Answering More Questions From Independent Consultants

This week we're featuring answers to fifteen frequently asked questions from Independent Counselors and other academic consultants about College Essay Organizer. Here's the last of the fifteen. If you have more questions, please let us know.

13. Is there anything that I can do to improve the format when printing the RoadMap results?

We have added functionality to remove any questions, which will reduce the length of your printed document as much as you choose. If you are copying and pasting into a Word document, you can reduce the amount of space between lines by making sure the document is single-spaced with zero paragraph spacing before and after each line (look for this setting in the Alignment and Spacing section of the formatting palette). If you have further questions about formatting your RoadMap for your students and their families, please just send us an email and we'll be happy to help you out.

You may want to consider giving your clients access to their CEO accounts, rather than printing out reports, as many consultants have found that sharing CEO with their clients serves two key purposes: first, it validates the need for your services, as CEO demonstrates the sheer magnitude of the essay process; second, it delivers a clear plan that parents can follow if they wish and empowers students to work more efficiently and proactively on their own.

14. Will you be adding essay questions for transfer students?

We don't have enough demand for transfer applicants at this point in time. Most students who want to transfer typically apply to only one or two specific colleges, making CEO less useful to them.

15. Do you value customer service?

We place great value on our customers, and provide quick and accurate responses to all inquiries. We are always available by email and phone to further discuss how we can improve your experience if you feel anything is in need of improvement.

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Answering More Questions From Independent Consultants

This week we're featuring answers to fifteen frequently asked questions from Independent Counselors and other academic consultants about College Essay Organizer. Here's the next bunch, and if you have more questions, please let us know.

11. Is there always a word or character count listed for every essay?

We always include the listed word or character limit for each question if it is provided on the application. Instances in which essay lengths are listed as "Short space provided" (or something similar) refer to physical limits on a paper application. When there are discrepancies between the stated lengths of questions in the online and paper applications, CEO lists the questions for the online application.

12. How useful are College Essay Organizer's essay samples?

We post what we deem to be "very strong" essays. We have found that posting truly exceptional essays intimidates students who are poor writers or are uncomfortable writing about themselves. We'll be adding more samples this year, which should give your students a broader range of essay topics to review.

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Answering More Questions From Independent Consultants

This week we're featuring answers to fifteen frequently asked questions from Independent Counselors and other academic consultants about College Essay Organizer. Here's the next bunch, and if you have more questions, please let us know.

7. I found that I did not use the RoadMap as much as I could have. Do you have any suggestions to help me make better use of it?

The RoadMap provides a suggested plan for organizing your essay questions and shows the overlapping themes among your essays. But one of its best features is that it provides as many topic options as possible for each essay that the student needs to write. Take advantage of this flexibility! It is ultimately up to the independent consultant and the student to relate the student's life to the broad themes addressed by the essay questions. But choose your topics carefully and specifically. It will make the writing process quicker and simpler, and increase the quality of the essays.

We are always improving the RoadMap's functionality and ease of use. We have greatly simplified the layout of the RoadMap, and have added note-taking and essay uploading features to make CEO your one-stop source for guiding students through the essay writing process.

If you would like to go over these upgrades individually, or find out how to optimize your clients' experience using CEO, please let us know and we'll arrange a private demo with Dan Stern, our president. We're confident you'll find that the new and improved CEO will guide students more clearly and successfully.

8. Will you be adding any additional tutorials for independent consultants?

We will be including additional resources to help new users this coming season, including live webinars that explain how to best use CEO and that cover various essay topics. We will also include materials you can share with clients that allow them to optimize their CEO experience. Though these additions aren't required to use CEO or understand its benefits, they can help improve the experience for all.

9. Is it possible to buy only the QuickFinder for my clients?

We do not currently offer QuickFinder-only accounts through the Master Account platform.

10. Why not?

We have developed the RoadMap around the QuickFinder format, allowing the RoadMap to function as a flexible, modifiable QuickFinder. Now that we've added an essay-sharing platform to make communication between you and your students even easier, CEO has become a one-stop shop for the college essay writing process. We see the RoadMap as the core of that experience. The overwhelmingly positive feedback regarding the RoadMap, as well as the upgrades that make the RoadMap even easier to interpret now, makes clear that this is the best approach for our users.

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Answering More Questions From Independent Consultants

This week we're featuring answers to fifteen frequently asked questions from Independent Counselors and other academic consultants about College Essay Organizer. Here's the next bunch, and if you have more questions, please let us know.

4. Students often choose not to apply to schools on their original lists. Will it be possible to make changes to the list of schools for each student?

We have added 5 additional college selections per student account to grant even more flexibility. Each account now allows a maximum of 20 college selections. The RoadMap allows for colleges to be selected and de-selected, and will automatically provide an updated essay writing plan based on the student's most current list.

5. How can College Essay Organizer enhance independent consultants who pride themselves on their 'high-touch' services?

CEO is designed to increase the quality of 'high-touch' services. Researching and organizing essay questions on your own (or having your clients do it) wastes valuable time and opens up the possibility of overlooking program-specific, optional, and scholarship questions, which are usually not included on schools' regular applications or the Common App.

With CEO, speed and accuracy are taken care of, and you can focus your energies on high-level essay responsibilities like brainstorming the best topics and editing drafts. This optimizes the real value you bring as a consultant and eliminates the tedious, time-consuming work involved in looking up essay questions and designing a personalized essay plan.

Our new note-taking and essay uploading features will make this process even easier, allowing you to use CEO as your one-stop source for the college essay process.

6. How can I be sure that College Essay Organizer's data will be updated quickly and accurately?

We consider accuracy our top priority. Occasionally there will be a slight delay between the time an essay questions is made available by a college and when it appears on our site, but we closely monitor all the universities in our database and upload their essay questions as soon as they have been released publicly and verified by our staff.

Our stellar track record for speed and accuracy speaks for itself, and this season we will work even harder to ensure that new essay questions are uploaded as early as possible.

Unfortunately, university admissions departments do not always post accurate information. In 2010, many colleges posted essay questions that contradicted different versions of their own applications. Ultimately, CEO helped to resolve these issues for its users, and for the colleges who were unaware of their discrepancies. We plan to have even more researchers this year to ensure greater speed and accuracy.

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We Answer Questions From Independent Consultants

This week we'll be featuring answers to fifteen frequently asked questions from Independent Counselors and other academic consultants about College Essay Organizer. Here's the first bunch, and if you have more questions, please let us know.

1. Is College Essay Organizer appropriate for all students?

CEO is a time-saving tool regardless of where a student is applying. It instantly delivers all of the questions for any student's selected schools -- and for students applying to schools with few or no essay questions, CEO helps them confidently know that a certain college does not have any essay questions, as sometimes it takes hours of looking to determine this.

Moreover, many colleges that don't have required supplemental essay questions for traditional applicants do have required questions for students applying to specific programs or departments. Most students are not aware of this, find out too late, and end up rushing to write mediocre essays in order to make their deadlines.

Finally, an increasing number of universities, especially state schools, offer a multitude of scholarship essay questions that appeal to all demographics, even those who do not require financial aid. CEO now features hundreds of such questions, and the list is growing.

2. Can you help me place a value on College Essay Organizer?

Based on our research, the value of CEO far exceeds our current price point. With CEO, consultants save several hours per student, which means much less work required for the same number of billable hours. During the busy application season, this means your efficiency in setting up new clients skyrockets.

In fact, many consultants have found that if they share a sample CEO report with potential clients, it often convinces clients that they could not possibly manage this process on their own without enduring excessive stress and confusion.

CEO also finds program-specific essays that aren't included in schools' applications or on the Common App -- these questions tend to get overlooked or are discovered late in the game. Rather than spending hours seeking these out or losing your credibility when clients recognize that you've failed to address them, you can have them all delivered instantly through CEO.

CEO also provides a multitude of scholarship essays that can mean thousands of dollars in additional money for applicants.

With our new feature that allows you and your clients to upload and edit essay drafts within the CEO platform, you won't have to email multiple drafts back and forth for multiple students.

The alternative to using CEO is researching all the questions on your own or assigning this task to your clients, which may lead to incomplete and inaccurate results, not to mention frustrated students and parents. It also means resorting to the cumbersome process of emailing drafts back and forth dozens, even hundreds of times.

We offer various promotional discounts via our partner sites throughout the year and post new discount codes on our blog regularly, giving you many opportunities to make CEO an even more valuable part of your business.

3. What new features have been added to College Essay Organizer?

Our recent upgrades include making the RoadMap so much easier to interpret, adding note-taking and essay uploading features, and providing a checkbox that allows you to know whether or not an essay has been completed. We have also enhanced site speed overall.

We will also be holding weekly webinars for members, covering various essay topics, guidance on how to make the most of CEO accounts, and Q&A for answers to specific questions.

Finally, all independent consultants who are CEO members will be able to guest blog on our heavily trafficked site, expanding their reach to potential new clients.

If there is ever anything that you would like to see added to CEO, please let us know. Your feedback drives us to be better!

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What Can You Expect When You Take the SAT?

Not the most exciting thing to look forward to...

For juniors, spring is the most popular time to take the SAT, followed by another round of testing in the fall if necessary. So as seniors are making their final calculations on which school has the greatest merit, juniors are nose deep in SAT prep books and practice tests.

No matter how much time you have spent preparing, there is always that anticipatory anxiety, and one item on everyone’s mind, as this informative article suggests, is the essay section. The mid-march SAT launched an unexpected essay prompt with a focus on pop culture leaving many with mixed feelings. While some felt it was a step in a positive direction allowing the test to appeal to its teenage audience, others had a quite different reaction:

“There was a hue and cry that the question put some of the best students at a disadvantage because they were often too busy with other, worthier pursuits to be watching Snooki and The Situation. Some students complained they'd been blindsided.”

According to the College Board, which creates and administers the test, the topic was broad enough to encourage good writing, and the essay itself is much less about the topic than it is about the quality of writing. Michael Kuchar, the superintendent of schools and guidance director at Bergenfield High School, states that you can still do well without any knowledge of the topic as long as you follow the right recipe which includes four paragraphs: a thesis, two supporting paragraphs, and a summary which refers back to the question.

As you cram in those last days of study, remember that while there is no way to predict the questions in advance, knowing the formula that the test makers are looking for will give you an advantage.

New York Times Reports on 2011 College Admissions Figures

New York Times College AdmissionsOver at the New York Times' The Choice, a great chart of up-to-the-minute admissions figures has been made available, and it makes clear that the trend of applying to many schools is showing no signs of letting up.

There are a number of caveats that they point out in the write-up under the chart, most notably that the budgets for advertising schools' applications have been increasing as well. The schools are in the business of increasing the number of applicants just as much as the students are in the business of hedging their bets by applying to more than ten schools a piece.

But what does that mean to you?

Notice that certain schools' acceptance rates dropped significantly from 2010 to 2011 without their academic metrics (like accepted student GPA or SAT scores) improving at the same level. These are schools that have found effective ways of boosting the applicant pool and driving down the acceptance rate without necessarily increasing competition for qualified students.

So it's not as much doom and gloom as you might think. If the schools are making an effort to increase the applicant pool without necessarily increasing the pool of applicants that deserve to be at the school, you are going to appear just as competitive as you would have in previous years, despite the increasing number of applicants. More than anything, you'll need to be focused on efficiency and making sure your pile of applications isn't overwhelmed by the typical homework you have to do in the first semester of your senior year. Get organized!

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Writing College Admission Essays Is Hard

With early decision deadlines surrounding us this week, we'd like to point you to this classic article over at the Wall Street Journal that reminds us just how difficult it really is to write a college application essay.

We'd like to emphasize the thought these college and university presidents gave to the topics of their essays. Selecting your topic and point of view carefully is a fundamental part of writing the admission essay (not to mention all writing in general). Are you writing about yourself in the present? About yourself in the recent past? Are you writing about yourself before you had a change in opinion or experience?

The people the Journal write about here might seem different from typical college applicants in that they are older and more experienced than those applying now, but in reality, writing their essays is not so different from writing yours. You need to intelligently choose your subject matter, making it something that is distinctive, personal, memorable, and accessible.

Near the end of the article, one writer considers, but then avoids, writing about her morning workout routine. The reasons she cites are good - it's boring and self-congratulatory - but the more important reason not to choose such a topic is that it tells us little about the writer's life outside of the gym. These essays want to be more than a story of what you do. They can address who you are, and implicitly, they should be about what you can bring to a university, be it in the classroom or the campus at large.

Don't shy away from topics that feel overly emotional, just make sure not to convey them in tired, cliched ideas. One essay cited in the Journal article, about a sibling that had died before the author was born, used a topic that was full of emotional pitfalls, but if the writer is willing to be honest and talk about how that living condition affected him as a person without using cookie-cutter descriptions, then there stands to be an enormous amount gained by the reader.

This article is a strong reminder that writing is difficult, and being interesting while avoiding cliche takes effort. Put your time in now - get started early - and remember that the college essay ought to be the piece of writing you do more revision on than anything you've ever written.

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New York Times Cites Problems With Guidance Counselors

Even the best get a little... hold on... wait... uh, busy.

Even the best get a little... hold on... wait... uh, busy.

Our friends at the New York Times has published an article on a recent study showing that most people who graduated from high school in the last dozen years thought their guidance counselor was unable to provide useful advice on their college decision, with a large percentage feeling that the help offered was impersonal.

Also cited in the article was the sobering statistic that the American School Counselor Association considers a student:counselor ratio of 100 to 1 as 'optimal,' but that the average nationwide is 265:1, with schools in California shooting up over 1,000:1.

We should read this as evidence that the people tasked with providing the kind of organization and optimization that today's college application process requires are understandably overwhelmed by the task much of the time. And who can blame them? Much of a guidance counselor's time is eaten up with in-school requirements, scheduling conflicts, and even disciplinary issues that have nothing to do with helping to plan college experiences for their students.

So for students, try to make your time with your counselor count - and know that they aren't necessarily going to have the resources to organize your work for you, nor are they necessarily going to be able to plan your meetings in advance in a way that will optimize the experience for both of you.

Make sure that the preliminary, basic work of organization and management of your tasks is taken care of automatically, and try your best to mine your guidance counselor's considerable knowledge of university specifics and different opportunities, rather than just focusing on "what you have to do to get these applications done." You'll be much better served the sooner you can get to the upper-level discussions your guidance counselor is qualified to have with you. And he or she will be a lot happier, more grateful, and eager to do so.

For guidance counselors, remember that there are tools out there that may seem cost-prohibitve at first, but ultimately save your school money through greater efficiency. Using CEO as a management tool, for example, makes your job easier, cuts anxiety for all involved, and helps you keep on top of where your students' applications stand without a single piece of paper to keep track of.

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The New York Times And College Applications: More On Holistic Admissions

One in Five. Too many? I guess that depends.

One in five. Too many? I guess that depends.

The New York Times refers here to an official study showing that one in five schools these days is using an unpublicized SAT cut-off point for applicants, and one in four of those schools that require the ACT does the same. Sounds bad, right? Well, I’d argue not entirely. We ought to see this as the glass being a lot more than half full.

This study's flip side shows that the overwhelming majority of schools are keeping their analysis holistic, and are willing to look at the application in full rather than in strictly numerical terms. (Remember that many of the larger schools, for whom the essay is irrelevant or nonexistent, are likely to be the ones using these cutoffs.) This also means that the schools are giving each application time, which is what we as applicants should be most grateful for. It’s the thing that takes the most effort and the most money on the part of the schools, so their doing that kind of legwork is beneficial for us.

It also means that all that time-consuming work that they’re throwing at you actually does matter! These essays are given quality reads and given their fair due in the evaluation process. So remember that even though they are not a quick-fix solution to elevating your application from dud to stud, they most certainly can be a quick-fix solution to making your application rise to the top. Make your work stand out, and as we at CEO like to put it, you will let your life speak.

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