Menu Sidebar

College Essay Tips – “Put Your Best Voice Forward”

When I’m working with student clients on developing and evolving their
college essays I focus on guiding them to “finding their voice”.

So often high school students are writing about their accomplishments,
but not about who they are, their DNA.

One of the methods I use to capture the “voice” of my high school
client is to interview them and have them record the interview after
they have written their first college essay draft. After they listen
to our interview, invariably the student hears some new nuggets that
they can now weave into the essay.

I ask them to find the following in their essay:

  • Attention – Did you grab the attention of the reader
  • Need – Did you create a need for the reader to get to know you and your topic
  • Satisfaction – How did you satisfy the need (what do you offer)
  • Visualization – What is the big picture of your writing and results,
    if applicable
  • Action – What do you want the reader to take away from your essay/your message

Finally, many times the initial draft has a great ending that could be
the actual beginning, and the beginning paragraph can then be
incorporated into the body of the essay.

Top 8 Companies Hiring Employees with Associate’s Degrees

All your students can’t go to Harvard or Yale. Each student will create their own path and a large number will go the path of getting an Associate’s Degree. In a tight labor market, companies are favoring less stringent education requirements in an effort to access a greater pool of qualified candidates. Many, in fact, are ditching the four-year degree requirement

The companies below were identified as 8 top companies that are hiring remote workers with an Associate’s Degree education.

  • Recruited for the highest number of remote jobs with associate degree requirements in the last six months (Nov 1, 2021 – April 31, 2022)
  • Are currently hiring for associate degree-level, remote positions 
  • Cover a range of industries, such as healthcare, finance, administrative, computer & IT, sales, customer service, and marketing
  • Include examples of active job listings* with hourly or annual pay ranges included from the job posting or Payscale data

Beacon Hill Staffing Group

Ciox Health

CVS Health




Robert Half International

UnitedHealth Group

*Job postings active as of May 24, 2022. “US” means the worker can be located anywhere in the US, otherwise the worker needs to be in the state(s) listed.

Jobs identified by FlexJobs

How Counselors Can Help Students Complete Their FAFSA

It’s difficult for any counselor to see a smart, driven student who is unable to pay for college. With costs rising not only for tuition but also for room and board, a degree can easily slip out of reach for deserving students. Fortunately, there are lots of student aid options out there that can provide help, including the U.S. government.

Students who need help paying for college should start with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. This form is essential for letting students see all their options for federal aid. As a counselor, you can help students complete their FAFSA so they can work toward their dream of going to college.

What is the FAFSA?

The FAFSA has been available since 1992 and it allows students to easily apply for aid from the government. Unlike private scholarships, which each have their own academic and personal requirements, plus a unique application process, the FAFSA is a universal form designed to evaluate every student’s need for financial aid.

Since 1997, the form has been available online. It is an interactive process, so students will be guided through different questions based on their answers. Students may need to answer up to 180 questions to complete the application.

Types of Government Funding

Private scholarships are typically awarded based on merit, while government funding is need-based. Students who need more money to pay for college will get higher awards. There are different types of funding available, depending on the student’s situation.

Grants are provided with no expectation of repayment unless the student drops out of school before a certain point in the semester when aid was given. They are essentially need-based scholarships provided by the government.

Loans, which will need to be repaid, are another type of aid. Some loans are subsidized and the government will pay the interest on those loans until six months after graduation. These are usually given to students needing more assistance. Any student can get an unsubsidized loan but they will be responsible for paying the interest right away.

Work-study programs are a form of government financial aid that offer students paying jobs on campus. These can provide work experience in addition to funding the student’s education. Many students successfully juggle school and work, even with off-campus jobs, so work-study can be a great choice if it’s offered.

Eligible Students

Any student in the United States can fill out a FAFSA and counselors should encourage them to do so. Even if the funding options don’t end up being the right choice, it’s still good for students to understand all their options.

Most students will have to fill in their family’s financial information so that the government can calculate their Expected Family Contribution (EFC) based on income and assets. However, independent students will not need this as they are not expected to get financial help from their families.

Students over the age of 24, those who are married or separated, students with children, graduate students, current and former members of the military or national guard, and students who are orphaned, were in the foster care system, were emancipated, homeless, or under a legal guardianship are considered independent for the FAFSA. The form for these students is shorter and easier to complete.

What Students Need to Complete the FAFSA

Students should collect their FAFSA information in advance. When advising your students about the process, make sure they get information such as their parents’ financial records and social security numbers together before beginning the application process. There is a list of the FAFSA questions available to help students compile the information they will need.

Paying for school is stressful. As a counselor, you can make a big difference by directing your students toward aid resources, such as the FAFSA. Getting familiar with the form will help you provide support and assistance as needed so students can attend school and fulfill their dreams.

Free Webinar – Standardized Testing for Neurodivergent Students, their Parents and Counselors

A free webinar is being offered to Counselors (and students) that will be jointly presented by Michelle McAnaney, of the College Spy and Jenn Cohen of Launchpad Education. Jenn Cohen specializes in test prep for students with learning differences. She is an engaging speaker who knows her subject well.

The webinar will cover:

  1. Available accommodations for the SAT and ACT.
  2. Getting accommodations for the SAT and ACT
  3. The best test for students with LDs to take.
  4. Whether test optional is right for your child.

It is scheduled to take place on June 2nd at 8:00 Eastern. Use this link for more information and to Register:

The Newest Myth: Colleges Want These 5 Things in Your Students’ College Essay

I’ve been hosting free college essay classes for students for about 5 years, and generally, the questions are predictable:

What’s the best/worst topic? What do colleges want to read? What can I do to stand out?

This year, I’ve noticed a new type of question, and it’s troubling to me.

It’s a variation on this, what are the 5 characteristics colleges look for in application essays?

The answer: None.

Colleges are looking for the traits and characteristics that are important to your student, the traits your student wants them to know.

What does your student want to share with colleges that they don’t already know?

What makes them tick?

Who are they beyond the rest of the college application?

Are they funny? Shy? Resourceful? Creative? Industrious?

In a personal statement, any trait will do, as long as it’s genuine.

I understand how this question about 5 characteristics made its way to my free class. I am sure you do, too.

Still, it’s backward, out of context, and keeps showing up in blogs, podcasts, and professional websites. In this test-optional landscape, there’s a growing concern that character should be elevated in holistic admissions practices.

Is that a good idea? Maybe. Maybe not. I don’t really know.

But I do know that telling students to pick a trait from someone else’s list is wrong.

Admissions teams read essays to add context to the application package. They want to know what traits and characteristics students have. THAT cannot be manufactured.

A student who does not think of herself as a leader is going to have trouble writing about being a leader if she picks it from a list of “ideal” traits. 

A student who wants to show colleges their creative side will likely have a hard time writing about resilience if they are told to pick it from a list of traits colleges want to read about in an essay.

Many things are changing in the admissions world, but college admissions officers are still looking for the same thing they’ve always looked for in any personal statement: reflection and insight.

They want to know who the applicant is; not who someone else tells them they ought to be.

Our job, and yours, is to help students write application essays that colleges will want to read to help them make a positive impression inside the admissions office. They can’t do that if they manufacture traits.

We share tips for helping our students pick their best traits and characteristics in our book for counselors. Download a free copy of our book and find other free resources here.

 Kim Lifton, of Farmington Hills, MI, is President and Co-founder of Wow Writing Workshop, which teaches students and educational professionals a simple, step-by-step process for writing effective college essays, so students can stand out and tell their stories. Kim leads a team of writers and teachers who understand the writing process inside and out. Since 2009, Wow has been leading the college admissions industry with our unique approach to communicating messages effectively through application essays, including personal statements, activity and short answer essays and supplements. Kim is also an executive board member of Michigan ACAC.

Juniors – Now is the time to ask for letters of recommendation

Letters of recommendation carry varying weight, depending on the perspective of the college or university and who writes them. The more selective colleges may ask for two or three recommendation letters. Questions abound: Who should you ask? What are they used for? Where do they go? When should you ask them? Why are they important? And, how do you prepare them to write the best letter possible?


Letters of recommendation are the most powerful when they are written by teachers, coaches, club or internship advisor, youth group advisors or employers who know you well. The people you ask should be able to describe your skills and your accomplishments as well as your personality. Colleges prefer letters from junior year teachers since they are the most familiar with your most recent work. Read instructions carefully since some colleges may specifically request a science or math teacher, especially if you’re applying to an engineering program.


Since most letters of recommendation are glowing and full of praise for the applicant, colleges who take them seriously are trying to get beneath the surface of who you are. The letters that share personal anecdotes about you reveal the less tangible qualities that a college can’t deduce from grades and test scores. A well-written letter of recommendation will showcase your abilities and make you a compelling candidate.


Many colleges will now accept letters of recommendation electronically either on their own applications or through the Common Application. Follow directions carefully and don’t send more than a college requests. Colleges who participate in the Common Application detail how many letters of recommendation they require and how many they allow.


It is best to ask teachers in the spring of junior year if they are willing and able to write a letter on your behalf. If they say “yes”, then ask them about their preferred timelines. Some teachers like to take care of the letters over the summer and others want a true summer vacation. If you have colleges with early deadlines (October 15 and November 1), make sure you provide your recommenders with at least a month’s time to write the letters.


Letters of recommendation can often be the critical tipping factor when two candidates present similarly and colleges can pick just one.


There’s a good chance that the more information you provide your recommender, the better the letter will be. I suggest that all students prepare an Activity Resume or a Brag Sheet that details the following items: extracurricular activities; community service involvement; leadership positions; honors, scholarship/awards; employment; internships and job shadowing experiences, and what you’ve done during your last three summers.

Must do’s:

  • Be certain to waive your right to view recommendation letters on your application forms. Admission officers will trust them more if you haven’t seen them.
  • Send a confirmation email to your recommenders thanking them and being specific about next steps.
  • Send thank you notes once you know the colleges have received the letters of recommendation.

Lee Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte. Send questions to:;

Supporting Native Students on their College Bound Journey

Alarming statistics surround Native American youth and communities.  Currently, 1 in 3 Native American families live below the poverty level.  Only 74% of Native American students graduate high school on time, and nationally only 24% of those students’ matriculate.  The cycle of poverty among our Native American communities can begin to be addressed though access and opportunity of some type of a post-secondary education.

Valerie Arnault-Pelletier was quoted, “There’s the saying, ‘Education is the new buffalo,’ because historically the buffalo gave us food, clothing, and shelter…we need to look to education to give us those things.”  CollegeBound Journey is a new platform that links Native American students to colleges, programs of study, and opportunities to ultimately build, sustain, and impact Native communities.  It also provides a tool of equity for school counselors to begin the process of culturally responsive college counseling.

Popular college planning platforms used in most schools omit cultural considerations in their system features.  Our Native American students’ cultural needs are often overlooked and are often invisible in curriculum and educational products.  CollegeBound Journey emphasizes Native American culture as a central focus on the college journey.  College search includes criteria not found in any other college planning platform: Native American specific programs of study (over 70), Indigenous language course opportunities, Native American student center identification, Elder-in-Residence programs, Native American Living and Learning Community options, and cultural club/organizations availability. The scholarship search platform only lists opportunities based on Native American status.  These include tribe sponsored scholarships, private foundation scholarships, state-specific aid for Native American students, tuition waiver programs, and in-state tuition options for Native American students. The pre-college program search contains a database of both pre-college experiences and summer cultural enrichment programs to support in preparing Native youth toward college.

Here is a nice video that should be of interest as well: Culturally Responsive College Counseling with Native American Students: Become an Agent of Systemic Change (here is the video link).

Do you have any Native American students? If so, please share information about this platform with them.

School and Career Counselors and Advisors: Updated Bureau of Labor Statistics Data

The BLM publishes data for many careers. According to their data:

2021 Median Pay for Counselors was $60,510 per year ($29.09 per hour)

Typical Entry Level Education: Master’s Degree

Number of jobs (2020) – 322,000

Job Outlook (2020-2030) – 11% growth

Employment Change (2020-2030) – +37,000

National Data Link:

State and Area Data Link:

College 101: Everything your students need to know – 2 page PDF

Karen Elizabeth, a Counselor in the Walton Central School District in New York, has created a 2-page PDF she uses for her seniors as they plan the transition from HS to College. It is a great list of things for students to think about as they plan to take that next step in life. Here is a link to the PDF that you can download or customize and share with your students:

3 Upcoming Free Webinars for Counselors from NCWIT Counselors for Computing

NCWIT Counselors for Computing provides some great free resources for Counselors. They have 3 upcoming webinars being offered to view free (and not all their prior webinars are available on-demand). Here are the details with a link to register for each:

Future Ready Careers: CS + Health Services, featuring Chief Information and Digital Officer of Merck, Dave Williams

Tuesday, May 24, 2022 at 5:00 p.m. ET / 4:00 p.m. CT / 3:00 p.m. MT / 2:00 p.m. PT 

Hear from Merck Chief Information and Digital Officer Dave Williams as he shares about his experience at the intersection of computer science and health services. How does Merck use the power of leading-edge science to save and improve lives around the world? By using research and technology to deliver innovative health solutions that advance the prevention and treatment of diseases in people and animals. Computer science skills and computational thinking skills are important in solving problems and delivering health service to all. Hear how students can utilize these skills for a fulfilling and meaningful career after graduation. Register here

Department of Defense Career Pathways Webinar

May 25 | 5-6pm PT/8-9pm ET

Are you interested in leveraging your technical skills to launch a career with the Department of Defense (DoD)? If so, this webinar is an amazing opportunity for you to learn more about DoD career pathways and start to build your network with the DoD community. 

Webinar participants will hear the pathway story for four current DoD employees and have the opportunity to ask questions about the multiple STEM career pathways available. Register here.

Future Ready Careers: Twenty-one Jobs of The Future with Cognizant

Wednesday, June 1, 2022 at 6:00 p.m. ET / 5:00 p.m. CT / 4:00 p.m. MT / 3:00 p.m. PT 

Work is changing due to automation and AI, but it’s not going away. Based on the major macroeconomic, political, demographic, societal, cultural, business and technology trends observable today, Cognizant proposes new jobs that will emerge over the next ten years and will become cornerstones of the future of work. Prepare your students for these growing career fields and learn about the importance of computing skills! Register here

Newer Posts
Older Posts

Link for Counselors

Current Publication

View Current Publication


LINK Newsletter for Counselors

Sign up to receive our bi-weekly e-newsletter.