Who's to Blame for College Admissions Misses?

Decision Time

Yesterday was the deadline for most high school seniors to make their final college choice. It shouldn't be as stressful as many people make it out to be.

Part of the reason can be explained here.

In this blog post, a mom wonders why so many highly-qualified students aren't getting into their dream colleges and what effect it will have on their psyches.

She also, within the first paragraph, blames:

  • this "generation"
  • the "system"
  • parents
  • Admissions Offices

This is a rough post. I agree with some of the sentiments, but not others. Here are my takeaways:

Managing Expectations

Just because your child's stat line reads: 1480 SAT, 4.3 GPA, varsity soccer team, student government, black belt, and quarterly soup kitchen volunteer doesn't mean they'll get into a highly-selective college. It just doesn't. Not even close.

There are thousands of kids just like this. They grow on trees these days. Just ask any parent. I'm not sure why so many people think that a high-performer like...

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The Golden Years | Freshman and Sophomore Year

 

A Broken Model

After years of engaging with hundreds of high school students, parents, and guidance counselors from around the country, I've witnessed an unfortunate pattern.

These individuals continue to operate under the assumption that "college preparation" should begin in junior year.

I strongly disagree.

In fact, before stepping one foot into junior year, students should have a firm understanding of the expectations, milestones, and context for what lies ahead. [More on exactly what these factors are in a subesquent post].

Otherwise, students (and parents) risk feeling overwhelmed, paralyzed, and ill-prepared to manage the onslaught of information dumped in their laps. Once a student enters junior year, there are no do-overs.

In my private counseling practice, I find that a student's freshman and sophomore years (The Golden Years) have disproportionate impact on their readiness for the college admissions process, college selection, and life itself.

They are - as an economist...

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Are Kids Specializing in Youth Sports Too Early?

What Happened to All the 3-Sport Athletes?

These days, many parents (and their children) are feeling pressure to specialize in a particular sport earlier and earlier.

The pressure can come from coaches, parents, trainers, kids, or the media. A billion-dollar industry has emerged to meet this growing trend

In some cases, a child's first taste of athletic success (at age 5) will send a parent on two wheels to Dick's Sporting Goods. The sales associate sees this parent from a mile away. Hello daily sales quota!

I know it's flattering when the volunteer coach tells you that Ricky or Samantha has a "big league swing". You wonder, "Could it be? Could my son/daughter be that special athlete? Could I be the next Archie Manning?"

But before quitting soccer and dance and buying Ricky a $299 T-ball bat or Samantha a $199 softball glove, consider whether specializing so early is in their best interests?

This blog post makes the case for a slower transition to specialization - or no...

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You made my son do what?

Would you want your son to experience this?

On a cool Friday afternoon in San Diego, CA, 36 high school lacrosse players (9th - 12th) were leisurely stretching out on a well-manicured grassy knoll 300 yards from the Pacific Ocean.

This was the group's final day of tryouts for the JV and Varsity lacrosse team. The participants were told to show up with a t-shirt and running shoes and to be prepared for a 3-hour workout.

Halfway through their stretching routine, two other former Navy SEAL Instructors and I emerged from of our cars and walked over to greet them. This was no ordinary greeting.

Here's how the next four hours unfolded for the group:


Activity: Introduction and (Dis)orientation

With bullhorn in hand, we told the group that the original plan had changed. The 3-hour workout had been extended to a 24-hour Hell Night where they would be tested with a series of mental and physical challenges that would last until the next day. This was not true, but we had to get the athletes...

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How to Be Strategic About your Teen's Summers

 

How teens spend their summers has become an increasingly important piece of the college admissions puzzle. Objective measures like GPA, SAT/ACT scores, and transcripts can quickly become lifeless numbers in a sea of sameness. (Yup, another 4.0 GPA, check).

Admissions officers are being forced to look elsewhere to find what differentiates students from each other. They often turn to letters of recommendation, alumni interviews, and, of course, summer experiences. 

Let's start with the tactics, then we'll move into strategy.

Here are some options to consider for the summer:

Volunteer Work (FT or PT):

Volunteer work is easy to find, affordable, and can be full-time, part-time, or project-based. Not only does volunteer work show that you care about someone other than yourself, but it also allows a teen to gain real-world experience in a field or industry they enjoy. 

Paid Work (FT or PT):

Colleges love to see applicants who have worked at a paying job - of any kind. Sometimes,...

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How Teens Can Optimize Their Summer

Please don't underestimate the power of the summer.  It's a magical time for teens that can either be optimized or squandered.

Yes, colleges like to see your child engaged in interesting and productive pursuits during the summer, but that's only half the story.

The summer is also the time for your child to find out more about themselves. What do they like? What do they hate? What is it like to make money? What is it like to do manual labor? What is it like to work in a cubicle? What is it like to find a job?

These are invaluable experiences that teens need to live through to make better decisions in the years ahead.

I call summer activities "Summer Quests" because your child should be searching for something. Here are some things worthy of their search:

  • work experience
  • passion
  • education
  • travel experiences
  • fun and adventure
  • money
  • exposure

What interests your child?

The first place for your child to start when considering their summer plans is what they are interested in. If...

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Heather's Lightbulb Moment!

A lot of my days are spent trying to help teens unlock their "potential". If you are a parent or teacher, you know that this can make for some long days. 

Most teens are content to operate at 50% capacity. A few strive for more. 

The teens who care about their development, progress, and improvement are my oxygen.

Every once in a while, I catch wind of a PrepWeller who has figured it out.

Such was the case with a PrepWeller we'll call "Heather".

Heather started PrepWell Academy as a freshman and wasn't the most diligent PrepWell student of all time. She watched a majority of the videos but not without cycles of skipping and binge-watching. All totally normal. The program was designed with this dynamic in mind.

However, in early sophomore year, the proverbial lightbulb went off for her. All of a sudden, the terminology, advice, and guidance within the videos took on new meaning.

Heather "got it".

It wasn't long before Heather was engaged in the college admissions process as...

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10 Reasons to Become an Eagle Scout

My days are spent speaking with high school students across the country about their lives. In particular, about their interests, college admissions strategies, and life ambitions.  It's my passion.

After reviewing (and editing) hundreds of stellar college applications, resumes, personal statements, and college essays, there is one designation that captures the essence of what colleges are looking for in their prospective students - an Eagle Scout.

My job as college counselor and mentor becomes much easier when I'm working with an Eagle Scout. I know what it takes to make it through the program and it is not difficult to help Scouts express these attributes within their college applications.

Some people believe that colleges give disproportionate credit to Eagle Scouts in the admissions process. I beg to differ - and the 10 items below provide more than enough evidence as to why admissions officers sit up straighter in their chairs when reading the applications of Eagle Scouts.

...
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Is your Child Well-Rounded or Angular?

 

Back in the day, highly-selective schools were impressed by the proverbial "well-rounded student" who seemed capable of doing just about anything - from sports, to academics, to community service.

"Old School" Well-Rounded Student:

  • 4.0 GPA
  • National Honor Society
  • Soccer player (2 years)
  • Piano (3 years)
  • Vice President of Spanish Club (Junior Year)
  • Soup Kitchen volunteer (various)

College Admissions Officers used to assemble their incoming classes by selecting many of these "well-rounded" applicants. 

Campuses eventually became havens for lots of students who were good at lots of things.

Today, things are different.

In fact, many schools today are not as impressed by generic "well-rounded" students and have turned their attention to more "angular" students.

Angular Students

Angular students take a deep dive into one (or two) core activities  -  often at the exclusion of others - to become world-class in their field. 

"Modern Day" Angular Student:

  • 4.4 GPA
  • ...
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What 8 Moms Shared about the College Admissions Experience

I recently attended a Workshop with eight parents (in this case, moms) who shared their best advice on how to handle the college admissions process.

They all had recent experience helping their children get accepted to Drexel University, UC Berkeley, Syracuse University, Georgetown University, University of Pennsylvania, Mesa Community College and others.

Here are the highlights:

WAS A PRIVATE COLLEGE COUNSELOR WORTH IT?

  • Most paid $3K - $4K for a private counselor
  • Lukewarm results
    • most seriously questioned whether it was worth the money
    • a few found it helpful
    • one found it invaluable
  • A few DIYers did not hire a counselor and used school resources to help
  • Most waited to seek counseling until their child proved to be unengaged
  • Strong positive: Offloading process onto someone other than mom
  • Some identified specific areas where counselors came in handy

INTRODUCE THE PROCESS EARLY

  • Don't wait until junior or senior year!
  • Most children procrastinate to shield themselves from perceived...
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