College Admissions

Archive for October, 2008

Preparing Your Best Application

Friday, October 31st, 2008

The best college applications weave together a student’s values, goals, interests and experiences. It may sound intimidating, but start by looking for common threads in the activities you’ve pursued.

For example, my student who loves theater has a lot of experience in school plays and community theater, as well as many acting classes. But in her college applications, she is also discussing her college coursework in psychology, which enhances her understanding of characters.

Even someone who has diverse interests can find ways to integrate them in an essay. Another student, who loves both science and politics, discussed the relationship between public policy and scientific developments. His experience as a leader in his school’s science and debate clubs supported his stated passion for these subjects.

The application is your chance to come alive as a person and to communicate your best qualities. Admissions officers love to see intellectual curiosity, enthusiasm, self-confidence, and initiative. Likeability helps too, as they will be thinking about how you might interact with other students. One admissions officer said he reads an application and then asks himself whether he would want to eat pizza with this person at midnight in the dorm. Readers are human and they get excited when they feel a bond with a student. Part of it is luck. If you write about the experience of growing up as an identical twin, and the admissions officer who reads your application is also a twin, there’s an instant connection. But there are ways to tap into universal feelings, and once you win over an admissions officer, you have an advocate, which is especially important at schools where decisions may be made by committee.

Time to Get Going on Applications

Wednesday, October 8th, 2008

The school year is well under way, and high school seniors who are applying to college have a busy few months coming up. Keeping track of requirements and deadlines is crucial to having a smooth college application process.

If you haven’t finalized your list of colleges yet, it’s time to get serious about researching potential schools. Admissions officers from many colleges will be visiting high schools in the next few months, and these are valuable opportunities to ask questions about colleges you’re considering.

A number of Southern California schools, including USC, Pitzer College and Chapman University, have open house days for prospective students in October and November. These programs often include meetings with students and faculty, as well as tours and presentations about campus life.

If you want an interview with an admissions officer, it’s a good idea to call in the next few weeks since interview slots will fill up at schools like USC. Some highly selective colleges offer alumni interviews, and those are often scheduled after an application has been submitted to the admissions office.

Once you know where you’ll be applying, make a chart with the application requirements for each school. To make sure you stay on track, get a calendar and note every deadline date. You might include a reminder to yourself one week before each deadline.

If you are applying to colleges that require teacher recommendations, be considerate and give your teacher at least three or four weeks notice. Some teachers are asked to write recommendations for 20 or more students, and this is a time-consuming task that they do on their own time.

Ideally, you start working on essays at least a month before the application deadline. That gives you time to do several drafts. When you’re rushing to finish three applications in two days, it’s impossible to do a really thorough job on any of them. You want to tailor your application to each school, and that takes time.

What you don’t want to do is procrastinate until a week before an application deadline. In addition to being terribly stressful, last minute applications look thrown together and communicate to the college that you don’t care enough to put in the effort. Not a message you want to send.

When you think about all the things you have to do, especially if you’re applying to more than three or four colleges, it can feel overwhelming. But if you make a schedule, and spread out the workload with a few tasks each week, it will be manageable. This is a marathon, not a sprint, so pace yourself for the best results.