It is never too early to begin thinking about college.  Diane Vater helps students in their freshman and sophomore years plan for college by providing guidance on curriculum choices and extracurricular involvement. Consulting services available to rising juniors and seniors build on the concept of a strong resume and focus on the college search and application process. Services are provided through in-office appointments, web-based meetings, phone calls, and emails.

Getting to Know the Student

Getting to know a student, and in turn helping the student to learn more about himself or herself, is the key to identifying colleges that are the right fit.  Assessments are used to help discover a student’s personal strengths, goals, learning styles, values, and career interests.  In addition, student and family preferences for college characteristics such as size, geography, prestige, academics, social life, and religion are discussed.

Building a Resume

Becoming a compelling applicant starts with the right academic and extracurricular choices.  Each student's transcript is evaluated and recommendations are made on course selections and the appropriate level of academic rigor.  Advice is given on extracurricular activities, including community service, internships, and summer programs.  The importance of leadership is discussed and opportunities for leadership are identified.

Mastering Standardized Tests

Taking standardized tests is one of the most stressful aspects of applying to college.  A plan is developed for each student to make the testing process more manageable.  Advice is given on test preparation and scheduling of the SAT and ACT.  Scores are interpreted and strategies for score reporting are discussed.

Creating the College List

The goal is to develop a balanced list of colleges that represent the best academic, social, personal, and financial fit for the student. This list is prepared after careful consideration of student and family input and draws upon Diane Vater’s first hand knowledge of colleges.   Schools which are likely to offer merit aid are identified.  Once a list is created, students are instructed on how to research college websites, and guidance is provided on how to make the most of college visits. 

Telling the Student’s Story

Each college applicant has a unique story to tell, and students learn how to share that story with colleges.  An activities resume is created which highlights leadership, depth of involvement, and special interests.  Strong interviewing skills are developed so that students can confidently communicate  during a college interview.  The final piece in telling a student’s story is writing a compelling essay.  Brainstorming is used to help students identify strong essay topics, and students learn how to find their own voices as they respond to essay prompts. Essays are then critiqued and edited so that the story is presented effectively.

Providing Application Support

The process of applying to college can test the skills of even the most organized student.  Organizational tools and timelines are provided to help manage the process and to ensure that deadlines are met.  Students are given advice on how to support their application through strong letters of recommendation. Early Decision and Early Action considerations are discussed and guidance is given regarding application strategies.  Applications are reviewed prior to submission to colleges.

Understanding Financial aid

Helping families to understand affordability issues is integral to the planning process.  Families are encouraged to utilize tools to evaluate the cost of colleges and what they will be expected to contribute towards their child's education.  Financial aid options are discussed, including grants, loans, and work study, as well as the financial aid policies of different schools.  Advice is provided on deadlines and applications for financial aid, specifically the FAFSA and CSS Profile. 

The Final Choice

It is often difficult to make the final decision about which college to attend.   The criteria and goals that were identified at the beginning of the planning process are reviewed again as each college acceptance is considered.  Scholarships and financial aid awards are compared so that the family understands the affordability of each option.  Guidance is also given when a student’s application is deferred or a student is placed on a waitlist.



Vater College Advising, LLC

Pittsburgh, PA
Phone: 412-207-2162

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