Making The Most Of College

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Why Just Submitting an Application isn’t Enough

Frequently I find students applying to too many colleges. They think there’s some underlying mathematical equation that says the more colleges you apply to, the greater your chances are of being admitted to one.

Unfortunately, it’s just not true. Especially with the more selective schools that sit atop the various sets of rankings and which are releasing decisions this week. If your profile as an applicant doesn’t match up well with what the school looks for, or if the school tends to reject 90% of their applicants, no matter how many schools you apply to, admission isn’t likely.

So, what are students to do?

The first thing I tell my students to do is to get beyond this ever-growing obsession with brand names. In my experience, what you do with your college experience is more predictive of your future success in life. It’s not the name of the school or how highly they were ranked on US News or Forbes. In fact, in most high profile professional fields a bachelor’s degree doesn’t get you very far. You’re going to need a master’s degree, a lot of experience, or more, and that’s where you should be more focused on name brand recognition.

It’s about where you finish, not where you start.

The second thing I tell them is to build a college list that is focused more on quality than quantity.

I tell them they should be applying to colleges they love and where they feel they will be happy and successful. I tell them to apply to colleges they can afford. I tell them to apply to colleges where they will find everything they are looking for, where they will grow as people and where they will be successful.

Sometimes this means the list of colleges is five, sometimes it’s eight.

Regardless of the number, what matters most is how much effort a student puts into connecting with these schools prior to applying. When a student has matched themselves up well with a college and then does the right things along the way such as visiting, sitting in on a class, interviewing with an admission counselor, meeting with a professor or coach, attending special visit programs or an open house – when some combination of these factors happens, the student learns so much more about how and why the school fits them and admission becomes much more likely.

Why?

Because demonstrated interest matters more now than it ever has. Colleges are in the business of enrolling students and as the number of applications far exceeds the number of seats in an incoming class, it becomes critical for colleges to identify the students who are most likely to enroll. There are so many ways to demonstrate your interest to a school while you attempt to learn everything you can about it. Apply to too many schools and you may not be able to demonstrate your interest let alone put together quality applications that stand out in a crowded field.

Opportunity can and will present itself in many forms and, you know what? There is opportunity everywhere, not just at an Ivy League school. So, no matter where you go to college, remember that it’s about investing yourself in the experience and making the most of this time to launch yourself into your life.

If you would like some assistance with your college search, contact me today for a free 60-minute consultation.

Here’s what other families like yours are saying about how Dobler College Consulting made a difference for them.


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Courses and Activities – Making Good Choices

Dobler College ConsultingThis time of year, I find myself in conversations about courses and activities for the upcoming year. These are interesting discussions as students and I debate the merit of their options as they try to make decisions that make the most sense for them.

My advice to them is that their high school curriculum should present as much breadth and depth as possible but that it should also match up with their greatest interests and strengths as well. AP English is a great choice for the student who writes well and wants to be challenged, but is it a better choice than AP calculus or AP chemistry for the student who hopes to be an engineering major?

Admissions counselors will be looking to establish trends in individual subject areas and in a student’s overall academic record.

If you are a nursing applicant, what is your track record in the sciences? If you are a business student, have you taken four full years of math? What about relevant academic electives that your high school offers? Have you taken advantage of them along the way?

You have to read your transcript like an admissions counselor. Pick it apart, honestly assess the strengths and weaknesses and make changes where applicable so that whoever reviews it when you apply, has greater confidence in your ability to pursue the major you have checked off on your application. Just keep in mind that everything starts with your core subjects – English, math, science, social studies and foreign language. With so many college students changing majors, admissions counselors are first and foremost looking for academic rigor across all subjects.

When it comes to activities, the same rule generally applies. If you are an aspiring business major, have you joined DECA or FBLA? If you want to go into criminal justice or paramedicine, have you taken an EMT course and earned your license? Accounting majors, have you shadowed local accountants and learned more about the nuances of their work when it’s not tax season?

Even if you are undecided on what you may want to major in – and let’s be honest, whether you want to admit it or not, that’s most of you – it is better for you to show a depth of involvement in one or two activities that really mean something to you rather than lining up your resume with twenty clubs and organizations that hold little to no meaning for you as you head into your senior year.

Your application and supporting materials should reflect who you are as a student and, more importantly, as a person. Be true to you, invest your time wisely and, when in doubt, make good choices with how you spend your time.

Will all of this look good on college applications? Possibly.

But the greater good here is that you will have gained a greater understanding and appreciation for who you are, what’s important to you and how you want to live your life. There’s a lot to like about that.

If you would like some assistance with your college search or financial aid process, contact me today for a free 60-minute consultation.

Here’s what other families like yours are saying about how Dobler College Consulting made a difference for them.


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The Value Of Identifying Your VIPS

VIPS“What are you thinking about majoring in and why?”

This is a question I love asking students.  It appears to be a very simple question on the surface, but can get at something much deeper. While some students are very undecided and have no idea what they want to do (which is okay – really, it is), most are able to talk about one or more ideas they have. They want to major in engineering or nursing. They want to be a teacher or go into business. They have a feeling for something but they’re not entirely sure why.

And regardless of whether they have an idea or not, the table has been set to explore what I call their VIPS – Values, Interests, Personality-Style and Skills. These are the attributes students need to explore and understand better in order to have a successful college admission experience. Yet most students lack an awareness of their VIPS. This is never clearer than in conversation with current college freshmen who say, “I’m not happy.” When I start asking questions to get to the root of the matter, the same themes pop up:

They don’t know what really matters to them.

They haven’t thought about how their skills and abilities match with their major.

They don’t understand what careers or skills a particular major will afford them.

At the end of the day, so many students just don’t know what they want out of their lives. And while I don’t believe in the pressure of having to choose a course in life right away, students have to be encouraged to explore their VIPS.  They need to be pushed to reflect on their successes and failures in life, the moments they have enjoyed and the ones they have dreaded. They need to understand what makes them tick so that when it does come time to choose something, that choice is a well-informed one.

Why? Because I’m a firm believer that if you do more of what you love, if you invest your time in the things that matter the most to you, if you delve deep into the subjects you are both interested in and good at, you will find success in life.

High school students need to focus on identifying their VIPS and then use this information to launch their college search. Along the way, they can seek out job shadow opportunities so they can try something on before committing to it. They can identify individuals to interview so they can learn more about a professional field and what it takes to do well at it. And in the long run, they are essentially “branding” themselves by focusing on the things they love to do and creating opportunities to do more of them.

Your college experience should be the first leg on what is a life-long journey of being someone who is really awesome at what you do. Tap into the things you are good at, the things you love to do and the things that are most important to you and that journey will be even better.

If you would like some assistance with your college search, contact me today for a free 60-minute consultation.

Here’s what other families like yours are saying about how Dobler College Consulting made a difference for them.


 

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Why the Name of a College Really Doesn’t Matter

King's College

King’s College

Last week I was having breakfast with a friend of mine and the conversation rolled around to his two daughters, one of whom is a corporate mergers attorney and the other a nurse practitioner. Both of them are doing incredibly well in their chosen fields and are happy in their lives.

And yet, neither of them attended a highly ranked, brand-name college as undergraduates. Instead, they both went to small, liberal arts colleges where they stood out as academically talented students, took advantage of research opportunities and also benefitted from the mentorship of faculty.

Over the last several weeks, I’ve talked about the value of liberal arts colleges. Here’s two of the posts in case you missed them:

Why You Should be Considering Liberal Arts Colleges

The Benefits of Applying to Liberal Arts Colleges

And since the media and too many parents obsess over brand name colleges as the only path to success in life, I knew I had to share this story.

Both daughters chose small, liberal arts colleges in Pennsylvania – Messiah College and King’s College – and both received outstanding scholarships, one a full-ride, due to their academic strengths. With top grades and strong SAT scores, applicants to schools like this are highly coveted and will receive significant scholarships which can often cut a price-tag in half.

Because of their hard work and willingness to seek out opportunities, both daughters were recognized by professors and invited to participate in research. They were able to work closely with their professors and one of them was able to work through organic chemistry in her first semester because her professor was willing to spend the time with her until it clicked. Both were mentored by professors throughout their four years and were introduced to colleagues at other schools which helped lay the framework for summer research opportunities and graduate school – one to Yale and the other to law school at Boston University.

So while both of them ended up at highly ranked, brand name colleges, they did it when it mattered most – their terminal degree that helped place them in their professional field.

I have no doubt that if either or both of them started out at Boston University or Yale, their lives would have been drastically different. At these two schools, they wouldn’t have stood out among the pack of overachieving students who come from around the world. They wouldn’t have been mentored as closely and the research opportunities would not have been as plentiful. And they most definitely would not have saved the money they did.

But yet, they’re incredibly successful. They’re happy. They’re respected by their peers and doing challenging and rewarding work in their fields.

And it all started at two small liberal arts colleges who most people don’t even know exist. I only wish that more students and families would be as open-minded in their college search as my friend and his daughters were.

Regardless of where you go to college, it’s all about how you use the experience to launch you into your life. If you can save money, create impactful experiences by working closely with your professors and find success in your life, does the name of the school you attend really matter?

If you would like some assistance with your college search, contact me today for a free 60-minute consultation.

Here’s what other families like yours are saying about how Dobler College Consulting made a difference for them.


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How to Make the Most of Your Summer

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Chemistry Lab at Susquehanna University

As we near the end of the school year, one question that often comes up is how high school students can best use their summer in preparation for the college application process. And while the answers can vary based on what grade the student is in and what his or her particular interests are, one option I like to advocate for with rising high school seniors is career exploration.

Maybe it comes in the form of a job or an internship. Maybe you don’t necessarily need the paycheck, and you can secure a long-term volunteer experience or multiple job shadows. Either way, I love the idea of students starting to explore where their interests and skills may lead them.

You’re good with numbers but you have no idea what it would be like to be an accountant or an actuary. Maybe you don’t even know what an actuary does.

You’ve thought about physical therapy and athletic training but you really don’t know the difference between the two.

Perhaps, as a young child, you were always building things with your LEGOs but you’re not sure if that interest would translate into a career as a mechanical engineer, a civil engineer or a construction manager.

Maybe you’ve had a lot of ideas about what you might do with your life but you’ve never taken the time to tell anyone, let alone spend some time researching them for yourself.

If any of this sounds familiar, then your upcoming summer is a great way to get to work figuring out just who you are going to be and why it’s going to matter.

How do you get started? First, start talking to your parents, friends, a favorite teacher, or your school counselor about what you’re interested in. Talk to them about some of these ideas you’ve had and that you’d like to explore them further. Find out who they know who might do something similar to what you’re describing. Then, ask to be introduced to this person even if it’s just over the phone. When you do connect with this person, be prepared to talk about what you’re interested in and that you would appreciate learning more about what they do, how they got around to doing it and what they would recommend to a young, interested person like you.

This is called an informational interview. Essentially, you are interviewing the person and trying to learn as much as you can. Once you’ve done that, asking about a job shadow or how you can get involved or learn more is an easy next step. And while they may not have room to hire you, if you can volunteer some hours or shadow a couple times, you may just find out a whole lot more about just how interested you are in this particular field.

And that’s what career exploration is all about – seeking out information, contacts and experience to help inform your opinion about what you want to do with college and your life.

If you would like some assistance with your college search, contact me today for a free 60-minute consultation.

Here’s what other families like yours are saying about how Dobler College Consulting made a difference for them.


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