Schedule A Free Call

Barbara Connor’s Five First-Choice Colleges© Approach To The College Admission Process

Season 1, Episode 3 Barbara Connor 09.12.18


Destination YOUniversity: Barbara Connor’s Five First-Choice Colleges© Approach To The College Admission Process


Interview with Barbara Connor

Intro: There is no guarantee for success. But there are ways to get closer to it when you do the right things, who you surround yourself with is just as important as what you do. Finding the right people, the right classes, the right activities, and taking the right tests are all decisions that shape your future. Find out more today on Destination YOUniversity with Dr. Cynthia Colon. Dr. Colon and her guests will give you the tips you need, whether you're a student, parent, or educator. Now, here is your host, Dr. Cynthia Colon.

Dr. Colon: Did you grow up with a landline, or do you click on a cell phone? Do you take your vacation photos to get rented, or do you simply click to like Insta photos on Facebook? Did you write your grade school report based on knowledge glean from encyclopedias, or did you click to search Wikipedia? Did you stand in line to deposit checks at the bank or do you click to take a photo of your deposit? Did you spend the weekend going to the mall and grocery store, or did you grow up by clicking your choices and having them delivered to your door? My friends, there are only three things we can be certain of in life, death, taxes, and change. This lesson this week is change is constant. My question is, are we shaped by those around us, or those that which surrounds us?

Our special guest today moved 11 times before the age of 20. And what happens when you are in transition all the time? Well, learn poignant lessons from this all-star army brat today. Turned esteemed educator, I'm Cynthia Colon, author of the book Tips, Tales & Truths for Teens. Welcome to Destination YOUniversity, where we explore extraordinary people who lived ordinary childhoods and found a pathway to college for themselves for others or went back to college years later. If you are a student, parent of a student, you teach students or a student of life. This show is for you, well, hello and welcome, Barbara. This is a first for me, we are coming to you live from the West Coast and the East Coast. Barbara, how are you doing today?

Barbara: Doing great, Cynthia.

Dr. Colon: Oh, that's great. How long have the girls been in session at Foxcroft?

Barbara: The girls have been here for about two and a half weeks and it has been a very busy two and a half weeks.

Dr. Colon: Wow. I'm not sure if we talked about this when we met on the phone just a few weeks ago, but I have a soft spot for all girls and women's institutions. I'm not sure if I shared with you, I worked at Barnard College, and also Marymount High School. And, so I spent the better portion of growing up years at Marymount, so I'm loving that you're at Foxcroft. What do you think about that?

Barbara: I love it. It's great to be back in this environment. I did my Undergraduate at Sweet Briar College, which is a women's college here in Virginia, and then did my master’s at UVA. And there's really something quite wonderful about single gender education. And so the experience I had in college at Sweet Briar was phenomenal for me. That was the first, I had gone to Fairfax County Public Schools all the way through high school, and so to be back in this environment is phenomenal. I really, really love it.

Dr. Colon: Oh, good. You know, I went to public school also, for high school and Barnard College was the first experience I had it all with single gender institution, and I just fell in absolute love. So we should continue talking about that maybe the in our last segment, but listeners I have to tell you, you are in for a treat today. When I met Barbara, which was just not that long ago, I just knew that this woman is filled with so much rich knowledge and tips for the college admission process. I thought you had to hear from her but honestly, more than that, Barbara has a heart of gold.

I hope you will feel just as much as I did how she cares for every single student she encounters. Barbara is currently the Director of College Counseling at Foxcroft, an all-girls boarding and day school in Northern Virginia. But before joining the team at Foxcroft, Barbara was a college and career specialist at a large public school in Alexandria, Virginia. And before that, she guided adults in planning for their future and helping them achieve their goals. I cannot think of anyone more perfectly aligned with the mission here at Destination YOUniversity, feeling confidence in teens and building dreams of adults. So really, Barbara, I am honored to have you here. Shall we get started, are you ready?

Barbara: I'm ready, I’m ready to rock and roll.

Dr. Colon: Okay, so there are listeners across the country. So for those who've never been to Foxcroft, or even more for those who've never been to Virginia, describe a little bit about Foxcroft. What are you looking out outside of your window today?

Barbara: Okay, sounds great. So as I look outside, our boarding school sits on 500 acres of rolling Virginia countryside. I can see horses, pastures, fields, stone walls and cherry blossoms. It's idyllic, it’s lovely.

Dr. Colon: Cherry Blossom, wow. And you said a little bit earlier that it’s a little bit rainy today, what's the forecast for the rest of the week?

Barbara: It's gonna be pretty wet. (inaudible 5:23) Okay,

Dr. Colon: Oh gosh, well, you know, I don't mind saying out loud, Barbara, because you're my friend now, and I think it's safe to say that place like Foxcroft or Marymount is not where I grew up, right. It's not where I went to school, we both went to public schools. And I remember feeling sort of out of place at times, and I have to tell you that it took me sometime when I got to Marymount to really understand that the goals there, you know, no matter what privilege Background you come from or not, and certainly there is an array of different students that were at Marymount, not just those from privileged backgrounds. But all teenagers Would you agree have the same worries and fears and nervousness around the college admission process?

Barbara: Yeah, absolutely. I think that the more I do this, and I've spent many years in my career in this work, the more you come to realize that teens are teens and parents, or parents and the process is the process. And so being able to meet each individual student right where they are with their questions and their thoughts, really is the most important part for me, making sure that they understand that I am going to meet them right where they are and help them identify options, so that the path they take gets them to a great destination.

Dr. Colon: Right, absolutely. It was a great lesson for me to learn, you know, really before the age of 30 that really all teenagers have that same, and the parents too, let's not get started on the parents. They have a lot of worries as well. So, okay. Well, this time is all about you and I just love some of the stories that you're going to get to share with our listeners. But why don't you start, Barbara, by sharing with our listeners a bit about your childhood, sort of set the scene. What was it like growing up? Describe your family, extended family and what were you like as a child?

Barbara: Sure, so I'm the oldest of three children. My father was a career army officer and we moved a lot. I lived all over the world. I lived everywhere from Fort Campbell, Kentucky, which is where I was born to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, to Paris, France for three years, back to Virginia. And once my father was assigned at the Pentagon, he kept getting reassigned. So there was a point where we actually lived in one place for six years in a row, which was incredible. I've never had that experience in my life. And so, I think I was probably in some ways a fairly typical kid, for the suburbs. Which was, you know, we would come home from school, we would grab a snack, maybe change clothes, and then head outside, and we would play outside for four or five or six hours, go hang out, and we listened to a lot of music. You know, we would just hang out and just be typical teens. And so really, the growing up was an important piece of things. And I think because of that, the fact that I did this in lots of different geographies that really set me up for some great life lessons and world knowledge and a real global appreciation for individual perspectives which I bring to the work that I do with students.

Dr. Colon: What are some of the cities that you lived in and when you were growing up?

Barbara: So again, I was born in Fort Campbell, we moved to Paris, France when I was pretty small. Back to Fort Monmouth, which is in New Jersey, up to Massachusetts, we stayed there for about a year down to Eglin Air Force Base, which is in Florida, over to Fort Leavenworth, down to New Orleans, to Virginia and then Pennsylvania where Carlisle barracks is, and then back to Virginia. So, you know, a pretty reasonable life punch card if you're an army brat.

Dr. Colon: I love that army brat lessons from an army rat. Okay, so that takes us up to you know, I'm not sure what, which city or how many times you move when you were in high school. Tell us about your journey in high school, now we're in high school. What was your journey to college who helped you, who encouraged you tell us about that path?

Barbara: Sure, so I really have always felt incredibly grateful to be an army brat and I know this sounds crazy to keep saying that except, it absolutely informs everything about the way you encounter the world. So for my four high school years, I was actually in one high school. I had a lot of friends who had been in four different high schools, as high school students, because they kept being transferred around. I was very fortunate to be in one high school for all four years. So when we, being in the army growing up that way, I met people with different perspectives, beliefs, experiences, and this shaped me even in my high school years into somebody who really valued and appreciated meeting people from different backgrounds. I love listening to perspectives and ideas, and really helping them figure out you know, kind of where they want to take their lives, I've always been fascinated by that.

During my high school years, I had tremendous support from my family. My father was a first-generation college student. He had to work, he was a member of his university's program, and he participated in Co-0p programs to pay his way through college. My mom attended one year of college and then left school to get married, which was fairly common practice at that time. My parents had three kids, as I said, I'm the lucky older sister, the two younger brothers. And this is what I always come back to at heart. Each of us graduated from college, and each of us went on to earn a master's degree. That is what I call the transformative power of education, within one generation.

Everyone in my generation has a master’s degree. My father was first gen and my mother didn't finish her college degree. That's what college can do in a family. And if you extend that out to your siblings, your cousins, your neighbors, people, once they see that it can be done, really there's a lot of power, in that move of making families college going families. When I was in high school, I will also share with you that my relationship with my guidance counselor literally was 30 seconds long. This was back in the day when you only went to the counselor, if you were in trouble, and they called my name on the loudspeaker, and I was embarrassed. And I thought, my goodness what's gone wrong that I have to go see this person? And this was, you know, 30 whatever, 30 years ago, 40 years ago. So I went to the guidance counselor's office, and he said, are you going to college? And I said, yes. And he said, oh, I didn't know if I had to write a letter about you. Okay, go back to class. That was my entire relationship with my school counselor back then.

Dr. Colon: Wow

Barbara: It could be done better, right?

Dr. Colon: Well, okay. So I always say this on each show and that is, and I forget every time to say it at the beginning. Listeners get out a piece of paper and pen, there are always 'golden nuggets'. And the guests have been amazing. I mean, Barbara, I think she just dropped about three or four bombs in what she just said. So let's just go back to a couple of these gems here. First of all, you said your father who was first generation to college, and he worked, and he used co-op programs to pay his way through college. And your mom only went to college for one year and then got married, which was pretty normal for women to do and you know, some went to college, some didn't, some only went for a bit.

But here's my favorite piece. My favorite piece is this 30 second relationship with your college counselor. Right? Because that just like not acceptable to these days. And here is the wonderful, wonderful nugget if you haven't written this down. She said the word transformative education everyone. In her family, her father did go to college, and then they had three children. And all three of them, went to college, graduated, and then got a master’s degree; that is transformative. The power of transformation in a family and really lifting up. And when people have role models in front of them, when it's done before you, it gets easier with each generation. So, okay, that's fabulous. Oh my goodness. Alright, so the counselor says to you, are you applying to college? And you say yes. And he says, great. I'll write a letter for you go back to class. That's it. Right?

Barbara: And you can imagine he doesn't know me, and so what is this letter going to be? It's going to repeat my transcript. He literally knew nothing about me that was the entire relationship right there. So you know, things are different now you would hope and for most students, they have a different experience. But some of our colleagues in California are in school that are large, that don't have very many counselors and so, you know, they're going to do the very best they can for large caseload. So you know not, there's been progress in so many ways.

Dr. Colon: There has been, yes.

Barbara: Which is great. We just have to keep pushing for that because it's important. It's an important and relationship.

Dr. Colon: Now, how many colleges were you going to be applying to that year as a senior?

Barbara: So, we had our family residency in Florida. When you're in the military, you have to pick one of the states you've lived in. So we had Florida as our state's residence. We had been down at Eglin Air Force Base for a while but my families from Massachusetts, my whole extended family is all there. So I had chosen very large, mostly public schools, all public schools in Massachusetts and Florida. And those were the places I was going to apply to. I knew I wanted big, I knew I wanted outside of Virginia because I already lived there for four years or six years at that time, which was a long time for me to live in one place and I wanted to be in a big coed kind of a wonderful place.

And I was very fortunate my, my mother was able to take me to see the colleges. Not everyone got to tour colleges back in that time, but I got to see schools down in Florida and schools up in Boston, and loved them absolutely fell in love with them and started to do my applications, which were, of course, on paper. (inaudible 16:26) I have a file folder with each different application form. The application I had, you know, every part of it. And every night, my role was I would make a little bit of progress on each physical application.

Dr. Colon: I like that.

Barbara: That's how that started. And I ended up at Sweet Briar in a very strange set of circumstances.

Dr. Colon: Okay, I'm going to pause you there cause we'll continue the story. We're going to have to take a break in a second, but I want people to write down that nugget she just said if you didn't catch it. She planned out and plotted doing just a little bit of progress on each application each night. So don't, you know, see this as a huge overwhelming task. If you take it apart and break it into pieces you can do this, I promise you, anyone can do this.

Okay, my friends, you're going to need paper and pen because you know, we've already like, she's dropped like five bombs already. She's going to share her formula today, of the five first choice college approach. You don't want to miss this, grab your beverage of choice. I've got my water and green tea here. Get cozy we need to take a commercial break but stay with us. We will be right back.

[17:43] Commercial break.

[20:18] Dr. Colon: Welcome back. I'm Dr. Cynthia Colon here with Barbara Connor, Director of College Counseling at the Foxcroft School, an all-girls boarding and day school in Northern Virginia. And welcome listeners we are in for a treat with Barbara, she's just full of 'golden nuggets'. So have your paper and pen ready. Before we went to commercial break, Barbara was telling us a little bit about her senior year and I loved the little note that you said that your college counselor relationship was 30 seconds long when he asked you if you were applying to college or not. And then said okay, well, great. I'll have to write a letter of recommendation for you, and that was pretty much it. So if you missed part of the last segment, Barbara applied to a number of colleges, and we left off by you were starting to tell us how you chose the school that you choose. So what factors, what happened once you got admitted so that, you know, first of April comes around? So walk us through what happens next.

Barbara: Sure, so I had visited schools down in Florida and up in Boston, these were large public, where there was a lot going on. They were coed’s, there was a lot of energy and I knew that I could be very excited and happy to be in any of those places. And I think I had applications out at 1-2-3 schools in Florida, and probably 1-2-3 schools in Massachusetts. So I applied to six schools and I was pretty sure I was headed in one of those directions. And then one day, my father came home he was stationed at the Pentagon, and he came home one day and he said, “I was talking with one of the Joint Chiefs and his daughter is at that Sweet Briar College, her experience sounds really interesting to you.”
And I said, “Sweet Briar? I've never even heard of that school.”
He said, “Well, you know how you want to study Economics? She wants to, she's studying Economics. You know how you want to do study abroad?”
I said, “Yes.”
And he said, “Well, she's studying abroad in France right now.”
And he was describing an experience that sounded like a great match for me. But it was in Virginia, and I was ready to get out of Virginia. It was single gender, and everything I was looking at was CoEd. And it was relatively small, and everything I had looked at that point was really large.

So I said, you know, basically just to humor my father who I adored you know, just to be able to say, “Oh, sure I'll look into it.” So back in that day we didn't have computers of course, so I had to call the admissions office and ask them to mail me their (inaudible22:57) which they did. So about a week later it arrived. And the next day I got a call on the phone from the Admissions Director at Sweet Briar, who said, “We have a bus trip. The bus is going to pick students up at National Airport, would you like to come down and spend a day with us next Wednesday?” And I asked my dad and mom and they both said I could miss the day of school, at the high school. So I said okay.

So we drove down on this bus, 50 young women from Maryland, DC, and Virginia. We arrived on the campus and it had been as you would imagine, 50 teenage young women, it had been a very loud bus trip, lots of yelling and talking and sharing of stories and getting to know each other, and the bus pulls into the campus, and then all of a sudden, it is dead quiet. Everybody is just mesmerized with how stunningly beautiful this campus is. And as we pull in, you know, we're glancing around. It pulls into the quad and pulls up by these, you know, Christopher Wren gorgeous architects building.

We pull into the quad, and someone comes up to the bus door, the bus door opens. And this woman greet every single one of us who steps off the bus by name and gives us a (inaudible24:09) schedule for the day. And as I stepped down off of the bus she said, “Oh, you’re Barbara Connor. You're interested in studying Economics. We've got you scheduled for Rubin Miller's Economics class, then you're going to go sit in on Ken Grimm's Government class. After that, we've got you with lunch over here. And we've paired you with this older student from Sweet Briar, who's going to be with you today to give you a tour.” And I thought to myself, this is stunningly different than the cattle call of large tours of 50 and 60 students that we had been on when we've been at the large public, which were phenomenal. I love those tours, I'd love those campuses, but I didn't quite feel that personal touch as much as I did. And she literally had my name typed onto the schedule. It was personalized for me and it made me feel very listened to and very important in my own college process.

And so that was a very pivotal moment for me because I thought to myself, I didn't even heard of this school three or four weeks ago and now, I'm looking around saying, Is this a place I could make my own college for four years? And the more that as the hours passed, and I sat in on the classes, I didn't sit in the back, by the way. I tried to, I did, I went into these classes and sat in the back row. And each of the professors said, “Oh no, come on down. You're joining my class today.” They really, really brought me right into the experience. And I think in some ways, many of the small little arts colleges have that ability to really help you understand what this experience can be for you on a day like that.

Dr. Colon: Wow, okay. So I want to, this is so great. What you have just outlined really is the personalization. And that touch and we started the set, this episode talking about you know, did you grow up with a landline, or do you click on a cell phone? Or do you print out photos, etc.? And I think what students need to hear today and parents too, is that you just can't get the complete feel of a school by clicking on the internet and taking a tour. If you at all can get to a location and go visit or take when they offer options of taking a bus ride or flying you out to go actually tangibly, physically see it, the question today is you know, yes, the lesson is ‘change is constant.’

But the question is, are we influenced based on those around us or that which surrounds us? So who is around you and what is around you and Barbara? You said that you got off and you just saw this amazing architecture. That's what you're going to be surrounded by for four years. And then to put that connection with people that were going to uplift you and support you and encourage you, that had to be really, really powerful for you to see that in action and think, wow, this is a place I want to be. So that's awesome.

Barbara: It really was, and it helped make what was at that point, a challenging decision. It helped make that decision much, much easier. Because I got home that night, and my father and mother sat at the dining room table with me. And they said, “So how was your day?”
And I said, “You know how when you're little and you don't know really what college is, but you just get this idea in your head?”
I said, “In visiting all of the campuses we had visited, I was visiting on their terms and I was seeing their campuses.”
I said, “Today when I went to Sweet Briar, the college that was in my head when I was growing up, that experience is what I actually experienced today.”

And so it that, again it was a very different college choice than I thought it was going to make. I think for me, as I work with students these days, what I try to do is, I try to talk to them about the experience not the name. We can get very caught up in the rankings, we can get very caught up in brand name schools, and all of those things. And I think at the end of the day, the experience that you have in your Undergraduate years, is either going to help you grow into the adult you're going to be or it's just going to be a place for you to hang out for four years.

And when it's a great and tremendous fit, that match makes all the difference right. And during my years there, and I wanted to come back and just circle back a little bit, my parents were unbelievably supportive, this was a very different idea for us, right? I really looked at public universities because, you know, well, we could afford college. We certainly didn't have extra money for a lot of those kinds of things. And so, I had always thought if you looked at a private school that it was going to be significantly more costly. And I think what I learned through that experience was that it was more expensive but very often, those private or independent schools often have money to offer and scholarships, and that was the case.

So I was able to get a scholarship that covered part of my cost. I took out student loans and my parents paid for the bulk of that, but you know, this was a time when I had to be able to be flexible and fluid and be willing to change. You talk about everything constantly changing, I had to change my idea before I could allow myself to think what a great fit Sweet Briar would be for me. I had to acknowledge that I had really been looking at the public universities, because I thought that, that's what we could afford.

When we sat that night at the dinner table, both of my parents said, If this is the right school, if this is a great fit for you, we're going to figure this out.” Because each of us, the parents had had such a different experience as they were growing up, they try to make sure that the three of us as the kids really could open up some options that maybe had not been available to them. And again, we talked about earlier the transformative power of education, and what that allows you to do in your own life. And then for those around you, it's just a critical piece of all of that.

Dr. Colon: I love that. Now I want you to tell that tale that you told me about that student that you help, so I'm going to get our listeners caught up. So Barbara goes on and she goes to Sweet Briar graduates, she had a work study job and career planning. And she did a number of other things; Director of Staff Development, marketing, parent liaison. And she kept sort of growing and helping you know; she was in a helping roll almost always in every job that she had. So she also before being a Foxcroft, she was at a public school in Alexandria, as I said before, and so she's been doing this for a long time and has a lot of experience in just helping people and shepherding them through this process. So, Barbara, share that story. The tale, your favorite student, that you reached out to community-based organizations and tell that story of that student that was just so beautiful.

Barbara: So working with all of our students, every individual student is a tremendous experience and it's a real honor to get to work with them to help each girl or each student depending on what kind of school you're in, but to help each student understand how she learns best, what her goals are, and then helping her identify those best paths that can help her navigate her college process. So, in working with First Gen students, again, probably because my father was First Gen and it just makes a big difference once you understand that power within education.

So I find that working with First Gen students is particularly rewarding, because you're helping them see something that doesn't yet exist. I worked with one particular student who came to our school through a partnership we have with a community-based organization. Starting in her sophomore year, I started to realize that if this was going to work, if college was going to be a realistic goal for her that I needed to bring in a lot of supporters, I needed to get a lot of people on board because we all had to want the same goal if this was going to work.

So starting in her sophomore year, I identified about two dozen colleges, which I thought could be great academic and social fits for her. Then working with admissions directors, financial aid officers, athletic coaches, over the course of those next 18 months, I (inaudible33:18) that list down to the schools that certainly could meet demonstrated need, because those are schools that do that, and or schools where I had enough relationship with them that I know the kinds of institutional scholarships they tend to give could be great fits for this particular student.

And what I would say is over the course of that time, although I had a very specific goal in mind, which was to help her have choices that was going to actually work for her financial level of need, and to meet her right where she was academically. I had that goal in mind, but even having said that anytime you're working with first generation families, that route isn't always smooth. And I think I shared that with her at the beginning, I said to her, what we're doing is at times going to feel frustrating, hard, sad, scary. I told her that at the very beginning, and I said, we're going to hit speed bumps but I'm going to help you navigate getting over every speed bump that comes our way over these next couple of years.

And the reason I told her at the beginning to anticipate the speed bumps, know that there will be times when you'll feel scared about this idea is because I wanted her to understand it. Those are the regular normal feelings that you have. When you're First Gen you haven't been there. You don't know what it's going to look like or how much time it might take to do a particular part of the process, or what something is called. You think that there are other people around you who already know all of that and you feel like you're just playing catch up all the time.

So the road is not always smooth. There will be bumps, I promise you speed bumps, I promised them, but guess what? Some of these are structural, some of them are emotional. You have the tools to go ahead and be persisting, have determination, use the people around you who want the same goals for you. And then you are going to be able to navigate this path. And it's worth it is the bottom line and my joy, my real joy is that this student is now a college student. She is working hard to be a great role model for her siblings. She is showing them it can be done, and I could not be more proud of her.

Dr. Colon: Oh my goodness. I think you just you made me a little teary and i hope that my mom listens to this episode because what a great thing to say out loud, Barbara. And if you're an educator listening to this, you're a parent what a great thing. So that's a 'golden nugget' like there were another four bombs that she just dropped again, I can't keep up with all your 'golden nuggets', Barbara. So at the beginning, if you are working with First Generation students, tell them just say out loud, they're going to be speed bumps. I love what you said; there are going to be times when you feel frustrated, sad, it feels scary, overwhelming. So I can guarantee the speed bumps. But I'm not sure if you said it this way, but it sounded to me like you were basically saying, I can guarantee speed bumps, but I can also guarantee that I'm going to go over them with you.

Barbara: Yes.

Dr. Colon: And that is really, really beautiful. That's my favorite, favorite story that you shared. And from everyone around the country who's the First Generation just to college student, Barbara, I want to say thank you for all you do. It's really, really amazing. So see, I hope you can see why I chose to interview Barbara because she's just filled with so much love, not just knowledge but just love and the pure care that she has. So, we do have to take a commercial break, unfortunately but we're going to be right back. You're here with our honored and our army brat and you're going (inaudible37:05) lots of lessons from this esteemed army brat. So grab your pen and paper if you don't already have it. And we need to take a commercial break, but we will be right back.

[37:15] Commercial break.

[39:49] Dr. Colon: Welcome back, everyone. You're listening to Destination YOUniversity. I'm your host Dr. Cynthia Colon and I'm here with Barbara Connor, Director of College Counseling at the Foxcroft School in Virginia. And oh my goodness, we are having so much fun. Thank you so much for being with us. You've got so many 'golden nuggets', I can't keep up. But we are in, the really great piece here. So get your piece of paper and pen ready because Barbara is going to share some really wonderful stuff in this last segment here.

So Barbara, with all of your years of experience, really tell us the one truth that you want every one of our audience members across the country, what do you want them to know?

Barbara: In life, the only constant is change. And a college admission is no different than that right? Every year there are changes in college testing policies, changes and application deadlines, changes, and application requirements or even the applications themselves. There are ever shrinking admission statistics for the highly selective colleges every year. And it's really easy to get caught up in the hype about rankings, and college stress, and branding and colleges and the changes that are coming. And so the hedge against all of this change and uncertainty really lies in one fundamental truth.

And for me that is to keep the student at the heart of the process, helping students research college destinations, which provide the types of academic and social and leadership research experiences that will enrich your life. All of those things are important. And so it's critical that we remind students that college is not the goal, life is the goal. College is just the next chapter of someone's life. So keeping this in perspective, along with the fight first choice colleges approach which I develop really helps improve admission outcomes and reduce stress.

Dr. Colon: I love this. And so I want you to really explain, you just said, you developed this approach.

Barbara: Yeah

Dr. Colon: And so I want you to be able to walk us through what that means, what that looks like, because this is a good tool for lots of people to use.

Barbara: Okay, so I've been doing this work for a long time. And probably about eight or 10 years ago, I noticed that students were becoming incredibly enamored of the reach school. And this was when we used the model that was to have a reach school on your list, to have some in your zone or match schools that were right where you were, and then also to have a couple of safety schools.

So when you think about reach zone safety, that's a model that worked 30 years ago, because college admission was different 30 years ago. So when students try to use that outdated approach, in today's selective admission environment, they are incredibly frustrated because they're running into, you know, different situations that maybe existed when the reach and match and safety model really worked pretty well. So what I was finding was students wanted to spend about 90% of their time doing research on their reach school, they were excited about that school, their shoulders would lift, and their voice would get lighter. And they would become incredibly animated when they got to talk about how amazing this reach school was.

And what they weren't doing was actually spending reasonable time on the schools that were actually likely as to admit them, right. And this is not in any way to say that we shouldn't have students stretch and dream and have these fabulous ideas because we should, at the same time when you're into single digit admission statistics for schools, that's a lottery ticket. I'm not going to have one of my students place her future, in the fact that maybe she'll get one chance out of 34,000 or 120,000 application and it's just not reasonable.

So what I say to students is, you can apply to any schools you want to, and you can have as many schools on your list, my goal will be that your list is between five and eight schools long, deep. But I want at least five of the schools on your apply list to be what I call five of these first-choice colleges. So in order to be considered one of these five first choice colleges here's how the rundown goes.

Dr. Colon: Okay.

Barbara: Number one, you need to understand your academic profile. The academic profile is the combination of the rigor of the coursework that you have had in high school, your cumulative grade point average, and your test scores from the ACT, SAT, TOEFL if you're International, etc. I say cumulative grade point average because it's important to know the type of student you are. It's also important for students to understand that when college admission people read their transcript and they read them quickly and they read them just like a book, they're not just looking at that one cumulative number, they're also going to look at that discipline by discipline.

So they're going to look and see, how was your math progression? What kind of coursework did you take? What kind of grades did you get in math? Okay, how did he do or how did she do in English? They're going to do that same thing. So they're reading your academic profile, not only will the college's read those, but a big percentage of big factor in whether or not you get admitted is right there in that academic profile.

Remember, college is an academic proposition, they want to know that you are going to be able to handle their level of work, and you're going to be able to keep up and you're going to be able to grow and continue to develop in those academics. So you having as a student, you having a very good grasp of exactly that student that you are, is critical and is really at the heart of this whole process.

Dr. Colon: Okay, number two.

Barbara: Number two, you want to research the factors that can make that college experience a good match for you. For some students, they really if they've never traveled and they'd like to, they love the idea of getting to do study abroad. So sometimes they're looking at schools that offer that. For others, maybe getting to do Undergraduate research and getting to be in a lab setting with college professors is really something that they're excited about, getting to do that research maybe even getting published before they finish their undergraduate years.

There are lots of colleges in the states that offer undergraduate research. If somebody is particularly interested in internships or co- ops, they may be looking for schools that have particularly terrific locations that offer lots of those kinds of opportunities. If finances are an issue and you're planning to live at home and commute, you may be looking for a school that's close to home. For other students. They may be looking for a little bit of distance there. And then they are a number of schools that meet full demonstrated need. And so again, if those are the kinds of schools that you're going to want to look at, we need to pay attention to where that is. Speaking of money, the third factor that the student and the family need to look at are the financial realities, right? The money is not just going to fall from the sky. So looking at federal grants, student loans and work study, looking at scholarships that are available either from the community in the area, sometimes colleges have institutional scholarship money that they can offer.

The fourth one is that your current admitted profile like your admission profile, your academic profile needs to be in the typically admitted applicant pool. And what I mean by that is the mid 50% of the most recent admitted class, and this is information that you can find on the NCES website. That's the National Center for Education Statistics website. So if you know what your scores are for SAT or ACT, you can see where my scores, scores that (inaudible 47:58) are currently admitted have just, and they perceive those types of scores in that mid 50% is that they're looking for. And so again, if your scores are within that range, or even better, if you're in the top 25%, you're increasing the chances that you may be an attractive student for them to admit.

The fifth and final factor is the most important. The student needs to want to attend that school. I can't tell you how many times in my career, I've heard a student say, well, I'm going to apply to this school because I think I can get in, but I'd never want to go there. This is the biggest waste of time and quite honestly, students who are seniors in high school these days, don't have one extra minute to waste on something.
So what I say to them is there are thousands of colleges in the United States, you are going to be able to find many, many, many of these campuses where you could be academically successful and very happy and so I don’t want you to spend time applying to schools that you are not interested in. You just don't have that kind of time. I would also ask you this, how excited would you be to go to your prom with your safety date? No, that sounds like a terrible way to spend time, right? So I don't I want you to find schools, five of them, at least for your apply list, where all those factors are in place.

You are the kind of kid they're looking for. They have the kinds of programs that you're looking for. And we know that those are places where you could be academically and socially, very, very happy, and the financial peace. So again, if it's got those factors, that's great. And once those things are in place, that can be one of your five first choice colleges and you're searching for five of those to help improve outcomes and reduce your stress and the college process.

Dr. Colon: Oh my gosh, I love what you just said. So I like to end the segment with always giving our listeners practical advice, what can they take away from this? And so I do like to end with or give them five tips. So you just gave this, this road map here. So, to recap, everyone if you didn't catch it all, I'm going to just recap it. The five first choice college approach that was formulated by Barbara Connor. Number one academic profile which includes your rigor, your GPA, your test scores, rigor of your curriculum. Number two, good match evidence of a good match, do your homework, find schools, you want to actually go to and have what you're looking for. Number three, check out the financials, parents be very transparent with your kids about what you can do for them and what they'll need to do for themselves.

Number four, your numbers you should be sort of typically in the admitted range, so be mindful of that. And number five, you should want to attend the school. I use to say to students, okay, if I just blocked out you know, the 12 on your list if I just said, okay, you're only going to get into this one school and I, you know, I went down list each school, would you be okay? Would you be okay? And you're right. Seniors do not have a minute to waste. I love what you said they don't have a minute to waste, so why are you wasting time on a college you'd never go to. So teenagers, you don't want to go to prom with your safety date, nor do you want to go to college and your safety school so or safety meaning you don't go there. Oh, my goodness.

So much, so much. Thank you so much for all those little takeaways. I wish we could spend another hour with you. But here's the thing my friends, everyone who's listening across the country, we’ve given you some tips and some tales, but here is the real truth. Yes, the only constant in life is death, taxes, and change. But do note this little fact, we are living and breathing. We are a living, breathing version of who we surround ourselves with, and that which surrounds us. Choose your team of supporters, your cheerleaders, your believers wisely and take a look around you, learn from the environment, the culture, and the beauty of every place you encounter.

Barbara was fortunate enough to live in 11 different places before the age of 20. And I dare say she's lived in many more since then. She takes something from every place she encounters that which surrounds her. She had to adapt, make new friends begin again and again. But she embraced this change as a gift. And she grew and she evolved, and she matured. My hope for you today is that you see change as a gift and that you are in luck because the day change is only one click away. Okay, Barbara next week, we're going to be talking to Dr. Angel Perez from the Vice President at Trinity College. Have you ever visited Trinity?

Barbara: I have, and Angel is amazing. Wait, you're gonna love this conversation, he is awesome.

Dr. Colon: I can't wait to have him on. So that's next week, and Barbara, will you quickly tell our listeners how they can get a hold of you if they wanted to reach out and ask you a question?

Barbara: Sure, that'd be great. Feel free to check Foxcroft website. It's And the college counseling link is right there, and we would love to hear any questions or thoughts that you have on the program. It has been a real joy and an honor to get to be part of this experience this year. So thank you for having me. Thank you so much.

Dr. Colon: Absolutely. Listeners thank you for joining me today you are my family. If this episode has in anyway fueled your confidence and help build your dreams or the teens around you. Please share this episode with three people in the next 30 minutes for additional free resources or frequent consultation or to register for my college essay camps. You can learn more by going to and you can send me an email from there. If you have a question or a topic you'd like to recommend for this show Destination YOUniversity, you can email me at [email protected] educators and adults if you're looking to earn extra income or to save for college tuition, or take a bucket list vacation, please contact me and let's chat. That is all for today, my dreamers I'm Cynthia Colon; remember, please share this episode with three people. I will see you next Wednesday at noon Pacific for another episode of Destination YOUniversity. Until then, wherever you are, may you have a happy and sunny day.

Outro: Thank you so much for listening this week to Destination YOUniversity. Be sure to join Dr. Cynthia Colon again next Wednesday at 12 noon, Pacific Time, 3pm Eastern Time. On the Voice America Variety Channels and get one step closer to your success.