Monthly Archives: December 2011

Happy Holidays from CDI!

Here’s some information from our friends at Teach for America (deadline to apply is fast approaching). We’ll be taking a brief hiatus from the blog next week, but we’ll be back after New Year’s with a post dedicated to our 2012 theme: Building a Foundation. (Update: look for that post in the coming weeks.)

Application Deadline: Friday, January 6. Apply Now.

Did you know that there is an urgent need for teachers with math and science backgrounds? Currently, American students lag far behind their international peers in math and science achievement, however, you can change this!

Teach For America corps members teach for two years in 43 regions across the country, and work incredibly hard to lead their students to the academic success that can put them on a different life path.

You can be one of the thousands of leaders committed to achieving educational excellence for all. You can shape our future. Learn more about why you should join the corps.

Join the movement and Apply to the 2012 Teach For America corps.

Next Application Deadline: Friday, January 6th, 2012           

Full salary and health insurance. Federal student loans deferred.

All majors and professional experiences.

Learn more about corps member compensation and benefits.

Attend a free online event to hear from corps members, alumni, and staff.

For more information, please contact Molly Ellenberg Friedland:

Phone: 212.279.2080 x21159 Email:

CDI: The Year in Review

As we approach the end of 2011, let’s look back on what as been a tremendous year for CDI. This year we saw:

  • Our largest entering class – we have 25 Scholars in our 2012 class. (And congratulations to all Scholars who’ve gotten early acceptances–I’ll write more on this topic later.)
  • Increased standardized test scores again this year. See last week’s post on this topic.
  • Al Neely scholarship funds awarded to first three Scholars (Diego Hernandez, Annie Sim, Binh Pham). This scholarship was named in honor of Al Neely, with special thanks to Archstone for their generous donation.
  • Michael Crockett scholarship funds awarded to support two Scholars (Muhammed Abdulkarimu and Mirko Valdez). This scholarship was named in honor of Michael Crockett.
  • The further development of project work with Baltimore City Public Schools and DC Prep Public Charter School.
  • Our 1st annual benefit, held at the University Club of Washington, DC in May. Our honored speaker was Pat McGuire, President of Trinity University. To view an 8-minute video of the benefit featuring three of our graduating Scholars, visit our YouTube page here.
  • 100% matriculation of 2011 Scholars at four-year colleges. In total, they received a little more than a whopping $678,000 in scholarships/awards to attend college or an average of approximately $28,000 per Scholar.
And of course how could we talk about 2011 and NOT mention that seven of our first group of Scholars, the class of 2007, graduated from college this year? (The other three are all on track to graduate in May 2012.) In the coming months, expect to see a post about each of these Scholars right here on the CDI blog. In those posts I’ll interview the Scholars and let them tell you where they are now.

Kevin Rivas, Juniata College, business administration

Gloria Koskey, Stanford University, human biology

Jaime Hur, Dickinson College, biochemistry

Francisco Barrera, Goucher College, biology

Cindy Villarreal, Goucher College, psychology

Frances Kalema, Hollins University, business & art

Wendy Avelar, Cornell University, mechanical engineering

CDI Scholars Class of 2012 Increase their Standardized Test Scores

CDI had a couple bits of great news this week. First, Office & Outreach Coordinator Juliana Avery calculated the test scores for our class of 2012 Scholars. CDI Scholars can go in two test-taking directions. Either they go through the ACT track or they go through the SAT track.

About the ACT track students, she writes: “The average improvement from their  junior year PSAT to their Highest Composite Score was 5 points (rounded from 4.9375).  The average improvement from their incoming diagnostic ACT to their Highest Composite Score was 4 points (rounded from 3.625).” On the ACT, students can receive a total score of 36. There are 4 sections that make up the test (math, writing, reading, science), all weighted equally.

Let’s compare the average composite score improvement of 5 to the SAT (1 ACT point is roughly equivalent to 60 SAT points). Comparatively, then, a 5-point increase on the ACT is roughly equivalent to a 300-point increase on the SAT. 300 points!  Not too shabby, I would say. Higher test scores result, of course, in the greater likelihood of being accepted into more selective colleges and getting better financial aid packages.

About the SAT track students this year, Juliana writes: “The CDI SAT students improved an average of 230 points from their junior year PSAT to their highest combined score.  They improved an average of 240 points from their incoming diagnostic SAT to their highest combined score.”

(A note on how CDI calculates the scores: The ACT calculations use their Highest Composite Score, which is just the highest score they got on an actual ACT.  The SAT calculations use their Highest Combined Score, which is the score they would have gotten if you tally up their high scores on individual sections of actual SATs.  This is in line with colleges practicing of “super scoring” the SAT.)

Way to go, class of 2012!

Scholar Arlo Perez (left) with CDI counselor Greg Lewis

As further evidence of CDI’s impact in the Montgomery County community, the Montgomery Gazette featured CDI in an article this week. (Read the full article here or pick up a print copy.) Reporter Peggy McEwan and photographer Chris Rossi visited our office last week and met with a bunch of Scholars and counselors. Notable quotables:

“We want to make sure they stay on track. They have to check in every two weeks through a formal email — we are looking for complete sentences, no misspellings. We consider it training for business communication, and our counselors send them email to let them know what is going on here.” Theresa Atta, vice president of Collegiate Directions.

“They taught me test taking tips, they help you figure out what sort of school you would fit into and they make sure you know the deadlines [for the different stages of the application process].” Azita Halary, Class of 2012 Scholar.

“I don’t ever want to have to think about having to do this by myself. I’m just really thankful I’m in this program.” Ahreum Han, Class of 2012 Scholar.

Links! From our Facebook page and Twitter feed (and check out our new look on Twitter):
Want to create a video essay for your college application? Here are some tips how (via U.S News & World Report)
Looking for creative ways to brand yourself for job interviews? Some suggestions (via U.S News & World Report)
Alan Paynter of Dickinson College discusses the importance of test scores (via The New York Times)
Find out what happens when an adult takes a standardized test–and bombs it (via The Washington Post)

Collegiate Directions: The Blog

Welcome to the Collegiate Directions blog. I’m Kyle Semmel, CDI’s new Development & Communications Manager. Over the next few months you can expect to see posts each Friday (and possibly on some days in between) on matters related to education, college, SAT/ACT, and just about anything that falls within our mission.

To that end I will post feature stories about CDI Scholars (or interviews with them), notes from CDI counselors, Scholars, staff, and professionals in the field of college counseling and admissions. Of course, what would a blog be without videos and links? So expect those as well. (Reader, if you’ve got a particularly great video or story you’d like to share that matches CDI’s mission, please contact me at ksemmel (at) with your idea and a link.) Gradually, I hope to build this blog up to one with daily posts that include special features such as Monday interview, Tuesday Scholar, etc. But Rome, as the saying goes, wasn’t built in a day. I’m not going to get ahead of myself.

But I will say: Please consider following this blog (easily done by clicking the “follow” button on the right side of this page or the RSS posts icon at the top). You’ll get an e-mail notification each time I post a new story. Then, if you like what you read, please FEEL FREE to share the post with others. There are other ways to connect with us. We are currently active on the following social media sites: Twitter, Google +, Facebook, LinkedIn. If you’re using these platforms, follow and like us on these sites and you will also be able to see these posts.

For those of you who might’ve missed it, Nina Marks, President and founder of CDI, was recently interviewed by Time Magazine for a very good article on financial aid (“I Owe U”–note: you need to be a subscriber to read the article online) in the October 31 issue. Author Kristina Dell writes:

Nina Marks, president of Collegiate Directions, a nonprofit that provides college counseling for low-income students, recommends that families drill deeper and ask financial-aid officers such questions as, If a college’s cost of attendance increases each year, will financial aid go up too? What percentage of students graduate in four years? A fifth or sixth year could significantly increase debt load.

Smart advice. And financial aid is, of course, of monumental importance to many high schoolers who’re headed to college. Recently, one of my favorite Washington Post columnists, Michelle Singletary, made it the subject of her column: “Student debt hint: Avoid it.

Avoiding “it” may not be easy for everyone to do, but getting a good financial aid package is certainly in students’ best interests. CDI offers plenty of help to Scholars on that front, and CDI is even influencing the “clarity and comparability of student financial aid offer letters.” Nina was a panelist at a Department of Education event earlier this fall promoting a common standard for financial aid offer letters, and following that event she was a guest on “The Diane Rehm Show.” The subject of the show: shrinking financial aid packages. You can read a full transcript right here.

And with that we’ll lead off the first ever CDI Link Up. Each week I’ll provide links to timely web posts on college-related matters (many of which I first linked up on our Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google + pages.

How to make the most of your premed advisor (via U.S. News & World Report)

Maryland schools top education ratings (via The Washington Post)

The college essay: why those 500 words drive us crazy (via The Daily Beast)

Early application trends in the Ivies (via The Dartmouth)

Learning to play the game to get into college (via The New York Times). This articles proves, as CDI counselor Ana Hilton says, why organizations such as CDI are necessary.