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#181: What Do Colleges Look At?

The college admissions process can look daunting, but The Money JAR is here to help! Rishika and Mindy have both successfully navigated the many steps of applying to colleges, both as a student in the COVID-19 pandemic and as a parent. They speak with college admissions coach Jen Namba about what students can do to plan for a successful college application process.

Jen is clear that “Students do not need a college admissions coach to get into school. This process is designed and meant for seventeen-year-olds to do on their own. It is a little bit murkey, though.” In her role as a college admissions coach, she says, “I don’t help kids get into college […] there’s no magic, or there’s no secrets, there’s just industry knowledge.” She brings some of that knowledge to The Money JAR, including the statistics of getting into certain colleges, how colleges look at GPA and test scores when deciding who to admit, and advice on visiting college campuses.

Jen encourages students not to live their high school lives with their whole focus on getting into MIT or Stanford, though. She says, “I really love to tell my freshman and sophomores, ‘Don’t spend these years thinking about colleges themselves. Think about doing what you love and doing it a lot!'”

Jen Namba is an independent college admissions coach who works out of Portland, Oregon. Jen helps students and families navigate the complicated college admissions process, start to finish. From career and major exploration to coming up with a list of right-fit colleges (based on a student’s social, academic, philosophical, and financial needs) to application submission, she mentors students every step of the way. She belongs to multiple professional associations for college counselors (HECA, PNACAC) and loves helping students figure out their post-high school path! You can find her at