College Admissions Application Tips

Welcome to August!  As of today (August 1, 2019), the Common Application is open for students applying to start school in fall 2020.  The Common Application is an important tool offered by more than 800 colleges across the country.  However, please note that not every school accepts this application.  There are some schools that  use The Coalition Application or have their own school specific application that must be completed.

As students work to complete the Common Application, there are several places where students seem to stumble.  We compiled a list of ten tips to help as students start exploring their own application this month.  Take a look!

1 – Login/E-mail Address 

Make sure to choose an e-mail address that is appropriate (first initial, last name, etc.) and can receive e-mails from the Common Application and college admission offices.  Some high school e-mail addresses will not accept e-mails from outside sources.  Double check!  In addition, if your school uses the Naviance software, you need to make sure you enter the proper email address in the Common App.

2 – Family

In the citizenship section, be sure to list your social security number if you are planning to apply for federal student aid.  Your social security number is used to match your application with your financial documents.  If you are NOT applying for aid, you can leave this blank.

3 – Education/Colleges/Universities

This is tricky because many students HAVE taken college classes through their high school.  However, those classes WILL be listed on the high school transcript.  ONLY list a college in this section if the student has taken a course outside of their normal high school curriculum, such as through a summer program.

4 – Education/Grades

Make sure that these numbers match the high school transcript for GPA and rank!

5 – Education/Honors

These spaces should be used to list ACADEMIC honors only.  Recognitions such as National Honor Society, Student of the Month, Honor Roll, etc. go in this area.

6 – Testing

This can be a little tricky and should be approached carefully with your college coach.  Only above average test scores should be listed in this section (including SAT, ACT, SAT 2 or AP exam scores).  However, ALL scores MUST  be sent directly from the testing company to the college admissions office. For SATs and Subject Tests: and ACTs: If you have any questions about what scores to send, PLEASE ask before doing so.

7 – Activities

A place for the student to shine!  List all of the activities from grades 9 – 12 including part-time jobs and family commitments (if applicable).  Be sure to provide a reasonable estimate for hours spent and participation dates.  The order of these activities is important as the first three spaces should be used for activities where the student spends the most time.  In some cases, these three spots may be the only ones carefully reviewed by the admissions office (see your college coach for more details).

8 – Writing/Personal Essay

Be sure that this is spaced/formatted correctly after it is copied/pasted from the original source.  Save then double check!

9 – Writing/Additional Information

Not all students need to complete this section.  However, if there is something that dramatically impacted the high school transcript, it can be explained here.  Try to be brief, give the facts and explain what was done to improve/correct the situation.  Your college coach can also help with this!

10 – Courses/Grades

This area is only required by certain schools.  After the colleges are added to the application, it will be clear if this section should be completed.  If you have questions about this section, please ask your admissions coach!             

At The College Advisor of New York, our students have access to our Application Clinic, which takes place at our office during the month of August.  During these workshops, our expert staff members walk through the application step by step as our students work on their own application at the same time.  Later, after the student  completes the application, it is carefully reviewed and revised by their admissions coach.

If your student is looking for application assistance, we can help!  Our coaches are glad to help new clients work through just the application and essay sections of their application as they approach senior year.  Give us a call at 518-512-3021 or Click Here to schedule an appointment!

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

What Happens Now?  The Post November 1 Admissions Waiting Game

By Deb Coco

November 1 is a big milestone for high school seniors and college admissions.  Early Action is the first in a “series” of possible application deadlines for college seniors.  At The College Advisor of New York, we encourage most of our students to submit their applications (if offered by colleges on their list) prior to this deadline.  So at this point in the process, most of our students have submitted one, if not all, of their applications.  As busy as that made the beginning of the fall semester, most students – and their parents – experience relief in getting the applications out the door.  Deadlines are still out there – from December until March 15 — but things are beginning to quiet down for our seniors who’ve been writing essays for what seems like months.

So you’ve hit the submit button . . . what happens next?  It is prudent to follow up with college admission offices and verify that they’ve received ALL the components of your application.  You should do so about two weeks after you’ve applied.  Believe me, we’ve seen the fall-out of panic when students realize they forgot to send their test scores or their supplemental essay…it happens.  And, there were some incidents this year of scores from testing boards being lost in the shuffle.  It took students and parents quite some time to get it straightened out, so checking in to verify your application is complete is worth what little time it takes.

And now, it is time for patience.  The majority of our students begin working with us at some point in their sophomore or junior year, so once the application deadlines have come and gone, they are more than one year in.  It is at that point that the real waiting begins.  Acceptances for Early Action and Early Decision normally begin to roll in around the holidays, but Regular Decision notifications won’t be available until winter or early spring.  That can feel like a lifetime of running to the mailbox.

Just hold tight because most (if not all) students will receive at least one “deferral” letter.  Deferrals place students who applied under the Early Action plan on a wait list of sorts until the entire application pool is reviewed – usually in the spring.  Most schools will offer the option of remaining on the deferral list or not.  This can cause some last minute anxiety, but unfortunately is quite common.  As much as we’d love to tell students that once you’ve submitted, you can sit back and relax, that is no longer the case.  Admission boards will be watching to see that you continue to do well in school, right through senior year.  And in the case of a deferral, it’s even more crucial.

The take away is that this process is long and drawn out, with curves and speed bumps.  The sigh of relief after pushing the “submit” button is closely followed by worry, both by student and parent.  I tell my students that the best way to fight the anxiety is to understand that the hardest work is done and now it is time to let go and let the process play itself out and go back to being a high school student for just a few more months!


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!



Anything Worth Having Is Worth Waiting For . . .The New Variable of Spring Admission

By Deb Coco

In the ever changing world of college admissions, there is a new “kid on the block.”  For years there have been 4 types of acceptances:  Accepted, Deferred, Waitlisted or Denied.   Enter “Spring Freshman” and things just became a bit more confusing for students, parents, and those advising them.

We noticed a few years ago that Northeastern University, (an extremely desirable school with a huge applicant pool) began admitting some students with an acceptance AND a caveat; if they wanted to enroll they would have to agree to be a “Spring Freshman” through the “NU In” program.  Northeastern sends their spring admits abroad, so for the student who might have been considering junior year in another country; this could be considered a win/win.  But, it does mean they won’t be entering with the freshman class they expected.  For some students this is exciting, for others it is frustrating, but for parents it poses many questions.  Here are some points to consider.

In the 2017 admission cycle, we have already had a few students receive acceptance under spring programs.  Their parents were confused and questioned the parameters of the program.  As Dr. Dean explains: “It’s a way to over-enroll so that when the school loses students in the fall, it will be able to fill those spaces, much in the same way airlines over sell their planes knowing that some passengers won’t show up.  It’s actually a great way for the University to maximize its revenue.”  Maximize its revenue you ask?  That sounds like something a business would do.   But this is an institution of higher learning!   And here is a common misconception about the inner workings of academic institutions.  They are first and foremost businesses.  Their business is education, but the competition is bountiful and there is a lot of money at stake.  So this is where the numbers game begins.

The number of college applications has skyrocketed in the last decade.  While there is little cumulative data to support this point, one interesting statistic shows the unbelievable volume of applicants to UCLA.  The flagship of the University of California public university system received 113,000 applications this year.  That is a jump of 11% over last year (102,000).  But amazingly, UCLA received only 55,369 applications in 2008, indicating that in the past decade the number of applicants to UCLA has more than doubled!  So even beyond the highly selective Ivy League, large public universities are feeling the effects of more applications than they are equipped to accept.  However, there are students within that pool who they do not want to turn away altogether.  So, they must overcompensate for the normal drop-out rate after fall semester.  According to US News and World Report, as many as 1 in 3 students do not return for their sophomore year; that is a staggering number.  And thus, Spring Admission was conceived.  Each year more schools come onto the scene with their own spring programs – some well known names include Tulane University, University of Maryland, Binghamton University, USC, Cornell University, and Hamilton College.  And, given the plot graph for applicants vs. admission spots, we are likely to see this list increase each year.  Schools are able to offer admission to more than they can accommodate during fall semester, and students who hoped to attend “X” school are given the chance.

So what is a student to do when the college of their dreams tells them its spring or nothing?  Get the facts.  Every program is different – Each has a different name and different structure.  As I mentioned, Northeastern’s “N.U In” is spent studying abroad.  Not bad, right?  The fine print here is very important because if you are a financial aid or merit recipient, you need to make sure that this does not affect your qualifications.

The University of Maryland’s “Freshman Connection” program allows students to live on campus, but they are forced to take classes only on Monday-Thursday after 3 pm, and on Fridays.  Why?  This is yet another business decision:  Most college classes take place between 8 am and 3 pm, and very few college professors teach classes on Friday.  In addition, students in the program are only allowed to register for classes after traditional freshmen.  These are significant concessions for some students, so it’s important to fully understand the specifics before you commit.

Other schools suggest that students offered spring admission look outside the school towards community colleges to fill credit hours.  This may not sit well with some students, and it is EXTREMELY important to research whether the classes you take will transfer once spring arrives; often they DO NOT.  I can’t tell you how many times we’ve had students who want to transfer from one school to another discover the classes they took at one college will not be accepted by their transfer school.

The take away here is to read the fine print.  Not all spring programs are created equal; some will seem enticing and others not.  Ultimately, it is up to each student and family to decide for themselves if the school of their dreams is worth waiting just a bit longer to attend.



So you’ve submitted your application, what now?

By Deb Coco

November 1 is a big milestone in the world of college admissions.  Early Action is the first in a “series” of possible application deadlines for college seniors.  At The College Advisor of New York, we encourage many of our students to submit their applications (if offered by colleges on their list) on this deadline.  And therein lies one of the many caveats to this process – not all schools offer “EA” and not all students should use it, if indeed it is offered.  There are six possible admission plans in the world of college admissions:  Early Action, Single Choice/Restrictive Early Action, Early Decision, Regular Decision, Rolling Admission, and Open Admission.  Confused?  It’s important that you understand the difference because they are not all created equal, and if misunderstood, each can affect the outcome of your candidacy.

Early Action is the earliest available deadline.  If a school offers this 11/1 or 11/15 option, we normally advise students to select it.  However, every EA pool is different and it’s important to have a knowledgeable college consultant advising you on whether or not your qualifications are suited to the Early Action pool at the schools of your choice.  EA is non binding, allowing applicants to apply to more than one EA school; it does not require a final decision until the May 1 deadline.

Early Decision is a binding contract, meaning students may only apply to one “ED” school and if accepted, they MUST attend.  We advise “ED” to very few students, simply because most 17-year-olds are not secure enough with their decision making to commit to the college of their choice, early in their senior year.  We believe that in most cases, it is wise for students to apply to at least 7 schools and weigh the options when the decisions come in.  Being “wed” to one school can actually cause angst at the 11th hour and there is no way – other than the school not offering an adequate financial aid package – to wiggle out of an “ED” acceptance.

Regular Decision and Rolling Admission are just as they sound and the most common.  Regular decision deadlines range from between January 1 and March 15.  Rolling is “anytime” meaning students will submit when they’ve completed their application and schools send decisions on a “first come first served” basis, typically within 3-5 weeks of submission.

So, you’ve hit the submit button . . . what happens next?  First, I tell all my students that this process has many moving parts and their application represents just one.  Official standardized test scores need to be sent from the testing companies (ACT and The College Board) unless you are applying to “test optional” schools.  High school transcripts, school counselor and teacher recommendations are transmitted from the student’s high school.  It is crucial for students to be in constant contact with their school counselors to assure that their documents are sent out on time.  It is prudent to follow up with college admission offices and verify that they’ve received ALL the components of your application.  You should do so about a week after you’ve applied.  Believe me, we’ve seen the fall-out of panic when students realize they forgot to send their test scores or their supplemental essay…it happens.

The most important quality during this entire journey is patience.  The majority of our students begin working with us at some point in their sophomore or junior year, so, once the application deadlines have come and gone, they are more than one year in.  It is at that point that the real waiting begins.  Acceptances for Early Action and Early Decision normally begin to roll in around the holidays, but Regular Decision notifications won’t be available until early spring.  That can feel like a lifetime of running to the mailbox.

Just hold tight because most (if not all) students will receive at least one “deferral” letter.   Deferrals place students who applied under the Early Action plan on a “wait list” until the entire application pool is reviewed – usually in the spring.  Most schools will offer the option of remaining on the deferral list or not.  This can cause some last minute anxiety, but unfortunately is quite common.

The take away is that this process is long and drawn out, with curves and speed bumps.  The sigh of relief after pushing the “submit” button is closely followed by worry, both by student and parent.  As Tom Petty told us so well, “the waiting is the hardest part” and nowhere is that more evident than waiting for a letter of admission to arrive.  I tell my students that the best way to fight the anxiety is to understand that the work is done.  Don’t look back and don’t fret . . . it’s time to let go and let the process play itself out.  Take some comfort that your essays are written, the “I’s are dotted and the T’s are crossed!  Senior year comes but once in your life, so congratulate yourself on a job well done, sit back, try to relax and I wish you the best of luck!

Don’t Save For Retirement

By Dr. Dean Skarlis, President

 “You can take out loans for college, but there are no loans for retirement.”  It’s a familiar refrain among those in the financial services community and has been sound advice for many families for years.  But in 2017, it may be the worst advice a financial advisor can give to his clients.  Here’s why.

Cumulative student loan debt in the United States has surpassed $1.4 Trillion.  It now exceeds all consumer credit card debt.  Approximately 71% of students who attend 4-year colleges have taken on student loans…and that’s just student loan debt.  Add to that parental debt which is approaching $100 Million, and the fact that many parents have added home equity loans to their debt service (which is not counted in the above figures), and you have a crisis – a big one with lasting effects as this Money Magazine Article describes.

The reason loans have exploded is of course, the rising cost of college.  Tuition, room, board and fees have increased by more than 1200% over the past 30 years.  When I first began my business 13 years ago, there were a couple of dozen colleges whose total costs had eclipsed $40,000/year.  Today, those same schools – and many others – have now crossed the $70,000/year mark – that’s more than $280,000 to educate one child.  Compare these numbers with most private schools back in 1986 when I began college.  Tuition, room and board at my private college was $11,000/year.  That same school now charges more than $55,000/year.  Even public institutions now exceed $100,000 over 4 years in California, New York and many other states.

As a result, most middle and upper middle class families have few options other than to take out huge loans or attend a community college.  But the problem with the “old school” advice is that families who take out loans in today’s world, must seek hundreds of thousands more than I did in 1986.  Back then, it was more reasonable for my peers and I to borrow $5,000 per year and pay back the $20,000 in a realistic time frame.  That covered almost half our total cost.  Today, this is next to impossible.  If a student takes federal student loans each year of college, he would have to repay $27,000.  If he adds an extra $15,000/year in private student loans, you now have $87,000 over four years.  This is a significant burden for just about any family.  This scenario also assumes that mom and dad, student, or someone else will cover almost $200,000 for an expensive private college or about $15,000 at a SUNY school from a mix of savings and cash flow.  That’s a tall order.

Most of the clients with whom we work are in their mid to late 40s.  On average, they have saved $300,000-$500,000 in their 401(k), IRA or other qualified plan.  Some teachers or public employees have pensions.  It is for these families that I have begun to give what some would call radical advice.  Others deem it bad advice.  But here it is:  Rather than save the maximum of $18,000/year (or $24,000 for people over 50) in your qualified retirement plan, divert some of those dollars into the college savings vehicle of your choice.  If a family lives in New York State, the New York 529 plan offers a state tax deduction of up to $10,000 for married parents filing jointly ($5,000 for single parents).  While the tax math still favors your full 401(k) contribution, the amount of loans parents and students need will be significantly reduced.

A 47 year old with $400,000 in his 401(k) or IRA has plenty of time to continue saving for retirement, and most models indicate that his nest egg will turn into $1.6 Million even if he stopped contributing completely (assuming he retires at age 65 and realizes an 8% annual rate of return) – which I never recommend.  On the other hand, a family with two children, may have to pay in excess of $600,000 for college over a much shorter time horizon – often within 6 or 7 years.  I have found that most parents have tried to save for college, but just don’t have the time or resources to set aside enough money, given the ridiculous rise of college costs.  Most of our families have amassed less than $60,000 for college.  So their only remaining option is to take out huge loans.

Moreover, because assets are counted at only 5.64% of their value in the financial aid formulas, saving more will have only a minimal effect on a family’s Expected Family Contribution (EFC), and if the family’s other income and assets are too high to garner more aid, then there will be no financial aid lost.  We teach our clients these and other strategies to help them maximize financial aid, enhance tax savings and increase merit scholarships.

The bottom line is that college costs have skyrocketed at a pace much faster than any other expense, including health care, over the past 20 years.  And the traditional advice of taking more in student and parent loans does not cut it anymore.  It’s time for a paradigm shift.


Stand out! Why your college application should be anything but ordinary.

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

Fall is in the air.  School is back in session, the days are a bit cooler and the pumpkin spice obsession is back.  And, at The College Advisor of New York, our seniors are hard at work selling themselves.

It may seem strange to look at your college application process as a marketing campaign, but indeed it is.  For most students, this is probably the first time you’ve ever launched such an important sales pitch. “You never get a second chance to make a first impression” and at no time is this more true than when you hit the submit button on your college applications.

This is not the time to be shy about your achievements; you are now in the company of some stiff competition for spots at colleges and universities all over the country.  How do you make yourself stand out?  Here are a few tips on to make sure your application is noticed.

The most important components to a stellar application are still (and always have been) a strong GPA and high standardized test scores.  At this point in your high school career, your critically scrutinized junior year has passed, but it is very important to not “slack off” during your senior year either.  Colleges will want to see that you’ve kept up your work standards and they may even accept you with the provision that they review your spring transcript as well.  Gone are the days of senior year being all play.  Be sure your teacher recommendations are ready to go; at The College Advisor, we recommend our students connect with teachers before leaving for their senior summer so as to avoid the “glut” the best teachers experience in the fall.  If you already did that, then great!  If not, make sure you don’t let September slip away before you’ve met with two core course teachers and verify that they are willing to write a letter for you.

In my last blog I discussed the importance of the main essay.  This is an extremely unique piece of writing;  it is YOUR chance to tell the admission committee who you are outside of the facts.  All of your accolades will be well represented on your Common Application; the essay wants you to dig deeper so please do not regurgitate information from your Activities section.  Be authentic and give the reader a glimpse of who you are when no one else is looking.  What makes you tick?  What brings you joy? What do you want them to know about you that your application does NOT show?  If you ask yourself these questions, you’ll be surprised how words begin to flow.

The Activity section of the Common Application is your chance to share what you’ve done outside the classroom — be sure it is complete and list activities in order of importance to YOU.  Tell the reader what you’ve done and why it mattered.   Did you hold a leadership role?  List it!  Were you the youngest member ever elected to the Latin Honor Society?  Let them know!  And remember, list only activities from freshman year forward . . . colleges do not care (nor do they have time to review) what you did in 8th grade.  If you want to add a resume to your application, many colleges will allow you to do so.  We still do not recommend you go back to junior high school even on the resume, but if you are so compelled, that is the only place anything beyond high school should be mentioned in your application.

Last but not least, proofread!  Your application is a representation of you – is it sloppy?  Did you remember to capitalize letters in your Activity section?  Do not use acronyms when describing anything on your application – your reader cannot decipher them.  So, if you are a member of the New York State Student Musical Association, do not list NYSSMA – that will not mean a thing to the admission committee.

Finally, use the Common Application’s print preview option before you actually submit!  Reviewing on a computer screen is still no substitute for seeing the application on paper – you will catch “typos” you might have otherwise missed.

Good luck and congratulate yourself that you’ve come so far!  This process is a journey and you are just about at the finish line.

Need a cure for the summertime blues?  Write your college essay!


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:

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!


It Does Not Take A Village

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.