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  • Allen Regar

    • verified

    Colleges I Attended
    New York University, Emory University, New School University
    Degrees
    Master's Degree
    Professional Affiliations
    NJACAC, NACAC, ASCA, BCSCA

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  • Intro Video

    Viewing this video in: English
  • Admissions Expertise

    • Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

       

      To a minimal extent, the answer could be yes. I recently had a student whose father, uncle, and grandfather attended a US Military Academy, and my student ultimately found that he wanted to continue the tradition of attending the same institution. I am sure that in his case, being a legacy was important to him. Other students, however, will run for the hills when hearing a relative suggest a college to them. That, too, is fair. As with any conversation about college, one with your relatives should be open-minded. Hear them out, but remember that ultimately it will be *you* attending a particular college, not your great uncle Harold, who is certain that you should go to his alma mater.

      Like relatives, guide books and rankings can provide initial information about a school, but also like relatives, it is essential for you to do far more research than what a book or a number can provide about a school. Relatives, guide books, and rankings leave out the most important part of the college search, and that is determining what college is right for *you*. Ultimately, you must visit a college, read as much as you can about the school, visit the website, speak with students and professors if possible, and only then decide if a college is right for you. With some private colleges running over $200,000 for four years, higher education has become as expensive, if not more expensive, than purchasing a house. It is in your best interest, as well as your family's, to conduct meaningful research about the colleges that interest you, which means going well beyond the guidebooks, the rankings, and yes, even beyond the advice of great uncle Harold.

    • Does class size matter?

       

      I think the shortest and best response to this question is the Ancient Greek aphorism, "know thyself." For some students, class size matters tremendously, while for others, not so much. If you are a strongly independent learner who functions well in lecture-type settings, if you don't mind the anonymity of being in a class with potentially hundreds of other students, then class size probably doesn't matter to you. If you feel as though you are one of these individuals, remember this: with but a few exceptions, *no* high school student has had the experience of taking a class with hundreds of other students in the same room. Thus, even if you do think that you will be comfortable in this situation, you should take to heart another maxim, this time from the Boy Scouts of America: "be prepared." Stay organized, sit in an area of the room where you will be able to attend to the lecture, and resist the temptation to skip class because you can get all of the information from someone else or on the professor's webpage. Try to get to know your professor by visiting him or her during office hours. Even in a course with a large number of students, you need to be as "present" as possible to achieve your best.

      For those students who prefer a more intimate environment, look into colleges that pride themselves on keeping the class size smaller and have a low teacher to student ratio. When touring colleges, be sure to ask what the average class size is, but also what the *range* of class sizes are. Even if the average class size seems reasonable, the upper end of the range could include classes with 100+ students. Students who should consider class size important typically prefer more discussion-based learning environments, where it is easier to get to know both your fellow students and your professor. Nevertheless, even in smaller classes, a student can feel anonymous. It is up to you, just as with students who prefer a larger class size, to get the most out of your academic experience by staying connected with the professor, participating in classroom discussions, and visiting during office hours.

    • What is the best way to start researching colleges?

       

      The best way to start researching colleges is to speak with your school guidance counselor or college counselor. These individuals possess a wealth of information about the college search and application process. The one-on-one human interaction with them can provide significantly more meaningful information than utilizing a guidebook or a website. A good counselor should be able to paint a realistic picture of colleges that may be a good fit for you, based on the interaction(s) that you have with him. Additionally, they are able to guide you along the way when you become more deeply involved with the college search process. A guidebook cannot get to know you, but a college counselor can, and he or she should be able adjust what information to provide you as you move through the search process and learn more about what types of colleges you like and don't like. And counselors are fast! They can provide you with excellent information immediately during a Q & A session -- information that may take you hours to find on a website or in a guidebook.

      Of course, how available a counselor is often depends on how many students are in his or her caseload. It may be up to you to take the initiative to set an appointment, rather than waiting for your counselor to set the appointment for you. That said, if you are in a district with counselors that are spread very thin, and if you have the financial resources to do so, use a Unigo counselor! The fee that you pay to chat with a Unigo counselor is *significantly* lower than you would pay to hire a private college counselor, which may run into the thousands -- if not the tens of thousands -- of dollars.

      Regardless of your choice--using your guidance or college counselor or chatting with a Unigo counselor, the best means of starting your college search is to speak with the people who have dedicated years of their lives to becoming professionals in this field. They are the best "guidebooks" of all.

    • Who should come with you on college visits?

       

      Without a doubt, your parents or legal guardians should come on college visits with you.

      I strongly recommend *not* taking friends with you on college visits. Remember, the college search process is about you and your opinions about college--not about your friend's opinion about college. This is a crucial time in your life where your decisions about your own path matter most. We all are susceptible to being swayed by others opinions--sometime for the better, sometimes for the worse--and college visits are no different. You may argue, "Well, my parents are going with me and they may try to foist their opinions on me, just like my friends would, so why can't I have a friend come along?" The short answer is that your parents are your parents, and there are many factors regarding the college process that they will be involved in, such as distance from home and cost. That, and the fact that most teenagers are more influenced by the opinions of their friends. Just look at the clothes you wear, the music you listen to, and the way you talk. I am sure that your fashion sense is much closer to your friends' than your parents'. It's safe to say that a friend's influence about college may carry more weight in your mind than your parents.

      If you project yourself ten years into the future, I have a feeling that you will feel better about yourself if you can say, "I am glad that I went on college visits without my friends. Even though they are so important to me, it was ultimately my own thoughts and feelings that helped shape my path."

    • What do admissions officers look for in an applicant?

       

      That depends on the college to which the applicant is applying. Some of the larger schools, such as Penn State and Rutgers are concerned primarily with the numbers--your GPA and your standardized test scores. Regardless of your leadership position in clubs, volunteer activities, or sports under your belt, if you don't have the right numbers, you will not make the cut for such colleges (unless you are a superstar athlete).

      Other schools take a more holistic approach to the admissions process. True, GPA and standardized test scores may be important, but so are the rigor of your classes (i.e., whether you are challenging yourself or taking an easier road), you clubs and sport activity, volunteer work, student government, letters of recommendation, your essay, and possible work history.

      The most important thing you can do if you are wondering about what admissions officers at a certain college are looking for in an applicant is to contact the admissions department itself. The question, "What are you looking for in a successful applicant" is a fair one, and one that most admissions officers would be more than happy to answer for you. Granted, you may not know exactly what happens during the closed-door application review process, but you will be more informed than applying without that knowledge. Remember, you should look for a college that is a good "fit" for you. Part of that fit deals with whether the admissions department will look at those portions of your application that truly shine.

    • Are admissions officers open to establishing relationships with college counselors?

       

      That depends on the admissions office, and how you define "relationship." As most juniors and seniors are aware, college admissions offices spend considerable time and money sending their admissions officers/representatives throughout the United States and abroad to meet with students and counselors to showcase their institutions. College Nights are increasingly popular, some with hundreds of colleges in attendance. Oftentimes, admissions officers have certain territories and stay within those territories for a number of years. It is next to impossible for admissions officers not to develop relationship with college counselors, by simple fact that they have regular contact with them. Most of these relationships are collegial but also professional, and can be of great benefit to both parties. Open communication about what the best college fit would be for any particular student is almost universally recognized as desirable. If a professional relationship between an admissions representative and a college counselor fosters this open communication, then all for the better. But it is important to understand that college admissions departments must also in some ways protect their admissions officers from what could become a flurry of telephone calls and emails from college counselors contacting them on behalf of their students. And thus, in addition to a professional, working relationship between admissions officers and college counselors, it is equally important for admissions officers to require a professional "distance" from the college counselors, as well.

    • How can students get the best high school teacher recommendations?

       

      In a few words: make a positive impression in class, and always strive to better yourself. I have read phenomenal teacher recommendations for students who did not necessarily ace every test, but who worked diligently in their classes, participated frequently, and showed a true desire in the class he or she is taking. An academic superstar who coasts through all of his or her work and demonstrates little real interest in the material may receive an "A" in the class, but will not leave a positive impression on the teacher. Remember, being a "good student" is not just about grades. It is about motivation, dedication, teamwork, and making a positive contribution to class overall.

      It is important for the student to choose his or her teacher recommenders strategically. If you were both an "A" student in a class but were the class clown, it might not benefit you to ask that teacher for a recommendation. If you worked hard all year in a different class, earned a B, and showed a real interest in the academic material, then you would be better off asking this teacher for a recommendation. Ask yourself: what classes were really meaningful to me? Which teachers inspired me, and which teachers did I feel like I connected with? Look deeper into yourself than just the grade you received for the class. Ask yourself: what would the teacher think if I asked for a letter of recommendation?

      Regarding timing, remember this rule: ask for that recommendation early! By the end of your junior year, you should have identified your potential teacher recommenders and hopefully will ask them by the second to last week of school. Don't wait until exams to ask: teachers have a lot on their plates at that time. The more time your teacher has to write you recommendation, the more time they have to think about it, which usually results in a stronger letter.

      After a teacher has said "yes" to writing your letter of recommendation, you should ask your teacher whether he or she would like to have any additional information about you. Some teachers appreciate receiving "brag sheets" that provide details about a student's accomplishments both in and outside class. If your English teacher is writing you a letter of recommendation, it would be helpful to remind him that you won a poetry competition or worked as an editor for the school newspaper. These little details help bring your academic story to life, and makes the letter of recommendation more interesting to read.

    • How important is the essay?

       

      The college essay is not going to be as important as your grade point average, the rigor of your courses, or your standardized test scores (unless the college is test-optional), but it is nevertheless important. By the time you begin to write your college essay, most of your academic history is already set. You will have three years' worth of grades already completed, some if not all of your standardized test scores, and your extracurriculars. Although your teacher and guidance counselor might not have completed their letters of recommendation by the time you start your essay, you can't control what they will write. The personal statement is the last piece of your application (other than the application itself) that you have *total* control over. And it may be the one piece of information that helps the admissions committee decide the fate of your application, and if you get in, the financial aid you receive. One of our seniors last year won a large scholarship to a prestigious school in the Mid-Atlantic region due to the fact that his personal statement, according to the director of admissions at the college, was spectacular.

      Remember, you should consider every part of your application important, and the personal statement is no exception. Give it your best. Write, rewrite, and rewrite again. Have multiple people look over your essay, and listen openly to their thoughts about it. In the end, the essay may mean the difference between an acceptance or a rejection.

    • Is it ok to have someone proofread your essay?

       

      Of course! Not only is it okay -- you would be foolish not to. Great writers around the world and throughout time have solicited the input of others regarding the proofreading process. Writing the college essay is no different. Remember, however, that there is a great difference between someone else writing your essay, or writing most of it, and someone proofreading yours. Remember, the idea must be your own and the way that you express that idea through language must be your own. But having someone check your work for grammar and flow is perfectly acceptable and commonly done.

    • What are some do's and don'ts for the admissions essay?

       

      Do take your time on the essay. Although it is not long compared to some papers you have written by now, your essay must possess a depth of self-understanding that your high school research papers probably do not.

      Do plan ahead. Diving right into writing the essay may be okay for some, but most students need time to brainstorm, to consider a few topics before committing to one, and to have a sense of the structure before actually beginning the writing process. Be sure to give yourself enough time to write a meaningful essay. One month's time is not unreasonable.

      Do plan on editing and revising. Do it yourself, but feel free to ask a friend who loves writing or English to read your essay and provide feedback. As a matter of fact, it's best to ask a few different people. Everyone has an opinion, but if you hear the same critique from a number of individuals, then you should probably take their advice into consideration.

      Do have fun with it! The essay should be a personal journey of getting to know yourself better. This process should not only be revealing to a college admissions representative, but to you as well. We write to discover, and the college essay should be a lens through which you can see yourself a bit more clearly.

      Don't fill your essay with every single personal accomplishment. You want to highlight yourself without sounding like a braggart.

      Don't brag about your GPA or your standardized test scores. Your application already has space for that. Actually, you should not write about anything that already appears in detail somewhere else in your application. There is no need for redundancy.

      Don't rely on your parents or your best friend to be the only people who provide feedback on your essay. They know you so well that they can "read between the lines," that is, they can infer what is not written from reading the words on the page. They already know your life story, or much of it at least. A college admissions representative does not have that luxury. Be sure to spell out in clear language what you are trying to say.

    • What makes a great college essay?

       

      Many books have been written about what makes a great college essay, or even more generally, a great essay of any variety. To be succinct, however, there are a few general rules that will help you write an essay that will draw positive attention from the admissions counselors who read your essay.

      1. The essay has to feel authentic. This is not a place to brag about your GPA or standardized test scores. It should be a window into who you are as a person, a human being with unique experiences and a perspective on the world that you call your own.

      2. The essay has to be about the writer, i.e., you. But it not only has to be about you: it has to be about you in a way that no one else is like you. Your job is to write about yourself as an individual that stands out amongst the other students applying to the same college. Horror stories have been told about the number of essays that are written about summer camp or the winning football game. Be wary of these and other topics! Many other students write about them, as well, and unless you believe that you have a really, really different perspective, avoid throwing yourself into the pile of humdrum essays on the same topic. Think instead about how you can bend a little to the unusual, the catchy, the thing that makes the college admissions officer sit up and read a little more closely. This is not just about your skill as a writer, but about your experiences, about your *life*. Who are you, at the core of your being? Share that through the words you put on the page.

      3.The essay must be clearly written and grammatically correct. Even an essay that tells a great story and serves a meaningful introduction to the student's personality can be marred by run-on sentences, comma splices, and lack of capitalization (the last of which, though stylistically acceptable in text messages and friendly emails, is a major no-no in the college essay). Read, re-read, revise, and revise again. And revise again until you are certain that the words flow and that you have eliminated any embarrassing grammatical gaffes. Remember, you are applying to college, and though a grammatically impeccable essay might not be the one thing that gets you in, poor editing and unchecked mistakes can leave a lasting negative impression on a reviewer.

    • Is there a resource with information on DSS offices throughout the country?

       

      There are many. Peterson's puts out an excellent book titled "Colleges for Students with Learning Disabilities or AD/HD". This guidebook discusses such important topics as what students with learning differences can expect in college, some legal issues surrounding learning disability programs, documentation, and differences between high-school and college requirements for qualifying for learning disabilities. Additionally, it describes the difference between "Structured" or "Proactive" programs and "Self-Directed" or "Decentralized" programs. It also provides profiles for two-year and four-year colleges that have either of these types of programs.

      Another fantastic resource, although more about having a learning disability in college generally than about DSS offices in particular, is LD Online. I am including a link here http://www.ldonline.org/indepth/college to direct you right to the resource.

      Most importantly, however, it is essential to be in communication with the educational professionals both at your high school and at the colleges where you are interested in applying. The DSS offices themselves always have the most current information about college policies and federal, state, or local guidelines that inform them. If you have a trusted resource at school, such as a case manager, guidance counselor, or special education teacher, ask them about certain colleges and what the DSS office there may have to offer you.

    • Will the DSS staff have expertise in every student's disability?

       

      Absolutely not, nor is it the DSS staff's responsibility to do so. Granted, there are more frequent disabilities that the DSS staff sees, such as AD/HD, autism spectrum disorders, reading disorders such as dyslexia, and emotional disorders such as anxiety or depression. They will certainly have more knowledge of these disabilities. However, there are hundreds if not thousands of disabilities that can have an effect on a student's academic functioning, and the DSS staff does not have to be an expert on them to work with the student in a constructive manner.

      Once a student with a disability has been accepted to college (and possibly before), it is imperative that he or she be a strong self-advocate about what is needed to achieve academic success. Meeting with the DSS staff members to discuss your disability (to educate them) is essential, as well as spending time working out what interventions or accommodations will be necessary during your college experience.

      Remember that students in college are responsible for speaking up for their needs, regardless of what they are. Open communication with the Disability Support Services staff is a great way to lay the groundwork for a enjoyable, positive educational experience.

    • How should students frame their gap year on the college application?

       

      Implicit in this question is that you did not defer for a year to gap year *after* you were already accepted to college. Some students may imagine the college admissions staff rephrasing the question as this:

      "Why didn't you apply to college during your senior year of high school?"

      And it is a fair question.

      Colleges and universities want to know what your experience has been since you left formal education (i.e., high school), be it one year ago or ten years ago. For those students taking time off before entering college, it is imperative that you are able to speak fluently and meaningfully about your post-high school life experiences.

      The most important thing to hear is "meaningful." I disagree with another counselor who had written that you should not work during a gap year. But if your financial situation has dictated that you were not able to afford college--or more importantly the college that you wanted to attend--then work can be a meaningful and necessary experience. For those students fortunate enough to be able to participate in a structured gap year program (which sometimes carry a significant cost), it is important to create a meaningful narrative of the experiences you had on your journey. If you volunteered during your gap year, ask yourself how you can create the narrative of the time, energy, and heart you committed to the service of others.

      Do not expect that the academic "credit" you may earn during your gap year experience will overshadow four years of crummy grades (which we hope you don't have) in the eyes of the admissions department. It will not. Instead, focus on how you became more connected to the people of your community (whether here or abroad), and how you grew from the experience of having a year away from formal education. If you needed a break from formal education, it is perfectly okay to say so--but be sure to frame it in a light that endows value upon your gap year experience, and how it has prepared you for the coming four years of higher education.

    • In what ways can taking a gap year be harmful to an applicant?

       

      Gap years should not only be viewed as a means of enhancing one's college application, but also -- and more importantly -- to have a period of time dedicated to meaningful out-of-classroom experiences that encourage personal growth. Not engaging in some sort of meaningful activity -- be it work, volunteerism, cultural exchange, travel, or some other form of learning through doing can ultimately be detrimental to your college application. If you don't want to go to college immediately, but you also don't want to do anything else in the interim, I would not even consider that a gap year. I would call it time off. Conversely, a gap year should be considered "time on," and you should be able to speak or write about it as such during the college application process.

    • How should students spend their time during a gap year?

       

      The answer to this question depends on whether you have a goal in mind for after you complete gap year. If your goal is to go to college, do you know what college you would like to attend? Do you know what major course of study you would like to pursue? If so, it would be beneficial for you to structure your gap year experience around what you are interested in pursuing during college or possibly after. If you have an interest in medicine or international relations, could you possibly arrange to work at a medical clinic in another country? Or, if your interest is in the arts, could you pursue an internship or other work/learning experience at a local arts organization? Through "connecting the dots" between high school, gap year, college, and beyond, you not only are keeping your sights on your future goals, but gaining valuable personal experiences that will ultimately be of great benefit along the way.

      Many gap year students, also interested in college, are nonetheless undecided regarding what they would like to pursue as a major or a career. Students in this camp (and there are many just like you!) will still have a meaningful experience during gap year, and may even learn more about themselves than they ever could have imagined learning in high school. Gap year can in effect become a pivotal time in one's life, where horizons expand, boundaries are crossed, and your inner self, which may have felt clouded in high school, begins to emerge. If you are uncertain about what you want to do in college other than being sure that you want to go, then go with your heart for gap year--but regardless of what you do, be sure to make it *meaningful.* Do not volunteer if you do not want to volunteer; do not travel to a foreign country because you think it will look good on your college application. Go with your heart (but be mindful of you and your parents' wallet!) for gap year, but be certain that it will be meaningful to you, and that you will be able to speak knowledgeably and convincingly about your experiences.

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