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An Advisor for College FAQs

How much time does it take to help student’s through the process?

This varies, sometimes widely, with each student.  To help a student apply to five colleges generally takes 10 - 12 hours or so.  In actuality, I always seem to spend more time than I expect, because I put in the same level of effort for your student as I would for my own children.  

When should my student prepare for the college application process?

This is actually a very important consideration.  Most students should start preparing by the spring of their junior year in high school.  This will allow a very orderly application process that will include development of a resume and securing teacher recommendations.  Life is so much more pleasant when not lived in “fire-drill mode.”

If your student is interested in top tier schools, start as early as possible.  It may sound like overkill, but middle school – seventh or eighth grade would be best.  The reason is that we can discuss class schedules before your child gets into high school.  We can talk about outside activities that can set your child apart by the time they are a senior.  Internships, independent research and other unique activities always help.  A couple of hours early on is time well spent.  Remember, Harvard received 57,000 applications in 2021 and generally accepts 2,000 students for 1,600 slots.  They turn away students with perfect SAT and ACT scores every year.  

By working with me will your child get accepted to a top tier college (Ivys, Stanford, Duke, MIT, etc.?)

Not necessarily.  These schools are so competitive, they cannot accept all of the qualified students that apply. Most elite schools have single digit acceptance rates.  Some students with perfect SAT and/or ACT scores get rejected by Ivy league schools.  What I can do is make sure the application is the best it can be to give your student  the best chance to get accepted.  I make no guarantees! 

How do you keep us informed about the process?

I will provide a biweekly status update spreadsheet.  I use a color-coded process to make it easy to see where everything stands for each college.  I track progress on the websites to see if teachers and counselors have turned in their recommendations and will remind student's to gently nudge their teachers, if needed.  It’s always better to have the student do this than some outside counselor.  It shows that they care and own the process.

Should everyone hire a college counselor?

No.  Only hire one if you think your student needs the help.  If your child is in the top 10% of their class, has 1400 SAT scores and their dream school is Appalachian State or UNC-Wilmington, they should have no problem getting accepted.  They need to make sure their essays are decent, and they should be good to go.  You may want my help when they are asked to apply to the Honors College or for a particular scholarship. 

When should students take the SAT or ACT?

I’m a big fan of earlier over later; sophomore or early in junior year is best.  Get a baseline of where your student stands early on.  That way, if your child needs help, there is time to get it before retaking the exams.

The SAT and ACT let me send my scores to colleges when I take the tests.  Should I do that?

No! No! No! I strongly suggest students keep all scores private. Then, only release the scores you want to share when you apply. Most schools super score the SAT, and some super score the ACT, meaning they will combine your highest verbal and math scores. If you took the test three or four times, why release scores with poorer results?

My student’s SAT or ACT score is just okay.  What can they do to improve?

The options depend on the amount of time a student has until the application deadline.  There are self-study options, Khan Academy, Kaplan and Princeton Review classes, tutoring and a combination thereof.  Generally, the best way to improve verbal is to read more.  It helps with expanding vocabulary and understanding language and sentence structure.  It is also really time consuming, and some students just don’t love to read.  Fortunately, there are alternatives.

Improving in math is often easier as the same types of problems come up on most tests.  Questions on triangles, circles, quadratics, etc., appear on every test.  I can help students formulate a strategy to improve their scores with or without a tutor. 

Do essays really matter?

Yes! The main part of the application is basically demographics and statistical information.  Think of it as the black and white version of a student. The essays allow students to add color to their portrait.  The admissions officer wants to know who they are, what’s important to them, and why they would be a good fit for their school.  Poorly written essays are a “red flag” for admissions officers.  They may indicate that the student is not ready for college coursework.  In addition, admissions officers, who have to read a ridiculous number of essays each fall, may feel insulted when reading poorly edited essays.  If a student does not care to put in the time to turn in a decent essay, why should they fight to admit them?


What are the common problems I see in many essays?

While some students write very well and often include some excellent content, others do not.  In fact, most students simply don’t write enough in high school anymore. I remember writing long papers in English and Social Studies. Neither of my girls had to do this in high school. Common issues include:

  • Not knowing how to begin. Lack of a hook for the reader.

  • Lack of structure and syntax issues.

  • Redundancy -  If I say the same thing three different ways, I can make it long enough!

  • Grammar and capitalization issues.

  • Not answering the essay prompt. 

  • It wanders in a strange stream of consciousness, which should be saved for when they become a successful author.

  • The essay lacks a connection to the school.

  • Essay includes lots of euphemisms and lacks details on the student themselves.


Can essays be too good?

Yes, they can! If the student has a 550 verbal on the SAT and essay appears to be written by Hemmingway, another “red flag” is raised. Once an admissions officer questions whether the essays are actually written by the student, chances for acceptance decline precipitously. I use this as an example – precipitously, would not be a normal high school vocabulary word. My goal in editing an essay is to keep it in an appropriate student vernacular.  

How many times will each essay be edited?

It depends on the quality of the first draft. Most essays go through at least three revisions before they are final.

I was offered an opportunity to interview, should I accept?

Yes! Many top tier schools require interviews, which are often conducted by alumni. These interviews can have a big impact on your acceptance. Everything matters, from your attire to how you answer the questions. Students who want to get accepted put significant time into practicing for these interviews. This is the perfect example of “You never get a second chance to make a great first impression.”

Do schools look at student’s social media?

Yes. A survey by Kaplan indicated that 25% of colleges do review student’s social media.  When looking at students for Honors programs and scholarships, that number is sure to rise. Schools have rescinded acceptances and scholarships because of social media posts. Cleaning up social media before applying to college is always a good idea.  To be honest, it’s a good idea for anyone. 

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