How To Prepare For College, Wall Street (or Main Street) – and Every Street Beyond

By: Barbara Leventhal | Last Updated: May 22, 2023


student standing on college campus

Creativity. Ingenuity. Innovation. Inspiration. Dedication… They’re all part of my daily work when I’m guiding students by helping them prepare for, apply to, and secure acceptance at their best-fit colleges.

As an educational consultant specializing in college counseling, it’s my mission to ensure that students not only find and get accepted into their best-fit colleges – but also that they’re set up for success once they get there and after they graduate. My goal-oriented, project-based approach is designed to help students stand out to college admission officers by having an impact inside and outside of the classroom.

While guiding students toward discovering and achieving their desired career paths, I’m often told by parents that I have a knack for helping students determine – and achieve – what they want to be when they grow up. And sometimes I find inspiration in the most unexpected places… like when I recently accompanied my husband to a business conference.

Although the gathering didn’t target educational consultants, I attended with a purpose: to explore the latest advancements in technology. By learning about emerging trends, I can anticipate potential college majors and help high school students develop the skills necessary for future careers. I consider myself an “educational talent scout,” constantly seeking or creating new opportunities for the students whom I mentor.

As an outsider at this conference, I saw things through a different lens with a fresh perspective. In addition to seeking out new technology and inspiration for potential college majors, I was on the lookout for possible internships, project ideas, and even future employment for my students.

While circulating amid the various vendors, I was drawn to certain technology-oriented and FinTech-related booths. Although they had ostensibly nothing to do with college consulting – something clicked. I sensed opportunity. For example, because I had recently read an article about sports betting in the Journal of Higher Education, my college-advising radar spotted a booth for a revolutionary new sports-betting tech company.

As the proverb proclaims, ‘seek and you shall find’. My conference was a success! I even emailed a list of potential opportunities to one of my clients – a student majoring in computer science at the University of Florida. I advised him to research the list of companies I encountered, then reach out to inquire about internships, or possibly a future job.

DON’T Follow Your Passion (Passion Dissipates)

In my profession, continually thinking outside the box goes with the territory. And by getting to know and understand my student clients, I can help each one cultivate personal interests and strengths, and identify limitations. I use this information to help students create and identify custom-tailored long-term goals, impactful activities, relevant competitions, and character-building projects to make them stand out in the competitive college admissions process.

Every college is looking for students who can make some sort of contribution – students with accomplishments that have had impact beyond a collection of random volunteer hours. Colleges want applicants who demonstrate personal traits like leadership, creativity, initiative, teamwork, problem-solving skills, and grit.

One way I help my students demonstrate these traits is by encouraging them to use their unique interests and abilities to develop what I’ve branded ‘Leading-Edge Projects.’ Some people call them ‘passion projects’ and advise students to follow their passion – but for most high school students, passion dissipates quickly. I consult with my students and help them create projects with staying power – leading-edge, purpose-driven projects that truly demonstrate their unique talents, have a positive impact on others, and give students a competitive edge in college admission.

Leading Edge Projects are as distinctive and diverse as the students who develop and complete them. For example, while brainstorming ideas, I suggested that Kaylie – a high-school senior and aspiring finance major – research the recent crypto currency scandals as her Leading Edge Project. Kaylie ran with it, creating a series of engaging podcasts called “Crypto Catastrophes.”

Another student, Harrison, turned his interest in fishing into an impactful Leading Edge Project by creating “Filet For Friends.” Harrison and his friend had been cleaning and freeze-drying their catches and donating them to a local food bank. I encouraged Harrison to think bigger by reaching out to Florida fishing tournament organizers to persuade them to donate their catches to Filet For Friends. Not only did the tournament oblige – but they were so impressed with Harrison’s Leading Edge Project that they contacted the Florida Fish and Wildlife Association, which sent a journalist to interview Harrison for an article about “Filet For Friends.” Harrison’s efforts paid off – he’s currently attending Stanford University.

Jonah’s Leading Edge Project involved making sure foster children who were admitted to Florida colleges had everything necessary to properly furnish their dorms. He created ‘Dream Dorm Decorators’ in cooperation with ‘Best Foot Forward,’ hoping to furnish 10 dorm rooms – but ended up furnishing more than double that amount. Jonah’s leading edge project got noticed – he graduated from the University of Miami and is currently attending law school.

These are just a few of the many success stories demonstrating how – by working with students and taking their interests and unique personal qualities into consideration – a qualified independent college counselor like me can give students a competitive edge when it comes to college admission.

To Infinity… And Beyond

Whether a student is preparing for a career on Wall Street or on Main Street, the process is similar – but each student is unique.

Students must determine what they’re good at, what they value, and what real-world problems interest them – especially if they want to get into an Ivy League or any other highly selective college. Students should connect with new technologies and start to think about how they can lead, learn, support, create, and serve – how they can make a positive impact.

Along the way, I encourage aspiring college students and those already attending college to join professional associations related to their intended majors. A marketing major might join the American Marketing Association (AMA), an aspiring author might join the Florida Writer’s Association, and an accounting major might seek membership in the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), for example. I also suggest that students pursue certifications in their fields, when available. For example, a student majoring in elementary or middle school education might get a certification in study skills, or a certification in instructional design. A music education major might become certified in musical performance. Not only does joining professional associations and obtaining certifications help students demonstrate interest, commitment, and professionalism – it can also connect students with invaluable networking and training opportunities.

Another effective beyond-the-classroom opportunity: finding a mentor. I believe that students grow from working with a mentor – a successful professional in the student’s desired field who can provide connections and guidance that can make a positive impact in their future careers.

For added peace of mind and to ensure a smoother college admission process with access to expert advice, I strongly recommend partnering with a qualified independent college counselor – also known as an Independent Educational Consultant (IEC). An IEC offers personalized support to students and families, assisting them in college planning, and applications, and helping ensure overall success in both college and life.

I love my job. As an IEC and college counselor, my goal is to prepare students for the future. l don’t just present students with a list of colleges that match their grades and test scores – that would be boring and uninspiring. Instead, I engage with my kids. I get to know them and find out what they value, and what they’re interested in…I help them ignite their inspiration, demonstrate their talents and achievements, and think about ways they can contribute to their university and to the world.

Content is STILL King

Emerging technology is creating new opportunities for college students and future college graduates. Tech companies are continually hiring data scientists and software engineers as well as experts in artificial intelligence, product design and development…critical thinkers, innovators…and so much more. I advise current and future college students to be on the lookout for potential opportunities now and in the future.

Here are a few innovative technology companies that stood out to me at the recent conference I attended:

Kero Sports: It calls itself the next generation of sports betting, with it’s revolutionary ‘algorithmically curated micro betting’ process. Their services help professional sports teams, broadcasters, and sports leagues bring a fun, social, and interactive sports betting experience to fans. Their web states that Kero Sports is the “ideal place to work if you are a talented professional who loves sports and is hungry for growth.”

Hour One: It seems too futuristic to be true – but the future is here… Cutting-edge technology and artificial intelligence allows users to create ‘virtual humans’ to host high-quality marketing videos that can be easily, professionally, and quickly produced. The characters are so lifelike that most people wouldn’t believe they aren’t real. Hour One clients include NBC Universal and DreamWorks.

Shotstack helps users create, edit, and distribute data-driven, targeted, and engaging videos and workflows in minutes – without having to spend the time or money creating their own software and servers. It contains revolutionary video- editing capabilities and creative features that allow users to customize videos that get results. Companies like McDonalds, Ikea, Coca Cola, and Nike are using Shotstack.

Sonic Messenger: This is a ground-breaking advertising technology that allows broadcasters to ‘amplify their messages’ by transmitting inaudible tones to mobile devices or computers to create unobtrusive, highly-targeted advertising opportunities. Advertisers can send interactive campaigns to their most-desired

target markets in less than one minute and adjust, update, and measure results almost instantaneously.

TVS Supply Chain Solutions: “Predictive Analytics and Intelligent Decision-Making.” Move over, Google – there’s a new kid in town. Among countless other uses, the company’s predictive analytics and intelligent decision-making capabilities (powered by artificial intelligence and other leading-edge tech) help users predict customer demand, improve customer service and operational efficiency, and help users better target their messages and marketing strategies with real-time data analytics.

What does all this mean to college students (and soon-to-be college students)? Opportunities abound, and students should be prepared to recognize and capitalize upon them. But, no matter what industry students choose, I firmly believe those with strong communication, critical thinking, and presentation skills will always have jobs. Communication is key because when all is said and done, all companies are now content producers – even Wall Street must create content.

Bill Gates coined the phrase, ‘Content is King’ in 1996, and it’s even more true now than it was then. So while Wall Street (and Main Street!) still needs the traditional tech, finance, data analysis, and number-cruncher types…they also need creative individuals to write blogs, create videos, post to social media, write videos… people who can tell their story.

Are you on a mission to tell your story and help get your teen accepted into his or her best-fit college? Contact JRA Educational Consulting to set up a free consultation with Barb or one of our other professional educational consultants. We have one of the most renowned, experienced teams in the industry. We’ve helped thousands of students and their families achieve their dreams – and we can help you!

Topics: College Admission College Planning


Like this post? Share it!

Recent Posts

Posts by Topic

see all

Ready to move to the front of the class?

Let's discuss an educational plan that will get you or your student on a path to success.