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College Search Strategies
Portola Valley, CA
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College Search Strategies Blog

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: 

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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?......

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. 

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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! 

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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? 

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