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   “Giving Tuesday”  as part of our holiday traditions.
For suggestions on how to contribute to this initiative please click here:
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 in attaining goals set forth in their personal strategic educational plan.  Parents assume a major role in guiding learners to becoming mature, motivated and self-directed young adults.  Absent a strategic plan, all too often I’ve observed families making  avoidable mistakes  later impacting both a student’s academic and college application success
The single most important factor for success in college admissions is taking the most challenging and relevant curriculum a student can comfortably manage.  I have observed parents and students in competition to bite off more than is necessary.

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 situation 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 map

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).
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 lost.

My experience advising thousands of students 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 the solution.  Student and parents have the same goals- success. Self-destructive behavior can be avoided.

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

As a former college admissions representative, 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. During your consultation we will 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 and which may not yet have been noted by your high school guidance counselor.

Please read my earlier blog  (see aboe) on researching college majors available to you at the 3900+ colleges in the United States.

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.

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.  100% of my clients have been successful appealing their financial aid award.

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 consultation.
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 in particular recently contacted me disappointed about having to attend UF and Cornell after being rejected from two other Ivy League colleges!  The student has in fact thrived at the school she attended.   If by chance things don’t work out, transferring at the end of the first or even second year is an acceptable option.

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.

I was recently told by a new client that her friend’s college counselor suggested that she enhance her resume with 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.
    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 for an Early Decision application.  If possible, aim to cut costs by visiting a large number of 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.
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