The College Advisor: Summer Suggestions

posted Jun 10, 2011, 10:21 AM by Glenda Durano   [ updated Jun 10, 2011, 12:27 PM ]

Below is a helpful article by Peter Van Buskirk.  

Summer Do's and Don'ts for College Applicants


In the coming weeks, thousands of young people will find their daily routines changing as the academic year comes to a close. Some will go to the beach. Many will sleep until noon. Others will jet off to parts unknown for new, exotic adventures. And, at some point in the weeks that follow, most will find themselves on a college campus or two.

The choices students make as they embrace the summer months can impact their personal growth while providing important clues to college admissions officers about the character and convictions of the candidates they are considering. If you are a rising high school senior, how will you spend your summer months? The following do's and don'ts provide guidance in making good and productive choices.


1. Do what you love—and love what you do. Invest in the talents and interests that intrigue you and/or give you joy in life. Attend a sports camp, participate in community theater, or take a painting class. Find opportunities to develop your skills and demonstrate an advanced level of commitment to the things that are important to you.

2. Do visit college campuses. Summer is a great time to become better acquainted with colleges that are of interest to you. Take tours. Talk with students and professors. Becoming more informed about colleges will enable you to be more purposeful in arriving at your "short list" as well as the manner in which you present yourself as a candidate.

3. Do try to find a job. It feels good to cash a regular paycheck and many admissions officers like to see that candidates—especially those applying for financial aid—are beginning to assume a degree of financial responsibility.

4. Do learn more about career tracks that might interest you. Talk with professionals in your community and explore experiential internships that can give you valuable insight as you contemplate academic directions in college.

5. Do start to work on your college applications. In particular, take a look at essay requirements and begin thinking about how you might use them to tell your story. Starting early means you are less likely to push deadlines as you try to manage the academic pressures of your senior year.

6. Do something different. Find an adventure. Climb a mountain. Go sea kayaking. Volunteer at a homeless shelter. Learn a new language. Go out of your comfort zone just to see what is out there. Take reasonable risks. Self-confidence and the willingness to take risks are desirable traits as colleges make fine distinctions between strong candidates.


1. Don't tinker with the genetic code. Resist the temptation to make yourself over into the image of what you think admissions deans want to see. Be true to yourself. Admissions officers are most interested in authenticity. They want to see the real you.

2. Don't kid yourself about the importance of overseas service projects. While a commitment to service is a potential hook in the eyes of admissions officers, don't overlook opportunities to provide needed services in your own community for those that might land you in faraway places. True service is selfless in nature. You don't want to be regarded as someone who has engaged in the best service experience money can buy.

3. Don't forget to set your alarm. Tempting as it might be to pull up the covers and stay in bed a while longer, the world will pass you by if you sleep the day away. Unless your interests are purely nocturnal, the odds are you will miss opportunities for meaningful engagement if your "clock" isn't in sync with the working world around you.

4. Don't assume that attending an academic program on a college campus will help you get into that school. The frenzy to get into such programs often rivals that of the actual college admissions process in some quarters. If you choose them, do so for personal enrichment and not to impress admissions officers at the school in question.

5. Don't allow yourself to become too comfortable. Long days with "nothing to do" can be habit forming. While you do owe yourself a vacation, it doesn't have to span the entire summer! Instead, develop industrious habits that will pave the way for a smooth transition into a senior year that will be as complex as it is fast-paced.

The College Helper: 38 Minutes

posted Apr 1, 2011, 11:08 AM by Glenda Durano   [ updated Apr 1, 2011, 11:10 AM ]

Below is a copy of a press release that I sent out this week.  I thought you might find it interesting.


                  According to a U.S. Department of Education Guidance School survey, American high school students receive an average of 38 minutes of college admissions advice from their high school counselor.  Period.

                  “It’s very sad,” says Glenda Durano, owner of Albuquerque-based College Advising and Planning Services.  “A student is making one of the most important decisions of his life, and, at a time when he really needs advice, he just can’t get it.”

                  Durano doesn’t blame the counselors.  “They’re wonderful, giving people who are just stretched too far.  The system simply does not allow them the time they need to adequately help their students.”  In fact, the average ratio of U.S. high school students per guidance counselor is 476 to 1.

                  “Good grades and test scores are no longer enough to get admitted to a selective school,” Durano continues.  “Students must discover their God-given passions and develop their potential throughout high school so that admissions counselors can see who they really are.  This is critical in the admissions process.”  As an example, she cites the fact that 83% of high school valedictorian applicants were rejected by Princeton in 2010.

                  According to Durano, while information about college planning is abundant, with over 18 million Google hits for the term “college planning,” expertise is not.  “There are tools and tactics that a student can employ to increase his chances of both being admitted to his top-choice university and increasing the likelihood of financial aid.”  However, Durano insists, before a student begins looking at schools, he should first examine himself.  “Every Christian, regardless of his age, has a calling—a purpose.  Before you ever look at a school, you need to seek God and consider how He has already equipped you.  Only then can you find a school that will really enhance your purpose.”

                  “The college admissions process should be a time of hopes and dreams, not worry and fear,” Durano concludes, “and it can be—with the right guidance, information, and expertise.”  With that goal in mind, Durano is offering a series of intense, five-hour, small-group seminars for rising high school juniors and seniors June 8th through the 11th.  “Students will get practical advice about developing college criteria, understanding and gaining financial aid, preparing for standardized tests, making the most out of college visits, requesting recommendations, writing essays, and much more.  They’ll obtain the knowledge and the application skills they need so that they can take responsibility for the college planning process and rise above the frenzy that’s so common among high school students today.”

                  In order to assist parents in this process, Durano, an independent education consultant and member of the Higher Education Consultants of America, will be offering two free events:  “What Every Parent Needs to Know About College Planning” on May 12th at 6:30 p.m. and “The Parents’ Role in the College Admissions Process” on May 19th at 5:30 p.m.  Both seminars will be held at Heights Cumberland Presbyterian Church, 8600 Academy Road NE, in Albuquerque.  She also offers free workshops for church youth groups, parent groups, and Christian organizations.

                  For more information, please contact Glenda Durano at College Advising and Planning Services, (505) 867-1207 or email her at

The College Helper: Where the Money Is

posted Jan 19, 2011, 12:44 PM by Glenda Durano

There are hundreds of scholarship searches available on the web, my personal favorite being Fastweb. While outside scholarships can definitely be productive, even the most ambitious, talented students usually top out somewhere between $25,000 and $35,000.  That's no small deal, so I heartily encourage students to participate in essay, speech, video, and art contests in order to gain financial aid.  However, one of the hidden benefits of participating in these scholarship searches is the fact that student participation indicates individual motivation, an important quality that college admissions officers seek in prospective students.  The big money for college is found in institutional aid...full scholarships, half scholarships, and the like. $100,000 or more.  And how do you receive those high dollar rewards?  By proving your potential throughout high school in community service, competitions, individual accomplishments, organizations, and leadership--proactively pursuing a lifestyle of excellence.  That's what's really important!  Make sure your activities demonstrate excellence, responsibility, initiative, perseverance, creativity and leadership on a regular basis.  Don't settle for the mundane; do something extraordinary!  Not only will that type of lifestyle assist you in gaining valuable financial aid, but more importantly, you'll be walking in your gifts and developing your God-given potential.  

The College Helper: Home for the Holidays

posted Dec 17, 2010, 3:28 PM by Glenda Durano

After one semester, Mom and Dad can't wait for their child to come home for Christmas break.  But parents, know this:  things have changed!  You student has now officially been on his own for nearly 4 months.  Make sure that you are both clear about expectations.  Is there a curfew while your student is at home?  Is your student expected to clean his room or help with household chores?  Make sure your student knows your expectations and make sure you know what your student expects. Communicate clearly and find a place to compromise, if need be.  The child who was a high schooler 4 months ago is now a young adult.  Listen to your student.  Don't lecture. (They get enough of that in school.)  There may be some bumps as your student adjusts to being home, but always act in love, with mutual respect.  Students, Ephesians 6 still holds true.  No matter how old or "mature" you are, you are still supposed to honor your parents.  Coordinate everybody's plans and intentionally schedule family one-on-one time.  Students, it may be difficult to come back and see old friends who are going to other schools or who are younger than you are.  You've been out of their life for a while, and things may be different.  Nevertheless, treasure the special path that God has for you, enjoy your vacation, and remember "there's no place like home for the holidays!" 

The College Helper: First Hand Help

posted Dec 11, 2010, 5:59 AM by Glenda Durano

Want to know what college is really like?  During Christmas break, when all your friends' kids are home from college, invite them over for cocoa and cookies (college students LOVE homemade cookies) for a one-on-one with your high schooler.  College students love feeling like they are the experts...especially since all semester long, they've felt nothing of the sort.  If that's a bit awkward, then invite the entire family over, and, while the moms and dads have coffee in the kitchen, let the kids have some time together.  Ask  your high schooler to think about some questions he'd like to ask that college student, whether it's about the college admissions process, the university in particular, or "what I wish I would have known."  Parents, you may also have questions and that's fine, but remember, it's your student who will be applying for college, not you.  In fact, it may be more beneficial for you to speak with the parents about how to prepare for the empty next syndrome or how to fill out that crazy FAFSA form.   At some point, give your teenager some space with the coed.  Even if your high schooler is shy about asking questions, chances are that the college student will be more than willing to share information.  After all, he was in your student's shoes not so long ago and more than likely, he feels his pain.   

The College Helper: Dual Credit

posted Dec 6, 2010, 10:30 PM by Glenda Durano

One of the most important things universities consider in the admissions process is how much a student challenges himself. If ten AP classes are offered at the student's high school and he hasn't even taken one, this tells admissions officers that the student is unwilling to challenge himself.  He's a "coaster."  (Not good!)  When you're planning your schedule for next semester, keep those classes strong.  Generally speaking, admissions officers would rather see a 'B' in an honors class than an 'A' in a regular class.  That being said, an 'A' in any class is always preferred, but don't take an easy class just so you can make an 'A.'  Instead, challenge yourself.  One great way to demonstrate that you're up for an academic challenge is to enroll in a community college course.  Many times, high schools allow students to take a class for dual credit--the credit goes on both your high school record AND it can be tranferred to your incoming college transcript.  What a deal!  Another great thing is that the grade in the dual credit class only goes on the high school transcript, not the college one.  Credit only is transferred, so if you make a grade that's lower than you want, taking a dual credit class proves you're ready for a challenge, BUT it doesn't hurt your college GPA.  On the contrary, it gives you credit hours that you don't have to take later.  A word to the wise:  Dual credit policies vary widely among universities.  See what your college choices say with regard to bringing in the credit.  Don't take so many dual credit hours that you enter as a transfer student instead of a freshman. (That would knock out quite afew scholarships.) 

The College Helper: Transcription Trouble

posted Dec 6, 2010, 10:29 PM by Glenda Durano

Every spring, it happens.  Out of nowhere, a high school senior (who is not a client) calls me in a panic. "My high school counselor just called me and told me I'm lacking 2 credit hours to graduate!  What can I do?!"  I offer my suggestions and usually the student is able to graduate on time either by taking a quick, self-paced online course or a shortened community college class. While this does get the student back on track, the stress is enormous.  Remember the old saying, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." This is true with transcripts, too. Before Christmas break, talk to your high school counselor about your credit hours. See if you are on track for graduation (and college admission). The problem of too few credit hours often arises when, sometime during high school, a student retakes a class in order to raise a grade.  Usually, the credit hours for the course retake are not counted, leaving the student one course shy of graduation requirements.  If you need to take additional hours in your final semester in order to get that diploma, do so. While you're meeting with your high school counselor, take the time to thank him for all his help and remind him politely to send your mid-year report to your college choices. Give him a list of the names and addresses of those universities.  High school counselors are greatly overworked.  The average counselor/student ratio is 1 to 477...and they're not simply taking care of transcripts.  Counselors have to deal with a number of student issues every day.  So...take responsibility for your future by checking on your transcript.  Make sure you're on schedule for that great gradutation day in May. 

The College Helper: Snap Aps

posted Nov 30, 2010, 9:25 PM by Glenda Durano   [ updated Dec 17, 2010, 3:30 PM ]

If you're feeling under the gun and have received some "express applications" or "snap aps" for colleges, slow down. The fact that you're running behind in the college application process doesn't mean you have to take a shortcut!  In fact, it means exactly the opposite. While express applications are genuine college applications, they are used primarily for the purpose of raising the number of applications to a college so that a college can appear more selective. "Snap aps" ask for less information, making it easier for the applicant to apply to college, however, as you may already know, easier isn't always better...especially if it's a way of cutting corners (which is exactly what an express application is).  If you're behind the power curve in your college applications, reassess your priorities and improve your time management.  Apply to your first choices immediately with a full application.  List all your worthwhile activities; write a great essay; submit strong letters of recommendation, high test scores and an excellent transcript--and really let those universities know who you are. Because you've missed the first deadline for most significant scholarships, your application is going to have to be exceptional to warrant merit-based aid. Instead of kicking yourself for procrastinating, learn your lesson and move ahead. If you make your application sparkle, you could still receive some merit aid.  In 2 Corinthians 8, Paul urges believers to "excel in everything."  That includes your college application.  If you weren't diligent in the past, be diligent now. Don't take a shortcut.  Take responsibility! 

The College Helper: A Balancing Act

posted Nov 22, 2010, 11:14 PM by Glenda Durano   [ updated Dec 17, 2010, 3:30 PM ]

    Have you ever brought home a report card that had all A's and one B...or all B's and one C?  What's the grade that gets the most attention?  The lowest one, of course. 
    For a student, that can be very frustrating. He asks himself, "Why don't I get a little recognition for the 6 A's?  My parents always look at what I do wrong instead of what I do right! Why even try if they're just going to be on my case?  I can never please them."  
    Everyone has strengths and weaknesses.  While a student should work for a decent level of proficiency in all subjects, let's face it, not every student is going to be a whiz in calculus.  And yet, the student who makes a B in Calculus may be an outstanding writer or a linguist extraordinaire!  Parents need to remember to look at the overall picture, appreciating the strengths and understanding the weaknesses of their student. Parents might suggest a tutor or a study group (with food, of course) in their student's weak areas, and unless they know for a fact that their student isn't trying his best, they shouldn't go on the offensive. Students, you need to spend the extra effort needed to bring up that lower grade. Get help if you need it; talk to your teacher; try a new way of studying; and instead of putting off the homework for your least favorite class until last, get it done first, while you still have the ability to focus. 
    In Colossians 3;23, the Apostle Paul urges believers, "Whatever you do, work at with all your heart as working for the Lord, not for men."  In other words, Christians should pursue excellence in everything. Does that mean that every Christian high school student will make straight A's?  Of course not. We pursue excellence in everything, but we will only be excellent in some things.  Each of us has been equipped for a special calling.  When we have a natural ability, we should pay attention to that talent and devote energy to being outstanding in that field.  The chances of being a leader in a field where you have talent is much greater than the chances of being a leader in a field where you have a difficult time grasping the concepts. How has God equipped you for excellence?  Could that be a clue to your calling?
    Yes, we do want to strengthen our weaknesses, but don't spend so much time working on your weaknesses that you take those God-given strengths for granted.  Find the balance of working on your weaknesses and soaring in your strengths.

The College Helper: Application Anxiety

posted Nov 17, 2010, 1:55 PM by Glenda Durano   [ updated Dec 17, 2010, 3:31 PM ]

Some kids see the entire college application process as a time filled with dread and fear, setting themselves up for stress and sometimes, even rejection. That's the wrong attitude!  God gave you unique talents and abilities to support your specific calling.  The college application process is simply a time to find a university that will facilitate that calling so you can better serve God.  The junior and senior year should be a time of discovery and dreams...not doubt and despair.  If you've been putting off the college application process because of application anxiety, change your attitude.  Focus on 1 Corinthians 2:9:  "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him, but God has revealed it to us by His Spirit."  Press into Him.  He will show you the way!  

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