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Understanding Highly Selective Admissions: Free Webinar

Estrela Consulting is hosting an expert panel of admission professionals who will share their expertise during a discussion about what they’re looking for in the admission process and who is considered a “competitive” applicant. They will also be breaking some myths and providing some realities about what this process is like for students with dreams of attending a highly selective institution.

Guests include:

Rick Clark, Assistant Vice Provost and Executive Director of Undergraduate Admission at Georgia Tech
María Elena Ornelas, Associate Director of Undergraduate Admissions at Vanderbilt University
Sam Prouty, Executive Director of Admissions at Middlebury College

Students, parents, school counselors, independent counselors and educators are encouraged to join this informative discussion. A Q & A will be included. Feel free to share with any families or education professionals who would find this topic of interest. Live date is Tuesday, August 8th at 6:30 PM. This session WILL be recorded for those who register but are unable to attend live or want to watch it after the live date.


10 Fastest-Growing, High-Paying Jobs for the Future

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, total employment in the U.S. is projected to

grow by 8.3 million jobs from 2021 to 2031. To help job seekers and workers understand high potential opportunities in the fast-changing world of work, leading career site ResumeGenius has named the

top 30 fastest-growing jobs that also have salaries above the U.S. medianEach of the top 10 occupations below are expected to have the most new jobs and include: 

  • Projected change in employment
  • Median annual wage
  • Typical education requirements
  • Required work experience

1. Software developer

  • Projected change in employment from 2021 to 2031: +370,600
  • Median annual wage in 2022: $127,260
  • Typical educational requirements: Bachelor’s degree
  • Work experience in a related occupation required for the job: None

2. General and operations manager

  • Projected change in employment from 2021 to 2031: +209,800
  • Median annual wage in 2022: $98,100
  • Typical educational requirements: Bachelor’s degree
  • Work experience in a related occupation required for the job: 5 years or more

3. Financial manager

  • Projected change in employment from 2021 to 2031: +123,100
  • Median annual wage in 2022: $139,790
  • Typical educational requirements: Bachelor’s degree
  • Work experience in a related occupation required for the job: 5 years or more

4. Registered nurse

  • Projected change in employment from 2021 to 2031: +195,400
  • Median annual wage in 2022: $81,220
  • Typical educational requirements: Bachelor’s degree
  • Work experience in a related occupation required for the job: None

5. Medical and health services manager

  • Projected change in employment from 2021 to 2031: +136,200
  • Median annual wage in 2022: $104,830
  • Typical educational requirements: Bachelor’s degree
  • Work experience in a related occupation required for the job: Less than 5 years

6. Nurse practitioner

  • Projected change in employment from 2021 to 2031: +112,700
  • Median annual wage in 2022: $121,610
  • Typical educational requirements: Master’s degree
  • Work experience in a related occupation required for the job: None

7. Computer and information systems manager

  • Projected change in employment from 2021 to 2031: +82,400
  • Median annual wage in 2022: $164,070
  • Typical educational requirements: Bachelor’s degree
  • Work experience in a related occupation required for the job: 5 years or more

8. Lawyer

  • Projected change in employment from 2021 to 2031: +80,200
  • Median annual wage in 2022: $135,740
  • Typical educational requirements: Doctoral or professional degree
  • Work experience in a related occupation required for the job: None

9. Management analyst

  • Projected change in employment from 2021 to 2031: +108,400
  • Median annual wage in 2022: $95,290
  • Typical educational requirements: Bachelor’s degree
  • Work experience in a related occupation required for the job: Less than 5 years

10. Market research analyst and marketing specialist

  • Projected change in employment from 2021 to 2031: +150,300
  • Median annual wage in 2022: $68,230
  • Typical educational requirements: Bachelor’s degree
  • Work experience in a related occupation required for the job: None

Safeguarding your college bound students’ health

Sending a child off to college is an emotional moment for almost every family. As parents drop them off, they are making sure they have their laptop, supplies, dorm furnishings, appropriate clothing and (admit it, kids) even a stuffy or two for emotional comfort.

One thing that should be on their list is making sure they have adequate insurance coverage and understand how the college’s student health system works if the need arises. And it will.  You may have students with medical issues that you know about, and this information will be helpful.

It’s estimated that about 20 percent of adolescents grapple with chronic conditions, the most common being diabetes, asthma, epilepsy and arthritis. In addition, mental stresses are very common. In 2021 the National College Health Assessment said that almost three-quarters of the students it surveyed reported moderate or severe psychological distress.

Then, of course, are the usual illnesses (colds, flu, COVID) and injuries. The chances are excellent that a student will have an encounter with student health services sometime in their first year.

Here are some of the ins and outs.


The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act – known far and wide as HIPAA – keeps a health care provider from sharing medical information with unauthorized persons, and this can include parents! Once a child is 18, they are considered an adult and in charge of their own health care.

If the student athlete is injured, the school doctor won’t talk to the parents unless the student has completed a HIPAA form giving them permission – even if they are the ones footing the bill.  Parents can download a generic HIPAA form from the state in which the child will be attending school and get it signed now. They don’t want to be dealing with this in an emergency.


Under the Affordable Care Act, dependent children can stay on their parents’ insurance until age 26, which is great. But not all health insurance plans are offered in every state, so parents will want to make sure that their child can use their insurance in the state where they’re attending school.

If they can’t, there are options, for example enrolling them in an insurance plan through the national Health Marketplace. For more information, visit

Another is to purchase insurance through the college. For example, let’s say your student is headed to the University of Michigan this fall. It offers a student health insurance in the Blue Cross/Blue Shield network. Last year, the 12-month premium was just under $2,300. Coverage includes primary care as well as behavioral health.


The mail-order pharmacy they are already using can ship a student’s medications to where they are, but it’s important to impress upon them that they have to reliably and responsibly take the meds they’re prescribed. This is particularly important with chronic conditions.

One of the most common medications in this age group is Adderall for attention-deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD). Adderall is easily abused, and students have been known to share their meds, or even sell them, to fellow students.  Parents can’t control their every decision when they’re away at school, but this should be a topic of conversation over the summer.


Illinois state law requires college students to be immunized against measles, mumps and rubella (MMR); meningitis; and tetanus/diphtheria/pertussis (Tdap). To that list, I would add vaccines for influenza, COVID, Hepatitis A and B, HPV (human papilloma virus) and chicken pox. Why potentially expose them to an illness when it can be avoided?

Do you need a patient advocate?

Everyone needs a patient advocate – someone in their corner who can ask questions, take notes and ensure the patient gets the attention they need. I think it unlikely that the typical 18- or 19-year-old experiencing a health crisis would have the maturity to advocate for themselves. Parents may not be there to give their student the personal attention they may need to understand their treatment, speak with medical staff and schedule tests and appointments.

A private patient advocate could fill the bill by being the parents’ eyes and ears, speaking knowledgeably with medical staff and providing meaningful communication back to the family.

I’m not suggesting that every college student needs a private patient advocate, just that it might be a consideration in some instances. There are several resources for finding a patient advocate in the area where your child is attending school: Greater National Advocates ( and the National Association of Healthcare Advocacy ( to name two.

An illness or injury can make the emotional rollercoaster of college even scarier. A little preparation makes a difference.

Teri Dreher, RN, is a patient advocate based in Chicago., NShore Patient Advocates.  You may email her at

Survey: Career Counseling Practices and Genetic Counseling

If you are a practicing high school counselor or a high school career counselor, you are invited to participate in a study regarding career counseling practices and genetic counseling. You will be asked to complete a brief 15 – minute survey about your counseling roles and your awareness, knowledge, and perception of the genetic counseling profession.

After completion of the survey, participants may enter into a drawing for a chance to win one of three $100 Amazon gift cards. Please click the link below if you are interested in joining the study!


As a new college admissions cycle gets underway with the launch of the 2024 Common
Application on Tuesday, August 1, a new tally shows that a record 85% of U.S. bachelor’s
degree-granting colleges and universities will not require ACT or SAT scores from recent high
school graduates seeking to enroll in Fall 2024.

According to the National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest), an all-time high of more
than 1,900 U.S. colleges and universities have announced that they will practice ACT/SAT-
optional or test-free admissions for this fall’s high school seniors. Several dozen additional
schools have not yet made public their testing requirements for Fall 2024 admissions, but most
are expected to remain test optional.

FairTest Executive Director Harry Feder explained, “More and more schools are ACT/SAT-
optional or test-free every year because the policies have proven to be so effective. Admissions
offices that stop requiring standardized exam scores usually receive more applicants, better
academically qualified applicants, and more diverse pools of applicants. Most admissions
leaders have seen no persuasive reason to restore testing requirements. The realization that
standardized test scores provide virtually no useful additional information on a college
application has sunk in. That means nearly every senior in the high school class of 2024 can
choose to apply without submitting scores.”

Bob Schaeffer, FairTest’s Public Education Director, added, “After recent Supreme Court
decisions on admissions, eliminating testing requirements is a fair, legally permissible way to
encourage applications from first-generation, low-income, and underrepresented student
groups, for whom standardized exams are often a poor predictor of success.” FairTest filed an
Amicus brief in the Supreme Court cases calling for an end to the use of “race conscious” test
scores in admissions and financial aid decisions.

FairTest has led the U.S. test-optional admissions movement since the late 1980s. At that time,
fewer than three dozen colleges and universities did not mandate ACT or SAT score submission
from applicants. Immediately before the COVID-19 pandemic, 1,070 schools were test-optional
or test-blind.

FairTest’s frequently updated list of schools not requiring applicants to submit ACT/SAT scores
is available free online at:

Can Sharing a Link help a Student Get to College?

A while ago, Marilyn O’Toole contacted me on behalf of IECA. She and organizational leadership were concerned—as almost all of my admissions, financial aid, enrollment management, and high school and independent counselors are—about underserved students getting support during the college admissions process. IECA was thinking about creating a video series to navigate the Common Application. She asked if I could help connect her with people who might be able to lend a hand.

I immediately thought of Oregon State’s Ecampus. If you know Ecampus, it’s a distinctive online platform at OSU for online education. It’s fairly old by online education standards: It was started here, it is run by OSU, the classes are taught by faculty, and it offers the same degrees students can get at our Corvallis and Cascades campuses. It’s not a bolt-on, for-profit module that we slap our name on. It’s us, and it’s run with great care, eschewing the “Zoom U” approach: A single class goes through a long process of instructional design to address modality differences and ensure outcomes that are the same as our in-person classes.

It seemed to me that we could take that approach to developing modules to help students navigate Common App. The data Common App provides suggests that their service is not being used by as many low-income, first-generation students (many of whom are students of color) as any of us would like. And some substantial percentage of students don’t use the account they create to apply to a single college. Some of this is understandable: They might apply only to a community college, or to a UC institution that doesn’t accept Common App. But counselors who work with students from well-educated, wealthier families all know that they too, get stuck in spots, and it’s logical to assume that unsupported students might just give up.

After a year of work, we launched the AXS Companion to Common App. It’s a video guide that breaks down CA into easily digestible chunks. I think it’s great, and I’m very proud of it. When we previewed it at NACAC, the counselors in the room were amazed. One said that the test score section video alone was worth its weight in gold.

The AXS Companion is modular, so students and parents can watch the whole thing, or just the section they need help with. It’s free. It requires no registration. And there is no tracking function on the site, so you don’t have to worry about your students being tracked or recruited because of their visits. And it can be shared with anyone.

Now, the sad part: Usage was not what we had expected or hoped for. Colleagues at other institutions said they could not send out anything with another university’s logo on it to their prospective students (branding is kept to an absolute minimum); some people—let’s be honest—don’t like the association with IECA. Professional associations—many of whom talk a good talk when it comes to increasing access—may tacitly support this, but won’t actively do so. Common App has told us that they have tried video and it didn’t work; and we’re kept from updating the AXS Companion until the 2024 app launches on August 1 and we see for ourselves what changes are made.

I hope we can do better. We should do better. It’s time to do better.

So, here’s what you can do:

  • If you work at a college, send a link to your prospective students. Maybe you want to use Landscape data to find students who are more likely to be underserved.
  • Repost this to other social media sites, like Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, BlueSky, Mastodon, Threads, and others. Tell others you believe in this, and ask them to share.
  • Reach out to community-based organizations you work with, and let them know about this resource.
  • Send it to parent groups at your local schools.
  • Copy and send this message to your local ACAC or counseling email lists. Do it more than once.

We have big plans for this, including versions in Spanish, but our time and efforts are finite and we’ll have to make hard decisions if this doesn’t get more support.

Here is the link. Share widely and let us know what we can do better.

Thanks for reading this long message. It’s as important a post as I’ll make. Here is the link.

AXS Companion

Jon Boeckenstedt, is the Vice Provost of Enrollment Management at Oregon State University in Corvallis, Oregon. Check out his blog at

Education Degrees Have Plummeted by 50%

Recent data has shown from the 1970/71 academic year to the 2020/21 academic year the number of students earning Education degrees has dropped by half. During this same time frame the number of students attending college has increased by 50%. In 1970 it was the most popular major.

Reasons speculated for the decline are women now have other opportunities available to them that weren’t in 1970, low pay, upticks in violence against teachers, and the COVID-19 pandemic.

A press release from last year detailed that 44% of schools nationwide reported full or part-time teacher vacancies, with special education suffering the most.

Here is the complete article outlining the issue on Fox News:

SAT/ACT Scores Comparison Worksheet

Cigus Vanni of The College Fairy LLC annually compiles average SAT/ACT scores for studentsm who enrolled at most US Colleges & Universities. He has compiled data from 2020, 2022 and recently updated with 2023 data. Lisa Dubuque, a Counselor at Headwaters School in Austin, TX then puts that data into an easy to access/use spreadsheet. It is a great way to compare average scores at various schools that your students may be considering. Here is a link to her spreadsheet:


Data based on college Class of 2026 (entered college fall 2022) and include only those students who ENROLLED—not those who APPLIED or those who were ACCEPTED. Data for the Class of 2027 (those who enter fall 2023) is not released until the spring so that schools can report both fall and spring cohort results

Once again—these are figures for students who just completed their first year in college and will enter sophomore year this fall. Can you get more recent scores on individual college websites? You may be able to do so—but watch what you are getting… Are these results from students who APPLIED? Students who were ACCEPTED? Students who ENROLLED? It is not always clear what you are reading—be careful… The numbers here are for students who are ENROLLED at these colleges

It is critical to note that these figures are among the first generated by a cohort in an admissions landscape that was overwhelmingly test-optional. Consequently, if you compare these numbers to those from previous classes, you will observe a notable increase. This is not surprising—the only students who submitted test results under test-optional policies were those with lofty scores. Note also that a number of schools that adopted test-free or test-blind policies did not report any results

SOURCES: The College Board; National Center for Education Statistics (College Navigator program); the Common Data set; various school websites; and the occasional call to admissions to inquire specifically about test results

School Counseling: Caseloads and Responsibilities

During the 2021-22 academic year, each public school counselor was responsible for overseeing 405 students, on average,1 which exceeds the 250-to-1 maximum ratio recommended by the American School Counselor Association (ASCA).2

Importance of School Counseling
School counselors play a key role in assisting students through the transition to postsecondary education. By collaborating with school administrators, teachers, community representatives, government officials, and parents, school counselors can be significant assets throughout the college application and admission process. Counselors serve an important role in advising students as they progress through secondary school and prepare for college. In fact, a NACAC study showed that high school seniors who talked one-on-one with a school counselor were:

6.8 times more likely to complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

3.2 times more likely to attend college

2 times more likely to attend a bachelor’s degree program

Variation by State

Student-to-counselor ratios also vary widely by state. Only two states—Vermont and New Hampshire—had ratios below ASCA’s recommended threshold (186 and 208, respectively). The states with the highest number of students per counselor included Indiana (694), Arizona (651), Michigan (615), Minnesota (570), Illinois (522), Utah (516), and California (509).

Staff Time for College Counseling

Postsecondary admission counseling is one of many functions of school counselors. On average, the time that counseling departments in secondary schools spend on various tasks is as follows. The division of time among these tasks differs substantially based on school type, particularly for postsecondary counseling.3

Public Private
Personal needs counseling 29% 12%

Helping students choose and schedule high school courses 24% 14%

Postsecondary admission counseling 22% 51%

Academic testing 9% 9%

Occupational counseling and job placement 6% 3%

Other non-counseling activities 6% 5%

1, US Department of Education. (2021). Common Core of Data State Nonfiscal Survey Public Elementary/Secondary Education: School Year, 2021–22 Version 1a. Washington, DC: NCES. Note: Calculation includes all students and counselors in the state (pre-kindergarten, elementary, and secondary counselors) except for adult education.
2. American School Counselor Association. (2023). The role of the school counselor. Alexandria, VA: ASCA.
3. Joint NACAC/EAB survey of high school counselors. Report forthcoming.

Information from NACAC’s State of College Admission Report. Access the dashboard and tools here (Membership Log in Required) –

Parents of Special-Needs Students Need to Make a Financial Plan for Their Future

magine having to scrape together enough money to put your child through Harvard, every year for the rest of his or her life. That’s the daunting task faced by the parents of a child with special needs.

Special-needs parents must be ready to fund $50,000 or more a year for their child’s future care, even after the parents have retired or passed away. Parents of a child with special needs are haunted by one question: “Who will take care of my child when I’m gone?”

As a counselor, you may know that more and more families are finding themselves in this situation because the number of children diagnosed with developmental disabilities is increasing. Recent estimates from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that about one in six, or about 17 percent, of children aged 3 through 17 years have a one or more developmental disabilities that impair physical, learning or language behavior.

It’s a matter of debate whether there are more children with disabilities, or more diagnoses. For example, because of earlier detection, the number of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is increasing, particularly among boys. Where people used to say “boys will be boys,” now they are screened for ASD.

Many parents of children with disabilities spend most of their time and resources taking care of the here and now, but don’t know where to turn for their unique financial planning requirements. 

For such parents, the task of planning for their child’s future may seem overwhelming. How does one qualify for government benefits? Evaluate the right college or education path for their future?  Create an appropriate financial plan? Structure an estate plan? 

That’s why the field of financial planning for special-needs families is growing. It’s specialized because of the laws and regulations affecting special-needs families keeps evolving.

Probably the most important thing parents need to learn is not to set aside in their child’s name because it will likely disqualify the child for government benefits like Medicaid, Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). In order to qualify, a child over 18 may not have more than $2,000 in his or her name. 

Parents can still save those dollars, but they need to do it the right way, by establishing both an ABLE Account and a Special Needs Trust. Even with government benefits, you want to leave money for haircuts, movie tickets and extras. 

Until the age of 18, children are usually served by school-based services and care that that may be covered by the parents’ insurance and/or tax-deductible, which is why parents often want to delay planning for the future. Circumstances can change at any time, though, so it’s important for these parents to not only have ABLE accounts and a Special Needs Trust in place, but also to decide such issues as guardianship.

When the special-needs child becomes an adult, there are more considerations: Will they live at home, which may have the effect of reducing their SSI? Will they be able to become employed? What about their social and recreational needs?

Adults with disabilities need a team that can look after these needs because it’s too big a job for one person. The team may include siblings, but also an attorney, a financial planner, perhaps a caregiver and someone to oversee medical needs. All of these can be planned in advance so the parents have the peace of mind of knowing their child will be in good hands.

Parents of special-needs children are often so wrapped up in day-to-day concerns that it’s difficult – frightening, really – to think about the future. They deserve the advice and assistance of a financial professional who is specializes in special-needs planning.  This information may be helpful to you when advising your special needs students and their families.

Mary Anne Ehlert, CFP®, specializes in financial planning for families with a special-needs family member. She is the founder of Protected Tomorrows in Lincolnshire, Ill., and is a partner in Forum Financial. Her sister, Marcia, had cerebral palsy, and Ehlert developed her interest in special-needs planning from watching how her parents struggled to make sure Marcia was provided for. After a corporate finance career, she earned her CFP and founded Protected Tomorrows in 1990. Contact her at 847-522-8086.

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