College Planning Blog

Welcome to Best College Fit (BCF) College Planning Blog, an ongoing discussion of the factors that impact the college planning process. This space will keep you abreast of critical planning strategies, introduce you to key resources and comment on timely issues that relate to your college planning effort. I look forward to staying in touch and seeing your comments as we progress through the college planning process together.

“‘Could’ve, Would’ve, Should’ve’—Passing Forward the Lessons Learned” 1/30/14

Thousands of anxious Early Decision and Early Action applicants are now learning the outcome of their applications and while the news brings excitement and relief to many, even more students find themselves holding letters of deferral or denial—and wondering what went wrong.

This has been brought home to me in various conversations with students and parents over the last six weeks. It is important to note that, in all cases, the conversations involved good students—students with strong records and well-developed talents coming from strong academic programs. And, by all accounts, they deserved better. Now, however, they are left scrambling to reorient themselves to different options.

As I learn about each situation, it is usually easy to spot the reason behind the non-admission. In fact, a common theme emerges and it revolves around a lack of purpose or considered intent. In other words, the manner in which the application was presented reflected random organization and a sense that the sheer weight of good grades, superb extracurricular activities and worthy goals would carry the day. At selective institutions, however, those characteristics do little more than put the student on the “competitive playing field” with hundreds or, in many cases, thousands of other equally qualified applicants. They start the conversation, but often fall short of “clinching the deal.”

Consider, for example, the highly involved student whose application failed to convey the generosity that shaped his character or the student who neglected to mention that the absence of a foreign language on her senior year schedule was due to a conflict with a course she is taking at a local college. Imagine the difference a personal interview would have made for the student who would have benefitted from an explanation of personal circumstances that had affected her schoolwork, or the impact of the hastily completed essay that was deemed “good enough” by its author.

And think about the opportunity the student has to demonstrate the synergy between himself and the institution in response to the typical “Why do you want to attend our school?” essay—and how superficial an essay citing the school’s ranking and the prestige of its faculty must sound. The ability to reach beneath the surface of an institution’s reputation in order to reveal the synergy in real and personal terms is critical, especially in the competition for admission at colleges that must make fine distinctions between great candidates.

Quite often, then, the difference between acceptance and non-acceptance boils down to the student’s willingness and ability to be thoughtful and intentional in the presentation of her application. The winners in this competition are typically those who recognized—and seized upon—the opportunity to “connect the dots” of their applications to present themselves in a cohesive, thematically consistent manner. More than qualified, they made themselves into compelling candidates.

While there is not much current seniors can do to change the presentation of their submitted applications, the lessons learned in the process are worth passing forward to those who can benefit from them as they prepare their college applications.

It is for this reason that I will once again be offering a series of college application preparation workshops for high school juniors later this spring. “What’s My Story?” is an intensive four-hour exercise that provides soon-to-be college applicants with proven strategies for eliminating the randomness and connecting the dots of their college applications. To learn more (dates, locations, FAQs, testimonials) and to register visit “What’s My Story?” Workshops.

If you do not see a “What’s My Story?” workshop at a location near you, but are aware of a school or organization that might like to collaborate in presenting one, please contact me at In the meantime, start to make note of how you want to approach the presentation of your credentials. Your opportunity will be here before you know it!

One Response to ““‘Could’ve, Would’ve, Should’ve’—Passing Forward the Lessons Learned” 1/30/14”

    Heard you speak at Hamden Hall… Love your blogs!

    Thank You!!

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