Ask Toby! - Toby's Newspaper Columns

      Toby Rose
      Independent College Counselor


Have questions regarding college, applications, SAT, scholarships, or just confused about life?
Ask Toby!

Toby Rose has an educational and teen advice column in the Pinecrest Community Newspaper. She is an independent college counselor, was a Dade County Outstanding Teacher and served as chairperson of the Dade County School Board’s Academic Advisory Committee.

Rose is a member of the University of Miami’s Women’s Guild and the American Association of University Women and is past president of the Pinecrest Business Association. 

Chris Horachek with Nikita

Vivian Eiroa
Our Lady of Lourdes Academy
Miami, Florida
Mayra Castellon
Gulliver Prep.
Pinecrest, Florida
Jeanette Smith with Arshi Jahanp

Morgan Wicks
Florida Christian School
Tiffany Lau
Palmetto Senior H. S.
Pinecrest, Florida
Stanford University
Lauren Lareau with SSAT Class

Claudia Iturrgui
George & Justin Metcalfe
Belen Senior H. S.
Miami, Florida

David Lee
Palmetto Senior H. S.
Pinecrest, Florida
Harrison Rosnei
Killian H. S.
Hyun-Woo Lim
Palmetto Senior H. S.
Pinecrest, Florida

Alexandera Barr
Palmetto Senior H. S.
Pinecrest, Florida
Julie Silberman
Gulliver Academy
Pinecrest, Florida
UF Bright Futures
Nicholas Hart
Palmetto Senior H. S.
Pinecrest, Florida
University of Colorado

Raquel Decespedes
Coral Reef Senior H.S.
Miami, Florida


Toby's Newspaper Columns


Question: My 16-year old daughter is very depressed. She doesn’t talk to us, stays in her room, and sleeps. She sees a psychologist regularly and goes to a psychiatrist for medication. Is this normal? What else can I do?

I have worked with dozens of students that have been severely depressed. This is very common, and in my opinion, is one of the most serious, overlooked issues that today’s teenagers face. I have worked with many students who were and are suicidal. Many of their parents do not want or know how to deal with this illness. Some of my students come to me and immediately cry about what is going on their lives. They all see a psychologist and a psychiatrist, but they have chosen to reveal their problems with me as well. Many of them self-harm through cutting, burning, or scratching; some are also afflicted with eating disorders. I am bound by confidentiality with all my students unless they are on the verge of suicide. I have told my students that anything we talk about will be undisclosed, until I feel that the students may be an immediate threat to themselves or others. After 27 years of being an Independent College Counselor, I know that it is extremely important to deal with all issues affecting my students. How can you help them select the right college if aren’t aware of what’s going on? I work very differently than other Independent College Counselors. Their current mental health is as important to me as their future. I also keep in touch with my kids during their college years, especially when I know they still need me. I advise all of them with current issues to consult a psychologist immediately once they arrive at their new university. If your current psychiatrist is not working for you, you must find someone else. Do not wait. I also would like you to check your daughter’s body to see if there’s any evidence that she is hurting herself through what I mentioned above. Try as hard as you can to open communication with your daughter, but if she chooses not to, do not pressure her until she feels comfortable talking with you. Let her know continuously how much you love her. You need to run, not walk, and get her the help she needs. Do not worsen the situation by provoking a fight or argument if you are frustrated with her lack of communication. I take your question very seriously; please contact me if I can help you with anything.

Question: My daughter’s friends all use Uber a lot. Their parents rationalize, allowing them to attend parties where alcohol is served because they don’t have to drive.

I have received numerous inquiries on this issue. I do not endorse any service or product. I will only give you information that my students have relayed to me. You’re absolutely right �they love Uber because they feel they are given permission by their parents to drink. I am appalled by the laissez-faire attitude of their parents. On the positive side, I have students with working moms and come from Miami Beach, South Dade, and Fort Lauderdale. They don’t drive and do their homework coming and going when they are use Uber. Just like anything, depending on how you use it, it can be a benefit or a hindrance.

Question: I’m from the Midwest and had never heard of an Independent College Counselor until my neighbor told me her son was going to you. I’m curious if you do any follow-through once your students go to college.

    That’s a great question. I do keep up with my “kids.â€?I continue to call and text them once they leave for college. Every school break, my home is filled with the constant flow of college kids. I’m always amazed at the growth that each one of my kids has made. Just this past winter break, I was visited by numerous students, including three recent Miami Palmetto graduates â€?Angela Liu, Tiffany Chen, and George Liu.
    Angela, top 1% of her class at Palmetto, is now at Duke University. She loves the diversity among the students and feels absolutely comfortable surrounded by top students from all over the world. Tiffany, top 2% of her class, currently goes to Purdue and is studying Civil Engineering. She loves her classes and is learning to adapt to small-town life in Indiana. George, top 1% of his class and former Student Council President, plans to join a fraternity at Columbia University. He said, exhaustedly, all he did first semester was get up, go to class, eat, study, and sleep. He is looking forward to a career in law. They all agree that good organizational skills and combatting procrastination are the keys to doing well in college. They are all excited about their next semester because now they get it â€?what a great feeling to talk to each one and see the growth they have made in just one semester.
    One of the questions I asked them was extremely significant to me because I am always open to learning â€?I asked, as their Independent College Counselor, if I could have done anything more to prepare them for college. I was thrilled when all of them said unanimously, “Absolutely not.â€?They told me that all of the sessions that we had after their college applications were completed really prepared them for all aspects of college life. My former kids are my best way of finding out what really goes on in all of the colleges today. Angela, Tiffany, and George all were impressed by their schoolsâ€?orientations, which included discussions on sexual assault, the acceptance of the LGBTQ community, alcohol safety, date-rape, fire protection, and much more. I’ve always told my kids that the best thing about going away to college is not in the textbooks, but learning about oneself; falling down, picking yourself up, dusting yourself off, and moving forward.
    The purpose of my articles is to inform, and not just to get clients. I love all my students regardless of their financial situation â€?if you have difficulty affording my services, we will work it out. Please call me at (305) 790 3746.

Question: My son is in 11th grade. What should we be thinking about in terms of college?

That is a loaded question. For every college that you consider, it’s imperative to know the following questions and answers:
1. What size university are you looking for?
2. How many students would you expect in your classes?
3. Do you have access to professors?
4. What is the ratio of advisors to students?
5. Who teaches the classes �graduate students, professors, or both?
6. What is the acceptance rate?
7. What are the most popular majors?
8. When do you have to determine or declare your major?
9. What do the dorms look like? Are they air-conditioned or heated?
10. How is the food? What meal-plans are available?
11. Is the campus maintained well?
12. What type of climate will you expect?
13. How is the student body? Friendly, diverse, intellectual, or stressed?
14. How many colleges are you considering applying to?
15. Is your son going to take the SAT, ACT, SAT IIs, or all of the above?
16. What are the application deadlines?
17. What is the total cost, including tuition, room and board, books, fees, and transportation?
18. What type of financial aid is available?
19. How are the libraries? Are they noisy or studious?
20. Are there available study areas if the library is unavailable?
21. Can your son take his car freshman year? Would parking be available?
22. Is the Greek system (fraternities and sororities) on campus?
23. Is it necessary to join a fraternity in order to meet friends?
24. Are there any other student organizations other than fraternities and sororities?
25. Is a study-abroad program available?
26. Are internships (paid and unpaid) available?
27. Is there a core curriculum, meaning there are certain courses you must take before you take the ones that interest you?
28. What health facilities are available on campus?
29. Is there sufficient security?
30. Are curfews maintained at your university?

How do you know whether you should take the SAT or the ACT?

I tell all my students to take a practice SAT and a practice ACT and see which one they feel the most comfortable with. Look at your score and try to have as your goal a 30 on the ACT. In the SAT, your goal should be over 700 in both the English and math sections. I would contact your teachers in your English and math classes and go over your scores with them once you begin practicing.

Is it true you can only take the SAT three times before they begin averaging?

No, you can take the SAT as many times as you want; there is no averaging. Most of my kids take it three times. Most colleges currently employ the Superscore system, which means that they will look at only your highest scoring sections across all the dates, rather than being confined to your scores from one specific test date.

Is it true that you can take the ACT instead of SAT IIs?

That’s an excellent question. Many colleges will take the ACT instead of SAT IIs. I would advise you to take your SAT IIs right after you’ve completed an AP course in that subject. Your teachers will give you a good review and you will have several weeks to study on your own. Utilize review books when possible. SAT IIs are only one hour each. My advice is to take as many as possible only if you can get a high score, in order to maximize your options when sending your scores. Colleges are impressed by these subject tests, whether they say so or not. If you have time, I would also advise you take the ACT along with the SAT IIs.

What do you think about the School for Advanced Studies (SAS)?

Academically, it’s a top-notch program. However, I recently found some information from one of my students, which was very upsetting. He’s at Harvard and they told him he only has a year and a half until he graduates from the university because his time at SAS is considered part of his college education. He feels that being at Harvard is much more beneficial than the two years he had with SAS. He is not alone; I’ve received many calls from former students currently attending the University of Florida. They are absolutely shocked that they were told the same information for the same reason. My suggestion to parents is that you must truly investigate the high school your teenager attends. As an educational consultant, I will tell you that this is a daunting task and is part of the reason so many parents bring their students to me.

How many recommendations do I need and who should write them?

I wish I could make this a simple answer, but nothing in whole college application process is easy. Every school has the right to ask for whatever recommendations they deem necessary. It could be one from a science teacher, one from an English teacher, or even none at all. It is mandatory that your child’s Guidance Counselor writes a recommendation. If the school asks for two, this usually does not include the counselor’s. If your child doesn’t know his/her guidance counselor, be sure to ask them to begin speaking to them on a weekly or monthly basis. On the defense of guidance counselors, they have many students, but it is not excuse for them not to take the time to write wonderful letters of recommendation. One my students had sent his recommendations out, but in reality, his teachers did not submit them on time. Everything has to be sent on the due date of that particular college, including transcripts, letters, and test scores.

Should my child take the PSAT? She will be a junior next year.

Absolutely. Your child should have taken the PSAT in 9th and 10th grade. This year, she must listen for announcements in the school to ensure that she doesn’t miss her opportunity this year to register for the test. Once you find out how much the test costs, register and pay your school on the correct dates. The PSAT is a preliminary SAT test that is a good indicator of how well you will do on the actual test. In order to qualify for the National Merit Scholarship, you must be in the 99th percentile in your child’s state. This may seem strange, but it’s for our benefit in Florida. All over the Northeast, the Semifinalists have total scores around 230, but in Florida, the highest is usually around 214, although it changes yearly. In order to be a winner, you must score as well as your did on the PSAT or much better. You also must be active in school and the community, and have the blessing of your principal. This is the highest academic honor regarding standardized testing in the United States.

I’m asking for your advice in order to avoid the same situation with my younger children. My son, Alex, has all A’s and is taking four APs. He is active in school and the community. Alex is a senior just finishing his college applications. Since September, it has felt like a world war has invaded our family. Alex is exhausted, depressed, and pressured. He finds it impossible to do schoolwork and college applications simultaneously. He is overwhelmed and stays up until 1 or 2 AM every night. What can I do to make this process easier for our other two children?

    I have been an Independent College Counselor for the last 26 years and have found this year to be the worst as far as pressure on our kids. Most students are applying to over fifteen schools because the competition exponentially increases each year. Each and every application takes 10-30 hours; this is a daunting task. The application usually contains requests for two teacher recommendations plus one from a school counselor. You cannot request these recommendations at the last minute â€?a good recommendation takes several hours to write. Your child is responsible for sending transcripts and all standardized test scores on a timely basis. For the past few years, the University of Florida and Florida State University required students to self-report their grades, which takes another one or two hours to complete.
    I genuinely believe that the essay is the most important part of the application. The colleges are not asking for a perfect AP English essay, but one that comes from your child’s soul. In 26 years, I have never had any of my students write on the same subject. My job, as their Independent College Counselor, is to unearth that particular topic, which so far has probably been locked away in their hearts previously. Because of my studentsâ€?essays, they receive extraordinary scholarship offers. As difficult as it may be to believe, all of my students get thousands of dollars in scholarships. It is truly worth all the time and energy spent to compete that perfect essay that will not only gain admission but make it financially possible to attend college.
    Some specific pieces of advice that I can give to all my readers are the following: do not make any travel plans for the month of August. The Common Application and many others come out August 1st. This gives students a month before schools starts to work on parts of application, including the essay. Students are not in school and can work the entire day, so when school eventually starts, they should be way ahead of the game. For those of you with students who procrastinate daily, I advise tough love at this time until all applications are completed. Your child goes to school, curtails activities, and does nothing except schoolwork and college applications, in order to avoid stress later on in the semester. This situation may not make for harmony at home, but it will pay off. I guarantee your child will be thrilled when everything is completed and acceptances start to roll in during the second semester. If you can afford it, I recommend an Independent College Counselor. I know many good counselors throughout the United States. College counseling, ideally, should start in 8th grade because it is then that you will decide what high school to attend and courses to select as an upcoming freshman.

Question: I’m a junior and watching all my friends who are seniors do their college applications. Why don’t they just all do the Common Application and be done with it?

Answer: It’s not that easy. The majority of schools who do use the Common Application will send you a supplemental application, which has their information and perhaps additional essays. In reality, if the school has their own application to begin with, you might just do that and it will take the same amount of time as the Common Application and a supplement.

Question: My son is applying to both Emory College and Oxford College of Emory University. Will he receive 2 separate notifications of acceptance or rejection, or just one?

Answer: He will receive 2 separate letters.

Question: The registrar at my school did not send in my transcript. I have a Nov. 1st deadline for UF. Will UF still accept my application?

Answer: Yes, they will accept your application but will not review it until everything that they asked for is complete. What it means is that your application will not be read till one of the last.

Question: My parents are nagging me about taking the SAT. I’m a junior and I don’t see what the big deal is. I’ll take it in my senior year and not have to stress this year. What do you think of that strategy and what’s the big deal about the SAT anyway?

Answer: I don’t know enough about your situation to give you a personal strategy, but my best suggestion for any student would be to take the SAT at the end of your junior year, May and/or June. And why is it so important? Because the SAT is a predictor of how well you will do in college. It is a 5 hour test that is used to compare you to thousands of other students taking the same test. Please call me if I can be of further assistance (305-238-7737).

Question: How is Florida going to reduce class size as mandated by law for school next year?

Answer: They are going to try a number of things, such as

  • redrawing school boundaries to shift students from full schools to those with space
  • asking students to take courses online
  • placing partitions in classrooms
  • mixing students of different ages in the same class
  • adding portable classrooms
  • stripping teachers of their classrooms
  • turning students away from some classes all together

Question: Do any of your students apply out of the United States for college?

Answer: Yes, this year one of my students is applying to Franklin University in Switzerland and The London School of Economics and Political Science

Question: I have a really important question: all of the kids are talking about majors and what they are going to major in in college. I have absolutely no idea what I want to major in. Do I have to declare a major or can I go and explore different fields?

Answer: I think unless you are absolutely positive, you do not need to declare a major. There’s always a section on the application where it gives you a chance to put “do not know�or something similar. Just be honest when you do your applications. If you don’t know your major, say so.

Question: Do you have a list of religiously affiliated institutions on college campuses?

Answer: The following is a listing of resources for students seeking religious affiliated colleges and universities: Adventist Education Net (, Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities (, Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (www.ajeunet.ed), Christian College Mentor (, Evangelical Lutheran Church in American: Colleges and Universities (, Hillel: Guide to Jewish Life on Campuses (

Question: My guidance counselor at school keeps changing. How does he/she write me a college recommendation if they don’t know me?

Answer: That’s a really good question that I don’t have a good answer for. All I can tell you is that I am aware of the problem and aware that guidance counselors are overworked with the caseload of as many as 7- to 800 students. I suggest that you go introduce yourself to your guidance counselor and take along an activities sheet or resume and leave it so that they will get to know who you are.

Question: With all of your experience in reading college applications, could you please give me a few relatively easy essay questions that I might find on next year’s applications?

Answer: The following are questions found this year on many applications that the majority of my students have found quite easy, although you may not. One, “The university takes pride in the contributions made by all members of our community. Briefly describe what you believe other students could learn from you both in and out of the classroom.�Two, “Identify one person who has had a significant influence on you and briefly describe that influence.�Three, “Briefly describe a significant event or circumstance and how it has impacted your personal and academic development.�When first reading these essays they may seem difficult to you but in comparison to other essays, believe me, these are the easiest.

Question: In your opinion, what are some of the best essay questions that you’ve seen this year?

Answer: From Catholic University of America, the following 3 essays are really, in my eyes, a winner:

  • “It is often said that you do not know someone until you have walked a mile in his or her shoes. Whose shoes would you walk in and why?â€?
  • “In your opinion, what is the greatest obstacle your generation will face? And what solution would you propose to overcome it?â€?
  • “John Keith wrote ‘nothing ever becomes real till it’s experienced, even a proverb is no proverb to you till your life has illustrated itâ€? Please tell us about an experience in your own life which has illustrated a special proverb or quote that has meaning to you.â€?

Question: I’m a senior and really, really need financial aid. Every little penny helps and I can’t go out of town to a state school because I don’t have the money for housing or trips back and forth. What do you think I should do? Go to University of Miami, try to apply for scholarships there and earn money, or go to Miami-Dade College? What do you think I should do, go to UM, FIU, or Miami-Dade. I want to become a teacher.

Answer: I think we are very lucky to have Miami-Dade College right in our own backyard. Your best bet, in my opinion, is to go to Miami-Dade College and get a teaching degree. Also, I’m almost positive that you could get a full tuition reimbursement if you want to be a teacher. There are many scholarships for students aspiring to be teachers.

Question: My friend is applying to at least 20 different colleges. What do you think of this?

Answer: I think the standard rate should be 7 and no more. Each college application takes approximately 10 to 25 hours, plus the cost of sending the application, the application fee, sending your test scores, etc, etc.

Question: What do I wear to college interview?

Answer: Be natural, be yourself. Boys don’t need to wear a suit and tie. If the interview is directly after school and you have a school uniform, by all means, wear it. If not, make sure your clothes are neatly pressed. Girls, have your nails clean without nail polish. Same thing for boys, clean nails. Do not wear anything outrageous. Girls, play down the makeup and jewelry. Less is best. Take a pen and paper because that shows the person interviewing you that you are ready to take notes. Come prepared with at least 3 questions about the college that you are interviewing for; that shows that you are really interested. Never be late. Late shows that you really don’t care about being there. Being on time or early shows that this is a priority in your life. Look the person directly in the eyes (eye contact). Turn your body towards the interviewer, not away. Shake hands firmly at the start and end of the interview. It is important to thank the person for his or her time.

Question: My counselor said I only need to take 2 years of math. I think this is great because math is my weakest subject. Some of my friends said that’s not true. What is the truth?

Answer: The truth is that the state of Florida requires only 2 years of math. However, all major colleges prefer 4 years, and many require 4 years of math.

Question: What do you know about Barnard College?

Answer: Barnard College is located at 3009 Broadway, NY and was founded in 1889. Their regular application deadline is Jan 2nd and they are an all-women’s college. The cost for room and board is $11,392. The cost for tuition and fees is $33,078. The student faculty ratio is 10:1. The 3 most popular majors are Public Administration and Social Services, Psychology, English. 91% of students live on-campus and there is no affiliation with the Greek System. Barnard is a small school with 2,350 students.

Question: What is the Miami Dade school system using instead of class rank?

Answer: We now have a system that gives honors to a greater range of students. Students who graduate in the top 5% of their class will receive Suma Cum Laude honors. Students in the top 10%, Magnet Cum Laude, and Cum Laude designation will go to the top 15% of the students or any student who earns a grade point average of 4.0 or better.

Toby Rose is President of Toby Rose's, and is an Independent College Counselor. She has been awarded Dade County’s Outstanding Teacher, has directed the High School in Israel Program, and was the Chairperson of the Dade County School Board’s Academic Advisory Committee. Toby’s professional affiliations include membership in both the National Association of College Admissions Counselors and the Higher Education Consultants� Association. She is also a member of the University of Miami Women’s Guild and the American Association of University Women.

All I wish to do is return the rolex replica sale and parts of the Swiss Replica Watches I presently have, you and/or your rolex replica sale would then benefit from physical examination of said pieces and parts. We entered into a rolex replica sale for purchase and delivery of tangible goods. Thank you once again for your panerai replica sale and consideration in this matter. As it appears the financial replica watches sale have already been addressed, I await your instructions regarding return of the rolex replica uk to your custody.

   * SAT and One on One with the SAT is a registered trademark of the College Entrance Examination Board, which was not involved in the production of, and does not endorse, this product.
   ** PSAT/NMSQT is a registered trademark of the College Entrance Examination Board and the National Merit Scholarship Corporation, which was not involved in the production of, and does not endorse, this product.
   *** SAT Subject Test is a trademark owned by the College Entrance Examination Board, which was not involved in the production of, and does not endorse, this product.