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College Admissions During a Pandemic: What Applicants Need to Know


The process of applying for college can be daunting for any teenager. Now, during the COVID pandemic, it's more important than ever to understand the changes and expectations relevant for colleges throughout the nation. Did you know that there are people who specialize in consulting with families and teenagers during this critical process and assist in supporting them along their journey?


I sat down with Jennifer Piercey, founder of OnTarget College Consulting, for a fascinating and informative interview where she explained the hot topics and critical points that all families should know, especially in this time of school closures, distance learning and virtual college tours. The full length podcast and video can be found at JP LEP, by searching EduSwitchboard on your favorite podcast player, or on my YouTube channel.


Here are a few things Jennifer and I covered:


Me: Jennifer, tell me about your practice, OnTarget College Consulting.


Jennifer: My physical office is in Los Altos, CA, but I'm seeing students virtually at this time. I can see families who reside anywhere, but most of my business comes from around the Bay Area. I am a graduate of UC Davis with a B.A. in History. I worked in politics and public relations for years before taking some time off from work. After returning from living abroad with my family, I went back to work for a tutoring company that bought a college consulting business. Eventually, I earned my certificate in college counseling from UC San Diego and started my own consulting practice.


Me: I'll bet you've seen a lot of changes during this time of the COVID pandemic. What are you most concerned about during this time?


Jennifer: I am concerned about the well-documented spike in stress, anxiety and depression in our teens and especially for those students with learning differences. I think a lot about what else we adults can be doing to support these students. In many cases the social, emotional and academic needs aren’t being met with remote learning. In terms of my specific work, it’s very challenging to get a high school student engaged in the college research and application process when school has lost its meaning and significance. Teens use socialization to help make sense of all the changes and challenges they encounter during high school. Without those in-person experiences, they feel unmoored. So, some students don’t see the point in learning about colleges when they can’t go visit and experience the campuses.


Me: Who do you support and can you tell me a bit about what your services look like?


Jennifer: I work with high school students and the best time to reach out to start services is during a student's sophomore year, though I do see some freshmen. I help students explore their academic interests, community engagement, extracurricular activities and what the idea of the “right fit” college means for each of them. Then we work our way through the entire college application process. I offer comprehensive programs as well as hourly consulting that cover multiple aspects of the college application journey. It’s all about the many steps of discovery along the way. A “good” college is not about prestige and rankings.


Me: Tell me about any piece of advice you have for parents, specifically regarding distance learning.


Jennifer: Be very clear about the need for balance, allow them to space out, give them a way to blow off steam, be creative about social “gatherings” but moreover, be understanding when they can’t engage and need a parent's understanding.


Me: How can families reach you?


Jennifer: The best way to reach me is through my website or families can call (650)564-4948. I offer an initial consultation session free of cost to determine if my services are a good fit for the student and family. If families want to learn more about college consulting or find a provider in a local area, there are two professional organizations I refer to and am a member of. They are the Independent Educational Consultants Association and the Higher Educational Consultants Association.


Fellow readers, if you've made it to the end of this article, and you're interested in learning more about my practice at JP LEP, please head over to my website. I provide psycho-educational and school neuropsychological evaluations, Executive Function Coaching, and Parent Coaching following my assessments and Educational Coaching for any questions related to learning challenges and navigating the educational system. And again, my video interviews and podcasts with Jennifer and many others can be found on my website under the Resources and Podcast tabs or at EduSwitchboard on your favorite podcast player!

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