The Right Kind Of Dream


“I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.” President Kennedy said in 1961. At this time, no American had even travelled to space.

On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin Jr. realized that dream. There were many decisions that led to this landmark achievement, the first, and most important, being we started off with the right kind of dream.

What is the right kind of dream? The right kind of dream

  • is not vague like “be a good student.” It is clear at any point, if you have achieved it or not.
  • has a deadline by when it needs to be achieved.
  • is really hard. There is no formula for success, and even if you do everything you can, there is only a slightly more chance of success than failure.
  • cannot be achieved in a short period of time.
  • will require you to up your game, and get better.

If that sounds a bit like a college admission dreams, it is!

The little known secret of successful people is that they embrace the right kind of dreams, over and over in life. They don’t always succeed, but they know they wouldn’t ever succeed otherwise.

And, they always get better.

Are you ready to embrace your dream? Are you ready to up your game?


What is your differentiator?


To get into the college of your choice, you need not have PERFECT grades and scores and extracurricular activities; in short, you need not be perfect in everything.  Identify what truly stands out in you and realize that as your differentiator.  Remember, you are SPECIAL and your experiences make you the person you are.

Your college admission officer is looking for interesting and unique students.  Being YOU is what makes you unique and interesting.  Bring that out in your essay in your own voice and voila!, you have become that.

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What Do Your Clubs And Your Titles Mean?


Please don’t start another club at school just to impress admissions officers. And, for heaven’s sake, don’t become Executive Director of something meaningless, just to get it on your resume. 

It is true that admissions officers won’t figure out how awesome a leader you are, unless you show them. However, there are better ways to do that. 

Tell them how the stamp collections changed when you and your friends could more easily exchange stamps, and they will know you are an enabler. Tell the stories the stamps tell you, and they will know you are a true stamp enthusiast.

When you say that you started a stamp collector’s club, and grew membership ten fold: don’t expect them to not guess the membership went from 1 to 10, and that most of the people did you a favor when they joined. Admissions officers are too smart for that.

And, more importantly, this little secret will bring you success with college admission and beyond.

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How Am I Special?

The question is not : am I special? You are. There is no one who has lived the life you have. There is no one who sees things exactly as you do. There is no one who enjoys things exactly the way you do. There is no one who can be more you. The question is: how am I special? Figure that out, because

  1. In spite of you being – just – you know – regular, you are special
  2. Special does not mean genius or international champion or world record holder, and college admissions officers consider it your job to know the difference

Which picture are you showing your college admissions officer?

Image credit: facebook

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The Right College List

The New York times ran a front page article today, emphasizing how the various college lists are contradictory and confusing. Earlier this month, we wrote a guide to help you understand these lists, and not be taken in by the illusions they sometimes create. 

Truth is, we are bombarded with information.

A friend’s son received direct mail from over 500 colleges, wooing him – many of which, he suspects, will not admit him if he did apply. Then we have all these different rankings to grapple with. It truly a paradox of choice.

Let us listen to real students, and how they waded through all this information:

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How To Be The Perfect Admission Candidate


The best and most selective colleges don’t have a template that you can mold yourself into, in order to get admission.

Correct that: they do have a template … for their class.

And they have experience with other students from your school.

You have three choices –

  • look like the students from your school who went to that college. If they worked OK on the quilt, and you fashion yourself after them, you might too. If you take this path, remember that many others in your school are trying to do exactly that.
  • Look like someone who they have not seen. Someone who may make the quilt interesting.
  • Just show your best colors and patterns, and let the right quilt find you.
Image credit: Some rights reserved by quiltiverse

Involved Parents Dilemma

1236894043_610e48e4ac_oCollege admission officers shudder at the thought of the over-involved, helicopter parent. William R. Fitzsimmons, dean of admissions and financial aid at Harvard,  joked that his office has identified the top five parents from hell.

6952633997_301a24f154_b-1On the other end of the spectrum, teachers, coaches, and now, employers, are embracing the involved parent, and figuring out how they can work more effectively with them. Google, Deutsche Bank, LinkedIn and many others now host a bring your parent to work day. Northwestern Mutual lets parents come along to interviews and hear details of job offers.

Are you, as a counselor, embracing or dissuading the new levels of parent involvement?

College Major: passion or job?

You are likely to change careers 7 times in your life. That is once every 7 years.

The market will change. Your passion will shift. You will gain new skills, and old ones will become obsolete or inadequate.

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Career building is neither about following your passion, nor about getting a job. It is about learning the skills you need to live where your passion meets what the market will pay for. Doing this well in college is the first step to a lifetime of successfully reinventing yourself in future

Choose well, but don’t worry if you don’t already know where that center is. 80% of those entering college (even those with declared majors) don’t know.