Preparing for the college admissions process is a pivotal journey that demands careful planning and dedication. Students should start early by exploring potential colleges, assessing their academic strengths and aligning their interests with suitable majors.
We spoke with Dr. Robert A. Browne, owner of RAB College Admissions Consulting in Port Washington, who shared some of his top advice for planning a higher education journey.
“One of the things I focus on particularly are the clubs that a student chooses to participate in and which one could set them apart in college admissions,” Browne said. “Pick out the things you might be interested in so you can start the school year off with a game plan.”
Browne, a dentist by trade for more than 30 years, has has a long tie to the college admissions process through his work with the alumni interview process for University of Pennsylvania, on the admissions committee for Northwell Health’s general practice dental residency and with the office of admissions at Virginia Commonwealth University. He also holds a college admissions counseling certificate from the University of California Riverside.
“For high school students, when they have free time, I think it’s a great idea for them to journal and read memoirs,” Browne said. “It helps them understand themselves a little bit better and will help in the writing process when they eventually do their personal statement for college applications.”
He added, “I think it’s great when students realize that they not only have to be good students but they have to be really engaged students when they are thinking about letters of recommendation.”
He said it is advisable to focus on the core subjects (math, English, social studies, world language) when considering soliciting recommendations letters.
“Think about which teacher you would like to have a recommendation from,” Browne said. “Start to build that relationship, not just being a good student, but an engaged classmate.”
“Be as involved as possible in extracurricular activities and give it your all,” Browne said. “Even if someone is not an official leader they can certainly be in charge and lead.”
When it comes to extracurriculars and clubs, not all are created equally.
“Back when we were kids, if you took a hard schedule and you did well on an SAT test, maybe joined a few clubs, you could feel very confident that you would get into one of the more selective schools in the country,” Browne shared. “Now, it’s a little more involved. The key now is the idea of being intentional and flexible. Going in with a game plan, similar to a business person, a physician, an athlete, having a game plan is the key. Being flexible in case your interests change or the results are not what you were hoping for, just make sure you can pivot; giving yourself the freedom to make that change is certainly critical to understand.”
“My advice to parents during this time is to be supportive,” Browne said. “It is the student’s journey ultimately and our job is to help them along the way.”
When parents take control, it adds to the pressure.
“Kids will do well in life; their future is based on them, not the name of the school on the diploma,” Browne said. “Support them. Give them guidance. Encourage them. It’s their process. You can encourage them and lead them, but ultimately it’s their decision.”
Do not control the situation.
Clubs: All Are Not Equal
“From the college standpoint, the most important clubs and organizations are the ones that are directed toward your academic and career interests,” Browne said. “Then, after that comes the community and diversity involvement. Knowing who they are helps pinpoint some of the more beneficial community and diversity opportunities (religion, ethnicity, culture, socio-economic, health-related, gender identity, etc.).”
He said that it is important for a student to figure out what their “community” is; learn as much about the group that they identify with and then put the things they have learned into practice.
“The third group of things to be involved in are more the things you do for fun, the things you do to be with your friends or the things you do to clear your head a little bit, like sports, arts, regular volunteer activities at school,” Browne said. “If you are a recruited athlete or a theatre/music major, those activities would move up to the most important things to be involved in because these things are your career interests, but for people who are not being recruited into a career, the activities and clubs are in the third level of importance for college admissions.”
Prioritizing extracurricular activities, volunteering and leadership roles can enhance their profiles.
Browne has been a direct counselor for three years, especially working with students going through their dental residency.
“I am a parent; I see the stress that these kids are under,” Browne said. “As schools become more highly selective, I want to help parents and students take away the stress and help them control the process. If you don’t control the process, it will control you. When that happens it increases stress and can increase the chances of a lot of money unnecessarily being spent on education.”
Browne in an associate member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association. Visit www.rabcollegeconsulting.com to learn more and to book a free consultation.