In the Thick of It: Cynthia Wagner on the College Journey


Many local high school seniors and their parents know that their college planner, Cynthia Wagner, understands what they’re going through right now. That’s because Cynthia is helping her daughter, a Burbank High School senior, get into the college of her dreams right now, as she’s helping other seniors and their families on their college journey.

She is “practicing what she preaches,” utilizing the same advice she’s given to hundreds of families over the last 5 years in college planning workshops and private consultations. Below is some of that advice, and you can learn more about the college tours Cynthia and her daughter are currently taking by visiting

College Visits

Cynthia cannot stress enough the importance of students and their parents touring as many schools as they can prior to applying to them.  Most schools utilize strategic enrollment management, and keep track of a prospective student’s interest in their school by monitoring their amount of engagement with the school’s staff and resources.


The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) has room for only 10 colleges. Cynthia strongly advises that students keep their list of college choices to 10, because FAFSA accommodating more than 10 is problematic and can potentially cause issues that can affect college financial aid amounts. In addition, FAFSA has many quirky rules that are sometimes not crystal-clear.  For example, parents may not need to list business assets if that business was set up correctly and if the business has less than 100 employees. Another example: the parents’ home equity may not need to be included in the FAFSA.

There are so many more little “gotchas” when it comes to FAFSA!


If the college says essays are optional, still write the essay!  Students not completing those essays will not be as attractive a candidate for acceptance as a student who did the work and submitted the essays.


University of California colleges do not accept SAT & ACT scores, and may be considering a replacement option in the future.  Cal State colleges have temporarily suspended SAT & ACT scores. Most colleges will review your SAT or ACT if it will assist in boosting a student overall and will accept them, as do most private colleges in California, and the vast majority of colleges across the US.  Students should still take either the SAT or ACT if they are applying to more than just UC or Cal State colleges.


The Common App has a 650 word essay, but each college may have supplemental essays as well.  The UC app has 8 writing prompts of which your student must choose 4 that they must answer. The Cal State app does not have any essay or required writing.  If a student is applying to a mix of UC, Cal State, and out-of-state colleges, and a mix of public and private colleges –the number of essays could add up.  This is a great time to see what essays could be recycled.

Brag Sheets and Résumés

Every senior should compile a brag sheet, and then build a résumé from that brag sheet.  Résumés are a great tool to have on-hand when visiting colleges, to leave behind with department heads and other staff after meetings. Brag sheets help those writing letters of recommendation with making sure they cover the student’s accomplishments and overall strengths. Also, brag sheets help students recall all the great things they’ve done when college applications ask for accolades and awards..  Make sure the brag sheet and résumé includes all volunteer work, extra-curricular activities, and leadership details.

You’re Not Alone!

Seniors and their families currently struggling with applications, essays, and FAFSA do not have to go about it on their own!  Cynthia is helping many Burbank seniors right now, drawing on her years of college planning experience as both a professional and a mother who has now gone through it all twice.

Families of high school seniors — as well as juniors, sophomores, and freshmen — are encouraged to contact Cynthia Wagner, College Planner, to learn more about how she and her team can help.


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