Parents' Community

A place for parents to ask questions and exchange ideas

You have questions about schools, admissions, testing, financial aid. Our experts and some veteran parents have answers. Hear the full scoop from insiders and people who have been there. Submit your questions to our specialized experts, or post it to the forum to discuss with other parents.

Ask The Expert

Risa L., MSEd
Author, speaker and college counselor
Risa is the author of a top book on the admissions process. As a former pre-admissions counselor and recruiter at Hunter College, she leads workshops to help prospective college students and their parents minimize the stress of the application process. She is an alumni interviewer and a frequent speaker at high schools and college fairs.

Q: Your book is about "stalking" admissions officers. What’s the practical advice behind using that word?
A: The title and the rest of the book is really about throwing yourself too intensely into applying to college and missing out on having the high school experiences that admissions officers are actually looking for. Don’t become over-consumed in the process, it becomes counterproductive when you change your essay all the time or get frenetic to join a million clubs that may not be important to you.


Q: Why should families consider hiring a college counselor?
Parents get so involved in the process and it’s inevitably tense. No matter how well you get along with your child there's going to be conflict. The great thing about having a third party is there's a neutral arbitrator who can provide the college admissions perspective.


Q: What is a common mistake you see students make when applying to college?
I have seen the essay take on a crazy importance in the mind of students. They may tackle a broad topic and try to be something that they are not in the essay. The end product comes off disingenuous rather than impressive. The essay is important but you must choose something that is important to you. It has to reflect the culmination of your own work. Similarly, be yourself on the interview – that is who the admissions representatives want to meet.


Q: What’s your advice for students making plans this summer?
Recently there has been a trend of parents sending students overseas to volunteer in third world countries or learn a new language through immersion in order to impress the admissions officers. Don't think that you have to travel halfway around the world to matter to a college. The key is to do something that you are going to have fun doing. If it’s something productive and it relates to your interests then it qualifies. No one pursuit that is going to be better than the other. The phrase “find your passion” is often overused, but admissions officers do really want to see that you are invested in pursuing your interests.


Q: What classes should I take to have an impressive transcript?
This is a tricky question because every high school and every student is different. However, if I have to give one piece of advice about choosing classes it is that admissions committees like to see that you have challenged yourself. That doesn’t mean 10 AP classes, but it does mean taking on classes where you may not always get an A.