collegesearchstrategiesblackcap400

 

College Search Strategies
Portola Valley, CA
650-207-0305 | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

College Search Strategies Blog

Essays... where do I begin?

Summertime-- and I'm supposed to write essays. Wait! That's not how the song goes!! But it is how summer seems to go for the rising high school seniors of today. College applications are looming and getting an early start on the college essay can make the "application season" easier. Where to begin? 

The Personal Statement, or college essay, is the opportunity--really!--to tell admissions readers and decision makers something about you that cannot be found anywhere else on your application. You've heard again and again not to write about your sport, but when that is where you have spent a lot of your high school career, how can you avoid it? Find a moment in that sport or choir rehearsal or summer vacation with your family, when you faced a challenge of some kind, or failed to meet your expectations, or challenged the rules of etiquette. And something other than you failed to win the game. How about when you failed to swing at Strike 3 because you were thinking about who was on the airplane flying overhead? Or you swam your best time, but forgot to wait for the relay touch before you had taken off from the starting block? Or when you knew your music so well, and you began to sing after taking a quick breath only to realize you came in too early? Well, you get it, right? You can also write about the club or foundation you founded and why it means so much to you.

Read more ...

Confluence of Students, Parents, School Counselor, applications, and me, the Independent Counselor

This was a talk I gave recently with my colleague, Wendie Lubic "the College Lady", at the annual conference for HECA, our national organization for independent counselors. We thought it would be interesting, since we were meeting in Portland, Oregon, to think about all the parties involved in the college search process in terms of confluence. Ideally, all parties get along and work together to guide the student toward choosing and matriculating to the college of his/her choice. But it doesn't always go that way, does it? 

Each party has a different stake, and different goals and roles, along the way--and the student can just get carried along and mixed up in the process without feeling a sense of control. So, how does my role as an independent college counselor, or independent educational consultant (IEC) play out? 

First it is important to look at the roles of each stakeholder: 

Read more ...

Seniors are graduating! Juniors, you're up next!!

It's been a fun week talking and reflecting with the seniors I've worked with over the past year or two. They are older, more mature, reflective and grateful for the journey. Many have said they are surprised how much they actually ENJOYED the application process, in hind sight. It was a time to learn about who they were and who they wanted to become. A journey of where they had been, where they wanted to go, and a process of figuring out how they'd like to get there. I am grateful to each and every one of them for allowing me to be on the journey with them. It has been an honor and a privilege. 

Now, it's time for the Juniors to step up and begin in earnest their college process. Some have visited colleges while others have not. Some have had challenging junior years, while others have tried new things and new approaches. Some have done really well on the standardized tests, while others not-so-much. It's all good, and it's all going to work out. Ask the Seniors. 

Just this morning I was thinking about what is key to a successful college journey. Is it finding the ideal Ivy League school? Is it working the system? Is it doing all the "right" and expected stuff? I guess we have to think about how to define "success." The seniors would tell you that it's about being your authentic self, being real, telling the truth. Try to trust that if you do the work--take the necessary steps--follow the highlighted path--it will work out. Perhaps not exactly the way you imagined, but you'll get pretty darn close, and you may find you enjoy the experience in the end. 

Probably the best thing you can do at this juncture is to begin to explore what matters to you. What is important? What makes you excited to get up in the morning? What do you enjoy? What puzzles you? How are you curious? How are you unique? What do you believe in? What do you question? What is your sense of humor? These and many other questions are worth exploring on a personal level as you consider how and what you will WRITE for that Personal Statement--essay--college application. Again, be honest. You don't need to discuss it with your parents or friends, because this time it is really about only you and how you fit, or don't fit, into the world. 

So, Juniors, you're up next!! Your time has come to pursue this next stage of your lives. You know you can do it because, after all, you just managed to survive and maybe even surpass expectations for your Junior Year! You are now Rising Seniors!! The summer will fly by and your last year of high school will be upon you. You'll be fine. Do the work.

And, parents? Trust your kids. They know who they are--or at least they have a pretty good idea. They have their futures to define. They'll finish applications, complete senior year, and move on in their lives. Give them a hug, a pat on the back, a gentle smile. Those moments will go a long way toward helping them as they take the next step. 

Why didn't my child get into???

This is an open letter to my private independent counseling colleagues:
 
I think it is difficult--always--to know how a college is making their decisions. They give us parameters, publish statistics and yet, and yet... deserving kids get in and deserving kids don't. There is no right or wrong. Fair or unfair? Hard to know. I have a student who did not get in  while cohorts with lower test scores and gpa did. Was it their major choice? Was it what they wrote? Was it the courses they took? Was it how they spent their summers? Do we know? Will we ever know? No. 
Meanwhile, I have students who are getting in. And receiving Honors and recognitions. Lucky them. Some get into UCLA but not Berkeley. Some get waitlisted at most UCs and accepted to or denied from others. Does it make sense? Can we determine the why/how and wherefore? No. 
 
I always call the UCs "Wild Cards." They are. 
 
With 104,000 + applications to UCLA, it is not easy for anyone to know who will and won't be admitted. 
Every college is trying to create a community of students: athletes, artists, academicians, engineers, entrepreneurs, communicators, extroverts, introverts, first-generations, under-represented, full pay legacies... all of it. All of them. So this year YOUR students with those qualifications didn't get in, but perhaps students that others have worked with who have similar qualifications did. You have no way of knowing. 
 
I think you say, "I'm sorry," to your students. Be compassionate, kind, sorrowful...for a bit. Then you say to them, You have other choices. Move on. Work hard. Do the best with what you've got. We made your list of colleges based on multiple factors. Here are the cards you've been dealt. The final decisions by colleges are not really PERSONAL. It may feel like it, but truth is... maybe they were looking for another oboe player, or one less swimmer, or a student who shows an interest in philosophy or grammar... we have no idea."
 
And according to the UCs they are not doing affirmative action. They are trying to give educational opportunities to underrepresented and first gen kids... but beyond that... they say no. No racial profiling. 
Best regards during this stressful time... WE did our best. Right? We can only help our students see that they, too, gave their best. That's all we can do. What other people choose to do with our best is out of our control. 
 
Now, what about this wonderful group of Juniors (Class of 2015) we're working with?......

"Finding College STEM programs that are right for your student" from Dare 2B Digital Conference, 3/1/14

There are many STEM programs in wonderful universities and colleges across the nation! Below are the names of some I received from professional educators and colleges, as well as comments. Also a few links for internship or camp-type activities to learn more about the world of STE(A*) M…

Nancy Wigley speaking at Dare 2B Digital 2014(A* is for Artistic/Creative Arts students)

College programs recommended:

  • Harvey Mudd College, Claremont, CA
  • Smith College
  • Purdue University
  • U of Connecticut
  • Dartmouth College
  • Binghamton University (SUNY)
  • Georgia Institute of Technology
  • SUNY Stony Brook
  • U of Central Florida
  • Bryn Mawr College
  • Whitman College
  • U of Washington
  • U of Pennsylvania

Read more ...

Essay Topics: "My Summer Vacation"--interested? Hmm...

As students begin the work of writing essays, we can reflect back to school days when we would have to write about our summer vacation. Remember how you dreaded that first day back to school? I don't think I ever thought that was going to be a very good piece of writing. I hadn't done anything exciting. 

I believe that's what students face each year as they look at the looming prospect of having to write a personal statement for their college apps. This year, in particular, with the new questions, students and some counselors are truly struggling with how to get the "right" answer. 

Read more ...

The Value of the Campus Visit

This past weekend I had the pleasure of visiting several colleges and universities in Oregon! It was my first trip to the state and my first trip to see some pretty well-known and popular colleges for students from northern California. I have heard about these schools for years--even had students apply to them!--but I had never seen the campuses with my own eyes. 

When I talk to parents and students about college visits, it is sometimes difficult to stress how important actually setting foot on a campus can be! With internet accessibility and student blogs... plus the lists of best colleges that can be found online, in books and in magazines... even on Facebook... it is hard to imagine what the value of physically seeing the campus is. I have to tell you, my experience this weekend was eye-opening for me! For no other reason than, now I can tell students and their families about these colleges first-hand. I feel so much more informed! 

Read more ...

"How to Choose the Right College Admissions Help for Your Family"

As your child progresses through high school, particularly now during the second semester of sophomore and junior year, you are probably thinking about whether you need an independent counselor to help with the college search and admission process. High school counselors seem to be swamped and sometimes do not have the time to know each child well. It's National High School Counselor Week... and we applaud their work! Tireless and seemingly unending. They are required to work for each student, as well as keep up on latest admission trends, train teachers, answer parents' questions, and report to the administration. We thank them for all they do!! 

An independent consultant, on the other hand, can supplement what the high school counselor offers. Your child is unique! Perhaps you want someone who will spend many hours with your child working to best understand his needs, dreams, talents and academic strengths and weaknesses. The independent educational consultant or college counselor should be respectful. Using her skills and expertise to help reduce stress and anxiety for your teen and you. The independent counselor should strive to work as part of the college-bound team with the high school counselor, the college admissions, your teen and you to guide you to finding the best "fit" colleges. 

Read more ...

High School Student? Second Semester? Do I need an Independent Counselor?

Time flies when you're having fun!--or just raising a family. Suddenly you realize it's January, not even early January, but mid-to-late January! Should you panic? When is the right time to start looking for an independent college counselor, and really, do you need one? 

Well, that's two questions:  First, Do you need one? 

Read more ...

My Sweet Tea Tour of South Carolina

For the past week I have been touring 13 colleges, mostly in South Carolina, with 41 other high school and independent college counselors and consultants. As the guests of these great schools, we saw how interesting and unique each one is in its own right.

The big question is "would students from California be interested in some of these Southern colleges and universities?" I have to say "yes!" In some cases the educational opportunities are so personal, as at Furman, Wofford, Converse, and Presbyterian. All of them offer wonderful state-of-the-art facilities. In the cases of U of North Carolina-Asheville and Western Carolina University, we saw brand new buildings that will be opening this Fall! No "outsiders" had set foot in them yet! We were the first! (Ah, the smell of new carpet!)

Clemson University showed us their new Architecture building which opened this past Spring! All of the new buildings we saw are Green, Green, Green! And if they don't have the LEED status yet, they will! From Gold to Platinum.... Warren Wilson College is a special place unto itself where students work on the farm, in the blacksmith shop, the recycling center or in the kitchen (to name a few jobs), as well as go to classes and earn their bachelor's degree.

From the southern charm of College of Charleston to the rah-rah football stadiums at Clemson, U of South Carolina and Western Carolina University... students today have many choices and often at a great value.

All in all, it was a wonderful trip! I did drink sweet tea---and for a short while, found myself speaking with a southern drawl! If y'all want to know more, contact me at collegesearchstrategies.com

--Nancy Wigley

Looking at Admissions

Here is a wonderful post about the Business of College Admissions written by my insightful colleague Patrick J. O'Connor, PhD.:

Read more ...