• 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

  • Applying to College : No Easy Task

    November 15, 2006 by

    Examine an application – Just see what is required to click that submit button. I understand universities need the information to make distinctions and decisions. However, the complexity of the application is often difficult if not impossible for students to complete without the proper guidance.
    Realize that well meaning school counselors are often spread too thin and universities recommending the students’ independence want them to do it alone. Some colleges do suggest support and guidance, but from whom and how? The fact is that many students do not know all the current application requirements, options, statistics or what universities want to know. Reading any university website on what the school wants, clearly demonstrates the vague nature of how admission officials make their decisions. There are factors in admission that change from year to year. What are the different ways to apply? Early Decision, Early Action, Restrictive First Choice Early Action? Rolling Admissions? Who is explaining this in the high schools? Most recently Harvard, Princeton and the University of Virginia eliminated their Early Plans for the Class of 2012. How do students become aware of such news?
    Other factors students must know when applying to college include standardized tests – what tests to take where and when? And how to prepare…About 720 universities in the United States don’t even require tests. What are the differences in the requirements? Who takes the ACT? SATI? Which universities require the SAT Subject Exams and how many of these? Are they optional? required? Students also need to know how to register for the exams. High schools generally do not provide these answers. The counselors can, at times help but with ratios at nearly 500 to 1, their time is extremely limited. Recently, I had one of my seniors request a senior college prep packet at his high school only to hear, “We don’t have one.” I compliment Rob Killion, executive director of the Common Application who continually works toward a commonality in this complicated maze. However, look at the number of supplements and additional essays required by schools on the common application. www.commonapp.org. Just how common are these applications anyway?
    Then there are those recommendations – how many and for which school? Who should I give them to? What should I include? Should I send the universities supplemental recommendations? When should I submit them? What should I fill out? Do I waive my right to see them? These are just a few of the questions I get from students all the time. There are also Midyear Reports. Many students have never seen this before. What do I do with them?
    There’s the Brag Sheet or list of extracurricular activities and honors and awards received in high school. Students need to know how to present those. Students want to know how to best state their activities and who should get this list. One of my students recently gave me a near twenty page extracurricular list answering numerous excellent and specific questions. Unquestionably, this gives any reader a clear sense of this student. However, who would read this at the university level. Students are given approximately seven short lines to list years of experience and accomplishments. They are entitled to know how to maximize this space.
    Essay questions are a significant source of concern to students. Just what are these admission officers looking for? Although many universities do give a “topic of your choice” there are those questions that are amazingly specific – quoting legendary philosophers that have students decipher the content and then connect it all on a personal level. To do all this in anywhere from 100 to 600 words depending on the institution is yet an additional skill. We hear too that essays should be in story format, creative and wonderfully intriguing. Most recently, I heard an admission officer state that they often read the 1st and last paragraph and then decide whether or not to read the rest. Students generally do not learn to write 1st person essays like this in high school. Realize too that many applications require 3 to 4 essays…some long, some short – but nevertheless all different.
    High school athletes also need guidance regarding NCAA rules and requirements – how and when to contact coaches and where to go for information.
    If universities are requesting and requiring all these components, students are entitled to know what to do and what it all means. As long as most schools do not provide the adequate guidance, admissions remains a complicated process. Competition for select spots continues to increase along with the need and demand for private college consultants.

    Continue Reading

  • Why Distance Counseling Works

    by

    Isn’t it true that when admission officers evaluate student applications they really don’t know the student? Other than the interview that some colleges offer, acceptance decisions are based on a written document, the application. For students to portray themselves in the best light, their GPA’s, test scores, essays and recommendations must paint the best possible picture. In addition to local students, I am currently working with students and families in 16 states and 5 countries internationally. This number is increasing nearly daily. I counsel online, on the phone and via fax. If I can get a clear picture of a student based on all their data without the face to face meetings, then it is likely that admissions officers will also. The fact is that distance counseling is a test for the real thing.
    I do see many students face to face when possible and always enjoy knowing them personally. However, the demand for guidance is so widespread that to accommodate more students, distance counseling is necessary. The forerunner, online learning, indicates how fast online education is growing and how successful it is. The Sloan Consortium, a group of colleges pursuing online programs, estimates that 850,000 more students took online courses in the fall of 2005 than the year before, an increase of nearly 40 percent. Students, too, are extremely comfortable with the distance format. Between their personal web pages, text and emails, online communication is a comfort zone .Many young people are more comfortable communicating online.
    Many university applications are going paperless within the next few years. Numerous professors post assignments, readings and syllabus online. High schools are using programs where students receive online report cards. Electronic communication is the M generation’s way. Online college applications, passwords, pin numbers, secret questions to login are all very standard. Many face to face counseling meetings are conducted in front of a computer.
    It is likely that college applications will become even more unique in the coming years. I easily guide all my distance students to present applications that are unique and perhaps explore creative possibilities in photo uploads, displaying computer graphic skills, musical backgrounds and links to personal pages. All this reveals much about the student.
    So many of my high school and transfer students have such busy schedules, that they prefer connecting with me online rather than face to face. Between homework, jobs, athletic activities and other extracurriculars, they like communicating at the end of the day with their questions and input online.
    By the time my students submit their applications, I have a strong feeling for who they are having worked with them to extract their strengths. In saying all this and if you have read this far, I have a note for parents. I hear things like, “I want my child to know their counselor”. Of course, there is nothing wrong with that. I urge you to keep in mind, to realize and accept that this is a new high tech generation that is more than comfortable with distance counseling.
    Jeannie Borin, M.Ed.
    IECA Professional Member
    NACAC Professional Member
    www.college-connections.com

    Continue Reading