I am writing this blog after taking time to ponder the events surrounding "Operation Varsity Blues." The college admissions scandal left me feeling disheartened and angry. Many parents phoned, or sent text messages or emails to me to express their similar feelings. As a friend of mine said, "These schemes undercut the legitimacy of achievement in higher education. It is appalling to all who have dedicated their lives to the cherished idea of education as the great equalizer."
I have been a professional member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA), my governing organization, for sixteen years. I take pride in adhering to the organization's Ethical Standards and Principles of Good Practice. My goal is to guide each of your children through a journey of self-exploration that will lead them toward colleges/universities that best match their academic, extracurricular, social and emotional needs. I guide them as they complete their own applications/essays in a way that authentically represents their academic work and personal growth. I firmly believe that student's end up in the college/university that is right for them. College decisions continue to be released throughout the month of March and into early April. Highly selective summer program acceptance letters, as well as the names of competitive contest winners, are also being released. Parents, please keep in mind that your reaction to your son or daughter's acceptance/rejection will determine how well they can adapt to disappointment. Life is not always fair, but love never ends.
Although the sense of entitlement involved in this scheme is deeply disturbing and obvious, it gives each of us reason to question why admission to brand name colleges has become such an obsession-an obsession that is affecting the mental and physical health of students and apparently parents. Let's work together to achieve less stress with more honest success. We are our children's role models and they look to us for direction and approval. Please call me if I can be of further assistance.
Printed below is IECA's response to this week's events.
The Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA) and its members are committed to helping families find the most appropriate college for their students and assist families in navigating the application process. Following a comprehensive code of ethics, IECA members are professionals who understand and adhere to high ethical standards in all their interactions with clients and institutions and are compensated by and work exclusively on behalf of their client families.
In response to the breaking news of an FBI probe and Justice Department charges for 50 people— college officials from elite institutions, wealthy parents, coaches, and others—in a long-running admissions bribery scheme, IECA CEO Mark Sklarow said, “The charges presented today exemplify the intense anxiety that even some wealthy parents feel about their children being admitted to their preferred colleges.”
Parents and students should keep the following advice in mind as they begin their college search.
• The college search and application process should be a fun and exciting time for students and their families. If anyone in any setting is exerting pressure or causing undue anxiety and pressure, be cautious. If you are told someone has “inside” information, can pull strings, provide shortcuts to admission, or give you a special advantage (for a fee or otherwise), you are being misled.
• There are many great postsecondary options for every student, and no student should be made to feel that they must become something they are not to get accepted. The “best” school is the school that fits a student academically, socially, and financially. Being and presenting one’s authentic self and demonstrating one’s own talents and abilities is a way of ensuring the right college fit. This is central to what an ethical independent educational consultant does.
• The vast majority of admissions counselors, school counselors, and IECs are ethical and compassionate professionals who dedicate their careers to advising students and families.
If you decide to seek help with the college search and application process outside of the school setting, ensure that you hire someone who is a member of a professional organization, such as IECA or NACAC, that requires them to abide by the highest ethical standards. A fully vetted independent educational consultant (IEC) will be solely concerned about an individual student’s well-being and helping to gain admission to a school where they will thrive and succeed on their own merits.
I came across this unique writing contest today:
"The KWHS [Knowledge@Wharton High School] business journal has hundreds of articles, videos and podcasts exploring entrepreneurship, economics, leadership, business, personal finance and careers. Find a story, video or podcast that interests, angers or inspires you through our search engine on the homepage or by scrolling through the Articles, Videos or Podcasts tabs at the top of the homepage, and then share your reflections in the Comments section of the article."
The contest window opens June 25, 2018 and runs until August. For more info, visit here. Don't let this opportunity pass!
Sign up today for Curreri Educational Consulting's 2018 Summer Boot Camp! We will be holding camp from August 6-10, 2018. This is a terrific way to get a jump start on your college applications and essays! For more information, visit here.
Session I is now closed so sign up today for the Competitive Edge College Application Boot Camp to be held August 1-5, 2016. Get a jump start on your Common Application, UC application, resume and a few supplemental essays. Only a few spaces are still available so call 310-613-5926 today to reserve your spot! Check out the testimonials from last year's camp attendees.
The Orange County Catholic recently published an article by Karen Curreri, founder of Curreri Educational Consulting. "Advice for Parents of College-Bound Catholics" provides helpful suggestions about college visits, starting a dialogue with high school age children, the importance of talking to students at schools of interest and considerations in selecting a Catholic university.
2015 Competitive Edge Boot Camp a HUGE Success!
Curreri Educational Consulting wrapped up its annual Competitive Edge Application Boot Camp on August 7th. Each summer, CEC hosts a week long intensive camp to support students while they work to complete their personal statements for the Common Application, as well as their two UC essays where applicable (or supplements for other colleges if students are not applying to the UC system universities). Camp also provides student with one-on-one resume and interview support, among myriad other resources.
Our belief is that summer slips by too quickly. Once school starts, students are overwhelmed by the demands of senior year. Deadlines approach quickly and are easily missed if students have not prepared ahead of time and created a strategic plan. Our goal is to reduce students’ (and parents’) stress levels by giving campers a jumpstart on their college essays and applications. We want healthy, happy seniors who are mentally and physically tough and ready to begin their senior year with a focus on their course work and extracurricular activities.
We are extremely proud of the incredible amount of work that each student completed in such a short amount of time. Each day students worked from 9 A.M. to 5 P.M. and sometimes even stayed late to complete their work. Most students went home or to their hotels in the evening and continued working on their essays in the evenings. There was a high level of motivation to get work completed and organized.
However, camp was not all work; we created plenty of opportunities for students to relax, get to know one another, keep active and socialize. For example, on Wednesday morning, campers were invited to paddle board or kayak around Balboa Island with a tour guide provided by Sports Rents. CEC supports the arts and took campers to Laguna Beach on Thursday evening for a much deserved break: dinner and a Pageant of the Masters showing. The theme for this year’s Pageant, "The Pursuit of Happiness," was fitting; CEC’s philosophy is that the college search is truly a pursuit of happiness—a journey that will help a student find a “happy home” for the next four or more years of their lives.
Some of the benefits of CEC’s camp include but are not limited to:
- A significant amount of dedicated time where students are focused exclusively on college essay writing, in an environment that is free of other summer distractions. Working with editors on an individual and group basis and also with a junior camp counselor, meant that students received immediate feedback and support, while also ensuring that the students wrote in their own voice and that their work is, truly, their own. This year, Anna Antongiorgi, a 2014 graduate of CEC boot camp, returned to help students. Anna received rave reviews from campers. She wants to return next summer after she completes her freshman year at Harvard.
- The opportunity to work with a great group of peers who share a common goal motivates students to work intensively. Campers were also able to receive peer feedback on essays. It was fun to watch students from as far away as Madrid, Spain and others from as close by as Newport Beach, establish new and hopefully lifelong friendships. Students were incredibly supportive of one another.
- A chance to leave camp with final or nearly final versions of essays. Each camper was also expected to come to camp having completed the Common Application as well as the UC application. Students were extremely proud of all that they accomplished and students felt they had grown and learned a lot about themselves through the essay writing process.
- Each day, students were also given “Pro Tips,” or writing mini-lessons, from editor Liz Nutt, who recently returned from the Yale Writer’s Conference. The valuable tips students learned will help them to compose their remaining college essays, and helped them to strengthen and polish their writing skills. Liz was referred to by campers as “The Grammar Nutt.”
- Campers received ample one-on-one time with Karen, who was able to provide them with personalized support concerning the college search and application process. Questions about any topic regarding college admission were answered on the spot. Karen also finalized college lists with students and helped them to make decisions regarding Early Admission options.
- Shannon Trevino, a current law professor who is a Princeton graduate, alumni interviewer for Princeton, and former President of the Southern California Princeton Alumni Group, conducted a session on interview skills. Campers were given an opportunity to ask questions regarding interviews and admissions policies. They received a handout that gave valuable interview tips.
- Finally, campers enjoyed the last day of camp when they were awarded fun prizes for their accomplishments and contributions to the overall positive camp experience.
Campers were asked to provide feedback regarding their camp experience. Some of the feedback that we received is provided below:
“Camp was incredibly productive.”
“There was no way I could focus at home like I did at camp.”
“ I received immediate feedback and could keep working.”
“Peer editing was very educational.”
“ Karen, Liz, Jenn and Anna pushed me to dig deep for my essay topics which improved the overall feeling in each essay. ”
“Loved feeling confident enough to find my own voice.”
“I loved being able to meet new people and learn their stories as well as be inspired by them.”
“The wonderful staff helped me to create an organized way of completing my college applications. I know exactly where to look for the paper work schools require.”
“It was surprisingly fun and I finished four of my essays.”
“I met many new people who I now consider my new friends.”
“I got a lot done and it relieved a lot of my stress. I feel ahead of the game and ready for the application process.”
“I got a jump start on the college application process.”
Last week, I had the privilege of attending a selective writers' conference at Yale University in New Haven, CT. Throughout the week, I read countless short stories, personal essays, and fictional works by my fellow writers. We discussed in-depth what works and doesn't work about each of our manuscripts, and especially as it pertains to engaging readers. Throughout our many discussions, a pattern of questions were raised. These questions can help writers of any genre--and especially college essay-writers--reflect on what they've written to ensure that the content or topic truly resonates with readers. Ask yourself these 5 questions once you've finished a personal essay or prompt response to gauge whether what you've written is meaningful, thought-provoking, engaging, and authentic:
1. Am I writing in MY voice? A writer's voice is his/her distinct personality and style that shines through his/her writing, giving a readers a sense of who he/she is. Your voice sets you apart from other applicants, and helps readers connect with the experience that you're relaying, because you're showing that it's uniquely your experience. Remember that a thousand students could write about living abroad during high school, but only YOU can write about it in your voice! If you're writing as YOU (meaning, you're not trying to be funnier or more self-deprecating than usual), your voice usually comes across strongly, and helps add meaning to what you're writing. If you're trying to be someone you're not through your writing, it will read as inauthentic or fake. Your writing should reflect who you are!
2. Does my tone match what I'm trying to say? If you're writing about the death of a family member, then the tone (or the writer's attitude toward a subject) should be serious, somber, reflective, and maybe even melancholic. If you're writing about being the only girl at robotics camp, then your voice should clearly express how you felt in that setting: adventurous, confident and self-assured? Or maybe you were nervous and not quite sure of yourself (at least at the beginning)? Either way, the tone of the piece should reflect the topic that you're dealing with. If you're writing from the heart, this will be easy. Just avoid a snarky/sarcastic/disrespectful tone at all costs, especially in the college essay. If you want to be taken seriously here, you have to be serious with your writing.
3. Does this piece tell readers something important about me? When a reader finishes your personal essay, he/she should be able to say: 'Ah, I know this person now, because he/she has shown me a glimpse of his/her world.' This is why your topic is so important. If you're writing about overcoming obstacles, learning a new skill, traveling, or the challenges of taking on a leadership role, then you're giving readers a chance to see how you handle important, difficult, or even life-changing situations (and there is no better glimpse into someone's personality than through these types of experiences!). If you're writing about a fun day on the beach with your friends, there is little opportunity to showcase how you grew as a person or how you're stronger/smarter/better/more confident as a result of the experience. Readers wants to be brought into a moment of your life, to experience it with you, and to see how you changed as a result- especially for the better! That is how they'll connect with you and get to know you through your work.
4. Am I showing and not just telling readers who I am? This is huge. Showing your readers who you are makes you much more engaging and relatable, and it gives you so much more power as a writer when it comes to conveying who you are. Here is an example showing readers who are you: You're writing about the bullying problem at your high school, and how one day you saw an underclassmen who was being shoved around outside. Instead of walking away or ignoring the situation, you deemed it safe enough to intervene, and you went over to the bullies and stood up for the younger student by asking the bullies why they were doing what they were doing and whether it benefited either side. Through your actions and dialogue in your writing, you're showing readers that you're standing up for what's right, that you've got a good head on your shoulders, and that you're not afraid to assert yourself in front of your peers. Telling readers, on the other hand, reads something like this: "I stand up for bullies at my school, which makes me a good person." Sure, anyone can tell readers this, but without an example or a glimpse of you in that moment, they still won't have a sense of the kind of person you are. SHOW, don't just tell!
5. Do I get straight to the point and not waste my words? Many personal essays begin with a lot of exposition, or background knowledge about the topic at hand, and they don't get to the real meat of the essay until about halfway through. Look at your own personal essay: where does it really start getting to the point (this is usually where the essay start to get really important!)? Does every sentence in your essay help illustrate the most important idea, or do you have fluff thrown in there too? Here's an example: you're writing about starring as the lead role in your high school's play, and the challenges and pressures that came along with that experience. You do not need to go back in time to your struggles at acting camp, to the audition process at high school, or to your debate about joining drama or student government. Start your essay at the play's opening night and SHOW readers what it looked/felt like to be in that position! Remember that with word count limits, every word and every sentence needs to support your main idea, or the most important thing you're trying to convey to readers. Don't feel like you need to inform readers of every single detail; readers are smart, they want the important stuff, and they'll fill in the blanks on their own.
- You’ll FINISH your Common Application and UC Application essays in one week in a supportive, focused atmosphere with help and feedback from your peers, Karen Curreri, and a writing/editing tutor (and help is individualized and tailored to every single student!)
- You’ll be given additional, unique opportunities to prepare in advance for the application process such as mock interviews with an admissions officer and resume writing and support, which will bring you into the application season with a leg up and added confidence and preparedness.
- You will be provided with customized counseling throughout the week to determine YOUR strengths and weaknesses as a student and applicant, as well as individualized strategies to maximize the ways in which you can stand out to admissions panels.
- You will avoid fall stress by taking full and early control of the application process; by writing your essays and addressing every one of your concerns and questions well before due-dates approach, you’ll ensure that your applications are carefully done and that your essays are strong, without having to rush or submit applications at the final hour.
- As a result of working on your application early, you’ll be able to focus on other crucial elements of senior year, such as your grades and extra-curricular activities, as opposed to trying to balance everything at the same time throughout the fall.
If you’re not convinced that you should sign up immediately for Boot Camp, here are some testimonials from last year’s campers, (who were accepted in 2015 to: Harvard; Stanford; UCLA; USC; Duke; Loyola; Cornell; USD; Boston College; Chapman; Penn; and NYU, among many other top-tier excellent schools):
- "Thank you for all of the work that you and your editors encouraged me to complete in just one week at the Competitive Edge College Application Boot Camp. I was able to finish my Common Application personal statement and two UC essays before the first day of my senior year. I especially liked brainstorming with the other students when I got stuck or wanted to share an idea.” – Happy Camper
- "The Competitive Edge College Application Boot Camp was both more fun and more helpful than I expected. It was a week filled with learning about all of the steps involved in the essay writing process. We were given a rubric that we used to help evaluate our own essays. From first draft to final, Karen and her team were there to help us find our own voice. What truly amazed me was the brainstorming process. The editors really took the time to help each individual camper learn how to figure out what would be the best topic for them to write about.” – Happy Camper
- "Doing the college essay boot camp was one of the best decisions I've ever made. I wrote my personal statement; completed a resume; basically completed the Common Application, the Universal Application, and the UC Application; almost completed my Princeton supplements; learned what makes an application great; and had a lot of fun. Now I have a great work ethic regarding college essays that I can take with me into senior year.” – Happy Camper
- "On August 8th, I submitted my first application to the college of my dreams! It feels amazing to have this completed before my senior year even begins. There is no way I could have possibly achieved what I did in this past week on my own. Karen and the editors at CEC Competitive Edge College Application Boot Camp really provided me with the guidance I needed and I am so lucky to have had this experience.
*Camp is almost fully booked for Summer 2015. Sign up today to reserve your place! Boot Camp will be held August 3rd-7th, 2015. For more information, call: (310) 613-5926, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.