Campus Tours

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A Conversation About College Part I

Last week, at Sacred Heart Church in Southbury, Connecticut, I conducted a workshop titled, “A Conversation About College.” There were about 35 people in attendance – mostly parents of high school sophomores and juniors –and the event was designed to be an engaging discussion about how to successfully navigate the college application process. The families who came to the event were great! They weren’t afraid to ask their pressing questions which covered just about every aspect of the college admissions process. Starting today, I will be sharing a take-away transcript of their most pressing questions from the evening’s discussion with you here in my blog.

Q: If all the pieces of the puzzle are in place, except for SAT scores, will most schools overlook a low score?

A: To be honest, this is a tough question to answer because whether or not a school is going to overlook a low score depends on several things:

1.) It depends on which schools your son or daughter is making an application to and what their average SAT scores are. The more competitive the school, the less forgiving they are going to be. What you want to know is how low the score is when compared to the college’s average score for admission.

2.) It also depends on the other pieces of the application. How strong are the grades? How good is the essay? What do the recommendations say? Has he or she done an interview? Is there enough here for an admissions counselor to say, yes, let’s overlook the scores – this is a very subjective situation and will be met with different responses depending on the college.

3.) One thing to consider is whether or not a college even requires SAT scores. There are a couple hundred schools in the country which are test optional. You can find a complete list of them at A student can apply to any of these schools and choose not to submit test scores for admission. Some of the schools may want test scores at a later time for course placement so you would submit the scores later on, but for admission they would not be required. You may get lucky and find out that a school your child is interested in is already on this list. If not, he or she may want to go through the list and consider some of the schools.

4.) In the end, with a situation like this that is so gray, the best thing a student can do is contact an admissions officer and ask for their take on it. Go right to the source for the most accurate information. Definitely a situation where an interview could be very helpful.

Q: When is the right time to submit an application?

A: The right time to submit an application is before the deadline. Depending on whether your son or daughter will be applying Early Decision, Early Action or Regular Admission, there will be different deadlines and you will want to pay close attention to them. On the other hand, some schools will be on Rolling Admission which means you can apply whenever you want (though you will typically want to apply sometime in late November or early December). For the application deadlines for any school, you can go to their admissions office webpage or a website like the College Board or College Navigator.

Q: How can I find a reputable college that will accept a “C/B-” student?

Honestly, this is something that will take a little research and a little time because the search won’t just be about the grades as much as it will be about several other things including intended major, location, cost, size, type of student body, public or private – there are so many factors that go into prioritizing a college search and these are just a few of them. Once you have pinned down some of these items, you can then do a more thorough review of potential schools by reading reviews about them online, conducting college visits and attending college fairs. A C/B- student isn’t a terrible thing by any means, but it does mean that other parts of the application like test scores, the essay and recommendations may be leaned on even more so to help make a decision. Another thing to keep in mind is whether or not your son or daughter’s grades have been trending in an upward or downward direction. If they are trending up, a lot of schools will look favorably upon their academic record. If they are trending downward, then your list of potential schools will have to be very realistic.

Q: How can I motivate my child to enjoy looking at colleges?

This is really a question that is dependent on which grade your child is in and where you guys are in the college search process. For a younger student, such as a freshman or sophomore, your best bet is to check out a local school and at least attempt to introduce the idea of college. For a student who is already in their junior year, it may be best to just sit down and talk with them and see if you can get them to tell you how they feel about the college search and visiting college campuses. Are they nervous? Scared? Intimidated? Do they feel like they are under a lot of pressure? A conversation like this can be very valuable towards getting them pointed in the right direction. Here is an article from the NY Times about a dad who found some ways to introduce his 9th grader to college visits. I really liked his approach and hope you find some value in it.

If you have any thoughts you would like to share on “A Conversation About College,” please use the comment box below – I would love to hear from you! You can also email me directly at

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

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Why Your Major Matters….Sometimes

Why Your Major Matters SometimesI’m writing you from upstate New York this weekend. My wife’s grandparents live in Rochester and we decided to take a long weekend to visit them. Following my own advice, I took some time out of our vacation weekend to visit two colleges. Since we were right in Rochester, I chose to take a tour of Rochester Institute of Technology on Saturday and then, on our way back home to Connecticut, we plan on stopping off at Ithaca College. My wife is alumna of Ithaca, so it will be nice to see it through her eyes.

While touring RIT on Saturday, I was reminded of an article I saw recently that talked about how it really doesn’t matter what you choose for a major. In most cases, unless you need pre-professional training to be a nurse, accountant, speech language pathologist or an engineer, this is true. Just look around you and talk to the people you know – I will bet that most of them don’t even hold a degree that is directly tied to the work they do. And this brings me to what I want to talk about today. Sometimes, your major really does matter and a recent article in the U.S. News offers several reasons why a degree in a technical field such as computer science, software programming, or engineering really can matter.

According to the article, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects over a million new technical positions will be created by 2020. As our world becomes increasingly more driven by technology, data and information sharing, the need for talented individuals who understand how to design, produce, manage and secure these technologies will also increase significantly. In this case, majors do matter. Programs like computer science, information technology, software engineering, computer engineering, and information security can help point you in the direction of an exciting and growing career path. Don’t get me wrong – a degree alone is not going to deliver you to the promise land where you dream job is just waiting for you – having experiences along the way that support your brand as an aspiring technology professional while also showcasing your skills and abilities is what’s going to help you attain the jobs that you want the most.

In other words, you need to get out of the classroom and into a professional environment. You need to be able to show what you can do, not just what you learned. In the world of college, this is called experiential learning and it includes options such as volunteering, research, internships and co-ops. In case you don’t already know, a co-op is a full-time, paid work experience that can offer a student the chance to develop their skills and abilities while making valuable industry contacts.

RIT is a great example of a school where experiential learning is at the core of everything they do, especially in their co-op program, where over 3500 students obtain placements each year. A lot of these students are enrolled in programs similar to the ones mentioned in the article. As early as sophomore year, they are going out into the real world and obtaining valuable work experience and industry contacts. Some of them will complete multiple co-ops and, coupled with a degree that relates to critical needs in the world, these students will find success in their professional lives.

If you have any thoughts you would like to share on experiential learning and how majors matter (or don’t matter), please use the comment box below. You can also email me directly at

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

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Why You Shouldn’t Love Or Hate Your Tour Guide

I spent the better part of this weekend touring some Rhode Island schools. Of course, I failed to follow my own advice to students about pacing themselves with visits, but I only had two days to play with. So, in just under 36 hours, I visited The University of Rhode IslandBryant University and Providence College.

While each of these schools is distinctly different from the other, some particular differences came up during the course of two of the tours that really had nothing to do with the schools themselves but, rather, with the tour guides. Now, I’m a big believer in doing college visits before you decide on where you are going to enroll. I know it’s not always easy to visit, but if you have the opportunity to visit the schools you are applying to, you absolutely should. While the goal is for you to get a feel for the campus, the people, the programs and what it means to be a student at each particular school, the tour guide can often have a significant impact on how you ultimately end up qualifying your feelings about the school. This concept was in full force over the course of my Rhode Island weekend.

At Bryant University, which is known for its outstanding business program and international focus, my tour group was being led by a sophomore tour guide. The group was roughly a 50-50 split of juniors and seniors. For the juniors, this was their first visit; the first impression. For the seniors, well, they were trying to decide if this was going to be home for the next four years. While the day was absolutely beautiful and the Bryant students were out and about all over campus, the tour guide was quickly having a negative effect on the families in attendance. She wasn’t doing a terrible job by any means, but quite often she seemed very unsure of herself. The problem was that she was trying to quote statistics and facts along the way but appeared to be guessing. Having run a tour program myself for several years, it was obvious that she was not well-versed in a lot of university information. I watched the facial expressions of a few families during the tour and it was obvious that they were disappointed. I heard one student utter quietly to his mother that, “this tour guide doesn’t know much.” You could see their disappointment and feel their frustration.

At Providence, a Catholic institution that focuses on educating the whole student and service to the community, I was part of a rather large tour group. Immediately it became clear that our tour guide, a very engaging, young man who reeked of cool confidence, was born for the position. He had the tour group eating out of his hand within the first couple minutes and you could see how much he affected their impression of the school. He didn’t share a lot of statistics and, in fact, I don’t think he shared any. What he did do, however, was talk about experiences; the friends he had made over the past three years, the courses he took, the instructors who had helped shape his experience, the activities he was involved in and his mission to win an intramural championship in Ultimate Frisbee. They take their intramural sports very seriously at Providence.

So, here you had two really great schools with some outstanding programs. But the experiences were night and day based on how the tour guides conducted the tours. One tour guide struggled to remember facts while the other shared his personal experiences. Along the way, our Bryant tour got smaller and smaller – families were leaving without even saying anything to the tour guide. While they may have had an appointment to keep elsewhere, I couldn’t help but get the feeling that Bryant just got crossed off their list. On the other hand the Providence families couldn’t do enough to get closer to our tour guide. These observations reminded me of just how important a role the tour guide can play when you visit a campus. Whether they do an amazing job or a terrible one, be careful not to pass judgment too quickly. Fall in love with a school because you love it, not because your tour guide loves it. Conversely, allow yourself to let go of a school because you’re not feeling the school rather than the tour guide.

How can you help yourself in this situation? Get to campus early and walk around before your tour. Pick up a campus newspaper and read through it. After the tour, if you have time, see if you can find a couple students on campus and take a few minutes to ask them about their experiences, why they chose that school and what they would change about it, if anything. Sit in the student center and people watch – what do you see and hear all around you? Could you see yourself here? Do you feel comfortable? Do you feel welcome?

Basically, the best thing you can do is take the time to qualify your impression of the school by tapping into multiple resources. Form your own opinions and let the tour guide be one small piece of the equation.

If you have any thoughts you would like to share on tour guides you’ve loved or hated, please use the comment box below. You can also email me directly at

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

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