Category: Counsellor

5 Takeaways: Simplifying the Application Process Workshop


Earlier this week, as it is tradition, we had panelists from our soon to be College Freshmen class give their words of wisdom to the class of students applying this year and starting college Fall of 2017.

And so, a HUGE Thank you to the Class of 2020 Panelists who came to give their Words of Wisdom to the Class of 2021 in our “Simplifying the Application Process” Workshop at the CollegeCore Office!

Our Panelists were:

– Aditri Bhagirath – Carnegie Mellon University

– Anahita Sehgal – UCLA

– Ananya Mittal – Princeton University

– Aryaman Sethi – University of Chicago

– Rishab Srivastava – UC Berkeley

– Shankar Salwan – Northwestern University

– Shivam Bajaj – University of Southern California

– Simran Arora – Brown University

ICYMI: We had pages and pages of notes but since we can’t share them all, so see below for 5 Key Takeaways from our students.

1) Make a Balanced University List:


Enthusiastic parents and ambitious students may say “Ivy League or nothing else” but be realistic about it.

Dreams are dreams for a reason. You may feel right now that you want to apply to all the Ivies even if you have no chance of getting in, but each rejection hurts a lot. You need targets and safeties to balance that.

And we mean targets too. Applying to 8 Ivies and 1 safety like Drexel isn’t good either. What if you only got into Drexel? Would you go there?

Plan out Early Action and Early Decision as well but understand where it gives you an edge versus where it may be better to apply Regular Decision.

2) SAT / ACT Tips


The sooner you finish your SAT / ACT testing the better. Plus a reminder to Self-Study. No one can teach you to take the SAT, you have to put in the effort. The tutors have tips and tricks and ensure practice. Remember you are taking the test and not your tutor so the effort has to come from you in the test and before the test.

But don’t put too much pressure, the SAT / ACT isn’t the be all and end all. An excellent SAT score won’t save you if your school grades aren’t there. Remember, the SAT is a reflection of one day of exams and not of four years of prep like your grades. So balance your efforts.

3) Get cracking on your Essays

Start soon. You may write one CommonApp essay or you may write three. The most difficult part is starting. Remember you’re trying to stand out, so don’t make it generic, it needs to be about something important in your life. Don’t harp about your achievements, the rest of the CommonApp will cover that. Instead talk about challenges and motivations. Don’t be clichéd. If you are talking about a somewhat generic topic (like sports or community service), bring a new perspective like talking about your motivations why rather than narrating what happened. Don’t get too much feedback. Each perspective will confuse you and will be distracting. Do keep your focus narrow. This is a “Slice of Life” essay and a small experience and not story of your entire life. Follow us on Facebook because keep posting the latest essays available.

4) Take Charge of your Interviews

Unlike job interviews, these interviews are informal. They aren’t subject specific and can feel random at times. Prepare the questions but don’t rehearse them otherwise you will sound stiff. Balance. Guide your interviewer: You can guide the interview to discuss things you want to talk about. Suppose you want to discuss your dance and your interviewer chats about Bollywood. This is what you can do.

  • I’m a huge Bollywood dance fan!
  • But my favorite is Jazz which I’ve been learning for the last three years (showing your accomplishment)
  • In fact, I was really interested in the Jazz dance troupe at XYZ college (connecting to the college)

But don’t talk the entire time, let your interviewer talk to and let it evolve into a conversation. Remember to be prepared with questions at the end.

5) Don’t Overdo the Recommendations

There are school recommendation and external recommendations. Each University allows a different number of external though they all want 1 Counsellor recommendation and 2 Academic Teacher recommendations. But just because the college allows more, doesn’t mean you should send more. College Admissions says heavier the file, the faster it sinks. Only send them if they add value and aren’t repeating the same thing over and over.

Mantra of the Day: BALANCE


Don’t spend all the time on school, or all the time on applications

Don’t overdo or underdo extracurriculars

Don’t make crazy unrealistic University lists


Finding the Right Counsellor

Finding the right counsellor – agents vs. counsellors, someone who does the work vs. someone who guides you

Guidance Counsellor / College Counsellor / Education Counsellor / Education Consultant are terms often used interchangeably to refer to a person who works closely with students to help them navigate the process of applying to college. Education Counsellors (American: Counselor), however, are normally self-employed (or are part of consulting firms), while School Counsellors are employed by a school.

Cat Confused

A Counsellor would:

– Help a student chart out their academic and career goals

– Identify courses to pursue after high school in preparation for the student’s career goals

– Identify colleges/universities which offer these courses

– Help a student to shortlist the colleges to apply to based on ‘right fit’

– Help a student to project their achievements and strengths in the best possible fashion to present strong applications to colleges

– Be bound by ethical practices thereby enabling a student rather than filling in applications and writing essays on their behalf

An Agent, on the other hand, has a tie-up with colleges/universities and is compensated by them for sending students to study in these colleges.

An Agent would:

– Facilitate a student’s admission to an institution they have partnerships with

– Agents very often will indulge in unethical practices like writing application essays and filling in college applications

– Ensure that the student accepts the offer of admission by facilitating the visa process

Now that we have that clear, let’s move on to the next step – Identifying the right College Counsellor

– Focus on your child’s personality, educational background & dreams.


The educational counsellor you choose should be a good match for your child’s personality, have experience of working with students with similar admissions profiles, and be supportive of your child’s college aspirations.

– Find someone experienced with a thorough knowledge of college admission requirements & process

A professional educational counsellor should have complete knowledge about a wide range of colleges and universities as well as latest admissions trends. A partnership with specific universities could create a conflict of interest. They should also have sufficient experience helping students through the college search and application process for the country the student is keen on applying to.

– Find someone supportive.


You and your child should both feel comfortable when interacting with the counsellor. An encouraging attitude will go a long way in minimizing stress and anxiety in the college admissions process. A good counsellor while emphasizing the need to present strong academic grades and extra-curriculars will never undermine a student’s accomplishments but instead guide a student to project them in the best possible manner. They should help you create an Application Timeline to follow, draw up a list of colleges to apply to, satisfy all application requirements, give feedback on essays and review your applications before submission. They say it takes a village to send a student to college! A counsellor will strive to work as a team with families, high school counsellors, and college admissions staff of universities.

– A counsellor should be accessible

Shell Phone

Senior Year of High School can be one of the most stressful years in school, the pressure of keeping up with school grades, to writing essays, filling applications, taking standardized tests, giving interviews, meeting expectations of parents and teachers! It’s an endless list! While students are happy even restricting conversations to text, you may want to be able to call them, skype with them, maybe even meet them. If you have someone knowledgeable to hand hold you through this process and someone you can talk to when you are stressed, someone who will not be judgmental and instead be understanding and be available in person on phone/Skype call for sudden meetings or distress calls.

– Committed to ethical practices

A good counsellor will never indulge in unethical practices like making false promises to clients like promising admissions or scholarships using their personal ‘contacts’ with admissions staff of colleges. They will never write application essays for students, or fill in applications on their behalf. Instead they will empower a student to take the right decisions and navigate the college applications terrain with their guidance and support. This is something, which will also prepare the student to deal with their college life independently.

Still confused?


Here are three facts to keep in mind:

1) In the world of Google, information is as much powerful as it is harmful.

2) The process can be incredibly overwhelming and you need someone to guide you through it.

3) It’s an investment. If you choose to spend $240k dollars on your business, would you spend 5% of the investment to find someone to guide you?