Category Archives: News

News about the College Advisor of New York, College presentations by New York’s College Counselors

Making Peace With 2021 Admission Results

By Kathy Laberge, College Admission Coach 

Dear Class of 2021, 

It isn’t you, it’s them.  Only the colleges know what they were seeking in a freshman class this year. You have every right to be baffled, disappointed even. This was an extremely confusing year for both applicants and colleges. 

Not a day goes by when our staff doesn’t share stories of our students. We have mentored, pushed (maybe even shoved,) and cheered you on.  Over an admission season we may share our delight in a particular essay or bounce application strategies off one another. And now, in April, we share our excitement at admissions and scholarships, and, also discuss our dismay at a disappointing rejection. We gaze into our crystal balls trying to determine why Princeton accepted an applicant, but Brown did not. Why did Harvard take a student, but that same student was denied at Northeastern?  

These answers are held secret in comfortable conference rooms (and confidential Zoom meetings). Building an incoming class is akin to practicing medicine, a combination or art and science. Every admission officer from highly selective colleges we have ever spoken with has told us they turn away hundreds, even thousands, of viable candidates each year. Colleges decide where to weight their admits and those factors vary annually. Some years they may need more high GPA students, others may be focused on increasing diversity, and other years may demand more students who will pay the full tuition tab. Their decision is not based upon who they want to admit; they are forced to decide which students they must turn away. In short, each year they extend a place in the class to students who meet their needs and those they deem most likely to accept an offer of admission.   

This year the most selective colleges reported some of the lowest acceptance rates in history. Harvard saw a 42% increase in applications and MIT had 66% more applicants than last year. Even New York University, housed in a city plagued by Covid-19, saw an increase of 20%. Admission officers were overwhelmed by the sheer number of applications. Some colleges called in retired employees to review the applications and others had to give shorter looks to submissions. 

Why did we see this increase in applications? Did students reach for dream schools because they were test optional? It is said standardized tests provide a common denominator. They can serve as a triage tool, a way for admission officers to not assess the curriculum at every high school from which an applicant emerges. In a year when many candidates could not submit standardized test scores how can a student be blamed for taking a wild shot at an Ivy? We suspect 2020 offered students time to make their sole extracurricular activity applying to colleges, even though the time and effort required to prepare those applications is astonishing. You can’t win it if you’re not in it, right? Our students were spared this ordeal, but we weep for all the wasted time, money, and emotion that was expended on crap shoot applications.  

The first meeting at The College Advisor of New York is spent stressing our commitment to finding a student’s right fit. We know there are more than (the top) twenty-five excellent institutions of higher learning in this country. A terrific education is available at countless colleges and universities. Competition for faculty positions is fierce and we proudly number some former students on numerous campuses as faculty. Our confidence is not misplaced, we know firsthand how extraordinary these people are.  In fact, the vast majority of our clients were admitted to most of their schools. The “top twenty-five” are overrated.

In a year where lengthy college waitlists are the norm and highly selective colleges have turned away so many promising young adults, we urge you to maintain perspective. College will be grand. You will learn astonishing amounts of information, discover passions you never knew you had, and make lifelong friends. 

It isn’t you. It’s them. So, perhaps they didn’t tender an offer of admission to you. And that? Is their loss. 

Getting to know you was our privilege. 

Dean, Barbara, Ann, Beth, Erin, Deb and Kathy 

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

By Kathy Laberge, College Admissions Coach 

At the College Advisor of New York we are grinning in anticipation. This is the time of year we launch our writing season and we simply cannot wait!

Every coach on our staff devotes substantial effort to know their students well. When an applicant demonstrates their candidacy in an articulate, convincing, and original fashion they increase their chances for admission. As we have discussed in prior blog posts, this year we believe application essays will be of utmost importance to colleges. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced high schools into several unfortunate situations for the Class of 2021. These students, many of whom have been wholeheartedly devoted to their studies for the past several years, now find themselves without the concrete evidence of their earned success. Our staff is eager to reap the rewards of all this dedication. Our commitment to our students and our students’ commitment to their goals is sure to shine a spotlight on our applicants this fall in college admission offices. 

Coaching the Essay Process

The College Advisor of New York staff teaches our students how to demystify the varied writing statements and supplemental essays that are intrinsic to college applications. As admission professionals, we know exactly what colleges want to see in student writing. Equally important, we know what colleges do not want to see. We also understand that one size does not fit all, and therefore we coach our students to the best approach for each individual college. Every college application offers multiple, sometimes obscure, opportunities for personal comment. We know where to find these mysterious gems and how to employ them to the best advantage of our clients. Best of all, we think this is a lot of fun!

Our office has helped students write thousands of essays and no two are ever alike. There is no recognizable style or pattern we promote. Every student and every essay receives a deliberate, thoughtful approach, so the finished product is unique and personal. While we speak extensively with our clients before a pen ever touches paper (or a fingertip touches a key) we do operate by a set of guidelines. 

Colleges want to hear an authentic voice.

They also expect a writing sample commensurate with the other components of the student’s application and transcript. Parental editing and rewriting are visible within the first one hundred words. Revisions demanded by rubric minded English teachers do not serve our students well. Essays that are so reworked they are excruciatingly formal and formulaic are boring and tortured. Our students write essays that cause application readers to wake up and take notice. As a college writing coach that makes me very proud. 

Admission officers like college applicants

Students and parents often overlook one important piece of information. Here is the secret: Admission officers truly like college applicants. They appreciate every applicant,  and they want to admit every student. Their job is difficult because they need to choose which qualified members of their pool will not receive an offer of admission.

We are lucky to not suffer that problem at our office. We get to revel in the quirks of all our students. We are spectators to their self-discovery. We lead students from thinking of themselves as passive teenagers to sovereign and self-reliant young adults. We just finished celebrating our seniors from the Class of 2020 and we eagerly anticipate starting the process all over again.  

What will college campuses look like in the Fall of 2020?

By Kathy Laberge, College Admission Coach

That is an excellent question and one that is prominent in the minds of high school seniors, current college students, administrators, and faculty. One reputable higher ed survey indicates 10% of high school students no longer plan to attend a four-year university. This strikes fear in the heart of colleges and universities. Their business is education, and be assured, higher education is indeed a business.

Many colleges insist they will be open in the fall, even if only for distance instruction.

They are, understandably, not making firm announcements about residential opening just yet, but are busy planning for a variety of scenarios ranging from fully closed campuses to a return to life as usual. Asking for full tuition while not providing full value is obviously unattractive to parents and students. Conducting classes is required for economic survival and closed campuses mean an abrupt decline in income when classes, athletics, performances, and facility rentals no longer exist. The infamous packed lecture halls and crammed residence hall triples are not likely to happen this year, but colleges want and need their students to return.

Interactions between faculty and students cannot be replaced by virtual classrooms.

Lack of physical proximity widens the gap between faculty and student. Remote instruction allows students to multitask, chat, web surf, and tune out if the material is uninteresting. Conducting instruction off campus will significantly hamper the phenomenon known as the college experience. Yet proximity to fellow students is suddenly unsafe. Colleges are scrambling to compile the best solutions.  As they design a return to an open campus, administrators are considering that young adults generally do not suffer a severe impact of COVID-19. Campuses know they need to have testing and tracing measures in place.  Mass communications systems that enable instant community wide notifications already exist. Mask wearing can be enforced, handwashing can be strongly encouraged. Travel restrictions on faculty and students and staff can be put in place. The health gamble is a different story for faculty and other adults who interact with students; they are at a much higher risk. Yet data minded decision makers may choose to mitigate that risk with more brain than heart.

Creative potential options being discussed on campuses throughout the country include:

  • The fall semester may begin with distance learning and a plan to transition into residential instruction can be in place. It is far simpler for students and faculty to adjust from remote to live than it is to accommodate an unexpected campus exodus.
  • Fall start dates may be delayed to October, November, or even January. Conducting spring semester 2021 during the summer months is a possibility, and it would be helpful in keeping students on track for graduation within the traditional four-year course of study.
  • Hybrid learning is another option. Creating physical distance between students in classrooms is not terribly challenging. Instruction content for large lecture classes could be delivered both online and in smaller groups. Lecture halls filled with hundreds of students are not essentially conducive to interaction so there would be a decreased impact in this scenario assuming faculty access remains in place.
  • Shorter class terms may be successful, and they are already in place at a number of institutions. A semester of sixteen weeks may become a quartet of four-week terms. This academic calendar allows a deep dive into a subject. The study is intensive but flexible. Multiple beginning and end dates naturally lend themselves to interruptions and decrease the impact of an abrupt campus closure
  • Classes may be presented in a more seminar-style setting with fewer students per section and substantial physical free space around each student.
  • Campus returns may be staggered with freshmen arriving first and upperclassmen arriving later as they, presumably, can jump right back into learning. First year success is a predictor of graduation and this option allows freshmen to adapt to campus life with substantial support.

College offers far more than instruction.

Students spend a precious few hours in classrooms and far more time interacting in collaborative study or recreation. Closed campuses restrict research opportunities and forbid study abroad programs. Many students view the social component of college as an irreplaceable and indelible part of the campus experience. Campus traditions are intrinsic to the college experience. Student activities encourage interaction between like-minded peers. They are an opportunity to learn concurrently with students who share interests and passions, and they are an important component in campus life.

If a substantial number of high school graduates of 2020 choose to take a gap year, then colleges will be forced to handle essentially two incoming freshman classes. Colleges have already committed to the students who were initially to have arrived in August of 2020. We believe this population crunch indicates a more competitive admission process for the Class of 2021.

Happily, colleges and universities are intrinsically adept at nimble thinking.

This is the essence of what they represent! And under current conditions, they are strongly motivated to adapt and create innovative solutions.  It may look different than years past, but we are confident campuses will be accessible and students will thrive.  

Client Scholarship For College Advisor Clients

The College Advisor of New York Scholarship

In celebration of our 15th year helping students and parents through the college admissions process, The College Advisor of New York, Inc. announces a scholarship to be used for college or graduate school during the 2019-2020 academic year.  In an effort to thank those who have entrusted us to provide college admissions counseling this one time award is only available for our current or former clients.

GPA (High School or College)
Official High School or College Transcript
SAT or ACT scores
Leadership in the community
Service to the community
Attendance at a 4-year college or university/graduate school
Completion of a 400 word essay about the student’s view of education
Questions and inquiries should be directed to Erin Wheeler at:

CANY Scholarship 2018-19

Please click the link above to download the application.  All materials must be completed and postmarked by April 1, 2019 and sent to:

The College Advisor of New York, Inc.
18 Corporate Woods Blvd.
Albany, New York  12211

One More College Visit?!  Yes! And This Is The Most Important One

The scoop on Admitted Student Days

By Deb Coco

The February doldrums are for real in the lives of high school seniors.  The applications were submitted long ago and the waiting is now all but agonizing.  It does feel like a helpless few months, but the window is closing on the letters you’ve been waiting for and over the next 2-4 weeks, things will begin to solidify.

College acceptance letters are exciting; you’ve worked hard for them!  I still remember the days my daughters opened theirs, and I now love receiving “I GOT IN!” emails from my current students.  All our work comes full circle.  But that “fat” envelope contains more than just your letter of acceptance.  It possibly has merit scholarship or financial aid information, but there also may be something else inside:  a postcard about something called “Accepted Student Day.”

This often gets tossed aside with the envelope in all the excitement.  You KNOW college “X” is the school of your dreams so why would you visit AGAIN?  Enter a letter from college “Y” with not only an acceptance, but a fairly substantial scholarship.  As Dean always says, “it’s nice to be wanted” especially with a merit award that will defray the cost of your overall tuition.  Dream school “X” provides nothing, (but it is your #1 choice) and school “Y” offers both but it was lower down on your list.  What they both offer is a chance to level the playing field by opting IN to their Accepted Student Days.

Most every college holds these visit opportunities in March or April and they are not to be missed; we cannot stress that enough.  These are the days when schools welcome back their admitted pool of high school seniors so you are able to take another look with a fresh set of eyes.  And believe me, the college will look different in the spring . . . there will be Frisbee on the quad, the campus will be buzzing with activity, and you will know you are just a few months from possibly being one of those students – it is intoxicating.  From personal experience, Admitted Student Days played a crucial role in 2 of our 3 daughters’ school choices; they had great options and were just “betwixt and between.”  Some colleges just knock this day out of the park.  They roll out the red carpet, open the athletic buildings, dining halls, auditoriums, dorms AND will let you attend lectures.  This was ultimately what swayed my children: hearing from some top faculty in their fields of study.  They left knowing “if I might be in that professor’s class, this is where I want to be!” What a WONDERFUL feeling.

So, yes, it is one more college visit and it can be time consuming.  However, you are looking at 4 very expensive years and you’ve worked hard to get this far; it is worth taking the time to truly seal the deal with confidence.  I’ve heard more than a few stories from students who have met their freshman roommates during these days . . . they are well attended and worth it.  And, on the flip side, you might find out that a school you thought looked incredible in November, has lost its bloom – this happens too, so it is never time wasted!

We are closing in on the final agonizing weeks.  Hang tight, think positive, and do not toss out that Admitted Student Day postcard!



Tune In To Life Happens Radio this Saturday

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 will be joined by special guest, Dean Skarlis, President of The College Advisor of New York, to give you essential planning steps that will set up college-bound children and young adults for a secure future.

From a financial and admissions perspective, you’ll learn about HIPPA regulations and the need for your child to sign a waiver so that parents can discuss health care and disciplinary violations with a college. Dean will also cover factors that affect the admissions process, selectivity and cost, and Lou will give pointers on establishing documents like a basic will, trust and powers of attorney for a young adult.
Baby Boomers, upcoming high school graduates and college students shouldn’t miss this timely topic, sotunein to Life Happens Radio, when Lou and Dean will take your calls live from 11am-12pm on WGY.


Decisions, Decisions!

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 it seems, because all schools are not created equal.  And most likely your offers are not either.  Some schools may have given you some financial aid and others possibly merit scholarships.  Often the “dream” school didn’t offer money, but the safety did; do you choose the school with “cache” or do you take the money and run?  So many factors go into deciding which college or university to attend and you’re wise to mull it over.  Here’s some tried and true advice about how to weigh this decision, which is possibly the biggest of your life thus far!

For most students in 2017, money matters.  Even if you were not a financial aid candidate, it’s hard to turn down a large (or even small) merit scholarship.  Keep these facts in mind:  merit money is yours, it’s an award based on your academic achievement and you should be proud of it.  You will also not be required to pay it back – which is extremely enticing in today’s world of trillions in student loan debt.  However, financial aid is the name of the game for a huge pool of students and some of it WILL have to be repaid.  Whether your package involves loans, grants, work study, or a blend of the three, once you graduate they become your first mortgage.  So, the bigger the loan the more weight on you to be quickly and gainfully employed upon graduation.  Consider this when making your choice; what does school “X” offer students in terms of job placement?  Every college and university has a department of career counseling and some are better than others.  Check into it and see what alums have to say about this important factor.  Career counseling offices “should” post their statistics on job placement and be there to answer your questions; if they are not, buyer beware.

There is also much talk about “fit” and with good reason; there are thousands of colleges and no two are alike.  After acceptances go out, so do “Admitted Student Day” invitations.  Don’t turn these down or think you already know everything there is to know about a school; if possible, take the time to attend these special days.  Schools roll out the red carpet for their accepted students and you’ll have the opportunity to be much more intimate with faculty and students than on your initial campus tours.  One of my daughters was extremely perplexed about her final decision and the accepted student day at her university “knocked it out of the park” and cinched it for her.  They are valuable opportunities to make a final evaluation and should definitely play a role if you’re on the fence!

And last but never, ever least; I’ve always believed there is a case to be made for trusting your gut.  I tell students that their feedback on schools is based on that “gut” reaction they have when they step onto a campus.  Do these students look like people I’ll feel comfortable living with for four years?  Is the physical campus one that excites me?  I love schools with an “old” feel; I’ve had students feel exactly the opposite and want a modern, “techy” like vibe.  These factors, and others, matter; pay attention to them.  Other issues may need to matter more, but if all else is equal, there is a case to be made for choosing what feels “right.”

It’s more likely than not that you will ultimately end up where you’re meant to be.  However, it took a long time to visit, study, take those SATs, write your essay AND apply; don’t jump the gun on the biggest part of all.  Most importantly, congratulations!  You’ve completed the most difficult part – now enjoy your success.

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

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 admitting applicants, the SAT/ACT and more.  Course cost:  $15.  Click below to register!

Choose the Right College – At the Right Price!

Join Dean Skarlis, President of the College Advisor of New York, to discuss college admissions and financial strategy. Dr. Skarlis will be sharing his insight on how to find the right fit college, and how not to empty your bank account doing so! Parents of high school sophomores and juniors are encouraged to attend.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015
Voorheesville Public Library
At the Library Community Room

To RSVP, contact Kathleen Tyrrell at (518) 785-2791 or email at