The Quotable Nerdy Chick: Wilhelmina Cole Holladay


Last week, I posted here about the absence of women in an art history textbook, and the founding of The National Museum of Women in the Arts.


Photo by Tom Field

Wilhelmina Cole Holladay, collector, philanthropist, and cofounder of the museum, is today’s Quotable Nerdy Chick. Her life’s work has been to expose and advance female artists’ contributions to the world.

Wilhelmina Cole Holladay Quotes:

• In my view…art is about beauty. Art reflects our shared humanity, the traits, talents, and qualities that make us human. Art transcends politics, gender, color, religion, age, and nationality. Art is the great unifier.

• When substantial accomplishments and excellence are known, the right to be taken seriously surely will follow. Women should know their heritage which has been so long ignored.

• When I see a work of art, it awes me. I want to share it. Art is one thing everybody can join together to applaud.

• If we can heighten the awareness of great achievement by women artists so they will be included in major museums, and heighten the awareness of the inequities so they’ll be corrected, that’s a step in the right direction.

• …we’re terribly indebted to the feminists. I think some of their activities in promoting were rather unpleasant and harsh, but maybe that’s what you have to do when you’re breaking ground.

• My greatest challenge was to acquire the ability to speak in public. It has helped me so much. See, this helps you and in order to face any challenge, to be successful, you have to be able to sell. The only way you sell is to truly be comfortable in speaking.

Some quotes are taken from an oral history interview with Wilhelmina Holladay, 2005 Aug. 17-2005 Sept. 23, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Learn more about Wilhelmina Holladay here or here.

Portrait credit: Michele Mattei, Wilhelmina Holladay, 2010; Archival ink on cotton rag paper, 30 x 40 in.

Infographics and Influencers

I’ve always thought infographics were cool, but now that I’m on Pinterest, I can actually collect them.  A week or so ago I decided to tweet an infographic a day… and the more I looked for good images to share, the more cool infographics I found. This is kind of the problem with Pinterest. It’s also what makes it fascinating for visual learners like me. For some reason, there seem to be more infograhics out there about social media and marketing than almost anything else. And some infographic creators allow you to share them on your own blog! The one below caught my eye because earlier this month I had dinner with Nerdy Chick and Influencer, Ann-Marie Adams. She shared a lot of what she knows about Social Influencers with me then, and since you all couldn’t join Ann-Marie and I here at the edge of the universe, this will show you some of what I learned that night.

Social Influencers‘l
Source: Social Influencers

Good to know? I think so.  At the same time, I don’t feel that I need to stress about this kind of thing. I have it when I need it though!  Right now, I need to concentrate on getting that next book out!  If you’d like to see my collection of Social Media infographics, feel free to check them out HERE.

Speaking of books, I have some fun book news to share next week!

A Nerdy Chick’s Picks of the Princeton Book Festival

This past Saturday, I had the pleasure of participating in the 8th Annual Princeton Book Festival. It’s always a lovely day of friends, colleagues, children, and literature, and this year was no different.

There were SO MANY authors and illustrators there this year — 80 in total! — that I could not keep track of them all, but here is a list of a few can’t-miss books from the Festival (in no particular order) that were also written by some pretty nifty people:

DSCN0363Hazel Mitchell, ONE WORD PEARL

Pearl loves words, but she only uses one word at a time until one day she is at a complete loss for words.  After days of nothing to say, Pearl has a dream that teaches her words are all around us.  The dream comes true and changes her from One Word Pearl to a gazillion word girl.  The book will entice children into the discovery and power of words and what they are capable of accomplishing.


The Monstore is the place to go for all of your monsterly needs. Which is perfect, since Zack definitely has a monsterly need. The problem? His pesky little sister, Gracie, who never pays attention to that “Keep Out” sign on Zack’s door—the one he has made especially for her. But when Zack’s monsters don’t exactly work as planned, he soon finds out that the Monstore has a few rules: No Refunds. No exchanges. No exceptions.


When ten-year-old Cora and her family leave their home in Missouri, their hearts are filled with the hopes and dreams of a bright future gleaming with promise and opportunity. But the journey west by wagon train is harsh, and tragedy strikes swiftly and unexpectedly. Now Cora and her father must steel themselves for a different future from what they had carefully planned. How can they move forward when their hearts are broken? But move on they must, and Cora takes comfort in her new baby sister (named Susan after the black-eyed flowers). When Cora learns she and Susan are to be separated at the end of their journey, she looks to the past to help craft a link to their new lives.


Big Witch and Little Witch have made stew, and now they want to have their friends for dinner! But when Skeleton mistakes the guest list for a menu, he takes off running, and soon Ghost and Ghoul join him too! But poor Little Witch has no idea there’s a misunderstanding. Luckily there’s one creature in the haunted forest who can help everyone figure it all out.


When Vinnie, a crazy-happy dog, gets lost while visiting a nature preserve with his family, he finds comfort in the company of Bogart, a big, lazy rhinoceros. Vinnie loves his new friend, but Bogart would rather just take a nap. A friendship soon blossoms-even if Vinnie’s definition of “friendship” is very different from Bogart’s-and when word of their unique situation spreads, Bogart and Vinnie are a worldwide sensation! But as soon as their fifteen seconds of fame ends, what’s left is a bond even Bogart can’t ignore.


Ollie and Claire are as tight as two friends can be. But when Claire longs to break free from this routine and dreams of traveling the world, she worries that Ollie would never join her. So she takes matters into her own hands and finds a mysterious travel partner when she sees a sign posted on a tree. Who could it be? And how can she ever tell Ollie?

Everyone knows that the M in “monster” stands for MEAN. But what happens when a monster can’t be mean any more? Is he still a monster at all?


Of all the creatures in the ocean, sea horses are Echo Reef’s favorite. They’re sweet and gentle and they glide through the water so gracefully. When Echo discovers that Rocky Ridge, one of her Trident Academy classmates, has his own pet sea horse, she wants one right away. Not everyone agrees sea horses should be pets, however—perhaps they are happiest when swimming freely. But Echo thinks that if Rocky can make a sea horse happy, she can too! Can’t she?

DSCN0365Ame Dyckman, BOY + BOT

One day, a boy and a robot meet in the woods. They play. They have fun. But when Bot gets switched off, Boy thinks he’s sick. The usual remedies—applesauce, reading a story—don’t help, so Boy tucks the sick Bot in, then falls asleep. Bot is worried when he powers on and finds his friend powered off. He takes Boy home with him and tries all his remedies: oil, reading an instruction manual. Nothing revives the malfunctioning Boy! Can the Inventor help fix him?


Oh, children! Remember! Whatever you may do,
Never play music right next to the zoo.
They’ll burst from their cages, each beast and each bird,
Desperate to play all the music they’ve heard.




The His-Story of Art


Georgia O’Keeffe. Mary Cassatt. Frida Kahlo. You recognize these names, right?

These women and the images they created—the macro views of flowers and skulls, the tender moments between mother and child, the bold, revealing self-portraits—are very familiar to us, almost iconic.

Georgia O’Keefe is my favorite artist, especially her New Mexican landscapes. But I didn’t learn about her until I was an adult. When I was in college, H.W. Janson’s History of Art: A Survey of Major Visual Arts from the Dawn of History to the Present Day was the definitive art history textbook. With the book as our guide, we worked our way through Prehistoric, Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Islamic, and Gothic art.

But just as we entered the early Renaissance in Europe, student unrest over the Vietnam War brought strikes and demonstrations to college campuses. On May 4, 1970, a confrontation between the National Guard and students at Kent State University resulted in four student deaths. My college closed at 2:30 a.m. the next morning and we packed up and went home for the year. It was a tumultuous time.

If the semester had continued, we still would not have learned about Georgia, nor Mary, or Frida. Janson’s History of Art, with 553 pages, 80 color plates, 848 black and white images, contained no female artists.

Not a one.

Apparently, since the Dawn of History, women hadn’t been a part of the History of Art.


In the late 60’s, Wilhelmina Cole Holladay and her husband, architect Wallace F. Holladay, were surprised to find the same gaping omission. They had traveled abroad and admired a 17th century still life by Flemish painter Clara Peeters. When they returned to the U.S. and sought information about Peeters, they also discovered that History of Art made no reference to Peeters or any other woman. It was then that the Holladays began collecting works by women.

Clara Peeters, Still Life of Fish and Cat, National Museum of Women in the Arts, D.C. Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay

Clara Peeters, Still Life of Fish and Cat, National Museum of Women in the Arts, D.C. Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay

As the collection grew, so did Mrs. Holliday’s vision of creating a museum of women’s art. Coincidentally, the modern women’s movement in the 70’s was picking up steam and demanded a revisionist look at art history that included women and multicultural contributors.

A_Museum_of_Their_Own_smallIn 1981, Mrs. Holladay incorporated the National Museum of Women in the Arts as a private, nonprofit museum, residing in her house. The NMWA eventually found a home in a renovated, former Masonic Temple and opened its doors in 1987 in Washington, D.C. The Holladay Collection became the core of the museum’s collection. As a charter member, I attended the members’ preview. I’ve never forgotten the grandeur of the Great Hall and the galleries that finally gave women’s art a home.

The NMWA Great Hall Photograph courtesy of Tom Field

The NMWA Great Hall
Photograph courtesy of Tom Field

Today, the NMWA has a collection of over 4,500 objects by women, which includes not only paintings starting in the 16th century, but works on paper, photography, sculpture, Native American pottery, and contemporary art books. Beyond the visual arts, the Museum also celebrates the performing arts and the written arts. The museum describes their mission this way: “By bringing to light remarkable women artists of the past while also promoting the best women artists working today, the museum directly addresses the gender imbalance in the presentation of art in the U.S. and abroad, thus assuring great women artists a place of honor now and into the future.”

And what about the absence of women in Janson’s History of Art? Oh, that was finally rectified in 1986—23 years after the first edition! See if you can find Frida now.

Thank you, Mrs. Holladay! Your vision assures that generations of girls will see talented female role models celebrated in museums. With that kind of inspiration, they will confidently follow their artistic dreams the way Georgia, Mary, and Frida did.

If you can’t visit the National Museum of Women in the Arts in person, learn more at

Teachers will find resources and outreach programs at

Who is your favorite female artist?

Three Questions with… Mary Zisk

maryziskWe are happy to add author, illustrator, and artist Mary Zisk as a contributing author for Nerdy Chicks Rule! We met Mary at a Society of Children’s Book Authors and Illustrators conference in New Jersey, and were impressed with her interest in art and women’s issues. You might remember that Mary created a guest post for us a few months ago. If you missed it, you can check it out HERE. Mary, who is Design Director for Strategic Finance, adds her vast knowledge of art and design to the Nerdy Chick Coop. Mary will make her first post as a contributing author tomorrow. As a way of introducing her to you, we decided to feature her in our Three Questions series.  You can also find out more about her on our ABOUT page.

Now, here are Three Questions with Mary Zisk!

1. What is one aspect of your career as an art director that you do regularly, but that people wouldn’t think of as an art director’s job?  I’m often surprised that some people—like relatives or even coworkers—don’t understand what a magazine art director does. They know me as an artist so they think I illustrate all the covers and articles of the magazine. That’s art, right? In reality, I hire illustrators to do that. Each month, I read the cover story and feature articles, figure out what they are about (all aspects of corporate accounting—not easy for a nonaccountant), and then decide who is the best person to interpret that article visually. Then, I collaborate with that artist from sketches to final art. It’s about a two-week process. IMAcafe_small2

Recently, I was allowed to redecorate our company lunchroom and included a gallery wall with framed prints of the magazine’s illustrations. So much talent on one wall.

2.  On your website, you mention that you have traveled a lot during your career. Is there a favorite place you have been?  Without a doubt, Italy! I’m half Italian, and when I went there for the first time with my parents, I felt completely at home. I’ve had six visits there. One trip was a tour with other artists, sketching and painting. My sketchbooks from there are my greatest treasure. I also spent a month in Urbino in a painting program.

 3. You create beautiful watercolor paintings, but also lovely pen and ink illustrations. What drives your passion as an artist? Something inside me needs to always create and use my talent. I’ve felt lucky that, as an artist, I get to really see and experience deeply what’s in front of me. Having painted a piazza in Venice, I can look at that painting years later and remember the laughing waiters at a café throwing bread near me so that pigeons would annoy me.

With pen and ink illustrations, I’m looking to tell a story or make someone laugh. I love drawing lots of details and patterns, and pen and ink is the perfect medium for that. Go to my WEBSITE  and check out my interpretation of “Down the Rabbit Hole” for a conference assignment—definitely a heavy influence from Mad magazine.


Thanks Mary. We are so glad you are willing to share your talents with Nerdy Chicks Rule. 🙂

More Authors Give Back-to-School Advice

Break-These-Rules-CoverLast week, we posted some advice from authors for kids heading back to school. Not only did we get a lot of great feedback on that post, one of our brilliant authors, Kathy Erskine, tipped us off to a great new book (which she has contributed to) called Break These Rules: 35 YA Authors on Speaking Up, Standing Out, and Being Yourself, edited by Luke Reynolds. If you haven’t discovered this book yet, we highly recommend it. It is Nerdy Chick-Approved!

Since last week’s post was so well-received, we decided to run a follow-up this week. So, without further ado, take a minute to listen to what these five fabulous authors have to say.

If you could give your middle school or high school self one piece of advice, what would it be?

leeza dog goneLeeza Hernandez, author of DOG GONE!: “Middle school: DUCK! High school: You might not be good at that and that’s okay. It in no way means you are a failure, simply do your best!”

IMG_2566bear-snores-on_256Karma Wilson, author of BEAR SNORES ON: “Value yourself. You’re not trash, even if you make mistakes. The best way to stop making mistakes is to value yourself enough to stop making stupid mistakes.”

Magic-Brush-Yeh-Kat-9780802721792 297310_10150320631406460_1375238351_nKat Yeh, author of THE MAGIC BRUSH: “I actually think I received the perfect piece of advice already at that age (though I was not really able to figure out how to use it till much later). A dear and wise-beyond-her-years friend gave me a little card with a tiny painting and the quote: ‘Being myself includes taking risks with myself, taking risks with my behavior so that I can see how it is I want to be.’ I think we were 13 or 14 at the time. She knew I was struggling and feeling stuck so she made the card for me. I still have it.”

monstoretara lazarTara Lazar, author of THE MONSTORE: “Baggy pants and permed hair is not a good look.”

burining emerald jaime_pic_4x7Jaime Reed, author of BURNING EMERALD: “Stop worrying what everyone thinks about you. You’ll barely see any of these kids again in six years anyway. It’s not worth stressing out over. Seriously. Just do you.”

Lori Jones Cooper: Award Winning Educator

ljcI think we can safely say that everyone who is going back to school has officially gone! So we thought the best Nerdy Chick to interview this week would be a teacher, and I knew just the teacher to ask. I’ve known Lori Jones Cooper since high school. (She was a few years younger!) Years later, while writing THE BOY PROJECT, Lori and her students helped me out with some research. I had the privilege of visiting her classroom in 2012. Rare is the teacher whose love for students, enthusiasm for education, and positive outlook equals Lori’s. She has been teaching for sixteen years, and her professional excellence has been recognized.  She was Camden Middle School Teacher of the Year 2009-2010, Kershaw County School District Teacher of the Year 2010, Education World Teacher of the Day 2012, and Bojangles State Teacher Appreciation Winner 2011. She is currently serving as a CERRA (SC Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention, and Advancement) Advisory Board Member, a position she will hold until 2015. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on education with us today Lori!

I know that you have loved teaching, but what would you say to a college student today if they told you they wanted to go into teaching as a career? It is honestly the most rewarding career you could choose. Every day is a new adventure! With kids, you never know what will happen next, so get ready for the ride of your life. It’s an honor to share in their journeys.

Hooray for that sentiment! What is the most important quality for a teacher to have? Teachers must truly care about kids and want to make a difference in their lives. It isn’t about flashy techniques, super intelligence, or even advanced training. It’s about heart! There’s an old saying that explains it perfectly: “Kids don’t care what you know until they know that you care!”

So true. I always hope my children will have teachers who want to see them walk through the classroom door. But every job has its down side. What is the most challenging aspect of teaching today? No good teacher minds being held accountable for the learning in his/her classroom, but the focus on measuring teachers and students with arbitrary data takes some of the spontaneity, art, and creativity out of the educational process.

Can I say amen here? Amen! (It means “I agree” after all.)  What is the best thing we can do for our children to kindle a love for learning and to keep that flame burning?  We have to show kids an authentic love for learning. If we are enthusiastic about what we are teaching, they pick up on it and want to know more. I have gotten the attention of many a reluctant learner just by being truly excited about the subject and about teaching it to them.

That is truly awesome. Now something about you: what’s something you like to do that might be considered a tiny bit nerdy, but is actually really fun? I love “infobits”.  I am constantly reading and searching for new information. If something comes up that I don’t know, I immediately look it up and fill myself in. I LOVE learning new facts, trivial or not, and fill my head with them. I’d probably be great on one of those trivia shows. Maybe one day….

Last week, you may have seen our post about 5 authors who answered this question, but we like to ask everyone this: If you could give your middle school or high school self one piece of advice, what would it be? Be bold! Don’t worry about what anyone thinks. Do what you know is right no matter what…because people really will look up to you for standing by your convictions. One day, they will wish they had stood strong like you did!

Thank you Lori, for your great answers. I know that this year, you have moved into a new position working as a resource teacher for children with mild learning disabilities. We wish you great success for the year!

For Nerdy Chicks interested in public education, you might also enjoy this interview with middle school principal Lori Marrero.


Children’s Author Blog Hop 2013

This week, I am participating in the Children’s Author Blog Hop. On this journey, you will have the opportunity to “hop” across the internet and discover some fabulous authors — who I am lucky enough to call my friends, as well. I was invited by my good friend, Robin Newman, who is both talented and adorable.


ROBIN NEWMAN writes a blog, “LET’S TALK BOOKS,”, covering kidlit, where she interviews authors and illustrators of books for all ages.  She recently sold THE CASE OF THE MISSING CARROT CAKE, the first book in the WILCOX AND GRISWOLD MYSTERY SERIES to CRESTON BOOKS (release date TBD),  She writes picture books, chapter books and more!  She would love to have coffee with the Big Bad Wolf and the Three Little Pigs!  You can follow Robin on Twitter @robinnewmanbook and on Facebook at

Here are my answers to the Blog Hop questions.

What are you working on right now?

I always have several projects going on, and now is no exception. Right now, I am mostly working on revisions. First, there is a picture book biography of Jackie Robinson that will be published by HarperCollins that I am working to clean up and flesh out and make as fabulous as Jackie was. Next, I am working on the first two novels of a new series that I will launch in 2014 called the SPECTACLES OF DESTINY. Finally, in terms of new projects, I am working on a picture book about a know-it-all girl and her adventures in life. I also really want to write a new chicken book, but that has not gone too much beyond a desire.

JRHow does it differ from other works in the genre?

To answer this question, I am going to focus on the Jackie Robinson book. This is a picture book biography of a baseball player that barely mentions baseball at all. That makes its pretty different, don’t you agree?

Why do you write what you do?

That is a tough question. I think I write about the things that move me. I don’t just write in one genre, so I can’t say I write for 6-year olds because 6-year olds are sweet and I love them (even though that’s absolutely true). For me it is much more about finding a story the touches me as a person, and then figuring out a way to make that story relevant for a child.

110912_Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen_BB_AB_0012Another answer to this question, though, is that I write what I write because my books are a conversation between the people I love most and me. Those people? My 12- and 13-year old daughters and my 6-year old son. I try to write things that they will want to read, that will speak to their concerns, and that they will be proud to associate with their mother.

What is the hardest part about writing?

The hardest part about writing? Oh, I think that is probably the coming up with ideas part, the sifting through the ideas to figure out which ones are good part, the creating a story with an idea that sounds different and fresh and interesting part, the revising that story part, the submitting to publishers part, and the hoping for a good response part . Okay, so maybe all of it. Writing is hard. It’s supposed to be. Do you know why? Because writing is art, and art that comes easily is worthless.

I hope you have enjoyed hearing about my writing process. Thank you, again, Robin, for inviting me to the Blog Hop! (If you haven’t heard of Robin yet, I’m sure you will soon — I’ve read a lot of her work and I am a fan!)

I am also a fan of my invitees to the Blog Hop, Anna Boll and Joyce Shor Johnson.

823607_4863109809390_27197480_oANNA BOLL is an author, illustrator and educator with an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts and MSEd from University of Southern Maine. She runs a boutique booking agency called Creative Bookings that arranges school, library, conference, and event bookings for select children’s authors and illustrators. In addition to the triathlon of life (writing, teaching & mothering), Anna is also a sprint triathlete. For Anna’s blog or more information about her creative writing, freelance editing, and curriculum writing services visit CREATIVE CHAOS. You can follow Anna on Twitter @AnnaWriteDraw

DSCN0448JOYCE SHOR JOHNSON lives in New Hampshire with her husband, two children, seven ducks, two cats, and a pug named Thor. She grew up in the small, historic town of Suffern, N.Y. Her love of history, technology, traveling, and arts and crafts all contribute to her daily writing. She teaches learning skills to high school students at a private school in New Hampshire. Joyce writes middle grade and young adult novels. She is fascinated by ancient technology and loves to travel the world. Some of the amazing places has been to includes her honeymoon trip to Africa, going to the top of the Schilthorn, in Switzerland where the James Bond Movie, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was filmed, exploring the salt mines in Saltzburg, Austria, embracing her Celtic past in Ireland, and boating on a crocodile infested river in Costa Rica. To learn more about her books go to her author site and visit her blog You can follow  @thewritejoyce

Five Authors Give Back-to-School Advice

As of today, almost every kid in the nation has gone back to school. In honor of this annual event, we thought it’d be fun to highlight some advice from some of the amazing authors we’ve interviewed in the past. We usually ask this question:

If you could give your high school or middle school self one piece of advice, what would it be?

Here are their answers:

amy reevesAmy Carol Reeves:

Don’t worry about so much!  I was very Type A and so much of what I worried about didn’t really matter in the long run.  (Oh, and to my middle school self—puffed bangs were REALLY not cool! What were you thinking?)

katie davis

Katie Davis:

Do not, I repeat, do not get that short haircut and subsequent perm in ninth grade, in the year 197(mumbles something incoherent).



Shannon W

Shannon Wiersbitzky:

Ditch the long hair sooner! (grin)

Actually, I’d sit my younger self down and say, “Never doubt your abilities. EVER.” I’ve spoken to lots of women, of all ages, and it seems we all have this annoying voice in our heads that says, “Maybe you’re not ______ enough.” Just fill in the blank….smart, thin, talented, driven, creative, loud, beautiful. We’ve all heard it, no matter where we are in our life or our career. When we don’t quiet that voice, it can cause us to miss the most wonderful opportunities. I try to remind myself that all the time, and then I remind other women as well. A little bit of encouragement can go a long way.


Barbara Johansen Newman:

I could pretend my seventh grade self would listen if I told her not to worry about what her peers were thinking, but I am sure she would roll her eyes and let me go in one ear and out the other. I certainly could not tell her that none of the people around her would matter much in ten years because I ended up marrying one of those seventh graders in my own section and here we still are almost fifty years later  

Kathryn ErskineKathy Erskine:

Who cares what the other kids say — be yourself and be proud of it.  Hey, that sounds like the advice Kara would give in THE BOY PROJECT!  She is one smart, nerdy chick! (Thanks Kathy!)

I can’t help but notice that this advice falls mostly into two camps. Camp One: Don’t worry. Camp Two: You will live to regret (and even laugh about) that bad hair style. So pass the wisdom of these ladies on to a student you love, and assure them that they are not alone. We’ll highlight more back-to-school advice soon. In the meantime, just click on the author’s name to see their original interviews and to learn about their books. Have a great weekend!

Three Questions with…Sangeeta Bardhan Cook

SONY DSCSangeeta Bardhan Cook, Ph.D. is the possibly nerdier Nerdy Chick sister of Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen, and a Founder and Master Instructor at APT Guidance, where as an educational consultant, she helps students and parents alike pass through a gauntlet of academic challenges, from Algebra, AP Physics, SATs, MCATs, and college/med school applications. Sangeeta has served the Pasadena and Los Angeles area since 2000 with a variety of different agencies before starting her own, even while studying molecular biology and receiving degrees at Caltech and USC for her undergraduate and graduate work respectively. When she’s not teaching students to learn about science and math, Sangeeta is attempting to teach her dogs to not chase the neighborhood squirrels.

1) When should a Nerdy Chick start thinking about college?

It’s never too early to imagine your future and discover what you’re passionate about! College is a tool for building your career, and the more excitement and joy you bring to that, the happier you’ll be. Explore enrichment programs as early as elementary school. By middle school, look for opportunities to try out the careers you might or might not be interested in. Extracurricular activities, especially unique ones that don’t distract you from your studies, are great for this. In high school, focus on your grades and exam preparation first and foremost, but a wise Nerdy Chick will become increasingly active in selecting a range of colleges and grooming herself for the best of those choices. The more hands-on the better! From there, use what you learn to direct you towards specific colleges. Find out what they specialize in, how they’re ranked, and what it takes to get accepted there.

SONY DSC2) What kinds of things should Nerdy Chicks consider when deciding on a college?

Practically speaking, college is about preparing you for your future career. Out of the schools you’re considering, what majors do they offer, what careers do students pursue after graduation, and what kinds of jobs do alumni get? If you like research and academia, look for universities that provide a pipeline into graduate school; if you’d rather get into a job right away, focus on schools that offer internships, fellowships, and other hands-on opportunities. Talk to current and former students. Many schools spend a lot of money on PR, so it’s important that you do your research thoroughly – deeper than just a couple Google searches.

Other critical topics to consider include, of course, the financial aid available and the debt you’ll have after graduation; the extracurricular activities that will build your resume and your sense of identity; and other offerings like semesters abroad, one-on-one research and study opportunities with energized faculty, and whether the environment at the school is one in which you can really thrive and not fall prey to your weaknesses.

Be realistic about what you can achieve, and work toward that. Raise your bar, and then work toward *that*. Work ahead of time. Aim high, but make sure you have fallback schools that you’re still happy about going to. (Also, don’t wait until a week before applications are due to decide that you’re going to go for the best schools in the country!)

But most importantly, don’t fixate on getting into one particular college. It’s a huge decision, so keep an open mind at all times.

3) What are three things a Nerdy Chick can do to help her get into the college of her dreams?

There are many things that go into grooming yourself for college. Here are just three of the biggest ones:

Polish Your Academic Performance. Don’t go completely crazy about your grades or standardized exams, but let’s be honest: they are critical. Do your best. Have a clear sense of what you’re aiming for and what’s required to get there. Prepare for the PSAT as well as the SAT; the former is the qualifying exam for the National Merit, one of the last merit scholarships available on a national level. Pay attention to how your grades stack up in relation to the courses you’re taking; schools usually want to see you challenge yourself with tough classes, without faltering into low grades. If you can handle it, take APs and IB exams to further your education.

Get Great Recs. Something many high school and college students miss out on: always try to cultivate strong, positive relationships with your teachers. You want recommendations from people who see you as mature, hard-working, and, ideally, smart. They don’t have to be your friends, but it helps if your recommenders have some sense of who you are and what makes you tick, especially in high school.

Exist Outside of the Box. Good extracurriculars can reveal where your passions lie, as well as highlight your outstanding qualities, like leadership or charity. Ideally, you’ll have a handful of activities that apply to your intended major(s), showing your drive in that area like math, science, or drama. Then, a few completely different endeavors will add that spice or spark that can help you stand out that much further. You aren’t just your grades, classes, tests, and intended major. Let them know that.

As an aside: please note that my recommendations to be successful do not require paying other people to help you (which may sound weird coming from a paid educational consultant!). To prove my point, both I and my Nerdy Husband (as well as one of the original Nerdy Chicks, my sister) did not benefit from tutors or test prep groups, and we all attended Caltech, a top university by national and international standards. That said, if you don’t think your “package” reflects you properly, and you have the means to rectify it, go ahead and use the resources you have, or find someone who will help you – financially, academically, whatever it takes. Don’t let pride or fear be an obstacle to making you the best applicant (and person!) that you can be.

Feel free to email your own questions to