• In Support of Private College Consultants

    November 17, 2006 by

    What is an independent educational consultant?
    “Independent educational consultants are skilled professionals who provide counseling to help student and family choose a college, university or other program that is a good personal match: one that will foster this particular student’s academic and social growth. Educational consultants can provide a student and family with individual attention, first hand knowledge of hundreds of educational opportunities, and the time to explore all of the options. An independent counselor works one-on-one with students and parents to develop a thorough, carefully researched and appropriate school and/or college search, and guide the student through every step of the process.”
    Many argue that independent college consulting is a luxury many cannot afford. Within the four professional organizations I currently belong, I have yet to meet a private counselor who doesn’t work on a sliding scale or in fact for free if it necessitates. After being in schools for twenty-five years, it’s obvious that the potpourri of jobs any counselor has doesn’t give students the focus and assistance they need in both understanding and filling out college applications. School counselors are often excellent and well qualified. It’s just that they are part of a system that has an average ration of 500 students to every counselor.
    A recent Boston Globe article discusses the possibility of a potential check box where students would have to indicate to universities if they were receiving outside help to complete their college applications. I wholeheartedly disagree with this concept. Privacy issues are of ultimate concern everywhere in everything. What families and students choose to do is personal. Do universities tell the public what they are doing behind closed doors? I think not. Not to imply that anything is being done they wouldn’t publicize. However, it is the right of every admission officer to keep their information private. There is nothing unethical about keeping this information private. Qualified private counselors assist students and do not do work for them. I know that myself, along with many colleagues will answer questions for students with no charge.
    “The Independent Educational Consultants Association has seen its membership triple since 1996, and expects continued growth in the coming years. There are now approximately 4,000 independent counselors nationwide. . . . ‘Of the 260,000 [high school] graduates last year who went to private colleges, 58,000 worked with consultants, representing 22 percent of the freshman class in these schools.”
    The business of education is widely recognized and accepted. Qualified independent college consultants must be a respected option as are life coaches, psychologists and physical trainers to mention a few. After all, college consultants all have the same goals in mind – that of placing students in the best educational environment to meet their needs and have them gain knowledge and achieve happiness and success.

    Continue Reading

  • The College Application Essay

    by

    I’m looking at the other side of college essays – not the side the admission officers see, but the side the students write, what they write and how they say it. So often we see guidelines on how to write the college essay. Directions like put it in the first person, make it creative, start with a grabber, finish strong, talk about you and do this all in anywhere from 100 to 500 words. Consultants, counselors and English teachers are the ones who read them in their infancy, the rough stage, just when the thoughts are brewing. What I have seen and read is more authentic than the finished version on the applications. For the most part these are 17 year olds who have been taught in school how to write in the 3rd person, about the other thing and rarely about themselves. So, first there is the need to overcome that teenage insecurity, be humble, yet boast, sound confident and do all that in respectable English. I overlook the slang and instant messaging language so prevalent and work with students on extracting what I find so appealing about them. They all have it – that appealing thing. For some it is simply the way their closet looks and for others it is their personal experience of sitting together at a family meal. The good news is that these students are willing to open up with someone like me knowing that I do not evaluate, judge, grade or accept or deny them. It is an honorable and trusted relationship. I suppose what I see is what many admission officers would like to – the rough cut so to speak. Unquestionably, once student essays have been revised, edited and polished several times, they take on a new more formal look. Colleges are attempting to get the right look at students. University of Michigan for example is attempting to have students think “outside the box” by posing ethical dilemma questions like, “Describe a setback or ethical dilemma that you have faced. How did you resolve it? How did the outcome affect you? If something similar happened in the future, how would you react?” Tufts is taking a more scientific approach to student essays and applications by hiring their dean, a psychologist to work on evaluations, “The first question might not sound so different than those on a typical application essay, but this year’s questions will be designed and evaluated based on psychological research. Tufts officials hope to better identify future leaders and predict college grades.” So, even before the final essays get submitted, I am thoroughly impressed by the rough drafts – their subject matter, written quality, determination and yes immaturity of the students writing. I’m grateful I see that first draft. It is authentic, the truth and apparently what the universities want.

    Continue Reading

  • Full Blown College Admissions Frenzy

    November 03, 2006 by

    It becomes instantaneously obvious once anyone starts examing the plethora of requirements necessary to apply to college these days, that it is an amazingly complex and overwhelming process. Combine that fact with the many who are limited English speakers and first generation in their family to attend college that must weed through the requirements of this process with little or no guidance. Add in the mix the over programmed teen who, on top of monumental amounts of homework, extracurricular activities and perhaps a job must now apply to an average of a dozen universities just to assure acceptance into a college during the most competitive admissions cycle in history. Just examining last seasons percentage of admits at selective universities will verify this fact. http://www.college-connections.com/collegelinks.htm
    There are those who continue to bombard the independent college consultant in their private efforts to guide these students. Their services invariably improve family relations and reduces stress. In addition, nearly all independent counselors take pro bono students. The simple truth is that thousands of students are not getting the guidance they need. Certainly there are countless effective counselors in schools across the country, but the counselor to student ratio is exorbitant. Some school counselors manage as many as 500 students. Add the vast amounts of additional jobs many of these counselors have including but not limited to scheduling, monitoring social behavior and writing recommendations. Many have job titles that include “guidance counselor”. How many times have I heard students say, “My counselor doesn’t know me” and then there are those students who don’t even know if their schools even have a college counselor. Universities have specific requirements for admittance. Yet, thousands get to their senior year without the necessary courses due to lack of guidance. These counselors simply cannot handle the large enrollments and it’s no surprise, as the schools are significantly under budgeted. Yes, there are those independent schools that manage well, whose ratio of counselor to students is 10:1, where students’ curriculums are reviewed and carefully managed. However, so many of these families still seek outside help for their college admission process.
    The angst and anxiety of the college admissions process has reached new levels. Words like “admission frenzy” and “gaming the system” are all over the media. As a result, some of the top universities have eliminated early plans to try and quiet the storm. Private college consultants have become as necessary as any psychologist. Yet, how many psychologists do as much pro bono work as college consultants? Educational business is not a dirty word. Other factors driving the admissions intensity are the universities themselves. The business of college admissions is at an all time high. Large budgets are allocated for enrollment management divisions. Thousands of dollars are directed at recruiting students and encouraging more and more applications because it then can make the university look more selective. Just last week on one of my professional online digests was a request from a top admission official for marketing suggestions concerning online banner placements. College websites are huge business and placement of ads equally as important. After all, these are tremendous recruitment tools and yield does increase that U.S. News Ranking. Other factors driving the frenzy are undoubtedly the “helicopter” parent population. Many parents push their kids to the absolute limit to achieve what they didn’t and still hold beliefs that the way to a successful, secure future is through a top tier school – not necessarily so. Many state universities are notorious for having produced some of the most successful and influential people in the world. Peer pressure is added to this mix, creating anxious turmoil. The average number of senior applications is estimated at 12 to 15 schools per students. Last week at a selective independent school in Los Angeles, a nervous 9th grade parent group was encouraged to not think about college plans just yet.
    Jeannie Borin, M.Ed.
    IECA, Professional member
    NACAC, Professional Member
    www.college-connections.com

    Continue Reading