Signet Education

The College Scoops Podcast

Episode 94: Staying Out of the “Whirlpool”

October 19, 2021

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Have you heard of the high school whirlpool effect? It’s when students and parents get barraged with rumors and speculation about how to approach the college application process by others. Sheila Akbar, President and COO of Signet Education, works with students and parents to stay out of that frenzy and instead effectively plan how to make the application experience manageable. Sheila asks students the important questions, making sure that student’s goals and interests are reflected in their application.

Key Takeaways:

  • There is so much information out there, be careful to parse out the information and rumors.
    • Do not get caught up in the whirlpool!  
  • Take the information you hear with a grain of salt! Everyone’s path is different. 
    • Just because it works for other students doesn’t mean that it will work for you.
  • It is better to understand who you are and what you want. 
    • Communication is essential, especially between students and parents.
  • Have a broad understanding of a timeline, it can save a lot of stress! Know that you need to take the SATs, but don’t stress about it until your junior year. But be careful to not always do things early JUST to do them early.  
  • Agree on your sources of information as a family and make sure you are all on the same page. 
  • It is not: what do you want to be when you grow up? It is: what do you want to explore? 
  • Listen to your school! They know best! 
  • Think about these questions as a student:
    • What are you trying to achieve?
    • What are your motivations?
  • Don’t focus on filling out the activities sheet- focus on what is important to you and what your story conveys to admission counselors about you. 
  • Hobbies are important too, you should do the things you care about. 
  • Test optional really does mean test optional. Consider test blind schools as well. 
    • If your score is in the 75th percentile- send it in. It can only help you.
  • Schools do care about upward trends. They want to see that story!

Important Resources and Links:

Signet Education 


Meet Sheila Akbar

Signet Education

Sheila Akbar is the President & COO of Signet Education, a global academic advising firm for high school and college students. Sheila joined the Signet team in 2010, bringing with her a wealth of experience teaching SAT, ACT, GRE, literature, and composition in both one-on-one and classroom settings. Sheila has a contagious passion for both teaching and learning, and finds nothing more rewarding than helping students to overcome the unique challenges they face. 

In addition to working directly with families to ensure a stellar client experience, Sheila manages the administrative team and provides educational thought leadership for the company. 

Sheila holds a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree from Harvard University plus two doctoral degrees from Indiana University. She is currently living in Long Beach, California with her husband and son.

Thank you to Sheila for joining us today as there are so many ways for students AND parents can de-stress and step away from the feeding frenzy or whirlpool effect that can suck us in very easily during the high school years. As a student, take time out for self-reflection to determine what matters to you most? What brings you joy? If you spend some time answering these questions, it will help you when deciding which clubs or activities to join, what summer jobs to apply to and possibly what areas you would like to focus on in college. 

For students and parents, there is a host of free content and resources available to gain a better understanding of the timeline for the college admissions process. The Step-by-Step Guide offered by NACAC is a great resource for families. 

Episode 94 Full Transcript

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College Scoops Staff, Author

College Scoops has a team of college interns who share their insights and expertise with our community. Our team consists of editors, writers, videographers, social media experts, and storytellers who work hard to produce relevant and interesting content for students (and parents) whether they are applying to, attending or graduating from college.

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