Search Results for: potential

“Show, don’t tell…”

Fans of ABC’s Shark Tank, where investment-seeking entrepreneurs pitch their businesses to the cast of multi-millionaire and billionaire tycoons (the sharks), have seen this scenario play out on the show. The sharks are interested, but on the fence, questioning if there’s enough potential in this business to earn their time, money, and attention. Sensing that he or she is at risk of losing their potential deal, the entrepreneur tries to tell the sharks what sets them apart.

“I’m relentless. I will not give up.”

“You won’t find someone who works harder than I do.”

“I am passionate about this!”

I’ve seen almost every episode of Shark Tank, but I’ve never seen any of these statements alone lure a shark to make an offer.

Persistence, hard work, and passion are prerequisites for entrepreneurial success. And just because you do those things doesn’t necessarily mean you have a viable business.

Would an NFL coach be swayed just because you claimed to practice hard?

Would a potential romantic partner be swayed just because you claimed to be a nice person?

Would a recruiter at Google or Apple be swayed just because you claimed to be passionate about technology?

In each of these cases—and on Shark Tank—showing works a lot better than telling does.

If you want to see how showing versus telling is done, scroll to 3:50 of this Shark Tank clip and watch entrepreneur Nathan Holzapfel. In just 20 seconds, he gets the sharks interested, not by telling them that he works hard and he cares and he keeps going, but by actually showing them. 20 seconds is all it takes for him to get billionaire investor Mark Cuban to belt out, “I love you—I LOVE you!”

When you’re writing your college essays, don’t just tell colleges that you’re resilient or hard-working or passionate. Show them.

And if you’re working your way through high school, remember that the best way to be successful and to get into college is to put your natural strengths to the best use so you have something to show for them.

Five tips to help you manage change

If you’ve ever had to deliver news to a group about a coming change, you know how much potential there is for people to be skeptical or even outright unhappy. Maybe you work for a school that’s instituting a potentially unpopular policy change. Maybe you’re a student leader who has to tell your constituents that the prom or fundraiser or annual performance won’t be the same as it’s always been. Maybe you’re a parent who has to tell your kids that your family’s financial situation—and in turn, their college options—has changed. Even a change that is inherently good can be jarring and uncomfortable when it arrives unexpectedly, is communicated poorly, or is just flat-out handled badly. But if you take the time to clearly and thoughtfully explain what’s coming, if you give people time to get comfortable with it, if you allow them to be heard when they have feedback or concerns, most people will at the very least accept—and at the very most join you as an eager advocate for—the change.

Here are five tips to give you the best chance of a good outcome.

1. AEAP (As Early as Possible)
The best time to tell somebody about a change is before it happens. “This is coming” is easier to adjust to than “This is here.” If the change didn’t sneak up on you unannounced, share it with your people as early as you feel is appropriate. Don’t keep something secret unless there’s a good reason for it. People will feel valued and respected when they’re invited to hear the news early, even if the change you’re sharing isn’t a sure thing yet. It will give them time to get comfortable with what could be—or what is—coming. And they might even be able to help you make the change.

2. Control your own story.
When you’re intentional and specific about who is sharing the news, as well as when and with whom they’re sharing it, you control your story. But when it leaks out and spreads via hearsay, you’ve given up control. Gossip is born from uncertainty. And even the most well-intentioned third-party story-spreaders will inevitably leave out facts, create confusion, and lead to a feeling that something secretive is happening that is cause for concern. One way to control your story is to keep it a secret. A better way is to release it in a smart, organized way that assures everyone that they’re in the company loop.

3. Honesty beats spin.
It’s tempting to couch a change you’re sold on in only the best terms, or even to leave out any details that detract from it. But the more honest you are about the impending change, the more trust and support you can expect in return. People know when they’re being sold to, and spinning the story will only make them more suspicious and anxious. Share the good parts, but don’t exaggerate the potential benefits.

It’s also helpful to be honest about the aspects of the change that aren’t necessarily all positive. Are there risks? Uncertainties? A chance it might not work? Bring up the (potentially) bad after the good. Your people will appreciate the story without the spin.

4. Don’t fake democracy.
It’s great to ask for early feedback and to listen to what people tell you. But don’t do it under the pretense of giving them a vote if the decision has already been made. “We’re considering doing this—what do you think?” is very different from “We’re doing this—what do you think?” Be clear which one it is. And don’t give them the illusion of a vote if they won’t be invited to cast one.

5. Specific questions earn specific feedback.
A general question like “What do you think?” will often lead to a general response. But specific questions like “How do you think this might help solve our problem?” or “Do you think we’re overlooking anything important?” or “What are two things we could do that would make you more comfortable with this change?” will lead to more specific and more helpful feedback. And always end with, “What did I miss?” An open question at the end of a specific exchange is often when people bring up the topic that to them is the heart of the matter. But start with specific questions if you want to get the most helpful feedback.

There’s also a point at which you can spend too much time planning and crafting and managing your change, and not enough time just getting on with it. Overthinking your change management is almost as bad as underthinking it. When in doubt, keep it simple. Tell people as early as you can. Be honest with them about what’s happening and why. Treat them like trustworthy adults who deserve to know what’s really happening rather than being kept in the dark and then given a sales pitch. Your change management might not be perfect. But getting the basics right will mean that both the system and the people will be forgiving of any minor change management mistakes along the way.

Five reads on leadership & college admissions

Leadership is one of the most misunderstood traits in the college admissions process. That fundamental misunderstanding is why students who are thriving at their part-time jobs, in their after-school art classes, or in their martial arts training will ask if their lack of leadership will hurt their admissions chances. It’s why so many kids start clubs in the fall of their senior year so they can list them on their college applications. And it’s why so many parents feel pressured to send their kids to expensive summer programs that claim to have identified their students as emerging high school leaders and promise to enhance their skills.

If you’d like to better understand how colleges actually view, evaluate, and reward leadership, here are five quick reads that will dispel most of the myths, help you identify if and how your own leadership could be an admissions strength, and potentially relieve you of any unnecessary feelings of leadership shortcomings.

Here’s a great reminder from the University of Virginia that colleges appreciate leadership, but not more or less so than they do plenty of other valuable high school experiences.

A broader sampling of colleges’ views courtesy of Brennan Barnard, who asked a number of college admissions officers to share their thoughts on what it means to lead.

Here’s an example of effective leadership at the high school level.

And another example, this one of leadership without an official title.

And finally, some advice on how to be a leader without a leadership position.

Have a happy and safe Fourth of July!

Does everyone pay the same price at a college?

One of the best analogies I’ve seen about paying for college comes from Kalman Chany’s Paying for College Without Going Broke:

“And not everyone pays the same price for a given college. In fact, going to college is a bit like traveling on an airplane. If you ask the person across the aisle what fare she paid, it may be completely different from your own. Some people may be paying the full fare for college while others pay far less, so you should never initially rule out a school based on ‘sticker price.’”

That’s also the reason every family with a student applying to college should also file a FAFSA to apply for financial aid. Imagine if there were one—and only one—website travelers could use to make sure they got the best possible price for their ticket. If you cared about how much the ticket cost, you’d use the website. You’d have nothing to lose and plenty of money to potentially save.

That website exists when it comes to paying for college. It’s the FAFSA site, and it’s here:

Make sure to follow the directions from your chosen colleges about what to submit and when, but all of those schools will almost certainly require the FAFSA.

That was us then, this is us now

Earlier this month, I shared my plans to rewrite the Careers page of our Collegewise website. What felt fresh in 2006 felt dated today, and it reminded me how powerful it can be to take a new, critical look at things you’ve long since stopped evaluating.

Here’s a screenshot of the old page. That was who we were then. All those words are still true. But Collegewise has grown and evolved since then. We needed to give potential Collegewise applicants the most complete, honest portrayal of the place they’d be joining if they came to work here. We’re not just deciding if they’re right for us; they’re also trying to decide if we’re right for them. And the old page just wasn’t giving them enough information to make that call.

So here’s the new page. It talks a lot more about who we are and what type of person is most likely to be happy and successful at Collegewise. It explains our culture and what it’s actually like to work here. And most importantly, it features the part of Collegewise we’re most proud of—the people, the way we work together, and the comradery that not only makes us happier employees, but also helps us be even better counselors.

All of these principles take a page out of how we’d tell students to present themselves in college applications. Be honest. Be proud of what you’ve accomplished. Clearly present the most important information. And focus on who you are today, not on who you were many yesterdays ago.

Our new Careers page won’t resonate with everyone who comes across it. And that’s fine. Like colleges, we’re not the right fit for everybody. But now we can be sure again that those who our page resonates with will be responding to the Collegewise we are today.

That was us then. This is us now.

If you know someone who might enjoy working at Collegewise today, please send them the link to our Careers page. If we end up hiring them, we’ll pay you $700 after the person completes three months of successful work.

What “meeting 100% of financial need” really means

When a college claims to meet 100% of financial need, it can sound deceptively as if an admitted student will get whatever amount of financial aid they need to attend. But it’s not necessarily quite that generous. To understand “meeting 100% of financial need,” let’s look briefly at how the process of applying for and evaluating financial need for college works.

First, you file a FAFSA, which details the student’s and parent’s income and assets. The government crunches it through a formula, and you receive a report back containing your Expected Family Contribution (EFC)—that’s the amount of money you are expected to pay for the upcoming year at any college. Some colleges also require that you submit additional forms, which can change EFC for their own evaluation, but the FAFSA is always your starting point.

In the event that the Cost of Attendance (COA) at any college that admits you exceeds your EFC, it’s the job of that college’s financial aid department to make up the difference in the form of a financial aid package. That package can contain a combination of grants/scholarships (free money that does not need to be paid back), loans, and work study.

But financial aid offices don’t have to just blindly follow the numbers when they create those awards. In putting financial aid packages together, they might decide to offer a more generous package to a particularly desirable student. That’s preferential packaging at work.

Unfortunately, there are also cases where a financial aid package does not cover the full difference between your EFC and the COA. That’s called “unmet need,” and the higher the number, the worse the news.

So, colleges that claim to meet 100% of financial need are telling you that there will almost certainly be no “unmet need” as part of your financial aid package. That doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily like the package, as for many families, their calculated EFC is actually more than they believe they can afford to pay. And just like all financial aid packages, not all financial aid is necessarily free money, and those that come from schools claiming to meet 100% of need can still include loans and work study.

If you’re concerned about paying for college, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that you apply only to those schools that claim to meet full financial need, because you’ll be limiting yourself to under 100 colleges (here’s a list courtesy of Mark Kantrowitz). That might sound like a lot, but the list can shorten dramatically if you’re not admissible or just don’t like the schools.

Still, it’s worth paying attention to a college’s track record regarding financial aid awards. If you’re up for some detailed and potentially revealing research, head to College Navigator, maintained by the National Center for Educational Statistics. Search for a college, and then dig into both the “Financial Aid” and “Net Price” tabs. Specifically, you want to look at the average size of the financial aid award, the breakdown of grants, loans, and scholarships, and the average net price for those students on financial aid. That will give you a sense of how many students receive aid, the amount and type of aid being distributed, and just how much of a dent that financial aid is making on the cost for those students in attendance.

A college may meet 100% of your needs as they define them. But that doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily get everything you think you need.

Lack of effort vs. lack of fear

As often as I write here about the potential value of failure as both a life teacher and even a college admissions advantage, it’s one of those concepts that many families are uncomfortable embracing. I don’t blame them. They get so many messages about the need for college applicants to be perfect (they don’t need to be, but that’s often the message), it feels risky to do anything where they might feel like they could fail, and riskier still to actually admit or borderline celebrate that failure within a college essay or an application.

But this recent New York Times piece, On Campus, Failure Is on the Syllabus, shares how many colleges, including some that are quite selective, are going as far as to teach the value of failure. Even the skeptics might be interested to read the examples of kids so used to perfection that they can’t even handle not getting the room assignment they wanted, much less failing a test. Full disclosure, the author is a friend of mine, but I would have shared this even without that association.

I don’t see the concept of colleges acknowledging–and even teaching–failure as much of a stretch. Colleges want students who will not only work hard, but also avail themselves of the nearly limitless options for learning, growth, challenge, etc. during their four years on campus. Schools need students who are fearless in those pursuits, who accept that aiming high comes with the risk that you might fall short, who will not only resist the urge to crumble when something doesn’t go as they’d hoped, but also learn from those experiences and come back even more prepared the next time.

It’s those students, not those who huddle close to their comfort zones where success is more assured, who are most successful during and after college.

Failure due to lack of effort is one thing. Failure due to lack of fear is an entirely different—and more admirable—one.

In-state tuition at an out-of-state school?

According to data collected by the College Board, the average tuition and fees to attend a public university are roughly 1/3 what they are to attend a private college, as long as that public university is in your home state. As soon as you venture to new state territory, the costs more than double at most public schools.

So it’s common for families to wonder if it’s possible for their student to establish residency at an out-of-state public school, thereby availing themselves of the cheaper cost for in-state residents.

Unfortunately, while establishing in-state residency is not impossible for a student, as this Consumer Reports piece explains in detail, the lengths to which you would need to go to even have a remote shot are pretty drastic.

If college costs are a concern and you want to make sure you have some viable public university options, first, do all the things that make you more admissible to most colleges—take challenging classes, get good grades, spend some (not inordinate) time improving your test scores if necessary, etc. Also, complete the FAFSA and any other financial aid forms your chosen colleges require. Now here are a few tips to help you choose appropriate schools.

1. Consider your in-state options first.
The easiest way to get an advantage is to leverage one that’s already available to you. Depending on your state, most public universities are not only cheaper for their residents, but also easier to gain admission to than they are for students applying from out of state. If your state doesn’t have public schools that appeal to you, remember that applying to a college is not the same as actually attending that school. In this case, you’re giving yourself more potentially viable options. That’s almost always a good thing, especially when you’re concerned about the cost of college.

2. Apply to schools that are most likely to admit you.
This is a great strategy for both private and public colleges. The more likely a college is to admit you, the more likely you are to get a financial aid boost, a practice called “preferential packaging.” Every year, our Collegewise students receive generous and often unsolicited offers of financial aid and scholarships—including from out-of-state public schools—simply because their college lists included some schools where they were strong applicants and were almost certain to be admitted. This is yet another reason why it’s so important to file your FAFSA—many schools will not consider you for preferential packaging without a FAFSA on file.

3. Consider a regional exchange program.
Some public schools enter into agreements with each other that allow students to attend neighboring states’ public schools at a discounted rate. Read to the bottom of the article referenced above and you’ll find links to those programs.

Almost all colleges are more expensive than they used to be. But public universities can be some of the best available bargains in education if you (1) choose your schools carefully, and (2) apply for financial aid.

Taking advantage

Some college admissions advantages are bestowed on select groups. Naturally great test-takers, highly recruited athletes, students with the economic means to avail themselves of test prep and tutoring—while they may have worked to gain (rather than just have been gifted) those advantages, the advantages themselves are just not available to every high school student.

But here’s one potential advantage most seniors can grab. It’s free, it doesn’t discriminate based on your GPA, test scores or résumé, and it doesn’t care where you go to high school or whether or not you intend on applying to highly selective colleges.

You use the summer to start your college application process.

Finalize your college list. Complete your Common Application. Write any essays that your chosen colleges make available. Just get started. I’m not in favor of pushing college prep earlier than necessary. But that application work will need to get done. The only question is whether you do any of it during the summer months or wait until school begins when your days, your schedule, and your plate are already full.

Yes, some students are busier during the summer than others. You may be studying, working, traveling, etc. But chances are that you aren’t as busy or as stressed as you’ll be when the fall schedule of school and classes and activities hits. This fall, you’ll have fewer slots of free time to give to college applications. That’s one of the reasons so many students work on them right up until the deadlines. It’s hard to find the combination of inspiration and relaxation that leads to great college applications when you’re squeezing it in between homework and studying and softball practice.

So give yourself an advantage. Spend just 1-2 hours a week this summer moving through your college application to-dos. Imagine how good you’ll feel, and how much you will have done, if you start your senior year having already logged 10-25 hours of college application work.

You can’t have every advantage. But this one is here for the taking.

For counselors: What’s new with the Common App?

The folks at the Common App held a free webinar for counselors yesterday: “What’s New With The Common App: Enhancements.” If you didn’t get a chance to attend, our counselor Tom Barry shared the following summary for our Collegewise counselors.

You won’t need to find your way around a brand new Common App with your students this year. In fact, the key changes are mostly minor and will not affect all applicants.

1. Students can now self-report courses and grades within the Common App tab.
There aren’t many colleges on the Common App that ask students to self-report their courses and grades, but for those that do, the Common App now offers them a place to do so.

2. Students can upload Google Drive text files directly into the “Essay” boxes. 
This won’t replace the option to copy and paste. But one potential benefit is that uploading a document could help a student avoid those pesky formatting challenges that seemed to pop up so often.

3. The “Activities” dropdown menu will now include “Internship” and “Social Justice” categories. 

4. Students can select up to three advisors who will be granted access to their account in order to evaluate progress. 
This number is in addition to the formal school counselor and the teacher(s) submitting letters of recommendation.

We’ll also be releasing our updated annual Collegewise Common App guide around July 15. When it’s ready, I’ll share it here.