Your teen doesn’t need to be “well-rounded” to get into college!

During this time of year as teens are getting more involved in school activities, a question that many students and parents raise is whether it’s best to be more “well-rounded.” The term “well-rounded” refers to a student who has experiences in a range of varied activities. “Should I(my teen) be “well rounded” often translates to ‘”Will this help me(my teen) get into college?” The concept of “well–rounded “ was born in hindsight from a 1980’s myth of how students got accepted to most selective colleges.

My question back to them is “What’s your goal?” It’s not meant to be a smart-alecky response but the emphasis on every aspect of the college admissions process is the student. colgate campus

My recent e-newsletter shared what colleges today want and many parents were abuzz about what this means for their college-bound teen. Colleges want engaged, curious learners. This new revelation can be unsettling because it’s the opposite of “well-rounded”.

Over the years, I’ve read thousands of applications and spoken with numerous admissions officers about what they seek in prospective candidates and “well-rounded” isn’t just dead among the most selective colleges but an even broader landscape. The activities resume filled with 15-20 activities may show busy-ness, but too often lack evidence of these qualities:

    • Interest – are you really that interested in an activity that you’ve only spent a few hours doing in 9th grade? Based on your activities resume, what are you interested in?
    • Commitment – where is the evidence of your commitment? College communities thrive on student commitment.
    • Impact – what difference was made by your participation? do your activities show what impact you made on your school or community through your involvement? When a student is doing an activity for the sake of appearing “well rounded” then they may not be around long enough to take a leadership role, influence the direction, mentor other students, or make any impact at all.

In closing, I go back to my initial response, “What’s your goal?” The entire college admissions process is about the student NOT the college. If the student is doing an activity just for the sake of getting into college, it will come through in their laundry list of activities and especially their application essays. When students focus their time and efforts on those activities they enjoy, have an interest in pursuing, and make an impact on others involved with them . . . that’s when students have the best chances of getting in and getting money for college.


What 9th graders can do now to get into Best College

Attention 9th graders, the college may feel like a long way away. In some ways, it is. But, in more ways than one, it’s really not. College-bound 9th graders are part of the college admissions process, whether they know it or not. In fact, our firm starts working with many teens in their freshman year of high school.

Long before students start receiving college mailings, they can get prepared. 9th graders can take these three steps to get into the best college for them:

  • Get to know yourself – At the same time that 9th grade may be an exciting time socially with making new friends at school, it’s also a great time for freshmen to explore and find new things that they like and enjoy doing. This may mean checking out a new club at school, starting a hobby, or trying out a summer program in a new subject area. Self-awareness is key in knowing what you want for college!
  • Plan your courses for all four years of high school – Setting your schedule ahead of high school graduation is a great way to build a strong foundation of coursework. It will also help you see where there may be courses missing. In those cases, perhaps you could consider an online or summer course. If your high school offers an Honors graduation, the four-year planning will help with determining if that’s a path you want to pursue.
  • Develop good study and organization skills – It’s not too early to find ways to improve your study and organization skills. The coursework in 9th grade is typically more rigorous than 8th grade, so consider how you manage your time after school or how you take notes during class. There are note-taking systems, time management tools, and organizing techniques to try that can help you develop habits that will serve you well throughout high school and beyond.

Ninth grade can be a great year to jumpstart success in high school and getting into the best college. The journey begins with the student!

What other suggestions do you have for 9th grade? Please post comments and questions below

Why Add Princeton to Your College List

It’s graduation time and definitely the most rewarding time of year in my practice! This year, I’m attending a college graduation of a former client. Attending his graduation from college is particularly meaningful because he was in my first class of high school seniors. During the graduation dinner with his family, his mother recalled when they first hired me to work with him. I had spoken with his parents about his college list. (Keep in mind that this student had already spent a great deal of time thinking about where he wanted to apply to college.)

I thought his list was solid but wanted him to consider adding another East Coast university to his list. I knew that my student really wanted to remain in California as did his parents. At least by this time in our relationship, the student was open to my suggestion. Here’s some background on my thinking for adding Princeton to his list:

Case Study in Point!

princeton campusThe student attended a large public high school in California. His GPA was strongest in the 10th and 11th grade, with a couple of lower grades during 9th grade. The fact that his grades trended up for the remainder of high school still showed favorably. SAT scores were strong. What was truly remarkable about this student though was that he had started his technology business at age 13 and it was still going strong. As an entrepreneur myself, I marveled at his courage and stick-to-itiveness. He wanted to continue his entrepreneurial pursuits after college. The selective colleges on his list that would offer a strong program/exposure to entrepreneurship were Babson, University of Pennsylvania, and Stanford.

Why Princeton

I suggested that this student add Princeton to his list. Princeton isn’t necessarily known for entrepreneurship. However, these qualities about their undergraduate program were still a good fit for this particular student:

  1. Princeton has a strong community. I felt that if this student would be attending college so far away from home, the community of students would be very important. College, after all, should feel like your home away from home. Even moreso when that college home is 2,926 miles away!
  2. Princeton offers a liberal arts education. Although my student was considering computer science or engineering, based on his technology interests, Princeton offers a range of classes for exploring interests that may be undiscovered. Part of the exciting transformation that happens in college is discovering an interest or passion that had been hidden in high school.
  3. Princeton emphasizes independent work in the junior and senior years. This independent work culminates in a senior thesis.

These three qualities match well with those necessary for entrepreneurs, namely networking skills, open-mindedness, and independence. The experiences that can be garnered through the four years of college would bring those other sustainable qualities to bear.

The Rest of the Story

With attending the graduation ceremony, my relationship with this family came full circle. I was excited to be part of such a joyous occasion and beamed with pride as my student accepted his AB degree in History from Princeton University. While he still has plans to pursue his entrepreneurial interests in the next few years, he will be working in New York City, learning about a completely different industry but building a network and skills that will last a lifetime.

For college-bound students interested in Georgetown, Stanford, or Duke

stanford quadrangle hallway

The admissions officers of Duke, Georgetown, Harvard, Penn and Stanford travel each year to introduce their campuses to students around the country. It may not be feasible for families to visit these campuses if they are distant, but the campuses, in a sense, come to you!

In May 2014, this special event will be held at these Ohio venues:

Cleveland – Tuesday, May 13, 7:30 pm
Cleveland Airport Marriottharvard logo
4277 West 150th Street, Cleveland, OH 44135

Columbus – Wednesday, May 14, 7:30 pm
Sheraton Columbus at Capitol Square
75 East State Street, Columbus, OH 43215

Cincinnati – Thursday, May 15, 7:30 pm
Cincinnati Marriott RiverCenter
10 West RiverCenter Boulevard, Covington, KY 41011

If you are planning to attend, be forewarned that these events can be very crowded and intimidating. Attending the event won’t influence your admissions prospects but the information may be valuable for writing your application essays.

You may RSVP for Exploring College Options at this link.


How To Get The Best Teacher Recommendation

studying in the library

During sophomore and junior year of high school, I discuss the importance of teacher recommendations in the college application. Learning what teachers should write in their teacher recommendation letter is quite eye-opening for students. More importantly, learning this information long before it’s required means that students will have an opportunity to work on developing those important student-teacher relationships.

For example, in a recent Common Application, teachers are asked to respond to these student qualities:

  • Creative, original thought
  • Productive class discussion
  • Disciplined work habits
  • Reaction to setbacks
  • Concern for others

These are in addition to academic and other personal characteristics.
If you are reading this shortlist and can’t think of ONE sophomore or junior year teacher who would rank you highly with these qualities, then it’s time for you to start nurturing 2-3 teacher relationships. This is meant in a sincere way. If you’re genuinely interested in the topic being taught, that’s one way of determining whether to further build a relationship with the teacher.

Many of my students will apply to selective summer programs. When they apply to a summer program during sophomore or junior year, this gives them a great opportunity to request a recommendation. The teacher who writes a summer program recommendation will learn earlier about your interests and how to write about your unique attributes.

Whether you’re requesting a teacher recommendation for a summer program or college application, here are 5 key things to do to get the best recommendation:

  1. Request the recommendation 3-4 weeks prior to the deadline, when possible. This will allow the teacher ample time to write a strong letter on your behalf.
  2. Provide the teacher description of the program of interest. Discuss why you’re interested in this program. When applying to colleges, let the teacher know the colleges of interest to you and why.
  3. Activities Resume – share your updated Activities Resume with the teacher so that he/she will learn more about your interests.
  4. If there’s a form provided or other instructions about what should be included in the teacher recommendation, give that to the teacher, as well. Make sure that if there’s a waiver for you to sign that you do so prior to giving the teacher the form.
  5. Most important . . . Give the teacher an addressed envelope to seal and sign. If the recommendation should be mailed, please fill out the address and place a stamp on the envelope. If the letter should be returned to yoMake sure that teacher signs across seal of envelope with your recommendation, to ensure confidentialityu, please write on the front of the envelope.”Teacher Recommendation for (Your Name)”. Please make sure that the teacher signs across the seal of the envelope (see photo). This ensures that the recommendation is confidential!

Teacher recommendations are an important part of your application portfolio, whether it’s for a summer program or college admissions. You may also follow these steps if a counselor recommendation is needed.

What’s worked for you in getting the best recommendation?

College 101: A Special Workshop for Parents of College-bound Teens

College bound teens

January 20, 2015 – February 10, 2015

3490 S Dixie Dr, Ste 225



What’s in it for you
Did you know that it takes 300+ hours for parents to help their teen through the college admissions process? Much of that time is wasted. Learn how to save time while finding the best college for your teen and not leave any money on the table!

This small group workshop will provide you with the insight and tools to effectively guide your teen through the college admissions process.

What’s covered in the sessions
There will be four 90-minute sessions, which will include:

  • Week 1 (Jan 20) – Post-secondary options – current trends and what’s ahead for your teen after they graduate high school
  • Week 2 (Jan 27) – College search – how to develop a strong list and find hidden gems
  • Week 3 (Feb 3) – College application – what is in the application, when and how to apply, how NOT to “help”
  • Week 4 (Feb 10) – Paying for college – where’s the money and how to get it

Each workshop will be held from 7 to 8:30 pm. 

Who are parent attendees

This workshop is designed especially for parents of college-bound 10th-11th graders.


Only $295 for all 4 classes (Early bird registration before Dec 15 – $245)


Top 3 Last-minute college application tips to Get in!

Chapman University

As the January deadlines draw near, countless high school seniors are completing their college applications. Even students who started on their applications earlier in the Fall term may be checking over their application forms and proofreading their essays.

Don’t press the submit button before doing these 3 things:

1. Review your application in its entirety – Your college application is a portfolio which reflects your best effort. This portfolio includes these pieces:

  • General demographic profile data
  • Transcripts
  • Secondary school report
  • Teacher and/or personal recommendations
  • Personal statements or essays
  • Sample work, in some cases

If there are redundancies in your application, remove them and add new information that complements the remainder.

2. Confirm that your application shows or spells out how you will contribute to campus life. This may sound too difficult to do but by this time in the application process, you should know why you’re applying and how you’ll contribute to the campus where you’re applying. If it’s not indicated in the application, then it’s left to any admission reader’s guess.

3. Proofread your essays for authenticity. The best way to do this is to read your essays aloud. It may feel unnatural but if you can’t stand to read your essay, then who else will want to read it? So, find a quiet space and read aloud. If there are words or phrases that “don’t sound like” you, eliminate immediately. Admissions officers read thousands of essays in a cycle and can easily spot something that’s disingenuous or worse . . . written by an adult. This is why I caution parents, teachers, or other adults to never add a different word, rewrite a sentence, or any such “help.” The essay should be written solely by the student applicant, in their voice. Authenticity is key to getting into the best-fit college for you.

Admissions decisions will be released in the next couple of months. Stay encouraged as you wait and try not to let senioritis slip in . . .  Your college of choice will be receiving a Final Year Report.


Case and Princeton early applicants are up and so are Deferrals

Princeton University

Several campuses reported an increased number of early admissions applicants. Given the increased number of early applicants, there are a number of students who may be disappointed to learn that their application has been deferred to the Regular Decision pool or denied.

As I learned from fellow colleagues, the deferrals were higher this year than in the past. I have mixed feelings about deferrals because students are left in limbo. What’s worse is that some students probably are now scrambling to write essays and get recommendations for colleges that they hadn’t anticipated. Many of those colleges may have a January deadline, which really adds pressure.

As a Regular Decision applicant, students may decide that the odds are not in their favor if colleges have already accepted a large percentage of the class in early rounds. There are a number of factors still to determine who will be admitted through the Regular Decision pool. Students really can’t make that decision based on their own application so they should still apply to those colleges that are a great fit for them.

College 101: A Special Workshop for Parents of College-bound Teens coming January 2013

Wednesday, January 23, 2013 – Wednesday, February 13, 2013

3490 S Dixie Dr, Ste 225

Map and Directions | Register


What’s in it for you
Did you know that it takes 300+ hours for parents to help their teen through the college admissions process? That’s a lot of time. We will show you how to save it.

This small group workshop will provide you with the insight and tools to effectively guide your teen through the college admissions process.


What’s covered in the sessions
There will be four 90-minute sessions, which will include:

  • Week 1 (January 23) – Post-secondary options – current trends and what’s ahead for your teen after they graduate high school
  • Week 2 (January 30) – College search – how to develop a strong list and find hidden gems
  • Week 3 (February 6) – College application – what is in the application, when and how to apply, how NOT to “help”
  • Week 4 (February 13) – Paying for college – where’s the money and how to get it

Each workshop will be held from 7 to 8:30 pm. 


Who are parent attendees

This workshop is designed especially for parents of 9th, 10th, and 11th graders.



Only $295 for all 4 classes (or $99 per workshop); Save $50 when you register by DECEMBER 31!


3 quick college application tips for parents of high school seniors

High School Seniors

As the cost of college continues to rise, parents are becoming more involved in the college admissions process. Colleges are even finding that parents are increasingly involved with their students during college. Many colleges now have a Parent Liaison on campus or active parent networks who are available to prospective families for questions or guidance. Our center, Compass College Advisory Center is offering a 4-week course for parents of college-bound teens. This workshop will provide insight and tools that parents can use to help their teens find the best college for them. If you are located in the Dayton area, please consider attending.

Sign up here for College 101: Parent workshop

This workshop will be particularly beneficial for parents with 9th, 10th, and 11th graders. If you have a high school senior, here are some timely tips to help you in the thick of the process:


Create a Good List of Schools Right Away – The real key here is having a good college list: there are some reaches, there’s some ‘likelies’ that the parent can trust the child to go ahead and start applying because there are some colleges that he or she will get into for sure . . . Now that colleges are required to provide families with a net price calculator . . . it’s also important for parents to help their student go through their list to calculate the expected cost of attendance and ensure that the school is affordable before applying. [See our posting on “Don’t let the College Sticker Price fool you.”] Give Kids Responsibility – Douglas likens the parent’s role in the application process to the producer of a movie—don’t direct, but make sure the movie gets done well, on time and within budget.“Sit down with your kid and come up with a timeline: when are you going to start brainstorming? When are you going to come up with a topic? When are you going to have a first draft written?” he says. “Put dates on them–I suggest formalizing that with a contract.”With all of the application fees and costs for sending in transcripts and test scores, Luse suggests giving students a debit card and give them responsibility to keep up with associated costs. Create Incentives and Reward Progress – While parents shouldn’t pay their child to complete applications or finish essays, Douglas suggests creating a reward system for meeting deadlines and stepping in if they don’t hold up their end of the bargain.“Say, ‘if you [decide on] the essay topic by the weekend, then I’m going to pay for you to go to the movies with your friends or I’m going to make your favorite dinner or you won’t have to do chores for a day,’” he says. “You’re able to help your kids through the process without doing the work and that kind of management makes for a happier relationship and it makes it less stressful for the student.”


via College Application Guidelines for Parents | Fox Business

Please keep us posted on how these tips work for you in the upcoming months!