Why Google Is Your (Student's) Friend

As we work with students on the college search process, we ask them to do a little research on the schools on their own. We’ll give them some tools and ideas to get started, but we really want them to do the work of looking into different schools and programs, noticing the similarities and differences, finding courses and professors that look interesting, and generally familiarizing themselves with the information available. We ask students to this for a couple of important reasons:

  •  We want students to own the process of finding and applying to colleges.In a lot of ways, we work like driver’s ed instructors – we’re in the car with students and can pump the breaks or turn the wheel as needed, but the student is the primary driver. Students – not us, not their parents – are applying to college. It’s important that they understand what they’re doing and why. Plus, when they get an acceptance to a college, it feels all the more meaningful when they know they completed that application on their own.

  •  We want students to figure out what they like and don’t like. Very few students come to us with a fully thought out set of criteria to help with their college selection. Some have very specific needs – like a unique major – that can help narrow the list of colleges down quickly. Most, however, think in more general terms. They might like a college bigger than their high school or one with “great sports” or one that is in a city. Those can be great starting points, but until students get into the weeds with what a college can offer, it’s hard for students to consider what they wantout of their college experience. Researching colleges helps students learn about the schools and about themselves.

  • We want students to be able to function in college.Parents are not going to drop their kids off at college and say, “Good luck! We’ll see you in four years.” But there are a lot of things that students need to know how to do before they leave for college. Finding information and learning how to ask for help are two big ones. You’d be amazed at the students we see who struggle with setting up (and making it to) appointments, dealing with unexpected bumps in the road, or even making phone calls (it still cracks us up when they can’t find the “send” button on a non-cell phone). We get it. They’re growing up and still learning. But what better way to learn than by doing … which is why we ask them to find things out on their own. 

So when we say that Google is your friend, we may not mean “Google” exactly. What we do mean, though, is that the ability to figure things out (and for a lot of things, that includes a Google search) is a skill every student leaving high school should have.

PS - It’s pretty amazing what you can find out from a simple “name of college” + “XYZ” search …

Organizing Your Activities in Prep for College Apps

5 Steps for Organizing Your Activities

(in prep for college applications)

Step 1: Sit down with your mom, dad, or someone who knows you well and start brainstorming/remembering everything you have done since 9th grade.  You can include anything and everything you do beyond homework, playing video games, watching TV, sleeping. . . you get the idea.

*We understand you might be super proud of something you did in middle school, but unfortunately those things will not have a place on your college applications (i.e. there are only check-boxes for grades 9-12)

Step 2: Note the following for everything on your list!

  1. Positions/Roles/Leadership

  2. Awards (if any)

  3. Years you participated (by grade-level)

  4. Duration of participation (# hours/week and weeks/year - it’s okay to guesstimate!)

*Plop all this into a spreadsheet and save it!

Step 3: Organize your list into a Top 10, placing your most important activity first and go down from there.

SAVE THIS FORMAT!!! Make another file if you have to. This will save you loads of time down the road.

Quick Check: Did you include volunteering?  Something you are involved in at school? Community involvement?  Job?

Step 4: Format your activities into a more formal resume (click here for a sample)

Step 5: Keep updating both your spreadsheet and resume throughout the year.

New SAT Scores vs. Old SAT Scores vs. ACT Scores

So many different numbers … what do they all mean?

There’s a fancy app you can download to help: https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/sat/scores/understanding-scores/sat-score-converter

Or you can do it the old fashioned way, with these concordance tables: https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/pdf/higher-ed-brief-sat-concordance.pdf

You’ll see many different tables to compare numbers, but here’s all you really need:

  • For just comparing your New SAT with the ACT, use Table 7.
  • For comparing old SAT with new SAT, use Table 2* (or Table 1 if you really want to include the old writing section).

*Note that most (if not all) college and college-related websites will still be posting score ranges for the OLD SAT. However, Compass Education Group has a list of converted SAT ranges for 360 colleges and universities. For those not on this list, you will need to convert your new SAT scores to old ones using Table 2 (most score ranges are done on a 1600 scale even for the old SAT because so few schools ever used the writing section). 

IGNORE THE OTHERS! Or, if you're a numbers junkie, have fun! :) 


Colleges Still Accepting Students

Still looking for a place to go this fall?  Check out this list of colleges with openings: http://www.nacacnet.org/research/research-data/College-Openings/Pages/College-Openings-Results.aspx

This list has openings listed for both freshmen and transfers entering college fall 2016.

Please note that this list is not always updated throughout the spring and summer, so it’s best to double-check with each specific college to find out if you can still apply (and their deadline for doing so, if they have one).  Just call the admissions office!  There is a handy “Contact Info” link on the table for you to use.

Need further help?  Give us a call! 

Essay Prompts for the Class of 2017

In addition to a whole new SAT, there’s a mix of new (and old) application essay prompts for the class of 2017! 

Let’s start with something that’s staying the same…the prompts for the Common Application.  In 650 words or less (choose 1 prompt):

  1. Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
  2. The lessons we take from failure can be fundamental to later success. Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
  3. Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea.  What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again? 
  4. Describe a problem you've solved or a problem you'd like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma-anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution. 
  5. Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family. 

Now for something a little different . . . the prompts for the NEW Coalition Application (this includes UW!).  In about 500-550 words (choose 1 prompt):

  1. Tell a story from your life, describing an experience that either demonstrates your character or helped to shape it.
  2. Describe a time when you made a meaningful contribution to others in which the greater good was your focus. Discuss the challenges and rewards of making your contribution.
  3. Has there been a time when you’ve had a long-cherished or accepted belief challenged? How did you respond? How did the challenge affect your beliefs?
  4. What is the hardest part of being a teenager now? What’s the best part? What advice would you give a younger sibling or friend (assuming they would listen to you)?
  5. Submit an essay on a topic of your choice.

Finally, the University of California (UC) system is shaking it up this year with a new approach to the writing section of their application.  Now called Personal Insight questions, the UC application will ask you to choose 4 of the following 8 prompts to answer in a maximum of 350 words:

  1. Describe an example of your leadership experience in which you have positively influenced others, helped resolve disputes, or contributed to group efforts over time.
  2. Every person has a creative side, and it can be expressed in many ways: problem solving, original and innovative thinking, and artistically, to name a few. Describe how you express your creative side. 
  3. What would you say is your greatest talent or skill? How have you developed and demonstrated that talent over time? 
  4. Describe how you have taken advantage of a significant educational opportunity or worked to overcome an educational barrier you have faced.
  5. Describe the most significant challenge you have faced and the steps you have taken to overcome this challenge. How has this challenge affected your academic achievement?
  6. Describe your favorite academic subject and explain how it has influenced you.
  7. What have you done to make your school or your community a better place?
  8. What is the one thing that you think sets you apart from other candidates applying to the University of California?

Boston: Robyn and Annie Visit Four Wicked Awesome Schools

Taking Uber around Boston is a great way to visit the 35 colleges and universities in the greater Boston area.  We couldn’t get to all of them, but we’re excited to share FOUR schools with you.

Boston University

BU is a very large (about 16,000 undergraduate students) private university in a definitive urban setting.  The campus is 1.3 miles long, centered around Commonwealth Avenue (and the T-Line) with the Charles River to the north.  Students walk alongside Bostonians to get to classes from one end to the other.  Ten different colleges offer over 250 different programs with a 94% graduation rate in 4 years.  That’s impressive!  With its urban setting and diverse student population we really felt like a part of the world while on campus.

Highlights:  Cool brownstone residence options for student housing (and guaranteed housing for 4 years); DI Athletics (Ice Hockey is a BIG deal!) Go Terriers!; MLK Jr earned his doctorate at BU

Northeastern University

Northeastern is another urban campus, but with a bit more green space than BU.  It is a private university, with about 13,000 undergraduate students.  Northeastern is most well-known for their Co-Op experiential learning program, which allows students to alternate work/internships in their field of interest (in Boston or anywhere in the world) with academic courses during their 4-5 years at the university.   These students are going places (literally)!  We loved Northeastern’s long list of combined major options, allowing students to pursue a variety of academic interests.

Highlights: N.U. In Program (1st year abroad option); “Guided Flexibility” with major selection (i.e. you don’t have to choose right away unless you are declared engineering or architecture and you have strong advising to help guide you along your exploration)

Tufts University

Nestled away in Medford, a suburb of Boston, on top of a hill (you will get your exercise at this school) with views of the city, lies this medium-sized (about 5,000 undergraduate students) private university.  Well-known for its programs in engineering, Tufts has lots more to offer!  We enjoyed the students’ sense of independence, intellectual curiosity and learning about the university’s quirky (and fun!) traditions.  Tufts has recently introduced a 1+4 gap year program that allows students to take a year to do something different and bring that experience back into Tufts’ classrooms.

Highlights: Jumbo (the elephant!); Accessibility/Involvement of the university president, Anthony Monaco (students seem to love him!); the rainbow steps leading up to campus; joint program with School of the Museum of Fine Arts


Another suburban college, Boston College, is located in the beautiful community of Chestnut Hill, just off the T-Line that goes straight into the city.  Boston College is a private, Jesuit (Catholic) university with about 9,100 undergraduate students.  A focus on social justice and service to the greater community is at the core of the Boston College experience.  You cannot walk away from BC without being in awe of the gothic architecture and traditional quad campus.  We left with the impression that students seem genuinely happy, engaged, and proud of their school.

Highlights: We hear the sandwiches in the dining hall can’t be beat; strong programs in business-related fields; top-notch nursing program; small class sizes; the Campus School where BC students can work with students with disabilities

Celebrating Autism Awareness Month with Guest Blogger Kara Dannenhold

Kara Dannenhold, BA, B.Ed, M.Ed, an educator and behaviour consultant specializing in students with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), provides insightful information and reminders about our students with ASD to celebrate Autism Awareness Month.  Kara also highlights one of Collegeology's former students, Will Symons, an incredibly successful student with ASD.

Life after high school…the thought alone can be overwhelming and downright scary to every student. But there is something out there waiting just for you, the time in your life when you find out what you – you as an individual – are all about. What are your passions? What are you really good at? What makes you happy?

If the world could somehow magically understand that ASD is just part of who you are, and that that part is not something to be “managed” or “fixed,” then ASD wouldn’t even be considered a disability. Although we may be a long ways from that utopia, your life after high school gets you one giant step closer.

Your journey has been incredibly difficult at times. Probably more often than not.  You have had to mold your entire life to a world that forces you to conform to what it deems as “normal.” But all of your hard work is about to pay off. Once you have set yourself up to succeed, whether in college, the work world, or wherever else your dreams take you, you can finally move away from managing your disability, and actually begin to EMBRACE it.

Sure you may have to put up with the neurotypicals a bit more and show off those self-advocacy skills, but trust us – it’s worth it!

Actually, don’t take it from us. Take it from just one of many highly successful students on the spectrum who just did that and is now on his way to working his dream job.

Will Symons is a former Collegeology student and an alumnus of the University of Idaho. He worked for a year as an intern working as a mentor in the Raven Scholars Program, which helps to provide students on the autism spectrum with support and guidance for both a smooth transition to the university setting, and a successful academic career. Will’s own life experiences, success in college, and keen self-awareness about his own place on the spectrum made him an ideal mentor for other students with ASD attending post-secondary institutions.

After graduation, Will began a job as a Therapy Technician at Opportunities Unlimited, which serves both children and adults with developmental disabilities. Not only have Will’s skills helped him to excel at his job, but Will is also using what he is learning at his job to continue as a life-long learner in the land of neurotypicals.

Here’s how Will describes it:

…this job has really helped me improve on time management. On Tuesdays, I go out for Public Transportation with my clients. We pick a place to go on the bus to get them used to taking public transportation and being out in the community. I have gone to the Palouse Mall, Winco, Safeway, etc., with my clients and always have a good time. There are always a few groups that do Public Transportation but sometimes we split up and go different ways. When this happens, I am the sole staff out with my clients and have to manage them out in public and make sure that we are back at the center by 3:00 (or as close to that as possible). Other clients will sometimes ask me if we have time to go here or there and I have to utilize my time management skills effectively to give them a realistic answer. I’m proud to say that I haven’t missed a bus yet or had to call the office to say we were running late. This might not seem like much to write home about, but I wasn’t always the poster boy for time management as a youngster….

Will continues . . .

Another balance I find myself constantly trying to achieve is between having fun, joking around with, and being silly/goofy with my clients while at the same time maintaining my professional position as a Therapy Technician. I enjoy kidding around with my clients, making them laugh, etc., but also know that I have a professional title to keep in my mind. My clients have really responded well to me and like me a lot, which I love. I find that my fun-loving ways fortunately haven’t diminished my authority in the eyes of my clients so far and I hope it stays that way for the duration of my job at Opportunities Unlimited.

Will knows what he excels at, what makes him happy, and what he is passionate about. His post-secondary experience helped bring those answers to light. Will’s fun-loving personality, open-mindedness, empathy towards others, and passion towards learning are just some of the qualities that make him great at his job. Will’s dream job is to continue to work with people with disabilities in either a collegiate setting or an agency like the one at which he is currently employed.

My perspective as someone having personally gone through many of the same things helps me relate to my clients on a real personal level and my challenges have also made me extremely empathetic and patient towards my clients.

Will also has a close relationship with his very individual and unique place on the spectrum. There he has learned and is continuing to learn both about his many strengths, and about the limitations that are of primary importance to the neurotypical world we live in. Because of this awareness, Will is able to overcome just about any obstacle. He is like many other students on the spectrum with completely different skills who are just as impressive. As Will likes to remind us, “If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met ONE person with autism.” Let’s keep that at the forefront of our neurotypical minds.

A note to fellow educators:

I think we are far overdue in embracing neurodiversity, and I think educators need to do so and set an example for the rest of the world.  The first step in achieving this goal needs to be reframing how we think and talk about ASD. We put far too much emphasis on the “D,” and frequently use the terms Asperger’s and Autism as adjectives. Being on the spectrum is just PART of who these students are. So let us move away from labeling them as “autistic students” as though those two words are sufficient enough to define everything there is to know about an individual. We need to recognize that it is indeed a spectrum, and look to the strengths and talents that “students with ASD” possess.

I have taught students on both ends of the spectrum, and everything in between. Although it’s easy to find the strengths in a student with an exceptional memory, or one who may possess other savant skills, it becomes far more difficult when we are teaching students who need constant supervision and who will likely never be able to live on their own. And yet, I have NEVER come across a student with ASD that didn’t possess a unique skill– even at the very far end of the spectrum. We just have to look a little bit harder, and be a little more open-minded. We all have a little autism, (see link)* so let’s keep that in mindas we begin to focus on the many skill sets that our students who also happen to be on the spectrum possess.

*Link to article: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/03/160321123650.htm

Link to study: http://www.nature.com/ng/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/ng.3529.html

Robyn Visits Lynn University


# Undergraduate Students: 1,800+

Worldwide Representation: 25% international students

Athletic Division: DII with 23 National Championships (they’re really good at sports!)

Housing? YES!  Many options (5 residence halls + new hall opening in 2017)

Fun Fact: Lynn hosted the 2012 Presidential Debate (Obama vs Romney)

Lynn University is a gem of a school nestled in Boca Raton, Florida.  Beyond the sunshine and proximity to beaches Lynn offers a unique educational experience for students.  First and foremost they are an Apple Distinguished School: “The Apple Distinguished School designation is reserved for schools that meet criteria for innovation, leadership and educational excellence, and demonstrate Apple’s vision of exemplary learning environments.”  How do they do this?    They’re an iPad school!  Every student, upon enrollment, receives an iPad Pro (loaded with the Microsoft Suite and other necessary programs), keyboard and Apple Pencil.  Interactive, electronic, multi-media “textbooks” are used instead of traditional paper-bound copies and other technology, such as Apple TV is used in the classroom for the ultimate interactive environment.  Lynn offers students an engaging core-curriculum (Dialogues) and even a 3-year degree option. A few degree options include sports management, fashion design, aviation management, film/TV, criminal justice and advertising/public relations.  Lynn also has a world-renown conservatory of music on campus.  Lynn offers an education fit for all kids of learners.  For those students who need support beyond adaptive technology and small class sizes, the Institute for Achievement and Learning is available (and top notch!).  Can you tell we love this school?!?  Our former students have loved it, too—now that’s a seal of approval!  Let us know if you want to talk more about Lynn.

College Visits! Lauren and Annie Trek Across Virginia

A couple of weeks ago - in the middle of Winter Storm Jonas - Lauren and I boarded a plane for Charlottesville, Virginia (via Chicago). Although we did have to contend with the remnants of the storm, we had a great time visiting the University of Virginia, College of William and Mary, the University of Richmond, and Washington and Lee University and were not too badly impeded by the weather or the cleanup. We were impressed by all of the schools and were taken by the warm welcome we received by everyone we encountered.

Please note that while our photos show campuses covered in snow, these schools rarely see the kind of weather they did while we were there. In fact, the day after we left, the temperature was supposed to be in the 60s ...


Seniors, are you wondering what you should be doing now?

You were so busy August through November.  You may have received some decisions in December from Early Action and Rolling admission schools.  Now it’s January and it seems like nothing is happening.  Don’t worry—there’s lots going on!!  For colleges, they’re busy reviewing your application materials.  You’ll notice some offices have limited staff on hand and possibly limited office hours, tours, etc. 

Yeah, yeah, yeah, but what can YOU do?!?

You can continue keeping your grades up.  Remember, those 1st semester grades will be sent to all your schools (for Common App schools, they go as part of the mid-year report).  Be sure to check-in with your counselor at school once 1st semester grades are available, to get your transcript sent off to schools needing them.  FYI—UW and UC schools do not want them.  ALL schools will also be requesting final grades at the end of the year—it’s definitely not a time to slack off!

How do you check your application status?

Anything else you can do?

  1. Make sure your FAFSA and all financial aid forms are filed, if needed.
  2. Browse possible scholarship opportunities you could apply for on each school’s financial aid website.


Remember, no matter when you hear your admission decision, you have until MAY 1st to make a decision.  If any school is pressuring you to commit prior to May 1st, please let us know.