What College Applicants Can Do Now to Enhance their Candidacy

Last week’s snow made the holidays feel very real. During Thanksgiving break, college applicants and their families should relax and unwind. But in the coming weeks, there’s more to be done. Your student might:

Continue to follow colleges (and college students). Advisory firm Social Assurity recommends that students use popular platforms, including Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, to connect with colleges. Looking at my own curated Twitter feed today, I learned that Mike Bloomberg is giving $1.8 billion to alma mater Johns Hopkins in order to continue need-blind admissions.


Applicants can also connect with students on campuses using ZeeMee. Adam Metcalf, Co-Founder @ZeeMee, reports that over 600 active college communities are chatting through the ZeeMee app, which has as many as 1500-2000 new users a day.

Update applications. If your student has received any honors, been named captain or worked more on a special cause, that should be included on new applications. (In the event there are any developments and your candidate has applied Early, he or she should send an email to the admissions office.)

Unfortunately, discussions about (lack of) ease of applying abound in the college community, heightened by concerns about inconsistent self-reporting and difficulties with the Coalition Application. If counselors are confused and concerned, parents and students are as well. Recently counselor and columnist extraordinaire Jim Jump shared his opinion in Inside Higher Ed: “I would argue that the Coalition App is symptom rather than cause. The larger trend involves colleges moving away from a shared commitment to make the college application process easy for students to navigate, one of the original rationales for the Common Application  . . . colleges need to think about user experience as they design their processes. Are the directions clear, and is the process easy and rational? Does the application process serve institutional self-interest or the public interest?”

Get ready to back up choices. If your student has applied to an elite college, assume nothing. Manage expectations and reassure him or her that everything always works out. (It really does!)  It was with great interest that I read “A Look Inside How Cornell Accepts Its Students,” published recently in the The Cornell Daily Sun. Here are some takeaways from the article:

  1. Cornell’s individual colleges conduct a first review, with 80 percent of candidates moving on.

  2. Understanding that “high schools across the country differ in the depth and width of course offerings,” Cornell determines if an applicant takes “the most challenging courses within their school” and compares students from the same high school rather making a decision based on “the number of AP courses they have taken.”

  3. Supplemental essays are reviewed twice during Cornell’s admissions process. “The essay is the opportunity for students to demonstrate both their writing skills and that they have taken the time to research and learn about Cornell.”

  4. Faculty reviews exist for applicants to all colleges except Engineering and the SC Johnson College of Business.

  5. Whether a candidate can show passion for “contributing to and becoming part of the community” is also important.

  6. Being a New York resident helps with CALS, Human Ecology and the ILR Schools.

  7. Most legacies are denied; preference is given to those who apply Early.


Remember that there are many great options. Last week, I received a mailing from Hamilton College in which Monica Inzer, Vice President for Enrollment Management, stated, “I believe that a liberal arts education is more relevant and important now than ever before, largely because of the global, digital, and rapidly changing world in which we live.” She cited successful graduates who believe that “the numerous skills they acquire with a Hamilton education—including our strong emphasis on written and oral communication—serve them well in their first jobs, their future jobs, and throughout their lives.” Hamilton students must pass three writing-intensive courses, and some courses are designated as speaking-intensive.


Northeastern University, the popular Boston institution known for its workplace partnerships, is engaging in some liberal arts programming of its own. The university, which currently sends 600 students each year to London, found a solution to diversity both its student body and its reputation: the acquisition of New College of the Humanities in London. In an article in Inside Higher Ed, Northeastern’s president Joseph Aoun states, “We are building a global university system. The whole idea is that this global system will allow the learners to access our education wherever they are and wherever they need it and also allows mobility so the students can start in Boston, move to Silicon Valley, go to Vancouver and London, and in each place they will have a different curriculum and a different experience.”  The new entity will be known as NCH at Northeastern.


Sharpen interviewing skills. Many of this year’s students have already experienced the reality of the college interview, and they are better off for it. While interviews usually don’t affect the admissions decision, they have value well beyond the high school years. Like research papers and presentations (sorry), the more the better!

Find scholarships. There are many approaches to finding scholarships. We know that the largest source of financial aid is the college itself, either through need-based or merit-based aid. But there are some sources of scholarship information that are very credible, notably fastweb and Cappex. New sources are RaiseMe and Going Merry. RaiseMe provides points from colleges for achievements, for example, grades or community service. Go Merry tells applicants: “Build your profile, get matched and start applying.”

Beware of scams; no student or family should pay a fee to apply for scholarships.

Enjoy your holiday. I am thankful for the gift of working with your students.

#collegeapplications #interviewing #socialmedia

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