Get a Great Recommendation Letter

by Mandee Adler

One of the most important parts of the college applications isn’t even written by a student and that’s the Letter of Recommendation. Most private colleges want one counselor and one or two teacher recommendations. And they don’t want just any old recommendations or a laundry list of accomplishments. They want a letter of recommendation that describes a student’s skills, accomplishments, and character.

Here are some tips for securing good letters of recommendation:

1. Stay Organized. No one doubts a high school student is busy, but organization is essential when planning to complete a college application. Know the deadlines and make sure to stay on top of them. This leads to the next tip.

2. Start Early. Teachers and others have limited time, so do not wait until the last minute to ask for letters of recommendation. In fact, seniors should be asking for recommendation letters now. A recommender needs time to write a thoughtful and articulate letter. The more time a recommender has, the more time he or she may have to write something reflective and complete.

3. Choose recommenders wisely. Students need to choose recommenders who like them and are enthusiastic about them. Teachers typically like students who have great attendance, few or no tardies, actively participate in class, are well behaved, and get good grades. Plus pick a teacher or counselor with enough knowledge to write something special. The best recommendations provide insight about a student. So choose someone who can write about talents, abilities, success, and more. Keep in mind, students rarely see the letter that is written about them, so the letter needs to be from someone with whom they are feel comfortable.

No Such Thing as Good Luck

by Karen Meister

A wise man once said, “Don’t wish me luck.  I have to earn what I get.”  That wise man was my son, Shane.

As the kids head back to school, it will be so tempting to do “for them” to help them through the angst of school time.  If it is too hard, or too long, it will be so tempting to ease the pain a little so they can get to bed at a reasonable time.  It will be easy to complain about too much homework or rigorous testing schedules or whatever may be presented to your children as they make their way through school.

Although while my kids were in school, I was most certainly an involved parent in the PTA, I was never involved in their homework or projects.  As I told them whenever they begged for help and said the other mothers did projects for their kids, my standard line was, “I’ve already gone to school.  Your turn.”

I am not saying I was absent when it came to their school work.  I tested them if they asked for help.  I checked their homework if they asked for help.  I set up schedules with them if they asked for help.  If they didn’t ask for help, I simply checked their grades.  If their grades were good, it meant that they were learning the most important lesson of all — independence.  If their grades were bad, then discussion would begin to identify the why of their poor performance.  And then together, we created a plan of action to improve the grades.

Ten years ago, the plan of action was improve your cumulative grade to a 3.5 and we would get a dog.  


Aventura Turnberry Jewish Center

Alonzo Tracy Mourning

David Lawrence

Highland Oaks Middle School

Krop Senior High School

Maddie Ives


MAST @ Homestead


by Karen Meister

Back to school time and there are a few categories that need to be replenished before the first bell rings for the new school year.  Top categories of course are:

      • Uniforms and/or school clothes
      • School Supplies
      • Lunches
      • Family planners

Below are a few tips you can consider to make the transition from camp to school smoother for the entire family.


SHOP AT HOME FIRST.  Uniform school?  Contact CHAI-TEES at 786-520-3624 or email at for additional information.  If a non-uniform school, go through the closet for what fits/doesn’t.  What is in style/not.  And create weekly outfits with your child.  For little ones, take pictures of items that go together and put them on the wall or inside the closet to make morning a bit smoother.  And whatever is missing from two weeks worth of clothing can be identified and purchased.  For teens, before allotting money to their wardrobe fund, let them go through the outfit exercise, snap selfies on their smart phones and come up with a plan for building this year’s wardrobe with what needs to be added on.  Saves money and teaches great skills!

For all of your school supplies, CLEAN OUT THE CLOSET FIRST!  You would be surprised at how many pencils, pieces of notebook paper and unused notebooks there are hiding behind the shelf.  Once you have an at home inventory, you can then identify what needs to be added and/or refreshed.

TAKE ADVANTAGE OF TAX FREE SHOPPING DAYS.   In Florida, you have until August 16th – for details on what is included, click here.

SHOP ON LINE.  There are so many on line shops from which to purchase and with large % off coupons.  

14 Tips for High School Athletes: How to Get Recruited

High school athletes who want to get recruited by a college need to get noticed by the right coach. Although in some cities, athletes in Class 8A, 7A, and 6A football, basketball and baseball may have scouts come to their games, and in metropolitan areas, many sports are frequently covered in widely distributed newspapers or newscasts, every year, thousands of other outstanding athletes are overlooked for one simple reason: the coaches didn’t know they were out there.

Have a power drink and breathe. Whatever sport you participate in, from football to fencing, or bowling to basketball, student-athletes can do more to get themselves on the radar of a coach.  All they need is a game plan.

Below are some tips for student-athletes from International College Counselors:

  1. Research the ins and outs of recruiting, regulations, colleges, coaches, and sports programs. Read the NCAA and NAIA Guide for the College Bound Student-Athlete and watch Know exactly how coaches can contact you and how you can contact coaches. These are two separate rules.
  2. Use the Internet. Visit college websites, and collect information about the different sports programs. Look for schools that fit your talents, athletically and academically.
  3. Don’t just focus on NCAA Division I sports. There are more than 1,800 colleges with athletic programs. The vast majority of college scholarship opportunities are at the Division II, Division III, NAIA, or Junior College level. Expand your search to give yourself a better opportunity.
  4. Attend college sports camps, if you can. The colleges’ coaching staff usually leads the sports camps. You also get a chance to enhance your skills.
  5. Join travel teams or clubs. At some events there can be hundreds of teams and thousands of athletes competing.

20 Tips to Help You Thrive During Freshman Year at College

by Mandee Adler

When you start college, you start with a clean slate.  Nobody in college cares what you were like in high school.  For first year college students, it won’t matter if you were class president, prom queen, valedictorian, secretary of the art club, or person who liked to hang out in the parking lot during lunch. What you are known for in high school does not automatically apply to college. What will count are the decisions you make and the actions you take.


  1. Get Organized. In college, no one will be nagging you to complete the homework.  Many professors will post the assignments and expect you to be prepared.  Your parents won’t be there to remind you when meetings are being held or to double-check your appointments. Use a planner or an app, get a wall calendar, keep a to-do list.
  2. Plan ahead and stay motivated. By the end of your first week, you’ll know when almost every assignment for the semester is due. There’s no reason you should be stressing over papers or big tests the night before they’re due.
  3. Go to class. College isn’t free.  Why pay for something and not use it. Make sure you get the most of your investment by going to class.  You’ll also learn more and know what you need to successfully complete tests and assignments.  You also don’t want to test a teacher who may fail you for not showing up.
  4. Meet with your professors. Attend their office hours. Professors can help you out and provide guidance as well as academic support. You may also want a letter of recommendation one day if you’re seeking admission to a graduate or professional school.

2015-2016 Common Application Essay Prompts

by Mandee Adler

Attention Juniors: The 2015-2016 college application season has officially begun. The Common Application, otherwise known as the Common App, released its list of essay prompts. While it is true that the Common Application essay prompts are flexible enough for any personal statement or story, it also helps to know just what admissions officers look for when they read them.

The application doesn’t go live until August, but this is important enough that you should start thinking of an answer now. Keep in mind, students only have to choose and respond to one of the five choices.

Overall, admissions offices are looking for you to reveal something that distinguishes you or sets you apart from others in your own voice.

PROMPT #1: Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

This first question is broad and gives you a lot of latitude. The prompt asks you to write about either a passion or something that defines you as a person.  This common app essay should be built around something unique and specific to you and no one else. If your “background” is central to your identity, it could involve anything in your life that shaped you. This can include your religion or ethnicity, living in a foreign country, experiencing a challenging issue growing up, or a unique family situation. Make sure you describe how your background affected who you are, what you value, and how you approach your life.  Same with your “identity,” it’s important to choose a topic that has shaped who you are on a fundamental basis.

How to Handle a Deferral

by Mandee Adler

Many students who apply to college Early Decision or Early Action find that they’ve been deferred.  This means they’ve neither been accepted nor rejected – a sort of college purgatory.

Typically, a deferral means the college wants to compare you with the full applicant pool because your application did not shine enough for them to admit you early.

Unlike a rejection, a deferral offers hope and chance.  Ironically, hope is not always the least stressful option.   You have work to do if you want to improve your chances of turning the ‘maybe’ into a ‘yes.’

Here are some suggestions:

  1. Don’t panic.  There was a reason you weren’t rejected straightaway.
  2. Get information.  Contact the admissions office and see if you can find out why you were deferred.  Then ask for suggestions regarding turning your deferral into an acceptance.    By doing this, you’ll make the school aware of your commitment and get more information.  Do not call if the college has specifically asked that students not call them.
  3. Send in improved standardized test scores. This is especially important if you believe your submitted scores may not have measured up.
  4. Send in your midyear grades if the college asks for them.  Make sure you meet their deadline.  (This is another reason why it’s important not to let your grades slide.)
  5. Write a letter. Sincerely express your continued interest in the school and reasons why you believe it would be a good match for you.  Do not come across as whiny or negative. Be yourself; sound personal; be interesting; and be positive. Attach information about any new and meaningful accomplishments that are not in your original application.

The Florida Bright Futures Scholarship Program: Apply Now

by Mandee Adler

The Florida Bright Futures Scholarship Program purpose is to reward students for their academic achievements in high school by providing partial scholarships. This long-standing merit based scholarship program is for Florida residents attending Florida colleges, universities and career schools.

Even if a student’s current plans do not include an education in Florida, we encourage them to apply. If a student does not apply before graduating, they lose their eligibility forever.

The program offers three levels of scholarship awards – the Florida Academic Scholars award (FAS), the Florida Medallion Scholars award (FMS), and the Florida Gold Seal Vocational Scholars award (GSV). Each level includes a GPA requirement, required academic courses, community service, and scores on SAT or ACT exams. Other ways to qualify include National Merit Scholars, National Hispanic Scholars, AICE Diploma or IB Diploma in addition to Service Hours. Recent years have seen the Bright Futures eligibility requirements become more rigorous.

All seniors must submit a Florida Financial Aid Application available on December 1, 2014, at to be eligible for the Florida Bright Futures Scholarship, or any financial aid program in the state of Florida. This application must be filed as soon as possible after December 1.  Registration should be completed no later than January 31, 2015. The application does not require financial information and takes approximately 10 minutes to complete.

General Bright Futures Scholarship eligibility requirements include

  • Students must APPLY for the scholarship by submitting the Florida Financial Aid Application (FFAA) beginning December 1 of their senior year and no later than August 31
  • Be a Florida resident and a U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen
  • Not have been found guilty of, or pled nolo contendere, to a felony charge

Helpful hints for the application

All demographic information must be accurate and must match information on record at the student’s highs school,, and


 ”One in five women in college sexually assaulted”
Washington Post

“Brown University students say they were given date-rape drug”
Boston Globe

“Another Campus Sexual Assualt Horror Story.  Now We Need the Data.”
New York Times

Onus of changing campus rape culture lies with men
Miami Herald 

by Karen Meister

As parents, we have spent many years preparing both our sons and daughters for college.  And yet, we send them off assuming  that they will be cared for by an administration at the college campus level.  And you know what they say about those who “assume”.  

Date rape drugs, sexual assault, and men overpowering freshman girls.  As a mother of three wonderful young men, who were taught to protect women and care for them, women and parents must stop the blame game.  As I have always believed, you cannot change the behavior of others.  But you can change how you react to others’ behavior.

Along with good grades, community service participation, great SAT scores and development of independence, a caring father of two girls asked me for a program to teach his daughters how to protect themselves.  Not finding it in the market, we have created one that is a must for every girl preparing to enter college in the next few years.

We are proud to launch a summer Self-Defense Program for current high school girls.  It is a 1 -2 week overnight self defense course.  It is not inexpensive, but it is packed with amazing tools and techniques for protecting your body, your credit and your identity.  The program is being offered this first summer to girls who are currently in high school.  

7 Reasons to Be Thankful for High School Teachers

by Mandee Adler

Thanksgiving is here and there is a lot for which to be thankful.  Students are thankful that the school year is almost one-third of the way over and there are two long breaks coming up.

The college advisors at International College Counselors understand that there is much to thank teachers for, as well, especially by the high school students who are college bound.

Parents and students should be thankful that teachers take on so many responsibilities outside of the classroom including:

  1. Sponsoring and organizing activities, clubs, academic teams and sports. Without them, there’d be no extracurricular activities, less enrichment, and fewer accolades with which to impress the colleges.
  2. Writing letters of recommendation that are positive, thoughtful, detailed and kind.  Teachers give up their evenings and weekends to write these.  The letters certainly do not write themselves.
  3. Teaching subjects that most likely parents wouldn’t be able to teach and look good to colleges, like AP Chemistry, Honors Physics or Calculus BC.
  4. Teach subjects that parents may be reluctant to teach, like driver’s education or health.
  5. Getting up early, are alert and awake for the school start time.  Teachers are there earlier than students — and they stay later too. They also give up their nights and weekends to grade the work and provide constructive comments.
  6. Providing guidance and counseling.  A good teacher listens, questions, and responds, remembering that each student is different.
  7. Inspiring excitement about learning more.  After all, most college bound students will have four more years in school, and college is not all about the parties.

Teachers are some of the most inspiring and influential people in a person’s life. Yet, teachers are also some of the most under-appreciated professionals in the world.

Six Steps to Making a College List

by Mandee Adler

For most students, choosing a college is the most important decision of their lives so far.  Making a college list can help ease this decision and keep the college application process organized and manageable.

Here’s how to start putting a college list together:


Hop on the Internet. Get familiar with the colleges and universities that are out there. Look at colleges that sound interesting. Type the word “college” into a search engine and pick a city.

Type in “college” with different words, like “warm weather,” “geekiest,” “friendliest,” or “sports enthusiasts.” If something looks interesting, take a deeper look. Find out more about colleges mentioned by friends, parents, teachers, or coaches. Attend college fairs and meet college reps who visit the high school. There are also college search websites like Princeton Review and College Board.  Investigate at least three or four colleges that are not familiar to you.


Write down the top five things a college must have. These are the deal-breakers. If a college doesn’t have these five things, cross it off the list. One of those deal-breakers should be the choice of major.  If robotics is a desired career path, it’s going to be very hard to explore the possibilities if the school has no resources. Then make another list of the five things “I wish the college has.” This list will help weed down the list, but don’t use it to cross off schools yet. There’s more research to be done.


Hop online again. Scour the official website of all colleges of interest.

Follow up on Your College Application The Right Way

by Mandee Adler

The holidays are coming.  Pumpkins! Turkeys! Presents! And before you know it 2015 will be here.

Don’t lose sight of your college application.

There are a lot of pieces to keep track of—including test scores, college application essays, letters of recommendation, transcripts, and more. Not only do you need to complete these, you also have to follow up on them.  The key is to stay organized.

Check your email every day over the next few months. Schools send emails to confirm receipt of information, tell you if there are problems, set up interviews, and even send you acceptances!  

After you send in your application: Mark off the date you sent it in.  Most schools send an email confirmation within a few days.  DO NOT THROW AWAY THIS EMAIL.  Put it and anything you receive from a college into a special email folder for college correspondence. This email may contain log in information for a portal through which you can check your application status.  Check your status periodically.  Items like transcripts and test scores take time to be processed, but if your application is not complete within a few weeks of sending all the pieces, call the school to follow up.  Do not procrastinate.  An incomplete application will result in a likely rejection.

After you apply for financial aid: Follow up on the status of your FAFSA. If you submit it online, three to five days after you submit your FAFSA, the office of Federal Student Aid will send you a Student Aid Report (SAR).  If you mail the FAFSA in and they do not have a valid e-mail address for you on file, your SAR will be mailed within 7 to 10 days. 

12 Tips For Attending a College Fair

by Mandee Adler

College fairs are a great way for high school students and their parents to meet with representatives from various colleges and universities around the country.  This is often a student’s first contact with a college, and it is advantageous to make the most out of your college fair experience.

Here are some tips on attending a college fair:

Make a list. Before going to the fair, find out which colleges will be at the fair (a list may be posted on the fair’s website) and write down the names of 10-12 you want to learn about. Visit those representatives first.  If you have extra time, check out some of the other booths. You may stumble onto a great college you hadn’t considered. Focus primarily on schools that are more than two hours from home. Colleges and universities that are closer can be visited in person.

Do research. Visit the websites of the colleges on your list and learn as much general information as possible. With this knowledge, you can ask more in-depth questions when you talk to college representatives.

Create a set of labels. Most colleges will have an inquiry form for you to fill out.  This will place you on their mailing lists and also record that you visited the booth. If you bring along self-stick labels to place on the cards, you can save a lot of time. Include your contact information, e-mail address, birthday, high school graduation date, GPA, and areas of interest. Make sure your email address is appropriate.

Sign in. If there is no inquiry card, sign in at the school’s table. Students get extra points from a school for demonstrating interest.

Tips When Meeting College Admissions Representatives

by Mandee Adler

Starting in September, students will have opportunities to meet with college admissions representatives. The meeting may be a formal interview or an informal interview, or the meeting may take place at a high school college visit or a national college fair. Whenever the encounter, knowing what to expect and being prepared for the meeting will help the student get through any interaction.

Do Research.

Prior to going on a college visit or meeting with an admissions representative, students should do a little research on the school. Start by looking through the brochures and on the college’s website. Type the school name into a search engine and see what comes up. Go to their social media pages and see what’s trending. Students should know why they want to attend a school, which programs and activities interest them, and why and what inspires them about the school.

Sign in.

Students get extra points from a school for demonstrating interest. Signing in lets a college know that a student attended an event and was interested to stop by.  Be sure to “sign in” to all informational sessions attended or on any sign-in sheet available. Students must remember to use legible handwriting, the same spelling of their name that they use on the college application, and the same email address they plan to use for all college admissions correspondence. If not, the college will think they are more than one person and the student may lose the “credit.” Meeting with a representative also gives students good conversation for more formal admissions interviews. It is also an action that can be mentioned in an admissions essay.

2015 Best Universities and Colleges – US News & World Reports

by Mandee Adler

U.S. News & World Report released its 2015 college rankings. The Best Colleges 2015 edition offers rankings and data on nearly 1,800 colleges and universities across the U.S.

According to the report, the Best National University is Princeton (NJ), followed by Harvard (MA), Yale (CT), Columbia (NY), Stanford (CA) and the University of Chicago (IL).  Columbia, Stanford, and the University of Chicago all tied for fourth.  The Best National Liberal Arts College is Williams College (MA), followed by Amherst College (MA) and Swarthmore College (PA).

U.S. News also put together college rankings for Regional Universities and Regional Colleges.

To create the 2015 lists, U.S. News used quantitative measures. According to their website, they gathered data from each college on up to 16 indicators of academic excellence. Each factor was assigned a weight that reflected the judgment of U.S. News about how much the measure mattered. Then the schools were ranked against the other schools in their category, based on their score.

These are the indicators used by U.S. News to capture academic quality, their weights in the ranking formula and a brief explanation of each.

Undergraduate academic reputation (22.5 percent): A school’s reputation was based on an academic peer assessment survey of top academics at other schools, including presidents, provosts and deans of admissions. For the national universities and liberal arts colleges, the survey also went to 2,152 counselors at public high schools, each of which was a gold, silver or bronze medal winner in the U.S. News rankings of Best High Schools, as well as 400 college counselors at the largest independent schools.  Academic peer assessment accounted for 15 percentage points of the ranking while 7.5 percentage points were for the counselor ratings.

How to Write the “Why [insert school name] Essay”

by Mandee Adler

As summer comes to an end, rising seniors are thinking more and more about their college applications. One of the most common school essays asks some version of “Why do you want to go to this school?”  Through the answers, schools get to learn if a student is truly interested in the school, whether the student is a good fit with the school’s values and offerings, and whether a student will be able to contribute on campus and ultimately graduate from their institution.

Imagine you’re an admissions officer reading another essay about a student wanting to go to Tulane or NYU because they love the city; or a student wanting to go to Brown because of their open curriculum; or a girl wanting to study psychology in order to help people.

What can an applicant say that’s different? What can you offer the college that no other applicant can?

Be specific. Hone in on a couple of reasons why you want to attend your desired school. Do not laundry list all the reasons why you love the school. A few really meaningful reasons that resonate with your background, experiences, and goals will go much longer in showing your understanding of the school.

Don’t rehash the school’s website info. The school does not need to know that it offers “65 majors and 80 minors.” They already know that the college’s “beautiful campus sits on 300 acres and has 50 buildings.” Rehashing the website doesn’t explain why you want to attend.

Research the classes/programs/activities. Schools want to know that you have intellectual curiosity and that their classes/programs/activities will help quench and expand your knowledge.

Get a Good Letter of Recommendation – 5 Top Tips

by Mandee Adler

One of the most important parts of your college applications isn’t even written by you, and that’s the Letter of Recommendation.  Most private colleges want one counselor and one or two teacher recommendations. Here are some tips for securing good letters of recommendation:

  1. Choose your “recommenders” wisely.When it comes to choosing whom to ask, you want someone who knows you well enough to write something special about you. The best recommendations provide insight about you and knowledge of your high school success. You want someone to write about your talents, abilities, and more.Make certain the “recommender” is someone who likes you. Make sure to ask a teacher whose class is one where you have great attendance, have few or no tardies, actively participate in class, are well behaved, and get good grades. Most likely you’ll never see the letter that is written about you, so it needs to be from someone you feel comfortable with.
  2. Start Early. Do not wait until the last minute to ask for your letters of recommendation. Your  ”recommender” needs time to write a thoughtful and articulate letter.  The more time you give your  ”recommender”, ideally the more time he or she will have to write something reflective and complete.
  3. Make an appointment to speak with your  ”recommender”.  Don’t just thrust the letter template into a teacher’s hand the five minutes you have between periods or tackle a coach in the locker room.  Additionally, school counselors usually have a full schedule. Making an appointment shows that you respect that person’s time.
  4. Help your  ”recommender”.  At your meeting, make sure you give your  ”recommender” everything they might need to write your letter and submit it on time.

Avoid Common Application Mistakes

by Mandee Adler

On August 1 the Common Application went live letting students send out applications to the over 500 colleges that participate in the program.  The following are some of the most common mistakes counselors at International College Counselors have seen students make on this college application.

Learning from mistakes helps them not get repeated.

  1. Failure to Follow Directions. Applicants should answer all questions on the Common App and they should make sure they are answering them correctly and completely. For example, “country” and “county” should not be mixed up.  Answer spaces should not be left blank unless there are spaces on the application that clearly do not apply to the student. Students must also make sure to stick with the word or character limits on essays and other responses.
  2. Not Proofreading Applications. Spelling and grammar mistakes must be avoided.  Students should have at least two people proofread their application, including the essay. Among other things, it’s a big mistake to provide incorrect email addresses, telephone numbers or social security numbers.
  3. Waiting too Long to Ask for Letters of Recommendation. Students should give their references at least one month before the earliest deadline to complete and send the letters. The earlier a recommendation is asked for, the better. Some teachers will be writing many letters and this takes time. A teacher will do a better job on a recommendation when he or she is not rushed.
  4. Repeating Information. The Common App offers very limited space for students to sell themselves to their colleges, so the last thing they want to do is to repeat themselves by talking about a certain activity twice. If a student submits a resume in addition to filling out the activity section, it should add to the story, not repeat it and contain accurate and up-to-date information.

Applying to College as a Prospective Visual or Performing Arts Major

by Mandee Adler

When it comes to applying to colleges as a prospective visual or performing arts major, students must approach admissions with an abundance of passion for their careers. In addition to an application, personal statement and interview, admission requirements include auditions or portfolios. This can be time-consuming and nerve- wracking.

Most importantly, students need to find the right school for their talents.

Look beyond the elite schools.

Schools such as New York University, Juilliard, the Rhode Island School of Design, University of Southern California, University of Michigan, Berklee College of Music, and Carnegie Mellon are the elitist of the elite for certain visual or performing arts. They are the Harvards and Princetons for the arts. In other words, many students want to attend but only a few will be accepted. In any given major—from musical theatre to graphic design—there are other good schools out there. U.S. News & World Report offers a listing of specialty schools. Look into the schools on the list called “Unranked Specialty Schools: Arts.”

Get an honest opinion on your talents.

Before students and their families spend the time and money on applying to college for visual or performing arts, get an expert or two to critique the student’s talent. It may be better for a child’s future to pursue an arts passion as a minor or a club activity.

Know what you need for the audition or portfolio. Know what the school requires for the admissions process.

Art programs require portfolios that show a student’s best pieces of artwork within specific parameters.  Selections for a portfolio should display the student’s interest and aptitude for the arts. Typically, art colleges and programs ask for portfolios with an average of 10 pieces of art.

ACT To Enhance Score Reporting and Make Changes to Test in 2015

by Mandee Adler

The ACT recently announced some coming changes on the ACT, the popular college admissions exam.

The ACT is seeking to put more focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). It also wants to become relevant in predicting career readiness.

To do this, the ACT is broadening how it reports students’ scores with the addition of new subscores. These subscores on new “indicators” give information on student performance and predicted readiness levels. The new indicators include:

STEM score: The new STEM category will reflect students’ performances on science and math.

English Language arts score: This score will merge English, reading, and writing (for those who took the writing portion).

Career Readiness Indicator: This measure will help students “understand their progress toward career readiness” and help them “connect their strengths to career and study paths that they might not otherwise have considered.”

Text Complexity Progress Indicator: This measure will inform students about their reading comprehension ability for college and work. To better test “text complexity progress,” the optional writing portion of the test will change.  The essay topics will be more advanced and require test takers to evaluate multiple perspectives on an issue and come up with their own analysis.

The 36-point scoring scale of the ACT will remain unchanged and use the additional grades as supplementary information.

The changes are expected in 2015.

For more information on standardizing testing, including the ACT and SAT, clients of International College Counselors should contact one of our expert college advisors. We can help you determine which test is right for your student and recommend exceptional tutoring, as needed.

About International College Counselors

This year, college advisors at International College Counselors helped more than 300 students find, apply to and gain acceptance into the college of their dreams. 


by Mandee Adler

The personal essay can help improve a student’s chances for admission.

The essay may be as short as 150 words, but those words can mean the difference between a “maybe” and a “yes.” The essay tells the admissions committee how and why one student is different from all the others.

While there is no exact formula for the perfect admission essay, here are some tips to consider when trying to make a lasting impression on someone who reads 50 to 100 essays a day:

  1. Write about yourself. The admissions committee is looking to learn about you—your achievements, your obstacles, your goals, your passions, your personality, your values, and your character. If you are asked to write about an influential person, the college wants to know his or her influence on you. Whatever topic you choose to center your essay around, make sure you shine through.
  2. Focus on one facet of yourself. Admissions committees are looking for an in-depth essay. Pick one project, one activity, or one passion. Cover too many topics in your essay, and you’ll end up with a list. The magic is in the details.
  3. Tell a good story. Demonstrate how you are compassionate—don’t just tell readers you are. If you had a difficulty, don’t give the admissions committee a list of complaints. Tell them how you overcame them.
  4. Keep it real. If you speak from the heart, it will show, and your essay will flow more easily. Choosing something you’ve experienced will also give you the vivid and specific details needed in your essay.
  5. Present yourself in the best light. Always think about what information you want colleges to know and use when evaluating your application.

Juniors – College Admissions Watch: Schools Releasing Their Supplemental College Essay Prompts

by Mandee Adler

Many schools will ask supplemental questions that students need to answer for admissions. These questions can come in a number of different forms and range from the traditional “Tell us something about yourself” to the quirky, “What does #YOLO mean to you?” a real question from Tufts University. All the essays are designed to help the college get to know the student.

Students need to know the essay requirements for each college they plan on applying to.  For essay prompts visit our International College Counselors website frequently as we will be posting some of these as they come out:

Students should also register with their schools of interest via the Internet.  Information they receive will include the essay prompts when they are released.  The added benefit of registering is that it signals to a college that a student is truly interested in it – extra points with admissions.

Many schools, including University of Chicago and Tufts, change their questions every year.  MIT and a number of other schools ask for several short response questions and essays rather than asking for one long essay.

What can make this process easier for students is that they START EARLY.  These are not essays that can be churned out 1-2-3.  These essays must be taken seriously.  Remember, there are millions of other students around the world, many of whom may be trying to get in to the same colleges.  The way for one student to stand out from the others is to give the essay the time and thought it deserves.

The summer is a super time for students to work on the college application essays. 

7 Great Ways for Parents of High School Students to Spend Their Tax Refunds

by Mandee Adler

According to the Internal Revenue Service, the average tax refund this year is roughly $3,000.  Here are some great suggestions on what to do with the refunded money for parents of teenagers who plan to attend college:

1. Pay for tutoring. The importance of grades for colleges cannot be ignored.  The GPA is the single most important part of a college application. Not only that, colleges want to see a challenging high school curriculum. If a student needs help in one or more subjects, spend some money on tutoring. (It may even pay off more in the form of scholarships.)

2. Put money into a 529 plan. Even if a child will be a junior this year, it’s not too late to make a tax-preferred investment for college. Many states provide a tax deduction for 529 contributions even if it is only a short time investment.

3. Invest in a summer enrichment program. Summer enrichment programs can help propel students toward college, as well as help them gain acceptance into a school of their choice.  Students can explore a subject of interest or bolster volunteer work credentials.  There are programs for all interests, including engineering, career exploration, robotics, entrepreneurship, women’s leadership, music, drama and test prep.  Nearly every school, including the Ivies, offers a summer program for high school students, allowing students to experience life on a college campus.  Some programs offer college credit.

4. Go for the test prep. Next to grades, test scores are one of the most important factors in college admissions. Look into test prep courses with a (SAT word alert) splendiferous SAT, ACT, SAT Subject Test, AP and/or TOFEL tutor who can help boost a student’s confidence and increase the test scores.


by Mandee Adler

Almost every accredited university provides support services for students with learning disabilities. These services vary in quality and extent from school to school.  For students with disabilities, it is imperative to find the school that is the best ‘fit’ in providing programs, policies, procedures, and facilities that meet your needs.

Below are some tips on choosing a school that suits your needs and goals — and what you need to do to make them choose you.

Review Your Needs

Sit down with a knowledgeable adult or counselor and review your needs. The goal is to better understand how your disability will influence your college choices. Questions to answer include:

  • How does my disability affect how I learn?
  • What are my academic strengths?
  • How do I learn best?
  • What strategies do I need to help me learn?
  • What facilities may I need?

Once you have these questions answered, the next move is to begin building a college list.

Investigate and Choose Schools

Students with disabilities should follow the same steps for choosing and applying to a school as any other student.  Preliminary research can be accomplished via internet searches, visiting colleges websites, checking out college guides, going on college visits, attending college fairs, and asking around.   Make a list of all the schools that interest you.

Then make a separate list of what your college must have to accommodate your needs.

For each of the schools you are interested in, contact its disability services office to determine if the college has the services and accommodations that can meet your specific requirements. Most colleges have an office that provides services to students with disabilities, or a person who coordinates these services.