New Essay Prompts on the Common Application!

Class of 2017 has the historic honor of being the first class to have new Essay prompts on the Common Application main essay in over eight years! There are several other changes, like the word limit is now 650 words (before 500) and will be strictly enforced. The system is also going completely online this year (read: inevitable problems looming).

I for one am very happy with these changes as I found the old topics quite stale and invoking equally stale responses. I have always appreciated the Topic of Your Choice option over the cheesy "Miss World" like response from the old Diversity prompt or the Issue of National importance (sorry, almost fell asleep again writing that!). Oh, another change, the Topic of you Choice no longer an option!

Without further adeiu, here are the new Prompts:

  • "Some students have a background or story that is so central to their identity that they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story."
  • "Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what lessons did you learn?"
  • "Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?"
  • "Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content. What do you do or experience there, and why is it meaningful to you?"
  • "Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family."

For the full Announcement Download This

My Time (Management)

Download this Template and follow along in the screencast video to take control of your time!

Download Template Here

 After you have download, watch Part 1 of the My Time (Management) Screen Cast:

Here is Part 2 of the My Time (Management) Screen Cast: 11th Grade Students


And Here is Part 2 of the My Time (Management) Screen Cast: 12th Grade Students


Personal Branding - The Secret to Success in Admissions

Ever considered yourself as a brand? Well, its time you started considering yourself as a brand… a Personal Brand.

A Personal Brand is co-related with the values, abilities, and personality traits that each person is associated with.

The Personal Branding Phenomenon is all about taking control, whether you're an ambitious professional, a student or an entrepreneur. It becomes essential to look at how and why Personal Branding works - and how to leverage it to your advantage. Personal Branding is the intersection of three facts, namely what the person is, what he wants to be and what his organization/ customers/ college want him to be. Personal branding highlights certain skills and special talents in a person that other people value.

Personal branding is creating a revolution in the way one manages their careers or businesses. It's a way of clarifying and communicating what makes them different and special. Using these qualities one can separate themselves from their peers so that they can greatly expand their success. Personal branding is the strategy behind the world's most successful people. People like Oprah, Madonna, Richard Branson and Bill Gates. It is the difference between an ordinary career or business and an exceptional one.

Today’s market place has become overcrowded and increasingly sophisticated. In such a situation it becomes essential to stand out and be noticed. Personal Branding is for people who want to take charge of their lives, who want to develop a strong sense of identity and purpose and for people who want to raise their profile and positively influence the way others perceive them.

A trend that is setting in is identifying Personal Branding in the early stages of choosing the right career and aiding students procure admissions in colleges of their choice. After all, Personal branding is more than personal marketing. It is an ideal method to communicate the optimal delta of personal skills with entities that value these skills highly. Education consultancy firms such as, Vector Performance not only assist students in university admissions, but also lay special emphasis on the concept of personal branding. We feel that it is very relevant for students and Professionals who want to proactively manage their career path.

Together, we develop a brand to differentiate you from peers, and capitalize on the uniqueness discovered. Through the consistent expression of a student’s Personal Brand, we help you to stand out and achieve your professional goals.

In the end, The Personal Branding is an authoritative guide to the art and science of managing personal identity.

A Rite of Passage For The Young Adult


Adolescence is a difficult time for young adults; it is a constant tug of war between childhood and adulthood.  Parents expect a certain level of responsibility in their child, and yet with many decisions the young adult makes they will respond with, “You’re not old enough to do that yet!”  Going from the shelter and care of high school, where many of these young adults have scarcely understood how to clean their own clothes much less cook for themselves, to the sometimes bewildering independence of college in a foreign country can be quite a shock to many.  A shock that often affects their academic performance in the first year.

The challenge of this rite of passage into adulthood is for the student to take ownership for his/her life and their choices.  The importance of this is that the student begins to be accountable for their performance, as opposed to parents being the motivating factor for elements of development at this age.  This shift is likely the single most important element of an adolescent’s development and is critical to making the jump to adulthood in a constructive way.  It is not necessarily an easy step though, for either the parent or the young adult because of repetitive patterns in communication that have established a certain way of interacting.

The effect of a professional third party coach is that this person does not fit into the same communication pattern and can develop an unbiased communication with the young adult on the mutual understanding that this is a process undertaken for their development.  It is important to note that this process is an integration of both the parents and the student’s objectives, not a microphone for the parents.  It is often necessary to be the facilitator between these sometimes seemingly divergent goals in order to find middle ground.  The Coach is a senior, experienced and knowledgeable person with excellent communication skills who can develop a relationship with the student, guide the student and be a resource to the student in his/her path towards achievement in their goals.  This is done through various methods and strategies, but the ultimate vehicle is to push the student to make the shift to ownership for his/her life decisions.

One of the most important influences, either negative or positive in a person’s life, regardless of age, is one’s peer group.  We will rise or fall to the expectations of the peer group we have around us.  Young adults are even more susceptible to the power and influence of this as they are still developing their unique personalities and they feel extreme pressure to belong to a group.  Negative influences in the way of unmotivated peers make it extremely difficult for a student to improve their performance.  Like crabs in a bucket, once one starts to pull away, the others pull them back down.  Similarly, if a young adult surrounds himself with positive influences, it is much easier to cultivate achievement.

Vector Performance works with students from 9th grade to 12th grade and also with undergraduate students through a Rite of Passage approach to coaching.  Although the eventual milestones and goals along the way are focused on college admissions, we are focused also on guiding the student through this rite of passage into adulthood.  We provide the type of guidance and mentorship to be a resource for the family in this process while at the same time, preparing the student to get into one of the more competitive schools in the US. 

To Hire or Not to Hire: The Independent Counselor

I was reading through an interesting article last week:

and thought to add some of my own thoughts to this relevant question.

Typically in India you have excellent sources for help with parents, friends and college ranking magazines as you make your way through the college admissions process. But chances are Mom and Dad can offer little more than moral and financial support, friends may be misleading and rankings are not based on where you will fit in best. On average, the ratio of students to college counselors in schools is 150 to 1. In some cases, a single counselor manages the college planning activities of the entire school! That doesn’t leave a lot of one-on-one time for you.  In all but a few cases, these counselors do not have in depth knowledge of the over 3500 universities in the US. 

 A personal college consultant can provide the individualized attention your family needs to properly understand how the college admissions process works. Whether you’re the first person in your family to go abroad to college or your parents are old hands at college admissions, a consultant gives you the edge to find—and get in to—your perfect college fit.


What can an Independent Counselor offer that no one else can?

    •         Personalized, one-on-one consulting time: Make sure that your the counselor does not have so many students that s/he won't be able to focus on you. It is hard to know how many students s/he works with, so speaking to past clients may be best way to find out about personalized attention.

    •         Expertise that only a full-time professional can provide: Does the counselor have another job? Does s/he spend 100% of their time in working on strategies to improve a students knowledge of and chances at getting into the best school for their own goals and objectives?

    •         There are no “Tricks of the trade”! If the counselor uses phrases like "I have contacts in Ivy Universities", or "I Placed students", they are probably not right for you. Navigating the process of admissions is challenging, but there is no special magic involved.

    •         Unbiased, inside knowledge of a wide range of colleges—you may be surprised to learn where you’re best suited to attend!  Personalized plan for finding the “right fit” school for each unique student ~ no cookie cutter type college choice questionnaires. While I do not believe that it is necessary for someone to have studied abroad to be a good independent counselor, I would test their knowledge of universities abroad. Questions to ask the potential counselors to judge this: "How often do you tour colleges abroad, can I read about your recent trips somewhere?" "Are you a member of any counseling associations?" (They should be member of either IECA (Independent Educational Consultants Association) or OACAC (Overseas Association for College Admissions Counseling).

    •         Complete understanding of how the admissions process works in various locations—from test preparation and college search to financial aid, applications and transition. This should not be presented as "Hand Holding", but instead the goal should be to empower the student to succeed in this process using the counselor as a resource.

    •         Personal insight into your individual goals, which can shape where you want to go and what you want to study: The 10 Year “forwards to backward technique”.  Career exploration, choosing majors, understanding the living-learning environment. Find out how s/he keeps in touch with students once they leave. Again, if a counselor works with too many students, this is not possible.

    •         Understanding of what it takes for admission into the nation’s most competitive schools: Indian families very often have aspirations for the most selective colleges in the US and UK. You are not looking for the independent counselor to be your Cheerleader, but to give you Frank and Honest advice.

 Many private counselors will have specific questionnaires or feedback databases to help you find the right fit, these are general searches that typically asks you important questions about your academic history, personal background, future career and college goals, and what types of things you would like to discuss with your consultant. What extra-curricular activities do you participate in? How many? Do you have a part-time job? What grades did you receive in which classes?  While all of these questions are very important, sometimes students have not really defined these yet.  This is one of the most important areas to define prior to targeting schools.  This is time consuming and requires input from the entire family, how does this potential counselor incorporate the family into the decision?

Competition for acceptance in colleges and universities is at an all-time high. But more importantly, this is a huge investment and you want to be sure that you are choosing the right fit for you. In this kind of environment, it pays to have someone with the time, expertise, and commitment to ensure you get in where you want to go.  I always look at it this way, if you are making a $200,000 + investment, wouldn't you want to have a professional help with the due diligence first? But, you need to do your own due diligence to make sure that the "professional" is actually a Professional!