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Questions & Answers

Why should I hire an educational consultant?

Benefits of Working with a College Admissions Consultant by Higher Education Consultants Association (PDF)

Do extra-curriculars really matter?

At most schools, yes, although you don't have to be everything to everybody. Colleges look for students who are willing to get involved in their communities and have experience building upon their interests. Some students, of course, must work to contribute to their family's budget. Colleges view your activities within the context of your environment.

Is it ok to get help with my essay?

Since it's important to choose a topic that helps a college understand who you are, brainstorming ideas with another person is perfectly acceptable. It's also fine to have someone review your essay for errors. However, your voice and your story are yours and no one should change that.

When is the best time to visit colleges, before or after I'm accepted?

Being on a college campus is an integral part of the research process. It also lets a college know you are interested, an important element for certain private colleges, especially those within a reasonable driving distance. If at all possible, you should visit colleges before you apply and then your two top choices once again in the spring before you accept one. Time and money, though, sometimes prevent students from visiting colleges before they are accepted.

Do colleges pay more attention to the weighted or unweighted GPA?

There is inconsistency in how colleges view the GPA. Some use an unweighted version, but make note of the number of semesters of honors and AP work the student has done, while others use the weighted version. Some calculate the GPA based only on 10-12 grades, while others look at the entire four years. There are colleges, too, that only recognize the grades from core subjects: English, math, social studies, science and foreign language.

What tests do colleges require in the application process?

Although the majority of colleges ask you to send either the SAT or ACT, there are plenty that do not (visit for the list). Top colleges may also want to review scores from a few Subject Tests. It is best to review the test policy listed on the admission website of each college you are applying to.

What's the difference between the SAT and the ACT?

The SAT is a reasoning test that asks the student to use material learned in classes in a new way. Points are given for correct answers and partial points are subtracted for incorrect answers. It's important for a student to understand the strategies of this test. A possible score of 800 can be earned on each of three subtests: critical reading, math and writing. A perfect score is 2400.

The ACT is more closely aligned to a student's curriculum and is a style that feels familiar to many test-takers. A possible score of 36 can be earned on each of four subtests - English, math, reading and science - with a composite averaged from the four. A perfect score for the entire test, then, is 36. A fifth test, writing, may be added and is often required when submitting the ACT to top colleges.

How much weight do colleges put on summer activities?

"It is not what you do during the summer that matters as much as how it helps you develop. When evaluating students' summer experiences, college admissions officers look for signs of a passionate interest in something, and for signs of your initiative, commitment, responsibility, and leadership." (Carrie Horsey, counselor, Head Royce School)

Is it better to get As or take harder courses?

While colleges certainly like to see As, they also value a student's willingness to challenge herself with more difficult classes. It's a matter of balance; push whenever possible, but not to the point where your ability to be successful is undermined.

Is it more cost effective to apply to an in-state public college or a private college?

The answer depends on what your expected family contribution (EFC) is, how much of your financial need is covered by the private school or whether your student is eligible for merit aid. Just because the sticker price at a private college is more than the public one, don't ignore the opportunity at the private school, especially if that is where your student has the best chance of succeeding and being happy. Until a family receives the financial aid package or merit aid award, you won't know the true cost of attendance.

When should I contact coaches if I want to be recruited for a sport?

It's not too early to contact coaches in the sophomore year. However, the majority of athletes make the first contact in the junior year. Look for an online form to fill out on the college's athletic website, then follow it up with a cover letter and athletic résumé directed to a specific coach.

How important is it to disclose a learning disability when applying to colleges?

The law does not require you to disclose a learning disability. However, the more information a college has when reading your application, the better chance they have of understanding your successes and challenges. The best outcome usually comes from a well-informed decision.


"Gael is everything she promises and more! Whether you have a strong-willed student (like mine) or an uncertain student, Gael has a great manner with them -- to go with a substantive knowledge base and a clear process for both you and your young adult. Gael was worth every penny!"

~ Peter Lengsfelder (daughter, Brooke, at BU)

Lebanon Valley College by College Find, College Consultants for Marin and Nationwide

"I was so completely stressed when I first started the application process. Gael really helped me organize everything and made it easier to handle such a big decision."

~ Marla Nave (UC Santa Barbara)

Lehigh University Building by College Find, College Consultants for Marin and Nationwide

"Wow. What a process. Now that we are on the other side of it, I can clearly see how valuable Gael's work has been. My daughter and I were both anxious about the college application process and had heard all sorts of horror stories, but Gael took our hands and hearts and led us calmly and with great care through the process. The outcome could not have been better."

~ Delores Schoffman (daughter, Danielle, at Stanford U.)

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