Posts tagged college counseling
Posts tagged college counseling
When I was a college admission counselor, the school I worked for used a “fast app,” called the Gold application, for a few years until the staff voiced enough opposition and frustration that it was agreed discontinue the practice (a wise decision, both from a PR and integrity of the process perspective).
This VIP Gold application was sent to everyone - yes, everyone - in the database by a certain date, sometime during the end of August, to give enough time for the printer to print these pre-populated applications. This equated to about 30,000 applications. Not feeling so special anymore, huh?
The Gold application waived the app fee and promised a decision within 21 (business) days, essentially making it a type of rolling early action. Sure, the extra $50 was nice for students who were going to apply anyway, but most often these applications are put into place to drive up application numbers, and don’t capture the level of interest of a student. There’s no question on the app that asks you to check off a box if you only applied because it was a free, short application, and you thought, “what the heck?”
In some cases, it does make sense for a college to use them and for a student to submit them. But in general, the influx of these applications in mailboxes and inboxes (or now on iPads) causes anxiety for students, parents and guidance counselors. Students and parents are concerned that the best chances for admission are if they submit this early application. I certainly can’t speak for every school, but an applicant at my previous school was never more or less likely to be considered for admission by applying with a Gold app than any other way. In fact, many schools that use these “fast apps” are Common App schools. Each year, each counselor on staff at a Common App school signs an agreement stating that they will consider the Common App just as they consider ANY other app (the college’s own, fast app, etc). So a Common App school cannot give preference to another type of application.
These applications are designed to inflate application numbers at colleges earlier in the process. Colleges look for new and innovative ways each year to incentivize students to apply. The more applications a school receives the more they can craft (pick and choose) their incoming class. More applications also means the ability to deny more students, thus lowering the acceptance rate, which is an important statistic in U.S. News and World Report rankings. Fair? No. Reality? Yes.
Each fall, these applications creep up and our families ask about them. I’ve been appalled at the emails that some of my students have received from some colleges, each with subject lines more gimmicky than the next! We’ve had quite a bit of discussion among the counselors at Campus Bound about these because our students seem to be receiving more each year. I hope to help shed some light on the purpose of VIP applications and help families make informed decisions about whether or not to use them.
This subject was also addressed in a blog post by Lynne O’Shaughnessy of The College Solution.
You’ve probably heard about demonstrated interest before - the idea that the interest a student shows in a college (or lack thereof) can impact the admission decision. Submitting strong, error-free, and comprehensive applications are among the most significant ways of demonstrating interest.
When discussing trends in admissions this year, our counseling staff noticed an increased awareness of demonstrated interest, specifically the college visit, in the application process. We saw some students, with academic profiles well in range or above at a particular school, wait listed in large part because he or she had not visited the campus.
Colleges want to admit students who are truly interested in attending their institution.
In talking with our colleagues in college admission offices around the country, a recurring theme in this year’s applications was that colleges paid very close attention to how much time and care a student took with their application. Thoughtful answers and attention to detail really makes an impact in the admissions process. Colleges want to admit students that are truly interested and want to attend.
So, how do you balance summer fun with staying on track with the college process? Here are a few tips:
- Check online to see when applications become available or when essay questions are released. In just the past few weeks, Boston College, Georgetown, and Elon have released their applications or their questions. Releasing this information early is a clear sign from colleges that they are giving you ample time to work on your applications - use it!
- The Common Application is available online now. Create an account and begin to work on the application.
- Road trip! Get out and visit schools while you have some time. Try to add some relaxing and fun activities to your trip so it feels like a vacation, too. Campus visits are a great way of demonstrating interest and helping you narrow down the schools and types of schools that are a good match for you. It may be hard once school begins in the fall to visit schools that are a plane ride away, so take advantage while you can.
- Work on your essays! I can’t stress enough how much you will benefit from putting in the time and effort on your applications in the summer. The school year will bring with it schoolwork, activities, and other outside distractions. Students often compare completing college applications to having another academic class, and it can be. Getting a head start now will prevent procrastination, unnecessary nagging from your parents, and most importantly, can help prevent careless mistakes that can negatively impact your application.
To learn more about the importance of demonstrated interest directly from college admissions counselors, check out our webinar at http://www.campusbound.com/firststep.
Looking for a smarter way to prep for the SATs in the fall?
Maybe you need more structure than a self-directed book or online-only program. Perhaps one-on-one tutoring won’t fit with your summer schedule or is just too expensive. What if you could prepare for the PSAT or SAT using online tools specifically designed to your individual needs and areas for improvement, AND have meetings with an experienced coach to keep the process on track?
Testive, a Boston-based startup founded by MIT graduates, has created just this opportunity. The SATHabit software features adaptive technology - which means that the program works based on how you answer the questions. The software hones in on the specific areas within each section where you can most improve. It also helps you find your individual ceiling for improvement, so you’re not focusing on questions that are too easy or too hard for you - you’re working on areas where you can learn strategies to improve.
Campus Bound adds a significant layer of depth to this program with the help of our experienced coaches. With traditional online tutoring, you’re on your own. With Campus Bound SAT Services, you are working with a coach who is committed to helping you achieve your educational goals.
Watch the video below see how the program works and visit http://campusbound.testive.com for more information. The next session begins this month!
Check out the latest research conducted by faculty members at UMASS Dartmouth about the adoption of social media at colleges and universities.
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.