Programs for Students & Parents

Peter Van Buskirk teaches participants how to think about college planning so they can make choices that serve them well in finding and getting into the colleges that fit them best. By challenging assumptions and providing a contextual basis for understanding the college admission process, Peter gives students and their parents the insights and practical tools needed to get from where they are to where they want to be. Peter programs inform, inspire and motivate students as they prepare to compete for admission to college.

High School

"The Admission Game®" (a.k.a. Winning the College Admission Game)

The Admission Game®Do you ever wonder who "gets in" and "why?" "The Admission Game®" (TAG) takes you inside the admission process for the answers. TAG is a high energy, high impact, interactive, case study exercise for students and parents in which the audience is transformed into an admission committee. In a manner that is more theatre than lecture, Peter audiences immediately in a "conversation" by talking with them in relevant terms that help ease the stress of an otherwise frenzied process. This signature program reveals the "hidden agendas" of colleges and provides insight into how decisions are made. Students learn to find the colleges that fit them best and to make decisions that help them compete for admission. Can be modified for in-school assemblies.

Two hours. Target audience: Students and parents. Audience size: No limit.
TAG Description/Outline

Dollars and Sense: A Consumer's Orientation to Who Gets How Much and Why

Dollars and SenseFinancing a college education has become an increasingly daunting task for most families. Prices escalate and the process of securing assistance is increasingly complex. This program identifies the five sources of funding for college and examines the role of the college as the "broker" of these resources. Participants go inside the strategic enrollment process to learn how "differential needs analysis" and "preferential packaging" will dictate their out-of-pocket expenses at colleges of interest. They will also be walked through a set of questions to ask financial aid officers in order to gain some measure of transparency regarding cost and affordability in advance of the admission process. (Financial planning strategies are not covered in this program)

90 minutes. Target audience: Students and parents. Audience size: No limit

What's My Story?

What's My Story? A key to success in the selective college admission process rests in one's ability to use all parts of the application to make a cohesive, compelling case for acceptance. This intensive workshop for juniors/rising high school seniors establishes the context of the selective admission process and then focuses on identifying the defining, and often nuanced, aspects of the participants' life experiences that won't be apparent anywhere else in their applications. Participants then learn how to utilize different elements of the application to reveal the untold stories. They critique retired essays, participate in mock interviews and learn strategies for engaging teachers/counselors as relevant storytellers in support of their applications.

4 hours (N.B. School-sponsored WMS workshops can be modified to time/audience specifications as well as funding sources. Contact Peter to adapt a WMS workshop for your school.). Target audience: Students. Audience size: 6-25

Tips & Tricks for Developing a Winning Essay

Writing A Winning EssayFew college essays truly make a difference in the admission process for the applicants who write them. This workshop gets inside the daunting task of making a compelling personal statement to colleges. It starts with a strategic overview of the competitive process to establish context before moving on to reflective exercises that reveal key messages to be revealed and tactical tips for presenting them.

Two hours. Target audience: Students. Audience size: Max. 100

Make Your Application Count

The Admission Game®Your ability to "tell your story" can make the difference in determining whether or not you will be admitted to a college. Will your application come across as a random collection of information or will that information come together to tell your story? This program provides strategies for using your application to reveal where you have been—and where you want to go—in life. Often used as a school assembly.

90 minutes. Target audience: Students. Audience size: 50-250

Getting From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be

Getting From Where You Are to Where You Want to BeAn engaging and motivational keynote program for students and parents, "Getting ... " delivers a five-point plan for achieving educational goals. Special emphasis is placed on self-awareness, finding a good college fit and the consequences of decision-making throughout high school. "Getting ..." is an effective college orientation programming for younger high school students. Often used as a school assembly.

45-55 minutes. Target audience: Students and Parents. Audience size: No limit.
"Getting From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be" Description

The Choices We Make

The Choices We MakeStudents often fail to recognize the impact of the choices they make on the opportunities that might otherwise come their way in life. This workshop focuses on the importance of making good choices in the classroom and in life — "what do you do when you don't have to do anything?" In particular, it examines myths about course selections and illustrates how the choices students make will have a bearing on the college options they might realize. Can be customized to different age groups. Often used as a school assembly.

45-55 minutes. Target audience: Students. Audience size: Max. 500.

The Down & Dirty About the College Admission Process

The Admission Game®Go inside the college admission process to develop a contextual understanding for who gets in and why. Learn from an insider how colleges use Early Decision, Early Action, the Wait List and second semester offers of admission to manage their enrollments. Discover the “Hidden Agenda” and see how testing, demonstrated interest and ability to pay can influence outcomes. “The Down and Dirty About the College Admission Process” is a very practical, logical interpretation of a complex and mysterious process.

90-120 minutes. Target audience: Parents. Audience size: No limit

Pre-High School

"I Can!"

'I Can!'This motivational program engages pre-high school students from disadvantaged backgrounds in a discussion of the possibilities that exist for them beyond high school. In terms that are relevant to their life experiences, participants are urged to talk about their goals and are given strategies for achieving them. Often used as a school assembly.

45 minutes. Target audience: Students and parents. Audience size: 20-40.

Get the Most From Your High School Years

Get the Most From High SchoolEighth grade students find themselves at critical stages in their lives as their social and academic orientations are about to change. Their ability to recognize and manage that change in their lives will go a long way in determining future opportunities and successes. This motivational program shines light on the path that lies ahead for them and provides strategies for avoiding pitfalls and creating a series of meaningful options that extends through high school and into college. Often used as a school assembly.

45 minutes. Target audience: Students and parents. Audience size: 25-400

To learn more about these opportunities or find out how you can collaborate with Peter to create programming to meet your constituent needs, contact him at

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. How do I book an event?

A. Contact Peter at 717-808-5462 or You may also fill out the form on the Book an Event/Contact Us page.

Q. Where did the name, "The Admission Game," come from?

A. The Admission Game® is a metaphor for the competition that is implicit in gaining admission to college. By extending the metaphor, students are coached on how to prepare well in order to compete effectively for admission. "Winning" occurs when students arrive at happy outcomes.

Q. When is the best time of the year to schedule your signature program "The Admission Game"?

A. The first answer is, "When it fits best in your programming cycle." For example, scheduling around your course registration period helps to reinforce messages relating to program rigor. Some schools find it is effective to schedule "The Admission Game" several weeks in advance of a college night/fair in the area.

Q. Which age group is best suited for "The Admission Game" case study program?

A. The key program elements are suited best for Juniors. Younger students who are ready to be engaged in the college planning process can benefit as well.

Q. Is it a good idea to include students and parents in the same session?

A. Absolutely! It's good for the whole family to hear the same message!

Q. Do you provide other resources that compliment your programming?

A. Yes! Check out the BCF Bookstore to find Peter's book, Prepare, Compete, Win! The Ultimate College Planning Workbook for Students. Other sources of information and advice may be found in Resources for Students & Parents.

Q. What do people have to say about your programs?

A. Here is a sampling of testimonials. Please see Present/Past Clients and Testimonials for more.

"No one from my family has ever attended a four-year university before, so we are appreciative for your advice regarding this complicated process. I know so many other kids are going through the same turmoil as I am with regard to this whole "admissions game" and would benefit from your advice. I am so glad I attended your seminar, and thank you again for taking the time to set me on the right path."
-Student, Vineland, NJ

"I truly consider you a leader in the field, someone who tells it like it is. That is what sets you apart... I defer to you anytime!"
-Counselor, Bedford, NY

"Brilliant, passionate, fantastic! Thanks for breaking the code and sharing with us."
-Parent, Philadelphia, PA

Q. Are you available for keynote speeches?

A. Yes. Peter presents a number of 35-45 minute provocative and/or motivational programs that focus on themes of personal responsibility, effective decision-making, investing in one's self and taking ownership of the future.

Q. Do you conduct professional development workshops?

A. Yes. Peter offers customizable, interactive professional development in half-day increments for up to 100 people. Elements of this program continue to be popular preconference workshops at the annual National Association of College Admission Counseling (NACAC) Conference.

Q. Do you ever present multiple sessions during the same day?

A. Yes. At a number of schools Peter presents programs/workshops for students during the day and TAG programs for students and parents in the evening. Peter also presents half-day professional development programs during the day followed by TAG events for families in the evening at a discounted package rate.

Q. How much does your programming cost?

A. Fees for Programming for Students and Parents depend on the nature of the event and length of the program. In addition to a speaker's fee for all events, all related expenses including travel, meals, overnight accommodations (if needed) and will be reimbursed by the program sponsor.

Q. Are discounts available for multiple bookings?

A. Yes. Book "The Admission Game" and a Professional Development half-day program together to receive a reduced rate.

Q. Our budget is tight. Do you have suggestions as to how we might fund a program?

A. Good question! Schools have done the following to make the programming possible financially:

  • Collaborated with neighboring schools to share fees/expenses.
  • Promoted the event as a fundraiser and sold tickets.
  • Applied grant funds designated to promote college awareness.

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