Author Archives: augustconsult

Still Deciding? This Post is for You!

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If you are the parent of a senior, you have exactly two weeks to make a deposit to a college that your student will attend in August. If your son or daughter knows where they are heading at the end of the summer, congratulations! If your child is still deciding, this post is for you. Several years back, I was in this seat with my own biological child. There was one week left to make a decision and there were three choices on the table, all of them quite unique from each other. Here are some suggestions that I learned from my personal experience. I wrote about them at length last year here, but the main points are listed below. Good luck!

1) $$$-Take paper to pencil and write down room/board/tuition for each school and add up the cost of attendance. Do not include books or personal expenses. Once you have that princely sum, subtract any scholarships or grants. Do not include loans in this number. If travel to and from this school requires airfare, add what you think the travel costs will be for freshman year. The next step is to take this number and multiply by 4. If you anticipate tuition going up, please factor that into your four-year costs. Do this for each college that your child is considering attending. When your family sees the four-year expenses at each institution, it will provide some important data that could impact the decision.

2) Distance-Revisit the idea of distance. It is easy for a 10th or 11th grader to believe that they want to go to college on the other side of the country. It is an entirely different thing to actually do that. They will be making this move in about four months. As this becomes reality, they might have a change of heart. Evaluate this aspect and make sure that your child is comfortable with going away.

3) Major-If your child thinks they know what they want to study, take a deep look at the program that each school offers. This may impact the final decision.

4) Mum is the word-When your child returns from a visit, or you are traveling home from an accepted students day together, say nothing. I have no doubt that you will have opinions, possibly strong opinions, you might even feel panicked at the prospect of your child at this school. But I beg you to say nothing and be aware of your body language too; just remain neutral. If your student wants to talk, you should listen, otherwise, say nothing. Allow 24-48 hours for the dust to settle and then talk about it.

5) Boundaries-If your child is still deciding where to attend college in late April, it might be all you think about. You might be mulling the choices over in your head 24/7 and have pros and cons lists lying all over your house. Do not bombard them with your thoughts, which are going around your head like a ticker tape. I suggest that you do not talk about this except at designated times. Use this time to take your senior out to dinner and limit your conversations about college to those specific times.

One last word on this phase of the college admissions process; at some point in their college career, your child is likely to have a rough patch. They are going to have a moment when they look in the mirror and think that College A was not the correct choice and that they should have attended College B. It is imperative that your child owns this decision and that is why you need to stay neutral and let them evaluate their choices after a visit, without your input. If you feel like your child is really going down the wrong road, after you have given them time and space to evaluate their options, then you can speak up and offer them guidance. Good luck!

Under Construction!

 

 

IMG_3016 Exactly one month ago, I was driving through the town where I live and I spotted a For Sale sign at a house that offered the option for commercial use. The past year or so I have kept my eye out for office space but I have found the market for what I need to be scarce. The commercial property caught my eye and I texted my friend who is a realtor. Exactly one hour later, we were inside the house, exploring how the layout might accommodate offices. We crunched the numbers but it really did not add up. I texted her later in the evening to thank her and tell her that I was not going to pursue the house. Then she texted me the magic words, “There is an office in my building available starting next month that is 200′ square feet. It might be a better play.” I went to see the office the next day, did all the paperwork and two weeks later, signed a lease. I took possession of my little space last Friday.

I have been busy getting set up and I have a cute handyman that is helping me. The timing is ideal because most of my seniors are making their final decisions and my juniors will be ramping up with their applications in June, so this is a perfect window to create an awesome space to help kids on the road to college. Stay tuned!

30 Days to Deposit!

IMG_2993If you are the parent of a senior, you are probably aware that your child must submit a deposit to one school by May 1st. This is an exciting time as the last round of acceptances have been released and your student makes a final decision. Here are some things to consider as the May deadline looms:

  1. Distance-I meet many students early in the college admissions process that are comfortable with traveling a great distance to attend college. They are excited about studying in another part of the country and they feel that the flexibility to get home is not a priority. As the college picture starts to come into focus and the reality of leaving home becomes real, some students start to back off the idea of heading to the West Coast. The option to come home is attractive. A student that attends a college that requires air travel to get to and fro needs to sit down at this juncture and make sure that this is still something that makes sense for them, in terms of both logistics and cost (see below).

2. Cost-Now is the time to put pencil to paper and see if there is a difference in the cost of attendance at the colleges that you are considering. I think the best way to do this is to look at room/board/tuition at the schools on your student’s list and subtract any scholarships or grants to accurately compare the costs. Make sure that you are using the 2019-2020 numbers from each school. Sometimes the websites have not been updated and they still have last year’s cost of attendance, which includes travel, personal expenses and books. I suggest that you eliminate those numbers and focus just on room/ board/tuition to compare apples to apples. If your child has a merit scholarship, is there a GPA requirement to keep it? Another factor to look at is how much the school has historically increased tuition. There are some colleges, like the University of Colorado, Boulder, where the tuition that you pay freshman year is the same tuition you pay all four years. Schools in New York are required to provide the cost for all four years. This can have a significant impact on the global cost over four years.

3. Academics-This is a logical time to look at the course of study your child is considering and look at the program at each college and what they offer. Do they have to apply to the major or are they already admitted? If they have to apply to the program, is there a GPA requirement? Is one of the programs more attractive or offer more specifically what your student wants to pursue? Is there flexibility to change majors or schools if they want to switch after they begin?

4. Housing-What type of housing guarantees does the school provide? What kind of housing requirements are in place? Some schools promise four years of housing, others offer one. Some colleges require four years of residence with a meal plan on campus. Take a look at what you are agreeing to as you make your decision.

5. Accepted Students Days-Colleges roll out the red rug for their Accepted Student Days. Even if you have visited a college already, it is a different experience stepping on to campus as an admitted student. If you are choosing between several schools, carve out the time to go back and visit so you can gather as much information as you can.

Good luck to all the seniors making decisions!

Scandal, Part III

For the socially and economically hopeful, I would explain, raising a child in America is an eighteen-year process of investing in the college-admissions system.

~Masha Gessen, The New Yorker, March 13th, 2019

I have spent the weekend bingeing on articles about the recent college admissions scandal. They are too numerous to mention by name.  As usual, Frank Bruni had a superb piece in the New York Times, here.

Last Thursday I had a class with my seniors the last period of the day. We spend our classes fully immersed in Spanish. These kids are a high-achieving group and I would bet that they all have at least one application in at an ultra-selective school with a sub-10% admit rate. And those schools are starting to release their decisions. Between now and April 1st, applicants should have their answers (MIT released on Pi Day, 3/14) I knew I was going to see a group of kids that are on the very front lines of the admissions process and I wanted to incorporate the recent story that had broke in the news. I decided to print out a Spanish version of the initial article that The New York Times published about the scandal and use it for our warm up activity. Then I had them work in pairs to discuss the article. The final part of the activity had each duo write three of their thoughts on the board. The overriding consensus was that they were not surprised about the cheating, they think legacy admissions should be eliminated and they think the college admissions process is incredibly unfair. So there are some thoughts from the soldiers on the front lines of college admissions.

If you are a parent, what can you do to make sure that you are not dealing with an Independent Educational Consultant with a dubious nature? Make sure that they have professional memberships with the National Association of College Admissions Counselors and the Independent Educational Consultants Association. These associations hold their professional members to a set of ethical standards.

One of the things that I have asked myself in the wake of the news last week is this; where  else might these people have cheated to enable their children to get where they are? Did they cheat to get admitted to their private school? I saw at least one student was listed as a student in a public performing arts school. If these parents were willing to go to the lengths that they did for college admissions, have there been other places in their lives where they have cut corners?

I work with all sorts of families, both paid and pro bono. One thing that I can tell you hands down is that everyone wants to do the very best that they can for their children. Even when a family has modest resources, they seek out free test prep options, try to visit colleges and make their student’s academics a priority. The families that cheated do not get a pass because they simply wanted “the best” for their children. Everyone wants that.

This brings me to my next point. The picture at the bottom of this post is the California residence of the Macy/Huffman family. Now I do not want to appear that I am bullying or harassing this one particular family and their alleged fraud. My last blog was about their Colorado house but I only stumbled on that when I was attempting to find an image online of their house in California to start writing this piece. When the story broke, images of Lori Loughlin’s home were posted. I looked at it and thought that it looked like the type of home that I would expect her family to live in, palatial and perfect, with two pools. But when I saw the Macy/Huffman residence, my jaw dropped. All I could think was, why did these people have to cheat? These kids will never want for anything. What difference could it have possibly made where they went to college? Take a look at the house and let me know what you think.

So how does this mess get cleaned up? I am going to go out on a limb here and say that I think that any parents that are convicted of fraud should go to jail. And the colleges will have to meticulously review who is on their campus and if they submitted fraudulent applications, they should be removed from campus. If they determine that degrees were awarded to students that applied with a fraudulent application, those degrees need to be revoked. Anything less will give people a reason to keep cheating.

Every cloud has it’s silver lining. We learned a good idiomatic expression in Spanish when we discussed the cheating scandal, tener cara. The literal translation is “to have face” but what it means in English is to have a lot of nerve or gall. It was the perfect way to describe the actions of the people enmeshed in this scandal.

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Scandal, Part II

 

I was beginning to write the second part of my thoughts on the scandal and I stumbled upon this article in Architectural Digest, dated March 13th, 2019. I honestly thought it was a joke when I first saw the title of the article. I nearly thought I was reading something from The Onion and when I realized what happened, I almost felt sorry for Architectural Digest. This magazine published an article about William Macy and Felicity Huffman that featured their home in Snowmass, Colorado, the day after college admissions fraud story broke. It was probably too late to stop the publication when the scandal hit the news. It is a glossy spread that praises the couple to no end. The link is here if you would like to read it. I put the two most relevant quotes below.  In a direct quote, William Macy says,

“We’ve got extra cross-country skis; we’ve got go-karts; we’ve got horses—anything you want to play with, we’ve got the toys,” says Macy of the stockpile designed to entice their teenage daughters back once they leave for college. But bells and whistles aside, it’s hard to imagine anyone not wanting to return to a house—or couple—that exudes this much warmth.”

This had my jaw on the ground. Not only did they allegedly commit fraud to get their children accepted at certain schools, but they also have “all the toys” to entice them to come back home when once they leave to attend college, the very school where they were accepted under false pretenses. (Or fraud)

But that wasn’t even the worst part. The author went on to write,

“And it’s not only the promise of good times with an illustrious yet refreshingly real Hollywood couple that is appealing. It’s their genuinely good-natured energy and values, which are reflected beautifully in the antique- and family portrait–studded home, an “old-new house” (as the couple refers to it) with an appropriately rich and poignant backstory.

The line, “their good-natured energy and values” has got to have the people at AD curling their toes. Stay tuned…I thought I would write this blog in two parts but it might take three or four…😡😡😡

 

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Scandal, Part I

Al Roker on the college admissions scandal,

 “I have two words for you, SUNY Oswego”.

 

I am still processing the college admissions scandal that broke this week and trying to collect my thoughts because I am having a hard time getting my head around what happened.

Matt Reed has a blog on Inside Higher Education and I always look forward to what he writes because it is prescient and he is an administrator on a local community college campus where I once worked, so his writing sometimes involves issues quite close to home. He often pens a piece called “Friday Fragments” where he briefly touches on a variety of topics that are not necessarily connected. I decided to adopt his format because I honestly do not know where to begin or how to connect it all. So here goes…

People ask me, “Were you surprised?” Yes and no. I am not surprised that there was cheating going on. What shocks me is how brazen it was. I could imagine a good tennis player with decent test scores trying to bribe a coach. I am still trying to understand the pure cojones of fabricated athletic careers, manufactured awards AND cheating on BOTH standardized tests, to say nothing of the sums of money and the lengths that parents were willing to go to secure a spot for their children. 

The morning after the scandal hit the news, I listened to an NPR interview on my way to work. The broadcasters were expressing sympathy for the “poor kids” whose parents did this. I believe that there are some kids that did not know but I would wager that more knew than didn’t. Getting dressed up in water polo gear and posing for pictures or sitting for images on a rowing machine directly involved the students. They needed to fill out an application citing all of their activities. If they actually did their application, it seems likely that they would have known. And if they did not submit their applications they are still on the hook because you have to sign something that says the application is authentic, see below. 

I called my cousin this week and she answered the phone, “Well aren’t you in the new sexy business!” People jokingly said to me, “Wow! You must be rich!” I had students receiving acceptance letters and the punch line kept getting added, “and without any bribery!” Ugh…

I have heard it said that for the average family, trying to sort out the college admissions process is like trying to take a sip of water from a fire hose. This scandal has been the same for me. I keep writing this blog entry and I keep having to add more to it. I feel like I am drinking from a fire hose…it is overwhelming.

William Rick Singer claims to have worked with over 700 families. I think there could be more charges as the investigation continues. What will happen? What should happen? Will people go to jail? How will schools address the students that are part of this fraud? The Common Application has students sign the following statement. “I certify that all information submitted in the admissions process-including this application and any other supporting materials is my own work, factually true, and honestly presented…I understand that I may be subject to a range of possible disciplinary actions, including admissions revocation, expulsion, or revocation of course credit, grades and degree should the information be certified false.” If a student fraudulently enrolled at a school and applied with the Common App, this verbiage does not bode well for them keeping their already awarded degrees or their current enrollment status.

There is no lack of reading material online about this issue but if you want to see what happened on a granular level, I would suggest the article in Deadspin, here. (And just a warning, get ready to be outraged). But if you don’t have time to keep reading about this, here are two of my favorite quotes because they are so galling.

In the LA Times, in an article titled, “Audacious College Admissions Scandal Left So Many Red Flags Missed By So Many”, I read that Devon Sloan arranged with Singer to have his son admitted to USC with a “coveted” spot on the water polo team. When his son’s counselor at the Buckley School questioned this, Sloan emailed Singer and said, “The more I think about it, it is outrageous! They have no legal right to be calling it challenging/questioning my son’s application.” Let that sink in a minute. He was committing fraud, stealing a spot from a legitimate athlete and had the umbrage to say that it was outrageous and that the school had no legal right to question his fraud.

Gordon Caplan, co-chair of the law firm, Willkie, Farr and Gallagher, said to Singer, “To be honest, I’m not worried about the moral issue here. I’m worried about the, if she’s caught doing that, you know, she’s finished.” Think about that for a second. This man is at the pinnacle of the law profession and he “is not worried about the moral issue” of committing fraud. He is just concerned about getting caught.

The College Board and ACT Inc. sure have egg on their face. And I sympathize with all of the teenagers that have legitimate need for testing accommodations. I think these entities will come up with a labyrinthine set of steps that families will have pass through if they need more time or other arrangements for their students. 

I work with teenagers by day, I consult with them privately and I parent them. This has got to be disheartening for high school students all over the country. I hope for their sake that there are meaningful consequences for every group that committed fraud in this investigation. Stay tuned for Part II…

Why I Wish I Had A Magic Wand

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You are your own good news. You can create a future for yourself, full of connection and purpose. Beneath the fear of inadequacy and the self-consciousness that suffuses public evaluation, you’re in there. You have gifts and power and will develop more of both. Tend your crops as best you can and that will be enough. I promise.”

~Kelly Corrigan

This weekend I posted this quote on social media from a letter that Kelly Corrigan wrote. The full piece is here. I was amazed at how many people reached out to thank me for sharing it. Her writing resonated with people in high school, college and beyond. The same weekend that I posted this piece, I was driving some of my favorite ninth graders home after an evening gathering at our house. As I drove, one of my young passengers brought up college admissions and I listened in the darkness as they talked. Finally, I heard a voice from the back of the car say, “Ugh, it is just SO SCARY!” I wanted to pull the car over and tell them that they should not be scared, that they all have loving, supportive families. They are all kind, capable and have shown themselves to be stunningly devoted and caring friends. Each and every one of them has myriad personal skills, gifts, talents and resources that no standardized test will ever be able to measure nor a soaring GPA be able to convey. These kids are all going to shine in high school and beyond. I wanted to stop the car and tell them all of this but I did not because I am not their parent nor their college counselor and it is simply not my place. So I just piped up and said, “Don’t worry! No one should be scared”. But I wanted to quote Kelly Corrigan and remind them of “…their goodness and capacity that is impervious to both recognition or rejection”.

The car ride and the outreach about the Kelly Corrigan piece all in one weekend made me think about the college process and the toll it takes. I have written at length about the path to peace in college admissions here and here. I have written about what I think parents and students should really be anxious about here. (And it is not about getting accepted!) I wish I could wave a wand and alleviate the stress around college admissions that I see. But I am not at Hogwarts and I do not have a magic wand, so I am just going to keep writing and sharing pieces that I think can help people feel less anxious about the journey to college. And to ALL of my 2022 peeps, I will paraphrase Corrigan one more time and say, “I am rooting for you!”