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Attorney’s book offers ‘big picture’ on the college admission process

By Tom Kirvan | Detroit Legal News | June 3, 2021

The pandemic, which has laid waste to countless businesses around the globe, has spawned its share of books on the flip side, including a primer on helping students and families achieve “College Admission Success.”

The three words serve as the title of a book written by Detroit area attorney Barbara Connolly, a former personal injury litigator who is the founder and CEO of College Choice Counseling, a firm she launched in 2002. The book, sub-titled “Getting into College Under Any Circumstances,” was written with the ever-changing “post-COVID waters” in mind, according to Connolly.

In the introduction to the book, Connolly set the stage for how the college admissions guide came about.

“In September of 2019, I was offered the opportunity to write a column on college admissions for a syndicate of newspapers,” Connolly wrote. “I expected that the usual cycle of college admissions, from good grades and activities in high school to college applications and admissions to college, would be completed by the end of the year. However, the college admissions scandal – known as ‘Operation Varsity Blues’ – had awakened the world to the unfairness of the college admission process and the public was curious to know more.

“It wasn’t long after the start of my column that COVID-19 encroached on colleges, causing students to be sent home mid-semester and converting colleges to virtual institutions,” Connolly noted. 
“The entire nature of college was changed from a uniquely communal residential experience to a nonresidential and dispersed community.”

Adding even more intrigue last summer, according to Connolly, was the Black Lives Matter movement, which gained momentum following the tragic killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.

“With students becoming more involved with the fight for social justice, education equity also became a much more widely considered and urgent issue,” Connolly said, noting that her column writing shifted from the “college admission process” to more about “how school itself had changed” due to the variables of the pandemic.

“These enormous changes in the institutions that had been the center of my practice as a private college admissions consultant, and of my personal values as someone who held these institutions of higher education in the highest regard, caused me to feel that my columns written during such a tumultuous year could be the basis for a book about how to succeed under any circumstances in this most unique process of college admissions,” she said.

The 90-page book is comprised of a dozen easy-to-read chapters meant to simplify the otherwise daunting process of gaining college admission, particularly to premier universities. The book is an offshoot of Connolly’s College Choice Counseling business that will mark its 20th anniversary next year.

The firm, based at 950 E. Maple Road in Birmingham, offers educational consulting services to families of college-bound students. Connolly’s initial focus in helping students gain admission to elite colleges across the country has since mushroomed into a host of related services, including academic and ACT/SAT tutoring, essay and research paper training, study skills advice, as well as tutoring for admission exams to law school, medical school, and business school.

She and her husband, attorney/CPA Steve Lemberg, are the parents of four children, each of whom excelled academically in high school and college. They are alums of such topflight schools as Harvard, M.I.T., and the University of Michigan, just the kind of institutions that are coveted the most by college-bound students and their families.

Connolly’s admission counseling business, of which Lemberg is a director, features a “talented team” of more than 50 counselors and tutors located throughout the U.S. and Canada. Throughout the pandemic, Connolly and her team have worked remotely with students, but recently began holding in-person appointments at the firm’s Birmingham location.

The business and the new book gained even more exposure May 29 when Connolly was featured in a TEDx talk titled, “How College Obsession Can Be a Force for Good.”

The 18-minute talk by Connolly, a U-M alumna who earned her law degree from the University of Detroit Mercy, took place at the Macomb Center for the Performing Arts on the campus of Macomb County Community College. The talk can be viewed via You Tube.

Connolly’s book can be obtained through Amazon and offers a way to help level the playing field for all college applicants, according to the author.

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The book is meant as a handy guide to be used throughout the admission process,” said Connolly. “In a sense, it is a road map for students to use as they make their way through the process of reaching admission success.”

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