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  • Reena Gold Kamins

    Title: Founder
    Company: College, Career & Life, LLC.

    • verified

    Former Admissions Officer
    Brandeis University, Rutgers University, Columbia University and Barnard College dual degree programs with the Jewish Theological Seminary
    Years of Experience

    Colleges I Attended
    Brandeis University, New York University
    Master's Degree
    Professional Affiliations
    Prior Job
    The Pingry School
    Prior Title
    Director of Admission

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  • Intro Video

    Viewing this video in: English
  • Admissions Expertise

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


      Some colleges always have classes available for you to visit or dorms for you to see. Some don't. Before you head to campus, make a list of everything you want to do, e.g. see a dorm, eat in the dining hall, sit in on a class, or see the career services center. Next, check the website to see if any of the things on your list are part of the standard tour. If they're not, call the admission office to see if they can accommodate your interests. Don't just show up for the tour and expect to see everything on your list.

      Once on campus, listen carefully to the information that is presented in the info session. Often counselors will give subtle details about what they're looking for in their applicants or about what they find sets some applicants apart, in a positive way. Listen closely; but, more importantly, ask good questions. You have a chance to make a positive impression on the counselor, so don't ask a question like what's the average class size which can easily be found on the website.

      Listen closely on the tour too. Is the guide only talking about athletics? Or is he only talking about parties? It could be that he's not the most knowledgeable guide or, it could be that is all that happens on that campus. It's an important distinction to investigate.

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


      Before the internet, guidebooks were the go-to source for information. Now, however, they are really best for finding out general information about a school such as its size, location, majors, and average class size. The data that is used in the books is often requested 6 months before the book is printed, so they're not the best source for current data. School websites are better for most recent acceptance rates and tuition rates, for example.

      Rankings, in my opinion, are not useful. Some of the criteria used in the rankings, for example, the percentage of alumni who give money, do not reveal any information about the quality of the education a student will receive.

      Relatives can be helpful, as long as you keep two things in mind. First, if your relative attended the school more than two years ago, their information isn't really relevent. Things change from year to year. More importantly, think about the personality and/or interests of your relative. If she is really outgoing, her opinion might not be as meaningful to you if you are super shy. Or, if she's really interested in sports, her feedback might not be helpful if you're looking for schools with amazing dance programs.

    • Are there activities/organizations that impress highly selective colleges?


      Colleges are impressed by students who take leadership opportunities to new heights not by particular activities or clubs. If you have a passion and can take it to a state or national level, that make an impression. If you create a club or organization to meet a need or fill a void in your school or community, that's impressive.

    • Can colleges revoke admissions offers? What behaviors can cause this, and how can students protect themselves?


      When colleges admit students, they expect that they will finish their senior year with the same academic and social success that gained them admission. So, if a student submits a final transcript to the college he plans to attend and his grades have gone from all As to all Cs or Ds, his acceptance may be revoked. Disciplinary issues are another reason.

      If a student is expelled from school, he can't graduate. Without a high school diploma, he can't begin college.

      The best way to protect yourself is to keep your grades up and stay out of trouble!

    • Do you need to have a prospective major, or is it okay to be undecided?


      It's OK to not have your entire life planned out at the age of 17. Because of the current economic situation, many parents are now looking to have their kids have an exact career path mapped out when they graduate high school. In many ways, it's unrealistic. At 17, students have not experienced enough to have everything figured out. So, go ahead and check undecided as your potential major. It's OK. Colleges will not penalize you for it.

    • Does class size matter?


      It depends on your learning style. Some students like large (think 250 students) lecture classes because it allows them to remain anonymous and they don't feel pressured to always participate. Other students prefer smaller classes where they can have frequent debates and discussions with their professors.

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


      Social media has absolutely impacted the way colleges communicate with students. Many, if not most, schools now Tweet on a regular basis and have Facebook pages. These websites enable colleges to share exciting developments, like new majors or study abroad locations, instantaneously. They also allow students to get a feel for the campus.

    • How do you build a good relationship with your high school guidance counselor?


      Introduce yourself early in your high shool career and check in often. The average counselor in the US has more than 400 students to worry about. And, on average is only able to spend about a half hour with each student. IN FOUR YEARS. Those numbers are absurb. So, if you want her to know who you are when it comes time to submit her letter and to be able to say positive and genuine things about you, make sure you take time to get to know her. Pop in often and update her on what you've accomplished. But, don't be a pest. Be sensitive to her time constraints.

    • How much do alumni recommendations matter?


      Unless an alum can write about your strengths in the classroom, his recommendation really doesn't mean that much. Admission professionals look to recommendations to confirm information already presented in the academic profile and to see if there is something in the academic record they are missing, positive or negative. Alumni friends can't generally talk about a student's performance as a student, so they are viewed as no more than character references. While it's nice that someone has positive things to say about your personality, it won't help significantly. Colleges assume every applicant is hard working and motivated. Having a friend say that doesn't really add anything.

    • Is it better to stick close to home or go to school far away?


      Staying close to home is not better than going away and vice versa. Each has its advantages.

      If you stay close to home, it's easier to visit for long weekends or shorter breaks like Thanksgiving or Presidents' Weekend.

      But, if you're far away, you get to experience a new part of the country!

    • What are some questions to consider before applying to an online school?


      Accreditation is the most important criteria when evaluating online school options. There are several accrediting bodies. For example, The Middle States Commission on Higher Education accredits degree-granting institutions in states like Maryland, New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. The accreditation process is rigorous and evaluates things like a school's mission, size, degree requirements, and resources.

      Accreditation guarantees that an institution is meeting certain standards. Without accrediation it is likely that other institutions and employers will not recognize the work you have completed or the degree you have earned.

      Similarly, even if a school is accredited, you want to make sure that other institutions will recognize transfer credits from it. If you spend a year taking courses but are unable to transfer those courses into another institution and earn credit for them, you will have wasted the year.

    • Where should students begin with the college search?


      There are many factors to consider when searching for colleges. Size, distance from home, available majors, opportunities for internships, and your chances of playing a sport you love are just a few of the things to think about. When you're ready to make a college list, make a list of the criteria that are important to you. Next, choose the one or two items on your list that are deal breakers. For example, if you absolutely must be able to study criminology, then that's your deal breaker. Use your deal breaker to begin your search. That is, begin by looking for all of the schools that offer criminology. Once you've got a list of schools offering criminology, beginning narrowing your list with the other criteria you identified.

    • Can what I post on Facebook affect my chances of getting accepted?


      While it's true that most counselors at most colleges simply don't have time to research candidates on Facebook, there are some schools at which counselors do review Facebook profiles. Before you change your status or post on someone's wall, think about whether you would want an admission committee to see it and whether you'd want that to be their first impression of you.

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


      Many colleges offer virtual tours. Some allow you to customize your virtual visit and see the things you want, while others provide a general overview. YouTube is also an option. you can find many campus videos there. Keep in mind that these videos are generally created by the admission office. So, they're showing you all of the best things. That said, you should use the videos to get a general feel for the schools. Once you are admitted to schools, you should make an effort to visit the campuses in person.

    • What are the most important questions to ask a tour guide on a college visit?


      Before you head to campus, make a list of all the things you want to know that can't be found on the school website or in their marketing materials. Asking a tour guide what the average class size is can be a missed opportunity. He is going to give the answer he is trained to give. Instead, you might ask something like, "I read that the average class size is 19. How may classes have you had that were larger than 19?" That question will provide a more useful answer.

      Every prospective student has different goals and therefore different questions that are important. What's a deal breaker for you? Class size, the quality of the dorms, the availability of internships, the possibility of graduating early? The most important questions to ask are the ones which will help you determine if the school can help you achieve your goals.

    • Are supplemental materials read? Do they have an effect on admissions?


      If supplemental materials are not requested, they are generally not even looked at. If a student submits a CD of a piano performance, it might be listened to as background noise while the counselor reads files, but it will not impact the admission decision.

      Because of the volume of applications they need to read in such a short amount of time, counselors simply don't have the time to review supplemental materials. And, because they are not required, it would not be fair to other students, who haven't submitted anything, to use them in the evaluation process.

    • How many apps does an officer read over the course of a year?


      The number of applications each counselor reads varies depending on how large the admission office is and how many applications they receive for each spot. I've worked in a two person office, where I read every single application, But, it was a small school at which we received maybe 3 applications for each spot. So, I only read about 150 applications each year. But, I've also worked at a school with nearly two dozen counselors and close to 30,000 applications. There, I read about 3,000 each year.

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


      The information captured on the Common Application is information that all participating schools need and want. The questions asked on the Supplement are of interest to that school but may not be of interest to other schools. For example, one school supplement asks if applicants have participated in any robotics competitions. That's not something that every school needs or wants to know, so it's included on that school's supplement but not on the Common App itself.

    • Can students apply to college online?


      Yes, students can apply on-line. In fact, most colleges prefer it as the data often feeds directly into their student management system.

      The Common Application is accepted by more than 450 colleges. It allows students to enter information that all colleges need, e.g. address, senior courses, activities, and achievements one time and submit it to multiple schools. The number of colleges that accept the Common App increases each year.

      Most schools, particularly those that do not accept the Common App, have an on-line application on their website.

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


      All pieces of your application should be easily identifiable as yours, i.e. have your name or ID number according to the guidelines provided by the school.

      However, you don't want to "waste" space in one part of the application sharing something about yourself that can be found in another part. For example, don't answer a short essay question by continuing a story you started in your larger essay. Each question that you answer is an opportunity for you to share something new with the committee. Take advantage of each of those opportunities to set yourself apart from all of the other applicants.

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


      Not all students have regular access to the internet. Therefore, no student will be penalized for submitting a paper application. However, many schools no longer print them as they want as many of their applicants as possible to apply on-line.

    • Does it help to include supplemental materials with your application?


      In general, supplemental materials are not required. Therefore, it would not be fair for committees to evaluate them for some students and not others. Most counselors don't even have time to look at the supplemental materials.

      However, if you are applying to a program that requests supplemental materials, it is critical that you follow the guidelines for submission precisely.

    • Does submitting your application ahead of the deadline improve your chances?


      Schools with rolling admission review applications as they are received and become complete. They generally promise students a decision anywhere from 4-12 weeks after their application becomes complete. However, most schools wait until they have a critical mass of applications before they begin reviewing them, so there is not an advantage to submitting early.

    • What are some common red flags that can hurt an application?


      A downward trend in grades, i.e. going from As and Bs to Cs and Ds is the most common red flag. Similarly, if a student has taken a lot of honors and AP courses and then shifts to a less rigorous curriculum, it will raise questions. Some colleges will also be alarmed if they see an excessive amount of unexplained absences on a student's transcript.

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


      The best recommendation letters convey specific details about a students ability, effort, strengths and weakness. Colleges can see the grade you earned in a class by looking at the transcript. They want to know more from your teachers. Specifically, they want to know what sets you a part from other students and whether or not you will be successful on their campus. So, if you got an A in a class, without much effort, that might not be the best teacher to ask. Instead, think about a teacher who watched you struggle and ultimately master some challenging material or the teacher who witnessed you going above and beyond the rest of your classmates.

    • How can planning increase a student's chance of getting great teacher recommendations?


      Dropping a recommendation form in a teacher's mailbox with a post-it note and the due date, doesn't show a lot of respect for her time. So, chances are that teacher won't put a lot of effort into the letter. I encourage students to schedule a meeting to ask for a recommendation letter. Take the time to show your teacher your list of schools (so they know how many they have to write) and explain to them why you're interested in each school. Talking to them about your list might reveal information that could help you. Perhaps your teacher attended one of the schools on your list. If she's familiar with the college's curriculum, her evaluation of your ability to succeed within it, is more meaningful. Similiarly, if she knows other students who've attended and done well at particular college and can discuss your abilities relative to that student, it is more meaningful. These conversations can't be had if you wait till the last minute. Ideally, you will give your teacher at least 4 weeks to write the letter. If you want to meet with her first, you need to allow five weeks.

    • Can students speed up the recommendation letter process and still get great results?


      Some teachers now request that students notify them at the end of their junior year, if they want to have a letter of recommendation. This allows the teacher to write the letter over the summer. This is beneficial for the teacher because she has fewer things on her plate; and, it's beneficial for the student because his performance is freshest in the teacher's mind.

    • Are there ways to waive college application fees?


      Most colleges will waive the application fee for students. However, each school's process is a little different, so it is important to read the instructions for each school. Some schools, for example, will request that you provide some additional information in order to receive the fee waiver. Other schools allow you to request the waiver right on the payment screen of the Common Application process.

      If you feel you need the waiver, don't be shy about asking. Schools want to do what they can to help you achieve your goal of a college education.

    • Can taking AP courses help students reduce their financial burden?


      At some colleges, students can earn college credits for high scores on the AP exams. For some students, at some colleges, they will earn enough college credits that they can graduate early. That is where the tuition savings are. If you finish a semester early, you could save anywhere from a couple to ten thousand dollars in tuition.

      A few things to keep in mind:

      1. Every school requires a different AP score to receive credit. For some it's 3, and for other schools it's 5.

      2. Even if you have the required score, each school awards credit differently. Some give elective credit, some allow you to place out of certain requirements.

      3. At many schools, the evaluation of AP credits happens after you have committed to enroll at the school. At that point, it is too late to evaluate the impact on the financial burden compared to other schools.

    • Do students have any financial aid options if they have already committed to a school early decision?


      If you need to know the exact dollar amount your family will need to pay before commiting to a school, you should not apply to any schools under a binding early decision plan.

      While schools with binding early decision plans are doing a much better job of presenting financial aid packages earlier in the process, applying early decision does not allow you to compare the financial aid awards at different schools.

      It's important to compare financial aid packages from different schools. Some may offer a lot of loans, others mostly grants, and some might include work-study. It is important that you be able to compare them and determine which is best for your family.

    • Does having a better score on the SAT increase the financial aid available to a student?


      It's important to distinguish between need-based and merit-based aid. Need-based aid is determined solely by your parents' income and assets. Stellar SAT scores and high GPAs have no impact on need-based aid. It is determined by an evaluation of the FAFSA and/or CSS Profile.

      Merit-based aid, on the other hand, is based on your academic success. The higher your SAT or ACT scores are, the greater the chances of receiving merit aid will be. Many schools post general guidelines for their merit scholarships. With a little research on your part, you can determine the likelihood of earning merit money with your scores. Keep in mind, though, that scores are not generally the only criteria for scholarships.

    • Is it possible to renegotiate your financial aid package?


      If the financial aid package you receive does not meet your expectations, you can ask for it to be re-evaluated. It helps if you have new information for the financial aid office to consider. It also helps to convey your sincere interest in the school and to be super polite.

      Calling a school and saying, schools X gave us Y, why can't you will not get you very far. But, calling a school and saying that you're really interested in attending but financially it will be difficult so is there anything more they can do or any other information you can provide that might help them, will get you closer to your goal of a new award package.

    • What can students do if there is a change in their family's financial circumstances?


      If there is a change in a family's financial situation, it should be shared with the financial aid office. The more information the financial aid office has, the better equipped they are to create a package that meets the family's needs.

      If the change means the family has less money, it could mean an increase in the financial aid award.

      If the change means a family has more money, it does not automatically mean that a financial award will be decreased. Sharing the information will show the financial aid office that you are acting in good faith. They will be more inclined to work with you if they feel you are not trying to conceal information and/or assets.

    • What is the FAFSA?


      FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Every student who applies for need-based financial aid, needs to submit it. It cannot be completed until January 1 of a student's senior year of high school, and it needs to be filed each year that a student applies for aid.

      Data from the FAFSA is used to determine how much a family can contribute to their child's education and how much aid they may be eligible for.

    • How can students save money during the college search?


      Travelling expenses can add up pretty quickly, especially if you're considering more than a handful of schools. So, how can you see a campus and save money? Start with virtual tours or YouTube videos. They won't show you everything, but they'll give you a general feel for the campus and whether it might be one you want to visit in the future.

      Can't get to campus for an information session? Visit the school's website and see if an admission counselor will be in your area.

      Local and regional college fairs are a great way to get a lot of information in one place. Once you've gone through all the literature you picked up at the fair, you can identify the handful of schools you want to spend money visiting.

    • Is it possible to negotiate the school's offer?


      Financial aid officers will gladly review your offer and try to work with you, if they don't feel you're simply trying to negotiate a better deal.

      The best approach is to present any new information that has impacted family finances. This could be a move, divorce, job loss or change, new baby, caring for an elderly family member or unexpected medical expenses. Be as specific as possible and share as many details as you can to help convey that the numbers determined by the FAFSA or CSS Profile are not reflective of your actual situation.

      It's OK to say that another school gave you X (be prepared to show the award) and to ask if this school can do the same or help you understand why they can't.

      Be honest, if a school is truly your first choice, tell them. You can say, this is my first choice, and I really want to enroll, but the numbers just don't work for us, is there anything you can do?

      These strategies are more likely to yield an increase in aid than simply demanding more or that a school match another school's offer.

    • Who conducts the college interviews?


      Who conducts your college interview varies. If you are interviewing off-campus, it will most likely be with an alumni interviewer. These are graduates of the school who volunteer their time to meet with prospective students. Some counselors will also conduct interviews while they are "on the road" recruiting. If you have an interview on campus, it could be with an admission counselor, an alum, or a student volunteer. It is different at each school. Most schools are pretty clear about their interview policies, and you can generally find this information on their website.

    • Does the college interview really count?


      At some colleges, the interview is a part of the candidate's file; at others, it is not. Most schools are upfront about letting you know whether the interview will be used to make an admission decision. Because of the volume of applicants, the school's inability to meet requests for all interviews, and the fact that some students are unable to arrange an interview, most schools now offer the interview as a informational opportunity for the student. In other words, it's a chance for a student to meet with someone who is knowledgeable about the school and ask some basic questions and get a general feel for the school.

    • Is it possible that a college interview could be conducted by a student?


      Yes, your interview may be with a current student. Many schools have seniors, tour guides or admission volunteers do the interviews because the counselors simply don't have the time to offer every interested student an interview.

      When you make your interview appointment, ask whether you'll be meeting with a counslor, student, alum, or other volunteer so that you are not surprised when you arrive.

    • Are there things a student should never say during a college interview?


      The addage is true...you don't get a second chance to make a first impression. So, you want to go into your interview with a positive and confident attitude. You want to avoid being negative, both about your own performance and/or interests and, naturally, about the school and other schools. You don't want to put down other colleges or programs. You also don't want to criticize your parents or teachers. Saying you got a bad grade because the teacher didn't know what she was doing or that you can only apply to a few schools because you're parents don't want you going to far or can't afford other options will not make a good impression. Similarly, you don't want to rave about other schools. One of the goals of the interview is to show your sincere interest in the school. If you say you're applying as a safety or because another school you like better is too far away or too small, it doesn't make the school you're with feel like you really want to be there.

    • Can body language and position impact the interview?


      Have you ever tried to have a conversation with someone who was fiddling with her phone or staring off into space? How did that make you feel? How you present yourself, that is what you wear, how you carry yourself, how you sit, whether you establish eye contact are all as important as what you actually say. You should sit up straight and make eye contact with your interviewer to show that you are focused and interested in what she is saying. You should dress well to show that you take the process seriously. Showing up in ripped jeans and a sloppy shirt suggests you don't think the interview is important and you just threw something on. A firm handshake is always a nice touch too!

    • Any advice for parents on paying for college?


      Many parents wait until April to file their income tax returns. But, information from the tax returns is needed to complete the FAFSA and CSS Profile forms. While you can complete the forms with estimated information, it will delay the process. Colleges also request copies of your tax returns, usually by March. Missing deadlines may mean there's no more aid at that school.

      Get your taxes done as early as you can so that you can get the financial aid process started. Getting actual, as opposed to, financial aid numbers sooner rather than later will allow you to plan better.

    • What do students need to know about transferring?


      The most important thing to consider before transferring is how many credits you will receive for the work you've already completed. Some colleges will only accept a certain number of transfer credits. You don't want to have to re-take any courses at your new school. That will cost you both time and money. Some colleges have a feature on their website which allows you to enter the classes you've taken to determine if you'd receive credit as a transfer student. Take advantage of this opportunity or arrange an appointment with a transfer counselor so that you know as much as possible about what credit you will receive and how long it will take you to complete your degree.

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  • Feedback from Buyers


    My session with Reena was very helpful. She was knowledgeable about the schools we discussed, and she was very no nonsense in her assessment and recommendations for my son. The webcam system is a little clunky and the reason why I only gave a 3 for communication. We lost 8 minutes while dealing with an inability to hear each other, and there should be a way to stop the automatic countdown of the hour while dealing with technical difficulties.

    Was this review helpful? Yes No


    Really helpful chat! We went though all the ivy leagues one by one and Reena answered all my questions regarding stereotypes, getting in, types of students who succeed etc. etc.

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