College Admissions

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Location: Los Angeles, CA, United States

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Applying to College: No Easy Task

By: Jeannie Borin, M.Ed., President
www.college-connections.com

Examine an application – Just see what is required to click that submit button. I understand universities need the information to make distinctions and decisions. However, the complexity of the application is often difficult if not impossible for students to complete without the proper guidance.

Realize that well meaning school counselors are often spread too thin and universities recommending the students’ independence want them to do it alone. Some colleges do suggest support and guidance, but from whom and how? The fact is that many students do not know all the current application requirements, options, statistics or what universities want to know. Reading any university website on what the school wants, clearly demonstrates the vague nature of how admission officials make their decisions. There are factors in admission that change from year to year. What are the different ways to apply? Early Decision, Early Action, Restrictive First Choice Early Action? Rolling Admissions? Who is explaining this in the high schools? Most recently Harvard, Princeton and the University of Virginia eliminated their Early Plans for the Class of 2012. How do students become aware of such news?

Other factors students must know when applying to college include standardized tests – what tests to take where and when? And how to prepare…About 720 universities in the United States don’t even require tests. What are the differences in the requirements? Who takes the ACT? SATI? Which universities require the SAT Subject Exams and how many of these? Are they optional? required? Students also need to know how to register for the exams. High schools generally do not provide these answers. The counselors can, at times help but with ratios at nearly 500 to 1, their time is extremely limited. Recently, I had one of my seniors request a senior college prep packet at his high school only to hear, “We don’t have one.” I compliment Rob Killion, executive director of the Common Application who continually works toward a commonality in this complicated maze. However, look at the number of supplements and additional essays required by schools on the common application.
www.commonapp.org. Just how common are these applications anyway?

Then there are those recommendations – how many and for which school? Who should I give them to? What should I include? Should I send the universities supplemental recommendations? When should I submit them? What should I fill out? Do I waive my right to see them? These are just a few of the questions I get from students all the time. There are also Midyear Reports. Many students have never seen this before. What do I do with them?

There’s the Brag Sheet or list of extracurricular activities and honors and awards received in high school. Students need to know how to present those. Students want to know how to best state their activities and who should get this list. One of my students recently gave me a near twenty page extracurricular list answering numerous excellent and specific questions. Unquestionably, this gives any reader a clear sense of this student. However, who would read this at the university level. Students are given approximately seven short lines to list years of experience and accomplishments. They are entitled to know how to maximize this space.

Essay questions are a significant source of concern to students. Just what are these admission officers looking for? Although many universities do give a “topic of your choice” there are those questions that are amazingly specific – quoting legendary philosophers that have students decipher the content and then connect it all on a personal level. To do all this in anywhere from 100 to 600 words depending on the institution is yet an additional skill. We hear too that essays should be in story format, creative and wonderfully intriguing. Most recently, I heard an admission officer state that they often read the 1st and last paragraph and then decide whether or not to read the rest. Students generally do not learn to write 1st person essays like this in high school. Realize too that many applications require 3 to 4 essays…some long, some short – but nevertheless all different.

High school athletes also need guidance regarding NCAA rules and requirements – how and when to contact coaches and where to go for information.

If universities are requesting and requiring all these components, students are entitled to know what to do and what it all means. As long as most schools do not provide the adequate guidance, admissions remains a complicated process. Competition for select spots continues to increase along with the need and demand for private college consultants.

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