August 1st & the Common App is Open!

“The supplement is a chance to expand one’s candidacy, to reveal one’s personality, and to prove one’s interest. If the essay was the heart of the application, the supplement was it’s soul”

Becky Munsterer Sabky

~Valedictorians at the Gate

Today is a big day in the college admissions world. The Common App reopens for the 2023 admissions cycle. Students can see which colleges on their list will require supplemental essays and get started on them. They can return to school next month with their applications complete so they can focus on their senior year, getting the best grades in the most rigorous classes in their high school career and enjoying their last year at home. If you know a senior that needs to tackle the next stage of writing, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. The length can vary. I have seen questions that require an answer the length of a tweet. Others can be 500-1,000 words. Typically they are 150-250.

2. These pieces are usually shorter than the main essay, but they need to be polished. The supplemental essays should receive the same level of care and effort as the main essay.

3. You might see prompts that you can use more than once. Two examples that I often see are “Tell us about a meaningful extracurricular that you enjoy” or “Tell us why you want to study and why”.

4. Another typical supplement that colleges use is the “Why Us?” essay. In order to write this effectively, you need to craft a detailed piece with specific information that draws you to the college.

5. The supplement is an opportunity to show another facet of yourself that is not already a part of your application.

6. Colleges use this portion of the application to allow students to share their voice, more of their personality and their interest in a school.

If you know a rising senior, encourage them to get started sooner rather than later. As I tell the kids that I work with, “You can pay now or you can pay later, but you are going to pay.” Good luck!

Summer Admissions Fragments

Happy July 4th from the Jersey Shore! I am wrapping up work with my seniors and sending them all into the weekend with their Common App drafted and essays drafted. Here are some bits and pieces of news and information from the college admissions world:

~The University of Vermont is adding a round of Early Decision to their application plan this year. My guess is that they are trying to increase their selectivity in the national rankings.

~The Common App has announced that their blackout period will start on July 27th and they will reopen the application for the class of 2023 on August 1st. Make sure you save any work that you have completed so that it rolls over and is ready to go on August 1st.

~Several schools have shifted their application deadlines. The best source of information is the school websites. They tend to move them to an earlier date so take care to determine the dates for the schools on your list so you do not miss any deadlines.

~Test-optional schools have proliferated in the pandemic. Many schools that used to require an SAT or an ACT are allowing students to apply without scores. But there are some schools that require them this year. Applicants to MIT, University of Tennessee and the public schools in Florida and Georgia will need test scores. Double check the requirements of the schools on your list.

~Akil Bello is a leader in the college admissions world and he wrote an interesting piece for Forbes about standardized testing here.

~Many professionals in the admissions world question the UNSWR College Rankings and I advise families to never look at them. This article in the NYTimes about Columbia pulling out of the rankings for the coming cycle is interesting. I hope it is the beginning of the end for the ranking world.

I am signing off for a few days of R&R. I hope you have a relaxing holiday weekend.


Three Awesome Podcasts

Knowledge is power. If you are a parent with a child on the college admission journey, the more information you have, the more you can make smart decisions for your family around fit, academics, money and the multiple other considerations that go into choosing a college. There are some incredible podcasts out there that can help you learn more about this process. I have put links and descriptions below to three of my favorites. Enjoy!

This podcast is hosted by Andrew Palumbo, the Dean of Admission and Financial Aid at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. He provides deep insights into how college admissions works by interviewing experts in the field.

Ethan Sawyer is “The College Essay Guy”. He has books, online courses and this podcast. His resources are incredible and usually free or available on a sliding scale. He shares his materials and knowledge far and wide. On his podcast he speaks with people with a wide array of experiences in the college admission world.

Future U is hosted by Jeff Selingo and Michael Horn. They are both authors that write about higher education in the United States. They talk a wide range of topics that pertain to college in America.

What is Holistic Admission?

If you have a teenager in your life applying to college, at some point you will hear the word “holistic admissions”. The definition of the word holistic is clear but families often wonder exactly what that means for their student. Johns Hopkins University published a video that provides a clear explanation of what holistic admissions is and how they use it to evaluate an applicant and bring in their class. Enjoy!

May 1st!*

“Communities are built like Legos, one brick at a time. There is no hack.”

~Jenny Anderson, Beyond Mindfulness

*This is a repeat post marks the third anniversary since I opened my sweet little office. The offer still stands for the whole month of May…anyone can come talk to me about college…with no charge. If you know a family that could benefit from this, please have them get in touch with me.

A friend posted the most beautiful piece on community in March. It was written by Jenny Anderson and it resonated with me. I have been the recipient of support from my community in ways that are too numerous to mention. I have benefited from the small things, like a class mom organizing a holiday event at school and I have literally been picked up and carried by my community when the unthinkable has happened. When I reflect on community, my first thought goes to the town where I live, but really, I have had the fortune to be a member of many communities. I have my SLU community from college, a professional community that I work with every day, a community of moms that I raised my kids alongside, that love my kids like their own, as I do theirs and I have my ADK/ski community, a group like no other. The essence of the article that touched me spoke about how we have to give to really be part of a community. And it made me question if I have given enough. I know I have received, in ways large and small, but have I really given?

I worked hard this past month to open my new office on May 1st, which is a significant date in the college planning world. May 1st is National Decision Day when seniors must decide where they are going to college. I thought it would be a meaningful day to open my doors. And the beautiful article about community gave me an idea for how I can give to my own community.

The whole month of May, I am available to meet with anyone who would like to talk about the college admissions process, free of charge. I am dead serious. Come talk to me for an hour and bring your questions, no strings attached. My real hope is that after an hour, you have enough information that you don’t need any more help. If this sounds unlikely, keep reading.

Several years ago, when I was in the middle of my certificate program at the University of California, Irvine, I heard a local mom lamenting about college admissions. I offered to come over and speak with her children. I met them on a Sunday morning and spent an hour walking them through the steps of finding a good fit for college. Last month, when I posted the news about my office, this parent reached out to me to thank me and update me on where all of their children ended up. Each one of these kids chose a great school, all quite different from each other, but the right fit for the individual student. An hour can go a long way.

So if you are stressed or confused, or overwhelmed, or maybe you know someone who is, come talk to me. You can send your child, you can come with your child, or maybe you would like to come alone. Or just come see my office and have a Perrier. My seniors are all settled on their schools and my juniors aren’t in application mode yet, so I have time. Consider it a thank you for all of the times that my community has taken care of and supported me and my family. The article about community is here. I look forward to hearing from you!

Twenty Days to Deposit for the Class of 2022

“College is one of the most complex and expensive purchases one makes”

Breaking Ranks: How the Ranking Industry Rules Higher Education & What to Do About It By Colin Diver

If you are the parent of a senior (as I am), there is a good chance you are spending the month of April visiting colleges, attending accepted student days, weighing financial aid offers and talking to your student about their choices. This is not an easy business. You are weighing a large decision on not only the nuts and bolts of an education and the cost involved, but a choice that rings deep in your heart. There are so many facets that factor into this decision and I think that the deepest one under them all is this-will my kid be ok? That is really all we want as parents at the end of the day. Here are some tips as you walk through this jungle on your way to a May 1 deposit:

  1. $$$-Take paper to pencil and write down the room/board/tuition. Do not include books, travel 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 the school requires airfare, add in what you think the annual costs will be. Take this number and multiply it by four. This is the four-year cost for your child before any tuition increases. Do this for each college your child is considering. When your family sees the four-year costs at each institution, it will provide important data that could influence the final choice.

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 it. 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 (and you!) are comfortable traveling a significant distance, especially in light of the pandemic over the last two years.

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, 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 attending a specific school. But I beg you, to say nothing and be aware of your body language too; just remain neutral. If your child 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 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 might be going around your head like a ticker tape. I suggest you only discuss this at designated times. Take your senior out to dinner and limit the conversation to when you are out.

As you child thinks about their options, remember this quote from Colin Diver’s new book, Breaking Ranks: How the Ranking Industry Rules Higher Education & What to Do About It:

 “Unlike apples and oranges, or refrigerators and cars, college is not simply a short-term consumption activity. It is a long-term investment in human capacity—the ability to do financially, socially, emotionally, and even spiritually rewarding work; to teach oneself and others how to learn, adjust and adapt; to analyze, reason, evaluate and create; to appreciate beauty, ingenuity, order, complexity and subtlety.”

These words define why your child is going to college and can help guide your family to a good decision. Good luck!

The Olympics & College Admissions

“It is so much more about your type of skiing and being proud of your skiing than it is where you end up in the results.”

~Ryan Cochran-Siegle, US Ski Team Silver Medalist

I loved watching the American skier Ryan Cochran-Siegle win a silver medal last month in the Olympics. Ryan, or “RCS” as he is known, hails from the famous Cochran family of northern Vermont. His grandfather cut trails on their property in Richmond so his children could ski and this grew into Cochran’s Ski Area. You pass it if you travel south on I-89 outside of Burlington. Ryan is part of the second generation that has competed at the international level. I have been to their ski area, met several of them and even heard an incredible story from Marilyn Cochran about our dear friend, Jeff Pier*. I have sampled their Slopeside Syrup and their generosity. Years ago, RCS’s cousin, Robbie Kelly, sent us a US Ski Team coat (pictured below) from the World Cup circuit when one of my children was in the hospital. But I think what I love most about the Cochrans is that they openly advertise that they want people to come ski their hill and that cost is not an issue. A season pass for a family costs $250. And if that presents a hardship, they will work something out with you. 

So how does this relate to college admissions? When he was interviewed after his run he said something like, “I just wanted to have a great run and do my best. When I came across the finish line, I knew I had done that, before I ever even saw my time or where I placed.” And that is the piece that every college applicant needs to do. What does that mean?

  1. Take the time to think about what you want to get out of the college experience. 
  2. Consider what you want your life to look like after college and how you can best use the eight semesters to get there.
  3. Put the thought and research into building a list of schools that you love with a range of acceptance likelihood. 
  4. Work on your applications well before the deadline so you can take the time and care to put forth the strongest application possible. 

If you do these four steps, then you will be following the same model as RCS. His quote above says it all–do not focus on the outcome. Your focal point should be on yourself and your amazing efforts!

*The story is too long and not admissions related but my husband or I will happily tell anyone who would like to hear it 🙂

Thirty Days & Counting…Part 3

“Great kids are denied every year…Admissions, unfortunately, are not a meritocracy; many factors go into the process, and yes, hearts get broken. But hearts heal. Let your kid be disappointed. Let yourself be disappointed. Be sad. Your kid and you might be sad for several days, in fact. You need to process the mind shift –– give everyone time and space to do that. Then, dust all of yourselves off and start moving towards excitement for their next step, wherever it is.”

~Allison Slater Tate

Discuss the possibility of a denial (And yes, language matters. The word denial is gentler than rejected.) well before the decision release date. Have a plan if the answer is yes (I addressed this in Part 1 & 2) but more importantly have a plan if the answer is not what you had hoped. Here are some suggestions:

~Parents and children should create time and space to process this potentially painful and disappointing information. Clear your calendar and have a strategy around the next meal, most likely dinner. Your child (and you) might need some comfort food and a place to curl up and process a denial from a college. 

~This plan should involve how and when the information will be shared and with who. Let your child take the lead here. Feel free to turn your phone off.

~ The smart money will stay away from social media, where others might post about their childrens’ acceptances. Be aware of the possibility of hearing that someone you know was admitted to the school that denied your child. This can really sting. 

~Take all the time you need. It might take days to get over this. It is fine to stay in limbo.

~Your child does not have to start sorting through their acceptances to pick a school right away. It is more than alright to acknowledge this disappointment. 

~Be gentle with your child and with yourself. This is the first “No” that the universe has issued for many of these kids.

~If all else fails, keep reading the wise words above from Allison Slater Tate until you feel better.

Thirty Days & Counting…Part 2

So let’s say you get an acceptance letter from Super University. You LOVED this school when you toured the campus, the college has a single digit admit rate, you put forth the strongest application you could and sent it into the ether with your fingers crossed. And…THEY ACCEPTED YOU! 


  1. Celebrate with your family-go ahead and scream and yell and hug and scream and yell some more. 
  2. Share the news with anyone in your immediate circle that IS NOT a current college applicant or the parent of a college applicant. Call your aunt on the other side of the country, reach out to the family that you babysit, let your neighbor know. 
  3. Let anyone that helped you with the college process know the great news. You should tell your guidance counselor, the teachers that wrote you letters of recommendation and any alumni that lent support. 
  4. When you are out in the world in a public space, conduct yourself with humility and grace. Do not boast or brag about your acceptance.  (Save the happy dance for when you are in the privacy of your home).


  1. I suggest that you do not post the news on social media. If you were admitted to a college with a single digit admit rate, there are nine or more other students that are receiving a letter of denial for the one letter of acceptance that you received. There will be time to share the news online, but take a beat and wait to post this exciting news after the dust has settled. 
  2. I recommend that you take great care in how you approach your peers that are in the middle of the application cycle. Do not call them screaming and yelling that you got in. (Follow the directions in #2 above) If you have a close friend that got disappointing news, they will need time and space to process the sting of a denial. 

And stay tuned for Part 3 tomorrow…

Thirty Days & Counting…Part 1

“I know this season is SO HARD. Your kids have been through trauma the past few years –– we all have –– which makes this even more emotional, even when the news is good. Hug your kids. Tell them you are excited for them no matter what. Tell them this is not a measure of their worth, that they have huge things ahead no matter where they go, that all steps forward are steps forward. Consider doing it BEFORE they get their decisions. And then every day for the rest of the time you have them at home. They will squirm, but they need reminding all the same.”

~Allison Slater Tate

The penultimate stage of the 2022 admission cycle has thirty days left. By April 1st, 99% of the colleges will have rendered decisions on their applicant pool. Whether you get the answer that you were looking for or not, there are some Do’s and Don’ts that families should follow. In Part 2 of this blog, I am going to start with the scenario for the student that received an acceptance to a reach school that feels like a dream come true. Part 3 will focus on what to do if the news is not what you had hoped. 

If you have a senior that is waiting to hear from a college where they submitted an application, here are some suggestions;

  1. Create time and space for these answers to come in. Most colleges announce the time that they will release their decisions. Make a plan to have your student get their answer in a place where they feel safe and supported. Clear your schedule so that your home is quiet and you are available for them. Do not host your younger child’s pasta dinner for their hockey team at the same time that your older child is getting their decision from Yale. 
  2. Have a plan for how to celebrate if the answer is YES! Is it dinner at their favorite restaurant? Putting on their favorite music and having a dance party? Breakfast for dinner? I am sure you have some idea of how your student would like to celebrate. Just make sure that the celebrating is done in the privacy of your own home. 
  3. Create a plan in case the news that your child receives is disappointing. Maybe they need to stay in their room for the evening, maybe they want some comfort food delivered, maybe they need to be with you. Talk about this in advance so you are prepared. 
  4. Remember that as a parent, an acceptance will feel great, but a denial might sting you as badly as it does the student. Create a plan for yourself in the event that your child does not get the decision that they want. You might need some space to process this.
  5. Keep all of this news private until your student is ready to share.

The words that I quoted above from Allison Slater Tate are gold. If all else fails, just keep reading them!