions to managing challenging families, to annual sessions at our company retreat, we’ve proven to be not just great learners, but also great teachers.

What do we plan to offer?
We don’t know yet what our specific offerings will be, but we’re considering many options. Some will be live in-person, some will be webinars, and some will be downloadable materials or videos. A few examples:

  • Crash college admissions trainings for new counselors
  • Advanced trainings for veteran counselors
  • 1-hour trainings on specific topics like advising for standardized testing, advising athletes, and helping students find the right schools.
  • Lists of our favorite counselor resources
  • Highly selective college admissions featuring our counselors who worked at those schools
  • Counselor outreach training on how to help colleges get to know your high school
  • How to run a college admissions case study night (with all the necessary materials)
  • Ongoing subscription programs for counselors to learn from and ask us questions
  • Letter of recommendation training for counselors and faculty
  • How to run a successful college night at your school
  • College essay curriculums for English teachers
  • Our guide to professional development for counselors
  • Materials such as step-by-step guides and checklists for important parts of the process

No single person at Collegewise is an expert in all of these areas. But we’ve got nearly 40 people at Collegewise with deep knowledge in a variety of different subjects. Our training talent pool is big. Whatever the topic, we plan to put the best trainer in front of the audience.

How much will these trainings cost?
Some will run several hundred dollars. Others will be less than $50. And some will be free. If you’re a counselor in a public school, especially one with a caseload of low-income students, you can expect generous discounts and in many cases, full scholarships. One of the reasons we’re doing this is to help make sure under-resourced students have well-resourced counselors.

Scratching our own training itch
We’re not leaving our college counseling business behind—we’re simply taking a byproduct of what we already do, refining it, and finding a new audience who can benefit. Much of what we create this year, we’ll also use internally. We’re scratching our own training itch, too.

Good for our business
Expanding our training programming to high school counselors is good for our business, too. One of the biggest challenges at Collegewise is that our customer base is constantly retiring. Once a Collegewise senior heads off to the perfect college, there’s nothing more for that family to buy from us unless they have a younger student. It’s much more expensive for a business to find a new customer than it is to sell to a current one. If we can help high school counselors better serve their kids, if we can give them affordable, expert training in areas they would otherwise have to try to learn themselves, and most importantly, if we can do it so well that they ask, “What else can you teach me?”, we’ll have a new customer base who needs and appreciates us, most of whom won’t be going anywhere next year.

What about independent counselors?
Some of our new offerings will be appropriate for—and open to—independent counselors. But we want to stay focused on where we believe we can do our best work for people who need it the most. So the bulk of our training time, attention, and offerings will be for high school counselors. If we can make a difference for them, we can make a difference for their students. And if we can do that as well as I think we can, we can help change the college admissions process.

We can’t wait to start
Nobody helps high school kids more than their counselors, and nobody spends more time training on admissions topics than Collegewise. I am personally excited to do my part to help bring those two groups together. It’s good for us, good for students, and we will work very hard to prove to counselors that we can be good enough for them, too. We’re excited about 2016 and can’t wait to get started.

Interested?
If you’re a counselor who would like to be kept informed of our training plans for this year, just fill out a quick survey here. There may also be special discounts and early-enrollment options for those on that list. And if your colleagues, administration, or district might also be interested in receiving admissions training, please help us spread the word.

Two questions to focus your meeting time

Today, the Collegewise crew will be departing for our second annual company meet-up. Since we work in offices spread out around the country, our meet-ups are the only time that we’re all able to gather in one place. But bringing everyone together is a significant expense, and we’re asking a lot of our employees to be away from home to spend four days of company time. So it’s important to make it count.

When we first began planning our meet-up months ago, we started with two deceptively simple questions:

1. What would a successful outcome look like?
2. How can we drive that desired result?

Our most important outcome was to send people back home feeling like they were better able to handle some of the more difficult parts of this job. A meet-up is the perfect opportunity to put some of our most experienced veterans in front of the group to show everyone exactly how they do what they do. And we scheduled time to discuss a variety of specific topics where counselors can choose which sessions to attend.

We also wanted everyone to leave our meet-up clear on our company goals for this year, and excited about how they could best contribute to helping us achieve them. We’re all in this business together, so we built in plenty of time for our leadership to talk about our plans for this year and to take questions from our crew.

And finally, we just wanted our counselors to leave with fond memories of connecting with co-workers and having fun together. Collegewise counselors work hard, often in the evenings and on weekends. This is a great opportunity for us to get some time off the clock and reconnect with each other. That camaraderie is important, and we wanted to give people every opportunity to relish it. So while we’ll spend a good chunk of each day working and learning, we’ll also be socializing together, hosting a talent show, holding an awards ceremony, and even building in plenty of downtime where we can each spend it however we’d like.

It’s surprising how two seemingly simple questions—what does a successful outcome look like, and how can we drive that desired result—can give you laser focus when planning any meeting or event, regardless of the size or scope. Throughout our planning, whenever we debated an idea of something to do or include, we went back to those two questions as our litmus test. If it didn’t pass, it didn’t make the agenda.

The next time you plan a meeting, retreat, or gathering, start with those two questions. I think you’ll find it makes it much easier to decide how to spend your time, money, and energy.

If you’re curious, here’s our agenda for the meet-up (“CAP,” which is referenced frequently, stands for our “Complete Admissions Program”).

We’re hiring in Palo Alto, California

Collegewise is expanding our work in the San Francisco Bay Area, and we’re looking for the right person to launch our office in Palo Alto, California. You can find all the details here.

While our physical office in Palo Alto will be new to local families, Collegewise is not new to the area. We first began counseling San Francisco Bay Area students in 2013, and we’ve experimented with offices in Mill Valley, Oakland, and Morgan Hill. During that time, we’ve also enjoyed a lot of success with Palo Alto families who were willing to work remotely (the Silicon Valley seems to inspire technological comfort).  We’ve decided to listen to our marketplace, to expand where even more Bay Area families want us, and to do what it takes to become an indispensable part of the local Palo Alto student, parent, and counseling communities the way we’ve always done with our Collegewise offices. The best way we know how to do that is to launch a local office.

Interested?
If you’re interested in joining us to transform the college admissions process for Collegewise families in the Palo Alto area, we’d love to hear from you. All of the details are here.

Be potentially perfect

Any selection process doesn’t just evaluate who you are today—it’s actually trying to predict who you’ll be tomorrow. Will this student make an impact at our college? Can this programmer do great work at our company? Is this person someone I want a long-term relationship with? Each of those decisions is based largely on potential. And potential is often found in the intangibles.

Just because you get straight A’s in high school doesn’t guarantee a college that you’ll do the same once you join their campus. The student council president might never win another election. The starting third-baseman might never play again after high school. Teenage musicians, philanthropists, photographers—who you are in high school is not a promise of who you’ll be tomorrow. And it shouldn’t be—you’re only seventeen.

But the student who loves to learn isn’t likely to turn that off after high school. The student who’s passionate about something in high school is more likely to bring that trait with them even if they redirect it to something different. And a nice kid who gets along well with peers and teachers probably won’t morph into a jerk after he moves into a dorm. Few applicants offered admission are perfect, but those who demonstrate these traits have a lot of potential to be perfect at the right college.

I notice this during our hiring process at Collegewise, too. There’s rarely such a thing as a perfect applicant, someone who presents the impeccable combination of pedigree, experience, and personality to appear as if they were made just for us. It’s a lot more common to find someone who’s proven that they have potential. They’ve got passion, drive, and curiosity. They’ve demonstrated those traits over and over again, even at jobs that they didn’t necessarily love. We don’t know for sure if they’ll be perfect here. But those intangibles are strong signals that they’re potentially perfect. And that’s a good reason to give someone a shot.

Colleges don’t expect perfection. They’re more interested in potential, a sign that you’re bound for great things. Yes, colleges want you to demonstrate that trait with your classes, grades, activities, etc. And a track record of hard work and success is your strongest starting point. But remember that intangibles, the things that can’t always be measured on a transcript or a resume, can be great signs of what you could be capable of at the right school. Potentially perfect tomorrow is more important than perfect today.

We’re hiring college counselors!

We’re looking for just the right people to become the next college counselors in our existing Collegewise offices located in Irvine, California; Austin, Texas; and Newton, Massachusetts. Prior experience in college counseling or admissions is preferred but not required.

If you’re interested in joining us to transform the college admissions process for Collegewise families, we’d love to hear from you. All the details are here.