Campus Visit Notes: Seattle University



College: Seattle University

Location: Seattle, Washington

Type of Institution: Private Jesuit university

Size: 4,800 undergraduates and 7,200 students total (including graduate and professional programs)

Admissions Advice: Seattle U’s application process is fairly straightforward, though students applying to competitive programs with direct entry (such as Nursing) will have a little extra focus on test scores in the review. This university awards merit scholarships in the $16,000 – 22,000 per year range, making SU a good financial option for families who won’t qualify for need-based aid.

Most popular majors: Nursing, Business, Engineering, Psychology

Words to describe students I met: Open-minded, friendly, progressive, savvy

Unique academic aspects: I got to learn a lot about the Honors program from my excellent tour guide.  SU’s Honors program satisfies the core curriculum requirements and is broken out into three different tracks: intellectual traditions; society, policy, & citizenship; and innovations. All of the tracks start with ancient civilizations and work their way forward to modern society. They emphasize interdisciplinary learning and writing and are a great option for students interested in a rich liberal arts education. Note: Engineering students cannot complete Honors at SU, but all other majors are eligible.

Like many of the other west coast Jesuit colleges, the percentage of students who identify as Catholic is actually fairly low with only 25% reporting a church affiliation. The school does still require students to take two religion courses to graduate. One of them is a bit more centered around Catholicism, and the other focuses on world religions.

Unique social/cultural aspects: Seattle U’s location is pretty incredible. It is right in the heart of the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle, a short walk from downtown, and is surrounded by amazing food and nightlife. For students looking to attend college in a vibrant urban area with some traditional campus spaces as well, SU is hard to top.

SU also takes its Jesuit mission seriously. Social justice, activism, and community service are huge on this campus. For example, their annual dance marathon raises $100,000+ for Seattle Children’s hospital!

Colleges that seem similar: University of San Francisco, Gonzaga University, Loyola Marymount University, Pacific Lutheran University

Concerns about this college: Though the student body is fairly ethnically diverse, the socioeconomic diversity is somewhat lacking. SU is launching a new program called SU Bound with the hopes of attracting and supporting more students from lower-income backgrounds. 

Overall impressions: I thoroughly enjoyed my formal tour of Seattle U and had a really positive experience interacting with students on the campus. The admissions staff is great and really goes out of their way to make sure families have a wonderful visit. For students looking for an urban college environment with strong pre-professional programs, SU is a great option, a gem in the middle of my beautiful city!


College Application Boot Camp

I am pleased to offer a College Application Boot Camp for rising seniors!

When: Wednesday, August 8th – Friday, August 10th from 12 noon – 3 PM daily

Where: 2910 E Madison St. Suite 109 Seattle, WA 98112

This intensive 3-day course will provide comprehensive college application support for a small group of rising seniors. Students will complete the following tasks between in-person class time and evening homework:

  • polished personal statement
  • college ready resume
  • target college list
  • completed Common Application
  • brainstorming/outline for one supplemental essay

This course is intended for rising seniors seeking to jump-start their college application process in a highly-structured, fast-paced environment. Please contact me for more information or to register:

Campus Visit Notes: Dartmouth College



College: Dartmouth College

Location: Hanover, New Hampshire

Type of Institution: Private research university

Size: 4,400 undergraduates (and 2,000+ graduate students)

Admissions Advice: Like most highly selective universities, the Early Decision admission rate at Dartmouth is significantly higher than the Regular Decision rate (26% vs. 9%), so students who have fallen in love with this college should choose Early Decision. Students should also take advantage of the unique “peer recommendation” option to add to their application, which is something 90% of applicants include with their applications.

Most popular majors: Economics, Government, History, Engineering, Psychology

Words to describe students I met: Outgoing, athletic, spirited, outdoorsy, supportive

Unique academic aspects: Students at Dartmouth get the best of both worlds. They receive a well-rounded education and are taught by amazing faculty who are very focused on their undergraduate students, but have opportunities to to take classes in the renowned business program, and access to medical school faculty and research. They even offer an Early Assurance program for strong students who want to continue on to medical school.

Dartmouth’s academic calendar is also unique. The “D-Plan” is essentially a quarter system but with a lot more built in flexibility, so many students choose to do internships or away terms during the course of their studies. Plans like these encourage students to get out into the world and break up the monotony of the traditional college schedule. Added bonus: Students can study away or take a break from the harsh New Hampshire winters (though that means missing out on the opportunity to ski on Dartmouth’s own mountain)

Unique social/cultural aspects: Dartmouth has long held a reputation as a “work hard/play hard” school, and Greek life can be a big part of a student’s social experience. There are 28 Greek organizations on campus, with over 40% of students participating. However, because of the school’s reputation and reach, there are a diverse range of students here and Greek life isn’t the only social avenue.

Outdoorsy students will love Dartmouth’s location and the endless opportunities to get involved through the Dartmouth Outing Club. During my sunny weekend visit, I happened upon a group of students in capes and sequined pants, blasting music, singing, and chanting. They were anxiously awaiting the arrival of their friends who were attempting “The Fifty“, which is literally a 50-mile hike students do in teams. I had a great time chatting with these spirited students about their college experience, the collaborative and supportive culture of Dartmouth, and, of course, the opportunities to explore the great outdoors.

Colleges that seem similar: Williams College, Davidson College, Duke University, Middlebury College, Colgate University

Concerns about this college: Well, it’s an Ivy League college with single digit admission rates, so getting in is hard.  For that reason, Dartmouth should be considered a reach for every student. Additionally, I still have some lingering concerns about the Greek system and party scene, despite the college’s push to limit drinking in recent years.

Overall impressions: I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Dartmouth and the small city of Hanover, and especially loved visiting when the fall colors were out in full force. The tour guides were all incredibly friendly and articulate, and the students I approached around campus were over-the-moon enthusiastic about their college and community. Dartmouth feels much larger than it is, and I was surprised at the diversity of students I saw and interacted with during my visit.

College Decisions: Class of 2018

It’s decision day! Congrats to my seniors on making their final college choices. Here’s where my small group of 2018 seniors are off to this fall:

  • Emory University
  • Claremont McKenna College
  • University of St Andrews
  • Lehigh University
  • Bard College
  • Reed College
  • University of Redlands
  • Occidental College
  • University of Vermont
  • Chapman University
  • Whitman College

And now on to the next class…

Tips for making your final college choice

college choiceSeniors and parents of seniors: you are now officially (less than) one month away from the May 1st national college choice deadline day.  If you are a lucky student who is weighing multiple offers of admission, read on. The tips below will hopefully help as you make that final choice.

Schedule a visit, if you can. Check your admission packet and/or online communications for information on admitted student preview days on the campus(es) of your choice. Some colleges offer all-expenses paid or low-cost visits for students with demonstrated financial need.

If you don’t have the option to visit, many colleges hold receptions in cities across the country where you can chat with admission representatives, financial aid folks, and sometimes even current students and professors. If none of these options are available to you, your region’s admission representative will likely be able to connect you to current students via phone or email. They may even be able to direct you to virtual tours.

Use your connections. So your cousin’s neighbor attends that college? Or you mom’s yoga instructor’s spouse graduated from there ten years ago? Don’t be afraid to reach out!  People love talking about themselves, and they love sharing their personal college experiences. Be sure to have a few well-researched questions ready when you reach out – phone, email, or in-person are best.

Talk with your high school counselor & teachers. Chances are there are other students from your high school who have gone off to the colleges you are considering. Ask if your teachers or counselors might connect you with those former students. This can be particularly helpful as the students can speak to the transition from your specific high school’s academic and social environment to the college they attend.

Compare your financial aid and scholarship offers. This is absolutely crucial. Be sure you completely understand everything broken down in your financial aid and scholarship letter. A good financial aid letter will include the total cost of attendance (room & board, travel, books, student fees, incidentals), and not just tuition. It will also include the total loan amount, if loans are offered (Note: Avoid Parent PLUS loans if you can!). If you are awarded a scholarship, be sure you understand whether it is a one year or four year award, the terms for maintaining the scholarship, and how any additional scholarships you receive in the future would impact your financial aid package. If anything is unclear in your award, ASK!

Use LinkedIn alumni search. This is one of my favorite tools to use when helping families evaluate potential outcomes of attending X college versus Y college. Simply go to, enter the college name, and then click “See Alumni”. From there you can filter the alumni network by location, by what they majored in, by profession, and many other filters. This is a great way to see who employs graduates of that college, or what someone who majors in your field does after graduation. I also recommend checking out the college’s career center website for their own reporting on recruiting and alumni information, such as graduate school placement, average starting salaries, etc.

Ultimately, if all of the above factors are equal, go with your gut! Where do you see yourself being the most comfortable? Where are you most excited to grow over the next four years? And remember, wherever you end up, the experience is what you make of it.

Campus Visit Notes: University of Vermont


College: University of Vermont

Location: Burlington, VT

Type of Institution: Public research university

Size: ~10,000 undergraduates

Admissions Advice: UVM, like many public universities, admits students into a specific college when they apply. It is one of the most friendly public universities when it comes to out-of-state admission and scholarships. That said, it is also one of the most expensive public universities in the country (more on that below). Students can get a fairly accurate sense of what they might qualify for using the Net Price Calculator.

Most popular majors: Business, Biology, Environmental Science, Psychology

Words to describe students I met: accepting, laid-back, hipster, liberal, outdoorsy, white (it is Vermont, after all)

Unique academic aspects: Not surprisingly, students at UVM are passionate about the environment. In fact, UVM offers 22 (!) environmental science related majors in some very niche fields such as food systems and plant biology. There are also some interesting minors available including geospatial technologies and wildlife and fisheries biology. I was really impressed with the Aiken Center on campus which houses some of these majors.

Additionally, this university is committed to experiential learning in the outdoors and in the Burlington community, and they also regularly connect students to alumni and employers in larger East Coast cities like Boston & New York City through networking nights and internships.

Unique social/cultural aspects: Though UVM is a state university, it is definitely not a commuter campus. Vermont requires entering freshman to live on campus for the first two years, and allows and encourages students to stay for junior and senior year as well. While UVM does have a Greek system, it only includes about 900 students total, so it isn’t a major factor in the social vibe of the university.

Even though the university is located in northern Vermont, the college social life isn’t limited to the confines of the campus. Burlington is an amazing college town with a great mix of restaurants, shopping, and outdoor recreation opportunities in the mountains and on the lake. And for students 21+ (and visiting parents), Burlington has a pretty serious craft brewery scene, reminding me a lot of other college towns, such as Fort Collins.

Colleges that seem similar:  University of Colorado – Boulder, Ithaca College, University of Massachusetts – Amherst

Concerns about this college: My biggest concern with UVM is the fact that they are an incredibly expensive option for non-residents at $55,000+ per year. Yes, they are generous with merit scholarships for top students ($18,000+ per year), but that still puts the cost significantly higher than a student’s home state university system, and potentially still more expensive than many smaller private colleges out there. For non-resident families requiring a lot of need-based financial aid, or families hoping to keep annual college costs under $30,000, UVM likely won’t be the best match.

Overall impressions: University of Vermont is a really great option for students looking for a medium-sized public university in a fun and manageable small city. Yes, the winters are cold, but there is still so much to do in the Burlington area and on campus. The student body is friendly and laid-back, and an the community includes an interesting mix of jocks, hippies, snowboarder bros, preppy students, and everything in between.

The importance of financial aid calculators for ALL families


‘Tis the season for college list development with my juniors! Though some prefer to start this process earlier, I find that students are really ready to focus on their college preferences in a more mature way at this point. Often junior year classes become more interesting and students begin to actually engage with the material, sometimes honing in on potential college majors or at least identifying their preferred learning styles. Junior year also means SAT and ACT testing. Though some wonderful colleges don’t require these tests for admission, the majority still do, so official scores are a crucial part of making a well-rounded college list.

But those aren’t the only reasons I prefer starting with students junior year.

On the financial front, families with be applying for financial aid using the income information from the year that just ended (mid-junior year). This “prior-prior” year means families can actually get a fairly accurate picture of what to expect in financial aid (and sometimes scholarships as well), which can further help with developing an appropriate college list.

So if you are the parent of a junior, here are a few very important homework assignments to tackle in the coming months:

  1. Calculate your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). This will generate the annual expected cost for your child’s college education. It is a more generic formula that centers on income information and maps the best to colleges which only require the FAFSA application for financial aid consideration.
  2. Complete a Net Price Calculator for your child’s top college(s). If your child has already identified a top college (or two, or three), you can get an even more accurate sense of what you’d be expected to pay at that specific institution. This calculator can be found on each college’s financial aid website. These questions tend to be much more detailed and nosy for a few reasons. First, this calculator will factor in your child’s likelihood of receiving scholarships from that specific college (if offered). And secondly, many of the colleges that do the very best job with financial aid do so because they have gigantic endowments, so they are truly able to support students with demonstrated financial need. Since they are giving away their own institutional funds, they want the most accurate information possible and will dive deep to capture a family’s true financial situation.
  3. Have “the talk” with your child. I’m referring to the paying for college talk, of course. Be sure your family talks openly and honestly about the expectations of paying for college. Will your student be expected to take out loans? Or get a summer job? Do you have an absolute maximum budget for college? How do you plan to use your existing college savings, if you have one, especially if you have multiple children?

Many families assume they won’t qualify for aid, and therefore don’t follow through on completing these important tasks. Or they don’t establish guidelines with their child on the front end, leading to some intense arguments about paying for college once admission decisions come back in the spring. So start planning now!

For more information:

Guide to financial aid, including income brackets, college types, and rough “cut-offs” for aid

Filling out the FAFSA

CSS Profile overview