Suzan Reznick, C.E.P., is the director of The College Connection. She has 12 years of experience as a college counselor. Suzan holds a B.A. and an M.A. from New York University and is a member of IECA, NACAC, HECA, and NYSACAC.
Insights and advice
What are some of the common challenges your students (and their parents) are currently facing in the college admission process?
Being deferred from their "ED Colleges." Often it is the first time that they have faced rejection. And it is even harder on the parents.
What are some of the steps you take to help them successfully overcome those challenges?
I try to point out that there is no guarantee that even if they were accepted it actually would have been the best choice for them; that it is entirely possible that they will be happier at a different school; and that, in fact, most of my clients do happily adjust. And finally, if I had been accepted to my first-choice school, I would not have met my husband and probably would not be sitting there with them now!
What are your top goals for the students you work with?
It is not about being at one particular school, but having many great options by next spring. I also hope that the journey toward self-reflection (which the process absolutely requires) will have encouraged personal growth.
Have you seen any noticeable changes in college applicants in the recent economic climate?
Not really. The only change is that more families are insisting on having at least some state schools in the mix, including some out-of-state public schools.
As an independent counselor, what is the one piece of advice you would give to people who are new to the profession?
Before you begin trying to get paying clients, allow yourself plenty of time to just learn everything that you can. That requires multiple college visits, buying and reading some of the better books and journals on the market, and attending as many professional conferences as you can, including IECA, NACAC, and HECA, plus any regional conferences as well. There are now some excellent online courses (with certificates awarded) by UCLA and UC Irvine. IECA offers an outstanding summer training institute each year as well.
What are some common misconceptions that students have going into the college admission process?
There are many. I often see students with A/A- GPAs and SAT scores in the mid 1300s who honestly believe that they have a shot at the Ivies. They have no real sense of how competitive these schools have become in recent years. The parents misguidedly believe that their wonderful progeny deserve acceptance.
Do you ever encounter situations in which students and their parents have different goals in mind? If so, what is your advice for helping them work together?
It is about getting them to listen and understand the other's point of view. It is not unusual for 17 year olds to believe that their parents are "clueless." Often when they hear me restate what their mom and dad were saying, they finally "get it."
Have you seen students successfully use social media (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.) as a tool in the college admission process? How do you advise students to edit their online presence?
Not so much, although my film applicants now are requested to upload movies to a website like YouTube. I do advise my students to ensure that there is nothing on their Facebook profile that they would be embarrassed for their grandparents to view!
What can/should a college counselor do to help students prepare for the SAT or ACT?
Advise them to read more and, of course, practice, practice, practice--whether in class, with a tutor, or by themselves!
What is your strategy for helping students find financial aid?
I do not work with financial aid, but I do remind all families who will need aid of the importance of filing the FAFSA and The College Profile in January.
Describe what are, in your opinion, a few of the cornerstones of a successful college admission essay.
What is of absolute key importance is that it be personal. This is often forgotten. I want to read an essay where I learn something about the individual who wrote it that would give me, as an admission officer, a reason to like and want to have this student on my campus. Is he compassionate? Moral? Responsible? Intelligent? Would she likely add something to make my campus a better place? So tell me a story that might captivate me while allowing me to learn what makes you tick!
What is your process for helping students narrow down the list of schools to which they will apply?
I go through a very long list of factors, including size, location, weather, academics, sports, etc. Then I cross-reference all those factors, comparing them to the more than 300 campuses that I have visited until I do come up with a good initial list of about 20 colleges for students to research and, when possible, to visit (as a starting point).
What would you consider your biggest accomplishment or your proudest moment as a college counselor?
While I have had many students get accepted to the Ivies, it is more gratifying when I see a student who has struggled in high school get accepted to a college that they really wanted to attend. And when I hear from them a year later reporting that they have been successful at that school, that is the prize for me--not just helping them get accepted, but knowing that I made a difference in their lives!
Favorite book: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Favorite hero of fiction: Tom Jones
Favorite movie: Dirty Dancing
Favorite band or musician: James Taylor
Favorite quote: "Build it and they will come," from Field of Dreams
Favorite place you've traveled to: Israel
Favorite college memory: Meeting my future husband
Five people you would invite to a dinner party: Jane Austen, William Shakespeare, Queen Elizabeth I, Beethoven, and John Lennon.
Your personal motto: "Take the high road." (My dad used to tell me that.)