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For College Applicants, the Wait is Finally Over. April Fool!

March goes out like a lamb. March Madness ends in March. High school seniors now know their options for college . . .

April Fool!

Over the next few days, you’ll probably hear about the student who was accepted to all eight Ivy League colleges. Dismiss it entirely. Why would anybody apply to eight colleges that are so very different? Did they think about the programs in those colleges? Don’t they know how different the curriculum requirements are from school to school? Could they possibly be happy in such different settings?

This application cycle again proved that nothing is final, except maybe the Final Four.

Final Four Fun Facts

Interesting non-sports trivia about the Final Four:

South Carolina Gamecocks. This university system having 40 percent out-of-state students refers to itself as USC. So does USC, home of the Trojans! But the University of South Carolina was founded in 1801, while the California-based USC opened in 1880.

Gonzaga Bulldogs. Gonzaga encourages applicants to interview if their GPA is below 3.2 and their standardized test scores are low (e.g., ACT below 23). Now, that’s unusual, sort of the opposite of what we’d expect.

Oregon Ducks. Its orientation for accepted students is called an introDUCKtion.

These lucky ducks went to an introDUCKtion.

UNC Tar Heels. On its website, UNC claims, “Tuition and fees at Carolina are among the lowest nationwide.” Interesting! UNC charges out-of-staters $53,000.

Ask the Washington Post

Late last week, Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post addressed myths about college admissions. She tackled some sensitive issues including:

  1. Course selection. I often tell students that college admissions officers look for rigor, but not at the expense of the rest of their courses. Strauss states, “ . . in my experience covering education, selective schools usually don’t like grades below a B, and struggling in more than one tough class is not seen as a plus. So unless students can keep their grades in higher-level courses at or over the B range, it probably makes more sense to take regular classes.”

  2. Activities. Students need to pursue their passions, but just a few are fine. Strauss comments, “The best way to impress admissions counselors, as always, is to authentically pursue what interests you.”

  3. The personal essay. My students learn that the personal essay is an important component of the application that must be unique to the writer. Strauss adds, “In fact, essays can be decisive when it comes to students whom admissions counselors are on the fence about. A student with borderline grades and test scores could secure a spot in the freshman class with an insightful, well-crafted essay, or be rejected because of a lousy one — or when it’s clear to counselors that an adult, not a student, has written it. And a poorly constructed essay, or one marred by punctuation and grammatical errors, can sour even a great application.” I take a very deliberate approach when teaching essay writing, starting with breaking down the questions, evaluating options, and coming up with a student’s message.

Getting Over “Rejection”

Top students who are not offered admission have not been rejected; there’s just not enough room for them in the freshman class. But we also need to know how to communicate with those who don’t get in. A few days ago, the Wall Street Journal published “How to Help When College Rejection Letters Land.” The article draws on the experiences of a students at an elite girls’ school in Los Angeles who were turned down by places like Oxford and Yale. Relevant quotes include:

“She was crushed when she didn’t get into Yale, but remembers her parents’ comforting message, the most important being it wasn’t about her, or anything she did or didn’t do. It was more that Yale wasn’t the right place for her particular talents.”

“. . . not getting into the ‘best school’ in terms of rankings can lead to choices and experiences that are rewarding in the long run, something she herself discovered.”

Planning the Next Steps

Waitlists. There is a clear way to communicate interest to the college admissions officer. I am here to help your student format and edit such communication. [pullquote]Students harbor false hopes when placed on waitlists, but getting off them, once again, is a matter of the college’s yield. They should accept an offer and put down a deposit by May 1.[/pullquote]

Appeals. Most colleges do not allow appeals, but there are some exceptions. If a student can appeal, it’s recommended to bring recent information that can justify asking a college to reconsider.

[pullquote]Accepted Student Days. Urge your student to attend. Meet-ups are a sure way to get to know the campus and peers and help in decision-making.[/pullquote]

College in a Year?

What if college were shortened to just a year? MissionU is on a mission: to try that option. Adam Braun, a fellow Brunonian who has built over 400 schools around the world, is about to test his business model. Highly career-focused, the program has courses linked to the theme of each quarter: 1) foundations; 2) discovery; 3) the major; and 4) problem-solving. At the conclusion of the program, the student goes through career-launching activities.

Students, who work primarily online, are grouped geographically for ease of meeting. So far, some hot Silicon Valley companies are backing Braun’s initiative, including Uber, Chegg, and Plated (of Shark Tank fame). The first major is Data Analytics and Business Intelligence.

Remember, nothing is free. Students don’t pay while enrolled, but they do pay back 15 percent of their salary (if over $50,000) for three years.

Summer Programs: Worth the Cost?

I regularly tell parents to not be tempted by summer programs at elite colleges. While some of these programs can be beneficial, such as English language learning or robotics, others are a means to use the physical plant and generate revenue. This week syndicated columnist Lee Bierer, expressed similar beliefs, writing, “Some families are under the mistaken impression that attending a summer program at an elite school gives them a leg up on the admissions process.” Bierer asked Greg Zaiser, director of Admissions and Financial Aid at Elon University, for a college’s take on student participation in such programs. His response:

“I don’t know that they are impressive just because a student did an academic program, regardless of where it was. What impresses us the most is that students who do such programs have identified something they want to study or pursue in or after college. That focus is impressive, though hardly necessary for a liberal arts and sciences undergraduate experience.”

Elon likes to see focus in its students.

For some parents, March was been more than they could handle. If you have questions, please email me.


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