Lighting the Way from High School to College

"Selling with Lori' hosts college counselor Robert Powers
By EDDIE RIVERA, Weekendr Editor
Published on May 28, 2020

The ongoing pandemic, as we’ve all seen, has had a ripple effect on literally every aspect of our lives, from daily shopping to short and long term planning. Whether that planning affects your daily schedule or your plans for work and school, the pandemic and its ongoing isolation have taken hold.

Just as the pandemic affects college students who are no longer able to attend classes on campus and new students just planning a college life, current high school students are looking toward college and wondering what they should be doing about it now.

Thus the work of Robert Powers, college counselor at becomes even more valuable. Powers is the latest guest of “Community Spotight” Lori McShane, a realtor based in the San Gabriel Valley.

Powers is the founder of Sierra Madre-based College Torch, a small educational business which does college counseling and tutoring in the San Gabriel Valley.

Acknowledging the pandemic and its impact, McShane queried Powers as to the effect the shutdown and isolation have had on his work.

Powers emphasized the positive aspects of working online, saying, “I’m very fortunate that I can work virtually, and I really like being able to ‘screen share.’

“(Students and I) can look at our lists together and we can look at their college’s website, or their social media statistics while we’re on the speaker. It’s worked very well, and it’s very forceful.”

But Powers saw an opportunity to go a little deeper than that, and started the “Stuck at Home Book Club,” for students eager to continue their reading on their own.

“This is something for students on Sunday afternoons to get together in a small group, they go on Face Time with other students,” said Powers. There is a separate group for high school students and middle school student, both of which get to vote on the monthly book selection. Powers or a College Torch teacher lead the group and guide the students to discuss the text.

As Powers explained, “The students get to look at a really cool book and practice their discussion skills and analysis skills, building confidence to discuss a book. Though all of the students are in different places, it’s a really positive and encouraging place.”

“So they all leave the room,” he continued, “like they just read a new book, and they really understood it, and got to talk about it.”

Asked how College Torch is helping high school students during college this time, Powers responded, “I’ve been really excited to tell them about some of the things that colleges are doing to make their lives easier. “

As Powers pointed out, “Right now colleges are listening to students with real dilemmas and real situations. Students with situations where parents are essential workers, or students with situations where they don’t have resources at home.”

Powers also noted that new students will not be expected to replicate the exact things that they would have otherwise, including things like standardized testing, and new accommodations for students regarding SATs, ACTs, and other tests.

The Common App, the application platform the majority of students use to apply to college, has been releasing guidance about applying during the pandemic, Powers said. For example, there will be a pandemic-related question on the application this year.

“This means students don’t all have to write a personal statement about quarantine, although they may still want to.” As a college counselor, this is the kind of choice that Powers helps his students to make as they write their college application essays.

But Powers also noted that “some things don’t change.”

Right now students should be talking out their college list, patiently researching it, and should also be working on their application essays, he emphasized. But the number one thing students should be doing right now to prepare for college and college admissions?

Powers told McShane, “Health comes first and students need to be taking care of themselves. Those are the things that matter right now.”

While some students should make more time for self-care, he said there were also students “who have time on their hands and could be doing more things, and they know that.”

McShane agreed, saying, “I think across the board, the number one thing should be taking care of yourself. You won’t be doing well in college if you haven’t been taking care of yourself.”

Assuming that students remain healthy and focused, Powers also mentioned a great way for families to keep up to date with changing college admissions news, using a Facebook group moderated by College Torch: “Parents of College-Bound Students.”

“We have all the updates there,” said Powers, “as well as a partnership with financial aid consultant.” Besides college application tips, they share news about financial aid, news about scholarships, and news about college admissions changes.

Lori McShane of Keller Williams Realty is available at (626)807-5621

College Torch is available at

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