Branding

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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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Choosing Your Extracurricular Activities: It’s About Quality, Not Quantity

Quality Over QuantityThe other day I was working with a student who was talking about all of the clubs and activities he was involved in. After we had written everything down, the list was at 15! Fifteen different clubs and activities and when I asked him why he was involved in so many different things, he had a simple answer.

Because he thought he had to.

A situation like this is typical. High school students feel they have to be involved in so many different things so that they stand out in the college application process. The truth is, when you’re piling all these sports, activities, community service, club meetings, theatre performances, etc. onto your plate, you’re investing your time and energy for the wrong reasons. You’re spread thin and end up showing a college that you don’t have a commitment to anything.

Instead, students should be focused on making the most of their activities outside of class by doing things they enjoy and are good at. This is called building a brand.

What’s a brand you ask? Well, think about what you are interested in; how much do you really know about what it will take to do well in this program and, ultimately, in the profession? If you want to major in nursing, have you volunteered at a hospital? Have you considered taking a class to earn your EMT license? For mechanical engineering, have you been involved in robotics? Maybe looked at local community colleges to take a CAD course? For design, have you interned or worked part-time with a local designer? Do you have a portfolio? Journalism majors, have you written anything that has been published either on a blog or through the local newspaper?

The point here is that you can invest your time blindly and hope that a random combination of activities will stand out. You can operate on assumptions and hope that they will lead you to something. You can be ignorant of the fact that colleges are trying to build dynamic classes which are comprised of interesting students with unique talents, skillsets and backgrounds.

I think it makes more sense to dedicate time to building your brand by doing several things:

1.) Complete a job-shadow with someone who does what you want to do

2.) Volunteer your time to a cause or organization related to your field

3.) Find a part-time job that gets you in the door somewhere where you will learn more about your major or your intended field

4.) Join or create a club at your high school that allows you to participate in activities related to your intended major

5.) Join professional organizations or associations related to your field. They often have programs for high school students and opportunities to be mentored by a current professional.

6.) Check with your high school to identify any “school to career” programs or internships.

If I was still reading applications for an admissions office, I can tell you that a student who had compiled a handful of in-depth experiences that were related to their major would have stood out to me much more than the student who had gotten involved in a bunch of activities that had no connection to one another.

As I tell my students all the time, it’s about quality, not quantity.

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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Make Sure Your Teacher Recommendations Matter

Marist College

One of the most overlooked aspects of the college application process is teacher recommendations. Very typically I hear students say they’ll just pick the teacher who they really like or the teacher who’s known for writing great recommendations though they may have just had that teacher for an elective.

And while it’s nice to have teachers who like you and who are known for writing great recommendations, that doesn’t necessarily make them the right person to request a recommendation from.

When college admission counselors are reviewing your application, they are trying to gauge your college readiness and your potential to contribute to the campus community. So while it’s nice to have someone say that you’re a nice kid who does a good job of being a model student while also playing on the baseball team, it’s even better to have them talk about:

  1. How you struggled in their class in the beginning of the year but by mid-year had established yourself as a confident and engaged student in their classroom.
  1. How you ask detailed questions that indicate your level of interest in the subject at hand.
  1. How you’ve spent extra time outside of class helping a classmate who was struggling.
  1. How you’ve spent time with the teacher outside of the class talking about how your interests connect to what you are learning in class and how you were hungry to learn more through other resources, trips, websites, etc.
  1. How because of the incredibly high quality of your work and your dedicated interest in the subject at hand, they feel 110% confident that you will succeed in college and go on to do great things in the field.

Teacher recommendations should be solely focused on who you are in the classroom, how you have grown and established yourself as a learner and how you have overcome struggles and learned how to master difficult material. They are the best people to offer these opinions because they already observe and evaluate you on a daily basis. So, before you just pick the teacher who everyone likes or the teacher who you say hello to every morning before first period, think about the teachers who can offer a qualified opinion of your academic abilities. Then go have a good, honest conversation with them about what you’ve learned in their class, how they’ve challenged you and how it all relates to your interests in college.

Chances are, something good will come of it.

As for the other stuff, leave that to your school counselor. It’s their job to provide a big picture perspective on you which includes everything else you do outside the classroom.

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 College Applicants Should Brand Themselves

Why Students Should Brand ThemselvesAccording to the American Marketing Association (AMA), branding is defined as a “Name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers.”

In other words, your brand is what makes you stand out against the competition.

And while I don’t necessarily like to use the word competition when we talk about the college admissions process, students are very much competing against one another for acceptance at the most selective schools in the country. Branding yourself in the process can very often play a significant role in whether or not your application is given that extra consideration.

When I was in admissions, I was always looking for evidence that a student truly had a grasp of what it would take to do well in their chosen field. I worked very closely with business majors and nursing majors and beyond challenging courses and strong test scores, students who had compiled some experiences through job shadows, informational interviews, research projects, part-time jobs or internships, clubs, activities and advanced coursework  which supported their interest most definitely had my attention. To me, they were vested in their future. They were taking the steps to learn more about their interests and their field of choice.

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. Along the way you will also demonstrate to others what you are all about and what matters most to you. You will be demonstrating your brand as a person.

So, here’s how you get started.

Stop doing the things you think other people expect you to do and start doing things you are good at, the things you love to do and the things that are most important to you:

  1. Take the honors or AP option in the subjects at which you excel the most and where the subject is closely aligned to your major of interest.
  1. Reach out to someone in the local community who does what you think you might want to do in your future and ask to interview them or, even better, shadow them for part of a day.
  1. Volunteer your time to a cause or organization related to your interests.
  1. Join a club at your school and figure out a way to add something of value to it and the people involved.
  1. Find a part-time job that gets you in the door somewhere where you will learn more about your major or your intended field.

It’s never too late to start building a brand towards your future. Not only will you better yourself for it, but admission counselors will get a much deeper impression of who you are and why you should be part of their new class. Do that and you may just separate yourself a bit in the application process.

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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Finding The Right Fit

College consultant, Dobler College Consulting

This fall, I’m doing something different with my blog to spice it up a bit. I’ve invited several admission counselors from around the country to contribute posts about topics they feel high school students and their families should be paying more attention to as they go through the college search and application process. As much as I like to share tips and advice, why not get it straight from the horse’s mouth? 

Today’s post is the second in this series and it’s by Grant De Roo, Associate Director of Admissions from Elon University in Elon, North Carolina: 

As much as it pains me to make this comparison, the college search and application process can, at times, feel like speed-dating. You spend a relatively small amount of time with each prospect (college/university) in the hopes of getting to know a school’s “personality” and ultimately find a match (the “right fit”). It’s an embarrassing parallel, I know, but it highlights an important concept in the college search process: each college or university does indeed have its own personality, its own quirks and traits, the collection of which gives you a better idea of whether or not this particular institution is a good fit for you.

As such, it’s important to construct an application for a particular college or university that reflects that personality and suggests that you would be a good fit for the school. Fortunately, the application for any college or university provides ample opportunity for an applicant to do so. Certain extracurricular commitments are going to be better suited to certain schools’ personalities than others. Schools with a specific emphasis on community service (e.g. Jesuit schools) might look more closely at service completed throughout high school while other schools that place particular value on leadership roles such as my own institution, Elon University, might pay more attention to the leadership roles that you have taken on within your organizations. All this is to say that in much the same way that a resume and cover letter can (and should) be tailored to meet the needs of a particular job, so too should an application be designed to reflect the values or distinguishing characteristics of a college. And there is perhaps no better platform for you to tailor your application for a college’s personality than the essay you write for the application.

Even in the age of centralized application systems such as the Common App and the Universal College App, a school’s essays (or supplemental essays) provide applicants with the opportunity to show through their own words why they would be a good fit at a given college or university. It’s important because every college wants to enroll students who will fit well within the culture of the institution. And establishing “good fit” does not mean conforming to the personality of the institution – rather, it means that you genuinely feel like you belong there. When that happens, you’re more likely to be successful; something each college wants to ensure.

So as you set out to submit your applications – whether it’s 1 or 12 – I encourage you to design your application and your essay to reflect the individuality and the personality of the school(s) to which you’re applying. It will help you create a more competitive application and will give you a better chance of finding that golden ideal in the college search process: the right fit.

Grant De Roo is an Associate Director of Admissions at Elon University. A native of Exeter, New Hampshire, he now works for his alma mater and works with students applying to Elon from Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island.

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 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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