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  • Craig Meister

    Title: President
    Company: Tactical College Consulting

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    College Specializations
    University of Southern California, American University, George Washington University, University of Miami, Emory University, Northwestern University, Indiana University-Bloomington, Tulane University of Louisiana, Johns Hopkins University, University of Maryland-College Park, Boston University, Harvard University, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Washington University in St Louis, Princeton University, Columbia University in the City of New York, Cornell University, New York University, University of Rochester, Syracuse University, University of Pennsylvania, Vanderbilt University, Rice University, University of Vermont, University of Virginia-Main Campus, Stanford University
    Years of Experience
    Languages Spoken

    Colleges I Attended
    University of Pennsylvania
    Bachelor's Degree
    College Counseling
    About Me
    Craig is the president of Tactical College Consulting, a strategy-driven college admissions consultancy advising students and parents during the college search and application process. A magna cum laude graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Craig earned his Certificate in College Counseling from UCLA and has worked as an undergraduate admissions officer and a director of college guidance. Craig speaks regularly at schools, non-profits, and corporations.

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  • Admissions Expertise

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


      There are cheap and less time-consuming alternatives to campus visits that will develop your familiarity with colleges and increase your chances of admission. Conduct research on specific college Web sites, student reviews sites like unigo.com, and in college guidebooks.  Then, armed with more knowledge, reach out by email or phone to college admissions officers at the colleges that most intrigue you. Introduce yourself and ask questions that you could not find answers to online. You will learn a lot and impress college reps at the same time. Once accepted, though, make every effort to visit before picking a college.

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


      A student population of 10,000 at one college could feel much more manageable than a student population of 10,000 at another college because of other variables such as a college’s advising system, average class size, or campus environment and location. With this in mind, the sooner you start visiting college campuses, the sooner you will be able to determine the ideal combination of characteristics that your college campus should possess. While size is important to some applicants, others don’t prefer big, medium, or small because to them other factors are far more important.

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


      The key to college admissions success is to parlay preexisting interests into extracurricular pursuits. There is no magic number of activities an applicant should undertake before applying to colleges; however, colleges do want to see that a student has pursued his or her interests deeply outside of the classroom. So, if you have any interests whatsoever, figure out a way to pursue them in the extracurricular realm as opposed to simply pursuing them as hobbies. For example, don’t just play your guitar in your bedroom; share your talent as a guitar tutor, talent show entrant, or local performer.

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


      The three Ps often spoil students’ college applications.  Procrastination: students who wait until the last minute and only spend a couple days—if that—on their application essays and short answer responses regularly produce far weaker applications, and thus receive a disproportionate percentage of the rejection letters. Presumptuousness: Students who approach their essays and short answer responses like they do an English paper are displaying overconfidence because writing for the college application requires a completely different style of writing than for a school assignment.  Passivity: Finally, meekness when communicating about extracurricular accomplishments is another common recipe for rejection.

    • What are the most accepted or exaggerated myths about the college admissions process?


      While the most competitive colleges have extremely rigorous admission standards that include earning high grades, completing several essays, taking a number of challenging standardized tests, and pursuing a variety of extracurricular activities, the vast majority of America’s four-year colleges have far more modest admissions requirements. In fact, despite what you may have heard, many colleges require no admission essays, and a growing number of colleges are easing their admission requirements, as evidenced by the number of schools becoming ACT- and SAT-optional. If you want to attend a four-year college, stay calm and you will find one that will admit you.

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


      Increasingly, public in-state colleges seem to have an edge with applicants because the nasty economy has put downward pressure on what students and parents are willing to shell out for tuition and travel costs. Other benefits of staying close to home include the ease of getting home in an emergency and the likelihood that nearby colleges will have relatively high placement rates with local employers. The latter is attractive to students who want to live and work close to home after graduating. In a difficult economy, the risks associated with going to college far away seem to add up fast.

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


      The maxim, “Where there is a will, there is a way” certainly applies to college admissions. I’ve supported students of all achievement levels, and the one characteristic that unites all those students who meet with admissions success is that they subscribe to the above truism. The will to work and achieve always wins out in the end. Whether the student who only started and finished his Dartmouth application on New Year’s Eve and still got in or the student who transferred from an average state university to Georgetown, to those with focus and perseverance happy endings happen all the time.

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


      The SAT, which covers critical reading, mathematics, and writing skills, is often the most dreaded part of the college application process; yet, it need not be. The Official SAT Study Guide (TM): Second Edition, published by the makers of the test, is a great resource for the self-directed student. It includes ten full-length practice tests, answer explanations, and tools to figure out your score. Best of all, it costs less going to a movie. If you are unhappy with your scores after taking the real SAT, there’s always the ACT. It may be a better test to demonstrate your strengths.

    • How can I work with schools to boost my financial aid? Are there other sources of student aid?


      Increasingly top colleges are directing their aid dollars towards increasing access and affordability to their institutions, while less selective colleges use a good portion of their aid dollars towards recruiting students for reasons other than families’ lack of funds.  In these cases, telling your first-choice college about the aid other colleges offered you might yield a bit more merit-based aid. Yet, if there have been no major changes to a family’s financial situation since first applying for aid, don’t bet on getting more money from a college. Always check before applying for awards from third party organizations because these additional sources of funding often reduce the amount of money a college will ultimately award you.

    • To find scholarships, where should I look, what's needed of me, and which ones seem craziest?


      Your scholarship search should start by asking anyone and everyone if they know of scholarship opportunities. Not only will you learn about previously unknown sources of money, you will also build networking skills. Many entities offer scholarships. In just the past year, my students have earned scholarships from elected officials, war veterans associations, TV stations, religious organizations, fashion companies, and political parties. Most of these scholarships required applications, essays, and interviews. While finding sources of money can be easy, there is no such thing as a free lunch! Many colleges reduce their aid packages for every scholarship you earn.

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


      Students with need-based financial aid packages often qualify for work-study positions on campus. Pay is usually quite low; therefore, if you qualify for work-study, aim for a position that is of interest to you and one that will augment your professional resume when it comes time to apply for summer internship and a post-college job.  Sample work-study jobs include everything from working in the cafeteria (ideal for foodies and those hoping to land a job in the food industry) to working in the study abroad office (ideal for students interested in an international career).

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


      College is anything but cheap. Books often go over budget. The cost of food not covered by your meal plan adds up fast. Fraternities and sororities have membership dues and fees.  Even if you don’t partake in Greek life, having any sort of social life can quickly deplete your funds. Don’t waste money. Make sure your bank has ATMs nearby so you won’t be paying unnecessary ATM fees. Make sure your cell phone plan makes sense for your new lifestyle. Wise financial decisions made in college will help you become more responsible with money for the rest of your life.

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


      The student must lead the college search and application process. Should parents try to usurp this role from the student, they will be creating more problems for the student down the road. College-ready students need to gain independence and manage increased levels of academic and personal responsibility – and this is the time to start. Parents can most help out by clearly explaining to their student the parameters of what the family is willing and/or able to pay for so the student can figure out what colleges are actually feasible options and worth applying to in the first place.

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