Eps 487: Expert guidance on the college admissions process with Alyse Levine

Episode 487

I am so excited about my guest today – Alyse Levine!  We have one of the foremost college counseling experts in the country here today sharing her wisdom and tips to help adolescents fulfill their college goals & dreams. 

Alyse shares why she’s so passionate about college admissions & working with young people, and I ask what was surprising for her when going through the college admissions process with her own kiddo recently.  We dig into all-things admissions related: testing, grades, college essays, rescinded offers, and virtual opportunities & internships.  I ask Alyse what teens should be doing during the summer and how to discern good opportunities & programs, and we wrap up this week talking about setting expectations for our adolescents and how motivating it is when people are learning something they’re excited about.  

Guest Description

Alyse is one of the foremost college counseling experts in the country and the Founder & CEO of Premium Prep. Prior to founding the company, Alyse was Associate Director of College Counseling at The Dalton School in New York City for over 10 years, was Assistant Director of Undergraduate Admissions at Washington University in St. Louis, and was Associate Director of College Counseling at the Dwight–Englewood School, in Englewood, New Jersey. 

Alyse also served on the selection committee for the prestigious Robertson Scholars Program, a highly selective full-tuition scholarship collaboration between Duke University and the University of North Carolina. A professional member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA), the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), and the Southern Association for College Admission Counseling (SACAC), she was named one of the Top 50 Women Leaders of North Carolina for 2022 by Women We Admire.

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Takeaways from the show

  • Why work with a college admissions specialist or counselor? 
  • FAFSA, Merit Money, & scholarships 
  • How has grading changed since we were in school? 
  • Colleges rescinding offers 
  • College is a safe place to make some mistakes & grow resiliency 
  • What should teens be doing during summer breaks? 
  • Virtual internships & experiences 
  • What to look for in good summer programs & offerings 
  • Authenticity during the college admissions process 
  • The motivation that comes when we are learning things we’re excited about 
  • “There is a home and a college for everyone”

What does joyful courage mean to you

It’s a leap, for me, and an honor to work with young people at this precipice.  I take this responsibility really seriously in how we help them make this transition successfully, and how we help parents go through the transitional phase, successfully.  I’m going to think about doing that with joyful courage more because I think it says a lot about how I approach this work. 



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Alyse Levine, Casey O'Roarty

Casey O'Roarty 00:02
Hey, welcome to the joyful courage podcast a place for inspiration and transformation as we try and keep it together. While parenting our tweens and teens. This is real work people and when we can focus on our own growth, and nurturing the connection with our kids, we can move through the turbulence in a way that allows for relationships to remain intact. My name is Casey already I am your fearless host. I'm a positive discipline trainer, space holder coach and the adolescent lead at Sprout double. I am also the mama to a 20 year old daughter and 17 year old son walking right beside you on this path of raising our kids with positive discipline and conscious parenting. This show is meant to be a resource to you and I work really hard to keep it real transparent and authentic so that you feel seen and supported. Today is an interview and I have no doubt that what you hear will be useful to you. Please don't forget sharing truly is caring. If you love today's show, please pass the link around snap a screenshot posted on your socials or texted to your friends. Together we can make an even bigger impact on families all around the globe. I'm so glad that you're here. Enjoy the show.

Casey O'Roarty 01:23
Hi, everybody. Welcome back to the podcast. I am so excited to introduce you to my guests today. Elise Levine Elise is one of the foremost college counseling experts in the country and the founder and CEO of premium prep. Prior to founding the company Elise was Associate Director of College Counseling at the Doulton school in New York City for over 10 years, was Assistant Director of Undergraduate Admissions at Washington University in St. Louis, and was Associate Director of College Counseling at the Dwight Englewood school in Englewood, New Jersey. Elisa served on the selection committee for the prestigious Robertson scholarship Scholars Program, a highly selective full tuition scholarship collaboration between Duke University and the University of North Carolina, a professional member of the independent Educational Consultants Association, the National Association for college admissions, counseling, and the Southern Association for college admissions counseling. She was named one of the top 50 Women Leaders of North Carolina for 2022 by women we admire. That sounds really special. Welcome to the podcast, Elise. I'm glad that you're here.

Alyse Levine 02:38
Thank you so much, Casey, I'm excited to be here.

Casey O'Roarty 02:41
Yeah, that's such an amazing bio. I love kind of tracking all of your work in this domain. But I want to go a little further back in time. And I want to know, how did you get into college counseling? Yeah,

Alyse Levine 02:55
sure. Well, the furthest back, I can trace it, I was in high school, and my high school was having a college night to help get juniors excited about the college process. And my guidance counselor whose name was Mr. Rogers, believe it or not, we were buds. And he asked me if I would be willing to be the students for the mock interview, were a real admissions counselor would be interviewing me in front of parents and other students to help give them a sense of the do's and don'ts. And when they asked me what I want to be when I grow up, I said, I want to be like my guidance counselor, Mr. Rogers, I want to be a guidance counselor. And I think it was a little bit joking, but I think a part of me really knew that I wanted to stay in the college admissions field. So that was my answer. And then I applied to be a tour guide. When I was in college. It was a big deal. They rejected me. I applied again, my sophomore year, and I think they felt badly for me, and they ultimately let me in and let me be a door to door guide. And the rest is history.

Casey O'Roarty 04:06
I love that I love a good college campus tour guide. We've had the whole range. Well, not the whole range. Most of the guides that we've had have been pretty onpoint and enthusiastic and super knowledgeable so I could see how that would be super fun. Awesome. So that was it. You're a tour guide when so when you were in school, did you study counseling? Like yeah, I

Alyse Levine 04:27
did. I studied psychology as an undergrad. That was my bachelor's degree at WashU, where I ended up working in admissions. And then after working as an admissions counselor at my alma mater, I wanted to work more closely with students. I loved reading applications. I loved traveling, but I really wanted to work even more closely with the students and have that impact. And so I made the switch to the other side of the desk and began working at two different private schools. First one in New Jersey and then one In Manhattan, and then I decided I wanted to go back and get my Master's in Counseling to really enhance my counseling skills, because so much of what we're doing is, is counseling, obviously, we need to be experts on all the colleges out there. But it is a pretty big transition and young people's lives. And we're dealing with family dynamics. And so it was incredibly valuable to study school counseling while working as a college counselor, because I got my degree at night while I was working. And

Casey O'Roarty 05:32
what do you love about it? What do you love about working with the kids that you get to work with?

Alyse Levine 05:36
I am definitely a people person. I love their relationships. I love connecting with the kids, I really identify, obviously, a lot with the parents, I have recently gone through this process myself as a parent, I was always one of those people who enjoyed speaking with adults. So even at a young age I felt very comfortable working with and sympathizing and understanding the parent perspective. But I think as I get older, I appreciate working with young people even more, I think it keeps me young. Sometimes the world can feel like a very dark, scary place. There's so much going on in our world right now. And there's something about young people's idealism that just it gives me a lot of hope. And it brings me a lot of joy, to work with them to hear their stories, their goals. It's inspiring.

Casey O'Roarty 06:27
Yeah. When you went through, so you said he just recently went through the college application process with your own kids. Is there anything that was surprising to you? You know, because I think back to like, having been a school teacher, I thought, Oh, the parenting thing is probably not going to be that hard for me. And then, you know, shocker. The emotional attachment exists where it doesn't in the classroom, what did you notice was anything surprising or eye opening to you being the actual parent in the process?

Alyse Levine 06:56
I'll never forget, when I went to our pediatrician shortly after I had our first child and felt like he kind of blew me off with like a breastfeeding question, you know, something, I was worried he wasn't getting enough food, enough nourishment. And he was like, it's fine. You know. And I remember walking out and saying to my husband, we have such an awesome pediatrician. But he's gonna be even better when he has kids of his own. And that very much, I think, is fair and applies to myself, I have so much more sympathy and understanding of what angst and worry that parents have, and just how invested they are. In this process. I feel like I give parents a lot more grace, I have more patience and understanding of that perspective. These are their children, you know, their pride and joy. And I need to remember that. So it's a really good reminder to have gone through that process myself that parents only have the best intentions, but their children. Yeah,

Casey O'Roarty 08:00
I appreciate that, too. I felt the same way. You know, when I was doing my work with parents, and I would get parents of teenagers in my classes before I had teens. And I was just really aware that there is a whole territory of experience that I didn't have, that only allowed me personally to feel like I could be so helpful, right? And then of course, you know, having kids who are like, Don't worry, mom will give you all the experiences so that you are totally prepared. Or whatever kind of clients you get.

Alyse Levine 08:35
Good. I think that's interesting not to toot my own horn as a parent, but I think my kids have watched me worry about students and parents so much, and constantly send the messaging that it works out. There's so many great colleges out there. They were not quite as caught up in the process as I was worried they might be my husband's also a professor, so they're kind of getting the educational aspect from

Casey O'Roarty 09:05
Yeah, yeah. Well in for me, and my listeners know, we've been you know, you my son just declared that he's gonna go to the University of Arizona second generation Wildcat. Oh, congratulations. That's exciting. It's very exciting. And I've been really hands off just actually reactive to my experience as a teenager with school and my parents. Probably a little too hands off. We'll see the jury's out. And knowing that there was plenty I didn't know like about the common app and all of these things. It was an investment that I was grateful that I could make last fall and have II and work with someone simply to walk him through the process so that I could still be in relationship with him without also being this like intense. Let's even though

Alyse Levine 09:57
Yeah, yeah, it's nice. To have a neutral party involved, and outsource, if you can, because it allows us to maintain the relationships that we want to have with our children in this last stage of their lives living under our roots, I mean, we don't want to damage those relationships right before they leave the nest.

Casey O'Roarty 10:19
Yeah, yeah. Well, and so for you at premium prep, who are the families that tend to reach out? And what are they? You know, I knew very specifically what I was looking for. But what are the families? How are you working with families that premium prep? Yeah,

Alyse Levine 10:32
so people reach out to us with a really wide range of needs. Mostly, the work we do is pretty comprehensive, so pretty soup to nuts. So most families begin with us early in the high school career, late night, early 10th grade, and that gives us an opportunity and a longer runway to really build a relationship with the child and the family. And help be a mentor in helping them develop their interests, achieve their goals, helping set small goals along the way to make the process a little bit overwhelming. And then to be there through the nuts and bolts of the college list building, thinking through a possible early strategy, making sure the lift is really well balanced. And then that final stage, the end game of taking all those wonderful rich experiences and interests and helping them to tell their story, in their essays in their applications. Looking at them holistically, making sure the people they've asked to write the recommendations are the right people and have everything they need to write the best letters possible, making sure their essays really help them stand out, making sure they use the little nooks and crannies, like additional information on the common app if there's some special circumstances or special experience that they had that is not highlighted somewhere else. So really that high level of detail in all aspects of the process. And being there for the families as well. I mean, parents are typically paying for college and are invested in this process and want to know that we're here to help them as well with their questions, anxieties, whatever it might be questions about financial aid cost all of that.

Casey O'Roarty 12:21
Yeah. Do you do any FAFSA support,

Alyse Levine 12:25
we do it all, we do it all. So we yeah, we help students with the need based part of the process, happy to help. The FAFSA rollout, as everyone knows, at this point has been a mess. This year, it was supposed to be new and improved. But it was new and worse. A lot of our families, I would say are more focused on merit money, a lot of them fall in that middle class bracket where they make too much to qualify for need based, but it's still obviously a really big expense, probably the biggest expense most of us will ever have. And so helping with scholarship applications, either at the particular school where they're applying, or outside scholarships is another layer that we work with do hands on,

Casey O'Roarty 13:14
we'll talk about merit money, because I didn't really know exactly what merit money was. And then my student who is pretty mid level, he's not like high achieving super driven, kiddo on paper. And I was shocked when he not only got an acceptance letter, but also was told and you've earned $9,000 a year in merit money. I was like, damn. And I know that the gal that we use to help him, you know, in his application, she's really focused on that. And said, you know, at one point said, you know, Casey, there's the transcripts, and there's the application and activities, and then there's the essays. And any two of those, as long as two of those are really strong, it puts you in a really good space for merit money, which was exciting, because while his transcript is not terrible, but anymore, it seems like everybody's got a 4.5 You know, and my son does not.

Alyse Levine 14:16
Not everyone has a 4.5 I know there's inflation right now and people feel like that. Yeah, yeah, it's tricky, but trust me, yeah, wide range. Yeah.

Casey O'Roarty 14:27
But thinking about, you know, me coming out of high school with a 3.1 in 1991. You know, I wasn't applying to super high level academic schools. And there were definitely schools that I was not going to be getting into, but it feels like and maybe you can talk about this. It feels like it's so competitive, or is it just that yeah, the top tiered schools are really competitive, but remember that there are a bazillion colleges and so many places for our kids. That's to apply, like, what is that? Yeah,

Alyse Levine 15:02
it definitely has gotten more competitive. I don't think it just feels that way, the average test scores have gone up test optional, has caused that because they are only including the averages of those students who did well enough to submit scores. So that has been an unexpected shift of test optional. So test optional, has so many benefits in that students who are not great test takers can apply to schools that they may not otherwise have been able to. But the truth is, a lot of these schools are still emphasizing testing and the pressure to do even better is there got it, I would say that grading has really changed since you and I grew up, these were just a lot more common, you know, see was average. Now you feel like you have to have AIDS to be competitive at top tier schools. And that is more of a reality. And colleges are just having to look a lot more deeply at the students because they're seeing so many more students who have a lot of A's, I think they really respect high schools that are giving more accurate grades where there are students who are getting B's, and C's, so they can actually understand who the students are in their class. But I think that's And this speaks to a lot of what it sounds like as counselor was saying, there are all these other aspects of who you are and what you care about that play a role. And those are the ways we are seeing students differentiate themselves. We had multiple students this year, from schools like Bates and Stanford that got lovely, handwritten feedback about their essays. They're being read, someone cares. I mean, not just nice essay, but about the content and what they learned about the child. Like you said, the merit money

Casey O'Roarty 16:49
makes me emotional, that makes me emotional, because I'm thinking about Ian wrote about, you know, his first year of high school, which was also COVID, which was also his dad in cancer treatment, and just everything he learned, he did not get any handwritten feedback.

Alyse Levine 17:04
But someone may have been very moved by that essay. And so I do think it is these other aspects, NASDAQ or umbrella organization does a survey of colleges and what they look at and what they prioritize. And maybe a decade ago, we started hearing about character colleges care about character, they're not just giving students ratings and evaluating them on their grades and their scores. But they care about what kind of or even just their leadership and their initiative, but also like, their values, what kind of a person they are. So we're always thinking about that when we're working with students. What do you value? What do you care about, and let's make sure that those qualities are coming across. And that is often in the software components of the application, though, you can be a B or C student or have a B or C average. But you could have some really impressive values and impact in your community that they see, wow, this student's going to make a difference. And we need more students like this on our campus. Yeah.

Casey O'Roarty 18:17
And as we record, you and I right now, we are rounding out the end of another we're getting creeping towards the end of another school year, which just I don't know about you. I mean, it just time is so weird. Here in midlife. Yes. What's coming up, you know, as you work with your clients, you know, when it's the end of the school year, what are some things that are coming up? I know we've got summer ahead. So what are you encouraging your students to think about plan for at this stage of the year,

Alyse Levine 18:48
I would say spring is where we see the most stress. I think the accumulation of school, these long stretches with no breaks. Obviously, some have spring breaks at different points. But most kids are in the homestretch right now of getting ready for exams, some AP exams. And I think that pressure and intensity as right, they're seeing flowers bloom and the sun is shining and they want to be outside and they're just getting squirmy and it's just hard to stay focused. So I think that finding that healthy balance to take care of yourself, Do things you enjoy take breathers so you don't get to run down to exhausted you know, that mental health piece is real. So that's something I think at this time of year is is really important to have that healthy balance, but more specifically for juniors. It's definitely like we're kicking off the essay process. Let's start thinking about essays introducing them to the personal essay. Some colleges are introducing their supplemental essays for the new season. University of Texas snap there's today mm So that's definitely college process wise, a focus for our juniors right now we always say to them, we can start now, we can wait till you're done with exams, as long as you use your summer, so you're not cramming in the fall, you do not have to begin that now. But we introduced the process, April one, and we encourage we think juniors should start thinking about that. For seniors. As you know, like Ian and my daughter, it's about making their selection. There. Many of these colleges have extended their deposit deadline because of FAFSA delays. So may 15, is often the new normal, but our seniors are evaluating their options and making their choices, which is really exciting. And some of them are pursuing waitlist, that could be a whole separate conversation, what to do if you're on the waitlist. But I'd say for our younger students, it's helping remind them to end the year strong and kind of finalize their summer plans. And I know we're going to talk a little bit more about summer. So a lot of our students have final summer plans for those students out there who are still figuring out their summer, there's lots of ways to have a successful, fulfilling summer. So I'm excited to talk about that with you a little bit more and how I can maybe help students make some good decisions and help parents help students make good decisions about summer. Yeah,

Casey O'Roarty 21:20
well, and I'm kind of giggling over here, because I'm thinking about, you know, for our seniors, so even like, right now, I'm just like, stay engaged, babe. Like just you do your freakin calculus work, because we got to turn in that final transcript and it is not looking good in calculus right now. It is not looking good. And I kind of feel like okay, you know what, there's only so much I can do. And at the end of the day, you know, he'll figure it out. He'll handle it. He will

Alyse Levine 21:54
lots of kids end up taking calculus in college for a variety of majors. And so

Casey O'Roarty 21:59
maybe I'd be like, do you want to take this in college? Yeah, cuz if not get a C.

Alyse Levine 22:05
Pass. It's right. That's right. Definitely. You do not want your college offers rescinded? Most colleges are not going to do that when you get into the world of CS, but you definitely don't want to dip below a city. Yeah, so

Casey O'Roarty 22:17
if he does, let's talk about that. What will you have a being like, No, you can't be a Wildcat what will happen?

Alyse Levine 22:25
I have seen colleges rescind offers. For students who really tank and get that bad bad case of SR itis, it's typically going to be just fine. If you're doing your best and struggling in one course and have gone down from a B to SS

Casey O'Roarty 22:39
doing your best and Erica and reasonably doing my best. I'm

Casey O'Roarty 22:43
like, Are you I don't think you could apply.

Alyse Levine 22:47
I always struggle with this. Because I'm an educator, I want them to finish strong. But I also feel like they deserve a little break. These kids have all worked hard and they're exhausted. High school really become more of a grind. I don't know. I feel like when I there was just a lot less intensity

Casey O'Roarty 23:07
while I went to private Catholic College Prep High School. And we worked hard. I worked hard for my 3.1. And, man, I don't know if it's post COVID or what but I am like, Okay, well, I mean, at the end of the day, I'll say things like, okay, when you get to college, if you feel underwater, if it feels like you cannot manage, you go to the Learning Center, like there are tools and there are resources. And you might need to learn to study because I'm not seeing a lot of high reps around study skills over here. And so that's okay, there's ways of doing that. Just eyes on the prize. But

Alyse Levine 23:48
yes, especially at a big school like Arizona. Yeah, right, there aren't going to be a ton of safety nets. And so he's going to have to seek out those resources and support kind of on his own and learn to self advocate. Students in private high schools or public high school to that have five oh fours or IPS where the school has really created an easy way to get those accommodations. You have to learn to self advocate in college so important. I had a

Casey O'Roarty 24:19
show go out a few weeks ago with a friend of mine talking about neurodiverse kids and transitioning into college and like the practice that they need before they get there, right. Like and I do believe you know, Ian is super engaging and does not have a problem talking to people and I do believe that he would be able to advocate and walk in and you know, say this is what I need. Yeah. Anyway, calculus is the bane of my existence right now, which

Alyse Levine 24:44
is a healthy place for some trial and error, right? It's not like a job. You're not going to get fired. It's okay. Like that's part of the learning process. I was about to share a little issue my son had but I think he'd put for not sharing his freshman year, but yeah, totally right. You learn from those experiences and the fact that parents aren't there to catch them from falling each and every time. Yeah, is really good, especially for our generation, they have to learn to fail and pick themselves up. Yeah,

Casey O'Roarty 25:18
I'll figure it out. Absolutely. So everybody sent good calculus vibes to Ian. All he needs is a C. Okay, got it. Well, let's talk about summer, right? Because, you know, sliding into summer, I definitely have parents in the range, right? From like, yeah, we sit down together, and we look at all the options, and my child is excited to pick something productive to do to like, Are you kidding me? How am I going to get them out of their room? Right? And how do I get my teen to consider that summer could be a time of, you know, being productive, which I don't love that word, but like they can use summer versus being used by summer. Right. So tell me about that. How do you advise your students and then we'll talk about how you advise the parents of reluctant students.

Alyse Levine 26:09
I think one myth that's worth dispelling is that most applications and the common app being the one that students use the most, and you referenced earlier, both parents are familiar with it does not have a summer section, it is not as if students need to separate out what they did each summer in high school, it is a part of that larger faction. Yeah. So that's the good news. It's part of the activities section. So they're looking at your activities as a whole. Having said that, it is a really good idea to take advantage of summer because it is the most uninterrupted stretch of time that students have to try on different identities to explore different interests to learn some life skills. So I love chunking in the summer, I love dabbling in a few different areas. So maybe volunteering for a few weeks at a nonprofit, maybe working for a couple of months, maybe some family travel, or maybe you volunteer these days, Monday, Wednesday, Friday, you work Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, it doesn't have to be you are Caddying at the golf course, every single day, seven days a week. With the blazing sun. It can be a range of things. And every kid is different. I just talked to a potential family. That said, being in school and studying engineering, and computer science at whatever it is Stanford, MIT is what he wants to do this summer. And I'm like, That's fabulous. That is not what every child wants to do in the summer, like my children certainly did not want to take classes in the summer. One of the things that I'm seeing in the mix is programs, college programs, as well as like internships or even volunteer experiences that are virtual. I'm not a huge fan. I feel like these poor kids who have lived in this hybrid COVID normal world, really do better getting out of their bedrooms, and that they've had a lot of that now again, I don't want to speak for everyone. My daughter thrived in COVID learning, she loved cooking dinner, he loved the pacing of that she's very self disciplined. For my son, it was not as healthy. Right? He felt really suffocated by us. He was, you know, in the prime of his high school years, I think for my daughter missing middle school was just fine. You know,

Casey O'Roarty 28:48
they could all use missing middle school. Yes,

Alyse Levine 28:51
those are the worst. Those are the worst years for most kids. So I love an in person experience if possible. I think that getting out of the house interacting socially, I do think this generation needs those life skills. Yeah, jobs are great. The grittier, the better. I mean, life building skills as well as getting into college colleges. Respect, admire, like to see the kids work. I mean, you appreciate the value of the dollar, you have a good work ethic, you are comfortable getting your hands dirty. So maybe you're painting houses, maybe you're scooping ice cream, like it doesn't have to be that you're an intern at an architecture firm. It does not have to be that kind of a job. It can be what I like to call a job job, just a regular old, you know, job in fast food or whatever it is that it's respectable flipping burgers at Burger King. That is a life experience. I've seen some great essays come out of those. We have a wonderful sample essay about making milkshakes at Chick fil A that I think is one of probably my favorite essays. You You know, I think there's a lot to learn from those experiences so

Casey O'Roarty 30:03
much. And it's interesting because as I was preparing for this, and I'm getting inundated because of what I do via email, or snail mail or social media around like summer programs for your teens, and all of these super enrichment travel, which are amazing, right? And whenever I'm like, Hey, person, look at this. He's like, I don't want to do that. Yeah, you know, but what he does do in the summer, and he's done after his sophomore year is he works at our local community center. And he is a lifeguard. I said something to him just the other day about that. Just like, wow, you fit this will be your third summer of working at the Rec Center. And he immediately went to like, Yeah, cuz I like to make the money mom. And I said, Well, yeah, and you've shown up somewhere on time, you follow through on things you've advocated for your position, and for a promotion. And, like, I listed off all these other pieces beyond just getting a paycheck, you know, more for my, for my benefit for his benefit. But just to kind of remind him like, this is bigger than that. And, you know, I think summer jobs are so awesome for kids to practice those really practical, applicable life, like light real life skills. And so I'm glad to hear that. And I love like what you said how you can use these opportunities. And I'm sure that Ian's college counselor also supported him and like, telling the story of leadership because of his summer job. And yes,

Alyse Levine 31:33
absolutely. But I'd love to answer your question about the summer programs that you're getting all that mail about, do you want to talk about this for a minute?

Casey O'Roarty 31:42
I mean, if I was a kid, I'd be like, Yes, send me to Greece. Summer Program, please. I do not care that I don't know anyone, because all of these people will be my best friends in the end. That's not the kids. I

Alyse Levine 31:53
get those mailings to, and I'm ready to sign up. I'm like, can I be a counselor on this trip, please. So okay, like everything, it's more complex than like, just this is good, this is bad. So there is a cautionary tale of pay to play that these programs are very expensive. And you do want to be aware of that, because profit they see for profit organizations, and colleges are very much aware of that. And like this notion of paying all of that money to do community service, because a lot of them have like a service component. There is like a certain irony to that, that they also

Casey O'Roarty 32:35
it feels a little white savior II and some of them as well, which is really

Alyse Levine 32:40
sad. And so you really do have to be, I think, very careful. Now, there are programs out there like Governor school programs through certain states that are incredible, where you're doing like French immersion, they're subject specific, some of them are in really wonderful locations, there is programs through the State Department to learn Arabic, and you know, so there are incredible experiences that are low cost. A lot of the college programs you need to be a little bit cautious about, they're often not taught by faculty, they're not for credit, they're a little bit fluffier, they're more like, have the experience of living on a college campus, which is not a terrible thing. And for some kids that getting away from home and getting comfortable with that is a good thing. If you want it to have more meaning and meet in the college admissions process. It's best if it is a real college course for credit and upgrade. Okay, that shows that there is a legitimacy to it, you're sending that official transcript along with your high school transcripts. Some of the programs are selective, it is not easy to get into certain programs, like Northwestern has programs, Stanford has programs, MIT has programs, Penn has some more selective programs, those can be more impactful, because they are not just about sort of having this college experience. Some of them are like take a sap course while you're on campus learn, you know, enjoy UCLA, that is not going to impress a college that you took yoga and an LSAT prep course. But if you are really academically diving into an area that can be more meaningful, the travel experiences similarly, it's all about the context is travel is International Studies is language is language immersion, is that a part of your story? Is that a part of your interest? Or is this just like a fun fancy trip with my friends, right? They're different. So it's a part of a larger part of who you are and what you are conveying then it carries a little bit more meaning in this admissions process, right

Casey O'Roarty 35:00
Well, and I guess, as parents, depending on what we're able to generate as far as cost, I would love to hear from you, the college counselor, like that whole idea of do it, because it's going to look great on your college application. Right? How do you stay out of that? Or do you stay out of that mindset? Because it feels like there was at some point, you know, I feel like I swing the other way. Because like I said, I was raised in this very driven, like, your value is where you go to college. I'm like, watch me, I'm gonna go to this party school. Anyway, side note, but like, how do we maintain that balance? You know, of leaning in to? Yeah, especially if we have kids that are clearly college bound. Like I didn't have that with both my kids, I had two very different scenarios, which I know you're familiar with. And my listeners heard it at nauseam. But Ian has always been like, he's just stayed the course of college bound. So But even then, I could have done a little bit more like, Hey, this is gonna look good on your college application. Talk. Yeah, I didn't. And so where's the balance there? I

Alyse Levine 36:18
really think. And I'm not just saying this, that being authentic nine out of 10 times is going to end up being more fulfilling. And being of greater service in this admissions process, we have to give our admissions friends some cried that they are going to see through the kids who are doing stuff to check the box versus the kids who are doing it, because they actually like want to go do a homestay in some small town in Spain and have no air conditioning, because they want to have that culturally enriching experience versus This is torture. And my parents made me do this mean, how are you going to write an impressive essay about an experience with such dread? Now, maybe your parents made you and you learned a lot from it. And you ended up being very grateful. And you realized, your parents are brilliant, and you need to listen to them more?

Casey O'Roarty 37:15
Make them do anything, because that's what I want to focus.

Alyse Levine 37:20
I mean, I don't know about you, but my kids are pretty done listening to me. I just feel like the forcing teens to do stuff they don't want to do doesn't usually work out very well.

Casey O'Roarty 37:32
I mean, how do you do that? I don't know how to do that.

Alyse Levine 37:35
Yeah, I mean, it's obviously you went to Arizona doesn't sound like that was a part of the grand plan for your parents. They

Casey O'Roarty 37:42
right. They were just glad I was PAC 10. Ultimately, so huge college sports fans. Yeah. So what about that, then and so let's kind of slide into that. Because I do have parents that I work with. And granted, you know, when parents are seeking me, it's funny, the different families situations, probably between the parents that are seeking me out, and the parents are seeking you out. You know, a lot of the parents that I work with, especially those of us that I have a community of parents, my little membership, I love them. And there was a handful of us all with kids who were moving through the college application process and kind of talking amongst ourselves about how painful it is to like, watch the miss deadlines. And you know, some of our kids, it's, they're really like, back off, back off, back off. I've got this stay out of it. And yet what we're seeing is not necessarily that they've got it, how do you advise parents to allow to trust the process? I love that mantra trust the process, especially when, you know, they've stepped into working like, Okay, we're gonna get someone we're gonna get a third party to help. How do you keep them from making it worse for their kids. This

Alyse Levine 38:51
is an example of that that's a little different from what you're saying in terms of meeting deadlines and kind of getting them across the finish line when they're not as motivated. But I was just talking to a colleague about this. It's similar though the Straight A brilliant student with like, an amazing transcript, almost perfect test scores, like has done everything right plays board or to have like, sprinkled in a little community service, but it has no

Casey O'Roarty 39:17
personality. I'm just getting water walking

Alyse Levine 39:20
stuff on his transcript, you know, on his resume, not on his transcript. No, not the no personality got the personality, but like he's a kid and he wants to have fun and he doesn't want to go do something he doesn't want to build a business or do some really demanding internship during the school year. Or you know, like those bigger initiative or do research with a professor and cold call all the I mean, there's so many things that like really high achieving kids can do to really differentiate themselves, but you can't make them do those or you can you can be that parent that makes your child do those things. Call is not going to be pretty Oh, how that looks. Yeah. So my attitude is we can show you the way, we can help guide you to all the different ways that you can really show your interest, develop your interest, focus it, build it from freshman year to sophomore year to junior year to senior year. And we have kids who do that, who run with it, who are like, Oh, my gosh, this is so exciting. And they can't do enough, you just give them a tiny little spark of an idea. And they go, because they have that fire in the belly. There are other kids and I love those other kids just as much because they're kids, but they don't want to do all those extra steps they want to work with in a more structured framework. They like being on the team or in the school club, they don't have the bandwidth, or frankly, maybe they're exhausted, maybe getting all those A's and taking all those hard classes is exhausting, and for their mental capacity. They just can't do another thing. That's okay. That's okay. In my opinion. Okay, so maybe they go to their flagship state school, and they don't go to Princeton to me, like, that's okay. But every family is different. And that is where we are having those conversations with families, because maybe that is harder for the parents to accept because they envisioned them at x institution and not y institution. Yeah, for sure. So I think some of that setting of expectations, and acceptance is a big part of what we are doing. And for other kids, like you said, it's just getting them to get the applications out the door. And sometimes that in and of itself is really a challenge. And it's hard. Yeah.

Casey O'Roarty 41:39
And I think that we give a lot of you know, I think about myself as a student, my stepmom will say, Well, you were really smart, you just didn't want to work that hard, which is completely true. I mean, I don't know about the really smart part. But I definitely didn't want to work that hard. I was definitely not in it. For the A I was in it for I was told you can drive your car as long as you have a 3.0. And so guess what I got, I got a 3.0 Except for one quarter where I got a 2.9 I didn't get to drive my car, that quarter, goes back to 3.0. The next quarter, when I decided after college graduated with a 2.1 from the University of Arizona, when I decided you know what, I want to be a teacher, there's after bartending for a while and realizing I definitely don't want to be a bartender anymore. I want to be a school teacher applied to the U DUB program, got waitlisted worked my butt off. And it was easy, because I cared about what I was doing. I got into the program, you know, I really advocated for myself, and I worked hard. And it was easy to work hard because it was what I wanted to be doing. I ended up you know, with a three nine out of that program, graduate school like a three nine and you know, Masters of Education, it felt easy, because I cared about what I was doing. And I think about so many students by onsen included, who like the high school buffet, you know, he's like, I don't care about any of this. Much of it is not relevant. Yes, we talked about Yeah, but it's a practice of showing up and following through and it's done and doing things you don't want to do. We talked about that. But I also have a lot of faith that when he gets to college, and he finds that space that he's like, okay, yes, I want to do this, he's going to be like me, it's not going to be that hard, because he's going to show up and he's going to do the work. And I just want to say that out loud to parents who are you know, worried because high school looks one way like, don't forget, there's so much value in learning something because you want to learn it versus being put in a room and told you have to learn something by somebody else without a lot of like, here's why. Other than it's what you need to graduate. Right. And so I appreciate that.

Alyse Levine 43:54
I think there's so many lessons from that Casey, like, first of all, we're all on a different path. Yeah. And this idea that there's like one linear path and you have to go straight from high school to college, we just did a webinar with Verto education that has all these alternatives. So you, you know, you hit pause before you go to college and travel and incredible experiences. I do think that it's important to you know, kind of read the room and who your child is. I mean, because I work in the education space and you work as a counselor and you work with people people ask you I'm sure all kinds of questions that are either in your wheelhouse are sort of in your wheelhouse. So like I often get questions like, we're not sure if we should leave our child in public school or put them in private school. So that's like sort of in my wheelhouse, sort of not. And I love getting into the details of that with an individual family, but I am so not a public school is better. Private School is better. It's like, who's your kid is your child and what is best for them and as parents. We work so hard to give our kids opportunities, educational opportunities. needs other opportunities to have a child that's fortunate to enough to be able to go to private school, because the parents have those resources. And they would do better in that environment. Wonderful. That's the right choice. The same is with this process, like not everyone is prepared to guns blazing, do everything possible in high school and get into these, you know, highly selective schools, and there's so many other great options. And there's something to be said about the health and well being of being social, having fun having balance, is it healthy to do nothing, but like work and stress. Now for some, they love that. And they're doing that genuinely, and that's who they are, or it just comes really naturally and that's healthy. But for others, it's at such a cost. And I think like I know, for myself, I was actually, I was not like you, Casey, I was one of those kids who put tons of pressure on myself and felt

Casey O'Roarty 46:00
the Wilsons would have loved you the weight of the world.

Alyse Levine 46:05
And I just wish I could have chilled out a little bit and like smelled the roses, you know, but and I don't even know what the pressure was about, like I didn't even care when the grade came, it was just like I had, it was like in my DNA. To be honest, I'm still a little bit this way, I'm a little bit of

Casey O'Roarty 46:20
a workaholic, we could kind of meet in the middle, I think we'd be like

Alyse Levine 46:23
we can. So healthy. My husband has like a great sense of humor, and is constantly like, you have got to get out of that chair and go take a walk. Like he literally said that before we sat down and I'm like, You're right, I do, because I could just sit here and work all day, you know. So I think it's like, recognizing like our children's well being is so much more important than if they go to you know, Arizona versus Georgetown versus Providence versus bass or I don't know, random, it's like, we just have to kind of be aware of who our kids are and what's appropriate for them at that moment. One other thing you said, made me think of another related topic. The other thing that's so different about our generation and what colleges cared about versus this generation, colleges don't care if you don't do a single club or activity in your high school. If like you said, Ian, like all the high school stuff that was going on was not his jam, that's okay. But then do something else that like you are interested in, you do want to go to college and have stuff on your resume. But it's not like our day, we're like everybody has to do with sport, and everybody should do something artistic, and this whole well rounded, that is no longer a thing. Okay, college is much more get that. We're all made of different stuff. And we all have different interests. And it's okay to do you. They want to see you pursuing the things that you genuinely care about deeply. But they don't care a whole lot about what that thing is.

Casey O'Roarty 47:53
Oh, that's good to know. Yeah. Yeah.

Alyse Levine 47:57
So that's a big difference.

Casey O'Roarty 47:58
I could talk to you for another hour. This is so great. Thank you. Thank you for the work that you do. Thank you for premium prep. Is there anything else you want to make sure to leave listeners with before we wrap up?

Alyse Levine 48:12
I think that balance piece is really important. We've talked about that periodically in this conversation ideal with a lot of high achieving, overachieving, perfectionistic personalities. So for those folks, take a breather, find some balance, and then for those folks who need a little motivation, remember, this is important, do your best. But there is a home in a college for everyone. And so that to keep the stress and the perspective in check, I think is really, really important. And then I guess the only other thing I would say is that, you know, I think about joyful courage. I've thought about that today a lot in preparing for this. And I'd say it's definitely a leap for me and an honor to work with young people at this precipice and I take that responsibility really seriously in how we help them make this transition successfully and how we help parents go through this transitional phase successfully. So I am going to think about doing that with joyful courage more if I can use that because I think it says a lot about how I approach the work.

Casey O'Roarty 49:24
Beautiful. I didn't even have to ask my last question. You just wove it right in there, at least thank you. My pleasure. Where can people find you and follow premium prep? What's the deets? Yeah,

Alyse Levine 49:36
so premium prep.com is our website, follow our blog. We write lots of great blogs about issues affecting the college admissions process trends, everything that's going on. We are constantly posting on social media. I'd say Instagram and Facebook are the biggest for us. We are also offering a signal get a discount for anyone who mentioned stripe brokerage who gives us a call or awesome fills out our info sheet. So up to $1,500. So fees Wow. Get on the horn because we want to really provide that for your audience. So thank you all for listening. And if folks have questions, I'm very accessible. My team is accessible. Our Consultations are free. They're 40 minutes. We love to hear people's stories. We love to tell people why we can help them. We're really honest if we feel like we're not a good fit for what a particular student or family needs.

Casey O'Roarty 50:37
Awesome. Thank you so much. At least this was so fun. And yeah, I look forward to future conversations too.

Alyse Levine 50:45
I would love that. Thanks, Casey. This was great. I appreciate it. Have a great one.

Casey O'Roarty 50:55
Thank you so much for listening in today. Thank you to my spreadable partners as well as Chris Mann and the team at pod shaper for all the support with getting the show out there and making it sound good. Check out our offers for parents with kids of all ages and sign up for our newsletter to stay connected at B spreadable.com. Tune back in later this week for our Thursday show and I'll be back with another interview next Monday. Peace

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