Interview with Sarah Reese, Educational Consultant

| September 10, 2014

I recently had a chance to touch base with Sarah Reese, President of Informed Educational Solutions, an educational consulting service that assists parents and students in navigating the college admissions process. She was happy to offer some tips for ex-pats returning to the States as well as international students looking to apply to US schools, so we shared a brief interview session. Here’s what I learned…

Kari:    Sarah, it’s great to touch base with you. I haven’t seen you in many years, since working for you in the foreign exchange student sphere almost two decades ago. I understand you are still in the field of education. Can you tell me about what you’ve been up to?

Sarah: Thank you so much, Kari, for preparing this online interview. It is great to be in touch with you on Facebook. I am watching Sequoia grow up, and seeing you as a mother, and sharing your terrific European travels. All wonderful.

Carter and I have established Informed Educational Solutions, an independent educational consultancy. We work with clients in school assessment and placements, college and transfer admission, graduate school and career planning. I am approved by IECA, the Independent Educational Consultants Association, a “good standards of practice” US-based organization.

Kari:    Ex-pat families come in many shapes and sizes, with children coming out of the International School, out of the public and private schools of their host country, out of Department of Defense schools…What tips do you have for ex-pat parents who will be returning to the States to find themselves thrown into the college admissions process after being away for several years? Has the process changed over the years?

Sarah: College admission is changing very quickly these days, and ex-pat parents can do themselves a favor by staying abreast of issues. I write a blog on a regular basis, which is helpful, I think, and covers many college admissions issues. I just learned about a new app for iPhone and iPad called “College Passport” which seems to cover a lot of the key issues. “The Fiske Guide to Colleges” is also available as an iPad app, with excellent and detailed descriptions of about 300 leading US universities.

Among the biggest changes are issues relating to college costs and financial aid. Families for whom college costs are a big issue need to be very savvy about how much they really can spend to educate a child. Parent loans or “borrowing from retirement” are not a good idea, and student loans need to be capped.

Kari:    What are some things that ex-pat students themselves can do to prepare for college admissions?

Sarah: Ex-pat students should be ready to do some college visits, even very early, when they are in the US for vacations. The sooner they see college campuses, the clearer an idea they will have about what sort of environment and type of college fits best. Reading is so important, and is one of the best ways to prep for the critical reading sections of the SAT and ACT, years in advance. And, just like their US-based peers, earning good grades in the toughest feasible curriculum is another key way to prep for admissions and college.

Kari:    I understand you also consult with international students who are looking to enter American schools and might not be fully aware of how the system works. What do you find is the most difficult aspect of applying to American colleges for international students? What do these students often overlook?

Sarah: International families don’t always understand the liberal arts college, so often [they] steer towards large universities without really understanding what an amazing range of options the US offers. A strength that international students have is that they typically are thinking along career lines, and have a specific course of study in mind. English preparation is the key for them, along with strong grades. Most competitive universities have a TOEFL cut-off. Another route is to do a year of ESL in the US and then apply for admission.

Kari:    I’m curious, whom do you find to be more overwhelmed by the college application experience: the students, or the parents?

Sarah: Usually it is the parents! And for good reason: they are worried about taxing their relationship with their child with nagging reminders about deadlines, requirements, and test registrations, and they fear that they simply can’t understand all that is changing so fast in admissions. Students I work with are typically very realistic about themselves and happy to have a mentor to guide them in the process. I think that for students the admission process can be one in which they develop a much better understanding of their assets and interests.

Kari:    What are some ways people can reach you if they find themselves in need of an educational consultant?

Sarah:   Our website will provide lots of targeted information, as well as allow parents to subscribe to our blog, and connect them to us via email and phone.

Kari:    Sarah, thanks so much for sharing these tips with the ex-pat and international community!

Sarah:  Thank you so much, Kari!



Category: Ex-pat Parenting, FAMILY, In Germany A Broad blog, Uncategorized

About the Author ()

Kari Martindale is a writer and ESL instructor. She’s visited all 50 states and 37 countries, including many of the big cities of Europe and a ton of Christmas Markets. She spends her days straddling the fence between a sense of adventure and a sense of dread. She is married to what is clearly a patient man and has a daughter who, frustratingly, is just like her. Her academic and professional backgrounds are in linguistics and foreign languages. When she's not teaching ESL, she's writing. When she's not writing, she's thinking about her next trip.

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