Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Make Every Summer Day Count

Take a deep breath….let it out slowly.



It’s high summer, and you have plenty of work to do to make senior year and your college future come together. Might as well start with some simple relaxation exercises for when those many deadlines begin kicking in.

1.     Now that you are refreshed, think about your goals and plans for the future. What are your talents? What areas stoke your curiosity? Ask teachers, counselors and family members who know you well about what they think about your strengths. Make a list to which you can refer; this can help when refining your application choices.
2.     How do you want to use your talents toward a meaningful life and career? By adding activities and internships in areas of interest you can sample some possibilities while expanding your college resume and LinkedIn profile.
3.     Hopefully, you brainstormed your college app essays at the end of junior English class. Please don’t think that it is “good Enough.” Instead, remember that essay can very well be the tiebreaker among tens of thousands of other applicant essays. Draft/redraft, recruit parents/teachers/editors to read and provide feedback until you are absolutely certain your essay stands out and will so impress your college essay reader s/he becomes your advocate for admission.
4.     Remember all the online research and campus visits. They probably have blended in together. Review all your notes and get serious about refining your final list of colleges. Your list of “musts” and “would likes” should help lock down what draws you to each college. Talk to parents, siblings and other relatives about why your choices are solid and be sure to mention a few of the “passes” in case someone wants to make a case for them. Write down all the finalists and find the common threads and significant differences. Ranking them in order is a good way to expose the greatest draw for you. You will need this understanding to support content shared in essays and should tie in to what is shared in interviews.
5.     Consider yourself as a brand. What separates you from your peers? A valuable tool for college aspirants is ZeeMee, which touts its ability to frame a student’s “story over scores.” The app allows you to create, update, and finalize your personal profile “brand.” Then you can connect your personal ZeeMee link to high school guidance counselors, teachers who are writing recommendation letters, and prospective colleges.
6.     Next up, make sure you create application accounts for Common App, Coalition App, or individual school apps--depending on your specific plan for submissions. You should not let this slide far into August. Understand the requirements, gather and organize supporting documentation, and develop a firm timeline to complete all necessary tasks. It is crucial to develop a carefully crafted message that you can apply to each app, essay, and interview so each college recognizes you as a valuable addition to its community.
7.     Hopefully you have a planner to schedule tasks efficiently:
--Update resume as colleges may allow upload to an application.
--Take time to evaluate extracurriculars and rank them by importance.
--Calculate hours per week and year. Extracurricular hours go on Common and other apps.
--Select and send scores to app colleges.
--Request recommendation letters. If already under way, circle-back with those teachers to make sure all is on time.
--If retesting in the fall, register for test dates. Be sure to include this future test date on applications, where applicable.
--If planning additional campus visits, schedule them ASAP. Fall dates fill up FAST as it’s a popular time for both high school juniors and seniors.

Got all that? Time for those deep breathing exercises discussed at the beginning of the blog. You’ve got this!

Thursday, June 6, 2019

DI: Demonstrated Interest is Darn Important

Imagine you have narrowed your list of potential colleges to the top six. Let’s say that they might include both big and small across the Midwest so mom and dad are a day’s ride away: 

Butler, DePaul, Minnesota, Iowa, Wabash and Wooster.

A nice mix—each with certain strengths. But how invested are you in expressing your “Demonstrated Interest” to these colleges? 

What’s that, you ask?

Beyond the grades, test scores and other segments that identify worthy college applicants, universities want to feel the love. The algorithms that colleges use to identify their best candidates often include a student’s Demonstrated Interest.

Schools track DI in an assortment of ways, some of which are never seen by a prospect. The most obvious is the official campus visit, perhaps whether a student stopped in at the admissions office and made an appointment for a consultation after a campus tour--or charged a campus meal, got permission to sit in on a class, or stayed overnight in a dorm.  

But there are many more ways a college tests Demonstrated Interest. Signing a card at a college fair is an important one, but bigger is an interview with an area alumnus who reports back to the college about the impression made. A connection on the school’s social media site is another huge indicator. A school will embed links on its Web site to follow where a prospect clicked and how long they spent on the site. Some also log text messages, emails, phone calls and even the occasional snail mail letter. One tip: If you receive an email from a choice, always open, read—and possibly respond. Data analytics know if that email was opened or not.

These many touch points are weighted and tabulated for a DI score. All other things like grades, activities and test scores being equal, who’s going to be extended an invitation: a student who sends along the Common App and little else? Or one who has reached out via multiple contact points?

So be curious and engaged. Colleges spend a lot of money to recruit incoming freshmen.

And if your short list included those six universities noted at the beginning of this blog--generally speaking--Iowa and Minnesota tend to focus on the raw numbers of tests and grades, but be advised to stay in close touch with the likes of Butler, DePaul and Wabash. As for the College of Wooster, it highly recommends regular contact from its prospective students.

Don’t be shy.

--Mike Ryan

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Spice Up Your Resume

Summer on the beach, tour a national park, hang out with your friends?

No, not for you. First, you have resume-building to do. Here’s five suggestions to make that high school resume pop in the eyes of any college:

  1.    Pre-college summer curricula are much more fun and rewarding than an hourlong campus tour. These well-developed programs give students the opportunity to meet instructors, take courses, and get a sense of college life. The number of possibilities is immense. For example, Midwest students might explore close to home with such offerings as:

Northwestern University has a five-week program guaranteed to improve writing skills for print, online and other media at the Medill-Northwestern Journalism Institute. And, no doubt, better writers are more efficient and precise for every college paper assigned in the next four years.


iLED is a two-week international leadership curriculum taught by Notre Dame faculty in such areas as architecture, business, engineering and global affairs. It includes hands-on learning, collaborative projects, and business and community engagement. 

2.    Make summer a “working” vacation. No matter where the family goes for summer in the U.S., research potential colleges and visit campuses to get a flavor for how you might fit in. Always remember frequent contacts, college fairs and tours show “demonstrated interest,” crucial to most college admission decisions.

3.    Bolster your LinkedIn profile. Connect with executives in chosen disciplines and join LinkedIn Groups of interest. Post questions and answers to others’ Qs. LinkedIn’s value is its networking capability. Connect with like-minded participants.

4.    Internships in a chosen category are often hard to crack for high school students but aim high. There is a wide selection of jobs out there that fit your personality and work interests. One recent Valle Consulting client was a caddy at a local golf club. But beyond learning how to read a green, this teen talked to the executives in his foursomes about their jobs and used research and tips to develop a stock portfolio for a lifelong understanding of how to do well in the stock market.  And don’t forget those Rotary or Elks Club contacts you connected with on LinkedIn. They might be in a field you are considering and will often give an interested teen a “shadow” someone in your chosen profession. A week or a month “shadowing” an executive in that area will give powerful insights into what the job is like on a day-to-day basis, again picking up networking contacts.

5.    Apple CEO Tim Cook said the most important skill for every student to learn is how to code. Even if you are a social studies whiz with little interest in algorithms, coding is going to touch every future career. Get a head start on the nuts and bolts of apps and other tech underlayment and learn Python, Hadoop, Javascript or a host of other possibilities. Check out the coding waters and dip into Codeacademy, edX, Coursera, Khan Academy or MIT openCourseware. Don’t be shy; the water’s fine and you will get the hang of coding quicker than you think.

--Mike Ryan