Old Friends and New

Old Friends and New

One of the biggest changes for freshman year is a new peer group.  You may have friends that you’ve been with since the beginning of high school or even longer.  Starting college should be exciting but it can also be anxiety-producing as you think about moving on without your friends to support you.  As you and your friends head off in different directions, think about ways to stay connected: 

  1. Celebrate your accomplishments!

Graduation is a time to celebrate!  Congratulate your friends, maybe exchange gifts, and celebrate each other.  It feels good to have accomplished this goal together.  Honor your friends and tell them how much they’ve helped you become the person you are today.    

  1. Spend your summer together with meaningful experiences. 

Create opportunities to make memories with your friends this summer.  As states start to reopen, spending time with friends you haven’t seen in months may take on new significance. Plan some shared time – maybe a trip together, or a regularly scheduled meet up, or try something new.  Summer will fly by with work, vacation, internships, or other activities.  Prioritize time with your friends.   

  1. Reflect on what you love about your friends and think about new relationships.

There will be many opportunities for you to make new friends in freshman year – from freshman orientation on, opportunities for meeting new people abound.  This might be thrilling or terrifying depending on whether you consider yourself an extrovert or an introvert.  Stay true to yourself.  Think about the qualities you love and admire in your high school friends and consider ways to find people with similar qualities.  Shared interests (clubs, sports, activities) or common experiences (classes, dorms, pre-college orientations) are great opportunities to bond with new friends.    

  1. Plan a visit. 

No doubt, you will enjoy meeting new people freshman year.  It can also be fun to share your new place with your old friends.  If your high school friends are attending colleges nearby, make plans to visit each other.  Depending on what colleges allow for the fall, plan to spend the night together in the dorms, or spend a day together on campus.  It can be comforting to see old friends during your freshman year.   

Take Action 

Whether you are heading off to college near or far, with lots of old friends from high school or on your own, plan keep in touch with your high school friends.  You’ll likely have a chance to get together during college breaks.  Make an effort to maintain your friendships from home as you get to know a new group of peers.   

Juniors: Re-focus!

Juniors: Re-focus!

People around the world are adapting to a new normal.  Businesses are reinventing themselves, restaurants are offering delivery and takeout options, television news and late-night shows are broadcasting from home, and colleges and schools across the US have adopted online learning formats.  Now that you may be settling in to a different routine, it’s time to refocus your efforts and adopt some new strategies regarding college admission.   

Keep Your Grades Up 

Many colleges have announced that they will waive the SAT/ACT requirements for Fall 2021 applications.  Some are also discussing how to view junior year grades given the abrupt change to online learning and some schools adopting pass/fail grading.  Although it’s impossible to predict how every college will review their applications, maintaining a high GPA is the best advice.  Check in with your teachers, ask for help, focus on doing your best with what’s asked of you. Having consistently strong grades or even an upward trend can only benefit you in the application process.  

Study for AP Exams 

The CollegeBoard announced that both the May and June SAT dates have been canceled.  This means you can stop thinking about the SAT for now.  Instead, focus your efforts on studying for any AP exams you may have.  AP exams will be given online meaning that you may want to prepare for the test a bit differently.  CollegeBoard has a list of helpful tips in preparing for an online, open-book/open notes exam format.  Acing your AP exams is another way to show colleges your academic chops and potentially earn college credit saving yourself money and time in the future.           

Consider Virtual Volunteering or other Self-driven Extracurriculars 

With most school extracurriculars canceled, it’s time to rethink your activity list.  There are countless creative ways to demonstrate your skills or interests to a college.  Jodi Glou, another independent college consultant, compiled a great list of virtual volunteering opportunities.  Virtual volunteering is a great alternative to canceled summer plans and also an opportunity to use your skills to benefit organizations that may no longer have the in-person staff or funding to accomplish their mission.   

Take Action 

Don’t stress!  Andrew Palumbo, dean of admissions and financial aid at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester, Mass, wrote an open letter to high school juniors this week.  While he admits that there is a lot to worry about right now, he says grades and SAT scores shouldn’t be on that list.  His message to students: “We’ll figure it out together.”   

Bettina Weil

Founder, Weil College Advising. LLC




by Samantha Rose-Sinclair

“I like it a lot.”

A nice enough stamp of approval, but not the reaction to a wedding gown that Say Yes to the Dress conditioned me to expect. “The dress” is a big investment and a landmark decision that can drum up emotions of the future ahead. “Like” is good, but shouldn’t my sister be gushing about her love of the dress? Should she be crying? Should I be crying? Maybe I should cry.

My sister, mom, grandma and I sat in a lovely dress shop in Savannah awaiting Alex’s next thought. She twisted while carefully observing herself in the mirror and smoothing the lace. “Yeah, I really like it,” she said with a smile. She turned to us expectantly and asked, “But what do you guys think?”

For those of you who have never joined in on a dress boutique shopping adventure, here’s the play-by-play of what you can expect: the bride usually brings suggestions of styles she likes. With the help of a consultant, she picks out styles in their shop that match as closely as possible, with the occasional curveball pick or two. They retreat to a dressing room to shimmy on the dresses, and the bride then comes out in the ones she deems “entourage worthy.” We assess while the bride shares her first thoughts, then the group offers feedback and praise (or not) while she stands atop a pedestal.

Now from here, everything I knew about wedding dress shopping (which came exclusively from TLC shows) told me I should be watching for “that moment.” You know, the moment someone tries on their dress and “they just know,” or when there is an obvious blubbering mess of emotions spilling out into the room. Yet here we were, and Alex was very measured and surprisingly calm. Well, not too surprising… she’s a Pediatric ED nurse, so I probably should have expected the calm.

All those magical things, including the notion that you’ll “just know,” are also constantly repeated about the college search process. Even I, as an admission counselor, am guilty of throwing those ideas around. But the concept of a dream college and the idea of one true fit that “clicks” as soon as you step on campus… that may or may not be your experience, and that’s okay. Colleges are real places (flaws and all), and a “dream school” sets an unrealistic expectation.

Just because you don’t feel that magical “click” doesn’t mean anything is wrong with the school, or more importantly, with you. If you’re more analytical, consider asking yourself questions that evaluate what you’re experiencing a little more tangibly.

When you’re researching colleges, ask yourself:

  • Do I want to learn more about this school?
  • Where could I fit into the big picture of the things I’m reading about?
  • Does the mission statement of this college resonate with me?
  • Could this school help me fulfill the goals of not only what I want to do in college (and beyond), but why I want to go to college? (this one requires a bit of self-reflection.)

When you’re visiting colleges, ask:

  • Am I counting down the minutes until I leave, or am I excited to explore more? (Note: as tough as it may be, try to separate out temporary things like weather patterns from your long term judgments. A gross rainy day can make you eager to leave, but that’s not what we’re going for here.)
  • Am I looking forward to the possibility of coming back?
  • Did I hear about any unique opportunities today that piqued my interest?
  • Can I see myself engaging in this community?
  • And for each of the above answers, ask yourself “Why?”

Sometimes a trusted confidant can help reshape things or put the process into perspective. The floor sample of the dress Alex was wearing came in an off-white that looked greyish purple. It was hard for her to get past that in order to make a decision, even though the consultant patiently reassured her the dress she’d order could come in ivory. After noticing the hesitation, I asked the consultant to grab a fabric sample of the ivory and we pinned it to the skirt of the dress. Now she could envision it.

Your support system can look at things in a way you may not have considered. You might be looking for a major in Game Design and overlook a program called “Computational Media.” A different term, but a perfect match. It can be helpful to have a second set of eyes to assist in navigating the roadblocks to a connection.

Alex also hedged her emotions a bit out of trepidation for the entourage in the room—mom and grandma’s opinions matter a lot. Sure, she liked the dress, but what if we didn’t like it, and we didn’t approve? Parents, guardians, and supporters: sometimes a little encouragement and praise can help! In the foreign environment of a college search, be reassuring. Your student may be cautiously expressive because they’re holding their breath for what you think, or they may doubt belonging there because impostor syndrome on college campuses is very real.

The dress matched everything my sister’s Pinterest board showed she was looking for, and she looked beautiful. But ultimately, Alex isn’t the “magical-fairytale-moment-crying-in-a-dress” type (Trademark, Sammy Rose-Sinclair). Remember, that’s okay. She still said yes! So with her family around her, we celebrated her decision with ”she/I said yes” tambourines (yes, I too just learned that’s a real thing, and now need one for all my decisions) and Alex bought the dress she’ll wear down the aisle next year.

She really likes the dress. She’s even thrown the word “love” around a few times since. Crazy, right? What’s most important, though, is how much Alex really loves her husband-to-be, Dave. They’re patient with each other, they’re thoughtful, silly, and kind. They’re incredibly excited about their wedding, but even more excited about the future that comes with it.

And that’s the real takeaway here: your college will be a wonderful place. I hope you really, truly, like it a lot. But it’s the things you’ll do, the people you’ll meet, the opportunities you’ll have, that will make it special.

School From Home

School From Home

Online classes or some modified version of schooling at home is the new reality for a large majority of students in the country.  The coronavirus pandemic has created huge education adjustment for everyone involved – students, parents, and teachers.  Many are now worried – especially juniors – about how this new version of school will impact your college admission prospects next year.   

Before you get ahead of yourself, start by thinking of how can you stay focused and productive today.  It’s important to maintain your junior year grades and to finish the year with strong learning gains.  Use these school-from-home tips to make the most of your time.     

  1. Maintain your morning routine – GET UP!  Sure, it’s tempting to sleep until noon but you’ll be far better off if you stick with a schedule similar to what you had in school.  Get up at the same time, get showered and dressed as you normally would, grab your breakfast and get started.   
  2. Create a work space – Very little productivity comes from sitting on the couch or lying in bed.  You need to find a work space to call your own – especially if your parents and siblings are home too.  Maybe it’s in your room, or at the dining table, or even in a closet.  Find a space where you can sit upright in a comfortable chair, preferably the same space each day, and as free from distractions as possible.    
  3. Schedule breaks – Well, maybe it’s not recess but schedule breaks in your day to have a snack, go for a lap around your house, or just zone out.  Just like time between classes, it’s important to take scheduled breaks throughout the day.  Decide what works for you – work 45 minutes, take a 15 min break; or work for 1 hour, take a 30 min break.  Also set a time for lunch.     
  4. Have a stopping time – Stop your school work at the same time each day, just like you were in school.   
  5. Take care of yourself – These are ever changing and stressful circumstances which can take a toll on anyone.  Practice small strategies for physical and mental health each day that will help you ward off cabin fever.  Get outside for a walk or other exercise (everyday if possible), stay connected with friends online, and plan to do something you enjoy each day.  Play a video game, cook a favorite food, or watch a new show.  It’s nice to have something to look forward to after a day of work.    

Take Action 

You obviously didn’t choose this situation and it is understandably will take some getting used to.  The goal here isn’t perfection, and some days will be easier than others.  But maintaining a routine, staying in touch with teachers and classmates, and completing some school work each day will help you fight boredom and stay on track for when school resumes.

Bettina Weil

Weil College Advising, LLC

Virtual College Visits

The coronavirus has drastically altered life around the world, and while college admissions isn’t life and death, it’s safe to say that the admissions process has been upended.  Colleges around the country have canceled in-person classes and most have adopted an online format for the remainder of the semester.  With that, it’s certain that spring college visits will be occurring in non-traditional ways.  So how can you get a feel for a college when the campus is closed?   

If your spring break plans included college visits, what should you do now?  It boils down to using your virtual resources.  

  • Virtual Tour – Many schools already have a virtual tour available.  For example the website Campus Reel, hosts nearly 500 virtual tours and videos by students.  Other collections of online campus tours include YoUniversityTV or CampusTours.com.   
  • Extended Virtual Visit – Admissions offices around the country are scrambling to enhance their virtual visit options and reformat spring visit days.  Stay in touch with the schools you were planning to visit to find out what they will offer.  Zoom meetings with admission officers, chats with student tour guides, and many other creative options will give you a first look at the campus.   
  • Crowdsource a Connection – Chances are you may know someone who knows someone who is a current student.  And now that those current students have largely returned home, they may be available and excited to chat.  Reach out to your friend network or your college advisor to make a connection.   
  • Stay Positive – Although it is certainly an unprecedented time for colleges and the country, college campuses aren’t going anywhere.  Students will return to school and you will have a chance to visit.   

Take Action 

For now, it’s all about staying informed on changes.  From new test dates for SAT or ACT, to possible changes to the admission timeline, stay in touch with us and your school for the most accurate information.  Check your email daily and check college websites often for updated deadlines and procedures.  Expect a lot of communication from colleges in the coming months.  Be sure to have a method for organizing this information.  

Questions? Let’s chat!

Bettina Weil

Founder, Weil College Advising, LLC

College Size Matters

College Size Matters

As you explore which colleges are the right match for you, consider the size of the student body.  How many undergraduates attend the college?  This can make a big difference in your experience on a college campus.  Think of college sizes in these four categories (based on undergraduate student attendance only).

Boutique Size (<2000) 

Over 500 colleges in the U.S. enroll fewer than 2000 students.  These schools are ideal for students with a strong participant learner approach to college.  You get to know your teachers and fellow students very well.  This provides opportunities to maximize your involvement in activities and construct your own learning experience.  Most boutique size schools are private, examples include Juilliard, Amherst, Pomona, California Institute of Technology, Davidson, and Haverford.

Liberal Arts Size (2000-5000) 

Over 300 colleges in the US fall in the Liberal Arts size category.  Some of the most well-known and prestigious colleges fall into this category including Dartmouth, Rice, Middlebury, Carleton, and Vassar.  Small class sizes with a focus on undergraduates, opportunities to engage with faculty and peers, and close-knit campus communities are all reasons to consider colleges of this size. 

Just Right Size (5,000-10,000) 

“Just Right” refers to the college that is not too big, not too small, as Goldilocks stated, it is “Just Right”.  The college is bigger than most high schools, yet small enough to still retain a personal feel.  This is the smallest group of colleges in the US, with just over 200 campuses.  Both public and private schools fall into this category.  Examples include: Princeton, Yale, Stanford, Duke, the College of William and Mary, many California State Universities, Texas A&M Corpus Christi, and many more.  This is a campus size where many students feel comfortable.

City University 

There are some universities that are comparable to the size of a large town or small city.  Students benefit from many choices however the trade-off is you must be your own advocate and reach out.  You have the freedom to create your own path on a campus of this size.  Of the 58 colleges in this category, most are public schools including Arizona State, UCLA, UC Berkeley, University of Colorado Boulder, University of Michigan, Florida State, UT Austin, University of Alabama and many other flagship state universities.  There are a few private schools in this category as well, including New York University, Brigham Young University and University of Southern California.

Questions? Let’s chat!

Bettina Weil

Founder, Weil College Advising, LLC