Travel Funds Available at Wellesley for Rising Seniors!

Please see the email I received from Wellesley College. What a great opportunity for some great girls!

Discover Wellesley Weekend Travel Funds Now Available!

Exciting news for your rising senior girls! Students may now apply for a travel grant to attend Discover Wellesley Weekend on Sunday, October 6 and Monday, October 7. 
Who is it for?
Wellesley encourages applicants from underrepresented cultural backgrounds such as African American, Asian American, Hispanic/Latina American, Native American; first-generation students; and/or students from other underrepresented communities. The travel grant selection committee will also prioritize inviting students from families with limited financial resources, regardless of cultural or racial background. The above-mentioned are priorities, but are not meant to imply any exclusivity regarding the program or the selection process.
What’s free?
Transportation to and from campus, meals, and overnight housing (with a current student!). Family members are welcome to attend Discover Wellesley Weekend, but the grant only covers travel for the student.
How do students apply?
The priority application deadline is June 30; the final deadline is August 15.

  1. For details on how to apply:

  2. Students are encouraged to report SAT or ACT test scores and must submit a copy of their unofficial transcript (grades 9-11th) and a statement of purpose along with their application. 

What can you do?
Please pass this information to any rising seniors you think is a good fit for Wellesley and may need financial assistance to attend Discover Wellesley Weekend. We are looking for engaging, bright, and academically driven women who represent diverse geographic regions and who are interested in discovering Wellesley’s diverse and inclusive community. We give preference to students who have not yet visited. Last year, we received nearly 600 applications for a total of 100 available grants, and we hope to offer as many grants this fall. 
You are welcome to email me with the names of your students who will be applying for the travel grant, so I can keep an eye out for their applications.
A second chance
Due to limited funding, we may not be able to award grants to all qualified students. If they are not awarded a grant, we hope you will still encourage them to apply to Wellesley. Our application is free. We offer additional travel grants for our Spring Open Campus program for admitted students in April.

For more information, please review our travel grant webpage, including our FAQs.

If you have any questions, feel free to email me at Thanks for spreading the word!
Best wishes,
Natasha Robinson
Associate Director of Admission

Reflections on the Admissions Scandal

Most people are probably aware of the admissions scandal that exploded in the national news yesterday. If not, I invite you to review the following link:

In a nutshell, many were charged in a money-for-admissions scam that targeted some of the nation’s most elite schools including Stanford, Yale and Georgetown University, where I worked for almost a decade. The cast of characters includes college athletic coaches, standardized test administrators, corporate CEOs and even some famous actors. Felicity Huffman, of Desperate Housewives fame, was among those indicted. Say it isn’t so Felicity - I loved you in Desperate Housewives! This will forever tarnish my viewing enjoyment as I watch reruns of you playing Lynette Scavo.

At the center of this web of deceit is Rick Singer, CEO of The Key, a life coaching and college counseling company. The indictment states that Mr. Singer received ~ $25,000,000 from wealthy clients to bribe athletic coaches, doctor test scores and falsify credentials. Singer created what he called a “side door” to college admissions. The front door is how students get in the old-fashioned way: they earn it with their accomplishments. The back door apparently goes through institutional advancement. You know what this is - it comes in the form of donating buildings, endowing scholarships and the like. Singer’s side door paid off athletic coaches to designate students as athletic recruits, despite the fact that many didn’t even play the sports they were purportedly recruited for! The scheme was elaborate, to be certain, and this thumbnail sketch does not do it full justice.

So why am I writing about this? Because there are some people in my line of work who are justifiably concerned that members of the general public might think all educational consultants are somehow on “the take” or are otherwise suspicious. But we all know that there are bad apples in every profession and we shouldn’t let them spoil it for the rest of us. As an attorney, I know there are certain lawyers out there whose ethics are - shall we say - less than sterling. Similarly, we’ve all heard about doctors who have received kickbacks or other remuneration from pharmaceutical and device companies for using and/or recommending certain products. The fact that these physicians exist does not mean that we should stop going to the doctor! It just means that we should vet our healthcare providers thoroughly.

Unlike other professions, educational consultants are not licensed. We do not have the equivalent of a state bar or board of medical examiners. It is my sincere hope that this will one day change and we will be subject to stringent credentialing and licensing requirements. I would welcome them! For the time being, however, what we have are memberships in professional associations. IECA (the Independent Educational Consultants Association) and HECA (Higher Education Consultants Association) are the two main (although not only) players in this arena. Membership in these organizations requires more than just paying a fee. One must apply and submit proof of experience and credentials. Once admitted, members are held accountable to the organization’s code of ethics or best practices. For example, IECA’s Principles of Good Practice can be found here: Members are forbidden from taking compensation, in any form, from schools to facilitate admission for clients. We are also forbidden from even implying that we have influence over admissions representatives that could sway a decision in our client’s favor. It should go without saying that we are forbidden from paying off or bribing anyone!

Does membership in one of these organizations guarantee ethical behavior? Sadly, it does not, anymore than medical or legal licensure guarantees that someone with nefarious motives won’t behave badly. Are educational consultants who do not belong to these organizations de facto unethical? Absolutely not! In fact, some of my most respected colleagues have chosen, for personal reasons, not to be members. Yet, the best practices of these organizations serve as a metric you can use when interviewing potential educational consultants.

The most important takeaway I hope to impart is that it is incumbent upon you to thoroughly interview potential consultants. If you have questions, please ask! If something doesn’t feel right, trust your instincts! The vast majority of us behave ethically and appropriately. We provide valuable services to help students with the complicated admissions process while hopefully reducing anxiety along the way. We have neither crystal balls nor magic wands and students will, at the end of the day, be admitted based on the quality of their credentials and application materials. The selection of an educational consultant is a critical investment. As with any critical investment, caveat emptor is the controlling principle.

A Great Article From Forbes Magazine (January 30, 2019)

I have an article coming out in March about parenting high school and college students in the 21st century and preparing them to become independent adults. It’s a challenging job, to be certain! Today, I came across the following article in Forbes Magazine authored by Brennan Barnard. While on a different topic than my forthcoming article, I was struck by how well Mr. Barnard’s piece showed - rather than told - us how we as parents can learn from our children.

Dear Admission Dean: What Parents Can Learn From Their College Applicant

Brennan Barnard Contributor

Everyone has heard that “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” What fatherhood has taught me, however, is that “the tree doesn’t grow far from the apple.” In other words, the lessons I have learned from my two children—as they sow the seeds of untainted virtues—force me to grow in important ways, beyond what years of schooling and life are able to teach. Patience, humility, wonder, playfulness, and optimism are just a few of the many values that I “harvest” from my children. Young people are often more forgiving, less jaded, and unburdened by the same expectations and complications of adults’ lives and perspectives. In this season of inevitable disappointment from college admission offices, we would be wise to adopt this approach.

This is abundantly clear in two separate emails received this month by a college admission leader at a highly selective university. The reality is that admission to college can be complicated. While full of opportunity and excitement, this experience can also be riddled with emotion, fear, disappointment, and frustration. How we respond to unfortunate news says a lot about who we are, and we have much to learn from the following responses to a denial of admission. Identifying details have been altered or omitted to protect the writers, but the tone, intent and overall message are the same. In fact, these emails mirror hundreds of nearly identical communication received by admission deans every year. They are both notes of thanks—one sarcastic, and the other genuine.

From a Parent:

Dear Dean of Admission,

I am writing to express my appreciation for not accepting my gifted son. As you probably noticed, he is highly ranked in his class while taking a rigorous AP curriculum at his top-rated high school and his ACT score is almost perfect! Not only was he chosen for a highly selective state orchestra and is a competitive soccer player, but he also held multiple leadership roles while in high school. All of these accomplishments just go to show that he can and will do much better than your school. Frankly, his denial only demonstrates that your mission is misguided. I know that life is not fair and that the job of admission officer is difficult, but I also know that my son exemplifies the lofty goals of higher education in today’s world and his denial proves that you don't value these same goals.


A Frustrated Father

From a Student:

Dear Dean of Admission,

I received my decision letter today and I was disappointed to learn that I was denied admission. While I am really sad about this decision, I understand why it was made. I distinctly remember when you spoke at my high school last year and you said that admission decisions really aren't personal, and this is something that I've been thinking about a lot lately and it has given me some comfort.

I find myself dwelling on the fact that I took choir in 9th and 10th grades and decided not to take Honors Biology and Chemistry because I was worried my schedule would be too full. I also realized that I forgot to mention one of my activities on my application. Then I started questioning the essay topic I chose to write about and it helped me to remember the talk that you gave and how decisions are made in the best interest of an institution, with my ability to be successful in mind. While I am not happy about the decision and I will never know why I was not accepted, I know that it wasn't personal or a judgment on what I have accomplished.

I know that you cannot admit every applicant or even the majority of those who want to attend.  The reasons that you did not choose me are nuanced I am sure. Maybe my grades or test scores were not competitive in this group of applicants or maybe the activities I am involved in do not match up. While I could argue many reasons why I could have been accepted, I understand why the decision was made.

I imagine that you are hearing from a lot of angry students and parents who are calling and emailing to tell you that your admission committee made the wrong decision and are demanding to know why they were not accepted. Yours is a thankless job and I wanted you to know how much I appreciate the work you and your team do in making difficult decisions and then dealing with the fallout. It is your caring approach to this stressful time that was so clear when you presented at my high school and I want to thank you.


A Grateful Student

The Take Home

Undoubtedly, parents reading these notes have two immediate reactions. The first is, “I would never be that father.” But then our child is passed over for a summer job, or gets cut from the team, or is not chosen for a part in the play, or receives a disappointing admission decision. Suddenly our defenses spring up and we experience their hurt or frustration as though it is our own. Through our lens, our child “deserves” better and has “earned” more. This is when we need to pause and not be “that parent”. We need to manage our own emotions and be aware of the messages we deliver with our reactions and responses. Don’t send the vindictive or sarcastic email, or make the angry or hurtful phone call.  Take the high road. As Jim Henson said, “Kids don’t remember what you try to teach them. They remember what you are.”

National Merit Scholars Competition - FAQs

I occasionally get questions about the National Merit Scholars Program, so I’ve included below the frequently asked questions section directly from the National Merit Scholarship Corporation’s website.


Frequently Asked Questions

Competition Steps

  1. How does a high school student enter the National Merit® Scholarship Program?

  2. If a student took the PSAT/NMSQT® as a sophomore, does he/she need to take it again?

  3. Can a homeschooled student take the PSAT/NMSQT®?

  4. What if a student misses the PSAT/NMSQT®?

  5. What should a student do if his/her PSAT/NMSQT® Score Report has an asterisk next to the Selection Index score, indicating that entry requirements for the National Merit® Scholarship Program were not met?

  6. If the student's PSAT/NMSQT® Score Report does not have an asterisk next to the Selection Index score, indicating that entry requirements for the National Merit® Scholarship Program were met, does that mean the student will be recognized in the program?

  7. When are the Qualifying Selection Index scores available?

  8. How many participants are honored annually in the National Merit® Scholarship Program?

  9. When and how are students notified they are Semifinalists?

  10. How does a Semifinalist become a Finalist?

  11. When and how are Semifinalists notified if they have advanced to Finalist standing?

  12. How does a Semifinalist or Finalist report or change a college choice?


1. How does a high school student enter the National Merit® Scholarship Program? 

To enter the competition, a high school student must take the PSAT/NMSQT® at his or her high school or approved location in the specified year of high school and meet NMSC's published program participation requirements. See "Entering the Competition" for further information.

2. If a student took the PSAT/NMSQT® as a sophomore, does he/she need to take it again?

Yes, if the student is spending the usual four years in grades 9 through 12. See "Entering the Competition" for further information.

3. Can a homeschooled student take the PSAT/NMSQT®?

Yes, but the test must be administered at a local high school or approved location. Contact the principal or guidance counselor well in advance of the test day to make arrangements to take the PSAT/NMSQT at that school.

4. What if a student misses the PSAT/NMSQT®?

A student who misses the PSAT/NMSQT test due to illness, an emergency, or other extenuating circumstance, but meets all other requirements for NMSC program participation, may still be able to enter the competition. See "Entering the Competition" for further information.

5. What should a student do if his/her PSAT/NMSQT® Score Report has an asterisk next to the Selection Index score, indicating that entry requirements for the National Merit® Scholarship Program were not met?

Compare responses to the entry items on the student's score report to the requirements listed on the National Merit Scholarship Program page. Entry requirements are also listed in the PSAT/NMSQT Student Guide. If the student made an error or plans have changed, write immediately to NMSC.

6. If the student's PSAT/NMSQT® Score Report does not have an asterisk next to the Selection Index score, indicating that entry requirements for the National Merit® Scholarship Program were met, does that mean the student will be recognized in the program?

Approximately 1.6 million students meet entry requirements, but only about 50,000 of the highest scoring students receive program recognition. If a student's score qualifies him or her for recognition in the National Merit Program, the student will be notified through his or her high school in September following the PSAT/NMSQT administration.

7. When are the Qualifying Selection Index scores available?

Qualifying Selection Index scores for National Merit® Scholarship Program recognition of eligible students will be available through the students' high schools in the next September following the PSAT/NMSQT administration.

8. How many participants are honored annually in the National Merit® Scholarship Program?

A total of about 50,000 participants receive recognition in the National Merit® Scholarship Program.

9. When and how are students notified they are Semifinalists?

Semifinalists are notified through their schools in early September. Semifinalists who are homeschooled are notified at their home addresses. See the National Merit® Scholarship Program page for additional information about the program.

10. How does a Semifinalist become a Finalist?

Semifinalists must fulfill several requirements, which are provided in the information they receive with their scholarship applications and are also listed in the PSAT/NMSQT® Student Guide. These include completing an application, having a consistently very high academic record, writing an essay, being endorsed and recommended by a school official, and taking the SAT® and earning a score that confirms the PSAT/NMSQT performance. Note: Beginning with the 2020 National Merit Scholarship Program, Semifinalists may submit confirming scores from the SAT® or ACT® to meet the Finalist requirement. Click here to view the Requirements and Instructions for Semifinalists in the 2019 National Merit® Scholarship Program(Adobe Acrobat Reader is required.) For more information regarding the SAT, please visit the website of the College Board, which cosponsors the PSAT/NMSQT.

11. When and how are Semifinalists notified if they have advanced to Finalist standing?

Finalists are notified in early February by mail at their home addresses. See the National Merit® Scholarship Program page for additional details.

12. How does a Semifinalist or Finalist report or change a college choice?

To report a college choice or change, students must log in to their Online Scholarship Application accounts and click on the "Change College Choice" link. This link is located under Main Menu Item 3, "Maintain Your Personal Information After Your Application is Transmitted to NMSC." Key dates for college-sponsored award consideration in the National Merit®Program are provided to Semifinalists on page 3 of theRequirements and Instructions for Semifinalists in the 2019 National Merit®Scholarship Program.(Adobe Acrobat Reader is required.)

Social Media Use and College Admissions

Instagram. Snapchat. Twitter. Facebook. I’m sure I’m missing several. Most of us use social media to some extent, but teens and young adults are obsessed.  In fact, a 2016 study estimated that teens spend an average of nine – yes nine! – hours per day in front of screens. Much of that time is spent on social media platforms.

We can all be naïve about actions and consequences, but teenagers raise this to an art form. We see it in their driving habits, or the decisions they make about alcohol consumption.  We talk to our kids about such things, because we worry for their health and safety.  When it comes to social media, we also worry that over-sharing could expose them to predators.  We are right to be concerned, and we might even be able to get teenagers to listen to us regarding these topics.

But getting them to understand that the things they share and post on social media could hurt their chances of college admission is a more daunting task.  Many young people say things like “it’s not a college’s right to look at that” – “colleges don’t look at that” – or “the information disappears, so they’ll never be able to see it.” I’ll address the first two arguments before wading into the murky waters of the third.     

 Yes, colleges DO have a right to look at your social media posts. Things posted on public platforms don’t enjoy a right to privacy.  Period.  Second, colleges DO look at social media platforms, and I’ll provide two examples to underscore my point.  The first occurred in June 2017, when Harvard University rescinded the acceptances of at least 10 members of the Class of 2021 for posting offensive statements and memes on a group Facebook page.  If you’d like to read more about this, I’ve shared the link to the Harvard Crimson article here:  Can you imagine getting accepted to Harvard, only to have that acceptance revoked for exercising such bad judgment? I bet the dinner table discussions were a bit strained in those households afterwards!  Another example is from the University of Rochester, and it also occurred in 2017. In this particular instance, the student applied – and was accepted – as a homeschooled student.  She never sent her transcripts from the private school she actually attended. Then, she posted on social media that she would be attending U of R, and representatives from her school caught wind of it. They knew they had never submitted materials on her behalf, so they contacted the university, which promptly revoked her acceptance.

Most recently, a study of law school admissions officers revealed that a majority of them also check applicants’ social media profiles.  Yes, colleges, law and professional schools, and employers all can  - and sometimes do - check out applicants in this manner.  If the pictures and posts cast someone in an unfavorable light, it could be game over.  It makes sense, actually.  And it is entirely appropriate.

 Now, as to the third objection, namely that posts on certain sites like Snapchat and Instagram disappear and are thus “unseeable”, I can only say this: there is an information underground, and nothing ever really disappears.  I couldn’t possibly explain the technology behind the storage and retrieval of such data, as I do not understand it. But I do know that a false confidence that this material is somehow beyond the grasp of people who want to find it is just that. False.

I discuss these issues with all of my students.  I discuss them with my own children. Do they take my concerns seriously?  I can only hope so.