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Getting-your-kids-into-collegeHunting for colleges for my daughter has turned into a part-time job.

As my kids have grown older, my job as a parent has changed. When my kids were little, I would seek out conversation about engaging children’s television shows. I knew the CPTV schedule by heart.

Now that my kids are older, I find my conversations going from Barney to Barnard College and every school in between. I never realized these colleges existed. Now, I could tell you every region in the U.S., which schools are in that region, what they are accepting for incoming GPA's, and what their admission package needs to look like.

As a previous outsider to all things college-prep, I would watch my friends with older children hire college consultants. I wondered what they could be doing that would equate to a small down payment for a house? Once my children started applying to schools, it all made sense.

College Prep 101

First, they needed to prep for the SAT’s. Then they needed to understand the ACT’s and prep for those as well. That runs you close to a grand. After that, they have to decide where they will apply, determine what the school needed, get reference letters, and begin organizing their thoughts about what made them different from thousands of other social security numbers applying.

A short way into the process and 50 fights later, I knew that I had to hire either a referee or a college consultant. At the same time, we realized that our life journey would be moving us (minus one 12th grader) to California. Looking back, the money spent with the counselor was the best money I have ever spent.

Our Meeting with a College Consultant

The first day our counselor Joanne sat at our kitchen table, all heck broke loose when we started reviewing my daughter’s college selections.

“Can’t get in here, here, and maybe you will get into this school.”

“What?” We looked at her in amazement.

Surely she was jesting. My daughter was no slouch. She worked very hard in school, had a 4.2 GPA, was an accomplished swimmer, had AP classes, lived abroad, held class offices, and had a great volunteer resume. I had no idea how competitive this process would be.

“You need a 4.5 or an SAT score of over 2200 to get into these schools.”

Four point five? Who could get that? I was lucky to get an A in an academic class in high school. Now, you have to get A’s in Academic Placement classes to be considered in an economy where so many students are coming from other countries and have dedicated their lives to academics.

For my daughter, who isn’t a good test-taker, it all came down to her essay. Joanne was amazing. She stayed on my daughter week by week for 6 months and made her rewrite her essays ad nausea, at least 50 times. For a 250-word essay, she had her writing pages, which would be edited down. It became my daughter’s job and primary focus.

In the end, it cost us $5,000 for Joanne, however due to her diligence and excellent advice, there wasn’t one school that didn’t offer her some sort of Merit scholarship. As parents, we required my daughter to have a reach. Her reach was UCLA. We now lived in California, so that made sense. Joanne shared that her chances were slim. When the decisions were posted we waited for the bad news. Can you imagine our surprise to hear that she had been admitted into a class where over 90,000 applied and 5,000 were admitted? It was one of my proudest parenting moments.

How to Get Your Kids into a Good College

My life tip to parents going through this process is to save for academic counseling. If there is a way you can manage, it will be worth your investment. If your kids are still little, my life tip is to enroll them in Kumon or Enopi. We did for all our kids and it has advanced their academics through the years, making the impossible, possible.

For more parenting tips and advice, check out Life with Wendy.

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