College Nights: Admissions Expert Series

You have questions. We have answers.

Every Tuesday through November 9th.

You won't want to miss this.

Collegewise is hosting this five-week event, but it won’t just include experts from our ranks. We'll have deans of admission from some of your favorite universities, journalists and authors from publications like The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, and a crew of the foremost experts in the field of education and college admissions. 

Sessions will cover everything from understanding how rankings are as imaginary as unicorns, to how colleges with a 5% admit rate decide who gets in, to how in the heck you afford a university education these days.

And if you missed prior sessions, you can now download recordings to those by clicking the button below.




...and many more to come!

Ann Marano-1

Ann Marano is the Executive Director of Colleges That Change Lives. Previously, Ann served as a College Bound Advisor the Irma Lerma Rangel Young Women’s Leadership School in Dallas, and worked in admissions at California State Polytechnic University Pomona and California State University East Bay.


Melissa Korn writes about higher education for The Wall Street Journal. She joined Dow Jones in 2007, then moved to The Journal in 2011 to cover business education, workplace issues and the college-to-career pathway. Melissa graduated from Cornell University with degrees in English and History and has a master’s degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.


Ron Lieber is the author of three New York Times bestselling books, including "Taking Time Off," which was about gap years, and "The Price You Pay for College." He's been the Your Money columnist for The New York Times since 2008. He lives in Brooklyn with his family. 

Twitter: @ronlieber
Instagram: @ronlieber
Facebook: Book: The Price You Pay for College
NYT columns 

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Akil Bello is the Senior Director of Advocacy and Advancement at FairTest and is a recognized expert on educational access and testing. In addition to building prep companies, consulting universities, and helping students excel on every test from the APGAR to the LSAT, Akil is also a movie star. Unsullied by highly rejective college credentials, Akil attended an HBCU and ultimately earned a bachelor's degree from a university in Brooklyn.
Twitter: @akilbello
Instagram: @akeel6

Casey Barneson has been working in the field of education for over 10 years and serves as the college counselor at Beverly Hills High School. Casey holds a Master’s degree in Educational Counseling. Casey travels nationally and internationally visiting college campuses, meeting with admission counselors, and assisting students through the college admission process. 

Insta: @collegecounselorbarneson

Buy her book here

Adrienne Amador Oddi, previously the dean of admission and financial aid at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, now serves as vice president of strategic enrollment and communications at Queens University of Charlotte. Before Trinity College, Oddi held admissions roles at Berry College in Mount Berry, Georgia; the University of Rochester in Rochester, New York; and Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio.

Rick Clark Headshot

Rick Clark is the Director of Undergraduate Admission at Georgia Tech. He earned a B.A. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a M.Ed. from Georgia State University. Prior to Tech, Rick worked at Georgia State, The McCallie School and Wake Forest University.

Twitter: @Clark2College
Buy his book here
Read his blog here

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Brennan Barnard, M.Ed is the Dean of College Counseling and Outreach at The Derryfield School, in Manchester, NH and the Director of College Counseling at Khan Lab High School in Mountain View, CA. He also serves as the College Admissions Program Advisor for Making Caring Common, a project of the Harvard Graduate School of Education and Director of Counseling for the College Guidance Network. 

Twitter: @BarnardBrennan
Read his work on Forbes here
Buy his book here


Sheela Raja, PhD is an Associate Professor and Clinical Psychologist at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She is a nationally recognized researcher, consultant, and speaker. Raja has authored four books including The Resilient Teen: 10 Key Skills to Bounce Back from Setbacks and Turn Stress into Success.  

Instagram: Raja.Sheela


Sara Goldrick-Rab is Professor of Sociology & Medicine at Temple University, and President and Founder of the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice in Philadelphia. She is also the Chief Strategy Officer for Emergency Aid at Edquity, a student financial success and emergency aid company, and founded Believe in Students, a nonprofit distributing emergency aid.



Vern Granger is Director of Admissions at the University of Connecticut. In his current role, he works on its worldwide outreach to high-achieving and diverse students, the selection process, development of the university admission process and practices, the transition of new students, and the advancement of UConn’s position as one of the preeminent institutions in the country.


Yamilet Medina López is the Assistant Dean of Diversity Outreach and External Relations for Stanford University. Her roots are in the island of Puerto Rico where she lived until attending college. She obtained her bachelor’s degree in Recreation Administration and a graduate degree in Counseling with an emphasis in Higher Education from Texas State University. 


Elena D. Hicks is responsible for all activities in the SMU Office of Admission, including admission for first-year, transfer and international applicants. With more than 30 years of education experience, Hicks has considerable knowledge about student recruitment, selective admission and family involvement. Prior to her tenure at SMU, worked at Loyola University Maryland, Saint Mary’s Hall School, and Texas Christian University.

Jodi Headshot

Jodi Okun is one of the “Top 30 Social Influencers in Personal Finance & Wealth,” according to Huffington Post. As founder of College Financial Aid Advisors, she has helped thousands of families successfully navigate the financial aid process and open educational possibilities for their children. In addition to CFFA, Jodi’s background includes financial aid consultant at Occidental and Pitzer College. Jodi is an instructor at University of California San Diego, teaching Financial Aid in the online extension class. She is the author of the best-selling book Secrets of a Financial Aid Pro
Twitter: @jodiokun
Instagram: @jodiokun


Lynn O’Shaughnessy, a nationally recognized college expert, is a higher-ed journalist, author and speaker. Lynn, a former Los Angeles Times reporter, shares college advice through her website, The College Solution and her online course for parents, independent college consultants and high school counselors called The College Cost Lab. Lynn is the author of an Amazon bestseller, The College Solution. Lynn’s higher-ed commentary has been featured in several national media outlets. 

Buy her book here
Enroll in her course here
Read her blog here

Carine Feyten headshot

Carine M. Feyten’s Belgian roots and multilingual acumen give her a predilection to looking at the world from different vantages. Seven years ago, she started #campuswithaheart to spotlight the Texas Woman’s culture, one that insists on excellence, intentionality in serving all, and research that matters.

Instagram: @TWUpres
Twitter: @TWUpres

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Dr. Anne A. Skleder, Ph.D., is Brenau University’s 10th president and the first woman elected to this position in the university’s 143-year history. Dr. Skleder earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Pittsburgh, and her master’s and doctorate degrees in social and organizational psychology from Temple University. She also completed Harvard University’s Institute for Educational Management.


Mary Dana Hinton became president of Hollins University in 2020. An active and respected proponent of the liberal arts and inclusion, her leadership reflects a deep and abiding commitment to educational equity and the education of women. Previously, she served as president of the College of Saint Benedict in Minnesota.

Instagram: @HollinsUniversity
Twitter: @HollinsU


Becky Chassin is the Assistant Dean of Admission at the University of Southern California.  She has worked at USC for the past twenty years overseeing the undergraduate application review process and scholarships.  After graduating from Pomona College, Becky spent time working for Hillel:  The Center for Jewish Life.  She earned a master’s degree in Communication Management at USC.


Satyajit Dattagupta joined the Office of Undergraduate Admission as the Vice President of Enrollment Management in June of 2016 and most recently was named Tulane’s first Senior Vice President and Dean of Admission for Enrollment Management and Graduate and Pre-college Strategy.

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Jeannine Lalonde is the Associate Dean of Admission at the University of Virginia and also goes by the nickname "Dean J." She runs an admission blog called Notes from Peabody, where she shares tips and insights for the UVA admissions process. She also recently joined TikTok to connect with prospective students.

Spots are limited, but sessions are free. Sign up now while space is available!




Casey Near, Dean of Counselor Development

After transferring from the University of Pennsylvania to Scripps College, Casey caught the college admissions bug and hasn’t turned back. She started as a professional backwards walker (tour guide) at Scripps, then helped run visit programs for the admissions office. After graduation, she returned to her Bay Area home to work as an admissions counselor at Mills College, where she ran the tour program, assisted with transfer admissions, and convinced people that women’s colleges are indeed a wonderful idea.


Kevin McMullin, Founder & Chief Education Officer

Kevin founded Collegewise in 1999 and did all the counseling himself for the first 18 months. He is the author of If the U Fits: Expert Advice on Finding the Right College and Getting Accepted, and pens at least one entry every day on the Collegewise blog. A graduate of UC Irvine with majors in English and history where he answered, “What will you do with THOSE majors?” approximately 783 times, Kevin also has a college counseling certificate from UCLA.

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Arun Ponnusamy, Chief Academic Officer

Arun is regarded as one of America’s foremost admissions experts. He evaluated the files of over 7,500 seniors through nine application cycles for three highly selective colleges: the University of Chicago (his alma mater), Caltech, and UCLA. Since joining Collegewise, Arun has guided hundreds of students into their dream colleges. He also conducts professional development sessions and speaks at seminars attended by thousands of families annually.


Read below to learn about sessions we'll be hosting during the College Nights: Admissions Expert Series.

October 12th
4 p.m. PT — The State of College Admissions
Presented by Arun Ponnusamy and Casey Near
In this session, we’ll share the latest on what we know to be fundamentally true about admissions—many things have changed, but many things have stayed the same. We’ll also discuss an education landscape that does remain in flux and examine how that impacts high school students. Our Collegewise experts will separate fact from fiction as they give parents and students they need to make critical upcoming decisions.
5 p.m. PT  A Healthier Approach to College Admissions
Presented by Casey Barneson and Sheela Raja
Research shows that the college admissions process can be a source of stress and anxiety for students, parents, and educators. In this session, our experts will answer questions such as: How can I best help my child during this process? Why does a balanced list (i.e. not all Ivies) matter? Why is it important for my child to have ownership of this process? In addition, we’ll share advice on how to make the process a bit more joyful and even a little fun.
6 p.m. PT  Lessons Learned from the Varsity Blues Scandal
Presented by Melissa Korn and Jennifer Levitz
There was wealth, there was celebrity, there was terrible photoshopping. The Varsity Blues scandal captured America’s attention in 2019, but what did it mean then and what does it mean now? How did it change admissions and the way students and parents view the application process? Our authors are here to answer those questions and more.
October 19th
4 p.m. PT/7 p.m. ET — The Nuts and Bolts of Affording College
Presented by Lynn O'Shaughnessy and Jodi Okun
College can be expensive. But it doesn’t have to be! In this session, our experts will share their advice on how to understand what comprises college costs and what steps parents can take in lowering those costs. We’ll discuss the various financial aid forms as well as bring clarity around loans, grants, and merit scholarships.
5 p.m. PT/8 p.m. ET  What You Don't Know About College Rankings and Admit Rates
Presented by Elena Hicks and Jon Boeckenstedt
They’re everywhere you look. In magazines and conversations. On TV and college websites. But where do these numbers come from? Who decides that Harvard is #1? How are some schools dipping under 5% admissions rate?  Our expert will break down how you can make sense of the many college and university rankings, SAT/ACT middle 50%, as well as how you can use the information that data provides to decide what’s #1 for your child.
6 p.m. PT/9 p.m. ET The Truth About College Admissions
Presented by Brennan Barnard and Rick Clark
The college admissions process is often likened to a journey. But where does that start for a family? Where does it end? And what are the steps in between? Our authors and admissions experts are here to answer those questions and more. We’ll discuss timelines and strategies as well as why college care as much about a student’s character as they do about what they do inside the classroom.

October 26th

4 p.m. PT/7 p.m. ET — Demystifying Admissions: Inside the Selection Process
Presented by Adrienne Oddi (Queens University of Charlotte), Vern Granger (UConn), and Yamilet Odily Medina Lopez (Stanford)
As the debate about who gets into college and why keeps boiling over, a significant portion of the general public believes that the admission process is unfair. In this session, our experts will discuss “holistic admissions” and what that means to your child and decisions to be made surrounding course selection, extracurriculars, and more abstract concepts like “leadership” and “compassion.”
5 p.m. PT/8 p.m. ET Why Your Child Will Thrive at a Liberal Arts College
Presented by Ann Marano (Colleges That Change Lives), Ken Anselment (Lawrence University), and Beverly Wheeler (Hendrix College)
College is increasingly equated with “ROI” and framed in terms such as “starting salary” and “lifetime earnings.” What is the purpose of a degree in English or even a “pure” science like Chemistry in this landscape? Learn how an education rooted in analysis, creativity, and collaboration has “real-world” value and meaning for all students in 2021 and beyond.
6 p.m. PT/9 p.m. ET Inside Highly Selective College Admissions
Presented by Calvin Wise (Johns Hopkins), Femi Ogundele (Berkeley) and Ashley Pallie (Caltech)
Why does everyone talk about them? Why are we talking about them? Our experts will share what they look for in strong applicants. And they’ll discuss why “highly selective colleges” are not synonymous with “great college experiences” and what students should be asking themselves as they build their college lists and make decisions around courses, extracurriculars, and summer plans.

November 2nd

4 p.m. PT/7 p.m. ET — Is College Worth It? Debt, Affordability, and Financial Aid
Presented by Sara Goldrick-Rab
As the cost of attendance nears an annual $100,000 at some private schools, it’s time to step back and ask questions around the value of college. In this session, an author and higher education expert will share her view on how families should consider whether increasing prices are “worth it” relative to loans, community colleges, and future career opportunities.
5 p.m. PT/8 p.m. ET Building a Great College List
Presented by Akil Bello and Ron Lieber
You’ve heard of dream schools but then what? Our experts will discuss why a “balanced list” with reach, target, and likely schools is so important for a healthy and successful application process. They will share their advice on what to look for in a college as your student seeks “fit” as well as resources for students to learn more about colleges and universities.

November 9th

4 p.m. PT/7 p.m. ET — The Future of Higher Education: A Case Study with Women’s College Presidents
Presented by President Anne Skleder (Brenau University),  Chancellor Carine Feyten (Texas Woman's University), and President Mary Hinton (Hollins University)
So often when we talk about higher education, we focus on the micro level: the admission process. For this session, we’re focused on the big picture in a discussion with three college presidents. What’s the purpose of college, and how are colleges creatively adapting? These three longtime women’s college leaders will share their wisdom and perspective for students, parents, and educators alike, all from the presidential vantage point.
5 p.m. PT/8 p.m. ET What Admission Deans Want and Need You to Know
Presented by Becky Chassin (Assistant Dean of Undergraduate Admissions, University of Southern California), Satya Dattagupta (Senior Vice President and Dean of Admission, Tulane University) and Jeannine Lalonde a.k.a Dean J (Associate Dean of Admission, University of Virginia)
To close our College Nights: Admissions Experts Series, admissions leaders at three of America’s finest universities (USC, UVA, & Tulane) will share wisdom on why a student’s story will always matter more than their SAT score. In addition, they will tackle questions on everything from community service to course selection to why Instagram can be a great way to research colleges. You’ll get advice straight from the minds of three experts who have seen it all. This is one you won’t want to miss!


Collegewise was built on the belief that students can get admitted to their dream college and still have some fun in their college admissions journey. More than 20 years after our founder met with his first student, Collegewise is the nation’s largest college admissions organization


Don't miss out.

We hope you'll join us for this one-of-a-kind event, where we'll be answering the most common admission questions we get. This lineup of experts will help you navigate the college application process. 

Spots are limited, so we hope you'll be able to join us. And remember, it's free.

And if you missed prior sessions, you can now download recordings to those by clicking the link below.