Educational Consultant Spotlight: Kate Henderson

March 7th, 2014

Kate Henderson v2

Academic Futures, Inc. is located in Johns Creek, GA and offers comprehensive college and career counseling for high school students.  The process involves an individualized approach to determine each student’s unique interests, strengths, passions, and vision for the future.  Academic Futures provides a methodical approach to the somewhat overwhelming college admissions process. This includes individualized timelines and action plans allowing students to evaluate and prepare each part of the college application process in an organized manner so they are able to present their strongest profile.

Academic Futures, Inc. was founded by President, Leigh Anne Spraetz, who has been assisting students with the college and career process for 18 years.  Kate Henderson joined in June 2012 after a career in college admissions.  Kate’s time on the college admissions side was spent assisting students and families with each part of the enrollment process including admission, scholarships, and financial aid.  Kate spends time on the road each year touring between 40-60 colleges in order to help guide students to consider colleges that are a good fit.  Kate remains active in a variety of local, regional, and national professional organizations and currently serves on several committees.

Partner Profile: Leigh Ann Spraetz of Academic Futures, Inc.

March 7th, 2014

As a lifelong proponent of learning and finding one’s own journey, I have worked with teens and young adults for over 16 years. My process involves an individualized approach, as I believe every student is unique in his or her interests, strengths, passions and vision for the future.

Kate Henderson, a former recruiter for a large university, has joined my practice. She brings knowledge and expertise from an admissions perspective as we guide our students.

Our college and career services are based on the student – his or her input, assessments, goals and needs. We provide a methodical, individualized approach to the admissions process, along with a timeline and updated action plan at each session, so the student is in control and well-prepared along each step. This allows for the process to be a learning experience, rather than a race to the finish line. Students have time to evaluate and prepare each piece of the application in an organized manner so they can present their strongest profile.

I have found over the years that even my most accomplished students often do not have or take the time to assess their strengths, who they want to become or to make a plan to get there. This is the most exciting part of our job, to help students take the time to do this.

We work with one student at a time, focusing on them holistically as we prepare a college list and numerous action plans. Our process allows students to cast a vision for their future, and provides positive encouragement while breaking down the process into small steps so each piece can be done well. We encourage students to develop a resume that reflects who they are, versus trying to add exhausting activities to keep up with what are perceived requirements for acceptance.

Please read our video and written testimonials on our website to learn more about how our process has benefited students and parents. www.academicfutures.com We offer 30-minute free consults for students and parents to get questions answered. Please call our front office to schedule at 678-893-5300.

Finding Balance in Preparing for College

March 7th, 2014

Leigh Anne SpraetzRecently, I attended the first Georgia showing of Race to Nowhere: The Dark Side of America’s Achievement Culture, a documentary about the stress-filled, anxiety-provoking lifestyles many students face in high school today, while focusing heavily on the impending future of college admissions. I urge you to watch the original trailer. My junior parents who viewed this at my opening seminar this year all stated that it was hard to watch. If it is hard to watch, you know it is harder to experience.

I increasingly use my counseling skills every year in my college counseling practice. I tell students that we aren’t going to base the whole senior year on the future outcome of the admissions decision of one single school, or in convincing them that an essay/application is “good enough – it’s time to let it go.” I make deals with parents regarding backing off and giving the grades, college discussions… a break so the student can be just that, a high school student, for a while. I know I talk out of both sides of my mouth. I am the one often emailing and calling these students to see where they are on the action item that was due to me last week. But I am also the one trying to ensure there is balance in this process.

I had read “The Blessing of a Skinned Knee” by Denise Pope, Ph.D, and “The Price of Privilege” by Madeline Levine, Ph.D, both referenced in the film. I had heard both speak. I also had heard Denise Pope, senior lecturer at Stanford University School of Education, give the opening address at an annual independent educational consultants conference. She spoke about the rise in college freshman anxiety and depression being documented by college counseling offices. She claimed that students were arriving to campus burned out, or arriving as a “shell of themselves”, not knowing who they were or what to do with free time, because their whole lives had been overscheduled, with every minute of their day already planned while being carted from one activity to the next.

Students have so much pressure today, and it saddens me to hear them comparing how late their study hours go into the night as early as 9th grade, as if it is a badge of honor. I routinely have students who stay up until 3:00 in the morning doing homework. What adults do you know who would do well after working seven hours straight, then going to a specialized activity for the next 3+ hours for vigorous practice or performance, and then coming home to hours of more work?

Studies continue to support the fact that many of the available jobs in the next decade will demand a stronger EQ (emotional intelligence) than IQ. We have to give our students time to socialize in person, to learn the give and take of relationships, and not only rely on facebooking or texting late at night in order to pursue this important task of adolescence development.

Much needs to be done to complete the college process well, but with proper planning it can be done while balancing a normal load in life. I tour 40-60 colleges per year and see many college applications each year. I know a great deal is asked of our students in order to add substance as they complete each section of the applications. However, I strongly believe that students need to take time to figure out who they are, and start to take an initial stance on who they want to become. They need to focus on what they enjoy and what they are interested in, and develop depth in these areas. This is not the time to add 10 more activities into their schedules because “it will look good on applications.” We have to strive to hold our students to high expectations, to expect them to do well in their jobs (school) but to do this in a rational, balanced manner, as we strive to do ourselves. That is, if we want to see well-adjusted, balanced happy young adults after reaching the all-important goal of obtaining a college degree.

If you want to learn more about the impact of stress and the related anxiety and depression many students face today because of their overwhelming, overloaded schedules, find a way to see the movie “Race to Nowhere” or read the above books.

Can what I post on Facebook actually hurt my chances of getting accepted?

March 7th, 2014

I was recently asked to contribute to a blog for a college website designed to answer hot topic questions for college applicants. The question for that posting was: Can what I post on facebook actually hurt my chances of getting accepted?

My reply was yes, what is posted on Facebook can potentially hurt chances of acceptances. I warn students of this every year. Most colleges, especially the large ones, do not have the time or interest for policing facebook postings. However, they potentially could, so why take the risks? We hear in the news where politicians are caught and face consequences due to an unwise posting, as are unfaithful spouses, employees… The chances may be low, but as we all know, what is put in writing can come back to haunt us. The same goes for Twitter or any other social media network.

Facebook postings can also hinder students in keeping acceptances. As travel budgets and resources are cut in college admissions offices, many are enhancing their social media focus to connect with students. Therefore, as you “friend” a college, they can potentially see what you and your friends post. Admissions officers may also google to find out more information about you before they interview you, or to verify something that really stands out in your application. This could lead them straight to your facebook page.

Recently, I heard two Admissions Deans discuss how posts cost students; one an acceptance and one a scholarship. One posted about an underage, illegal activity he planned on providing his freshman year; his acceptance was rescinded. The other trashed the college, disappointed that she wasn’t accepted to her first-choice school. She was being considered for a substantial scholarship, which was awarded to another student because of her post.

Beyond admissions, postings could potentially hurt your chances of acceptance into groups you may want to join, such as student government, fraternities or sororities, and perhaps more detrimental, a future employer. Colleges may be called for roommate changes, based on what is seen on facebook. Do you really want to start your college experience with this baggage, after you have worked so hard for so long for an acceptance? Colleges and employers want to see students who have integrity, ethics, moral standards and sound reasoning. Consider this when making public any information about yourself.

Submitting Impressive College Applications

March 7th, 2014

Seniors in high school will soon begin completing college applications, if they haven’t already started. At Academic Futures, we have been busy working on these with our students since most applications became available on August 1st. The biggest news is that the Common Application, an organization that provides one “common” application for over 500 colleges, presented a total overhaul with many new changes for the CA4. www.commonapp.org Students are fortunate if several of the colleges on their list use what is best known as the Common App.

Students need to be very organized in order to present impressive applications. They should know where they intend to apply, and why. This helps to ensure that their list makes sense to them versus haphazardly applying to schools. Randomly applying to colleges can result in students applying to too many “reach” schools, so they end up with few options, or to too many “likely” schools, while they could have reached higher. We work hard with our students to develop a balanced list in their junior year so this piece of the process is already determined well before August 1st.

Next, students should pay very close attention to the portions of the application which require a written response. The essay often takes the place of the interview, which many colleges no longer offer due to the rising number of applications received each year. (UGA received over 21,000 and Georgia Tech received over 17,600 in the 2013 application year). Students need to carefully read the essay prompts to ensure they answer each portion of the question. Some may ask for three or more points to be addressed, such as one of the 2014 essay prompts for the University of Pennsylvania, “The Admissions Committee would like to learn why you are a good fit for your undergraduate school choice (College of Arts and Sciences, School of Nursing, The Wharton School, or Penn Engineering). Please tell us about specific academic, service, and/or research opportunities at the University of Pennsylvania that resonate with your background, interests, and goals.” 400-650 words

Students should next strategically think of the most important or most impressive topic to discuss. It can be a small “slice of life” story that tells more about who they are: their passion, their personality, or their hobbies or interests. They may want to stay away from topics that many others will write about such as sports or mission trips. Colleges repeatedly say each year that these two topics, which are important and valued experiences, are the most overdone essay responses.

Students should have a resume prepared which includes high school activities because they will have to list these on most applications. Usually, applications allot 10 slots for these, and students are asked to provide a brief description of each activity, as well as how many hours per week and weeks per year were spent in each activity.
It is a good idea to prepare the written responses in a Word document so spelling and the word count can be checked. It is also a good idea to have a parent check all personal information so the birth date, social security number, address, etc., all are recorded correctly so the application isn’t delayed because information does not match.

Finally, students should look at the deadlines for each college on their list and make a timeline to be sure enough time is set aside to meet them. Every year colleges talk about the midnight crash of their system or about the large number of students who submit right before the deadline. This often can lead to mistakes, to missing information, or to quickly written responses that don’t really demonstrate the best qualities of students.

Impressive applications require time, planning and thought. Students should clearly be able to state why they are a good fit for each school on their list. They should check their information carefully, but most importantly, they should toot their horns as much as they honestly can, which can sometimes be uncomfortable at this age. Taking the time to think about how to demonstrate the strongest points of who you are ultimately leads to submitting the strongest applications.

It’s not about where you get in, but where you FIT in!

March 7th, 2014

The phrase “college fit” has been bouncing around for a while and in the craziness of application season, it sometimes is forgotten. Many students and families get wrapped up in the frenzy of rankings, myths, school names, where their best friend is going, etc… and often miss the importance of searching for a college that “fits” the student. Many important factors go into finding a college that fits.

Spending most of my career in the college admissions side, I often spoke to students whom I knew would not be a good “fit” for my institution. Of course, you want every student that you come in contact with to fall in love with your school. You try hard to make what they are interested in a reality for your institution. This cannot only hurt your institution, but the student. Colleges are not only concerned with application numbers and meeting their enrollment goals, but also with the retention of first-year students. They strive to not only enroll a student, but also to have that student graduate in a suitable amount of time.

With more than 3,800 colleges in the U.S., this task can seem overwhelming. Students need to start this process by exploring who they are, who they want to become, and what they want out of their college experience. Once this is determined, they can focus on exploring colleges that meet these goals. What fits for one student may not fit for another student. There are many opportunities for students to learn more about their personality, career interests, and college majors to help in the process for finding their fit. Leigh Anne Spraetz and I offer these assessments through our testing and counseling process at Academic Futures, Inc. at The Summit Counseling Center.

One of the most important factors in deciding on which college fits the student is the campus tour. Hearing from college recruiters and reading information online is one thing, but actually putting yourself in the campus environment can be entirely different! The visit allows you to “try on” that college for the day. Can you see yourself here for the next four years? Is it a comfortable distance from home? Is it a financial fit for you? Do the current students seem to be people you want to surround yourself with for the next four years? Does it offer the academic environment and extracurricular activities you are looking for? You can hear from alumni and current students about how great their experiences have been and how much they love their institution, but the choice is yours. Make sure to visit more than once and see the campus in its different seasons. Does it fit you and what you want out of your college experience? In the end, if you take the time to explore these factors, you will know which college fits you!

Top 10 Skills High School Students Need To Develop In Preparation For College

March 7th, 2014

It’s never too early to start thinking about preparing for college. This Top 10 list has been developed through many years of attending conferences, listening to college admission professionals, and touring a variety of colleges and universities around the U.S.

  • Study Skills: A student’s GPA for college admissions starts in the 9th grade (sometimes 8th for foreign language and math courses).
  • Time Management and Organizational Skills: Since students’ schedules have been pre-planned for them by the demands of high school, they often haven’t had experience at setting priorities with choices in what to do with their time.
  • Written and Communication Skills: Written and communication skills are often the top academic skills that educators say students today are lacking.
  • Resiliency: An important trait for students to develop… the ability to bounce back from setbacks, disappointments, and failures.
  • Self-Awareness: Many choose a college major based on what they have “learned” through media or heard about from friends, with little awareness about themselves and how a major or even a college could be a fit.
  • Problem-solving Skills: College faculty and administration continue to report that many students are used to having answers and support on demand; that they aren’t able to solve basic problems without consulting someone else.
  • Social Skills: As jobs in our nation continue to move toward the service industry sector, social skills will continue to become important for students finding life-long success in their careers and relationships.
  • Independence: Students must learn, with increased opportunity in their high school years, that independence and freedom must be earned by showing respect and responsibility.
  • Assertiveness: Students need to learn more about being assertive, rather than being passive or aggressive when resolving conflicts.
  • Financial Management: It is important to discuss expectations and a budget before a student leaves home.

Early is on time, on time is late, and late is unacceptable!

March 7th, 2014

This famous quote rings true to many of us throughout our lives. After joining a student organization in college, this quote was emphasized at the beginning of every meeting for us to understand the importance of time. It stuck with me, and I have continued to follow and use it with myself and others. For high school seniors, this quote applies perfectly for submission of college applications. A majority of applications open before high school seniors have been given the locker combinations for their senior year. August 1 tends to be a popular time for colleges to release their updated application for that year’s graduating class. With the release of the application also come deadlines. Whether students are applying Early Action, Early Decision, or Regular Decision, there is a date set by the college for the application and supporting documents to be received. In our line of business, early is on time!

At Academic Futures, we work with high school seniors to establish an application timeline for all applications to make sure they are received well ahead of their intended deadline. You never know what curve ball life can throw you and waiting until the last minute can mean you are too late! You cannot plan for sicknesses, for family events, or for when your Literature teacher will assign the next research paper. You also cannot plan for the college’s application website to go down due to too many users, reported system errors, or failure to accept your form of payment. Applying on the deadline, which is technically on time, can sometimes mean you’re too late. If a college experiences glitches in their system they can be lenient to allow extra time to submit an application‒as we have seen this year with several colleges extending their Early Action and Early Decision deadlines due to Common Application issues. However, the stress of missing this deadline can be too much to handle for students, parents, and counselors!

Having spent time on the opposite side of the desk, I know that a student missing a deadline for admission or scholarship processes do not hold up strong during committee review. The deadlines are posted on the college’s website, printed in materials, and voiced to the students during college fairs and private visits. The last thing an admissions rep wants to hear is “I did not know yesterday was your deadline.” Really?!?! Late is unacceptable.

So, for any high school seniors out there waiting until December 1 to submit their scholarship applications or until January 10 to apply Regular Decision, remember that on time could mean you are late and being late can mean your application is unacceptable. Check your colleges’ websites for all deadlines and set your own deadline a couple of weeks prior to this date. This can ensure that your application is in early and that it is ON TIME!

Kate Henderson Joins Academic Futures College Consulting Practice

April 28th, 2012

Auburn University recruiter Kate Henderson has joined the Academic Futures team at The Summit Counseling Center in Alpharetta, announced Leigh Anne Spraetz, LPC, NCC, president of the group.

Academic Futures, Inc. specializes in college and career counseling for high school students and young adults. Founded by Spraetz, the 15-year-old practice serves students from many North Fulton public and private high schools, as well as college students who are still trying to decide on their major.

During her seven-year career in college admissions, Henderson has worked with both small and large institutions. A graduate of Auburn University with a B.A. in communications and a master’s degree in higher education administration, Henderson most recently served Auburn as a regional recruiter. In that position, she assisted Atlanta area students and their families with each part of the college selection process, including admission, scholarships, and financial aid.

“I am so excited to have Kate join my practice,” said Spraetz. “I have worked closely with her for many years. My students have always commented on the professionalism and warmth she offers in her interactions. I know she will provide the same for my clients through her knowledge of college admissions from her experience at Auburn University as well as in working with numerous admissions representatives and recruiters from other colleges. I regret taking such a valuable resource away from my Alma Mater and know she will be sorely missed, but I am thrilled to have her join Academic Futures.”

Henderson also has been a mentor for new regional recruiters and is active in a variety of professional organizations on the local, regional, and national levels. She will begin transitioning her duties at Auburn University and will start working with students at Academic Futures on June 1.

Academic Futures added another new staff member earlier this year: Sonja Maxwell, M.A., a licensed clinician, who assists Spraetz with the six hours of career testing and exploration which helps students gain a strong sense of self-awareness.

Academic Futures works with high school students from freshmen to seniors. “We help students develop a vision for their future academic plans, understand their strengths and how to demonstrate this knowledge in their high school experiences, extracurricular activities, and applications” said Spraetz.

Spraetz typically tours 40 to 60 colleges across the country each year. She develops an individualized college list for each student and then coaches the college-bound students through the application process, including advice on writing their application essays. “We help them develop ideas,” she said. “But they write their own essays; then we review them for clarity. We provide an action plan to keep them focused, encouraged, and moving forward.”

Top Ten Strengths and Experiences Colleges look for in High School Students

September 8th, 2010
  1. A rigorous high school curriculum that challenges the student and may include AP or IB classes.
  2. Grades that represent strong effort and an upward trend. However, slightly lower grades in a rigorous program are preferred to all As in less challenging coursework.
  3. Solid scores on standardized tests (SAT, ACT). These should be consistent with high school performance.
  4. Passionate involvement in a few activities, demonstrating leadership and initiative. Depth, not breadth, of experience is most important.
  5. Letters of recommendation from teachers and guidance counselor that give evidence of integrity, special skills, positive character traits, and an interest in learning.
  6. A well-written essay that provides insight into the student’s unique personality, values, and goals. The application essay should be thoughtful and highly personal. It should demonstrate careful and well-constructed writing.
  7. Special talents or experiences that will contribute to an interesting and well-rounded student body.
  8. Demonstrated leadership in activities. Colleges want people who will arrive prepared and willing to take leadership of student activities and events.
  9. Demonstrated intellectual curiosity through reading, school, leisure pursuits, and more.
  10. Demonstrated enthusiasm to attend, often exhibited by campus visits and an interview, showing an interest toward attending the college.

Based on a Survey of IECA member consultants

Download the PDF: IECA CollegeTopTenList