The Island Now

College service aims to teach life skills

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Posted: Thursday, September 22, 2016 12:53 pm | Updated: 2:23 pm, Thu Sep 22, 2016.

Karen Flyer said her college consulting business is not just intended to help high school students get into college, but to instill the skills needed throughout life.

“Knowing what your personal brand equity is, that will help you throughout your life,” said Flyer, a resident of Roslyn. “Interview skills, a firm handshake, not saying ‘um,’ that helps you no matter where you’re at in life.”

Flyer and co-owner Kathy Schmitz launched Pinnacle College Consultants on Sept. 1.

Flyer said one of the partners meets personally with each college applicant to find out who the student is.

Over five meetings, she said, they give  students a crash course on college readiness, focusing on the essay portion of the application and the college interview,  areas where students can inject  personal flair.

With a crowded college admissions climate, Flyer and Schmitz said the essay and interview are increasingly important in the application process.

“I think a lot of the students forget that they can really be themselves in a college application or in an interview,” Schmitz said. “I feel like that is often their second choice, and their first choice is to make sure you drop the right names of classes or teachers.”

Flyer and Schmitz said they work with students on what they call their “elevator speech” — or a quick way to present their strengths and potential in an interview setting.

During the first meeting, the consultants work to extract personal qualities from the student, so they can start to form their brand as an applicant, Flyer and Schmitz said. 

From there, they said, they look at drafts of the student’s essay, stage mock interviews and record the interviews to review their performance in person.

The two partners said Pinnacle aims to show students how to compose themselves in interviews and communicate what their accomplishments are in the best light, a skill Flyer said is often lost with today’s students.

“They’re afraid to oversell themselves,” she said. “They’re very smart students, but they don’t want to say, ‘I’m intelligent.’ They just need the confidence to say, ‘This is what I’m good at.’”

Schmitz said since the advent of communication through technology, there’s a missing link of face-to-face contact. Their service aims to remind students how important it is to hold a conversation, she said.

“I know that there are many out there that do a similar service, and I think we make a difference with helping kids feel comfortable in their own skin,” Schmitz said.

Flyer and Schmitz both bring a passion of guiding students to their new business.

Schmitz said she brings her experience as an academic counselor at Adelphi Academy in Brooklyn, where she helped students of all ages, including seniors with their college applications.

Flyer has a background in marketing and branding for nonprofits, and volunteered at her alma mater, Duke University, as peer counselor. There, she said, she got a sense of the application process, and saw where today’s students are lacking in terms of showing their best qualities.

Pinnacle doesn’t compete with guidance offices at local high schools, but instead works with them as a supplement to the students’ journey to college, the partners said. 

The service helps in areas that many guidance counselors can’t spend meaningful time on because of the volume of students they work with, like essays, interviews and letters of recommendation.

Right now, Flyer said, she has a personal reason to be invested in the college application process —  her daughter, who is a high school senior, is starting to look at colleges.

She said that experience showed her how an outside source can help guide and motivate a student toward  college goals, instead of the family dynamic which often can add stress.

“I will be happy when it’s not a personal mission anymore,” Flyer said. “She’s my guinea pig.”

Flyer said she and Schmitz are familiar with the Roslyn and Port Washington school districts through their children. 

They intend to expand that familiarity to the entire North Shore, they said.

For more information, or to set up a meeting, call (516) 484-0629 or visit www.pinnaclecollegeconsultants.com.

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