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Things To Pay Attention To In Your College Search

As juniors are starting their college research and considering where they might apply next year, here are some questions they should be keeping in mind:

Are you familiar with your high school’s profile?

Your high school’s profile contains information regarding course leveling, ranking policy, grading, weighting (or not) for grades and averages for standardized test scores. The profile is important because it shows an admission counselor not only WHAT is offered at your high school but HOW well you have maximized the curriculum.

Does a college know that you’re interested?

It won’t matter everywhere (think Ivy League schools for instance), but a lot of colleges are tracking just how much you interact with them before you apply. In order to make sure your application isn’t the first time a college hears from you, here’ a few ideas on how to best demonstrate your interest:

  • Visit campus and attend an information session
  • Email or call the admission counselor for your high school with any questions
  • Connect with the college through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram
  • Talk to admission counselors at college fairs
  • Complete an interview if the college offers one

Do you know why you’re interested in the college?

One of the challenges I see seniors struggling with is the “Why Us” essays that a lot of the most selective colleges are asking applicants to complete. You can help yourself out now by identifying what it is about the school that gets you excited. Internships, interesting courses, amazing professors in your major, unique learning opportunities, exciting activities and sports, a new facility in your program – whatever it is, make a note of it so you can talk about it later.

How can you stand out?

Most colleges allow students to submit supplemental information whether it’s an art supplement, a graded paper, a writing portfolio, a science project or a resume.  These opportunities allow students to demonstrate their unique talents and interests to help them stand out in the application process. With nothing but time ahead of you, take stock of what you do in your spare time, how you can demonstrate it, and consider how it may affect your applications. Even as a pre-med student, your talent in drawing or painting may be of interest to colleges.

At the end of the day, it’s up to you to make the most of your college search. Start now so you can take your time researching and visiting colleges and, of course, doing awesome in school. Above all else, colleges want to see that you’ve done very well in the most challenging courses available to you. Without strong grades, not a whole lot else matters.

If you would like some assistance with your college search, we can talk by phone, email or Skype.

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

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What Is Demonstrated Interest?

What Is Demonstrated InterestAs I talk to students about the college application process, one of the concepts I try to get them to understand is how they can create opportunities to demonstrate their interest to colleges.

Demonstrated interest is a relatively new phenomenon in college admissions over the last several years. While some schools won’t care how many times a student has shown his or her interest, a lot of schools will.

These schools aren’t the ones you will find at the top of the U.S. News or Forbes rankings – but then again, you should already know what to think about these lists – because those schools don’t have to care. Being that highly ranked and being that selective in their application review means they don’t have to do anything and kids will still fall all over themselves to apply each year.

Other schools, however, are very interested in just how interested their applicants are in them and will often say so right on their websites. For one, they are trying to find students who are eager to attend rather than ones who are just eager to apply. A student who wants to attend is likely a student who will enroll and do well resulting in a student who graduates in four years. In the college world, this is called yield. And when an admissions staff can more accurately predict their yield, they can enroll a class that meets the institution’s goals. This is also why the elite schools who crowd the top of the rankings don’t have to put any value on demonstrated interest – their yield is already incredibly high.

So, just how do you demonstrate your interest?

1. Social Media.

Colleges are on social media just waiting for you. Go find them on Facebook, Twitter & YouTube. Like them, tweet them and follow them. Some colleges are tracking this information very closely.

2. Campus Tours

One of the best ways to get a feel for a college is to visit campus. But when a college asks you to RSVP and then to sign in when you get there, you can bet they’re tracking you. When you’re there, get business cards from everyone you meet and follow up with a thank you or a brief note saying what you enjoyed most about your visit.

3. Interview

One way to really make the most of your college visits is to schedule an interview ahead of time. It’s a great way for you to get your specific questions answered but it’s also a great way to make an impression with an admission counselor. Ideally, you want to interview with the counselor who will be reviewing your application. ALWAYS follow up with a thank you email.

4. Applying Early

You have choices in the way you apply to a college and applying early is one way to show a college how interested you are. By applying early, you show that you’ve done your homework and researched the college well before senior year arrived. You show that you’re a more serious applicant and, when combined with a visit, an interview and connections through social media, a college is more likely to feel that you are an applicant who wants to do more than just apply.

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 consultation. Also be sure to snag your free copy of the Top Ten Tips For Navigating The College Admissions Journey.

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How To Survive The College Application Process

Dobler College ConsultingWhenever I meet with new families, the one thing I try to reassure them about is that they can and will survive the college application process. They don’t always believe me at first but as I work with their son or daughter and the pieces begin falling in place, the doubts start to melt away and a funny thing happens. They actually start enjoying the process.

And you should enjoy this process. You won’t enjoy all of it, but the college search and application process can be a lot of fun if you do your homework, stay organized and remember that your son or daughter will get accepted to a college somewhere.

Having said that, here are several suggestions to help you along the way:

1. Utilize ALL Available Resources

Start with the college’s website and learn everything you can about admission requirements, application dates, costs and special attributes. Then check out reviews on sites like Unigo and College Prowler. If the college is visiting your school or attending a local college fair, go and meet them so you can ask questions and potentially meet the person who may be reviewing your application. If your high school hosts a financial aid night, you should be there. Turn over every rock!

2. Make The Most Of Your High School Courses

How well a student has done academically is the single most important factor in gaining admission. Studies done by NACAC have supported it year after year. Students need to max out their coursework in high school by taking the most challenging course load they can handle and then doing well in those classes.

3. Know What You Want

Choose a school because you like it, not because your friend likes it or because your Uncle Harry thinks you should go there. Understanding your VIPS and defining what you are looking for is critical to identifying the right schools for you. Once you know more about what you want and what schools look for in their applicants, you should be able to develop a list that meets your priorities, gives you a great chance of being admitted and also receiving some money.

4. Look Beyond The Price Tag

Don’t assume a school is out of reach, financially, until you have used their net price calculator and thoroughly reviewed how much they discount tuition. The average tuition discount at private schools is now just over 50%.

5. Make Your Essay Shine

Your essay is your chance to get beyond mere grades and test scores and put YOU and why you matter into the admissions equation. Be willing to devote the time and effort that is necessary – writing is a process.

6. Pay Attention To Details

Double check everything on your application to ensure you answered all the questions thoroughly and have accurately reflected YOU on the application. Also meet all deadlines. In fact, be early just in case you do miss something. There is nothing fun about running up against the midnight deadline to submit your application and then losing power to a freak storm.

7. Manage Your Time Well

That last point in #6 is so important I’m going to mention it again. Plan ahead and get things done EARLY. This is critical to your application and all the supporting materials especially in how you manage your time with your essay and securing your recommendations.

8. Get Them On Your Side

Don’t be afraid to contact the admissions counselor for your area for information or for an interview if you really want to go to a school but are worried about your chances. I’ve honored requests for interviews time and time again because the student wanted to talk about their interest and what he or she could do to improve their chances of gaining admission. In fact, some schools track how many times you contact them and show interest in their school. In some cases, it may affect the outcome of your application.

Want some help navigating the college admissions journey? Give me a call today at 203.525.4096 or email me at to schedule a FREE 60-minute consultation to discuss your college counseling needs.

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Seven Tips For A Successful Interview

Dobler College ConsultingThis post originally made its debut on my blog last March, but as we’ve been talking college visits for the last couple weeks, it’s only natural that the conversation include interviews:

Last week I wrote about how important it is for students to be the ones to make the call when an interview needs to be scheduled. Today, I wanted to follow up on that idea with some tips on how to have a successful interview. In my career, I have interviewed hundreds of students – sometimes because I wanted to know more about them and sometimes because they wanted to come in and talk about their application and tell their story. I loved it when students sought me out first; when they wanted to make that concerted effort to demonstrate their interest and their potential.

From these experiences, here are seven tips to help you make the most of campus interviews:

  1. Arrive at campus at least 10-15 minutes early and make sure you have contact information for your interviewer with you. This way, if you get lost, get stuck in traffic or cannot find parking right away, and are going to be late, you want to make sure they know WHY you are late. Don’t want to worry about this at all? Get to campus 30 minutes early and then you have some time to walk around on your own and collect your thoughts prior to the interview.
  2. Have a game plan for what you want to accomplish. Yes, the interviewer is going to want to know certain things about you, but you also need to take an active role in the interview – what do you want the interviewer to know about you, your accomplishments, interests, and goals? Use your answers to provide specific examples the help demonstrate your brand.
  3. Bring a list of questions with you in a small notebook so that you are prepared for when the interviewer asks if you have any questions for them. The interviewer will be impressed that you were prepared and it will show them that you are taking your college application process seriously. Just don’t ask basic questions that can be found on the school’s website. Focus on what’s important to you in your college search.
  4. Try as hard as you can to be yourself. You don’t need to interview in a suit but do dress appropriately for the interview so that you are comfortable. The last thing you want to experience is a distraction from your ill-advised choice of clothing. Outside of your appearance, you also want to provide the school with a look at the authentic you and you’re not going to accomplish that if you are pretending to be someone you are not.
  5. Speak clearly and listen attentively – you’ve earned this opportunity, now go in and own it. Talk to the interviewer, not the floor, walls or ceiling. Likewise, listen closely to the questions you are being asked and, if you need to, take a moment to think about how you want to respond. You want to make sure you are answering the questions but also sticking to your game plan of what you want them to know about you.
  6. Don’t be afraid to follow up an answer to a question with a question of your own. For example, if you are asked about continuing a sport or activity, once you’ve answered, ask the interviewer about what they did in high school and if they were able to continue it in college. Did they find this difficult and what were the specific challenges?
  7. Always thank the interviewer for his or her time. Get their business card or (contact information if it is a student interviewer) and send them a thank you email or card within 24 hours of your visit. Keep it simple and to the point but take the opportunity to restate your desire to attend their college. Admissions counselors LOVE thank you notes!

If you have any questions about how to make the most of college interviews, please use the comment section below.

You can also email me directly at for help on preparing for interviews and to complete a mock interview before you go in for the real thing.


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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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