Straight from the horse mouth

WHo shares insights straight from their admission officers and students?

  1. MIT Admission Blog–students and faculty. One of the oldest and still one of the best. 
  2. Tuft’s Inside Admissions
  3. Olin’s Admission Blog
  4. Babson’s Admission Blog
  5. Women who will blog–Wellesly
  6. Amherst admission blog
  7. Speaking of Princeton
  8. UPENN’s admission Blog
  9. SWATSTRUCK-Swarthmore
  10. Penn State’s admission blog
  11. Cornell University Admission Blog
  12. Access Juliard Blog
  13. Life at UB–SUNY Buffalo
  14. Oberlin admission blog
  15. Admissions @ Lawrence
  16. Siena’s Admission’s Blog
  17. UVA’s Notes from Peabody–one of the original’s and still one of the best
  18. William and Mary’s Admission Blog
  19. Marymount’s admission Blog
  20. Vanderbilt’s admission blog
  21. Georgia Tech’s admission Blog
  22. University of Georgia
  23. Rice Owl’s Admission Blog
  24. Tulane’s admission Blog
  25. University of Denver promises Real People, Real Stories
  26. Stanford’s admission blog
  27. Cal Berkeley’s Golden Bear Blog
  28. University of Southern California’s admission Blog
  29. Cal Tech’s As it happens
  30. Harvey Mudd admission Blog
  31. Pitzer unpeeled –perhaps the best named blog
  32. Whitman college admission blog
  33. University of Illinois’ admission Blog
  34. NorthWestern’s Admission Blog
  35. U Chicago’s uncommon admission blog
  36. Loyola Chicago’s Admission Blog
  37. DEpauw Admission blog
  38. U Michigan’s Admission Blog
  39. Kalamazoo’s admission blog
  40. Carelton’s admission blog
  41. Experience Iowa‘s admission blog
  42. Luther College Admission blog
  43. Univeirsity of Nore Dame’s admission Blog

Not specific to a university:






Flourishing in Schools: StrengthsMining workshop in Bangkok March 2014


This spring I am honored to provide a day long pre-conference workshop at EARCOS annual teacher conference in Bangkok, Thailand. Does this intrigue? Read on:

Title: Flourishing in Schools: Utilizing groundbreaking research and tools from positive psychology to improve student’s wellbeing. 
 There has been a quiet transformation happening in some schools around the world as they focus on the conditions under which students, parents and faculty flourish? How do we improve student engagement? How can we better address our communities well-being? What is positive education and how does it impact student learning? Deep questions, but with some very compelling and surprisingly simple ideas to address them. In this workshop, we will look into the current research from positive psychology and its implications for teachers, counselors and administrators. The day will have lots of interactive activities and demonstration giving participants tools that they can use in their own communities.

The conference has strong counseling strand that will make it even more worthwhile to head to the Big Weird. Some I am intrigue to check out include:


  • Bilbliotheraphy in Guidance and Counseling
  • What Parents Wish You Knew About Their Learning Disabled Child
  • Counseling and Student Council
  • What Educators Need to Know Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • The Skyscraper Model: An Introspective Approach to College Counseling
  • Sleep: The Key to Improving Students’ Learning and Behavior
  • Neuroscience Correlations to Influence the Impact of Emotion on Learning
  • Honoring Harry and Lessons Learned Along the Way (Dealing with the death of a student)
  • Intergrating Guidance Lessons with Advisory Programs
  • Gender Diversity
  • Bringing Relaxation to Stressed
  • Take a Stand: Empowering Students to Become Upstanders to Bullying
  • Third Culture Kids and Global
  • Secret Dad’s Business: Setting Up
  • Ethics Curriculum and Mindfulness

In addition, there is also a pre conferecne for college counselors with many colleges expected. 





Sorry about that-Not a fan of hackers


Hackers inserted maliscous code into the wordpress blog. Google caught it and flagged the site. The fine folks at WEATCHYOURWEBSITE.COM did a wonderful job going through the code and cleaning it up. Back to regular posting soon.

small break

I have not been posting as much this past spring and summer…I have been super busy between:

I have another 10 days of summer then back to work…and posting more.

Counselors reads

Today in our session on Best fit, I mentioned some great reads for counselors that influenced my thinking in how students make decisions.

Q and A with Penn

Eric Fruda from University of Pennsylvania has been answering questions at the Choice Blog at the New York Times.

On lousy grades in freshman year:

The best way to counter any potential negative impact of a rough start in freshman grades is to continue on the upward trend exhibited since that time. I believe students can rebound from a less-than-stellar freshman year with consistently strong performance from sophomore through senior years.

My comment: I have found this to be true at many many schools.

On Research in high school:

Manjinder, because Penn is a major teaching and research university, faculty and the admissions committee value the kind of learning that comes from research experience. This is a very good example of a time when a supplemental letter from a mentor can be most valuable. High value is placed on participation and performance in competitions such as Intel and Siemens.

Research is a key component to many majors at Penn across the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, business, engineering and nursing. An individual’s perspective on education and learning is broadened through exploring new intellectual territory. Working directly with faculty, our students are exposed to different modes of inquiry and to the associated discoveries — and also the frustrations of the research process.

My Comment: Being a helper on a project is very cool. But actually doing research is the deal maker.

On lousy grade in tough course but high SAT:

Yes, Michelle, students with a low A average in demanding courses and who score “very well” on the SATs will be considered by Ivy League schools.

My comment: Yes, but will they ACCEPT them. I think not.

College 2.0

The New York Times has a feature on College admission blogging focusing on the mighty MIT.

Dozens of colleges — including Amherst, Bates, Carleton, Colby, Vassar, Wellesley and Yale — are embracing student blogs on their Web sites, seeing them as a powerful marketing tool for high school students, who these days are less interested in official messages and statistics than in first-hand narratives and direct interaction with current students.

The Choice blog is asking if there are others worthy of such coverage–and do people read them?

With the help of four parents in my school, I havepublished a spreadsheet tracking not just college’s student blogs, but also youtube channels and podcasts–essentially looking for the authentic experience at college. It can be found at my blog: under the tab college 2.0 at the top of the page.

Parents: Take a survey

I am doing some research for parents use of technology in college admissions. Could you take 10 minutes to fill in a survey?
Click Here to take survey

Legendary advice

Kaplan/newsweek have released their annual addition. One article particularly worth paying attention to is advice from Smitty:

What advice do you have for an average student who wants to go away but has no idea what to study?
Don’t go to college next year. Instead, take a “gap year” to work, do community service or dabble in courses at a community college. Grow up, find a passion, save some money. You’ll get far more out of college when you’re ready—and not everyone is at age 18. College is too important and too expensive to waste on those who aren’t prepared.

My take: Totally agree. I am a huge fan of the gap year. Have a look at my Gap Year section.

Is it worth doing the optional college interview?
The interview shows genuine interest in the college, allows the student to demonstrate interpersonal skills, interests, and maturity. At the same time, it’s good to have questions about the college answered by a reliable source.

My take: Ditto. Just keep your expectations in check. The reality is that the interview counts little in the admission process, with some notable exceptions such as MIT, Scholarships or UK universities.

Do colleges really put ceilings on the number of students coming from a specific high school?
Admissions committees often accept a large number of applicants from a high school with extraordinary students, but even the biggest admirer of a high school would like to put some cap on the number of admitted kids. Keep this in mind: in their search for geographical diversity, selective colleges try to limit the number of acceptances from a region.

My Take: This is a frustration for many of us. While colleges will repeatedly state they have no quotas, and certainly I have seen a specific college take lots of students from my school one year and none the next.

Are private college counselors worth the money?
As someone who spent almost four decades working in public schools, I’m sad to admit that private educational advisers often have more expertise and passion about admissions than school counselors. The best advisers constantly visit campuses to stay up to date. And as budgets are cut, counselors’ loads are likely to increase in coming years. The good news is that i still meet many top-quality counselors at schools.

My take: Lots of people have lots of advice to offer–and lots of opinions. And you get what you paid for. There is good advice and bad advice. Paying for the advice does not guarantee it is good, but at least keeps it accountable.

How many colleges should students apply to? How many should be safeties? How many reaches?
Ahhh, the numbers question. One of my students sent out 28 applications last year, and that was not a record. I think eight apps is more than enough. Ten and over means the student really isn’t focused on what he or she wants. By the way, I don’t like the term “safety”—who wants to end up spending four years at a “safety” campus, anyway? I call them “target” schools because a student’s grades and test scores make them a good target.

My take: a Proper search should bring your list down to 5 to 7 schools. I love the idea of a target school. Much better terminology than safety school, which often sounds like lame school–too many students have the Groucho Marx college admission attitude that I do not want to go to school that would actually accept me.

Do you recommend applying early decision?
If you’ve found the college of your dreams, apply ED. After all, statistics show that early applicants have a better chance of admission. But if you’re a typical 17-year-old who has changes of heart, avoid binding early applications.

My take: ditto. But I am a big fan of early action.

Do colleges give preference to students who take advanced placement exams?
Admissions offices like AP exams because the A average at one high school is a B at the neighboring school, while scores on the tests are easy to compare. Yes, take AP courses, delve into them, and study for the exams.

My take: College admission folks chant the mantra: Rigor! They love not just AP, but also IB and any other advanced curricula.

What is the single most important element of the application? The essay? Grades? Standardized-test scores? Activities? And how do they rank in importance?
First, you need a rigorous program and top grades. Second, you should have high scores on standardized tests. Then write a great essay and get strong recommendation letters.

My take: Ditto. More over you need to show the college that you belong there. They why college X question is more important than you think.

If students are close to 2100 on the SAT and/or 30 on the ACT, how many times do you recommend taking the tests to push them over the bar?
Do some self-assessment. If the scores are consistent, retesting probably won’t boost them significantly. I recommend taking the tests no more than three times—and don’t be afraid to try different kinds of test prep.

My take: My own experience suggest the third test rarely makes a difference. Why not use number 2 to get a handle on the testing time line.

In this economic climate, are “need blind” schools really need-blind, or do students have a better chance of acceptance if they say they don’t plan to ask for financial aid? Colleges are doing their best to honor the “need blind” policies, but quite a few endowments have tanked. I’m sorry to say that when you get beyond Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, and others with billion-dollar reservoirs, a youngster’s ability to pay can give them an edge over less-fortunate applicants.

My take: This is more pronounced for international students.

How much do colleges weigh recommendation letters?
Some admissions officers are very influenced by a rec letter that gives a surprising insight into a student. That’s why students should get to know teachers and counselors well.

My take: Ditto. You choose your recommenders. Make sure you chose them because they know you well. This means going out of way to connect with them. There is a difference between sucking up and connecting.

Are there some schools that you should not apply to if your scores are mediocre?
I think schools place too much emphasis on scores, but if yours are well below a college’s median, you’d better be a champion athlete or the inventor of gene therapy. Or you’d better have an administration building named after your family.

My take: Pay close attention to not just the mid 50th test scores but also tools like NAVIANCE help to clarify exactly where you stack up in context of applicants from your school.

How useful do you think college rankings are for assessing which schools to apply to?
Parents hate to hear this, but I toss rankings in the trash. Come on, could you rank the best sports shirt? The fit matters, not the name. Also, it’s not where you go but what you accomplish. Just ask kids who have dropped out of the most prestigious universities—the ideal school for one person is a nightmare for another.

My take: Say after me: The fit matters, not the name. Oh he said it too.

Is it better to get lower grades in more challenging courses than straight A’s in easier classes?
The most competitive colleges want it all, but they’re especially keen on students who take challenging courses and do well. Relax, though. If the AP curriculum is too difficult, go for the lower-level class and make the most of it. Schools appreciate curiosity.

My take: Take a balanced yet challenging program.

How important is it to visit a college before applying?
If you have any chance of visiting a school in advance, do so! Your parents wouldn’t put a bid on a house before seeing it. If you can’t get there, e-mail or call students and recent grads to ask them what they liked and disliked the most.

My take: I am also a big fan of student blogs, podcasts and sites like unigo. Check out the college 2.0 spreadsheet for quick access.

Great article: 10 ways Universities Share Information Using Social Media

Over at MASHABLE Vadim Lavrusik has a great article exploring how universities are using social netwrking:

Instead of focusing their attention on promoting information to mainstream media, some university public affairs offices are using the power of social media to engage the community directly. In many cases, social media tools like Facebook Pages have given universities an opportunity to speak to audiences on their own, reaching thousands of people interested in keeping up with news at the school and connecting with others on the social network.