College Prep

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.

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

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.

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. 

ATTN Seniors: May 1 is National College Decision Day

by Mandee Adler
May 1st is National Decision Day.  Many students have been accepted to multiple colleges and universities and the vast majority of these set May 1 as the deadline for students to notify them of their decision to attend.

The celebration of acceptances must now turn into final college decisions for high school seniors. No doubt many students and their parents are feeling pressure making this life altering decision.

International College Counselors offers some advice:

Get answers to any outstanding questions

No matter how much research has already been done, parents or students may have some final questions.  Getting the answers can help them make a choice.   Now is the time to gather any other information that is needed to make a fully informed decision.
Answers can be collected from
  • A campus visit
  • A slow and thoughtful reading of the college’s website
  • The school newspaper, which is often available online. This offers a glimpse of campus life and available activities
  • The course catalogue
  • Online reviews from other students. Some sites to start with include: CollegeTimesThe University ReviewUnigoCollege Prowler, and Students Review
  • A college’s admissions officers. Contact them with any unanswered questions.
Compare the options
Once you’re fully informed, it’s decision time. Choosing which college to attend is the first major life decision most students have to make. Make a pro and con list for each school. Sometimes seeing a written list of all of the benefits and consequences can make the decision easier.
Compare financial aid packages and make sure they are fully understood.  Talk to a college advisor if any part of the financial aid package is not clear. 

COLLEGE-BOUND JUNIORS: Take the SAT or ACT before June 14

by Mandee Adler


You only have two more chances to take the SAT and one more chance to take the ACT before the start of your senior year.

If you are serious about college you MUST take the SAT/ACT before the end of your junior year.

Those who have not taken one or both of these tests should SIGN UP NOW.



REGISTRATION & TEST DATES                              










May 3


PASSED April 18 April 21
June 7


May 9 May 23 May 28
June 14


May 9 May 23 May 23

Sunday test dates are available for students who cannot test on Saturday because of religious convictions.

Fee Waivers: SAT / ACT fee waivers are available to high school juniors or seniors            who are either on “FREE”, or “REDUCED LUNCH”. Students may receive 2 SAT and 1 ACT test fee waivers and 4 SAT College Application Waivers. See your school’s College Advisor to request these fee-waivers if you are eligible.

Tutoring: Contact the college advisors at International College Counselors for SAT/ACT tutor recommendations.

Register online:  SAT:       ACT:

To contact either the College Board or the ACT test agencies for lost or delayed admission tickets, date or center changes, etc. call the Customer Service Department:

SAT: (609) 771-7600        ACT:  (319) 337-1270


Book Signing: From Public School to the Ivy League: How to get into a top school without top dollar resources

Mandee Heller Adler founder/Principal of International College Counselors and author of From Public School to the Ivy League: How to get into a top school without top dollar resources will be holding book signings and author events. 

Top 13 Things College Admissions Officers Want to See

by Mandee Adler

Public high school students can get into the college of their dreams.  All it takes is gumption, advanced planning, and guidance.  Students frequently want to know what colleges are looking for.  The reality is, there is no one perfect combination. Colleges want a range of students to create a diverse campus community, so students need to present themselves as a whole, showing off their own unique mix of qualities in the best way possible. As there isn’t one perfect combination, but rather may different ones, students should focus on the following:

1.  Choose the right high school classes. Take classes that are a challenge, including AP and IB, when possible. If a student takes classes that are all easy, this will not be very impressive.  Students need to challenge themselves but not to the extent they are hurting themselves grade-wise.  Students must also meet all high school course requirements for their chosen college and to meet statewide graduation requirements in order to earn a diploma.

2.  Get to know the college counselor.  High school counselors can help students with their big picture planning for the future, including academic advising, college planning and personal counseling.  College counselors are also needed for the all important college application letters of recommendation. Make an appointment to see a school counselor at least once each year, including freshman year. The goal is to try to build a relationship with the high school counselor during the four years of high school.  During the meeting talk about interests and goals. The more the school counselor knows about a student, the more he or she can help. Many public school students do not know their advisor, being proactive will make a student stand out.

10 Ways of Handling the Other March Madness: College Acceptances and Rejections

by Mandee Adler

March madness is here. Anxiety is in full swing.

Surprising to many, the craziness has nothing to do with basketball and brackets.  Students and parents are thinking of college admissions.

It’s around that time acceptance letters are on their way – or will soon be on their way.

Parents need to be the supportive rock, even if they’re suffering from anxiety, too.   This time is about the student; it is not about the parent.

How to Help Your Child Deal with College Admissions Disappointment and Fear

1. Lay the groundwork.  Before the acceptance letters come, parents need to let their child know how proud they are of him or her for getting through high school and wanting to go to college. Make sure children know they’ll have a great experience no matter where they go.

2.  Stay supportive.  After the letters arrive, whether a child gets into a first choice college or not, parents need to stay supportive. This is a hard time for a student whether they get into their first choice college or not. For students who get rejected, this may be the first time they’re dealing with major disappointment. A parent’s job is to stop this from damaging their self-esteem. For students who get in, after the initial euphoria, they’ll start thinking about what going to college really means. Leaving home, leaving friends, leaving a comfortable routine, having to find themselves, and make their own way is difficult. Understandably, this may feel overwhelming.

3.  Talk it out. If your student is rejected from the first choice college, allow your child to vent their emotions. Talk about it and turn it into a teachable moment.

College Board Announces New Changes to the SAT

by Mandee Adler

This week the College Board announced new changes to the SAT. The new SAT focuses more on the important academic skills and delivers “no new mysteries.” New changes won’t go into effect until the spring of 2016 so this only applies to Freshman and middle school students.

Some of the changes include:


  • No longer will points be deducted for wrong answers to multiple-choice questions.
  • The essay will no longer be required. It will be optional. Essay writing students will need to read a passage and analyze how its author used evidence, reasoning, and stylistic elements to build an argument.
  • Anxiety causing SAT words will be replaced with words that are widely used in college and career.
  • The perfect SAT score will be 1600 points, based on a top score of 800 in reading and math. The essay will be scored separately.
  • The nonprofit Khan Academy will provide students with free tutorials in math and other subjects via
  • Every exam will have a reading passage from one of America’s “founding documents.” It could be the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights or one on “Great Global Conversation they inspire.”
  • Math questions will focus on three areas: linear equations; complex equations or functions; and ratios, percentages and proportional reasoning.
  • Students will be able to use calculators on only part of the math section.
  • The reading and writing sections will cover a broad range of disciplines, including science and social studies.
  • The test will be 3 hours long – 3 hours and 50 minutes with the essay.
  • New programs will help low-income students. Fee waivers will allow them to apply to four colleges at no charge.

7 Ways High School Students Can Make the Most of Their Summer

by Mandee Adler

Spring break is almost here.  That means it’s time to start thinking about summer.

High school students who want to stand out on their college applications should consider the summer an ideal time to add some resume gold.

There have been changes over the past few years in what admissions officers are looking for.  For one thing, colleges are no longer giving extra points to students who build huts in Costa Rica.  They are looking for summer activities that tie in with a student’s overall narrative.  Activities that allow students to take a leadership position or connect with an interest in an academic area are ideal. There are many choices of summer activities that raise the APA (application point average).

Summer is coming up fast so here are some ideas for high schools students to make the most of the summer.

1. Attend an Enrichment Camp.  There are hundreds of different summer enrichment programs, from the local to the international and, between them all, they offer thousands of opportunities. There are art camps, athletic camps, academic programs, adventure based programs, volunteer programs, leadership programs, and more. Some come with the opportunity to earn college credit. A number of programs give high school students the taste of life on a college campus.  Importantly, the camp that is chosen should tie in with a student’s long-term goals.  Many of these programs exist.  Below is a glimpse of two of them.

For rising high school sophomores, juniors, or seniors, the Boston University Summer Challenge program is one example of a program that allows students to explore existing interests, investigate new topics, examine subjects not offered in high school, and maybe even determine a college major.

Essay Prompts for the Common App 2014-15

by Mandee Adler

Juniors, we have some good news to announce!  Unlike in years past where the essay prompts were cloaked in secrecy well into the summer, the Common Application has revealed its essay prompts for the 2014-15 application cycle.  Students who like to plan ahead can now choose from one of the five options below to write their essay for the Common Application.

For those families who are part of the International College Counselors family, your counselor will begin working with you on the essay during your next meeting.

The prompts are designed to encourage reflection and introspection. If the essay does not include some self-analysis, then the response to the prompt is not successful. All five essay choices have a word limit of 650 words, and the Common App is very strict on this.

Here are the five prompts with some general tips for each:

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

The word “identity” is key. Students are being asked for a story or something in their background that made them who they are today.  Background can be a broad environmental factor such as growing up in a military family, living in an interesting place, or dealing with an unusual family situation. A “story” could be an event or series of events that had a profound impact on a student’s identity. Whatever way this prompt is approached, students need to reflect and explain how and why their identity was influenced by the background or story.

How To Work with Your College Counselor

by Mandee Heller Adler

A high school guidance counselor can be very helpful when applying to college. Guidance counselors are there to help students succeed.  They may help students plan their high school schedules, find “best-fit” colleges, fill out applications, write letters of recommendation, find scholarships, and more.

Students, at your meeting, be friendly, but respectful, and let your counselors know their efforts are appreciated.  Most counselors deal with many students each day, year after year, and whatever a student can do to make herself or himself stand out in a positive way can motivate counselors to give them extra assistance.  The relationship with the counselor should be treated as the kind of personal network-building that will help a student succeed in college and in their professional career.

Freshman and Sophomores

Students in their Freshman and Sophomore year should stop in or schedule a quick appointment with their counselor at some point during the school year.

At the meeting students should:

  • Introduce themselves.
  • Briefly go over their goals.
  • Review their schedule and make sure they’re on track to graduate.
  • Ask for recommendations on extracurricular activities.


Students in their Junior Year should meet with their counselor in the spring.  A twenty-minute appointment should be scheduled at least two weeks in advance.

What to Bring to a Meeting

Counseling time is limited, so come prepared!

  • Preliminary resume – Students should bring a resume to their meeting.  The resume should outline their goals, both in and out of the classroom, what they’ve done during the summer, and their college goals.
  • List of qualities the student is looking for in a college. The school college advisor may help build the college list.