Reflections on the college admissions scandal

The last week has been an interesting one for those of us involved in the college admissions process. If I’m being honest, the scandal made me sad. Sad for the students who put in so much effort, not just during the application process, but throughout their middle and high school years. Sad for the parents who scrape and save to send their children to college. Sad for the counselors who work hard every day, are ethical and truly want what’s best for their students, knowing that does not mean buying their way into college.

I became a consultant because I enjoy working with students, helping them to understand who they are, what they have to offer and how to present the best version of themselves to a college or university. My role is to guide them to find their best fit college, not to create an illegal side door for them.

As an Associate Member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA), I have sworn to abide by the IECA’s Principles of Good Practice.

The fundamental role of independent educational consultants (IECs) is to help students explore college opportunities and find the right place for them to succeed academically and socially. IECs don’t get students admitted—they help students demonstrate why they deserve to be admitted at appropriately chosen schools. They help students find colleges they might not have heard of—often out of their region—and they help students put their best foot forward.

Here are 5 things families should consider when looking to hire an IEC:

  1. Does the IEC belong to a professional association such as IECA with established and rigorous standards for membership?
  2. Do not trust any offers of guaranteed admission to a school or a certain minimum dollar value in scholarships.
  3. Ensure that the IEC adheres to the ethical guidelines for private counseling established by IECA.
  4. Find an IEC that visits college, school, and program campuses and meets with admissions representatives regularly in order to keep up with new trends, academic changes and evolving campus cultures.
  5. Do they attend professional conferences or training workshops on a regular basis to keep up with regional and national trends and changes in the law?

I am proud to serve as an independent educational consultant and of the students that I’ve worked with who are thriving at schools where they, deservedly, walked through the front door.

Ripping the Band Aid off

It’s been about a week since I spoke at the Raleigh Chamber of Commerce Professional Women’s Luncheon about Career Empowerment. Talk about getting out of my comfort zone. Speaking about empowerment got me fired up to keep that momentum going (vision boards, anyone?) and hopefully, the event got the attendees motivated for 2019 as well. I got so much positive feedback afterwards; these are a few points that seemed to hit close to home for people:

• “When I graduated from college, I’ll be honest, I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do with my life. Not that I admitted that to anyone at the time.” I was really honest with the audience about this and a lot more. Let’s be real, we don’t always have it all figured out. But as I said, we don’t always say that out loud because we think that everyone else has it all figured out, so we should too.
“Please stop apologizing.” After sharing my own story about quitting my job to be home with my oldest daughter when she was sick as a baby, I reminded the audience stop saying sorry. Stop apologizing for taking time off to be at home with your children or for changing careers or trying the entrepreneurial life and failing; what you’re really doing is devaluing that experience. Be proud of your path.
“Tell everyone.” I could have done another TED talk on the power of your network but for this talk, I focused on the power of your network to keep you accountable. “It’s like marathons – if you tell everyone you are going to run one then you have to actually run one because everyone is going to ask you about it. My network has been unbelievable in terms of supporting me. They’ve reminded me when times have gotten tough that I could do it and they’ve had my back.”
“At some point, I had to rip the band aid off and go all in. I have never taken a bigger risk than the one I did in June when I quit my full-time job to pursue career and admissions consulting and the start-up life.” Now, here’s where my vision board comes in. For that year plus when I was working full-time while building Best You and helping build Kruted, I was mostly just keeping my head above water. Now that I’ve quit and have more time to focus on what were once my side hustles, I can do a lot more than just keep my head above water. Getting up on stage in front of 300+ people was a huge accomplishment for me and I’m already brainstorming what other goals I can conquer in 2019.

Happy Holidays! Here’s to an amazing 2019!

Tell Me About Yourself…

I know what you are thinking – do I have to? Yes, you do because in all likelihood, you’ll be asked this question numerous times during the interview process. In most initial interviews, it’s the default launching point and nailing this question goes a long way towards creating a spark with the interviewer, getting them onboard with the idea that you could be a great fit and ultimately, moving you forward in the process. This is also a question that gets asked and answered in networking situations so it’s important that you nail this one.

As a recruiter, I can’t count the number of times that I’ve asked this or the number of  candidates who have been ill-prepared to answer it. A few tips and things to remember when you ultimately must tackle it:

  • Don’t wing it. Practice (out loud) what you are going to say in advance. You don’t want to stumble over your words while you make it up on the spot.
  • Don’t recite your resume. This takes way too long and goes into way too much detail for what should be a relatively high-level answer. Average time to shoot for: 2 minutes. Any longer and the interviewer has likely zoned out.
  • Personalize it Part 1. You are not a robot. The recruiter or hiring manager genuinely wants to get to know you. Consider mentioning a hobby or community involvement. You never know which detail will be the one to build that connection but doing your homework on the interviewer will help. You can bet that if I’m interviewing someone and they make a connection with me about Boston, Colby College, educational access or hot yoga, my ears perk up.
  • Personalize it Part 2. Your answer should be customized for the role and company. When preparing what you’re going to say, go back and look at the job description. Which skills/attributes are highlighted? Be sure to speak to these things in your answer.
  • Past, present, future. Consider this simple format for telling your story. Take the interviewer on a journey with you – where have you been, what are your biggest accomplishments/achievements, what crossroads are you at now and where do you want to go? Some questions to ask yourself as you piece this story together (because you’ve promised me that you aren’t going to wing it!):
    • What have I done?
    • What am I passionate about?
    • What did I learn, develop or accomplish?
    • What am I interested in doing next?
    • Why did I take that particular step/make that move?
    • Why am I sitting here today?

While it might change slightly from situation to situation, here’s how I’m currently structuring mine: I have almost 20 years of experience managing recruiting and HR programs for a variety of industries – legal, non-profit, consulting and financial services. Across all of my recruiting roles, I’ve focused on helping hiring managers to identify best fit candidates for roles from entry-level to c-suite. After moving from Boston to Raleigh 6 years ago, I decided that I wanted to stretch myself outside of corporate recruiting and use my skills in evaluating candidates in a new arena so I joined the admissions committee at the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University. Today, I use my background in recruiting and admissions (and the knowledge of knowing what hiring managers, recruiters and admissions officers are and are not looking for) combined with my passion for working one-on-one with people (most HR people will tell you they are part therapist) to now help my clients put their best foot forward when applying to college or grad school or approaching the job search process.

Need help developing yours? Drop me a note at megan@bestyouconsultinggroup.com.

 

 

Veritas, flannel and the Development of Western Civilization

On a recent road trip to the Northeast, we made a pit stop at my husband’s old stomping grounds, Providence College. Here’s his trip down memory lane…

It’s any Tuesday morning in October in the mid-1990s and flannel is king. Hootie & the Blowfish are sure to outlive The Rolling Stones and define a generation. They can’t miss. Right? These are the things I’m concerned with as I begin the trek from Fennel Hall up toward main campus and ultimately to class. But not just any class; it’s the heart and soul of the academic experience for all students who have called this institution home since 1971. I am talking about what outsiders to Providence College refer to as “The Development of Western Civilization.” What near outsiders call “DWC.” But to us, it will always just be CIV. Ah. CIV.

Any discussion of the quality or uniqueness of a Providence College education, as well as the essence of the Providence experience, must begin with an understanding of CIV. CIV truly is the lifeblood of my alma mater, and remains one of the most unique offerings of any college or university in the country. CIV is a comprehensive study of the development of Western Civilization, meeting five days a week for your first two years at Providence. Each group, or CIV team, is headed by a panel of professors representing the key areas of focus for the program: History, Philosophy, Religion, Art & Literature. Students are required to complete 16 CIV credits in their first four semesters on campus (I won’t even mention that fact that it was 20 credits when I was there and these students don’t know how easy they have it!). It’s fair to say that students at Providence have a love/hate relationship with CIV. It is demanding. It can be all consuming. But there is absolutely no question that it is an amazing program. And while 18-year old me does not want to hear this, it is the source of some of most my cherished college memories. Maybe I needed to get out more, but there was something special about that shared experience. Knowing that all 1077 of my classmates were in this with me, scrambling to find a unique angle on the relevance of Plato’s Cave to the fall of the Berlin Wall. I am certain no other college offers a program so comprehensive and so unifying to its students. To this day when I meet a fellow Providence alum, whether they graduated in 1975 or 2015, our secret handshake is CIV.

While CIV is the school’s centerpiece, it is certainly not all Providence College (affectionately known as “PC”) has to offer its 4,300 undergrads. Not even close. Providence College was the nation’s first college to offer a bachelor’s degree in Public and Community Service Studies. The college was founded by and conducted under the auspices of the Dominican Friars. The Catholic identity is hard to miss. Sunday night mass is standing room only (or at least my roommates told me they were) and service is a big component of the student experience. While at PC, I volunteered with the Chad Brown Boys & Girls Club and the Providence Plan Housing Corporation. I was certainly not alone, as almost everyone I knew was involved with some kind of organization off-campus. Students have the opportunity to serve through a number of curricular and co-curricular programs, including FriarServe which pairs Providence College volunteers with five Providence Catholic Pre-K – 8 schools.

The school is nestled less than 2 miles from downtown Providence, RI, one of the best kept secrets in the northeast. With the city as its backdrop, students enjoy limitless social and cultural activities. And with Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) a mile from the edge of campus, the entire city takes on the feeling of an extended campus.

Of course, no discussion of Providence College would be complete without a discussion of our rich sports history. In 2017, Time Magazine ranked Providence as the 28th best college in America for sports fans. The Friar Faithful ranked higher than some traditional sports powerhouses such as: Florida State, Penn State, Villanova & Michigan State. Providence College fields 19 varsity athletic teams. All are NCAA Division 1, and all compete within the Big East (with the exception of men’s & women’s ice hockey which compete in Hockey East – hockey’s Big East equivalent). Providence has enjoyed immense success in all sports but has recently flourished in men’s basketball (having participated in the NCAA Tournament each of the last 5 years under beloved coach Ed Cooley) with the future looking brighter than ever. Men’s hockey also enjoys both a storied past to match a successful present. The Friars were the founding members of the mighty Hockey East Conference, which was the brainchild of then Providence Head Coach, Lou Lamoriello, for whom the Hockey East Championship Trophy is named. Providence College has maintained the commitment to hockey excellence outlined by Lamoriello. This culminated in 2015 when the Friars won the NCAA Division 1 Hockey National Championship, defeating Boston University 4-3 in the title game.

This summer, I had a chance to revisit. It had been a long time since I’d stepped foot on the campus and while some things have changed (much less flannel and Slavin got a nice facelift, that’s for sure!), the fundamental components that make Providence College unique (its Catholic identity, rich sports history and of course CIV) remain intact. Veritas!

A Visit to the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD)

Our family trip up north this summer offered up the opportunity to spend an afternoon at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). It was a campus visit unlike any other.

The RISD Admissions office had multiple rooms packed with high school students eager to learn more. Isabelle Sanchez, Class of 2015, led my information session and is clearly passionate about her alma mater. She described RISD as an organically collaborative community where you will be surrounded by fellow students who are as passionate and eager to talk about art as you are.

A few of my key take aways from the visit:

  • First year is about experimental and foundation studies – all students take two liberal arts classes per semester and are encouraged to explore (3D, charcoal drawing, spatial dynamics and more).
  • You can receive your Bachelor of Fine Arts in four years or your Bachelor of Architecture in five.
  • First years get first pick of classes during the five-week winter semester which could take you across the world on a study abroad program (perhaps the European Honors Program or RISD in Seoul) or to Los Angeles for an internship.
  • While RISD offers >300 liberal arts courses, you can cross-register to take courses at Brown beginning your second year.
  • Speaking of Brown, you can apply to get a dual degree (BA/BFA) in five years. Getting in is very competitive as you must be separately admitted to both schools and then selected by a committee. Only 15-20 students are offered the opportunity every year.
  • The Nature Lab (the coolest part of the tour!) offers unmediated access to natural history specimens (puffer fish, human bones, coral and so much more) for inspiration.
  • The RISD Library includes a student-curated section.
  • While on a huge hill (the tour was quite the workout in the heat!), the campus is very walkable and in the heart of downtown Providence. With your RISD ID, you’ll have full bus access to the entire state.
  • The MET dining hall is every vegan’s dream.
  • You will apply via the Common App. In addition, you’ll submit a SlideRoom portfolio of 12-20 images of your work and complete the RISD “Assignment” (choose one of three words – Error, Forge, Verify – and create two visual responses and a written reflection). As for your essay, don’t write about art! The school knows you are interested in art and wants to learn something else about you.

Interested in art and design and wondering what else should be on your college list? Besides RISD, consider the following*:

Art Center College of Design

School of the Art Institute of Chicago

California College of the Arts

California Institute of the Arts

The Cooper Union

Kansas City Art Institute

Maryland Institute, College of Art

Massachusetts College of Art

Moore College of Art and Design

School of the Museum of Fine Arts (MA)

North Carolina School of the Arts

Otis Institute of Art and Design

Parsons School of Design

Pratt Institute

Ringling School of Art and Design

San Francisco Art Institute

Savannah College of Art and Design

School of Visual Arts (NY)

*Source: Fiske Guide to Colleges 2018