Particular Experience with Gifted Students, Summer Programs, Enrichment, Homeschooling, Acceleration, and Math Programs
Over the past ten years, students I have worked with have gained admission to:
I'm Julia Rolnick, an educational consultant and independent college counselor. I advise high schoolers, middle schoolers, and their families.
My client families are around the country (and beyond the U.S.) and work closely with me by phone, email, and/or Skype/chat. Some also meet with me in person. I work with students in public schools and in private schools. I also work with homeschoolers and with students who are following a less standard educational path. Many of my students are highly gifted; all are looking to fulfill potential and to use my knowledge and my experience to help them identify and reach their goals.
Different families have different needs. Some families are focused on college admissions guidance. Of these, some seek periodic input during the years leading up to college applications: advice on course choices, summer programs, strengthening academic weaknesses, and/or further developing strengths. Other families want advice and hands-on assistance only with the actual college application process.
Some families are looking for guidance on applications to prep schools or simply for a couple of hours of assistance finding a suitable summer program or high school research mentor. Other client families seek sustained educational oversight: it can be reassuring to have an experienced external eye assess progress towards significant long-term educational goals and helpful to have suggestions which come from a broader and unbiased perspective.
All client families benefit from input from someone experienced who has an understanding of the particular needs and situation of the student and his or her family.
When I work with the families of middle schoolers and students in 9th, 10th, and 11th grades, the focus is on making sound educational choices; learning about educational options in and beyond school; aiming for excellence; and using time and opportunities wisely. Each student has a unique set of strengths, interests, and challenges; this profile needs to be the basis for all educational decisions for that student.
My approach helps instill and maintain student enthusiasm for learning and seeks to avoid burnout. It also helps each student to shine at college admissions time. And there are preparations to be made for applications such as deciding when to take what test and laying the groundwork for letters of recommendation which will support the student's aspirations.
Families also benefit from assistance in differentiating between those hoops through which it might be helpful, or necessary, for their child to jump and those hoops which add little beyond stress and cost in time and/or money. Superb educational options need not be expensive, and there is a great deal that is available for free.
Highly selective colleges look at a great deal more than just grades and test scores. Students are assessed in the context of the opportunities they are deemed to have had available to them, but even students with very limited formal educational options can choose to operate on a broader stage and are likely to find the process builds impressive skills. Students should not regard themselves as limited to the options provided by their schools.
By the summer before 12th grade, the immediate focus has to shift from the substance of a student's education to the presentation of the student to colleges.
The focus is on helping the student decide what colleges will be the best match and on helping the student shape the application so as to give a compelling, vibrant and effective portrayal of himself or herself. In the process, I ensure students learn about themselves, identify goals, and hone essential skills of self-advocacy.
Students tend not to realize how many applications they will need to submit in the years ahead: for scholarships, research opportunities, internships, jobs, funding, graduate school, and fellowships. They need to learn how to assess what an application or an interviewer is seeking to elicit; they need to understand the sort of language which raises red flags.
They need to know how to identify and communicate their strengths. They need to develop the confidence not to sound like everyone else and not to say just what they think the colleges want to hear.
I particularly enjoy helping students as they wrestle with their college or scholarship application essays (or middle/high school admissions essays): helping them choose topics which will serve them well, helping them fine-tune precisely what it is they wish to convey, and helping them maintain their own voice amidst all the noise of competing advice. Students are often eager to listen to an independent adviser. My goals are to maximize both potential and self-fulfillment and to reduce stress for the whole family. Our shared goal is for the students to get admitted to colleges at which they will be challenged, fulfilled, and happy.
In response to increased uncertainty and anxiety about admissions, applicants now apply to ever more colleges in the hope that this will lead to more good options. This trend, in turn, has increased uncertainty for the colleges as well - they now make heavy use of both deferrals and waitlists. This helps turn the wheel of uncertainty full circle and add further stress for applicants. Students who are deferred or waitlisted are generally told to be patient, but that is decidedly not all they should be. They should also be proactive and nimble. There are potentially decisive steps they can and should take. This is no time to be passive.
Some young people find it helpful to discuss significant choices they face in college such as what they should major in and how they can acquire research or internship opportunities. Having worked together, strong bonds of trust and understanding are already in place. Some returning and some new clients seek guidance during or after college on applying to graduate schools, REU's, and distinguished fellowships (such as the Rhodes, Marshall, and Fulbright Scholarships and the Hertz, NDSEG and NSF Graduate Research Fellowships).
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