Category Archives: College living

College Admissions Simplified: A Guide for the College-Bound.

“The college process today is marked by dramatically lower acceptance rates, obscure bases for those getting in over others with similar records, and tuition that rivals the cost of the average American home,” writes Mark Sklarow, Chief Executive Officer of the Independent Educational Consultants Association, in the Forward of my new book, “College Admissions Simplified: A Guide for the College-Bound.”

It really does bother me that today’s students and parents have such angst over college admissions. Independent Educational Consultants like me, also called college consultants, can provide invaluable knowledge and experience in guiding students through admissions (although students must always own the process and do the actual work). But let’s face it – not everyone chooses to or can afford those services.

That’s why I wrote this book – to provide a step-by-step roadmap to walk students through every aspect of college admissions. I also provide important tips to help parents support their teens, but without taking over. It’s crucial that the whole process, from high school classes to grades, testing, researching and visiting colleges, filling out college applications, writing essays, and getting letters of recommendation, belongs to the STUDENTS.

My book also helps students think about aspects of today’s overall admissions process that are very important, but which that they may not be familiar with, such as creating a cohesive application so colleges will see them as a well-rounded person. Another purpose of the book is to help students realize that there is a college that’s a good fit for everyone, and that success means succeeding and thriving wherever you go. College is not about trophy-hunting. It’s about you, the student, and meeting your goals for this life-changing experience.

Here’s what “College Admissions Simplified” will teach you:

• How to Begin – Explore your goals, your character, your strengths, what kind of future life you want and more.

• Affording College – In-depth information on FAFSA and the FAFSA Simplification Act of 2020 and how it affects your situation. Plus, lots of information and resources on scholarships, grants, student loans and figuring out what your family can actually afford.

• Your Academic Record – an in-depth look at how college admissions officers look at your courses, your grades, your ranking and more. That process is a lot more complicated than you might think!

• Extracurricular Activities – It used to be the more the better. That’s no longer true; colleges are looking for more depth and activities that reflect who you are as a person.

• Your Personal Preferences – there are many subjective, non-academic factors that affect which colleges fit you best. These include geographic location, campus setting, student body size and profile, extracurricular opportunities, average class size, faculty involvement and much more.

• Campus Visits – a successful college visit requires planning, so this chapter gives you a guide to make your visits much more beneficial. By consistently following this guide, you’ll be better able to compare colleges, apples-to-apples.

• Your College List – the previous chapters cover topics that are fundamental to building your College List. Given this foundation, this chapter will teach you how to create a three-tiered College List of about 15 colleges that best fit you.

• Your Application—Strategy – because admission is competitive, most colleges have adopted a holistic approach to analyzing applicants. Admissions decisions rely not only on your academic record but on non-quantifiable factors as well. These may include interviews, essays, letters of recommendation, and extracurricular activities, among others. this chapter guides you in developing an effective admissions strategy to present your best possible self to colleges.

• Your Application—Theme and Hooks – the way you communicate your strategy to colleges is through your theme. This is a brief statement of the reasons why you’ll make an outstanding addition to a college’s freshman class. To make it more effective, your story should be subtly woven into your essays, college interviews and letters of recommendation. Ideally, an admissions officer will like your application so much that s/he will use it to advocate for you in committee!

Hooks are when you have a truly outstanding talent, aptitude, or skill. A strong hook may help you get admitted to colleges that might otherwise be just out of reach; it may also result in scholarship offers from colleges that highly value what you have to offer.

• Your Application—Letters of Recommendation – these present firsthand information about you that’s not available elsewhere in your application. They will have a positive effect on admissions if you treat them seriously rather than just items to be checked off your list of things to do. This book shows you how.

• Special Populations – This chapter is a guide for applicants who qualify for special considerations in selecting and applying to colleges, such as minority students, those with disabilities, LGBTQ+ students and more.

• Resources for Your Research – this final chapter gives you comprehensive and accurate information about colleges and universities.

A final note from Dr. Klaar:

If I’ve introduced some concepts in this books that you’re unfamiliar with, such as themes and hooks, this whole college admissions process may sound intimidating. But rest easy! The reason I named my book College Admissions Simplified: A Guide for the College-Bound,” is that I break it all down for you in digestible-sized chunks that you can actually follow. Get it here today, and start your journey!

Insightful Podcasts About Getting into and Choosing the Right College for You!

I’ve started podcasting! This article contains important information on college admissions planning in high school from interviews with the Podcast Business News Network’s Jill Nicolini. Read on or skip to the podcasts at the bottom.

I suggest that parents of ninth-graders get together with their students at the beginning of their freshman year to put together a four-year plan leading up to applying for and getting admission to a college that’s a good fit and match (see below). For example, the student could start out with a few honors classes and then take AP courses.  Colleges want students who have challenged themselves with a rigorous curriculum.

There’s nothing worse than graduating with a 4.0 but no challenging classes.  Colleges ask “Where was the rigor, the intellectual curiosity?” Colleges also want students who have tried different things and are well-rounded.  Let your kids explore, that’s how they learn.

At the same time, admissions officers are looking for in-depth experiences.  Showing commitment to a cause or organization is important. They’re also looking for volunteer service.  If a student only does the minimum required number of hours, the college will assume you just wanted to graduate!

Another topic I talk about in my interviews are  the importance of Fit and Match:

  • Will the student like other students there?
  • Will he like the campus and surroundings? Is your student more comfortable in a containedSummer college prep campus with lots of open spaces, or one that’s large and crowded in a city? Close to the beach or the mountains?
  •  How about activities outside the classroom?  This includes more than sports – there’s drama, debate, Model U.N., Beta Club Community service, and more.
  • Also consider the weather.  A northern campus that’s pleasant in summer may be freezing cold in winter!

Also, have a frank discussion about what your family can afford.  There’s nothing worse than discovering after the first year that you really can’t afford your student’s dream college!

Another important consideration – if your student has exceptional talent, private schools who really want him or her have the dollars to provide financial aid. Public schools, while less expensive on the surface, do not have the same amount of financial aid! 

Here’s my May 27 interview.

Here’s my June 3 interview.

 

Things Can Go Very Wrong no Matter Where You Live!

There are students who, in normal times, see benefits to living on campus for all four undergraduate years. On campus, they feel like they’re at the center of all things important to them. On the other hand, there are many students, especially upperclassmen, who prefer the independence from administrative influence that comes with living off-campus.

This dichotomy has long existed on campuses across the country. At any college, the ratio of students in the two camps is determined by factors such as a college’s policies, the cost of room and board, the local cost of living, the availability of rentals, and the ease of finding part time jobs in the area.

We have seen recently that things can go very wrong no matter where you live at college. Consider the unpleasantness that both on-campus and off-campus residents experienced earlier this year due to the coronavirus — an unforeseen crisis. Colleges closed dormitories abruptly, with all residents, including international students unable to return home, ordered to leave ASAP. Many on-campus residents never received refunds for the fees they paid for the semester. Most off-campus students were locked into contracts for rentals even though their purpose for living in them ended when classes did.

Like so many other things, the pandemic has affected college housing choices. If you’re a high school senior planning to attend a residential college in the fall of 2021, you should keep apprised of what’s happening on campuses this fall.

To Open or Not To Open

There are two main factors working at cross-purposes in a college’s decision to open their residence and dining halls. The first is money. Both public and private institutions have invested heavily to upgrade on-campus residential life in order to remain competitive. To earn a return on these investments, colleges have increased their residential fees by 9% annually over the last ten years, which is much more than the rate of inflation and also exceeds the rate that tuition has risen.

In a recent year, colleges collectively realized $15.5 billion in revenue for room and board and spent $14.9 billion to provide it, generating a surplus of $600 million. But if they’re empty, residence facilities chew up overhead while generating no revenue, causing substantial losses. This scenario incentivizes college administrators to open dormitories and dining halls.

The second factor, health, pulls in the opposite direction. Colleges long ago shed the burden of acting in loco parentis for their students, but they’re still ethically obligated to protect their student’s health. This is their duty regardless of how severe the financial impact may be on the college.

The tension between these two forces is being played out in real time as administrators waffle between alternatives. The choices are clear. They may open their campuses to business as usual, keep their campuses closed and conduct virtual classes, or offer a hybrid approach.

Thus far, the plans of administrators have proven ephemeral and subject to sudden change. Examples include UNC – Chapel Hill and Notre Dame, where students returned in August for one week before the rate of infection caused the campuses to close again. Imagine how many lives were disrupted by just these two quick policy reversals.

Certain administrators feel compelled to fill their dormitories to capacity this fall. Some are under contract with private corporations that operate the college’s residential facilities. Any policy that limits revenue makes the college subject to a lawsuit. The University System of Georgia is one of the largest institutions in this predicament. Other colleges are opening but with long lists of safety precautions that they’re undertaking to curtail the spread of the virus. Unfortunately, the efficacy of these measures will only be knowable in retrospect. It’s a roll of the dice.

What’s shocking is that decisions of such major consequence are being left to you — the student. Administrators seem reluctant to make tough decisions and stick with them. That’s why the current operations of so many colleges are subject to the day-to-day vicissitudes of a viral disease. The quality of administrative leadership of America’s colleges has been spotty, to say the least. Perhaps we can take comfort that from this experience, improvements in preparedness for future crises are bound to evolve.