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21 Questions You Should Be Asking College Admissions Reps

Saturday, April 18, 2020

While high school buildings are shuttered, college campuses are closed to visitors, and many of us are home sheltering in place, the online world is buzzing. Virtual college fairs - webinars - FaceBook Live events -- there are copious opportunities for curious juniors -- and even seniors -- to continue a fruitful college search.

Connecting with college representatives and current students in person is preferable making socially-distant connections, but face it: A junior has to do what a junior has to do. Fortunately, there are loads of colleges out there kicking off ways to connect with prospects.  There is endless information available to curious parents and students involved in the college search process!

Learning starts with asking good questions, but what sorts of questions are useful for getting more out of online college presentations?  And after all, aren't college websites full of information? 

Here are 21 questions that students might find useful for kicking off a conversation -- or maybe these raise still additional questions that you had not yet thought of.  Some of these might be best posed to the Admission Office, while others, such as "What do students say they would like to change at the school?" or "What is the straight story about substance use at this school?" would be best put in front of a peer student.

Here is an extensive list to check out -- along with a live link to a handy worksheet that features more Great Questions to Explore With College Admissions Representatives

Turn to these 21 questions during your college search process:

  1. What is the process for financial aid application?
  2. What do students say they would like to change at the school?
  3. Am I guaranteed freshman housing? After freshman year, where do students live?
  4. Describe the opportunities for students to sample different academic areas.
  5. How common is minoring or double majoring?
  6. What leadership opportunities are there for freshmen or sophomores?
  7. How students in (my major) begin to make contacts via the school for jobs or internships?
  8. What does the school do to support healthy lifestyles? ex. healthy food; healthy activity; alternatives to drugs or alcohol
  9. What are the study abroad programs like at your school? Requirements to be eligible?
  10. Describe core or distribution requirements. How flexible are these?
  11. How do you handle advance credit? ex. AP; IB; outside college credits.
  12. Describe student safety concerns on campus. How about safety in the local community?
  13. What is the path for research work with professors?
  14. How does faculty advising work at your school?
  15. Tell me about the most popular areas of study at your school.
  16. How big is the XYZ Department at your school? Is it growing?
  17. Describe the most popular activities for students during the weekend.
  18. What opportunities are there for merit scholarship?
  19. How do students get to and from campus? How close would I be to an airport; rail or bus stations?
  20. What is the connection like between students on campus and the local community?
  21. Anything else that is on your mind about the student learning and living experience...?

Marla Platt, M.B.A. is an independent college consultant based in Sudbury, MA through AchieveCoach College Consulting, providing personalized guidance to students and families throughout the college planning, search and admissions process. Marla is a professional member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association and NACAC and can be reached via

Improving Access to Education for LD Students

Friday, December 01, 2017

It may be just a matter of time before college-bound students with documented learning differences and their parents finally have a voice.

Currently, there is proposed legislation via the RISE Act (Respond, Innovate, Succeed and Empower) that aims to remove barriers to education for special needs students both when applying to college as well as once enrolled and attending classes.  The broader objectives of RISE include easing transition to college, supporting academic success, as well as improving graduation rates for students with learning differences.  

Studies indicate that LD or special needs students face continued obstacles at the time of college application as well as once they are matriculated.  High school students with 504 plans or IEPs are currently required by most colleges to update their testing in order to be eligible for campus accommodations.  Whether families attain evaluations through their child's school system or through a private source, such requirement by a college or university for updated testing brings a financial and logistical burden for many.  

Beyond documentation requirements, LD students may face challenges in seeking accommodations once on campus, an effort complicated by a lack of understanding or awareness on the part of faculty. RISE aims to develop broader awareness about learning differences and the accommodations that students may rightfully seek.  There is also focus on providing more transparent information to families about the availability of services and other resources for special needs students on individual college campuses.

As of this writing, the RISE Act is under bi-partisan review.  For more information on this progressive pending legislation and how it may affect students, please click here.

Marla Platt, M.B.A. is an independent college consultant based in Sudbury, MA through AchieveCoach College Consulting, providing personalized guidance to students and families throughout the college planning, search and admissions process. Marla is a professional member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association and can be reached via

Well, I Do Declare!

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Enrolling in College As An Undecided Freshman

“Great news!  Good for you!”  It's a well-earned moment for high school seniors with college on the horizon to glow in these words of congratulations from well-wishing friends, family, teachers as well as the random casual acquaintance.  So gratifying to receive these words of enthusiasm until the next breath brings the inevitable, “And what are you planning to major in?”

While many students will have a ready response to the question, the majority will hem and haw because, well, they don’t really know how to answer.  Let’s be realistic:  How many 17 or 18-year-olds applying to college truly know what they want to focus on for four years, let along pursue on the road to a lifetime of work?

In today's world, the intent driving pursuit of a college education can be very individual and experienced through many dimensions.  Ask any student about why he or she wants to invest in a college experience.   Is it all about learning -- or vocational support -- or a time and place to learn to be independent and grow up?  Maybe it is a stage in life to construct a broader world perspective?  Maybe it’s all of these?

Another Kind of "Early Decision"

Feeling early pressure to “know” what one wants to study in college puts students in a precarious position of having to laser in on an area from the starting gate that may be a wrong fit later down the road.  Most well-meaning adults (and, admittedly, this mostly includes parents) tend to conflate a college major choice with career path.  It's wishful thinking to equate a decision on a major from the get-go as a sure route to success at the conclusion of four years.  

Honestly, you can hardly blame bursar bill-paying grown-ups for this perspective.  After all, the cost of college today is to be taken seriously and quickly takes on the dimensions of an investment that we all hope supports a good “return."  

But consider how much a first year college student typically evolves once exposed to academic areas or other students who may open their eyes to learning they had never been exposed to before.  And consider that the high school curriculum most teenagers pursue is relatively limited and doesn't offer the breadth of coursework they would see in college.  The very experience of college itself is likely to open any student’s eyes wide to a catalog of areas to pursue. 

Typically, colleges report the most popular choice of major at the time of application is “Undecided.”  My personal spin on this is a more positive one:  Still Exploring.   Extending even further, how about: Potentially Interested in Many Things?  In a perfect world, this is the kind of attitude an eager undergraduate should bring along to college! 


Broadly, what is the goal that students hope to achieve at the end of their four years?  For some, it's preparation and solid recommendations for graduate or professional school.  For others, it’s graduating with a bachelors degree debt free.   For many, it may be a job offer or a realistic shot at employment in a field of interest that affords a sustainable lifestyle and independence.

Stepping into freshman and sophomore years of college for many teenagers is about finding direction via exposure to a broad curriculum while testing and then embracing (or eliminating) possible directions based on experiences in introductory courses. Then when the time comes at the end of the second year to formally declare a major, truly invested undergrads may look toward a path to double majoring or majoring/minoring.  As any college grad will realize, there had been so much available to explore in college --  and so little time to absorb it all!   


Filling in between the lines of what students major in and the requirements of the job market in any field goes beyond solely taking classes.  Today, students set themselves apart in the employment or professional school sandbox via experience gained along the way through internships; campus research and jobs; or volunteerism.  While it may come across as a bit of a paradox, it’s worthwhile to remind students at every bend in their educational path to gain experience outside of the classroom. As a result, they can be more hirable later on and later actually have a greater opportunity to apply what they did in fact learn in school.  

Given that students are bound to change their planned major as a result of potential exposure to areas of interest and fit, why constrain a high school senior with demands to determine a major before setting foot in a campus classroom?  For some students, their natural path has been clear for years, but expect most to explore the bricks in the walkway before branching off on the formal road.


Marla Platt, M.B.A. is an independent college consultant based in Sudbury, MA through AchieveCoach College Consulting, providing personalized guidance to students and families throughout the college planning, search and admissions process. Marla is a professional member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association and can be reached via

The Benefits of Talking to Yourself

Monday, June 12, 2017

For both parents AND students:

Increased focus, motivation and confidence.  According to a series of studies, talking to yourself -- out loud-- can provide benefits to learning and performance, potentially valuable in learning; task management; social interaction and even athletic performance.   The research points to how different ways of putting thoughts about yourself into words can reset how you approach a task.  An article from The New York Times explores another way we can all use self-talk as a tool. 


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