Friday, July 8, 2016

Becoming a Better Candidate: Giving Back

College admission boards look at many factors for potential students who would be successful at their institution. We all know that academic scores and test scores are part of the equation, but don't forget about opportunities outside of high school.

One of the easiest ways to stand out is volunteering for community service. As Kaneisha Grayson points out in her article "Volunteering and Community Service Matters For Your Applications," "the main school of thought when it comes to life after college is that you will make time to contribute to your community in some meaningful way." Certainly with schoolwork, employment and extracurricular activities, finding time can be challenging, but it's this balancing and prioritizing of time that helps show your ability to manage a schedule and illustrate your commitment to the community.

Finding a charity or volunteer opportunity should fit with your own interests and availability. If you enjoy hiking on the weekends, look for an outdoor charity that helps improve Colorado's 14ers or watersheds. If you're passionate about animals, help your local humane society or zoo. The opportunities are endless.

The service isn't just good for the community or good on paper, these experiences can add fodder to your college essays and will help build your network of community leaders that can support you with recommendation letters and possibly even future employment. You'll meet other students and adults who share your interests and passions. You'll also learn other skills and management techniques that you can draw upon for your future.

Talk to your parents and friends about finding opportunities to give back. The time commitment can be whatever you make of it or have time for. And most importantly, enjoy what you're doing knowing that your service makes a difference.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Changes to the SAT mean changes to the PSAT

Starting last October, students began seeing the new, redesigned PSAT format and there’s room for celebration. As some have heard, the SAT has undergone some changes that, according to Vice President of College Readiness Assessment at College Board Stacy Caldwell, “The test changes are meant to focus exactly on the skills that students most need for success in college.”

That sounds like good news since the test hasn’t been updated in close to 10 years and the admissions world has changed some since then.

The good news is students will see only four multiple choice options versus five and the penalty for guessing is gone. This means your answer confidence should increase and you won’t have to grapple with your level of confidence for an answer.

Additionally, the new PSAT will focus less on those dreaded SAT vocabulary options and have students decipher the meaning of the words using the context of a sentence or passage. While these may seem like improvements, your level of preparation and study remain the same and are further complicated by the lack of study materials available. After 10 years of following a similar test, college applicants had a wealth of study information at their fingertips. Within the initial roll out of the new test, the study materials are still catching up.

Another downside is that the new test is 35 minutes longer, ringing up a whopping two hours and 45 minutes. So, as you prepare to tackle tough questions and reading comprehension, you’ll also need to sustain your brainpower for longer.

At The College Store, we’ll also be studying up on the best training and preparation packages to make sure you’re ready for the big test. We can embrace the change and give you the tools you need to be successful. Ask us how today.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Keep Calm and Test on

For many of us, we headed into the New Year wondering how the recent shift from the ACT to the SAT would affect our strategy for applying to colleges. In the Colorado Department of Education’s haste, school administrators, parents and students expressed dismay at the speedy shift and its impact on student preparation.
After the New Year, the drama thickened as administrators scrambled to identify who would have standing to challenge the decision in court.
But just as quickly as the SAT decision was made, we learned that students will again take the ACT for one more year and transition to the SAT in the Spring of 2017.
Not surprisingly, this fire drill created unnecessary angst among many parents and students looking ahead to their college planning. As I told many of my clients, “Our strategy remains intact.”
Even as the ACT and even the SAT alter their content, my goal continues to be to find the most suitable roadmap for each individual student. While these tests remain part of a prospective student’s journey, they each play a role, but don’t dictate, the strategy.
So now that the fire drill is over, remember to keep calm and test on.

Friedman: “We’ve Reached the 2nd Half of the Chess Board”

I recently heard NY Times columnist Thomas Friedman give a lunch speech at a STEM conference in Denver. The thrust of his presentation focused on our rapidly advancing world and how technology is now advancing faster than our ability to grasp its potential, hence the comparison to the second half of the chess board.

For students looking at college and life after college, technology will be prevalent in their lives but some age-old wisdom and grit will also continue to be necessary. While technology and automation will replace many functions of our lives, business leaders are looking for people who understand the technology but can match that with empathy for their clients and customers.

Right now we can shop online with our mobile devices, request a ride using our cell phone and even have groceries delivered to our front porch, all without uttering a single word or sharing a simple interaction with another person. This might make our lives more convenient, but we still need to have the social skills necessary to handle customer relations calls or explain why the customer didn’t receive what he or she wanted. While we may be pushing our students to a technology and science driven field, we need to remember the importance of social skills.

Friedman broke this concept down saying PQ plus CQ is always greater than IQ. In short, he would hire someone with a higher perseverance and curiosity quotient over simply a higher IQ. He said people with a higher IQ get frustrated when they don’t troubleshoot problems fast enough. On the other hand, people who are curious, never get frustrated.

To help students succeed, Friedman provided two pieces of advice: 1) help students find internships in their areas of study and 2) take an interest in students hopes and dreams. For the most part, college is about helping young people become more independent, but we still have important roles to play to help them on their journey. 

Saturday, January 2, 2016

More Data is Better, But Knowing How to Use the Data is Best

Recently, the U.S. Department of Education released a new web application to help connect students with potential colleges. Referred to as a “College Scorecard,” the application provides search criteria from majors offered, to locations, to student enrollment. Once the search is initiated, the student sees different institutions along with their costs and their average salaries after graduation.

While the scorecard is a good starting point for some students, it still represents a cursory beginning to a larger process. Even The Denver Post weighed in saying, “And while no single data point may be pivotal in the ultimate selection of a school, students clearly ought to be aware of the sort of information the College Scorecard, at, provides.”

The Department of Education should be credited with amalgamating some of the data and making it accessible. However, students need to keep their options open and perform the research necessary to find the right school that fits their career goals while also fitting into their family’s budget.

When I work with my students, we start the road to college with everything on the table. We use aptitude tests and others to find strengths and opportunities for careers and majors that best fit the personalities of each individual. We also schedule and train for taking the SAT and ACT. Once all of these preconditions are met, we holistically approach finding the right fit that matches highlighted majors and test scores. As we evaluate these schools, we do more than just review the data. We look at graduate students and professors in their major and hear about student achievements and opportunities that appeal to each applicant. The culmination of all these efforts will ultimately identify the best option or options for each person.

Certainly more data is better, but having an experienced college planner in The College Store helps decipher the data and steer the student in the best direction.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Finding the right cure for Senioritis

As many of you settle in to your final year or years in high school, fight the urge and the contagiousness of ‘senioritis.’ For those who don’t know, the Urban Dictionary defines senioritis as “A crippling disease that strikes high school seniors. Symptoms include: laziness, an over-excessive wearing of track pants, old athletic shirts, sweatpants, athletic shorts, and sweatshirts. Also features a lack of studying, repeated absences, and a generally dismissive attitude. The only known cure is a phenomenon known as Graduation.”
Sadly as students disengage in the final years, their grades slip, their ambition and extracurricular activities suffer, and they sometimes get into mischief. Unfortunately, college admissions rely on many of these areas for acceptance. Not to mention, trying to take the ACTs and SATs with this kind of mindset also leads to poor results.
This struggle isn’t new. In fact, a recent US News and World Report even pre-empted the symptoms with its3 Tips to Stop High School Senioritis Before It Starts.” While these are helpful, keeping students on a path to college can help keep senioritis at bay.
As I meet with parents and their juniors or seniors, we map out a path together to best prepare them to find and attend the best college that fits their needs. We specifically identify strengths and areas we need to improve to impress potential admissions boards. We also set a timeline to study for and take the ACT and SAT.
Working together we develop and put the pieces together to get into the right school. Once accepted into that school, there will be plenty of opportunities to slip into senioritis type symptoms but don’t hamstring your chances of getting into your best school by succumbing to senioritis early.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Finding the right college is about balance

A recent guest column written by a North High School student in The Denver Post recently caught my eye and helps to capture one of the critical decisions students face when deciding on college.
In her article, she compares two opinions shared with her colleagues about paying for college. The first opinion is that money and the ability to pay for college should not be a factor in a student’s decision. The second is that cost should absolutely be a consideration when determining what school to attend. To her credit, she found truth in both these statements.
When I meet with my clients, my goal is finding the right college that best meets the family’s budget. While investment into a college degree will typically pay dividends in the form of future higher earning potential, families shouldn’t have to sacrifice their current lifestyle, go broke or saddle both the parents and the student with a lifetime of debt.
I’ve spent over a decade helping parents and students bridge the divide between the right college and the right price. The challenge is that the path to and through the best college is rarely the same. The advantage that I bring is that I work with families to map out and guide students on the best path and negotiate the best financial aid package available for each of the targeted schools.
The author of this opinion piece is correct that students and families should collect as much information as possible. But, it also helps to have an experienced navigator with them along the way.