College Bound Toolbox

On-line lessons, videos, guides & resources to guide students through the college process, prepare, build skills & maximize options.

Photo of Cynthia Blair Tognotti
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The College Bound Toolbox breaks down the process into manageable steps, that completed will optimize a student admission's chances and create more college choices. This is a redesign of my 2-week Countdown To College© class. Embracing skills and experiences increases a candidates options for applying to private colleges with generous endowments. All too often students limit themselves with the choices of community college and state schools that will never see their complete resume or portfolio. Some of the components includes:

  • Questionnaire to identify interests, passions and help translate into potential college majors
  • Focus Guides for 9th through 12th grade
  • How To Find a College That Fits Guide
  • How to identify and create an internship or job shadow opportunity
  • Conversation Cards with tips for initiating the college discussion with parents
  • Resume template and guide to identifying your standout factors
  • How to create a "Brag Folder" for meeting with college reps, counselors and community mentors.
  • Guides on  SAT vs. ACT, Subject Tests, AP Tests and affordable test prep options.
  • College Search Guide - How to research colleges and find the best fit. Includes a list of respected websites for searching and determining admission chances.
  • Creating a Student Portfolio Guide - for interviews, test optional schools and cataloging a students creative and academic success. Also used in college interviews.
  • Guide to securing and preparing for a college interview
  • College Comparison Template© for creating the college list and budget detailing all information parents want to review before deciding which colleges make "the list"
  • Making contact with colleges representative and tips for staying in touch
  • Tips for navigating the college fairs and tours
  • Financial Aid and Scholarship Guide

There are also Conversation Cards and a video to guide parents in initiating the college discussion with their student. This parent lesson offer specific support strategies (based on 5 years of student feedback) to ensure that parents don't "Hijack" the college journey.


All lessons, guides and videos would be accessible online and updated easily. Students subscribe and receive lessons at regular intervals to walk them through the college process from 9th though 12 grade. This program will help students who would not otherwise have ready access to a college counselor or planner,  the information and resources to navigate the process and build their own support team..

Please share your ideas ! 


Have a doc or slides that you're collaborating in? Link it here.

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Countdown To College Flier LTR.pdf

Flier describing the 2 Week Countdown to College Class©. This is a class developed by Cynthia Blair Tognotti, Founder of UpSkill. This "BootCamp" style course walks students through the process while helping them discover themselves, their interests and what they need to be successful at college and in life!


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Photo of Cynthia Blair Tognotti

Hello Omar,

Thank you for your comments and great information regarding Linked In tips for students - we just had a rep come visit the school. Mine is in sore need of updating. 
My audience is really the middle group of students who cannot afford a high priced consultant and I do also provide 2 free spots for class for students who cannot afford the class.
The class has been well received - that said there are sections that are intensive that students like the least however, once completed it's the part that really puts them int eh drivers seat - The College Comparison Template. 
The class is designed as an overview - there is a lot of information, so I do need to break this up into smaller components - would love to collaborate - I need to dash int a meeting my number is 650-271-1900

Photo of Omar Garriott

Thanks for inviting feedback, Cynthia Blair Tognotti -- this is really great stuff. A few quick reactions (and hope we can sync up via phone or in-person later in March): 
1) I can definitely appreciate the need for this intervention, and think you're on to something, as someone who's done a bit of work with this population. The transition from high school to college in particular is something that yearns to be demystified, both for students and for parents. To have a Chief Demystifier and Curator of Great Knowledge Already Out There would be a huge value-add! This is especially true for low-income students, who commonly lack the 'college advisor' sort of role that parents of more affluent children tend to play at the breakfast table. I used to work for a great organization called College Summit -- you should check out their curriculum and peer leader programs for helping manage the minutia of this process. Where they really shine is creating a college-going culture in schools, and helping students write truly compelling personal statements (as well as applications, FAFSA etc). For 20 years they've been running very successful summer programs for rising HS seniors on college campuses, somewhat similar to your summer enrichment approach. 
2) Re my pt above about low-income students, can you clarify your target audience a bit? Students across socioeconomic strata? Those who have the willingness to pay? Regardless of whether this is a for-profit or nonprofit endeavor, I wonder if there might be an opportunity to 'sell' into school districts or charters, who suffer from awfully unsustainable guidance counselor:student ratios (I think it's on the order of 1:500 or worse in CA alone). Districts may even be able to use Title 1 money for this kind of thing, not sure.
3) In terms of format for delivery -- it sounds like you have some experience running these actual 'bootcamps' so this is more than a theoretical early-stage idea, right? I wonder if the intensive in-person model is the only option -- could this curriculum/you and other experts who present as part of it be leveraged as a Coursera type of course? Maybe this is the eventual scale play once the program is more refined...
4) It seems like self-guided interviews are a part of this process, or at least for intake / diagnosis. Other players like Zinch (who I believe were acquired by Chegg), and LinkedIn, have attempted to do some of this. There may be best practices you can leverage, or gut-checking of the questions you've been using.
5) I'd love to hear more about your learnings to date running this 'class.' In particular, are there any pieces of this wide-ranging curriculum that are--or are not--especially well-received? My thought is perhaps you should take on one discrete component and really nail that first instead of trying to tackle the entire process sorta soup-to-nuts (or at least before thinking about digital opportunities to really scale), such as creating a college portfolio. Just seems like a lot, and a lot of work. But kudos to you if you're able to do so -- you're the expert! 
6) Not totally sure what you mean by a 'Digital Planning Kit' and Google Forms -- but if it's for scheduling purposes/a desire to hold students accountable to specific dates, etc. -- Google allows you to create a shared calendar that you can invite multiple people to. Not sure if that's what you're looking to do.
7) I used to work at LinkedIn in its higher ed/student group, and heard that universities were increasingly doing online searches for prospective students. You should consider including a 'LinkedIn profile optimization' component to the curriculum -- maybe even in place of the resume workshop -- and also discussion of how important it is to have a legit and professional online presence (no silly tweets, inappropriate FB pics, etc!). Here's a post I made with some tips for students in case it's of interest at all (meant for college students but can apply for high schoolers as well, who can now legally be on the site):

Sorry if any of this is obvious, inapplicable, or not useful. I don't know a whole lot beyond your description above just yet! Look forward to future collaborations if you want to!  Good luck! 

Photo of Lisa Yokana

Cool idea Cynthia. What about including something for athletes looking to be recruited? Or looking for athletic scholarships? Why not put your slide show in  google slides and post the link so others can comment and collaborate?

Photo of Cynthia Blair Tognotti

Hi Lisa, 
Love the idea - there are so many questions about this. So timely - I just attend a session on this subject of athletic recruiting - still reading all the material. I love the idea of addicting slide - thank you. I added the first day of my Countdown to College Class. I could easily add more to the scholarship section ( I think it's day 8) discussing how colleges work with athletes. Thank you. 

Photo of Donna Teuber

Hi Cynthia, Great to talk and glad that you've started a doc for collaboration! The work that you've done with your current course is amazing and I'm excited to see how we can build on that foundation. I'm sure that Nichole Allmann would love to contribute as a team member. Maybe we can make a connection with Passport to College 

Photo of Cynthia Blair Tognotti

Thanks you were such a tremendous help today. Now that I can navigate I'm excited to get feedback