Professional Development Programs

Programming by Peter Van Buskirk enhances the capacity of college access professionals to support and promote the college search and placement interests of their students. This curriculum provides a contextual understanding of the process, thereby empowering them as they advise young people in the pursuit of their educational goals. Participants are given tools that enable them to be more effective mentors and advisors.

Hotspots, Hooks and Hidden AgendasThe flexible syllabus (see below) offers an intensive, interactive orientation to the institutional dynamics that affect the manner in which students are engaged in the college search and the selection process by colleges and universities.

Each of the following sections of the syllabus is 45-55 minutes. Audience size: 15-50. Program planners can customize workshops for full or half-day participation.

Professional Development Syllabus

The Perfect Storm: A look at what has changed in the college-going process and why

  • Demographics (1980-present)
  • Changing assumptions in higher education
  • The media becomes a player
  • The impact of college rankings
  • The Pyramid of Selectivity

Enrollment Management: Building New Communities

  • The Admission Funnel
  • The Enrollment Model
  • Doors of Enrollment
  • The impact of Early Decision/Early Action programs
  • The Range of Acceptability
  • The role of the Wait List in building the class
  • The Financial Aid Matrix

The Road to College

  • Creating a college-going culture
  • Making the case for college
  • Building an action plan for college

Helping Students Find the Best College Fit

  • Tactics for helping students establish priorities
  • Hierarchy of Needs
  • The best college is not…
  • Five elements of the "best fit"
  • Using technology to find colleges that fit well

The Agenda: What Colleges Want

  • Who sets the agenda?
  • Bright, motivated, high achieving
  • Diversity defined
  • The importance of cultivating and revealing "gifts"

The Hidden Agenda: Little Known Factors that Influence Decisions

  • The impact of financial need on decision-making
  • The importance of demonstrating interest
  • The role of standardized tests in decision-making

You Decide: The Admission Committee in Action

  • Class becomes the admission committee
  • Evaluate four fictitious candidates
  • Rate academic programs
  • Analyze college essays
  • Select a candidate (or two)

Effective Mentoring/Promoting Self-Advocacy

  • Counsel students to make good choices in the classroom
  • Help students tell their stories
  • Communicating difficult issues
  • Effective letter writing

Building Productive Relationships with Colleges

  • Marketing your school and its students
  • Getting the most out of college representative's visits
  • What to look for on campus tours
  • Professional meeting

Strategic Use of Financial Aid

  • New rules defining the Estimated Family Contribution
  • Exploring the differences between the various mechanisms employed by colleges to determine financial need (FAFSA, CSS Profile, professional judgment)
  • The Financial Aid Matrix
  • Preferential Packaging
  • Assessing actual financial aid awards

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. How do I book an event?

A. Contact Peter at 717-808-5462 or

Q. Does Peter ever present multiple sessions during the same day?

A. Yes. At a number of schools Peter presents programs/workshops for students during the day and programs for students and parents in the evening. Peter also presents professional development programs during the day followed by events for families in the evening at a discounted package rate.

Q. How much does Peter's programming cost?

A. Fees depend on the nature of the event and length of the program.

Q. Are discounts available for multiple bookings?

A. Yes. Book multiple programs and/or workshops together to receive a reduced rate.

Q. Is Peter available for keynote speeches?

A. Yes. Peter presents a number of 35-45 minute provocative and/or motivational programs that focus on themes of personal responsibility, effective decision-making, investing in one's self and taking ownership of the future.

Q. Does Peter provide other resources that complement his programming?

A. Yes! Check out the information and advice in Resources for Students & Parents.