When I ask a group of teens the question, “What do you have yet to learn about finding the colleges that are the right fit for you?” there are a variety of answers… depending on the teens in the conversation.

Specifically, I have answered questions as varied as:

  • What’s the difference between a college and a university?
  • How do I handle a bad grade?  A bad semester?
  • It’s good to be involved in 6 or 7 extracurriculars, right?
  • What if I don’t know/haven’t decided about my major?
  • What’s the difference between early decision and early action?
  • Why isn’t summertime a good time to visit colleges?
  • What are schools looking for in students?
  • Should I do an interview?  When should I do the interview?
  • What types of financial aid are available?
  • Should I wait until after I am accepted at schools to visit them?
  • What if I don’t like my roommate?
  • What if I don’t like the school once I get there?

These are great questions because they are important to the teens I meet–and getting answers will lead to feeling more confident, which I believe, makes the process feel easier.  Answers to some of these questions were discussed in the previous post, though what’s most important is…

  • What are your questions?
  • How are you going to find the answers?
  • What resources are available to you?

Guidance counselors, family, friends, books, websites, coaches, and the colleges /admissions offices too!  Tell me your questions!  I’d be happy to email or talk about your concerns, so that you can approach your college search with a sense of adventure!


We had an awesome call about all there is to learn about finding the college that’s right for you… While I was chatting away with the girls on the call, Grace, (leadership coach for talented teen girl athletes, http://TigressTeens.ning.com) was taking notes of our conversation-here are the highlights (plus a wee bit more information)!

Did you know?

There are over FOUR THOUSAND colleges and universities in the US-so you are bound to find some that fit YOUR needs.  (And, you might look outside the US too!  Take a peek at Maya Frost’s book, The New Global Student. )

It’s real important to college admissions for you to be resilient (and show it!). Everyone has bumps in the road, what they (admissions office personnel) want to see is how you respond to and manage adversity.

Remember you are a whole person.  The package of you is what matters-be honest about yourself-know what you want (size, location, etc.)-even if that means you don’t have a major yet.

Not knowing your major is fine-50% of students haven’t decided on a major by the time they enter college. If you want to go to school to find what you want to do then you look more towards liberal arts colleges, on the other hand, if you know what you want and are focused, look to schools with your focus.What is important is to know your interests.  Find schools that have what you want-look for the differences in how each school presents your focal interest.

SAT Scores are NOT required at all schools. So, if you are intimidated or have strong feelings against SAT’s then find a school that does not ask for these or other standardized test scores. There are plenty of excellent colleges that do not require these scores. And the number is steadily growing.

Always go to the interview and college tour if possible AND do the interview-this gives you an opportunity to be a face with the paper-you really are a human being. Go with a portfolio-this can include your awards, your community service, your interests.

Be prepared for the interview, develop questions about the schools. Be specific as well as general-have at least one question that is very school specific.

Understand that the school is a community. They are trying to see how you will fit into their existing structure-what can you add? What do they have that you need? Why you are different and unique?

Know yourself both strengths and weaknessesknow your needs–these can be anything from the school having the club you most desire,to having the reading help you must have, to having the buildings that you feel most comfortable in.

Size of school is important-how can you tell what is the right fit for you? When you visit the school see if you can sleep over, spend a day in classes. Talk with the kids who are there. Eat in the dining hall.

Ask the students why they are there. What is the best part of the school? What is the worst part? VERY important question-what do you do, you know, when you are not in class?  And, the fact is, as the visitor you are way more nervous than kids in the school. They have had to go through this process-so they understand-and most of them want to help you make the best decision for you.

Keep to a few things really passionate about—don’t try to do a ton of stuff just to put it on a resume. Remember you are the person-it’s you who will be going to school, not your resume.

If you have extra things you want to share (letters of recommendation, awards, written work, videos), call (the admission office) to find out what to do, (not all schools want and/or accept extra materials).  Use them as a “door opener” to get your folder opened and to show you are interested in the school.

Wow!  These were only some of the topics we discussed in the 20 minute call!  If you have questions, email me!

Next post:  Questions teens have… that we didn’t get a chance to talk about on the call!


I give interactive workshops in high schools, and at local, regional and national conferences… on the very subject listed above.  So many students have questions and concerns that can be addressed easily in an hour’s time.  For the past two Monday evenings I’ve partnered with Grace Mauzy, Coach for Talented Teen Girl Athletes, to talk with girls about their college search-with great results!  I’ll share the key points of all the 15 minute sessions on the blog, (and the audiofiles when we have them).

First Session
The Question
What do you know about the college search that you’re not aware of… that you just never thought about before, or information you have picked up along the way?

If you want to hear what we talked about, click here. If you want the info. – read on!

Key Points

  • What do you know about yourself?  Be prepared to talk/write about your passions, needs, wants, challenges, favorite subjects and activities, connections to the community.  Thinking through your answers will help you write applications and essays.
  • First, focus on: What do you want? Make decisions about which colleges are the right fit for you.
  • Second, focus on:  What do the colleges want?  Colleges want to know about you as a whole person: your strengths, challenges, course of study, grades, extracurriculars, community involvement, what you want from college and your education
  • How many colleges are there in the US?  There are 4,000 colleges… plenty of them that will be a good fit for college ready students/you.
  • What’s your reason for picking a school?  If it’s all about the name/prestige… think again!
  • Where should I be looking at colleges?  Check out colleges/universities beyond your region.  Colleges are looking for diversity… including what part of the country you represent.
  • What about the big price tag for college today-how can I afford it?  Teens and parents have misconceptions about the costs of colleges-small, private, liberal arts colleges are costlier than state schools, yet they give out more financial aid and scholarships.  Don’t cross them off your list.

Grace was taking detailed notes.  She felt that the two most important points were:
1.  Colleges are looking to create a community-Candidates need to share who they are and what they do throughout the admissions process (applications and interviews)
2.  There are a number of ways to fund your college years-look at all the possibilities.

Second session… We talked about, “What do you have yet to learn about the college search process?”
Check out the next post!


Applying to colleges and universities appears -> overwhelming!   There are so many pieces to the puzzle!  It’s time to summon your strengths again and use them manage yourself and this task.

How are you going to use your strengths to enjoy the time devoted to the application and interviewing processes?  You know you need to:

Whittle down the list of colleges and universities
Use your strength of open-mindedness to consider a range of possibilities; and, your strengths of judgment and critical thinking to examine your choices.  Rely on both your head and your heart:  you need to think through the objective information (the environment in which you can do your best work, your profile of grades, courses, test scores, extracurricular involvements, the cost of the schools, the distance from home, what the schools have to offer you) and your heart (how you feel reading through the different materials, visiting the campus, talking with admissions personnel, professors, students).

Create a GIANT chart
Stretch you strength of ingenuity to develop a fun, interesting, and useful chart on paper or on the computer -> that organizes all the requirements for all the schools (testing, profile of current class {re: test scores, GPA, etc}, type of application, supplemental essay(s), interview suggestions and types, admission dates, financial aid filing dates, etc.)  Your perseverance will support you through gathering all the details.  And, look for similarities in the requirements, so that you’re always being efficient; perhaps schools are asking for similar supplemental essay topics, or you can submit the same piece of graded written work to more than one college.

Develop a plan and a timeline – Be realistic and kind to yourself!
Tap into your strength of future-mindedness to formulate your plan and timeline for all the tasks.  Use your perspective to solve problems that arise.  Give yourself plenty of time to complete your tasks so you don’t feel too rushed.  While you make like the pressure of a looming deadline, be certain that you can meet the deadlines with your best work to show for it.

Determine what assistance you need
Your personal intelligence/insight into your own thoughts and feelings will guide you to discovering what types of support you need.  Whether it’s information about the range of college costs your family can afford, the types of financial aid available at the different colleges, the tests to be taken, deadlines to be met and fees to be paid for tests and applications, proofreading of essays or practicing for interviews, plan to ask for help far in advance of need it.  Remember to show gratitude to the people who are supporting you in this process-parents, friends, teachers, counselors, coaches.

Just do it!
Throw yourself into this task with enthusiasm and you will reap the rewards of knowing that you are doing your best… It will show in your results!

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