“Don’t #$% this up. It’s the rest of your life.”

That’s the advice and strategy I received before I headed into a local community college in the northwest suburbs of Chicago to take my ACT.

My father said those words to me as he dropped me off.

I know my dad – this was not his normal supportive dad advice.

I am sure I was having a typical 16-year-old snotty teen girl day. Quite sure I was also running late.

The point is, I was not coddled.

I walked in scared to death.

My parents didn’t have the money to bribe proctors — and I’m 100% sure they wouldn’t have even if they had the cash.

I didn’t get a car as a 16-year old birthday present.

They didn’t sell my Girl Scout cookies for me so I could be the state winner.

They wanted us to be self-sufficient. To earn what we got.

I took the ACT once.

It wasn’t my sister’s perfect score, but it was enough to get me into the schools I applied to in 1993.

Even back then, it was a helluva competition.

It’s obviously worse now… and I have no idea what it will be like when my daughter goes to college in 18 years.

The news this week about the college admissions scheme is alarming – but definitely not shocking.

When it first broke, I shared the headline on Twitter but gave the moms in the center of the story the benefit of the doubt. I thought, maybe they didn’t know? Maybe Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin paid this guy — and said, get my child in — and that was that.

The story of the college admissions scam broke on Twitter

I thought they possibly didn’t know the tactics taken by William Singer, the head of the college preparatory business and founder of the charity who is identified now as “cooperating witness 1.”

Hours later, as more information was released, we learned from the New York Times that Huffman and William H. Macy knew this college prep coach would “arrange for their daughter’s SAT proctor to secretly correct her wrong answers and boost her score.” And that, “Huffman and her spouse agreed to the plan.”

Earlier this year, in an interview with Macy in Parade Magazine, he said, “we’re in the thick of college application time, which is so stressful.”

That, I can relate to. Not the bribing part.

Parents track me down on LinkedIn sometimes to help their teenaged and 20-something children get into prized college internships and med schools.

We are very proud to have a 100% track record in college and internship interview success.

We don’t bribe these schools. My company helps these students interview better. The students put in the work — and together, we formulate better answers to their questions, help them gain more confidence in their interviewing, show them which parts of their stories to tell and which parts are superfluous.

This is the kind of consulting from which your student can really benefit. How do they benefit from having all the doors opened for them? How will they learn to open their own doors someday?

We started by advising and preparing executives for media interviews and public speaking, but it grew in the past years to include young adults. Internships are getting more and more competitive. So are medical schools. Some of the highest-ranked institutions in the U.S. News Best Medical Schools rankings accept less than 4 percent of applicants.

Storytelling is key to interviewing for colleges and internships. Your ability to communicate sets you apart and helps you standout from others competing for the same spots.

From a student’s confidence, verbal delivery and body language to their social media presence, we work on the whole picture. Parents are very appreciate of the social media advice we give to their sons and daughters. Parents know how important it is — but breaking news… sometimes, kids don’t listen to their parents. 

Many first interviews for college internships are now conducted on Skype, Zoom or Google Hangouts. We show students how to interview virtually and how to make the best impression. We teach how to frame their shot, what to wear, where to look and how to light themselves so they look the best possible.

We don’t do the work for these students — but we help them find their strengths, poise and confidence to help them present and interview better.

That’s the best way we know how to help a student land the college they dream of — or the internship that will start their career in the strongest way possible.