Kirsten's College Counseling Blog

July 12, 2018

Ithaca, Cornell and Skidmore

After a few days in “the city,” I headed upstate, familiar territory for me! It’s a four-hour drive to Ithaca College (where I taught Literature for over a decade), a small but not too small school: approximately 6,000 undergrads,  with particularly notable reputations in Communication, Performing Arts, and Business/Marketing. I never met a faculty member there I didn’t like, and many students  have close relationships with their teachers. The campus environment is politically liberal, and the town has a lively cultural scene. Ithaca is Gorges, the bumper sticker says, referring to the town’s natural beauty—big, beautiful Seneca Lake, rolling hills and, of course, the dozen or so gorges in the area.

Over on Ithaca’s other hill is IC’s Ivy League Sister, Cornell University. (There is reciprocity between the two, so that students at one campus can take classes at the other.) Cornell’s undergrad population is more than twice the size (13,500), but still offering a good faculty to student ratio (9:1). That said, as an internationally renowned research institution, Cornell is a place where freshman and sophomores don’t get much personal contact with professors; teaching assistants meet with and grade student work. The range of majors—80, in all—is huge, including such highly specific ones such as Fiber Science and Apparel Design.

About three hours north of Ithaca is Skidmore College, in the beautiful town of Saratoga Springs--known for its summer season of horse-racing, as well as music and theatre festivals. I’d never been to Skidmore, and I was pretty wowed by its variety of programs and opportunities for a small (2,500) school. It struck me as a great fit for many of our students. The welcome I received there was remarkable; as you can see from the photo, several tour guides hung out with me, talking about their experience. Skidmore is less selective than Cornell, more selective than Ithaca, and diverse in terms of majors and student interests. The young men and women I spoke to stressed that they all felt they could “be themselves” without judgement. Skidmore is close to Albany, where there are myriad internship opportunities. The majority of students double major, and it was voted 7th most entrepreneurial school in the country.

So, SNOW. Yes, this is deserving of its own paragraph, albeit a small one. Upstate New York schools are knee-deep in the stuff from the middle of November to the end of February. Snow is fun, as are skiing and sledding! It’s also cold. For a student not used to it, some adjusting is necessary. For most people, the environment and weather of one’s college years do matter; so it’s worth visiting during winter months to see how you feel in the face of the white stuff.

On a final note, these schools are in relatively small towns, and getting to a metropolis isn’t a  short drive. Cons: For the student used to easy access to urban energy, there may be times where the environs feel “slow and steady,” rather than “fast and frenetic.” Pros: Community on-campus is strong and lively, and there are few distractions.  Next stops: Bennington, Bard, Landmark, and Sarah Lawrence.

June 29, 2018

New York, New York!
Attending college in an urban environment offers vigorous cultural life, excellent internship opportunities, and access to all kinds of communities (beyond other 18 to 22 year-old college students.) It also requires learning the ins and outs of public transportation, being “city-safe,” as well as finding peace and quiet from time to time. There are many ways to go to college in a city or, as they say on the East Coast, “THE city”…
My travels last week began in Manhattan where I visited the New School, specifically the Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts. Full-time undergrad enrollment is about 1,300; average class size is 16. This means that inside the expanse of NYC, students still enjoy a close community. Most of the campus—dorms, classrooms, studios, and administration--is located in one very cool and upscale Greenwich Village Block. The area is full of coffee shops, delicious and affordable international restaurants , and student-friendly haunts. When they are not studying, most students have part-time jobs or internships.
Next stop: Fordham University, another city-central college experience. The campus I visited is right next to Lincoln Center; the other—Rose Hill, is 30 minutes away by train in the Bronx; students can take classes at both locations. My tour guide, Sammy, just happened to be from Orange County, and she told me that after New York and Massachusetts, California comes in third place as the home state of enrollees. Fordham has a beautiful green space, two levels above the street. Full-time undergrad enrollment is much larger than the New School: around 8,000.
Another way to have the undergrad New York City experience: Hofstra University—on Long Island, 30 minutes away by train. As you will see from the photo, LA and environs is dear to the heart of Lisa, the SOCAL college representative. Hofstra has more majors than most much larger schools, and my student tour guide told me “What is great here is that you can have broad majors like Economics or more specific majors like Business Economics.” Under grad Enrollment is 8,500. Student faculty ratio: 14 to 1.
So NYC schools come in many shapes and sizes, and MUSE students would certainly be likely to find a “fit.” PLEASE EMAIL ME WITH QUESTIONS! Looking forward to sharing more details when I return. (The representatives from these schools will be visiting MUSE in fall 2018!)
Next up: Cornell, Skidmore, Bennington, Landmark.
June 5, 2018

Last week I had the pleasure of attending the Western Association of College Admissions Counselors (WACAC) in Monterey. Thursday, May 31st to Saturday, June 2nd I attended seven panels that included “Building Skills for a Successful Transition to College,” “Engaging Students for Long Term Success,” “What is ‘the right fit,’ in the Admissions Process,” and “Annual ACT update.”

While I couldn’t get to all of the panels I wanted to, the presentations will be available online in a few weeks for conference attendees, and I look forward to reading them this summer!

I want to share with you a few things I learned:
  1. Just as Khan Academy provides free test prep for the SAT, there is now free online tutoring for the ACT!
  1. Asking students to “picture themselves in college”-- completing an actual drawing exercise can open conversations in productive ways for students who’ve not yet thought much about what sort of post-graduation environment they would like. (There’s less stress and more fun than answering an adult’s pointed questions.)
  1. The contact that a student has with a school representative in person, by email, does matter. Being informed, curious, engaged, and respectful count. The term used for this is “demonstrated interest,” and  while it’s not at the top of the list in admissions offices, “DI” is on the list.
  1. Many smaller colleges today offer short courses to Freshman that teach skills needed  for away-from-home living. It’s recommended that parents ask about such offerings. Easier transition means happier student and peace of mind for mom/dad!

During the exhibition hours each day, I met with several people whose weekly emails catch my

Charlie Maynard, the founder of “”— an app that helps  students find scholarships. Charlie looks like he’s 22, but he’s a whiz. If your child will be a senior next year, I suggest checking out Going Merry.

Paul Kanarak, the CEO of Collegewise, one of my favorite sites that provides info for students and parents.

And Akil Bello, Director of Equity and Access at The Princeton Review. Akil presented powerful information about  the biases of standardized testing.
I also talked with admissions counselors at Pepperdine, UC, Chapman, Pitzer, and Occidental  to name a few. All had interesting information, and I left the conference with a head full of new ideas about helping MUSE students on their path to college! Please feel free to contact me about any information here, or anything else related to college prep. I can be reached at