By Deb Coco

The lazy, hazy days of summer are slipping by quickly.   At The College of Advisor of New York, one of our goals for our rising seniors is to complete their main college essay by Labor Day.  By Labor Day you say?  Your friends aren’t even thinking about college applications yet!

There is a method to our organizational madness, and it has your best interests at heart.  Although buckling down to write in July may not be on par with a trip to the lake, you’ll see the payback once fall rolls around and you aren’t (like all of your friends) trying to brainstorm a top-notch essay while also going to class, playing a sport and taking your final SAT.

Here are some pointers for how to brainstorm and craft an essay to get you noticed:

The main essay is a critical component of your complete college application.  Along with test scores and GPA it is the most important part.  Your application will be reviewed holistically, so we advise every student to put your “best foot forward” approaching this important and unique piece of writing.

First, let’s address what this 650 word essay is not.  It is not intended to summarize your high school activities or accomplishments; the Common Application devotes specific sections to academic performance and awards, sports achievements and extracurricular activities.  Parents and students can rest assured that this essay should not be a regurgitation of those facts.  The goal of the main essay is to illustrate (and we use that word deliberately) who you are outside of the facts.  What makes you tick?  What brings you joy?  What have you learned about yourself?  What do we NOT know about you?  Your application is chock-full of facts about every slice of your life in school and your activities, but this essay is looking for something deeper.  Most students will never participate in a college interview, so this makes the essay the primary opportunity for colleges to learn something more personal about you.

Many students find this introspective process to be the most challenging part of their college application.  Although you may have done extensive writing in high school, most of you have not been required to share something so personal.  However, the college essay does NOT need to be complex.  In our work with students, we’ve found that the simplest subjects often reveal the deepest truths.

In our many combined years of coaching experience, there is no topic that is off-limits, with a few minor exceptions.  This is not a forum for discussing a romantic relationship, nor is it the best place to highlight your athletic prowess.  Dig deep and let the admissions reader get to know another side of you.

The main essay can be intimidating because most students have never done this type of writing, and the first few words are the most difficult.  You’ve written research papers, persuasive essays, and book reports and answered SAT essays, but the main essay is much different  – it’s personal – and that can be the most difficult part of the process.  We brainstorm with our students to find just the right topic  — and as a coach I’ve seen literally hundreds of different ideas.

After you find a topic, don’t put off until tomorrow what you can write today!  JUST DO IT.  Your first draft won’t (and shouldn’t) be your last, but once you begin you may be surprised how quickly the words flow.  I know when my students have found the right topic because the piece reads authentically.  And the word authentic is important.  Admission readers are PROS at seeing through phony essays.  Don’t try to wow them with tales of trips you’ve not taken or knock off someone else’s idea – they’ve seen it all and are on the look-out for students who plagiarize or make up stories.  I cannot stress enough that you need to be your most genuine self.  You don’t need to have climbed Mt. Everest or done original research to produce a stellar and engaging essay.  In fact, even if you’ve done those things, we suggest you write about something else.

Ask yourself what you want the admissions counselor to know about you that they did not learn from your application and search out an example that demonstrates this.  That is the simplest way to move forward and begin to get words on paper (or a screen).  Read it aloud when you’re done (you’ll be surprised how many needless words you find!) and cut, cut, cut – the best advice I’ve ever received in a writing class.

By following this simple road map, you’ll be leaps and bounds ahead of your friends and can breathe a sigh of relief when you head back to school.  And while it’s not nearly as fun as water skiing, it will put you ahead of your competition!

 

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It Does Not Take A Village . . .

by College Advisor NY on June 17, 2017

By Deb Coco, College Admissions Coach, The College Advisor of New York

If you’ve watched a newscast within the last few years, you’ve probably heard some depressing news about the future of the next generation:  they are categorized as “lazy,” “out of touch with reality,” or “unfocused.” As college admission coaches, each of us spends a great deal of time, 1:1, with teenagers and we can honestly say we’ve noticed a change in students over the years.  Whether it’s the abundance of technology at their fingertips (the most common excuse) or the result of helicopter parenting, many students are missing the necessary skills to successfully communicate with adults (both in person and by email) and I can assure you that writing skills are at an all time low.  The result is the inability to successfully navigate through the college admission process (and life beyond it) without their parents’ control.

It was after this year’s admission cycle that I fully realized the extent of this problem.  For the most part, if  parents had not dominated the process (answered my emails in place of their child, questioned me about essay topics, etc) their student would not have stayed on track.

However, we cannot entirely blame students.  They are the products of OVER parenting – also known as ‘helicopter parenting,” or the new term,  “snow plow parenting.”  Evidence of this phenomenon abounds.  A parent recently contacted us about his son who was applying to an MBA program.  He didn’t call us for advice but rather for help with the application – because he, (the FATHER) was filling it out.  You read that correctly.  This is a generational phenomenon – – I can unequivocally guarantee that my parents (and parents in previous generations) would never have overstepped parenting bounds in such a way.  And, if they had, they would have been called out on it.

To be clear, this isn’t a form of love (not that these parents don’t love their children), but rather a type of control.  Instead of teaching our children, we are robbing them of the ability to face life with confidence.  Imagine the subliminal message sent by these types of actions – “You cannot handle this so I will” is, in a nutshell, what children hear.  The outcome of this behavior yields exactly the opposite of the intention, and we are now faced with a generation of children ill-equipped to face what life will throw their way – many are paralyzed when faced with responsibility.  All one needs to do is Google “helicopter parents” and you will be inundated by articles from all types of sources (The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Child Times,  NY Times) – the list goes on and on – very different publications that all agree on one thing – this type of parenting is hurting young people.

My youngest daughter is now a college sophomore, and she is horrified by the way many students treat professors.  She validates that there is a breakdown in respect and courtesy that should be shown to authority and elder figures.

It is said that “to those whom much is given, much is expected” and the majority of students whom we work with are extremely fortunate in circumstance.  We need to begin expecting more from our young people.  And the only way to teach a child personal responsibility, is to give them some – and to let them struggle through problems until they resolve them – on their own.  This begins in childhood – by the time students are in high school, it’s too late; the foundation has already been laid.  Studies show that young children who are given chores around the house are more likely to grow up to remember to do their homework, hold down jobs outside the home and earn high grades.  A fairly simple recipe.  We need to get out of our children’s way.  Expect them to reply to emails from their coaches and teachers, demand that they earn some of their own money, and teach them to look adults in the eye, shake hands and send thank you notes.  These are all simple guidelines, yet we see fewer young people who exhibit them.

As an admissions coach, I am so thrilled when I do have a student who says “please” and “thank you” or who does reply to my email in a timely fashion (or at all).  Our expectations of our youth are at an all time low and we need to regroup and ask ourselves what we are doing to enable this behavior.  Like all good things, it starts at home, with the family – our children are our responsibility and a reflection of us as parents.  Children need strong (yes strict) parenting, discipline and role models. We need young adults who are confident and achievement oriented, not cowering.  Somewhere we went off the rails.  It’s time to get back to basics.  In my view we don’t need the village, just a hard look at ourselves, our values and our children.

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Free Tuition? The Fine Print on New York’s Excelsior Scholarship

May 31, 2017

By Deb Coco, College Admissions Coach, The College Advisor of New York Free is an enticing word and it grabs our attention.  So when New York unveiled its Excelsior Scholarship or “free” tuition program, the buzz began in earnest.  And with good reason.  Parents of prospective college students are especially vulnerable right now as the […]

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Tune In To Life Happens Radio this Saturday

May 28, 2017

Set Your Graduates Up For Success Upcoming Show – Saturday, June 3 Lou Pierro and Dean Skarlis   As we celebrate the achievements of our high school graduates in June, families should also be laying the groundwork for their child’s legal transition to adulthood. Tune into Life Happens Radio on June 3, when Lou Pierro […]

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The Campus Visit: According To The Experts

April 28, 2017

By Erin Wheeler, College Admissions Coach, The College Advisor  of New York I love a good road trip!  Sunny weather, loud music, junk food and good company.  It’s always fun to hit the open road and see new places, meet new people and enjoy new experiences.  Taking those trips with family or friends to visit […]

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Decisions, Decisions!

April 12, 2017

By Deb Coco It’s finally that time of year.  Our students have visited, visited again, applied and of course, WAITED.  May 1 is just a few weeks away. If you are like most students, you’ve received offers from several schools and now it’s time to buckle down and weigh your options.  It’s more difficult than […]

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How Do You Survive Junior Year? Start The Process In Your Sophomore Year

April 5, 2017

By Deb Coco Parents – do you remember your junior year of high school?  My recollections revolve around a pack of girlfriends, Friday night football games, dances and the dreaded curfew.  I have to think hard to recall SAT prep (I’m not even sure I did any, and the ACT was virtually unknown in Boston). […]

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The College Admissions Interview

March 10, 2017

By Erin Callahan Wheeler The interview outfit. I remember it well. Blue flowered jumper, pink shirt and pink sweater. Simple brown flats and a simple brown bag. That was my uniform. But that doesn’t mean I left the house looking that put together! I would crawl into my parents’ mini-van in a hoodie and mesh shorts, […]

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Attend Dr. Skarlis’ course: “Finding The Right College At The Right Price” – Wednesday, March 22 6:30 pm

February 9, 2017

Register today for Dr. Skarlis’ Continuing Education Course “Finding The Right College At The Right Price” – at Shenendehowa High School on Wednesday, March 22, 2017 from 6:30 pm – 8 pm.  Dr. Skarlis will discuss how to begin the college search, maximizing scholarships and financial aid, the most important factors admissions officers consider when […]

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Spending Money To Save Money?

January 1, 2017

Why investing in a college advisor can LOWER your stress level…and your cost. By Deb Coco There is an old adage stating “you must spend money to make money.”  In the world of college admissions it’s really no different.  Investing in a qualified college advisor before embarking on this process will all but guarantee you […]

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