112: How to Listen (and Why)

SHOW NOTES

Hello, friends--This is Ethan Sawyer (aka College Essay Guy) and my goal is to bring more ease, joy and purpose into the college application process. This is the College Essay Guy podcast where it is normally my job to interview the most brilliant minds in the college admissions world, to analyze their genius, and then break it down for you into a series of practical, actionable steps that you can take whether you're applying to college yourself or helping someone else apply.

Now, I said that’s *normally* my job--this episode is going to be a little different. On this episode I interview an old friend of mine, Ben Mathes, founder of the Urban Confessional, which is a free listening project. What do I mean? A few years ago Ben started posting up outside bus stops and on street corners with a sign that reads “Free Listening” and he would do just that: listen. Over the last couple years it’s ignited something of a movement and Urban Confessional is now in 73 countries, 2000 volunteers strong, and  has been featured in the Huffington Post, The Atlantic, Fast Company, The Big Think, Glamour Magazine, and in over 45 international publications.  His blog, HOW TO LISTEN WHEN YOU DISAGREE, has been read over 2 million times and republished in over 100 publications across the world. They are currently the subject of a PBS produced documentary called "ARE WE LISTENING", and this year, they launched the HEARD PODCAST, which features honest conversations from visionaries, leaders, and other interesting people.

On this episode we discuss how Urban Confessional started, what Ben has learned about listening over the years, how these lessons have impacted his relationships and even what it was like doing free listening at last year’s Republican and Democratic National Conventions. At the end he offers a great resource called the “Practice Partner Guide,” with some great practical tips for how to listen. It’s wonderful stuff from a wonderful human, as you’ll soon see, and the applications include, then go much beyond the college application process.

Enjoy... 

PLAY-BY-PLAY

The toughest decision Ben made last year [3:18] 2:18
Ben’s process for healing [6:08]
One of the biggest challenges Ben faced [8:55]
The impact of Ben’s most difficult challenge [10:13]
Reasons why receiving generosity can sometimes be hard [13:25]
What Ben finally did that changed everything [14:43]
Why it was hard for Ben to ask for help [15:41]
What Ben has learned about how to listen [18:41]
Some of Ben’s favorite questions [21:00]
How Ben decides whether or not to go deep with someone [22:50]
The mystery of learning to walk without a destination [26:07]
Two values that come into conflict in Ben’s life [27:37]
How Ben resists wanting to fix people while listening to them [29:00]
Lessons Ben learned from his free listening project [30:29]
How these lessons have impacted Ben’s life and relationships [32:31]
Ben’s experience doing free listening at the Republican and Democratic National Conventions [35:53]
How to listen when you disagree with people [38:32]
Why Ben does what he does [40:53]

RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THE EPISODE:

111: Using the Secrets of Screenwriting to Write Your College Essay

HERE’S THE PRACTICAL GUIDE THAT THIS PODCAST INFORMED:

SHOW NOTES

Hello friends!

Welcome to the College Essay Guy Podcast, I’m your host, Ethan Sawyer, the College Essay Guy. What I’ll typically do in the podcast is interview folks from the admissions world and go deep into college admissions to try and generate practical and actionable steps that you can take with the goal of bringing more ease, joy, and purpose to the college application process. Now, because my specialty is the college essay, I thought I would take the mic for this podcast and share with you a presentation I started giving in 2011, called Using the Secrets of Screenwriting to Write Your college Essay.

In this podcast, I’ll dive into:

  • The story behind how I started connecting screenwriting and the college essay in the first place.
  • Two exercises that I love to use to generate some great content for the essay.
  • Two structures that I think can work for just about any essay.
  • Four types of college essays
  • What I believe the end of an essay should do.
  • And so much more! Enjoy.

PLAY-BY-PLAY

Who is the College Essay Guy?
Where did the idea of connecting screenwriting to college essays come from? [01:36]
One of the most important ideas in screenwriting structure [04:40]
My favorite prompt and what makes it so powerful [05:30]
Two questions to ask yourself that may guide your personal statement [06:00]
Four types of college essays [06:30]
An exercise for brainstorming your “world” [07:37]
An exercise for brainstorming  your  values [12:44]
Two qualities of a great college essay topic [16:02]
Two structures based on whether you have faced challenges and/or know what you want to study in college [17:15]
How understanding the difference between “wants” and “needs” can help you write your essay [18:15]
The basic elements of narrative structure [18:45]
Two examples of narrative structure in movies [20:28]
How the elements of narrative structure play into a sample college essay [26:23]
The one question that a conclusion paragraph should answer [32:24]
How the montage structure can help you write your essay if you haven’t experienced significant challenges [35:02]
How the elements of montage structure play into a sample  college essay [36:23]
Why you might consider revealing  your potential career closer to the end of your essay [42:10]
How to use the essence objects to structure your essay [43:05]
How creating a timeline of your life can help you structure your personal statement  [43:36]
How using unusual values can make your personal statement  stand out [44:20]
Two exercises that can create a ton of content for your essay [44:57]
A guide to writing your personal statement [45:20]
One way low-income students can get support for writing their essays [45:33]

LINKS MENTIONED ON OR RELEVANT TO THIS EPISODE:

110: How to Find and Research Great Colleges: The Fiske Guide

HERE’S THE PRACTICAL GUIDE THAT THIS PODCAST INFORMED:

SHOW NOTES

My guest for this episode is Edward B. Fiske (known to most as “Ted”). Ted served as Education Editor for the New York Times from 1974 until 1991, and is well-known to college bound students and their parents as the editor of the Fiske Guide to Colleges, a staple of any high school counselor library and the nation’s best-selling college guide. He has co-authored a range of other books on college admissions with Bruce G. Hammond, including the Fiske Guide to Getting Into the Right College, What to Do When for College, Real College Essays that Work and Nailing the New SAT.

Ted’s book has been a go-to reference for me (and many other counselors) in our work with students and I loved getting a chance to go behind the scenes and hearing how the sausage is made. We discuss, among other things:

  • Why did the Fiske Guide happen in the first place?
  • How does Ted avoid sounding generally positive about all schools?
  • How the Fiske Guide ratings systems differs from that of US News and World Report
  • Who actually writes all 882 pages of the Fiske Guide
  • The best approach for students who have no idea what they want
  • Some of the biggest mistakes students and parents make when searching for a school
  • The dangers of narrowing your college choices too early on.
  • One quality Ted finds essential to having an amazing college experience

PLAY-BY-PLAY

Who  is Ted Fiske? [0:34]
What do you do, Ted, and why do you do it? [3:30]
Why did you create the Fiske Guide? [4:53] 
How did you begin to collect information about colleges? [6:19] 
How do you avoid sounding generally positive about all schools? [8:36] [11:00]
Which colleges get selected for the guide--how do you decide which 325 schools get in? [12:55]
How does a college petition to get included in the guide? [12:48] [14:48]
What shapes the criteria for rating colleges in the Fiske Guide? [15:53]
Why students are looking for a diverse student body in their college [19:05]
Why getting a liberal arts degree can serve students well in life. [21:49]
How Ted uses stars to rates schools based on a variety of factors [22:37]
How the US News and World Report ratings are different from the Fiske Guide’s [25:00]
Why ranking schools based on inputs (SAT scores and GPA of incoming students) isn’t the best [27:18]
How the US News rankings began [29:24]
How the US News rankings can help you find a school [30:14]
Who actually writes all 882 pages of the Fiske Guide? [30:49]
Who works on the Fiske Guide? [32:47]
When do you feel the guide is most useful during the college application process? [34:26]
The first step to developing your college list [37:26]
The best approach for students who have no idea what they want [39:40]
What are the most important qualities that students should look for? [42:00]
What are some of the biggest mistakes students and parents make when searching for a school? [45:52]
The dangers of narrowing your college choices too early on [47:24]
One thing students should definitely do during this process, but many often don’t actually do [47:24]
How to choose between the online, app, and hard-copy version of the Fiske Guide [54:05]
Ted’s Show & Tell: One quality that is essential to having an amazing college experience [55:55]
Ethan’s Show & Tell: How to Create a Great College List [58:23]

LINKS MENTIONED ON OR RELEVANT TO THIS EPISODE:

109: How to Figure Out Which School is Right for You

HERE’S THE PRACTICAL GUIDE THAT THIS PODCAST INSPIRED:

SHOW NOTES

I first met Steven Antonoff at a NACAC Conference when I heard him telling a story about how he used to spend his spare time reading the Fiske Guide cover-to-cover--in fact, he’d do it while running on a treadmill--and I thought to myself, Who does that? That’s amazing.

Needless to say, Steven Antonoff is a student of colleges. There’s a reason his email (and website) is “School Buff.” He has spent more than 30 years building his knowledge of educational options. And not only is he the recipient of the award given annually to the person who has contributed the most to developing the profession of independent educational consulting… the award is named after him.

I consider him a giant of the college admissions world, a kind and generous mentor, and a friend.

On this episode we discuss:

  • How many schools students should apply to and when is best to start the process?
  • An amazing list of resources for helping students get to know themselves better
  • What is the highest-impact hour that someone could spend developing a college list? (The answer may surprise you.)
  • What do parents and students miss out on if they only use US News and World Report?
  • What Steven listens for specifically when he's helping a student develop a list
  • What terms Steven uses instead of “reach,” “match” and “back-up” for schools on a list
  • We play a game where Steven helps me develop a college list on the fly based on a few of my preferences (something, he points out, he would never do without more information, by the way)… but he plays along and it’s neat to hear the master at work.

PLAY-BY-PLAY

Who is Steven Antonoff? [0:30]
Why Steven’s email address ends in “schoolbuff” [5:10] 
Tell us about College Match: Why did you write it, who did you write it for? [6:33]
What are your favorite myths to bust about starting a college list? [8:05]
The problem with high-profile stories about atypical students getting into Ivy League schools [12:00]
How do you help students decide what kinds of colleges they might want to apply to? [15:00]
Questions that Steven likes to ask students as conversation starters [16:00]
How Steven gets students to think about who they are, their future, and the people around them [15:06]
How can students from other countries (who can’t get his book) go through his process? [19:10]
More self-reflection resources [20:29]
Using the study of multiple intelligences helps students better understand themselves [21:55]
Self-knowledge questionnaire and College planning values assessment [22:08]
Knowdell’s Card Sorts: the card packs called Career Values, Motivated Skills and Occupational Interests [21:34]
Career Inventories: Do What You Are [21:48]
O*Net for career information [22:57]
The Search Institute: produces 40 questionnaires that measure development assets for teenagers [23:16]
Authentic Happiness” Questionnaire [23:55]
What does it take to become a Certified Educational Planner (CEP)? [24:29]
When should the college search process begin? [27:00]
When helping a student develop a list, is there a certain factor that students/parents should consider, but many don’t? [29:56]
Resource: Educate to Career, which ranks schools by how much they promote access to career goals [32:12]
Two myths about small colleges [33:38]
What is the highest-impact hour that someone could spend developing a college list? [34:23]
The College Finder: How students can find the exact colleges that they’re looking for [37:21]
The amazing variety of lists that can be found in the book [40:29]
How were the lists compiled? [40:56]
What do parents and students miss out on if they only used US News or World Report? [40:50] [47:24]
Why not rank the schools listed? [48:32]
Ever get emails from schools that feel they should have been on a particular list but weren’t? [50:42]
A game: Steven helps Ethan develop a college list based on Ethan’s preferences… [51:29]
What Steven listens for when helping a student develop a list [59:45]
What’s the measure of a great college list? How do you know when your search is over? [1:01:28]
How many schools should students apply to? [1:03:48]
What does Steven call “reach,” “match” and “back-up” schools? [1:05:41]
Show and Tell [1:10:59]
Steven: The group of toys that he uses for counseling [1:10:15]
Ethan: “How to Create a Great College List” post [1:11:23]
Steven, why do you do what you do? [1:13:08] 

LINKS MENTIONED ON OR RELEVANT TO THIS EPISODE:

108: Demonstrated Interest: How to Build Authentic Relationships with Colleges (and Why It's a Good Idea)

HERE’S THE PRACTICAL GUIDE THAT THIS PODCAST INSPIRED:

SHOW NOTES

While my goal is to bring more ease, joy and purpose into the college application process, my topic today is demonstrated interest, and at first blush this may not sound like a great way to do that, but I hope by the time you finish this episode and read the accompanying practical guide you’ll start to see how this can be something important to know about and consider as you’re applying to college. On this episode, my guest Monica James and I discuss, among other things:

  • What the heck is demonstrated interest in the first place and why is it important to colleges?
  • What “yield” is and why there’s a multi-million dollar industry of people called “enrollment consultants” who use sophisticated predictive analytics to foresee which students will actually attend a particular school… and why that’s important
  • How to find out which colleges track demonstrated interest
  • If you discover that there’s a school you are very interested in… how do you go about demonstrating interest--some practical tips for that
  • Is it possible to go overboard and demonstrate too much interest?
  • And we even get into: should you or shouldn’t you like a college’s Facebook page?

Play-By-Play

0:30 What today’s podcast is about.
1:53 Who is Monica James?
2:35 What got Monica thinking about Demonstrated Interest in the first place
3:24 What happens when you email a university representative about why you want to attend.
4:30 The importance of humanizing the college essay process and developing authentic relationships with school administration.
5:33 What is Demonstrated Interest?
6:26 How important is demonstrated interest in getting into a school? 
7:02 So why is demonstrated interest so important to colleges?
7:51 What is a stealth applicant?
8:52 So what changed about the admissions landscape that made showing Demonstrated Interest more important?
10:24 What is yield? 
10:43 Why does yield matter?
12:03 How the decreased acceptance rate of highly selective school makes it easier to get into lower-ranking schools
12:33 “Most schools accept most students”: a surprising fact of college admissions
13:12 What is resorting? 
13:48 How resorting created a multi-million dollar industry: enrollment consulting. What is an enrollment consultant?
14:41 What kinds of data do enrollment consultants use?
16:39 How consultants use zip code and demographics to figure out if you’re going to matriculate.
17:46 How colleges use predictive data to help students stay academically engaged.
18:18 The shifting landscape: the number of college applications being sent is rising at a faster rate than actual students going to college
19:31 Which colleges and universities track Demonstrated Interest and which ones don’t? Is there a way to find out?
21:10 Selective colleges that track demonstrated interest.
21:16 How to figure out which schools track demonstrated interest: 1. Google the college’s name along with “demonstrated interest” or 2. Google “Common Data Set” followed by the name of the college (the CDS describes which factors are important to each college). (Note: here’s a list of Common Data Sets for many schools)
22:55 So how do you recommend students go about Demonstrating Interest? 
23:41 Step one: open the emails that are sent to you by colleges in the summer of your sophomore year.
24:56 How being responsive to college emails can get your application fee waived
25:28 How useful are college fairs? 
26:27 How to make the most of a college fair
26:45 Ethan’s experiment talking to reps a college fair: four out of five college reps will likely read student’s applications.
28:21 Remember that there are always human beings behind each college application process
29:11 Step two: In the Fall, college reps visit high schools: offers an opportunity for students to meet your rep and show your intellectual vitality
30:43 Step three: If a college you’re interested in holds a presentation at a local conference center, attend.
31:10 What is the role of admissions reps in the application process?
33:34 How meeting a college rep can help win you an advocate if your application ends up in committee.
33:51 What about the role of Social Media in Demonstrated interest? Should I delete my Facebook? Are colleges looking at my Facebook or Twitter?
35:15 How chatting with colleges online can help show demonstrated interest
35:27 How visiting colleges can help
39:30 Advice to students and parents that may be feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of demonstrating interest 36:40
39:14 How much does early decision help? How much does early action increase chances?
39:58 Does applying before the deadline help?
40:48 How much do supplemental essays matter?
42:14 How much do college interviews help?
42:59 Is it possible to go overboard with demonstrated interest? 42:59
43:26 What are some things to NOT do when demonstrating interest?
44:22 Show and Tell
46:16 Monica, why do you do what you do?

LINKS MENTIONED ON OR RELEVANT TO THIS EPISODE:

FURTHER READING ON DEMONSTRATED INTEREST

107: What I've Learned from Reading Over 10,000 College Essays

THE PRACTICAL step-by-step GUIDE from Ethan's Show and tell:

SHOW NOTES

This episode is special because it’s an interview with one of my heroes of the college admissions world. In fact, his experience is so deep and he knows so much about so many different aspects about college counseling that if there were a “Master College Counselor” designation he would have received it. He spent 28 years in the office of Admissions at the University of Virginia--28 years!--and I’ll give you his longer bio on the episode in a minute, but

During our conversation, we cover, among other things:

  • What Parke has learned reading over 10,000 college essays
  • We’ll go behind-the-scenes to look at how close decisions are sometimes made by committees at highly-selective universities (and why essays matter even more as a result)
  • What Parke wrote his college essay about
  • Parke’s 10% rule for when students should/shouldn’t write about their activities or achievements
  • What an “authentic voice” is and why, contrary to popular wisdom, we maybe shouldn’t be encouraging students to write in it
  • Some dos and don’ts for the “Why us” essay, including one thing students should definitely do but most don’t, and
  • Why Parke believes his job is better than being a king

PLAY-BY-PLAY

What the episode’s about. [0:40]
Who is Parke Muth? [2:07]
What does it take to become a Top Writer on Quora? [4:10]
What Parke has learned reading over 10,000 college essays [7:40]
What was different in terms of how Parke read essays when he went from being an admissions officer to being an application consultant [9:00]
A behind-the-scenes look at how close decisions are sometimes made by committees at highly-selective universities (and why essays matter even more as a result) [11:10]
How students can give themselves a great chance of winning over an admissions committee: two different theories [13:20]
One question Parke asks students all the time [15:15]
What Parke never argued for (on behalf of a student) and what he would argue for in committee [15:25]
What are some of the best personal statements you’ve ever read? [18:16]
Is a hook necessary for a great essay? [20:40]
What Parke teaches the students he works with [22:10]
What Parke wrote his college essay about [23:25]
How Parke would approach a sports essay, if he were to write one [24:25]
Parke’s 10% rule for when students should/shouldn’t write about their activities or achievements [28:10]
How Parke starts an essay process with a student and sees his role with students [30:10]
How Parke sees his relationship to students [32:45]
How Parke motivates his students like a coach [33:50]
Do essays really matter? [34:54]
Why essays don’t make much of a difference for probably 80% of students [36:04]
Can you think of any examples of students that “wrote their way in?” [37:04]
One of Parke’s all-time favorite essays, which began, “The woman wanted breasts...” [39:00]
Why Parke started his blog and why he writes at all [40:00]
Why do you write a blog at all? [41:24]
What your essay tests and why do you post them? [42:55]
Some of Parke’s most surprising reactions to essays [44:47]
Why Parke thinks that a good essay doesn’t have to be a story about struggle  [47:30]
What is a student’s authentic voice and should students be encouraged to use it? [48:53]
“The Made-Up Self: Impersonation in the Personal Essay” [49:30] 
What makes a good writer is an ability to play with voices [51:09]
How much help should students get in their essay writing process? [52:02]
How much help is too much help? [53:11]
How much should you let yourself explore students’ personal lives in the essay writing process? [54:50]
Why writing about your support for Donald Trump probably won’t help your admissions chances. [55:25]
Should I write about politics and religion in my college essay? [56:13]
How writing about unusual topics (like raising baby tarantulas) can help you stand out on a college essay [57:19]
How the idea of “writing what you know” is counter intuitive [58:08]
What are the riskier topics you’ve seen students pull off successfully? [59:52]
Why it’s important to toe the line between writing an essay that is outrageous and writing an essay that touches on risky subjects [1:02:14]
Should I curse in my college essay? [1:02:19]
How many great essays about horses or horse-riding have you heard? [1:02:40]
How someone’s privilege and opportunity can play into your college essay. [1:03:08]
Do you tell students to not about topics that highlight their privilege? [1:04:23]
What are you tired of seeing in Why Us essays? [1:06:17]
What are some creative approaches to writing a Why Us essay? [1:08:19]
How to prepare to write a Why Us essay [1:10:27]
How reaching out to schools and teachers at a school you want to attend can improve your chances of getting in [1:10:50]
How does it typically take to write a Why Us essay? [1:14:06]
Parke’s Show and Tell: The difficulty of students trying to get into high-caliber schools [1:17:13]
Ethan’s Show and Tell: a blog post about how to show schools that you’ve done your research [1:20:00]
The last question: Why do you do what you do? [1:20:26]
Why Parke feels like his life is better than a king’s. [1:22:37]

LINKS MENTIONED ON THIS EPISODE

106: Colleges That Change Lives: Great Schools You May Not (Yet!) Know About

a Blog post that this podcast inspired

SHOW NOTES

While Episode 105 was about how workshops can change lives, on this episode you’ll learn about some Colleges That Change Lives. 

My guest is Maria Furtado, the Executive Director of Colleges That Change Lives (aka CTCL), a nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement and support of a student-centered college search process. I HAD SO MUCH FUN RECORDING THIS EPISODE MARIA IS BRILLIANT FUNNY--I LOLd MAYBE 20 TIMES IN THIS CONVERSATION--AND YOU WILL FEEL SMARTER AFTER THIS HOUR. We discuss, among other things: 

  • What is a liberal arts education and why is it important?
  • Three questions every student should ask when it comes to picking a college
  • Three ways to reduce anxiety during the college application process: the Car Idea, how to avoid “college creep,” and how the Ice Cream Prize can make a tour better
  • One great way to increase (not decrease) stress during the college selection process
  • How to make the most of a college fair experience
  • Perhaps the single most important thing for parents to consider when it comes to the college application process

PLAY-BY-PLAY

Quick info on Maria Furtado [2:42]
Colleges That Change Lives: How did it begin? What does it do? How? [3:26]
What is a liberal arts education and why is it important? [8:17]
Two things Maria always says about the liberal arts (heads-up: the first is funny, the second may surprise you) [9:38]
A look into the future: How liberal arts prepare students for success in a rapidly changing world [11:39]
Is a small college better than a large university? What are some of the merits of a small college? Who might thrive at a small school? [14:32]
A great story illustrating what type of student might prefer a large school [17:12]
Is there any danger in focusing on name-brand schools only? [18:50]
One great way to increase (yeah, not decrease) stress during the college selection process [19:45]
What does “best fit” mean in terms of college selection and how can students find a best fit college? [21:00]
Questions every student should ask when it comes to picking a college [22:00]
Why is important to have a “student-centered” process? And what are some signs that a process is/isn’t student-centered? [30:13]
Advice to parents who may feel that the college application process is the parent’s “report card” [31:18]
Advice to parents (and students) when it comes to discussing the college list with family and friends [32:02]
How can students, parents and counselors make the process more student-centered? [31:10]
Perhaps the single most important thing for parents to consider when it comes to the college application process [34:15]
In which cases Maria chooses name brand only [36:53]
Might a name-brand school be a better fit for certain students? [37:27]
What schools would be on your college list, Maria, if you were applying today? [38:13]
Which schools get to become CTCL member schools? (What does it take to become a College That Changes Lives?) [42:11]
Three ways to reduce anxiety during the college application process: the Car Idea, how to avoid “college conversation creep,” and an idea for making a college tour better [44:23]
What to do when you’re feeling overwhelmed by mail from schools [49:55]
What are some practical ways that CTCL can be useful to students? [51:15]
List of upcoming Colleges That Change Lives programs, presentations, and college fairs [53:00]
Resource: Questions to Ask at a College Fair [53:30]
(Question posed by Parke Muth in my Private Facebook Group for Counselors): How do you keep CTCL from becoming just another brand in the college marketing ecosphere (pun intended)? [56:16]
Why do you do this work, Maria? [57:34]
SHOW & TELL: Life advice from Maria, plus Ethan’s resource, “How to Make Your College Fair Awesome” (printable for both students and counselors) [1:00:14]

Links Mentioned On This Podcast

105: How to Lead a Life-Changing Essay Workshop

how to lead a life changing workshop

SHOW NOTES

Usually on the podcast I interview the most brilliant minds in the college admissions world, to analyze their genius, and then break it down for you into a series of practical, actionable steps to help you in the college application process.

But sometimes, especially when I see that a resource isn’t already out there, I’ll go ahead and create it myself--and that’s what I’ve done in this case with the college essay workshop. Allow me to explain:

Over the past ten years I’ve delivered hundreds of personal statement workshops--some as small as 4 and some as large as 800--and earlier this year I was getting a bunch of workshop requests and thinking: I can’t deliver all these--in large part because I like spending time with my wife and baby. But you know what I could do, I thought? Leverage one of students’ greatest resources--their counselor (and if you’re a counselor listening, that’s you)--and all they’d need in some cases is a few tools to help guide their students through the process. So I spent the past few months creating something called the Essay Workshop in a Box that basically walks counselors step-by-step through how to deliver a great workshop--and I found a way to do it that would bring no cost to their students. That’s right: free-ninety-nine.

So the podcast episode you’re is a webinar that I gave to counselors called “How to Lead a Life-Changing Essay Workshop” and I share three parts of this Essay Workshop in a Box, including:

  • 6 Ways That Most Workshops Fail in the First Five Minutes (aka 6 Terrible Ways to Start a Workshop)
  • 9 Tips for Leading a Workshop of Any Size
  • 5 Potentially Life-Changing Workshop Moments
  • Bee tea dubs: These are essentially three of the modules from the Essay Workshop in a Box--there are 29 total, btw, and you can find out more about that in the show notes.
  • At the end I also say a few words about my Counselor Training Program, which I’m super duper excited about.

Thanks for listening to the podcast and, if you aren’t a counselor, don’t worry because the next episode--and all the others!--are for you. Please enjoy this episode… I hope it changes your life.

PLAY-BY-PLAY

What today’s episode is about [0:49]
Including the Counselor Workshop in a Box [1:45]
And the Counselor Training Program [2:30]
What is something that you’d like to be better at being or doing? [3:03]
I spill my guts about what I wants to be better at. [4:117
Second introduction here? [3:53]
You have a mention of the webinar here. [4:36-47]
Six ways facilitators lose their audience in the first five minutes [6:25]
First way to not start a workshop: give out a lot of information [6:30]
Should I start a workshop with an introduction?[7:45]
Third way: don’t start your workshop by talking about breakfast [8:40]
Fourth: don’t start a large workshop by going around the room and sharing names and intentions [9:24]
Fifth: don’t start your introductions with superficial questions [10:35]
Get nametags--skip the name sharing.
Why it’s important to clarify your intentions [11:45]
My counseling intention: to bring more ease, purpose, and joy to the college essay process [12:16]
A list of deep questions to use with students to create content [14:53]
Crappy brainstorming exercises [13:19]
Building rapport is incredibly important for working with students [14:11]
Build rapport by playing the “If you really knew me…” exercise [15:06]
Five potentially life changing moments [19:44]
Students’ lives begin to change in the first five minutes of a workshop [20:03]
Moment two: Amazing Workshop Icebreaker: the “I love” Game [20:15]
What does it mean to change someone’s life? [21:04]
The values exercise [21:52]
My top value for the day: release [23:22]
How to write a narrative essay [23:58]
Setting agreements with your students: no gossip, listen with respect, participate fully, take care of themselves [24:32]
The basic structure of a workshop introduction [25:25]
Feelings and Needs Exercise and why I love them [25:49]
Make sure to take an 8-minute break after a heavy Feelings and Needs Exercise [27:00]
The fourth life-changing workshop moment: ask students to share their stories [27:18]
Make sure that listening students get time to repeat the story they heard back to the storyteller [28:46]
If there’s time, talk about the montage structure [29:18]
Moment five: encourage an open essay-reading time where students can tell their story [29:023]
Ask for feedback from the listeners and storytellers about what it’s like to hear each story told [31:02]
9 tips for leading a workshop of any size [31:55]
Tip 1: make sure that the task you’ve given students is really clear [32:04]
For example: How to create breakout groups for the essence objects exercise [32:56]
Tip 2: specify how long the exercise will last [34:43]
Tip 3: assign a little less time to your students than it will actually take them [35:08]
Or extend the time you give to students for an exercise if they’re working diligently [36:48]
Tip 4: Get support (like a volunteer or other counselor) to help you facilitate the workshop [36:55]
Tip 5: Don’t let “adultism” get in the way of building rapport with students [37:14]
If students are not on task, it might be because the task is not clear to them [37:59]
Tip 6: if students aren’t on task then clarify the task [39:21]
Tip 7: don’t leave the room during paired work [39:31]
Sync up your bathroom and food breaks with your students [40:06]
Encourage students to not check their cell phones during the breaks [40:22]
Consider “productive tangents” as opportunities to workshops student’s stories live or answer important questions [41:08]
When it comes to workshops, “the map is not the territory”. [42:37]
Essay Workshop in a Box [43:29]
Counselor Training Program [44:40]
If the Essay Workshop in a Box is your boat and a map, the Counselor Training Program will teach you to sail [45:06]

LINKS MENTIONED ON THIS EPISODE

103: How to Appeal a Financial Aid Award Letter

HERE’S THE PRACTICAL GUIDE THAT THIS PODCAST INSPIRED:

SHOW NOTES:

Jodi Okun is the social media rockstar of the college admissions world--check her out on Twitter!--and she is my go-to person for financial aid. A former financial aid officer from Occidental and Pitzer, she is the founder & president of College Financial Aid Advisors and has helped thousands of families navigate the financial aid process.

Jodi is the brand ambassador for Discover Student Loans, the About.com Money Expert and was recently featured as one of the Top 30 Social Influencers in Personal Finance & Wealth.

She is a social media strategist, speaker, consultant and small business advocate, and her recent book Secrets of a Financial Aid Pro is an Amazon bestseller.

On this episode we discuss:

  • Who should make the call to a financial aid office: the student or parent?
  • What to literally say to a financial aid officer when you call them to appeal
  • Why you maybe shouldn’t start off the conversation by mentioning a financial aid offer from another school
  • Jodi’s five points to cover in an appeal letter
  • What tone to take and how long the letter should be
  • The one thing students and parents should do but don’t

PLAY-BY-PLAY:

Who is Jodi Okun? [2:46]
What Jodi feels she really nailed in her book [4:51]
What has working for 10 years in the financial aid industry taught Jodi [5:32]
The first thing you should do if you receive a financial aid award letter and you’re disappointed [6:55]
Four considerations to make before filing an appeal [8:27]
What parents can do (years!) in advance to avoid a disappointing financial aid award letter [9:27]
How to predict how much financial aid you’re going to get [10:36]
Who should appeal a financial aid letter? [13:12]
How to appeal a financial aid letter [14:22]
Who should make the call to a financial aid office: the student or parent? [15:32]
What to literally say to a financial aid officer when you call them to appeal [16:02]
The importance of “The Pause” when making an appeal [16:42]
Why you maybe shouldn’t start off the conversation by mentioning a financial aid offer from another school [18:22]
How often are parents speaking with the person who could be the decision-maker? [19:32]
An inside look inside how decisions are sometimes made in a financial aid office [20:22]
What can negatively impact your appeal? [23:02]
How to be prepared for the financial aid appeal conversation [25:12]
Jodi’s five points to cover in an appeal letter [26:22]
What tone to take and how long the letter should be [27:24]
When should students appeal? [30:27]
Should students include additional materials to make the case for an appeal? [32:32]
Financial Aid 101 and common financial aid terms to know [37:17]
The one thing students should do but don’t [37:42]
The one thing parents should do but don’t [38:66]
Why do people always pronounce it “FASFA”? [39:27]
Should families who make a lot of money still apply for financial aid? [39:57]
Why Jodi is bummed about the IRS tool (why it shut down and what it means) [40:52]
Why you should absolutely go to admitted student day [43:08]
Jodi’s favorite secret tip for those who can’t attend an admitted student day [43:52]
Tips for filling out your FAFSA: whether or not to include house and retirement when reporting assets, when you should include business assets and when you shouldn’t, etc. [44:36]
Tip for filling out the CSS Profile [46:52]
Jodi’s Show and Tell: Mindfulness and Ashtanga yoga
Ethan’s Show and Tell: Headspace (meditation app) and a TED Talk by its founder, Andy Puddicombe
What would you like to leave us with? [50:22]

LINKS MENTIONED ON THIS EPISODE

104: How to Plan a Fulfilling and Productive Summer

HERE’S THE PRACTICAL GUIDE THAT THIS PODCAST INSPIRED:

Welcome to the podcast! This episode’s theme is SUUUUUMMMMER and I’ve got the nation’s #1 summer expert to school us on pre-college summers. Who is she, you ask? Check it out:

  • Jill Tipograph is a youth development expert who has been featured in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Forbes, Business Week, Inc., Bloomberg, NBC’s Today Show, ABC and NBC News, CNBC, MSNBC, U.S. News & World Report and more.
  • Jill’s two children have been campers, camp counselors, and participated in a variety of pre-college summer programs. 20 somethings, they’ve made it through the college process (!!) and are navigating their careers now.
  • She’s an independent educational consultant,  20+ year industry veteran and the founder of Everything Summer & Beyond, through which she guides families worldwide through the complex and important summer planning and enrichment process.

In this episode of the College Essay Guy podcast, Jill and I discuss:

  • Great questions to ask when it comes to planning a summer
  • The 2014 National Pre-College Summer Survey, which Jill put co-authored with counselor Paul Kaser of the Bergen County Academies, and that involved asking 100 colleges: What summer opportunities matter most on a college application?
  • Are expensive summer programs “worth it”?
  • What students and parents should do but often don’t do when it comes to planning their summer
  • Plus a great Teen Program Evaluator Jill created that’s basically a scorecard students and parents can use to determine whether or not a summer program is a good fit

I even asked Jill, "Which program is definitely going to get my daughter into Harvard?" And she gave me an answer.

PLAY-BY-PLAY

Who is Jill Tipograph? [0:58]
What Jill does and why she does it [3:36]
Why the “meaningful or productive” distinction is important [5:26]
Great questions to ask when it comes to planning a summer [6:30]
Which program is definitely going to get my daughter into Harvard? [9:14]
Tips for students for making the most of their summer [10:43]
Are expensive summer programs “worth it”? [12:59]
What students should do but often don’t do when it comes to planning their summer [17:49]
What parents can do to help students plan their summer [19:40]
Why it’s important to be transparent with the summer program faculty and administration [20:30]
Jill’s Summer Guide and Planner: a 74-page guide to help families establish priorities and summer goals [21:00]
The Teen Program Evaluator Scorecard (Ethan’s favorite resource) [22:54]
Recommended summer planning timeline [24:57]
Are certain summers more important than others? [27:01]
3 words that summarize Jill's process for finding a summer program [28:42]
Advice to students who have no idea what they want to do over the summer [29:07]
Weird/interesting summer adventures [30:57]
One trend Jill is seeing with STEM students seeking to do research [31:58]
Ethan’s exercise for how to make your summer more fun AND more productive--in two minutes [32:23]
Show and Tell: Jill’s Teen Program Evaluator [37:25]
Ethan’s “Five-Step Guide to Planning a Fulfilling (or Productive) Pre-College Summer”  LIVE URL [39:28]

LINKS MENTIONED ON THIS EPISODE

102: How to Advocate for Undocumented Students

HERE ARE THE PRACTICAL GUIDES THAT THIS PODCAST INSPIRED

SHOW NOTES

In this episode, which is Part 2 of 2, I speak with veteran counselor Dr. Aliza Gilbert about how counselors and teachers can best advocate for undocumented youth. And who better to discuss this with than someone whose PhD examined how schools support (or fail to support) undocumented students. In our conversation, I learned, among other things, how even “wonderful and caring” teachers can go wrong when it comes to undocumented students and how it’s not only about how much you care, but also about how much you know. 

You’ll also hear:

  • A quick primer on terms to use (and not use) when working with undocumented students
  • What the Dream Act is and why not all students love the term “Dreamers”
  • What percent of kids born right now are born to undocumented parents
  • Whether or not students should reveal their undocumented status in their personal statement
  • How incorrect assumptions can sometimes make a student feel horrible
  • How to know if a school (or a state, for that matter) is/isn’t supportive of undocumented students
  • What teachers/mentors/counselors can do to help undocumented youth

Also be sure to check out the resources that accompany the post, including: 

You’ll also find a recording in Spanish of a resource called “6 Cosas Que los Estudiantes Indocumentados Necesitan Saber Sobre la Universidad” (6 Things Undocumented Students Need to Know About College), which was published by the CollegeBoard, and my reading of it, in case you’d like to share it with parents. 

PLAY-BY-PLAY

What the show’s about [0:57]
Interview begins: [3:18]
What are the Colleges That Change Lives and why should people know about them? [3:53]
Whether or not high schools are currently doing a good job advocating for undocumented students [5:53]
A quick primer on terms to use (and not use) when working with undocumented students [6:35]
What the Dream Act is and why not all students love the term “Dreamers” [4:28]
Common misconceptions about undocumented students [9:12]
Why is this such a big deal right now? [11:15]
What percent of kids born right now are born to undocumented parents [12:27]
Unique counseling challenges when it comes to working with undocumented students  [13:22]
Should students reveal their undocumented status in their personal statement? [16:22]
The “Undocumented and unafraid” campaign [17:45]
How counselors can advocate for undocumented youth [19:44]
Where “wonderful and caring and loving” teachers go wrong when it comes to undocumented students 27:50
What teachers/mentors/counselors can do to help undocumented youth [29:05]
How incorrect assumptions can make a student feel horrible… and what they can do instead [31:02]
How to know if a school (or a state) is/isn’t supportive of undocumented students [34:36]
Dr. Gilbert’s advice to undocumented students [38:43]
Show & Tell (Dr. Gilbert): the IACAC College Advising Guide for Undocumented Students -- a “one stop shop” for resources for undocumented students and their advocates [39:07]
Show & Tell (Ethan): I'm First! Guide to College
Some colleges claim to meet 100% full financial need, but how does this apply to undocumented students? [44:48]
Questions Undocumented Students Should Ask Colleges [48:57]
Examples of students advocating for other students [51:40]
Dr. Gilbert’s final piece of advice for high school teachers and counselors [54:37]

Links Mentioned in the Podcast

Resources

101: Life As an Undocumented Student at Harvard

HERE ARE THE PRACTICAL GUIDES THAT THIS PODCAST INSPIREd

SHoW NOTES

Normally on the podcast I’ll be interviewing admissions professionals, but I wanted to begin with a student named Daishi Tanaka for a few reasons:

He is an inspiring human being with an incredible story, as you’ll hear on this podcast.

He happens to be undocumented, and under the new administration a lot of questions have come up for students and parents and even teachers/counselors--big things like What’s changing in general? To more specifics like “Should students reveal themselves as undocumented in their personal statements?” I wanted to interview Daishi to get his perspective on this, since he’s on the front lines of this debate. And just, on a human level,

I wanted to find out from Daishi what it’s like living as an undocumented college student under a Trump administration while attending Harvard University.

Quick side note: there are many wonderful colleges out there (Harvard is just one of them) and one of my goals with this podcast is to introduce you to some of the non-Ivy-League schools, but, I elected to kick off the podcast with Daishi and, well, he happens to attend Harvard.  

This is also a special episode because it’s in two parts. In the next episode I interview Dr. Aliza Gilbert, a 2017 Counselors that Change Lives recipient whose dissertation examined how high schools influence an undocumented student’s college search--she also discusses how counselors and teachers can advocate for undocumented students, so be sure to check that out.

But in this episode--the one you’re about to hear--we discuss:

What a typical day is like for a Harvard student

What it might mean for him and 700,000+ other undocumented students if the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy is repealed

What Daishi wrote his college essay about and why

What he felt like he really nailed in the college application process

How he stays calm/centered

PLAY-BY-PLAY

What the show’s about [0:57]
One thing that makes Daishi amazing [3:05]
What a typical day at Harvard is like, including how the food is [4:05]
The class Daishi feels lucky to take [8:20]
Whether Harvard was easier or harder than he thought it was going to be [9:15]
What surprised Daishi about college life [10:25]
What helped Daishi most in his transition to college [11:45]
What it’s like being an undocumented student at Harvard [13:15]
How things have changed for him since the election [17:30]
When and how he began to embrace his undocumented status [19:15]
What happens to him and 700,000+ other undocumented students if the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy is repealed [23:40]
What election night was like for Daishi and the members of his organization, Act on a Dream [26:05]
What makes Daishi so brave [28:20]
Daishi shares the personal statement he submitted to Harvard [31:05]
The perfect line in the essay that explodes in my mind and takes it to the next level [35:11]
What it was like writing his essay and how many drafts he wrote [35:50]
When Daishi knew he was done with the essay [36:30]
Why he chose to open the essay with three repeated Japanese words and what resonated with me personally [37:23]
What it’s like looking back on the essay years later [39:24]
What Daishi felt he nailed in the application process and advice to students applying to college [40:27]
What was crucial for you in the college application process? [42:06]
The crazy thing he did in high school that led to a topic for his second essay[44:30]
Why he chose the topics he chose and why he chose to reveal his undocumented status in the essay [47:38]
Daishi’s advice to other undocumented students debating whether or not to reveal their status in their college essays [42:07]
What it was like the day he was accepted to Harvard [53:40]
When he began to feel he was woven into the fabric of Harvard history [56:49]
What the future looks like for Daishi [58:35]
The new role Daishi’s organization is playing on the Harvard campus since Trump’s election [60:35]
The advice Daishi would give to any student going through this process [1:02:57]
Show and tell [1:04:58]
Guided Meditation to the Most Relaxing Song Ever [1:05:00]

RELEVANT LINKS FROM EPISODE

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