So what do you know about how college rankings are developed? It’s one of my favorite subjects to discuss, as I find parents and students are unaware of the methods and the politics behind the ranking of fewer than half the colleges and universities in America. My suggestion? A bit of research—and that would be true regarding any source of information—from college rankings to college guides, to college marketing materials, to admissions consulting, advising or coaching services.

Take a look at:
Frank Bruni’s NY Times article, Why College Admissions Are a Joke (9.18.16) and then the Letter to the Editor from Brian Kelly, Editor and Chief Content Officer at U.S. News & World Report (9.22.16).

For more in depth information, read The Gate Keepers, by Jacques Sternberg.

And, a favorite of mine, for those looking for hidden gems is, Colleges That Change Lives, www.ctcl.org. There’s great information on the site and in the book.

Choosing the right campuses—because students will consider, and most likely apply to over half a dozen colleges and universities—is a task of enormous proportions. There’s a lot of great information to be discovered and assessed.


Yesterday I saw The Beatles, and the memories of that time in my life flooded back to me. While I was in second grade when John, Paul, George and Ringo appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show, I grew up with them…

What are your memories of high school? What was the college admission process like for you—or did you go straight to work? What are the thoughts and feelings you have around that time—of yourself, your friends, your classes/education, your parents, and how you entered and completed the college search and selection process? Are you aware of the influence those memories may be having on your teen’s experience—or how you are interacting with your teen? It’s one of the first—of the zillion—questions to be asking yourself.

If you’re the parent of a junior—fantastic! You have an early start on the process. If you’re the parent of a senior—well, it’s not too late, but there is some serious catching up to do.

Here’s a recent interview with Bianca and Phillip, of Let’s Talk! We had a wide-ranging, information packed conversation which posted on September 8th. (Search for that date.)

Before listening, think of what’s important to you and your teen right now and in the coming months. If you don’t hear an answer or if you want to learn more, contact me to set up a complimentary Strategy Session.


As the beginning of the school year approaches, have you made the time to reflect on your summer?

Think back to the end of the school year and your plans for the summer months…

  • What were your plans?

Did you travel, work, go to camp, take a MOOC, read some books, take classes… or any one of a zillion          things? What have you achieved—both planned and unplanned?

  • Did you achieve most of what you set out to do?

Did you do even more? Or, did you do less because that felt right to you? (More is not always better.)

  • What has been the impact—both short and long term—of your experiences this summer?

Do you think and feel differently than at the beginning of the summer? What are some of the lessons you have learned? How will they influence how you go back to school?

Whether you are a junior, with plenty of time to begin your college search, or a senior who needs to gear up and maintain momentum, now is the time to make your plans for the school year.

Here’s a mindmap I created of “A Year in the Life” of a teen preparing for college. While it starts in January, if you’re a junior, check it out and begin to plan now… If you’re a senior, check in and discover what you have accomplished and what’s on the horizon for you. These are exciting times! If you feel anxious, confused or overwhelmed, there’s lots of help available. Shoot me an email and I can point you in the direction of resources.

A year in the life


This was a summer oozing with new opportunities for me—how was it for you? Are you going back to school with new knowledge/information/ideas about yourself, other people, new areas of interest, maybe even new skills? I know that I am brimming over with new experiences:

  • Training international audiences at a conference in Berlin—sharing my passions and expertise, and learning from the folks in my sessions
  • Reading about—and trying—new ways to be a leader
  • Discovering and applying Appreciative Inquiry to make my coaching and training practices even more rich for my clients, audiences, and for me.

IFVP bio pic 1 web 300x200 What I learned during my summer vacation...  Okay, maybe I realized it after a wee bit of reflection

What did you do this summer that was a step outside your comfort zone, novel, different, exciting, or challenging? In what areas did you succeed? What are you still learning? What failures did you have while you were learning? Because if we don’t make mistakes or fail a few times, are we really pushing ourselves to do our best work?

It’s not necessary to travel far to make discoveries. While my trips in France and Germany were exciting as I saw old friends, made new ones and learned new ideas, practices, and skills—I did some of my most meaningful learning sitting on my couch reading, with my dog resting by my side.

This summer, I made sure to live one of my favorite quotes, by Marcel Proust.

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”

I have “new eyes” in so many aspects of my life as a result of seeing/thinking/living differently—no matter where I was… What about you?


The sun is beating down, I’m talking all the time with students and parents about senior year schedules, lists of colleges, essays, and more… and I think back to a conversation on a cold day this winter at Clark University. I was delivering a workshop for parents about their changing roles in the lives of their teens, and a man (who looked familiar) asked if I had any information about what to be doing when on this long and winding journey. I was happy to tell him that I had created a timeline/mindmap for teens… yet had to admit I had never done the same for parents. This man—who turned out to be a neighbor of mine from back in the day, it’s a small world we live in—said that such a resource would be helpful.

Today I started to create this tool! I’ve talked with parents for years about their questions and concerns, yet I want to check in again. WiIl you help? If you are a teen or parent in the throes of the college admissions process, or just finished it, would you share your thoughts about…

  • what you would like to know/like to have known
  • what questions you have/had
  • what insights do you have about the your role in this process.

Here’s the mindmap I created for teens.

A year in the life…

It highlights the tasks to be accomplished and the timing for each. The framework that I use for my coaching program, Making the Grade, is crafted around the pieces of this puzzle and makes sense of this big, unwieldy process.

This afternoon I started re-conceptualizing this process and will be creating new maps—for both teens and parents. I hope that you will help me by providing me with your ideas! Teens and parents, please contact me here. I can’t wait to hear from you!


What is of value to you? This question was put front and center for me on Monday when Clark University was named one of the top 25 service-oriented schools for return on investment, http://bit.ly/TJmjuM 

 I have to say, I retweeted that post because I received huge value from my years there. I can tie almost everything I have ever done professionally—and that spans three distinctly different areas, i.e., teaching/administration in public schools, instructional design and training, and working with families to navigate the college admissions process—to my education at Clark University.  And, my personal life was deeply affected by my years in Worcester—pointing me in a new direction for my volunteerism and sowing the seeds for all the volunteer work I do today. The return on my parents’ investment was HUGE—from both education/professional and personal perspectives.


clark building stylized 300x200 Whats the ROI on Your College Investment?


What did you think when you heard about this story? I have to say that I was initially skeptical. I hear from so many students about names and reputations of colleges but not how they are the right matches for the students talking with me… because those students have not yet done the work necessary to make the most thoughtful decisions.

So I read about Kwasi Enin with great interest and discovered that he was very thoughtful about the process. He realizes that the environments of these eight schools are very different and he is searching for the one among them that will enable him to to do his very best work.

“… Enin said he decided to seek admission to all of them because each had different qualities. Each school has different admission criteria as each seeks the right mix for entering classes.” (LA Times, 4.1.14)

Think for a minute. Is it your impression that these schools







University of Pennsylvania


  • have the same core values
  • that all the departments are of equally superior quality (or that there’s variation depending on the size of the department, the age and/or tenure of professors, etc.)
  • offer the same types of opportunities, such as study abroad programs, internships, and/or opportunities for research
  • the students bodies are the same in terms of approach to the academic environment, diversity, social life, etc.
  • the physical environments are equally pleasing?

We can be certain that each school has its own unique character… and finding the best fit involves considering all these factors and more. My bet is that this young man is thinking about these variables and will weigh them along with the financial packages offered to him—he will make the decision with his eyes wide open, thinking first about himself.


Parents and teens need personally relevant, crystal clear, and complete information about the college admissions process. Over the past two years, I have discovered (to my shock and amazement) that very few schools, in particular the guidance counselors, are not open to having a speaker who focuses on the personal side of the transitions that are happening in families of juniors and seniors. For parents, that means help in figuring out their roles in this process and shifting into a new aspect of parenting. For teens, it means stepping into responsibility and becoming college ready, not just college eligible. Dozens of guidance counselors and principals in my tri-county area have told me, “We have that covered.” In general, what they have is:

  • a webpage with a packet of information full of dates for paperwork to be submitted
  • a few nights for parents to learn the steps for completing the paperwork
  • a speaker about financing college: scholarships and loans

There’s no doubt that the very personal aspects of the process, what really matters most in the decision-making process, are hot topics. I deliver workshops in a few high schools and on college campuses every year and parents love the opportunity to focus on themselves, ask their questions and hear the real life experiences of other parents. And students come to my sessions at conferences, literally by the hundreds, to be heard, to learn, and have their questions answered.

I am always interested in sharing my expertise and experience, so I offer workshops at local libraries, PTA meetings, through teleclasses, and at conferences. This Thursday, I will meet with parents at my local library to complete my three part series, For Parents Only. I hope that you will comment on this post or send me an email, jill@majorinyou.com, to tell me where you get the best information about the college admissions process—not just the paperwork or the latest poll that sends you and your teen into a tailspin about all that has to be accomplished. What are the sources of current, reliable, and realistic information? My guess is that you have the same question…



Though it’s January and college seems far away, now is the time reflect on your abilities to manage all the aspects of your future life on campus. Take a moment to think about your life right now:

What are you fully capable of doing?

What areas can you grow into before stepping onto campus?

The list of possibilities is LONG!

  • Manage all the time in your day (classes may be 12-16 hours a week, readings/assignments might be another 50 hours a week… there’s still LOTS of time!)
  • Get up and out the door on time
  • Be prepared for classes/Complete assignments on time
  • Travel with friends or on your own—to see friends on other campuses or explore nearby towns, cities, ski slopes, or beaches
  • Make sure you’re doing everything from eating right to getting enough sleep to doing laundry to understanding your finances to mindfully choosing friends, relationships, and socializing options…


Once you realize what you already know how to do and what you have yet to learn, make the time between now and August to get comfortable with new and different tasks and responsibilities. Take charge of your schedule, your responsibilities (making some meals, spending money and using credit or debit cards, getting around to new and different places). Start the conversation with your parents about how you can make a smooth transition from life at home to life at college.


Just two nights ago I spoke to parents at a PTA meeting in Montrose, NY. We spent some time, and had a serious conversation, about how parents can shift into being supportive of their teens stepping into adulthood.  Teens stepping up and parents stepping back. It’s critically important for everyone involved.


While this article on www.Edutopia.org begins the conversation, there’s more to be considered and discussed. Check out more of my ideas College Eligible vs. College Ready


I just spent the first 10 minutes of my day planning to have fun… because I had to make sure it got done!

Yesterday* was full of promise! I had big plans to clean up my studio while watching a DVD, find a jewelry project I wanted to start, start a quilt, and take pictures of some recent craft work. In fact, I started by checking my email, getting caught up in interesting future projects, and then a friend called out of the blue… Over an hour later I had really connected with my friend, and had even worked on a craft project while I was on the phone, but my plans for the day were going sideways… And so, while I recovered some of my plans/fun, by watching the DVD/cleaning up and finding my long lost jewelry project, I never got to the quilt—well, that’s not exactly true. I took out the main pieces, looked at the clock, and decided I couldn’t start so late in the day. There’s a lesson in this story. And so this morning, I decided to sit down and plan my fun!

In reality, I’m really adept at making sure I have fun, but I realized yesterday that it’s so easy to get knocked off schedule and begin to lose control… Of my day!

So here are my big picture plans for fun projects this year…

photo 300x225 Planning for fun—Theres a lesson in it!

I think that sometimes I don’t get to all my plans because I have so many of them! I’m going to test that theory by planning my fun for the next month. Does that sound like drudgery to you? It actually sounds exciting to me! I know that if I brainstorm everything I want to do, create a plan/schedule there is a much better chance I will get it all done. It also gives me something to look forward to—completing projects and beginning new ones.


I appreciate the irony of sharing all this, when my most recent post written for www.teenlife.com (to post this week) was all about having fun everyday through creating a list and a plan for enjoying 10 Delicious Daily Habits—not to mention Plan Your Fun! which I created when my daughter was in high school, feeling that the burdens of school and the college admissions process were overwhelming. In reality, I get to my Delicious Daily Habits because I have made them a habit. My (short-term) projects are different, they’re not ingrained in my daily life. Now I realize that I need to make that so!

What’s your takeaway from this meandering tale? Do you find that big plans often get blown off course by unexpected events? When I have a long term project—for fun or for work—sometimes it feels like I can miss a day, because it will take so much time to complete, and that’s okay. The answer is, sometimes it is and other times it’s not okay. It’s fine to take a day off from a project if it’s a mindful choice and the deadline permits. In reality though, projects and tasks begin to drag on when I become caught up in what pops into my life, without wresting control of my schedule.

So, a word of caution, whether it’s planning for fun or planning for college, be sure to make the time to develop a timeline… and actively decide how you will spend your precious time every day! 

*This piece was written Monday/yesterday morning.

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