I will be talking to Kristina Dooley, a Certified Educational Planner, Founder & President of Estrela Consulting near Cleveland, OH with a mission to work with students and families to transition from high school to college. We discuss some keys to college planning, things to think about when beginning the college search and preparing for college.
“We believe each of our students deserves an opportunity to shine.” – Kristina in regard to their name Estrela Consulting. The word “estrela” is Portuguese (the language of Brazil) for the English word “star”.
In This Episode You Will Learn
- tips for a successful campus visit
- how to determine which schools to visit
- how high school summer activities can impact college admissions decisions
- how majors matter and approach to figuring out what to major in
- how students and families benefit from working with an educational planner
Kristina’s Educational Consulting Business Estrela Consulting – contact information provided
There Is Life After College By Jeff Selingo
Some great Blog articles discussed on today’s podcast interview:
Hired Graduate Podcast Transcript 2/10/17
Jason Hilliard: Hi, welcome to this episode of the Hired Graduate podcast. I’m your host Jason Hilliard and today we will be interviewing Kristina Dooley a certified educational planner, founder and president of Estrela consulting with a mission to work with students and families to transition from high school to college.
Today we will be talking about some keys to college planning and things to think about when beginning the college search. We may hit on some topics such as how to best approach campus visits, key high school summer activities that matter for college admissions, a discussion about college majors, some means about the college search process and why students and families benefits from working with an educational planner or expert to help guide through the process from high school to college.
On the line we have Kristina Dooley who as taking her time out of her day to join us here today. Thanks Kristina for joining. I was referred to you based on the great work you do and am happy to have you here today so I much appreciate it.
When I did look at your website, I did find a lot of good information and one of the things I found were several blog articles that I thought were just great, that’s why I decided to package them together and talk about these different items within today’s show.
So the first was just for families starting that college search process. One of those keys is the college visit, so what would you qualify as the importance of the campus visit and what tips do you have for students and families that are planning their college search?
That s a great question and a great starting point when starting to look for schools. When you are starting the process and making a college decision it is like what I tell families looking for a home and getting a big mortgage. Students should visit the school. Please trust your gut. Setting up those visits, seeing the campus in action. Are students making eye contact, are students grouping and clustering together. After formal tours you should doing something that is not scheduled. Wander around. There is a lot you can learn b y going into a book store and asking what is the reason they came. Actually scheduling visits and getting on campus is important. We have students with limited amounts of time. So take advantage of those one day off of school. Make a day of it. For longer breaks make a more extended visit.
Jason Hilliard: Sure yea, I think when I read through your article: 5 tips on the college campus visit, follow your stomach which I find funny. Going to that dinning hall as you mentioned and I think I also read that the local coffee shop and it’s also becoming a local like the school is more than the college campus, there is a city, a kind of neighborhood around that school. So understanding where that school is and how it fits into that community is kind of an important component as well.
Kristina Dooley: Absolutely, and I tell students too. You know when your looking at scheduling visits, don’t make it too crammed, don’t think how many can I cram in one day. You know this one ends by 1:15. We can get to the next campus by 2:00. Try to spread it out a little bit.
Mostly I tell students don’t schedule more than two visits for a day because you also just kind of get that that visit blur, where you can’t remember what you saw, which campus. My students are on Snapchat or Instagram, so I tell them use those visuals, those opportunities to make this like a visual guide for yourself, take pictures and so you can recall things, so you can you know “becoming a local” and “follow your stomach” when visiting campus.
I love those tips because when you think of my own childhood experience. I went to school in a pretty rural community which was so different than my large urban community that I grew up in. You know I loved it, I liked to be in a kind of like a little town where some students need to know that Target is just an Uber ride away. If it’s not, you need to know those kind of things before go into campus.
Jason Hilliard: Right.
Kristina Dooley: Not to devalue the reasons why my students go to college, I mean obviously they are there to get education but so much really happens after class hours and certainly one kind of misconception some students think is that they are going to be off campus all the time, so I want to be in New York City. But in reality they may not be going into the city all that much. They may end up finding there is quite a bit to do on campus and campus programming board do a great job of having activities right there so that students don’t need to take a subway into the city. They can be able to actually go and do something fun but it is nice to know what’s there, you know what kind of restaurants, what movie theater and if shopping is important to you, you know the museum, what’s around. If anything, maybe like me you are okay being somewhere where there is only one grocery store in a 15-mile radius.
But I think those things are really important, even the food on campus. I didn’t appreciate college food until I graduated and was on my own. Eating in the dining hall for me was great because I didn’t have to cook my own food, but you know when your a college student, you have to eat everyday knowing you don’t have options. Especially now we have a lot of students with food allergies or students who need glucose free. I love those colleges taking it all into consideration and really giving out that information to students, so it’s important to go in and actually see for yourself and try it for yourself, don’t just take your guys word for it and most colleges would be open in letting students do that and often time give them a meal pass to go see things for that day.
Jason Hilliard: Yeah, right and I think you mentioned what is so important to make sure it’s clear who is applying to college. It is the students and the importance of the questions that the students ask.
I know mom and dad are very interested in where their son or daughter are going to go, but really it’s about understanding the child or student getting the education, that college will be their place to go. So I thought that was a really good point that you had written.
You know I am from a small town and as you described, the small town with one post office, couple of stores and not lot in between. So I was therefore not interested in going to Boston College. Because it was too far and too big. So I stayed close to home and went to a school closer and smaller and that worked for me. I think you know the key is having an awareness when you are trying to figure out where to go to college.
The type of school might be something that feels at home and that’s what’s you want or you might be ready to leave home and I want something big, something new , something shiny. Maybe I want to explore and discover. You know it kind of depends.
But you should know at least by doing those visits and getting into those towns and seeing what’s in the school, what type of school, how much happens on the campus and if it’s all pretty contained within the campus. I think that’s pretty important.
Kristina Dooley: Yeah, absolutely.
Jason Hilliard: Awesome. If I am building my initial college list, I might have twenty schools just from conversation, from schools in my state, public universities, schools I have heard about. I watched a movie and figured out that I would add that school to my list. So I have twenty schools. I obviously am not going to go visit all twenty schools. What would you say is a good way to kind of nail down, which schools to go visit, what makes the most sense. What would you advise there?
Kristina Dooley: That’s a very good question. I’m still a paper map fan, which is crazy. There is a wonderful map that my professional association, IECA makes available, where you can purchase these maps in bulk. You can give them out to families. Every first meeting I have with my students, I break out this paper map and there eyes are like what is that? This map is great because it has the majority of the four-year institutions throughout the US mapped on them.
It’s a great visual tool, because it tells students, when your telling me you want to look at the schools on your list, on both coasts, you know we have got South, you know we have all these different places, so what we are trying to do is that maybe we find , you know you mentioned Boston. If you are going to go to Boston, we can easily find five schools for you to visit in the Boston area because it’s a lot of higher education. You can find a lot of overlapped schools and schools that have a lot of things in common but have their own distinct differences. You know things that will make them stand out to you. Same thing with New York, Chicago, DC.
So I know you had the Director of Admission from Tulane on your podcast and I love Tulane. I have a student there, but when you’re planning a trip, it isn’t necessarily surrounded by a bunch of other institutions that are similar to Tulane that make the trip viable for a week in Louisiana. So what we do is we kind of plan if you want to make this a trip for colleges, let’s also build a little bit of fun as well. I don’t want kids dragging their feet and feeling like this is an obligation.
So if they are going to go on a trip, we are trying to build a couple of places that maybe you want to stop off for sightseeing purposes only or if you have never been to New York City. If you are looking at all the schools from the East but then you also have Chapman University outside of Los Angeles that looks like a West coast option. Are you going to make a flight right to Chapman, maybe not, and I tell students it’s okay to apply to an institution, but it’s not okay to enroll sight unseen. I know that some families don’t have other options but I work with the pro-bono families as well who it’s not financially possible for them to make a trip to go and do that.
But on the flip side I let them know that this expense incurred to go visit the school, it’s better that you make that expense now before you enroll into the institution rather than realize half way into your freshman year knowing it’s not for you. You may have invested a lot of money and have to change. You going to have to transfer and it’s a bigger financial loss and taking your time going to see this one. So the other thing I love is that some colleges do offer programs for students who have financial difficulties, you know am not saying that they don’t just feel like paying for the air fare. True families that would be high need and will be an excellent fit for tuition, a lot of colleges now offer programs where they will cover part of the student’s expense to come and visit campus once that is accepted. I do think that’s a great thing for some of these families.
Jason Hilliard: Yeah definitely, that’s great, great information too. So much appreciated. Kind of shifting over to high school students. You mentioned it’s a busy time right, much more activities and clubs, more rigorous classes and it’s competitive kind of landscape especially if they are applying for selective school entry. But generally, what would your opinion be about summer activities? With the kinds of things you can do in the summer time to prepare for college.
What would your response be to that?
Kristina Dooley: I have a great example. One of my students was trying to decide between doing a paid summer program, where you pay to participate in the summer program at a highly selective institution or get a summer job. They were faced with the question of should I go to this institution which I ultimately may apply to and do their summer program, or should I go stay home and work 48 hours a week and save some money for school. Which one of those is more attractive to the admission officers? One of the things I mentioned in my blog was that one of the higher institution as a program like this, they put zero weight on the fact that the student has done a summer program there at their institution because their admission process is separate from what their summer offer is, you know there some schools that their summer program doesn’t matter. But I do mention that the job key because ultimately some students might not be choosing the job option and I think it was the best decisions for a lot of reasons, it actually provided some essential material for the college admission essay which it was his first real job and was a really good learning experience for him.
I think students sometimes underestimate the value that a job can have on your application, whether it’s during the summer or during the school year.
The other is I have a student who is trying to decide between doing a family trip overseas and that was to go somewhere that has some substantial value to their family history. Like doing something like an internship year or something like that and families didn’t really know what to do about this, and I said don’t underestimate the value of an experience like travel, you know when you go into colleges, the reason why they afford study abroad program is will you know the world we live in until this day is obviously now into this day, it’s so important to be exposed globally, so if you have that opportunity, that does make impact. And I tell students, what impact is this thing am going to do this summer, if it’s none or if it’s I don’t really know, then let’s look on other things.
On the flip side, the world we live in we have great health care and great hospitals here that offer students great opportunity to come in and you know almost like a job but not a full scale internship. One of our exposure to careers, I tell students summer in between junior and senior year is a great time to go in, and even if it’s two days a week I am going to see what this person does in this particular kind of career. It’s fantastic, because I know from my own personal experience doing an internship when I was in college and realizing this is not at all what I want to do.
I was early enough that I could shift years in terms of what I wanted to pursue beyond that but I think there is still many great options but I think one of the hardest things this families often feel like they need to look at the kind of high, I would say pricey summer programs unless it’s something that is really regarded and great reputation in terms of what it’s providing the students, not just what they put on their résumé or application.
Colleges are looking for depth; you know they don’t seem to have a true interest in something, not just any application. They can list up to 10 activities and I love that the common application has hidden their lines, so you can’t actually see that there are ten and if a student doesn’t use those ten lines, they are not going to fill in 10 lines and I don’t think that’s necessary. I think it’s perfectly okay if they fill in 2 or 3 but there 2 or 3 things they could go on and on, you know to tell about the meaning of this activities in their lives and maybe they have had some difficult leadership roles. I
If you feel like you are going into an interview situation whether it’s for scholarship or admission and the interviewer asks you a question about this, and you don’t feel like you can talk for 10 minutes about the meeting of this particular activity to the interviewer and you actually have something substantial to say, it’s a meeting not worth including.
Jason Hilliard: Yeah right.
Kristina Dooley: Because it’s not just worth it.
Jason Hilliard: Yeah, you know that was just fantastic answer you hit on just a lot of different things that sort of resonates with parents and students as they navigate through high school, the timing on which activities they should be considering between which year. I think you are right, you turn it up after your sophomore year and after your junior year – both incredible opportunities you know what to do, you know like the activities that would provide tangible work skills. I have talked to several Directors of Admission and a pretty common theme aligns with what you say. They are not looking for 77 activities for each kid, it’s more about the depth and quality of the activities. If they have a job, that shows a great responsibility and there ability to be at work and hold a schedule. It shows time management. It shows work ethic and probably somebody that will roll up their sleeves and get their home work done and be a good representative of the school. They are making money too, and in high school that’s a good thing, to have money in the back.
Kristina Dooley: Absolutely. I don’t remember who to tribute this to, but I did hear at a conference recently someone was talking about activities and they said they would actually prefer not to see a couple of well-rounded kids anymore, you know like the past. We want them really well-rounded and instead he wants to see kids that they really drill down. They have a specific interest that they have really focused on. I love that phrase with my students, let’s not talk about well-rounded, let’s talk about pointed, where are you pointed. There is such a belief that you have to be in every club and you have to join everything.
Jason Hilliard: Yeah right, I think some of what I heard is that it’s definitely lean towards the jobs, lean towards the internships. If there is something like the unique experience such as your family trip overseas with some family history kind of impact, that’s not something that probably happens every year, so that might be some kind of exception while you will take that trip and you might still be do some job or some internship when you get back. There are multiple summers after freshman, sophomore and junior year before you get your senior application submitted that last year.
Okay good that was really helpful. In terms of majors. It’s hard to know what you want to be when you grow up. I thought I wanted to be a lawyer until I interned at a law firm then I realized that’s a lot of reading and the materials are kind of boring. I don’t know if I want to be a lawyer, so I had that aha moment, and I was so glad to have done that because I saved having to go pay for law school and have $100 thousand in college debt. How do I figure what majors I might be interested in? What are your thoughts?
Kristina Dooley: Yeah, that’s a great question. I think one of the things that I think is really important for students to think about is what do they actually enjoy doing? As opposed to what they are good at? Because I think we have a tendency in our society to see a student excelling in physics and calculus and we say, you are going to be an engineer. That’s what you need to do is to go into engineering. Not even thinking that there are a lot of other exciting things that that student could do within that arena. Or maybe they really love writing, maybe there is something else they love doing. Being good at something and loving something are two different things. I think the most important thing for students to realize is that it’s okay to change your mind. I think if I ask most of my professional adults friends are you doing what you thought you would be doing when you were a sophomore high school. Most of us would say no. And you know it is just because you aren’t exposed to things in the high school level that are offered at the college level.
I talked to a student the other day, one of my freshman student and we were talking about actuarial science and he just looked at me like what, you know they are not teaching actuarial science in high school so what if students know that’s an option for them, no, not at all. So I think in terms of exposing students to what exists, they are kind of really great kind of inventories that exist out there that are a lot of things like the Myers Briggs Inventory, the Holland Codes, there is something called the strong interest inventory, I used one that’s called Find My Spark, where we essentially give the students a series of questions and answers them and at the end they are able to get a list of possible careers that would work for them and also majors that might fall under that and they could be the same list could include a step for a student engineering or psychology or it could be, it doesn’t have to be on the same field, but I do think they t certain majors and course of study that a students I feel absolutely need to know if that’s what they need to be going into, because the colleges would expect that they have had a certain. For example I mentioned engineering, if they want to go into engineering, they have to have a high level of math, you know they can’t go in having only to add up to trigonometry, you know if they haven’t had any calculus it’s going to be an issue. Not just for admission but because they want to make sure that the student is successful in their program and doesn’t come in with a deficit when everyone else has had a higher level math. Same thing for things like a nursing program. It’s very difficult to transfer into a nursing program once you are enrolled in college. So if you make a decision as a freshman you know what now I think I want to do a nursing program. It’s really difficult to do that. So you have to know as a high school senior I want to go into nursing because I am going to apply specifically to nursing school.
Now someone teetering between criminology, psychology, sociology, those courses you that you don’t have to known, you can go in and test the waters and go into classes and a lot of different areas and one other things that I think it’s a big first option is that a student interested in the same field should not go to a liberal arts school and I think that’s one of the things that should be wiped away because they are so many great liberal Art Colleges that do a phenomenon job that prepare kids for postgraduate opportunities and the undergraduate level should be able to take classes in the amenities of the social scientists but getting that one on one with a faculty member and being able to do research as college sophomore is a big deal. You know and so I think, that’s one thing I tell my students don’t discard a liberal art institution if you are thinking of going under a medical school, for example because one of the thing that helps students is for me, when you are on college visits, you know talking about campus visits is ask about outcomes you know who are they, not just by name , but where did they go after the school. How are they doing things like the, like a law school, how do your students do on the outside, not just the amount of students accepted into medical school, because schools can tweek these statistics very easily to be in their favor. So I read some things, they asked them about their score ranges for their students or the SAT and see how they were doing.
You know one of my favorite resources that I give to students and show to families is that when they are talking about schools and choosing schools solely based on name if institution and I should , so I do think there is a lot of value on that, but this great resources that the Harvard law school actually publishes on their website are list of the institutions were all of their Harvard law and students did their undergraduate work. It is an amazing resource because there is a hundred and forty something institutions listed and I show this to families and am like okay, let’s go through how many of these schools you know, are like Harvard quality and you could count of two hands out of a hundred, but all this institution, Harvard law school admission people are looking at this students and where they are coming from and feeling they are going to be a great candidate for Harvard law school. You know if Harvard thinks it’s a great institution and producing a great graduate, let’s look at some of those institutions, it’s a wonderful resources, one of my favorites.
Jason Hilliard: Yeah am going to list that resource on our show next time, I think that speaks a lot. I think that’s a pretty big message in there, you should really be expanding your college search to exploring schools maybe you haven’t heard of or schools in your states or surrounding states that would give you an awesome experience and be open and receptive to I think the schools you attended is on the colleges that changes life list of schools. So that I have been interviewed Eckerd college and Maria Furtado, the Executive Director of colleges that changes life, you know and those are forty different schools outlined in that book that are liberal arts great amazing schools and I think it was Jefferson Lingo book that is like after college, he mentioned what was it, if you want to set yourself up it was up to the effect, if you were to be a double major or you were to get your undergraduate at liberal art English major and get a master’s degree in Analytics, your set for the next 20 years because been able to read and write, if you ask companies, ask Corporate America what they want out of graduates, they want good thinkers, good collaborators, problem solvers, people that can read and write well and can also communicate and you get that out of a lot of liberal arts educations and from some of those majors in those areas.
Kristina Dooley: And I would say that’s one of the reasons why I think we are starting to see more of 3 plus 2 engineering programs for example where students do their first 3 years in liberal arts and then their final 2 years of intense engineering piece in a larger research university because students graduating from those programs talk about the communication peace, I mean that is paramount. No matter what profession you go into, but if you think it’s something like engineering, you can be brilliant but if you have no way of communicating your ideas in layman’s terms as well and just not necessarily not detectable communication, but being able to talk to people and also write like in the writing themes, writing across the curriculum or something that happens after a lot of substitution like I think a lot of those people who think they are just going to force science students to just be in a lab. They have to be able to get up and talk about that. They need to write you know to be able to be a proficient writer and so those things are really important.
Jason Hilliard: Definitely, ah this is piece of great information and I’m trying to be mindful of the time and the time I told you we would need from you today. So I will close with a question about how do students and families benefit from working with an educational planner or expert to plan for college. It’s what you do so you are the perfect person to ask but am interested what value I know its huge and am a big advocate what would you say the services you provide and why they add a lot of values to the families you work with.
Kristina Dooley: I think probably the most significant thing is the amount of time that educational consultants or educational planners are able to spend with the families with whom they are working. Unfortunately and not the fault of the school-based counsellors, but the counsellor-student ratio in the US are ballooning, which is an issue that the government is trying to address as well. But I think when you are looking at the average students-counsellor ratio in the United States is 1 to 490-something. Can a counsellor work with 490-something students and read multiple essay revisions up to let’s say 15 essays, college essays? A lot of students that will come to educational planners or educational consultants many of them maybe for example have a diagnosed learning difference and they need to find colleges that can truly accommodate them at the college level. And that takes a lot of research and time and maybe often that’s not an opportunity that a school counsellor may have.
So the other thing is that I always let my families that I work with know is that I don’t replace the school counsellor and none of us do. I would say the independent educational consultant is NOT replacing a school counsellor. What or hope is that we work in conjunction with our students counsellor school and the counsellor, they would still be doing everything from stamping transcripts, writing the recommendation letters , helping with other pieces of the puzzle but then on the flip side were my students are able to come in mingle with me and we do like a Shark Tank process for them to decide what they are going to write on their college application and gives them a lot of time pitching their ideas, talking through it and then just also with things like planning visits.
Educational consultant sometimes will help you decide okay you have this week of spring break, where do you want to go and what you should be doing and I think those are really important things in the process that cannot be processed in a short period of time.
I would say consultants are really invested in the families they work with. My students I am working with because I really get to know them through the course of their application process and then beyond. My favorite thing is in May or June when my students parents are sending me texts from their college graduation and that makes me feel better and so proud, you know when I get those kinds of things that they have processed and I have a student that has PHD and wanted to go to nursing school and I can tell you that the challenge for nursing school for a student diagnosed with learning differences can be a challenge to even find the right fit. We ended up with a process detailed and we had to be so specific about what we were looking for her, she’s graduating this May. Am so excited for her, you know it’s one of those big moments that’s it kind of solidifies what I do and the importance of it.
I think the reason why families would hire an independent educational consultant it’s really a stage they feel they need to lessen the anxiety for themselves and their child in the process which I think we do a great job of doing that. To make sure they understand this is not a sprint, we are not going to rush everything in three months and all of your senior year. We have to find a way to spread it out work on things so that you can actually enjoy it a little bit and I assume some students will come back to me and say the essay writing wasn’t all that painful as expected , you know it’s actually kind of fun and I learned a lot about myself.
But there are a lot of people hanging out a shingle as an educational consultant, you know there are thousands across the country. I would say that families that are looking for consultants should really do their due diligence in terms of finding the folks that they are looking at, making sure they are members of professional institutions. Do they have a code of ethics that they follow because you know for example, I don’t write my students essay, so if a family comes out and say but you write your students essay, no I would not. I don’t only connect with the students alone but with the parents also and that the students feel comfortable working with me for a very long period of time. So those are the summer.
Jason Hilliard: Yeah that’s great. One of the articles you have written on is the 12 questions to ask to ask before hiring an independent educational consultant and I think that it kind of speaks to what you are saying and I think that generally, having someone because college is as big of a thing as it is. It cost a lot, it’s a big experience for the student, first time leaving home scenario and they want to do it right think that, so I think that’s a huge fee to afford in that family, so having somebody to help guide and coach through that process is very important.
So I definitely agree.
I will list in our show notes a lot of the information that we talked about came from some of the blog articles that you have written, I will put some of those.
We didn’t get through some of the myths about some of the college search process, that was going to be one other area that we were going to get into today, but we have ran a little short of time.
So I will either have you back, but I will definitely have it in the show notes.
How else would you say people would find out more information from you?
Kristina Dooley: Sure. So we our company is Estrela Consulting, so we have a website www.EstrelaConsulting.com. We always offer an hour of complimentary consultation for any family that is just interested learning how a consultant could help and particularly “Kristina how could you help us or not?”
We do that so that most families can learn more information.
Nationwide, the independent educational consultant association (IECA) has a directory on the website of all members. Many educational consultants have specialty areas. For example, my specialty areas that I would say I work with prospective college students, boarding students, and a lot of international students.
However there are consultants that specialize in things like graduate school.
We also have our blog that is Dooley Noted where I talk about the college application process so folks can certainly find us there and we are also active on social media. We are on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Jason Hilliard: I will list all of this information in our show notes along with a transcript from our questions and answers today. So much appreciated for your time Kristina. Definitely appreciate you coming on the show.