Want to attend college outside the US?

Updated 4/18/17: I wrote in my original post that this webinar was free. That was my mistake–we’re charging $10. I promise this wasn’t my attempt at a blogging bait and switch (though my lack of attention to blogging detail is almost as frustrating). Thanks for being patient with me.  

We’re increasingly hearing from families with students who are considering attending college outside of the US. From reduced tuition, to cultural immersion, to fulfilling a sense of adventure, there are many reasons why a student might look to spend four years beyond US borders. If you’d like to learn more–not only about the opportunities, but also the process of applying and getting accepted to international colleges–I hope you’ll join us for this upcoming webinar.

The Inside Scoop on International Admissions
Tuesday, April 25, 2017
5:00 PM – 6:00 PM PDT

All the details, and the link to register, are here.

Our new filmmaker is here, and soon to be filming!

This week, Collegewise welcomed our new full-time filmmaker, Frank Martinez, to the family. We got over 70 applications for the position, we narrowed it down to three applicants, and we extended one offer—Frank’s. There are some important lessons that applicants to both jobs and colleges can learn from the way Frank approached this recent hiring process with us. And none of them require that you necessarily know how to capture good footage.

Seek the fit
Frank didn’t apply for a job—he applied for our job (in fact, his former high school guidance counselor reached out to him and recommended he apply). Our job posting, mission, and culture intrigued him. He really felt he could do great work here, and he explained why throughout the application process. It’s entirely possible that Frank was applying elsewhere, too. But every interaction he had with us demonstrated that ours was a gig he wanted. Hiring and college admissions can seem impersonal. And sometimes it can be, especially at the largest institutions. But more often than not, a human being is reading that application, and they’re doing so to find not just the right employee or student, but also the right human being to join the group. The best way to prove that you’re a good match with a company or a college is to start by picking companies or colleges that are actually good matches for you.

Make the effort
It takes effort to seek and communicate the fit. And Frank’s application had effort all over it. He wrote a personal cover letter just for us (a fantastic one, by the way). He’d taken the time to read not just our post, but also our website, many of our blog articles, and our Five tips for job seekers. During our interviews, he had thoughtful questions and ideas that showed just how much time he’d spent learning and thinking about us. I know it’s tempting to treat applying like a numbers game where you hope to improve your odds of winning by simply playing more often. But sending the same impersonal, recycled materials makes you look lazy. Not bothering to follow the application instructions makes you look lazy. Asking questions that are clearly answered with even a cursory review of the website makes you look lazy. Effort, on the other hand, always stands out.

Show your great work
Great filmmakers have a body of work, one that they can share through the wonders of the internet. Frank’s films did more than get my attention. They moved me. They made me want to keep watching and to learn more about the subjects. He didn’t have to talk about his work—he could actually show it to me. Not all applicants applying for jobs—or students applying to college—are doing so in fields where they can post the work itself online. But what could you point to as evidence of your work and its impact? Maybe you created a new training program to bring new employees up to speed? Maybe you rewrote and redesigned the organization’s website? Maybe you ran a fundraiser that got new uniforms for the high school basketball team. When you can point to, post, or otherwise share not just what you did, but also the results of your efforts, you’re likely doing great work and making an impact.

Before Frank started, I asked him to make a short video that we could share on his first day introducing himself to everyone at Collegewise. Creating a short, entertaining video is not a difficult assignment for a great filmmaker. But finding the right tone and approach that will resonate with nearly 50 people, most of whom you’ve never met or even spoken with, on your very first day of work—that is not easy. But Frank took the project on and made something smart, endearing, and just plain good–a video that all the Collegewisers seemed to agree proved that he’ll fit in just fine here. Here it is.

We’re excited to have Frank with us, and as he begins to capture more about Collegewise, I’ll share some of his great work here.

We’re hiring assistants in Southern California

We’re trying an experiment in our Southern California offices. Collegewise counselors do almost all of their own work. They don’t just meet with families, help build the college lists, and manage the application process to make sure everything proceeds smoothly and thoughtfully. They also book their own appointments, do their own follow-up with families, field their own reschedule requests, track their own work, and do just about everything else that comes up during the course of their days.

But what would happen if they could focus more on just the counseling, the parts of the job that they’re uniquely qualified for and trained to do?

Would it be better for our customers? Absolutely.

Would it be better for our counselors? It certainly seems like it to us.

Would it be better for our company? If it means happier customers and happier counselors, we’re willing to try it.

So we’re hiring full-time executive assistants in our Southern California offices located in Irvine and Mission Viejo (both are in Orange County).

All the details are here. If you or someone you know might be interested, the instructions to apply are in the post linked above. I hope we’ll hear from you.

We’re hiring in Southern California!

Our Collegewise offices in Southern California (Orange County and Los Angeles) are hiring for several positions, including college counselors and a full-time filmmaker. You can find the individual listings and all the associated information on our careers page. If you think that you or someone you know might be able to find a professional home here, we’d love to hear from you.

Collegewise is hiring a full-time filmmaker

*Update 2/20/17: This position has been filled! You can find our current openings here. Thanks for your interest. 

Collegewise has decided to hire a full-time filmmaker to capture what we believe, what we do, and how we do it. I’m sharing the entire job post below so interested parties can read it here, and to make it easier for readers to forward to anyone they think might be interested.

We’re hiring a full-time filmmaker

At Collegewise, we’ve spent 17 years helping our students tell their stories. Now we’re hiring a full-time filmmaker to help us tell ours.

  • Do you believe in the power of authentic stories?
  • Are you the person who can see what’s fascinating about others and their experiences?
  • Can you use film to capture and tell stories people can’t help but watch?

Collegewise, the nation’s largest college counseling company, is looking to hire a full-time filmmaker. Not someone who just shoots video, but a creative storyteller who can conceive of, film, edit, and produce a beautiful finished product.

What is Collegewise?
Collegewise is a college counseling company that helps high school students find, apply and get accepted to the right colleges for each student. 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.

That’s our story in words. We want you to help us tell it on film.

Here are a few ideas we want to try:

  • Capture some of the hundreds of glowing testimonials we’ve earned from families.
  • Transform the trainings we offer internally and externally into engaging educational videos that counselors can watch when, where, and as often as they’d like.
  • Create a recruiting video to show job applicants what it’s really like to work here.
  • Introduce our counselors to families (here’s a sample we did with a freelancer a few years ago).
  • Capture the audience’s energy, reactions, and feedback when we speak at high schools and community events.
  • Show how we change a process that’s full of stress and negativity into a journey that families enjoy together.

Those are our ideas, but we also need your vision. There will be many days when you’ll decide for yourself what’s exciting, what’s possible, and what the most important thing to work on is. This job will be a mix of “What do I need to do today?” and “What can I do today?”

You won’t be making slick commercials here designed to sell. You’ll be making short, authentic documentaries designed to engage. We’re always telling our students to be themselves rather than fake versions of who they think colleges want them to be. Let’s walk that talk together. Capture what’s real about us and our work, then help us share it with people most likely to appreciate it.

You’ll have plenty of creative freedom, but you’ll also need to deliver effective and polished finished products.

Who are we looking for?

  • You have documented experience with the entire process of envisioning a film, capturing the footage, editing, and producing a beautiful finished product.
  • Like a great director, you know how to vet and choose who should go in front of the camera, how to make them comfortable, and how to get the best out of them.
  • Like a great producer, you know how to create a wonderful finished piece on time and on budget.
  • Since you’ll be a one-person film department, you’re comfortable with digital media and all the ways to share what you create.
  • Any experience creating educational content, especially in the form of online courses, will be a big plus but not necessarily a requirement.
  • We’re open to considering remote workers, but the ideal candidate will be located in Southern California so that you can regularly visit our Orange County (where we’re headquartered) and Los Angeles offices.

We’re looking for someone who’s ready to stop hustling to find your next freelance gig, and ready to start being an important, full-time part of something bigger. You’ll be one of us. You’ll come to our annual company meetup. You’ll visit offices, get to know our counselors and our customers, and join our marketing strategy meetings. We think you’ll tell our story better when it’s your story, too.

What’s on our watchlist?
Here are a few examples to get a sense of the type of finished products we’re looking to create here:

We’re not asking you to duplicate these—we want your own vision and style. But we hope this gives you some idea of what’s likely to resonate with us.

How to apply
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 an email to jobs@collegewise.com, and use the subject “Filmmaker.” Share why you want to work here, samples of your work, and anything else you think might help you stand out and help us get to know you better. 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.

What did we write about for our college essays?

Every Friday at Collegewise, we ask everyone in the company a lighthearted question, like:

  • What was your worst fashion faux pas?
  • If you could teach any class, what would it be?
  • What’s the most awkward thing that ever happened to you on a date?

We call these our “Friday Fun” questions. We share the responses with everyone in the company, and participation is entirely optional. It’s been a great way for us to get to know each other better and to have a little Friday Fun to end our work weeks.

Our most recent question: What did you write about for your college essay?

Some of our counselors can be justifiably proud of their college essay insight when they were seventeen, but many more (myself included) submitted responses like:

I remember writing a particularly cringe-worthy essay about my participation in my school’s literary magazine. Thank God that publication pre-dated the digital age!

I’ve lived in shame about this [choice of topic] for years and especially since coming to Collegewise.

That time I studied abroad and met an artist in Spain who drew a beautiful portrait that made me reflect on my life, values, and every other cliche possible.

I don’t remember the specifics but it was about building a roaring campfire and how all these experiences in my life were the tinder and kindling. Maybe logs, too. I’m horrified even thinking about it.

How I learned life lessons on the swim team. I KNOW. I AM MAD AT ME TOO.

The topic wasn’t the worst, but I’m SURE the way I wrote about it was.

These counselors all went on to selective colleges (some to highly selective schools). Some went on to work as admissions officers or high school counselors. And all of them are successful college counselors at Collegewise today who can help high school students find and share the kind of stories they won’t just be proud of today, but also many tomorrows from now.

I share these snippets to remind readers that while the essays are important, they’re still just one part of the application. And more importantly, these wonderfully self-deprecating essay revelations from our Collegewise counselors are just yet another reminder that lots of successful people today didn’t do everything perfectly in high school.

If you work hard, make the most of college, and try to be a good person, things have a way of working out, regardless of your test scores, activities, or essay topic back in high school.

Last call for our highly selective admissions webinar

There are still some virtual seats left to attend our webinar, The Inside Scoop on Highly Selective College Admissions, taking place Tuesday, November 15 from 6 p.m. – 7:15 p.m. PST. The four Collegewise counselors presenting have worked at Harvard, Stanford, Cornell, and the University of Chicago. Tickets are $10, and all the information is here.

Busy on that day and time?
If you’re interested in the webinar but can’t view it on the scheduled day and time, we’ve got you covered—all registered attendees will have access to the recording for one week following the conclusion of the webinar.

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:


  • 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.