Nothing Much to Say

I feel for these kids. I was helping out at a college application bootcamp a couple of weeks ago at a great independent school—one that, in its very intimate setting, places a lot of emphasis on the personal development of its students—and I was making rounds as the seniors had designated time to work on starting their college essays. They’d discussed potential topics the day before, and went through some of the classic do’s and don’t’s of the process using a couple chapters from Harry’s Bauld’s book as a jumping-off point. I am sitting with one student, asking question after question, trying to elicit any information about him that I could. He surfs, he goes to school, he has a younger sibling. He doesn’t know where he wants to go to school. He has lived in the same house all his life. He thinks his school is “pretty cool.” Nothing really traumatic has every happened in his family. He’s never been to a funeral, his parents are still together, they both work regular 9 - 5 sorts of … [Read more...]

July ’14

Summer can feel so strange as an IEC. It’s quiet…and yet not. It’s busy. I’m all over the place. No one is in school—that’s part of it. Students and families are all busy with summer camp and vacation. I’m meeting with students at hours that feel so odd. Morning? A lunchtime meeting? I get to choose, and actively manage my schedule around LA traffic? It seems so convenient, and yet it’s chaotic, as I’m used to doing all of my office/maintenance/developmental work during the day and meeting with students after hours. Plus I have trips, visits, little vacations of my own, but almost always with some work element incorporated (e.g., I was in Chicago visiting my parents this past weekend, but wouldn’t have dreamed of missing out on dropping in on DePaul’s new theater building). There’s no rhythm, in other words, which is essential to being an effective business owner/operator and service provider. It’s so much easier when the school week creates a structure to which you must mold … [Read more...]

The Big Rift

I’ve been mulling over the uncomfortable but rather pressing conversation started during the WACAC conference:  how can school-based college counselors and IECs work together more effectively? I’ve been trying to boil the problem down a bit. It seems to stem from a nasty mix of ego and ignorance, money and mistrust—a lot of negative images. School counselors have plugged themselves into a system from which they are contractually  guaranteed security in exchange for their expertise and ultimately X hours of their time. Contributing any extra time or effort—as so many school counselors do for the sake of their kiddos—is going above and beyond, an act of generosity. Independents, by contrast, have foregone the all-encompassing salary and benefits. We choose to work on a basis in which the level of reward shows a direct correlation to the amount of energy we put into our work. Many IECs also contribute pro bono services, which often include workshops at local high schools. The way … [Read more...]


Art education is often so completely underrated. You want to develop grit, or other skills that will help you survive in the workplace after college? Make art (and learn about the process of making it). The majority of my students have trained in the arts; that’s how I market myself, given that I’m someone still actively engaged in my own art making. Today I watched the rough cut of an indie feature in which I starred. The experience, even just there in the room with the rest of the ensemble of film artists who made it with me, was breathtaking—terrifying at times, exhilarating at others. After the screening, we were asked to write out our reactions to the film: the themes we’d identified, the scenes we thought best encapsulated the movie as a whole, the aspects of characters that needed further clarification, possible titles for the film, and anything else that we wanted to address. Seeing myself in character, on the screen, doing perhaps the best work of my life, was an … [Read more...]

Indie Scene

I just started work with a student interested in becoming an entrepreneur. And rightly so: he’s handling the business end of a clothing line that he started with a designer friend of his. Let’s call him Nate. Nate is hungry. While his friend works at his drafting table, coming up with LA-chic t-shirt designs, Nate is learning how to code online (using Code Academy) so that he can be hands-on in handling the development of his company’s web presence. He’s working on sourcing the materials, which has, surprisingly to him, been a significant challenge. Nate is doing all the negotiating, managing the budget, heading up the marketing. And he’s excited about all of it. At least he is at this stage: he’s still very much at the outset, still in very close contact with the electricity of the IDEA behind the business. He’s got a long way to go. I think he’ll pull through, but I know from experience that there is a long road ahead. For students that are interested in staking out their … [Read more...]