Boston College Tour

I just arrived in Beantown. I am meeting my fellow independent educational consultants and hundreds of college and university representatives. We will be spending the week talking about all the issues students and families have during their search for school placement. Tomorrow morning I leave Boston to visit Providence College in Rhode Island. Then it is back to Boston to tour Northeastern University and Wheaton College. After four days at the conference I continue my college tours by visiting Brown, MIT, Harvard, Emerson, and Tufts.

Boston is an incredible city with 52 univeristies/colleges and 250,000+ college students.  As I walked around yesterday, I encountered hundreds of college students from so many different institutions. This city just buzzes with the energy that only comes from college students. The quest for knowledge is palpable.

So, if you are looking for a college  in a city location….Boston may just be the spot for you. You can take your first college class in the morning and following the Freedom Trail (along the path of Paul Revere) in the afternoon. You can take your next college class and then meet with students from MIT Harvard, Tufts, Brandeis, Boston College, Boston University to discuss politics, history or philosophy. It just doesn’t get much better than this.

Test Optional Schools

I have had many questions regarding “test optional” schools.  YES! They do exist.  Each year, there is an increase in the  number of schools that go “test optional”.  Test optional means that you can send your SAT/ACT scores, or you do not have to send the scores.  It is important that students and their families really look at each college/university before deciding not to take the SAT/ACT.  In some instances, the college is listed as test optional BUT with a caveat.  An example is Arizona State University.  It is test optional only if the applicant meets the minimum GPA and class rank required for admissions.

Remember, those statistics change yearly, and for out of state students, those GPA and class rank admission requirements are different.  Also, remember to give yourself as many options as you can.  If you take the SAT/ACT you can still apply to schools that require them and schools that do not.


Here are a few schools that are test optional (in no particular order):
Pitzer (California)
Arizona State
Concordia (Oregon)
Connecticut College

Providence College (Rhode Island)
Bates (Maine)
Bowdoin (Maine)
Cal Maritime (California)
Wake Forest (North Carolina)
DePaul (Minnesota)
Mt. Holyoke  (Massachusetts)
Hampshire College (Massachusetts)
Bennington (Vermont)
George Mason (Virginia)
Lewis & Clark (Oregon)
These are just a few examples, but you might want to check them out.

The Big College Choice

Narrowing down your choices

What makes a student choose one college over the other?  I guess if I knew that answer I would be in high demand by colleges/universities.  As I tour different schools and work with my clients, I always make it a point to talk to students already attending that school and get their perspective,  I don’t rely only on information from the admissions office.  I’ll ask:  “What are you looking for?  Why did you choose this college?”  The answers run the gamut from,  “The weather was the deciding factor;  My best friend was going here too;  It is close to home and I want to go home whenever I want;  It is as far from home as I could get;  It’s the school my parents went to and I always saw myself here; It is an Ivy League and I only considered Ivy League schools.”  You can see that the answers are varied.

Making that final choice

During the month of March the final college acceptance letters are arriving via e-mail and snail mail.  Seniors and their families are experiencing the joys and the heartache of getting in or not getting in.  Then, comes the hard part.  Seniors actually have to make that final decision of what school to attend.  For some, it will be easy.  They have always known where they wanted to go and did their research well.  For others, the choice will be harder.  They may have a few schools to choose from and are weighing the financial aid options and the pros and cons of each school before making that final choice.

Most campuses have a “Welcome Day”  for all admitted students.  It is important to go to that event if you are seriously considering the college.  Many times that one “Welcome Day” will help you to solidify your choice.  You will meet other accepted students, the faculty and department heads, tour the dorms and get a feel about each school.

  • Do you feel comfortable?
  • Do you feel like you can spend four years here?
  • Are the faculty approachable?
  • Did you meet other students you would like to become friends with?

Once you’ve made your decision, have faith in it.  There is no right or wrong answer.  If you started the college search process correctly and did all of your research, your decision is the right one.  Embrace it and have a great college career.

Like I said,  “What makes a student choose one college over another?”  Who knows?  It’s a personal choice,  but a very important one.

College….it’s not just about education but about the experience! The value of a CO-OP school.

What exactly do you want to get from your college experience? Is it learning about a subject, in depth? Is it about exploring your options? Is it preparing for a professional career (medicine, law)? Is it making connections you hope to have your entire life? For most of you…it’s a combination of them all.

Consider a Co-Op Education 

I’ve been looking at “co-operative (co-op) colleges/universities”  that could give you a step-up in preparing for life after college. What exactly is a co-op education? Rochester Institute of Technology’s definition is:  “co-op, gives you the opportunity to gain meaningful work experience before you graduate! It will help you define your career path and fully realize the value of what you are learning in the classroom”.  

For student’s, this opportunity to actually work in the area they are studying is the world’s most powerful learning experience. In essence, you graduate from college with hands-on experience in the working world. No longer will you be denied a job because of “no experience.”
Here are just a few of the colleges across the United States that have an extensive co-op program:

  • Drexel University(Philadelphia),
  • Northeastern College(Boston),
  • Rochester Institute of Technology (NY),
  • Georgia Tech (Atlanta)

At Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), “Co-op is full-time, paid employment directly related to your field of study for a minimum period of 10 weeks .”  RIT notes that “co-op begins after you have completed the first two years of coursework in your academic program.”

At Drexel, “co-op enables students to balance classroom theory with practical, hands-on experience. Students alternate classes with full-time employment in business, industrial, governmental, and nonprofit employers throughout the United States and around the world.At Drexel students are on co-op for a six-month period, alternating with six months of classroom study.

What a great opportunity to learn and earn at the same time. I encourage you to check out the following websites about co-op education. Remember this is not an internship program. This is a PAID co-operative program.  – a co-op guide of participating colleges. – great insight into their experiential learning program (co-op) including videos

Middle School Students Prep for College


I’ve been working with middle school students as they search for the perfect high school.  It is so refreshing to see how excited they are about everything.  Excited and yet with that “deer in the headlights” look.

While it’s important for middle school students and families to think of the big picture, including the road to college, they should not stress about college admissions.  The road to college is a long winding path with many exciting adventures popping up as you experience the journey.  The important thing is to get on the ROAD.  Don’t wait until junior year or senior year to start “thinking” about college.  For most students, college seems such a long way off that they simply ignore that time is speeding by.  Here are some planning steps that middle school students and their families can do now to help make the road easier.

  • Create a 6 year academic plan from 7 – 12 grades.  Make sure that you consider all subjects that colleges require.  That includes math, English, science, social science, foreign language and art.  Create your plan while looking at the “most difficult to get into” colleges and what they want.  If you shoot for the hardest you will be accepted at the school of your choice.
  • Take a career inventory assessment.  I suggest taking it in middle school and at least twice during high school.  This gives you an idea what you innately are good at.  It also gives families a starting point for discussion regarding careers and colleges.
  • Go to work with you Dad, Mom, aunt/uncle, grandparent.  See what they do for a living and what responsibilities they have.  Most young people, even in high school, know who their parents work for but they don’t know exactly what their parenst do.  Spending a day on the job really exposes a student to the skills they need to be successful.
  • If you know what you want as a career,  (e.g. medicine/veterinarian/law/ etc.), ask to shadow someone in the field.  It may be difficult to find someone to take a middle school student on, but if you persevere you’ll be successful.  This helps to reinforce ideas about the career you’re thinking about – or conversely – you may not like the experience at all,  and tell you to look at a different field.
  • Read, Read, Read – all college admission testing (either ACT or SAT) note that student who have a depth and breadth of reading experiences do better on the exams.  Don’t just read the required summer reading.  Read other books on the list as well, or create your own list to read.
  • If you are interested in math, science, or technology consider the Siemens Foundation Competition.  This is a national science competition requiring extensive research.  However it can be done in groups of two and three for 9th– 11th graders or individually for 12th graders.   This could earn you $10,000 – $100,000 for college. 
  • If you are in scouts, continue to work toward Gold or Eagle status.  This is a great commitment and colleges recognize it.
  • Extracurricular, consider your passion.  If you love giving back to your community, continue to do that from middle through high school. If you can’t find a club that excites you, start your own.  Work on the environment, with children, with the elderly or poor.  Whatever you love doing, do it well and keep records of your achievements and time spent on the activity.
  • Keep a log or box with all awards, commendations and letters of reference/recommendation you receive   Create an excel document and keep a log of all hours of community service.  Divide it by school year.
  • Start visiting colleges – take an official tour and keep a log of your reaction to the campus.  Can you see yourself living and working there for four years?
  • Take a class on a college campus – during the summer there are programs at most universities.  Start doing your research and find courses that excite you.  Most programs have a sliding scale of fees.

Make planning a fun activity for the whole family.  Continue to build on the information you start collecting in Middle School – it will make the college application process a piece of cake.


Hello Juniors!

Hello juniors.  You are in the final stretch of this very important junior year of high school.  How are you doing?  Are you confident that you’re headed in the right direction?

By now, college bound juniors should have either taken a SAT/ACT or have registered for an upcoming one.  DO NOT WAIT FOR SENIOR YEAR TO TAKE A SAT/ACT.  By June of junior year you should be finished with your testing and only considering a fall test if you are not happy with your scores.

Make sure you have a running list of the colleges/univeristies you are considering applying to.  By this summer, you should narrow your list to no more than 10 schools.  If you are not sure what schools to apply to, speak to your school counselor.  Make sure that he/she is an expert in the college application process.  If you are not comfortable with the counselor’s expertise, considering working with someone in the growing field of college admissions counselors who work one-on-one with students applying to universities.

With public schools slashing budgets across the USA, the school counselor is, unfortunately, the first to go.  In California the ratio of students to counselor is over 1000/1.  How much time can your counselor spend with you on the college review and application process?  A private counselor spends 20 – 50 hours per year working with you and your family.  The money invested here, may be the best money spent toward college.

A New School Year!

Well, you’ve had a great summer.  You’ve rested, travelled, read, and had fun.  It is now time to assess where you are academically and what you need to do for the next BIG STEP.

For high school juniors this is a crucial year.  Not only do you have to step up your game academically but you have to seriously move forward on your hunt for a college/university that suits your goals in life.  Now, I don’t mean to totally scare you and freak you out, but it is important that you start NOW.  Keep a running list of schools that appeal to you.  Don’t just think of the schools that have won the Rose Bowl or the schools that everyone else is talking about.

There are over 3,000 colleges/universities in the USA.  The playing field is big, so you have to start your search and investigate early.  I suggest spending a few hours each weekend searching the web or contact your school counselor or a local educational consultant to assist you.  As you search, your list will become big.  You can always edit the list as you move along on your great college hunt.

Also, don’t forget to sign up for the PSAT and the SAT in the spring along with subject tests.  DO NOT WAIT until senior year to take these tests.

OK!  Are you ready?  Get set!  GO!    Have a great year.

The Great College Hunt

University of Washington Graduate Library

I’ve just returned from a tour of campuses in the New York State and Washington State areas.  My thoughts on campus visits have been reconfirmed.  It is a MUST to see a campus before you apply.  Web sites and web tours just canNOT give you the feel that walking the campus does. Actually talking to students who attend the university simply gives you a better indication of whether you will fit in or not.    All of my tour guides were very helpful, but I found talking to students other than the tour guides gave me additional information and insights that are invaluable.

High school students are applying to more and more colleges/universities.  They  are approaching the application process as if they are playing Las Vegas….”the more I apply to…..the better chance I have of getting in”.  If you don’t do your homework… won’t be successful.  Make sure that the schools on your “Apply To” list are ALL schools you are certain you would be happy attending.  Don’t risk wasting your parents money and years of your own life! Be a smart consumer.

As I toured each campus I posted a short video of impressions on my YouTube channel. PLEASE CHECK THEM OUT!

Small Colleges

My college hunt continues.  I just visited Whittier College in California. I love Whittier’s logo “beyond the box” and their mascot “Whittier Poets” locally known as the Poet Warriors.  My tour guides, Daisy (California) and Dennis (Alaska)  really explained why they chose Whittier over other small liberal arts colleges.
Some really neat things I learned about Whittier are:
1. An interest free loan for qualifying students;
2. A “scholars program” which allows students to create their own major and present a senior year project;
3.  A frosh writing class is mandatory but an example of a writing class is “psychological and sociological aspects of vampires”;

4.  You can do research alongside your professor:  My guide is working with his professor on the “synthesis of new compounds and their bacterial inhibition”.  He will be working on this for three years while an underclassman.
5.  While most faculty live nearby; some live on campus with their families and 85% of students live on-campus all four years allowing for a close knit academic community that reaches beyond the classroom.
6.  Daisy is an AVID tutor at a local high school and 12 of her AVID students have been accepted to Whittier for 2011.  WOW!

As you can see I came away from my tour with real insight into what Whittier offers. So, if you are looking for a small liberal arts education in Los Angeles County…check it out.

Do Not WAIT!

Is it ever too late to start the college exploration process?  It may be.  On my travels through the country, I have been amazed at how many students and families I have met who procrastinated and are just starting their college search.  The problem?  The student is entering senior year of high school this fall.

If you wait until the summer prior to senior year you are at a MAJOR disadvantage.  Other students have been preparing and researching for 4+ years.  Some have even spent summers on a college campus in classes.  Students going to the top universities don’t start preparing in the summer of senior year.  Think of this adventure as preparing for “the big game” or an important track meet.  It’s all about being prepared with a game plan.

There’s lots you can do at the start of high school to prepare for leaving in 4 years then  getting into the school of  “your” choice.

Parents: In 7th grade start with a comprehensive 6 year plan that outlines strategy and keeps you on track.  Follow and amend the plan as you go through high school.  Visit, visit, visit campuses.  Check if the school you really want to go to has a local admissions counselor.  Let the college know that you are interested.  Check college web sites frequently to see if there are changes in entrance requirements.
All this work is difficult to do while you are studying and just trying to be a high school student.  Get your parents involved.  If they do not have the time, consider asking for them (or your grandparents) to hire a private college admissions counselor.  It may be the best money you spend.  But whatever you do…..DO NOT WAIT!  START NOW!