Why on Earth Would I Hire a College Counselor?

Why on Earth Would I Hire a College Counselor?

College applications are all about details, deadlines and debt. Sometimes it's useful to have another, independent, pair of eyes on what could be a $300,000 adventure. 

Super Selective, Highly Impacted Colleges: Why didn’t I get in?

Super Selective, Highly Impacted Colleges: Why didn’t I get in?

As college acceptance and rejection letters start rolling in this month and families begin to fret over statistics and strategies, it’s worth taking note of a few facts. 

I don't want my kid to volunteer...she should be studying!

A few years ago, I was chatting with a family about their student's 'brag sheet' or 'resumé'. When I asked whether the student had participated in any volunteer activities, the mother shot back, "You know, I don't understand why everyone thinks volunteering is so important....we never got any help from anyone. Everything I have I worked hard for, on my own, with no help from anyone, no real help, even from my ex. Why can't everyone just pull themselves up by their own bootstraps?"

A hard question from a tough, world-weary Mom. It turns out the student did, in fact, volunteer at the public high school as a TA, in one of the many CTE (http://www.careertech.org/cte) classes offered. The time this teenager spent at school helping other students understand course content was beneficial in many ways.  The teacher got a helping hand in an impacted classroom. By volunteering, the student had a chance to delve deeper into the topic and to explore what working in that career would be like. The volunteer also received a great letter of recommendation from her teacher for the college application. A win-win, IMHO.

Over half of teens in the US volunteer contributing more than 1 billion hours of community service annually. Almost 2/3 of those teen volunteers are 'regulars' meaning they volunteer at least 12 weeks per year. They volunteer primarily through religious, school or youth organizations.

There are so many reasons for students to volunteer:

Here are a few reasons from a "Top Ten" list published by UCSD:

  • Make a difference
  • Encourages civic responsibility
  • Teaches the importance of giving back
  • Learn a lot
  • Strengthens the community
  • Foster empathy
  • Test out a career--gain professional experience

Or this from Psychology Today:

  • Once a volunteer, always a volunteer
  • Volunteers lead healthier and longer lives!
  • Volunteering is transformative for youth

Or this: http://www.pointsoflight.org/about-us

  • Empathy
  • Curiosity
  • Sociability
  • Resilience
  • Self-Awareness
  • Integrity
  • Resourcefulness
  • Creativity

And definitely this: https://www.habitat.org/stories/why-volunteer

  • Nobody is an Island
  • Life is easier when you are part of a family, neighborhood or network of friends
  • You start building a good neighborhood when you yourself decide to be a good neighbor

Did you know:

Whether a student volunteers because their friends are doing so or because it will look good on a college application, the benefits of volunteering are real. IMHO, regardless of why they do it, all signs point to encouraging them to do it.


Hate the Capricious Admission Process?

Only 15 days until the deposits are due! Families are weighing the options: Do we pay full-price for College A with the better name recognition or take the great discount at the sweet SLAC up the road? Families are also wondering what went wrong: Why didnt we get into the college that had the better odds for us? And, most commonly, families are freaking out about the cost of the 4-year college adventure, no matter which college the student attends.

Some head-shaking, top peeves re-emerging this admissions cycle--including 'Real World' examples from my client base:

The illogical: Test-optional colleges trolling for students

The unbelievable: Waivers of app fees to students who then blast-send dozens of apps thereby boosting the pool of applicants at colleges participating in the rankings game.

The capricious: One student gets a certain amount of aid in their admissions packet but another must work ass off in an appeals process to get same amount of aid with equivalent test scores and grades.

The absurd:  Colleges boast about their admits with great test scores but bemoan the existence of the test prep industry.

The political: Student from out-of-country with B average gets accepted to UCSD whereas stellar in-state and local resident does not.

The  psychotic: Non-dischargeable loans offered to 18-year olds and low-income families.


Things to Know about Student Loan Debt

Things to Know about Student Loan Debt

Student loan debt levels are distressing. While debt taken on by recent graduates averages $30,000, there are some loan packages worth over $100,000. All parents analyzing loans should read about this cautionary tale.

College Admissions Anxiety: Just One Person’s Perspective

My thoughts on the over-scheduled, overworked, stressed-out teen begin with the age-old question: What came first, the chicken or the egg? When I look back a few decades, I see the phenomenon of both parents working outside the home starting in earnest at just about the same time public high school budgets started going haywire.  Since a typical, public, school-day is as short as 5-6 hours, working parents needed to find activities for their children after school, in the afternoons and evenings, and often, during school holidays. Many after-school businesses have emerged to fill the void.  The plethora of available activities are of critical importance to working parents, especially for public school families. 

When the first generation of kids that engaged in organized after-school and vacation activities started applying to college, they had lot of activities and adventures to report–all those blanks on the application forms were filled in.  Demographic changes (ie. the baby boomer’s boomlet plus globalization) coupled with highly-involved parents transformed what was once a merely competitive college admissions process into a nerve-racking, debt-defying, lifestyle pursuit.

I don’t see the long term problem as one of over-scheduling (any associated stress disorders and/or unhealthy family dynamics is, obviously, a problem) so much as it is one of inequity.

While many private schools have always provided a full day of academics and “enrichment”, public high school students receive the most basic of academic, athletic and arts exposure. The only language taught at the public Valhalla High School, for example, is Spanish but the private Bishop’s School offers Latin, Greek, Spanish, French, Mandarin. Though Valhalla enrolls over 2100 students, it has 23 athletic teams; Bishops, with 800 students, offers 40. The first thing I noticed when my older son transferred to a private school? Students hangout on-campus, in the library, on the fields, in the music room, till way past dinner time. At my younger son’s public school? Unless you were on a team or in a band, you weren’t at school after last period.

Most parents work outside the home.  Most students attend public not private schools. Most public schools are underfunded and overcrowded with scant attention to advising, to development of critical-thinking skills, or to job skills. Most parents do not have resources and cannot overcome their child’s inadequate educational environment.  Don’t you think we need all students to have access and exposure—to the arts, 21st century science, athletics, nature— to become fulfilled, contributing members of society?

Editor's note: Originally published in 2014. The only additional comment I would add, in 2017,  is this: college costs about 10% more now. So, admissions stress is still there. Shameless plug: call A+ for detailed analyses, the pros/cons, of your own college adventure. 

Kids Say the Darndest Things:

If you're in the college application mode, you may be cross eyed by now from reading the hundreds of college admissions blogs analyzing everything from yield ratios to rankings to Estimated Family Contribution to how-to-write-the-winning essay. For a lighthearted chuckle, I've been reading reasons students are or are not applying to various colleges from the blog at College Confidential (http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/college-search-selection/474179-whats-dumbest-reason-you-applied-didnt-apply-school-16.html

Here are some of the zanier posts:

Colgate: I’m not applying to a university with the same name as a toothpaste

Emerson: I applied b/c they have a Quidditch club

Wake Forest: I didn't apply b/c I was stung by a bee on the campus tour

Yale: I applied b/c Gossip Girl wanted to go there. I got in Early Action but felt bad b/c Gossip Girl didn't.

Wesleyan: I applied b/c Yale is in the same state

Amherst: I’m not applying b/c I got lost trying to find it

Bryn Mawr: I did apply b/c I absolutely must go to a school with Gothic revival architecture

Stanford: I didn't apply b/c the buildings look like Taco Bell

Wheaton: I applied b/c I'm not a christian and I wanted to see my friends faces when I tell them I applied.

Harvard: I didn't apply b/c my dad went there; I did apply b/c my dad went there

Samford: I applied b/c if you say it fast, it sounds like Stanford

Vanderbilt: I didn't b/c when you say it with an English accent, it sounds dumb

Florida: I didn't b/c all that Spanish Moss hanging from the trees is creepy

Maine: I didn't b/c all the colleges in Maine remind me of a Stephen King novel

UMich: no way b/c have you seen the size of the squirrel population?

Purdue: I didn't b/c it reminds me of chicken

BYU: I didn't apply b/c youtube is blocked on campus

Quinnipiac: I didn't b/c the word 'Nipple' is in there somewhere

USC: I didn't b/c I could just never bring myself to yell "Go Trojans!"

Princeton: I did apply just to try and ace out our obnoxious class salutatorian

Fordham University: nope, b/c of the initials

And, finally, with the largest number of negative references on this blog of 836 comments, a sampling of why students didn't apply to Tufts University:  b/c it is reminiscent of something Dr. Seuss would write; b/c of Tufts syndrome; b/c it sounds like a circus; b/c the name sounds like hair or fur; b/c it just...sounds... gross.