Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Twins go from GEDs to Columbia University

Vincent (l) and Eugene Dinescu 

Growing up, Eugene and Vincent Dinescu did everything together. They lived together, had class together, played sports together and even dressed alike.

The fraternal twins were somewhat separated for three years when they attended different elementary schools, but have essentially been together since then.

“We were basically one entity,” Vincent said of growing up together in North Brunswick.

Now the 22-year-olds will join each other again, at Columbia University next month; Eugene has been there for a year already, while Vincent will be starting his path toward medical school this fall.

Although the two never graduated from high school because they missed too many days because of their mother’s battle with cancer, they eventually received GEDs. Afterward, they decided to attend Middlesex County College (MCC) on their path toward a pre-med degree, a goal they’ve both had since they were young. Then the future doctors decided to apply to Columbia University for their medical studies.

“The goal was to come [to MCC], work hard … and make it to a four-year institution,” Eugene said. “Middlesex was the key. It was the catalyst for everything. This is basically where the story started; we’ll see where it finishes.”

“I think if you do well at Middlesex, you have an opportunity to do whatever you want,” Vincent added. “I thank Middlesex for giving me an opportunity to better myself and to reach a pretty successful point in my life.”

Eugene decided that Columbia would be the only school he would apply to, though he did not graduate with an associate degree; he decided to transfer his credits from Middlesex to Columbia instead. Vincent, on the other hand, took an extra year to build up his credentials, and applied to about 16 schools. This is the same determination that was instilled in them by their father, a Junior Olympics 100-meter sprinter from Romania, who gave them a medical encyclopedia at the age of 6.

The former Boss and Vision models also have volunteered in the medical field. Vincent spent 100 hours at Staten Island University Hospital, N.Y., with the director of the emergency room, and Eugene shadowed a few doctors in interventional radiology at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick.

Their academic path is especially impressive because attaining Ivy League acceptance after receiving a GED is not common, MCC counselor Gina Bedoya said, and also because it is twins accomplishing this feat.

“For me, as a counselor, it goes to show that Middlesex really is for people of different backgrounds. If you have a GED or you graduate in the top 20 percent of your class, where there’s a will, there’s a way,” she said. “They proved that success does start here … and hard work does pay.”

Even more impressive is that they both want to specialize in plastic surgery. Eugene said he has always been able to draw, so “I should be a pretty decent surgeon,” and Vincent was inspired by a Discovery Channel special on conjoined twins. Eugene, who is also interested in the business aspect of having his own plastic surgery office, is currently developing his own website,, which will promote physical fitness, well-being and advice on how to achieve any goal. He also wrote eight e-books on topics such as careers, well-being and nutrition, which will also be posted on his site. “With proper planning, your hard work will pay off,” Eugene said.

Contact Jennifer Amato at

Twins go from GEDs to Columbia University

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

College admission needs strategy

Dear Mr. Bradshaw:

I will be a senior this fall and I am in the process of selecting colleges. I’m in the top five percent of my class, and have scored 750 or higher on each section of the SAT.

I have taken three SAT II Subject Tests and scored 800 on math level 2, 780 in biology and 775 in literature. I know that even with these scores it will be hard to get into the Ivy League or other top colleges. Is there a strategy I should look into that might increase my chances of admission?

Signed: Student

College admission needs strategy

Dear Student: You have accumulated a great academic record, which means you will likely get a foot in the admissions door at a college of your choice.

After that you’ll be compared to all of the top students in the world because nearly 12 percent of all college students studying in America today are international. There will be several hundred applicants with similar grades and test scores and no matter what anyone tells you it is impossible to predict who will get in to the nation’s best colleges with any certainty.

Harvard and the other Ivies often reject applicants with perfect grades and test scores, so you are right in thinking that you need to have a strategy in mind if you want to apply to top schools.

This means that you should spread your bets among several colleges and have a backup school in mind in case you are rejected by all of them. Since you are from Indiana I would suggest Indiana University or Purdue as backups since both are good schools and admit about 75 percent of their in-state applicants.

At the Ivies the admission rate falls drastically to 6.1 percent at Harvard, nine percent at Brown and 10 percent at Columbia University

How do you increase the odds in your favor? I recommend that my clients, instead of applying to colleges only in the Midwest and on the east coast, also apply to a few top colleges on the west coast.

While Stanford and CalTech are as selective as Yale and MIT, they have fewer applicants’ from the Midwest than do the east coast schools. It is important for these schools to have geographical diversity so take advantage of this fact in your planning.

Students from Indiana are welcomed in west coast schools. The University of California at Berkeley and the entire University of California system is in dire financial straits and to help make up the shortfall each year they admit more students who are willing to pay full out-of-state tuition.

So by combining the advantages of applying from out-of-state and paying full tuition you gain a significant advantage.

Discuss this strategy with your parents. Applying to UC Berkeley, UCLA or other top college on the west coast may be your best move.

College Admissions Consulting Articles - College admission needs strategy

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Take time choosing college major

Updated: July 29, 2011 8:26AM

Surprisingly enough, choosing a college major is something many students do as an afterthought.

Having reached their junior or senior years in high school, students generally want to major in areas where they got their highest grades. Teachers and counselors reinforce this idea by telling students and their parents that the son or daughter “is a natural mathematician” or has a “real gift for English.”

For those students with doubts about what college major to select, there is always a visit to the school guidance counselor. Counselors do their best to make sure that pupils meet the minimum requirements for admissions to a state college or university, but at many schools, the amount of time a counselor can spend with a student is severely limited.

In fact, at most public schools, the actual contact time a student can expect to spend with a counselor is less than an hour per year. This can be troubling if the school does not normally send students to top-ranked colleges and universities and students may find themselves at a huge disadvantage.

Leading universities have highly qualified applicants from which to choose and changes in admissions policy happen frequently at the most selective universities. In order to keep abreast of these changes students need to meet regularly with their high school counselors. It also helps if parents can be involved in at least some of these sessions.

Another area I find worrisome is the quality of advising that students receive on the link between careers and their choice of college majors. To students nervous about their future in the work world, the choice of a major is daunting. Many variables should be considered when making a career choice and the changing job market is the No. 1 concern. Sticking with subjects you know best is not always the wisest decision.

For example, a student strong in math and raised in a manufacturing culture might be tempted to major in engineering. In Indiana, 85 percent of the engineering majors are from blue-collar families.

Most have parents that are machinists or hold other technical positions in manufacturing. Few students realize that their math ability also might be put to good use in other fields such as economics and the social sciences.

Job opportunities may be more plentiful as we turn away from manufacturing and move toward a more service-oriented economy. Engineering wages have stagnated over the last few years, while financial services and investment banking have expanded. This trend is expected to continue.

I encourage students to take their time when choosing a college major and caution that high school and even college counselors are not always the best sources of information. Sticking with the familiar can stifle creativity and prevent them from learning about other fields of study that, in many cases, may be more suitable to their personalities. Diversifying high school course and extra-curricular activity selections is sometimes the best answer in helping students choose college majors and in readying them for satisfying careers.

Jerry Bradshaw: Take time choosing college major