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  • Angela Conley

    Title: College Admission Expert

    Company: VentureForth

    • verified

    Former Admissions Officer at
    Cornell, MIT, Columbia
    College Specializations
    Cornell University, Sarah Lawrence College, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, New York University, Columbia University in the City of New York, Mills College, Middlebury College, Barnard College, Smith College, Syracuse University, Goucher College, Trinity College (CT)
    Years of Experience
    20
    Languages Spoken
    Spanish

    Colleges I Attended
    UT Austin, Columbia University Teachers College
    Degrees
    Master's Degree
    Professional Affiliations
    CACNY, ABAFAOILSS, College Summit
    Prior Job
    Bank Street College, LEDA
    Prior Title
    Assistant Director of Admissions; Director of College Counseling
    About Me
    Twenty years in higher education at nine colleges and universities.

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  • Admissions Expertise

    • Any tips on getting the most out of campus tours and info sessions?

       

      Most colleges understand that their tour guides are "johnny on the spot" for first impressions. As such, I recommend students query tour guides about social reality, amazing professors and opportunities for work-study. In addition, I encourage clients to research concerns pertinent to their interest before visiting. The questions I consistently encourage students to raise address graduation rates, study abroad options, opportunities for community engagement and the relationship of the college with the local neighbors. Also relevant are access to popular classes and potential summer internships or opportunities for undergraduate research. Most of my clients ask who the last relevant/famous speaker or presenter was who visited the campus.

    • Can the number of times you contact a college impact your chances?

       

      My answer, "it depends." Many institutions note the number of visits to websites and even log the number of calls or exchanges with student online respondents. The truth is that for some colleges and universities, actions such as these can impact decisions with regard to waitlist and scholarships. Professed earnestness within the context of evident interest can be impactful.

      More importantly for me, students and families who invest the energy and time to research schools of potential interest, will hopefully, make a more informed college choice.

    • Do colleges look more favorably on applicants who can pay full tuition?

       

      My experience is "it depends." Last year a west coast college acknowledged that they had to limit the number of low-income admits, balancing them against those admitted and expected to pay "full freight."

      By far most colleges want to admit students whose academic records document that they can indeed do collegiate level work and are likely to contribute to the college or university community. However, some less well-endowed colleges must respond to fiscal imperatives and admit qualified students who can afford the real cost to leverage expenses. I know that this is almost always a consideration, but in sum my response is some do weigh applicant's ability to pay in deciding admissions.

    • Does your hometown have any effect on your chances of getting in?

       

      Quiet as it is kept, diversity is more than race. If one derives from a small town, or place off the beaten track, it may impact your admission decision. Keep in mind that this includes the assumption that you've evidenced stellar achievement academically and otherwise. In discussions with students, I often cite the "big fish, small pond" example as a way to bring positive attention to your gifts. At the same time, those whose origin includes communities known for less than positive characteristics, may similarly be impacted.

    • Has social media impacted the way colleges communicate with students?

       

      Facebook and other social media forums absolutely impact the college search and application process. Despite the hype, young people listen to their friends - and their friends' friends! My warning to clients is to "lock" their pages acknowledging that it is almost impossible to remove distasteful commentary about or by you. I always provide a checklist which includes "wash your face first" with deliberate attention to monitoring those you "add" to your circle of friends. Though some believe it is myth, admission personnel do review Facebook and other profiles. I do NOT believe they do so arbitrarily, but I strongly suspect they occasionally peruse candidates from curiosity. In sum, yes colleges, families and applicants all consider blogs, web profiles and stories, experiences and insights shared between and across various social media. If prospects look, then it makes sense that admission recruiters and staffs would also engage.

    • How important is it to visit each college and network with the admissions reps?

       

      Networking matters as garnering a relationship with admission personnel matters at at some institutions. Many colleges monitor the visits to their website, campus and Facebook pages to assess if their marketing has garnered any return. Don't be fooled, if you have not met the requirements for said institution, your personal relationship will not overrule a lack of merit or qualifications. However, if you meet the criteria and you made a "connect" it may deliver a third read or curry singular interest. In now way would I say it will definitively "make the case" for your application or appeal.

      The more critical concern is that by visiting the campus, you discern if the atmosphere, facilities and aesthetics match the environment in which you envision yourself investing years of residence and involvement. Residential colleges are for all intents and purposes your second home and everyone wants to be where they feel welcome, and either challenged or comfortable.

      In sum, both visiting is valuable and connecting with someone at the potential site where you would possibly spend time, become indebted and make lifelong friends and memories.

    • How many schools should students apply to?

       

      I encourage those with whom I collaborate to apply to 12 colleges. Among those I encourage three stretch, three target, three likely and three comprised of those among your city and state options. The caliber and kind of school depends on offerings, graduation rates and average debt on graduation. I also encourage students to consider what percentage of the courses are taught and graded by faculty as graduate school is a given for those with whom I collaborate. Fit consists of far more than brand name.

    • How should art students prepare for the college admissions process?

       

      When considering college, do the homework! One does not buy a house or a car, which carry comparable value, without weighing the pros and cons. As much as students and families want to send their progeny to the best school, "best" is a relative concept. If you struggled in the "regular" courses and nose-dived in honors or AP courses, then highly selective college settings may not be your "best" fit.

      On the other hand, if a student has yet to confront any intellectual challenges which unsettled their "mental mettle" then they may want to consider very selective schools here in the US and abroad.

      The search hinges on knowing yourself well. Some students are hard workers constantly seeking to best their last showing as evidenced by an exam score. Others know that the last thing they seek is more study and longer study at that. In sum think about how you approach things academic.

      Secondly, investigate your interests. Shadow someone who is doing professionally a task or work you know, or think you enjoy. I counseled a student who was certain he wanted to be a doctor, until he sat in on a surgery - he fainted at the sight of blood. Often I coach students who are adamant that they are called to engineering, despite failing physics and calculus!

      Finally, visit campuses, whether virtually online or in the area. Many think their ideal is a gorgeous, leafy setting with beautiful old buildings; until they see contemporary edifices in sunny southern California. Ivy grows beyond the Northeast corridor.

      The best way to prepare for the admission process is to try it on by applying for summer programs, internships and other opportunities requiring thoughtful renderings of your ideas and in-person interviews. If you hate the dry runs, then tweak your college aims and lists accordingly. Until one has a better sense of self through "testing" the waters in other venues, it's hard to be absolute about the "ideal" setting.

      I knew I wanted a venue where I would be successful, enjoy warm weather and have the opportunity to change (my major several times) and my sense of self. As a first-generation student, I also knew I needed a place which would not leave me hugely indebted. Texas worked for me and later that Ivy League setting.

      Get to know yourself and then find the niche for your "self" to grow and explore and hone your gifts. Visit campuses and apply for other opportunities and experiences beyond your familiarity and comfort zone. Do your homework-first on yourself and then on the setting that best affirms your gifts and interests.

    • What are some tips for college visits?

       

      When I take students to visit colleges, I tell them to look for what you don't see. Are the folks who look alike all bunched together in the cafeteria? How large are the classes? Are visitors allowed to sit in on any "visitor" classes? Are the grounds and facilities well maintained? Do the tour guides seem rote or genuinely engaged by their alma mater?

      Are the guides paid employees or volunteers?

      Take the opportunity to talk to "random" students in the bookstore, library or cafeteria. Check out the age of the technology hubs available. Are the computers current and is the campus wireless? Is there any energy around the alumni house, if such exists? If alums aren't returning, is it because they did not value or enjoy their experience?

      Are there signs advertising a campus radio station or student newswire? In what condition is the housing and is the campus secure with the requisite "blue light" system? Is faculty visible, apparent, aged or available for exchange? Is there evidence of town-gown tensions or collegiality?

      One campus in the Chicago area visited last year had a clear welcome and openness to their neighbors. I encourage students to know where you want to go based on other's context, both apparent and implicit. This is of course in addition course offerings, diversity of faculty/staff/students and support resources such as a writing center.

      When all is said and done, did you feel welcome and energized during your time on campus?

    • What are the most important factors to consider when choosing a college?

       

      When considering colleges, do the homework! One does not buy a house or a car, which carry comparable value, without weighing the pros and cons. As much as students and families want to send their progeny to the best school, "best" is a relative concept. If you struggled in the "regular" courses and nose-dived in honors or AP courses, then highly selective college settings may not be your "best" fit.

      On the other hand, if a student has yet to confront any intellectual challenges which unsettled their "mental mettle" then they may want to consider very selective schools here in the US and abroad.

      The search hinges on knowing yourself well. Some students are hard workers constantly seeking to best their last showing as evidenced by an exam score. Others know that the last thing they seek is more study and longer study at that. In sum think about how you approach things academic.

      Secondly, investigate your interests. Shadow someone who is doing professionally a task or work you know, or think you enjoy. I counseled a student who was certain he wanted to be a doctor, until he sat in on a surgery - he fainted at the sight of blood. Often I coach students who are adamant that they are called to engineering, despite failing physics and calculus!

      Finally, visit campuses, whether virtually online or in the area. Many think their ideal is a gorgeous, leafy setting with beautiful old buildings; until they see contemporary edifices in sunny southern California. Ivy grows beyond the Northeast corridor.

      The best way to prepare for the admission process is to try it on by applying for summer programs, internships and other opportunities requiring thoughtful renderings of your ideas and in-person interviews. If you hate the dry runs, then tweak your college aims and lists accordingly. Until one has a better sense of self through "testing" the waters in other venues, it's hard to be absolute about the "ideal" setting.

      I knew I wanted a venue where I would be successful, enjoy warm weather and have the opportunity to change (my major several times) and my sense of self. As a first-generation student, I also knew I needed a place which would not leave me hugely indebted. Texas worked for me and later that Ivy League setting.

      Get to know yourself and then find the niche for your "self" to grow and explore and hone your gifts. Visit campuses and apply for other opportunities and experiences beyond your familiarity and comfort zone. Do your homework-first on yourself and then on the setting that best affirms your gifts and interests.

    • What are the quickest ways to research colleges?

       

      Typically, I encourage those with whom I collaborate to use the following three web portals:

      1) College Board is incredibly useful explaining "college choice" testing options and providing access to every school. www.collegeboard.org

      2) In discerning which schools have four-year graduation rates and the diversity of its student body and staff, I encourage folks to consider: collegeresults.org

      3) Finally, because college is as much business as education, I strongly encourage clients to consider the Forbes listing which describes the "ROI" or return on investment when considering indebtedness against the market value of a particular schools' brand.

      Just as I apprise clients that the mantra for success in marketing their brand is:

      "hearts - your awareness and engagement in the larger world and community"

      "smarts - can you effectively compete in the intellectual setting that is your desired college as confirmed by your coursework, exam scores and manifest intellectual curiosity"

      "character - are there those, besides your relatives who will attest to your integrity, persistence and wherewithal in diverse settings both intellectual and interpersonal"

      Clients are encouraged to assess colleges, universities and other post-secondary settings in a similar way. One's education is an investment, a rite of passage and a privilege which should not be entered into unadvisedly.

    • What do college students wish they'd done differently in high school?

       

      Without fail, the response I hear most often with regard to this question is, "I wish I had developed better study and time management habits." In too many cases strong students grew to rely on their intellectual prowess in high school, sometimes mistakenly assuming that the workload in college is similar to that in secondary settings. Courses easily "aced" in high school are often far more challenging in university settings. It is also the case that for students who enjoyed stable homelife environments, they discover in campuses with residential options that is far more difficult to manage the pull of opportunities for social engagement. It's hard to say no to extracurricular aspects - say bowling and a movie- of collegiate life, despite the ten-page mid-term due in three days.

    • What if you can't visit a school?

       

      In a society bombarding citizens with 24-hour news and increasing ways to interface online through Skype and social media developed daily,options also exist to remotely visit colleges. Many colleges are members of - http://www.youniversitytv.com/ wherein walking tours featuring campus aesthetics, historic traditions and noted alumni are featured. A number of similare online products creating insight and a visual view exist. Less technology based is my suggestion that you meet with alumni of the school of interest or participate in visit webinars where current students and faculty respond to questions raised about the institution of interest.

    • What kinds of obstacles do minorities face in higher education?

       

      The word minority has different meanings in different settings. As regards higher education, students of color are not well represented in post-secondary institutions as compared with their majority race counterparts. Considering apparent obstacles four come to mind, first and foremost the challenge students often face is questioning by peers about their right to engage higher education, to even be in college. A huge challenge faced by first generation students of color is a deficit in language breadth and usage because parents and guardians lacked education and did not encourage, affirm or make available the stimuli to build a strong vocabulary. Thirdly is money and while this seems surprising, money to attend, without a strong skill set creates a high dropout rate. Finally, awareness is an enormous problem. Many first generation families with whom I consult are unaware of the CommonApp, scholarships beyond those based on GPA or post-secondary institutions that do not require an SAT. Since only 30% of black families have access to the internet, they often do not know how to identify reliable sites or assess the enormous amount of information available.

      Although I list four main concerns, multiple other issues contribute. However, it is my sense that the four aforementioned are all aspects stemming from these four categories.

    • How important are college rankings when choosing a college?

       

      In my opinion rankings are only relevant within the context of your aims. If you are not interested in which is the best school for parties or celebrities, that factoid won't be compelling. I advise clients that rankings are a good way to review campuses generally, but a better way is to visit sites, such as the Education Trust which clarify pertinent concerns such as diversity, graduation and retention rates and most importantly, the approximate student debt at graduation. Rankings are fine place to begin, but the most relevant concern is what do you seek in a place to dwell or matriculate for four years? If your concerns are not addressed, the rankings only reveal popular campuses, possibly with renown faculty. Those issues may in no way reflect your desire for a mentor, life-long friends and opportunities for concentrated study in your area of passionate interest.

    • We don't have time or money to visit some schools I’m really interested in. What can I do?

       

      Three immediate options come to mind in cases such as these. First there is a website called YouUniversityTV which offers online tours of multiple campuses across the United States. Secondly, almost every college offers a blog or student run/generated site where faculty, student life and popular trends are dressed. Finally, I encourage students to explore colleges of potential interest websites. These often provide student, as well as admission sponsored information and may even offer the means to secure a free visit.

    • What makes a school large or small and what are some advantages and disadvantages of each?

       

      As the graduate of a large public ivy, I know well the plethora of resources, opportunities and access to notable faculty and a diverse student body. Less appealing for some are the large class sizes and the sometimes frustrating task of arranging meetings with faculty. At the same time, some larger institutions provide faculty mentors in addition to your declared major advisor. The size of the school often depends on the number of personal connections and your circle of friends. Having also worked at small liberal arts colleges, I also recognive the value of chances to be "a big fish" in a small pond. There is something to be said for dwelling on a campus where "everyone knows your name." A primary benefit of small campuses beyond class size and recognition by faculty are select opportunities, especially at small liberal arts colleges to receive scholarships and awards such as the The Watson fellowship and the funds for community service locally and abroad.

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

       

      Easily avoided mistakes include: submitting unproofed materials, waiting until the last minute to ask references to complete their assessment of you, using different emails and names and applying without a strategy. One student, of which I am aware applied to 48 schools because the application process made it easy to do so. Sending materials without someone proofing after spell check is often the result of waiting until the last minute.

      Another concern often observed in the process are applications submitted through the "snap app" approach. This typically involves responding to solicitations applying to school which one might not otherwise have considered.

      Finally, students who are swayed more by namebrand than by a colleges' fit for their goals and interests. Approaching the process with an eye towards making your chosen college your "home," whether for two or four years changes the emphasis from impressing friends to finding your best match.

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

       

      As a public college graduate the benefits of my greatly reduced tuition because of my class rank was not as important then, as was the fact that a quarter of my graduating class was also slated to attend my new alma mater. On the other hand, that was among the most challenging aspect of matriculating at my state's flagship university; it was way too easy to hold fast to friendships longstanding because of our shared high school experience. While that was something of a drawback, the benefit was many of my "friend's friends" knew which were the more challenging courses and faculty. In a setting with thousands of course offerings, it was the early version of "rate my professor." The other enormous benefit was the opportunity to explore graduate programs with less concern about indebtedness because I had so little debt on graduation.

    • When should students start the college search?

       

      When considering college, I encourage families to think outside the box. It's better to consider the kind of school you want earlier than later. It's difficult to "plan" for any particular college, but there are "groups of colleges and universities."

      If students want the highly selective college, they begin "first gear" planning in ninth grade, as translated with the concept of starting strong. It's far easier to build on a solid foundation than to "re-group" after falling off the bandwagon. Begin your first year getting the strongest grades possible, thus if you confront an unexpected challenge, the impact is less than starting low and trying to move from a "four cylinder" vehicle to a Maserati in one fell swoop. In other words, if you want a very selective, or Ivy League environment, understand that every year counts and the admission committees are looking for consistent persistence. While forgiveness is sometimes granted for slow-starters, most schools seek students who manifest strong evidence of an ability to handle challenging intellecual material.

      By the same token, if one approaches the secondary enterprise knowing that no particular hunger exists for a focus, then know that doing your very best in whatever arena you engage, intellectual, extra-curricular or other, college is a process, as is discerning what you seek in a college. Getting to know ones' own interests, strengths and areas of challenge is key to determining whether college is your best choice or which is a good match option. Regardless of college category; bring your "A" game.

    • Who should come with you on college visits?

       

      The answer here lies in your personal situation. Many kids have no families or guardians. Others garner annual college tours and visits via organizations or school districts. The question is not should but how to make the most of any visit regardless of those accompanying you. If you can't make "in-person" visits, use websites offering "virtual" visits. If your parents must accompany, take advantage of the option some colleges provide to complete the tour apart from your family. It is my observation, having chaperoned many college tours, students who visit with students gain a surer sense of their interest most mitigating their assessment of a given college or university.

      Despite who may, or may not accompany you, please do visit so as to make an informed choice about the kind and caliber of academic setting you seek.

    • Why do some colleges have supplements to the common application?

       

      The best way for colleges to understand your interest in their program offerings are responses which reflect knowledge of faculty, departments, traditions or courses indicating you "did homework." Too often students piecemeal their general responses cutting and pasting answers which are patently clipped and pasted from the responses used for other institutions. If you are really invested in gaining admission, it will be apparent in answers that reflect synchronicity between your gifts or aims which are well-matched or potentially enhanced at the specific school to which you are applying - not every school. The other impact of supplements is the match, or lack of consistency between the writing in supplements as compared to your major essay.

    • How can students stand out on their application?

       

      Bring your "A" game. Do the usual having someone proof your responses before you upload them. Share a story, and in so doing avoid "I am the kind of person who" statements. The best essays share a story that provides context and hue as to the adjectives which best demonstrate your personality. Excellence in one or more arenas also adds profile to make your file singular. Most of the students with whom I've collaborated share stories about overcoming an issue or experience which reveal resilience or an abilty to laugh at oneself. In sum, don't tell the committee or readers "I am;" show them with cogent, concise examples. If they laugh out loud or pause to re-read, you did well.

    • Do all the pieces of the application need to reference one another?

       

      In most cases, I don't think so. However, as with everything else context is key. If you have a dire situation, some kind of challenge or huge award or distinction, these aspects will in all likelihood be referenced or alluded to in either your responses to questions posed or the commentary of your supporting cast of references. I don't believe they all need to reference each other, but the diction of the writing should be consistent! The last thing applicants should ever do is have someone other than themselves respond to the questions. Tenor and tone should be consistent, but your storyline need not necessarily repeat the same experience ad nauseum.

    • Do colleges view online applications the same as paper applications?

       

      Usually, paper applications are only frustrating if the college/university in question explicitly asked for students to use an online portal. Paper or via online internet are regarded equally, as long as you are responsive to the directions provided. Most institutions of merit use an online portal, though all recognize the digital divide which indicates that some 20-40% of Americans (and even more for other countries) lack access to the web. Follow instructions! If the institution in question asks for paper - do so. If, as is the case with most, the college's website says use an online portal, then either do so or contact the institution in question and explain your constraints.

    • What exactly is the common app?

       

      The CommonApp is the easy way to submit your credentials to some 500 or so colleges and universities. Used by the vast majority of the highest ranked colleges and universities, the CommonApp provides a one-stop portal wherein students can upload the very important application essay and if one chooses a resume. In addition, there exist the means for students by invitation to have guidance counselors and teachers upload their applications. In many cases colleges offer a waived application fee to those who submit via this portal. The CommonApp is also a website, so I encourage students to use cut and paste software so as to proof, review and insure their responses correspond to the supplements, and other arenas word or character limits. Because of the CommonApp, many more students apply to college finding the one-stop process inviting. However, be warned that users should employ consistency in the names, dates and passwords used. It is NEVER wise to create two CommonApps. Ease and insight characterize the approach one should apply using this application site. Also, check before creating your portal access and not every college participates in their site.

    • What is a college admissions hook?

       

      The often much discussed "hook" is the aspect or components of your application that grab the readers' attention by virtue of memorability, poignancy or singular impact. I once read a hilarious love story about a boy and his laptop. It is not specific to a topic or tone as much as the "one thing" you shared or described that makes it difficult for the reviewer to dismiss your story or outcome.

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

       

      Whether the recommendation is a teacher or administrator, your desired outcome is not just someone verifying your B+ or awesome A grade. Instead, your result should be a perspective that speaks to your intellectual curiosity, persistence towards excellence in whatever subject and how you did or didn't contribute in the classroom or school community.

      Never ask a teacher for a recommendation just because your secured a strong grade! Seek out someone who can attest to your ability, potential and personality. If you want the best feedback, I instruct the students I serve to provide a resume or goal statement summary. Only by providing information beyond what they instructor observed in the classroom setting does one empower that reference to speak to the whole of your academic and other efforts or goals. Don't stick the reference request or email in their inbox/email and fail to give then a reason to "rave" about your candidacy and future aims.

    • What should prospective students know about intercollegiate sports?

       

      Weigh your options! Consider the answers to the following questions:

      1) Which has the highest graduation rate in four-years?

      2) Which offers you the least amount of loans and indebtedness?

      3) Have you visited each and if not in person, do they have a virtual visit option on their website or through youniversitytv.com?

      4) Which has alums who are doing that to which you aspire?

      5) Which offers the most options and networks for internships or study abroad?

      6) How many schools if any do they share articulation agreements for cross or dual registration?

      7) Which if any AP or dual college courses do they accept which might move you closer to graduation, thus saving money?

      8) Are there faculty pursuing research opportunities in which you are interested?

      9) Do they consider special circumstances in re-negotiating aid?

      10) Are there on campus supports such as writing labs, workout facilities, counseling, emergency funds for special circumstances, and grants for summer study?

      11) Is it likely you can take the courses required and still have room to explore other interests?

      12) Are you required to declare a major from the outset? If so, can you change colleges without losing credits?

      The answers to these questions should help you determine which college offers the best resources for your plans. All the questions aside, where do you most want to be?

    • How do prospective students get recruited for their sport?

       

      Recruited athletes are scouted early in the process, specific to their sport. I've known students visited for observation as early as their first year of secondary school. However, the caveat for recruitment is closely monitored by the NCAA as coaches access to prime athletes is mitigated by NCAA policy. While scouts may "pipeline" students in a specific sport early in their secondary career, few are accessible for express overt interest until they are officially registered with the NCAA. This is only necessary and essential for those hoping to participate at Divisions I or II. Typically Division III athletic participants are subject to far less exacting practices. Students, coaches or athletes who subvert the process risk participants being red-shirted or excluded from participation. See www.ncaa.org for specific information.

    • Where should I start my college search if I want to major in the arts?

       

      Arts majors should complete specific research based on your area of interest. If fine arts are your bent, many schools offering the majors participate in the National Portfolio Review Day (NPRD). The website, of the same name, is updated regularly and provides specific information as to whether portfolios are required, and if required the site clarifies whether portfolios are accepted through online sites such as flikr.com or slideshare.com; or in some cases expected for assessment the day the college/university hosts the event in major cities across the United States annually.

      If your interests are the visual /performing arts, often auditions are required. I recommend students begin their search with the site of the college/conservatory program of interest as they all clarify whether auditions are required and if so, how they are conducted and the expectations of the number of pieces required instrumental/voice/dance. Some colleges, such as Julliard host regional auditions. It's best to begin at each school's website.

    • When should parents begin saving for college?

       

      I encourage my friends to begin a savings account as soon as hey know they are expecting! Seriously, in that the cost of tuition rose between 4 and 12 percent depending on the state and the economy, if one has children, the college fund should be an immediate and regular consideration in finances. With regard to first generation youth whose families lack the means or wherewithal to save; I advise those families to encourage your child to "knuckle down" as many scholarships exist for first generation, low income youngsters.

    • Are there ways to waive college application fees?

       

      As a former staffer at multiple non-profits, many offer to cover or request forebearance for their participants. The other way to waive application fees stems from colleges and universities which offer waived fees for online applications. I encourage students to avoid "snap apps," those offering instant admission for online application and commitments. Research indicates that on average, American students submit 10-12 applications.

    • What is a 529 plan and how can you start one?

       

      A 529 plan is offered through many state funding programs. There also exists a private college consortium 529 for legacy or faculty families. In either case these are funds withdrawn from income or savings regularly to generate a college fund for youngsters. Though not available in every state, one can create a very similar tax exempt fund through investment plans and wills. Be warned, many of my clients invest in state funded 529's only to find their progeny invested and wooed by colleges and universities outside the reach of their state funded plan.

    • What if students can’t afford any of the schools they were accepted to?

       

      The reality of the escalating cost of college makes it likely that this eventuality might arise. That said there are several ways to afford school. First and foremost, many colleges offer rolling admission through the month of June. This means that one has the opportunity to apply to additional colleges/universities. Secondly, a gap or year off to work and fundraise is another option. Clients I've served who encountered this reality often chose to attend a community college, to establish a strong GPA and then applied for the Jack Kent Cooke transfer scholarship to continue their pursuit for post-secondary study. Another approach should also include contacting one's school of choice to discern their ability to re-negotiate your aid award. Funding need not end your post-secondary options as other schools exist and time is typically on your side. Remember, close to $1.6 billion in aid is available annually. Keep applying for scholarships!

    • How important is ranking and reputation in evaluating a college?

       

      Rank and reputation mean nothing if the school in question does not have what you need. Most folks are compelled by profile, but I strongly encourage students to consider fit and match. Does the highly ranked school "fit" your goals for our college career with regard to your potential majors? How does the schools' location match the access you require for internships and opportunities to gain experience and profile for yourself? Are the academic offerings sufficiently compelling enough to stimulate intellectual growth, but not so oversubscribed that you don't have access?

      Yes, reputation matters, but attending because you were admitted without the preparation or possibility of graduating well to secure access to the masters or post-graduate work relevant in this economy, could well be cutting off your nose to spite your face. I encourage students to find an environment that challenges intellectually and supports psychosocially. Attend the best school you can, but getting through is as important as gaining admission.

    • How important is selectivity in evaluating colleges?

       

      Selective colleges are those with more than 50 applicants for every available seat. This simply means they are more selective in choosing their class because their research has shown which characteristics and preparation characterize successful graduates from their institutions.

      Just as colleges researched the metrics for successful students as they identify those they will admit, those applying should do the same. Applicants should selectively discern the intellectual and social environments where they are best suited to be challenged. In the midst of challenge, students and families should also identify which environments are suited to growing them from who they are, to who they hope to become. It is a fit and match process and with 4000 colleges and universities, those who do the research can make an informed choice. I tell students find the place that feels good on your mindset, your pocketbook and your aims. The answer varies based on your beginning and the experiences you bring to the enterprise that is college.

    • What makes a great college essay?

       

      Memorability makes the difference. I absolutely endorse spell checking, at least one second read for grammar and, of course respect for the word limit. However, having read some 5000 or so application essays, poignancy counts. There are essays I read in the 90's that I remember because they were artfully rendered, made me laugh aloud or moved me to tears. Do not attempt that at which you are not proficient! Write what you know, felt or experienced. Few folks who opined regarding politics, social commentary or world peace are successful. Do your best to add "living color" to your topic and remember, that in 90% of the cases, it's the one and only way admission reviewers hear your voice. Make that voice as sultry and memorable as Etta James' "At Last!"

    • Is every college essay read? How many admissions officers read them?

       

      Based on my experience, we read every essay at the institutions were I served. Typically, applications received two reads and a third if the decisions were split. The number of reads and the process for reviewing application essays vary from college to college. Among the top 250, I know my colleagues review essays because some are moved to "check" authenticity or to contact the school source to verify veracity of the context as provided by the student.

    • Who conducts the college interviews?

       

      Policies and approaches vary as the greater the selectivity, the greater the likelihood that an alum or "admission's extra" will conduct the interview. If you have the opportunity to interview - take it! Especially as regards the top 50 colleges and universites where more than 20,000 apply; it is essential you do whatever you can to make your profile singular and more personal. Having served as an interviewer for my alma mater and a couple of different former employers, I encourage those interviewing - prepare. Do not "wing it!" If you garner the opportunity to interview with actual admission personnel, make a positive impression. Read the online suggestions and prepare please!

    • What do students need to know about transferring?

       

      Transferring is not for fun. If you are absolutely convinced that you would be happier somewhere else, do not move lightly. As a transfer, unless an articulation agreement ?exisits one risks losing credit - thus extending your undergraduate process. There is also the risk of your financial aid package not traveling from one institution to another. Most importantly, do your research! Is a specific GPA required for admission consideration? Are there comparable communities with which one can connect? Do not use transferring as a way to lobby for greater funds. Rather choose the transfer option only after deliberate thinking about the costs.

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