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  • Pamela Ellis

    Title: President

    Company: Compass Education Strategies LLC

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    Colleges I Attended
    Stanford University, BA, PhD Dartmouth College, MBA

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  • Admissions Expertise

    • If I haven’t found the right extracurriculars, can I still appear to be a dedicated student?


      The college admissions essay is the one place where students have the most control over their application. For those students applying through the Common Application, the shorter essay asks students to elaborate on an extracurricular activity or work experience. Students can shine in this short essay with these tips. 1) Focus on the extracurricular that you are most passionate about (regardless of what you think the admissions staff wants to hear). Use language that “shows” rather than “tells.” As much as possible, choose words that give the readers a front row seat to your activity.

    • What are the most significant, avoidable mistakes students make in the admissions process?


      Students must view their application as a portfolio that consists of several points of data, which create a complete profile! Letters of recommendation provide important data that can either help or hurt a candidate. If you want a strong recommendation letter that complements your application package, avoid common mistakes by following these 3 top tips: 1) Ask a teacher that has a personal story to share about you (it’s OK if you remind them!); 2) Ask a teacher who writes well; and 3) Provide enough lead time for your choice to complete a strong recommendation on time!

    • Tuition aside, what benefits and drawbacks exist by going to school in-state vs. out-of-state?


      The obvious perks of staying close to home for college are the familiarity you already have with a place and an established support network. On the other hand, these benefits can be drawbacks when students limit their college experience by an over-reliance on familiarity and the same networks. College is a time of amazing development that local, in-state students should still take advantage of by joining clubs, residing on campus, and creating new networks/communities.

    • In all of your years working with students, what were some of the most unexpected admissions successes you witnessed?


      Persistence is the common denominator among students who have taken a gap year in order to gain acceptance to their dream colleges. These students had an interest in playing sports at the collegiate level. While each played sports competitively during high school, each needed the additional time and demonstrated academic rigor to advance to the Division 1 levels. Each student attended a selective boarding school post-graduate and is now playing basketball at Dartmouth, and the other is playing lacrosse at Davidson.

    • What are the best ways to prepare for the SAT and which study methods are worth paying for?


      Before investing in any expensive SAT program, students may want to consider a self-study program first. One on-line program that I recommend is The practice questions offered through this site can provide students with an understanding of what the SAT is testing and which questions require more of their attention. If students try this method first and find that they are unable to commit to a regular practice schedule, then it’s time to find a local class that offers a small class size and individual attention on test-taking tips and content sections where more support is needed.

    • What are some convenient, well-paying jobs for students who need to work while in college?


      As you are working in college, whether on or off-campus, use the experience as a time to develop your communication skills (i.e. “soft” skills). We communicate a lot more these days through virtual communities, but the value of a face-to-face interaction is still current and relevant. If you are working at the on-campus library as a shelver, for instance, there will be opportunities for you to interact with supervisors, coworkers, and patrons. Leverage your work experience with building those soft skills and it will carry you through your future career.

    • What are some of the most unexpected costs for incoming freshman?


      Laundry and off-campus trips are unexpected expenses that can add up quickly. Most dorms are equipped with coin-operated machines but may not necessarily have a coin changer nearby. Doing a few loads a week means keeping quarter rolls handy ($10 each). Some campuses today do offer free laundry machines to assist with these costs. There were plenty of on-campus activities, but occasionally I would want to visit San Francisco. An urban center like San Francisco typically meant transportation, meal, concert/theatre tickets, which could be $100-150 for a Saturday night outing.

    • How can parents help students with the college search and application process?


      Parents can play a strong, supportive role in the college search process through making travel arrangements for campus visits and escorting their student on those visits. In making the travel arrangements for campus visits, parents can handle all plans with the exception of contacting the admissions office for an interview. It is best if the college-bound student makes the call and demonstrates their interest to the admissions staff. Parents offer a great perspective of the campus when they accompany their student on visits. Parents can also tour another department, attend different presentation, and exchange notes later with their student.

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