How Many Colleges Should Seniors Apply To?

People tend to like answers with hard-and-fast numbers, but there really isn’t one to answer this application question. To satisfy that craving, though, I’ll say that it’s generally advised that seniors have 5-8 applications to submit to colleges.


Remember that the number of colleges your teen applies to isn’t the important thing – it’s making sure that the colleges are a good fit that really matters, and that the list is very well-balanced overall.

Let’s start there

The College List – Finding the Right Balance

The goal is to be sure that your teen is applying to a mix of colleges across three main categories:

“Safety” schools

These are colleges that your teen will have no problem getting into based on academic standings. Your teen is above average as compared to other students who are admitted. Consider applying to 1-2 safety schools.“Range” schools

These are colleges that are in the same range academically and typically admit students with similar standings. Think of your teen as being average academically as compared to other freshmen at the school. Consider applying to 2-4 range schools.

“Reach” schools

These are colleges that will be more of a challenge to get into with your teen’s qualifications, but they’re not entirely out of reach. Your student’s academic profile is in the bottom 25% of those who are admitted. Consider applying to 1-2 reach schools.

Know Where You Stand

Your teen needs to take a look at their own academic profile, which includes GPA, class rank, and ACT or SAT scores.

Once you have that, head over to a site like College Board’s BigFuture to check out what specific colleges post about what they’re looking for statistics-wise within these markers. This will help determine whether the college is a safety, range or reach school by how they measure up to the average admitted student.Remember that it’s not too late for your teen to upgrade their standings in comparison to others at these colleges! Things like getting tutoring, enrolling in a test prep program, and getting deeper into extracurriculars can help make them more marketable for the schools she’s considering.

Let’s continue the discussion! Thoughts on this post? Please leave a comment below!

What Colleges Actually Mean By “Holistic Review”

Let’s talk about holistic review.

My guess is that you’ve already seen these words on a few college applications or websites. And while you might get the gist of what it means, you’re not alone if you’ve been wondering what “holistic review” is and how it relates to your student.Basically, holistic review is when a school makes a decision about a student based on their application as a whole, rather than solely on their academic background.

While grades and test scores still matter (a lot), the applicant pool is increasingly competitive each year. Because of this competition, it’s no longer enough for colleges to base their admissions process solely on a student’s academic achievements.

Although this might seem overwhelming at first, this is really great news for students! In addition to their grades, students can really focus on highlighting their interests/extracurriculars/volunteer work/jobs/special circumstances/etc and it will all factor into the admissions decision!Translation: You can stand out to admissions offices by telling them what makes you, you!

Sounds way easier than stressing about whether your academic background will be enough to get you through, right?

So what’s considered in this holistic review process? Here’s a general list of things that can be considered, but really just about anything can factor in!

  • Class Rank
  • Academic Background/GPA
  • Test Scores (SAT/ACT)
  • Achievements, Awards, Honors Orgs
  • Special Accomplishments, Work, and Service (Both in and outside of your high school!)
  • Essays (This is where you can REALLY show them your personality. Letting them get to know you and hear your voice in your essays is huge!)
  • Special Circumstances (This is really helpful if you’ve experienced anything that might have affected your academic performance, including socioeconomic status, a single parent home, family responsibilities, overcoming adversity, cultural background, race and ethnicity, language spoken in the your home, health-related issues for you or your family, learning differences, and the list goes on!)
  • Recommendations (These typically aren’t required, but it doesn’t hurt to have a few from your teachers, organization leaders, or other reputable leaders who can vouch for you as a person/student/worker/etc.)
  • Competitiveness of Your Major (Don’t forget to take into account the popularity of your major at each school you’re applying for as this can seriously impact the competition between applicants.)

That’s A LOT of information that goes into an admissions decision.

I know it’s easy to feel overwhelmed or even discouraged by everything on this list, but it’s important to remember that holistic review can only benefit your student!

The purpose is to cover as much ground as possible within a short application – kind of like a first date.

And, very much like a first date, it’s just as important to relax and be yourself as it is to put your best foot forward.

Let’s continue the discussion! What are your thoughts on holistic review? Please leave a comment below!

Don’t Let The Coronavirus Derail Your Teen’s College Dreams

Today our nation is responding to a worldwide heath threat.  Counties and States across our nation have declared a state of emergency as the Coronavirus virus spreads.  There are bans put in place restricting gatherings of 100 or more.  Currently, Concerts, Broadway, Disney and Sporting Events have all been canceled.Additionally, Colleges across our nation have been forced to close their doors and move to online classes.  Our current state brings a vast mix of emotions. There are those who think everyone is over-reacting and there are those who are feeling panic or fear. Regardless, of where you fall on the scale, as a nation and people we are impacted.  In addition to the national health concerns we are seeing a negative financial impact as well.  The reality is that we will come out on the other side.  We may have a few bumps and bruises along the way, but it is how we handle the situation today that will affect our future.  I want to give you a few tips to help your focus on the future and keep your teen on track during this tumultuous time.

At this time a large majority of colleges are closed for outside visit.  Make sure that you check with the college you were planning on visiting before traveling.  President Trump is expected to declare this afternoon (March, 13, 2020) a National Emergency over the Coronavirus. I would venture to say that it would be difficult to find a university who is still holding campus tours or newly admitted student events.  So, what can you do to keep your college admissions process from being derailed. Class of 2020, if you are in the middle of making final decisions and you had scheduled college visits that have been canceled. Don’t panic.  There are a lot of great resources online that allow you to get a great overview of a university.  Many of the colleges you are attending will offer virtual tour options on their website and you can get a lot of your questions answered there as well.  You can also check out You Visit,they offer 600+  virtual college tours..

If you have specific questions about a university you can always send an email to your admissions counselor. Even though many universities may be closed their staff will be available and want to make sure that you are getting your questions answered. Remember they want you to attend their college, so don’t be afraid to reach out.The main thing to remember is that you have a well thought out college list and most likely you will be happy and thrive at the college you choose.  Make sure that you are checking emails as many of the colleges are providing additional resources and updates for newly admitted students.Class of 2021, As school districts are extending spring break our students are in full spring fever mode, so this is the perfect time to get a jump on the college admissions process.  First, if your teen is scheduled to take an upcoming ACT or SAT, they will need to verify that their test date has not been rescheduled.  Regardless of the situation, pulling out those test prep resources and spending time working on them will go a long way to increasing their scores.  Additionally, there are many parts of the college admissions process that they can begin working on now. This would be a good time to work on resumes, building your college list (use the resources listed above and go on a virtual college tour) and searching for scholarships. Your college dreams are still a reality so keep moving forward.In my own practice, I will be meeting with students virtually. This will allow students to stay on track and not miss a beat. I will also be holding free live trainings over the next few weeks to help families put plans in place so that your teen will be set up for success. You will find information about these free trainings on the Education Prep Centers Facebook page as they become available The most important thing during this time is that we come together and support one another.  My goal is to help you to and your teen stay on track during this difficult time.


Why the College Essay Can Make or Break Your Teen’s Chances for Admissions

The dreaded college essay. It is one of the top three things (in addition to GPA and SAT/ACT scores) that college admissions officers use to consider for admissions, so it’s vital that your teen gets this right.


Why Is The College Essay So Important?

The goal of the essay is to set your teen apart from other students. When comparing students with similar GPAs and test scores, the essay can be the catalyst that makes or breaks it with admissions officers. Students need to demonstrate why they’re a good fit for the school and how they’ll contribute. They’re selling themselves here in a big way.

Imagine that Jade and Delilah each have similar GPAs, academic rigor and SAT scores. That essay will be the determining factor that sets them apart from each other.

What Should My Teen Write About?

When the Common Application announced the 2019-2020 prompts, they shared that they were actually re-using the 2018-2019’s prompts. And this is not the first time they’ve done this, either. For this reason, I always encourage my juniors to start thinking of topics they’d like to include in their essays right now, even if the questions end up changing slightly before they start their application process.

There are one of two themes your teen should consider including on the college essay – be sure to know what these are before choosing a topic!

When Should It Be Written?

The ideal time to have your teen complete the essay(s) is during the summer before their senior year. Don’t wait! There are too many distractions once school starts again and, with everything else that your kid will need on that application, it’s best to get it done sooner rather than later.

Remember This…

Some colleges require essays in addition to those found on the Common Application and others only require responses to their school’s essay prompts. Be sure to check directly with each college’s website or admissions office to verify what they require. You don’t want to find out that your teen missed an important piece of the application after the fact!

HOT TIP: I know it’s going to be tempting to help your high schooler write their essay. DON’T DO IT! Sure – you can help with brainstorming topics, creating an outline, and proofreading, but don’t write the thing! College admission officers can smell a parent’s involvement from a mile away and it’s a huge detriment to your teen in the long run.

Thoughts about this post? Leave a comment below!

The 2 Best Ways to Make the College Essay Stand Out

College admissions folks are serious about the essays they read on applications. After checking out your teen’s GPA, academic rigor, and SAT/ACT scores, they’ll look at that very important essay to be sure he or she is the right fit for their school.

There are 2 themes that I always recommend a student considers gearing their writing toward, because either one of these will help showcase exactly what officials want to see:

1. How your teen has developed as a leader over time.

Admissions folks want students with a go-get-’em attitude who will be a leader at their school.

My youngest daughter has been passionate about theatre since she could walk. When she was in high school, she was taking voice, dance, and acting lessons, fundraising for the school theatre and choir departments, and costuming, choreographing, and rehearsing for shows both at school and at our community theater. It was pretty clear that she was dedicated and had developed as a leader in this area, which made her really shine on applications.

Your high schooler likely has something he or she’s been involved in for quite some time, either in school or out of it. Think of any volunteer work done over time, passions pursued, activities or sports participated in. Are there themes that can be linked to show growth in that area? How has your student grown in maturity and become a leader?


2. How your teen has overcome adversity.

Successfully getting through tough times almost inevitably builds character and allows a person to develop in maturity. College officials consider students who show this kind of grit in the face of hardship as leaders and doers – and they want them for their schools.I’ve worked with students who’ve overcome a variety of hardships, such as taking care of a terminally ill parent or grandparent, overcoming a learning difference, recovering after a severe injury or illness, taking care of a younger sibling while a single parent worked. Even with these challenges, the students conquered and came out better on the other side in some way.

Regardless of the essay prompt your teen chooses to write about on the application, applying one of these themes to it will ensure they’re looked at seriously by colleges. Talk to your teen about their experiences so far to get their minds churning!

How has your teen developed as a leader or overcome diversity? Share your story in the comments below!

Reject the Rejection Letter

Getting a rejection letter from a college can be a difficult blow.  Especially this year with a college admissions scandal in every major newspaper, it may seem that the process is rigged or unfair to the core.  You may wonder, “Why was I not accepted? What else could I have done?”

The answer – nothing.  College admission is competitive and some rejections are part of the process.  Although the recent exposure of an admissions scandal has shocked the country, at its heart the college admissions process is made up of individuals who care deeply about students and the universities they represent.  You put your best foot forward with your application, and admission officers have done their best job to choose a class that fills the needs of the college.  Unfortunately, not everyone who applies will be accepted but that doesn’t mean that your application wasn’t given a thorough review.

You can call the college to ask for more information.  They may be able to shed some light on your decision – how many applications did they receive, how many were accepted, what was the profile of the students who were admitted, etc.  Although it’s not likely to change your decision, sometimes understanding the facts can help soften the blow.

Additionally, writing a “Reject the Rejection” note for yourself can be a good way to tame your inner thoughts.  This is for your eyes only – do not send this letter anywhere.  Refer back to it as needed for your own self esteem boost.  Here’s a sample to get you started:

I was shocked when I received the rejection letter from [xxxx college].  Then I realized I’ll be happier attending [yyyy – college you plan to attend].

I know [xxxx college] receives more applications from qualified students than they can admit.  Unfortunately for you, you did not recognize the reasons I will be successful freshman like…




It’s too bad for [xxxx colllege] that you won’t have me as a student.  But I’m happy I’ve been admitted to [yyyy] because…




I can’t wait to get started there

Take Action

Focus on the positive and all the options you do have.  Begin to connect with the college that you will attend, join their private student-only FB page.  Connect with your future classmates, sign up for orientation, and consider attending one of the freshman camps they are offering.  All of these things will make the transition much easier.

The Unfair Truth About The College Admission Process

Many of you have heard about the recent college admission scandal which broke earlier this month labeled the “Varsity Blues” FBI Investigation. My heart was saddened to hear about wealthy individuals who felt the need to lie, cheat and steal their children’s way into specific colleges. All of this is to the detriment of many intelligent, talented and well qualified applicants. The corruption and deception being carried out by some of America’s most elite, self-serving individuals has rocked our faith in the college admission process. I want to address some of the bigger issues that are at the heart of this crisis.

Parents want their kids to have the best opportunities possible. To that end it is easy to get caught up in the hype and prestige of a specific college. That is why it is important that we address the elephant that has been in the room for several years now. I have watched this elephant get bigger and bigger year after year. What is that Elephant you ask? It is the competitive nature of college admissions and why we get fixated on college rankings.

It breaks my heart to know there are students who feel like their entire future has come crashing down around them if they are denied acceptance into a specific school.  They believe their chances of success have been derailed and there isn’t any hope they will ever achieve their dreams. How did this get to this point?  What can we as college admission experts do to change this?

I think it’s vital to emphasize that all the rumors you’ve heard and the articles you’ve read regarding college admissions is true. Acceptance into a top ranked university is extremely difficult. Many of these schools accept less than 8% of their applicants, while others have acceptance rates as low as 3%. Also, several openings at top state universities are designated as automatic acceptances for qualified in-state students. This makes the competition for those remaining positions even more competitive.

Studies are showing a progressively large number of students both in- and out-of-state being denied by their top choices. The crazy reality is that we have more high school students graduating with perfect GPAs and near perfect SAT/ACT scores than ever before. Also, many have also started businesses, non-profits, or participate in research projects many of us would love to do ourselves. Even with all of these incredible achievements on their applications, students are still being rejected.  

  • The number of high school graduates applying to college has increased dramatically, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. In 2018, 19.9 million students attended college, versus a mere 15.3 million in the year 2000. By the year 2027, it is projected that 20.5 million students will enroll in college.  
  • Students are applying to more colleges than ever before. They know that even if they apply “Early Admission” to their dream school, there is a chance they won’t be accepted. So, it only makes sense for them to apply to multiple colleges in hopes of being accepted to any college they would be happy attending. 
  • The belief that having a “big name” school on their resume can somehow ensure a student a job post-graduation, drives the admissions process. Sadly, this is not completely true. A college degree from any school translates to the job market and will only support their job application after they have proven their skill, experience, and drive in their field. The most unfortunate side to this false idea is the desire for bragging rights. Parents and students alike are guilty of this one. The euphoria of telling someone about yours or your child’s acceptance to an Ivy League school can be dangerously addicting.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am certainly in favor of getting a great education and having the opportunity to explore the world and your passions. Several of these top-ranked universities provide their students with a world-class education and experiences beyond anything that was available just a few years ago. Students who are able to meet the academic standards of a particular university should definitely apply. The issue arises when a parent or student is applying to a school for the wrong reasons. Every application season, we see highly qualified students gaining acceptance on their own merit as well as denials to these universities.


 There are multiple reasons why working with a college admissions expert is beneficial. When we discover that there are people cheating the system and taking spots away from deserving kids, it makes us angry and breaks our trust in the system. Unfortunately, there will always be people who think they are above the law.

As college admissions experts we have to ensure that we don’t let a few bad apples ruin opportunities for those who choose to do things the right way. There are a number of outstanding college admissions experts who are helping their students walk through the front doors of their dream schools, versus sneaking in through a side door. There are many innocent faculty members, counselors, coaches and administrators at these universities were are just as shocked as you were with the recent revelations. It is a flawed system, and those of us who are in the field are working to improve the process while guiding parents and teens through the process.I have been coaching students for several years and this generation deals with more pressure to succeed than any that have preceded them. The things they are able to achieve, the technology that is at their fingertips, and the tragedies they see happening all around them have a profound effect. They feel the full weight of the pressure to succeed. I strive to help teens find their passions. What makes them tick? What natural abilities and talents do they have, and how can they be used to further their college experience, education, career, and their life as a whole?

If you are the parent of a college-bound high schooler, my best advice is to take a step back, breathe, and trust that your teen will find an amazing school where they will thrive. Start early and plan ahead, a well-thought plan is more likely to be successful.