An Insider’s Insights on Admissions

An Insider’s Insights on Admissions:

In this new feature, we present one staffer’s advice to help guide families through the admissions process.

Christina Morris presents ideas for parents arranging their child’s testing schedule and thinking about the best college fit for their child.

When is the “right time” for families to start working with Marks Education?

The earlier we can meet and assess a student’s curriculum, discuss extracurricular interests, and craft a testing plan, the better. This isn’t meant to stress families out. On the contrary, we find it incredibly helpful and stress reducing to form a relationship with families early in high school because it makes for a smoother college process down the road.

One option for families is to enroll in the Education Package, a service that includes both tutoring and counseling sessions over the junior and senior years. This gives us two years to get to know students and their families. We work closely with our tutors in order to tailor our counseling approach and create a testing plan that makes the most of a student’s time and strengths.

What is your advice for families choosing a secondary school, college or graduate school?

I think it is important to focus on fit. Will the student be a meaningful member of the college community? Will he or she fit in academically, socially, and personally?

The best way to get a sense of this fit is by visiting, ideally when classes are in session. Recently, the counseling team suggested that a female student visit Barnard. She had never considered the school before and, after a campus visit, came back saying, “This is where I want to go to school. Barnard is my top choice.” I felt we’d really made a difference in her college search. Knowing the student and her interests, the counseling team brainstormed options and thought outside the box.

What tools or techniques can families adopt to make the college admissions process less stressful and more productive?

Plan ahead! Without guidance on timing standardized tests, many students find themselves in a senior year crunch with testing. We work hard with our families to avoid extra stress! Students enrolled in our Education Package, work with both counselors and tutors to create a testing and admissions plan that makes sense with students’ schedules.

How is the admissions and counseling landscape changing right now?

With changes to the SAT coming in spring 2016, it has become even more important to consider which standardized test might be the best fit for a student. The changes to the SAT will most acutely impact the Class of 2017, so we are meeting with current sophomores to consider the different testing options available. We do a deep analysis of a student’s profile in order to create a tailored plan, and it is helpful to do this ahead of the changes, so that students (and parents!) don’t stress unnecessarily.

How can families benefit from what you learned as a career counselor?

When I was a career counselor for law students, I encouraged them to be positive and confident, to emphasize their gifts and strengths, rather than focusing on what they hadn’t done. This is something I now use when helping students prepare for interviews, complete their Common Application, and craft their admissions essays.

What makes a strong college essay?

I have learned the importance of a student’s voice in his or her essays. The final product should resonate with the student’s energy, personality, and individual story.

What are some of your favorite things about working as a college counselor?

I am excited about developing an expertise in working with students who have learning differences, as well as visual and performing artists. I enjoy helping students who need specific accommodations to navigate curricular and testing challenges, and advising arts applicants on identifying strong, best-fit programs and presenting themselves compellingly.

What are some of your outside interests?

The bulk of my time outside the office is spent with my husband and three kids – and our chocolate lab, Grizzly Bear. We are outside as much as possible and spend a lot of time on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

I also really enjoy cooking – I am 100% Italian, so it is in my genes! Many of the recipes I make come from my maternal grandmother who was an amazing cook.

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