The College Admissions Scandal from the Perspective of an Admissions Consulting Firm

Naturally, the public is wondering: Is this what independent college counselors do?


Published:

Image courtesy of Seanbear/Shutterstock.com

In the wake of the instantly infamous Varsity Blues scandal, our admissions consulting firm, College Transitions, has received a flood of interview requests from media outlets along with countless queries from the general public. This torrent of interest is to be expected following revelations of such a sensational and lurid tale involving Hollywood starlets, Ivy League coaches, bribery, forgery and corruption among society’s 1-percenters. Naturally, the public is wondering: Is this what independent college counselors do? Is the entire system even more rigged in favor of the wealthy than previously thought? Is “independent/private college counseling” simply a euphemism for a quid pro quo purchase of a spot in an elite college for the progeny of the uber-rich?

It’s not uncommon for one indicted “bad apple” to arouse suspicion of an entire profession. Whenever headlines reveal another physician caught in an opioid prescription scam, a leading investment professional involved in a massive Ponzi scheme, or a high-ranking military officer embroiled in a political scandal, inquiring minds rightfully question whether the misdeed at hand is representative of a more widespread problem. If an individual in a profession perceived to be noble can do horrific things, might something be rotten in all of Denmark?

The short answer to whether this well-publicized criminal conspiracy is representative of the entire independent college consultant industry is an unequivocal “No.” Of the roughly 12,000 independent college counseling businesses in the U.S., it is our belief that 99-plus percent adhere to the ethical guidelines put forth by esteemed organizations like the National Association for College Admission Counseling and the Independent Educational Consultants Association (of which we are members). Could there be another bad apple or two still resting amidst the otherwise clean bunch? Sure, and it is the hope of the ethical independent college counselor community that any other dishonest actors are ultimately exposed and expelled from the profession, as occurred with William Singer, the central player in this most recent conspiracy.


Why Do People Need (Ethical) Independent Admissions Counselors?

The growth of the independent college counseling profession is a much-needed response to the increasing complexity of the admissions process and an ever-declining system of college-related support previously offered by our high schools, even those which serve largely affluent populations. The National Association for College Admission Counseling and the American School Counselor Association both firmly recommend a student-to-counselor ratio of no greater than 250:1. Unfortunately, most high schools, even many well-funded public ones, fall well short of this ideal. In fact, as of 2018, the average ratio in the U.S. was 482:1 and many states were not even close to that mark. Arizona sports a ratio of 924:1, California 760:1 and Michigan 729:1.

As an added impediment to personalized post-secondary assistance, counselors in public high schools report only being able to dedicate 22 percent of their time on college-related counseling. In the end, the average American teen receives a meager 38 minutes of college-related advice during the entirety of their high school career.

Though independent college consulting services are often not affordable to low-income students, this reality should not discourage college consultants from filling the void where they can. When students of all income levels suffer from a lack of college guidance, the appropriate response isn’t to denounce the individualized guidance that some are able to secure. Instead, and until our colleges develop more simplified and equitable ways of evaluating applicants (not an easy task, despite what some journalists may have you believe), we need to ask how all students can be sufficiently supported within our current system. Fortunately, independent college planners can play a very important role in this regard, even for those families who cannot afford private services. Later, we’ll discuss what we do, in particular, to promote college knowledge across the income spectrum.


What Do Independent Counselors Actually Do?

Aside from helping students navigate each phase of the application process — a program of support that, as discussed above, is needed by many and for which we make no apologies — ethical and competent independent college counselors also engage in a variety of tasks that maximize a student’s prospects for academic and career success, not just college admission. These tasks include, but are not limited to:

  • Identifying good-fit colleges.
  • Career/interest assessment and other career-exploration activities.
  • Identifying/researching prospective college majors.
  • Financial aid and scholarship guidance.
  • Developing a program of study for high school and college.
  • Securing accommodations for students with learning difficulties.
  • Pointing students to campus-based resources and other supports that provide for a successful college transition.

Altogether, completion of these essential tasks, along with tasks directly related to preparing college applications, may take up to 35-40 hours of one-on-one work with an independent counselor, a far cry from the 38 minutes available to you at your local high school.


What Do Ethical Counselors NOT Do?

It goes without saying that all of the highly illegal and immoral acts committed by Singer, founder of The Edge College & Career Network (also referred to as The Key), are at the top of this list. Bribery, cheating on standardized tests, falsifying student’s credentials and any of the other grotesque, beyond the pale acts associated with Varsity Blues are, of course, not on the menu at any legitimate counseling firm. Of course, not committing felonies is hardly the moral bar set in our field. Ethical standards for independent counselors include tenets such as:

  • We do not guarantee admission to any particular college.
  • We do not write essays for students.
  • We do not encourage or allow any level of dishonesty or exaggeration in chronicling one’s activities, distinctions or awards.
  • We do not offer compensation to, or accept compensation from, university officials in exchange for any influence in an admissions decision/recommendation.
  • We do not enter any situation in which we have a conflict of interest.

In sum, ethical counselors do not do anything that is a) criminal, b) dishonest, or c) not solely in the best interest of the student.


Hate the Game, Not the Honest Players

Outside of this most recent headline-grabbing scandal, there are many aspects of the present admissions landscape that undoubtedly deserve criticism and increasingly loud calls for reform. Such issues include the pervasive anti-meritocratic practices involving legacy admissions and athletic recruiting, the pressure-cooker admissions process at elite schools that impacts teens’ mental health, and the constantly rising, already exorbitant tuition rates that set students up for crippling debt that will follow them well into adulthood.

By engaging in the practice of independent college counseling, we are not asserting that the present system of college admission is ideal. Rather, we are demonstrating a commitment to guiding students and families through an increasingly complex process and helping them realize returns on an investment that can easily reach $250,000-$300,000. Seeking expert guidance when considering making a large purchase is hardly a novel concept in other realms. Hiring a quality independent college admissions counselor can be pricey, but so is hiring a good accountant, realtor, personal trainer, financial planner or lawyer. In the end, the upfront investment can pay for itself many times over.


Do Independent College Counselors Only Help the Rich?

One might deduce from the Laughlin-Huffman, et al. scandal that the only people who hire independent counselors are celebrities or high-powered executives with Harvard MBAs seeking to ensure that the next generation maintains an Ivy League lineage. This reductive takeaway would fall well short of representing reality. While a portion of the population employing independent college consultants is indeed wealthy, parents from many different backgrounds and socioeconomic statuses employ our services. These include:

Middle Class Families Looking to Save Money

A family who makes too much to qualify for sufficient need-based aid but not enough to cover college costs on their own is a perfect candidate to hire an independent counselor. An expert consultant can provide guidance on how a student can go about procuring merit aid directly from a university. By targeting the right schools, tens of thousands of dollars can be shaved off of the sticker price, sometimes leading to a six-figure discount over four years. Savings this dramatic make paying the consultant’s fee seem quite reasonable.

First-Generation Students

Mom and Dad never attended college, or they attended college outside the U.S. Now, their teen child is entering the college selection phase and, bombarded by unfamiliar information about everything from FAFSA forms to SAT Subject Tests, they realize that professional assistance is needed in order to maximize their child’s post-secondary opportunities. Academic research on the topic backs up this decision, as first-generation students are far more likely to incur unwise debt, attend schools that are below their academic ability (read more about “undermatch”), and less likely to obtain a degree than their non-first-generation peers.

Students With Learning Needs

Getting into a “good fit” college is of the utmost importance for any student with a learning disability or attentional issues. Statistics on the college admissions and persistence fronts for students with disabilities are profoundly troubling across the board. In part, due to a failure to fully understand/disclose their own disability or sufficiently explore/take advantage of disability services and programming on campus, this population has a very high drop-out rate. Careful college planning and support can arm LD students and parents with the knowledge they need to carve out a path toward collegiate success.

Homeschooled Students

For the over two million students in the U.S. who are homeschooled, the looming admissions process is a somewhat different gauntlet than that which awaits traditional high school students. Issues of documentation, additional testing requirements, and the building of an extracurricular resume are just a few of the multitude of challenges that an independent counselor can help to tackle.

Community College Transfers

You’ve saved a good deal of money by completing a year or two at a local community college and are now seeking to transfer into a four-year college. Now comes the hard part — navigating the transfer admission process. If that school happens to be a selective or highly-selective institution, you will absolutely benefit from one-on-one counseling with an independent counselor.

Students Applying to Ivy League or Ivy League-Equivalent Schools

For those of any socioeconomic background who aim to gain acceptance at an elite college, excellent grades and test scores, while necessary, are no longer sufficient. “Ivy-minded” and other high-aiming students will also be judged — for better or worse — on a variety of intangible factors that speak to their authenticity, intellectual motivations and the ability to make distinct contributions to a particular campus. In this context, personal interests, extracurricular participation and other seemingly ancillary components of a student’s profile assume center stage and may make or break an application. Consultants work to identify and cultivate the best of what a student has to offer — through course selection, activities planning, college essay coaching and other things that improve his or her prospects for college admission and personal fulfillment.


College Transitions is Not All About Profit

While a certain percentage of our clientele are people of means, it is possible for independent counselors to assist more affluent families while expanding access to higher education. In spite of what some may believe, the two activities are not mutually exclusive. Our firm, College Transitions, engages in a number of pro-bono activities, advising dozens of low-income and other underrepresented students on the college admissions process each year. In addition, we put in hundreds of man-hours each year maintaining and updating our no-cost and advertisement-free Dataverse. This resource page contains sortable databases designed to help students learn everything from which schools are the most generous with merit aid to early decision acceptance rates to the institutions that feed America’s top tech companies. In total, we offer over 100 such up-to-date data sources. We also host free webinars and in-person presentations on various aspects of the college admissions process, compose monthly newsletters designed to keep the parent community abreast of important admissions-related developments, publish weekly blogs to disseminate timely tips for all teens in the throes of admissions mania and deliver free copies of our recent book to numerous under-resourced high schools.


In Closing

As dedicated independent college counselors, we do not have control over the entire ecosystem in which we operate; and there are indeed aspects of the admissions process we detest. However, despite this (and perhaps because of it), we remain firmly committed to independent college counseling; because when done right, it can help students overcome the same education-related obstacles that this recent scandal has brought to light.

Moving forward, we will continue to reflect upon and work with the “greyer” areas of our field, always evaluating and re-evaluating our role within the larger system of college admission in America, and always striving to do good and ethical work.

 

Andrew Belasco is a licensed counselor and published researcher. His experience in the field of college admissions and transition spans more than one decade. He has previously served as a high school counselor, consultant and author for Kaplan Test Prep; and an advisor to the U.S. Congress, reporting on issues related to college admissions and financial aid.

 

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About this Blog

College Transitions

Expert advice for finding the right fit


About This Blog

College Transitions is a team of college planning experts committed to guiding families through the college admissions process. As counselors and published higher education researchers, we aim to bring perspective (and some sanity) to college planning, and we strive to provide students with the support they need to enroll and succeed at a college that is right for them. Learn more at collegetransitions.com

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April 2019

For almost 200 years, farmers brought their wheat and corn to what is now Yates Mill to have their grains ground into flour and meal. Today, you can stop by the Yates Mill visitor center to see a...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Join Mindful Families of Durham, a Buddhist-inspired spiritual community that supports area parents, caregivers, and their children in the practice of mindfulness and the understanding of the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Erwin Road
Durham, NC  27705
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Sponsor: Mindful Families of Durham
Contact Name: Adam, Laura, Josh, Sumi
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Take your budding paleontologist on a quest to unearth colorful dinosaur eggs. Explore the Dinosaur Trail where you will find fun activities, adventure, and prehistoric excitement, including...

Cost: $7 for egg hunters, $2 for accompanying adults. Museum admission not included.

Where:
Museum of LIfe and Science
433 W. Murray Ave.
Durham, NC  27704-3101
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Sponsor: Museum of Life and Science
Telephone: 919-220-5429
Contact Name: Heather Hill
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Step back in time with our 19th-century costumed interpreters and watch the millstones at work grinding corn into meal. Preregistration is encouraged. Tours are not available between Noon-1:00 p.m....

Cost: $5/Adult, $4/Senior (ages 60+), $3/Child (ages 7-16), Free/Child (6 - under)

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Explore the rocks of Crowder through hands-on science. Conduct scientific tests to discover the hidden identity of rocks. Learn the three types of rocks and play the rock cycle game. All ages....

Cost: Free

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Road
Apex, NC  27539
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Celebrate Earth Day by coming to the park to learn fun facts about our blue planet, tips on how to reduce your ecological footprint, and how you can reduce waste. Take the Earth Day pledge and make...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Detective work in nature will take us on an adventure around the park discovering tracks and other signs wildlife leave behind. Make your own animal track. Celebrate Earth Day exploring the park....

Cost: $16 per child

Where:
Harris Lake County Park
2112 County Park Dr.
New Hill, NC  27562
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Sponsor: Harris Lake County Park
Telephone: 919-387-4342
Contact Name: Joanne St. Clair
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Ages 2-5 enjoy movement and mindfulness. Learn basic yoga elements through age-appropriate breath-work techniques, games, storytelling, and creative visualization.

Cost: $15 or use your package/membership

Where:
Kids Mindful Movement - Pittsboro
184 East St.
Pittsboro, NC  27312
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Ages 5-13 enjoy a one-hour yoga class designed to strengthen and stretch the entire body, balance the nervous system, improve body awareness, encourage the development of communication and social...

Cost: $15 or use class pass/membership

Where:
Kids Mindful Movement - Pittsboro
184 East St.
Pittsboro, NC  27312
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Ages 5-13. Homeschool Yoga is a one-hour class designed to strengthen and stretch the entire body, balance the nervous system, improve body awareness. Weave in art and journaling before or after...

Cost: $15 or use class pass/membership

Where:
Kids Mindful Movement - Pittsboro
184 East Street
Pittsboro, NC  27312
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Expand your hiking experience by learning how to identify animal tracks, scat, and other signs that they leave behind. Learn more about the mammals in our area by studying their skulls and scat....

Cost: Free

Where:
Lake Crabtree County Park
1400 Aviation Pkwy.
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Lake Crabtree County Park
Telephone: 919-460-3355
Contact Name: Carol Cunningham
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Ages 11 and older with disabilities make coffee cake and yogurt parfait. Register online. Choose course #120056.

Cost: $19/resident, $24/nonresident

Where:
Herbert C. Young Community Center
101 Wilkinson Ave.
Cary, NC  27513
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Celebrate Earth Day by coming to the park to learn fun facts about our blue planet, tips on how to reduce your ecological footprint, and how you can reduce waste. Take the Earth Day pledge and make...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Ages 2-5 enjoy movement and mindfulness. Learn basic yoga elements through age-appropriate breath-work techniques, games, storytelling, and creative visualization and more.

Cost: $15/child, use your package/membership.

Where:
Kids Mindful Movement - Chapel Hill
781 Mt Carmel Church Rd
chapel hill, NC  27517
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Learn how to reuse everyday objects to reduce trash. Blow bubbles, make musical instruments and create bird feeders. Get crafty and save the planet by reducing, reusing and recycling. All...

Cost: Free

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Road
Apex, NC  27539
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Telephone: (919) 662-2850
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Try your hand at back-to-basics living, just like the Ingalls and Wilder families experienced in the late 1800s and as is described in the Little House on the Prairie book series. Do your farm...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Ages 11 and older with special needs explore Swift Creek to discover fish, salamanders, crayfish and more. Dress to get wet. Register online. Choose course #121545.

Cost: $2/resident, $3/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Raleigh, NC
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Telephone: 919-387-5980
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Ages 11-17 create old-fashioned taffy and hard candy using ingredients like caramel, marshmallow and chocolate. Register online. Choose course #119996.

Cost: $18/resident, $23/nonresident

Where:
Herbert C. Young Community Center
101 Wilkinson Ave.
Cary, NC
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Ali Standish discusses her new book, "August Isle", that tells the story of one girl’s journey to a magical seaside town, where she uncovers her family’s long hidden...

Cost: Free

Where:
Quail Ridge Books
4209-100 Lassiter Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27609
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Telephone: 919-942-7373
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Celebrate Earth Day by coming to the park to learn fun facts about our blue planet, tips on how to reduce your ecological footprint, and how you can reduce waste. Take the Earth Day pledge and make...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Farm Animal Days gives children a chance to see and touch farm animals and learn about agriculture. See tractors, enjoy free ice cream and more. Register online. 

Cost: Free

Where:
NC State University Beef Educational Unit
4505 Mid Pines Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27695
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Connect with your baby, other parents and yourself during this adult-focused postpartum yoga class. Recommended for babies newborn to walking. Take a mat, a blanket for your little one, and...

Cost: $15 or use class pass/membership

Where:
Kids Mindful Movement - Pittsboro
184 East Street
Pittsboro, NC  27312
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Meet other families in your community in a recreation setting. The play room will be reserved for parents and their young children. Sports and recreation equipment will be available...

Cost: Free

Where:
Sanderford Road Center
2623 Sanderford Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27610
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Sponsor: Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Department
Telephone: 919-831-1898
Contact Name: Adam Sproles
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Discover the joy of cooking with storybook characters. Ages 3-5 with parent. Register online. Choose course #120083.

Cost: $23/resident, $30/nonresident

Where:
Herbert C. Young Community Center
101 Wilkinson Ave.
Cary, NC
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Website »

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Farm Animal Days gives children a chance to see and touch farm animals and learn about agriculture. See tractors, enjoy free ice cream and more. Register online. 

Cost: Free

Where:
NC State University Beef Educational Unit
4505 Mid Pines Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27695
View map »


Website »

More information

This after-school class for kids in grades 3-5 offers fun learning yoga poses and mindfulness techniques to reduce stress. Grades 3-5. 

Cost: $15/class, or use your class pass/membership.

Where:
Kids Mindful Movement - Chapel Hill
781 Mt. Carmel Church Rd.
Chapel Hill, NC  27517
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Learn about what lives in those woods and and unravel nature mysteries. Take a hike to help staff find animals, plants and fungi. Make a nature craft, participate in animal...

Cost: Free

Where:
Piedmont Wildlife Center
364 Leigh Farm Rd.
Durham, NC  27707
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Sponsor: Piedmont Wildlife Center
Telephone: 919-489-0900
Contact Name: Noelle Dalhouse
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Enjoy free, live performances from the best artists from around the Triangle in front of Stone Theatre as well as kid-friendly activities. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Park West Village
Morrisville, NC  27560


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Ages 11 and older with special needs watch the movie "Spiderman". Drinks and light snacks provided. Register online. Choose course #121047.

Cost: $2/resident, $3/nonresident

Where:
Cary Senior Center
120 Maury O'Dell Place
Cary, NC  27513
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Parents learn to help children with special needs manage anxiety and worries. Register online. Choose course #121427.

Cost: $11/resident, $15/nonresident

Where:
Cary Senior Center
120 Maury O'Dell Place
Cary, NC  27513
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The kick off for the 3rd annual Series of Fortunate Events to benefit Arts Access.  An evening celebrating the artists, hosts, sponsors, and Honorary Chair Martha Keravuori of the...

Cost: $50/person

Where:
AIA NC (American Institute of Architects) Building
14 Peace Street
Raleigh, NC  27604
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Sponsor: Arts Access
Telephone: 919-833-9919
Contact Name: Penny Arrowood
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Join artist Jacklyn Bowie for an immersive and collaborative project that will be projected on the exterior walls of the Gregg Museum. The projections will be inspired by the museum’s spring...

Cost: Free

Where:
Gregg Museum of Art & Design
1903 Hillsborough St.
Raleigh, NC  27607
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Sponsor: Gregg Museum of Art & Design
Telephone: 919-515-5335
Contact Name: Evelyn McCauley
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See more than 1,500 cars, including hot rods, classic cars, custom cars, trucks through 1987 and others. Enjoy a demolition derby, kids activities and more.

Cost: $10-$22

Where:
North Carolina State Fairgrounds
1025 Blue Ridge Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

Farm Animal Days gives children a chance to see and touch farm animals and learn about agriculture. See tractors, enjoy free ice cream and more. Register online. 

Cost: Free

Where:
NC State University Beef Educational Unit
4505 Mid Pines Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27695
View map »


Website »

More information

Enjoy imaginative play in a natural setting. Materials provided. Register online. Choose course code #231348.

Cost: Free

Where:
Wilkerson Nature Preserve
5229 Awls Haven Drive
Raleigh, NC  27614
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Sponsor: City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
Telephone: 919-996-6764
Contact Name: Wilkerson staff
Website »

More information

Enjoy springtime temperatures at Waverly Place during the second spring Wine Walk. With a $15 donation to the Kay Yow Cancer Fund, visitors receive a sampling glass plus a Waverly Place...

Cost: Visitors receive a sampling glass plus a Waverly Walk Passport that allows acces

Where:
Waverly Place Shopping Center
302 Colonades Way
Cary, NC  27518
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Enjoy fun, games, friendship and more every Friday.

Cost: Free

Where:
Sanderford Road Center
2623 Sanderford Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27610
View map »


Sponsor: Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Department
Telephone: 919-831-1898
Contact Name: Adam Sproles
Website »

More information

Relax in the courtyard with food and jumbo games. All ages.

Cost: Free

Where:
Edison Johnson Community Center
500 W. Murray Ave.
Durham, NC
View map »


Website »

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Enjoy free, live performances from the best artists from around the Triangle in front of Stone Theatre as well as kid-friendly activities. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Park West Village
Morrisville, NC  27560


Website »

More information

Relive the magic of your favorite wizard in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban in Concert. Based on the third installment of J.K. Rowling’s classic saga, fans of all ages can now...

Cost: $28-$81

Where:
Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
2 E South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Telephone: 919-996-8711
Website »

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Come experience the wonder of Japanese koi fish, a living art. Meet national experts and local hobbyists. Learn how to care for your pond and fish. Enjoy various raffles, auctions,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Raleigh Elks Lodge #735
5538 Lead Mine Rd
Raleigh, NC  27612
View map »


Sponsor: ZNA Carolina
Telephone: 919-818-0289
Contact Name: Robin
Website »

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Show More...
Show Less...

See more than 1,500 cars, including hot rods, classic cars, custom cars, trucks through 1987 and others. Enjoy a demolition derby, kids activities and more.

Cost: $10-$22

Where:
North Carolina State Fairgrounds
1025 Blue Ridge Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

See more than 1,500 cars, including hot rods, classic cars, custom cars, trucks through 1987 and others. Enjoy a demolition derby, kids activities and more.

Cost: $10-$22

Where:
North Carolina State Fairgrounds
1025 Blue Ridge Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

Spring Daze features more than 180 North Carolina artists, entertainment on four stages, delicious festival food and Cary’s annual Earth Day Celebration. The Children's Village at the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bond Park
801 High House Rd.
Cary, NC  27513
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Website »

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RTP Young Women In Bio, in coordination with Graduate Women in Science RTP, hosts its annual Spring Into STEM event on April 27 for middle school girls. Throughout the morning, participants will...

Cost: Free

Where:
BRITE Building at NC Central University
302 E Lawson Street
Durham, NC  27707
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Sponsor: Women in Bio
Website »

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Celebrate all things strawberry. Enjoy inflatables, food trucks, craft vendors, kiddie rides, facepainting, a classic car show and more.  

Cost: Free

Where:
Technology Dr., off Hwy. 42 W.
Garner, NC  27529
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Celebrate crossing the finish of Girls on the Run's spring season. Join more than 2,000 runners and walkers of all ages, genders and physical abilities, along with hundreds of volunteers and...

Cost: $30-$35

Where:
American Tobacco Campus
300 Blackwell St.
Durham, NC  27701
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Sponsor: Girls on the Run of the Triangle
Telephone: 919-401-6307
Contact Name: Jamie Botta
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Dogs and their owners take part in a benefit event to help homeless pets. Register online. 

Cost: $35/adult, $20 ages 14 and younger.

Where:
Booth Amphitheatre
8003 Regency Pkwy.
Cary, NC  27518
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Throw paint on walls, jump over a huge 20-foot, green sofa, enjoy a massive food fight and much more at the YMCA Families On! Challenge, presented by Delta. This family race is...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Vollmer Farm
677 North Carolina 98 Hwy E
Bunn, NC  27508
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Sponsor: YMCA of The Triangle
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Celebrate Earth Day on April 27 at the Museum as we throw a giant party for the planet! Local conservation groups and our friends at Paperhand Puppet Intervention will join us for a day of...

Cost: Free to members / Included with admission

Where:
Museum of Life and Science
433 W Murray Ave
Durham, NC  27704
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Telephone: 919-220-5429
Contact Name: Matt Pusateri
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Letterland brings letters to life by turning them into colorful characters, each with their own personality and stories that go along with their sounds. Children will be welcomed by...

Cost: Free

Where:
Pullen Park
520 Ashe Ave.
Raleigh, NC  27606
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Celebrate spring in Mebane with live entertainment, vendors, kids' activities, a car show and more. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Downtown Mebane
Mebane, NC  27302


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Ages 1-5 and caregiver delight in the discoveries of nature. Register online. Choose course #121599.

Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
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Telephone: 919-387-5980
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Author David Silkenat will discuss his book, “Raising the White Flag: How Surrender Defined the American Civil War,” and historian Earl Ijames will lecture on the...

Cost: $3 per adult, $2 for ages 5 to 16 years, and under age 5 is free.

Where:
Bennett Place
4409 Bennett Memorial Rd.
Durham, NC
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Celebrate the return of feathered friends with game booths, activities, crafts and more.

Cost: Free

Where:
Blue Jay Point County Park
3200 Pleasant Union Church Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27614
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Learn about all the beautiful home designs from Stanley Martin now selling in 12 Oaks. Kids will have the opportunity to plant something at the model home while also having fun inside a bounce...

Cost: Free

Where:
12 Oaks - Stanley Martin Model Home
116 Oaks End Drive
Holly Springs, NC  27540
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Sponsor: 12 Oaks
Telephone: (919)-557-6850
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Enjoy a half-hour tour (starting at 1, 1:30, 2, 2:30 or 3 p.m.) to view the main power drive and milling machinery while exploring the mill's history and aspects of its preservation. All ages....

Cost: $5/Adult, $4/Senior (ages 60+), $3/Child (ages 7-16), Free/Child (6 - under)

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
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An afternoon of accessible theater, music and dance featuring performers with and without disabilities. Enjoy performances by:  Diantha Lopez (Musician), Doug Kapp (Comedian), Eddie Cisneros...

Cost: $25/person

Where:
The Cary Theater
122 E. Chatham Street
Cary, NC  27511
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Sponsor: Arts Access
Telephone: 919-833-9919
Contact Name: Penny Arrowood
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Enjoy free, live performances from the best artists from around the Triangle in front of Stone Theatre as well as kid-friendly activities. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Park West Village
Morrisville, NC  27560


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Enjoy a magical evening of dancing, crafting, stories and more. Dress as your favorite storybook character or dress in your royal best, and take a new look at the library after the doors close...

Cost: Free

Where:
Cameron Village Library
1930 Clark Ave.
Raleigh, NC  27605
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Adults enjoy an evening gala to support Marble's Kids Museum.

Cost: $75/member, $95/nonmember

Where:
Marbles Kids Museum
201 E. Hargett St.
Raleigh , NC  27601
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Walk with a park naturalist to look and listen for wildlife in the woods and fields as daylight transitions to night. Ages 4 and older; children must be accompanied by an adult. Trails are not...

Cost: $2

Where:
Wilkerson Nature Preserve
5229 Awls Haven Dr.
Raleigh, NC  27614
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Sponsor: City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
Telephone: 919-996-6764
Contact Name: Wilkerson staff
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Relive the magic of your favorite wizard in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban in Concert. Based on the third installment of J.K. Rowling’s classic saga, fans of all ages can now...

Cost: $28-$81

Where:
Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
2 E South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Telephone: 919-996-8711
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Come experience the wonder of Japanese koi fish, a living art. Meet national experts and local hobbyists. Learn how to care for your pond and fish. Enjoy various raffles, auctions,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Raleigh Elks Lodge #735
5538 Lead Mine Rd
Raleigh, NC  27612
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Sponsor: ZNA Carolina
Telephone: 919-818-0289
Contact Name: Robin
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Learn basic canoeing skills and a bit about the millpond's history, then head out to explore the pond's many features as seen only from the water. Canoes, paddles, and life jackets are...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Annual Guides

Education Guide

The 2018-19 Education Guide offers 678 education resources in the Triangle, including area preschools, private schools, public school systems, charter schools, boarding schools, academic resources and an Exceptional Child special section.

The Triangle Go-To Guide

Our Triangle Go-To Guide connects you to family fun resources across the Triangle. Plus, find out who our 2018 Readers' Favorites are.