Dobler College Consulting

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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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Making Sure Your Teacher Recommendations Matter

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.

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.
  2. How you ask detailed questions that indicate your level of interest in the subject at hand.
  3. 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.
  4. How because of the impeccable 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 Just Submitting an Application isn’t Enough

Frequently I find students applying to too many colleges. They think there’s some underlying mathematical equation that says the more colleges you apply to, the greater your chances are of being admitted to one.

Unfortunately, it’s just not true. Especially with the more selective schools that sit atop the various sets of rankings and which are releasing decisions this week. If your profile as an applicant doesn’t match up well with what the school looks for, or if the school tends to reject 90% of their applicants, no matter how many schools you apply to, admission isn’t likely.

So, what are students to do?

The first thing I tell my students to do is to get beyond this ever-growing obsession with brand names. In my experience, what you do with your college experience is more predictive of your future success in life. It’s not the name of the school or how highly they were ranked on US News or Forbes. In fact, in most high profile professional fields a bachelor’s degree doesn’t get you very far. You’re going to need a master’s degree, a lot of experience, or more, and that’s where you should be more focused on name brand recognition.

It’s about where you finish, not where you start.

The second thing I tell them is to build a college list that is focused more on quality than quantity.

I tell them they should be applying to colleges they love and where they feel they will be happy and successful. I tell them to apply to colleges they can afford. I tell them to apply to colleges where they will find everything they are looking for, where they will grow as people and where they will be successful.

Sometimes this means the list of colleges is five, sometimes it’s eight.

Regardless of the number, what matters most is how much effort a student puts into connecting with these schools prior to applying. When a student has matched themselves up well with a college and then does the right things along the way such as visiting, sitting in on a class, interviewing with an admission counselor, meeting with a professor or coach, attending special visit programs or an open house – when some combination of these factors happens, the student learns so much more about how and why the school fits them and admission becomes much more likely.

Why?

Because demonstrated interest matters more now than it ever has. Colleges are in the business of enrolling students and as the number of applications far exceeds the number of seats in an incoming class, it becomes critical for colleges to identify the students who are most likely to enroll. There are so many ways to demonstrate your interest to a school while you attempt to learn everything you can about it. Apply to too many schools and you may not be able to demonstrate your interest let alone put together quality applications that stand out in a crowded field.

Opportunity can and will present itself in many forms and, you know what? There is opportunity everywhere, not just at an Ivy League school. So, no matter where you go to college, remember that it’s about investing yourself in the experience and making the most of this time to launch yourself into your life.

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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