As I reflect on 2019 in these first few days of 2020, a single question arises: In a process naturally laden with stress and pressure, how can we make the road to college admissions healthier?
While the path to admission contains many roadblocks we cannot remove, there are several areas where we can assert our agency and create a healthier, happier, and more productive relationship with this entire process. It starts with students identifying their passions and following them.
We need to transition from asking students “What’s your GPA and ACT score?” to “What are you passionate about?” and “What do you like to do more than anything else?”.
On a practical note, colleges are explicitly requesting students to follow their passion. Gone are the days they want to see thousands of identical “well-rounded” students with the exact same backgrounds, transcripts, and extracurriculars. As more and more students are excelling in rigorous courses and achieving above average test scores, schools are looking for ways to differentiate between students.
When opening an application, admissions officers are asking, “How can this student add value to our university?” Beyond grades and test scores, true value lies in a student’s story. Schools are looking for a clear line they can draw between a student’s class choices, activities, internships, and community service work that explicitly highlights their passion. If an application states that a student wants to be a business major, the admissions officer will respond: prove it. If colleges are daring us to follow our passions, let’s harness this and run with it.
Students who follow their passion will also inherently earn better grades and achieve higher test scores. There is no reason to make this process any harder than it has to be. If the game of college admissions starts with a focus on a student’s GPA and test scores, why not provide students with the assurance and relief that these numbers-focused components are leading to an academic and professional career they are truly passionate about?
Let’s resolve to follow our passions in 2020. After all, it is the key to everything that truly matters: personal fulfillment, strong emotional health, self confidence, and happiness.
Wishing you all a happy and healthy new year, thank you for being a part of our community.
Much of our collective anxiety about the college admissions process stems from the strong desire for our kids to obtain an education that helps them achieve their long-term goals (read: health, happiness, and financial independence). But as we say to every student we work with, no one college has a monopoly on the path to success.
There is no question that the economy is changing. Traditional fields seem less desirable for many of our students and there is a push to make a difference and think big.
Our students can find opportunities for disruption and innovation, even in mature fields. However, to achieve this, today’s high school students must be mindful of where this growth is occurring, both with respect to industry and location.
A recent study published on Monday by the Brookings Institute found that industries seen as key to future growth are clustering in a narrowing set of places. The beneficiaries may be of little surprise to us: Seattle, San Diego, San Jose, Boston, and San Francisco.
Regardless of whether your child wants to work in a lab, marketing, finance, or another field, there is something to be said for being in the right place at the right time. As you have discussions about the schools your child is interested in applying to, please keep an open mind and take into consideration location as it relates to what comes after college. Some colleges offer national name recognition and alumni networks, but schools like the University of Washington and Santa Clara University offer students a home-court advantage with opportunities to secure internships, during the school year, that can lead to the most sought after postgraduate employment opportunities.
I think back to the stack of 100+ resumes Harvard and Yale law students sent for a summer internship at the US Attorney’s Office. In contrast, for the spring internship, they only received one application: mine. Knowing when and where opportunities exist is crucial for gaining experiences that employers consider invaluable.
Experience often overshadows name brands for many entry-level employment opportunities. Let’s make sure your children have the experiences they need to thrive.
To read more about the study, click here: https://www.yahoo.com/news/jobs-future-clustering-handful-u-050811664.html
Wishing your family happiness in 2020. We are committed to helping your children achieve their goals for college and beyond.
In what seems like a never ending stream of extraordinary college admissions news recognizing that this process is broken, the College Board recently announced that they will be assigning an “adversity score” to each test taker. The College Board administers the SAT and the SAT Subject Tests. This adversity score is assigned based on the socioeconomic conditions in the applicant’s community, school, family marital status and education levels, among other factors.
We all want a fair process for ourselves and our kids when it comes to applying to college. But this is not the answer. While I applaud efforts to make college more accessible and diverse, this is an ill-conceived effort to level the playing field that comes at the expense of hard working and honest students seeking to put their best foot forward in this process and be evaluated on the merits of their applications.
The adversity score exposes the college admissions process for the social and financial experiment it is at many schools: constructing a class consisting of mega legacies to increase donations, athletes that generate ticket sales from games, and those determined to be “in need”. Where the rest of the applicant pool fits in, is a mystery.
The Wall Street Journal first broke this story, and can be accessed here. The most interesting part of this story from my perspective is that 20% of Yale’s incoming class are from families where they will the first to attend college. At many highly selective schools, 1/3 of the class are mega legacies and 1/3 are recruited athletes. So when Yale states that 20% of the incoming class is first generation, this means that over half of the “normal applicants” are being lauded for their socioeconomic status.
In a perfect world, colleges would evaluate applicants based on their accomplishments, passions, and abilities. Not whether a family can buy a building or qualifies for financial assistance. But alas, we live in an imperfect world.
This process rewards those who are able to excel at what matters to them. Rather than fret on some arbitrary score, focus on what you can control. The SAT is not required. The ACT does not assign an adversity score to applicants at the moment. For students that have determined that the SAT is a better fit, and for the many more who will be taking Subject Tests, please do not fill out any demographic questions that are optional if you are concerned they will negatively impact you or your child’s applications. This includes parent education levels, income, home addresses, etc. If you can use an office address or PO Box in another community that may be viewed more favorably in the process, consider doing it.
These external developments are frustrating, anxiety-inducing, and often unfair. We are here to guide every family through this process and make the most of it.
The recent college admissions bribery scandal has shed light into the secretive practices at many highly coveted colleges like Stanford, USC, and Yale. Jason England, a former admissions dean and an assistant professor of creative writing at Carnegie Mellon University, provides an indepth look into how admissions offices work and why this process can be frustrating even to the most qualified applicants. We highly recommend reading his article to understand how this process works and why many talented applicants are not accepted at their dream school. Click here to access the article.
The lengths families went to make it seem like they earned admission to colleges like Stanford, Yale, and USC is shocking, but not the fact that people but their way in. It is the worst kept secret in the college admissions world that it is pay to play, and this is part of the reason it is such an uphill battle for doing it the old fashioned way.
At the most selective schools, anywhere from 2/3 to 3/4 of the spots are spoken for even before a school begins to accept applications. In a class of 1,500, 1/3 are claimed by recruited athletes and 1/3+ are claimed by legacy families. This means that 50,000 people are competing for the 500 remaining spots, which makes it a 1% acceptance rate for “normal” applicants. But it gets worse, these 500 spots must be evenly dispersed across the country, the world, and all different backgrounds—they all cannot come from the same over qualified community. The numbers are tough.
These figures are not meant to discourage students from applying to selective colleges. Rather, I want us to have a healthy mindset about the odds and what this process rewards: hard work, creativity, and a willingness to look outside the box to find paths that ensure our kids develop into healthy, happy, and financially independent adults. Let's recognize the challenge we face and find ways to stand out and build interesting stories to develop a niche. Learning how to navigate a competitive process by building a story is a life skill that will propel your kids to do amazing things well beyond college and that is the most important part of this process.
We will continue to encourage your child to his/her best and provide any support that we can for your kids to build their brand and ensure that they have the best odds to earn admission to a college that is a great fit. We are excited to see what we can accomplish together!
Out of our hometown of Newport Beach, California, we were rocked by posts emerging on social media of a Nazi drinking game at a high school party.
There are two things wrong with this: (1) Nazism and (2) underage drinking games caught on camera. I am not going to delve into how offensive/dumb this was—but rather focus on what these types of incidents mean for this process. 69% of college admissions officers report snooping on social media to search for applicants. Demonstrating support or approval of hateful ideology or illegal underage drinking is not what an applicant wants to be associated with.
Applying to college is the culmination of building a brand over several years. This brand should demonstrate work ethic, leadership, and an ability to contribute to a community. All it takes is one offensive post, tweet, or inappropriate picture to tarnish a person’s brand for their life. Your kids’ employers will search on social media to find them. The people deciding whether they are admitted to their dream school will do the same. Poor judgment at a minimum can be a disqualifier in a competitive process. Please remind your kids as I do to: (1) set their accounts to private and (2) do not post anything that could be considered offensive or in poor taste to a hyper sensitive person. This includes liking posts or commenting on them.
How do you determine whether something is in poor taste? I ask students if they would feel comfortable having their name and picture on the front cover of The New York Times and a copy of whatever was posted/liked/shared. If the answer is no, there is your answer. We live in an era where it is easy to offend. When in doubt, be conservative in applying this test. Our perception of what is "OK" tends to diminish with age. Also remember, we can be found guilty by association. If every person is doing something illegal, and your child happens to just be there in the picture, many reasonable minds would assume that your child is also participating in that activity as well.
It is common for parents and students alike to ask, “How many community service hours do I need to get into college?” The answer: there is no magic number. For community service, regardless of whether you dream of attending Stanford or any other college, the commitment and the significance of your community involvement far outweighs the sheer number of hours you spend volunteering.
There is no magic number when it comes to the number of hours you need to get into college. Colleges will ask for how long you have been involved with an activity, how many hours per week you are involved with it, and the number of weeks per year. That is it.
Yet in a stack of 100,000 applications, the time spent volunteering does not paint a picture of why it matters to you, or more importantly, why it matters to an admissions officer. To tell this story, expect to write an essay describing why the service matters and shapes your view of the world and your position in it. Highlight what you learned in the activity and how it has influenced your perspective about your future plans. If you were a leader in the activity, it is also beneficial to explore what you learn not only in terms of the outcome but also how you can increase your impact in society. When admissions officers review your application, this is what they will be assessing—your ability to make a difference on their campus.
As this school year is in full swing, look for opportunities to make a difference and grow. Focus just on the few activities that matter the most to you. This will not only build your resume for college but, more importantly, provide you with the opportunity to learn about yourself and how you will contribute to society going forward.
Goes way beyond just how to get into college. As school is back in session we are faced with the reality, that applying to college, and high school in general is tough. Whether it comes to applying to Stanford, the Ivy League, or schools that are less selective, this process rewards those who work hard and are not afraid of taking risks or not getting in. It may be hard in the moment, but the skills you gain along the way are what will prepare you for what comes after school and ensure your long-term success.
My dad, forwarded an article by Courtney Connley featured on CNBC containing an interview with Suzy Welch of the legendary Jack Welch Management Institute. It has been in line with his advice for my entire life. I consider it a privilege to pass it on.
CNBC - Tuesday, August 14, 2018
The best way parents can set their kids up for career success
Bestselling management author and CNBC contributor Suzy Welch is often asked, "What's the number one thing parents can do to help their kids achieve career success?"
"That's a tough question," the mom of four millennials tells CNBC Make It. "And I can really only answer with what worked for me."
She says that like most kids, hers would sometimes "whine about the unfairness of life or how hard it was to make new friends at school or how much extra work it took to get an A instead of a B or a C."
Like many parents, she'd respond with lectures about hard work, discipline and perseverance. But Welch's lectures were always punctuated by a simple message that she says is key to helping kids understand the relationship between putting in extra effort and achieving your goals: "Everything good is hard."
"They didn't love hearing that," she says. "But pretty early on, even by middle school, it began to make its own case and they began to see for themselves how a boatload of effort did tend to pay off."
Now that they're adults, Welch says, her kids have been exposed to the normal adversities of working life, like job layoffs, bad bosses and difficult assignments. But despite these challenges, they've all found professional success, and Welch believes that it's because of her mantra.
"Believe me, I know all too well how impossible it is to control what your kids do at school or how they fare in the real world," she says. "Life happens, but don't discount the importance of your influence on their career trajectory."
She recommends that parents lead by example, demonstrating for kids that "when it comes to achieving lasting success, there are very few shortcuts."
"Hard things are hard for a reason," she emphasizes. "They're worth it."
I am often asked, “how do I get into college?” I propose asking a different question to help boost your odds of admission: why do I want to go? Right now the buzz word in the college admissions process is passion. There is so much pressure in the college admissions process to build a story that shows passion and how you will pursue it in college and beyond. For many students, it is stressful to have to declare an interest at such a young age when you’ve had precious few opportunities to explore and discover.
Strong applications tie together academic and professional interests through community service and extracurricular activities.
This is why we recommend that you develop a strategy for why you want to go to college and pair it with your strategy for getting in. It allows you to focus on building a story. However, do not worry if you are unsure of your plans for college. The most important thing in high school is to try to discover what you love. If your interests change, you will be able to change your mind when you get to college; if you need to change direction, then it will be healthy to do so.
Success beyond college comes from knowing what motivates and inspires you and knowing what does not. Taking a class or participating in an internship or extracurricular activity that reveals you dislike something is as much of a positive step as trying something and loving it. Do not be afraid to try something more “left-field” in the college admissions process. Life is trial and error. Every time you try something and do not like it, use this as a catalyst to do an about-turn and find things that do inspire you. Once you have the inspiration, this will help guide you to the courses and careers that are right for you...
I have included a fantastic article featured in Forbes by Mariko Silver explaining why a terrible internship may be the most important one you ever have. Click here to read the article.
Welcome the chance to have positive and negative experiences as part of this process.
The heads of three of the most prestigious private high schools in Washington DC, which produce an outsized share of the entering class of many of the most selective colleges in the US, recently penned an op-ed detailing their reasons for removing AP classes from their curriculum.
They point out the obvious: with AP classes now so ubiquitous across high schools, the value of taking college-level coursework in high school has been dramatically reduced as it relates to the college admissions process.
They are right.
Colleges are searching for passionate students capable of making a difference in their community. No amount of AP classes, or perfect grades in these classes, will ever paint a picture of who your child is and what she is capable of accomplishing.
Make sure that high school affords your child the opportunity to discover who she is and what she wants to do in college and beyond. Loading up with unnecessarily difficult and time-consuming AP/advanced classes is counterproductive and deprives your child of the opportunity to do things to increase the strength of her application. Focus on the advanced classes relevant to your child’s area of interest, and skip the ones that are not.
To read the op-ed, click here.