How to write the College Essay?

The time has come. It’s time for students to start their college essays. What now?

How will you tell your story? Will you use humor or drama? Do you want to use a random topic or just your life story? Neither? We’ll be covering:
• What Makes a Personal Statement Great
• How Important Really Is the College Essay?
• How (and When) to Begin Your College Essay Process

• Should I Write About Coronavirus? If So, How?

The College That Fits Your Child: Pasadena Seminar 10/2/18

Looking to find the college that best fits your child or to obtain free money?  We will show you how to find schools that are the right fit as we walk you through the admissions process.  Learn about merit money opportunities and what you can do to better your child’s chances of receiving this free money, regardless of whether your child is a top student or an average student.

Understand why starting the college early can offer significant advantages. This seminar class is particularly important if your student is at the top of the class, has learning differences, is an athlete, or is average. See what it takes to get into an Ivy and why your child may be rejected from the school you considered to be a “safety” school.

2018 was a year of significant change, Standardized testing has changed, admissions have become more competitive than ever, and a new “Coalition” application is being used by some colleges. In addition, the financial aid application process has undergone recent changes that require planning in the freshman year of high school.

Parents who are separated, divorced, or never married will learn what they should know about financial aid. Dr. Lee Ann Cornell has spent years working in this field and has a wide breadth of knowledge on this subject and a staff of recognized experts to help your child achieve their dreams.

Immigrant parents or parents whose children will be the first in their family to attend college will find this class very helpful.  You will learn the subtleties of the college process and develop an understanding of how your child may be at a disadvantage at some schools and have advantages at others.

Dr. Lee Ann Cornell manages the California practice of College Solutions. She brings ten years of admission experience from several colleges. Dr. Cornell understands exactly how to position a student in the admission process. She specializes in essay brainstorming and editing, as well as application mapping.

College Volunteer Helps Save Lives at Suicide Hotline

Eight in ten people considering suicide give some sign of their intentions, according to Mental Health America. Some people will make comments like “You’d be better off without me.” Some people abuse substances. Others call a suicide hotline, and if they do, Melissa Bendell might just be on the other side of the line.

Melissa Bendell is a 20-year-old college student from Framingham, Massachusetts. When she was a junior in high school, Melissa started volunteering at Call2Talk, a confidential mental health and emotional support call line that provides a safe place to talk to anyone going through a hard time in their lives. Callers often admit to suicidal thoughts, and volunteers are trained to inform callers of their options and connect them with other resources that can help.

“By sharing their personal stories of tragedy, recovery, despair, and grief,” its website proclaims, “callers feel relief, comfort, and hope.”

What started out as a way for Bendell to earn service hours for National Honors Society became meaningful work she would continue to do long past high school.

“This is something no one really talked about,” Bendell said. “I kept doing it because it is important to offer this service that so many people need. I didn’t realize how many people in my community were depressed, suicidal or going through tough times so it really opened my eyes to the fact that you really don’t know what people are going through.”

According to Mental Health America, Suicide is the eighth leading cause of death in the United States, accounting for more than 1% of all deaths. 30,000 Americans die by suicide each year, and an additional 500,000 Americans attempt suicide annually. This volunteer opportunity allowed Bendell to understand the people behind the statistics.

As she enters her junior year as a Spanish and Public Relations major at American University in Washington, DC, she is still involved in her community. Bendell returns as a volunteer on school breaks.

“It’s not really something you can do once and then never do again,” she said. “You go through training for months, and then you have the same callers call you. You learn a lot about them, make connections with them and you get to see them grow or heal.”

Throughout the job, she’s learned the value of communication, which has influenced her choice of study in college. Her conversations are confidential and often emotionally taxing. It’s not the easiest after-school job, but she says it’s worth it.

“I talked to someone for about an hour one day,” she said, “and they called back the next day and told the caller that I saved their life and that they were so thankful that I was there. I honestly almost cried I was so touched.”


Call2Talk is a confidential mental health and emotional support call line that assists individuals and families through stressful times in their lives, helping the despondent and those who may be suicidal.

How Can A High School Student Get Into Space?

The biggest challenge high school students have is to dream big.  The biggest challenge parents have is to encourage students to dream big.  Here is a great example of dreaming big. Each student needs to define what dream big means for them.  This student was able to enter space.

What is a Leader?

As we emerge from the contentious 2016 presidential election cycle, the notion of leadership has been turned on its head and dragged through the dirt. We watched as the individuals who are charged to lead our nation, traded insults and acted imprudently. Audaciously, candidates and their ambassadors engaged in a race to see who could talk the loudest and capture each stunted news cycle or Twitter feed by spreading fear and discouragement throughout a preoccupied populace.

Likewise, when we look to high profile athletes, artists and other leaders of our time, we often find individuals embroiled in scandals, lies and abuse. It begs us to question: Do we mindlessly ordain positions of leadership without intentionality and substance but rather based on status, strength or symbolism?

In many ways leadership is a misnomer; it has become a throw-away term, and we easily default to a “leader of the pack” mentality where the alpha dog rules the day. It can elicit images of a drill sergeant marching his soldiers around or the captain of a ship barking out commands. But what is a leader really and how do we determine leadership potential? This is a dilemma that has stumped college admission officers and intimidated prospective applicants for ages.

What does it mean

to lead?

Ask three individuals about the significance of leadership and you are likely to receive as many different responses. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines leading as “a: to guide on a way especially by going in advance; b: to direct on a course or in a direction; c: to serve as a channel for.”

Indeed, a combination of these meanings encompasses true leadership. It often requires the initiative to take a risk and “go in advance,” being willing to serve as a pioneer and sacrifice comfort for the betterment of a group. Leading can also require a readiness to direct or make a difficult decision, owning the outcome for one’s self and the people one represents. The final and arguably most important facet of leading is the idea of “channeling” the hopes, aspirations and initiatives of those who one guides. A true leader serves as the vehicle through which a community or organization functions at its best.

At the Derryfield School, our working definition of leadership is “intentional and sustained engagement for the common good.” To lead without purpose is misguided, and dedicated leadership requires connection and involvement that goes much deeper than the surface. A thoughtful model of leadership is one where ego is left at the door and the central focus is on a greater objective that benefits the whole. We need leaders who provide inspiration, not perspiration – individuals that motivate others by encouragement rather than by instilling fear. We need paradigms of leadership that involve listening as paramount to success.

Lessons on leadership

While it may be easy to define a leader in principle, college applicants want to know how colleges view leadership. Who are these “leaders” that admission committees want to admit, and what qualities are they searching for? I asked colleagues in college admission to share their ideas on what it means to lead. Here is what they had to say:

“Someone who stops to ask the question: What is the right thing to do in this circumstance?” said Andy Strickler, dean of admission and financial aid at Connecticut College.

“Leadership is deep engagement in an area of interest – not necessarily an officer in an organization,” said Deb Shaver, director of admission at Smith College. “Rather than the president of the student government, I love the student who has been the chair of the dance clean up committee for a few years. Who wants that job? And yet, she consistently gets a few students who will stay late after the dance to clean up the detritus left by classmates. That, to me, is leadership. No accolades but lots of commitment and follow through.”

“A leader is someone who shoulders responsibility for larger group decisions. A leader is also someone who inspires others to act, holds forth broad ethical and inclusive principles and organizes the time and energy of all people to a purposeful and successful diverse community of living,” said Paul Thiboutot, vice president and dean of admission at Carleton College.

“Someone who inspires others and who brings differences together toward a common goal,” University of Vermont Executive Director of Admissons Beth Wiser said. “A leader is willing to take risks in the presence of adversity.”

“A leader is someone who influences others to make a difference. A leader can be loud and bright but a leader can also be quiet and soft – if he or she inspires, excites, and motivates others, I would call that leadership,” said Kelliann Dietel, admissions counselor at Lafayette College.

“Someone with highly developed emotional intelligence who is a mentor, a decision maker (through collaboration and consultation), and an ethical role model,” said Beverly Moore, associate dean at Kenyon College. “A leader is engaged in the discussion and is sensitive to the validity of ideas outside of their comfort zone.”

“A leader is someone willing to establish a collective following, however a great leader is one who takes in the advice of their peers to achieve a collective goal or initiative. A great leader listens and understands the need to persist when the going gets tough,” said Tim Neil, assistant director of admission at Sewanee, the University of the South.

Vice President for Undergraduate Enrollment at University of Notre Dame Don Bishop said, “A leader is someone who notices what is not being accomplished that should be worked on and improved . . . not for their own gain but for the benefit of the group or a special subgroup that has less resources and needs help. A leader also organizes others to assist her/him in this effort.”

“A leader is a great listener who can motivate others to be thoughtful and effective,” Syracuse University Director of Admission Peter Hagan said. “Too often we are stuck assessing leadership roles and have a harder time identifying leadership qualities.”

“A leader is someone who supports and encourages those around them; communicates big picture goals clearly and effectively; and continually builds relationships to advance the mission of the team. Someone who tempers action with wisdom and balances humility and confidence,” said Rick Clark, director of undergraduate admission at Georgia Tech.

Michael Sexton from Santa Clara University said, “A leaders is one who motivates and inspires others to a common vision.”

“A leader is someone who takes initiative to stand up for what they believe in, who is critically self-reflective, and who knows how/when to support the voices of others when others step up to lead,” said Erika Blauth, assistant director of admission at Colorado College.

There you have it. Easy right? These sentiments can be inspiring, and simultaneously overwhelming. While it is comforting to realize that colleges are looking beyond traditional position titles for demonstrated leadership, it does present a greater dilemma. How on earth does one begin to show these lofty qualities on a college application beyond the small box where a candidate can list “club president,” “lead in the musical” or “athletic captain?”

An experienced admission officer is like a miner, digging for evidence of leadership in many forms. It is incumbent upon them to look deeper and value different models and demonstrations of leading. Educators must refuse to accept a narrow concept of effective leadership. It is the applicant’s job to find creative ways to provide the evidence for which the admission office can dig. Students need to articulate for themselves the authentic story they want to tell and then communicate that message in their application.

When asked how they identify the qualities of a leader in an application, admission officers point to interviews, essays and teacher or counselor recommendations – each as a way that candidates can highlight unique stories of thoughtful leadership. Absent a title, ongoing involvement in an organization or activity with increasing engagement can show commitment and one’s growing role in their community. Application readers are looking for instances when students are willing to make a stand or take a risk. They are curious to see how students show care for, and positively impact, others’ lives. Even small signs of responsibility such as an applicant taking the reigns in the college search and not just following the crowd or their parents’ direction. Frequently it is the pursuits that students don’t do for a resume that carry the most weight, so don’t chase the position, live the qualities.

Leadership is about the common good, not divisiveness, isolation or touting one’s greatness at the expense of others. It is not about always being right or having the answers. It is about openness, listening, dedication, support, unification and intention. Compassionate leaders are those who can positively influence culture, and who can accept failure and admit imperfection. These are the young people that colleges seek as they scour the country for our next leaders. True leadership will be a collective effort, much greater than any one title or position.

By the Concord Monitor

Coalition Application Essays For 2017-2018

After a rough start, it looks like the Coalition application may survive, it may even thrive. In October 2015, a new college application called the Coalition App, was introduced by the Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success with much fanfare. After many false starts in 2016, this application will be used by over 100 colleges in 2017. Most of these colleges also support the Commonapp.Commonapp

While only 47 out of 95 Coalition members finally launched applications during 2016-17, it is expected that all will be online by next summer. In fact, with new membership guidelines in place effective January 1, the Coalition expects to add more colleges for 2017-18. So far, new  members include Arizona State UniversityDrew UniversityLoyola University MarylandRutgers University—NewarkUniversity of Arizona and University of New Mexico. By May 1, the Coalition expects to make a final announcement of all members for the upcoming cycle.TheCoalition

And for juniors on deck for 2017-18, Coalition essay questions will remain the same for next year for those members requiring a personal statement — not all do. They are:

To learn more about the Coalition Application or to create an account, visit the Coalition website at


The Magic Potion:  The 2 R’s—Research and Reading

What do colleges actually want?  Students, parents, advisors, and teachers alike ask themselves this question every year as they wade into the college admission process. colleges-want-research

The truth is:  colleges want students who are passionate about learning.  They don’t want students obsessed with being perfect.  They don’t want straight A’s for the sake of straight A’s.  Colleges want students who truly love to learn.  Students who will go out of their way
to find the answer to a question, just because they’re interested.  Students who volunteer to stay after class to help with an experiment because they wonder how it will turn out.  Students who happily wander through a bookstore or the library, hoping to find something new and interesting to learn.

When a college chooses to interview a student, one of the first questions they ask a student is “What are you reading?”.  Sure, a student can spout titles from the summer reading list, but any admission professional knows these lists like the back of their hand.  Scarlett Letter?  Fahrenheit 911?  Unbroken?  Catcher and the Rye?  The Things They Carried?  Colleges know all of these.  What else?  You’d be amazed by the confused looks students get on their faces when they realize their summer reading list books simply aren’t enough for top-tier schools.

Love of learning is not something a student can fake.  And it’s not something that develops overnight.  How can you foster a child’s love of learning and therefore improve his/her chances in the college admission process?

schoolboy with open book on white background. Isolated 3D image

  1. Promote reading for the sake of reading. More often than not, students are choosing their smart phones over leisure reading.  Students should be exploring new topics through reading. They should develop passions o
    utside of the summer reading list.   Students should aim to read at least 3-5 books for pleasure each year of high school.
  2. Innately, reading will develop a sense of curiosity and most often this curiosity then lends itself to research. Colleges are most interested in students who have an interest in or experience with research. This could be at the high school level (chemistry projects) or it could be at the college level (summer research with a professor).  Encourage children to ask questions.  This is where research begins.  From there, research follows a student’s relationship with his/her teachers.  If a student is interested in English, go meet with the teacher.  Perhaps he/she could use some help in reading more about the Bronte sisters.  Interested in anatomy?  Perhaps the anatomy teacher knows an area college professor for whom the student could work over the summer.

In sum, curiosity is key.  Students must foster a sense of curiosity early in their high school career so that this quality can serve them in college and even beyond.  Reading and research—this is the magic potion that creates a competitive college application.




745 Colleges and Universities have released their application essay questions.

Now is the time to start the college essay, 745 Colleges and Universities have released their application essay questions.

Student typing

71 Colleges have released their supplemental essays, more to come.

The Common App goes live Monday. Here are the colleges that have released their supplemental essays.  Students should have finalized their common application essay by now so they can start on the supplements on Monday.

  1. Alaska Pacific University
  2. Alma College
  3. Arizona State University
  4. Baylor University
  5. Benedict College
  6. Bowling Green State University
  7. Chicago State University
  8. College of St. Joseph
  9. Cornell University
  10. Delaware State University
  11. Duquesne University
  12. Eastern Mennonite University
  13. Endicott College
  14. Fairleigh Dickinson University
  15. Florida International University
  16. Georgia Southern University
  17. Hope College
  18. Indiana University
  19. Indiana University of Pennsylvania
  20. Iona College
  21. Johnson and Wales University at Denver
  22. Kansas State University
  23. Kent State University
  24. Kettering University
  25. Long Island University/C.W. Post Campus
  26. Lynchburg College
  27. Lyndon State College
  28. McKendree University
  29. Menlo College
  30. Mercer University
  31. Michigan Technological University
  32. Middle Tennessee State University
  33. Millikin University
  34. Millsaps College
  35. Missouri State University
  36. Morehouse College
  37. Nebraska Wesleyan University
  38. Niagara University
  39. Notre Dame de Namur University
  40. Oregon State University
  41. Rhodes College
  42. Saint Leo University
  43. Santa Fe Community College
  44. Santa Monica College
  45. Savannah State University
  46. Skidmore College
  47. Sonoma State University
  48. South Dakota State University
  49. Spring Hill College
  50. St. Petersburg College
  51. State University of New York at Albany
  52. Texas A&M University-College Station
  53. University of Alabama-Huntsville
  54. University of Arizona
  55. University of Edinburgh
  56. University of Idaho
  57. University of Maryland Eastern Shore
  58. University of Memphis
  59. University of Minnesota-Twin Cities
  60. University of Nebraska-Omaha
  61. University of New Hampshire at Manchester
  62. University of Notre Dame
  63. University of Pittsburgh
  64. University of Richmond
  65. University of South Dakota
  66. University of Wyoming
  67. Utah State University
  68. Weber State University
  69. Wentworth Military Academy and College
  70. Western Michigan University
  71. Yeshiva University

How to Think Outside The Box In A College Application


Why Get College Applications Done In The Summer?