Special Guests

The Essay that Starts with a Dialogue with the Police Or How a Parent can Make an Interesting Essay Ponderous

Psychologist and counselor Jeanette Spires joins us again this month to talk about the essay, why it's a good idea to avoid too much "help" from parents, and what it means to show a college what matters to you.

What feels most out of control in the college admission world?   The winner may be the essay process. There is plenty of research indicating that the rigor of high school classes and the grades earned by students are the best predictors of success. But essays do not lend themselves to statistical study. Years ago when I began as a college counselor, there was something of an honor code about essays for competitive colleges. Today, checking search engines leads you to sites offering to take care of that onerous task for you.  "Harvard writers!"  Now why would a high school student want an essay written by a college graduate?  Ding-dong! The admissions reader isn't stupid.

What's Trust Got To Do With It?

What place does trust have in the college application process? College advisor Alice Kleeman joins us again this month to talk about trust -- as well as accountability and honesty -- among students, counselors and the colleges. Join her here to learn more about life lessons, integrity, and the meaning of signing on the dotted line.


The hand inevitably shoots up in the back row, just after I’ve explained to a class of juniors or seniors that they will “self-report” their extracurricular activities on their college applications. “But how do they know I’ve really done what I say I’ve done?” The question will be asked. After 19 years of speaking to students about college admission, this is a point of certainty.


Ah, one of my favorite topics: trust. If we stop to think about it, without trust—among applicants and their families, college officials, and counselors—the entire process falls apart like a poorly constructed house of cards. And yet it’s one aspect of college admission that we don’t talk about much, and when we do, cynicism arises on all sides.


Call me Pollyanna (Pollyalice?), but I’m an extremely trusting soul when it comes to the issues that ask for our trust in this process.


What We Talk About When We Talk About College

Jane Kulow joins us again this month with her heartfelt insights into the college application process as her daughter contemplates the meaning of commitment and applying early decision.

 What we talk about when we talk about college:  a decision.

"Do we talk about anything other than college these days?"

Our daughter, Julie, asked me that over dinner last weekend, before adding, "It's okay, that's about all I'm thinking about anyway."

Early in the morning, two days before that dinner, Julie and I set out on one more college visit. I cannot say that will be our last campus visit, but it is the last we will undertake before she submits her first application.

Julie revisited this campus with a number of questions in mind:

Guess what, students? You're in Control!

John Carpenter is back this month with some thoughts about who is really in the driver's seat during the college application process. While it might feel like the college admission offices are steering, if you pay attention you'll see that students have the wheel much of the time. Read on and reevaluate what you've been feeling if things are feeling out of control.

One thing I hear constantly from high school kids over and over is that applying to college is stressful.  And psychologists tell us that stress comes from a feeling that we are not in control -- especially the big stuff.  Getting into college falls into the “big stuff” category. But students have more control in this whole process than they may realize. So, let’s analyze that.

The College List: Go Your Own Way

Will Dix is back this month with some illustrative advice for students working on the list of colleges to which they'll apply. Find out how to move off "standing out" and toward "standing up" as you decide where you will spend the next four years in "I'm The One That I Want!"


If you’re a high school senior, your interior monologue is probably going something like this right about now:

Essays, Smack-Talking Siblings and The Deadline Parents Face in the College Admission Process

We are pleased to welcome Jane Kulow today as a regular guest, writing on parenting through the college admission process. Kulow's personal blog, Dr. StrangeCollege or, How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Journey, covers the ebb and flow of the path to college for her three children, dubbed the Mod Squad. As Jane describes it, "this is what we did, what we saw, what we laughed about, and what I’ve read (and asked others in the house to read) along the way." We're delighted she will be an eloquent fellow traveler here, sharing adventures and insights as her -- and your -- children head off toward the higher halls of academe.

We are parents of a high school senior and we are in the midst of college application season.

Our oldest child worked his way through applications two years ago, acquainting us with the rhythms of deadlines and the components of transcripts, tests, essays, and recommendations.

Yet, even within one household, each student’s specific experience—in college prep coursework and activities and in his or her approach to the application itself—makes this process as singular as the student.

My husband describes the application process as complex project management. The student bears the responsibility for the content of the application; we can teach project management and help make sure not a single element of the project gets missed.

The Geographic Representative in the Admission Office: Your New Best Friend

Psychologist and counselor Jeanette Spires joins us today as a monthly guest blogger to talk about geographic representatives in college admission offices and why it's a good idea to get to know them. 

Who is your new best friend?

Let’s assume that applying to college is much like applying for a job. On the way to a position, you may be evaluated by everyone from the receptionist to the waiter in the company cafeteria. Overlooking this fact can sink your chances. In the same way, here is someone in your path to college who deserves your full attention -- your geographic representative in the admission office.

Colleges, especially private colleges, often organize admissions into geographic regions.  The geographic representative is often a person who adored college and wants to help you do the same.  This job has its ups and downs, up to and including carrying bags of pennants, mascots, pens and brochures down into the cafeteria, through the gym, or upstairs through the classroom hallways.  In large cities just finding a place to park can start the day off rather frantically. Popular schools may draw a crowd, but the reps from some great places students have never heard of may go through all this to speak with no one and end up with the same squeezy stress balls they came in with.  But these people MATTER.

The Balancing Act of Senior Year: A Checklist For Keeping on Track

John Carpenter is the author of  Going Geek: What Every Smart Kid (and Every Smart Parent) Should Know About College Admissions and a monthly guest blogger for us here at College Admission. Today, John looks at the balancing, juggling, ring of fire, joyous act that is senior year. Read on to learn how students can enjoy the beginning of senior year and, with a checklist in hand, seize the day.


Classes are going full steam ahead, you’re getting used to your new schedule, you’re discovering ideas and people you hadn’t noticed before--yep, you’re a senior.  You’re in your last year of high school.  Very cool.


The "Tyranny of Choice": Confronting the Wall of Colleges

We are delighted to welcome Will Dix as a monthly guest blogger. A former teacher and Amherst associate dean of admission, Dix is now Program Director at Chicago Scholars. Today, Will has some advice for students and parents as they contemplate the many -- too many? -- great options students have when choosing colleges.  And cautions against seeking just one to be your "Emerald City."


Once in a while at the grocery store I’m flummoxed by the varieties of toothpaste to choose from as I try to figure out which one is the best for me. Breath-freshening, whitening, plaque fighting, striped, mouthwash-containing? What do I really need? How are my gums this week? Should I get the whitening one even though it doesn’t have the mouthwash? What size? What brand? What permutation will give me perfect teeth? I start to feel queasy, realizing that any choice I make probably won’t be adequate, but also knowing that, really, it doesn’t matter: all toothpaste has fluoride, all of it will clean my teeth, and whether it’s minty cinnamon or cinnamon-y mint, it’s pretty much the same.


Rescue Lunches and Parents' Role in the College Admission Process

High school advisor Alice Kleeman joins us this month with a blog post sure to help parents envision their proper role in the college admission process. Cheerleading? Yes. Rescue lunches? No. Read on for more of her clear-eyed view of how parents can be most helpful to their sons and daughters during this time.


On my daily path between office and mail room, I always notice a long line of lunch bags, Sharpie-labeled with students’ names and often sporting the logo of one of the popular local delis. I walk past the lunch-bag display, conquering the urge to snitch a bag and munch on the potato chips therein, lost in thought about college admission once again.


What does the long line of lunch bags on the front counter each day have to do with applying to college? As I pass the festive bag spectacle, I can’t help but imagine an improbable scenario: Mom (or Dad) hopping on a plane to rescue Junior by delivering a forgotten item—granola bars? dental floss?—to the college residence hall!