College Admission: Study Abroad


Below is a letter I sent to two of my college-coaching students who are sisters, who decided they wanted to attend college outside of the United States.

Hi Eva and Lily,

I am thrilled to learn that the both of you will be attending the College of Saint Andrews this fall.  You have made a decision that will influence your life in ways that you cannot imagine even now. But I’ll give you a hint as to how. Right here.

By attending college outside of the country can be viewed as a metaphor for thinking “outside the box.” People who do such thinking discover horizons in their future that others cannot see, or are simply unwilling to leave open the possibilities that’s there’s a window through which greater possibilities can be seen.  It’s their comfort zone that forces them to remain where they are, and we’ve heard time and again that real growth for any of us is to live outside our comfort zones – to see, hear, feel, and taste things we never knew existed.

Put another way, staying close to home as a new college student is like a new ship staying in harbor. But a ship isn’t built for the purpose of staying in harbor.  Its purpose is to ride the sometimes stormy seas where adventure, excitement, and the discovery of new worlds exist. And your growth will be the expansion of those horizons that started you on your life voyage with your decision to step outside your comfort zones.  

As you live outside of your country, you will be exposed to cultures and ideas unfamiliar to you. By the time graduation comes, you will have walked through the Louvre in Paris, Westminster Abbey in London, the Sistene Chapel in Rome, not to mention coming to know individuals who grew up and lived in the environments that made these experiences real for you. In other words, you will experience and internalize realities that you would never experience at any college in the United States.

And how do you place a price-tag on those experiences? You don’t. You can’t.

You will return home in four years with a perspective that is wider and deeper than anyone else your age.  You will raise the bar of expectations from future employers who will only be too happy to meet them, and the quality of the gentlemen you allow to pursue you will be of a quality to match your own. Not a bad additional benefit that will last a lifetime.

When you enter the job-interview-after-college phase of your life, it will become obvious to any future employer that you are a very special individual. And the question you will likely hear at the end of your interviews is , “When can you start?”

Your parents are to be commended for their support of your decision. Typically, parents are unintentional co-conspirators in having their children remain in their comfort zones, they simply find a convenient way to keep you close, not wanting to let go. It’s only natural. It’s so difficult for a parent to see their children leave home forever, but your parents are stepping outside their comfort zones so that you can begin to enrich yours. And it’s a sacrifice they are making that reflects one of the most difficult support-decisions I believe they have ever made. But they put you before themselves in a way that most parents cannot handle. They are pretty special, just as their daughters are.

As with all my students, it’s been an honor for me to have served you in my small way, and it’s been a thrill to have been a part of your process in applying to college.

My most sincere congratulations to you and your parents for a great and far-reaching decision.

It’s time to acknowledge the following: You’re the best.

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College Deposit: May 1 Deadline – A Threat?


Will you be intimidated to make the wrong college choice?

This statement appeared at the bottom of the Signature page of the Common Application:

Required: I affirm that I will send an enrollment deposit (or equivalent) to only one institution; sending multiple deposits (or equivalent) may result in the withdrawal of my admission offers from all institutions. [Note: students may send an enrollment deposit (or equivalent) to a second institution where they have been admitted from the waitlist, provided that they inform the first institution that they will no longer be enrolling.]

I have a client who’s an attorney with a large national company. I called him and asked what he thought of this statement. This is what he wrote back:

Hi Paul. Following up on our call today, I did some quick research and consulted informally with a few of my colleagues. I confirmed that colleges are not exempt from the antitrust laws. My initial thought is that courts conceivably could find the sharing of “deposit” information of accepted applicants to be collusive and illegal.

The language used in the Common App appears to be in violation of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. On a more pedestrian level, the language says, if effect, that “you cannot do business with any of our competitors – only us” (read: one deposit, not multiple).

Some years back, the Ivy League and Seven Sister schools actually shared info about applying students, the premise being that they would not try to “buy” students away from each other by increasing scholarship offers. They were legally forced to stop this practice due to the fear of an anti-trust suit.

Here’s why the Common App people are using this language: colleges are their clients, and the colleges loathe the fact that parents make multiple deposits to colleges to hedge their bets in making their decision final. So the language is in there deliberately.

My response? The colleges designed their requirements for admission, and they want you to live with the consequences of their design. By contrast, nearly all of my clients make multiple deposits every year. It gives the student an extra three months of undistracted time to decide on the right college. And the results make for a far better college choice, as is proven every year.

The fact that other schools are not asking about your other choices tells me that the last statement in the Common App is nothing more than pure INTIMIDATION. It’s an implied threat, pure and simple.

It’s an inexcusable and disgusting statement, and the community of college admission experts, particularly those who subscribe to the principles of the National Association of College Admission Counselors (NACAC), don’t even speak out against it (which is why I will never be a member). The language clearly serves the colleges, not the students. But since when has the student been the primary focus of most colleges? In the meantime, I will continue to vigorously recommended that my clients make multiple deposits.
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College Visit: A Student’s Perspective



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