Elissa Caterfino Mandel & Associates

Getting Noticed; Getting In.

Knowing our students well and helping them express their strengths in the application are the crux of our practice.
We tailor our discussions, so we find a way to reach students wherever they are in the process.  Some students know before they meet us that they want to attend a particular college or university and seek our help in how to best position themselves for success in the application process.  Others do not have a defined list of schools in mind and can benefit from guidance.  
Working collaboratively with families, we help students warm up to the application process by assisting with college-readiness tasks, including assessing students’ courses and activities. 
Initially, we want to see our students the way admissions counselors view them, as candidates.  We ask for transcripts, preliminary test scores and activity descriptions prior to an initial consultation session.  We also like to see and assess a student’s Naviance information.  
But we pride ourselves on “seeing beyond the numbers and lists,” and we attempt to figure out what is unusual about each candidate.
This “search for the difference” begins at the very first meeting when we ask students to articulate what matters to them in high school– subjects they like, teacher and testing styles that work for them, and activities that help them reenergize after a long day at school.  
The characteristics that students choose to emphasize about themselves have to match what admissions officers seek. For example, schools that emphasize public service and a record of getting their graduates into the Peace Corps want to know different things about their candidates than engineering programs or business schools. 
As a source of information and support, we answer questions, ranging from is it important to have a rigorous schedule in every subject, to do summer activities “count” in college applications, to does a student need a third year of a foreign language or science, to will you assess my child’s junior or senior-year schedule.
We review standardized test scores as they come in, making suggestions about whether further testing is needed.
We check in frequently to see how a candidate’s classwork is going and help decide if it’s necessary to bring in subject tutors. Often we suggest that students set up regular meetings with classroom teachers before or after school to make sure they’re on track.
Self-advocacy is as important to eventual college success as strong grades and scores.  We encourage students to get to know the decision makers who contribute to the application, specifically teachers and guidance counselors who write recommendations.
Ultimately, we assist students in expressing their strengths with the application tools they have to work with like the activity list and the essays. 
By providing consistent and thoughtful guidance as students create essays and applications, we teach them how to stand out in a pile of applicants who are sometimes evaluated in fewer than ten minutes.
Our ways of working with students and families, step-by-step and task-by-task, help minimize stress in the home during the college process.