FLEX College Prep https://flexcollegeprep.com What is your college dream? FLEX can help! Tue, 26 Mar 2019 15:21:13 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.1.1 https://flexcollegeprep.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/cropped-FLEX-Favicon-Blue-32x32.png FLEX College Prep https://flexcollegeprep.com 32 32 Last Words of Advice for Parents https://flexcollegeprep.com/advice-for-parents-extracurricular-activities/ https://flexcollegeprep.com/advice-for-parents-extracurricular-activities/#respond Sat, 23 Mar 2019 08:00:49 +0000 https://flexcollegeprep.com/?p=210284 The post Last Words of Advice for Parents appeared first on FLEX College Prep.


This series of posts opened with an exercise aimed at parents, so this post bookends the series with another section directed at parents.

All parents want what is best for their children.

Thinking about colleges and extracurricular activities is obviously stressful, but I want to encourage parents to view this process as an opportunity to help their children discover their true interests and abilities.

Extracurriculars should reflect passion.

At the end of the day, extracurricular activities should simply reflect a student’s passions.

As a professional résumé reader, I find it very easy to identify students who genuinely love what they do and students who are just looking for something to put on their applications.


First of all, students who truly enjoy what they’re doing make time—even amidst incredibly demanding schedules—to do that very thing.

Another thing: students who love what they do see it through to the end. They don’t start things and then quit just when school gets difficult or finals roll around. Students who quit a project reveal that they weren’t all that passionate about it to begin with. The student who really loves to play water polo will wake up every morning to practice water polo. The student who loves to write will stay up all night putting the finishing touches on a poem or short story. In other words, extracurricular activities should not be a chore—and correctly chosen, they won’t be a chore.

Colleges make a big deal out of extracurricular activities because they genuinely want to see the true colors and individuality of each applicant.

How do I help my child find their passion?

Helping a student find his or her true passion is one of the greatest gifts parents can give …and one of the best ways they can help the student get into a great college.

When I offer this counsel to families, many parents says that their student hasn’t really demonstrated any particular interest or passion. Now I believe that it’s the parents’ job to put students in various environments where they can identify their passions. 


Parents should start by using their student’s school as a resource. They could get a comprehensive list of all the clubs and activities offered at school. Chances are, there are lots of opportunities parents have never even heard about.


Parents can also seek out professional counseling services, such as those offered at FLEX. Counselors have access to a lot of information that isn’t so readily available. But more importantly, counselors have a lot of experience: they’ve seen lots of students who get in…and lots of students who don’t. This broad picture is crucial to putting a particular student’s achievements in perspective.

Travel might be necessary

Parents should also be willing to send children out of their comfort zone.

If a student qualifies for a gifted program such as the Johns Hopkins University Center for Talented Youth (CTY) or Stanford Educational Program for Gifted Youth (EPGY), the student should go!

Many very selective universities (including, for example, the University of Pennsylvania, Cornell and the University of Chicago) also run their own summer programs for high school students. Admission into these programs, which usually run from three to six weeks, is not nearly as competitive as admission to the university. Participation in such programs is meant to demonstrate intellectual curiosity, rather than academic prowess. After all, colleges love students who love to learn. 


A quick side note for parents reluctant to send their children away from home: some colleges are less likely to accept students applying from far off regions because they recognize that families often turn out to be unwilling to send their children so far away.


West Coast parents thinking about sending their children to an East Coast school might want to demonstrate the seriousness of their intent by sending students to distant summer programs or taking students on campus visits before the application process. 


This brings me to travel: another invaluable experience, whether a student heads to Spain with his or her Spanish class or simply takes part in a field trip to Washington D.C.

Travel is a cultural education in and of itself. It expands a student’s worldview and provides some of that broader perspective that colleges value.

As I mentioned above, colleges like students to have some sense of the world beyond their familiar hometowns. They want students who are going to bring an awareness of what’s going on both locally and globally, as well as a willingness to act on that knowledge.

Extracurriculars aren’t all about achievements.

In closing, I want to emphasize that the value of extracurricular activities doesn’t just lie in the achievement itself.

What do I mean?

First of all, admissions officers know that participating in extracurricular activities develops social and intellectual abilities, regardless of whether students win awards or take high profile leadership positions.

  • Participating in Speech and Debate, for example, fosters the ability to think analytically and critically, skills necessary for success in college. Participating in Model U.N. trains students to partake in a dialogue and reach for a broader perspective. Both clubs develop a student’s ability to do research.

Second of all, college admissions officers recognize that consistent participation in extracurricular activities takes—and develops—character. Ongoing commitment displays maturity, dependability and the ability to juggle many competing demands: skills that are necessary if students are going to succeed at the more selective universities.

Finally, I emphasize again that exceptional extracurricular records don’t depend on exceptional talents or skills. Of course, the academic, athletic and musical superstars will always have a place at the most selective universities, and students with rare talents should by all means be given every opportunity to develop their gifts. But the vast majority of students who get accepted do not possess some rarified talent. They are just those who are able to maximize the abilities they have for some greater good.

A pianist can be exceptional not because of his exceptional talent, but because his huge heart motivated lots of other musicians to join him in providing free weekly lessons to underprivileged students.
An aspiring biologist can be a stand-out applicant not because of her participation in cutting edge research, but because her environmental passion drove her to organize a community recycling program.

There is no one right course of action for everyone.

Parents who really want to help their students develop their extracurricular profiles should think about this task as an opportunity for students to get to know themselves better and discover their real talents and passions.

Many students will take some missteps; some students will need a gentle shove; every student will need encouragement.

But the experience in and of itself can end up being invaluable.

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Advice for Sophomores https://flexcollegeprep.com/sophomore-extracurricular-activities/ https://flexcollegeprep.com/sophomore-extracurricular-activities/#respond Thu, 21 Mar 2019 16:13:12 +0000 https://flexcollegeprep.com/?p=210257 The post Advice for Sophomores appeared first on FLEX College Prep.


Although sophomores have a lot more to juggle than freshmen, they still have some time and freedom to figure out where their passions lie.

But by the end of sophomore year—and in time for the summer after sophomore year—students should be ready to commit to certain activities and set the theme for the rest of their high school years.

Let’s look at some case studies to make things more concrete.

Case Study #1: Mark, University of Pennsylvania

Mark attended the University of Pennsylvania. As a high school student, he was obviously a bright and motivated student but he didn’t have any particularly outstanding skills; nor was he unusually brilliant.

Mark knew from very early on that he wanted to be a business major. In the summer after his sophomore year, he applied for a position as a teller at a major bank and he continued to work this position year-round over the next two years, putting in ten to sixteen hours a week at this job while maintaining a solid GPA.

What did this extracurricular activity demonstrate about Mark? It showed that Mark, a seemingly ordinary kid, possessed some remarkable qualities.

  • First of all, he was reliable, well beyond the norm for a kid of his age. A major bank wouldn’t employ anyone who was less than dependable.
  • Second of all, Mark was extraordinarily persistent and consistent. He didn’t just drop this activity when things got hectic at school. He spent a sizeable portion of his week on the job…and continued to do so for two solid years.
  • Third of all, Mark had a great ability to juggle schoolwork and a real job. In a nutshell: Mark showed character.

You don’t have to be extraordinary to have extraordinary extracurricular activity.


One thing to take away from this case study is that an extraordinary extracurricular activity doesn’t depend on having extraordinary talents.

Let’s face it. There are only so many phenoms like Tiger Woods and Mark Zuckerberg walking around in the world. Fortunately, though, an extracurricular activity can be extraordinary because it displays an extraordinarily well developed and admirable character. And although we can’t create talent where there is none, we can certainly foster character. 


Another thing to note from this case study is that Mark wouldn’t have had the option of pursuing this one activity for such a long and impressive period of time if he hadn’t started early enough.

Students should really make sure to use the summers after their sophomore years wisely. Of course Mark knew what he wanted to do from really early on, and he never changed his mind.

Students who aren’t quite as sure about things as Mark should still make sure to spend the summer trying something new, something challenging.

Now let’s consider, what could a student like Mark add on to his extracurricular activities his junior year to build on his profile? Taking a business elective would be a good idea. So would participating in the Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA), either taking up a leadership position in the club or founding a branch if the club doesn’t already exist.

Case Study #2: June

Let’s look at another case study.

June was very interested in journalism.

She attended a high school with a really stellar, award-winning school newspaper. Becoming an editor at this newspaper is big news: it’s a much-coveted position and colleges know it!

For June to be a serious contender for the position of editor-in-chief her senior year, she had to start strategizing as a sophomore. She had to start acting like a leader from very early on: she had to be willing to take on additional responsibilities; she had to be bold enough to float new ideas; she had to get to know faculty advisors and seek to learn from current editors.

Now if June had attended a high school where the journalism program wasn’t as competitive, she wouldn’t have needed to get started so early or pursue things so aggressively. However, in that case, she also shouldn’t have satisfied herself with scoring a readily available and inconsequential position.

A student with true initiative would create opportunities in a situation like this.

Case Study #3: Danielle

Another student I counseled, Danielle, did just this.

Not satisfied with the caliber of her school newspaper—or with the caliber of her school in general—she founded a quarterly magazine with a political tilt where students could explore and express their views.

At the same time, she lobbied her school to add more AP courses to the curriculum. Though she found herself in a mediocre school with limited offerings, Danielle proved herself to be a true leader. She left behind a concrete legacy when she matriculated at Harvard.

These are just a few examples of students who made good use of their sophomore years. For sophomores reading this now, I’d advise them to be optimistic!

Students who are open to figuring out what they’re really good at and what they really love will have a better chance of finding their talents and passions!

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FLEX Academic Programs Education Expo 2019 https://flexcollegeprep.com/flex-academic-programs-education-expo-2019/ https://flexcollegeprep.com/flex-academic-programs-education-expo-2019/#respond Mon, 18 Mar 2019 20:29:39 +0000 https://flexcollegeprep.com/?p=210132 The post FLEX Academic Programs Education Expo 2019 appeared first on FLEX College Prep.

FLEX College Prep Proudly Presents

Academics in College Admission: FLEX Edu Expo 2019


Agenda topics

  • The Role of Academics in College Admission (Danny Byun, FLEX CEO)
  • Math: The Foundation For All STEM (Philip Vuong, FLEX Principal Tutor)
  • Science Is Exploration (Klaus Aichelen, FLEX Director of Academics & Principal Tutor)
  • Building Reading & Writing Skills (Yoon Choi, Principal Tutor)
  • How Should Your Child Prepare Now? (Danny Byun, FLEX CEO)
  • Q&A

Find out what 5-9th grade families MUST KNOW about their academic preparation for success in high school, college and beyond.

Meet FLEX’s Distinguished Panel of Speakers:

  • Danny Byun: FLEX: CEO & Founder
  • Tiffany Lu: FLEX: Sr. Director of Curriculum Dev & Tutor Mgmt (2007), Stanford: BS Biology,
  • Klaus Aichelen: FLEX: Director of Academics & Principal Tutor (2006), USA Biology Olympiad Instructor & Specialist, UC Berkeley: BS Biology
  • Philip Vuong: FLEX: Principal Tutor (2011), Stanford: SUMaC Curriculum, Admission & Teacher, Stanford: BS Math & Electrical Engineering
  • Yoon Choi: FLEX: Principal Tutor (2002), Stanford: Stegner Writing Fellow, Johns Hopkins CTY: Curriculum & Teacher

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Advice for Freshmen (and Middle School Students) https://flexcollegeprep.com/freshmen-extracurricular-activities/ https://flexcollegeprep.com/freshmen-extracurricular-activities/#respond Sat, 16 Mar 2019 01:00:37 +0000 https://flexcollegeprep.com/?p=210092 The post Advice for Freshmen (and Middle School Students) appeared first on FLEX College Prep.


This is my favorite age group to counsel.

Freshmen (and younger students) still have their whole future in front of them. With a little foresight and the right advice, they can create an ideal high school experience for themselves, not only in academic terms but also when it comes to extracurricular activities.

For example, freshmen still have time to make informed, unhurried decisions about when they will take their standardized tests and when they should start preparing for them.

Freshmen, getting started early with your extracurricular activities is great!

Postponing thinking about these things until sophomore or, even worse, junior year piles on stress, just when everything else is becoming harder.

Think about it. Junior-year students have to take the most difficult classes…and yet junior-year grades matter more than any other grades so far! Add to that the need to prepare for and ace a bunch of standardized tests and the pressures of trying to come up with significant extracurricular activities. My point is that there is a lot just ahead of the curve.

Savvy freshmen will inform themselves about what’s coming and plan ahead! The more they accomplish as freshmen, the more they’ll save up of that most valuable of commodities that upperclassmen never have enough of: time.

In particular, there are three things that I always advise eighth and ninth graders to try and accomplish. These suggestions might seem irrelevant to the college process. However, having pored over thousands of applications, I can promise that students who do the following will have a significant advantage over their peers.

Students just starting their high school careers should:

  1. Establish good habits.
  2. Search actively for their true passions.
  3. Make the right friends.

Let’s discuss these in more detail.

Establish good habits.

Now is the time for students to cut the tether to the Internet, phone and TV. Students need to develop discipline before they really need it.

Students should also actively seek to develop effective study habits.

And they should address any academic weaknesses before coursework starts becoming more advanced.

Students with a weak grasp of grammar will want to develop their writing skills before they have to produce ten-page AP U.S. History research papers.
Students with a shaky grasp of Algebra I will want to solidify their mathematical foundation before entering Algebra II.
Once students are floundering in a difficult class, it’s too late: they’ll forever be playing catch-up.

Discover passions.

Not everything a student does his or her freshman year is merely a preparation for future years, however. Freshman year is also meant to be a year of exploration and self-discovery, a time when students can try various things and discover their true passions.

To that end, I highly encourage students to take full advantage of the activities and clubs offered at their schools. These clubs are readily accessible and allow students to “try out” various activities.

I also tell motivated students to use the summer before freshman and/or sophomore grade to enroll in programs such as the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth (CTY) or Stanford’s Education Program for Gifted Youth (EPGY). These enrichment programs allow bright students to study non-standard academic subjects in a challenging and creative environment. Students can see whether their curiosity about, say, oceanography—a subject that can’t really be studied in high school—is a passing fancy or a genuine passion.

Of course, in trying to discover new interests, students shouldn’t neglect those talents they’ve worked so many years to develop. Top-notch musicians, athletes, even Eagle Scouts aren’t created in the space of a high school career. Freshmen should continue building on those activities that they’ve been participating in all along, especially if they are passionate about or gifted in a particular area.

Make the right friends.

Last but not least: students should know that who their friends are can make a huge difference in what opportunities are open to them four years down the line. We’re all social beings, highly influenced by those around us.

As freshmen prepare to navigate some of the most rigorous and demanding years of their lives, they need like minded friends: peers with whom to exchange information about opportunities and resources, classmates who can keep them motivated and push them onwards through some friendly competition.

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College Admission Scandal and How It Impacts You https://flexcollegeprep.com/college-admissions-scandal-how-it-impacts-you/ https://flexcollegeprep.com/college-admissions-scandal-how-it-impacts-you/#respond Fri, 15 Mar 2019 19:08:14 +0000 https://flexcollegeprep.com/?p=210104 The post College Admission Scandal and How It Impacts You appeared first on FLEX College Prep.


On Tuesday, March 12, 2019, fifty people were indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice on charges of college admissions fraud. This scandal involved a diverse range of interested parties, including famous or wealthy parents, standardized test proctors, and athletic coaches at elite universities across the nation.

The CEO of the college prep company that perpetrated the fraud, William Singer, engaged in two types of illegal activities:

  • Helped students cheat on their standardized tests.
  • Bribed college athletic coaches to recommend students with fake athletic credentials.

Singer, who pleaded guilty to all charges in federal court, once identified three ways of getting into college:

  1. A conventional admissions process.
  2. An admissions process that relied on philanthropic giving.
  3. A “side door” admissions process that allowed parents who were unwilling to invest in philanthropic giving to find an illegal way to buy entrance into a particular university.

While the first two admissions processes consist of long-standing practices that are acknowledged by colleges and universities, it is this third category of side door admissions that has generated the uproar around this news story. For that reason, it is important that prospective applicants and their families clearly understand the distinction among the three categories of admissions.

The Conventional Admissions Process

The conventional admissions process refers to students who get into college through a face-value application. They are evaluated on their performance in high school, extracurricular activities, standardized test scores, recommendations, application essays, and character.

Colleges recognize that even the face-value applicant usually has access to a range of resources. Such resources may include tutoring and standardized test prep, meetings with school guidance counselors or professional college coaches, personal essay editing, and application review. Colleges are well aware that a good portion of their applicants are getting some degree of professional guidance in the application process.

In other words, college coaching does not preclude a conventional admissions review. In many cases, it is assumed.

What is shocking about the conventional admissions process is that, while it seems to be the norm, the group of students admitted under its auspices may take up as little as 25-30% of total openings. In other words, at a highly selective university at which the overall admit rate is, say, 10%, the conventional admissions admit rate is effectively 2.5-3%.

Admissions based on philanthropic giving refers to…

Unlock the rest of the article and learn more about how college admission corruption impacts you.

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What Admissions Officers Look For In Extracurricular Activities https://flexcollegeprep.com/what-college-admissions-officers-look-for-in-extracurricular-activities/ https://flexcollegeprep.com/what-college-admissions-officers-look-for-in-extracurricular-activities/#respond Fri, 15 Mar 2019 03:35:23 +0000 https://flexcollegeprep.com/?p=210073 The post What Admissions Officers Look For In Extracurricular Activities appeared first on FLEX College Prep.


Parents should take a moment to answer the following questions honestly:

Remember that when admissions officers evaluate student applications, they are looking for answers to these questions:

  • Who is this student?
  • What makes him or her different from everyone else?

Getting detailed answers to these questions is greatly important to colleges for lots of reasons.


First of all, colleges need to select students who are minimally capable of succeeding at the college.


Second of all, colleges want to find students who will mesh with the campus culture and philosophy—students who can come together in a cohesive community.

But lastly, colleges don’t want a class of clones. They want a community that embraces diversity, a community made up of unique individuals who have things to learn from each other.

College admissions officers look at academics and extracurricular activities.

Now the academic parts of the application—GPA and SAT or ACT scores—go a long way to answering the two questions above. They tell colleges a good deal about a student’s academic aptitude and intellectual interests; they also, as we’ve seen, provide more than a few hints about a student’s academic character.

So what does a student’s extracurricular activities add to this picture?

Extracurricular records give admissions officers a sense of students’ idiosyncratic and unique interests. Although there are only so many variations to the high school curriculum, and although students can only choose from so many testing options, extracurricular records can be utterly original.

What makes an extracurricular record stand out?

The truly impressive extracurricular record, however, stands out not because there’s something there that nobody else has ever done.

After all, as the saying goes, there’s nothing truly new under the sun!

The truly impressive extracurricular record stands out because it’s a record of a student’s passions, rather than a list of hobbies. Genuine passion can’t be faked.

It can be attested to by the amount of time and energy that a student dedicates to pursuing an activity, or the imagination and creativity with which the student engages in a project, or by the student’s incessant commitment to finding ways to share certain experiences with others.

Our case studies below will help students understand how passion comes through in an extracurricular résumé. But first, here are four additional things that admissions officers like to see in a student’s extracurricular record:

  1. Breadth and depth
  2. Volunteerism
  3. Leadership and initiative
  4. Local participation and action
  5. A global perspective

Breadth and depth

Broadly speaking, there are two types of extracurricular profiles I see: the student who only does a few things but does them “deeply” and the student who does a lot of things but does all of them “superficially.” The first student has depth; the second breadth.

What do colleges prefer?

Martha Allman, Dean of Admissions at Wake Forest University claims,

“In general, colleges seek depth of involvement rather than breadth; therefore, we advise students to focus time and attention on a few activities in which they excel.”

Furthermore, Stanford’s Admissions website explains their approach to extracurricular activities:

“Students often assume our primary concern is the number of activities in which a student participates. In fact, an exceptional depth of experience in one or two activities may demonstrate your passion more than minimal participation in five or six clubs. You may also hold down a job or have family responsibilities. These are as important as any other extracurricular activity. In general, we want to understand the impact you have had at your job, in your family, in a club, in your school, or in the larger community, and we want to learn of the impact that experience has had on you.”

What this means is that, with the exception of students with truly outstanding talents (the nationally-ranked golfer, for example), colleges typically want to see students falling somewhere in between the two types we introduced above. Students should have some defining passion, but they should also be three-dimensional, well-rounded individuals.

There is no need for students to load up on activities that they don’t care about: students shouldn’t feel that they need to participate in a sport and play an instrument and paint on the side and have a pet “cause.” The important thing is for students to have something they really enjoy and something they really care about. As Jeffrey Brenzel, former Dean of Undergraduate Admissions at Yale explains,

“Do things that you truly enjoy in high school, rather than trying to outguess an admissions committee. Why? Because what you truly enjoy, you’re probably going to be good at, and you’re probably going to get better at—whether it’s one activity, two activities, three activities. The important thing is: are you getting something out of it? Are you enjoying it? Are you learning how to do it better? Has it taken you some places that you wouldn’t otherwise have gone?”

It is also important for students to display two specific character traits in their extracurricular activities: persistence and integrity. People often say, “Finish what you start.” That’s true of extracurricular activities.

While students don’t have to pursue everything for four straight years, they do want to demonstrate that they see things through, whether it’s a menial summer job or a commitment to tutoring for a year.

Community service and volunteerism

Colleges like to see students engage with their communities and try to make a difference.

This means that students should strive to take each of their major activities and add some community service dimension to it, and sustain their service over time. This will have the added benefit of drawing close connections between a student’s different activities and adding cohesion to a student’s extracurricular record as a whole.

For example, many students who play musical instruments participate in fundraising concerts. Others might teach music to underprivileged children in the community. These are great ways of using talents to give back to the community.

They also serve to link together a student’s community service and artistic activities, portraying a student who brings everything learned in one area of life to bear on all the other parts of life.

Leadership and initiative

In the past few years, we have seen the word “initiative” replace the word “leadership” as the big buzz word in admissions. But that’s because leadership is often misunderstood. It’s often confused with titles; therefore, many students seek positions with titles that don’t seem to mean very much and don’t lead to noticeable results.

Real leadership, on the other hand, involves initiative. It’s displayed when students actually take action and drive change. At its best, it is creative, courageous and risk-taking. There are obvious reasons why colleges are impressed by students who display genuine leadership. Students who possess this elusive trait in high school will be sure to be leaders on and off campus.

Here’s an example of poor leadership. Bill is president of the Spanish club. The Spanish club meets once a week in the Spanish teacher’s room for lunch. This activity is relatively valueless on the college application. Now if Bill were to develop this into a lunch-time exchange program, for example, with another school that has a lot of native Spanish-speaking ESL students, then this activity would suddenly have “impact” and Bill would be acting as a real leader.

Taking action and participating locally…

Stanford University’s Admissions writes, 


“As we review each application, we pay careful attention to unique circumstances. We take into account family background, educational differences, employment and life experiences. By focusing on your achievements within context, we evaluate how you have excelled within your unique school environment and how you have taken advantage of what was available to you in your school and community.” 

The qualifier “within context” is very important. Let me explain.

Students are always encouraged to take advantage of the opportunities available to them in their own schools and communities. Whether seeking leadership opportunities or honors and awards, the first place a student should start is his or her own school. Why? Because colleges want students who will actively and eagerly contribute to the life of the college community.


For example, lots of students participate in speech and debate. But I get some students who, rather than joining their school speech and debate teams, go to expensive tutoring centers and private enrichment programs. Now the only person who benefits from this is the student, who could just as easily develop his or her skills on the school team, helping out teammates and bringing credit to the school at the same time. On the same note, I see lots of students who say that writing is their passion but don’t contribute to the school literary magazine or newspaper. Where’s the evidence of the passion?

Participating in opportunities made available at school and locally can also lend credibility to a student’s achievements and attest to the student’s talents. For example, accruing honors in privately-organized speech and debate programs can’t compare to winning awards at school speech and debate tournaments, which are held up to nationally established standards.

…but seeking a global perspective

The world really is getting smaller and smaller every day. It is important for students to remain informed world citizens with a basic understanding of what’s going on around the world and how most of the world lives.

They may be surprised to know how much this matters. I’ve read lots of well-meaning admissions essays in which the student’s lack of perspective is painfully obvious. Martha Blevins Allman, Dean of Admissions at Wake Forest University, gives this advice:

Concentrate not on being the best candidate, but on being the best person. Pay attention to what is going on in the world around you. If you do those things, not only will the world be a better place because you’re in it, your greatest admissions worry will be choosing which college to pick from.

Students must proceed with caution when seeking to write about their volunteer activities and service overseas, not only because it’s an increasingly common, even cliche topic, but because it can express entitlement, rather than exhibiting the true reflection and growth that could show from the experience.

Christoph Guttentag, Dean of Admissions at Duke University, elaborates on this:

The idea of other people who are less advantaged being used as the vehicle for someone’s increased self-awareness is how [writing about volunteering or a trip overseas] can come across sometimes, and I think that can be difficult to pull off.

Whether by taking courses, or by traveling, or by participating in a service activity with a global reach (fundraising for worldwide disaster relief, for example), students should seek to broaden their horizons and in a continued, sustained fashion.

Sara Harberson, former admissions officer at U Penn and a former Dean of Admissions herself, admitted that “colleges are more impressed by long-term commitments to volunteerism or causes than by a one-off trip that a student’s parents paid for, which looks more like a resumé builder than a demonstrated, long-term commitment to a cause.”

Students should balance continued activism within their local communities with an honest attempt to educate themselves about the greater world around them.

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Changes & Trends in College Admissions 2000-2019 https://flexcollegeprep.com/changes-trends-in-college-admissions-2000-2019/ https://flexcollegeprep.com/changes-trends-in-college-admissions-2000-2019/#respond Sat, 09 Mar 2019 14:42:40 +0000 https://flexcollegeprep.com/?p=209932 The post Changes & Trends in College Admissions 2000-2019 appeared first on FLEX College Prep.

FLEX College Prep Presents a Free Seminar:

Changes & Trends in College Admissions 2000-2019: Two Decades of Rising Standards

About these Events

Featuring: Changes & Trends in College Admissions 2000-2019: Two Decades of Rising Standards

Universities have sent out acceptances, and students have now decided on which school they will ultimately attend for their undergraduate careers. The 2018-2019 application season has finally come to a close.

Join FLEX as we discuss the changes and trends that we have witnessed in admissions this year, from dramatic early action and early decision results, to universities leveraging new tactics to draw competitive students to apply and attend.

The application climate is changing! Come learn from the college admissions experts at FLEX!

Admission free! Drop-ins welcome.
Each family can register up to 4 people.

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Preparing Students for Competitive Standardized Tests https://flexcollegeprep.com/preparing-students-for-competitive-standardized-tests/ https://flexcollegeprep.com/preparing-students-for-competitive-standardized-tests/#respond Sat, 09 Mar 2019 14:15:14 +0000 https://flexcollegeprep.com/?p=209899 The post Preparing Students for Competitive Standardized Tests appeared first on FLEX College Prep.

FLEX College Prep Presents a Free Seminar:

Preparing Students for Competitive Standardized Tests


About these Events

Featuring: Testing Strategies and Where to Find Them | Preparing Students for Competitive Standardized Tests

With the summer season approaching, students and families need to strategically plan to maximize the value of the summer months.

Determine which standardized tests are best for your student, which test dates to consider, and when to begin preparation. Develop a testing timeline and schedule a complimentary follow-up consultation to discuss your child’s specific needs!

Reserve your spot in our free seminar for information about the role standardized testing plays amongst other elements of your academic profile.

  • ACT
  • SAT
  • AP
  • PSAT

Admission free! Drop-ins welcome.
Each family can register up to 4 people.

Download Flyers: NorCal | SoCal

FLEX Almaden


FLEX Cupertino

FLEX Diamond Bar

FLEX Fremont

FLEX Los Altos

FLEX Los Angeles

FLEX Irvine

FLEX Pasadena

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An Introductory Exercise for Parents https://flexcollegeprep.com/involvement-in-extracurricular-activities/ https://flexcollegeprep.com/involvement-in-extracurricular-activities/#respond Sat, 09 Mar 2019 01:00:19 +0000 https://flexcollegeprep.com/?p=209791 The post An Introductory Exercise for Parents appeared first on FLEX College Prep.

Parents should take a moment to answer the following questions honestly:
  • Are you seeing the same parents when you go to your kid’s speech and debate tournaments as when you pick up your kid from orchestra rehearsal?
  • Did you sign your son up for that particular Boy Scout troop because Mrs. Kim’s son got his Eagle Scout badge there…right before heading off to the University of Pennsylvania?
  • Are you worried that your daughter should stop concentrating so much on studio art because all the other kids you know are working on the school newspaper?
  • Are your kids more excited to go on that mission trip to Mexico because they think they can make a real difference…or because all of their friends are going, too?
Now stop and visualize all those familiar faces following your kid to band camp, church, even SAT class. These kids are the competition.

What do you think will happen if your kid looks just like the competition?

Which extracurricular activity will get my kid into such-and-such college?

One of the top questions I hear from parents is: which extracurricular activity will get my kid into such-and-such college?

This is in many ways exactly the wrong question to ask. There is no such thing as the ideal extracurricular activity, because there is no such thing as the ideal college applicant.

College admissions officers admit individuals, not ideals, and they treat extracurricular activities as reflections of an individual’s unique interests and passions. They look to admit students who will be able to come together to form a cohesive community but diverse community.

However, although there’s no such thing as the ideal extracurricular activity, there is such a thing as the wrong activity. The wrong activity, as the above exercise shows, is the activity chosen because everyone else is doing it or because it got so-and-so into Cornell.

Blend your extracurricular activities with your passion.

This doesn’t mean that a student should not participate in, say, speech and debate just because it’s a trendy activity, or that a student should pick the bassoon over the violin just because it’s a less popular instrument.

The key to building a successful extracurricular record is to identify a student’s genuine interests.

If a student’s passion is in fact speech and debate, then, by all means, the student should excel at speech and debate! However, parents should avoid molding their kids’ activities to fit some preconceived ideal they believe colleges are looking for. This does a real disservice to the student.

Be yourself. Always.

In all my years of counseling, I haven’t encountered a single student who isn’t a true individual. However, all that uniqueness gets lost as soon as I look at that student on paper.

Unfortunately, for many admissions officers, their only chance to “meet” the student is on the written page. They have to go by what they’re given—and what they’re given are too many carbon copies of the same high-achieving but ultimately undistinguishable student.

This post is dedicated to giving students and their parents—especially those who caught a glimpse of themselves in the exercise above—the information they need to develop their extracurricular profiles.

In the next post, I’ll explain what admissions officers are looking for. What do extracurricular activities tell them? And what do colleges really like to see?

Then I’ll offer concrete tips for developing an extracurricular profile at various stages of the college preparation process, from freshman year—or even middle school—through senior year. My advice will be illustrated with case studies.

To conclude, a word of encouragement. I urge students and their parents not to look upon this part of the college admission process with undue trepidation. This is where things get fun! It’s not too much of an oversimplification to say that students just need to discover where their passions lie…and then do what they love.

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High Schools Are NOT Teaching Your Child This Essential Skill https://flexcollegeprep.com/high-schools-teaching-essential-skill/ https://flexcollegeprep.com/high-schools-teaching-essential-skill/#respond Thu, 07 Mar 2019 22:11:09 +0000 https://flexcollegeprep.com/?p=209841 The post High Schools Are NOT Teaching Your Child This Essential Skill appeared first on FLEX College Prep.


Students are taught many things in school.

The average student might leave high school knowing how to write a research paper, conjugate foreign language verbs, recite the periodic table of elements, solve for x, scan for iambic pentameter, make healthy eating choices, analyze a historic document, recognize major works of art — even, in some schools, to use a pottery wheel or learn Python.

But one thing that students are not taught in school is how to be an effective student. In other words, students don’t really know how to learn. 

This is all too apparent when we consider not only the hours a student spends in the classroom, but also the hours spent at his or her desk.

Many students put in time and genuine effort at their desks. They open their laptops and pull out their highlighters. They have good intentions.

Yet the time they spend at the desk may be inefficient, consisting of busywork rather than focused, deliberate study.

Other students are simply overwhelmed by the different subjects they are taking and the different requirements per subject. They may not have the organizational tools or good habits to stay on track. 

Some of the problems can begin in the classroom itself, where students without strong note-taking skills and the ability to focus can often miss critical information.

Parents (and educators) are often under the impression that less successful students are less successful because of their character or disposition. That So-and-So is lazy or under-motivated or just doesn’t care.

However, it may be the case that less successful students simply don’t have a set of tools necessary to succeed in the modern-day academic environment. It may be that So-and-So is actually highly intelligent, curious, eager to learn, and desirous of success. But that student may not have the practical skills and strategies to achieve his goals.

The very existence of the phrase “study skills” shows that the act of learning is not simply innate.

It is not something that you simply pick up, or don’t pick up. The set of tools needed to be an effective student can, and should, be taught and acquired.

Students can learn how to manage time, have priorities, and efficiently process information. They can develop the habit of keeping a neat desk or backpack. They can use organizational tools and planners.

They can learn how to read a textbook while scanning for important information, how to take notes, how to preview and review for a certain class, how to use memory aids. Just as professionals undergo practical training to excel in their fields, students can and should be taught the tools to excel as learners.

As far back as the 1950s, colleges were identifying a lack of study skills in their incoming freshmen. Today, study skill aids can be found at every level, starting with those that target lower elementary school children to those that are taught at the collegiate level.

Even a university such as Stanford, which is populated by successful students, offers Learning Skills workshops and academic coaching for its undergraduates. Here are some of the topics covered in these workshops and coaching sessions:

  • Time management
  • Note taking
  • Stopping procrastination
  • Remembering what you’ve read
  • Reading efficacy
  • Exam prep
  • Setting short-term and long-term goals
  • Active learning
  • How to write

Sound familiar?

What’s surprising about this list of topics is that it shows how a college student at a prestigious university is struggling with the very same things as a high school or middle school student. It also shows that these skills do not usually develop over the years without some concerted, deliberate training.

Most importantly, this list of topics shows that the things that hinder student suc-cess, such as note taking or time management, come with proven, practical solutions.

FLEX Study & Organizational Skills (SOS) is a program that provides students with the  skills, habits, tools, and techniques that  will serve them for a lifetime of learning.

This program, designed for students preparing for high school or at the beginning of their high school careers, seeks to equip and empower students to maximize their academic potential through the use of disciplined planning and simple but supportive digital technological tools. SOS Coaches help students to think ahead, set specific academic goals and develop realistic strategies for achieving them.

We have found that students who acquire these skills have more motivation, greater time awareness, an ability to work within accountability structures, and the discipline to maintain a healthy relationship with the digital world. Emotionally, students experience less pressure and anxiety.

As an added bonus, most students who invest time in SOS often use less time “studying” than their peers, because they have developed the know-how for targeted, productive learning.

Contact us today to learn more about SOS!

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