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.


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

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?


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


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…


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.


Current Dilemma in My Coaching Practice

One student in coaching with me appears to be stuck, at a loss, finding it very difficult to move forward and complete the tasks necessary to finish the applications for the admissions process.


Time is growing short to submit applications for September admission


  • Explore the resistance to getting the work done—what are the questions, concerns or fears—and develop ideas and techniques for handling the unspoken distress
  • Discuss and list the tasks to be completed and create deadlines and milestones
  • Check in/touch base about progress


No response to check in email


Offer different kind of support—more active partnership—until the student is ready to do the tasks more independently


No response to my offer for more support in my second email

While there may be activity around the tasks, I am concerned about activity and yet not productivity… 


I can relate, can you?

For me, today has been a day of organizing my thoughts around wellness, to share/write up/draw for my next ezine (tomorrow), creating a new description of my ebook for my store page, organizing my outreach to guidance counselors and administrators, contacting an editor about my book, updating video content, and planning for several new products. These are all important tasks yet I am stepping back to be reflective/gain self-awareness, to be sure that I am not mistaking activity for productivity. Do you ever have those days?

Perhaps it’s just a day full of handling the details that push many projects forward… just doesn’t feel as satisfying as big chunks of projects accomplished. Maybe I can reframe that and look at total number of tasks achieved… Mmmm, I’m liking it!

Check out the new intro on my video, Find the Right College with Jill’s New Ebook, And if you’re more of a fan of paperbacks (than ebooks), you can find my book here on Amazon or here on Barnes & Noble’s site.


Yippee! One of my favorite topics is on the front pages… okay, the front pages of Education Week, yet the front pages nonetheless!

I am passionate about helping teens and families ensure that young adults heading off to college are fully prepared to be there—academically, emotionally, and socially. Teens need to be college-ready not just college eligible. I write about it, talk about it with teens and parents—and now the conversation is happening at a national level! This critical conversation has implications for you.

This article,  Testing Consortium Crafts College-Readiness Definition – Curriculum Matters – Education Week (do not be scared off by the title) highlights the current thinking about the knowledge and skills student need to have at various levels in their school life.  While you don’t need to know the details now… The “takeaway” from all of this is…You/Teens and their families need to have an eye toward the future! Life at college is mulitfaceted, and having the skills to navigate the:

  • academic workload—classes, studying, tests, papers, projects, internships, etc.
  • social life—rooomate(s), free time, parties, interpersonal and romantic/sexual relationships, refusal skills re: drugs and alcohol, etc.
  • daily living realities—eating well and sleeping enough, money management, laundry, etc.

are foundational to success on campus.

Learn more here… Here are two resources: My short video about becoming college ready and one of the many articles I share with audiences at schools, conferences, and parent workshops.

How to Pick the Right College|Prepare Your Teen to be College Ready

College eligible v. ready


I’m just back from six FANTASTIC sessions at Igniting Innovations, the 2012 National Fall Leadership Conference for PBL and FLBA, where I presented to over 600 young adults—talking about what matters most to them—preparing for their futures.

It was so exciting to share information, pose questions, listen to their thinking, address their concerns, and see planning for next steps take place before my eyes.  Major in You: How to Find the Colleges That Are the Right Fit! was my favorite session because it gave me the most opportunity to hear from students about their real life experiences in the search—and to point to a path which would guide and support them.

After the session, two teens approached me for a brief conversation. They were both seniors and said, “We don’t know what to do with our lives.” While there was not enough time to get into a deep conversation, I handed them my card and told them to call me. A complimentary Strategy Session seemed the right place to begin with them… We’ll discover what they have accomplished and dig into different avenues for exploring where their interests, passions, and strengths lie. The paths to their futures will flow from their introspection and, perhaps, some research into new and different areas.

In the weeks ahead I will share the results from my College Search Survey—the teens’ thoughts, feelings, and questions about the labyrinthian process.

Here’s the survey, just in case you want to take it, scan it, and send it back to me. I’d be happy to answer your questions.

College Survey


Site Meter