Farewell to college reps….

                                                                                                                                                                                                                     As the last leaves drop from the MB elms and students retreat inside from the Friends Hall deck, college representatives have returned to their campuses.  Almost 85 visited our new suite since late September.  (The Eckerd College rep from Florida was our last guest before Thanksgiving; she affably complained that New England was just “too cold.”)   It’s been fun introducing admission deans to seniors– and rewarding to converse with colleagues about professional topics during our chats with them.  (Many have visited Moses Brown for years, so Jill, David and I also reviewed new baby pictures, wedding photos and engagement announcements!  We’re lucky to work with so many great people.)

                Lots of valuable information is exchanged during discussions with college admission deans.  Sometimes, I confess, I’m struck by a solitary fact or figure—or unusual piece of campus trivia.  They say a picture speaks a thousand words; I have the same feeling about a simple statistic or quick observation.   I tend to take a lot of notes in a spiral notebook (MB blue, of course) when admission officers visit in my office.  I often think about certain themes later on the same day (or week); I enjoy going back and reflecting on the issue or nugget of information. 

Here are a few “fun facts” that captured my attention this season.  A random collection, it is in no particular order!

*New York University is building a campus in Shanghai scheduled to open in the fall of 2013.  Students may apply for entrance this year. 

*The University of Southern California is launching a 6 billion dollar capital campaign. 

*51,000 visitors explored the Northwestern (IL) campus during a recent 12 month period.  The University is opening a new visitor center.

*Applications at Grinnell College (IA) Iowa increased 54% last year. 

*Rice University (TX) has opened a new Poverty, Justice and Human Capabilities Center. 

*Self-designed majors are now the most popular at Pitzer College (CA). 

*Stanford University (CA) sponsors exchange programs with three Historically Black Colleges: Howard University (DC), Morehouse College (GA) and Spelman College (GA).

*Haverford (PA) recently announced a 4+1 engineering program with UPenn.

*The maximum loan amount per year at Brown is $5,000.  (This keeps students well under the national debt average upon graduation.)  

*Dartmouth is celebrating “50 Years of the Arts” with the opening of a new visual arts center. 

*Squash is the newest sport to join the athletic roster at Dickinson College (PA).  

*The University of Rhode Island opened two LEED certified buildings this fall: a new College of Pharmacy and a stunning residence hall with 429 beds, plus multipurpose spaces and a living/learning classroom.    

*The undergraduate division of Lesley (MA) has been renamed “The College of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies.”

*Loyola University (LA) is 100 years old!  Yo Yo Ma played during one of the many centennial festivities.

*St. Michael’s (VT) appreciates the effort and expense associated with visiting their campus; the admission office waives the application fee for those who travel to Winooski.

*Wellesley, Babson and Olin have combined forces to create a new certificate program in sustainability.  Courses are taught on all three campuses. 

*At Bryant University, all sports are now Division 1 and participate in the Northeast Conference.

These represent only a sampling from my handy notebook.  At a later date, I’ll share some of some of the fascinating bits of philosophy and practical tips mentioned by our visiting friends.  They have lots of great advice for students and parents.         

By Helen Scotte Gordon


A Taboo Topic? The Role of Independent Educational Consultants (Part II)

continued from last week….

The ironies of the situation

*Some college advisors should be a little more straightforward.  Most of us who have been in the business a while might confess that we have done some private counseling here and there.  I have rarely had time for much–especially since I have been a working parent for most of my career.   But once in a while I have helped a “friend of a friend” for an hour or two (although never on a longer term basis).  I must admit the experience was fun and rewarding.  Some time ago I counseled a talented young woman who attended a public school.  Given her personality and stage of development, she simply needed a bit more personalization, direction and imaginative brainstorming than she received at school.  I advised her to take a close look at the University of St. Andrew’s in Scotland.  The young woman followed up with research, applied and enrolled!  She had a great transitional year before moving on to Tufts University.  I regularly see her Dad around the East Side and he still thanks me for that hour long conversation. 

*Here’s another confession.  From time to time, I recommend private counselors in the area to families who do not enjoy the benefits of MB’s highly experienced college operation.  When I recommend an educational consultant, however, you can be sure that individual has a LOT of experience—either on the college front or the high school guidance side…and more likely both.   The college consultants I endorse share our Quaker school philosophy in terms of finding the right fit or match for each student, staying mindful of affordability, and slowing down the giant societal hurry associated with applying to college. 

*I liked (and quietly applauded) a point the NYC expert made about reciprocity between private consultants and high schools.   Amidst the nagging suspicions guidance counselors may harbor about her industry, she and her colleagues regularly refer younger clients to our institutions. That made me think about an Aquidneck Island consultant with whom I spoke about an applicant to MB last winter; she could not say enough good things about our school.  I appreciated her willingness to direct great candidates to us. 

*While critics accuse educational consultants of playing to the wealthy, many, in fact, conduct a significant amount of pro bono work.  They help community based organizations and assist individual students who would otherwise never afford their services. 

MB College Counseling’s specific perspective and advice

Above all else, we understand that households make their own decisions—and make them for good reasons.  Some families, for example, value a second opinion.  Others need the constancy of an adult (who is not the parent!) to keep an adolescent on track with meeting deadlines.  (For some, this system prevents nagging and bickering at home.)  

If your family is thinking about hiring a private consultant, we offer several pieces of advice:

*Study the background of the educational consultant.   Experience in high school guidance counseling/college advising is enormously helpful, as is experience in an admission office at the undergraduate level.  While we value the expertise of tutors and test prep specialists, not all possess the hands-on experience that allows them to guide students in the most informed way.

*Make sure you are acquainted with the range of service MB’s college office offers to each student and family.  Our program is  extensive and personalized, and the staff possesses a high degree of experience.  Households considering a private counselor might want to poke around on Naviance (especially the document library), attend at least one of our programs or workshops, and ask current/ former parents who have been through the application sequence.  If you find yourself visiting a campus, you might chat with a seasoned admission dean about their interactions with MB. 

*When a family chooses to utilize a private counselor, we invite  open conversation in our office.  While David and I would never obligate a family to disclose information, knowing that another advisor is involved can shed light on planning or help detangle a confusing situation or conversation.  One seasoned upper school college advisor on the NACAC panel expressed a direct message to parents.   “If you love your kid, you’ll model honesty.  Don’t make them feel they are doing something behind another adult’s back.”  

*For the family who chooses to disclose their work with an independent counselor, we are open to a brief phone call or email with that professional about our shared student–if that seems helpful.  David and I are happy to do this as time allows—and providing the private counselor possesses high school or college admissions experience. (I regret we cannot commit to interactions with private advisors with more limited experience.)

*Whatever the circumstances, please understand how critical it is for each senior to form a strong connection with his or her MB college counselor.  Universities do not typically maintain relationships with private consultants.  When an admission officer wants to talk about a transcript matter or discuss an applicant’s background, they call our office.   We value every opportunity to know each senior in detail—particularly as we write the secondary school report that is required of each application and advocate for each student.

*Finally, a reminder about Naviance access.  Passwords provided by College Counseling are for the exclusive use of students and parents within the Moses Brown community.  In order to protect the confidentiality of our school and student data, Naviance passwords and access may not be shared with educational consultants or other parties.      


In the words of one member on the NACAC panel, “Private college counseling isn’t going away.”  Nor should it be nudged out of sight.  All parties involved in college planning for students need to be open-minded, student-centered and trusting of each other.  At this Quaker school, we possess the moral compass and integrity to engage in this effort as the private counseling industry expands.

by Helen Scotte Gordon