Get to Work: College Tasks For Every Year of High School

Happy New Year!

I hope you all had a magical holiday season, but now it is time to get to work! If you have been procrastinating with your college process or just avoiding it due to burnout (hello, seniors), here are some tasks to help get you back on track.


  • Finish up your applications: Get it done now if you haven’t finished applying to colleges. Some schools have rolling admissions with deadlines through summer. However, the sooner you apply, the more room they have.
  • Make sure applications are complete: For the applications you have submitted, you need to make sure they are complete. Check to see if the colleges you applied to require mid-year grades and then request them to be sent through your high school counseling office.
  • Plan to visit colleges: For the colleges you have already been admitted to, start planning how you will collect information to make your final decision. Do you need to visit a college or two one more time? Will there be admitted student events in-person or online?
  • Prepare for interviews: Winter and spring are prime times for interviews. You may be preparing for admissions interviews with Alumni or interviews for scholarships or honors programs. Make a list of at least 10 accomplishments, activities, characteristics, viewpoints, etc., that you want to share. Practice talking about each of your items, and you should be able to shape your answers to almost any question.
  • Send thank-you notes: Don’t forget to thank the people who have helped you along the way. A hand-written thank-you note means a lot.


  • Create your college list: A solid list of colleges to research is the foundation of any college process. If you haven’t started your list yet (or have no idea how to make one), sign up for the College Mindset Junior Jumpstart course. In 3-weeks, you will know how to research colleges and have a personalized college list to get your college process started. The class begins on January 9th!
  • Schedule campus visits: If you plan to visit colleges over a weekend or during spring break, I advise you to register for tours sooner rather than later. Tours do fill up (especially at the more popular schools).
  • Nail down your testing plan: Make sure to decide if you will take the SAT or ACT this spring. Many colleges are still test-optional, but it is a good idea to have a test score, just in case you need it. Review the SAT and ACT offering dates and sign up for tests in advance.
  • Start thinking about summer plans: Summer is a great time to explore career options. Schedule some informational interviews to learn more about the day-to-day life of a person who works in an industry that interests you. You should also search for internship or job shadowing opportunities.
  • Start looking for scholarships: Now is the time to start looking at outside scholarships.


  • Schedule practice campus visits: Now is the time to do some “practice” campus visits to colleges and universities near your home. Select a variety of schools to understand the different sizes, locations, and academic offerings.
  • Build your resume: Start thinking about your extracurricular activities and leadership positions for next year. How will you contribute to your school or local community? Also, think about your summer plans.
  • Plan our courses for junior and senior year: Make sure you have a tentative plan of the courses you like to take for your junior and senior years. Colleges will look at your GPA and the number of challenging courses (AP, IB, Dual Enrollment, Honors, etc.) you took. They will review your transcript in the context of what opportunities were available to you.


  • Look back on your first semester: What skills do you need to build? Do you have goals for your second semester of high school?
  • Narrow down your extracurriculars: You may have signed up for everything when you started high school. Now is the time to focus on what you love and where you know you will have an impact.
  • Review a college planning timeline: Get a head start on your college process through the College Mindset’s Ideal College Planning Timeline. It is a great month-to-month checklist for the college process.

What is a College Application Strategy?

Have you ever forgotten something? How to do something on a test?  A password?  The time of your doctor’s appointment?

Well, it happens. I had a student mention an interesting research project he did AFTER he was deferred from his early decision school. He “forgot” about it, and it didn’t make it into his applications.

Luckily, this story has a happy ending. The student emailed the college and “elaborated” on his summer experience. He is now a graduate of Pomona College.

So, things worked out, but it made me wonder… How can I make sure this doesn’t happen again?

Now when I work with a student, whether it be one-on-one or through an online course, I make sure they are aware of the steps for a complete application strategy. Let’s go through each step of developing a college application strategy so that you can put your best foot forward!

Step 1: Know your Opportunities

Identify all of the opportunities you have to present yourself in college applications.

    • Transcript and School Profile
    • Standardized Testing (if required)
    • Teacher Recommendations
    • School Counselor Recommendation
    • Personal Recommendations
    • Activities or Resume
    • Personal Statement/College Essay/Common App Essay
    • Supplemental essays
    • COVID-19 Optional Essay
    • Additional Information Section
    • Interviews or Demonstrating Interest

Let’s break down each piece of the college application.

Your high school transcript is the most important piece of your college application. It reflects your academic abilities, work ethic, and more. However, colleges are looking at more than your GPA and class rank (if available). When reviewing your transcript, colleges will also consider the challenge of your curriculum or the number of AP, IB, College Level, or Honors courses you took based on what is available to you. Colleges will know how many challenging courses are available to you through your high school profile, including information regarding your high school’s academic environment.

Colleges will use the information provided in your teacher recommendations to complete their analysis of your academic profile. . You must identify and build relationships with teachers who can speak to your intellectual curiosity and your performance in the classroom beyond completing assignments promptly.

The use and analysis of standardized testing scores vary significantly in the world of college admission. Most colleges will report their SAT or ACT scores as the “middle 50%,” meaning if their average ACT score is 25 to 32, 25% of admitted students scored below a 25, and 25% scored above a 32. However, if you are applying test-optional, a college may place more emphasis on your transcript. This is also true if a college decides they are no longer considering test scores in their process (test-blind or test-free).

Most colleges will require a letter of recommendation from your school counselor to understand how you have contributed to your high school community. Your counselor may also ask you to complete a questionnaire about your interests, achievements, etc. You can also submit an additional letter of recommendation from someone in your high school or community (e.g., a coach, club advisor, clergy member, supervisor, etc.).

For your activities, admissions officers are looking for students who are committed to their interests. They used to want to see “well-rounded” students who participated in everything. Now they want to see students who have focused on one or two interests and pursued those interests on a deeper level. This is an excellent place to show colleges how you have contributed to your high school or local community.

Your essay is perhaps the piece of your application where you have the most control. It allows colleges to see a side of you that may not come through on your transcript or in your letters of recommendation. Many students feel that the personal statement has to be “different” to stand out, but it is more important that it’s well-written. Take the time to examine something personal to you, something you are passionate about, to truly create a well-written piece.

Many colleges require supplemental essays, which are often shorter than your main personal statement and are your opportunity to show a college why you are interested in attending. The supplemental essays can also be an opportunity to demonstrate your creativity or academic interests.

Currently, most colleges have a place in your application to provide information about how COVID-19 affected you or your family.  This is an opportunity for you to provide the context of any COVID-19 related challenges you have faced.

Similar to the COVID-19 prompt, the additional information section is where you can provide context regarding any other issues or challenges.  This section is often used to explain low grades or why you did not continue to participate in a sport.

While most colleges may not admit it, they want to accept students they think will enroll at their school. While some colleges do not consider demonstrated interest, many do. You can show colleges you are interested by contacting the admissions officer responsible for reviewing applications for your area. If you cannot visit the college, you can sign up for virtual presentations and campus tours online. Completing admissions interviews (if offered) is another way to show colleges you are a real human being.

Step 2: List the Details

Brainstorm EVERYTHING you want to include in your applications. This list can include, but is not limited to:

    • Accolades from coaches, mentors, or teachers
    • Activities
    • Research interests
    • Career interests
    • Personal characteristics
    • Values and beliefs
    • Interesting experiences
    • Job shadowing or internship experiences
    • Academic interests
    • Anything you can do for hours
    • Challenges or hardships
    • How you’ve contributed to your high or local community
    • Family responsibilities
    • Goals, dreams, and aspirations
    • What’s important to you
    • What legacy will you leave behind at your high school
  • Step 3: Plan

  • Finally, identify where the details will be in your college applications and develop a strategy. I encourage students to map out the details of all of the other application pieces before the essay. For example, identify which personal characteristics will be highlighted in your teacher recommendations. Go through each item on the list and determine where it will be on your application.  Is there one you can’t place?  That should probably be the topic of your essay.

This year, the details of your college applications are more critical than ever. Many students may not have an ACT or an SAT score. Others are unhappy with their junior year grades since most of last year was hybrid or online. Showcasing all the other details about YOU in your college applications will show colleges how amazing you are, even if you don’t have all of the “normal” application pieces.

How To Conquer Your Junior Year

Every summer, I sit down with my soon-to-be juniors and give them a pep talk.  It is no secret that the junior year of high school is notorious for being difficult, busy, and downright stressful.  However, it doesn’t have to be that way.  No really.

I find that if students know the purpose behind the importance of the junior year, they head into it with more motivation.  It’s like climbing a mountain without knowing if you will have a brick wall blocking the view on the other side.

Yes, the junior year is important. Yes, you will work hard.  But it is all building towards your goals.  It is not only helping you get closer to the top of the mountain but guaranteeing a pretty amazing view on the other side.

Here are the main areas I tell my students to focus on during their junior year of high school and why they are important.

Grades:  Junior year grades get a lot of attention, but few students understand why. Your academic transcript is the most important part of your college application.  Usually, your junior year grades are the last set of official grades colleges will see when they review your applications.  Most colleges will look at your senior year courses, and some will ask for your first quarter or mid-year grades.  However, by the time they see your senior year grades, they may have already made a decision on your application and use updated grades to reinforce that decision.

Strong grades are not only essential to the college application process but they are also considered in the merit aid process.  Think of every A as “money in the bank.”  The higher your grades, the more options you will have.  Also, do not fall into the trap of thinking that a “C” in an AP course is really a “B.”  A “C” is a “C”.  You need to show colleges that you took challenging courses because you can do well in them, not just to boost your GPA.  

Relationships With Teachers and School Counselor:  There are so many students who do not consider the value of having a good relationship with teachers.  It is not just about completing your work on time (though that is important); it is also about participating in class, helping other students succeed, and showing intellectual curiosity.  Colleges want to know how you are going to add to their academic environment, not just that you can do the work.

Colleges will look to your school counselor’s letter of recommendation to learn more about how you contributed to your school community.  Make sure to talk to your counselor about what you are involved in.  Ask for suggestions for internship or scholarship opportunities.  Have a conversation with your school counselor about something other than issues with your class schedule.

Shaping Your Personal Qualities:  Not only do colleges want to know how you will add to their academic environment, but they also want to know how you are going to add to their greater community.  They assess this portion of your application through your recommendations (see above) and your involvement.  It is important that you show depth in your interests.  The number of extracurricular activities is not as important as quality.

So your junior year is the perfect time to dive into your activities.  Are you interest in politics? Help with a political campaign or see if you can intern for a local representative.  Are you an amazing swimmer?  Look for a job as a swim instructor or coach your local Special Olympics team.  Take a look at the activities you are already doing and expand on them.  You don’t have to be good at everything, but showing focus in one or two particular areas will show colleges the depth of commitment.

College Research:  Now is the time to do thorough research on colleges. Collecting information, asking questions, planning well-thought-out college visits, etc. will not only help you learn about a specific college but will also help you narrow down what you are looking for in your college experience.  There is more information about colleges online now than ever.  Schedule a few online information sessions or virtual tours to start getting an idea of what you are looking for in your college experience. 

Standardized Testing Plan: After researching the standardized testing requirements for the schools you are interested in, you need to determine which standardized test you need to take (SAT or ACT). You also need to develop a plan for how you will prepare for each test.  Finally, you should determine your official test dates. It is recommended that you try to complete your official testing by the end of your junior year.  This will help you narrow down your college list and make sure you are on track.  Also, be aware that many schools are now test-optional, meaning that if your SAT or ACT scores are not an accurate reflection of your academic ability, you do not have to submit them.  Several schools have also adopted test-blind or score-free testing policies, meaning they do not use test scores in their application review process.  If you submit test scores, they will be ignored. 

Balance and Quality of Life:  Junior year is a good time to begin practicing stress management techniques (i.e. maintain an exercise routine, taking time for yourself, etc.) to maintain balance and healthy quality of life.  Also, make sure to ask for help when you need it.  There are plenty of people around willing to help you problem solve and brainstorm different approaches to the situations that may arise throughout the year!  

So there you have it- all of the goals you need to focus on for the junior year of high school. Remember to break each goal down into manageable pieces.  By tackling each task in smaller parts, you will feel better about conquering the notorious junior year!

Class of 2021: What’s Next

The college admissions process is not a straight line, and that statement had never been more true than it was for the Class of 2021. As my students head off to college, I am struck by how many twists and turns they have faced. This class learned to live with uncertainty in every sense of the word. As their college counselor, it is my job not to provide the answers but to teach them how to ask good questions. With each change that came with the college process, I watched them take some deep breaths and say, “OK. What’s next?”  

Deciding Where to Apply- Without Visiting

Typically, students can visit a few colleges, decide what they like and don’t like, and move forward with creating their college list.  Like many things in their lives, college visits moved online, changing how students and parents interact with colleges and universities. Students became more detailed and conscious of their questions, realizing that this was the only way for them to receive clarity on what they are looking for in their college experience. 

When the Rules Change

As colleges and universities went test-optional, my students wondered what this really meant. While the lack of test requirements was a good thing, especially for those students who could not take the ACT or SAT, many students were unprepared for the additional focus it would bring to their transcripts. The question, “What’s next?” became “What else do I need to highlight in my applications?” Guiding them through the process of showing colleges how amazing they are showed students that they are much more than a test score or a GPA.  

Early Rejections

When decisions came out for early applications, and acceptance rates drop at a record pace, I saw students become more determined than ever. “What’s next?” became “Where else should I apply?” Making sure they had a backup plan to their backup plan gave them the courage to move forward and push through the uncertainty. 

A Change in the Timeline

After delays in decision releases due to increased volume, final decisions came out, and the dust began to settle on waitlists. I saw students move forward with options, examining where they needed to be to become their best selves. With travel restrictions lifting, students and their families rushed out to visit colleges, many for the first time. They had less than a month to make their final college decisions. 

A New Game

No one could have predicted the increase in applications institutions saw for the Class of 2021 (college class of 2025). As difficult as it was to advise students through this new admissions landscape, I am sure it was just as difficult for admissions officers to say no to so many qualified applicants. As a college counselor, I can’t help but wonder where do we go from here?  Many highly selective universities are not “highly rejective” (credit to Akil Bello for that term).  Harvard now admits 3% of applicants.  Brown, Columbia, Princeton, and Yale are all in the club with acceptance rates of 5% or less.

What is more disturbing is the competitiveness of the “backup” options. Colleges and universities that used to admit over 20% served as solid options for students who entered the competitive landscape.  Now those options are dwindling. Below are some notable changes in acceptance rates for the Class of 2021.


College/University  Class of 2025 Accept Rate Class of 2024 Accept Rate
Boston College 19% 24%
Dartmouth 6% 9%
Duke 6% 9%
Georgetown 16% 12%
Harvard 3% 5%
Middlebury 16% 24%
Tufts 11% 15%
Villanova University 25% 29%

What’s Next

I will never forget the Class of 2021, not only because they did great things but also because they overcame great things. I know they will use the experience of applying to college during a pandemic to become great leaders and change-makers. I look forward to hearing about the adventures of my two future foreign diplomats and reading the words of my two lovely female writers who will use their voices to create social change. Someday, I will see the work of a very talented artist who will combine his creativity with his passion for advocacy (and many other things). I know there will be at least one doctor from this class, and she will make a difference in the lives of many children. There will be a lawyer who is branching out to explore his southern roots. I guarantee there will be one large animal veterinarian who will make a difference for horses, especially those who participate in dressage. A future environmental engineer in this group will do the essential work of addressing climate change. A promising prospective FBI agent will do everything she can to solve crimes. Most of my students had too many interests for me to predict who they will become. They will use college to explore their curiosities, and I know they will continue to ask the question, “What’s next?”.

The College Mindset Class of 2021 submitted 219 applications and received 155 acceptances. Collectively, they received close to $5 million in merit scholarships, including one student who received the Daniels Scholarship. 

These colleges and universities are so lucky to have them:

Arizona State University 

Colorado State University 

George Washington University 

Marist College

Parsons, The New School

Chapman University 

High Point University 

Northwestern University (transfer student)

Indiana University 

Syracuse University 

Stern College for Women

Tufts University 

University of Arizona

University of Southern California

University of Colorado, Boulder

University of Northern Colorado

University of Oregon

University of Maryland

University of Massachusetts, Amherst

University of South Carolina

University of Tampa

I think we have all learned in the past year that life is not a straight line. I know I will recall the wisdom, grit, and tenacity of the Class of 2021 as I look forward and guide a new class through the ever-changing college admissions landscape.  I know it is my turn to say, “What’s next?”


What Does It Mean To Be An Educator?

Three months ago, I lost my brother, Kevin Barkley. It still doesn’t seem real. I miss him at the strangest times. The other day, I was making scrambled eggs, and they were really fluffy (my eggs are never fluffy), and he popped into my head. Kevin always made the fluffiest scrambled eggs. 

Over the last few months, I have done a lot of reflecting about what he taught me. His lessons spanned from teaching me the firing order of a small block Chevy to always being there for others. But perhaps his most important lesson, the one that will stay with me forever, was what it means to be an educator.

My brother spent 28 years in the automotive industry. His experience of “turning wrenches” gave him plenty of knowledge to move into his final career as an automotive instructor. In the days following Kevin’s death, I spoke with many of his students and co-workers. Through these conversations, I learned what an impact my brother had, and I started reflecting on my role as an educator. What is my role with high school students as they travel through the major life decision of choosing a college? How do I impact their lives? What does it mean to me to be an educator? Here are the lessons I learned from my brother that, moving forward, I will apply to my career as an educator. 

Creating self-awareness: Kevin taught his students to look at themselves and figure out their capabilities. Teaching students to ask the question, “who am I” is the foundation for any curriculum. It is the first step towards their future. Whenever I have a student who feels a bit lost, I will always direct them back to this foundation. 

Listening:  Being an educator starts with building a relationship with your students. Connecting with people is what my brother did best, and I know it began with his listening skills. Kevin had the ability to really focus on who he was talking to. As an educator, when I meet with a student, I remind myself that this is the first time a student is learning about the college process. They have never done this before, even though I have been through it hundreds of times. I imagine it was the same for my brother, and he had the patience to be in the moment, listening to questions as he taught an automotive skill he’d done a thousand times. It is in these moments, with patience and attention, that relationships are built. 

Supporting: An educator is a supporter but not necessarily a fixer. My brother did everything he could to support his students so they could reach their potential. He knew he couldn’t fix their life circumstances, but Kevin did what he could to make sure they could focus while learning. He’d help them find temporary housing or bring food to class so they wouldn’t be hungry. He knew that educating them was the long-term solution to their futures, so he supported them in every way so they could reach their potential. As I learned this about my brother, I thought about supporting and challenging my students but not doing things for them. I want to help them decide where to attend college but not make the decision for them. My job is to provide my students with information and to teach them to ask questions. I want to give them the foundation they need to plan their futures. 

Teaching Accountability:  Holding a student accountable is another critical role of an educator. If one of Kevin’s students did not show up for class, he’d pick up the phone and call them. If one of my students misses a meeting, I reach out to see where they are. Being present and doing the work is the best way for students to move forward. Yes, students will make mistakes. They will show up unprepared; they may even waste your time, but finding the right way to help them acknowledge their mistakes and, more importantly, move on from them, is an essential role of an educator. 

Building Skills: One of the most important things my brother did as an educator was to teach his students skills beyond his curriculum. He did more than teach how to fix cars, but he instilled in the important skill of looking at the big picture of their responsibility in ensuring the safety of others. He also made sure they knew how to network. He’d put them in touch with people to help them find a job or coach them through their next interview. From my brother, I learned that teaching students information is one thing but helping them learn how to use it is another. I never want just to get my student through the college process. I want to make sure they know the skills they need to thrive in college and beyond. 

Shaping Human Beings: Several of my brother’s students said to me (repeatedly) that he made them the people they are today. Just take that in for a moment. I was struck by the quiet impact he had on so many lives. It made me think about what role I have in shaping human beings. What lessons am I instilling to make sure they will function in society and, better yet, make the world a better place? As an educator, I will think about the impact I can have on each student as a person.

My brother worked with a student population that was very different than the one I see daily, yet the impact he had, the lessons he taught, can be applied to so many different types of educators. Now when I am in a student meeting, I know he will pop into my head, reminding me not to answer questions for them or to let them off the hook too easily. His picture sits on my desk. It is my daily reminder of what a role an educator can have in shaping a human being. It is my reminder to strive to be the educator my brother was- and to always make fluffy scrambled eggs. 

Asking for Feedback: A Guide for High School Students

Does the thought of asking a teacher for feedback on an assignment scare you? Do you lay awake at night and wonder what steps you need to take to reach your goal of making the varsity team? Is there a particular dance move or trick that you just can’t master?

If reaching your goals and making progress in life is important to you, then you have to learn how to ask for feedback. Watch my video below to learn step by step how to ask for feedback in any situation. Learning to take and process constructive criticism is an essential life skill! It is something that if you practice now as a high school student, it will undoubtedly help you in college and beyond.

Do you want more tips for the college process? Check out the College Mindset Ideal College Planning Timeline!

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Free College Mindset Webinars

College Mindset is offering several free webinars to help students during this difficult time.  Please feel free to share the information with friends, family, and colleagues.


3-Ways to Start Your College Process

Best for freshmen, sophomores, and juniors in high school (and their parents/caregivers)


One of the most common questions I receive from students and parents is: Where do we start? There is no doubt that the college application process has changed—and it is still changing every day. No one knows the ins and outs of every aspect of the process, but with a little patience and intentionality, you can navigate the process with ease—but you have to get started first!

In this Webinar, we will cover 3-Ways to get started with your college process.  You will learn:

  1. How to Obtain Knowledge

1st gain knowledge about the college admissions industry. What do you know about the business of college admissions?  Katherine will give you a behind the scenes look at how colleges view the admissions process.

2nd look at who you are and how you learn.  Building self-knowledge is an essential step in the college process.

  1. How to Find Your Resources

Now that you know a little bit more about who you are and how the world of admissions works, you need to determine your resources.  Katherine will review resources (including online research websites).

  1. How to Understand the Timeline

Knowing the timing of the college process is an important step.  Every participant will receive a FREE copy of College Mindset’s Ideal College Planning Timeline, which we will review during the Webinar.

How to Research Colleges

Best for sophomores and juniors in high school (and their parents/caregivers)


Researching is an essential part of the college process and other life decisions. For example, you might research companies when you are looking for a job or internship. Katherine will cover how to research colleges (mainly online) to help students determine what questions to ask and where to find the answers.


Networking and Informational Interviews

Best for freshmen, sophomores, and juniors in high school (and their parents/caregivers) AND any college student


Connecting with people can provide you with insights about a college, major, or even a job- and it is something you can still do, even while we are practicing social distancing.  As an adult, this skill will help you advance your career. In this Webinar, Katherine will show students how networking is more than learning how to make small talk. It is about finding your voice and asking great questions that will guide you towards your goals. Students will receive templates for conducting informational interviews, including how to reach out in an email and what questions to ask.

How to Manage the Transition to College

Best for seniors in high school (and their parents/caregivers)


Change is hard, and we are all going through massive changes right now. I know some students are struggling to think about the future. However, knowing how to transition from one significant life change to another is a skill you will use forever.  You will transition from high school to college, from college to adulthood. You will change jobs and maybe someday get married or become a parent. Being able to not only anticipate change but face it head-on is perhaps the most essential life skill. In this Webinar, Katherine will cover how to handle one or your first major life transitions: going to college.  We will also discuss how this transition might look different this year, given the Coronavirus pandemic.




Coronavirus and College Admissions

Hello College Mindset Families,

I am sure your inbox is flooded with companies telling you what they are doing to keep customers safe in light of the COVID-19 or Coronavirus pandemic.  I am writing to extend my support to all College Mindset families since school and college closings are more than likely affecting your college process.

Remember that while many colleges are closing, as of now, most are remaining opening.  This article from Inside Higher Ed takes a look at the decision process colleges are going through. Either way, the Coronavirus is disruptive for all of us.

As with any part of the college process (and life), I want to encourage you to focus on what you have control over.  Yes, you may be canceling your spring break college visits, postponing an international trip, or disappointed that you can’t compete in a national competition- but it is going to be OK.

Here are some general tips, resources, and proactive things you can focus on as we face this time of uncertainty.

General Resources For Updates
CNN has a running list of colleges canceling classes.
NACAC has a list of college fair cancellations.
Information on SAT cancellations can be found here and individual site cancellations here.
Updates on colleges that have canceled admissions events and campus visits can be found here and here.

For high school seniors, final admissions decisions will be delivered over the next few weeks, and you are probably already anxious about determining your future.  Read through the College Mindset blog post, 5 Steps To Making Your Final Decision.  Since attending admitted student events may no longer be an option for you, I encourage you to focus on the following:

  • Review your supplemental essay, especially the “why this college” essay.  Remember what your thoughts were when you wrote it.

  • Take virtual tours of campus, through sites such as You Visit or watch videos through Campus Reel.  Make sure you also do online research about the town where the college is located.

  • Join admitted student online groups, so you can get to know future classmates.

  • Trust your gut. You have learned so much about yourself through this process and trust which college feels like it will provide you with a fulfilling and successful college experience.

For high school juniors, spring is a busy time for your college process.  Here are some things you can focus on, as this COVID-19 continues to evolve.

  • If your campus visits are being canceled or postponed, do not plan on stopping by. If a school has canceled an event, they are doing so to protect their community, and you need to respect that. Call the admissions office to figure out your options.

  • Do not worry about demonstrating interest in a college at this point and time.  I will be adding a video to the College Mindset YouTube Channel to share ways you can demonstrate interest in a school without visiting- so make sure you subscribe to learn when that is available.

  • Continue to research colleges by watching virtual tours through sites such as You Visit or watch videos through Campus Reel. 

  • Don’t worry about canceled competitions or other extracurricular activities.  Remember that every student is having to cancel plans and change directions. I encourage you to make a list of things that are being canceled due to Coronavirus so you can let colleges know how your plans changed in the additional information section of your application.  Remember, you will need to be specific, so you can’t say,  “I was planning on getting a job, but was not able to because of the Coronavirus outbreak.”  Instead, you would need to say, “I was hired to work at Dunkin’ Donuts in March 2020, but due to the Coronavirus, I was unable to start my job until May.”

  • Right now, a few standardized testing centers in some states have canceled testing. Continue to prepare for the SAT or ACT as planned.  There are always more testing dates.

For all high school students…

  • If your school is canceled, make sure you turn your focus to other things (again what you have control over). Get ahead on your homework, do some extra credit, and continue preparing for the SAT or ACT, or Advanced Placement exams (if applicable).

  • Open your Common Application account and familiarize yourself with what a college application looks like.

  • Continue to research schools through websites such as College Xpress and College Data.

  • Take a deep breath.  If you are feeling stressed about the Coronavirus, talk about it with a trusted adult.  The New York Times published the article, 5 Ways to Help Teens Manage the Anxiety About the Coronavirus.  The Center for Disease Control also has some good resources about anxiety the COVID-19.

And to all of my college students who are returning early from studying abroad or having to leave campus, you are in my thoughts.  My heart is breaking for my college seniors who are left in a place of uncertainty about graduation and other end-of-college events.

Please feel free to reach out to me if you need to brainstorm ideas to keep busy, come up with a Plan B for visits, or vent your frustrations.  You can email me directly at

Stay well,

College Visits 101: 3 Types of Campus Visits

Did you know there are different types of campus visits? Katherine will talk you through each type of visit so you can be sure you will get the most out of visiting a college or university.

Did you know there are different types of campus visits?

First-year and sophomore high school students should be planning “practice” campus visits.

Juniors, you need to be moving towards “intentional” visits.

And Seniors, you are now visiting campuses as an admitted student- which changes everything.

Katherine will talk you through each type of visit so you can be sure you will get the most out of visiting a college or university.

Do you want more tips for the college process? Check out the College Mindset Ideal College Planning Timeline!


Hats Off To The Class of 2016

DiemThis time of year is always bittersweet. It is a time to review the college process for the graduating class, evaluate the outcomes, and look ahead with new information.

Here is an overview of the College Mindset Class of 2016:

• They received 77 acceptance letters after submitting 128 applications.
• Collectively, they were granted over 2 million dollars in merit scholarship offers.
• They reside in 6 states: California, Colorado, Delaware, Maryland, Nebraska, and Wyoming. One Colorado resident worked with me while completing a gap year in Australia.
• They were deeply involved in their communities, through athletics, student government, non-profit organizations, and many, many clubs.

But these students were so much more to me than the statistics above. Overall, they taught me that hard work pays off, but sometimes not in the way you expect it to. They handled the rejection that often comes with this process with grace and celebrated every victory with humility. They confronted challenges with tenacity and persistence- and overall showed me that how incredibly satisfying it is to send a great set of young adults into the world.

The colleges and universities below are so lucky to have these students on their campuses.

Carnegie Mellon University
Case Western Reserve University
Colorado College
Colorado State University
Emory University
Kansas State University
Loyola Marymount University
Montana State University
Santa Clara University
University of California, Los Angeles
University of Puget Sound
University of Southern California
Vanderbilt University
Washington University in St. Louis

So, hats off to the College Mindset Class of 2016!  I am so proud of all of you!

Your Humbled College Counselor,