Janet Loren is a partner and educational consultant at Pearl Glassman Educational Counseling. She has nine years of experience as a college counselor and holds a B.A. from Bennington College and an M.B.A. from Pace University. Janet is a member of IECA, NACAC, and HECA.
Insights and advice
What are some of the common challenges your students (and their parents) are currently facing in the college admission process?
Most of our students and parents are frightened that they will not get into a "good" college. What we explain is that "good" does not necessarily mean the Ivies. "Good" means a college where a student can be successful and will enjoy the experience. Money is definitely tighter and we are seeing more discussion about school selection and cost earlier in the process.
What are some of the steps you take to help them successfully overcome those challenges?
We introduce students to several schools that will meet their needs but that they may not have heard of or considered. We manage both the parent's and the student's expectations about the admission process. We explain the difference between college and high school cultures and the balance between the course workload and the student's social life. We have found that this balance is essential to the student's success.
What are your top goals for the students you work with?
We would like our students to be happy and successful at whichever college they attend. We work very hard to find the right learning environment that will meet the needs of each student and help them achieve their goals.
If you could give one piece of advice to college counselors who are new to the profession, what would it be?
Listen to the student! look beyond their bravado or nonchalance and provide them with alternatives and options. Then let them make the final decision.
What are some common misconceptions that students have going into the college admission process?
Many students are under the impression that "because I have the grades, the test scores, and have done community service, then I should get in." Managing their expectations and explaining that there are many factors involved in the acceptance process, which has little to do with them personally, is hard for students to accept.
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?
We encounter this situation often. We listen to both the student's and the parent's wishes. We try to help them to listen to and understand each other. We then present options to encourage discussion. Most parents want their child to be successful and happy, but the final decision is the student's.
Describe what are, in your opinion, a few of the cornerstones of a successful college admission essay?
The essay is a great opportunity for the student to give the college a glimpse of who they are. We recommend that the student be honest, precise, and write about something that is important to them. We suggest that they try to engage the reader through an interesting story, not through big adjectives or unbelievable situations. The goal is to show the school how you will be a valuable part of their community.
What is your process for helping students narrow down the list of schools to which they will apply?
We encourage our students to research the school online and then visit. The best way to get a feel for a school is to go there. Talk to the other students and to professors. Walk the campus grounds. Eat in the dining hall. When we're down to the final choices we make a Decision Tree listing the things we like most about each school and the things we like least. We give value points to each item. We then compare the lists and choose the highest-ranking colleges.
What are, in your opinion, some of the best ways that students can make themselves stand out beyond their applications?
College visits are essential. One admission officer said that if a student applies to a school within six hours of home and hasn't visited, then he is shooting himself in the foot. Introducing oneself to the admission officers on a campus visit or at a school college fair and sending follow-up thank you notes are good practices.
What would you consider your biggest accomplishment or your proudest moment as a college counselor?
I have the great honor of working with Pearl Glassman, who has been an independent educational consultant for over 30 years. She was one of the pioneers of the profession and truly one of the smartest and most compassionate educators I have ever met.
Favorite book: O'Henry Short Stories
Favorite movie: To Kill a Mockingbird
Favorite quote: Destiny is not a matter of chance, it is a matter of choice. -- William Jennings Bryant
Favorite place you've traveled to: Paris
Five people you would invite to a dinner party: Eleanor Roosevelt, my mother, Mark Twain, Jane Austen, Malcolm Gladwell
Your personal motto: Be present in the present--it's a present!