Posts tagged admissions
Posts tagged admissions
The passing of November 1 and November 15 marks the passing of the majority of Early Decision and Early Action deadlines at colleges for Fall 2013. With all of the work that goes into getting these applications submitted on time, the period between submitting and getting a response from colleges can seem never ending!
Over the past week I’ve received phone calls and emails from students and parents either thrilled that they’ve heard from a school that they are accepted, or panicked because other students at their high school have heard from schools, and they haven’t. Some schools that have already started to release decisions for next fall include:
Central Connecticut State
Colby Sawyer College
Florida Southern College
St. Louis University
If other students from your high school have heard from a school you’ve applied to and you have not heard yet, it does not mean you are not going to get in.
Here’s some background about what might be going on from the college’s perspective.
1. Colleges that offer rolling admissions agree to send out decision letters in a short time frame after the application is complete. If none of the schools on your list offer rolling admission, then you’re probably not going to receive a decision until the date outlined on the school’s website (generally about 1 - 1 1/2 months after the deadline).
2. If you took October or November SATs and (hopefully) indicated that on your application, then you want the schools to wait to include those scores in your evaluation! It makes sense then that even a rolling admission schools would hold your file back to wait for all of the updated information before making a decision.
3. A new trend has emerged over the past few years of some colleges trying to be the “first acceptance on the streets.” There is some data to back up the idea that students are often swayed by the first acceptance letter they get, even if it’s not their first choice. I have heard of colleges finding out when competitors are sending letters and trying to beat them to the punch! Even some schools with deadlines and published response dates may try to get ahead of the game and send out acceptance letters to their clear admits. This is a strategy for admissions, but can certainly create headaches for students and families waiting to hear.
4. While it is challenging, try not to stress about college letters. As long as you have ensured that all of your materials have arrived at the admissions office, it is time to relinquish control of the process to the colleges. As a control freak myself I know how challenging this can be!
5. Although you can’t make decision letters arrive more quickly, there are a few things to keep in mind. It’s a great time to get in touch with the admissions counselor for your school at your colleges, let them know you’ve submitted your application, and reiterate your interest. If you haven’t yet had an interview (and you are comfortable with that format) and the school offers them, maybe consider scheduling an interview. Most importantly, keep your grades up! Colleges will usually receive your grades through mid-year and will check in beyond to make sure you are doing well in the classroom.
The waiting can be challenging, but remember that colleges are carefully reviewing all of your information, and evaluating applications within the context of their applicant pool. When those acceptance letters start to arrive, celebrate! You’ve earned it! Whether it’s your top choice or not, be proud of your accomplishments!
Guest blogger Marcia Moor, whose son is beginning college in the fall, writes about the process of letting go for parents.
I was delighted to run into a Campus Bound mom with her son at a bedding store last weekend. I chuckled at the sight of their cart, as it was loaded with Twin XL linen sets, toiletries, a shower caddy, an over-sized hamper, and towels. “It looks like you’re all set,” I volunteered. “If only it were this easy,” she replied.
I know what she meant. As parents who have spent much of our children’s lives being fixers, do-ers, and cheerleaders, we now worry whether they are equipped to fix, do, and advocate for themselves once they must leave for school. We realize that they are the ones now in charge of their own schedules, meeting academic and other demands independently, and solving problems when the unexpected arises. This is a daunting reality to confront, as we are uncertain if our children are even aware of the challenges that lie ahead.
While much of this mastery the student has to “learn by doing,” there are those who advise that some guidance prior to the departure might help. Conversations on topics such as time and money management or healthy choices in navigating social situations can be relevant. It may not seem that way sitting around your kitchen table, but these suggestions do actually get stored for application at a later date.
Shelly Shinebarger in Union College’s student support office writes, “I personally advise students to treat their days like ‘work days.’ Some might nap between classes or hang out and talk when they could be reading. They’re probably used to doing homework at night and think they’ll hit the books later. But residence hall life is distracting, and campus is teeming with evening parties and social and sports events. If students use their days to study, they can relax at night with their friends.” It is important that students realize that the rhythm of their daily lives and weeks will be very different from high school and, while the new portion of stimulation will be valuable, the accompanying diversions and temptation can be unnerving.
Coburn and Treeger, authors of Letting Go, offer another consideration. They remind us, “College offers a breather after the dependency of childhood and before the commitments of adulthood. During this time students may explore, take risks, try on new ways of being, and make mistakes without drastic consequences. Many of us need to look back to our own youth and recall such times of uncertainty, excitement and turmoil.” They suggest that, developmentally, late adolescence is the time for focus on self definition, and parents should not try to over regulate or manage the self discovery.
As I turn and watch my fellow shopper’s wobbly shopping cart make its way through the linen store parking lot, I think about the many messages surrounding letting go. While all feel pretty reasonable, they also feel pretty mixed and uncomfortable. Tony Schwartz warns in his Harvard Business Review post on the topic, that we parents have this primal need for our children to feel safe, loved, and protected. When that primal need is tampered with—even for the betterment of the people we so love—we are disoriented and long for some control or order. Perhaps this is why I understand as I watch my Campus Bound friend load her car so meticulously.
In November, The Daily Beast posted an article taken from Newsweek entitled “The College Essay: Why Those 500 Words Drive Us Crazy.” The author, who has published a book about the college application process of his own children, chronicles a Washington, DC “lawyer-mom” as she navigates the process with her son. Since the essay is one of the most heavily debated and stressful parts of applying to college, I wanted to give a few observations, based on my experience both as an admission counselor and college counselor.
First, I was amazed at how often the words panic, stress, anxiety appeared in the article. In my opinion, this just perpetuates these feelings. Parents (the intended audience) who read the article will either identify with the sentiment because they are feeling the same way. Parents who aren’t in a panic about their child applying to college will think they should be, and parents on the cusp of beginning the college application process might just want to hide under the bed until it’s over.
I was also struck by how the feelings of anxiety expressed in the article mirror those of many of the families we work with at Campus Bound. I also gained a strong sense of pride from knowing how much I am able to reduce the stress for a family by guiding them through the process.
The article largely focuses on the essay and its “mythical importance.” Citing a recent study that 1 in 4 private colleges places “considerable importance” on the essay and only 1 in 10 public universities gives the same designation. By saying that many colleges spend less than a couple of minutes on an application, the author seems to be saying that students and parents spend so much time worrying about a piece of the application that has no impact on the admission decision. So the advice would appear to be not to spend much time on the essay. However, the author then quotes guidance and admission counselors advising what makes a strong or weak essay.
Most colleges require an essay or personal statement as part of the application. The reality is that there are some colleges that simply process so many applications that they don’t have time to pore over every word of the essay, and in those cases a decision really does come down to grades and test scores. That does not give students license to submit poorly written essays. Take pride in your work and in yourself. The majority of private and smaller schools will read your essay and will be looking for some information about you and your writing ability. Some will read every word, with a red pen (guilty as charged), trying to glean some insight into your personality and what you can bring to the school. Some colleges will spend a few minutes to make sure you can write coherently (you’d be surprised what some students submit as essays). At many selective institutions, the essay can be the tiebreaker to admit or not, or even for a scholarship award.
The last line of the article was particularly bothersome to me. It reads, “…He’s a well-adjusted, normal kid. But that doesn’t make for a good essay, does it.” The student’s mom was referring to the idea that if a student hasn’t climbed Mt. Everest or saved the world by age 12, they are somehow “less than” in the admission process. Few things upset me more as an admission counselor than when a student would say, “I don’t have anything to write [my essay] about. I haven’t had anything bad happen to me and I haven’t done anything special.” Where did we go wrong in teaching our children to be proud of themselves, thankful for what they have, and to pursue their own interests and dreams, not ones they think will make them look good to colleges? True, some of the most poignant essays I’ve ever read have been from students who have overcome incredible hardship and tragedy - it didn’t give them an unfair advantage for admission. And I didn’t dismiss a student who had a fairly typical upbringing and wrote about what was important to them. To use the quote from the article, “well-adjusted, normal” kids can write very strong essays that tell the admission committee about themselves and their place in the world.
My takeaways from the article:
1. Whether your essay will be read for 30 seconds or 30 minutes, make it as strong and personal as possible. Anything less is a missed opportunity and should you get less than favorable news from the college, you don’t want to be left wondering if you could have done more.
2. Write your essay as if you are talking directly to an admission counselor who will read every word.
3. Don’t focus on what you haven’t done or on what hasn’t happened to you. Be grateful for what you have, write about something important to you, and make sure your passion comes through. If your essay shows your best self, you’ve done your job.
Anxiety and the college search process seem to go hand-in-hand. There’s stress about where to apply, when to apply, where to go, and how to pay. But I’m also noticing a new tendency by students (and parents) to over think each part of the application. I’ve worked with families that have agonized over 3-5 sentence short answer questions on supplements, changed essay topics to something they think they “should” write about, and worried that their answer to the question “What is your favorite movie?” will make or break their chances of admission (it won’t).
As an admission counselor, I was often asked what I wanted to read about in an essay. I would tell the student or parent I was speaking with not to worry about what I want to read, but rather focus on what the student wants to tell me about themselves. The best essays are those in which the reader learns more about the student, and gets an understanding of their writing ability. While it is important to be aware that each admission counselor will bring their own bias to the essay review process and avoid particularly sensitive topics, don’t over think your topic based on something that is out of your control. You have no idea who will read your essay - their age, gender, background, interests, political slant, so it really is impossible to write about what the reader wants to read about. Instead, focus your efforts on a well-written essay about a topic you are interested in, and one that enhances your application by telling the reader about you.
I recently had an experience with a student who was struggling with some quick answer/fun questions on a college’s Common App supplement. We went through the questions and brainstormed answers. For one question, the student said, “Well, my answer would be X, but that seems too common, so I don’t know what to put.” I told the student to trust his first instinct and not over think his answer. His answer came so naturally to him and was the honest answer, but he was doubting himself because he thought the answer “should” be more profound. In reality, those types of questions are just different ways an admission committee is trying to learn more about the student. Sure, some of the questions can provide an opportunity for creativity, but if you are “creating” answers to sound “better,” more intelligent, or more insert-adjective-here, what you’re really doing is losing a little bit of yourself.
There is enough stress surrounding this process, don’t add any unnecessary anxiety. Be proud of who you are and let that person shine through during the application process. Remember, admission counselors are not judging you - they are putting your application in context with all of the applications in the applicant pool and measuring that against the academic standards and community of the college. If you give the best of yourself in your application, regardless of the final admission decision, you can feel good about the process.
And for the record, my favorite movie is Steel Magnolias and if I were asked that question on a college application today, that would be my answer. Maybe that tells you I like sappy movies and chick flicks. Maybe it tells you I consider myself a strong woman. Or maybe it tells you that I like to gossip in beauty salons. Excluding the last example, all would be true.
See how much you just learned about me? And it took me about 5 seconds to think of that answer…