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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.

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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 www.achievecoach.com


When to Choose the College Major

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Applying as undecided could be a smart approach

It's something of a paradox, identifying possible colleges while, at the same time, trying to anticipate one's college major. On one hand, it makes sense to start the process by creating a list of colleges that connect to an area of academic or pre-professional interest. On another, since it is so commonplace for students to change direction on majors once they arrive on campus, how specific about major should students be as they develop their college list?

From the beginning, a good list is built on a clear identification of student fit. For most students, good fit spans criteria that includes, at a minimum, academic rigor; social life; general lifestyle; financial factors. So where -- and even when -- does the college major enter into this paradigm?

The Art of Timing

At the start of the college process, a great many high school students begin with an "undecided" approach, that is, planning to initiate a plan of studies by pursuing general areas of strength and interest. Let's be real for a moment: For many high school seniors -- and even college first-years -- a college major is little more than a concept. Students who have never pursued coursework, for example, in engineering or business do not have a grasp of how college majors such as these demand more than a quantitative skill set developed in high school.

Biology and psychology, two of the most common majors identified by high school seniors, could diverge into multiple tracks depending on the college and how departments set up course or program requirements. After a small handful of semesters in, when coursework and requirements come into greater focus, it is not unusual for students to change direction on majors. It is important for parents to recognize that their student may emerge from college having pursued a degree in an area apart from their freshmen plans.

The smorgasbörd of classes available to students and the flexibility to sample them is a hallmark of education in the United States. Unlike in many other parts of the world, including Europe and Asia, U.S colleges encourage exposure across a broad curriculum en route to satisfying the requirements of a major or major/minor.

The Risks of Committing Too Soon

While an early determination of focus can feel re-assuring to both parents and students -- (it's impossible to escape the endless "So what is she majoring in?" from well-meaning friends and family), prematurely pursuing a definite path can end up being costly in time and dollars.

If students jump too early into a specific area and later decide that their initial choice was not meant-to-be, there grows the need to start over again, with many of the early credits potentially not being applied to the final major choice. One example that comes to mind is that of the student pursuing a STEM path and finds his stronger interest in the humanities through later courses in english and philosophy. The result is a student who ultimately devotes more time and finances beyond his planned four years to complete the coursework to graduate with the english major and philosophy minor.

Sometimes "undecided/unsure/still unclear" is the wiser approach. With the help of a good and forward-thinking college advisor, students will begin to hone an area(s) of interest earlier in their college career that will eventually support their choice of a major.

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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 www.achievecoach.com

Getting Into College

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

10 Things to Know About Getting Into Your Dream College


While one size never fits all in the world of college admissions, this article from The New York Times explores a broad range of factors that come into play. Diversity... legacy... ability to pay... unique interests... .  In the admissions office, these all are fair game at the time of application review.

In today's landscape, obvious academic credentials as evidenced by grades in a rigorous curriculum supported by solid standardized test scores typically lay the foundation for a student's application.  But on top of these, admissions offices at competitive colleges may look for evidence of character traits or habits of mind viewed via commitment; giving to others; resilience; curiosity; motivation; leadership.  

Ideally, a student's application communicates a story about who that teen is today and how she or he is likely to "show up" on campus during the course of the undergraduate career.  Expect to see students evaluated holistically and in keeping with the mission of any particular institution. 

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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 www.achievecoach.com

Why Colleges Pay Attention to Applicant Interest

Thursday, October 05, 2017

A Lehigh study points to the significance of campus visits in the admissions process.

According to a study by Lehigh University faculty, when higher-achieving prospective applicants make actual campus visits, doing so is strongly correlated with their probability of attendance and, therefore, a higher likelihood of admission. The recently-published study, named Signaling Interest in College Admissions, points to the factors that drive enrollment management in today's competitive college admissions landscape.

It is common knowledge that selective colleges adhere to an enrollment mission of offering acceptance to students who have achieved higher grades and standardized test scores within a rigorous academic program.  The Lehigh study finds students who invest the time to visit campus signal a stronger interest in the school and therefore a greater likelihood of attendance in comparison to students who limit college contacts to within their local communities.  

Colleges may use this behavioral factor in combination with a student's higher-bracket test results to determine which students are most likely to attend if admitted.  In other words, a higher-achieving student in combination with a perceived interest in attending a college may be more attractive as a candidate.   As students apply to greater numbers of schools and colleges grow more and more cognizant of their yield percentages, accepting likely attendees steadily becomes more of a focus in the admissions office.

The Lehigh study refers to the common reality that students and parents often may face limits of time or financial resources for trekking out for distant campus visits, thereby implicating issues of cost and affordability in the college process.  Still, it will be worth noting how schools that value demonstrated student interest will continue to evaluate this element in students' applications.
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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 www.achievecoach.com


How the Humanities Can Train Entrepreneurs

Sunday, October 01, 2017

It's not as simple as profit and loss anymore.  Business, meet your best new partner: the humanities.

Today's employers increasingly see the value of a broad, informed perspective in state-of-the-art education of future business leaders.  The ability to communicate both orally and in writing, across a broad spectrum of academic disciplines, forms a solid foundation on which to develop enterprise. Even more so, this has never been truer than in today's highly interconnected, globally-focused business environment. 

History; languages; philosophy all fall into the category of humanities and correpond to the kind of human experience-oriented thinking that primes students for fields of business.

Employers value prospective hires who bring in collaboration skills that bridge cultures, as well as an ability to communicate across points of view and experiences.   According to many employers, these are among the skills that mark attractive candidates not only because they support collaboration, but also cross-pollination of thought that has the potential for innovative approaches.  The ability to think critically informs business practices that go way beyond crunching numbers.  While business will always be about profit and loss,  today's paradigm is built on much more than just the quantitative.

Click here to read about how one Canadian university is incorporating this newly-evolved perspective into their curriculum.

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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 www.achievecoach.com


More of Our Girls And Students of Color Are Taking on Computer Science

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

In 2017, increasing numbers of girls and students of color sitting for Advanced Placement Computer Science tests begin to close a gap reflecting which high schoolers pursue a computer science curriculum. 

This trend appears to be emerging as a result of the recent introduction of the AP Computer Science Principles course, a broader approach to computer science that includes topics that go beyond a singular focus on computer programming language.  While the AP Computer Science Principles curriculum includes language coding, it allows greater teacher flexibility as to which language(s) are introduced to students as well as broader applications in computer science, including how the internet works and database analysis.  In contrast, AP Computer Science A places greater focus on Java programming.   

To learn more about a growing trend toward new perspectives on science curricula taught in our high schools, READ MORE.


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 www.achievecoach.com

Coming to YOUR High School This Fall

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Starring regional admissions representatives from your favorite colleges!

Aside from reading applications, one of the front-and-center responsibilities for admissions representatives is visiting high schools in their assigned regions. These folks ride the open roads and fly the friendly skies to promote their colleges across their respective territories -- and to gain a flavor of the high schools their applicants come from.   Commonly, the most likely point of contact between students and college representatives is at junior and senior small group presentations at the local high school.  

By attending a college presentation, students have the chance to directly ask college-related questions as well as learn more about new programs; what the school may require in the application process; scholarship or merit opportunities; and more.  

Some high schools publish a broad schedule of representative visits well ahead of time, while others do so week by week. It's a student's responsibility to keep an eye on visit schedules, usually posted through the Guidance department, lest they miss a visiting rep and a potentially valuable opportunity to introduce themselves and learn more about the college.  It is worth noting that at some high schools, students must adhere to a policy of requesting advance permission to leave class to attend a rep's info session and, realistically speaking, teachers may be unlikely to grant permission if there is in-class testing that day.

What if the student can only attend a portion of the session?  Even if the student can only manage a five-minute "drive by," he can still demonstrate interest by introducing himself to the representative and requesting a business card.  Not all colleges visit every high school of course, so a prospective applicant can always reach out to schools independently and initiate contact through a pertinent question or two.  

Whether a student is just beginning to college shop or is just about ready to finalize her research, an intimate high school-centered presentation can bring helpful perspective to which college -- and why!

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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 www.achievecoach.com

Writing the College Essay

Monday, August 07, 2017


For the majority of high school students, writing college essays feels like a bit of a curse when in fact it truly presents a potential blessing-in-disguise. Why a blessing? Because the kind of writing that the admissions essay calls for,  an engaging story that broadly invites students to portray who they are and how they tick, has the potential to bring the student "to life" in what often seems like an impersonal selection process. 

If I may offer up a basic recipe for writing success, it starts with the writer choosing a topic they individually relate to.  

Picking a good story is essential -- one that the writer is energized or moved to share. Engaging essays convey a sense of individual values or personal passion about a particular interest or a unique approach to a challenge -- almost any of wide-range of possible stories that convey a strong sense of the student.  Add a scoop of personality, a dash of character, tossed with a sprinkle of personal insight, and seniors will have the winning ingredients for writing success.

It's also helpful to consider what to avoid in effective writing.  A recent article in The New York Times hits the nail on the head (oops, overused expression!), adding more when it comes to approaches writers need steer clear of.

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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 www.achievecoach.com

The Common Application Introduces Self-Reporting Feature

Friday, August 04, 2017

In the 2017-18 admissions cycle, students completing the Common App can expect to see a new feature that integrates the self-reporting of courses and grades.

There are seven colleges directing students to complete this section while still requiring, however, submission of a formal transcript from the high school.

Students must have access to their transcripts in order to provide requested information which includes: course name and level; grading period; credit hours; letter or numerical grade received.

As of now, the list of seven schools requesting self-reporting of courses and grades includes:

Chapman University

The George Washington University

New York School of Career & Applied Studies - Tuoro College and University System

The Ohio State University

Purdue

The University of Southern California 

West Virginia University

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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 www.achievecoach.com


5 Tips For Making the Most of August

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Once the calendar turns to August, gears begin to shift. Some students are just beginning to feel like they even have a summer, especially if they've been busy taking classes or involved in special projects.  Others have been traveling or chilling during June or July,  just now getting down to business in advancing their college process. And for those seniors (or super-ambitious juniors and recruited athletes) who are seeking another standardized testing opportunity before classes start anew, we now have the August SAT to think about.

One truth is for certain:  Everyone spends summer on their own schedule, and one size surely never fits all! Topping off the stretches of a perfect summer break is about that special mix of downtime and "gettin' stuff done." 

Looking for some productive ways to spend the next several weeks before classes begin?  Here are some ideal suggestions for juniors and seniors:

1.  Check out a few college websites.  Identify a minimum of three desirable features of a school and keep track of these as time grows close to beginning applications. 

2.  Visit some colleges. Even though the summer vibe on most campuses will be less than energetic, there are still facilities to check out and college towns to explore.  No doubt, campus visits make for the best approach to learn about a school. 

3.  Set goals for the school year to come.  It's a helpful way to smooth the transition back to the classroom when students really think about what they need in order to make the upcoming school year a successful one. 

4.  Plan to become more involved in activities that truly hold appeal.   Deepening involvement in a few activities vs. taking a shallow stab at many not only makes for a stronger story at the time of college application, but also works to grow the individual student. Follow what you love doing!

4.  Read something.  As students move through high school en route to higher education, the skill set that will work to their best advantage, no matter the area of study, includes improving and broadening their scope of reading.  Read a book.  Read a magazine.  Read online.  Read!

5.  Follow the money.  It's never too early for students and parents to think about financial aid and paying for college.  Students and their families can learn about the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) as well as scholarship-based assistance through search sites such as FastWeb.

There are few times as fleeting as the precious weeks of summer. Take the time to both enjoy and make them count!

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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 www.achievecoach.com



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