Setting Goals

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A College Freshman Offers Her Advice To This Year’s Seniors

Advice From A College Freshman

I recently caught up with one of my former students, Meagan, who is now a freshman at CCSU’s Honors Program. We got to talking about her college search and the ups and downs of it. At one point I asked her what she would have done differently if she had the opportunity to go back and do it all over again knowing what she knows now.

That question led to a few others that I think would be incredibly helpful for this year’s senior class.

The following are some of the questions I asked Meagan with her answers.

Q1: What was the one thing about the college application process that was a lot harder than you thought it would be?

One of the hardest things about the college application process was writing and editing the essay. It’s hard enough trying not to second-guess yourself the whole time, let alone choose a topic to write about that speaks to you. I got really hung up in trying to pick a topic that wasn’t cliché, or hadn’t been done before, when in reality, no matter what topic you choose, some version of it has been done before. It’s just all about how you present it. Editing took a lot longer than I thought as well, since I’m so used to writing one or two drafts and then being done. But when it was over, it was the greatest feeling being able to upload it online and hit send knowing I’d never have to look at it again.

Q2: What was the biggest surprise?

The biggest surprise for me was how quickly deadlines came up. Although I was able to manage my time decently, things got crazy that first half of the year due to sports, school, and life in general. Sometimes it felt like time was never on my side. After every due date had come and I looked at when the next one was, I would think, “I have plenty of time to do that.” And then I’d look at the calendar later on and realize I only had a week to prepare whole supplementary essays.

Q3: If you could do it all over again, is there anything you would do differently?

If I could do it again I wouldn’t talk to my friends so much about their essays or their applications. When I listened to them tell me what they were doing, I would question myself and wonder if they had better ideas. Then I would go back to essays and psych myself out thinking it was horrible and incomparable to my friends’ essays. I just put way too much stake in what they had to say, when I should have just been focusing on what I needed to say.

Q4: What advice would you give to this year’s crop of seniors?

I would tell this year’s seniors to 1.) Chill out, 2.) Manage your time wisely because it WILL come back to bite you, 3.) Focus on yourself and not what your friends are doing, and 4.) Be realistic.

Time management during the application process saves a lot of stress and unnecessary anxiety. Keeping yourself sane during the process is important if you want to truly give colleges an accurate representation of you.

Although you value your friends’ opinions when you need them most, I strongly feel that this rule does not apply during the college application process. If you’re always asking different people things about essays, or where you should and should not apply, you’re going to get a million different answers and opinions that will leave you more confused and unsure than when you first asked. College application season is exciting because you’re thinking about the future, but what matters most is your voice and where you want to be – not your friends. It also saves you a lot of stress to not get wrapped up in their college stress too.

Being realistic will prove to be invaluable in the future. Take everything into account: cost, location, distance, and your grades. College is expensive, there’s no getting around it. It’s difficult to find a school you love without breaking the bank, but knowing you’ll graduate without $50,000-$100,000 of debt is a great feeling. Location is also important because if you want to be able to visit more than once or twice during the year, you might not want to move to Florida or out to California because flights are expensive and need to be considered. (However, if you’re not planning on visiting often, I highly encourage going to a place with nice weather.) Being realistic about what you did in high school is also important. I have seen many friends be blinded by how much they love a school and completely forget that there is a possibility of rejection. Seeing that heartbreak is not fun for any of the parties involved.

I feel like seniors freak themselves out over the college application process way too much (I know I did). No matter what happens, things will fall into place. I saw my friends crumble over applications to schools they desperately wanted to get into but when it comes down to it, you’re going to end up where you need to be even if it isn’t exactly what you first envisioned.

If you want some help and guidance on your college search and application process, contact me today to set up an appointment for a free consultation. 

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How To Survive The College Application Process

Dobler College ConsultingWhenever I meet with new families, the one thing I try to reassure them about is that they can and will survive the college application process. They don’t always believe me at first but as I work with their son or daughter and the pieces begin falling in place, the doubts start to melt away and a funny thing happens. They actually start enjoying the process.

And you should enjoy this process. You won’t enjoy all of it, but the college search and application process can be a lot of fun if you do your homework, stay organized and remember that your son or daughter will get accepted to a college somewhere.

Having said that, here are several suggestions to help you along the way:

1. Utilize ALL Available Resources

Start with the college’s website and learn everything you can about admission requirements, application dates, costs and special attributes. Then check out reviews on sites like Unigo and College Prowler. If the college is visiting your school or attending a local college fair, go and meet them so you can ask questions and potentially meet the person who may be reviewing your application. If your high school hosts a financial aid night, you should be there. Turn over every rock!

2. Make The Most Of Your High School Courses

How well a student has done academically is the single most important factor in gaining admission. Studies done by NACAC have supported it year after year. Students need to max out their coursework in high school by taking the most challenging course load they can handle and then doing well in those classes.

3. Know What You Want

Choose a school because you like it, not because your friend likes it or because your Uncle Harry thinks you should go there. Understanding your VIPS and defining what you are looking for is critical to identifying the right schools for you. Once you know more about what you want and what schools look for in their applicants, you should be able to develop a list that meets your priorities, gives you a great chance of being admitted and also receiving some money.

4. Look Beyond The Price Tag

Don’t assume a school is out of reach, financially, until you have used their net price calculator and thoroughly reviewed how much they discount tuition. The average tuition discount at private schools is now just over 50%.

5. Make Your Essay Shine

Your essay is your chance to get beyond mere grades and test scores and put YOU and why you matter into the admissions equation. Be willing to devote the time and effort that is necessary – writing is a process.

6. Pay Attention To Details

Double check everything on your application to ensure you answered all the questions thoroughly and have accurately reflected YOU on the application. Also meet all deadlines. In fact, be early just in case you do miss something. There is nothing fun about running up against the midnight deadline to submit your application and then losing power to a freak storm.

7. Manage Your Time Well

That last point in #6 is so important I’m going to mention it again. Plan ahead and get things done EARLY. This is critical to your application and all the supporting materials especially in how you manage your time with your essay and securing your recommendations.

8. Get Them On Your Side

Don’t be afraid to contact the admissions counselor for your area for information or for an interview if you really want to go to a school but are worried about your chances. I’ve honored requests for interviews time and time again because the student wanted to talk about their interest and what he or she could do to improve their chances of gaining admission. In fact, some schools track how many times you contact them and show interest in their school. In some cases, it may affect the outcome of your application.

Want some help navigating the college admissions journey? Give me a call today at 203.525.4096 or email me at to schedule a FREE 60-minute consultation to discuss your college counseling needs.

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5 Tips To Make Sure Your Senior Year Matters

If you’re a high school junior, you’re just starting the second half of your school year. You just wrapped up midterm exams and hopefully they went really well. Strong grades in competitive courses are one of the most important factors when admission counselors are reviewing your application. In fact, for the umpteenth year in a row, admission counselors around the country have identified them as THE most important factor according to NACAC’s State of College Admissions report.

Which leads me to my post for today.

Knowing that your courses and your grades really matter in the college admissions process, it is so important that you make the most of the courses your high school offers. As you prepare to work with your counselor on your senior year schedule, keep the following five tips in mind:

1. Continue taking courses in the five core subjects: English, mathematics, science, social studies and foreign languages. If you’ve already taken three years of a foreign language and would rather not go into a fourth, make sure you double up somewhere else

2. If you’re taking a couple honors courses this year, work on getting into an AP course. If you’re already in an AP course or two, keep that trend going. Now is not the time to take it easy.

3. Consider your eventual major and enroll in courses that compliment your brand. Graphic design major? Sign up for graphic arts. Nursing major? Sign up for AP biology or anatomy and physiology. Engineering major? You need to be in calculus. Pick courses that will get you started on the path towards your major.

4. Get the full credit for your courses. In other words, if you’re taking an AP class, sign up for the AP test and do your best to do well on it. A score of four or better can earn you transfer credit at most colleges. If you’re enrolled in an Early College Experience (ECE) course, make sure you sign up for the college credits. Strategies like this not only ensure you make the most of the academic opportunities available to you, but transfer credit can also help reduce the cost of college in the long run.

5. If you live close enough to a community college, check out the courses they offer which may be related to your major or even just your interests. Currently, one course at a Connecticut community college will cost you $482, or just over 1/3 of the cost of one course at a state university like UConn or 1/8 of the cost at a private school like Fairfield University.

However, none of this really matters if you don’t put in the time and effort to do well. Take good notes, ask questions in class, study the material and actually learn it.  Your grades will reflect the effort and you will be so much more prepared for college and your professional life that follows.

Have something to say? Use the comment box below or email me at If you think this makes a lot of sense, consider sharing it with someone you know.

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Want to Play Sports in College? Take Control of the Recruiting Process

SportsToday’s blog post was written by my friend, Daniel Fitzgerald. Dan is an attorney at Brody Wilkinson PC right here in Southport, Connecticut. A former college athlete, Dan also publishes the blog Connecticut Sports Law which, if you are interested in the world of sports, is a great read.

I asked Dan if he would talk about the recruiting process for student athletes – something he knows a lot about and here’s what he had to say:

My recruiting experience was rather unremarkable and probably similar to many of those who were interested in playing Division II and III athletics upon graduation from high school. After playing organized football for seven years, I simply wanted to keep playing. My college search was simple – I looked for a good school where I would have the opportunity to play football. My approach to recruiting was similarly simple – I responded to letters I received from schools and applied to a few others that I thought might be a good fit.

In hindsight, my approach was too reactive, when I should have been proactive. With school back in session, here are some ideas on handling the recruiting process:

1. Draft Your Team

The recruiting process is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. For the coaches that are recruiting you, it is routine. To account for the vast difference in experience between you and a coach, you need to surround yourself with a team of individuals who can help navigate the process.

Parents can be good resources, especially if they have been through the process before. If your parents have not been through the process, they can still be a great resource, but consider seeking out other parents from your school or area who have been through the process with their children. Seek out your coaches and athletic director. Coaches from other sports at your school might also have experience with the recruiting process.

The team will look different for each student-athlete.  It doesn’t matter who makes up your team, but be sure that you can consult with people who can provide guidance throughout the recruiting process. Remember, you’ve never done this before.

2. Make Your Plan and Share It

No matter the level of collegiate athletics, you should have a plan for navigating the process. If you are a top Division I athlete, the schools may come to you. If so, do your best to determine what you’re looking for (academics, athletics, extra-curricular activities, other important criteria to you) and match the schools that pursue you with your objectives. Otherwise, you might lean towards the last school to contact you, or the last school you visited, while losing sight of your objectives.

For most student-athletes who seek to play Division II and III athletics, a more proactive approach may be needed. You need not limit yourself to schools that contact you. Research the schools that you might be interested in and contact them. Make lists of the schools that interest you, or those that are interested in you. Find out if any of your coaches, athletic director, teachers, parents or friends’ parents have any contacts at those schools. If so, they may be able to provide valuable information and introductions.

Once you have a plan, share it with everyone: your recruiting team; all of your coaches (who may not be aware that you want to compete at the collegiate level); your teachers; your family and friends. You’ll be surprised how many connections you’ll find and how many helpful suggestions you’ll receive when a team of people are on the lookout for opportunities.

3. Sell Yourself

During my recruitment, I preferred one school over the others, but I was stuck on that school’s wait-list. The schools at which I was accepted were all fine options, but none stood above the others. I simply needed more choices.

I visited a school that had an excellent football program and solid academics, but hadn’t sent me a single letter.  At an open house I introduced myself to the football coaches.  As I later discovered, the head coach knew my athletic director, who helped me assess the opportunity, and helped the coach assess my ability to play football for that school.  I applied, was accepted, and was invited to play on the football team. Once the first day of practice began, it didn’t matter that I wasn’t recruited.  I had the opportunity to compete with everyone else.

The lesson is that even if a school is not recruiting you, that shouldn’t stop you from contacting that school.  Explore your options.  Send out more game films.  Ask your coach to contact schools on your behalf.  If you think you have the ability to be a scholarship athlete, there is no reason that you can’t take a proactive approach to your recruitment.  The same applies to non-scholarship athletics.  At the non-scholarship level, it doesn’t matter if you are recruited or you recruit yourself.

In recruiting, the most important thing is not that the right school finds you, but that you find the right school and the right athletic program for you.  Taking control of this process should be the first step in planning your athletic future.

If you have questions about the recruiting process for student athletes, use the comment box below. You can also contact Dan directly at 203.319.7154 or You can also check out Dan’s blog, Connecticut Sports Law at

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ED, EA, Regular, Rolling – Which Way Should You Apply?

Elizabethtown College

Elizabethtown College

With the launch of the Common Application on August 1st, the 2012-2013 college application season is upon us. If you’re not familiar with the Common Application (more commonly referred to as the Common App), here’s a nice little post from that will get you caught up.

Last week I talked about the different ways of applying to colleges. Your level of interest and your qualifications are what will help you decide which one is the way to go. For now, let’s talk about the differences and how they affect you.

Early Decision, also known as ED, is where you choose to apply anywhere from November 1st to December 1st, and can expect to hear a decision by December 15th. Some schools will offer two rounds of early decision where ED I applicants hear in December and ED II applicants, who will apply typically around the same time as regular decision candidates, will expect to hear in February.

Early decision can be a great idea if you know, without a doubt, that you are in love with everything a school has to offer, you know you can afford to attend that school and you are ready, willing and able to commit to that school. You’re all in with early decision and the risk level is significant if you haven’t done your homework ahead of time.

Some things to consider with early decision:

You’re allowed to apply early to ONE school only and, if accepted, that decision is binding. That’s it. There’s no backing out of an early decision acceptance. This is why your love for the school must be true – you won’t have a financial aid award yet and you will have to contact the other schools at which you submitted regular applications and notify them that you are withdrawing those applications immediately. Some students will point to higher acceptance rates to justify their choice to apply early – for this past year, the regular acceptance rate at Duke was 11% while the early acceptance rate was 25%; for Johns Hopkins the rates were 16% and 38% respectively. While the acceptance rates are typically higher, the talent pool is also that much more competitive. Just spend a few minutes on College Confidential and search for “early decision” to tap into the mania.

Early Action, or EA, is where applicants complete applications in November or December and expect to hear an answer by the start of the New Year. Early action applicants can be accepted, denied or deferred to the regular decision round of applications. Unlike early decision, early action applicants are not bound to their acceptance and have the choice to commit by the May 1st deadline or attend another school altogether.

There are variations of early action policies so it is important to check with each school first. Some schools are considered single choice early action meaning that they will not allow applicants to apply to any other schools early. Other schools are considered unrestricted and allow applicants to apply early decision or early action to any number of schools.

Early action is great because you have the benefit of applying early and showing a school that you are a very interested applicant while also keeping your options open.

Regular Decision is the process by which you apply by each college’s published deadline which is usually around January 1st. Once the application and materials have been sent, applicants can expect to hear a decision by April 1st. Regular decision applicants can be admitted, denied or placed on a waiting list. More on waiting lists another day.

Regular decision is the vanilla of the application world. It’s plain and simple and doesn’t come with any surprises. Well, that’s not entirely true. Students who choose not to pay attention to what a school is looking for in its applicants can often be met with very disappointing surprises. 

Rolling Admission is where students are admitted on an ongoing, or rolling, basis. The schools begin making decisions in the early fall and continue until they have met their requirements for the new freshman class. Rolling admission provides students with a long period of time in which they can apply – often several months. Colleges may accept or reject an applicant right away, or they may hold off for a period time in order to compare him or her to other applicants. Depending on how strong or weak of an applicant they are, students may also find themselves on the waiting list.

There are several pros to rolling admission. Applicants can apply as soon as the application season is open and, therefore, demonstrate their interest to a school. Remember, colleges are looking for students who are more likely to enroll. Applying early on is a great way to show that you are that student. Because decisions are made on an ongoing basis, the earlier you apply, the earlier you can expect to hear a decision. It can feel great to get that first acceptance out of the way and may just help you enjoy the holidays with your family and friends that much more.

For the procrastinators, rolling admission is great because you can apply when you’re ready. I’m not saying you should work at a snail’s pace, but let’s be honest – some of you just do. Maybe you want to wait for first semester grades before you apply because you know you have some strong grades coming. Maybe your SAT scores were low and you wanted to take them again in December or January. Maybe you just happened to come upon a school mid-year that you hadn’t thought of before and now want to apply – for any of these reasons and more, schools with rolling admissions grant you the opportunity to apply later in your senior year.

Now, for every pro of rolling admission there are also cons. Just because decisions are rendered on a rolling basis, doesn’t mean everyone will hear right away. If your application isn’t the strongest, you could end up waiting several weeks or more before you hear back. This can get very frustrating when your friends hear back from the same school and you’re stuck waiting and wondering. Schools with rolling admission will start awarding aid on a first-come, first-serve basis. Funds are limited so if you apply too late, your financial aid award may not be very helpful. Housing could also be an issue if you apply too late.

As with anything in the college application process, do your homework early on. Check out the admissions webpage for any schools you are interested to find out which types of applications they offer.

If you have any questions or comments about the types of applications available to you and which one might be the best way for you to go, please use the comment box below – I would love to hear from you!

You can also email me directly at

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