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College List Tip: What Are Your Chances?

Note: I will be conducting a college admissions workshop titled, “Navigating The College Admissions Journey” in several towns this fall. Please scroll to the bottom of this post to learn more.

When you are looking at colleges and trying to decide where you will apply, how you will apply and whether or not you will even get in, one of the first things you will want to do is to try to get a handle on your chances of getting in.

To figure this out, head over to the College Board website and pull up schools you are looking at. Go to the Applying tab and then look at the SAT & ACT score averages. These are good numbers to understand because they represent the score ranges for the most recently admitted and enrolled class. When you are on this page, enter your own scores and you will see whether you fall in the top 25% (very strong candidate), the middle 50% (a likely candidate) or the lowest 25% (chances aren’t so hot). For example, let’s look at Trinity College. Trinity is a great liberal arts college here in Hartford which admits about 30% of applicants. You will see that applicants really need to score 700 or better on all three sections of the SAT in order to be considered a top candidate while scores in the 600’s would place an applicant in the middle of the pack. Now, Trinity is also a test-optional school which does not require SAT or ACT scores if you submit two SAT Subject Tests.

However, on their website Trinity says very clearly that submitting one of the SAT, ACT or two SAT Subject Tests satisfies the minimum requirement. If you want to be a top candidate, don’t hem and haw over it. Go beyond the minimum requirements. In this case, SAT scores and two SAT Subject Tests may enhance your chances.

This is just one way (out of so many) to research schools on your college list so that you can make an informed decision about your applications. Take the time to understand the information that is out there so that you feel good about where you are applying and increase your odds of receiving an acceptance.

If you have any questions about college lists and how to gauge your chances of admission, please use the comment box below. You can also email me directly at eric@doblercollegeconsulting.com – I would love to hear from you!

Learn More at Dobler College Consulting’s College Admissions Workshops

For parents who can make it, I will be holding a workshop titled, “Navigating The College Admissions Journey” on the following dates through each towns’ Adult & Continuing Education Program:

Sept 27: Newtown 6:30-8:30PM 
Oct 1: Wolcott 7-9PM
Oct 10: Cheshire 7-9PM
Oct 16: Meriden 6-8PM
Oct 23: Wallingford 6-8PM
Nov 5: North Haven 6-8PM

The workshop shares strategies to help your son or daughter navigate the college admissions process while eliminating mistakes that tend to reduce their chances of admission. Topics include college lists, online resources, essays, interviews, campus visits and what you need to know about making college more affordable.

All workshop participants will receive information handouts and will be eligible for discounts off of any of my college counseling services.

To register for a class, contact the Adult Education Office for the town you reside in.

Don’t live in one of these towns? You can easily get in touch with me to set up a free 60-minute consultation to help address your pressing college admissions-related questions and issues.


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What It Means To Be A Private College Counselor

I recently joined a BNI here in Cheshire and I have to say that I’m pretty excited to be a part of such an awesome organization. Essentially, BNI is a group of local professionals who help each other network and market their services. At the start of each meeting you get to do a 30 second commercial – a chance to tell the group what you do so that they can understand your business and refer people to you who may be in need of your services.

It’s a great organization built on some outstanding people who just really want to help. I don’t say all of this because I want you to go out and join BNI (though you really should if you own your own business and want to be a better networker). But, I do say it because I’ve realized very quickly that what I do as a college consultant is not very commonplace.

I mean, let’s be honest here, I don’t fit into a category that’s easily recognized or understood like an attorney, an accountant or a financial planner. And for the people who do understand what I do, the assumption is often that my services are for rich folks only.

So, I figured it was time to talk a little more about what I do, why it matters and just how affordable I am.

Who am I? I’m a private college counselor

I work for families in need of good, sound college planning and advice. Some families hire me because their son or daughter is not getting enough guidance from their high school counselor. Others hire me for a second opinion or just to fill in the gaps. For twelve years, I traveled around New England and read thousands of applications making admit and deny decisions for both the University of New Haven and Central Connecticut State University. Whether I’m providing insight into how the admissions process works, helping a student to prepare for an interview or providing feedback on an essay, I draw on these experiences every day.

What do I do? I counsel students and their families on college planning

I offer college planning services that families can choose from and everything I do can be customized to fit each student’s individual needs. Some students will only need my help for one or two meetings while others may hire me to help them for upwards of a year and a half. Regardless of their need, I put together an affordable plan to meet their needs.

When do I do it? I make myself available during non-traditional hours

I work evenings, Saturdays and Sundays. Why? Because that’s when it’s convenient for students and their families. I also do a lot of work by email, phone and Skype for students who live out of state or even outside the country.

Where do I do it? I come to you

I always like to meet potential clients in person first. It gives them a chance to feel me out and ask questions before choosing to hire me. A local coffee shop like Starbucks is always a great choice! After that, it’s up to the client. We can work at their house, the local library or the coffee shop we first met at.

Why do I do it? Because families need the help

Due to large caseloads and other issues that require their attention, public high school counselors can rarely spend more than an hour of time per student each year on college planning. I hardly think that’s fair to any student who is trying to make one of the biggest and most complicated decisions of his or her life.

What does it cost? Not nearly as much as you would think 

My most comprehensive package, called “The Senior,” typically begins in the junior year and costs $2200, or about half of the national average. The timeline can span up to 18 months and includes nearly a dozen 60-90 minute meetings in addition to unlimited phone and email contact. I also offer small budget packages (anywhere from $700 to $1500) or a menu of services families can choose from at a rate of $125/hour.

Considering that the average four-year cost for college including tuition, room, and board can be anywhere from $80,000 to $160,000. Doesn’t it make sense to invest a small fraction of that amount to ensure that your son or daughter’s college experience is a successful one?

If you would like to know more about what I can do to help you, please use the comment box below – I would love to hear from you! You can also email me directly at eric@doblercollegeconsulting.com.


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Learning From This Year’s March Madness

This past Thursday marked an annual frenzy of information in the college world. The Ivy League schools and several other highly selective institutions released their admissions decisions online. Anxious students around the country met their fate on Thursday night with tears of laughter d joy for some and, for others, tears of sorrow, regret and disappointment. The Choice, the college admissions and financial blog hosted by the New York Times, wrote a piece about this unveiling early on Thursday morning. While the blog entry is brief, the number of comments and responses are very telling of just how this process has weighed on the hearts, minds and souls of the high school graduating class of 2012.

If you are the parent of a high school student hoping to gain admission to one of these elite schools next year or sometime in the near future, take a few minutes to read through the comments. Feel the joy and the pain and then, when the conversations about college happen in your house, think about what’s really important to your son or daughter and how they will find success in their lives.

An Ivy League education can be an excellent one. But, so can an education at any school if you have a plan on how you are going to make the most of it. Lynn O’Shaughnessy of the College Solution wrote a great piece on this very idea back in January. I tend to agree with her – you can have an awesome experience wherever you go, but you have to be willing to go out and make it happen. Even at an Ivy League school.

If you have any thoughts you would like to share on your admissions experience this year or the adventure you are about to embark on, please use the comment box below. You can also email me directly at eric@doblercollegeconsulting.com.

Eric Dobler is the president and founder of Dobler College Consulting. Follow him on Twitter.

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Is Freshmen Year Of High School Too Soon To Prepare For College?

This past Wednesday, the NY Times ran a piece titled, College Hunt Starts Earlier at New Breed of Schools. The article focused on how some for-profit schools in New York City were starting a formal college search process for their freshmen. At one school, 7th and 8th graders are even allowed to take a three day trip to visit college campuses. While I believe there are true benefits of starting your college planning prior to junior year, I think taking 7th and 8th graders on campus tours is pushing it a bit.

But when is the right time to begin your search? Do you really need to start when your son or daughter starts their freshman year? With the pressure of getting into a good school getting more intense each year – can you afford to wait until junior year?

Well, here’s my take on it.

I don’t believe in pushing a formal college search process on freshmen because, in my experience, it’s too soon and they’re just not ready for it. There will be plenty of time to be stressed out when they are juniors and seniors and the college process is really moving along full-steam.

Having said that, I strongly believe that freshmen should at least be thinking about the things that are most important to them. What subject areas are they more interested in and why? What activities might they want to get involved in? Are they interested in playing for one of their school’s sports teams? Is there a hobby that they spend a lot of time with? It’s this exploration and fleshing out of who they are and what’s important to them that can be so helpful not only with leading into conversations about college, but for their overall development as well.

For freshmen, and even sophomores, creating opportunities to get them thinking about who they are and what’s important to them is what’s important. This way, as they prepare for each successive year in high school, they can make informed decisions about which classes to take and how much time and energy to devote to their sports and activities. And that’s the key here: making informed decisions. When nearly 50% of students fail to graduate from the schools they enrolled in as freshmen, knowing who they are and what they want out of their college experience is such a valuable exercise.

So, if you have a freshman or sophomore, try just having some conversations about school, get them talking about the things that are important to them and try to have some fun with it. Lastly, let it be okay for the craziness of the college search to be put on hold until they are entering junior year. You will be glad you did.

If you have any questions on what you should or should not be doing at any stage of the college search process, you can reach Eric at eric@doblercollegeconsulting.com.

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Still Trying to Write That Essay?

If you haven’t applied early and find yourself still trying to wrap up your essay, here are a few tips that might help you finish strong…or at least in one piece!

Tip #1: Tell them what they don’t already know
When I read applications, I always saved the essay for last with the thought in mind, “okay, now what else can I learn about this student before I make a decision?” Don’t tell the reader what they already know about you. Tell them what they should know about you. Respond to the question at hand and let them know why you matter, what kind of a difference you will make, that you can reflect on your life and who you are as a person and that you know how to use that understanding to make progress towards your goals and dreams.

Tip #2: Understand what the question is asking
We’re making basic connections here, just like we try to do in effective communication. Before you start writing, really look at what the question is asking for and prepare yourself to respond appropriately. When you are thinking about your answer, ask yourself repeatedly if you are answering what the question is asking for.

Tip #3: How well you write matters
When your reader is trying to form an opinion of you, you don’t want them distracted from your message simply because your grammar was poor, or because your writing lacked flow or that you simply wrote 500 words without considering proper punctuation. The bottom line: don’t write like you text. Your essay needs to tell a story and it also needs to show your reader that you have strong writing skills.

Tip #4: Easy on the pronouns
If you write, “I this” and “I that” and “I this” and “I that”, it starts to sound like a broken record while becoming painfully apparent that your writing skills leave something to be desired.  Starting off each sentence with a repetitive pronoun is writing with empty language. Be creative and separate your sentences if you have to – what does each one tell you and how does it partner up with sentences that precede it as well as the ones that follow it?

Tip#5: Keep it positive
It’s okay to want to talk about an obstacle or challenge you have faced in your life, but don’t dwell on telling the story of this challenge – talk about what you learned from it, why you are a better person for having gone through it and how you’ve grown it. Nobody is going to learn anything of value from you if you fill your essay with complaints, excuses and self-loathing.

Tip #6: Hear your voice
One thing I have all my students do is read their essay out loud to themselves. Why do this? To see if your voice and your personality are really on that piece of paper. Are you in that essay or does it just sound like it could be anyone else? When you read it yourself and actually hear your words, you are more inclined to identify areas where your writing doesn’t flow well or where you start to stray from your message.

At the end of the day, the essay is just one piece of the process and, according to the 2011 edition of NACAC’s State of College Admission report, it is only the fifth most important thing colleges are looking at after grades in your college preparatory courses, the strength of your curriculum, standardized tests and cumulative GPA. So, get after it and keep it in perspective.

Good luck and please post any comments or questions about your essay below. You can also email me directly at eric@doblercollegeconsulting.com.


Eric Dobler is the president and founder of Dobler College Consulting. Follow him on Twitter.

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