The Tao of U.


“Rabbit’s clever,” said Pooh thoughtfully.
“Yes,” said Piglet, “Rabbit’s clever.”
“And he has Brain.”
“Yes,” said Piglet, “Rabbit has Brain.”
There was a long silence.
“I suppose,” said Pooh, “that that’s why he never understands anything.”

On that note, let’s see how our friends – Ashley, Brad, Caitlin and Justin – are proceeding with their college search planning.  Shall we?

Ashley – “After taking the Backman/Dykstra test prep formula, and a summer course in Latin, I was able to increase my SAT reading score by 70 points.  I have re-calculated my chance for admission at each institution, as well as my expected scholarship and grant awards from each of my safety and target schools.  How about you, Justin?”

Justin – “I think most schools are probably alright.  That’s what I think.  But some are more right than others.”

Brad – “I think schools are too elite.  I don’t expect to get into any of my first choices.  Why do test scores matter so much?  It’s just not fair.”

Caitlin -“Did you know that the word ‘college’ comes from the Latin word for “one chosen to work with one another”?  The opportunities, Justin, for someone with your academic record might be somewhat limited.  But, I do believe there is opportunity to find others who would have similar…”

Brad – “I think you’re just setting Justin up for failure.  He and I should be realistic about our opportunities.”

Justin – “I’ve always had an interest in animals.  I would go to the zoo and draw pictures of them for hours.  And, as I got older, I started taking cell phone shots and posting them on my Facebook and MySpace pages.”

Ashley – “But, Justin, what are you going to do with that?  You don’t have the grades or test scores to go pre-vet.”

Caitlin – “The Veterinary field actually has suffered as a profession due to the economic downturn.”

Justin – “Oh…:

Brad – “I just don’t see how my parents can afford to send me to college.”

Justin – “I like the people I met at HAWCC.  And they have programs in art, photography and animal science.”

Ashley – “Hundred Acre…” (she said, aghast)

Caitlin – “Many fine leaders have come from HAWCC.  Such as…”

Brad – “I probably should fill out my application to HAWCC, too.”

And they debated the merits of HAWCC, Test prep and 529 plans,  from page 32, right through to page 51.

Ashley – “How many applications have you submitted, Justin?”

From his long pause and his averted eyes, she knew the answer.

Justin –  (Defensively) “”You know, one of the advantages of being disorganized is that one is always having surprising discoveries.  At least, I read that somewhere.”

Mr. Szarek?

Yes, Justin?

What do you think?

Justin, what I think is this. One day, you will no longer need College Counseling for the Rest of Us.  And, one day, you will graduate from Hundred Acre Wood Community College, and – from there – you may even go on to Heffalumps University.  But, there is something – through all of your adventures – that I hope you never forget.  You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.

As always, I welcome your comments and questions.  Please feel free to email me at, call or text me at 908-403-3819, join me on Facebook on “College Counseling for the Rest of Usand join me on Twitter at @MichaelCCR. 

“Lots of people talk to animals,” said Pooh.
“Not that many listen though.”
“That’s the problem.”

Before beginning a Hunt, it is wise to ask someone what you are looking for before you begin looking for it.
— Pooh’s Little Instruction Book, inspired by A. A. Milne

NOTE: Winnie the Pooh and the Tao of Pooh are not mine, I don’t own them, and I used and paraphrased quotes and ideas from both the wonderful “Tao of Pooh” by Benjamin Hoff and from the original Winnie the Pooh books and films.  All credit belongs to A.A. Milne and Mr. Hoff, and all rights belong to Disney, Dutton, Penguin and whoever owns such rights.

The Average American College Student


Pick an article about students looking at college.  Any article.

Pick an article about students enrolled in college.  Almost any article.

Look at the client list of almost every college counselor/planner/consultant in the nation.  Almost every counselor.

You must conclude that the average American College Student attends a 4 year institution, starts college at 18, finishes at 22, and probably lives on campus.

And if you read an article about college admissions, it would be fair to assume that most students attend the same 15 or so schools that are always quoted and mentioned in articles about admission trends – Harvard, USC, The George Washington University, Stanford, MIT, Princeton among a few others.

I certainly encourage you to keep reading.  But stop believing what you read.

The Average American College Student (as opposed to your “typical” American College Student – that creature does not exist) attends Harvard, but also attends the University of Phoenix, Truman State, Goldey-Beacom College, Delta State, Union County College and about 3994 other colleges.  He is far more likely to be attending a public institution (77%) than a private 4 year college (12.7%).  Even among the usual suspects (ages 15-23) the percentages are almost as dramatic (76% vs. 15.3%).

She is most likely to be a female (55%).

He is quite likely to not be within the “traditional” ages of 18-21.  8.2 million college students are, but over 11 million are not.  Over a quarter of all college students are part-time students and over 600,000 have a disability.

In fact, more than 1 million college students are older than me.

No way, Mr. Szarek!

Way, Brad.  Way.

The Average American College Student has a job.  In fact, about a quarter of all college students work full-time.

The Average American College Student will not graduate from the program he is currently enrolled in.  At least not within 6 years.

The Average American College Student is not who you think, doesn’t go to the school you are thinking of, is not taking the amount of courses you think she is taking and is not finishing when you think he is finishing.  If she is finishing at all.

The American college community is as diverse as the nation it represents.  The students are not “one size fits all” and neither are their academic programs, modes of delivery, methods of learning, financial situations or choices of college.

This is the greatest strength of the American College Community.  And its greatest challenge.   As you look at schools for your child or yourself, understand that there is a place for you in that community.  And don’t cheat off someone else’s paper – because the right college for that person may not be the right college for you.

Just saying…

NOTE: Data used for this blog post come almost entirely from two sources: 1) the U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, October 2009.  Release Date: February 2011 and 2) The National Postsecondary Student Aid Study, as presented by the Chronicle of Higher Education in their December 2010 article, “Who Are the Undergraduates?”

As always, I welcome your comments and questions.  Please feel free to email me at, call or text me at 908-403-3819, join me on Facebook on “College Counseling for the Rest of Usand join me on Twitter at @MichaelCCR. 

CC4TheRestofUs: The Series

Leave a comment

It’s time.

Since the very early days of College Counseling for the Rest of Us, I have wanted to do regular video blogs.  In fact, I even set up my YouTube channel many months ago and shot a video that was (very) briefly uploaded to the account.

But, that’s it.  Other than that, CC4theRestof Us Television has been nothing but a rumor.

I think it’s time to change that.  But I want your help.  I am very curious to know what you would want to watch.

Here is what I’m thinking:

  • 3-5 minutes.
  • I’m thinking “weekly” in terms of frequency.
  • Split between a quick overview of what’s happening in the world of College Counseling for the Rest of Us and the world of college admissions and planning, in general.
  • Emphasis on a particular blog topic (current or prior?)
  • Occasional episodes with guests and on-site at colleges and other relevant sites.
  • Promotional shouts and College Acceptance/HS Graduation shout-outs for a minimal cost.
  • Fast, light, loose.  Let the details play out on the blog, website, Facebook page, Twitter account, Linkedin Group, etc.
  • Leaning towards “Ready to Go” by Republica, for the opening.  (Just saying)

Would you watch?  What would you change from the above outline?  Let me know at, on Facebook or by responding to this blog post.

How would CC4theRestofUs TV look to you?

As always, I welcome your comments and questions.  Please feel free to email me at, call or text me at 908-403-3819, join me on Facebook on “College Counseling for the Rest of Usand join me on Twitter at @MichaelCCR. 


Leave a comment

There are several three letter words, acronyms and former acronyms that play major parts in the College Search.  SAT, ACT, MOM and DAD are just a few that we’ve touched on in past blog posts.

I’ve got one more for you.  And, for many,  it can be as influential – and as mysterious – as the SAT or the ACT.  (And as the MOM and the DAD)

I’m talking about EFC, or Expected Family Contribution.

The EFC is a number that quietly sits on the top right of that Student Aid Report generated by all of the “stuff” that you provide on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, also known affectionately as the FAFSA.   But, as quietly as it might sit, it is the number that is used to directly determine a student’s Pell Grant award, his or her subsidized loan eligibility, many state grants and the limit of aid that can be provided from a college and third party sources.

So, what is this EFC?  Well, as I stated before, it is meant to represent a family’s “expected family contribution” to a student’s college education.

Expected by whom?

This expectation belongs to the feds, not you (who will probably expect to contribute much less) nor the colleges (who will probably expect you to contribute more).

I had the pleasure of manually calculating EFCs when I went through Financial Aid Training (see “One Night in Plattsburgh“).  When you calculate an EFC (Expected Family Contribution) manually, it actually makes sense.  For a second.

The EFC calculation formula is what I like to call “equally unfair”.  The logic is there, but it assumes you live in the 1970′s and don’t own a 2nd flat screen TV, 3 laptops or multiple cars.  It is based on real numbers and real calculations, but it assumes a rate of savings that no longer exists in America.

So, why not change it?

Well, it wouldn’t produce more money, it would just show – for most families at most colleges – how much more of a gap there is between your financial aid package and the cost of the college.  So, unless the feds find more money, the colleges find more money or you find more money, changing the formula wouldn’t really accomplish much.

Here are a few points to ponder regarding the EFC and the College Search.

  • The EFC is NOT what you have to pay.  It’s the amount of money a College has to play with if they give you a dime of need-based aid.  (Unsubsidized loans notwithstanding)
  • Home equity – for a primary residence – is NOT part of the equation in the EFC calculation.  Owning a million dollar home doesn’t hurt you and owing a two million dollar mortgage doesn’t help you.
  • EFCs run from 0 to 99.999.  In case you are wondering.  Or setting goals.
  • Federal Pell Grants are determined directly via the EFC.  The highest EFC, in 2010-2011, that was still eligible for Pell was 5273.
  • Student money (income and assets) and Parent money (income and assets) is not weighted equally.  A much higher percentage of student money is expected to be set aside for college.
  • There has been rapid growth recently in a pocket industry that I will label “EFC Prep”.  It is financial consulting designed to enable families to best arrange their assets for maximum benefit in the FAFSA/EFC process.  5 years ago, I would have told you to stay far, far away from such resources because – generally – the only ones making money in such a relationship were the financial folks.  I have since had the opportunity to speak to a few services that do it right.  I would still be EXTREMELY careful in ‘vetting’ such a service, but there are some good ones.  The problem, even with these services, is that the best time to meet with them is about 3-5 years before you decide to.  The later you try to effectively manage your money, the more likely your best options have passed you by.

So, Mr. Szarek, how does this all fit in to Brad’s College Search?

The EFC lays the framework for what aid colleges can provide to you.  So, its effect is obvious.  But it pushes its weight around fairly late in the College Planning Game.  The FAFSA is not completed until mid-year of senior year (for traditional students).  Your financial aid packages follow after that.

So, my advice is this – keep your options open as you go through your college search.  Do not rule out a school because of their ‘sticker price’ or because of what you think your EFC may be.  Like so much of the college search, let the process play out, take good notes and only cut bait when it is appropriate to do so.

As always, I welcome your comments and questions.  Please feel free to email me at, call or text me at 908-403-3819, join me on Facebook on “College Counseling for the Rest of Usand join me on Twitter at @MichaelCCR. 

It’s Complicated

Leave a comment

One of the more persistent themes I find myself having to impress upon families and adult students I work with, as well as colleagues involved in various components of the College Search is the idea that there are no magic answers.

What is the right school for Caitlin?

Should Brad take the SAT or ACT?

What about online courses?

Is it worth it to have him live on campus?

Should Ashley take  AP German or ‘just’ German 4?

Is a community college better for Justin or a four year institution?  What about trade school?

Is a Gap year the answer?

Should we apply to that expensive private school, when we know we can’t afford it unless a big financial aid package comes in or we finally hit Powerball?

The answer to these, and other, exciting questions is – it depends.  And the answer to most “BIG” questions during your college search will be  – it depends.

I don’t say this because I don’t know the answer.  I say this because I think I DO know the answer.  It depends.

In a previous post, I stated that there are no magic answers, but lots of good information, good people and good advice.  And be wary of those who sell you the reverse.   I think it’s hard to overstate that theme.

You may think that this is fairly obvious.  But in the heat of the moment, when your living room floor is covered with glossy college brochures and the phone is ringing and the emails are binging – it is VERY tempting to say, “Just tell me what @^^@$#$ school we should pick, already!”

I won’t, and neither should anybody providing you with advice.

Some answers are “less gray” than others.  But, ultimately it is not my life and not my college experience.  (And not my money.)  My responsibility is to provide you with the pros and cons of each choice.  One of my mantras for College Counseling for the Rest of Us has been to teach you how to fish rather than provide you with fish (or to teach you how to drive rather than chauffeur you through the college search journey, if you are not a fish person).  I hope I have done that, and continue to do that, throughout my role as college counselor.  For the Rest of Us.

Since today is my birthday, I’ll keep this week’s blog post short and sweet.  I wish you happy and safe travels in your college quest; please always feel free to reach out if you have questions or concerns!

As always, I welcome your comments and questions.  Please feel free to email me at, call or text me at 908-403-3819, join me on Facebook on “College Counseling for the Rest of Usand join me on Twitter at @MichaelCCR. 

Six Years of Degree Separation

1 Comment

Trying to find a way to make college more affordable?  Looking for every angle, every left-handed scholarship for Lithuanians, every nickel under every cushion?  Is your spouse ready to channel William Shatner in a Priceline commercial when you meet your financial aid officer?

Well, I’ve added a little story as part of my recent college planning workshops that may be of interest to you.

It’s all about our dear friends – Ashley, Brad, Caitlin and Justin.  They finally go off to college and – lo and behold – they attend the same college, receive identical financial aid packages, obtain the same job after graduation AND hold the same part-time job until they find professional employment.

Uh, so what’s so interesting about that?  How are you saving me any money?  Aren’t they all, then, paying the same amount of tuition and earning the same amount of money?

Ah- ha!  (I might shout, if I shouted such things…)

Here are the rules:

  • We are going to look at where Ashley, Brad, Caitlin and Justin are after 6 years by subtracting tuition costs and adding salary.
  • They each receive the same financial aid package and are left with a $20,000 annual bill (Fall and Spring).
  • The College raises tuition by a standard 5% each year.
  • The local community college costs $100 per credit (with the same 5% rate of increase).
  • The wage at the local ice cream parlor is $10 an hour. (They all work there after graduation)
  • The entry level salary in their profession is $30,000, with an annual increase of 2%.
  • It takes 6 months, after graduation, to find a job within the profession.

ASHLEY: Takes the “standard” track.  4 years, 15 credits a semester.  Finds the professional job after 6 months and works there for the last 1 1/2 years of this study.  Tuition: -$86202.  Salary: $55,700.  NET: -$30,502

BRAD: Also full-time, but takes only 12 credits a semester.  5 years to graduate.  Only 1/2 year in a professional position.  Tuition: -$110512.  Salary: $25,4000.  NET: -$85,112.

CAITLIN: 1st year in school is a disaster.  Takes a year off to re-group and dish out ice cream.  Comes back the following year, but because of failures and a change in major needs 150 credits (and 5 full academic years) to graduate.  Therefore, does not start her professional job search until after the 6 year survey period.  Tuition: -$115487.  Salary: $20,800.  NET: -$94,237.

JUSTIN: Justin goes full time (15 credits per semester), but takes 1 extra credit each year.  He also takes 9 credits in the summer and “wintersession” at the local community college.  He finishes in 3 years, works at Do Me a Flavor for 6 months and is working in the profession for the last 2 1/2 years of the study.  Tuition: -$65,887.  Salary: $86,606.  NET: +$20,719. 

 Same tuition.  Same salary.  Same job opportunities.  And the difference – over 6 years – between Justin and Caitlin is well over $100,000. 

While my husband – Mr. Shatner over there – negotiates an extra $500 in our Citizenship Grant.


Now, it may not surprise you that – when I finish telling this little story – parents tend to really, really, really want their kid to grow up to be Justin.  But I have to caution them – and you.  If your “Justin” isn’t able to handle the commitment of year round education, he could easily fall right past Ashley and directly into Caitlin’s territory.   There is no magic answer.  Not everyone is Justin, nor should they be.

I would, however, suggest 2 very powerful “takeaways” from this little exercise.  First, how you do in college – what courses you get and what grades you receive – matters in so many ways, but one of those ways is financial.  And it can matter in a BIG (i.e. – $100,000) way.  Second, there are multiple ways to reduce costs in college AND – maybe just as importantly – there are multiple ways to ADD costs rather easily.

As always, I welcome your comments and questions.  Please feel free to email me at, call or text me at 908-403-3819, join me on Facebook on “College Counseling for the Rest of Usand join me on Twitter at @MichaelCCR.

Sophomore, Soph o Less.


I have a College Admissions laboratory at my house.

It’s called “having twins who are sophomores in high school and took the PSATs last Fall and one who filled out a NRCCUA Survey although he has no memory of it and swears it never happened”.

Since October, the lab has received hundreds of mailings addressed to each of these individuals.  I believe the statistics are such:

February 1995-October 2010: 197 pieces of mail – mostly birthday and Christmas cards.

October 2010-Present: 219 pieces of mail from various colleges across this fine nation (and 1 or 2 abroad).

And it’s (almost) all a complete waste. 

I don’t mean in the environmental sense; we can recycle the materials.  But, in the “they don’t even open them, assume Dad will take care of it, don’t even know why they’re getting them or what the people sending them want them to do about it” sense.

The boys also get emails, which they ignore with almost equal vigor.  I don’t believe they’ve had any contact via social media.  Yet.

We are seeing two trends that have emerged in the last decade come together in a gloriously imperfect storm.  First, colleges are trying to reach students earlier and earlier and (correctly) believe that students are, equally, looking at colleges earlier and earlier.  Second, we are at a point in time when communication is in flux.

As for the first issue, students are looking earlier.  But almost all of that looking is via online surfing.  And they are generally casual window shoppers.  They are unsure about the entire college process and a headline on a mailing piece will rarely change that.

As for the second issue, we are in a world that offers phone, email, text, Twitter DMs, Facebook messages, blog comments, Online Gaming Messaging and even snail mail as legitimate modes of communication.  Never have there been more options and less certainty on how to talk to someone.

I don’t really know what the “right” answer is.  However, I do have a few thoughts on how the process might work better.  I encourage other parents and counselors who read this to chime in with own advice and thoughts..

1) Have a Call to Action.  What do you want Ashley or Brad to DO about this mailing you sent them.  However…

2) Do not assume they are getting excited over receiving a free shirt if they enter a code into a website you are directing them to.  Too much work for something they really aren’t as excited about as you are.  I’m talking about Open Houses, presentations in or near their hometown, tickets to a sporting event, scholarship applications.

3) If you are going to reach out to sophomores, think about how to entice the parents.  They are more likely to opening the envelopes, anyway.

4) Compile much data.  Do much thinking.  You are spending a boatload of money to do this.  Is it worth it?  I don’t know.  One sophomore who locks in to a college and goes on to attend and graduate may contribute over $100,000 of income to an institution directly and much more, indirectly, if Justin or Caitlin really likes his or her experience.  So, you can afford a lot of strikeouts.   A LOT of strikeouts.  But, in today’s world, are you hitting ANY home runs with snail mail?  Again, IDK.

4) Email is not dead.  But be aware that it is often used more like texting than snail mail and act accordingly.

5) Use Social Media.  Sophomores can friend, fan, like, comment, connect and view in relative obscurity.  The better question is how to get them to your sites.  The even better question is who is going to be the first college to nail it just right – I don’t think we’ve seen the first truly viral college campaign.  Yet.

6) Don’t do any of this just because you have done it before.  As I said, my sons have received several hundred pieces of mail in the last 7 months.  They’ve opened about 5 envelopes.  Maybe it’s worth it, but I would think long and hard about why you’re doing this campaign and what mode of communication would best meet your goals.  If it is money that can be moved to scholarships or new academic facilities, or improvements to the Student Center, that wouldn’t be so bad for recruitment, now, would it?

As always, I welcome your comments and questions.  Please feel free to email me at, call or text me at 908-403-3819, join me on Facebook on “College Counseling for the Rest of Usand join me on Twitter at @MichaelCCR.

A Course is A Course, Of Course, Of Course


We’ve talked about SATs (“Those Three Letters That Start With S”), Extra-Curricular Activities (“The Social Network”), Personal Statements (“The Art of Candy Stripping and the Trumpet Player on the Moon”) and Interviews (“Interviewing 101”).

But I don’t think that we’ve discussed, yet, the most important part of the application folder.

Uh….yes, you did – Those Three Little Letters….)

Brad, tell your Mom there is something far more important to most admission counselors than the test you took on one, two (or three) Saturday mornings.

OK, but she doesn’t believe you.

There is no better indicator, no more comprehensive piece of information, no more telling tale of a student than the high school transcript.

It tells me the courses taken, the grades received, the school attended.  It shows me trends and gaps.  It reveals questions and concerns.  It puts the dreaded SAT in some type of context, as well as coupling with the extra-curricular activities to reveal the student’s time management skills. 

The high school transcript lets me know what kind of student your high school thinks you are.  Did they offer you the chance to take AP and honors courses?  What kind of courses did you take – it was your counselor and teachers who suggested them, to begin with.  The letters of recommendation only verify or contradict the information that the transcript has already provided.  Everything else in the admission folder is put into context around that transcript.

So, in true blog form, it’s probably worth providing some key bullet points to help you better understand the transcript, its role in college admissions and what you and your child can (and cannot) do to present Ashley or Justin’s best side.

Here we go:

1) What you did at 14 and 15 matters.  More than anything else, this is the part of the admission puzzle you are creating before you know you are creating it.

2) But the more recent grades matter more.  We are getting you at 18, not 14.

3) Colleges do look – very much so – at curriculum.  A 3.2 in AP and honors courses trumps a 4.0 in Basket Weaving.  (Unless you are going to major in Basket Weaving in College).

4) But, please note that a 1.7 in AP and Honors courses does not  help you.  Generally, take the hardest course in which you can do well.  I realize determining that is not always easy.

5) Admissions folks generally recalculate your GPA based on their system and based on your “core” courses in English, Math, Social Studies, Science and Foreign Languages.   I know few schools, if any, that look at an A in Driver’s Ed and a C in English and come up with a “B” overall.

6) If a high school has a 4.0 scale and their top 10 percent is averaging 4.5, we are not amused.  Those type of “110 percent” rating scales are for the families, and for Class Ranking purposes, NOT for the admission counselors.

7) As noted, the asterisk to #6 is Class Rank.  If we use class rank in our calculation, we use the high school’s ranking.  But it may not outweigh our own GPA and curriculum evaluations.

8) The newest trend in admissions – self-reported transcripts.  No kidding.   Link here (video).

9) If Ashley can handle it, be aware that AP courses and college-level courses offered through your high school, can save you $$$ in the overall scheme  of things.  They will cost much less than the cost of the typical college credit.  But don’t forget the “if Ashley can handle it” part of the statement.

10) Help Caitlin and Justin, as appropriate, in course selection each Spring.  The difference between AP Physics and Physics for Beginners is FAR greater than the difference between a B and C.  Again, curriculum matters.

11) And remind Brad that all he can control is to do his best.  And give 100 percent, not 110 percent – unless Math is not one of his strong suits.

As always, I welcome your comments and questions.  Please feel free to email me at, call or text me at 908-403-3819, join me on Facebook on “College Counseling for the Rest of Usand join me on Twitter at @MichaelCCR.

Fit, Not Reach 2: Saving You Time, Money and Sanity

Leave a comment











B) If you see this message before Thursday, 4/28 at 7 PM, I would love to have you text me or Twitter DM me with any questions during the Workshop.  I’d be glad to acknowledge them and answer them during the Workshop or immediately after.  And – even better – if you’re able to join the event, please do so.  Here are the details:



7 PM – 8:30 PM


Click here for the link on the Facebook Events Page.

Pretty Pictures on Perfect Days

Leave a comment

Warning: Did Brad or Caitlin check a little box on the PSAT?  Did Ashley or Justin fill out some innocent looking survey in his or her Sophomore Social Studies class?  They may experience the following symptom:

17,000 pieces of mail and email from various institutions of higher learning across the U.S. of A.

The more advanced stages of these mailings can be identified by the following signs:

Pretty Pictures on Perfect Days With the Leaves Just the Right Color Red and Gold. (Unless the School is in Maine or Colorado – hey, look at that gorgeous, white snow!  Or Florida or Hawaii – look at that gorgeous, tanned student body)

Scientific equipment that looks really, really cool and complicated

Athletic teams clearly destroying the opposition

-And an incredible amount of professors teaching outdoors.

A slogan that clearly indicates one, two or all of the following:

We are a School that is: The Best of some World, in a Tradition of Some Type of Excellence that Will Do Something Positive For U.

Note: It was “positive for you” until a marketer in 1997 – whose name is lost to history – discovered that “U” was a hip, cool spin on the words you and University.

This plague can be transmitted via the following forms:

Viewbooks: Glossy paper products handed out at College Fairs and Open Houses.

Websites: Lurking 24/7 for your perusal.

And – the newest permutation – Facebook and Flickr pages, with their array of photographs and memories.

So, what do I do?  I want Justin to know more about Colleges.  I want Ashley to make an intelligent choice.  I don’t have time to stop by the Post Office and stop my mail.

-Keep a shoebox (or seven) or some sort of filing system to store the printed materials.

-Do look at the online material.  But…

-Understand (and make sure that Caitlin understands) that these are the prettiest pictures on the most perfect days in October, when the leaves were the right color gold and/or red.  These are real pictures, but they are probably not “the norm”.  (At least, I hope they are real – I’m hoping none of our brethren has stooped to stock student pictures or photo-shop.)

-VISIT, VISIT, VISIT.  See it with your own eyes.

-In lieu and in support of visiting, ask people you know who attended or have visited these institutions before for their input.

-Feel free to search online for other photos and information regarding these institutions.  (But respect that this information may be far less reliable than the college’s own materials.)

When I started in College Admissions, my first College had a very attractive Viewbook –  wonderful campus pictures and classroom shots with state of the art equipment and interested students, complimented by relevant descriptions of our academic offerings, athletic program successes and state of the art campus buildings.  We even had a slogan that, I thought, accurately reflected our location as a campus in a suburban location overlooking Manhattan – we were “the Best of Both Worlds”.

When I came to my second Admissions position, it was at a College in a northern borough of New York City.  Our Viewbook’s slogan?  “The Best of All Worlds“.  Sound familiar?  (FYI, the two colleges used the same Marketing firm.)

Bottom line: enjoy the pretty menu, but don’t forget to read the ingredients and sample the product.  And be careful when it says “market price”.

As always, I welcome your comments and questions.  Please feel free to email me at, call or text me at 908-403-3819, join me on Facebook on “College Counseling for the Rest of Usand join me on Twitter at @MichaelCCR.

Older Entries Newer Entries