College Counseling Newsletter

Professional Experience


Needham, MA

  • Associate Director of College Counseling/English Teacher/Coach                                         July 2012-Present
  • Work with students in their families through all stages of the college process
  • Visit colleges, attend seminars and meet with representatives to stay informed
  • Teach two sections of 8th grade English and one sections of 10th grade English
  • Lead initiatives  to incorporate technology into the classroom, including a Microsoft Surface pilot program, work with GoogleDrive,  and the successful implementation of the vocabulary program “Membean”
  • Focus on cultivating an appreciation of literature, developing the clarity and originality of students’ writing, and teaching students to ask their own interpretive questions
  • Interview and evaluate applicants for the Admissions Office
  • Serve as JV Football Head Coach, Varsity Football Assistant Coach, and 7th Grade Lacrosse Coach


Quincy, MA
Board Member                                                                                                                         September 2012-Present
  • Attend monthly board meetings to discuss budgeting, planning, and other relevant school issues with the Headmaster
  • Help to plan and coordinate a forthcoming 5-year strategic plan through the Strategic Plan Sub-Committee
  • Lead the Board’s Professional Development Sub-Committee to help raise and allocate funds for teacher development


Duxbury, MA
Middle School Teacher
May 2011-June 2012
  • Taught four sections of seventh grade French and one section of Critical Reading
  • Designed innovative curriculum that followed the state standards while also incorporating creative teaching methods
  • Emphasized project based learning, student interaction, differentiation, and rigorous individual assessment
  • Served as the Line Coach for Duxbury High School Football’s 2012 State Championship team
  • Lead and assisted with afternoon strength and conditioning programs for middle and high school athletes


Boston, MA
Sales and Marketing                                                                                                               January-April 2011
  • Presented summer service trips to students, teachers, and administrators at high schools throughout New England
  • Designed and wrote comprehensive fundraising materials to distribute to students


Istres, France
High School English Language Assistant

Fall 2010

  • Taught English to twelve classes of varying ages and abilities and provided one-on-one tutoring
  • Planned and executed lessons focused on American culture and oral communication


Cambridge, MA
Senior Counselor                                                                                                                     Summer 2009, Summer 2010
  • Organized and taught math, reading, and writing lessons to a class of ten rising 5th graders
  • Planned and led educational and engaging field trips around the Boston area
  • Collaborated with a Boston community health organization to design a health curriculum and plan an event



Middlebury, VT
Currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in English Literature.                                                   June 2013-Present


Cambridge, MA
A.B. degree in English. Language Citation in French. GPA: 3.28   Concentration GPA: 3.36 May 2010
  •  Four-year Varsity Football Team member, Ivy League Champion in 2007 and 2008 and “Major H” recipient in 2010
  • Named to 2010 National Football Foundation Hampshire Honor Society for academic and athletic achievement
  • Received a 2010 Pforzheimer Foundation Public Service Grant to return to the Cambridge Youth Enrichment Program


West Roxbury, MA
 AP Scholar, newspaper columnist, Debate Team member, Football captain, awarded NFF Scholar Athlete Award
June 2006
For those of you who I haven’t met, my name is Mike Lawler and for the past few months I have been working as 128 Lacrosse’s College Counselor. My job is to serve as a resource for players or parents who have questions about the recruiting process or the college process more broadly.
In order for me to get a better sense of where our student-athletes are in the college process, I put together a general college survey for the players. If players could fill out the survey whenever they have a chance, it will be very helpful for us as we try to develop events and programs to best serve our players.
I don’t expect every player to be able to answer all the questions; part of the purpose of the survey is to communicate the most important questions student-athletes should be asking.
Here is another link to the survey, if for some reason you didn’t receive the first e-mail.
Mike Lawler

128 Players and Parents,


Every week or two this summer I plan to send you all some information about resources to help you in the college process–no matter what stage you’re in. Most of this information applies most directly to the rising seniors. it is essential, however, for the rising juniors to begin thinking about the college process, especially in terms of recruiting and standardized test preparation. In this week’s installment, I’ll talk about:


  1. The Common Application

  2. SAT Prep through Khan Academy

  3. The “Getting in Podcast”

  4. Summer Jobs/Volunteer Work

  5. The FAFSA and NextGenVest

  6. Visiting Colleges and “Demonstrated Interest”


  1. The Common Application


As many of you probably know, the Common Application, an online application accepted by almost all colleges, is now available to begin for rising seniors. Here’s the link:


If you haven’t yet, you should create an account, take a look at the application, read the essay prompts and begin working on it. The application questions shouldn’t take more than a couple of hours, but you should spend much more time outlining, drafting, and revising your essay. Be sure to write a draft this summer, have a teacher or someone else you trust give you feedback and then write a revision.


Although junior year is often considered the most difficult year for high school students, senior year (especially the fall) will be the busiest time of your high school career. Anything you can do to get ahead in the summer will be a huge help.


2. SAT Prep through Khan Academy


Many of you will have private tutors or attend SAT/ACT group classes to prepare for standardized testing in your junior and senior year. Those tutors and classes can be helpful, but it’s most essential for you to take practice tests and strive to improve on the areas where you missed the most questions.


Luckily for you, Khan Academy has created an easy to use and free SAT prep platform where you can take full or partial practice tests to assess your skills and track your progress. I strongly recommend everyone set up an account and put in at least a few hours per week this summer on Khan Academy. Here’s a link to get started:


3. The “Getting In” Podcast


Some of you might have heard of the excellent and popular book How to Raise an

Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for

Success by Julie Lythcott-Haims. I just finished the book and strongly recommend it to parents.


Over the past year, Julie Lythcott-Haims has also hosted a podcast called

“Getting In.” I have found the podcast to be tremendously helpful in learning

more about the college application process. You can download the podcast

through the Podcast app on your smart phone by searching “Getting In”

or listen to it online. Below is a link to the first episode:


4. Summer Jobs and Volunteer Work


It’s never too late to find a summer job or volunteer opportunity. Having interesting and productive summer experiences will help you bolster your college application, give you things to talk about in interviews, and most importantly, give you life experiences you’d never have otherwise. Search online, utilize your networks, or even walk to your town square and ask for applications if you don’t have a job or volunteer opportunity lined up yet.


5. The FAFSA and NextGenVest


If you plan on applying for financial aid, you will need to fill out a FAFSA form (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). This process can often be confusing and time consuming. You can submit your FAFSA as early as October 2nd this year so the summer would probably be a good time to get ahead on it. One great way to learn about and get started on the financial aid process is by signing up for NextGenVest. Below is an explanation of the service.


NextGenVest is a company that offers a free service to help students and families navigate the complicated process of applying for college financial aid. They connect students with trained “Money Mentors,” who then help answer questions and find scholarships. Last month NextGenVest helped students earn over $300,000 in scholarships.


More specifically, NextGenVest helps with the following challenges:


  • How to fill out the new 2016-2017 FAFSA

  • Key Financial Aid Paperwork and Tax Forms

  • New Deadline Changes

  • College Specific Forms (e.g. CSS forms)

  • Where to find scholarships

  • How to negotiate tuition bills

  • Common Student and Parent Questions


Below is the NextGenVest website, an article and a news story about the



6. Visiting Colleges and “Demonstrated Interest”


Whether you’re a rising junior or senior, the summer is a great time to start visiting colleges. Most colleges have student-led tours you can sign-up for online, so make sure to book tours online before scheduling your visits. If you’re unsure about what type of school you want to go to visit all different types of campuses. If you’re a rising senior and you’re interested in playing lacrosse at that college, you should e-mail the coach (pay attention to your wording and grammar!) to let them know you’re coming. Whether they can meet you or not, it will be good to let them know you’re on their campus.


When you do visit a college make sure you “demonstrate” interest either by attending an information session, filling out a form to mark your visit with admissions, or having a formal or informal interview with an admissions officers. Colleges now track “demonstrated interest” and it can make a difference when they read your application and try to figure out how likely it would be for you to attend the college if admitted.


That’s all for now. Next time I’ll talk about how to write e-mails to coaches, SAT II’s, the importance of independent reading among other topics.


Best of luck in your upcoming tournaments and please e-mail me with any questions.

Hi everyone,


I hope all of your summers are off to a great start and you’re excited about this weekend’s tournament at UMass Amherst. This week I will cover:


  • The UMass Tournament

  • Writing Emails to college coaches

  • Common App Essay Questions

  • Fighting Summer Brain Drain


The UMass Tournament


I will be at the UMass tournament from 11:30-3:30 on Saturday. I’ll try to set up a space to sit down and meet with parents and players and also walk the sidelines and connect with as many people as possible. I’m looking forward to meeting many of you as I can and I can’t wait to see the teams in action on the field!


Writing E-mails to colleges coaches


I spoke to a college lacrosse coach earlier in the week and asked him, “What advice do you have for players when they e-mail college coaches?” Here’s what he said:


  1. Be sure to follow proper grammar, writing mechanics and e-mail conventions.

  2. Attach a transcript with your calculated GPA if applicable.

  3. Include any SAT, ACT, or SAT II scores.

  4. Attach a highlight video. He recommends that it be under four minutes and aims to show your top plays and versatility at your position.

  5. Explain why you are interested in that particular school.


He also told me it can be useful to email a coach before a tournament where you expect a coach he will be watching. If you don’t get around to it, he said it’s also acceptable to e-mail a coach after a tournament where he saw you play.


Here’s an example of an effective e-mail:


Dear Coach Smith,


I hope you’re having a great summer!


My name is Roger Dodger and I am a rising senior at Milton High School in Milton, MA. At Milton High, I play defensive back and wide receiver for the football team and middie for the lacrosse team. I also play middie for 128 Lacrosse, a local club team, and I will be competing in the Mid-Summer Classic at UMass this weekend and in the Stowe Lax Festival on July 16-17.


I currently have a 3.46 GPA (my transcript is attached) and I will be taking two AP classes and three Honors classes senior year. I earned a 1830 (610 Critical Reading, 600 Math, 620 Writing) on the old SAT, a 620 on the Spanish SAT II, and a 590 on the US History SAT II. I plan on taking the new SAT at least one more time in the fall and will be working all summer to improve my scores.


I am very interested in Connecticut College because I want to attend a small and challenging liberal arts college and play for a serious and competitive Division III lacrosse program. I believe I have the talent and work ethic it would take to succeed in your program.


Along with my transcript, I am also attaching a short highlight video from the past two seasons.


Thanks for your consideration,




Common Application Essay Questions


In my last newsletter, I provided some thoughts on how to get started on the Common Application. This week I thought it would be useful to include the prompts for the essay section, by far the most important and time-consuming part of the application.


Senior fall is going to be one of the busiest times of your life, so it’s best to get the essay started–or even finished–this summer.


Here are the prompts:


1. Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

2. The lessons we take from failure can be fundamental to later success. Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?

3. Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?

4. Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma – anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.

5. Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.


Fighting Summer Brain Drain


After spending all year engaged in academic work, high school students need a well-deserved break. That being said, if you take too much time away from reading, writing, studying, and thinking critically about the world, it can cause “brain drain,” a phenomenon during which mental inactivity causes students to lose many of the skills they acquired in the previous year. To hold onto those skills and to make sure you’re prepared for the upcoming school year, try to stay as intellectually engaged as possibly. Reading is by far the easiest and most useful way to fight “brain drain.” Read fiction, non-fiction, newspapers, internet articles, magazines, or whatever you can get your hands on. Most of all, read things that challenge you and interest you.


If you’re not sure what to read, check out this list of the best books for teens from NPR:


As always, if you have any comments or questions feel free to e-mail me or give me a call. I look forward to meeting many of you on Saturday!

Hi everyone,


I hope you’re all enjoying the final weeks of summer! I wanted to write with some information and reminders. Today I will cover:


  1. The “New SAT” scores versus the “Old SAT” Scores

  2. Financial Aid and Filling Out the FAFSA

  3. Tips for the College Essay

  4. Recruiting Regulations for College Lacrosse Coaches


The New SAT Scores Versus the Old Sat Scores


As most of you probably know, the College Board released a totally revamped SAT this year with several changes including returning to a 1600-point scoring system, making the Writing section optional, and eliminating penalties for guessing, among other content-based changes.


Although the Math and Reading sections are still both out of 800 points, since old test and new tests are very differents, the scores are not equal. This can make understanding your scores a bit a confusing if you’ve taken both the old and new SAT.


In short, the old SAT scores are going to be worth more, usually about 40 points per section. For example, if you earned a 620 on the old SAT math section, that would be equivalent of approximately a 580 on the new SAT.


Below is a link to a conversion program the College Board created:


Also, on a different note, if you’re trying to understand your ACT scores in relation to both old and new SAT scores, this conversion chart can be helpful:


Financial Aid and filling out the FAFSA


I wanted to remind you all that you can submit your FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) starting October 2nd this year. Since there’s only a finite number of grants and loans that the Federal Government gives out, it’s best to submit this info as early as possible.


Here’s a link to the application:


The FAFSA will help you figure out what the government thinks your “Expected Family Contribution” (EFC) should be each year of college. The FAFSA will use your family’s “Prior-prior year” tax returns and analyze your assets to figure out how much you can be expected to pay for college. That means if you’re applying for college in the fall of 2016, they’ll be using the income information from your parents’ 2015 tax return.


Even if you don’t think you’re eligible for financial aid, it’s worth filling out the FAFSA to see, especially since the Stafford Loans the government awards usually have lower interest rates than loans from private companies.


When you apply through the FAFSA you are applying to receive three different types of “Financial Aid” and it’s very important to understand the difference:


  1. Grants: Aid often “Pell Grants” from the government that you don’t have to pay back.


  1. Loans: Money that you will have to pay back. The interest rates for FAFSA loans will often be lower than for other types of debt, but many students still end up paying back double what they borrow by the time they pay it off, so be cautious with how much of this type of aid you accept.

  1. Work Study: The federal work study program encourages student to find jobs either on campus or in fields related to their studies in order to earn part of their aid package. It’s not free money like grants since you work for it, but you don’t have to pay any of it back.


As I mentioned in my last newsletter, if you’re confused or wary about the Financial Aid process, I strongly recommend using NextGenVest ( which is a free service to help guide you through the financial aid process.


Tips for Writing the College Essay


In my last newsletter, I wrote about how to get started on the college essay and provided you with the list of Common Application essay topics. Today, I want to pass along a checklist one of my colleagues made a few years ago that I give my students to help them write, and more importantly revise, their college essays.


Once you’ve chosen your topic and begun writing and planning (hopefully you all have!) your essay, review and use this checklist to ensure that your college essay is the best version of itself.


  1. Essay Opening. Check your opening. Is it catchy? Does it start with action, introduce dialogue, paint a vivid image, or create anticipation for the reader?

  1. Active Verbs. After writing, circle your verbs so you can revise them. How many “to be” verbs do you have (is, am, are, was, were, been, being)? Replace many of them with active, vivid verbs. Avoid the passive voice and vague verbs at all times.


  1. Organization. Write the topic sentence of each paragraph in the margin. Does each paragraph have a single focus? Are your paragraphs short enough to maintain the reader’s interest? Are your opening and closing sentences for each paragraph effective?


  1. Specific, concrete detail. The energy of your essay is always in your details. Use concrete, specific details whenever possible. Do you provide specific images? Do test it out, underline all your images, and ask yourself, can the reader picture each one clearly? Remember to show the action, not tell about the action.


  1. Dialogue. Do you provide dialogue instead of summarizing a conversation? Not every essay will call for dialogue, but insert it when it creates tension or interest. A full dialogue opener can also bring an essay to life.


  1. Focus. Do you stick to only one topic? What dominant impression do you want your reader to have of you? Always go for depth instead of breadth.


  1. Sentence Length and Word Order. Do you vary your sentence length, trying to mix up short, medium and longer sentences? Do you vary your syntax (word order)?


  1. Language. Is your word choice conversational, appropriate, and easy to read? Does it sound like you? Get rid of any words that sound “off” or too fancy. Try to choose words that bring your imagery to life.


  1. Ending. Does your ending open a new door for the reader while remaining on topic? Does it help the reader see one of your ideas in a new light? Does it return to a detail from early in the essay, giving the reader a feeling of satisfaction and completion?


  1. Sound Test. Read the essay aloud, slowly. Listen to yourself as you read. Does it sound clear? Eliminate any awkward phrasing, run-on sentences, or words that don’t sound like you. Add words if necessary. Check your punctuation as well.


Recruiting Regulations for College Lacrosse Coaches


As most of you know, the lacrosse college recruiting landscape is in constant flux. I did some research on Division 1, 2, and 3 college recruiting and found the following timelines to be the most useful. That being said, some of these rules, especially for Division will probably be changing in the upcoming year.


Division 1:


Division 2:


Division 3:


As always, please call or e-mail me if you have any thoughts or questions.


128 Players and Parents,


I hope everyone’s school year is off to a good start!


Seniors–I’m sure most of you are receiving these reminders from your guidance officers, but I figured it wouldn’t hurt to be reminded again.


  1. Make sure you have asked two teachers (ideally from junior or senior year) to write college recommendation letters for you. Also once you decide, make sure you communicate clearly with those teachers about whether or not you plan to apply Early Decision/Early Action or just Regular Decision.


  1. As I mentioned in a previous entry, you can submit your FAFSA (Federal Application for Financial Student Aid), starting October 2nd this year, three months earlier than previous years. It makes sense to get your FAFSA in as early as possibly because often times  Federal “grant” (money you don’t need to pay back) money runs out early. Here’s a link with some more info:


  1. Make sure you’re off to a great start in your classes! Sit in the front row, pay close attention, participate, make sure all your homework is done impeccably. There’s no time like the present to do your best academic work. Colleges love to see an “upward academic trend,” so even if you didn’t have your best year junior year, it’s not too late to make an impression on college admissions officers with improved first semester senior grades.

  1. I know many 128 players are considering playing club lacrosse in college. I think it’s a great option: at the club level you can keep playing a sport you love in a competitive environment, you get all the camaraderie of a team sport, you visit and compete against other colleges, and you have more time for academics and other extracurricular activities than you would if you played for a NCAA Division 1, 2, or 3 team. Below is a link that will take you to a list of all the colleges and universities that have club lacrosse teams, sorted by division. If you’re considering club, take a look at this list and compare it to the current college list you have.


I will be away on my honeymoon next week, so I’ll be out of contact, but if you have any questions, please leave me a voicemail or send me an e-mail and I’ll get back to you on September 19th. Also, in future posts, I will begin addressing some questions current sophomores and juniors might be having about college the recruiting process.


Parents and players–please send any questions my way and I’ll respond to some of them in the next newsletter.


Dear 128 Players and Parents,

I hope you’re all doing well. Congratulations to all the student-athletes who submitted Early Decision and Early Action applications! As you take a deep breath or prepare to finalize your Regular Decision applications, I write with some advice for seniors and some thoughts for juniors as you begin to focus in on the college application process.

For Seniors:

  1. Community Service

The holidays are a great time to involve yourself in community service opportunities, both because there are many initiatives happening during this time of year and because students tend to have more free time as fall sports finish up and school slows down over Thanksgiving and Christmas break. Participating in community service is always a mutually beneficial experience. Yes, you are helping the people you work with, but you are also gaining valuable experience and learning more about yourself, others, and the world. It can even help you in the college process: many of my seniors this year wrote college essays about their community service work and how it impacted them.

2. College Essays

If you are still working on your college essay–no matter the stage–I think the link below offers some helpful advice. The best advice I can give is that you should answer the prompt by telling a specific, clear, and detailed story that answers the prompt, rather than answering it directly.

3. Submitting Applications

Although the deadline for Regular Decision is usually January 1 or January 15, I strongly recommend setting a deadline for yourself well before the official deadline. You don’t want to be scrambling to finish your Common Application, college essay, or any supplemental essays during your Christmas break, and more importantly, if you wait until the last minute you won’t be presenting the best version of yourself to colleges.

4. Balancing Out Your List

The number of schools a student applies to often varies greatly, but I think it’s important–no matter how many schools you apply to–to make sure you apply to a mix of “Reach,” “Match,” and “Likely” schools. There are many resources out there for you to see how “selective” a given school is and how you compare to a college’s average admitted applicant. I think the Princeton Review does a great job outlining that information cleary and their “Selectivity Rating” at the bottom of a college’s page is helpful in comparing how selective one college is to another. Below is a link to the search platform. Just type in a college name to get more info.

For Juniors:

Now that you’re well into what I’m sure is a challenging junior year, this is the right time to start thinking more deeply about the college process. While the recruiting process might determine the kind of school you end up at, I still think it’s important to ask yourself the following questions:

  • What am I interested in academically? Extracurricularly? Would I prefer a Liberal Arts curriculum or a more specialized curriculum? (e.g. Business or Engineering)

  • What type of college campus do I want to go to? Urban? Suburban? Rural?

  • What size college do I want to attend? Big (10k+)? Medium (5k +)? Small (less than 5K)?

  • Where do I want to go to college? In the Northeast? In the Mid-Atlantic states? In the South? In the Midwest? On the West Coast?

  • What are my plans for standardized testing? Should I focus on the SAT or ACT? Do I need to enroll in a prep course? What SAT Subject Tests should I take at the end of junior year?

  • What are my summer plans? How can I make money and gain valuable experience through summer work? How do I apply for jobs that will interest me?

  • Do I want to play lacrosse or another sport in college? If so, what level can I legitimately play at? How can I make sure I’m on those coaches’ radars?

In upcoming newsletters I will work to answer some of these questions, or at least help you consider some possible answers. In the meantime, it’s important that you begin coming up with a plan for standardized testing, apply to summer jobs, and start planning college visits. Local colleges are a great place to start!

As always, if you have any thoughts our questions, don’t hesitate to e-mail or call me.