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

Free Webinar: Breaking Down Supplement Essays

Our dear friend, Carol, is offering another awesome free webinar tomorrow (Tuesday, October 15) 4:00-5:00pm Pacific Time.

Space is limited! Sign up today

If you attend, you can ask questions. If you are in a timezone you cannot attend, I still recommend registering, and they typically send you a link to the recording.

As a follow up to the last post, below is Miss South Carolina’s second attempt:

Supplemental Prompts and Other Beauty Pageant Questions

“If you had your community’s undivided attention, what would you tell them?” is Pomona College’s supplemental prompt for this year.

In the next post, we will share valuable information about answering these questions. Today, let us just relax, enjoy this 49 second clip, and thank our stars that our answers will never be on YouTube.

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?

The College Rank Illusion

US News ranking ranks colleges in a context. Contexts (and composite scores) create illusions. To look beyond the illusion, look at the colleges in different contexts:


  • Forbes ranks are based on outcome or return on investment, and they also rank the individual components that go into their overall ranking.
  • Princeton Review ranks by 62 specific criteria, broadly categorized as academic, campus, town, politics, social, extra curricular, school type, and quality of life.
  • PayScale provides ranking based on pay of graduates who do not go on to do higher studies.

While US News and Princeton rankings are based on “input” criteria (faculty pay/education, student selectivity, peer reputation, etc.), Forbes and PayScale measure the outcome (alumni pay, graduation rate, charity contributions by alumni, student awards, etc).