Greetings Students and Parents!
First and foremost, I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend.  As we head into the holiday season just three short weekends away, I want to take this opportunity to encourage families to reflect on how we can extend  the spirit of “Giving Tuesday”  as part of our holiday traditions.
For suggestions on how to contribute to this initiative please click here:
At this time of year, I encourage everyone to be mindful of neighbors who may appreciate your added assistance and kindness during the season.  How can you help those in need within your community?

Tips for Success!   
  • Mid-Year Adjustments 
  • Mistakes to Avoid
  • Summer Programs?
Busy parents and overwhelmed students require accurate information and personalized attention to navigate high school curriculum choices and the details surrounding the college admissions and financial aid processes.    
As this point in the school year, students should be proactively engaged and immersed in the learning taking place.  Parents assume a major role in guiding learners to becoming mature, motivated and self-directed young adults.  All too often I’ve observed families making avoidable mistakes later impacting both a student’s academic and college application success.  I’ll be discussing these below.
Thinking about summer programs? Need a recommendation for a competitive collegiate summer program? Program Applications are due December to March.  Let me guide you to finding a program to fit your goals.
College Exploration: Sophomores & Juniors: STEM, Business, Humanities or Arts– Need help exploring colleges to determine a solid academic and social “fit”?    
What majors have you overlooked?    
What colleges offer merit based scholarships?  
Where should you visit? Will summer program attendance increase your chances?
 Your “Mid-Year Assessment” provides a valuable initial step to creating your strategic educational plan and more clearly understanding the  
College Admission and Financial Aid Processes.  
  • Understand the College Admissions Process– Key Dates, forms and factors for success in admissions and in maximizing financial aid.
  • Create your curriculum map of high school and online programs to reach academic potential and prepare for success in the college admissions process.  The foundation of coursework in high school impacts your success as an undergraduate
  • Extracurricular Activities:  Identify opportunities for enhancing and refining  your activities addressing educational and admissions red-flags
  • Recommendations for relevant summer programs  to increase your admissions chances and confirm / discover an academic area of interest
  • Personalized learning strategies to increase grades and address concerns in one or more classes. Customized solutions for better time management 
  • Recommendations for Colleges and Majors(conventional and “unusual”)
  • Clarity on standardized testing (and customized solutions for preparation) and discussion of colleges de-emphasizing their value in admissions decision making
  • Activities Resume – Receive proprietary tools to build an eye-catching “activities statement” supporting your summer program applications, Common Application and Scholarship applications.
  • Understanding  the Real Cost of Education. Specific Strategies for your family and an explanation of Financial Aid Eligibility.
The single most important factor for success as an undergraduate and  in the college admissions process is taking the most challenging and relevant curriculum a student can comfortably manage.

For example, if your student is STEM focused, there is little admissions advantage gained from taking AP History classes which have exceptionally large homework demands.  Similarly, if your student is interested in obtaining an “MBA” or “MD” or “JD”, we’ll work on that admissions process in four to five years. Right now, don’t plan high school classes for graduate school. Focus on the right steps to prepare for academic success as an undergraduate!
Despite the best of intentions and the best time management, enrolling in too many AP classes can create hours of homework limiting time available  for meaningful extracurricular activities (which are also essential for admissions success), needed sleep and family harmony (parent-child dynamics suffer when students are stressed and unnecessary homework  completion “arguments” ensue).

As noted, Admissions representatives aren’t impressed by APUSH on a STEM applicant’s high school transcript.  The flip side, humanities driven students might consider the importance of “big data”! All disciplines are now moving to analytics. So while AP Physics isn’t necessarily your cup of tea-consider AP Statistics, AP Psychology or AP Computer Science to add breadth to your file setting you apart from the typical humanities applicant.

As part of my approach to strategic educational planning, I’ll guide you to creating a high school curriculum 

that is relevant to your education, college admissions and career objectives. Leverage my extensive knowledge of academic disciplines and explore some unusual major areas of study (increasing your odds of admission and making you a stronger student).  Research taking place at universities and in industry is often multi-disciplinary. 
“Did you do your homework?”   Students often ignore or delay implementation of solutions when struggling with time management, difficult concepts in one or more classes or things just don’t feel right in the course schedule.   Perhaps the reason homework is “delayed” is because the student is overwhelmed or confused.

My experience advising thousands of students over the past three decades allows me to assess and  implement classroom and time management solutions.  I’ve worked with students having a variety of learning disabilities and where appropriate, I can help families partner with health care professionals to receive necessary care.

Declining grades can be the result of many factors.  Hovering and arguing aren’t pleasant, nor is this leading to a long-term solution. Student and parents have the same goals- success. Self-destructive behavior can be avoided if we help our students recalibrate their goals.

Students should not be encouraged to engage in too many or “irrelevant” or “drudge” extracurricular activities.

As a former college admissions representative, and a current  Cornell alumni interviewer, I can assure you that we can spot insincerity.  Activities should only include those that capitalize on a student’s academic strengths or personal interests.  No one should be engaged in an activity that doesn’t bring joy or adversely impacts time needed for academic success.

Activities enrich a student’s academic experience and should bring balance into a student’s busy life. Let’s discuss continued opportunities for leadership in current activities, as well as enriching personal and academic interests.  You’ll receive a copy of my proprietary eye-catching activities resume with guidance on what to include gaining a competitive advantage in admissions.

Mistake to avoid: Don’t continue an activity you resent simply because you think it will “look good” in the college admissions process.  Certainly don’t participate in any activity that is taking so much time that your GPA is being affected.
Parents are needlessly worrying about their busy student’s schedule which seems short on sleep and long on late night homework.  Let me help your student redirect so that everyone is balanced and goals are realized.
Don’t make the mistake of focusing your energies on researching colleges when you should be researching potential majors based on your interests and academic strengths.  Even if you have multiple interests, you are more likely to be successful by applying to specific majors of study that reflect your high school curriculum and extracurricular interests to date.  You can be admitted as a biology major and subsequently graduate as an art history major.
Students make the mistake of thinking “conventionally”.  Just because you want to be a physician doesn’t mean you need to major in Biology.  Similarly, pre-law is more than politics. 

Be informed about unconventional and “hot” major areas of study that capitalize on your strengths and interests while providing a strategic admissions edge.
Students and parents often overlook some absolutely stellar Honors Programs at State Flagship colleges providing a comparable education to even the most competitive institutions.  These programs are available to out-of-state residents and often include substantial scholarships to attract strong students. Such programs include “Honors Housing” and many educational extras – VIP educational treatment.
As a former college professor, you’re invited to leverage my extensive knowledge of curriculum and degree requirements. Let me introduce you to a variety of majors you’ve likely never encountered.

I will teach you how to read a curriculum map!

Don’t pay to attend non-collegiate or travel summer programs run by “franchise” operations or those that send you glossy selective invitations.  These programs are frowned upon by admissions officers.  Let me help identify “spam-scam” activities.

I’ll provide the information you need to select an appropriate program that enriches both your education and enhances your chances of admission.

My next newsletter will discuss the advantages of attending summer programs.
Many families make the mistake of concluding they aren’t eligible for financial aid and/or don’t bother to work with a professional to help understand and appeal financial aid award letters.  My clients have been successful appealing their financial aid award.

MISTAKE TO AVOID: The Florida Pre-Pay trap: Don’t limit yourself to in-state public institutions because you participated in Florida Prepay.  Your financial circumstances may actually favor out-of-state private college attendance.   You’ll learn more about financial aid basics during your initial consultation.
 Universities  want to attract you to attend by offering lucrative merit scholarships.   Based on your academic and extracurricular record– there is quite a bit of merit based assistance for students.  Set goals, plan early- starting the college exploration process as early as 8th grade.
Applying to colleges you really don’t’ want to attend is a serious way to experience major disappointment.  Every year I hear from families asking how to get off wait lists. One family I recall a few years ago had  contacted me disappointed about having to attend UF or Cornell after being rejected from two other Ivy League colleges!  The student has in fact thrived at the school she is now attending.   If by chance things don’t work out, transferring at the end of the first or even second year is an acceptable option. (Another reason to avoid Senioritis – as high school transcripts are relevant in transfer admissions for undergraduates with fewer than 60 credits.)

This is another example of herd mentality.  Following friends isn’t recommended. Do the research on a college and the major that are the best fit for you academically and socially.

Try to avoid becoming obsessed with one college.  At 18 years old all paths should remain open!
I share with you two actual stories.  There are many more –and I must stress that anxiety over college admissions is never ever ever a reason to ignore your moral compass!

First, a former client arrived at our initial essay brain-storming session with a polished essay way beyond her writing abilities. She confessed that her mom was nervous about her ability to actually write an essay and had asked a professional writer and personal friend to generate the essay.

Plagiarism is completely unacceptable!! 

Another student shared with me that her friend’s college counselor suggested enhancing the resume to include unverifiable volunteer activities such as beach clean-up, Sunday school teaching and working at Habitat for Humanity.  I was speechless. Fabricating or exaggerating your resume, college or scholarship application is not only grounds for an admissions retraction; it’s simply immoral and not the way to begin your professional career. 

If by chance I haven’t persuaded you and you think everyone “enhances” their activities resume, let me remind you of the old adage “we live in a small world”.  You will get caught.  An admissions officer or alumni interviewer may serve on the Board at the organization you’ve embellished and you will be speechless when you don’t recognize names being noted in your alumni interview.

    Ensure your high school curriculum is lined up to prepare you to manage the necessary SAT II subject tests required at the most competitive institutions.  Ask me which tests are reviewed favorably during the admissions process for specific majors.  There is considerable variation across colleges and even within colleges by majors.
    Avoid redundant test preparation-hand holding isn’t for everyone.  If you must have help preparing for your SAT/ACT, ask your tutor if they will be providing you customized or off-the-rack resources.   I have a list of recommended tutors that have worked with several clients.
    Self-study isn’t for everyone, but it is highly recommended. There are several excellent self-paced online standardized test preparation services at a fraction of the cost of pricey local vendors.  The best part-self-directed and motivated young adults excel in college!  What an opportunity!
    Let me assist you with either establishing a manageable schedule of self-directed practice or if requested, provide recommendations for tutoring.

and these don’t enhance your chances of admissions.  Campus visits are expensive and should be limited to 3 to 5 schools that you can very clearly articulate a reason for visiting.   Most of what you need to know about academics is described at the college website.  Visits in the junior year are valuable if you want to truly narrow your list or confirm an Early Decision application.  If possible, aim to cut costs by visiting several schools in one part of the country.  You also have time for visits in the fall of your senior year where there are special senior programs that will allow you to shadow a current student.
*** Women and underrepresented minorities can often visit colleges at target weekends sometimes in an all-expenses paid program. Applications are due late summer/early fall.
are a wonderful opportunity for all students to mature.  Some parents and students assume that a year off means a seemingly great student will not be able to adjust to hard work after a gap year program.  The data support the exact opposite.   A year away often matures and energizes young adults and they outperform their peers in all majors.
Taking a gap year can also provide financial aid advantages by allowing siblings to have more overlap years as undergraduates leading to enhanced financial aid awards.  Ask me how this works!

Early decision acceptance rates are higher than regular decision rates at many institutions.  Parents and students should not conclude that individual chances are higher by design.  Qualified applicants have high chances of admission in both admissions cycles.  All too often I meet with families in our end-of-junior-year meeting with a confirmed list of reach, match and safety institutions. Then the panic sets in and students cannot imagine the protracted admissions cycle (decisions don’t arrive until end of March). Returning from their summer activities, the once fourth choice has become the first choice and the student switches to Early Decision.   Having choice in life is always a good thing as is patience for the natural course of events in all that we do.

Best wishes for a happy and a healthy holiday season.
I look forward to  your mid-year consultation an essential part of your  strategic educational plan.
Bonnie R. Rabin, Ph.D.
Educational and College Admissions Consultant
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Get started today creating a strategic educational plan for long term educational success.
STAY TUNED!  My next blog will discuss Campus visits