Campus Visit Notes: University of the Pacific


College: University of the Pacific

Location: Stockton, CA

Type of Institution: Private university

Size: 3,600 undergraduates

Admissions Advice: University of the Pacific uses a holistic admission process. They will recalculate GPAs to a weighted GPA (great news for my Washington state HS students) and will look at a range of other factors in the review process as well. Admission can vary by major, and many of the accelerated programs are incredibly competitive, such as Dental and Pharmacy.

Most popular majors: music, engineering, business, accelerated health professions (Dental, Pharmacy)

Words to describe students I met: diverse, social, goal-oriented, engaged, friendly

Unique academic aspects:  I was blown away by one of UoP’s newest majors, MediaX. This major is a great match for students interested in “the future of storytelling”, blending coursework in gaming and animation, writing, performance, technology, engineering, business, and more. The program aims to help students create content for multiple platforms and is doing a lot of cool stuff with virtual reality. I particularly loved seeing their motion capture equipment in action in their black box theater.

This university also has several smaller academic communities for highly motivated students, including: accelerated tracks into their own Dental and Pharmacy professional programs, a Legal Scholars program (with accelerated law school option), Humanities Scholars, and finally the Powell Scholars. This last program provides a big time merit scholarship of 40K+ per year for all four years and is given to the very top applicants to the university. I met a few Powell Scholars during my visit and was impressed with their backgrounds but also the ways in which they are engaging more deeply with their fellow scholars, faculty, and other UoP resources.

Unique social/cultural aspects: University of the Pacific is one of the smallest colleges to field Division I sports teams. Though they don’t have football, many other teams are well-supported and the campus was full of students in their Pacific gear. I also cannot believe how many major and pre-professional tracks this small university is able to support. Because of these factors as well as the active Greek system, you’d never guess UoP was under 4,000 undergraduates in total.

Colleges that seem similar: Honestly, UoP is a pretty unique place! But a few that have some social and academic similarities include: University of San Francisco, Gonzaga University, University of Portland, Chapman University.

Concerns about this college: My biggest concern continues to be the fact that over 80% of students attending UoP are native Californians, so it isn’t particularly geographically diverse (though it has incredible ethnic diversity). Though many students are coming from southern California, there is still a fairly large percentage from northern California meaning students do go home on the weekends. Greek life and a robust dorm system provide social opportunities on the weekends, but not as much as at a larger university or a college where a high percentage of students are coming from other states.

Overall impressions: I had the amazing opportunity to experience UoP for two full days by participating in a special event for counselors, so I leave the campus with a much more comprehensive set of impressions compared to my normal visits. This place really felt like a family and I know that students would have amazing support from faculty, staff, administration, and even their fellow students. It is also a beautiful campus, full of a brick buildings, a lovely chapel, and even a few palm trees. This university is a gem, particularly for students who are able to participate in their accelerated programs or special merit scholarship programs.


Campus Visit Notes: Scripps College

College: Scripps College

Location: Claremont, California

Type of Institution: Private liberal arts college for women

Size: ~950 students total; 7,000+ including neighboring colleges in the Claremont consortium

Admissions Advice: As the Claremont Colleges become more popular, so does Scripps. The majority of successful applicants are at the top of their high school class and have strong test scores as well. (Scripps is one of a handful of women’s colleges that still require SAT or ACT). Because the entering class is very small, each application is read very carefully and holistically. Scripps is also one of the rare colleges that both meets 100% of a family’s financial need and awards some merit scholarships as well, even for students without financial need.

Most popular majors: Media studies, international relations, psychology, biology, English, studio art

Words to describe students I met: Independent, strong-willed, artistic, liberal, open-minded

Unique academic aspects: Scripps prides itself on its interdisciplinary core curriculum, a 3-semester series of classes that each woman must take to continue her education at the college. The focus of these classes center around “communities”, examining past and present problems with a variety of lenses. The Claremont Consortium is another unique aspect of academic life at Scripps. Students have the opportunity to seamlessly register for classes at any of the other nearby colleges and are even able to choose an off-campus major as well.

Unique social/cultural aspects: The social life at Scripps is fairly diverse, and isn’t necessarily in line with the “traditional” college experience. For example, while there are parties (occasionally hosted by Scripps), the majority of students will venture to the other Claremont Colleges for their party fix. Though many Scrippsies participate in DIII athletics on the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps teams, there isn’t a ton of school spirit surrounding sports teams.

Instead, Scripps students can be found attending ballroom dance shows, a cappella performances, gallery nights, and open mics. The Motley Coffeehouse regularly hosts student speakers and performers and provides a creative outlet for Scripps women. The coffeehouse is run by students, and there’s even an opportunity for talented bakers and chefs to sell their pastries at the shop. I spent many nights studying, learning, and listening at this coffeehouse during my college years at neighboring Claremont McKenna. Scrippsies can also be found soaking up the sun at the pool year-round, or hanging out with suitemates in the beautiful dorms.

Colleges that seem similar:  Wellesley College, Mt. Holyoke College, Bryn Mawr College, Smith College

Concerns about this college: As the college becomes more competitive, I’ve found it difficult to figure out what Scripps is looking for in applicants each year. The college is trying to become more ethnically, socio-economically, and geographically diverse, which is great. However, as a result, it is very difficult for even the strongest students to gauge whether they will be admitted in a given year. Though the admission rate is currently hovering around 25%, significantly higher than the other neighboring Claremont Colleges, it is still very tough to be admitted. For this reason, Scripps is a “reach” school for anyone in my opinion.

Overall impressions:  The Spanish and Mediterranean architecture, the intimate study spaces, the rose garden, and the shimmering blue pool put this campus on the top of my list of most beautiful campuses in America. I thoroughly enjoyed the many classes I took at Scripps during my time at Claremont McKenna, and really felt a strong sense of community and collaboration. I would highly recommend this college to students looking for the best of both worlds: a small and supportive community of young women, but surrounded by the resources and opportunities of a medium-sized, co-ed university.


2016 Summary: Parry College Counseling

It’s been an exciting year for Parry College Counseling and my awesome group of seniors! This year I worked with a total of 23 long-term seniors as part of my package programs. This group of students mostly attend Seattle Public Schools (Garfield, Ballard, Roosevelt in particular), with a few Bellevue and other suburban students in the mix as well. And I’ve expanded beyond just the Seattle area, working with students remotely from Alaska to eastern Washington.

This year I’ve had the pleasure of working with students from a range of socioeconomic backgrounds and family situations, including pro-bono students needing full financial support to attend college, first-generation students, underrepresented minority students, seniors from single parent households, and everything in between.

I also worked with 40 additional students on an hourly basis, assisting them with tasks such as essay brainstorming and editing, interview coaching, college list development, and transfer admission preparation.

Below are the acceptances my seniors have received so far through either early action, early decision, or rolling admission. The majority of admission decisions will come back in March. I’m also excited to share that my seniors have received a total of over $2.2 million dollars in scholarships so far!

Harvey Mudd College, Muhlenberg College, Tulane University, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Santa Clara University, University of Portland, Boise State University, Beloit College, Trinity University (Texas), Sierra Nevada College, Marquette University, Loyola Marymount University, University of San Francisco, University of Denver, Regis University, Carroll College, Montana State University, Pacific Lutheran University, Willamette University, University of Arizona, Colorado State University, University of Colorado-Boulder, Butler University, Kent State University, Whitworth University, Washington State University, Goucher College, Arizona State University, Alaska Southeast University, Western Washington University, College of Wooster, Linfield College, Oregon State University, College of Idaho, Coe College, Gonzaga University, Misericordia University, Seattle University, University of Redlands, Lewis & Clark College, Fordham University, Chapman University

Thanks for following along on this journey. Wishing you and yours a happy and healthy 2017!

Campus Visit Notes: Claremont McKenna College


College:  Claremont McKenna College

Location: Claremont, CA

Type of Institution: Private liberal arts college

Size: 1,300 students at CMC, but more than 6,000 in the Claremont consortium

Admissions Advice:  Claremont McKenna is a unique liberal arts college looking for pragmatic and real-world oriented students. The school is full of “leaders in the making” and seeks to identify these qualities in the application process. Students who are strong communicators should take advantage of an interview opportunity to stand out from the crowd. With an admission rate of about 11%, students should take advantage of opportunities to share why they believe CMC would be a good fit for their goals and aspirations.

Most popular majors: Economics, finance, government, psychology, PPE (Philosophy, Politics, and Economics), international relations

Words to describe students I met: motivated, career-oriented, outgoing, jocks/bros, worldly, leaders, politically-active. I had the privilege of attending this college for my own undergraduate experience, so these descriptions only scratch the surface. There are some amazing and interesting people at this college and across the consortium.

Unique academic aspects: Claremont McKenna is full of go-getters. Starting freshman year, students are already looking to set up fantastic summer internships and gain real-life work experience. Fortunately the college provides support for these motivated students in the form of grants for work with non-profits, funding for science research, and a top-notch career services center. The college has lots of high-profile alumni in the finance, business, tech and public policy realms in particular, and regularly connects current student to these individuals through networking trips and speaking events.

Unique social/cultural aspects: The Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum “the Ath” is a must-visit for students touring the campus. This event space hosts famous speakers every Monday to Thursday night, an opportunity for students to eat a fancy dinner with faculty and their spouses, community members, or even the speakers themselves. Some examples of visitors include: Anderson Cooper, Laverne Cox, Maureen Dowd, Bill Clinton, and Karl Rove. Also of note, the Ath offers weekday tea where students can load up on tea (duh!), coffee, pastries and chocolate-covered strawberries.

One of the best CMC traditions is Thesis Day. When students complete their thesis, typically a 40-70 page research paper or project, they receive a bottle of champagne from the college and proceed to celebrate in the fountain in the middle of campus. On a Monday afternoon. It is a great way of bringing together the senior class at the end of a long and stressful project.

Colleges that seem similar: Williams College, Washington & Lee, Dartmouth College, Vanderbilt University, Davidson College

Concerns about this college: CMC is one of many colleges that have been in the news lately for racial and socioeconomic class tensions on campus. As a middle class student from the heart of the Midwest, I admit feeling “out-of-place” at times during my own experience as there are many wealthy students, both domestic and international. However, I found the majority of my peers to be welcoming, curious, and respectful of my background as I was to theirs. The college is working to improve diversity on campus and provide better support for students of color. And for students from lower to middle income families, the financial aid here is amazing and one of the main reasons I choose to attend. They are need-blind and meet 100% of a family’s demonstrated need, and they have capped loans at $4,000 per year, significantly lower than most colleges.

Overall impressions: My four years at Claremont McKenna were pretty amazing, and the campus and area have only improved since I graduated. There is a strong sense of community here, and although 1,300 students seems small, the consortium makes it feel like a medium-size college with plenty of research opportunities as well. It is not necessarily a traditional liberal arts college, but you have access to a diversity of thought (particularly on the political spectrum) that isn’t present at many top-tier colleges, especially on the coasts.



Campus Visit Notes: University of San Francisco

College:  University of San Francisco

Location: San Francisco, CA

Type of Institution: Private Jesuit university

Size: 6,700 undergraduates, just over 10,000 including graduate programs

Admissions Advice: USF has a fairly holistic application review process and looks at everything from GPA/test scores to letters of recommendation to a supplemental essay. They are looking for students who will fit in with the social justice mission and will be engaged members of the campus and greater San Francisco communities. I was pleased to learn that the college has greatly expanded its scholarship awards, ranging from $5,000 – $22,000 per year for all four years. Awards are based primarily on GPA, test scores and class rank.

Most popular majors: Nursing, business, kinesiology, communications, psychology

Words to describe students I met: Diverse, social, engaged, hip, alternative, cultured

Unique academic aspects: USF is adapting to the booming tech economy of San Francisco and the Silicon Valley. They recently added a Data Science major, essentially a computer science and math major that prepares students for careers in manipulating and interpreting big data. The college has historically been known mostly for its nursing and business programs, so it’s great to see the addition of this interdisciplinary major.

Business students also have the opportunity to take classes at the downtown campus in the financial center of San Francisco. Typically these are upper-level courses that allow greater access to business, tech and finance leaders working in the downtown area. USF is huge on connecting students to service opportunities and internships throughout the San Francisco area.

Unique social/cultural aspects: The mix of students on campus is truly interesting. You see people of all ethnic backgrounds, styles of dress, and personalities wandering around and hanging out with each other on campus. No single ethnic group makes up more than 30% of the student population, reflecting the diversity of this city. On the socioeconomic spectrum, USF enrolls 30% Pell-eligible students and 20% international students, so there is a huge range of socioeconomic backgrounds as well.

Colleges that seem similar: Loyola Marymount University, University of San Diego, Fordham University, Santa Clara University, St. Mary’s College of California

Concerns about this college: USF only guarantees on-campus housing for one year. After that, students are left to find their own options in the heart of the most expensive city on the west coast (and it may even be more expensive than NYC due to the tech boom). Students who want to live within a mile of campus will be paying a lot and will definitely need to get creative with finding affordable housing. Students on more of a budget may need to go as far as the Sunset district, a solid 20-30 minutes away. The college offers financial aid for housing at around $13,000/year, an amount which may not completely cover a student’s off-campus housing and dining in this city. On the flipside, students will be pushed into the realities of the world earlier than at highly residential colleges in the middle of nowhere.

Overall impressions:  This was my second visit to the USF campus. The first visit was years ago when I attended a health careers and graduate school fair and presented to several of the pre-professional student groups around campus. I enjoyed the opportunity to learn more about student life, housing, and the non-academic aspects of attending this college. The admissions staff is extremely friendly and professional, and they really do want every visitor to have a great experience. I loved the views from the hilltop area and watching students enjoy the sunny 70 degree February day on the main campus. And if you have a chance to visit, be sure to walk into the gorgeous St. Ignatius church.


Trends in Admissions: Lessons from western U.S. conference (SuperACAC)

In mid-May, I attended the western region’s biggest professional development conference for college admissions folks, high school counselors and independent college counselors: SuperACAC. As a part of my commitment to continuing education, I attend at least one conference every year to stay current on admissions trends and college updates. Here are my top takeaways from this year’s conference.

  • University of California- Berkeley will soon be the first UC school to accept letters of recommendation from teachers or counselors. In this same session, admissions directors from several of the UC campuses walked our group through their comprehensive review process. The review is nearly identical to the review I conducted on thousands of applications to the University of Washington, so I leave feeling much more confident about advising students on admissions to the UC system.
  • The Common Application is adding more than 60 new member colleges this application cycle, which is good news for students. However, much to my dismay is the fact that colleges can now decide whether or not they want to require essays and recommendations. These two application components are absolutely vital to helping a student showcase their unique qualities and story to a school. And the recommendation is a great way of providing context for a student’s GPA, test scores, curriculum, etc. I’ll be curious to see the impact on application numbers for colleges that move to optional essays and recommendations, and will be curious to see what attrition rates look like a few years down the road. I suspect that colleges with fewer requirements will see an increase in applications but they may not be admitting and enrolling students who are a great fit – there is only so much that numbers can reveal about a student’s interests and personality! More information on these changes and others can be found here.
  • A lot of the discussion centered on financial aid and college affordability, an area that is constantly evolving. I learned about some excellent resources for families seeking more thorough support with managing their assets and savings in preparation for sending a student to college. Financial planners with this focus can become a part of professional associations such as the National College Advocacy Group or Higher Education Consultants Association (of which I am a member). I’d encourage families to seek out financial advice from folks who are actively involved with these groups and have a strong commitment to this aspect of financial planning.
  • In a survey of the nation’s top universities (top 100 national universities + top 100 liberal arts colleges), 54% of admissions representatives responded that they have viewed a student’s social media accounts and/or conducted online research of applicants. Cornerstone Research administered this survey and their findings are quite interesting. As admission becomes even more competitive, colleges really are turning to social media and other avenues to learn about prospective students.

Campus Visit Notes: Pomona College


College: Pomona College –

Location: Claremont, CA – A small college-town about 45 minutes outside of downtown Los Angeles

Type of Institution: Private liberal arts college

Size: 1,500 students at Pomona alone; 5,000+ across the Claremont Colleges consortium

Admissions Advice: Pomona has long been one of the most highly selective liberal arts colleges out there, admitting about 12% of applicants in recent years. Admissions counselors have the difficult task of evaluating students for “fit” with the institution as opposed to just focusing on facts and figures. Fit can be demonstrated through an interview, the essays, and letters of recommendation that highlight your diversity of intellectual interests and what you’ll bring to this small community.

Most popular majors: Economics, math, molecular biology, neuroscience, political science, media studies

Words to describe students I met: I’ve had the pleasure of not just visiting Pomona once as a college counselor; rather, I experienced Pomona’s campus for four years while I studied at Claremont McKenna right next door. My husband is a Pomona alum as well, so I am very familiar with the academic and social life of this college. Generally speaking, Pomona students can be described as: intellectual, debaters, quirky, environmentalists, artistic, politically-correct, idealistic, outdoorsy

Unique academic aspects: Pomona is the founding member of the unique and prestigious Claremont Colleges consortium. The consortium is a cluster of five distinctive undergraduate college campuses within approximately a one-mile radius. Students can cross-enroll at any of the other colleges and get the benefits of a diversity of classes, professors, research and extracurricular opportunities that would not be possible at one stand-alone institution. This consortium makes Pomona feel like a medium size campus which retains the benefits of a very small liberal arts college.

Pomona also has a great internship program (PCIP) which allows students to work with local non-profit organizations throughout the school year. These organizations would normally not have the resources to pay students for their time and efforts, but Pomona has a dedicated fund to pay students directly. They also have a competitive summer internship program which provides stipends of $4000+ to students for similar work in their home communities or abroad.

Unique social/cultural aspects: For a school with a $60,000+ annual cost of attendance, Pomona has a ridiculously diverse student body, both ethnically and socioeconomically. It is consistently ranked as one of the most generous with financial aid support. In fact, Pomona has a no-loan policy and meets 100% of a family’s demonstrated financial need. Though the sticker price is scary, Pomona is actually an amazing option for low and middle-income students.

Colleges that seem similar: Amherst, Williams, Dartmouth, Middlebury, Yale, other Claremont Colleges

Concerns about this college: While there are social students on campus, the extremely outgoing student may have to look at the other campuses to find more rambunctious social opportunities on the weekend. The administration more strictly regulates the social life here (and 99% of the social life is on-campus). Additionally, I had many friends participate in athletics at Pomona. Though it is popular to be on a sports team, support and school spirit is lacking at Pomona.

Overall impressions: Though Pomona College is my alma mater’s sworn enemy, it is an amazing college with incredible resources for students who are admitted. Students who will do well here will be excited about getting into debates and arguments about public policy and current events at all hours of the day. The school is the epitome of a traditional liberal arts experience where students genuinely enjoy learning for the sake of learning.