College Admissions

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Writing a Great College Essay

Introducing the 2015-2016 Common Application Essay PromptsNow that the school year is winding down to its final days, rising high school seniors should be shifting their focus to college essays. Sure, senior year is still almost three months away but, if a student wants to get ahead of the craziness that ensues, their goal should be to start their essay now so that it’s done before the end of the summer.

First, let me introduce you to the prompts. Then I’ll tell you why I don’t think they’re anything you should be stressing over:

1. Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

2. The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?

3. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?

4. Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma – anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.

5. Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.

6. Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?

7. Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.

With the exception of the last prompt, you will see that each one asks for a specific moment, situation, place, event or story that reveals something important about yourself. Please note the emphasis on the word, “important.”

I didn’t say incredible.

I didn’t say amazing.

And I definitely didn’t say Earth-shattering.

Because let’s be honest – at 16 and 17 years old, very few people have had incredible, amazing and Earth-shattering experiences in their lives. So take the pressure off yourself to write something that has never been written before. Instead, focus on a story you can tell that helps an admission counselor learn something new about you. And while you may not be able to come up with something for each essay prompt, I’m sure you can come up with a story that relates to at least one of them.

In fact, I think you should first focus on all the possible things you could say that show your values, interests and any personal attributes that truly make you who you are. If you can talk about any life lessons you’ve learned or explain any growth you’ve experienced after working through a challenge or obstacle, that would be a great idea too. Don’t worry about whether the ideas are stinkers or the seeds of a truly great essay right now. Just brainstorm and get some ideas on paper. Talk to your parents, friends and relatives. Let them help you brainstorm – chances are, they may think of something interesting about you that you, yourself, didn’t think of immediately.

Writing is a process that involves steps and time. If you take the time to go through the steps, the finished product will be so much better for it!

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

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


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What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?

As a child, you probably had any number of answers to the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” But, as a teenager and a college-bound student, the answer is not always so clear. You may think you have to decide on your major before you even look at colleges. But did you know that according to the National Center for Education, about 80% of college students change their major at least once during their college career? And, “undecided” is one of the most popular majors for incoming college freshmen. In fact, there are jobs and careers that haven’t yet been invented but will be by the time you graduate college. So, the real question is, “What do you need to know before you embark on your post-secondary path?”

The ancient Greek aphorism, “Know Thyself”, holds true for students of all ages considering their future. Research has shown a significant correlation between happiness and success. While not everyone is passionate about something, everyone is unique. The earlier you learn what makes you tick, the earlier you will be able to make informed decisions and plan a clear path to your future.

Enter career assessments and career exploration. Career assessments can measure a person’s personality, abilities, interests, strengths, skills and values. They can be taken at various stages of a person’s life: as a high school or college student or later in life for those seeking a career change. While personalities seldom change, people’s interests, skills and values can develop and change as they grow and have real-life experiences.

As college advisors, we strongly recommend that high school students take a series of career assessments as a sophomore or junior in high school as they are the starting place to begin the college exploration and planning process. Once students learn about the occupations matching their results, they can begin the process of career and college major exploration. Many students discover occupations or college majors they’ve never heard of. Even if a student is certain they want to be an engineer, for example, they may discover that there are other occupations that hold more interest and utilize the same abilities, skills and knowledge that engineers possess. While all paths may lead to Rome, many paths can lead to a student’s first choice career interest.

A high school student’s next step in career exploration is to research their various occupational interests to determine employment prospects, wage and salary outlooks, skills and values necessary to perform these jobs, as well as the education and certifications required for these occupations. When a student has narrowed down the list to their top occupations and corresponding post-secondary paths, they have an academic direction for their the college search.

We believe that using career assessments and exploration to determine your areas of interest rather than to find a particular career or major is key to the college search. Students tend to enjoy this process of self-discovery and are often relieved and less stressed about their college planning. Parents appreciate learning about the opportunities that are available to their children, and we are happy to see our students become one step closer to finding their best “fit” colleges.

If you would like some assistance with your college search process, contact Lynne today for a free consultation.

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

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If You’re a Parent of a College Applicant, Please Follow These Rules

dobler college consulting, college applicationWhen I first meet with new families, I make sure they know it’s the student who needs to be in the driver’s seat if they expect the college application process to go well. Some parents are relieved to hear this while I can tell that others aren’t so sure what to think.

They’ve been so involved with everything their son or daughter has been doing since birth that the idea of not being actively involved is, frankly, quite terrifying.

As a parent myself, I get it. But what I also get is that kids have to take responsibility for their college search. They have to figure out what matters most to them and which colleges (note the plural form here) fit them the best.

So while this is the drum I beat along the way, I also make sure parents know it’s okay to be involved. It’s okay to talk about college and it’s okay to have feelings about how the process is going.

It’s just not okay to do any of the following:

  1. Calling the admissions office

Parents should not call the admissions office to ask questions about their daughter’s application. Nor should they call to share their view on an unfavorable grade. Or to try and explain why their son only volunteered so many hours at the local soup kitchen. Parents can and should call a college if they have questions on financial aid or anything to do with costs, but that’s where it should end.

Admissions counselors want to hear from the applicants, not the parents. Having sat on their side of the desk for a number of years, I agree. Show me an applicant who has questions or is willing to have a conversation and I’ll show you someone who is demonstrating maturity, responsibility and accountability.

  1. Saying “we’ll figure it out” when it comes to paying for college

Unless parents are sure they can pay for a school through some combination of means, saying otherwise never ends well.

Never.

There’s just too much emotion, effort and energy invested in this process to allow students to believe in a falsehood like this. For many parents, yes, it may be hard to talk about finances and affordability. None of us want to say “no” or “we can’t”. But, as hard as these things are to say, it will be so much better for their son or daughter to understand what is and what is not realistic up front rather than after months of having fallen in love with a college that will never be affordable.

  1. Making changes to their college essay

Depending on the kid, parents can sometimes be a great sounding board for essay ideas. But at the end of the day, this is their essay and it should sound like a 17-year old wrote it. That means it won’t be perfect.

Admissions counselors aren’t sitting there questioning every last word choice. Instead, they are trying to learn more about who the student is through the story he or she is telling. Yes, an essay should be well written but in no way does that mean it should sound like a doctoral dissertation.

  1. Making this about you

All too frequently I hear from parents that someone they know said their kid did THIS or was accepted THERE or was being recruited by THEM. Many of them feel the need to compete. I try to remind them that this process is not a competition. It’s never about bragging rights. It’s not a prize to be won. What it is about is helping their child connect with a college where they will grow while creating a path into a happy and successful life.

If you would like some assistance with your college search process, contact me today for a free 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 Applications are Read

All too often I hear students talk about their grades and test scores as they hope to gain admission to one of the super-selective colleges. And while strong grades and outstanding test scores are absolutely important aspects of the process, they are far from the only ones. Admissions counselors across the country will read many more applications of standout students than they are capable of admitting. They are looking for specific factors, many of which can change from year to year based on institutional priorities such as needing a particular instrument in the band, filling seats in a new program or trying to expand geographic reach. When the dust has settled, many applicants who have worked hard to achieve A’s, who have scored well on the SAT or ACT, and who have received honors or awards for their achievement will be left out.

Is it fair? No, it isn’t. But, then again, very little about the college admissions process is fair. Rick Clark, Director of Undergraduate Admission at Georgia Tech, recently wrote an excellent piece about this very idea. If you haven’t read it yet, you should:

Ad(mission): It’s Not Fair

Today, I wanted to share some insight as to how your applications are read. This protocol will vary by some degree from school to school and from counselor to counselor, but understanding how each part of an application is looked at can be of value to the current crop of rising seniors who will be sending out applications in just a few months.

  1. The Application Itself

Information such as citizenship, ethnicity, family dynamics, and parents’ educational background are all of interest. These details set the table for who you are as an applicant and where you come from. High school information is also included but many admissions counselors will rely on your transcript and school profile to understand just how competitive you are.

When it comes to activities, the question now moves to what you will add to the campus community. Admissions counselors are looking for commitment, impact, initiative and passion. The bottom line: an activity that spans a lot of time throughout grades 9, 10, 11, and 12 says a whole lore more about what’s important to you and how you will benefit the college than one that was done one time, on a Saturday, during 9th grade.

  1. The Transcript and High School Profile

Your school profile is incredibly important to admissions counselors. Not only does it tell them the percentage of graduates who go on to four-year colleges, but it also sheds light on your high school’s curriculum.  How many AP courses are offered? What about honors courses or dual enrollment? Do you have an International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum? Admissions counselors want to know how well you challenged yourself based on what you had available to you. So while your transcript shows them what you did, it’s the school profile that shows them what you could have done.

  1. Recommendations

Colleges will typically require recommendations from the school counselor and at least one teacher. Depending on the school, a second teacher recommendation may be welcome as may be a recommendation from a coach, mentor or employer. Heck, some colleges even allow you to have a parent or your best friend submit a recommendation on your behalf. Regardless of the lineup, recommendations should be carefully considered. Admissions counselors are looking for key descriptions of you in action. Therefore you should think about the teachers who can provide evidence of your intellectual curiosity, your energy and enthusiasm for learning, your grit and resolve for when you had to work through some challenging material, and your humor and kindness towards others.

  1. The College Essay

I’ll get into essays in more detail as we head into the summer, but the more personal you can get with your essay, the more it will help you stand out. Admissions counselors don’t want essays that are academic or formulaic. Instead they want something organic; something that helps them become more interested in you as a person, especially at the most selective colleges where A averages and near perfect test scores are the norm. It’s a crowded pool and your essay is one of the very opportunities you have to show who you are as an individual.

  1. Demonstrated Interest

Admissions counselors are trying to admit a class of students who are most likely to enroll. This is called yield and it’s an important term in the college admissions world. Predict yield too high and you don’t have enough classes or residential beds for the incoming class. Predict too low and the college is running in the red. Neither is a scenario that colleges want to do deal with. The problem is that as the average number of applications students submit each year increases, it becomes harder for schools to know who their “real” applicants are.

And that’s why you demonstrate your interest. Because you want admission counselors to notice not only your academic qualifications, but your true interest in attending their college. Not all colleges track interest, but if you are applying to one who does, you want to make every effort to connect with them along the way.

There are other aspects of the process that can be taken into account, but the bottom line here is that you cannot just rely on your grades and test scores alone to help you gain admission.

If you would like some assistance with your college search process, contact me today for a free 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 including calculus? What about relevant academic electives that your high school offers? Have you taken advantage of them along the way to supplement your core courses?

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 abilities. 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.

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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