Tag Archives: high school

The Role of Your Counselor Recommendation

Most colleges request a letter of recommendation from your high school guidance counselor. This letter serves a unique function in the college admissions process. The counselor is expected to describe your high school environment, place you within the context of your peers, and discuss your unique attributes. “Many college and university admission officers use the counselor recommendation to learn more about the school and the community of the student applying for admission,” says Shawn Abbott, assistant vice president and dean of admissions at New York University.

While your teachers will focus on your academic strengths, your counselor can provide insights about your character, values, and goals. As stated by Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, recommendations “help us look past the numbers and learn more about who the student is.”

Hamilton College’s admissions office advises counselors to “take the time to tell us things we wouldn’t learn elsewhere in the student’s application… To be sure, the single most important factor in our decision-making process is the high school transcript. But your comments and insight provide us with perspective and help us assess fit with our community.”

What questions are asked of counselors?

Beginning with the 2015-16 application year, the Common Application developed a new form for counselors to complete. The Counselor Form consists of several prompts to help admissions officers learn more about who you are as a person and as a student:

  • The duration and context in which you’ve known the applicant (short response)
  • The first words that come to mind to describe the applicant (short response)
  • A broad-based assessment addressing topics like academic and personal characteristics, contextual comments for the applicant’s performance and involvement, and/or observed problematic behaviors that an admissions committee should explore further (long response)

Understanding the recommendation process

The ratio of students per guidance counselor varies widely around the country, but the average is a staggering 476 students per guidance counselor. At most public high schools, there is no dedicated college counselor; instead, guidance counselors incorporate college advising within all their other academic and disciplinary responsibilities.

Some high schools have put procedures in place to help counselors obtain personalized information on students. At Midwood High School, in Brooklyn, which has two counselors for 800 seniors, the guidance office prepares a folder for each senior that includes their contact information, test scores, teacher recommendations, a student profile and autobiographical essay, and a “parent brag sheet” with anecdotal information.

But not all high schools have such an organized and comprehensive system for collecting personalized information about seniors. As a result, the more you can do to help your counselor understand who you are personally, the more effective his or her recommendation letter will be.

How can you help your counselor describe you as effectively as possible?

The strongest recommendations paint a well-rounded portrait of who you are. With that in mind, here are some tips:

Develop and maintain a strong relationship with your guidance counselor. Make regular appointments throughout each school year. Keep your counselor informed of your achievements in academics and activities. In the fall of senior year, stop by to discuss how you spent your summer.

Create a detailed resume that describes your extracurricular activities, internships, employment, and volunteer work in detail. Try to be as descriptive and authentic as possible, and don’t use generic phrases.

Write a 1-2 page letter to your counselor describing your strengths, values, and goals—if your counselor does not ask you to complete a form or essays. Reflect on the following questions, and provide thoughtful responses. If possible, provide specific anecdotes to illustrate your points:

  • What are a few significant experiences that have influenced who you are today?
  • What obstacles or challenges have you been faced with, and how did you overcome these?
  • How do you approach your schoolwork?
  • What are your relationships like with peers, teachers, and advisors?
  • How have you improved your community?
  • What academic areas of study in college interest you? How do these areas relate to your academic accomplishments in high school?
  • Do you have specific career goals at this point?

In addition, provide your counselor with a list of colleges you are currently considering applying to, as well as specialized academic programs if applicable.

For guidance on recommendations and other aspects of the college admissions process, feel free to contact us at www.collegiategateway.com. As always, we’re happy to help!

What is a High School Profile and What Role Does it Play in College Admissions?

College admissions staff always view your transcript within the context of your high school. Colleges recognize that schools vary greatly. As Northwestern states, “Every secondary school is different in its level of competitiveness and in the range of courses offered. These factors are also considered when admission decisions are rendered.”

Each school’s guidance office develops a 2-4 page “school profile” that describes the community and high school.  While there is no standard format for the high school profile, typical information includes the curriculum, grading system, grade distribution, average test scores, and college acceptances.  The profiles tell colleges how rigorous and competitive the high school is, and this information impacts the way a college will evaluate a students’ grades and course selection.

Your GPA

The high school profile typically explains how your GPA is calculated, which includes what courses factor into the GPA, and whether advanced courses receive a weighting. For example, Schreiber High School in Port Washington, NY gives an extra .5 weighting for Honors courses and 1.0 for AP courses.

Students often wonder how they can possibly be compared with students from other high schools. The answer is that in addition to viewing your high school’s approach to your transcript, colleges typically recalculate an unweighted GPA using a standard formula, so that they can compare students from different schools with different GPA scales.  Usually, colleges will use a 4.0 scale, where A+ and A = 4.0, B+ = 3.7, B- = 3.3, B = 3.0, and so on.

Grade and Test Score Distribution

High school profiles also typically include a grade distribution chart showing the percentage of students at different GPA brackets or the distribution of each grade for each course; as well as average standardized test scores for the SAT and ACT.

When viewed alongside average standardized testing scores, GPA information reflects the degree of grade inflation or deflation, and for private schools may also reflect the selectivity of admissions to attend the school. For example, if most students at a school earn As, but have average standardized test scores compared to national or state figures, colleges would conclude that the school has grade inflation.

Rigor of Curriculum

Colleges also evaluate whether you have challenged yourself in your coursework.  Again, colleges view you within the context of the curriculum offered at your school. The variety of curricula include International Baccalaureate, Advanced Placement, both, or neither. Each high school profile clearly describes the curriculum available at the school.

For example, if your high school offers a minimum number of AP courses, you will not be expected to have taken the same number of APs as students with access to a large number of AP courses. For example, Great Neck South High School, a public high school, offers 31 AP courses, as compared with Chaminade High School, a private Catholic school, offers none.

Having said that, it is possible to take courses outside your high school to fulfill your intellectual passion and also demonstrate this to colleges. If you have strong interest in a particular academic area in which coursework is not sufficiently offered at your school, you could consider taking courses outside of school – at a local college or online. For example, students interested in pursuing engineering or other STEM fields sometimes opt to take Multivariable Calculus or Computer Science at a local college or through online courses if their high school does not offer these classes.

For guidance on how to reach your academic potential, feel free to contact us at www.collegiategateway.com. As always, we’re happy to help!

Making the Most of Your Summer Break

Spring is fast approaching…which means it’s time to think ahead to summer!  For high school students, summer represents a break from an intense academic schedule, and the opportunity to pursue your own interests. You have an array of options—whether it’s immersing yourself in the culture of another country, taking courses on topics not available at your school, conducting research in a lab, participating in internships, or performing community service.  Whatever you choose, make sure it’s a great fit for your interests and future goals.  Here are a variety of objectives you can fulfill through your summer activities.

Do Your Summer Experiences Really Matter?

From the perspective of college admissions, your choice of summer activity—and what you gain from the experience—can communicate volumes about your potential to enhance the college campus.  But keep in mind that there does not exist one “right” choice of summer activity; the “best” choice for you depends on a variety of factors, based on your interests, needs and goals.

Goals for Your Summer Activities

In planning your summer, it’s best to begin by identifying what you want to accomplish. Would you like to use your time to further develop an existing passion, find a new one, or take time to recharge? Here’s an overview of several different ways to approach these decisions.

Deepen an existing interest

As you make your summer plans, consider the activities you have pursued during your high school academic years and summers.  Have you enjoyed these activities? Would you like to further your involvement? Many students find that the summer enables them to continue to explore an existing interest, deepen their knowledge, and confirm their dedication to this activity.

Example: Natalie conducted science research in organic chemistry at Columbia University, and won a variety of awards at regional science competitions.  Carrying out extensive research, taking summer science courses at Columbia, and shadowing doctors confirmed her interest in pursuing medicine as a career.  She became a pre-med major at Cornell University, and currently attends New York University School of Medicine.

Students can also use the summer to test out academic interests as possible career paths.

Example: Michael loved the business courses he took in sophomore and junior year, especially those in accounting.  During the following summer, he worked at a men’s retail business in London, arranged through the Summer Discovery Program.  His budgeting work confirmed his desire to pursue a career in business, and he is now at Lehigh University’s College of Business and Economics.

It may also be possible to combine a few goals during the summer.

Example: Amanda was passionate about her art.  Her goal was to attend a top art program at a university.  She also wanted to earn spending money for college.  During the summer, she worked at an ice cream shop, took art classes, and created art in a variety of genres to submit as an Art Portfolio with her college applications.  She is now attending the Stamps School of Art and Design at the University of Michigan.

Explore a new interest

Other students, however, use the summer in an opposite, though equally valid, way: they pursue a new interest in order to explore this field as a potential major, minor, or even career.

Example: Adam especially enjoyed his classes in math and drawing, and wondered if architecture would allow him to combine these passions.  He decided to test this out by taking an intensive six-week “Introduction to Architecture” course at Cornell University.  He found that both the subject matter and the intensity of the all-night work sessions appealed to him. He enrolled in the Architecture School at Washington University in St. Louis and won awards for sustainability projects that incorporated his architectural knowledge.

Some students use the summer to plunge into a totally new area.

Example: Steven had excelled in a traditional high school academic curriculum dominated by the five core subjects. He decided to use the summer to branch out and take courses in entirely new areas. At Oxbridge Academic Programs, he took an interdisciplinary course in philosophy, psychology, and economics and began to read voraciously about this relatively new field. He is now committed to studying interdisciplinary areas, and is particularly interested in pursuing the Biological Basis of Behavior, and Philosophy, Politics, and Economics programs at Penn.

At the same time, a summer experience in which you realize that a particular field is not for you can be just as valuable.

Example: Kristen worked in a local retail store during the summer after junior year because she thought she would like to major in business.  While her responsibilities working with customers and helping with purchasing did not appeal to her, she loved writing fashion blogs.  She is now a Psychology major at University of Southern California, and hopes to pursue a career in social media analytics.

Take a break: re-connect and refresh

For other students, the best use of summer is to reconnect with friends socially and enjoy the continuity of deepening ongoing relationships.

Example: Stacey spent the ten months of every school year in anticipation of attending her summer sleep-away camp. Although her parents felt it might be useful for her to vary her summer activities, Stacey’s strong preference to cap off her eight years at summer camp by serving as a counselor after sophomore year prevailed.  That summer was an enormous growth opportunity for her, as she learned how to be responsible for younger campers and serve as a role model. As a result of her experiences, she decided that she wanted to work with children as a career, and is majoring in Psychology and Early Childhood Education at Tulane.

Some students use the summer to refresh themselves by exploring a totally novel environment.

Example: Li Na grew up in a suburb of Shanghai China, and was eager to attend college in the United States.  She had always been adventurous, and wanted a break after her intense junior year.  After evaluating many options of summer programs, she decided to spend a month in Montana as part of Visions Service Adventures, which combined outdoor activities such as white water rafting with community service work helping the elderly.  She was delighted to discover that she had much in common with the other international students. Her travel experience helped her decide to attend a college with a strong commitment to a diverse student body and extensive study abroad programs, and she is now a sophomore at New York University.

Fulfill academic or financial responsibilities

For some students, summer is a time to fulfill obligations. Academic responsibilities mayinclude taking additional coursework to lighten your load during the year or qualify for higher-level courses. Financial obligations vary from being responsible for the care of younger siblings to help your family save on childcare or earning money through summer work.

Rewards of Summer Activities

Summer activities offer many potential rewards, and will help develop your self-awareness in terms of your personality, preferences, strengths, and interests. As you function independently in an environment outside your home, you may have the chance to solve problems, make decisions, develop resilience and responsibility, and learn how to manage your time.  If you work with others, you can also strengthen your skills in collaboration and teamwork.

In addition, stimulating activities help your brain develop, especially through the teen years!  According to Dr. Jay Giedd, researcher at NIH:

“Use it or lose it! If a teen is doing music or sports or academics, those are the cells and connections that will be hardwired. If they’re lying on the couch or playing video games or MTV, those are the cells and connections that are going to survive.”

Finally, your summer activities may also provide you with some powerful admissions essay topics!  Deciding on the best summer activities for you involves juggling many factors.  As always at Collegiate Gateway, we’re here to help!

National Essay Contests

If you’re a high school student who enjoys writing, there are plenty of national essay contests you can participate in – many of which include large rewards for the winners and finalists!

Awards range from monetary scholarships, cash amounts, all-expenses paid trips, and even donations to school libraries. For example, the JFK Profile in Courage Essay Contest combines scholarships, cash awards and travel: the winner receives a $5,000 cash award, $5,000 to invest in a college savings plan, and travel and lodging expenses to attend the ceremony in Boston.

Each contest has its own requirements, and they fall into a variety of categories: Literary Analysis, Politics & History, Personal Reflection, those geared to specific career fields such as science or journalism, as well as scholarships from religious and ethnic organizations.  Check the application deadlines; if the deadline has passed for 2017, mark your calendar for next year!

Literary Analysis

Literary analysis contests are based on a specific piece of literature, and they are judged on both writing style and content. Judges look for writing that is clear, articulate and logically organized. Students should demonstrate a solid grasp of the themes and messages in the work about which they’re writing. For example, the Ayn Rand Institute hosts yearly essay contests for students from 8th grade through graduate school. Currently, topics center on three of Rand’s popular novels, Anthem (8th, 9th, 10th), Atlas Shrugged (12th grade, college and graduate), and The Fountainhead (11th, 12th).

Penguin’s national essay contest, The 19th Annual Signet Classics Student Scholarship Essay Contest is offered to students in 11th or 12th grade. This contest focuses on a different work each year — The Tempest in 2017 — and requires students to choose one of five topics. The topics include questions about character traits, themes, settings, and values.

Politics & History

Common themes of national essay contests include modern-day politics, past figures, and historical ideals or philosophies. These essays are analytical in nature and tend to be an opportunity for students to develop and enhance research, writing, and critical thinking skills.

The John F. Kennedy Library Foundation invites high school students to “consider the concept of political courage by writing an essay on a U.S. elected official who has chosen to do what is right, rather than what is expedient” through  The Profile in Courage Essay Contest. Students are required to write an essay of 700 to 1,000 words, and to use at least five varied sources.

Open to all high school students, the Sons of the American Revolution offers the George S. & Stella M. Knight Essay Contest. The topic should deal with an event, person, philosophy, or ideal associated with the American Revolution, the Declaration of Independence, or the framing of the United States Constitution. Sources must include published book sources, and the essays are judged on historical accuracy, clarity of thought, organization, grammar, and documentation.

Personal Reflection

A plethora of essay contests allow students to submit reflections of a more personal – rather than historical or literary – nature. Many offer opportunities to write a letter, such as the essay required for the National World War II Museum’s Annual Essay Contest. This competition, “Dear Mr. Thompson,” focuses on the historical letter of James G. Thompson, who brought awareness to the effects of World War II on African Americans. The contest requires students to respond to Thompson’s concerns about the availability of liberty and justice for all Americans, regardless of their race, identity, or background. Though based in a historical context, essays should be written using examples from students’ own lives and experiences.

Some contests allow students to be highly creative and themes are open-ended. The Fleet Reserve Association (FRA) hosts an essay contest for students in 7th through 12th grade to promote the spirit of Americanism and patriotism. The essay is only 350 words, and has the theme “What the United States Flag Stands For.” Similarly, the Joe Foss Institute’s Hayes C Kirby Essay Scholarship Contest asks students to respond to “If not for them…where would we be?” with a minimum of 1500 words. It encourages entrants to be creative, while developing a clearly defined theme.

Specific Career Fields

Many essay contests focus on a specific field of study or career path. We are sad to report that after 30 years, The DuPont Challenge, the premier science essay contest for middle school and high school students, has been discontinued. 250,000 students in the United States and Canada reaped the satisfaction of participating. For students who love research and science writing, the National High School Journal of Science offers the opportunity to publish your research findings, in the areas of biology, chemistry, physics, environment, STEM, and policy.

For those interested in writing and journalism, the Society of Professional Journalists offers a high school essay contest in order to “increase high school students’ knowledge and understanding of the importance of independent media.” In a 300-500 word essay, students respond to a different topic each year. The topic for 2017 was, “Why is it important for a democratic society to have women involved in professional media and legal roles?”

Religious and Ethnic Scholarships

Some contents are sponsored by religious or ethnic groups, which typically require candidates to be affiliated with that particular group.

For example, the National Italian American Foundation has a list of scholarships that it sponsors, but to be eligible, a contestant must have at least one ancestor who emigrated from Italy, a 3.5 to 4.0 GPA, and be an NIAF member or have a parent or guardian who is a member. The Ancient Order of Hibernians, an Irish Catholic organization, has several scholarships available to the children and grandchildren of its members. The Young Christian Leaders Scholarship requires contestants to be active members of their church and submit two letters of recommendation.

The Morris J. & Betty Kaplun Foundation Essay Contests are for students in 7th through 12th grade. These essays focus on questions about maintaining your Jewish identity in a secular world and combating anti-Semitism on college campuses. The B’nai B’rith International Diverse Minds Writing Challenge is open to all high school students in 9th through 12th grade in each city/region where the contest takes place. This contest asks students to write and illustrate a children’s book that tells a story of tolerance, diversity or inclusion. The winner in each city/region receives a $5,000 college scholarship and becomes a published author.

Local Scholarships

Sometimes, the scholarships that you have the greatest chance of winning are those sponsored by your high school or city/town because the pool of applicants is smaller, and you likely have a stronger connection to the sponsoring organizations. Many high school guidance offices or parents’ associations have a list of scholarships that you can apply to. Some even post scholarships on the school website. For example, Paul D. Schreiber High School, Scarsdale High School, and Locust Valley Central School District, all list scholarships that vary in whether they are awarded based on merit or financial need.

In Conclusion

Students with an interest and talent in writing should explore the many opportunities that lie within national essay contests. With such a wide range of topics, there’s something for everyone, and you may even start to build up some funds for college!

Of course, there are many more essay competitions and scholarship opportunities than are mention here. If you’d like to learn more, contact Collegiate Gateway – we’re always happy to help.

 

Making the Most of Your Summer Break

 

Spring is fast approaching…which means it’s time to think ahead to summer!  For high school students, summer represents a break from an intense academic schedule, and the opportunity to engage in a new world. You have an array of options –whether it’s immersing yourself in the culture of another country, taking courses on topics not available at your school, conducting research in a lab, participating in internships, or performing community service.  Whatever you choose, make sure it’s a great fit for your interests and future goals.  Here are a variety of objectives you can fulfill through your summer activities.

Do Your Summer Experiences Really Matter?

From the perspective of college admissions, your choice of summer activity – and what you gain from the experience – can communicate volumes about your potential to enhance the college campus.  But keep in mind that there does not exist one “right” choice of summer activity; the “best” choice for you depends on a variety of factors, based on your interests, needs and goals.

Goals for Your Summer Activities

In planning your summer, it’s best to begin by identifying what you want to accomplish. Would you like to use your time to further develop an existing passion, find a new one, or take time to recharge? Here’s an overview of several different ways to approach these decisions.

Deepen an existing interest

As you make your summer plans, consider the activities you have pursued during your high school academic years and summers.  Have you enjoyed these activities? Would you like to further your involvement? Many students find that the summer enables them to continue to explore an existing interest, deepen their knowledge, and confirm their dedication to this activity.

Example:

Natalie conducted science research in organic chemistry at Columbia University, and won a variety of awards at regional science competitions.   Carrying out this extensive research, taking summer science courses at Columbia, and shadowing doctors confirmed her interest in pursuing medicine as a career.  She became a pre-med major at Cornell University, and currently attends New York University School of Medicine.

Students can also use the summer to test out academic interests as possible career paths.

Example:

Michael loved the business courses he took in sophomore and junior year, especially those in accounting.  During the following summer, he worked at a men’s retail business in London, arranged through the Summer Discovery Program.  His budgeting work confirmed his desire to pursue business, and he is now at Lehigh University’s College of Business and Economics.

It may also be possible to combine a few goals during the summer.

Example:

Amanda was passionate about her art.  Her goal was to attend a top art program at a university.  She also wanted to earn spending money for college.  During the summer, she worked at an ice cream shop, took art classes, and created art in a variety of genres to submit as an Art Portfolio with her college applications.  She is now attending the Stamps School of Art and Design at the University of Michigan.

Explore a new interest

Other students, however, use the summer in the opposite, though equally valid, way: they pursue a new interest in order to explore this field as a potential major, minor, or even career.

Example:

Adam especially enjoyed his classes in math and drawing, and wondered if architecture could be a way to combine these passions.  He decided to test this out by taking an intensive six-week “Introduction to Architecture” course at Cornell University.  He found that both the subject matter and the intensity of the all-night work sessions appealed to him. He enrolled in the Architecture School at Washington University in St. Louis and won awards for sustainability projects that incorporated his architectural knowledge.

Some students use the summer to plunge into a totally new area.

Example:

Steven had excelled in a traditional academic curriculum in high school dominated by the five core subjects. He decided to use the summer to branch out and take courses in entirely new areas. At Oxbridge Academic Programs, he took an interdisciplinary course on Philosophy: Of Mind and Morals that changed his life.  He was exposed to behavioral economics and began to read voraciously about this relatively new field that combined psychology and economics. He is now committed to studying interdisciplinary areas, and is particularly interested in pursuing the Biological Basis of Behavior, and Philosophy, Politics, and Economics programs at Penn.

At the same time, a summer experience in which you realize that a particular field is not for you can be just as valuable.

Example:

Kristen worked in a local retail store during the summer after junior year because she thought she would like to major in business.  While her responsibilities working with customers and helping with purchasing did not appeal to her, she loved writing blogs.  She is now a Psychology major at University of Southern California, and seeks a career in social media analytics.

Take a break: re-connect and refresh

For other students, the best use of summer is to reconnect with friends socially and enjoy the continuity of deepening ongoing relationships.

Example:

Stacey spent the ten months of every school year in anticipation of attending her summer sleep-away camp. Although her parents felt it might be useful for her to vary her summer activities, Stacey’s strong preference to cap off her eight years at summer camp by serving as a counselor after sophomore year prevailed.  That summer was an enormous growth opportunity for her, as she learned how to be responsible for younger campers and serve as a role model. As a result of her experiences, she decided that she wanted to work with children as a career, and is majoring in Psychology and Early Childhood Education at Tulane.

Some students use the summer to refresh themselves by exploring a totally novel environment.

Example:

Li Na grew up in a suburb of Shanghai China, and was eager to attend college in the United States.  She had always been adventurous, and wanted a refreshing break after her intense junior year.  After evaluating many options of summer programs, she decided to spend a month in Montana as part of Visions Service Adventures, which combined outdoor activities such as white water rafting with community service work helping the elderly.  She was delighted to discover that she had much in common with the other international students. Her travel experience helped her decide to attend a college with a strong commitment to a diverse student body and extensive study abroad programs, and is now a sophomore at New York University.

Fulfill academic or financial responsibilities

For some students, summer is a time to fulfill obligations. These can include taking additional coursework to lighten your load during the year or qualify for higher-level courses, being responsible for the care of younger siblings, or earning money.

Rewards of Summer Activities

Summer activities offer many potential rewards, and will help develop your self-awareness in terms of your personality, preferences, strengths, and interests. As you function independently in an environment outside your home, you may have the chance to solve problems, make decisions, develop resilience and responsibility, and learn how to manage your time.  If you work with others, you can also strengthen your skills in collaboration and teamwork. In addition, stimulating activities help your brain develop, especially through the teen years!  According to Dr. Jay Giedd, researcher at NIH:

“Use it or lose it! If a teen is doing music or sports or academics, those are the cells and connections that will be hardwired. If they’re lying on the couch or playing video games or MTV, those are the cells and connections that are going to survive.”

Finally, your summer activities may also provide you with some powerful admissions essay topics!  Deciding on the best summer activities for you involves juggling many factors.  As always, we’re here to help!

 

Career Corner: From Races to Road Runners, Turning a Passion for Running into a Job

 When Nick Synan started running on the track team in 7th grade, he remembers, “I never really wanted to run, but I did it because my friends did it.”

At the time, Nick says, he was much more interested in playing football. In the spring of 7th grade, his choices for participating in athletics at school were either wrestling or track, and he knew he did not want to wrestle. So he chose to run, and during the first meet, he won the mile race.

Shortly after that, Nick remembers that the head coach for the high school team, Bob Brown, came to one of his practices. Bob Brown told Nick that he would be a fantastic runner and he should consider running cross-country as well. Nick was impressed by this gesture, but he decided to still play football, rather than run on the cross-country team.

Finally, when Nick was a freshman in high school, his older sister, Katy, convinced him that he should try out for cross-country team instead. He remembers that when he started running that late summer with the cross-country team, “I was excited by the social side of it all. It was nice to meet new people and talk with them while we were running.”

He first enjoyed the competitive aspect of running during his freshman year at time trials, which are used to seed runners for the varsity race the following week. Nick remembers he did so well that he placed fifth on the varsity team. In that moment, Nick discovered that he was a talented runner; it was the first time in his life that he felt really good at something.

“Growing up I didn’t necessarily excel at academics, especially standardized testing,” Nick said. “This was the first time that I saw the benefit of the hard work that I was doing.”

Nick says that he really bonded with his coach, Bob Brown, who became a kind of second father-figure to him. He remembers wanting to do well so that his coach would be proud. When Coach Brown passed away from pancreatic cancer during Nick’s junior year of high school,  Nick was deeply affected.

“Bob Brown was really a role model to me. When he passed away, that was a very hard time for me. But it did bring my team closer together and strengthened my passion for running. I wanted to do well for Bob.”

Running also helped Nick to foster leadership qualities. Every summer, he helped coach junior high students, wanting to inspire other people to enjoy running. “I loved helping kids to realize what they can actually do when they put the work in, to recognize they had talent, and to experience the joy of running.”

When Nick Synan was researching colleges in 2009, he recalls, “I really didn’t have an idea of what I wanted to study. I focused on Jesuit colleges that offered classroom sizes of 25 students or fewer, an enclosed campus, an urban vs. rural location close to family, and the opportunity to run.. I had a list of six schools; four were in the Midwest and two were on the East Coast. In the end, I knew that at Fordham I would get out of Iowa, where I grew up, but still be close to my extended family in New York.” Fordham also gave Nick a partial scholarship to run for cross-country and track.

Unfortunately, he got off to a rocky start at Fordham. During his first semester, Nick felt extremely homesick and missed his family and friends. Two weeks before Christmas, he put in a transfer application to St. Louis University, because it was closer to home, and he knew some friends from high school who were going there.

Nick’s parents, however, convinced him to stick it out at Fordham through the spring semester. Over Christmas break, Nick was telling his friends from Iowa about Fordham and their positive feedback helped him to realize all of the opportunities that he had at Fordham and in New York City. He was able to go to concerts, visit museums, attend sporting events, and roam the unique neighborhoods of New York City. Nick returned to Fordham with open eyes and was much happier in his friendships during his second semester. “I felt brave enough to get out of my comfort zone and lucky to meet all these new people.”

At Fordham, Nick didn’t want to lock himself into studying business immediately, so he chose to study in the liberal arts program his freshman year. Sophomore year, he declared his major as Psychology and minored in Business Administration. He realized that he enjoyed his business classes more than his psychology classes, so he flip-flopped the two: majoring in Business Administration with a focus in Marketing and minoring in Psychology. He found that his studies in psychology often connected to what he was learning in marketing.

Running track and cross-country took up a considerable amount of Nick’s time in college. Practice was from 8:00am to 10:30am seven days a week, and three days a week there were afternoon practices from 5:30pm to 6:30pm.

Nick says he doesn’t regret having this schedule in college at all. “It was hard at times, especially on weekends, when everyone was going out. It taught me to be disciplined and prioritize my time. I had to set aside nights to stay in and study. I was actually better at doing things in a timely manner in college than I was in high school.”

Senior year, Nick was captain of the men’s track and cross-country teams at Fordham. He found this leadership role both challenging and rewarding. “In college, there are so many great athletes competing, and it’s hard to give orders to a group of guys in their 20s, especially when you’re friends with them.”

He found his role varied from being a disciplinarian to being a mentor. He remembers one of his favorite parts of being a captain included hosting pasta dinners before meets and cooking for all of his teammates. “As a team, we were inseparable. We took a lot of classes together. We ate our meals together. We were very close, and we still keep in good touch.

As graduation was nearing, Nick began asking his professors for contacts and submitting resumes and applications for positions in sales, hospitality, and marketing. Direct Energy, the first company to respond to him, was a commercial sales company that offered a flat-rate for energy to local businesses. The position offered Nick no salary, and his pay would be entirely based on sales commission.

Nick was told he would be going door-to-door to different businesses in Sunnyside, Queens. After five days of training and five days of shadowing a co-worker, Nick was on his own making cold calls. He made no money the first two days. “I made one deal and decided to quit after a week and a half of only making 80 bucks. I blew that paycheck on one grocery trip.”

The fall after graduation, Nick was feeling the pressure to find a job. “I was moving into the city with my sister, and I knew I needed to find a job as soon as possible. I became more focused on the hospitality industry. I walked into every hotel from the Upper East Side to Midtown, but most of them didn’t get back to me for a long time.”

Finally, Nick e-mailed one of his Fordham marketing professors, and she encouraged him to use LinkedIn to make the most of his alumni connections. Through LinkedIn, Nick found he had a Fordham connection to a person that worked at New York Road Runners, a non-profit organization best known for organizing the NYC marathon. The alumni connection forwarded Nick’s resume onto an HR representative, who then contacted Nick. After speaking to the HR representative at NYRR, Nick felt strongly that this was the company – and the career –  for him.

He liked that it was a non-profit organization, encouraged kids to run, and incorporated a partnerships and business aspect that he enjoyed. When an internship opened up in NYRR’s business development and strategic partnerships division, Nick took the job, working there for four months before being offered a part-time position as a Coordinator in the Business Development and Partnerships Division. He worked part-time for two and a half months, and then was finally offered a full-time position as a Coordinator.

His work includes partnering with Snyder’s of Hanover, Phillips Healthcare (makers of defibrillators and AED machines), and the NY Apple Association to provide equipment and food for races. The New York City Marathon is the biggest race that they work on, but they also continually plan a variety of other races:  races to help raise money for different causes, races for children to participate in, and general weekly races.

Nick says that the Brooklyn half-marathon has been his favorite race to plan so far. This is the second largest half-marathon in the country, taking place every May. “Working at the finish line, the energy was incredible. I liked seeing how appreciative the runners were of the work that we do.  It’s amazing that a person who has just started running gets to participate in the same race as an Olympic athlete. These events bring all these people of different ages and levels of skill together, and somehow it makes each race that we do completely different.”

New York Road Runners also helps to fund physical education in many of the public schools in NYC. The organization sets up programs to encourage kids to run in events, and representatives from Road Runners go into the schools to help teach Physical Education. Mighty Milers, a running program for kids of all fitness levels from pre-kindergarten through eighth grade, is another program that NYRR helps to organize to get kids exercising. Road Runners also has a large outreach program for senior citizens.

Nick really appreciates the friendly and charismatic colleagues that he works with at New York Road Runners. “There are people who are big runners, and others who don’t run at all. They are all a part of the team, helping runners to accomplish their goals.” Right now, Nick is training for the Chicago marathon in October. He enjoys running with people from the office after work and friends from Fordham. “I like running now even more than when I was in college. Sometimes it’s hard to find the time, but I also no longer have the pressure to perform at a certain level. I do it purely for enjoyment.”