Greetings Students and Families,
Who are You? Colleges want to know!
As part of my practice, I read a great deal about trends in education and college admissions as well as reading about issues impacting the emotional well-being of young adults.  Pandemic or not- the issues of high school that challenge our teens are very real. Last year, I shared an interesting article that continues to resonate with me. But clearly the title of the article hit a chord with many others engaged in college admissions as the same theme is actually reverberating across the Common App as a the prompt in college specific supplemental essays across several colleges.

In CHECK THIS BOX if YOU’RE A GOOD PERSON, Dartmouth Admissions Officer Rebecca Sabky spoke about the admissions process.  She is national voice urging teachers, guidance counselors and parents to foster a sense of awareness in the young adult population. My clients know (and some joke) that I push this point a bit much– asking students “how do you envision you’ll change the world when you’re 35, 45—why wait– what can you do now to get started in that direction” !
I also guide college research on majors so that students feel eager and ready to answer this question by the start of their senior year of high school: “what’s the problem you want to solve?”  

THE POINT >> Good people just don’t check off earning degrees– good people receive an education for the purpose of appling their education in impactful ways– affecting people in communities locally and globally. College admissions officers want to know what you’ve been up to!

Sabky’s thoughts are highlighted below and reflect my own personal experience as a university faculty member reading hundreds of admission files.
“The problem is that in a deluge of promising candidates, many remarkable students become indistinguishable from one another, at least on paper.” “Yet in the chaos of SAT scores, extracurriculars and recommendations,one quality is always irresistible in a candidate: kindness”
“Letters of recommendation are typically superfluous…. they generally fail to provide us with another angle on who the student is, or could be as a member of our community. “
So here we are a few years after her article was written and you might ask why am I raising this point again and again? Very simply, not only are we living in a very challenging time – besieged and deluged with a daily news cycle about “civility” and “divisiveness”, but because this point is important.   To live with purpose isn’t a fleeting slogan on a yoga mat– it’s a way of life – that we embrace in all that we do at home and in our communities.
Where Will Your Impact Be– !
As parents, educators, or in any capacity that requires us to help young adults become productive members of society, our “advising” begins way before high school even starts. We all have the responsibility to (gently) guide our young adults to engage in discovery about themselves– their strengths, their interests and how they engage with others.  
And yes, all students also need to reach their highest academic potential. But if the entirety of the message they hear from the adults around them, and the conversations taking place are focused solely on maximizing their GPA, we miss an opportunity to help each student lead fulfilling experiences to prepare them for personal and academic success now and in the future.   
Why is it important to be a “good person”?!   Aside from personal fulfillment consistent with the values we instill in our children, we know that whatever profession they enter, your student will creatively engage in problem solving and decision making within groups of diverse and inclusive communities (also the topic of many a college essay prompt – ask me for examples).  Experience gives each young adult the power and confidence to be themselves!!

It pays to be a “stellar” (Interesting) student!!

Kindness Matters!In Want to Raise Well-Adjusted Kids?, John Write spoke about the benefits of hosting an exchange student. What the article shares in common with the seemingly unrelated NY Times piece on Dartmouth admissions is that both authors speak to the importance of young adults engaging in character-developing opportunities outside-of-the classroom ultimately raising their awareness of their connections with others within their communities. 

So how does this all relate to college admissions and academic success at the high school and undergraduate levels?
As our young adults embrace their academic potential, perhaps even more important is that each emerging adult be inspired to find their place within their community. This begins at home with guidance to seek out opportunities to discover and enrich their passions and their strengths.  

What is your student passionate about? Now is the time for discovery!

COLLEGE PLANNING: I can guarantee you that there’s no magic formula for being accepted into a selective university, but I can guide you to navigating the college application process as well as increase the likelihood that your student will be successful throughout high school and have a seamless transition to their undergraduate community.

College Admissions – building the freshman class.Admissions officers go way beyond seeking students with perfect GPAs and test scores. As I wrote in an earlier blog: 

“The Myth of College Acceptance Rates – 2024 — The Results” the class of 2024 was balanced across intended majors, gender, location and a host of other factors. Your student has the intelligence to succeed at several colleges, but recognize that a freshman class cannot be comprised entirely of female Biology majors from your zip code. If rejected, it’s truly nothing personal nor necessarily a statement about a student’s inability to succeed. 
A student’s GPA and the curriculum are still the most weighted factor in rendering an admissions decision. That’s a threshold to cross- but it’s woefully insufficent and you will be sorely disappointed to hear that your accomplishments are insufficient to earn an acceptance at a “dream” college. Engage in joyful, impactful and meaningful experiences so you are YOU and stand out from the sea of students with perfect GPA and test scores.
Universities seek out students who have taken on leadership roles and who have a variety of genuine interests. That said, every student must reach a bar of academic accomplishments to be a viable candidate.   Confused about whether to take AP, AICE, IB or even dual-enrolled classes? Once you recognize that there’s very little difference in curriculum choices across high schools across the US, your focus shifts to selecting electives taken beyond the core required curriculum (4 years English, 4 years Social Studies, etc.).  Challenge and explore!   
So Why YOU?After universities select a huge pool of applicants that have the desired academic credentials, that is when the differences among students begin to matter.  That’s what brings us back to the content of the first half of this newsletter.   Admissions officers look to find the “real you” evidenced in your essays, your listing of extracurricular accomplishments, your recommendations and perhaps even your interview. 
You cannot present someone you’re not, and most important-the someone you are-that someone has been shaped well before high school.What ignites your curiosity? How do you spend your time? 

The experiences our young adults enjoy at home, at school, at extracurricular activities and within their communities are in fact “defining”. Those experiences allow admissions officers to build a balanced freshman class. Are you a natural leader, risk-taker, or have a quest for learning (a popular essay prompt). Do the experiences you’ve had describe someone ready to engage? Do you demonstrate an innate empathy, curiosity, or discipline and commitment to “something”?

Universities would like to be your first choice.I’ve written about “demonstrated interest” which can be expressed sincerely by knowing what ignites your interests in Biochemistry or Politics, etc. so that you are an informed consumer. That’s right ….you’re a consumer!!  While there are a few thousand campuses you can study these and other traditional and unusual majors, it’s essential to do your research. 
Learn how to read curriculum maps to understand everything that distinguishes one university from another. Let me help you discover how to conduct the research that will allow you to find a perfect fit academically, socially and even within your your financial means.


It is indeed never too early to begin taking steps to ensure you have a long-term strategic education and college admissions plan fostering a love of learning, solid time management skills and a directed path towards the undergraduate experience.


Bonnie R. Rabin, Ph.D. Educational & College Admissions Consultant

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