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.

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”).