College Admissions

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Monday, October 18, 2010

Teaching College Kids To Pilot Their Own Helicopter

The issue of how deeply involved parents of college students should be in their child’s campus life is a hot topic in higher education these days. As the fall term was beginning, media accounts highlighted efforts at some schools intended to push parents to drop their children off on campus and depart quickly and quietly. Now a recent survey of college admissions officers indicates that so-called helicopter parenting is on the rise.

As a college president and a parent, I find that approach—encouraging parents to do a drive-by, drop-off—an unrealistic approach to coping with moms and dads who seem to hover over their college student.

While too much parental involvement can be a problem, colleges and universities must acknowledge that parents have a crucial role to play in helping their child succeed.

Parents spend years preparing their child for college, and working to find ways to pay for their education. Those are major accomplishments. And taking your son or daughter to college for the first time is often emotionally wrenching. Parents deserve more than cursory thanks and a nod toward the door.

Instead, colleges need to communicate clearly how a healthy relationship between parents, students and the institution should work. We also need to explain that making that relationship work will enhance their child’s chances for success at college and in life.

Balance is the key. Parents should support their child, but not serve as their gofer or administrative assistant. They can do this by urging their son or daughter to learn how to navigate the college bureaucracy and campus life on their own. This is a vital part of the educational process. It includes allowing the student to handle issues relating to classes, housing, dining, roommates, and extracurricular activities such as athletics, clubs, and student organizations.

A good body of research indicates that college students have a better chance of succeeding academically and socially when they themselves discover and initiate contact with the campus offices and departments that offer services and resources for students.

We also know that the problem-solving skills students develop during the formative years at college are an important part of their education. Parents should encourage students to take responsibility for their own financial planning, for managing their time, and for setting limits on their personal behavior.

They can also explain to their child that college is more competitive than high school. Coping with the more intense atmosphere can be a major transition for new students who often have little experience with not getting their way. On campus, the student may encounter setbacks, such as not getting into a course because is it is full or not getting playing time on a sports team.

Learning to deal with this stepped-up level of competition is healthy for students. That may mean making sure to sign up for a class as soon as possible or meeting with the professor to see if an exception can be made. Or it could mean talking to the coach about what needs to be done to earn playing time.

It is essential that parents advise their son or daughter to make use of the student support resources most colleges and universities provide. Most colleges have advisers and administrators dedicated to helping students acclimate to college life and overcome setbacks or obstacles. There are many sources of advice and counsel that parents can suggest their child contact. These include the dean of students, professors, religious leaders, older students, including residence hall staffers, as well as campus offices that provide academic services such as tutoring, coaching on time management and study strategies.

Some students will need more assistance than others. Parents can help provide support for students with special needs by encouraging their son or daughter to go talk to the coordinator of disability services or the staff at the multicultural resource center or counseling service. Helping students learn how to communicate about issues they are facing and how to seek out assistance when necessary is a job that parents, as well as college faculty and staff should share.

Leaving home and starting college has always been an emotional experience for students and their parents. Helicopter parenting may be on the rise, but it is not new.

Through the years, some parents have stuck around campus trying to help their child adjust. But one of the most important things parents can do to help their college student make a successful adjustment is to strike a balance between direct intervention and letting their son or daughter learn to pilot their own helicopter.
By Marvin Krislov, Oberlin College President

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Thursday, September 09, 2010

10 Tips on How to Write Less Badly

September 6, 2010

Most academics, including administrators, spend much of our time writing. But we aren't as good at it as we should be. I have never understood why our trade values, but rarely teaches, nonfiction writing.
In my nearly 30 years at universities, I have seen a lot of very talented people fail because they couldn't, or didn't, write. And some much less talented people (I see one in the mirror every morning) have done OK because they learned how to write.
It starts in graduate school. There is a real transformation, approaching an inversion, as people switch from taking courses to writing. Many of the graduate students who were stars in the classroom during the first two years—the people everyone admired and looked up to—suddenly aren't so stellar anymore. And a few of the marginal students—the ones who didn't care that much about pleasing the professors by reading every page of every assignment—are suddenly sending their own papers off to journals, getting published, and transforming themselves into professional scholars.
The difference is not complicated. It's writing.

Rachel Toor and other writers on these pages have talked about how hard it is to write well, and of course that's true. Fortunately, the standards of writing in most disciplines are so low that you don't need to write well. What I have tried to produce below are 10 tips on scholarly nonfiction writing that might help people write less badly.

1. Writing is an exercise. You get better and faster with practice. If you were going to run a marathon a year from now, would you wait for months and then run 26 miles cold? No, you would build up slowly, running most days. You might start on the flats and work up to more demanding and difficult terrain. To become a writer, write. Don't wait for that book manuscript or that monster external-review report to work on your writing.

2. Set goals based on output, not input. "I will work for three hours" is a delusion; "I will type three double-spaced pages" is a goal. After you write three pages, do something else. Prepare for class, teach, go to meetings, whatever. If later in the day you feel like writing some more, great. But if you don't, then at least you wrote something.

3. Find a voice; don't just "get published." James Buchanan won a Nobel in economics in 1986. One of the questions he asks job candidates is: "What are you writing that will be read 10 years from now? What about 100 years from now?" Someone once asked me that question, and it is pretty intimidating. And embarrassing, because most of us don't think that way. We focus on "getting published" as if it had nothing to do with writing about ideas or arguments. Paradoxically, if all you are trying to do is "get published," you may not publish very much. It's easier to write when you're interested in what you're writing about.

4. Give yourself time. Many smart people tell themselves pathetic lies like, "I do my best work at the last minute." Look: It's not true. No one works better under pressure. Sure, you are a smart person. But if you are writing about a profound problem, why would you think that you can make an important contribution off the top of your head in the middle of the night just before the conference?
Writers sit at their desks for hours, wrestling with ideas. They ask questions, talk with other smart people over drinks or dinner, go on long walks. And then write a whole bunch more. Don't worry that what you write is not very good and isn't immediately usable. You get ideas when you write; you don't just write down ideas.
The articles and books that will be read decades from now were written by men and women sitting at a desk and forcing themselves to translate profound ideas into words and then to let those words lead them to even more ideas. Writing can be magic, if you give yourself time, because you can produce in the mind of some other person, distant from you in space or even time, an image of the ideas that exist in only your mind at this one instant.

5. Everyone's unwritten work is brilliant. And the more unwritten it is, the more brilliant it is. We have all met those glib, intimidating graduate students or faculty members. They are at their most dangerous holding a beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other, in some bar or at an office party. They have all the answers. They can tell you just what they will write about, and how great it will be.
Years pass, and they still have the same pat, 200-word answer to "What are you working on?" It never changes, because they are not actually working on anything, except that one little act.
You, on the other hand, actually are working on something, and it keeps evolving. You don't like the section you just finished, and you are not sure what will happen next. When someone asks, "What are you working on?," you stumble, because it is hard to explain. The smug guy with the beer and the cigarette? He's a poseur and never actually writes anything. So he can practice his pat little answer endlessly, through hundreds of beers and thousands of cigarettes. Don't be fooled: You are the winner here. When you are actually writing, and working as hard as you should be if you want to succeed, you will feel inadequate, stupid, and tired. If you don't feel like that, then you aren't working hard enough.

6. Pick a puzzle. Portray, or even conceive, of your work as an answer to a puzzle. There are many interesting types of puzzles:
"X and Y start with same assumptions but reach opposing conclusions. How?"
"Here are three problems that all seem different. Surprisingly, all are the same problem, in disguise. I'll tell you why."
"Theory predicts [something]. But we observe [something else]. Is the theory wrong, or is there some other factor we have left out?"
Don't stick too closely to those formulas, but they are helpful in presenting your work to an audience, whether that audience is composed of listeners at a lecture or readers of an article.

7. Write, then squeeze the other things in. Put your writing ahead of your other work. I happen to be a "morning person," so I write early in the day. Then I spend the rest of my day teaching, having meetings, or doing paperwork. You may be a "night person" or something in between. Just make sure you get in the habit of reserving your most productive time for writing. Don't do it as an afterthought or tell yourself you will write when you get a big block of time. Squeeze the other things in; the writing comes first.

8. Not all of your thoughts are profound. Many people get frustrated because they can't get an analytical purchase on the big questions that interest them. Then they don't write at all. So start small. The wonderful thing is that you may find that you have traveled quite a long way up a mountain, just by keeping your head down and putting one writing foot ahead of the other for a long time. It is hard to refine your questions, define your terms precisely, or know just how your argument will work until you have actually written it all down.

9. Your most profound thoughts are often wrong. Or, at least, they are not completely correct. Precision in asking your question, or posing your puzzle, will not come easily if the question is hard.
I always laugh to myself when new graduate students think they know what they want to work on and what they will write about for their dissertations. Nearly all of the best scholars are profoundly changed by their experiences in doing research and writing about it. They learn by doing, and sometimes what they learn is that they were wrong.

10. Edit your work, over and over. Have other people look at it. One of the great advantages of academe is that we are mostly all in this together, and we all know the terrors of that blinking cursor on a blank background. Exchange papers with peers or a mentor, and when you are sick of your own writing, reciprocate by reading their work. You need to get over a fear of criticism or rejection. Nobody's first drafts are good. The difference between a successful scholar and a failure need not be better writing. It is often more editing.

If you have trouble writing, then you just haven't written enough. Writing lots of pages has always been pretty easy for me. I could never get a job being only a writer, though, because I still don't write well. But by thinking about these tips, and trying to follow them myself, I have gotten to the point where I can make writing work for me and my career.

By Michael C. Munger, Chairman of Political Science at Duke University
Article from “The Chronicle Of Higher Education”

Thursday, July 08, 2010

A Sample Of This Year's Essay Questions & More

- Could not resist sharing these thought provoking essay prompts just released by the University of Chicago for this season's prospective students - included are also some classic questions from previous years. Actually, it's a read for anyone.

Essay Option 1
Find x.
Inspired by Benjamin Nuzzo, an admitted student from Eton College, UK

Essay Option 2
Dog and Cat. Coffee and Tea. Great Gatsby and Catcher in the Rye. Everyone knows there are two types of people in the world. What are they?
Inspired by an alumna of the Class of 2006

Essay Option 3
Salt, governments, beliefs, and celebrity couples are a few examples of things that can be dissolved. You’ve just been granted the power to dissolve anything: physical, metaphorical, abstract, concrete… you name it. What do you dissolve, and what solvent do you use?
Inspired by Greg Gabrellas, A.B. 2009

Essay Option 4
“Honesty is the best policy, but honesty won’t get your friend free birthday cake at the diner.” - Overheard in the city of Chicago.
Does society require constant honesty? Why is it (or why is it not) problematic to shift the truth in one’s favor, even if the lie is seemingly harmless to others? If we can be “conveniently honest,” what other virtues might we take more lightly?
Inspired by Eleanor Easton, a second-year in the College

Essay Option 5
In the spirit of adventurous inquiry, pose a question of your own. If your prompt is original and thoughtful then you should have little trouble writing a great essay. Draw on your best qualities as a writer, thinker, visionary, social critic, sage, citizen of the world, or future citizen of the University of Chicago; take a little risk and have fun.

Some Classic Questions From Previous Years

- Chicago author Nelson Algren said, “A writer does well if in his whole life he can tell the story of one street.” Chicagoans, but not just Chicagoans, have always found something instructive, and pleasing, and profound in the stories of their block, of Main Street, of Highway 61, of a farm lane, of the Celestial Highway. Tell us the story of a street, path, road—real or imagined or metaphorical.

Chicago professor W. J. T. Mitchell entitled his 2005 book What Do Pictures Want? Describe a picture and explore what it wants.
Proposed by Anna Andel, a graduate of Bard High School Early College, New York, NY (2007–2008).

- In Jorge Luis Borges’s Labyrinths, he writes a parable entitled “Borges y yo,” which translates as “Borges and I.” In it, Borges writes about “the other one,” his counterpart, who shares his preference for “hourglasses, maps, eighteenth century typography, the taste of coffee, and the prose of Stevenson,” but is not the same as he. “The other one” is the famous author; “the other one” is the one “things happen to.” He concludes this parable with the line “I do not know which of us has written this page.” Write a page. Who has written it?
Proposed by Zhuyi Elizabeth Sun, a graduate of Inglemoor High School, Bothell, WA (2007–2008).

- Modern improvisational comedy had its start with The Compass Players, a group of University of Chicago students, who later formed the Second City comedy troupe. Here is a chance to play along. Improvise a story, essay, or script that meets all of the following requirements:
It must include the line “And yes I said yes I will Yes” (Ulysses, by James Joyce).
Its characters may not have superpowers.
Your work has to mention the University of Chicago, but please, no accounts of a high school student applying to the University—this is fiction, not autobiography.
Your work must include at least four of the following elements: a paper airplane, a transformation, a shoe, the invisible hand, two doors, pointillism, a fanciful explanation of the Pythagorean Theorem, a ventriloquist or ventriloquism, the Periodic Table of the Elements, the concept of jeong, number two pencils.

- “Don’t play what’s there, play what’s not there.”—Miles Davis (1926–91)
Inspired by Jack Reeves, a graduate of Ridgefield High School, Ridgefield, CT (2006-2007)

- The Cartesian coordinate system is a popular method of representing real numbers and is the bane of eighth graders everywhere. Since its introduction by Descartes in 1637, this means of visually characterizing mathematical values has swept the globe, earning a significant role in branches of mathematics such as algebra, geometry, and calculus. Describe yourself as a point or series of points on this axial arrangement. If you are a function, what are you? In which quadrants do you lie? Are x and y enough for you, or do you warrant some love from the z-axis? Be sure to include your domain, range, derivative, and asymptotes, should any apply. Your possibilities are positively and negatively unbounded.
Inspired by Joshua Nalven, a graduate of West Orange High School, West Orange, NJ (2006–2007)

- The instructor said,
Go home and write
 a page tonight.
And let that page come out of you—
Then, it will be true.
—“Theme for English B” by Langston Hughes
Perhaps you recognize this poem. If you do, then your mind has probably moved on to the question the next line poses: “I wonder if it’s that simple?” Saying who we are is never simple (read the entire poem if you need evidence of that). Write a truthful page about yourself for us, an audience you do not know—a very tall order. Hughes begins: “I am twenty-two, colored, born in Winston-Salem./I went to school there, then Durham, then here/to this college on the hill above Harlem./I am the only colored student in my class.” That is, each of us is of a certain age and of a particular family background. We have lived somewhere and been schooled. We are each what we feel and see and hear. Begin there and see what happens.

- University of Chicago alumna and renowned author/critic Susan Sontag said, “The only interesting answers are those that destroy the questions.” We all have heard serious questions, absurd questions, and seriously absurd questions, some of which cannot be answered without obliterating the very question. Destroy a question with your answer.
Inspired by Aleksandra Ciric, Oyster Bay High School, Oyster Bay, New York (2005-2006)

- Superstring theory has revolutionized speculation about the physical world by suggesting that strings play a pivotal role in the universe. Strings, however, always have explained or enriched our lives, from Theseus’s escape route from the Labyrinth, to kittens playing with balls of yarn, to the single hair that held the sword above Damocles, to the basic awfulness of string cheese, to the Old Norse tradition that one’s life is a thread woven into a tapestry of fate, to the beautiful sounds of the finely tuned string of a violin, to the children’s game of cat’s cradle, to the concept of stringing someone along. Use the power of string to explain the biggest or the smallest phenomenon.
Inspired by Adam Sobolweski, Pittsford Mendon High School, Pittsford, New York (2005–2006)

- Have you ever walked through the aisles of a warehouse store like Costco or Sam’s Club and wondered who would buy a jar of mustard a foot and a half tall? We’ve bought it, but it didn’t stop us from wondering about other things, like absurd eating contests, impulse buys, excess, unimagined uses for mustard, storage, preservatives, notions of bigness…and dozens of other ideas both silly and serious. Write an essay somehow inspired by super-huge mustard.
Based on a suggestion by Katherine Gold of Cherry Hill High School East, Cherry Hill, NJ (2004–2005)

- People often think of language as a connector, something that brings people together by helping them share experiences, feelings, ideas, etc. We, however, are interested in how language sets people apart. Start with the peculiarities of your own personal language—the voice you use when speaking most intimately to yourself, the vocabulary that spills out when you’re startled, or special phrases and gestures that no one else seems to use or even understand—and tell us how your language makes you unique. You may want to think about subtle riffs or idiosyncrasies based on cadence, rhythm, rhyme, or (mis)pronunciation.
Based on a suggestion by Kimberly Traube of La Jolla Country Day School, La Jolla, CA (2004–2005)

- If you could balance on a tightrope, over what landscape would you walk? (No net.)
Inspired by Emma Ross, a graduate of West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North, Plainsboro, NJ (2003–2004)

- Albert Einstein once said, “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science.” Propose your own original theory to explain one of the 16 mysteries below. Your theory does not need to be testable or even probable; however, it should provide some laws, principles, and/or causes to explain the facts, phenomena, or existence of one of these mysteries. You can make your theory artistic, scientific, conspiracy-driven, quantum, fanciful, or otherwise ingenious—but be sure it is your own and gives us an impression of how you think about the world.
Love, Non-Dairy Creamer, Sleep and Dreams, Gray, Crop Circles, The Platypus, The Beginning of Everything, Art, Time Travel, Language, The End of Everything, The Roanoke Colony, Numbers, Mona Lisa’s Smile, The College Rankings in U.S. News and World Report, Consciousness
Inspired by Akash Goel, a graduate of Saint Bede Academy, Peru, IL (2003–2004)

- How do you feel about Wednesday?
Inspired by Maximilian Pascual Ortega, a graduate of Maine Township High School South, Park Ridge, IL (2002–2003)

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Thursday, July 01, 2010

How NOT to Write a College Application Essay

July 1, 2010
Washington Post

I had lunch recently with two rising 12th-graders at the Potomac School in McLean. They are very bright students. They told me they had signed up for a course in column-writing in the fall.
Naturally, I was concerned. There is enough competition for us newspaper columnists already: bloggers, TV commentators, former presidential advisers, college professors. Many of them
write well and make us look unnecessary. The idea that 17-year-olds are getting graduation credit to learn how to do my job fills me with dread.
But I think I know what the Potomac School is up to. They aren't teaching these kids to write columns. Their real purpose is to show students how to write their college application essays.
Think about it: College essays are essentially columns, little bits of persuasive prose designed to be both personal and instructive, without too much wear-and-tear on the reader.
This reminded me, once again, that I have not matured at all, intellectually or emotionally, since I was 17 and a heck of a college essay writer. My favorite part of being the parent of college applicants was the chance to lecture on the principles of college essay-writing to a captive audience. I wrote a book about college admissions in order to inflict my views on a wider audience. If you have read this far, you know I am doing it again.
Let's dispense quickly with the basics of writing a college application essay. The first rule is, do not dwell on your good grades, top scores, club presidencies and other triumphs. The essay is supposed to reveal something the college admissions people have not already learned from the rest of your application. If all you do in your essay is talk about what a star you are, you will be rejected, because no one wants to inflict such a bore on an unsuspecting freshman-year roommate.
Do not be careless with spelling, punctuation and grammar. Don't forget the best writing has short sentences and active verbs. Read "The Elements of Style" by Strunk and White before you start typing.
What else should you do? Write about something you care about, some quirk or habit or interest that defines you in ways not obvious from the rest of your application. One of my children wrote about his Little League coaching. One described her talent for identifying a song on the radio from the first few notes. One explained why he loved Howard Stern.

They found ways to use these themes, even the odd ones, to reveal a personal value that was important to them and, hopefully, impressive to admissions officers. I advised them to take one more step, the only original suggestion you will find in this essay. Reveal an endearing flaw, I said, some bit of self-deprecation that will convince the college that you would be a pleasant person to have around.
Is the essay about your love of chess? Describe the day you set your high school team's record for being checkmated. Are you writing about your effort to ride every bike trail in the state? Say how you felt when you got hopelessly lost in the woods and had to be guided to safety by a passing Cub Scout troop.
Let others read your work. Listen to their suggestions, but trust your instincts. Be true to yourself.
I am sending this column to that teacher at Potomac who seems to think he can teach anybody to do what I do. If he gives me a grade, I may tell you what it is, as long as it doesn't rupture my adolescent level of self-esteem.

By Jay Matthews

Saturday, May 15, 2010

5 Social Media Tools for College Students

May 12, 2010

There's more to using social media tools than just quick updates and playful banter among friends. Sure, you can post pictures on Facebook, tell friends what you're doing via Twitter, and upload videos of your roommates doing something crazy to YouTube. But social media can be useful, too. More than 2,000 colleges across the country use Blackboard's online learning system—an online tool that allows professors to post assignments, schedules, questions, and more information while keeping the conversation with students going outside of class. Plus, countless colleges and universities use the usual suspects like Facebook, Second Life, and Twitter to interact with students, and students can use those tools to enhance their online profile for employment purposes. Yet as much as these technological tools have become commonplace on campus, there's still a caveat: The Internet can be misused, and missteps can be costly.

To help identify some do's and don'ts for college students using social media, U.S. News enlisted the expert advice of Patrick Ambron , the chief marketing officer for Brand-Yourself , a personal branding and online profile management startup, and two gurus from Syracuse University 's Career Services office: Director Mike Cahill and Outreach and Marketing Coordinator Dan Klamm. Cahill and Klamm use Brand-Yourself's help for Syracuse students, and the partnership has uncovered some key pointers for using social media.

1. Do create positive content. A big part of what both Brand-Yourself and Syracuse talk about is making a good impression online. That doesn't just mean smiling in your Facebook profile picture; it means showing that you're interested in your prospective field. Post links to interesting stories. Jump into debates and conversations when it's appropriate. Make LinkedIn connections with recruiters and internship coordinators and join alumni networks, too.

For younger students, try to spread an even wider net. If you're a freshman, you probably aren't ready to commit to being a lawyer or marketing rep just yet, but you can use social media to interact with recent college graduates and professionals from multiple fields. On Twitter, follow CEOs of companies that interest you and stay up on the news. As Klamm tells Syracuse underclassmen, it's all about seeing what's out there.

2. Don't post questionable photos of yourself anywhere on the Internet. If you are a college kid who wants a job—whether it's summer work, a part-time job during school, or postgraduate employment—think about the pictures of you that are online. The study found that more than half of respondents cited inappropriate photos or information and 44 percent mentioned the posting of drug- or drinking-related content as reasons for turning down a job applicant. Remember, just because your Facebook profile has privacy settings doesn't mean you're invisible online. Some companies direct their own employees and interns to snoop around and use all kinds of channels to get access to information.

3. Do Google yourself. That's right—search for yourself. You might get made fun of, but knowing what's on the Internet when people look for you is very important. Part of Brand-Yourself's strategy is teaching its clients how to use search-engine optimization to their advantage. In other words, find out what terms and keywords you can use to make positive pieces of content about you show up. If you have a personal website or a blog, give it some bells and whistles and make it easily accessible.

"The fact that [young people] know that employers are looking for you means there's a way to put your best foot forward," says Brand-Yourself's Ambron. "You can showcase all your best work and make sure it's found by the right people. Why not make sure that the people searching your name can find the right stuff?"

4. Don't post negative status updates or tweets. Sometimes, it's hard to be positive. The economy is struggling. School is challenging. And the news hasn't exactly been buzzing with beaming faces and rainbows. But don't let that come out in your status updates. Never rip a classmate, coworker, or person in a leadership role like a professor or boss, and don't openly complain about your job, either. It just doesn't look good.

5. Don't make your online presence all about you. Don't post what you're eating for lunch. Don't put up status updates asking for jobs. You can make your presence known by being interactive. Share relevant articles and videos. Make thoughtful comments when you can. Retweet interesting posts from people you follow.

Cahill fleshed out that point even more. "Don't avoid things on the Internet," he says. "Always think about how you can manage your brand and your image by interacting with other people. Think about how you can use this tool or that tool to present, promote, and position yourself so you can be the most successful moving forward."

By Jeff Greer

Monday, April 19, 2010

Tips For The College Fair

A few things to remember while you browse the tables at a college fair:

• Plan ahead. Meet with your guidance counselor prior to the college fair season. Often more than 300 colleges attend these fairs. It is helpful to talk with a counselor about your interests and hopes in order to develop an initial list of schools to research. Ask your counselor for a list of the colleges that will be present so that you can create a list of schools about which you want to gather more information.

• No flybys. Take the time to stop and speak with the representative at the table. Do not just grab a view-book or free pencil and run for the door. With the surge in applications that many colleges are now experiencing, more and more institutions are factoring "demonstrated interest" into their admissions decisions. They track contact with the admissions office and often prefer students who have shown interest in the college. By filling out the contact cards at the fair tables, your name will be added to the mailing list and the formal relationship with the college has begun.

• Know who you are talking to. Representatives behind each table vary depending on the institution. Often the individual is the regional dean of admissions who will likely be reading your application in a few months.

. Other times, an alumnus of the college, current student, parent or faculty member will be assisting the admissions office by attending. It is in your interest to understand with whom you are talking and what their relative influence in the process is. Collect business cards so that you can write to the representative and thank him or her for taking the time to speak with you.

• Save time and avoid writer's cramp. Before you attend the fair, print out a sheet or two of self-adhesive labels with your name, address, phone number, e-mail address, high school and birth date. These can be applied to the contact cards, ensuring that your information will be legible and saving you from writing the information over and over again.

• Arrive fashionably late. Often the crowds are the thickest at the beginning of the fair, and it is difficult to have a meaningful conversation with the admissions counselors. While you do not want to wait to catch them as they are packing up, you will likely stand out more if you can have an in-depth conversation rather than elbow your way through the crowd.

• Highlight your interests. The flow of information goes both ways at fairs. It is an excellent opportunity for you to gather literature and materials from colleges, but admissions counselors are eager to learn more about you. If you have specific interests in terms of a major, sports team, or other activity, be sure to discuss these with the representative. Chances are, they will make a note on your contact card, and you might be invited to special events on campus or connected with a coach or faculty member.

• Ask thoughtful questions. Questions such as "Do you have a biology major?" or "Where are you located?" can easily be answered by glancing at the view-book. Instead, think of more probing questions such as "What makes your institution different from your peers schools?" or "How accessible are opportunities for research with faculty?" These thoughtful inquiries will distinguish you among the other students wandering through the fair.

Just as April showers bring May flowers, the energy and time invested in researching colleges and establishing relationships on the front end of this process will pay significant dividends down the road.

By: Brennan Barnard

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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

What to Do When Colleges ACCEPT You

March 29, 2010
By: Jeff Brenzel, Dean of Undergraduate Admissions at Yale University.

The first week of April is just around the corner. For the past year, you have focused heavily on where to apply to college, and then how to win the hearts of people like me. You've been increasingly anxious about the results as the decision dates loom. Oddly, all this effort may have left you surprisingly unprepared for a task that is just as challenging as making your applications.
Here are a few thoughts based on several years of observing what happens after students get their envelopes, whether thick or thin, and they are suddenly faced with a big decision.

* If you receive some rejections, you will tend to dwell on them. It's only natural -- what we can't have suddenly seems far more valuable or interesting than what we can have. You will be tempted to revisit every step of your high school career and your application process, pondering what you might have done differently. But there is one and only one good answer to any rejection letter you receive, dream school or not: "Your loss, baby." Then move on.

* If you are like most students, the process has now delivered to you a handful of admission tickets to the greatest shows on earth. Every one of your colleges has infinitely more opportunities to offer than you could pursue in a lifetime. At one of these places you are going to take friendship to a new level, go adventuring and exploring, make your own decisions about what to do and how to do it, perhaps develop a permanent intellectual interest or a personal mission. Smell the roses. Put the acceptance letters up on your wall. Recognize how profoundly fortunate you are to live in this country and to be presented with opportunities that most of your peers around the world would give virtually anything to experience.

* Now for something practical. To the extent humanly possible, wipe out every assumption you have made up to this point about these schools. Let there be no reaches, good fits or safeties. Throw away all the ranking lists. Stop obsessing over selectivity or prestige. You now know more -- a lot more -- about colleges than you did when you first started looking. The shoe is on the other foot now -- colleges will be falling all over themselves to win your favor. Treat all of this as a brand new game, and do not be too hasty about putting any school aside. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard a student say, "I wish I had looked more closely at the schools that accepted me. I wish I had actually talked to more students who attended those schools and also more students at the school I finally picked. I was blinded by what I thought I knew about my first choice school."

* Most important step: if you possibly can, visit schools that accepted you, even if you have visited them already. Let me repeat this. Go back for another visit to the schools you are seriously considering. When you arrive, act like you are just starting your search. You may be amazed at how some of the schools have changed since you first visited or differ from what you've been reading in the brochures. Why? It's because you have been changing and you are continuing to change now that you face a real decision. When you walk onto campus, try to avoid finding reasons not to like a place -- things that turn you off. Instead, try the much more useful exercise of picturing yourself there as a student, thriving and enjoying both the educational opportunities and the campus scene. This may involve picturing yourself in some new ways as well. This is a good thing.

* Do something that can be very hard: ask your mother, father and/or guardian what they truly think about the schools that have admitted you. Insist that they be specific about their impressions, and weigh what they say in the light of what you know about their good judgment. Why do this? First, they care about you and may know you in ways you don't know yourself. Second, they have often been paying close attention to the differences among colleges. Third, they are probably going to be paying or helping to pay for this. Make it clear that you would like to make up your own mind, that you view certain things differently than they do. But ask them, listen to what they have to say, and weigh it carefully against what you think. By approaching them directly, you will also save everyone the agony of communicating by subtle hints, bizarre facial expressions, comments to relatives, or desperate pleading.

* If you haven't done it already, you also need to talk with your backers about the money. I am always amazed at how many families have somehow gotten to this point without a serious discussion on who's paying for what and how much difference a difference in price is going to make to the final decision.

* If you can follow these steps and hold off the rush to judgment, you may be very surprised to find yourself strongly considering a school you did not originally put at the top of your list. And if instead, you end up confirming your first choice after all, you will do that only after giving it a very sober review in light of the competition and the finances. This is not only healthy, but it is going to make you much more knowledgeable and realistic about what to expect when you arrive on campus.
Remember above all else that no college is going to be paradise, and that all colleges have something truly outstanding to offer you. As much as the deans who admitted you hope to see you on their campuses come September, what we hope even more is that you make a wise, thoughtful and fruitful choice, one of many more to come.

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