Thank you to everyone who read the blog last week! As a reminder, or for anyone just joining us, I’ll be sharing college-related updates with you each Friday while we ride out the waves and impacts of coronavirus. These will include tour and admission information, how schools are staying connected, and news from the home front (me!). If there’s anything specific that you’d like to see featured here, don’t hesitate to reach out and I’ll do my best.


Custom College Visits Partners with College Essay Solutions

We are pleased to announce that as a special benefit for our clients, we will be partnering with College Essay Solutions.

College Essay Solutions has been in business since 2005 and since then, Craig Heller, Founder and President, has helped hundreds of students with their application essays. Craig works to reduce the stress that so often accompanies the process of writing college essays, and guides teens to write superior essays so they feel confident moving forward with their college applications. 

For more information about the partnership, please contact me at To jumpstart our collaboration and kick off the college application season, Custom College Visits and College Essay Solutions will be co-sponsoring a webinar where we will share tips about writing college essays and planning college visits. The webinar is scheduled for Sunday, June 21st . Details will be posted on our website and our social media pages by early June. We will also send out an email closer to the date with this information.

10 Mistakes Students Make With Online Learning

Earlier this week I came across a thought-provoking blog written by Maggie Wray, founder of Creating Positive Futures.  She describes ten mistakes online learners make; she discusses what parents and students should be aware of and how they can improve their skills to become better learners and ultimately to see improved grades. As I read the article, I realized that more than missed opportunities, what she’s describing is the potential to develop beneficial habits and routines that students can maintain  throughout  the remainder of their high school years and take with them into college. I encourage you to read the full article here.


Photo Project at Occidental College Builds Connections Between Patients, Doctors in Pandemic

“Five years ago, Occidental’s Mary Beth Heffernan flew to Liberia with a simple idea: Would portraits worn on the outside of their frightening personal protection equipment (PPE) suits humanize healthcare workers and make patients more receptive to their care?…Today, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic a growing number of doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals across the country are embracing the idea of wearing PPE portraits and reaching out to Heffernan to take advantage of her field-tested insights.” Continue reading to find out more about how Mary Beth Heffernan’s work is helping to create a bond between frontline healthcare workers and their coronavirus patients.

Courtesy of Marc Campos./Occidental College

Butler University Pharmacy Grad Students Create Hand Sanitizer for the Indianapolis Community

“Working from specifications set up by the World Health Organization, and meeting their standards to make it efficient,” a group of graduate pharmacy students at Butler University have found a way to contribute to the fight against COVID-19. Grad students Victor Anguiano, Mohammed Ramadan, and Zach Todd, supervised by faculty members Sudip and Nandita Das, will “mix up gallons of hand sanitizer to donate to Circle City hospitals, as well as homeless shelters, nursing homes, and domestic abuse treatment centers.” Find out more about how these students are helping to fill a need in the community. 

Turning Deposits Into Donations

During Ursinus College’s recent 3-day Admitted Student Experience, students learned just how important it is for the college to give back to the community of which they are a part. For each deposit received during the event, Ursinus College, situated in Collegeville, PA, donated $100 to the Daily Bread Community Food Pantry, to help ease the burden of many individuals and families during this challenging time. Learn how much money was raised and more about the event.


Yesterday we celebrated what would have been the day for Brittany’s actual grad school commencement with a customized cake and sparkling wine. It was the first time in probably three weeks that I actually stepped foot into a store to purchase something (as opposed to sending my husband or ordering online), but I wanted to make sure she had her favorite cake flavors! The biggest excitement this week was that my son made the leap from a Google phone back to an iPhone! Had I not been here I wouldn’t have believed what an arduous decision-making process it was for him. He received his red iPhone SE today, and I haven’t seen him that excited in a long time. Now comes the hard part—he’s trying to transfer everything from one phone to the other… Some tv highlights—Jeopardy, of course. We’re working our way through Mad Men, we finished watching Little Fires Everywhere, we’re through the second season of The Sinner and we very much enjoyed Unorthodox. I still found plenty of time to read a couple of novels and do some work as well!



Welcome to Week Seven of the Coronavirus Blog! Thank you to everyone who read the blog last week! As a reminder, or for anyone just joining us, I’ll be sharing college-related updates with you each Friday while we ride out the waves and impacts of coronavirus. These will include tour and admission information, how schools are staying connected, and news from the home front (me!). If there’s anything specific that you’d like to see featured here, don’t hesitate to reach out and I’ll do my best.


NACAC’s College Openings Update is Now Available Online

NACAC has posted on their site their annual College Openings Update: Options for Qualified Students (formerly the Space Availability Survey).

This is a voluntary listing of NACAC member postsecondary institutions that are still accepting applications from prospective freshman and/or transfer students for the upcoming fall term.

The College Openings Update is designed as a tool for counselors, parents and others assisting students who have not yet completed the college admission process. Typically, colleges will continue to join the update after the May 5 public release date, so check back periodically to see additional colleges still accepting applications.

“We Get It.” College Admissions Deans Speak Out

In trying to stay on top of ever-changing news regarding online or on-campus classes and assessment of college applications for the fall, I have been watching webinars, speaking with colleagues and following news from the individual colleges themselves. Admittedly, it’s hard to keep up with information that changes so quickly and that comes from so many sources!

In this May 7th Forbes article written by Brennan Barnard, Director of College Counseling &Outreach at the Derryfield School, he does a great job of synthesizing all of this information in one place and offers some useful. He recounts, “I asked admission leaders to focus on what they wanted students and families to know about applying to college next year. The common theme in their responses was, “WE GET IT!” He reminds his readers that “it is important to recognize that ever-evolving college admission process is a human experience. It sometimes feels like admission leaders are anonymous machines “behind the curtain,” conducting ambiguous evaluations of applicants, but the truth is that they are living, breathing people who understand what students are experiencing. They are in this work because they want to admit students and create opportunities. Many have children of their own and they are mothers, brothers, sons, and aunts. At this challenging time, they too are wearing masks to the grocery store, commuting to their kitchen table to work, and are worried about the health and safety of their loved ones. There is humanity in the uncertainty of the college admission experience.” Beyond that, they discuss their outlooks on Spring Grades, SAT/ACT and IB/AP tests. Read the full article to find out the details.


It’s Showtime! 

Although we have not been able to head out to movie theatres, live theatre performances, or live concerts over the past couple of months, college students have been finding ways to adapt their performances to virtual platforms. This week, we thought we’d share with you a couple of stand out arts and culture moments that put us on the edge of our seats! 

Here’s your ticket to The Method Gun, a farcical take on Streetcar Named Desire, originally devised by Austin’s Rude Mechs and performed here by students from the Wesleyan Theatre Department.

Here’s your ticket to an hour of classic music performed by rising stars from Juilliard School of Music. 


The weather has cooled off a bit here in sunny south Florida and it has been absolutely beautiful the last couple of days. We just found out about an hour ago that Palm Beach County has reopened (phase 1, although it’s a bit confusing)… I’m not sure I’m ready to eat in a restaurant just yet. Guess it’ll be a few more weeks of takeout! 


It has been eight weeks since we first started our Coronavirus Blog, posting college-related news and updates, and stories about college students and other members of college communities across the U.S—how some have been making direct contributions to the fight against the pandemic as well as those bringing joy and support to people near and far. As the semester comes to a close for many colleges, and with the remainder to follow soon, we have decided to wrap up our series with this as our last post. We hope that you have both benefitted from and enjoyed the posts. Moving forward, we will continue to bring you insightful information about the college search process. We hope you’ll check in and of course, please let us know if you have questions and/or would like us to write about anything in particular. Be sure to mark Sunday, June 21st on your calendar for our webinar with College Essay Solutions. We will post the time and additional information here and on our Facebook page at the beginning of June. We hope that you all stay healthy and safe as states begin to reopen and we all begin our “new normal.” 


College Students Would Attend Class in Fall Even Without A Vaccine

According to a poll conducted by College Reaction, 65% of 835 college students polled said they would attend in-person classes if their colleges were to reopen in the fall even if no vaccine were available. As summarized in an article written by Neal Rothschild at Axios, the findings suggest that even when faced with the prospect of packed-in lecture halls without a vaccine, most students want to get back to their classes and have an actual college experience, not a virtual one. You can read the full Axios article to learn more about why this information matters and what this could mean for colleges and how they think about moving forward.

Federal Student Loan Rates Will Be Lower Than Ever

Both undergraduates and graduates who will be taking out federal student loans to help finance their education during the 2020-2021 school year will benefit from historically low interest rates. As reported by CNN, “undergraduates can expect a 2.75% interest rate on a Federal Direct Stafford loan this academic year, down from 4.53% during the past school year. Federal graduate loans will have a 4.3% rate, down from 6.08%, and federal PLUS loans (for graduate and parent borrowers) will be at 5.3%, down from 7.08%.” What does this translate to? An undergraduate student with a $10,000 loan for example, will save about $1,000 over the duration of the loan. This CNN article provides additional details about the loans and their impact.


Congratulations to the Class of 2020! We decided to delay our post for a few days so we could share with you some of the many unique and wonderful ways that students, parents and the colleges themselves have chosen to celebrate the commencements for this year’s class of graduates. We know how hard it has been for high schoolers, undergraduates and grad students alike to not have traditional graduation ceremonies, but we admire how they have pushed through their disappointment, and we hope that they know how proud everyone is of their accomplishments! 

Student’s Life-Size Cutout Stands In For Purdue University President at Home Graduation and Photos on Campus

Laura DiPietro, a spring 2020 grad at Purdue University, found a unique way to shake the university president’s hand despite the cancellation of commencement. She sent an email to Mitch Daniels, Purdue University President, asking if he could send her a photo of himself, so she could make a cardboard cutout of him that she and her roommates could use for a home graduation. He said yes! He sent a photo in commencement attire with his hand out, ready to shake a student’s hand. DiPietro then made a life-size cutout, which she took with her across campus when taking graduation photos at various landmarks. Congrats, Laura! 

Dallas Baptist University Organizes Commencement Parade for 2020 Seniors

Staff and faculty at Dallas Baptist University found a unique way to honor their 2020 graduates, despite the cancellation of this year’s commencement. Last Friday morning, they lined the streets and cheered on the graduates as more than 600 cars with the graduates drove through the campus. Their names were read as they passed the graduation platform and each student received their diploma at the end. Congrats, DBU grads!

Berkeley Becomes “Blockeley” for Virtual Graduation

A team of 100 dedicated UC Berkeley students built a virtual “Blockeley University” in the Minecraft Video game, which graduates then “attended” this past Saturday. This virtual commencement was complete with remarks by Chancellor Carol Christ, the conferring of degrees and flying of mortarboards. Congrats to both Berkeley and Blockeley grads!

Dad Builds Graduation Stage for Daughter in Driveway

Like so many other college graduates, Gabrielle Pierce was disappointed about not being able to attend commencement; she was supposed to walk across the stage to receive her diploma at Xavier University. Despite the cancellation, her dad was determined to have her walk across a stage—so he built her one—in the driveway of their house. Memphis television station Fox 13 reported that Burson told Gabrielle, ““After all those years, you’re going to walk across somebody’s stage if I have to build you one myself.” So he did! The ceremony was complete with a program and presenters and was attended by family as neighbors cheered her on from the street. Congrats, Gabrielle! 


Over the past couple of days, we’ve had some new visitors to our pond—four tiny ducklings out swimming with their parents and then today, along with torrential rain and strong thunderstorms, we welcomed a family of four river otters frolicking and searching for fish.

Sunday was our first family outing since we all began sheltering together in mid-March. It was perfect—we didn’t even have to worry about social distancing! We enjoyed Lion Country Safari’s drive thru animal adventure, viewing up close lion cubs, wildebeests, water buffalo and more, including my favorites, the baby rhinos! We even had a slight delay, while an ostrich pecked at our car window!

College tour planning for Independent Educational Consultants

College and University Tour Planning for Independent Education Consultants

At Custom College Visits, we know how important your time is — meeting with families and counseling students on choosing the right high school courses, discussing test prep, helping them research colleges, build a college list and ultimately helping them choose colleges that are the right fit.

We also know that you need to stay on top of what’s happening on college campuses — visiting those you’re not familiar with, making connections and building relationships with admissions representatives, learning more about the academic offerings and student life, and chatting with current students.

With so much on your plate, could you use help planning these college visit itineraries or trips? Over recent years we have received requests from a number of IECs requesting information about how we can assist them.

Whether touring campuses not far from home or traveling across the world, perhaps you can benefit from our proven process for planning multi-day, multi-campus itineraries that are customized to your specific needs and requests. We will take care of the on-campus meetings and travel arrangements so all you’ll have to do is show up! Your trip will be worry-free and you’ll be able to access your detailed, daily itinerary on any mobile device. And best of all, you’ll have more time to spend on the other aspects of your business.

If you are thinking about taking a college trip for yourself or a small (under 20 persons) group, and would like an expertly planned itinerary with no additional work for yourself, please reach out. We would love to speak with you to learn about your intended trip and provide a proposal.

Please contact Janice Caine at +1 650-931-4515 or