Hey Applicants: “You Need to be Odd to be #1”

November 20, 2015

These days, the college application process is one of the biggest challenges that any student will go through. This week, we chatted with Sheléne Peterson, an Educational Team member at New Coda, an academic and test prep company. She gives us more details about what students should and shouldn’t do when applying to college, and she also gives us some good recommendations for a nice weekend out.

Where did you go to high school? College?

Red Bluff Union High School, Red Bluff, CA

Notre Dame de Namur University, Belmont, CA

How long have you been working as a college consultant?

I have been helping students with their college application essays for more than four years

Approximately how many students have you worked with?

I have worked with hundreds of students in my tutoring career.

How did you get into college consulting?

New Coda tutors high school students in preparation for the SAT, ACT, and other placement tests in addition to academic tutoring. College admissions questions naturally arise as students set goals and make plans.

Why should students hire you?

New Coda recognizes that each student has unique strengths and goals. We are free to personalize every lesson according to the student’s needs.

If you could change the common app essay question to anything, what would it be?

What invention would change the world? How?

What’s your motto?

You have to be odd to be number one

Favorite quote?  

Don’t take life too seriously, you’ll never get out of it alive.

What was your first job?


What’s the first thing you do in the morning to get your day off to a good start?

Filter my endless To Do list down to 3 Must Do items.

One breakfast item you can’t skip in the morning?


What are the biggest mistakes students make when applying to college?

I’ve seen students apply to schools arbitrarily without doing even cursory research on which schools offer programs best suited to their intended studies. Students can be distracted by the school’s name and then neglect to discover anything else about the school.

Describe your perfect weekend.

A quiet, internet-free getaway stocked with books, room service, and lots of pillows.

What advice do you give students to help with time management?

Set a timer for 25 minutes and work free of distraction the entire time. Remove the temptation of social media, TV, and texting. A focused 25-minute sprint can accomplish a lot.

How do you think the college application process will change in the next 10 years?

I think admissions requirements add more humanistic elements to reflect the growing need for well-rounded thinkers in the workforce.

What’s your opinion on ACT vs. SAT? What do more of your students take? What do you think colleges think about the two?

Many of our students take both the ACT and the SAT, though the SAT is still more well known. With the new SAT coming out in early 2016, it will be interesting to see how student preferences are affected. Both the SAT and the ACT provide a standard data point colleges use to more fairly compare applicants, though a test score is still just one data point. This is why the college admissions essay is so important—it gives students a chance to show their personality.

Favorite place in the world?

Ashland, OR

If you could require one book for all students to read, what would it be?

White Noise, Don Delillo

If you could submit anything (an object, an animal, anything!) to a college admissions officer that embodies who you are, what would it be?

A Lite Bright spelling out the Thomas Jefferson quote “I find that the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have.”

What do you consider the world’s best invention?

Indoor plumbing

Choose 3 people to have dinner with (dead or alive).

Joss Whedon, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Margaret Atwood

What’s one activity / habit you wish you had time to pick up?


What’s the biggest thing students stress out about?

Grades rather than learning. Achieving high grades is important in school, but learning and retaining information is important in life.

What’s the biggest thing parents stress out about?

College rankings and reputations over all the available educational opportunities.

Have you ever had to fire a client? Why?

I have not fired a client but rather matched students with tutors with more compatible personalities.

Tell us a joke.

The past, the present, and the future walked into a bar. It was tense.

Applying to college? Use AdmitSee’s search - you’ll find scores, essays, advice, and more from students who have already gotten in. College students can sign up now, and they’ll automatically be entered into our monthly $1,000 scholarship. Want to be featured? Please send us a contact form and provide us with your name, occupation, and company.


Browse Successful Application Files

Duke ‘21

Accepted to Duke, Binghamton

Aristotle said, "A friend to all is a friend to none." I disagree.
USC ‘19

Accepted to USC, UMich, Northwestern, UC Berkeley, UCLA, Swarthmore, CMU, NYU, Vassar, Reed, Kenyon, UC Davis, Syracuse, CU, Fordham, Santa Clara, CSU Chico, CSUF, UC Riverside , UCSB, UCSC, Bard

Theater/business double major from traditional & online highschool background. Can help cut essays & navigate audition/business interview process! On full tuition merit scholarship
Duke ‘23

Accepted to Duke, UT Austin, GA Tech, Washington, Arizona

I am a normal person: I promise. I am a big sports fan who will be attending Duke to watch basketball (and hopefully graduate with an economics degree).
Harvard ‘19

Accepted to Harvard, UChicago, Northwestern, Swarthmore, Emory, Oklahoma U, UKentucky, K College , OU, Alma

Premed on track to graduate a year early. But I love my school! National merit scholar, into surgery, arts & community…

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