Apply. Compete. Succeed.  Blog

Category: For Students

Rising Seniors: What to Do Now

September 5, 2013

I am often asked by rising seniors what they need to do once they get back to school. Assuming that the senior has done little to no planning over the summer (sadly, this is frequently the case), the first thing the senior needs to do is finalize that college list. Colleges should be visiting the high school, so sit in on sessions, see which ones really interest you, and ask plenty of questions. I would have the college list done no later than the end of September.

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Iowa Schools Shine

August 21, 2013

A sizeable number of families I work with live in Minnesota, but relatively few consider the University of Iowa and Iowa State. I think that is a mistake for students who are looking for a great regional state school with good academics and a reasonable price tag.

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Seniors Beware

August 19, 2013

It's that time of year again when unsuspecting Seniors are coming back to school and are about to get hit by a hammer - not literally, but in the sense that they will be asked to do the near-impossible in a matter of a few months. Consider that most incoming (or "rising") Seniors will enter their final year of high school having none of the following done:

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Common App 2013

August 12, 2013

The trusty old Common Application, or "CommonApp" as everyone calls it, is a bit different this year in two areas that matter. Actually, the two changes won't keep anyone up at night, but they are worth noting.

First, the long essay has a longer word limit - now it is 650 words. It was 500 words last year. There is a catch: the application will prohibit students from going over 650 words. In the past, students were including attachments and in essence creating their own word limits. Say adios to that.

The other change is that the topics for the long essay have changed. In the past, the CommonApp always had an option for the student to write whatever the student wanted to. Well, our friends at CommonApp got rid of that option. This is also not a big deal - a smart student can still write about whatever he or she wants within the very broad confines of the new CommonApp questions.

In essence, it really is about the same Application as it always was, but do note these changes.

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Thinking of Law School? Why Not?

July 22, 2013

By now, the media is having a field day in bemoaning the lack of job prospects for newly-minted lawyers. Large law firms in New York are laying off associates, many firms are doing limited - if any - recruiting on law school campuses. Law school applications have also, not surprisingly, dropped off a cliff.

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Terrific New Tutoring Website – Check It Out!

June 23, 2013

I came across a very interesting operation called InstaEDU that I think would have immediate value for students. Generally speaking I’m not a huge fan of most tutoring websites. I just don’t feel most outfits do a good job in terms of recruiting their tutors. After all, it is not as if there’s a certification process to be a tutor.

But InstaEDU stands out, and I’m very impressed with their approach. They draw their tutors from the very top universities in the United States, with a disproportionate number coming from the top 25 schools in the country. I like that. What I also really love about this website is that students can (and do) review their experience with the tutor, and those student reviews are public. No matter what you need tutoring in – say math, science, or history – you have a lot of options for who you want to work with. This company is doing a lot of things I look for in academic startups – they place students first, give students plenty of choices, and will do what it takes to make you happy if you are not satisfied with your tutor.


I love competition, and here the tutors are working to be the best because they are rated. To be frank with you, this is the most innovative tutoring website I’ve come across in a long time, and it’s well worth your time checking it out. They’ve also received some very good press lately, and I wish they had been around when I was in college. Check these folks out and let me know what you think!

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Museum Youth Programs = Success for Academic Growth

June 5, 2013

One thing I always stress to my clients is that I find a direct correlation between my top students who do well in their college applications and those who participate in the arts. In fact, what I increasingly see is that many of these students are beginning at an extremely young age, which I think is a great thing. Here in my adopted hometown of Minneapolis, we boast one of the top art museums in the world, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, or MIA. What many don’t know, even in the Twin Cities, is that the MIA has a broad range of youth programs that my own children have taken advantage of and as a result, they have really developed both intellectually and creatively.

I would stress to everyone to check out these programs and the visit their website. The prices are surprisingly affordable, the class sizes are rarely more than 15 students, and I have found that the staff at the MIA and especially the teachers who work with young people are incredibly passionate, enthusiastic, and genuinely friendly individuals. It’s a great investment of your time and money, and it will reap wonderful dividends in the future.

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College Counselors Making Promises they Can’t Keep

June 3, 2013

I am all for my colleagues in the professional independent educational consulting profession doing their best to get their kids in the best schools. That is what I try to do and all reputable independent counselors do. And most do exactly that. But I am coming across a disturbing trend of counselors and even college students promising to get kids into their top choices. Let's stop for a moment. Harvard accepted less than 6% of students this year. I should know because I get admissions emails from Harvard since I interview students for the school. As a Harvard graduate, even I cannot guarantee admission to Harvard (although my track record is pretty good). A word to the wise: if you meet any independent counselor who promises admission to your top choice, run in the opposite direction. Look for someone who will zealously work for you but not make unrealistic promises.

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