Extracurricular Activities

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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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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? What about relevant academic electives that your high school offers? Have you taken advantage of them along the way?

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 ability to pursue the major you have checked off on your application. 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 as you head into your senior year.

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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Putting Your Summer to Good Use

Putting Your Summer to Good UseRecently at my house, questions like, “Where are we going on vacation this year?” and, “Is there anything new we want to try with the boys over the summer?” have taken over our dinnertime conversations. Luckily, we have already answered both questions when we scheduled a trip to take our two boys, Brady (7) and Kasen (3), to Disney in late August.

This is new for us because typically we spend our summers traveling back and forth to the beach in Rhode Island. But this year, we wanted to do something different. So, Disney, here we come!

Now, for many of you who are looking ahead to college applications, the questions are the same. What are you going to do this summer? How are you going to spend your time? Is there anything new or different that you’d like to try?

My advice to you, as it is with all of my students, is to first make sure that you have some fun over the summer. You all work way too hard during the school year not to. Whether it’s going to the beach, camping out, or hitting every amusement park you can, go have fun.

Then, and only then, should you start thinking about how to best use your summer in preparation for college. Many admissions counselors love to see students who have invested their time in activities which support their interest in a major or subject area of interest so the key with this idea is that you should try to identify enrichment opportunities that do just that.

Experiences don’t have to be extreme – local opportunities can be found and expenses can, and should be, limited. Here are a few ideas:

Get a Summer Job: Whether it is a job you have held previously, a job you’ve wanted to have or an entrepreneurial adventure such as lawn mowing, landscaping, house sitting, etc., a job can earn you extra money and valuable skills such as time management, leadership, communication and commitment.

Take a Summer Class: Whether it’s a high school class, a community college course, or something offered by a local four year university, admissions counselors love to see students pursue their academic interests to the fullest.

Volunteer: Volunteering for a cause that matters to you can be a great way to use your time and show a college how you have made a difference in your community. Investigate your town’s historical society, reach out to a local animal shelter or food pantry and check out local foundations registered as museums or historical sites – see if there are projects ongoing that you might be able to help with.

Shadow: While you might think you’re interested in becoming an engineer, a stockbroker, a veterinarian or a teacher, do you really understand what it takes to not only get into each field, but to be someone who does it well? Spend some time shadowing local professionals who do what you want to do and learn everything you can.

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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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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